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V8 Engine Noises

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"I'm surprised it doesn't come with a CD of V8 engine noises!"
Jeremy Clarkson regarding the Tesla Roadster

In Real Life, there are many different kinds of car engines. They all sound different, depending on their construction, operation, and even how the intake and exhaust are routed. But the V8 engine has the most distinctive noise of any engine, making it a Stock Sound Effect. This trope is when you hear the distinctive V8 engine noise even coming from cars which shouldn't be making it.

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The reasons stem from The Coconut Effect with a dash of Eagleland Creator Provincialism. The specific almost musical burbling of the V8 is specific to American muscle cars, whose V8 engines' cylinders are arranged in two banks at a 90-degree angle to each other, which makes them fire at different rates. This gives the engine two "base" frequencies and makes the sound more melodic. More specifically, this kind of engine was in every car worth having in America in The '60s, so thanks to The Coconut Effect, American creators have come to expect cars to sound like that even when they shouldn't.

This means the trope applies when you hear the distinctive odd-firing V8 engine even in another V8 car which shouldn't have that noise, like a flat-plane-engined Ferrari or Maserati, to a high-rpm Lotus Esprit V8, to the very distinctive whines of Formula One engines.

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Examples:

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     Comic Books  

  • In Sin City, the sound of a V8 engine is said to be vastly different from the sounds of other engines.

     Film  

  • Played with in Jeremy Clarksons Thriller, where he creates a movie chase scene with a Mini Cooper and a Renault Twingo, both tiny 4-cylinder hatchbacks, and both overdubbed with V8 soundtracks. Here, he also manages to synchronize the exterior and interior sounds perfectly to the action.
  • Averted in The Fast and the Furious, where you would expect this to happen considering the cars tend to have 4 or 6-cylinder engines. But the creators really wanted to show off the customization and modifications made to these engines, which sound so unique that they hardly resemble their original counterparts.
  • The Remake of The War of the Worlds has a first-generation Dodge Caravan, in all its fake wood panel, 4-cylinder engine glory, speeding away in the beginning thrumming out the sound of a V8.
  • Back to the Future was a prime offender. The DeLorean normally has a V6 engine (the PRV6), but the makers discovered that it struggled to reach 88 mph in a reasonable time, so they had to replace it with a flax-six engine from a Porsche 911. They still found the need to dub V8 noises over it.
  • Never Been Kissed does this with Josie's Buick LeSabre, which has Rob modified to have Tiki Post liveries. In the scene in question, he pulls off to the sound of the V8 burnout.
  • Justified in Bullitt, as both cars involved in the famous chase scene were actually V8-powered: the villains' Charger used a 440ci (7.2L) Magnum V8, while McQueen's Mustang GT350 was powered by a 390ci (6.4L) V8.
  • Zigzagged in the short film C'était un rendez-vous. Director Claude Lelouch had a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9, which was already a V8 — but felt the need to dub the sounds of his V12 Ferrari 275GTB. And he punctuates it with very fake-sounding tire squeals.

     Live Action Television  

  • Top Gear has been accused of this, as a way of trying to make their cars sound more exciting. As this sort of thing gets you criticism among car enthusiasts, it's unclear what a car show has to gain from it. They've been known to lampshade the phenomenon, though, such as when Clarkson and May are recruited to make an ad for the Volkswagen Scirocco Diesel, and the Volkswagen people call them out for "enhancing the sound" this way.
  • Gold Rush! goes a bit further than usual and dubs the sound of a powerful carburetor-equipped V8 over a diesel engine.
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     Pinball  

  • Averted in Corvette, which uses engine sounds from a real Chevrolet Corvette (reportedly a 1963 Grand Sport).

     Video Games  

  • In PlanetSide, the Skyguard anti-air buggy makes a heavy, burbling V8 noise when idling and revving, which stands in stark contrast the crappy diesel-sounding four-banger engines in the other buggies, which are ironically faster than the big V8 Skyguard.
  • The Crew uses same V8 engine noises for whenever you enter or exit the safehouse or tuner shop and during all cutscenes. While at least a third of the cars on the list are actual V8-powered cars, it doesn't stop your Mini (or Pagani, on the other end of the scale) from sounding like they have race-modded Hemis in them.

     Web Originals  

  • Part of what makes this Freddie Wong video so awesome is the dubious overdubbing of real vehicle sounds and effects.

     Western Animation  
  • The Simpsons' iconic pink sedan often uses this sound, which is actually accurate for the time — mid-70's American sedans like that did have hefty V8 engines that made that sound.

     Real Life  
  • Some modern German luxury cars do this to appeal to customers, by installing sound actuators which fake the noise. Technically, they're supposed to "compensate for acoustic deficiencies" — i.e. help the driver hear the engine and assess its performance, as it's harder to hear a quieter engine. The noise they make isn't necessarily the classic "TV V8" engine from an American muscle car, but it is noticeably more powerful. It's most typically installed on diesel engines, but you also see it on V6 and even genuine V8 engines (which occasionally deactivate cylinders for improved fuel economy).
  • Electric cars might dub over V8 engine noises, because they're particularly quiet — electric motors have very few moving parts. Part of it is for the above-stated reason — for the driver to use audio cues to understand what the engine is doing — and part of it is for pedestrians, who are so used to hearing cars sound like that that they might not notice a Tesla barreling toward them until it's too late.
  • Owners of Rice Burners might make modifications of this sort, usually by means of the infamous "fart can" exhaust.
  • In general, averted in motorsports, where different cars make different noises, and aficionados like to be able to tell them apart by sound. It's particularly pronounced in Indy Car, whose cars tend to have very varying engines (even in number of cylinders), and viewers are almost expected to be able to differentiate the cars by sound.

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