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Top Gear's Top 9

Top Gear’s Top 9: best looking car engines

On rare occasions, an engine itself can be just as gorgeous as the car it lives in

Top Gear’s Top 9 best looking car engines
  1. Alfa Romeo V6

    Alfa Romeo V6

    In production from 1979 until 2005, the ‘Busso V6’ is notable for its long and storied life, its warbly noise, and for the chromed inlet pipes which give it the appearance of some sort of robotic sea creature lurking under your bonnet making lovely noises. A treat whenever you need to open the bonnet, which in an Alfa, is never that far away…

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  2. McLaren F1 BMW V12

    McLaren F1 BMW V12

    The gold heat-reflecting foil. The delicately machined girder spanning the opening. The V12’s carbon intake plenums. And the organ-like exhaust pipework. The McLaren F1’s Paul Rosche-designed engine is obviously astonishing, with a neat-but-imposing block nestled amid the jewellery, but the theatre of the whole engine bay is a treat for the eyes. 

  3. Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa V12

    Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa V12

    To compete in the 1957 World Sportscar Championship, engines larger than 3.0 litres were outlawed. Ferrari employed the ‘Colombo’ V12 with its distinctive red single overhead cam covers (hence testa rossa – red head), which developed a very healthy 300bhp. And with those six twin-barrel Weber carburettors trumpeting out of the middle, it was also an iconic looking engine, as well as one heck of a performer. 

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  4. Porsche 911 Reimagined By Singer – DLS flat-six

    Porsche 911 Reimagined By Singer – DLS flat-six

    Traditionally, a. Porsche 911’s engine bay is a tad underwhelming. Open the backside of a 964 and it’s like opening the back of an old tumble drier. The latest 992-gen car has no exposed gubbins at all: just a pair of fans and a plaque telling you the engine capacity.

    Leave it to Singer to make a 911’s engine an artwork: all carbon shrouding, anodised detailing and a subtle badge to tell you the Williams F1 team helped create this 9,000rpm masterpiece. 

  5. Eagle E-Type Low Drag straight-six

    Eagle E-Type Low Drag straight-six

    First, there’s the sense of occasion of unbuckling that voluptuous front-hinged bonnet and levering it skywards to enjoy here. Then there’s the breathtaking moment of appreciation when you see what you’ve just unveiled: polished block, neatly arranged wiring, and an outrageously muscular carbon fibre manifold rippling like a comic book superhero mid-brawl with a city-destroying monster.  

  6. Pagani Zonda AMG V12

    Pagani Zonda AMG V12

    Another one of those cars where the engine itelf is a picture, but the space in which it lives makes it even more special. Just look at the exposed suspension, the nakedness of the rear subframe, and how that crossbrace atop the 7.3-litre Mercedes V12 makes it look like the engine needs a strait-jacket to stop it bursting clean out of the clear-coat carbon bodywork and going on some kind of rampage.

    Textbook Italian engine art (with a bit of German heavy metal).

  7. Morgan 3-Wheeler V-twin

    Morgan 3-Wheeler V-twin

    Yes, we’re slightly cheating here. If you’ve drunk a large cup of pedantry juice you could argue the Morgan 3-Wheeler’s engine isn’t a car engine at all: the 82bhp S&S V-twin is basically a Harley-Davidson motorcycle powerplant. But because the 3-Wheeler (unlike today’s Fiesta-powered Super3) wears its engine forward of the front bodywork, no other car’s facial expression is quite so charmingly influenced by the engine pulling it along.

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  8. Lamborghini Miura V12

    Lamborghini Miura V12

    The Miura made headlines for its engine placement: transverse and behind the cockpit. But if you actually stop and look at it, it’s very handsome in its own right. The gauze-topped carbs are so close to the back window you could admire them in the rear view mirror, right up until they burped fuel onto the hot exhaust and your raging bull became medium-rare steak.

  9. Any dressed-up American V8

    Any dressed-up American V8

    We couldn’t choose just one to single out here. But any custom American V8 – particularly a big block – that’s dressed to impress with minimal messy wiring and neatly painted engine bay innards always looks tremendous. All that space to work with too – no wonder drag racers couldn’t help but tinker with them until the engine sprouted out of the bonnet. Sorry, hood. 

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