IT'S BEEN A GOOD SEASON FOR NOISES. Last week, after four years of life, my dog, a pungent English springer named Elly, managed to finally eat a meal without belching. (Surprised us both, I think.) Yesterday, at dinner, my two-year-old daughter pronounced the word "daddy" for the first time. (Moments later, as if to confirm our shared genetics, she smeared a plate of pasta onto her forehead.) And a short while ago, I went to England's Goodwood Revival.
If those words don't ring a bell, drop everything and type them into YouTube. The Revival might be the best old-car event on the planet. A field of mostly pro drivers and irreplaceable vintage iron, racing like it mattered. Also low-altitude Spitfire flybys, raucous slides, and an old-school track composed largely of fourth-gear corners with microscopic runoff.
Goodwood is the Monterey Historics a deeply English brand of insanity. Like Monterey, it produces a healthy racket, but also a telltale audio signature. Old race cars, unlike new ones, generally sound unique. Goodwood trumps Monterey in part because its race fields stay tight, so the various powerplants meld into a deafening collage.
With street cars, engine sound hasn't homogenized, but it's definitely become buried. As interiors grow quieter and noise regulations tighten, carmakers have gotten clever. Fast BMWs play synthesized engine yawp through their stereos. Some VWs have underhood speakers. Even the Porsche 911, that bastion of authenticity, requires a plastic "symposer" tube to bring intake snort to the cabin.
The merits of this stuff are a discussion for another day, but Goodwood got me thinking. I began a mental log. Here now, for posterity and in no particular order, a selection of history's vehicular noises as experienced by me, while working at this fine institution. Call it a journal, incomplete and biased. Call it far from accurate. Just don't call asking to turn down the volume in my head.
1985 Porsche 962C Le Mans (2.6-liter flat-six, turbo): The nonfatiguing blat-thrum of a 24-hour weapon made clinical when racing was still largely romance.
2015 Porsche 918 Spyder (4.6-liter hybrid V8): Steve McQueen's Le Mans, shown on a high-def TV inside an Apple Store where all the employees want to grope you, but with good intentions.
Modern Lamborghini (any): Humanlike, German-built robots shouting pornography instructions in dispassionate terms ("APPLY FITTING A TO SLOT B, THEN AGITATE") with all output knobs set to 10, then broken off.
Vintage Lamborghini (any): "Bella! Kindly remove your trousers, so that we may dance!"
Vintage American Can-Am Car (any): The War of 1812, relocated to your nasal cavity.
2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (6.2-liter V8, supercharged): Engine inaudible over the sound of exiting Road Atlanta's Turn 12 at 130 mph, or perhaps that was just the din of my testicles receding.
2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost (2.3-liter four, turbo): Engine inaudible over the sound of countless people yelling, from nearby sidewalks, that I am a sexless cupcake because I didn't get the V8.
Mercedes-Benz AMG "63" Engine (6.2-liter V8, SLS gullwing, non-turbo C63): The cliché is "NASCAR stocker in lederhosen." This is incorrect. The real answer is "NASCAR stocker in lederhosen, on a Jägermeister bender through downtown Detroit. In winter. With a back seat full of bears."
2015 Ferrari 458 Italia (4.5-liter V8, flat-plane crankshaft): Violent jungle-cat sex crossed with the sound of a symphonic brass section attempting to catcall another, more female symphonic brass section.
2016 Ferrari 488 GTB (3.9-liter V8, flat-plane crankshaft, turbo): A 458 with a head cold, on fast-forward.
Vintage Ferrari (any): "Bella! Why have you removed your trousers? I suppose now we must dance?"
1934 Alfa Romeo Tipo B (P3) (3.2-liter straight-eight, supercharged): Your redneck uncle's drag Chevy crossed with a fire-breathing motocross bike and a Barolo good enough to make you see God.
Vintage Alfa Romeo twin-cam four (any): Snorty, throaty, simple. A current obsession.
2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider (1.7-liter four, turbo): Literally does not have a muffler when equipped with the sport exhaust system. We should pause for a moment and applaud this, even if the engine's ostensibly "fun" character—lag, backfires, turbo whoosh—seems too calculated and attention-seeking. The Donald Trump of turbo fours.
Cosworth DFV (3.0-liter V8, most of F1, 1967 to early 1980s): Death from above, or an air-raid siren with a manual gearbox.
Dodge Viper (any): Dishwasher the size of Cleveland attempting an impossible but admirable task, like washing Cleveland.
2015 Tesla Model S (electric): Eeeeeeeeeeooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwweeeeeeeeeeeeee!
That's all for now. Expect this list to be continued at some point. For the record, I own a Ford 302 V8, a Ford "Kent" crossflow four, a BMW M30 six, a Honda K20 four, a KTM LC8 twin, a BMW M10 four, and a Jaguar AJ-V8 with a blower on top. Each one sounds amazing, because it's mine. True story.
Sam Smith is an editor at large for R&T. His mental logs are mostly sap and knots.