I have a few vehicles right now but only two are really running and one is questionable as to what direction I am headed with it. (Three more are in just parts.) The tinkerer in me wants to take one of them with an older engine and really modify it beyond anything than what I am aware of out in the world today.
I tinker with computers and if I ruin one of my extra systems it usually isn’t a big deal but ruining an engine can be a bit of a messy affair. Plus you need a special area to work on them and there are all of the fumes and oils that make engines a trickier project.
The engine I would have to start off with has to be older, before electronic controls and sensors. The number of cylinders isn’t too much of an issue and for this experiment it would need to be a gasoline engine.
To some, I’m going to ruin the engine no matter how you look at it but what I really want to try out is to do something similar to how some engines can switch some cylinders on and off by removing the whole camshaft system and replacing it with a solenoid driven structure.
Ford has done research on using solenoids to replace the camshaft system but for use in large trucks. Not sure if they actually built anything functional but the idea intrigues me. If you manufactured a new cylinder head that accepted fuel injection and solenoid controlled valves, you could make an engine run with complete precision. The biggest trick would be building your own computer to monitor and operate it.
With this setup, you could set the timing differently for each cylinder in a fraction of a second to deal with changing road conditions or driving patterns. The system could make the engine run in different modes without having to physically switch from one program state to another as some cars are able to switch from sport to economy mode. The engine would run differently at idle than it would cruising and different than accelerating or stopping.
Of course you would end up with an engine much like the ones today that are covered in sensors but this one would be without the proprietary systems so any mechanic could work on it without special tools other than the normal tools and a laptop.
The biggest trick would be to have a small system in the fuel line that could determine the quality of the gasoline on the fly and from that come up with the optimal settings to get the most energy out of each molecule. This means doing a calculation on the dimension of the cylinder for that particular batch of gasoline and air while taking into account the heat of the cylinder, the air, the fuel, the water, and the oil before it even sees a spark and the voltage for that would need to be calculated as well. This way your economy mode uses all of the possible energy to run the engine and convert all of the fuel to water and air.
I don’t see this going anywhere but it is something that I ponder from time to time.