Throw a bunch of car nuts and cool cars together and it won’t be long before one asks another to lift their hood so everyone can take a look at the hardware between the wheel arches.
Even if you’re not mechanically savvy enough to know what’s out there, you can’t help but admire a superb engine. Along with the exhaust and induction sound, that’s something else we’ll lose with the electric revolution. And assuming you fancy looking at the drum-shaped motors of your buddy’s Tesla washing machine, it’s not a moment’s work to find them out.
That said, most standard four-cylinder ICE engines aren’t designed to look good. Like modern electric motors, they are purely functional. And even performance engines like the S63 twin-turbo V8 in the BMW M8 Gran Coupe that I raced for six months last year often have large cosmetic covers over the hardware to dampen noise and cover the multitude of wires , clips, hoses and connectors that you find on modern cars.
Throw a little cash on the aftermarket, and it’s easy to improve the visual appeal of almost any engine by installing silicone hoses and high-flow intake systems. But some engines were born beautiful and left the factory in such good-looking standard form that it was almost a crime to leave them hidden under a large, flat sheet of steel or aluminum.
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Take Alfa Romeo’s Busso V6, as fitted to cars like the 164 and 156 sedans, and GTV coupes in the 1980s and 1990s and early 2000s, with its chrome intake runners. Even scruffier ones like this 3.2 mounted on a 147 GTA hot hatch still manage to look special.
Or the original BMW S14 inline-four M3 and M88 straight-six engine from the M5 of the same era, each with the legend “BMW M Power” stamped on the crackle-finish cam covers and a body of individual throttle managing refueling duties for each cylinder.
And if you’re a fan of composites, the E46 M3 CSL’s carbon airbox looks as good as it looks.
The transparent rear deck of the F8 Tributo and SF90 proves that Ferrari understands the visual drama it can create by allowing you to see the engine without lifting the lid.
While not every classic American muscle car was a paragon of style under the hood, most of the hottest ones were worth looking into, especially cars with multi-carb setups like the Tri-Power Pontiac GTO .
And let’s not forget the current senior league super and hypercars, machines like the Pagani Huyara and the Bugatti Chiron, whose hyper-focused design teams make sure what’s under the hood looks just like it does. which is above.
What’s your pick for the best-looking street engine of all time? Leave a comment and let us know.