Daniel Aquilon (76) has been fascinated with engines since childhood. He built his first fully functional engine at age 17 during his apprenticeship as an electromechanical technician. What made it unique: its 1:3 scale. Together with friend Bernard Bussy (74) he has also tried his hand at the Ferrari® 512 TR’s 180° V12 engine. Hailing from the French-speaking region of Switzerland, the ingenious hobbyist has built a total of 25 fully-functioning miniature internal combustion engines. MOTOREX paid the pair a visit.

French chansons play quietly in the background as Daniel Aquilon works on a miniature in his 14-square-meter workshop. In the 1950s his father, a mechanic, would tell his son stories about his work, mostly on American engines. This was the age of technical refinements such as hydraulic tappets and automatic transmissions.

At age 17, while still in his apprenticeship as an electromechanical technician, Daniel built his first functioning engine, a one-cylinder four-stroke model with 25 cc displacement. He went on to work 25 years for the same company as a plant mechanic. Wherever there were mechanical and electrical challenges to master, he would bring his considerable talent to bear. Again and again he achieved astonishing things, especially for someone boasting neither a degree in engineering nor professional experience as a prototype designer for a major auto manufacturer. The thing that fuels both him and his engines is pure passion. The passion to prove himself, to put himself to the test again and again. Yet in person he is modest and never makes himself or his abilities the center of attention. With the simplest of tools – a drill press, a cross table with a milling cutter and a small lathe, Daniel continues to produce perfectly functioning miniatures to this day. Among his creations are a Stirling engine, several one- to 12-cylinder four-stroke engines in boxer, inline and V configurations, a one-cylinder diesel and even a 14-cylinder radial engine.

Daniel Aquilon and Bernard Bussy met by chance in 2002. Daniel was just working on his first twelve-cylinder engine at the time, the legendary Ferrari® 60° V12 designed by Gioacchino Colombo, with one overhead camshaft for each cylinder bank, three carburetors, a two-valve design and wet oil sump. Bernard, who already had a high concentration of gasoline in his veins, promptly fell under the spell of the V12’s throaty howl. What resulted was the idea of making these masterpieces of engine construction accessible to a wider audience under the name Motorconcept.

Almost on the day of his 60th birthday Daniel finished his first twelve-cylinder engine. It was a sensation! But he had reckoned without Bernard, who already had an even bigger challenge in mind for his «teammate»: the 180° V12 designed by Mauro Forghieri, first used in a Formula 1 Ferrari® 512 F1 (1964–65). In a number of variants, this engine would go on to power thousands of produced 365 GT/4 BB, BB 512, BB 512i, Testarossa, 512 TR and 512 M cars between 1973 and 1996. If the crankshaft was the «pièce de résistance» and most difficult part of the Colombo-V12, in the new 12-cylinder it would be the four-valve cylinder heads controlled by a timing belt and the electronic fuel injection system. Like its big original, the 512-TR engine also features dry sump lubrication. Putting in over 4,000 hours of work, Daniel completed the unique piece in just two years.

It’s worth noting that not everything can simply be reduced to a 1:3 scale. For example, making the spark plugs – which of course Daniel also builds himself – too much smaller would leave too small a gap between the center and ground electrodes. Accordingly, the spark plugs look like the originals but are made on a slightly larger scale. The flat V12’s entire fuel system including control system is particularly fascinating. Daniel was able to get the electronics from a family member of the dotcom generation. The 6.4 hp flat engine can reach up to 8,000 rpm before cutting back. The sound it makes is like no other. But which Motorconcept V12 has the lovelier tone: the 60° V12 with carburetors or the fuel-injection flat 12? That’s like comparing Mozart with Beethoven or Pepsi® with Coca-Cola® – in other words, purely a question of taste. What’s certain, however, is that the only lubricants for Daniel and Bernard are from MOTOREX.