Please, Look at This Old McLaren Formula 1 Exhaust Manifold

This hidden bit is better than art.

byBen Keeshin|
McLaren News photo

In the words of famed modernist architect Louis Sullivan: “Form follows—good God! A racecar!” Even 72 years after his death, the famously reserved meister of minimalism would be overcome at this particular union of art and machine, ripped from McLaren’s 1996 Formula 1 car.

Look at its sheen, its five looped fingers grasping nothing less than power. The irregular spacing of the pipes looks biomorphic—a fat, metallic squid in repose, or a litter of piled alloy snakes, ready to suckle on an V-10 block. The manifold is nickel, so as to withstand 1,600-degree operating temperatures. If it were unclear, these exhaust pipes are too hot.

The best part? The beauty of this manifold is only a byproduct; every curve and concavity was hammered out for power and efficiency and noise. Somehow, that dedication to function, plus some polishing, yielded sculptural perfection. Must’ve been what Sullivan was on about.