I was interested in DSJ’s article on sound and/or noise in the August issue of MOTOR SPORT. I have an idea that this could have emanated from a conversation we had at Silverstone in April when I said that I was looking forward to hearing the 158 Alfa at the June meeting and how much I enjoyed listening to the V16 BRM. Jenks told me then that he didn’t like the noise of the V16 because it signified failure and the two cars that really made his adrenalin flow were the 158 and the W196 Mercedes.
When Jenks states that it is the association of ideas that creates either “sound” or “noise” he makes it clear that his are very much related to success. I see the point, and I was not disappointed when I finally heard the 158 Alfa — and racing cars don’t come any more successful than that.
At the Christies meeting in June a childhood dream came true when I was able to see and hear Neil Corner’s Mercedes and Auto-Union in action. These cars certainly give a new meaning to the term “Historic Racing Car” and it was interesting to hear the difference between the V12s, the Mercedes sounding the smoother, the Auto-Union slightly gruffer and deeper. I have to say that part of the appeal was the mystique that surrounds the pre-war German cars and the total dominance they enjoyed in their heyday which supports Jenks’ view, as does the noise made by a young chap who goes past my house on a moped which has a decibel rating higher than any racing car.
Notwithstanding this, I beg to differ over the question of the V16. To Jenks, the noise equals disaster and failure. Perhaps I am more romantic. To me, when I listen to that extraordinary exhaust note, I remember the sheer audacity of Peter Berthon’s design; one that would have stretched the resources of even Daimler-Benz. I remember Raymond Mays’ untiring efforts to get the project off the ground. I remember those of little faith who failed to give support when it was needed and I remember Albi when at long last the car showed the world what it could do. There is no failure in producing over 550 bhp from one and a half litres.
I am aware of Stirling Moss’s opinion of this car but in Fangio’s latest biography, the five times World Champion goes to the extent of devoting a separate chapter on the V16, “The most fantastic car I ever drove.”