I know very little about the history of European automotive engines. Were I to spend five months finding out about the topic, this is how I would organise the information…
First, I would outline the principles of petrol engine design: thermodynamics, fluid dynamics and on to cylinder count, cylinder arrangement, displacement, cam design and further on. But I can’t cover it all so I would define a period to cover, say 1955 to 1995 (which is the most interesting for me). Next I would try to select a few companies, maybe Ford, PSA, Fiat and GM’s product ranges in the years required. It’s funny but I have no interest in BMW or Mercedes engines. Am I alone on this? Someone can please tell me why a Kent and Opel’s OHCs seem more appealing. Do any BMW engines have names?
Some firms won’t have had many engines: Rover or Rolls-Royce. Some firms will have had lots of short-lived engines (Lancia? Fiat? And why them, if them?) Put it another way, the mass-market firms provide more material, I think.
Then I’d try to create a list of stem engines in the period. These would be classed by cylinder arrangement: L4, V4, L6, V6 and then by capacities. I would want to try to produce a family tree for each firm’s engine range so you could see which lines were fruitful or over-stressed, depending.
What were the drivers of engine development? This is underlying story. In advance I’d say developments were in response to the needs for 1) power 2) economy 3) torque delivery. But external factors were at play such as market pressures (engine size bragging rights), mergers, politics and straight-down engineering problems and obstacles.
I don’t know this but if there is a reader passing by who has the information, the above is how I would arrange it to make it make sense for the interested layman.
Which car has had the most engines fitted? I’d look for a car with a long sales career within a large conglomerate. Maybe it was a car syndicated to a developing world manufacturer.
And, readers, is how I’d make sense of things.