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Around 2:15 mark in Rush (2013), we see a top-down shot of what presumably are the engine cylinders. My question is, what is this liquid in there?

engine shot

Don't think there is supposed to be any liquid in the open in your typical internal combustion engine. And the vibration makes it seem like it's a liquid.

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  • Looks like some compressed air valves (to replace usual springs), so it shouldn't be a liquid you see there.
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Jul 10 at 17:20
  • Here's a gif I quickly captured
    – shim
    Commented Jul 10 at 20:31
  • It looks from the gif like it's raining or has been recently raining, could that be relevant?
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jul 10 at 20:55
  • 2
    @shim - Elements of some of the engines were exposed; upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3f/Mass_McLaren_10.jpg - I don't know enough about sports cars to answer this question definitely, but I'm pretty sure the answer is "That's rain". Notably we see it raining a few seconds earlier and there's a discussion of using wet weather tyres.
    – Valorum
    Commented 2 days ago
  • 1
    I've been looking at his question for two days, ashamed to say "I don't know". I do know they're air intakes, they would be covered at this point before the race… but also because a) I'm a huge F1 fan …& worse, b) I was actually there in that scene. I'm the mechanic who starts the March [I think 7th on the grid for this start; we filmed more than one race start that week.]. BTW, other than they had electric starters retrofitted, which still needed an external battery starter set up to look like an old mechanical one, almost all the cars on the grid are the original cars from 1970.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented yesterday

3 Answers 3

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Summarizing the discussion in the comments, it might be that the liquid is water from the rain. In the rest of the scene the racers are discussing whether to switch tires because it has been raining.

[Is it going to carry on raining? Or become dry? Should he be using slicks or wets?].
...
NIKI: What about Hunt? Has he changed?
MECHANIC: No, he's going on wets.

Source: script

Here's a gif of the scene with more context:

gif of scene

While this part of the engine is clearly covered up during the race, prior to the race the cars are assembled and worked on near the track and this part of the engine can be exposed to the elements as shown in this picture of Mike Hailwood's McLaren M23 #33 from 1974:

1974 formula one racecar exposed engine

Source

The same car is shown in the same album with that part covered up:

same racecar with engine covered up

The race in this part of the movie is from 1970 so it would be a similar design. In fact, the linked album of photos includes a picture of Niki Lauda, one of the main characters of the film, smoking.

The cover helps funnel in fast moving air from the forward motion of the vehicle, and protect the intakes from debris.

Water pooling in the engine like this could in theory be a problem, and presumably the racecar's repair crew would have tried to prevent rain from getting into this high-performance engine. It does seem like a lot of water too. The hot engine would probably quickly evaporate water, plus we see races in this film proceeding in heavy rain (even covered, water could still get in while the car is driving). So I don't know how realistic this would be.

The clip is a bit confusing because the cars are clearly lined up to start the race, and at this point this part of the engine would have already been covered up, but I blame that on the film editing. Could claim that this clip is giving you a peek inside the engine even though it's covered up.

Kudos to F1Krazy and Valorum for their contributing comments.

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Without any other details it will be hard to know for sure. But this looks like a top-down view of high performance engine air intakes. The view appears to be into the intake manifold (not the "cylinders").

Assuming direct or intake fuel injection, we would not see fuel here for many reasons. Even a carbureted engine would have an atomized air-fuel mixture at speed so we shouldn't see liquid fuel. I suppose an old style accelerator pump arrangement might show liquid fuel under the right circumstance.

Maybe this is water injection for power boost. Though, again, we'd expect the water to be atomized, not liquid.

I think it's movie magic because it looks cool.

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From strictly a motorsports sense, this is fuel being squirted against the throttle blades. In 1970, the fueling systems used in cars were either carburation or mechanical fuel injection. During the "tip in" (when the throttle blades first open) there is a moment where the rush of air comes into the intake and makes the engine run lean. This can actually make an engine stumble. To compensate, there is fuel squirted directly into the incoming air path to make it richer. This applies to both mechanical fuel injection as well as carburation. Electronic fuel injection had come into being at that time, but was not widely used. In the clip provided by @shim, it appears the engine is being shown "revving", which would inject fuel to compensate.

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