Simanaitis Says

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LET US celebrate the New Year with racecar noise. This celebration came to mind a couple weeks ago when I unearthed my Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band Beatles album for the item about Aleister Crowley.

Also found at the time were several other vinyl LPs (“what are ‘vinyl LPs,’ Grandpa?”), each celebrating racecar noise. Two historic examples follow here, as well as observations on sharing such raucous entertainment these days.

Edwardian Monsters.

Car Graphic’s Sonographic Series on the Road Volume 1: Edwardian Monsters, by Ronald Barker, 47-pg harcover book, text in Japanese, 33 1/3 recording, Columbia Stereo, Car Graphic (Japan), 1973.

This fine art book/recording echos the style of its publisher, Car Graphic magazine, Japan’s high-end car monthly. The recording’s commentary is in English, by the British car authority Ronald Barker, 1920–2015. Text of the accompanying book is in Japanese.

Edward VII reigned in Britain for only nine years, 1901-1910, a period during which the automobile evolved from being a pure toy of the rich into something approaching everyman’s transportation. In England and on the Continent, unlike America, huge displacement of the engine gave a motor car prestige.

These four examples of Edwardian Monsters fit the bill: the 20.5-liter 1907 Métallurgique Maybach, the 12.0-liter 1908 Italia, the 10.3-liter Cottin et Desgouttes, and the 11.5-liter 1908 Napier. To put these engine sizes in perspective, the engine of the Ford Model T introduced in 1908 displaced 177 cu. in., that is, 2.9 liters.

The Métallurgique Maybach looks at home in this setting. This, the following image, and recording excerpt from Edwardian Monsters.

This particular 1907 Belgian Métallurgique originally had a mere 10.0-liter engine, but gained its Maybach surname in 1910 with substitution of a 20.5-liter six-cylinder engine as fitted to Zeppelin airships.

Firing up a 20.5-liter engine is not for the timid, nor for the unschooled. An excerpt from Edwardian Monsters follows on MM 1907’s pre-start, starting, and operation.

MM 1907 was still active in 2015 at the Chateau Impney Hill Climb.

The Formula 1 Grand Prix Car.

The Formula 1 Grand Prix Car, script by Laurence Pomeroy, commentary by Nevil Lloyd, 33 1/3 recording LP 551, Sound Stories, Stanley Schofield Production, 1961.

This recording focuses on Grand Prix racing’s 2.5-liter era, 1954-1960. The 1955 movie, The Racers, offers plenty of sound bites on these particular cars. What fascinates me, though, is the Sound Stories recording of two Mercedes-Benz racecars of the Silver Arrow era, a 1937 W-125 and 1938/1939 W-163.

The W-125 Mercedes=Benz Grand Prix car. Image by Rex Hays on the back cover of The Formula 1 Grand Prix Car. A W-125 excerpt follows.

The Mercedes-Benz W-125 was powered by a supercharged straight-six displacing 5660 cc, producing 646 hp, and making decidedly mechanical sounds.

Today’s Sound Options.

We’re spoiled by the wonders of YouTube. One of my favorites recounts the fabulous Fiat Tipo S76, aka The Beast of Turin. Two videos linked to that SimanaitisSays item give a new meaning to internal combustion—when it’s only partially internal. And what sounds! ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

5 comments on “RACECAR NOISE!

  1. Steve
    January 2, 2018

    Dennis –

    Excellent (weird) topic. As a rabid enthusiast for anything with a reciprocating engine powered by explosions, I’m enjoying the clips you posted.

    My well-worn copy of “Sounds of Laguna Seca 1967” probably says a lot about me. The album cover has a shot of #66 Jim Hall’s Chaparral 2-G with its outsized wing as he navigates turn 4 (I’d post it but I don’t see a way of uploading an image here).

    Such recordings may seem silly or boring to most people but I’m glad someone took the time to make them. There will probably come a time in the not too distant future when we will no longer hear the sounds of internal combustion engines in our everyday lives. They’ve always been music to me and they’ll be missed when that day comes.

    One of the pleasures of driving an exceptional machine—or even an unexceptional but well-loved machine—is the sounds that it makes. Running up and down through the gears can be like playing an instrument. The song from that pipe is a sweet sound.

    • jlalbrecht64
      January 4, 2018

      You can create a free account at imgur, load images there, and put the links here (see my other comment).

      I am an old motor head and understand the auditory joy of internal combustion. I’m rather prejudiced towards V8s, as I kept my first car, a ’69 Charger (I swapped the 318 for a 383 magnum) for 12 years and that sound (annd vibration) just stays with me.

      That being said, now I live in a big city European city, and I’m looking forward to the days when electric vehicles will “whoosh” by. Especially looking forward to the end of internal combustion mopeds. Below is a link to a VW ad that came out a couple years ago. Explains it all.

      If you don’t speak German, the lady at the end, looking out her ground floor window, says how wonderful it is that the sound level can be so low as it is while all the electric cars are driving by. Not to mention the lack of exhaust fumes.

  2. jlalbrecht64
    January 4, 2018

    Below are a couple of images of a record I’ve had decades, “Sound Effects Daytona Speedway” from 1964. I don’t know where or even exactly when I got it. Unfortunately I also don’t know an easy technology to upload some of the sounds.

  3. carmacarcounselor
    January 7, 2018

    Re the big engines of the early days, the champion had to have been the 1910 Fiat S76, nicknamed “The Beast Of Turin,” with its four cylinders, each of which was the size of all eight cylinders in a Chevy 427. Starting that engine with a crank would have been tantamount to suicide, so it was started with compressed air.
    Re the Mercedes, I don’t remember where I read it (probably Road & Track, since that was where I got all my technical information back then) but the speculation was that the W-125 engine’s supercharger ate up something like 250 horsepower at full gallop.

  4. Albert
    July 7, 2019

    The 1907 MM was the Salon feature in the first issue of R&T I ever purchased. Unforgettable!

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