New to engine building? Tackle this friendly 1:6-scale inline-four
Real cars and parts chew up money and space faster than I consume fresh chocolate chip cookies. For those looking to dip their toes into mechanics and repair, even “just trying things out” represents a significant investment—especially if you want to tackle an engine rebuild. For example, I will never understand why my parents let me purchase a 1965 Corvair from a junkyard and have it towed into their driveway. I tore the car apart and, though it never went back together just right, looking inside that air-cooled six-cylinder taught me a lot and set a hook that would proceed to drag me though life.
I was lucky enough to learn by disassembling a complete car. If you don’t have that option, for one reason or another, this Toyan L400 could be a solid substitute. It is a 1:6-scale inline four-cylinder that, unlike those wicked-cool, see-through V-8 models made out of plastic, actually runs when assembled properly. (At 13,500 rpm, too!) I stumbled across this assembly video and was amazed when I realized how much this miniature engine could teach someone about the full-scale equivalent.
This 14-cubic-centimeter displacement engine is designed for model cars, so many of the parts look and are assembled just like their full-size brethren. Each piston has only one ring, but the installation process is just the same as it would be for the real thing. The connecting rods have tiny rod caps that hold plain bearings that ride on a counterweighted crankshaft.
The miniature engine even has a water-based cooling system. I was also fascinated by the (highly simplified) individual carburetors. Each has all the parts needed to understand a carburetor’s essential function; if you wanted to pursue engine tech further, you could apply these lessons to full-scale issues and diagnostics. The L400 is truly a fascinating piece of kit.
There is a catch, though, and it’s the $800 price tag. This little engine is basically expensive desk art, and constructing a proper R/C car around it would only soak up more cash. While there’s nothing wrong with building R/C cars as a hobby—I dabbled in it for a while—that avenue doesn’t really help someone get hooked on full-size cars (or engines). For $800, you could purchase a blown-up small-block V-8 and tear it apart on the floor. You’d learn a lot, sell what’s usable when you’re done, and write off the difference as the cost of learning. Not too shabby. However, that method requires a free floor to disassemble a heavy, grimy engine, not to mention a bevy of tools. This neat kit only requires a clean dining-room table.