Further development of the Ford GT40 as “grand style” for Le Mans in Colani’s C-Form
Luigi Colani was unique in the automotive world, in that he was both an engineer in aerodynamics (Sorbonne, Paris) and an artist and sculptor (Berlin), and that was an invaluable combination for a car designer today when aerodynamics was such a critically important word. From the mid 1950s Luigi Colani had been designing cars, most of them very advanced sports and racing machines.
By the mid 1980s he had become one of the most famous designers in Europe and was design consultant to BMW and Volkswagen, among others. Being a specialist in aerodynamics Colani alway put a very steamlined body to his cars and by using his experience with the aircraft industry, Colani had, with the GT80, finally come up with a design very similar to racing's wing cars.
The fully enclosed rear-end, as on the Lotus 80 Formula One car and the Chaparral 2K Indy car, was previewed by Colani in 1970. Long before Colin Chapman and other designers did it, Colani conceived prototypes with the whole body designed as a converted wing. He called it the C-Form
(C = Colani) and his principle was patented in Munich by "Deutsches Patentamt" on November 25, 1967. Stern magazine published an article on the C-Form principle the following year.
During the decade that was the 70s, Colani built several full scale models and mock-ups of C-Form wing cars. The Colani GT80 prototype unveiled at the Frankfurt show in 1980 was the result of these many years of aerodynamic study and development. In 1973 the first 1:1 mock-up model of this very advanced project was ready at Colani's studio at his Harkotten water-castle near Munster, Germany.
Two years later the final layout of the design was done and a final mock-up model with a rolling chassis was built. In 1978 a two-seater monocoque aluminium chassis was built (to Formula One standards) for Colani by Tiga Racing Cars in England. In 1979 the showcar was just ready for Frankfurt, but the following year the Colani GT80 was ready for the road.
The GT80 was more expensive than a Rolls-Royce, Colani said, because in every respect the very best materials were used. Like the famous Ford GT40, the Colani GT80 was a Le Mans type car for the road. The actual Le Mans racing version had already been built at Harkotten Castle. The Colani GT80 prototype shown at Frankfurt was built around the Ford Cosworth V6 engine, which was highly successful in the racing Capris from Cologne. It had also been used in Formula 5000 in England. It was a 24-valved engine of 3400 cm3 with 298 kW at 10,500 rpm.
The Frankfurt Show press material on the GT80 was produced by Ford of Europe, but the whole project was paid for by Colani himself. The show car had Formula One wheels and tyres but the road brakes and suspension were up to Formula One standard, too, and were designed by Howden Ganley. The brakes were outboard. There were double wishbones at the front; lower wishbones and upper trailing link at the rear with twin radius rods. The suspension parts were originally designed for Howden Ganley's private Formula One project.
To further improve airflow the second GT80 prototype was fitted with inboard rocker type suspension. The gearbox was a five-speed ZF and the same firm designed a very special steering rack for the car. ZF went on to help design some electronic components for the GT80; for example, an automatic down-force sensing device to adjust the front wing section. Thus it was possible to reduce air resistance while driving at high speed and to produce more down-force when in corners.
Colani claimed that the GT80 had a coefficient of drag less than 0.2, which was remarkably slippery. As the car had a complete wing shaped body with a sharp trailing edge like an aircraft wing, the lack of a rear window was overcome by placing a wide angled video-camera into a roof fairing. By pushing a switch, a monitor built into the spokeless steering wheel showed the whole rear view. An airbag was also placed in the steering wheel - a unique feature back in 1980. The noise level of the production car would have been very low thanks to a 20 cm wall of insulation material between the engine and seats - but the car never made the production line.
The good aerodynamic shape of the car reduced wind noise to a very low level. The glass was all flat and black with one big wiper on the windscreen and one on each side window. The very dramatically shaped body is aluminium, handmade for Colani by Marsh Developments in England. "It has been a long way," Colani said. "But seeing the result, I really feel that it has all been worthwhile". In this case - you judge for yourself.