World's smallest V-12 engine

In this video, Patelo hand-machines all the parts for "the world's smallest" V-12 engine, then assembles it and runs it. It's a remarkable feat of machining and engineering, and by the 5 minute mark, I was basically cheering and dancing around the room with delight as the motor started running.

El motor V-12 más pequeño del mundo. (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


  1. That is amazing. For all the machining I’ve done, I acknowledge that I don’t have the vision and patience to see something like this through. My one question for him would by why he used so many blade screws, and why not hex all around (I HATE blade screws, so maybe it’s just me).

    1. Alignment. You have some tolerance with the blade screw for getting the tool into it, so it works well in tight spaces. The torx (not hex) that he used requires a straight aligned driver.

  2. That is beyond amazing.  The detail he put into it plus the machining itself blew me away.  Well done sir, well done!!!!

  3. My Spanish stinks.   Did I miss the part about fuel or spark?   Is it compression-ignition?  It doesn’t matter.   It’s still amazing.

    1. You didn’t miss it. They didn’t explain that part. I don’t really know how it’s working. The pure awesome sauce theory above maybe? :D But really, I think it works like a diesel engine, so, like you said, compression-ignition.

    2. This isn’t really an engine so much as a teaching tool. I runs on compressed air injection. Hence no wire loom, no plugs, no noxious exhaust.

      1. Yes, it’s intended as a teaching tool, but it’s still an engine in the same sense that a steam engine is an engine.  

        Generally speaking, an ‘engine’ is a machine that converts energy into mechanical work. A steam engine gets its energy from a boiler; this engine gets its energy from compressed air.

        It’s not an internal-combustion engine, but it’s still an engine.

  4. Wow. Makes me feel so much more inadequate that I was never able to put together the “visible engine” plastic model kit I got as a kid. 

  5. !Asombroso! So in about six months give or take can we expect to see the world’s smallest semi-functional Ferrari?

    Stjohn, it is ‘powered’ by compressed air and there is no fuel delivery system, carburetor or electrical system (spark plugs).

    Mind == blown.

  6. It is a nice bit of machining, he does work to a high standard and the video is very well done; but  the claim of “worlds smallest” is a bit optimistic on his part.    There are a number of running models that size or smaller, that are actual internal combustion, with spark ignition even,  not compressed air operated.  Visit one of the big national model engineering shows, and you will see lots of competition.

    (sign that it wasn’t truly small, he was assembling it with a simple magnifier, not a 20x microscope.  Also some of the fasteners, and all of the major engine parts could be picked up without tweezers.)

  7. The unit is “running” on compressed air.  That doesn’t make it less amazing from a construction point of view, but it might put some bounds on enthusiasm.  Notice also that there is no lubricant on the visible moving parts, so heat would be a problem.

  8. extraordinary feat ! well done.
    i am a  woodworker and my brother in law is a machinist who does work for nasa.
    he hates working with wood and i hate working with metal.
    this kind of detail and patience is rare.

  9. I thought the music was a bit much at the start, but grows on you, and it is fun to see all the tiny bits zipping around all synchronized.

    Interestingly, the engine is a two-stroke — check it out at around 3:48, the cams are geared 1:1 with the crankshaft. I think this bolsters the case for compressed-air power, but it’s not absolutely conclusive, model airplane engines are compression-ignition two-strokes, and are about the same cylinder size.

    It looked like there was a cooling pump (“bombas de refrigeracion”), but I didn’t see any coolant go in, or any channels for it in the cylinders.

  10. Very cool. 1220 hours of labor put in on it…. I don’t know anyone with that kind of patience/dedication to a single project — esp. outside of work. 

    1. I thought the same thing. I used SoundHound on my phone to identify the third clip (Rescue, by Harry Gregson-Williams from the Sinbad, Legend of the Seven Seas soundtrack) and the fourth clip (Fighting 17th, by Hans Zimmer from the Backdraft soundtrack) but neither I nor my phone could identify the first two musical cues.

      edit: Shazam tells me the first clip is “‘Main Title’ by Marc Shaimen” but that’s not too helpful.

      2nd edit: The YouTube page says it’s The American President by Marc Shaiman, followed by something from Alive by James Newton Howard.

  11. That’s not a model engine – this is a model engine. With a Ferrari wrapped around it. Internal combustion, near perfect replica including operating key operated ignition and turn signals.

    1. Thank you for that link.  I don’t have 15 years to dedicate to such an endeavor, but I’m glad there are people out there who do.  I wonder how much he sold it for?

  12. You ask about blade screws.
    2 questions:
    How difficult would it be to machine all the screws with hex heads?
    How easy would it be to machine all the screws with a single slot. 

    My guess is the screws were all machined by him the same as the rest of the parts.

    1. 1. You don’t machine hex heads, they are pressed or cast (or EDMed I guess)
      2. Single slot screws are used in woodworking because they look nice. It is rather odd that a machinist would use them for something like this. My guess, they were the finest thread screws he could buy.

  13. Seems like some folks here need to fire up their lathes and post links so we can see their machining skills.

  14. Nevil Shute’s 1960/posthumous “Trustee from the Toolroom” is a novel about Keith Stewart, a machinist who builds miniature engines and writes articles for an English hobby magazine.  Stewart’s almost-plausible South Pacific adventures are the perfect Asperger’s fantasy.  If you like this engine, you will love the novel!

  15. Yes – he is just blowing compressed air through the works here. There is no fuel, no spark plug, none of the electrical works that would go along with that. I’m not sure that a fueled version could be built without the electrical works. I would be done with a glow plug, as that is a two stroke cycle and this model was clearly a four stroke configuration.

  16. Here’s the conversation I imagine having happened right before this.

    “I think I’ll use my awesome machining and engineering skills to build the world’s smallest four-cylinder engine.”
    “Dude, that’s lame.”
    “You’re right. I don’t want people thinking I’m some kind of weak-ass punk building engines for model Hyundais. Instead I’ll build the world’s smallest V12.”

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