There’s No Replacement for Displacement
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