December 2: Leon Levavasseur patents the first successful V-8 on this date in 1902


Much of the early innovation in liquid-fueled engines came not just from automobiles but airplanes, another nascent technology searching for more powerful yet lighter sources. Setting cylinders in a line worked fine in cars, but not as well in the air, and it wasn't until 1902 that a French engineer named Léon Levavasseur patented the first successful configuration of eight cylinders in a 90-degree V shape. Named the Antoinette, for the daughter of his financier, Levavasseur's engine quickly developed 50 hp out of 190 lbs. — a power-to-weight ratio that was unmatched for decades, and enough to push aviation and motoring forward. Today, after decades as the design of choice for power, V-8s appear to be on the wane in favor of smaller, more efficient motors — even in Formula 1, where the V-8 may have run its last race. Enjoy the sound while you can.

Photo: abac077 via Flickr