2 February 2023
The Roar of Exhausts
By Chin Chin
Mr Toad would have been much relieved. Forget global warming and the possibility of nuclear war. In his world a much more sinister threat has been lurking on the horizon. As the world moves to electric vehicles, would we cease to hear the roar of petrol engines and the husky throb of exhausts, to his mind worth more than Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner all rolled up together? Oh dear. No doubt we would be left with some music. On a rainy day there would be a swish of tyres crossing puddles and there might be a satisfactory thumping where a sleeping policeman was taken at speed. But for the rest all would indeed be silent. Ghostlike vehicles would race unheard down the carriageway and those poor animals which stood on it unwarned would be squished; perhaps an acceptable fate in such a dreary world.
Fortunately the designers at Ferrari worried about this too and have applied for patents for a system which will provide appropriate sound effects. Not the roar of the powerful combustion engine, to be sure, that would hardly be appropriate on electric vehicles, but at least something which will sound as if it is linked to the generation of power. It won’t be, of course. The noise will be artificial but at least it will bring some satisfaction to those who do not go for a ride but rather for a “driving experience”.
Perhaps other manufacturers will follow Ferrari’s lead and perhaps you will be able to choose sound effects according to your preference rather than the type of car. If you are a husky, big beast type but can only afford a mini you could cruise down the motorway to the accompaniment of a virile roar. If you are something effete but prestigious, the lady head of an Oxbridge college for example, your top of the range Mercedes could proceed to music from a recent Disney film. Before long the noise made by a car would say more about its owner than about the vehicle itself and a short tape would need to be appended to the cv if you applied for a job at, say, an investment bank.
It has been done before, of course. Years ago there was a wine merchant in the East End who sold the bottles of wine and the labels separately. If you had ignorant people coming to dinner you could slap a big label on a bad wine and they would think that you had done them well. If, on the contrary, your friends were cognoscenti you could serve a good wine under a bad label and regale them with stories as to how you had managed to find such a hidden gem. Reputation as a man or woman of taste made without difficulty. It seems unlikely that one will be able to go so far with cars. It would be a poor observer who did not spot that a mini with a Ferrari noise was not actually an Italian sports car. On the other hand the statistics say that we are all getting older, less observant, blinder and that these trends are likely to continue. So in a few years time… who can tell?