At the 2003 North American International Auto Show in downtown Detroit, Cadillac unveiled its Sixteen concept car, so named because of a V-16 engine created in homage to the famed V-16 models of 1930 and 1931.
At least three new 1,000-horsepower V-16 engines were produced as part of the concept car program, one simply for show, but two to go. One of those drove the concept car, the other reportedly went into a specially built, long-nose sport utility vehicle. Though designed at GM, the engines were built by Katech, a Clinton Township-based company that specialized in producing high-performance engines for auto racing teams, including those that raced at Indy and at Le Mans.
One of the key Katech engineers on the V-16 project was Caleb Newman, who left five years later to launch his own company, Auburn Hills-based Performance Design.
In 2010, Tom Robinson, a Canadian who specialized in designing and selling supercharger systems to boost the performance of marine engines, was involved in efforts to develop a 12-cylinder engine for offshore boat racing when he learned of Newman’s work on the Cadillac V-16.
Robinson and Newman met, decided to create their own V-16 engine for powerboat racers, and founded Metro Detroit-based Sixteen Power LLC. They launched design and development, and the search for an investor to pay for the effort.
Each of those efforts found fulfillment, and in February they put their first working prototype on one of the engine dynos at Katech, which built many of the parts that comprise the engine, including the cast-aluminum engine block. The engine pumped out 1,100 horsepower and 1,100 pound-feet of torque.
For the sake of comparison, the 1930 Cadillac 16-cylinder produced no more than 185 horsepower.
While the 854-cubic-inch (14-liter) engine features unique crankshafts, camshafts and other components, it employs standard General Motors cylinder heads.
Robinson explained that offshore racers generally use two or even three V-8 engines that each pump out as much as 1,000 horsepower while running on specialized racing fuel, but noted that the strain of achieving the necessary performance means engines expire after less than 20 hours of racing.
With the XVI version of a V-16, racers will still use a pair of engines, but should be able to run them on pump gasoline and for 200-300 hours while still achieving speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour. While current engines are sold with no warranty, XVI hopes to offer a two-year warranty on its engines.
The engine was officially unveiled at the recent Miami International Boat Show in Florida. A couple of units have been placed into a boat for testing on Lake St. Clair, and the first deliveries to customers are expected around the end of the year. Robinson said not only are racers expressing interest, but so are those building yachts and exotic fishing craft.
And XVI and Katech already are discussing the possibility of an automotive version of the engine that could be attractive to hot-rod builders and to those racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.