Tag Archives: Nilsson

Original Wing Car – Lotus Ford 78 #78/R2

After the mixed fortunes of the Lotus 76 with it’s twin wings and electric clutch and the Lotus 77 with it’s fully adjustable suspension Colin Chapman introduced an aerodynamic innovation for the Lotus 78 featured today.

Lotus Ford 78, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Like the ’77 the Lotus 78 was built around a narrow monocoque with an oil radiator in the nose,

Lotus Ford 78, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

but with much larger sidepods than any Grand Prix car seen before.

Lotus Ford 78, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

The front wings were used, in conjunction with the rear wing, to trim the aerodynamic balance of the car.

Lotus Ford 78, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Using an idea first modeled at BRM by Tony Rudd and Peter Wright the side pods closely resembled the upturned inner wing of a de Havilland Mosquito which Chapman had studied and written a detailed account of.

Lotus Ford 78, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Tony Rudd and Peter Wright joined Ralph Bellamy and Martin Ogilvie at Lotus to design the car and its side pods which produced prodigious down force to increase the speed at which it could go around corners without loosing grip.

While conducting wind tunnel tests for the Lotus 78 design at Imperial College London Peter Wright found that as predicted by Bernoulli’s principle of fluid dynamics which states that the flow speed of an ideal fluid with no friction will increase simultaneously with a decrease in pressure. Meaning in the case of the Lotus 78 the faster it went the more down force was generated by the side pods and so the better the car stuck to the road.

Lotus Ford 78, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

The Lotus 78’s, known as John Player Special III’s by Lotus and their sponsors, were ready to race midway through 1976, but Chapman wisely vetoed their use until 1977 so as not to give rival teams the chance to figure out what Chapman and his team had come up with and copy during the off season.

Lotus Ford 78, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Starting the 1977 season Lotus had a huge advantage with the 78’s affording Mario Andretti 5 victories and his team mate Gunnar Nilsson with one more. However the unreliability of the Nicholson McLaren built motors played into the hands of Niki Lauda who, having more or less fully recovered from his near fatal accident in 1976, took only three victories and a string of podium places to claim the championship.

The car seen here at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu is chassis #78/R2 which Mario Andretti used to start the 1977 season before it was entrusted to Gunnar Nilsson who won the Belgian Grand Prix driving it. In 1978 before the even more radical Lotus 79 was introduced, Lotus returnee, Ronnie Peterson drove the car and snatched a thrilling victory with one lap to go in South Africa.

Mexican Hector Rebaque acquired the car at the end of 1978 season and used it along Lotus 78/R1 which he had been using since the beginning of the 1978 season.

Sadly Ronnie Peterson lost his life after an accident at the start of the 1978 Italian GP where he was driving the back up Lotus #78/R3.

Thanks for joining me on this “Original Wing Car” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow when, thanks to some photographs from Geoffrey Horton, I’ll be looking at some of the vehicles in attendance at the Marin Samoma Concour’s d’Elegance. Don’t forget to come back now !


The Adjustacar – Lotus Ford 77 #R2

Like the photo’s featured in the Ferrari T2 post a couple of months ago today’s photo’s come courtesy of my school friend Sven Platt and were taken at the 1976 British Grand Prix.

The 1976 Lotus 77 was a second attempt at replacing the Lotus 72 after the underwhelming Lotus 76 was abandoned in 1974. Like the 76 the 77 featured an extremely narrow chassis, but with Lotus 72 style side pods which extended back to the leading edge of the rear wheels for the radiators.

British Grand Prix, Brands Hatch

Novel features for the Lotus 77 when it was first seen included air intakes that ran the length of the cockpit, in board brakes, that were mounted between a pencil thin chisel nose and the front wheels, and rocker arm suspension that was fully adjustable to meet the requirements of any track.

By the start of the European season non championship races the cockpit side air intakes for the motor were blanked off and replaced with a conventional airbox. The ‘adjustacar’ suspension proved difficult to set up but was retained, while by the Belgian GP the inboard front brakes were abandoned. At the Dutch Grand Prix an oil cooler was mounted in the nose to move some weight forward of the front axle line.

Lotus 77, Brands Hatch

At the start of the 1976 season drivers came and went like a game of musical chairs, Ronnie Peterson was the incumbent #1 driver and Mario Andretti returned for a one off guest drive, after a six year break in the second car. After qualifying 16th and retiring with accident damage Ronnie swapped places with new boy & countryman Gunnar Nilsson who had been scheduled to drive for the March team. Andretti returned to Vels Parnelli team just in time for it to fold after the 1976 US Grand Prix West. British Formula 5000 champion Bob Evans was given two Grand Prix races at Team Lotus while Nilsson made his Grand Prix debut in South Africa. After failing to qualify for the US GP West Evans was dropped from the team and after trying out the Wolf Williams FWO5 in a non championship race freshly out of work Mario Andretti signed on as the Lotus #1 driver !

After Andretti rejoined the team Nilsson scored a couple of thirds during his rookie year while Andretti went a little better scoring two thirds and winning the thrilling final race of the season run in a monsoon that decided the championship between Niki Lauda and James Hunt that should make a thrilling climax to Ron Howard’s current film project ‘Rush‘.

The three Lotus 77’s, never known as John Player Special II’s as the sponsors might have hoped, were retired from top line competition at the end of 1977, however that was not quite the end of the story as once again David Render, swapping his Lotus 76, and getting hold of Andretti’s Japanese GP chassis, #R1, and using it as an effective hillclimb and sprint machine.

Thanks for joining me on this “The Adjustacar’ edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be reviewing last weekends Simply Italian event at the National Motor Museum in which a GALPOT regular won a prize ! Don’t forget to come back now !