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How the King got his crown

10 JUNE 2019

Congratulations to the Scania V8, for 50 years of emotion meets logic. Here are some of the milestones and people that made the engine a true legend – the undisputed King of the Road.


If there is one person to thank for the development of the engine that became one of Scania’s biggest successes, it would probably be Bengt Gadefelt. Often called “the father of the Scania V8”, the legendary Head of Design of Scania diesel engines from the 1960s to the 1980s anticipated the need for truck engines that would meet the growing demand for more power, especially for timber haulage and heavy long haulage.

In the early 1960s, Scania’s inline six 8 and 11-litre engines were able to reach 250 hp, an output sufficient for the long haulage of the time. But the engineers at Scania (then called Scania-Vabis) realised that such outputs would not be sufficient in future, and decided to shake up the engines market.


Gadefelt, known for his casual walk-and-talk leadership style and for his habit of leaning over the design engineers’ blueprints pointing out insightful details, was given the task of leading the development of a more powerful engine, a decision Scania took in 1962.


“We realised that about 350 hp was needed to achieve good ‘driveability’. That meant approximately 100 hp more than our other engines,” said Gadefelt later, as he looked back at the project.

The demands for more powerful truck engines conveniently coincided with the trend for more compact, forward-controlled trucks instead of the torpedo-built trucks that dominated post-war heavy transport. But there was a problem: how to fit a bigger, inline eight engine underneath a forward control cab?


The concept that Gadefelt and his colleagues came up with involved a powerful yet very compact power unit: a 90-degree V8 featuring a 14.2-litre swept volume engine. This powertrain concept had all the characteristics that Scania’s engineers were looking for: good tractive power at low engine speeds, few gear changes, and sufficient extra power throughout the entire engine speed range.

The first model to be fitted with the new engine, the LB140, quickly won acclaim from the transport industry. Customers appreciated the engine’s appearance, with its V-shaped valve covers on individual cylinder heads, and were delighted with the high 350 hp output combined with a torque curve that encouraged the use of low engine speeds. And of course, there was the distinctive sound – the rumble that would become one of the V8’s most appreciated characteristics.


“Scania created a very robust engine that could last very long, even for demanding tasks,” says Ulf Wallin, a former Assistant Chief Engineer at Scania, now Performance Object Leader. “With the V8, we managed to present an engine that, due to its high output and its ability to be driven at low revs, had great fuel economy. And in contrast to other high-output inline engines, the V8 had modest wear and tear on axles, gearboxes and other components in the powertrain.”

Scania created a very robust engine that could last very long, even for demanding tasks.

Scania manufactured more than 170,000 14-litre V8-engines in total, making it by far the best-selling engine in the high-output segment. So far, so good?


Not quite. The future of the V8 engine was threatened during the late 1980s, as Scania was working on one of its largest cab redesigns to date, which would become the 4-series that was launched in 1995. Suddenly, with all the challenges of fitting a V8 engine block into the design, it was no longer an obvious choice.


Scania’s engineers were split into two camps. Some favoured the idea of an inline six 11 and 14-litre ‘combi engine’ that would take full advantage of the company’s modular system. But the others emphasised the V8’s importance to the Scania brand. As one Chief Engineer put it: “Our V8 also contributes to the sales of our other products.”


Luckily, the latter opinion won out.

Some years later, Scania had reached another technical cross-roads: how would they fit in the new injection technology that was required for the engine to comply with the new Euro 3 emissions legislation? To solve the challenge, Scania’s engineers started the development of a completely new engine set-up: a V8 with a narrower, 72-degree angle. Around 12 prototypes were built, of which a couple still exist in less-visited corners of Scania’s R&D department.


But it was at this point that a certain senior engineer stepped in: Bengt Gadefelt.


“He warned that the 72-degree engine would have a very complex layout, especially the crankshaft. Finally, with another injection solution chosen, we chose to develop a totally new 90-degree 16-litre engine instead,” recalls Håkan Fransson, a retired former Scania Chief Engineer.

So, even for a faithful workhorse like Scania’s original 14-litre V8, the last lap was approaching. Emissions legislation and environmental requirements were becoming tighter with the arrival of the Euro 3, 4 and 5 standards, and in the mid 1990s Scania prepared itself for a major technological step: developing an entirely new V8 engine to replace the 14-litre.


With the arrival of the new millennium, the original legend was finally replaced by the substantially more powerful 16-litre V8, which had power ratings of 480 and 580 hp at 1,900 r/min and up to 2,700 Nm of torque – more than double the original V8 from 1969. Another major step Scania took with the new engine was modularisation: many components, including the cylinder, were the same as the ones used for the inline engines. The modular concept is of enormous importance for synergies in Scania’s development and production, but also beneficial for customers as it eases up service and spare parts handling.

The Project Manager for the new D16 engine platform was Jonas Hofstedt, who today is a Vice-President at Scania R&D. “At a personal level it’s still the highpoint of my 35-year career at Scania,” he says.

At a personal level it’s still the highpoint of my 35-year career at Scania.

Hofstedt’s core team was a tight-knit group of just ten people, with the responsibility of integrating all kinds of demands: finding suppliers, setting up a new production line, fitting the new design into the chassis and, last but not least, developing an engine that could match its predecessor’s image of performance and reliability.


“I’m very proud of the result,” Hofstedt says today. “Scania’s 16-litre V8 platform became a success that no other competitor came close to. Since the launch, it has a well-earned reputation in the high-output segment and is the foundation on which today’s improved and high-performing engine is built.”

After the launch of the 16-litre V8 in 2000, work continued within Scania’s engine development. In 2005, the company launched its broadest range of engines to date, including 500, 560 and 620 hp V8s for Euro 3, Euro 4 and Euro 5 engines with up to 3,000 Nm of torque. Here, the engineers were using technologies to match the environmental requirements in the most efficient manner for all types of transport.


With Euro 6 legislation rapidly approaching, Scania had put enormous resources into combining all the new engine technologies the company had developed: exhaust gas recirculation, variable turbo geometry, common-rail high-pressure fuel injection, selective catalytic reduction and particulate filtering. Add to that Scania’s own engine and exhaust management technology, which was now integrated into one system. All of these technologies would later be implemented in the V8.


In 2010, all of these features came together as Scania took a major developmental step with the 16-litre engine, increasing the swept volume from 15.6 to 16.4 litre and introducing a new, lighter yet stronger cylinder block in CGI (compacted graphite iron). At the same time, Scania presented the world’s most powerful truck engine to date: a 730 hp V8 with a maximum torque of 3,500 Nm. With the R 730, a new legend was born.


In the following years, engine and cab development continued to be intense. By the time Scania introduced its new Streamline trucks in 2013, the company was also presenting its second-generation Euro 6 range, including 520, 580 and 730 hp V8 engines.

In line with ever-increasing environmental concerns, Scania also continued to develop engines that could run on a range of renewable fuels. Every V8 truck produced since 2015 can run on biodiesel-HVO, and the company also offers several engine alternatives for biodiesel-FAME.


Coinciding with the company’s 125th anniversary in 2016, Scania introduced an entirely new truck range. This biggest-ever product launch in the company’s ­history was the result of ten years of development and an investment of over SEK 20 billion (EUR 2 billion).


The following year, the company presented the all-new V8 engine for the new truck generation, featuring a further reinforced cylinder block to manage even higher pressure in the future. The new V8 built on many of the successful features from earlier generations, but out of approximately 650 components that make up the entire engine, 200 were completely new. The team that developed the new V8 engine focused on four key areas: increasing fuel efficiency by five to eight percent to improve customers’ profitability, improving serviceability to increase the vehicles’ uptime, improving production processes to increase quality, and a contemporary design that could signify a New Generation Scania.


But what would Scania’s V8s be without the people that use them, every day, 24/7, under all conditions? The V8 customers have a special position within Scania’s R&D department. Very skilled and loyal, they are of great importance for Scania when it comes to testing new models and new functionality, not only for the V8s but also for development in general.


One of the latest field test drivers for Scania is Rickard Sjöstrand, a Swede who between 2016 and 2017 was putting Scania’s new V8 generation to the test, an S 650 6×2 Euro 6.

“The engine is really powerful and works well,” he said. “You would think that a bigger engine would consume more fuel, but it actually consumes three litres fewer per 100 kilometres than my previous Scania V8.”


Just starting the engine was a pleasure for Sjöstrand: “This new engine rumbles even better.”


Björn Westman, a manager with long experience as Head of Engine Development at Scania says that, through the years, the V8 field test customers have been among the best in giving feedback to Scania’s R&D department.


“Their invaluable feedback has meant a lot not only for our V8 development, but also as a spin-off for our engine development as a whole,” says Westman. “It meant that we have been able to maintain the focus on the high-output segment and the whole King of the Road concept.”


And maintaining the King of the Road concept is something Scania certainly will continue to do, with the V8 as its foundation. The legend – including its distinctive low rumble – will live on, long beyond the first “roaring fifties”, and it will probably be even more powerful than today’s 730 hp.


With thanks to Scania engineers, developers, managers and technical writers past and present, such as Ulf Wallin, Håkan Fransson, Peter Wansölin, Anders Lundström, Jonas Hofstedt, Per-Erik Nordström and Anders Nordner for their insights and facts.