Does it exist? Is it a myth? Has it ever run? Does it really make 5,000 bhp? These are just some of the questions we’ve been asking ourselves since hearing about the world’s only 12-rotor engine. We finally have most of the answers plus a lot more to share regarding this unique build, including (almost) everything that can go wrong in a rotor engine in general.
Let’s start with a little background first, though. The only 12-rotor engine in the world was built by a man named Tyson Garvin of Apex Manufacturing and Design, who went on the mission to design and assemble the motor more than 15 years ago. Rob Dahm, a vlogger on YouTube who talks mostly about Wankel engines, received the 12-rotor mill a few months ago and now he is releasing a second video with the monstrous 15.7-litre engine.
In its current form, the unit should supposedly be capable of hitting 10,000 rpm and producing up to 800 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. While an exact power figure isn’t available at the moment, reports claim up to 1,400 bhp is possible in its current configuration. A lot more should be available with race fuel and turbocharging involved, though.
But why build such a crazy engine? Garvin said his main goal was speed boat racing but there were some design flaws that limited its applications. The good news, however, is that the 12-rotor engine has the same dimensions and bolt pattern as Chevy’s big block engines, which opens up many swap opportunities.
"A rotary has no known true failure," Garvin explained. "Like, the tip seals can wear out, stuff can wear out, but there's nothing that'll break for the fun of it like a Big Block Chevy has. You can only get so much power out of a Big Block Chevy for hours on end of wide-open [throttle], so we started measuring a Big Block Chevy and seeing how many rotors we could fit in the spot. In the end, we came up with this design, which is the exact shape of a Big Block Chevy.”
That’s not entirely true, it seems. Or, at least, if you ask Rob Dahm who in his latest 20-minute video talks about everything that’s wrong with the 12-rotor engine. And while the massive motor is absolutely brilliant in many ways, there are interesting things to be learned about its flaws. Or, rather, the challenges it comes with.