Unique Cars, One-Offs, and Ill-fated Designs


Inspired by Fenderman 's suggestion yesterday, I've created this thread to display, discuss, and debate the merits of some of F1's forgotten forays into the world of extreme engineering.

Let's start with Williams' 6 Wheeler that was tested but never run in anger. I'm sure there are quite a few of you who know quite a bit about this machine, so let's hear some interesting tidbits.

williams-1982-6 wheeler-01b.jpg

williams-1982-6 wheeler-02b.jpg

williams-1982-6 wheeler-03b.jpg
The Lotus 88 episode is one of the most famous efforts to revolutionize the sport that ended in tears. Fought over for half a season, the Twin-Chassis chassis Lotus never made more than a practice appearance here or there.

Here is de Angelis in its final outing at Silverstone 81.

lotus-1981-de angelis-silverstone-2b.jpg


  • lotus-1981-angelis-long beach-01.jpg
    lotus-1981-angelis-long beach-01.jpg
    168.4 KB · Views: 121
Last edited:
Re: Williams 6 wheeler.

The idea behind the four rear wheels was essentially the same as Tyrell's approach with his four front wheel design (and may have been inspired by it). The smaller tyres created less aerodynamic drag and turbulence as opposed to that caused by the huge rear tyres that were the norm for that period. Doubling the number of wheels was an attempt to retain a big enough contact patch.

The downside was the penalty in additional weight and complexity incurred by the need for an extra set of suspension mounts and brake assemblies. I can't remember so will have to look it up, but I think Williams experimented with having the additional wheels driven which would have necessitated modifications to the gearbox and additional differentials and drive-shafts. If my memory is correct on that then there would also have been issues with balancing the diff's and the brakes.


Tyrell-Ford P34, Jody Scheckter - 1976 Pic Courtesy Wikipedia commons

On the Tyrell 6 wheeler (again this is from my memory which can be dodgy) I believe the complexity of the steering geometry occasionally gave rise to reliability problems that compromised the set up of the front end over the course of race. However the car was quite successful but the team lacked a tyre supplier willing to produce enough of the special sized rubber.
Brabham before the 1984 Canadian Grand Prix had performed a rather crude perforation at the front-end of their BT54 in order to fit an extra radiator in an effort to prevent its over-heating BMW. To good effect as Piquet took the first of his two wins that year, but its water vapourised and the burning liquid oozed into the cockpit and onto Nelson's feet. So Nelson was in agony for most of the race and as soon as the race ended he leapt out of the cockpit and undid his right boot. He took his place on the rostrum one boot on his left and a bare right foot.
The chief problem with the Tyrrell P34 was not reliability, it was tyre availability. They could not get Goodyear to invest serious money in developing tyres for 10" wheels, probably because only two cars on the grid ever were likely to run them. They finished 1-2 at Sweden in 1976, so the design seemed to work pretty well.

Derek Gardner, designer of the P34, shuffled off his mortal coil in January of 2011.

Front brake arrangement on the P34:

The P34 was in fact the inspiration for the Williams FW08-6, as well as for the Ferrari 312T6:


Lauda and Regazzoni reportedly got along with the 312T6 well enough but Reutemann wadded it at Fiorano at about the time of Lauda's Nürburgring crash, and it never got rebuilt. A comparison of 312T6 versus 'regular' rear tyre sizes:

Ferrari 'leaked' the photo of an 8-wheeled version, the 312T8, which was a hoax, but nothing I can find makes it clear whether it was a non-functioning mock-up or a faked photo:


Colin Chapman also dabbled with the concept but he never got much further than this prototype:

Not exactly "Simplificate, then add lightness," is it?

The 312T6, ironically, led indirectly to the development of the first directional rain tyre with symmetrical diagonal sipes, the iconic Goodyear Gatorback. Wet testing proved the dual rear wheels were highly resistant to aquaplaning, presumably because of the gap between the dual tyres. But the extra pair of wheels made the pit stops a bit fiddly, so Goodyear engineered a single tyre on a single wheel with essentially the same tread configuration, featuring a deep and wide central channel. Tread in rain tyres then still was cut by hand, and someone added diagonal sipes on a lark, which made them even grippier in the wet.

A set of vintage F1-spec Gatorbacks:


Intermediate wet Bridgestones:


So in a "butterfly effect" sort of way, the Tyrrell P34 was the impetus for the modern rain tyre.

The Williams FW08-6 in the photos above, BTW, was being driven by Alan Jones.
Last edited:
In 1979 and 1980 Ferrari decided the 312 T4 and T5 should have a special spec for Monaco so put a narrower front wing on (less downforce at Monaco, really?) and moved the front wing forwards of the rear axle. Didn't make a great deal of difference, certainly not on the T5 anyway.

Brabham BT46B, aka the Fan Car. Used only during the 1978 Swedish GP. Designed by Gordon Murray and inspired by the Chaparral 2J Can-Am car taking Ground Effect to a whole new level. Lauda and Watson sandbagged the car performance all weekend, qualified on full fuel loads and still started 2nd and 3rd with Andretti's Lotus79 on pole. After battling the American for a while, Lauda finally passed him on the outside and went on to win by 34 seconds. Murray would describe the car as 'embarrasingly quick'. Lauda would say it was rather difficult to drive. The car was withdrawn by Bernie E. after the other FOCA teams suggested it would be best to do so if he wanted to stay as their representative. In hindsight a good move for Mr. E that went on a built an empire. But that kids is another story.

Last edited:
Here are some of the very first shots of McLaren's so-called "F-Duct".

This one is from February 13, 2010 at Jerez.


And then it took a proper snorkel appearance on February 28th in Barcelona.


The Rear Wing stalling device was very ingenious and quite effective. The main problem was that when the other teams rushed to copy it, they pretty much left safety out of the equation. I watched many hours on onboard footage in 2010 and by the end of the season there were 10 drivers or so that were using just one hand to steer for a good bit of the lap. Predictably, the FIA threw the baby out with the bath water and the "F-Duct" was scrapped in favor of DRS.
Now that would be an amazing looking formula one car. Everyone would win, the fans get great looking cars and great racing action, sponsors get a lovely big canvas to plaster their names over and the drivers are kept safe. Bernie, make it happen.
This thread would not be complete with the lowline Brabham. Was it the BT55? They never got the package right as I recall, needing a crazy engine angle that vibrated horribly. Cooling was also compromised in a big way I think?

A lot of the concepts lived on, much like Newey's bouncing March, but the car itself was a disaster!
Top Bottom