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Understanding the Lotus 77/78/79/80


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#1 Charlieman

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Posted 18 December 2019 - 20:34

I was reading about the development of these cars the other day. Excuse me while I describe the project in broad terms, and if I am unfairly critical, ascribe that to ignorance rather than arrogance.

 

The 77 was the "let's think about basic principles" car with its adjustable track and wheelbase. The car displayed some aspects of future thinking -- making components serve two purposes, slim monocoque and nose. The original car may have been physically flexible as well adjustable, but Lotus sorted that out quickly. The win at Japan 1976 was a bit of a fluke but the car looked good before that. It was a massive confidence builder and it served a purpose. I don't need to describe the successors, do I?

 

Behind the scenes at Lotus, Peter Wright had been recruited and was allowed to pursue the "wing on the side of the car" concept which he had conceived at BRM c.1970. Tony Rudd moved from the production car team to GP car design alongside Tony Southgate and Ralph Bellamy, with various overlaps of working together. Nigel Bennett brought his experience working for tyre manufacturers. Other less well known names brought different specialist knowledge (e.g. aluminium honeycomb). Somewhere in this we have to fit Colin Chapman.

 

When you bring such a talented bunch together, two possible results are 1) Massive Ego Wars or 2) Minor Ego Skirmishes leading to brilliant design. The 78 and 79 are great achievements of project management, and I'd really like to know how Lotus brought out the best of people.

 

 

What did other British teams think about the accumulation of talent at Lotus?

 

Could Lotus afford to employ so many people on F1 development? Was it a throw caution to the wind project to rejuvenate Lotus?

 

How much nonsense was fed to journalists during early appearances of the Lotus 78? I'm thinking of Mario's tales about differentials and adjustable roll bars and adjustable brake balance and fuel tank control. I'm also thinking about how they made him feel good as a driver even if they made no difference to a bloody fast car. Sorry, Doug Nye, but I reckon that when DCN was writing the first version of Theme Lotus he was being fed some rose fertiliser about the new cars of the day.

 

What happened to brushes to seal the car underside? Didn't anyone experiment at home with a vacuum cleaner hose and one of those draught excluder flaps which only abrade carpet?

 

The Transmission Things. A better transmission was one way to beat other teams relying on a Cosworth/Hewland package. At various times, Lotus experimented with clutch design, pedal layout, a redesigned Queerbox, and other stuff no doubt. Perhaps they pushed development of differentials but I am unsure what else they achieved. John Barnard showed, in later years, that a better gearbox could make a difference -- a massively expensive difference.

 

In 1977, Lotus had the fastest car and they convinced a few other teams to copy it (e.g. Wolf) in the following year. In 1978, Lotus again had the fastest car and almost everyone copied the new version; next season, some teams seemed to understood how it worked better than Lotus. The other teams deserved their success.

 

For obvious reasons, people who worked on the Lotus 80 project are less willing to talk about what went wrong. They might feel embarrassed about technology failures. Personally, I'm interested in how Lotus misconceived how the 79 ought to have been improved and how Lotus underrated the opposition. And how Lotus responded to the Lotus 80 failure. 



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#2 E1pix

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Posted 18 December 2019 - 21:13

We watched about eight F1 races on YouTube last night, and something re-occurred to me that we all already know.

 

The power of being first in design.

 

Ligier came out like a flash in '79, with a new car that drew from Colin's wonderful 79 and improved it. It killed everyone and looked to be a shoe-in for the '79 title at that point.

 

Lotus was absolutely nowhere once their brilliant 79 was copied, which had to be hard on them all. What part the loss of Ronnie played on psyche and motivation may never fully be known, in fact I think Jarier flat outrunning Mario at the North American rounds really bore this out — not to mention just how superior that car was.



#3 Regazzoni

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Posted 18 December 2019 - 21:20

There is a document which, since I have known its existence, has intrigued me. It's the memo Colin Chapman wrote in August 1975, IIRC, where he set out the principles of what followed as broadly described in the OP. Ludvigsen published two pages in "Inside the Innovator", but I think I understood there are more than twenty. I suppose Clive must have them. Their historical and documentary value cannot be overstated, I do hope they will get published eventually. Not too eventually, please.

 

Anybody in here has more information about that memo?



#4 chr1s

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Posted 18 December 2019 - 21:53

I remember reading somewhere that Lotus under estimated the effect that that amount of downforce would have on the chassis and its components. It took some time to realize that the chassis was just not  stiff enough and other components, like the rear brakes and wheel bearings,  which were of similar design to earlier non ground effect cars, were also just not strong enough. This was not an issue in 1978 as it was the only car of its type, Wolf excepted, but the following year its short comings became obvious. But the concept was sound and in retrospect, Chapman should have re-engineered the 79 for the following season, which was in effect what Ligier and Williams did and not bothered with the type 80 at all. But that's easy to say in hindsight!


Edited by chr1s, 18 December 2019 - 21:54.


#5 Charlieman

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Posted 18 December 2019 - 21:59

Anybody in here has more information about that memo?

Or you, Regazzoni? Is there anything in your library from the Italian perspective on other aspectives? All of those engineers at a British team? Or Lotus using aluminium honeycomb before Williams and others did it better?



#6 Charlieman

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Posted 18 December 2019 - 23:05

I remember reading somewhere that Lotus under estimated the effect that that amount of downforce would have on the chassis and its components. It took some time to realize that the chassis was just not  stiff enough and other components, like the rear brakes and wheel bearings,  which were of similar design to earlier non ground effect cars, were also just not strong enough. This was not an issue in 1978 as it was the only car of its type, Wolf excepted, but the following year its short comings became obvious. But the concept was sound and in retrospect, Chapman should have re-engineered the 79 for the following season, which was in effect what Ligier and Williams did and not bothered with the type 80 at all. But that's easy to say in hindsight!

Everyone underestimated the amount of downforce (Peter Wright's underwings for BRM were made from GRP, and they didn't generate much downforce!). Everyone reinforced the chassis or the aero bits so that they did not deflect.

 

Those who underestimated downforce less incorrectly, I believe, struggled to appreciate how the centre of pressure of a venturi moves. As the car goes faster, the centre of pressure moves forward, forcing the nose down. The rear wing moves into an attitude generating more rear downforce relative to the front wing, lifting the front end. Up, down, up, down -- or squat and dive. That is a logical description of the porpoise effect.

 

I mentioned brushes as a seal for side pods. How long did Lotus experiment with brushes?

 

Vertical sliding skirts work if the track is smooth. If the skirt lifts, the low pressure under the sidepod dissipates so the car lifts immediately on that side, with the front and back end going up. When the skirt reconnects, low pressure brings that side of the car down again. A skirt lift brings one sidepod into the air for a while, hip-hop. A skirt lift has sideways as well as front/back effects, so it is much more than porpoise effect. When teams in the early 1980s displayed a porpoise, it wasn't because they had a skirt problem; they had a fundamental aerodynamics problem.

 

The Wolf wing car was built along the publicly announced description of the Lotus 78 -- which meant that it could only be as good as the Lotus 78, assuming that the public descriptions were honest. McLaren and Brabham had both experimented using gliding skirts and low pressure zones under the driver's backside. Both teams had determined that gliding skirts just scraped along the track. Half way through the 1978 season, every team knew that they had to make sliding skirts work.

 

Should Chapman have re-engineered the Lotus 79 for a new season? What knowledge did he have about Ligier and Williams and Renault? Did anyone think that the top two places in the WDC and the Constructors cup would be won using a "squashed toad" Ferrari relying on air running over capacious bodywork than underneath?



#7 Tim Murray

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Posted 18 December 2019 - 23:35

Should Chapman have re-engineered the Lotus 79 for a new season?


In hindsight, absolutely. Even with Lotus wasting their main effort on the 80, in the first half of the season Reutemann scored more points than anyone except Scheckter. I feel sure that if they had forgotten the 80 and concentrated their focus on an updated and stiffened 79 they would have been very strong contenders (at very least) for the titles.

#8 Charlieman

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Posted 19 December 2019 - 00:11

I feel sure that if they had forgotten the 80 and concentrated their focus on an updated and stiffened 79 they would have been very strong contenders (at very least) for the titles.

The Lotus 78 and 79 were stiff slim profile monocoques for the time. For their designs, Lotus had employed people who knew about aluminium chassis design and the 78 and 79 used elements from external specialists. Williams were really quick to understand the loads on a wing or ground effects chassis, and made a big story about using honeycomb when many had used it previously. Ligier slipped up, and I suspect that the Ligier story has not been translated into English yet. Ferrari went off on their own and deservedly won both championships. Renault won a fabulous race and it has to be one of the reasons why they still compete in F1.

 

Could Lotus have built a better 79 in time? It all depends on when and how they comprehended that the Lotus 80 didn't work



#9 rl1856

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Posted 19 December 2019 - 02:43

Could the saga of the 80 have been exacerbated by Chapman being stubborn ?   Recall his continued focus on 4wd in 1969, and the turbine 56 in 1971.  Sometimes it seemed that he stayed too long with failing ideas instead of moving on and trying something new.   A fundamental redesign of the 79 would have become essentially a new car.  Just about everyone concedes that the 79 chassis was just not stiff enough to accommodate resulting down force loads.  This wasn't a problem when they had an advantage, but were found wanting in 1979 when newer cars were designed with an understanding of the need to have an inherently stiff chassis.



#10 barrykm

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Posted 19 December 2019 - 09:44

Wow, fascinating! 

 

More please.



#11 blackmme

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Posted 19 December 2019 - 12:57

This subject is one that fascinates me as well Charlieman, especially so after reading 'Lord Nye of TNF's' Theme Lotus.

It seems the essence of CABC's and Lotus strengths and weaknesses is distilled into those 4 years.

 

In terms of the cars it seems to my understanding:

77: Interesting and ultimately good chassis with quite innovative construction.

78: Good chassis based on the 77 construction technique with innovative aero, probably the best car of the entire series in terms of aero and chassis performance compared to its racing contemporaries.

79: Ditched the innovative construction of the 77/78 for more traditional sheet alloy and therefore had great aero held together by a pretty compromised chassis (and other mechanical compromises as well, mainly the brakes).

80: Great chassis but an unworkable aero package.  Whist I do think there was an element of stubbornness to it on Colin's part it does seem to have been shared with Mario.

81: Basically the 80's chassis with a far from the cutting edge aero package.

 

What I do find particularly interesting is the resource allocation at Lotus during this period.  In 1976 they were clearly able to run two effective programs, one to race and develop the 77 and the other to design, build and start developing the 78. 

By 1978 though they seemed to struggle actually get three 79's built and raced!  The mechanics seem completely overworked and put upon in this period, did Team's funding change hugely in this period or had they overspent in 75/76?

 

When in 1979 the 80 flopped it surely made sense to fit essentially a 79's aero package to the 80 rather than the process of gradually 'chiselling off' the 80's aero until it ended up as that anyway (and therefore becoming the 81).

Then to add to all that there was the slightly strange story of the 79x which seems to have been a bit of a digression with it not owing much to the 80 and not providing much to the 81!

 

Sorry for all the questions, it really is fascinating to this outsider!

 

Regards Mike


Edited by blackmme, 19 December 2019 - 14:24.


#12 Macca

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Posted 19 December 2019 - 14:14

Am I right in remembering something I read that the sheet-metal workers, who Chapman called 'those communists' were slow in finishing the 79s and in repairing the spare before Monza, so that Chapman blamed them for Ronnie Peterson's death as he shouldn't have been in a 78 which was thought to be weaker than the 79; so that was his excuse to sack them.

 

 

Paul M



#13 mariner

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Posted 19 December 2019 - 20:51

A lot of this is covered in various reports and books such a Chapman's "think " session at his isolated Ibiza villa where  he wrote apparently the multi page " what we know what we don't know  " document.

 

At the launch of the 77 Chapman made what , in retrospect, was very perceptive statement . He said " all that matters is how wide it is, how long it is and where the weight is". The adjustability of the 77 and its odd caliper mounted front suspension was designed to allow each of those variables to be adjusted for each  circuit.

 

Today the maths of  race car dynamics modelling such as ChassiSim is really aimed at quantifying that statement and determining how much spring and damper rates can modify the basic facts of width. wheelbase and C of G location. 

 

People like Chapman knew the variables by intution and logical analysis. Starttig with the 77 Lotus began to use static test rigs, data loggers etc to quantify things. In fact  the 56 wedge was the result of much earlier data logging at Indy courtesy of Ford's money.

 

I think part of Lotus's of highs followed by low's was that Chapman could find endless ways of spending money and time researching  and building new ideas but he didn't really have the budget or maybe the self control to just develop existing cars. One of Lotus's best periods was the 25/33 where they did just develop  an outstanding design over four years rather than replace it.



#14 Doug Nye

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Posted 19 December 2019 - 21:23

By complete coincidence, about three weeks ago I was asked - at very short notice - to prepare a feature on the Lotus 79 for the next 'Motor Sport' issue.  Of course in the space available there it's just impossible to air every aspect of the design's story, but I just want now to pre-empt any suspicion that the article in question was triggered by this TNF conversation.  It most certainly was not.   :cat:

 

DCN



#15 blackmme

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 01:07

By complete coincidence, about three weeks ago I was asked - at very short notice - to prepare a feature on the Lotus 79 for the next 'Motor Sport' issue. Of course in the space available there it's just impossible to air every aspect of the design's story, but I just want now to pre-empt any suspicion that the article in question was triggered by this TNF conversation. It most certainly was not. :cat:

DCN


I’m a subscriber Doug and will very much look forward to it.

Regards Mike

#16 1969BOAC500

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 08:23

So, that's one Motor Sport I can look forward to !  ;)



#17 Roger Clark

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 08:34

I don’t think it’s correct to ascribe the 80’s failure to Chapman stubbornness. The car was reasonably competitive when it first appeared; third on its race debut in Spain., though it clearly required significant development. Andretti persevered until France when a second, much modified, car appeared. It seems to be the failure of these changes that caused the abandonment of the 80 as far as the race team was concerned. 
 

Andretti said the car was ok in slow and medium speed corners but terrible at high speed. Reutemann doesn’t seem to have been interested. 
 

At Dijon a lot of drivers were complaining about high G-forces on high speed corners. Andretti said he wished his car was fast enough to generate high G-forces!



#18 Sterzo

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 10:04

 

Behind the scenes at Lotus, Peter Wright had been recruited and was allowed to pursue the "wing on the side of the car" concept which he had conceived at BRM c.1970. Tony Rudd moved from the production car team to GP car design alongside Tony Southgate and Ralph Bellamy, with various overlaps of working together. Nigel Bennett brought his experience working for tyre manufacturers. Other less well known names brought different specialist knowledge (e.g. aluminium honeycomb). Somewhere in this we have to fit Colin Chapman.

 

When you bring such a talented bunch together, two possible results are 1) Massive Ego Wars or 2) Minor Ego Skirmishes leading to brilliant design. The 78 and 79 are great achievements of project management, and I'd really like to know how Lotus brought out the best of people.

 

Tony Rudd was by then a director of Lotus, and was in overall charge of the project. If you think back to his BRM days, when he was (for too short a period) given full authority, getting the best out of people was exactly what he did. According to his book "It was fun!", he was given Chapman's 28 pages of notes, and in turn "asked for Peter Wright, as most of the questions involved aerodynamics, Charlie Prior to make the models and Ralph Bellamy to draw my schemes." They had regular update sessions with Chapman, but it looks like Rudd was the man who managed the egos.



#19 blackmme

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 10:23

. The car was reasonably competitive when it first appeared; third on its race debut in Spain., though it clearly required significant development. 

 

Taking a look at the results Reutemann was second that weekend in the 79 and the thick end of 30 seconds ahead of Andretti in the 80.  I think Jarama may have been a bit of a fluke rather than an indicator of potential.

 

Regards Mike



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#20 Charlieman

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 14:01

What I do find particularly interesting is the resource allocation at Lotus during this period.  In 1976 they were clearly able to run two effective programs, one to race and develop the 77 and the other to design, build and start developing the 78. 

By 1978 though they seemed to struggle actually get three 79's built and raced!  The mechanics seem completely overworked and put upon in this period, did Team's funding change hugely in this period or had they overspent in 75/76?

I recall reading that Imperial Tobacco reduced their sponsorship sometime around 1976. I know for certain that Imperial Tobacco branding was a problem at the time (JPS, Player's Weights, No. 6 and half a dozen names) and that whilst JPS was a global brand thanks to Lotus sponsorship, you could only buy it at the airport duty free shop in many countries. Martini didn't get a lot of coverage for their money and David Thieme/Essex Petroleum were unconventional sponsors.

 

Tony Rudd was by then a director of Lotus, and was in overall charge of the project. If you think back to his BRM days, when he was (for too short a period) given full authority, getting the best out of people was exactly what he did. According to his book "It was fun!", he was given Chapman's 28 pages of notes, and in turn "asked for Peter Wright, as most of the questions involved aerodynamics, Charlie Prior to make the models and Ralph Bellamy to draw my schemes." They had regular update sessions with Chapman, but it looks like Rudd was the man who managed the egos.

I've added the Tony Rudd book to my "to buy" list. Thanks for adding another name to the list of contributors to the 77/78/79/80 projects list. I'm conscious that many people who made it possible have not been recognised.

 

At the launch of the 77 Chapman made what , in retrospect, was very perceptive statement . He said " all that matters is how wide it is, how long it is and where the weight is". The adjustability of the 77 and its odd caliper mounted front suspension was designed to allow each of those variables to be adjusted for each  circuit.

Goodyear's tyres of the time worked with wide track cars like the McLaren M23. Getting tyres to work was a big thing, as always. For some of 1975 and 1976, March worked well. In 1977, Ferrari were out of sorts at some tracks. 

 

A lot of cars were designed for variable wheelbase. McLaren and Ferrari created cars which, from the outset, permitted swept back or normal front suspension links. Different length transmission bell housings were also used. Over at Tyrrell, the drivers felt a difference when the fire extinguisher was moved by less than a metre.



#21 Roger Clark

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 16:13

Taking a look at the results Reutemann was second that weekend in the 79 and the thick end of 30 seconds ahead of Andretti in the 80.  I think Jarama may have been a bit of a fluke rather than an indicator of potential.

 

Regards Mike

The results I have seen show Andretti a little under 7 seconds behind Reutemann.  The 80 was six tenths faster in practice but suffered in the race when a front fin was broken while lapping Tambay’s McLaren. 



#22 blackmme

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 18:25

The results I have seen show Andretti a little under 7 seconds behind Reutemann.  The 80 was six tenths faster in practice but suffered in the race when a front fin was broken while lapping Tambay’s McLaren. 

You are absolutely correct!  I do apologise.

i wonder what made the 80 respectably competitive that weekend?  
Although I understand it had already started to retreat from its intended design concept (it shouldn’t have had fins to be knocked off!)

 

Regards Mike



#23 PayasYouRace

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 18:52

Certainly an interesting topic and I've enjoyed reading all the great contributions so far. What I've always picked up from the whole sequence was that it pointed to Lotus' culture and the way F1 was changing at the time.

 

My understanding of Lotus' culture is a reflection of Chapman himself. He wanted to innovate, to be inventing or adapting the next new technology to his racing cars. This worked very well in the 1960s and even into the 1970s when what made a racing car good was still less well understood. Having a great idea and just implementing well enough for it to work was good enough to win. Implementing it well was good enough to dominate. As the 70s wore on and what a racing car needed to be became better understood, it didn't always work for the team.

 

Especially once ground effect started being used, F1 had reached a level where optimisation was the new aim of the game. If you think about it, every racing car since then has followed the same basic concept. I think the culture of perfectionists like Ron Dennis or solid engineering like Patrick Head became more suited to winning. It wasn't about finding the next new idea, but about doing the same thing better than everyone else. Of course, Lotus was never the same after 1982 anyway so it's hard to make a fair comparison, but I don't think Chapman's Lotus would have been destined for much more success, and similarly the Williams way of doing things doesn't really work today.

 

That's just my thoughts from an engineering perspective.



#24 E1pix

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 19:35

Am I right in remembering something I read that the sheet-metal workers, who Chapman called 'those communists' were slow in finishing the 79s and in repairing the spare before Monza, so that Chapman blamed them for Ronnie Peterson's death as he shouldn't have been in a 78 which was thought to be weaker than the 79; so that was his excuse to sack them.

 

 

Paul M

That's really troubling Paul, especially when reading it as a Ronnie fan. 

 

I'd surely hope Chapman wouldn't have actually indicated such a thought to the workers, that sort of unprovable theory can haunt one all the way to their graves.



#25 Regazzoni

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Posted 21 December 2019 - 12:50

Behind the scenes at Lotus, Peter Wright had been recruited and was allowed to pursue the "wing on the side of the car" concept which he had conceived at BRM c.1970. Tony Rudd moved from the production car team to GP car design alongside Tony Southgate and Ralph Bellamy, with various overlaps of working together. Nigel Bennett brought his experience working for tyre manufacturers. Other less well known names brought different specialist knowledge (e.g. aluminium honeycomb). Somewhere in this we have to fit Colin Chapman.

 

When you bring such a talented bunch together, two possible results are 1) Massive Ego Wars or 2) Minor Ego Skirmishes leading to brilliant design. The 78 and 79 are great achievements of project management, and I'd really like to know how Lotus brought out the best of people.

 

What did other British teams think about the accumulation of talent at Lotus?

 

Could Lotus afford to employ so many people on F1 development? Was it a throw caution to the wind project to rejuvenate Lotus?

 

About technical "talent" at Lotus.

 

Lotus was all Colin Chapman, he was both the owner and ideas man, he could within the limits of financing give the go ahead on projects which he himself had first thought or given input to.

 

Over the years he recruited several people to carry out the design work on his own concepts: Len Terry, Maurice Philippe, then Bellamy, Ogilvie etc.

 

Some of them were accomplished designers, but I would say none of them were of the top echelon, the one where Chapman himself, Forghieri or Gordon Murray and then Barnard and Head belonged, people who had their own ideas, pursued them and made them succeed.

 

Bellamy failed with the 76 and don't recall many other successes, not the Ensign nor the Copersucar. He is credited with rising suspension on the Mclaren in the early Seventies. Good engineer, good detailer, perhaps not a great car designer.

 

Southgate, certainly an accomplished designer, which I personally I admire, I don't think did design work at Lotus, he was initially race engineer on one of the cars (Nilsson, IIRC), then was made manager by Chapman (to sack people, he said). He then left to go back to Shadow, because he wanted to be in charge again of concept/design (he said in an interview on Autosprint Anno 1976) and shortly after to Arrows and by looking at what he did there one has to wonder what he actually gathered by being around the 78.

 

Equally, after Chapman's demise, those who were left clearly showed they weren't up to the task. Wright, for all the credits he may get for the ground effect development work, wasn't a car designer or not one at the top level. Out of Chapman, Lotus had nobody who could push things forward to remain competitive, they had to recruit Ducarouge to have a man in charge who could make them compete again (but not dominate or win consistently again).

 

Other teams without a clear mind and personality pushing them forward along a common line (like Chapman and Forghieri did, Murray later on) struggled the same way Lotus did after Chapman.

 

McLaren found themselves with a very good car, the M23, which won two championships without dominating (one thanks to Fittipaldi after Stewart's retirement), then when they had to come up with the new car they did the M26 which as soon as I saw it on Autosprint I thought it was an old car, as it revealed itself to be (honeycomb chassis was useless in the circumstance). To win again they had to change ownership and technical team.

 

Tyrrell began their decline the day Stewart retired and never stopped.

 

It was an era where a single outstanding individual in the technical department (usually made up of very few people) could build the team around himself and make the difference, coupled with a driver who bought into and exploited the package to the limit - Clark, Stewart, Lauda, Andretti. The pre-corporate era, where the top teams still had to become bloated of people and "project management", "company culture", "high tech",  "corporate sponsorship packages" were still only fancy buzzwords used at Harvard. The sport was changing, becoming a technological war and Chapman had been one of those who unwittingly had ushered it.



#26 Regazzoni

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Posted 22 December 2019 - 01:12

For obvious reasons, people who worked on the Lotus 80 project are less willing to talk about what went wrong. They might feel embarrassed about technology failures. Personally, I'm interested in how Lotus misconceived how the 79 ought to have been improved and how Lotus underrated the opposition. And how Lotus responded to the Lotus 80 failure. 

This is also being discussed in a parallel thread.

 

It is a long time I have last read about Lotus 79 etc, but I recall Chapman stating the the 80 would make look the other cars like London buses. He thought that more and more downforce was the solution, without apparently worrying too much about the mechanical chassis. Looking at the photos, the 80 seems to have pretty much the same chassis as the 79, which was flexible and twisted. Andretti on one occasion putting two strings crossing in the cockpit to show that as they tried to lift one front wheel, one of the strings went slack while the other stayed taut. It is a mystery, to me, how Chapman could overlook the flexibility of the chassis. He went for the full "inverted airplane" concept, like Southgate did with the Arrows A2, perhaps fruit of the same discussions at Lotus when he was there. A simplistic conclusion, which was not the solution. Besides overall aero efficiency, there was only so much amount of downforce that could be transferred to the ground at the time in a controlled manner (e.g. avoiding negative side effects like porpoising); Head understood this, as did Forghieiri and the engineers at the Centro Ricerche Fiat who supported him in the aero design of the T4. It does look like Chapman underestimated the opposition, perhaps thinking he had a deeper understanding of how ground effect worked than the others, due to the experience accumulated on track and wind tunnel. It is telling that seemingly he had no engineers/designers around of a such level capable to argue the technical point with him and make him consider all options, if they went ahead with the wrong one. Presumably, they knew less than him, which is not good.

 

The 79 was the better car in 1978, but hardly run away with the championship, mainly due to poor reliability. It is interesting to note that while the T3 was no match for the 79, the T4 the following year won the championship and it was hardly a full, proper ground effect car. As soon as a sorted wing car appeared, the FW07, the inherent limits of the wide Flat-12 (although very cleverly exploited on the T4) became all too evident. Lotus was still nowhere to be found.



#27 2F-001

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Posted 22 December 2019 - 09:41

Peter Wright touches briefly on the 80 in his book - describing it as a 'white elephant' and 'a victim of poor systems integration'. And that efforts to overcome its deficiencies led, more-or-less directly, to the 86.
There is stuff on the 78 and 78 in there too, of course; it's a wide-ranging book so he doesn't go into minute detail, but he does discuss a number of the problematic areas.

It's many years since I read the book; it's not exactly 'holiday reading', but I might go though some of it again soon. (It has illustrations by TNF poster Tony Matthews.)

Edited by 2F-001, 22 December 2019 - 09:42.


#28 SamoanAttorney

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Posted 22 December 2019 - 12:50

The posts made in this topic are a perfect illustration of why I come to this forum each day, congratulations to you all.



#29 mariner

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Posted 22 December 2019 - 15:23

Most racing designers drem of innovating but Chapman was one of the very, very few who had the determination to make innovation work and was wiling to risk failure. UnlikeFerrari Ligier, Arrows etc etc it was his team financially as well as emotionally. 

 

The other owner/ designers like McLaren and  Brabham were much more conservative people by nature.

 

So often Lotus innovations didn't work right away, both the 72 and the 79 had a difficult birth but were inherently right so could be made to work if enough effort was made. The 80 failed as it had superb wind tunnel results but wind tunnels,at least then, couldn't simulate track undulations or side angle forces so the very long, curved skirts were impossible to make work on the track as well as the undulations setting off porpoising , noticed straight away by young Stephen South in testing.. Maybe Chapman realised  quickly that the 80 couldn't be fixed by sheer hard work and so gave it up very quickly.

 

In terms of skirts vs brushes etc. Peter Wright and Lotus worked incredibly hard on sliding skirts before they got them to work on track. As well as many desk studies Lotus had an old Renault 4 van, ( which rolls like mad) to which a skirt test assembly ran along behind on the ground with an engineer lying on the van rear floor to study things as it travelled round the Hethel test track.

 

As an aside to that I once went into a very nice model shop in Norwich which had model of the Lotus team plane reg GPRIX on sale. Mentioning it to the assistant be pointed at the usual model shop supply stand of narrow brass rods  tubes etc. and remarked how one day in 1977 or 78 a Team Lotus guy rushed in to buy the brass rod to help make up the sliding skirt hinge  assemblies . So his shop played a small part in the racing ground effects revolution!


Edited by mariner, 22 December 2019 - 15:24.


#30 Charlieman

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Posted 30 December 2019 - 20:00

McLaren found themselves with a very good car, the M23, which won two championships without dominating (one thanks to Fittipaldi after Stewart's retirement), then when they had to come up with the new car they did the M26 which as soon as I saw it on Autosprint I thought it was an old car, as it revealed itself to be (honeycomb chassis was useless in the circumstance). To win again they had to change ownership and technical team.

 

Tyrrell began their decline the day Stewart retired and never stopped.

 

I think you are too harsh on both teams and their designers. If the M26 had been developed sufficiently to race in 1976, it would have been a new car... By 1977, it was just a refresh because the M23 had moved on. Gordon Coppuck was a great designer and it is sad that his McLaren career ended with the M28 etc. As we have noted in this thread, many others built dreadful ground effects cars.

 

I have always thought the Tyrrell 007 to be a cracking good car. It was safe and fast which was all it needed to be. The P34 experiment doesn't fit the decline argument; Tyrrell convinced Goodyear and others that it was a good idea. However when Tyrrell built the 008 and 009, I feared they were playing things safe.

 

It was an era where a single outstanding individual in the technical department (usually made up of very few people) could build the team around himself and make the difference, coupled with a driver who bought into and exploited the package to the limit - Clark, Stewart, Lauda, Andretti. The pre-corporate era, where the top teams still had to become bloated of people and "project management", "company culture", "high tech",  "corporate sponsorship packages" were still only fancy buzzwords used at Harvard. The sport was changing, becoming a technological war and Chapman had been one of those who unwittingly had ushered it.

When I was a teenager in the 1970s I believed that F1 chassis designers, the Cosworth/Hewland package geezers, drew every line on the drawings or inspected every line. I was not far from reality --  the teams who won races had a designer backed up by people who drew his ideas, and they employed people to create ideas to throw at the designer. One person receiving lots of input and potentially delivering genius output. Small teams of smart people.

 

If we think about the F1 era, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Benz and Lancia built cars in the 1950s which were way beyond the ability of the opposition. That was five years or so. Most of F1, when jumped up drivers like Brabham, Gurney, McLaren, Surtees thought that they understood GP racing, was a time for engineering generalists to shoe that they were smart. And they did quite well. 

 

Which brings us back to my original proposition. How did all of those smart people work together at Lotus (overlapping, they were not all present at any time) to build flawed cars which were a second a lap quicker (at least) than the opposition?



#31 mariner

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Posted 31 December 2019 - 09:34

To try and answer your original proposition , in engineering unfettered by  regulation there is a balance between optimisation of what you know and innovation with all its risks of not knowing enough.

 

Military aircraft engines would be an example since regulation is , of necessity, minimal.

 

In ww2 piston engines were developed very fast to  a high degree of power. In the USA multi-row air cooled radials went beyond the 2,000 bhp level with lots of clever features like turbo charging etc. As a consequence they became very complex then along came the jet engine , utterly simple in comparison  and clearly  able to provide faster flight. 

 

It had so much potential in power, speed and reliability it quickly overtook the piston engine in usage.

 

Ground effects was similar , because people can only really regulate what they know nobody had any rules preventing it. The potential was so huge any weakness in the  Lotus 78/79 design didn't matter much at first. Once the understanding spread optimisation could take over.

 

Chapman was , I think, an innovator at heart, not an optimiser, so he was always rushing to get the big new advantage rather than optimising the old. 

 

Modern F1 runs on a different model of very tight restriction ,justified on the grounds of minimising  but also as it suits the big, rich teams  by never allowing the risk of being overwhelmed by a new but cheap idea.. Imagine Toto  Wolf having to explain to the Daimler Benz board why they lost because of a shortage of brain power rather than not enough money?

 

Maybe the rigid rules of F1 and the circuits full of mid speed corners with  huge run off areas are the ultimate memorial to the Lotus 79?



#32 Regazzoni

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Posted 31 December 2019 - 11:33

I have made a spreadsheet with the wins over of the Seventies (1970 to 1979), counting each designer’s win.

 

Forghieri 37

Chapman 34

Gardner 20 (15 with Stewart)

Coppuck 19

Murray 7

Southgate 5 (4 BRM, 1 Shadow)

Head 5 (in the last year of the decade)

Postlethwaite, Ducarouge 4

Herd 3

Philippe, Ferris, Bellamy, Tauranac 1

The top three are also my top three, not necessarily in the order of the first two, but I always considered Gardner above Coppuck, he made several different winning cars; 15 of those 20 wins are by Stewart. I liked Gardner also because he seemed a “classically” educated engineer, a boffin rather than a technician; he came from designing transmissions. For me, his P34/2 is entirely and a big part of Tyrrell’s decline, beyond the novelty a dead end without much rationale; the cross-section area of the car didn’t change, he should have put two axles in the back to gauge some aero drag reduction. Discussion for another time; maybe.

I admired Coppuck, he was indeed good, not sure about “great”, if we define it, not arguing about adjectives. His concept of the M23 was widely mimicked in those years: the 007, Philippe's Parnelli, the Ensign, etc. It became one of the paradigms of F1 car design of the times. The M26 managed three wins in 1977 with Hunt.

Murray’s reputation I feel is a slightly bit inflated (the cost of his self-serving tomes didn’t help – LOL). The BT44 was a good car, but not exactly or consistently to M23’s level. He had more success in the Eighties, Piquet winning the 1981 lottery and then 1983 which, for all I know, wasn’t a clean win, as wasn’t the vacuum cleaner at Anderstorp 1978, pun intended. Murray was too prone to resort to the gimmicky short-cut, rather than develop concepts and designs from physics first principles as Chapman and Forghieri did.

Head’s wins are all in the last year of the decade, 1979; by age and emergence, he was a post-Seventies designer.

The issue is Chapman. I have considered all Lotus wins his because the cars were his concepts. Philippe detailed the 49 and the 72, but beyond Lotus he managed only one win with the 008. Southgate didn’t do, or minimal, design work at Lotus, four of his five wins predate his time with Chapman. Bellamy managed only one win with the 19A.

Lotus after 1970, had to develop the 72 quite a bit which came good in 1972 and could have won in 1973 too if they had a designated number one driver. Equally, the 77 wasn’t good, but they did develop properly the 78 into the 79. It’s not they weren’t capable to develop, just I don’t think without Chapman his designers/engineers would have amounted to much, not to Gardner’s or Coppuck’s level. My view and answer to your question. Open to change it with further evidence, which doesn’t look forthcoming here.

Few further thoughts. I think beside the best, most didn’t even make chassis stress calculations. Stressed skin is not straightforward to calculate, most of it was consolidated practice, they did the GA and the chassis drawings, then went to Mo (Maurice) Gomm in Woking (who was not far from where my house is) to do the panels’ beating and bending. The more experienced put more stiffeners in the two longitudinal tubes either side of the cockpit, to limit panel aspect ratios and keep buckling away. Then, periodically, one read on Autosprint of teams that had to reinforce their monocoques because they twisted too much, or bent around the front suspension supports, etc. I also recall reading that Thompson had high praise for Ferrari Colombo’s B3 chassis drawings.



#33 Sterzo

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Posted 31 December 2019 - 16:24

Few further thoughts. I think beside the best, most didn’t even make chassis stress calculations.

But wasn't it the practice to test the finished tub's stiffness? Admittedly that would give only a crude measurement. And I thought the problems with lack of stiffness were usually because of underestimating the downforce produced by ground effect, rather than because the chassis wasn't as intended.



#34 Doug Nye

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Posted 31 December 2019 - 16:36

I have made a spreadsheet with the wins over of the Seventies (1970 to 1979), counting each designer’s win.

 

 

Race wins at all levels, or in only Formula 1 World Championship rounds...?

 

DCN



#35 Regazzoni

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Posted 31 December 2019 - 17:12

But wasn't it the practice to test the finished tub's stiffness? Admittedly that would give only a crude measurement. And I thought the problems with lack of stiffness were usually because of underestimating the downforce produced by ground effect, rather than because the chassis wasn't as intended.

 

I wasn't talking specifically for the ground effect era, I distinctly recall reading about stiffening chassis all through the decade. I did my dissertation on stressed-skin design (in composite materials, with an F1 team) and I would be surprised if that many people could actually master design and check a multi-cellular thin-walled section, not to mention restrained, in the Seventies. If someone knows better, happy to be standing corrected. I presume what most knew was a rough check of beam in bending and torsion, and then test, with the experience carried forward to the next design, there was no FEA available (I still require my engineers to show me hand calculations for everything they think they have calculated on the computer).

 

Race wins at all levels, or in only Formula 1 World Championship rounds...?

 

DCN

Only WC rounds, quickly checked through wikipedia this morning.



#36 kayemod

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Posted 31 December 2019 - 17:21

But wasn't it the practice to test the finished tub's stiffness? Admittedly that would give only a crude measurement. And I thought the problems with lack of stiffness were usually because of underestimating the downforce produced by ground effect, rather than because the chassis wasn't as intended.

I remember seeing Colin Chapman himself carrying out a "test" of this kind. Can't remember what F1 car it was, he was using a scaffolding pole fixed across the front suspension. I gathered from comments by onlookers that it wasn't the first time he'd done that.

 

PS Regga. I was pleased to see you giving proper, though slightly belated credit to Gordon Coppuck for his M26 design, following your earlier comments. GC was a thoroughly good bloke, and the nicest and least excitable designer I came into contact with during my time at Specialised Mouldings.  With his M26 design, three wins in a season wasn't bad at all, though of course the car was outdated by 78. I remember Jackie Stewart track testing all or most of the 77 cars before the season started (Autocar?). He was most complimentary about the M26, and said that it was the car he thought would be the probable Championship victor at the season's end, and he wasn't all that far out.


Edited by kayemod, 31 December 2019 - 17:34.


#37 Doug Nye

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Posted 31 December 2019 - 17:25

Only WC rounds, quickly checked through wikipedia this morning.

 

 

Mmm - I thought so...    :smoking:

 

DCN



#38 Regazzoni

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Posted 31 December 2019 - 17:34

Mmm - I thought so...    :smoking:

 

DCN

Is there something missing? Haven't counted Tauranac's International Trophy with the Theodore...

 

I am not scoring points, was only curious to have an idea of the magnitude people actually achieved. I wasn't surprised about Ferrari and Lotus tally, a bit for Coppuck, I admit, and to a lesser extent Gardner, who however had Stewart most of the time. But that was the point, it clarified the picture.



#39 Regazzoni

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Posted 31 December 2019 - 17:42

PS Regga. I was pleased to see you giving proper, though slightly belated credit to Gordon Coppuck for his M26 design, following your earlier comments. GC was a thoroughly good bloke, and the nicest and least excitable designer I came into contact with during my time at Specialised Mouldings.  With his M26 design, three wins in a season wasn't bad at all, though of course the car was outdated by 78. I remember Jackie Stewart track testing all or most of the 77 cars before the season started (Autocar?). He was most complimentary about the M26, and said that it was the car he thought would be the probable Championship victor at the season's end, and he wasn't all that far out.

 

Absolutely, I was a Coppuck fan from the first hour. I liked clear thinking designers. he was one of the best.

 

I recall very well Stewart's tests, Autosprint published them in Italy.

 

Most of my posts are made in haste and multi-tasking, usually with work in the way (LOL), like now preparing the house and dinner for our guests tonight.

 

PS: my comment about the M26 reflected the kind of expectation I had at the time, with Lotus so innovative everything seemed passe' in comparison. I was very dismissive of Forghieri at the time, too, I think now I know better...


Edited by Regazzoni, 31 December 2019 - 17:47.


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#40 Charlieman

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 12:20

I have made a spreadsheet with the wins over of the Seventies (1970 to 1979), counting each designer’s win.

 

...

Murray’s reputation I feel is a slightly bit inflated (the cost of his self-serving tomes didn’t help – LOL). The BT44 was a good car, but not exactly or consistently to M23’s level. He had more success in the Eighties, Piquet winning the 1981 lottery and then 1983 which, for all I know, wasn’t a clean win, as wasn’t the vacuum cleaner at Anderstorp 1978, pun intended. Murray was too prone to resort to the gimmicky short-cut, rather than develop concepts and designs from physics first principles as Chapman and Forghieri did.

Thanks for the win chart. It is surprisingly illuminating. 

 

WRT Gordon Coppuck, I'm impressed by the methodology of the McLaren team in the mid-1970s. The team did not have the resources of Ferrari, but each new set of components was tested on track against a reference design. New rear wings A, B and C were tested against new front wings D, E and F, and against the reference point. They were doing things properly. Innovations like the six speed gearbox and air starter were small but effective. Bringing us back on topic, McLaren were one of the first teams to explore under floor downforce, using skirts below/around the M23 cockpit area.

 

Over at Brabham, Gordon Murray's team pursued similar downforce ideas with the BT44. Alfa Romeo engines didn't work out well for Brabham (I'd like to understand the financial deal) which reduced Murray's possible win rate. I wish the Murray design book was cheaper too!

 

I presume what most knew was a rough check of beam in bending and torsion, and then test, with the experience carried forward to the next design, there was no FEA available (I still require my engineers to show me hand calculations for everything they think they have calculated on the computer).

 

Richard Henshall of PAFEC was one of my university lecturers. He used to say that a finite element program could be written for complex 3D stress analysis but he didn't have access to a powerful enough computer...



#41 Charlieman

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 12:25

I remember seeing Colin Chapman himself carrying out a "test" of this kind. Can't remember what F1 car it was, he was using a scaffolding pole fixed across the front suspension. I gathered from comments by onlookers that it wasn't the first time he'd done that.

Arthur Mallock used the same technique although he was converted to computer analysis for late iterations of the U2 spaceframe. 



#42 Simon Hadfield

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 12:50

The Gordon Murray book - worth every penny in my opinion - very clearly explains the whys and wherefores of his period win rate.  It got rather better when he left Brabham.....

In my eyes, there are three designers (although that word doesn’t seem to really represent what these men actually are) that sit above all their peers, Chapman, Murray and David Bruns.  All three had/have an ability to look at issues from first principles and produce cars that represented that clarity of thought.  

 

Anyway, back to the thread.  


Edited by Simon Hadfield, 04 January 2020 - 12:51.


#43 Regazzoni

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 13:38


 All three had/have an ability to look at issues from first principles and produce cars that represented that clarity of thought. 

 

Forghieri did the same, even (for me, at least) if appreciated in hindsight. And they were car designers, they devised principles, architecture and packaging, sometimes leaving detailing to others, sometimes they did it or part of it on their own (admittedly not Chapman, it would seem).

 



#44 Charlieman

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 14:05

 

Forghieri did the same, even (for me, at least) if appreciated in hindsight. And they were car designers, they devised principles, architecture and packaging, sometimes leaving detailing to others, sometimes they did it or part of it on their own (admittedly not Chapman, it would seem).

 

Histories of Lotus and biographies of Chapman have never told us when Colin Chapman moved from a hands-on builder of specials to a pencil wielder or filter of abstract concepts. It seems to be when Len Terry and Maurice Philippe were brought in as super-draftsmen to convert Chapman concepts into practical racers. 1965-ish?

 

I am a belated admirer of F1 Ferrari in the 1960s and 1970s, and I know nothing about Forghieri as a man. Is there a must read book in English?



#45 Simon Hadfield

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 14:24

In the case of Chapman there are many references to his ability to walk in the drawing office, stand behind the draughtsman for a few minutes, reach over, take his pencil and make authoritative changes.  

From my knowledge of the way things were done Chapman laid out clear parameters and those concepts would then be faithfully executed. The closer the car to him the more it would represent his vision, so the Formula One cars, the Indy cars, would be his cars, the lower down the food chain customer cars after 1964/5 probably rather less so.  

Forghieri did some extraordinary work but did he really break new ground?  Great cars, certainly a more complete ultimate package being chassis, engine and gearbox but there were others at Ferrari who added materially to his effort.  That and one or two instances apart - the transverse gearbox - they were mostly conventional and evolutionary concepts.  I would suggest the budgetary constraints were somewhat different too!  



#46 Regazzoni

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 14:43

Thanks for the win chart. It is surprisingly illuminating.

 

Richard Henshall of PAFEC was one of my university lecturers. He used to say that a finite element program could be written for complex 3D stress analysis but he didn't have access to a powerful enough computer...

 

Nobody noticed Castaing/Tetu missing in the list of the winners... I suppose everybody was taken by the Villeneuve-Arnoux duel... LOL...forgot to add....

 

I did an FEA software on my own in Fortran, late '80s, it could do 3D beam/bar assembly and plates with quadrangular/triangular elements, but not assembly of plates in 3D. I collected a lot of books on FEA and FE programming at uni and the beginning of my career- Hinton/Owen, Bathe, Zienkiewicz, Argyris (the famous fuselage book in A3 format, which I struggled to photocopy in a copy shop in Rome, still got it), Harrison, even several French textbooks found at Saint Germain des Pres in the early Nineties, German ones and many many others. I have all the research papers from the Fifities, from the first one by Boeing engineers (which they published belatedly, as it was a military secret initially, in particular how they solved the analysis of delta and swept-back wings, highly redundant structures with members not aligned along the principal directions), and even earlier with Southwell's method (a well-known British researcher of the '30s and '40s, I think his method was used to calculate the geodesic airframes of the Vickers' bombers). For my dissertation I did a code in Fortran for the analysis of thin-walled structures (race car chassis, aircraft wings and fuselage) in composites which performed the laminated plates calculations and assembly into open or closed section, including warping restraint. The full FEA was carried out on MSC-Nastran. Anyway, just to say that I find the subject enthralling and still buy new books on subject of composite materials structures (Ever Barbero, Collar etc), starting from the late Seventies, I was still at high school, with the very first that was the book by Crivelli Visconti, first and for many years the only reference book in Italian on the subject.



#47 Charlieman

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 15:08

In the case of Chapman there are many references to his ability to walk in the drawing office, stand behind the draughtsman for a few minutes, reach over, take his pencil and make authoritative changes.  

Of course, I am more likely to make mistakes because there's a critic looking over my shoulder. Changes may be authoritative but are they right?

 

Forghieri did some extraordinary work but did he really break new ground? 

 

The Ferrari T4 was a ridiculous car. It beat ground effects cars. It had a big frontal area and a massive plan area with clever duct systems. The Ferrari Flat 12 engine meant that pure ground effects were impossible, but for one last season Ferrari could use their extra 30 bhp to build a winner. The aerodynamics of the T4 are remarkable -- no other team tried anything like it. Forghieri made rubbish aerodynamic possibilities work for him.



#48 Regazzoni

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 15:20

Histories of Lotus and biographies of Chapman have never told us when Colin Chapman moved from a hands-on builder of specials to a pencil wielder or filter of abstract concepts. It seems to be when Len Terry and Maurice Philippe were brought in as super-draftsmen to convert Chapman concepts into practical racers. 1965-ish?

 

I am a belated admirer of F1 Ferrari in the 1960s and 1970s, and I know nothing about Forghieri as a man. Is there a must read book in English?

This comes to mind, my copy is in the original language, and I understand the translation is a bit pedestrian here and there:

 

https://www.amazon.c...,aps,201&sr=8-1

 

Forghieri is misunderstood in Britain, if not known at all. Beside the dearth of publications, perhaps also dearth of people who could write about the subject with competence and open mind. Someone like Setright would have made him justice, in this country. Another discussion for another moment.


Edited by Regazzoni, 04 January 2020 - 15:21.


#49 Simon Hadfield

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 15:34

Of course, I am more likely to make mistakes because there's a critic looking over my shoulder. Changes may be authoritative but are they right?

The various sources say they were.


The Ferrari T4 was a ridiculous car. It beat ground effects cars. It had a big frontal area and a massive plan area with clever duct systems. The Ferrari Flat 12 engine meant that pure ground effects were impossible, but for one last season Ferrari could use their extra 30 bhp to build a winner. The aerodynamics of the T4 are remarkable -- no other team tried anything like it. Forghieri made rubbish aerodynamic possibilities work for him.



With the rather important help of Michelin.

#50 Charlieman

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Posted 04 January 2020 - 15:35

This comes to mind, my copy is in the original language, and I understand the translation is a bit pedestrian here and there:

 

https://www.amazon.c...,aps,201&sr=8-1

 

Thanks. It is good to know that such a book exists.