Tweed, Turtlenecks and V8 American Muscle...
This article is in support of my final year (2019-2020) at the Royal Northern College of Music. Throughout the year I will be looking at how different car manufacturers have a specific engine acoustic signature, how this “sound” is created, how and why it appeals to certain audiences and how these manufacturers plan to tackle the challenge of car electrification and the possibility of a silent future.
I hope you enjoy it, Richard.
The 1968 blockbuster "Bullitt" starred the King of Cool as tough cop Dt. Frank Bullitt. However for many the spotlight was stolen by McQueen's ride, a Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback. The Mustang shot to stardom thanks to a 9 minute 42 second chase, were McQueen wrestles the Mustang around San Fransisco in pursuit of the bad guys in their black Dodge Charger. Que smoking tyres, squealing turns and lots of V8 roaring. The entire chase features no dialogue, just some intro music, the rest is left to the cars.
The Mustang was modified by a veteran car racer & technician, Max Balchowsky, especially for the chase. Most of the modification was done to the engine: it was bored out to 3.9 Litres. New heads, high performance carburettor and distributor, this was mated to a Borg-Warner T-10 heavy- duty four-speed manual transmission. To finish, Balchowsky replaced the standard exhaust with a big bore straight pipe (no silencer), giving the car its signature burble and roar. Balchowsky's engine modifications meant more air and fuel into the engine, resulting in larger explosions, thus more power. Now, to have another big explosion you need to get the waste gasses out as fast as possible, thats where the big exhaust comes in handy! Result, not just a faster car, but a louder one too.
Now over 50 years since Bullitt was released you can walk into your local Ford dealer and order a Mustang "Bullitt" Edition. Under the bonnet lies a naturally aspirated 5.0L V8 producing 480bhp. Rare in this day and age of slick shifting automatics, Ford are keeping the nostalgia, making the Bullitt only available with a 6 speed manual. Just like the original car the gear stick is finished with a white cue ball. I think many owners will be donning tweed jackets and turtleneck jumpers when they go for a drive - I would!
Unfortunately Ford isn't allowed to straight pipe the mighty 5.0 litre - somehow I don't think it would meet the noise restrictions. Luckily Ford did decide to fit a Quad Tipped Performance Exhaust System with active valve technology - basically it has a set of valves that open depending on engine load and also which program the driver has selected. The exhaust can be set in track, Sport, Comfort and for when you need to creep home late at night - quiet mode! It also features quiet start up, you can program the exhaust to be quiet for when you start the car early in morning, a good choice if you have "sensitive" neighbours. Thanks to the manual transmission and big naturally aspirated engine you'll be able to cruise around listening to that V8 burble, or listen to it roar as you hammer along pretending to chase bad guys!
The Bullitt is also equipped with rev matching which means the driver does not have to heel and toe when braking. Heel and toe is an advanced braking technique where you use the left side of your right foot (your toe) to brake while blipping the throttle with the right side of your right foot (your heel) as you brake when approaching a corner. As you brake and go down though the gears, the automatic rev matching takes care of blipping the throttle to increase the engine revs to match each shift. The result, wonderful growls erupt from the exhaust, before the engine starts to roar though the next gear.