TAILSOF THE UNEXPECTED
Doug Nye Two photos dscoyered by chance In the archlye offer outlandsh examples of orgnal thInkIng much so many greybeards of the ’70s and early ’80s detested ‘bloody aerodynamics’ and the technology’s contemporary effect
upon racing car design sprang to mind recently when I rediscovered a couple of prints I’d conscientiously filed under T’ for ‘Photograph’. One showed the finned fastback tail of the Mike Keen/Trevor Line Bristol 450 Coupe, heading towards 10th place in the 1954 Reims 12-hour race. It reminded me of how sleek and exciting these Bristol aerodynes looked in period, as long as one didn’t study their frontal aspect too closely — for in contrast to the cars’ threequarter-rear and tail-on appearance the nose
treatment was pretty much an aesthetic error. It’s such a pity that after the Le Mans disaster of 1955 none of these 450 cars survived Bristol’s management axe. They had not been involved in the catastrophe, but its import had so rattled Bristol’s already-disaffected management that the works team was dissolved and the cars broken up. It would be fascinating to see a 450 Coupe tested in a modern wind tunnel, just to establish once and for all whether or not those tail fins had any positive effect, or were they really masked from clean airflow by the cabin greenhouse ahead of them? No other worthwhile manufacturer copied the Bristol
fins, which I guess tells its own tale. And just beneath the Bristol p c I found another aerodynamic jaw
dropper — this time Jean-Pierre Jabouille’s works Elf 2 (Alpine A367) with Schnitzer BMWM12 engine, hurtling around Italy’s Mugello circuit to set fastest lap in the venue’s 1974 European F2 Championship round. The freckled Frenchman finished seventh in that race, which was won by his compatriot Patrick Depailler’s works March 742. But Jabouille’s Elf-branded Alpine had lost a lap having its sticking throttle relieved, and it was towing along behind it one of the furthest overhungrear wings I ever recall — mounted upon a multi-tubular spaceframe brace which a decade-and-a-half earlier would have done
justice as at least half the chassis of a Lotus 12.
You might conclude from studying the photo that outrigging the wing so far might have been more effective had a properly profiled cover been fitted to streamline the fully exposed engine bay, but I’m pretty sure it had merely been left behind in the pits. One could never criticise Alpine’s technical team on this account since their GT and single-seater cars had always ridden at the forefront of aerodynamic slipperiness. Enforcedly so, since their longtime Renault-based engines had nearly always laboured under a horsepower deficit.
To trim out the effect of that vast lever-arm rear wing, the nose of the Elf 2 had been extended some Sin further forward. Had Jabouille spun there might have been precious little road width left for others to squeeze by. Further tunnel work, and perhaps a word or two from the scrutineers (and the FIA’s rule makers) soon produced a shorter solution, and front and rear axle-line overhang limits then followed from the regulation writers.
But from a 21st Century perspective in which all single-seaters and most LMP cars so often look virtually identical, such distinctive designs as the ’50s Bristol and the ’70s Elf 2 endure as very welcome ways of handling fresh air. 7: 41 4ttgiiik • II”
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