Car sounds have come a very long way since the sad little putputs of the earliest automobiles. In fact, the sound of an engine has become a key indicator of how the vehicle is doing. Connected to a symphony of sophisticated instruments, with a legion of engineers listening in, an engine and the sounds it makes will pretty much tell you what’s humming—and what’s not—under the hood. Other experienced ears tune in to the sounds coming from the exhaust pipe.
If you want to know how important engine sound is, just think back to the huge debate that raged among racing fans after quieter new engines began making their appearance on Formula 1 tracks a few years ago.
SOUND IS NOT NOISE
The delicious roar of the engines became lower, and less strident; suddenly, it had became a noise—a noise fans could no longer relate to. After all, anyone can appreciate a beautiful sound, but there’s no such thing as beautiful noise.
The phenomenon has reverberated among fans of exotic sports cars, a field in which sound can be the deciding factor in a sale.
I remember clearly my first Ferrari. I was 23, living with my mother, and had no money. In fact, I was probably the poorest Ferrari owner on the planet. I stored the car all winter and drove around in a Datsun 510 that cost me $650. I often thought about selling the Ferrari, because it ate up every penny I earned. I’d go to start it up, thinking, “Sure, it’s beautiful, but I’m going to sell it,” and then I’d turn the key and… that sound! It was music to my ears. So then I would decide to keep it. Five more seconds and all my regrets would disappear. What a feeling that was! Did you know that our hearing is the sense with the shortest memory?
Whenever anyone asks me which cars sound the best, the Italians always top the list. And among the Lamborghinis, Maseratis and Alfa Romeos, the 12-cylinder, 6-carburetor Ferrari Daytona 365 GTB 4 leads the way. Whether it’s idling, accelerating or even decelerating, it’s a heavenly treat for the ears. The Alfa 8C is close behind, which is no surprise, since their V8 is made by Ferrari. Tied with the Alfa 8C is the superb Porsche Carrera GT (Paul Walker). That said, I have nothing against the air-cooled 6-cylinder Porsches, the Mustang GT 350 or even the first-generation Mini Cooper S. However, I cannot stand the V10s (except for the Carrera GT), especially the one in the Dodge Viper.
In closing, I’d say that 80% of the pleasure of driving a high-performance vehicle comes from the sound of the engine, even when it’s not going that fast! I have to say that I’m a happy man: at work and in my car, I’m surrounded by music! Let’s all enjoy it while we can, before electricity turns off that glorious growl.