Hagerty.com

Question of the Week: What is the best sounding engine?


#1

When it comes to cars, the look is important, but the right sound can stop anyone in their tracks.

Number of valves, camshaft overlap, that iron-lung of a supercharger sitting on top—it all factors into how a car sounds. Changing out just a few items can alter the character of an engines sounds significantly, but it’s up to you what sound you want to dial in.

What some consider noise is glorious noise to others, so it’s a fine line. Just hearing a high-lift camshaft in a big-block Chevrolet will fill a drag racers mind with images of a muscle cars staging on the drag strip. Similarly, the shriek of a small-displacement V-12 as it approaches redline will conjure daydreams of Rosso Corsa-painted coupes on the Mulsanne Straight for those who prefer Italian steeds.


One example of unique sound- the Hagerty Redline Rebuild Hemi (Photo- Hagerty/Ben Woodworth)

With all the variety in engine displacements and layouts, there’s equal variation in intake and exhaust sound from one engine to the other. A keen ear can identify an engine on sound alone, but you know your favorite when your hear it. (The clatter of an air-cooled motor is a siren song for VW and Porsche’s faithful.)

Tell us below what engine makes the best noises, so we can settle this once and for all and finally stop making engine sounds at each other with our mouths.


#2

I might be slightly biased, but I find that Ford has always produced some of the best sounding engines. The gentle thrum of a freshly tuned Model A always puts me in a relaxed mood - provided that it’s actually running on all 4…

However, when I’m in the mood for some excitement, I turn to Ford’s masterful 5.0 Liter small block (complete with the correct number of 16 valves and one camshaft). Nothing gets my heart racing faster than firing up the V-8 in my Cougar!


#3

Good choices Klingers_left_foot. And I’m definitely biased for a 26b rotary. Like an angry F1 engine.


#4

Well, I’ve played this game on other forums, and I’ve yet to hear anything that has ever sounded better in my opinion than the Matra 650/670 V-12 at speed. It is otherworldly and no other car has ever sounded better. The fun starts at 3:24 of this video or just Google or YouTube it.


#5

I have to say that the Matra V12 was the first thing to pop into my head. However, down to the reality of normal cars, the Triumph TR6 with stock exhaust is a very sweet sound. Especially winding out in the forever third gear.


#6

A Lancia 1.6 HF in a Fulvia sounds really awesome. I know that is an odd answer but it does make a great sound!


#7

If you were lucky enough to live in the 50s you would recognize the best sound to come out of a car. An early 50s chevy 6 with a split manifold and small glass packs. Never was a better sound.


#8

I was going to say this, you bit me to it. I will have to agree 100%, hands down. I actually saw and heard them in action when they were new.


#9

I had a good buddy that lived a couple of miles out of town and on a good night you could hear him leaving his house. His was a 51


#10

408 LS , eight into one exhaust.


#11

Of the dozens of muscle cars I have owned over the years and the 20+ I currently own, my 2009 Shelby GT500KR has the sweetest exhaust note I have ever heard in my 65 years. The crackle being emitted from the rear of a 60’s 4-4-2 400 was at the top of my list until I heard the KR fire up. Sounds just like a race car!


#12

A MGB is hard to beat for sound!


#13

I had a 70 Malibu SS 454. The “throaty” rumble was full of testosterone…but just as enjoyable was the Whine of the “rock Crusher” 4-speed, having a different pitch in the first 3 gears, It kept my radio off most of the time.


#14

For me any American big blocks [383 on up] from the mid 60’s to the early 70’s ESPECIALLY if stock with the right mufflers has a sound I can’t get enough of. I am sick of radical cams with glass packs. I am partial to the Chrysler 440.


#15

My ‘79 Elcamino with a 468 B.B. LS6 cam, Hooker Super Comp headers, mandrill bent pipes, flow masters exiting through 3” Magna Flow extensions makes an awesome sound hat thrills me to the core. I never have the radio on. Next best thing to sex, lol


#16

There is absolutely no greater sound than a PORSCHE 917’s angry growel down any straight. I was lucky enough to hear them fighting with Ferrari’s 512. It still sends chills down my spine. Don’t get me wrong I think any engine at full song is breathtaking.


#17

There isn’t a day that goes by that I can’t get enough of a good sounding American V8 that is cammed and lumby at idle and singing at high rpm. But hearing this Ferrari screaming around a track just gives goose bumps.


#18

I can appreciate all the opinions above. I was there too at one time but for me a low stressed big block with nice mellow booming low toned exhaust with gobs of low end torque is where it’s at.


#19

Novi !! Incredible sound. D or E Jaguar at peak revs. Four Cam Indy Ford V-8 into turn one at Indy.


#20