Covini B24 Turbocooler

Car of the Day #63: 1981 Covini B24 Turbocooler

Covini B24 Turbocooler
Rear of the Covini B24 Turbocooler • via Covini Engineering

I have a feeling that life can be quite difficult for automotive engineers. I've spoken to a fair number over the years, at press launches, in interviews, and at auto shows, and there seems to be two very distinct camps. 

The first group are happy to work within the system. They're the engineers who help bring things like the HondaVAC, SynchroRev Match, and Audi procon-ten to market. Noise baffles. A horn that beeps when your tires are at the recommended pressure. The little clip for your gas cap.

They're happy to work at automakers, suppliers, engineering firms, you name it. 

I'm not saying that innovation doesn't come from engineers within the system—that would be silly—but there are some unescapable realities. Cost, time, manufacturing difficulty…they can be both positive and negative forces as new ideas and techniques are tried.

The second group are the engineers who find space to dream.

Tucker. Colani. Pagani. Lefèbvre. I'm oversimplifying things, but some of the best minds have worked outside—and sometimes within—major companies, helping to push vehicle design forward where they felt the industry as a whole was stagnating. 

That's where Ferruccio Covini fits in, with the dreamers. His current project is the C6W, a mid-engined, V8-powered Italian supercar…with six wheels. With four wheels up front, it's designed to offer unparalleled roadholding and safety at high speed, as well as provide a lower frontal area for better aerodynamics.

It's been a project of Covini's for more than 20 years, with its first big public outing at Goodwood in 2011. 

These things take time.

What did Covini work on before the C6W? What was he obsessed with creating? A diesel-powered sports car.

Of course, in modern times we have a number of higher performance diesel-powered vehicles, before regulations and customer tastes started to end many sub-genres of diesel…quick ones included.

In 1981—decades ahead of any other meaningful diesel performance machines—Covini released this, the B24 Turbocooler. Apart from having one of my favourite names, it was the first "production" (they made fewer than a dozen) diesel sports car.

With a top speed of 205 km/h (125 mph), the B24 would have been about as fast as its contemporaries. The early ’80s was a dismal time for sports cars, don't forget—Ford 5.0-litre V8 engines with less than 160 horsepower, the DeLorean, and the Ferrari Mondial.

The B24 had a mid-mounted, VM Motori four-cylinder diesel engine with 128 horsepower, a five-speed manual transmission, independent suspension—and 18-inch wheels in the rear. (That's a big deal, as the day's supercar, the Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer, wore only 15-inch wheels.)

Covini says the B24 was born as an experimentation mule, as a test bed for new technologies—like the car's air-liquid intercooler—that could be sold to existing automakers.

You can still find B24s today, occasionally for sale, often in a sorry state that hides its unique engineering and innovations. If it’s a test bed, don’t bet against at least one B24 Turbocooler (surely the best-named garage built diesel car ever?) becoming an EV conversion…and all the better for it.

Could you imagine how clackety-clack this car would sound at idle? Makes me smile just thinking about how odd a combo “diesel sports car” often ends up being.


Thank you to my supporting members: Ben B., Brad B., Chris G., Daniel G., Damian S., Daniel P., Ingrid P., Karl D., Luis O., Michael J., Michael L., Michelle S., Mike B., Mike L., Mike M., Richard W., Sam L., Wiley H.