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The fundamentals - combustion chamber and port design

By the time the first V12s were actually built the original concept had evolved
somewhat and whilst the cylinder heads were clearly of XK parentage the inlet po
rts had shifted to a downdraft (Fig.1) position between the camshafts. This layo
ut was not unique to Jaguar and almost seemed to be a fashion in the early 1960s
with BRM and Ferrari using it in Formula 1 and also Ford going the same way for
their advanced 4 valve, 4 cam, Indy V8. In those days the advantages of the mod
ern, narrow angle, cylinder head design had not been recognised and relatively w
ide valve angles were common leaving little space between the heads of vee engin
es to find room for inlet porting. The downdraft layout with direct flow into th
e cylinder seemed to offer a better solution and whilst it was known that the co
mplex Mercedes M196 engines which earlier did battle with the D Type were far fr
om remarkable for their performance despite their high specification, this was g
enerally considered to have been because the ports and valves were too large, ra
ther than a failing of the downdraft head layout.
Jaguar had to do a lot of work on the inlet port geometry to get the same specif
ic power from the twin cam V12 as had been achieved with relative ease a decade
or so before from the XK. A contributory factor was that the pronounced hemisphe
rical combustion chamber which had worked so well on the long stroke XK was not
nearly as efficient for a short stroke design like the V12. Only after bringing
the inlet ports to an angle barely 40 degrees away from the valve axis instead o
f the original 60 degrees (Fig. 1) could 500 b.h.p. be exceeded and even then th
e torque band was unimpressive. Harry Mundys 1972 paper to the Institute of Mech
anical Engineers explained all this in detail and concluded that the downdraft l
ayout gave poor flow characteristics and reduced combustion efficiency because o
f indifferent charge turbulence. Once Keith Duckworth demonstrated the superiori
ty of the narrow angle 4 valve layout when he created the Cosworth DFV F1 engine
in 1966-7 the matter was settled and the downdraft port was finally dead and bu
ried. Interestingly, Duckworths well-reasoned and innovative 4 valve design was
prompted by his experiences with an earlier cylinder head layout which was desti
ned to appear on the production V12. Returning for the moment to the twin cam V1
2, it simultaneously followed 2 development paths, one for the all-out racer and
the other towards a more refined and gentle creature for a production car. The
noisy partly geared cam drive of the high revving racer became a multiple chain
drive: moderate cams and port sizes sacrificed power for drivability: multiple s
tack Lucas fuel injection was replaced by 6 SU carbs. Yet still it was not good
enough, quite apart from being bulky and heavy. Now shortly before this time Cov
entry Climax, by then a subsidiary of Jaguar, had introduced a range of industri
al engines which used a simple flat OHC cylinder head design with bowl in piston
combustion chambers. Under the legendary Walter Hassan, Climax had found that t
his layout provided a very good balance of performance, economy and detonation r
esistance, and was compact and easy to manufacture. It was not long before it wa
s realised that here could be the answer to the road going V12s problems - simpl
e and compact cylinder heads with single camshafts, a simplified cam drive needi
ng only one chain, and a substantial weight saving. Single cylinder test bed wor
k showed that performance would be more than adequate, in fact, mid-range perfor
mance was better than the twin cam so the day came when V12s of both types were
fitted into Mk10 saloons and compared on the road. It was no contest really and
only the aura of the twin cam remained - but not for long.
This was a very significant point in the genesis of the V12 and one which is som
ewhat puzzling. The bad experience which prompted Keith Duckworth to arrive at t
he DFV design had been with his own Formula 2 SCA engine from 1964 - a flat head
, single cam design with bowl in piston combustion chambers. Whilst it performed
well enough to win a lot of races it always had a fundamental combustion proble
m and needed a lot of ignition advance to work properly, just as the twin cam V1
2 did. Certainly Duckworth was amazed to hear that Jaguar intended to proceed wi
th the V12 as a flat head engine. Perhaps the conclusions reached by Climax were
because of a fortunate combination of bore and stroke, valve sizes or whatever,
but the usage pattern of an industrial engine may also be significant, spending

long periods at about 75% load, rather than full load as in a race engine, or m
ostly light load as in a road car. It is not a criticism of Walter Hassan, who b
y now was deeply involved with the V12, or any of his team to point out this qua
ndary. In his 1972 paper to the SAE Hassan admitted that at that time the knowle
dge of what happened to the charge in the cylinder of the flat head V12 was very
much open to conjecture and that charge turbulence may well stagnate in some co
nditions. Nevertheless there can be no doubt that the flat head V12 (Fig. 2) was
a very much more practical proposition than the twin cam version ever was.
In arriving at this point a great deal of experimental work had been done with d
ifferent port layouts and spark plug locations but gradually the design evolved
into the final cross-flow layout with a steeply inclined inlet port which remain
ed to the end. Compression ratio was originally intended to be 10:1 for producti
on, even 10.6:1 being considered for a time, but impending emission legislation
and the disappearance of 5 star fuel decreed a change to 9:1 for European market
s and a miserable 7.8:1 for 91 octane lead free fuel in the USA. Those who exper
ienced driving them always maintained that the original 10:1 EFI engines were th
e best by far, but it was not until 1980 that such an engine was actually on sal
e for about a year prior to the arrival of the HE. The original 3.4 litre versio
n of the XK was always regarded as the best of the line and the same can be said
of the rather rare 10:1 V12 rated at 300 b.h.p. At this point a slight diversio
n is necessary because in the early 1970s a couple of 4 valve V12s were built, o
ne for road use, the other as a potential race unit. These were modern narrow va
lve angle designs and the race version was soon developed to produce a very impr
essive 630 b.h.p. from 5.3 litres using a standard crankshaft. The one and only
prototype was loaned to TWR in the 1980s for them to study prior to producing th
eir own 4 valver. Unbelievably, after they had stripped it and looked it over th
ey threw it in a skip. One has to wonder if there is a scrap man somewhere who r
ecognised what it was and saved it from the furnace. If so, perhaps it may yet t
urn up but what value would be placed on such an engine now?
As the 1970s progressed the thirst of the V12, even with electronic fuel injecti
on, became a matter for serious concern and a number of ways to improve it were
tried. Stratified charge pre-combustion chambers were in fashion and some low ke
y experiments took place with devices which screwed into the spark plug hole of
a single cylinder test engine. Another experiment which made no headway was a sm
all inlet port concept intended to generate stronger turbulence. Ceramic coating
s on heads and pistons to both reduce friction and cut heat loss showed some pro
mise, but of course the real problem had been identified correctly by Keith Duck
worth some years before - the flat head combustion chamber design was just not g
ood enough. Only a substantial improvement would be worthwhile yet a major redes
ign was out of the question, so how could it be achieved? It so happened that ar
ound this time a Swiss engineer called Michael May was claiming some impressive
results from a high turbulence combustion chamber based on the conventional 2 va
lve in-line configuration then in widespread use. Most manufacturers looked into
it without finding any great advantage but it arrived just in time to save the
Jaguar V12.
The rather unimaginatively named May "Fireball" combustion chamber (Fig. 3) cons
isted of a more or less circular pocket around and under the exhaust valve. The
essential feature was that squish action created as the, now flat-topped, piston
approached the cylinder head, was directed by a channel from around the inlet v
alve to impinge tangentially into the chamber to generate a strong swirl effect
under the exhaust valve. With the spark plug relocated to the side of this chamb
er, the entire concept was a clever interpretation of accepted wisdom for burnin
g lean mixtures at high compression ratios. One might easily argue that any comb
ustion chamber design which generated some much needed turbulence in part thrott
le conditions would have done the trick but there can be no doubt that the May d
esign, aided by a judicious raising of the differential gearing, transformed the
fuel efficiency of the V12 and ensured its survival. Some prototype engines ran
at diesel-like compression ratios of more than 14:1, but 12.5:1 was decided on

for the introduction in 1981 of the "HE V12" as it was christened.

stion chamber design continued for the remainder of the production
12 with the compression ratio lowered later to 11.5:1 for catalyst
inally to 11:1, lower compression ratios giving a vital benefit of
yst light up.Fuel injection or carburetters?

The May
life of

the V
and f

Having decided on the flat head route back in the late 1960s the Jaguar team the
n had to decide what sort of fuel system should be used. The embryonic AE Brico
electronic fuel injection system showed great promise and on the V12 gave a subs
tantial power advantage over carburetters yet, strange as it now seems, was perc
eived as being more of a challenge than carbs to be able to satisfy impending le
gislation regarding exhaust emissions. Jaguar never had to decide between the tw
o because the Brico board of directors, faced with a longer than expected develo
pment program, got cold feet and scrapped the project. Aston Martins DB6 and Fer
raris 246 Dino were also left in the lurch by this decision. So now there was no
choice, the V12 had to have carburetters - two to each bank on overhung manifol
ds (Fig. 2) to obtain a reasonable ram length for maintaining torque (ideally, h
ad there been space, still more ram length would have been beneficial). The over
hung manifold design had one very serious drawback - cold starting required vast
overfuelling just to get enough combustible mixture up over the cam covers for
firing up, earning the V12 the dubious honour of being the first UK home market
engine to need air injection into the exhaust ports to burn off the excess fuel.
Really, when one looks at a carburetter V12 it is hard to imagine that it was a
nything other than a stop-gap measure until a suitable EFI system became availab
le. It has been suggested that if suitable downdraft carbs had been available th
ey would have been used, but this must be doubtful if only because of the existi
ng location of the distributor and spark plugs, and in any event the individual
tracts would have been far too short for any useful ram effect. The team respons
ible were respected and experienced engineers and would surely not have compromi
sed the installation of carburetters by placing the distributor and plugs in the
centre of the vee unless they envisaged only using fuel injection from the outs
Fortunately the same original work by Bendix on which the Brico system was based
had already spawned the Bosch D Jetronic system which had been used successfull
y by Mercedes, VW and one or two others, so it was arranged that Lucas would dev
elop a version of it to suit the V12. In fact the two systems only differed in d
etail except that D Jetronic could not drive 12 injectors. This was easily resol
ved by the addition of an amplifier which also changed the polarity of the drive
circuit to take injector current to ground as is now accepted practice. The inl
et manifolds and throttle assemblies (Fig. 2) designed for the original Brico en
gines were not a lot different even to those found on the last V12 to be built.
A curious early feature was that the throttles were aerodynamically shaped casti
ngs mounted on a solid spindle, but they were soon replaced by conventional thro
ttle discs in slotted spindles. It is interesting that despite virtually all oth
er EFI Jaguar engines using airflow meters of one sort or another to measure eng
ine load, all injected production V12s from the very first to the last relied on
manifold pressure measurement.
By the time the EFI V12 was launched in 1975 it was clear that V12s with carbs w
ere never going to meet ever tighter US emission standards because of the poor c
old start performance. Of course D Jetronic was not sophisticated enough to run
with Lambda (exhaust oxygen) sensors as modern systems do so these early emissio
n V12s with low (7.8:1) compression ran with oxidising catalysts and air pumps j
ust as carburetter engines had done. NOx emissions were dealt with by incorporat
ing solenoid operated EGR (exhaust gas recirculation, an established method) val
ves into the EFI system mounted under the throttles, bringing the unexpected pro
blem of exhaust noise being clearly audible from the air intakes, cured by reloc
ating the EGR take off points. Performance of these engines, as with all emissio
n engines of the period, was very stunted compared to the 9:1 compression Europe
an version which was very much better than the carburetter engines. The engine i

tself did not change at this time so the advantage of EFI, which should have bee
n there right from the start, was very clear.
Electronic fuel injection evolves
Bosch D Jetronic, whilst a very important ancestor of all modern EFI systems, wa
s in fact rather primitive, having a multiplicity of transistors and other compo
nents using obsolete analogue techniques based on voltages and simple timer circ
uits. The vaguely timed one-shot-per-cycle fuel delivery was not good enough for
the forthcoming HE engine so something better was needed.
The definitive 10:1 compression V12 launched in 1980 used the new Lucas P Digita
l EFI system employing a main integrated circuit chip, consisting of a large num
ber of transistor elements configured in manufacture to generate a map of the fu
el requirement spread over hundreds of data points according to engine speed and
load. Temperature and other corrections were still applied by analogue means bu
t the important advance was that feedback correction from oxygen (Lambda) sensor
s in the two exhaust streams was now possible with the injectors for each bank c
orrected independently. This meant that modern three-way catalysts could be used
to advantage in emission sensitive markets. An unusual feature of the Lucas sys
tems which remained right through into the 1990s even as the ECUs evolved, was t
he complex dual output circuit for the injectors grouped for each bank. Basic in
jector pulses passed via a resistor pack whilst a current sensing bypass circuit
produced direct additional short pulses to maintain the required overall inject
or current. Firing the injectors of each bank alternately twice per cycle satisf
ied the more critical HE mixture requirements when it arrived a year later
The Digital ECU type 6CU was superseded in 1986 by the pin compatible, microproc
essor based 16CU type, from which in turn evolved the 26CU and 36CU with increas
ing levels of sophistication.
These were succeeded in 1994 by PECUS (Programmable Electronic Control Units Sys
tem) an advanced management system incorporating ignition control and of much gr
eater capability than its predecessors to meet ever more demanding emission legi
As an aside from all these mainstream production systems, during the 1990s Zytec
, a respected manufacturer of racing engine management systems, provided quite a
number of control units for low volume applications such as the XJR-S.Electroni
c ignition - an essential ingrediant
A 12 cylinder engine running at 6000 r.p.m. has just 1.666 thousandths of a seco
nd between sparks. It is asking rather a lot of a contact breaker to function at
this rate and give acceptable life so it was obvious right at the outset that t
he V12 would need some sort of electronic ignition system. Fortunately Lucas had
already developed their OPUS system for high revving racing engines so there wa
s no need to look any further and with minor changes over the years it served th
e V12 reasonably well for its first decade, running with conventional centrifuga
l and vacuum control of ignition timing.
The HE with its 12.5:1 compression and lean mixtures was even more demanding but
by this time constant energy ignition systems were available which could mainta
in a consistent charge current through a low resistance coil over a wide speed r
ange. A clever trick was still needed to meet the abnormal energy requirement of
the HE V12 - the coil had a second, non-firing, coil connected in parallel ther
eby doubling the rate at which energy built up in the system. A centrifugal adva
nce mechanism was retained but because of the large amount of advance needed by
the HE engine to burn lean part throttle mixtures the vacuum advance system beca
me a complex mass of pipes, valves and solenoids that worked better than it look
ed. The long term reliability of such a system would always be questionable so t
he need for long term emission control durability meant something better would b
e needed, however this system remained in limited use on Series 3 V12 saloons in
to the early 1990s .

In 1988 the Marelli system appeared using modern programmed mapping techniques t
o control ignition timing precisely over a wide range of conditions. Two coils w
ere still used but now one was allocated to each cylinder bank and they fired al
ternately through a dual level distributor. Timing advance was deduced from vari
ous sensors and triggered from a 3 toothed rotor behind the crank pulley. Introd
uced at the same time that compression was dropped across the board to 11.5:1 th
e sophistication of this ignition system prevented the power loss from being too
In the final years, ignition functions fell under the control of Zytec or PECUS
full engine management systems as noted earlier.
Mechanical tribulations
By and large the V12 was a very reliable engine, as one would expect, but it was
not without problems although few were really serious. The crankshaft was prett
y well "bomb proof" being a substantial forging from EN16T steel and Tuftrided t
o create a hard wear resistant surface. Overlap of the main and crank journals w
as sufficient to permit straight through oil drillings (Fig. 4), carefully worke
d out to deposit oil at the optimum position to lubricate the crank pins under l
oad. The dreadful sludge traps used on the XK were pointedly avoided. The rope s
eal at the rear main bearing was never a very happy arrangement and if it dried
out through prolonged standing would either leak or worse, rub on the crank and
heat it sufficiently to cause failure of the rear bearing, but such problems wer
e rare and later engines had a proper neoprene seal anyway. Of more concern was
a tendency for crank pulleys to work loose, fret and cause damage to the locatin
g keyway. This never seemed to happen on early engines yet those made during the
1980s were susceptible. Perhaps the compression pressures of the HE induced som
e peculiar torsional loading which was not present before.
It has been said that the open deck construction of the cylinder block, chosen t
o simplify the casting process, lacked rigidity. This is true but the multiplici
ty of studs to clamp the cylinder heads in place gave ample integrity to the com
pleted structure. Main bearing shells would sometimes display witness marks indi
cating some movement but this never caused trouble in normal operation. On the o
ther hand the abnormal loads generated by a bearing failure could certainly caus
e enough distortion to necessitate line-boring before fitting a new crank and be
arings. Fortunately bearing failures were exceedingly rare and usually followed
some sort of neglect. The generous spacing between cylinder bores is perhaps a m
atter for debate but then again the substantial structure and the volume of cool
ant therein may well have contributed to the refinement for which the engine was
noted by absorbing vibrations. Certainly it is possible to open up the bore siz
e from the standard 90mm to 98mm and to swing a crank throw in excess of 90mm in
stead of the original 70mm (98mm by 90mm gives 8.1 litres, but with a bit of wor
k 9 litres would be feasible) but the bigger engines hardly ever seem as sweet a
s the original 5.3. Most observers would say that the final 6 litre (78.5mm stro
ke) was a bit rough but what is puzzling is that one or two experimental (84 mm
stroke) 6.4s built in the 1970s ran like 5.3s. No modern engine would be designe
d with so much capability for stretching and ultimately this may have sealed the
V12s fate. Rapid warm-up is essential for compliance with modern emissions legi
slation and an engine system that contains 5 or 6 gallons of coolant, as in the
case of the V12 Jaguar, is struggling under a hopeless handicap.
At the front of the crank was mounted the epicyclic oil pump - an unusual choice
which absorbed a fair amount of power, but apart from some noise problems in th
e early days it gave no trouble at all. Next to it was the timing sprocket from
which the duplex timing chain had a long run round both camshaft sprockets and t
he central jack shaft. Some chain thrash was evident initially but with the aid
of visual investigation via windows in the timing cover, damper pads were soon i
n place to get rid of it. In fact the timing chain of the V12 probably has an ea
sier time than most with plenty of overlap of both the firing impulses from the

crankshaft and the torsional loading from the camshafts. The design of the blade
chain tensioner is more questionable. Attractively simple, it works well for mo
st of the time with a clever one-way jamming arrangement which takes up any slac
k, with a simple means of disengagement if the chain needs to be relaxed for rep
air work. The trouble is that if it starts to slip it soon becomes useless and t
hen a major engine strip is needed to replace it.The slip fit cylinder liner arr
angement showed strong Coventry Climax influence having a short "wet" section ex
posed directly to the coolant at the top located in an aluminium surround extend
ing up out of the crankcase (Fig. 2). The dimensional changes with temperature w
ere thereby maintained within reasonable limits so "nip" at the head gasket join
t would not relax as the engine warmed up. This method had been well proven by t
he successful Climax V8 F1 engine of the early 1960s, after some early hiccups b
efore the dimensions were right, so gasket sealing was never a problem on the V1
Not surprisingly, Climax-like features are to be seen in the design of the valve
gear, yet this was one area which was a source of niggling problems over many y
ears. The complaint was excessive tappet noise, which was very puzzling because
the cam profile, cam follower (tappet) and much of the valve gear differed littl
e from the XK.
The root cause is that the cast iron followers run in an aluminium cam carrier r
ather than cast iron sleeves as on the XK so the running clearance varies with t
emperature. All engine components are manufactured within certain tolerance limi
ts and in this case the largest permissible follower must be able to run in the
smallest permissible carrier bore - BUT - this must be so down to minus 40 degre
es in a severe North American winter. At the other extreme a low limit follower
mated with a top limit carrier bore could be quite sloppy in a hot engine. The a
ctions of these components are exceedingly difficult to analyse but it does seem
that cam profile, tappet clearance, side movement, rock-over at peak lift, tapp
et rotation and valve concentricity with its seat, all play a part in the genera
tion of what is perceived as tappet noise. The range of side clearances involved
is not great, ranging from about 0.0005" to 0.002" at room temperature, so effo
rt was concentrated on cam profiles with gentle take up which would be less like
ly to provoke the followers to rattle about. An acceptable cam was introduced in
the early 1970s but it was always a good rule of thumb to set the inlet valve c
learances to tight limit and exhausts to wide limit (being hotter the running cl
earance works out about the same). By 1993 the market required some further cam
profile refinement although it should be noted that the fundamental valve motion
hardly changed over the years.Throughout its life the XK engine was made by wha
t might be called knife and fork methods on out-of-date machinery. A complex eng
ine like the V12 could not have been viable without using modern automated proce
sses (Fig. 5). The cost for such a facility, reputed to have been about L3,000,0
00 in the late 1960s, seems like peanuts today yet the need to raise such fundin
g prompted the sale of Jaguar into the BMC group although this also opened the w
ay to much needed dealerships around the world. The need to replace the aging XK
was an issue of obvious importance but surely it was not thought that the V12 w
ould be the only engine for the future. Indeed, had it been known that the vario
us alternative engine concepts based on using segments of the V12 would all prov
e to be unusable the V12 might never have got off the ground. These included a 6
0 degree 3.5 litre V8, rejected for lack of refinement, and a 2.65 litre slant s
ix using just one cylinder bank which was too small. Increasing the stroke to 90
mm would have resolved that problem but then the extra block height could not be
accommodated on the V12 machinery. However a number of slant sixes using cut an
d welded up V12 crankcases were found very useful for testing 4 valve and May cy
linder heads. An advantage of the original flat cylinder heads had been ease of
manufacture but the May combustion chamber for the HE required some further oper
ations which cost about L500,000 to implement. In these days of Formula 1 racing
engines reputed to cost L1,000,000 apiece, the V12 facility looks like a bargai
n. It seems sad that it is now shut down for ever, but at least the V12 did not
linger on like the XK waiting desperately for a successor. The V12s successor, t

he AJ-V8, is already here and carving its own place in Jaguar history, but the V
12, despite being a little paunchy and lacking a real punch, was a class act and
will always remain just that little bit special.