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The Future of Muscle Cars: Engine Sounds

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By Dave Ashton

We like to bring up every so often the future of muscle cars and what it means for the breed in the coming decades. The biggest elephant in the room is clearly going to be the future of the mighty American V8 engine and what will happen to muscle cars if the automobile landscape goes fully electric…..grrrrr. It’s too early in the day to predict how things will go long term, but if muscle cars need to turn fully electric, what will happen with the beautiful gurgling V8 sound everybody loves?

A landscape where every car on the road is completely silent may initially be a good thing to many, but we as humans listen out for an engine noise to predict an oncoming car amongst other things. No engine noise altogether is going to mean more accidents. It’s not just for the benefits of the blind or visually impaired, it’s for pedestrians and other car users. But for muscle car owners, along with getting over the hurdle of not having a gas/petrol driven V8 engine powering their muscle car of choice, it’s going to potentially give out no more than a loud whirring sound. The low-end rumble of a real V8 engine moves a lot of air, like being next to a big speaker system. Not having that sensation is going to be a big miss.

So, one solution is the use of artificial engine sounds either inside or outside the car. The other is audible sounds given out when the car detects an obstacle. The video of the Jaguar I pace below gives an idea of how this would work for audible warning sounds. Having the sound of a V8 piped into the cabin, will probably be one of the most obvious solutions and could also give the driver lots of V8 sound options when they are in the mood. It’s not going to make up for the true sound vibrations from a real engine, but it’s better than nothing.

The other thing that isn’t talked about as much is how us humans use the sound of an engine to give us an idea of rev. ranges and how fast we are going. Maybe artificial engine sounds will be linked to the revs. of the engine, always on and even sounded behind other audio you may be playing in the car. In other words, intelligent engine sounds customised to exactly how you want.

I can definitely see a market opening up for sound designers to customise the engine sound experience both in and out of the car. An electric muscle car of tomorrow may be able to give you surround sound in and out of the cabin of many different engine sounds, which reacts intelligently to how the engine is moving. If you still want to frighten the neighbours, there may even be an option to pump a big, loud V8 sound into the outside world with the same acoustic range as a modern-day ambulance, while giving the same low-end vibes. It might be quite cool to have the option of choosing between the engine sound of a big old Hemi, a Ford 427 V8, LS engine, a Dodge Demon or some other very rare engine sounded in the cabin and outside as you motor along.

No one wants the fantastic American V8 to go away, but if legislation slides in where electric vehicles become commonplace, then we have to start thinking about how engine sounds can be intelligently integrated into the muscle cars of the future. Maybe the V8 of the future will stand for the level of KWh, volts or 800 watts of audio power.

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