In 1978 Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham F1 team were desperately chasing Lotus’s JPS-liveried ‘wing car’ in the constructor’s championship. Inspired by the radiator set-up on de Havilland’s Mosquito fighter bomber Colin Chapman’s team had finally perfected the principal of ‘ground-effect’ which created negative pressure below the car through a clever use of underbody aerodynamics using ducts and skirts and all sorts of Norfolk-based voodoo. At the beginning of the 1978 F1 season, the limpet-like Lotus seemed unstoppable.

To better Chapman’s Lotus 78 it was going to take something equally cunning, but Murray couldn’t build a ground-effect car around their broad flat-12 Alfa Romeo engine. So in true F1 tradition, car design demi-god, Gordon Murray, and his Brabham team boss, looked for a loophole in the rulebook. And they found it in the wording that outlawed any ‘movable device primarily used to give aerodynamic advantage’. Brabham argued that the 18” gearbox-driven fan (lifted from a Vietnam-era tank) stuck to the back of their Parmalat sponsored BT46B was primarily there to cool the horizontally-mounted water-cooled radiators, and that the 2G’s worth of negative air pressure that sucked it to the tarmac, was just a fortunate side effect.


In Issue 1 of our fab new print version of MotorPunk you can read the full story of how the Brabham fan car changed the world of Formula One forever. Get your copy here.


About The Author

Darryl Sleath

Darryl can usually be found up to his elbows in some unloved piece of BL detritus when he isn’t snapping and scribbling for various print magazines or producing the occasional book on tally-ho adventurers, PE or road tripping. As an occasional presenter on XCAR’s YouTube channel, his other hobbies include vintage Scalextrics, ‘60s Bang & Olufsen and dabbling in grassroots motorsport.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.