VTEC is an acronym for Variable valve Timing and lift Electronic Control. It is a mechanism for optimising air/fuel mixture flow through the engine.
The VTEC engine was the first of its kind with many other manufacturers following suit since its introduction with their own interpretation of the VTEC model.

Honda's NCE (New Concept Engine) programme was launched in March 1984. Specific targets identified through the programme included high torque in both the low- and high-rpm ranges and dramatic increases in horsepower per litre. The programme was a success, resulting in a series that included the DOHC engine found in the 1985 Civic and Integra, and the SOHC centre-plug engine in the 1987 City.

"Find a new technology to lead the next generation of Honda engines." This was the directive issued by the top management at Honda R&D after the success of the NCE programme. In response a project was proposed to expand the variable valve-timing approach. Since it had originally been created to improve fuel economy, the engineering staff's new assignment would be to combine outstanding mileage with impressive output across the entire powerband.

This proposal was approved as a D-development project, and was instituted in November 1986. That engine, instead of being focussed on simply providing economical running from a small powerplant, was to throw down the gauntlet of achieving 100HP per litre - something previously thought impossible. The goal was set - 160bhp from a 1.6 Engine, revving to 8,000rpm. Fuel economy would be important, but so would performance without the need to opt for a supercharged or turbo design.

An engine becomes subject to a higher load as you increase its rpm leading to increased wear and tear on parts. Honda’s engineers wondered how they could achieve the performance goal of 100hp per litre while still retaining their quality assurance target of 250,000km for a mass production engine.

Speaking to the design group before work on this project started, engineer Ikuo Kajitan gave a short speech: "I have decided I'm going to try," he said to the group of more than 100 engineers. "It's an important project, but you don't have to participate if you don't want to." Not one came forward to say he was leaving the project. Despite the fears and doubts of taking on such a task, it was the kind of project no true engineer could refuse.

The solution the team devised was the VTEC mechanism with valves opened wide at high RPMs, but with them less open at lower revs. Together this meant an engine with smooth manageable operation at low revs, with a much higher and aggressive power output at the top of the rev range. The result of this developmental engine was the basic design of the VTEC engine known today.

VTEC technology drew considerable praise as the world's first valve mechanism capable of simultaneously changing the valve timing and lift on the intake and exhaust sides. In addition to its impressive output and high-revving energy, the VTEC powerplant boasted superior performance at the low end, including a smooth idle and easy starting, along with better fuel economy. It was truly a "dream engine" - a completely new driving experience for motoring enthusiasts around the globe.


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