I’ve mentioned it once or twice before, but I’m a big fan of BBC (sorry, probably shouldn't say those letters round these parts) Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. The podcast has amused, educated and occasionally even emotionally broadsided me in 45 minute chunks over numerous long journeys. Inevitably I have often wondered what I would pick if I were to get the call from Kirsty Young. Some Queen, a bit of Vaughn Williams, maybe something Daft Punk, quite probably a bit of Scott Joplin… my list of eight changes complexion every time I pick it. All except for one track.
One Christmas many moons ago, I asked for and received a book called 'Into the Red'. You’ve probably heard of it, possibly even own a copy. It celebrates the glorious collection of cars owned by Nick Mason, with expert driving impressions of each one recounted wonderfully by Mark Hales. Inside the cover of said book was a CD and on it were recordings of the engine sounds of about ten of the cars. They were all wonderful and intriguing, but one in particular stood out. The V16 BRM was like the smell of Castrol R wafting headily through speakers in aural form. It was a feast for the ears in the same way that Dan Gurney’s Eagle T1G is some sort of visual nirvana.
I listened to the track again and again on my Sony ghetto blaster. With scant regard for the need for pit stops (either for the car or myself) I made the BRM do lap after lap of Silverstone, hitting the repeat button again and again, looping the barking, howling, rising, falling revs. It is sublime and if I ever appear on DID you can be sure that it will be one of my eight discs.
The source of automotive aural magnificence. The picture at the top is its rather intriguing rev-counter.
However, I then began wondering what my other seven tracks would be if I filled them all with the sounds of cars (feel free to play along in the comments box below…). A works Stratos would be straight in there with its glorious naturally aspirated V6. As would Ferrari’s 1995 412 T2 F1 car – the last of the V12s (a sound that I heard only recently, and quite by chance, as I stood outside the fence at Fiorano). The crack that a McLaren 675LT emits on an up-change in Sport mode does something funny to the hairs on the back of my neck, so that’s in too. I’d choose some sort of air-cooled Porsche flat-six, probably a 2.7 RS engine, so you get the almost soft tones on start up but also the wonderful top end. Another Porsche engine, a Carrera GT’s V10, would have to be on the list, specifically for the yelp as the revs flare in a flash on a blipped downshift. Something vintage (barely silenced and preferably emitted through a fish-tail exhaust) would be nice to spirit me away to a different era – perhaps a Bugatti straight eight. Finally, the sound of the tailgate opening and shutting on my parents’ old Volvo 240 GL estate - my childhood encapsulated in a 'thunk'.
Ask me tomorrow and no doubt the list will have changed. After all, there’s no BDA in there and I’ve missed out the noise of an E46 M3 CSL’s straight-six hungrily sucking in air. How could I get by without the sound of a Subaru flat-four mingled with gravel clattering in arches? So many wonderful car concertos that could drown out the sound of waves lapping on the shore of a desert island. But whatever the list, the V16 BRM will always be in my eight.