What To Do? NOS V-12 Diesel Tank Engines!

Barn Finds reader Shawn F. F. was kind enough to tip us off to this cache of brand new V-12 diesel engines that were originally intended as spares for Chinese-produced Type 59 tanks. They are listed for sale here on eBay, with individual engines priced at $3,000 each but quantity discounts down to $2,550 each if you purchase four or more. You’ll also be paying $1,400 to ship each engine from Tirane, Albania, but with a rebuilt Cummins 6.7 diesel truck engine selling for $15,000 on eBay, that sounds like a bargain!

As you might expect, finding a suitable vehicle to install a tank diesel engine into isn’t easy. Above, you can see four recent vehicles all powered by similar ex-tank engines to give you some ideas, with the Blastolene specials like Jay Leno’s in the lower-left picture probably the most famous. I want to know where you would install one of these 520-horsepower, (at 2,000 RPM!) 1,696 ft-lbs of torque (!!!) monster engines!

It doesn’t look like the transmission is included, which is a shame because they actually came with a 5-speed manual in the tanks. We have no idea of the age of these particular engines, but the Type 59 was produced from 1958 to 1985 and still serves in the Chinese military as well as other countries around the world. It appears that at least some of these engines were prepped to be stored outside; I hope the preparation was sufficient as they certainly look weathered. Looking over the seller’s past auctions they have good feedback ratings, but generally are selling vintage NOS electronic components, so their expertise on these engines may be limited.

It is apparent that the seller has plenty of engines to sell. Apparently, either the tanks were more reliable than first thought or they were lost in combat before needing their engines replaced.

So now that you know more about Type 59 diesel V-12 tank engines than you ever thought you’d want to, I am serious about wanting to know what vehicle you’d like to put one into. When I first thought about it I was way too conventional and considered pickup trucks and other heavy vehicles like an RV. But then I changed my mind — since this is a fantasy vehicle after all, why not make the world’s biggest, baddest Locost 7 (Locost 12)? Sure, that would be ridiculous, and is completely against the Chapman ideas of “simplify and add lightness,” but hey, it’s my idea! What’s yours? PS — no, I have no idea what to use for a transmission!

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  1. alphasud Member

    Those sure look ratty for NOS! Being outside in the damp humid environment for all those years. And then there is the issue of spare parts. I wouldn’t worry about the transmission or lack thereof. Nothing a 2-speed power glide with its cast iron case couldn’t handle😂. I do like the idea of a monster engine shoehorned into a car or truck though just not these.

    Like 14
    • Nonya

      Definitely not NOS! Junk take outs! NOS would be crated, not in a scrap heap like this!

      Like 6
      • local_sheriff

        I don’t see any reason to doubt they’re NOS – look closer at the wodden engine stands and you’ll observe they’re identical, also note the cap-offs on any openings covered with impregnated paper. Crankcase and valve covers still in red primer (where not replaced by rust…). They were probably crated when they were in army reserves.

        Problem is they’ve obviously been out of their army storage for years, they can very well be fully intact inside but you might as well receive a massive one piece stuck metal lump. If you read the seller’s inventory list there’s plenty of parts for obvious Soviet or Chinese sourced ex-military surplus like radio sets and vehicles like MiG and Fiat Campagnola (which was produced under license in former Yugoslavia)

        Like 2
  2. Howard A Member

    Worth re-logging in for this( on early access comments, I have to re-log in everytime) I hope geomechs can shed some light on these, I read, they aren’t old, probably 80’s-90’s and these were a Chinese knockoff of the Russian V54 tank motor. It was state of the art, with 4 cycle aluminum block, OHC, and 4 valves/ cylinder. In it’s supercharged form, almost 1,000 hp. Cool find, could have used one in that old cabover cornbinder I drove once. They were popular in marine applications, but no matter what they go in, they’ll catch all the attention. V12’s have a unique sound, and not that “Buzzin’ Dozen” Detroit crap either.

    Like 13
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      My Lordy, I sure don’t know where this one came in but it blew right past me. It’s essentially a 38L Russian tank engine, out of a T34-85 which saw service for many years. No shortage of power if you’ve got a fuel truck following you around. As far as repowering your Dodge, man, you’re going to have a challenge just hauling it around on the bed. Quite an engine there. Shaft-driven overhead camshaft, no chains or gear trains. I don’t how long they actually lasted but I’m going to say that they didn’t really expect more than 750 hours in a tank. I might add that the Russians put those engines in their largest trucks to transport missiles and I’m certain that they didn’t lack any power. Here’s a video of a bunch of adventuresome guys restoring one (Type 50). Make some comparisons to what you see in trucks today and then make a judgment…

      Like 6
      • retiredstig Member

        If these are the same design as the T-34 engine, they’re not worth $300.00, let alone $3,000. Soviet tank engines were (and perhaps still are) notoriously poorly made, with enormous loose tolerances so they will start in extreme cold.
        They are occasionally good for perhaps 1,000 hours, so unless you enjoy constantly changing engines, run away!

        Like 3
      • vintagehotrods

        I watched the video and another one after it was reinstalled in the tank. It smoked so badly it must have needed a 55 gallon drum of oil along but maybe it wouldn’t be needed too long because it would have been easy target to spot.

        Like 2
      • Tony

        If you look you’ll see bits of the transport wrapping and cosmiline. Just OLD NOS.

        Like 2
      • Anthony D Wixon

        Not T34 engine, they an opposed six cylinder 2 stroke. These powered T55-62’s. Good engines.

        Like 3
      • piston poney

        in Russia quality means something that is easy to fix when broken, Germany something that is overly complicated and will last,(not actual def. but an unwritten one) (one reason the alies won ww2), so if they are copied russian designs then they should be relatively easy to work on, yeah sure they wont last to long but easy to fix, as far as tank engines go

  3. Grease

    I expect many will find their way into Boats.

    Like 10
    • Lance

      Possibly as anchors.

      Like 35
  4. Jim Tucker

    No thanks but interesting they survived being sold for scrap.

    I was hoping to use my Prius or my Harley pan head.

    Good luck on sale.

    By the way your local auto dealer won’t be able to tune up .

    Hmm Napa ? Autozone? 😎

    Like 5
  5. Nash Bridges

    Made in China = junk.

    Like 31
    • Dave

      The new Predator engines at Harbor Freight.

      Like 4
  6. George

    Will it fit in a Miata?

    Like 9
  7. Bob Roller

    I was hoping for a big German V12 like the King Tiger tank had in WW2.

    Like 3
    • Curt Lemay

      They only made 1347 Tigers during the war, and most of those met a bad end, doubt there are too many engines left. I do not think it is very respectful to use an engine from a war machine (esp those used in battle) for something frivolous and fun. Use them in a museum, stuff like that, but not in your hot rod.

      Like 2
      • Dave

        A lot of engines from WW2 found their way to Bonneville in the years after the war.
        The Germans made the first jet aircraft, something we take for granted these days.
        And don’t forget about Werner Von Braun’s rocket motors, without which our version of civilization would be impossible.
        I believe that the phrase “swords into plowshares” fits here.

        Like 5
      • Curt Lemay

        Okay Dave, you make good points.

        Like 3
  8. Kenn

    Boats it will be, and probably more than a few.

    Like 2
  9. charlie Member

    And, you won’t be able to drive whatever it is in CA which forbids diesels built before ’93 from being registered for road use beyond 1000 miles a year, air pollution controls. So maybe a boat. Some Chinese stuff is great, and some is crap, like the electronics on my Audi. But some US stuff is great, and some is crap, like the “rust proofing” or lack thereof on cars buillt in the US before 1980 or so.

    Like 11
  10. charlie Member

    And, you won’t be able to drive whatever it is in CA which forbids diesels built before ’93 from being registered for road use beyond 1000 miles a year, air pollution controls. So maybe a boat. Some Chinese stuff is great, and some is crap, like the electronics on my Audi. But some US stuff is great, and some is crap, like the “rust proofing” or lack thereof on cars buillt in the US before 1980 or so.

    • Buck Rekow

      Hmm. T34 engine. Great for your MAZ 537.

  11. RegularGuy55

    No one else has mentioned them, so I will. Two of the most absurd engine-swap American cars are the Chevy Vega and the Pontiac Fiero.

    I suspect the Fiero would be more of a problem, since those beasts look wider than the Pontiac itself. So that leaves the Vega. They will need to upgrade the front suspension, I suspect.

    Like 3
  12. Dan Howes

    With torque like that I would think a recovery vehicle is just about the right calling for one of them.

  13. moosie moosie

    How about a VW beetle, the old style one. Mount it up front and move the drivers seat back . Put in a stout Dana rear with an Allison automatic to handle gear changes and an Art Morrison chassis & just cruise the interstate.

    Like 2
    • Bill McCoskey

      When I was in the US Army in 1975, I was stationed in Germany, and our group raced a 1956 VW in the unlimited size. We had a 6-cylinder dual overhead Alfa-Romeo engine {I don’t remember size}, mounted up front, with trans shifter between the driver’s legs, and a narrowed Chevy rear axle mounted to the VW suspension [we used 2.5 ton army truck shocks to hold the axle in place, solving the sideways movement.]

      That car tore up the dirt track, especially after we put in triple jeep carbs!

      Like 3
  14. That AMC guy

    I’m sure with the help of a couple of cases of beer that someone will figure out a way to install one of these in a Nash Metropolitan.

    Like 8
  15. Rick C.

    I saw a GMC Crew Cab dualie 4×4 with extra set of dualies in back (watch diesel bros) and would drop it in something like that… Damn what I wouldn’t be able to haul with that set up.

  16. local_sheriff

    According to wiki Albania received 721 Type 59 tanks in the ’66-’75 time frame and they’re now de-commissioned. Any armed forces have a system to conserve replacement parts but these engines sadly seem to have been out of such organized storage for a considerable period.

    Problem is you cannot buy just one – sooner or later something will break so you’ll need (at least) an extra engine to cannibalize. Just finding a replacement for a blown head gasket or specific torque specs have the potential of becoming a future minefield. AFV and aircraft engines are extremely fascinating and always overkill regardless of origin. Would make a cool trailer mounted show-off piece to crank up at car shows, but to use it to propel any vehicle is bound to be trouble

    Like 4
  17. AMCFAN

    Using these remarkable engines for something useful other than a goofy hot rod or freakazoid that only may travel several hundred miles in it’s lifetime doesn’t make sense.

    For the mega farmers why not use them to repower their junk component infested newer John Deere tractors to something they can work on? With the internet parts won’t be a problem and about any fabricator can make an engine plate and figure out fuel management.

    Like 6
    • John S Dressler

      Or for a beast of a tractor pulling machine?

  18. Anthony D Wixon

    I’d get 4-5, two to run, rest for spares. Put them in a tank. Surplus Russian and Chinese can be had cheap.

    Like 2
  19. cyclemikey

    Buying rusty 30-40 year old Chinese-made crap out of Albania. Geez, how could this have anything but a happy ending?

    Like 14
  20. junkman Member

    Prolly good for generators in places like Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico.

    Like 5
    • Charles Sawka

      Um. NO

  21. vintagehotrods

    New? NOT!! Bargain? ABSOLUTELY NOT!! I think someone has gotten a blue light overdose from staring at their computer monitor too long! The best thing you could put this in would be in the back of a dump truck for the trip to the smelter! Even if the seller gave them away, these things are scrap metal and wouldn’t be worth the cost of shipping them out of Albania.

    Like 5
  22. gergnamhel

    Will it fir in my Fiat 850 spider?

    • Ian C

      Depends on how big of a hammer you have.

      Like 4
    • Bill McCoskey

      Fit in a Fiat 850? Why certainly, and here’s how it’s done in 5 easy steps:

      1. Remove old Fiat engine/gearbox.

      2. Raise engine 20 feet into air by crane.

      3. Push Fiat underneath said engine.

      4. Stand back about 50 feet.

      5. Drop engine. It should fit nicely!

      Like 7
  23. Ian C

    Wrap that Goggomobil from a couple days ago around it. Attach a rear section from a sling-shot dragster to the back. Pay up your life insurance. Than have your pic in tomorrows obits section! Good times.

    Like 5
  24. Matt c

    Jay Leno actually blew his up when an oil line broke in the middle of restoration ( he bought it already hobbled together) and he went out and bought another engine! Just to finish the massive behemoth .

    Like 4
  25. Dave

    I’m picturing how this would look under the cab of a GMC Crackerbox. IIRC, they did offer a V12 with those.
    Just the thing to flatten out the westbound approach to the Blue Mountain Tunnel.

    Like 1
  26. Wayne

    Transmission? Really? Figure out the gearing and tire diameter to the top speed you want to travel and bolt it direct! It has enough torque to do anything you want. (How many ply ratings on the tires do I need to carry the weight of just the engine?)
    I’m surprised they used a transmission. It would seem to me that a monster (enough to handle the torque) hydraulic pump would be the way to power anything slow and nasty.

    Like 1
  27. charlie Member

    Or, a generator and electric motors, like locomotives use, no clutch or transmission to worry about. Now with Tesla and others the appropriate motors should be easy to source for the final drive, and the Toyota Hybrid generators might work nicely as well.

    Like 1
  28. Mullet Man

    put it on a smart car

    Like 3
    • Bill McCoskey

      Mullet Man,

      I noted you said put it ON a Smart car, Not IN a Smart car.

      Like 4
  29. piston poney

    listen, y’ll got it all wrong, you get like 3 (might want like 2 extras maybe more) and get either a semi or an old 1 ton truck and put one where the engine would normally go and when you really want to go start up the other 2 shift the transfer case to make all 3 drive the wheels and you will have a truck that will probably beat the dodge demon in the quarter mile, obviously your gonna need to be good at making custom parts but hey once its done you will have a truck straight outa h***. (this is just a a fantasy thing)

  30. Car Nut Tacoma

    If it’s indeed Made in China 🇨🇳, it needs to be chucked into the deepest lake possible. I’d much rather have a diesel engine Made in Australia 🇦🇺, Germany 🇩🇪, the USA 🇺🇸 or Canada 🇨🇦.

    Like 2

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