The CAR Top 10: tailpipes

Published: 17 August 2015

Flames! Rocket shapes! Multiple tubes! Exhaust design has never been merely about letting fumes escape.

1) Jaguar E-type V12

Jaguar E-type V12 exhausts

When the E-type hit middle age, everything spread: the grille, arches, piston count, waistbands of its buyers... Even the exhaust tip stretched out, morphing from the two wheelbarrow handles of the earlier cars into a spectacular fan shape, hinting at the new-found power of the near-300bhp E's six extra cylinders.

Click here to view Jaguar E-types (V12-powered or otherwise) on CAR's sister site,

2) Cobra/Corvette

Chevrolet Corvette

Okay, so the whole sidepipe thing is slightly tainted by thoughts of bad ’70s custom vans and the nagging suspicion that you probably ought to be wearing asbestos trousers to ensure safe egress. But just imagine how fun it must have been terrifying hippies with your factory-fitted bazookas bolted to a triple-carb 427 back in the summer of love…

Chevrolet Corvettes on

3) Bosozoko

Bosozoko exhaust craze

No apologies for this mad Japanese custom trend’s second outing in Top 10. Last time it was for services to outlandish spoilery; this time we’re celebrating their ludicrous exhaust pipes. Back pressure? Gas speed? Do they look like they give a toss? Ideal for setting fire to anything rashly stored in the eaves of your garage.

4) Mercedes-Benz 300SLR

Mercedes-Benz 300SLR

Strung out on uppers and aurally assaulted by a pair of spectacular exhausts exiting behind the front wheels, it’s no wonder Moss couldn’t hear a single pace note co-driver Jenks was yelling (he predominantly used hand gestures instead). Half a century later its twitchy Mc-Merc namesake riffed on the same outrageous tune.

5) BMW M cars


In car mags, as in men’s mags, a depressing amount of plastic abounds. It’s the exhausts, you see. Too many performance cars feature big shiny plastic chrome fake tailpipes stuck onto the bumper, when the real pipe behind is usually a dull-coloured pea shooter. BMW’s trademark M-car quad pipes are the real deal, though.

6) Thunderbird

Ford Thunderbird

Pre-plastic, however, there was a time when exhausts exiting through the bumpers were seriously cool. In the ’50s, cars as diverse as the Porsche 356 and Ford Thunderbird got it right. Well, kind of. They looked great, but the stuff coming out of the pipes munched chrome work like a snail snacking on lettuce.

7) The Beast

'The Beast'

M cars’ four pipes, good; Beast’s six pipes, better. And they’re not just for show. John Dodd’s almost mythical ’70s super-wagon is powered by a 27-litre Rolls-Royce Merlin aero engine not unlike the stuff that kept the Hun at bay in WWII. Turning circle also similar to Spitfire’s, apparently.

8) Honda RA270

Honda RA270

Six pipes, better; 12 pipes, off the dial. Sixties GP racers are dream material for exhaust fetishists with their exposed manifolds flowing back from open engines like… like… James Hunt’s hair blowing in their wake. But Honda’s crazy F1 prototype takes the biscuit, with its two rows of six individual pipes, one for each of its 12 cylinders.

9) Plymouth Road Runner

Plymouth exhausts

Muscle might have been on the wane by ’71, but you could at least look fast in the queue for your weedy low-lead gas thanks to baubles like these red-slotted Buck Rogers exhaust finishers fitted to Chrysler’s fuselage-shaped B-body.

10) Pagani Zonda

Pagani Zonda

You expect exhaust theatrics from a supercar – remember the Ferrari F40’s central triple-tube tailpipe? But what could better suggest intergalactic performance than a set of tailpipes fashioned like the bottom of a NASA moon rocket? Becoming a Pagani signature now that the new Hoo-eye-rah has the same look.

Click here to read CAR's Pagani Huayra review

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker