Plastic automotive engine

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The Plastic automotive engine has its origins in the late 1970s with research and work done by Matthew (Matti) Holtzberg of Polimotor Research and his associates.[1] Since then Holtzberg and others have done steady work in the field.

Holtzberg's early work[edit]

Matti Holtzberg first attempted to make polymer pistons for an Austin Mini engine in 1969. The pistons ran for only 20 minutes until failure. Holtzberg remedied this by fitting the pistons with aluminium crowns and he sold these pistons to racing builders during the early 1970s.[2]

Polimotor research[edit]

Matti Holtzberg founded Polimotor Research Inc. in 1979. It was based in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. The company, in cooperation with its suppliers and sponsors, created and raced engines consisting of a large percentage of polymers in the 1980s.

Version One[edit]

Version one was based on Ford's 2.3-liter Pinto engine and weighed 152 pounds (69 kg) (vs. 415 pounds (188 kg) for its cast iron counterpart). It was designed to produce 318 horsepower (237 kW) at 9200 rpm. It was composed of metal cylinder sleeves, metal combustion chamber tops, metal piston crowns, bearings, valves and seats, and a stock 2.3L Pinto crankshaft. Nearly everything else in the engine, including the block, rods and piston skirts, were made of glass reinforced Polyamide-imide thermoplastic resins manufactured at the time by Amoco Chemicals Co.[3][4] The engine was never installed in a vehicle.

Although sources claimed that Ford had been a partner in creating the engine,[3][5] Holtzberg was later quoted as saying that "Ford was not involved at all".[4]

Version Two[edit]

Another engine, supposedly based upon the Cosworth BDA and YB series engines, weighed 168 pounds (76 kg), half the weight of its metal counterpart.[4] Plastic parts included the engine block, cam cover, air intake trumpets, intake valve stems, piston skirts and wrist pins, connecting rods, oil scraper piston rings, tappets, valve spring retainers and timing gears.[6]

The engine was raced over two seasons. It was raced in a Lola T616 HU04 and competed in the International Motor Sports Association's (IMSA) Camel GT Championship in the Camel Lights (Group C2) category in 1984 and 1985. The car earned several top 5 finishes including its best finish of third in class at the 1985 Lime Rock 2 hours.[6][7]

Holtzberg holds 10 patents for composite engine parts and their methods of production. The patents were issued in the 1980s.[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18]

Composite Castings LLC[edit]

In 1990 Matti Holtzberg founded Composite Castings LLC, based in West Palm Beach, Florida.[2] By 2011 they had developed a V4 carbon reinforced epoxy composite engine block with materials supplied by Toho Tenax. The block is claimed by Holtzberg to be up to 50% lighter than an equivalent aluminium model. The blocks are produced to net shape so minimal finishing work is required to make them ready for use. Holtzberg claims that this reduces tooling and production costs by 50% in comparison to die casting.[19]

Fraunhofer and Sumitomo research[edit]

In April 2015 the Fraunhofer group in collaboration with the high performance polymer division of Sumitomo Bakelite Co announced their development of a single cylinder research engine with a casing made of injection moulded glass fibre reinforced phenolic resin (55/45 respective composition). The engine weighs about 20% less than an equivalent of aluminium. Their design uses metal inserts in places of high thermal and mechanical stress, for example in the cylinder liner.[20]

The engine was presented at the 2015 Hannover Messe.[20]

Solvay revival of Polimotor[edit]

In May 2015 it was reported that the Belgian chemical company Solvay had shown interest in reviving the concept with assistance from Matti Holtzberg.[4] The engine is planned to weigh less than 148 pounds (67 kg) and generate over 420 horsepower (310 kW), it is also planned to be turbocharged.[4] Up to ten components will be replaced with polymer counterparts, these include water pump, throttle body and cam sprockets. The engine was planned to be installed in a Norma M-20 chassis and raced at Lime Rock in 2016 and a possible Le Mans entry in 2017.[21][22]

Published components[edit]

Solvay have published press releases regarding several of the components expected to be part of their engine. These are:

  • Cam Sprockets made of PAI [23]
  • Intake runners made of PEEK [24]
  • Oil scavenge lines made of PEEK [25]
  • Seals and water components made of PPA [26]
  • Fuel injection rail made of PPS [27]
  • Intake plenum made of PA6 [28]
  • Oil pump housing made of PAEK [29]


  1. ^ "One Step Closer to the No-Iron Car". Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  2. ^ a b "Is This the Engine of the Future? In-Depth with Matti Holtzberg and His Composite Engine Block". Retrieved 2016-07-18. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Plastic Race Engine Returns as Polimotor 2 Project Underway". Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  4. ^ "Ford in Venture For Plastic Motor". Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  5. ^ a b "Bob Roemer tells the story of the IMSA T616-Polimotor, the racing car with the plastic engine!". Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  6. ^ "1985 Lime Rock 2 Hours". Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  7. ^ Holtzberg, Matthew W. (Jan 18, 1983), Composite automobile ignition cable, retrieved 2016-07-21 
  8. ^ Holtzberg, Matthew W.; Spaulding, Lawrence D. (Feb 21, 1984), Composite piston ring and process, retrieved 2016-07-21 
  9. ^ Holtzberg, Matthew W.; Henke, Steven J.; Spaulding, Lawrence D. (Feb 28, 1984), Composite timing gears and process, retrieved 2016-07-21 
  10. ^ Holtzberg, Matthew W.; Spaulding, Lawrence D. (Feb 14, 1984), Composite rocker arm and process, retrieved 2016-07-21 
  11. ^ Holtzberg, Matthew W.; Spaulding, Lawrence D. (Feb 14, 1984), Composite wrist pin and process, retrieved 2016-07-21 
  12. ^ Holtzberg, Matthew W.; Spaulding, Lawrence D. (Jun 12, 1984), Composite push rod and process, retrieved 2016-07-21 
  13. ^ Holtzberg, Matthew W.; Henke, Steven J.; Spaulding, Lawrence D.; Cole, Billy W. (Feb 21, 1984), Composite valve spring retainer and process, retrieved 2016-07-21 
  14. ^ Holtzberg, Matthew W.; Henke, Steven J.; Spaulding, Lawrence D.; Oakley, James C. (Apr 3, 1984), Composite piston and process, retrieved 2016-07-21 
  15. ^ Holtzberg, Matthew W.; Spaulding, Lawrence D. (Feb 28, 1984), Composite valve and process, retrieved 2016-07-21 
  16. ^ Holtzberg, Matthew W.; Cole, Billy W. (Jul 10, 1984), Composite connecting rod and process, retrieved 2016-07-21 
  17. ^ Holtzberg, Matthew W.; Henke, Steven J.; Spaulding, Lawrence D. (Feb 23, 1988), Composite cylinder housing and process, retrieved 2016-07-21 
  18. ^ "Carbon fiber engine block revealed  : CompositesWorld". Retrieved 2016-07-21. 
  19. ^ a b "Fraunhofer - Research news 04/2015" (PDF). Fraunhofer. Retrieved 2016-07-21. 
  20. ^ "Solvay materials fuel breakthrough innovation of "Polimotor 2" all-plastic car engine". Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  21. ^ "Resurrecting the plastic engine". Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  22. ^ "Torlon® PAI Chosen for Breakthrough Cam Sprocket in Polimotor 2 Automotive Project". Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  23. ^ "Polimotor 2 Chooses Solvay's High-Performance KetaSpire® PEEK for 3D-Printed Fuel Intake Runner". Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  24. ^ "Solvay's High-Performing KetaSpire® PEEK Polymer Chosen for Oil Scavenger Line in Polimotor 2 Automotive Project". Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  25. ^ "Polimotor 2 All-Polymer Race Engine Project Chooses Solvay's Amodel® PPA and Tecnoflon® FKM for Water Cooling Components and Seals". Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  26. ^ "Polimotor 2 All-Polymer Race Engine Project Chooses Solvay's Ryton® PPS and Tecnoflon® FKM for Demanding Fuel Injection System". Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  27. ^ "Sinterline® Technyl® Powders Boost Polimotor 2 with 3D Printing Technology". Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  28. ^ "Solvay Announces Polimotor 2 All-Plastic Engine Project Will Mold its Oil Pump Housing from AvaSpire® PAEK Ultra Polymer". Retrieved 2016-07-06.