Motor Music - Blackbourn 435

By: Rob Blackbourn

Presented by

exhaust exhaust

Rob seems to be suggesting that there can be more to exhause noise than meets the ear

It’s quite a turnaround these days to hear complaints about risks to pedestrians from the virtually silent electric vehicles prowling our streets in increasing numbers, considering that for most of my life people were getting their knickers in a twist about loud exhausts.

This hostility to beaut exhaust notes made no sense at all to us young petrol-heads back in the day – we left no standard system unmolested in our quest to promote and share the joyful motor music our cars were capable of. When liberated acoustically a healthy four would perform the classic ‘tearing calico’ number, while a six would stir you with its howl and a bent-eight, bless it, would quicken your pulse with its syncopated bass-beat.

But not all exhaust sounds get the tick. There’s nothing appealing about the noise from a blown manifold flange-gasket or a burnt-out header pipe. Raw sound straight from exhaust ports is just plain ugly. Without the mellowing resonance a decent length of pipe produces, exhaust noise is just characterless and harsh.

In the case of a neighbour of mine years ago, a blown flange-gasket ended up being about more than just noise. I was living in leafy Eltham in Melbourne’s outer north east then, one house back from the corner at the top of a steep rise. While I couldn’t see vehicles coming up the hill from my backyard, I could certainly hear some of them because a decent serve of throttle was needed to crest the hill convincingly.

Some of the regulars with distinctive exhaust sounds were easily recognised. And they were an eclectic lot (like the Eltham folk). There was the howl that stirred my soul from a nice EH with a bit of work done. A VW Kombi that wearily ‘dak-dakked’ its way to the crest contrasted with a Beetle sporting an EMPI-style exhaust that managed to pull off a fair imitation of an early four-pot Porsche. There were even two-strokes (from opposite ends of that spectrum) – the glorious scream from a 6V53 Jimmy in a KM Bedford tipper contrasted with the subdued burble from an elderly lady’s LJ50 Suzuki jeep. Then suddenly one night my new neighbour’s aging Triumph 2000 dropped its bundle, cresting the hill with a blown flange gasket, letting itself down, letting him down and letting neighbourhood listeners down…

With his first company car only a week or so away, he backed the offending Triumph into the carport on one side of the house, then used cabs until the shiny new Commodore arrived. His career must have been really taking off because within a few weeks the earthmoving team turned up, earlier than expected as it turned out, to lower the level of the front yard to set up for a two-storey addition to the front of the house. You guessed it – he arrived home to find the Triumph perched above a three-metre drop.

blackbourn.jpgFOC to a good home

All credit to the man, though – there was an ad in next week’s Trading Post offering the car FOC to a good home for anyone capable of removing it. It was a piece of cake for the scaffolders who arrived that weekend in a tray-truck loaded with pipes, clamps and planks. After erecting a scaffold structure incorporating a plank runway they rolled the Triumph down on to the truck. Job done.

It’s worth noting that the neighbour didn’t allow his little planning stuff-up to crush his psyche or hold him back in life. Some years down the track his burgeoning career earned him a place on the Reserve Bank board. There was something about Eltham in those days – sharing the space in our neighbourhood with the mudbrick-house folk and the hippies and artists were Ford Motor Company directors, the Chief Commissioner of Police and for good measure, one Peter Brock.


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