I have a feeling that life can be quite difficult for automotive engineers.
I've spoken to a fair number over the years, at press launches, in interviews, and at auto shows and there seems to be two very distinct camps.
The first group are happy to work within the system. They're the engineers who help bring things like the Honda Vac, SynchroRev Match, and procon-ten to market. Noise baffles. A horn that beeps when your tires are at the recommended pressure. The little clip for your gas cap.
They're happy to work at automakers, suppliers, engineering firms, you name it. I'm not saying that innovation doesn't come from engineers within the system—that would be silly—but there are some unescapable realities. Cost, time, manufacturing difficulty…they can be both positive and negative forces as new ideas and techniques are tried.
The second group are the dreamers.
Tucker. Colani. Pagani. Lefevere. I'm oversimplifying things, but some of the best minds have worked outside—and sometimes within—major companies, helping to push vehicle design forward where they felt the industry as a whole was stagnating.
That's where Ferruccio Covini fits in, with the dreamers. His current project is the C6W, a mid-engined, V8-powered Italian supercar…with six wheels. With four wheels up front, it's designed to offer unparalleled roadholding and safety at high speed, as well as provide a lower frontal area for better aerodynamics.
It's been a project of Covini's for more than 20 years—the chassis was only completed 12 years ago, and its first big public outing was at Goodwood in 2011.
These things take time.
But what did Covini work on before the C6W? What was he obsessed with creating? A diesel-powered sports car.
Of course, in modern times we have a number of stunning, diesel-powered vehicles. (My personal favourite is the sorta-Le Mans-derived V12 diesel in the Audi Q7 V12 TDI…)
In 1981—decades ahead of any other meaningful diesel performance machines—Covini released this, the B24 Turbocooler. Apart from having one of my favourite names, it was the first "production" (they made fewer than a dozen) diesel sports car.
With a top speed of 205 km/h (125 mph), the B24 would have been about as quick as its contemporaries. The early 80s was a dismal time for sports cars, don't forget—Ford 5.0-litre V8 engines with less than 160 horsepower, the DeLorean, and Ferrari Mondial. Flash but not much else.
The B24 had a mid-mounted, VM Motori 4-cylinder diesel engine with 128 horsepower, a five-speed manual transmission, and independent suspension.
Covini says the B24 was born as an experimentation mule, as a test bed for new technologies that could be sold to existing automakers, like the car's air-liquid intercooler.
You can still find them today, occasionally for sale—often in a sorry state that hides its unique engineering and innovations.
The B24 wasn't the only diesel sports car from Covini, either. But that's a story for another day.
Sources / Recommended reading
- Covini B24 Turbocooler: Website, The Petrol Stop, Wikipedia
- Covini: Website, Wikipedia
- Covini C6W: Jalopnik
- procon-ten: Wikipedia