suppose at the top of my list would be
something designed by John Barnard.
All of his cars were very well engineered.
I’d go for the McLaren MP4/1, the first
composite car, or the Porsche-engined
McLaren MP4/2 (BELOW) that followed.
The latter was particularly well
integrated. Both designs were typical
Barnard – very committed, with very
good engineering detail. I suspect that
the unit cost of the full composite chassis
was not cheap, although Hercules
definitely would have helped with that.
The other McLaren would be Gordon
Murray and Steve Nichols’ MP4/4.
I went to Honda in 1986 and discussed
a low-line engine and they created one
which was 40mm lower. Then Gerard
need it, so neither team got it for 1987
because we both had to use the same
engine. Then, when Honda left us for
McLaren in 1988, they got that low-line
engine. Of course, I’d never claim any
credit for designing that car, but I always
thought of it as the one with “my”
engine in it! It had certainly been very
annoying when we were told that we
couldn’t have it for 1987.
The other car I’d like to have designed
would be the Arrows A3, the gold
Warsteiner car of 1980. The chassis was
actually slightly better than our FW07B.
It went up closer around the cockpit, so
it was probably stiffer in torsion, too. But
the skirts didn’t work as well as ours did,
so it never really performed as well as I
thought that it could have.
Alain Prost on his way to winning the rain-shortened ’ 84 Monaco GP in John Barnard’s McLaren MP4/2 – a car much admired by Patrick Head.
’m a bit of a Lotus fan. I thought the
Lotus 49 (ABOVE) was a brilliant piece of
engineering. I guess the most innovative
Lotus was the 78, the first ground effect
car, followed by the 79, which was
followed by a better example of that,
the Williams FW07. But I’m being greedy
by suggesting three or four…
The way I look at it is, which is the one
I’d like to own? And that’s the Lotus 49. I
love the simplicity of it. It was an end of a
certain era. It was a perfect combination of
using the Cosworth DFV as a fully-stressed
member, which set the stage for so many
years going forward, and a chassis that set
the standard for its day, while also serving
as the definitive cigar-shaped Formula 1 car
before the next era of wedge shapes and
wings heralded a new type of grand prix car.
The Lotus 49 presents a design concept
that can still be learned from and applied to
modern formula cars today. Complexities
abound in F1 and other categories, but
the 49 stands as a reference on how to
achieve ultimate performance while
adhering to the basic tenets of design.
Designed the 1980
before switching to
McLaren and leading
the carbon fiber
revolution in F1.
Moving to Ferrari in
‘ 87, he pioneered
gearboxes in F1.
t’s a toss-up between the Lotus 56 turbine
car (RIGHT) and the Napier-Railton LSR car.
I’ll go for the Lotus because it represented
such blue sky thinking, yet was effective. The
idea of putting a turbine in a racecar wasn’t
totally new, but it was radical for Indy, yet
perfect for what you needed there. There
wasn’t the on-off power requirement of a
road course, so you didn’t have the
downsides, just the upside of all that power.
In the ‘70s when I worked in California
at Vel’s Parnelli Jones, they used to have
one in their warehouse and I went and
had a good look at it. There were some
very clever details – like the front and
rear suspension were exactly the same
which, for build efficiency, is great.