- Rating: ★★★★☆
- Price: £40
- Buy at: halfords.com
IF YOU have a son or daughter who is interested in tinkering with engines, don’t let them loose under the bonnet of your Ford Mondeo this Christmas. Consider instead the Build Your Own V8 Engine kit from Haynes, a publisher best known for its car maintenance manuals.
Aimed at children aged 10 or over, the kit is a simplified version of a real engine but is not based on the unit from a particular car. Open the box and what you see bears a strong resemblance to an Airfix model, with sheets of plastic parts that need to be cut off their “sprues”. Unlike an Airfix model, it has moving parts and special effects (sounds and lights).
Haynes presents the project as an introduction to more complex vehicle engineering: the instruction manual’s preface delves into technical areas such as cross-plane versus flat-plane crankshafts, V-angles and cylinder firing order, and at the back is more detail on how engines work, with a glossary.
Indeed, cylinder firing order and even valve timing come into play during the building of the model, with pistons, cams, rocker arms and even an ignition system (spark plugs represented by electronically controlled LEDs) working in unison and synchronised via a timing belt and distributors. If you don’t know what any of that means, you will do by the end of the assembly, and you will have a newfound appreciation for the complexity of an internal combustion engine.
We found the instructions, like Haynes’s car manuals, clearly and concisely written, with essential diagrams illustrating each stage of the building process. We did make a couple of mistakes towards the end, however: the rocker shafts had somehow been assembled the wrong way around on one bank of cylinders, and the ignition timing was surprisingly fiddly and required some initiative to sort out. If your 10-year-old can do this, perhaps they’re destined to be the next Colin Chapman.
All in, it took 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete our model (that’s Christmas morning sorted, then). It turned over as promised, though the nature of the plastic pieces made it far from smooth when it ran — this is no Mercedes-AMG V8. Some extra time spent on fine-tuning might have helped.
I built my V8 engine in 2hrs 45min. Now, who’s got a number for Cosworth? Might need a little fine-tuning. pic.twitter.com/YJcJSfVSub
— Will Dron (@wdron) November 18, 2015
Clicks and clunks aside, it is tremendously satisfying to see the product of your labours in action, and as a way of whetting young appetites for mechanical engineering, the Haynes Build Your Own V8 Engine kit certainly hits the spot.