A U engine is a piston engine made up of two separate straight engines (complete with separate crankshafts) joined by gears or chains. It is similar to the H engine which couples two flat engines. The design is also sometimes described as a "twin bank" or "double bank" engine, although these terms are sometimes used also to describe V engines.

This configuration is uncommon as it is heavier than a V design. The main interest in this design is its ability to share common parts with straight engines. However, V engines with offset banks can also share straight engine parts (except for the crankshaft), and this is therefore a far more common design today when both engine forms are produced from the same basic design.



A prototype British heavy tank proposed in April 1916 was intended to be powered by a doubled version of the 105hp Daimler 'Silent Knight' engine, with two banks of cylinders side by side sharing a common crankcase. However this was not a true 'U' engine as the cylinder banks were to have been independent, each separately driving its own crankshaft and four-speed gearbox. Neither the tank nor the engine were ever made.[1]

The first U engine known to have been built was the 16 cylinder 24.3 litre displacement Bugatti u-16 aero engine designed and patented by Ettore Bugatti in 1915-1916.[2] Bugatti licensed the design to Duesenberg in America, who produced about 40,[3] and Breguet of France, who built a few in the years after the end of World War 1.[4] Bugatti later used the same engine layout in the Bugatti Type 45 of 1928, but only two were produced.

Matra developed a high-end Bagheera prototype powered by a 2.6 L U8 engine made of two Simca 1000 Rallye 2 Straight-4s connected by chains around 1974. However because of the petroleum crisis this car was never put in production.


Several types of U-form diesel engine have been historically produced, by companies such as Lister Blackstone[5] and Sulzer Brothers Ltd. A twin bank diesel engine for marine use is described in US Patent 4167857.[6] However, no further documentation has been found for any ship or marine application of such an engine.

Sulzer Brothers developed a diesel engine for rail traction of this type, the LD series, in the 1930s, that was in production for more than fifty years. Several cylinder sizes were produced, including the 19 (bore 190 mm), 22 (bore 220 mm), 25 (bore 250 mm), 28 (bore 280 mm) and 31 (bore 310 mm). The engines of the LD and later, the LDA series, were commonly found in 6 and 8 cylinders inline and 12 cylinders U form. The U form engines were installed in railway locomotives operating in several countries, including Britain, Bulgaria, China, France, Poland and Romania.

Sulzer Brothers later discontinued the rail traction engine business.[7]


If the crankshaft on one bank of cylinders is made to rotate in the opposite direction of the crankshaft on the other bank, then the gyroscopic effects of the rotating components would be canceled. However, counter-rotating crankshafts would make the joining of the power outputs very difficult.

In the Sulzer LDA engine, a gear wheel on each crankshaft meshed with a slightly smaller gear wheel on the central output shaft. The crankshafts ran at around 750 rpm but the output shaft ran at about 1,000 rpm. This allowed the use of a smaller, and lighter, electrical generator when the engine was used in a diesel-electric locomotive.

Square four engine[]

A square four is a U engine with two cylinders on each side.

This configuration was used on the Ariel Square Four motorcycle from 1931 to 1959.

This design was revived as a two-stroke version on some racing Suzukis, and their subsequent road-going version the Suzuki RG500. Although some racing success was achieved, the road bikes didn't sell in great numbers, and the design was phased out in favour of in-line, four-stroke designs, as at the time two stroke engines were quickly being superseded by more economical, reliable, and emissions-friendly four-strokes.

See Also[]

Piston engine configurations
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Type BourkeControlled combustionDelticOrbitalPistonPistonless (Wankel) •
RadialRotarySingleSplit cycleStelzerTschudi
Inline types H · U · Square four · VR · Opposed · X
Stroke cycles Two-stroke cycleFour-stroke cycleSix-stroke cycle
Straight Single · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · 6 · 8 · 10 · 12 · 14
Flat 2 · 4 · 6 · 8 · 10 · 12 · 16
V 4 · 5 · 6 · 8 · 10 · 12 · 16 · 20 · 24
W 8 · 12 · 16 · 18
Valves Cylinder head portingCorlissSlideManifoldMultiPistonPoppet
SleeveRotary valveVariable valve timingCamless
Mechanisms CamConnecting rodCrankCrank substituteCrankshaft
Scotch YokeSwashplateRhombic drive
Linkages EvansPeaucellier–LipkinSector straight-lineWatt's (parallel)
Other HemiRecuperatorTurbo-compounding
  1. Fletcher, D., 2001, 'The British Tanks, 1915 - 1919', Crowood Press Ltd, Wiltshire, England, ISBN 1-86126-400-3
  2. L’Ebé Bugatti, 1966, 'The Bugatti Story', Editions de la Table Ronde & L'Action Automobile, first British edition 1967, Len Ortzen (translator) and Souvenir Press Ltd, London, pps 70-72, p162
  5. Key, Michael. "A Brief History of Blackstone & Co. Ltd. - Part Six". 
  6. Marine diesel engine and ship equipped with the same
  7. "The Sulzer engine in diesel traction: A potted and incomplete history, 1912 - 1990".