You’ve probably never heard of the Polimotor racing engine and its creator, Matty Holtzberg but in a modern and green world chasing ideas to make the automotive industry more efficient and greener to the public, the manufacturers should have a look back at the idea.
Some forty years ago, Matty Holtzberg, a car enthusiast discovered the story of a new plastic robust enough that it could be used internaly in an engine. The discovery set the course of his life and soon he obtained a sample of the French-engineered plastic to try it out. The sample was first machined as a Piston and tryed in a friend’s Austin Mini engine, believe it or not, it ran for several minutes before blowing up..!
It didn’t stop him and Holtzberg developed, manufactured and sold plastic connecting rods and pistons fitted with aluminium heat-resistant crowns to ensure the racers could extend their RPM range with the lightest material available.
In 1979, the AMOCO oil and chemical company got interested in his work and Holtzberg then founded “Polimotor” – short for Polymer Motor – to engineer the first composite/plastic engine made of “Torlon”. The design was to be based on a proven engine, the Ford Pinto 2.3 Liter, 4 cylinder engine.
Instead of using the cast-iron block and SOHC – Single Over Head Camshaft – head, the design incorporated reinforced plastic for the block walls, piston skirts, connecting rods, oild pan and portions of the cylinder head. Bore surfaces, piston crowns and combustion chambers would remain iron or aluminium. Crankshaft and camshaft were to be standard Ford production components. It resulted in an engine weighing 200 Lbs (91 kg) instead of the 415 Lbs (189 kg) of the production engine.
Holtzberg wanted to go further and wanted to try the engine in the best way so he went racing ! Still backed by AMOCO, he developped another version of the engine this time using the Ford Cosworth BDA design (DOHC/16 Valves). He bought a Lola T-616 that he equipped with the new engine, this time weighing 160 Lbs (73 kg). It wasn’t intended for results but to prove the concept and actually, they did pretty well by scoring two third place finishes during the 1984 and 1985 season with one breakdown due to an engine failure.
A little video showcasing the car and engine on track :