Do you have a favorite engine sound?

BY Scott C. Benjamin / POSTED February 28, 2013
Hammerbrook - City can this really be true?
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A Lamborghini Countach -- and yes, it looks fantastic; but does it have a memorable engine sound? (Courtesy of Aaron Rosenberg) A Lamborghini Countach — and yes, it looks fantastic; but does it have a memorable engine sound? (Courtesy of Aaron Rosenberg)

I do. And after years and years (actually, it’s more like decades if you want the honest truth) of paying careful attention to the sounds produced by specific engine and exhaust combinations, I’ve decided that my favorite is a big-block Mopar V-8 (a 440 with an aggressive cam, to be exact) breathing through a Flowmaster exhaust system. Yeah, I know that’s pretty specific; but really, that’s my all-time favorite. And I’ve been paying attention.

Here’s how it works: Several times each week, I’ll see a car approaching that catches my eye. It’s almost always something unusual — maybe it’s an exotic sports car, maybe it’s an old muscle car that’s out for a Sunday cruise — whatever the vehicle happens to be, I’m always interested in what it sounds like as it passes by or as it idles at the stoplight while we sit in traffic. I switch off the radio, roll down my windows and listen to the exhaust note. Some are worth the effort while others are just a waste of time.

My point is this: If you pay careful attention to everything that’s on the road, you can quickly narrow down your list. And you’ve got a lot to choose from. In the past, cars have been built with single-cylinder engines, two-, three-, four-, five-, six- and eight-cylinder engines, too. Ten-cylinder car have their own distinctive sound, as do the twelve-cylinder models. Heck, there have even been a fair amount of sixteen-cylinder cars built throughout history. The Bugatti Veyron is one example. The 1930 to 1940 Cadillac is another.

I know that some of you must be doing the same thing — listening for that specific engine and exhaust combination that creates what you consider to be the ultimate mechanical music. Is your favorite sound coming from the tailpipe of a high-revving Italian exotic or do you like the whisper quiet power of a massive, Cadillac V-16? Do you like the growling sound of a 1971 Jaguar E-Type with a 5.3-liter V-12, or do you prefer the sound of a modern turbo-powered Porsche?

Remember that big-block Mopar I mentioned? Well, this beautifully restored 1970 Charger is not my car, but it does have the same engine that my current project car has. (I own a 1967 Chrysler Newport Custom with a high-output, 440 TNT engine.) The sound is amazing — it’s exactly like this:

I can’t seem to get a decent recording of my own car’s engine sound. It sounds great in person, but the recorded audio just sounds all blown-out and distorted. Getting it out of the garage might be a good start. Maybe I’ll figure it out sometime soon and post it here.

I’d really like to know your favorite car engine sound. Add it to the comment section below and you just may hear it mentioned on an upcoming episode of CarStuff!

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