Top 10 Best Looking Engines

Best looking? It’s always going to be slightly contentious this one but, if nothing else, it’ll give you something to shout about. Here’s our office’s top ten pretty engines in no particular order


1. AJS 7R

With a fifteen-year production span the 350cc AJS 7-R was a racer with more than just a pretty engine. The first six years of that production run was for factory race bikes only. It wasn’t until 1954 that parent company AMC made the bike available for customers to buy and race when the single overhead cam engine became uncompetitive at International level against a hoard of more exotic offerings from around the World.

As a reliable, sweet handling club racer the 7R hit the spot and took a brace of Manx Grand Prix victories and numerous short circuit races and lap records. It may only produce 32bhp but it sure is purdy…

2. Honda CBX-6

You don’t have to be small to be pretty and Honda’s iconic six cylinder 1047cc lump is nicely proportioned. It may look wide but even with an extra two cylinders it was still narrower than the firm’s CB900-4 engine even though it took a tape measure to convince people.

With 100bhp, appalling handling and terrible brakes and tyres, it was a lively ride but the noise made it all worthwhile.

3. Triumph Twin

Not exactly a paragon of reliability, but there’s no doubting that the fruits of Edward Turner’s toils at Triumph are very good looking.

In either unit or pre-unit trim, the distinctive timing case, angular cylinder and barrel finning means there’s no mistaking the silhouette of the pushrod parallel twin.

4. Moto Guzzi V-twin

Stylistically, it may not have aged well in recent years but as a visual representation of 1970s biking Guzzi’s V-twin motor is the Daddy.

With it’s cylinders sticking out into the breeze to keep them cool (an idea adopted from aircraft know-how), those famous alloy rocker covers and finned, deep sump you can’t accuse the big Guzzi of being ugly.

5. Victory V-twin

After a short office scuffle over which Harley motor would make it into our top ten lookers, we agreed to disagree and chose the Victory motor. Co developed with Cosworth this gargantuan 1731cc 50 degree V puts out an incredible 113ft-lb of torque. At tickover.

But look at it will you? That’s art-gallery beautiful. Clean and simple.

Final five priddiest engines

6. RC211V

Conspicuous in its modernity, HRC’s peachy V5 is the only modern engine here on the grounds of, well, will you just look at it?

Thing is, most modern motors are designed to be hidden away behind frame spars and fairings. The first Honda motor for the new four-stroke generation of MotoGP may have been destined to be crammed inside a twin spar alloy beam chassis but it didn’t stop Honda’s boffins turning out an engine so exquisitely detailed that it just needs to be seen…

7. Ducati Singles

We would argue that if the proportions of any engine fitted within Fibonacci’s golden sequence of numbers then this is the feller. Like the Panthenon or the great pyramids it just looks, well, right.

Fabio Taglioni developed his famed Desmodromic system first on the 125 singles as a cure for valve float so not only is it a beautiful engine, it’s a pioneering one too.

8. Kawasaki W650

It really says something about modern engines when the only nice looking ones are modelled on, er, old bikes.

Kawasaki’s retro-W650 uses a bevel driven valve gear which adds a nice visual touch to the offside of the barrels.

The W650 is massively popular with Japanese bike customisers which says a lot – you don’t want an ugly engine in your custom bike, do you?

9. Aprilia V4

Newly crowned World Champions Aprilia pulled a stormer with their compact, powerful and smooth V4 in the RSV. The old dictum of 'if it looks right it must be right' also hold true here, too. Out of the bike the tiny 1000cc V4 looks almost good enough to eat.

10. Yamaha 350LC

At the time, Yamaha’s bonkers 350LC turned the World upside down. It was a thinly disguised TZ with lights. If you left it alone it was even (shock) reliable.

And in its basic, black painted simplicity it’s also a triumph of packaging allowing the designers to build a neat, compact and agile bike around this tiny engine. The 350LC engine has to be in here.

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