Ever since the automobile was invented in the 1880s and became a mainstream machine in the early 20th century, manufacturers have attempted to create something unique with their models. The early years of the automobile were full of experimentation, with many different engine configurations emerging, some of which are still in use today.
One of these configurations was the V4 engine, in which the 4 cylinders were arranged diagonally opposite each other like in a V8. The first recorded use of the V4 engine was in 1898 on French Grand Prix cars. The V configuration was chosen for its near-low vibration – which was also its main selling point. The V4 engine returned in 1907 in the form of a 20.0 liter (1220 cui) V4 – the largest engine ever raced in Formula 1. The first production V4 engine was installed in the 1922 Lancia Lambda and Lancia used the configuration until 1976 when it was replaced by flat-four engines. Some Soviet-era Russian cars like the ZAZ Zaporozhets – among others – used these engines as they were small and could easily fit in the rear of the car. Many V4 engines were produced in the 1960s, from the Ford Taunus V4 to the SAAB Sonett classic cars.
The most recent use of a V4 engine was in Porsche’s 2014-2017 919 Hybrid LMP race car, which used a 2.0-liter turbocharged V4 along with a hybrid system. Although the V4 engine is not as widely used in the automotive industry, it is still a regular occurrence on motorcycles. With that, here are 8 cars you never knew were powered by a V4 engine.
8th 1922 Lancia Lambda
The Lancia Lambda was a car with many firsts. The V4 engine found in Lambda models was the first mass-produced V4 in the automotive world. It was available in three different displacements – 2.1 liters, 2.4 liters and 2.6 liters – with outputs from 49 to 69 hp.
The Lambda was also the first car with a monocoque or unibody chassis, was the first to have brakes on all four wheels, the first to use independent suspension all round, and Vincenzo Lancia even designed a hydraulic shock absorber just for the Lambda. All these parts made the Lambda surprisingly modern and excellent to drive compared to its competitors.
7 1965 Ford Transit
The Ford Transit is probably the most famous van model in the world. The Transit has been around since 1953 as the Taunus Transit before becoming its own model in 1965. The first generation Transit was in production between 1965 and 1986, with just one major refresh in 1978.
The pre-refresh Transit was powered by a range of engines, including some versions of the Taunus and Essex V4s. Along with the interesting engine configuration, the Transit had a notorious reputation. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Transit made up 95% of bank robbers’ getaway vehicles because it had good performance and plenty of room in the back, and because there were so many of them it was difficult to track.
6 1968 SAAB Sonnet
The SAAB Sonett began life in a barn in Trollhätten, near SAAB headquarters. The three engineers wanted to create a lightweight sports car that could be used on the European circuits as it has a high top speed, but unfortunately the rules changed and the sonnet never competed.
A few years later, in the 1960s, two engineers used SAAB parts to build a car that was approved by SAAB and put into production. The Sonett II had a 2-stroke inline-3 which was switched to a Ford-made V4 engine for the US market to meet emissions regulations. The V4 continued to serve in the Sonett II until becoming the only engine option in the Sonett III.
5 1969 Ford Capri Mk1
The Ford Capri was a compact fastback coupe built by Ford of Europe as an alternative to the very popular Mustang in the United States. The Capri was based on the Cortina platform, meaning a proper front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout. The Mk1 Capri had many engines to choose from – including an i4, V4, V6 and V8 (South Africa only).
The V4 was either the hacked version of the Essex V6 or a slightly updated version of the Taunus V4 The Capri was extremely successful, selling over 400,000 units in the first two years of production, with the 1,000,000th Capri rolling off the assembly line in 1973, just 5 years after production began.
4 1970 Lancia Fulvia HF Rally
The Lancia Fulvia range was powered exclusively by V4 engines. The Fulvia was offered in three different body configurations – Berlina (sedan), Coupé and Sport (fastback). All versions of the Fulvia were front-wheel drive and available with either a 4-speed or 5-speed manual gearbox.
The Fulvia’s engines ranged from a 1.1-liter with 57 hp to a 1.3-liter with 91 hp. The most desirable version was the 1.6 HF Rallye, which had a tuned 1.6-liter V4 and produced a whopping 130 hp in 1970. It was this version that became legendary thanks to its participation in various rally championships.
3 1970 Ford 20M
The Ford 20M, also called P7, was the further development of the popular Taunus. The 15M, 17M and 20M were different versions of the Taunus, but the Taunus name was eventually dropped and the 26M added. The 20M was available with a range of engines, starting with 1.5-litre and 1.7-litre V4s, up to 1.8-, 2.0-, 2.3- and 2.5- liter V6 engines Cologne engine family.
The 20M was in production from 1967 to 1971 when it was replaced by the Ford Consul and Granada sedans. The P7 range was built primarily for the German market and failed to keep up with sales of Ford of Britain’s Escort and Cortina models. Nevertheless, almost 800,000 Ford P7 models were produced in just 4 years.
2 1971 SAAB 95
The SAAB 95 was a strange vehicle. It was built as a station wagon, but had only two doors and seven seats. The model was introduced in 1959 as a replacement for the 93 – on which it was based – and remained in production until 1978. The 95 was originally fitted with a 0.8-litre two-stroke inline-3, but that engine was replaced with a 1.5-litre. Liter V4 in 1967.
For US import cars, the engine was changed to the more powerful 1.7-liter V4, also from Ford, which produced 73 hp. The 95 had a rear-facing third-row seat, but this was dropped in 1967 for safety reasons, so the 95 became a regular 5-seater. A total of 110,500 95s were produced in 18 years.
1 2014 Porsche 919 Hybrid
The Porsche 919 Hybrid was developed exclusively for races at Le Mans and therefore belongs to the LMP1 class. The 919 Hybrid featured a 2.0-liter turbocharged V4 engine that produced 500 hp. The engine was paired with a couple of electric motors that together produced 400 hp. This put the car’s total output at just over 900 hp – the 2018 919 Evo had 1,160 hp.
The 919 Hybrid weighed just 1,929 lbs – without driver or fuel – and produced a fairly high power-to-weight ratio. The car has finished on the podium at every Le Mans it has competed in, including victories in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The 919 Hybrid was the youngest car to feature a V4 engine and, given the ongoing war on the internal combustion engine, is becoming increasingly popular this will most likely be the last.