I've been having quite another chuckle lately at some stuff I've seen in print (and heavily and heatedly discussed by internet) on the subject of 1380cc engines and their professed unreliability. I know I have taken pains to explain that you don't have to have a 1380cc with very sporty cam profile and so on to have a decent, satisfyingly quick road car - but this reliability problem is absolute hogwash.
Properly built and maintained, these engines will last every bit as long and reliably as any other A-series unit. Ask the likes of Swiftune Racing or MED & Mini Mania - they've been churning out 1380cc engines for the masses for years with precious few problems. It's the 'properly built' and 'properly maintained' that are the problems. But then these are the same problems that affect any engine's longevity. Those and selecting an engine specification that best suits your usage and temperament as far as maintenance goes. If you don't want to be regularly involved in maintaining your engine, then go for a spec that will demand less of it. A standard road engine is very, very under-tuned to cope with a severe lack of regular maintenance. A full-bloodied race engine demands near-constant maintenance to keep it alive. Also, don't expect more from the engine than it was built to give - constantly thrashing it to within an inch of its life will do it no good whatsoever if it wasn't built to be able to cope with just that. It is this and the no-or-low maintenance that causes engine builders like the aforementioned problems when punters turn up with 'defective' or destroyed engines - generally the punter’s fault rather than the engines.
Be sensible about your engine build spec or be fully aware of the consequences of lack of attention. Consider - tuning should always be a compromise between what is possible and what is necessary.
Many are contemplating their forthcoming 2003 racing season, and looking back on their 2002 season. Whilst on the subject of engine reliability, a few words of advice for those drivers who don't want to be forking out for engine re-builds and the disappointment of yet another engine failure/DNF and the soul- destroying loss of money that goes with it.
Generally, a properly built engine will only break when it is forced into doing something for which it was not designed. Components generally only break when forced to endure stresses beyond that which they were designed for. The first scenario is caused by using the engine for braking, the second a feature of engine braking and missed or incorrectly selected gears.
The engine absolutely will not slow the car down any faster or as efficiently as the brakes. The brakes are designed for slowing the car down; the engine is designed to make it go. And in the act of attempting to use the engine to slow the car, missed gears are easily achieved. Both situations cause a massive increase in loads and stresses the engine components have to deal with. It is this acceleration on the acceleration (acceleration squared) that causes engine parts to go 'ping'. To avoid unnecessary expense, don't get the two mixed up.
Oh - and whilst on the subject of engine reliability when racing and 1380cc engine unreliability - I've just stripped and checked my mate's 1380cc Sprite engine having done no more than a strip/inspection a couple of years back.
Apart from a cam change two years ago following a broken cam follower (defective follower) along with a new set of crank bearings, a recently broken rocker shaft (no real conclusion found) and a 'latest development' cylinder head at the same time, the basic short block assembly has now done 5 years racing. And I mean racing as in European racing where the engines do probably three to four times the racing mileage of a UK car. The cam fitted two years back has a very 'savage' profile since there's a new rev limit was introduced - bigger power at lower rpm being the goal, I think the result was a fine 140bhp at 7,000rpm at the crank.
Testament to a driver being mechanically sympathetic but still competitive, the outstanding protection proffered by Torco oil, and a half-decent engine build (a-hem) is the fact that all it really needs is a new timing chain and a set of piston rings (number 4 cylinder runs a bit hot in these arse-about-face engined cars so a change is prudent). Oh - and a set of new main cap dowels coz I'm not happy with the fit of those in there now. Everything else is perfect and will be re-fitted.
Just goes to show how reliable a 1380cc engine with serious performance can be when built to a specification suitable for it's intended use and looked after properly.