Enzo Ferrari once said, “I don’t sell cars; I sell engines. The cars I throw in for free since something has to hold the engines in.” There’s no doubt Ferrari put his heart and soul into making beautiful cars to hold those engines—but then again, he did need something worthy to frame the masterpiece under the hood.
Generally, if a car’s engine — as well as the bay it sits in — is beautiful, the rest of the car’s design follows suit. And since most of a car’s moving parts are under the hood, there are nigh-infinite possibilities for masterful design work. That’s why it’s a shame to see most modern manufacturers cover up the engine with cheap plastics and crowd the engine bay with machine-stamped, mass-produced parts; it conceals the magic beneath. As you’ll see below, many of our favorite engine bays mechanical works of art of all time date back to before that trend was common — but we still found a few newer cars with gorgeous guts beneath their hoods.
1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa
The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa is one of the most beautiful, exotic cars in the history of the automobile. Each curve can steal your gaze for longer than you ever though sheet metal could — and that’s just the outside. However, the true masterpiece, as Enzo Ferrari would say, is under the hood. The deep black compartment frames the bright red cam covers that give the car its name — “Testa Rossa” translates to “redhead.”
1991 Bugatti EB110
The Veyron did a magnificent job of bringing the Bugatti name back into the headlines — but where that car is an engineering marvel, its EB110 predecessor was impressive in its own right. It’s not very often you get to see exposed throttle bodies on top of a V-12.
1932 Maybach Zeppelin DS8 Sport Cabriolet
Maybach built its name on being the ultimate distillation of luxury, delivering incredible comfort, performance, and design. If you think that stops when you lift the side-hinged hood, you’re wrong.
1992 McLaren F1
There are ultra-luxury cars with rare metals and wildly expensive materials throughout their interiors, but only the McLaren F1 put gold in its engine bay to help with heat soak so it could hit its 243-mph top speed.
2001 Alfa Romeo 156 GTA
Not only is the Alfa Romeo GTA V-6 one of the best sounding engines of all time, but the polished works of art that are its intakes also make it one of the most beautiful. It’s not often you get an engine that sounds like honey to the ears and is just as sweet to the eyes.
1966 Lamborghini Miura
2014 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead “Waterspeed” Edition
The problem with most modern engine bays: Manufacturers insist on throwing heaps of plastic over them to hide the fact the rest of the engine is unsightly. The 2014 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead “Waterspeed” Edition, on the other hand, displays bright sapphire intakes swimming in a deep sea of uniformly-packaged black metal.
1961 Jaguar E-Type
Enzo Ferrari himslef once claimed the E-Type was the most beautiful car ever made. Knowing his affinity for engines, he probably included what was under the Jaguar’s long clamshell hood as well.
Porsche 911 Reimagined by Singer
Singer is known for poring over every detail and not taking any short cuts, including in the (incredibly cramped) Porsche 911 engine bay. There’s not much room for creativity in the back of a standard 911, but give Singer some quilted leather, and they’ll work wonders.
1967 Ferrari 312 F1
Whether this qualifies as an engine bay is debatable — but as a work of art, there’s no question. The Ferrari 312’s powder-coated center-mounted equal-length exhaust pipes are a thing of absolute beauty.
1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
1930 Cadillac V16 Convertible
Cadillac is fighting to resurrect the world-beating standard it once held, but it’s unlikely to ever reach the heights it was at when the V16 Convertible was rolling around the streets of America. It wasn’t efficient and it didn’t produce all that much power, but the sheer excessiveness of the V16 puts it in the same breath as the Bugatti Veyron.
This Jaguar will likely remain a concept forever, which is a shame. Even as we move into a futuristic world of all-electric cars and fully autonomous driving, the well-lit turbines under the CX-75’s hood still look ahead of our time.
2011 Pagani Zonda R
The beauty of the Pagani Zonda R is the mechanical system of the suspension, chassis, and engine, all bolted together to create a structural web of metals and carbon fiber. Well, that and the sonorous tune that bursts forth from it.
2001 Spyker C8
If there was such a thing as a “designer car,” the Spyker C8 would qualify. Every detail inside and out is beautifully overdone and over-the-top, but somehow, tastefully so — like a modern suit that borders on high fashion.