Featured: There's No Replacement for Displacement

There’s No Replacement for Displacement

By Jonathan WC Mills
September 26, 2013
12 comments

I rolled out an old saw the other day when I was in the process of purchasing a large displacement V8…with a car attached. It popped into my mind the minute the heavy engine chuffed into motion, its lumpy idle as much a part of my own psyche as the smell of gasoline and the taste of cigarettes…along with a couple of other vices that are rapidly going out of style.

However, as we reach the apogee of highly engineered gas-fueled horsepower wars, I can’t help but wax nostalgic for good old cubic inches.

Cars make horsepower in one of two ways: (1) displacement, where huge volumes of air, fuel and fire are consumed to generate ridiculously loud, juvenile horsepower, (2) engine speeds, in which precision engineered sewing machines use maniacally high revolutions to create power.

I will admit to falling squarely in camp number one. I’m not a drag racer or a nostalgic muscle-car fan longing for the lost days of my youth. I just happen to favor slower engine speeds and gobs of torque over driving something that sounds like an angry beehive.

Most car people find themselves falling into one category, or another—it’s inevitable. If you were weaned on the shriek of tiny engines howling toward redline, you might honestly prefer a turbocharged four cylinder over a big honking V8. Maybe a straight-six is the perfect compromise. It certainly is for me—I just can’t afford it.

However, I maintain my love for big engines—the sound of a V8 with free flowing pipes is primal. It’s a guttural beat of heavy displacement that reaches into my soul and gives it a hard squeeze of adrenaline. It’s the background noise to open roads of the American West or the moss shrouded ribbons of the Deep South.

Perhaps the tinny whine of a four-banger accelerating conjures up the same feelings for enthusiasts who love small engines, rapid urban commutes and expensive gasoline.

Maybe I’m a throwback after all. If so, I’m okay with that. I don’t mind being a dinosaur with a large displacement heartbeat.

Photography by Jonny Shears for Petrolicious

Join the Conversation
Related

12
Leave a Reply

10 Comment threads
2 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
10 Comment authors
Law SohardIan SelingerRupert Richardsonhans abrahamsRik Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
trackback
JaxWagen
JaxWagen

Thumbs up for the breaking bad reference

Rupert Richardson
Rupert Richardson

Ummm… why do you illustrate an article singing – or, rather, gutterally bellowing – the praises of the V8 with 2 pictures of V12s and one – completely bonkers – V16? All grerat engines and I know how Jonathan. To listen to the Panozes at Le Mans, as they made the earth shake, is one of the seminal experiences in life.

Law Sohard
Law Sohard

I don’t see a V16 but I do see the BRM H16, which was basically two flat 8’s stacked on each other. The H16 was used in the ’66 p83 chassis driven by Jackie Stewart and the lotus-brm 43 driven by three different drivers including Clark. BRM did make a v16 that they used in their Type 15.

hans abrahams
hans abrahams

The sound of my 66 Sunbeam Tiger with a 289 HiPo with a 4 barrel Holley, Edelbrock intake and straight pipes at 6000rpm is simply incredible. I possess a variety of cars including a Fulvia 1600HF and a 356 Porsche with Sebring exhaust, but nothing comes close to the thunder of a hard-revving v8. Simply glorious!

Rik
Rik

Camp 2 for me, precision engineered sewing machines sounding like an angry beehive.

An Alfa V6 at full battle cry makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Following a Lancia Fulvia closely with the throttle backed off on over run, is like listening to a gun fight. And a Lamborghini Muira emerging from a tunnel sounds like the devil showed up, and he’s pissed off!

Lon Thompson
Lon Thompson

I tend to like the shriek of a high-revving race engine, but I also have very fond memories of the Can-Am days. The one single photo that you should have included with your essay is that of the huge aluminum block Chevy V8s used in McLaren’s M8 Can-Am cars and their gorgeous intake trumpets. Several nice sounding videos on YouTube but obviosuly nothing compared to the ground shaking experience of hearing the real thing.

Jag120
Jag120

Primal? Absolutely!!! I cannot explain it, but listening up close to a big block at loping idle or low revs does something no drug can do. Yes, I love the scream of an Italian V-12 at high revs, but it’s just not the same.

Xander Cesari
Xander Cesari

I would actually say that boost, high revs, and lots of displacement are the three distinct categories and ways to make power. I’ve owned a bit of each and picking a favorite would be like picking a favorite child!

Adam Kellar
Adam Kellar

Here’s something for you 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGBMSLvggqA

It’s a totally different sound but I also love the new P1, especially in this video.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClcFaIrVZ7U

Bradley Price
Bradley Price

…or you can add lightness

Xander Cesari
Xander Cesari

Mr. Price, are you thinking about diversifying? Maybe that Europa you’ve been dreaming about? 🙂