Spanish engineer crafts "world's smallest" V-12 engine


November 28, 2011

Patelo inserts a tiny piston into his miniature V12 engine

Patelo inserts a tiny piston into his miniature V12 engine

Image Gallery (17 images)

Anyone who appreciates the precision art of engine design ought to get a kick out of this offering from a Spanish engineer named Patelo. Starting with hunks of aluminum, bronze and stainless steel, he spent over 1200 hours designing, milling, turning and drilling what he claims is "probably" the world's smallest V12 engine. Powered by compressed air injection (0.1kg/sq cm), this little marvel boasts a total displacement of 12 cubic centimeters from its twelve 11.3 mm diameter pistons and works like a charm. Best of all, you can see it come together in the detailed video that follows.

Built primarily for educational purposes, Patelo has no plans for selling the mini-motors. In fact, seemingly to prove this lengthy exercise in metallic accuracy was truly a labor of love, he dedicated the engine to his four grandchildren. He crafted all 261 pieces of the engine from scratch, but drew the line with the 222 screws, which he purchased, presumably so he'd have at least a little time to spend with the grandkids.

Here's an English translation of the terms in the video in case you don't have a Spanish dictionary handy (watching it'll be nine minutes and change well-spent):

  • Construimos el ciguenal: Building the crankshaft
  • Comenzamos el montaje: Begin the installation
  • Montamos el ciguenal en el bloque: Fit the crankshaft in the block
  • Cojinete de apoyo del ciguenal: Crankshaft bearing support
  • Taques: Tappets
  • Arbol de levas: Camshaft
  • Cojinete de apoyo del arbol de levas: Camshaft support bearing
  • Engranajes de la distribucion: Timing gear
  • Volante: Flywheel
  • Cilindros: Cylinders
  • Pistones: Pistons
  • Comprobamos con un taladro que todo esta en orden: Check with a drill that everything is in order
  • Culatas: Cylinder heads
  • Balancines: Rockers
  • Varillas de balancines: Rocker shafts
  • Colectores de admision: Intake manifolds
  • Colectores de escape: Exhaust manifolds
  • Tapa de distribucion: Distribution cover
  • Bombas de refrigeracion: Cooling pumps
  • Enfriador de agua dulce: Fresh water cooler
  • Filtro de admision: Inlet filter
  • Pruebas de funcionamiento: Function tests
  • Camara lenta: Slow motion
  • Numero de piezas/tornillos: Number of pieces/screws
  • Horas de trabajo: Hours of work

Maybe it's the music in the video but precision machining doesn't get much more exciting than this.

About the Author
Randolph Jonsson A native San Franciscan, Randolph attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland before finding his way to the film business. Eventually, he landed a job at George Lucas' Industrial Light + Magic, where he worked on many top-grossing films in both the camera and computer graphics departments. A proud member of MENSA, he's passionate about technology, optimal health, photography, marine biology, writing, world travel and the occasional, well-crafted gin and tonic! All articles by Randolph Jonsson


But is it an engine if it runs on compressed air? I guess so if you consider the compressed air energy.

Still it would be really cool if he could make it an internal combustion engine of some kind.

Michael Mantion

@ Michael Mantion

Compressed air engine would be the only efficient type of engine at that small of a scale. the imperfections in designing millimeter scaled parts would not be able to withstand a true ICE. Real engines are made so precise, that none of the cylinders have any sort of gaps and whatnot, but when a piston is 11.3 mm diameter, the margin of error in them being perfect grows exponentially.

Dheeraj Tummala

If you like this, you\'ll love the Model Engineer Exhibition at Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey, from 9th to 11th December 2011:

999 HOT

This thing is amazing. I want one.

Ryan Gribble

True mechanical art

Forward Thinker

Tooling work so fine it is almost like a watchmaker\'s. And he designed the whole thing as well. Painstaking work that needs to be appreciated. End result, a fine work of art.

I don\'t see why he should stop there. It is possible, once Mr. Patelo has rested and been further motivated by public (us) applause, he could set about doing the impossible, making it a true ICE (maybe compression ignition, first). Lubrication with solids coatings, cooling with air (mechanical fan), etc. To acheive machining tolerances, much polishing & watchmaker technology.

In time to come (when everyone has gone electric) these could be auctioned off for huge sums. Mr. Patelo, thanks for inspiring us..

Yes, another fine work of engineering art, by Gizmag.


With the timing gears all the same, it\'s set up like a two stroke. It has to be like that to run on air, otherwise it wouldn\'t run due to having to try to compress air in the cylinders on what would be the compression stroke in a 4-stroke ICE.

Also notice the complete lack of bearings anywhere but at the ends of the crank and camshafts. That wouldn\'t withstand running on fuel.

It\'s a very nice air motor, but not an engine.

Gregg Eshelman

Here\'s a link to a pretty small V12 ICE used in model aeroplanes, it\'s a German site . . .

The air-cooled version has a total 87cc capacity

Sounds great d;-)


The problems of clearances and bearings in miniature engines were overcome by manufacturers of engines for model aircraft decades ago. I owned a tiny free-flight aircraft with a 0.5cc motor in 1960. That is half of the individual cylinder displacement of this V12.

The main problem with making a V12 I.C.E. engine of this size would be cooling. Air would not be effective enough as heat would build up between the cylinders, and in the main part of the block, where the air could not get to. This would limit the engine to running for only very brief periods.

Could an engine of this size be built with the jacketing needed to allow effective liquid cooling? I believe it could, but it would be well beyond my capabilities. :-)


he must have good eyesight ?

Philip Gunn

it isn;t an \'engine\' just pumping air in and pushing pistons is not \'an engine\' air motor maybe



Webster\'s \"engine\" = \"a machine for converting any of various forms of energy into mechanical force and motion\"

An internal combustion engine is basically just a compressed air engine. You explode the fuel to create compressed air in a chamber, and as far as I know is not really all that much pounds of compression - less than you\'d think. This just saves the burning and exploding part and moves the energy production back a step in a different storage device. Compressed air cars are coming around (ie the Tata car) even though they should have been present back in the 80\'s when I first heard of research on it. But guess which wealthy (oil) industry made sure they didn\'t come through? You can also remove all those heavy cooling systems from the motor and can construct the engine block and parts from vastly different materials since it doesn\'t need to get really really hot anymore. I\'m sure a hard plastic engine block with nylon parts would work quite well and be really cheap to make. And so light!


He should make a Wankel Rotary Engine now. Only 3 moving parts. Should take a couple of hours perhaps.


Have you seen this video? This one is really working with gas! and Flat 12 twin-cam!!! This Ferrari 1/3 model is far more complicated.


He needs to build a 1/3 scale humanoid robot driver for his Ferrari. Radio control the robot which drives the car. :)

That engine would be awesome as a large scale radio control airplane engine.

Gregg Eshelman

maybe the \"i\'m smarter than you\" posters could explain the difference they are pointing to between and engine and a motor.

it is indeed an engine...and a motor, since they are for all intents and purposes the same thing.

Mark Ackerman

my engine is smarter than your motor, whatever. i want one of these to just STARE at and occasionally hookup my household appliances to. i want it to break occasionally and get to take it apart and put it back together, this is my ultimate lego-scaled fantasy desk-toy. wonder what the labor charge would be for one (1220 hours! nearly 51 days straight!)


No doubt a huge amount of talent and work, but to be a true I.C engine it needs even more work and talent. Maybe the wordsmiths would agree it's a "Search Engine?"

Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles