Home  »  Car Racing  »  Design  »  Features  »  Gallery  »  Videos

One hit wonder: The Brabham Fan Car

Submitted by on August 11, 2012

brabham fan car

Adrian Newey, genius. Gordon Murray, ‘God’. Racing rules are very definitive so it takes brilliant and inventive minds to find loopholes. Newey has made a skill of it, as did Murray.

By Andy Hallbery

‘Genius’ would describe both designers. For me personally, Murray was the one that not only designed some of the most successful and beautiful F1 cars ever, he read the rule book, saw the gaps, thought laterally and came up with some massive innovations to be competitive.

Let’s just say “Fan Car”.

That car raced once, won once in the year that Lotus dominated with the beautiful ground effect Lotus 79 designed by Colin Chapman, another man with a brilliant mind. The Brabham Fan Car was never actually banned, despite protests from almost everyone at the time.

Brabham – and then owner  – Bernie Ecclestone withdrew it. The thing that makes me laugh the most is that Bernie is a stickler for detail and tidiness. That’s why all the team trucks in Formula One today are parked millimetre perfect. Today in Formula One, mechanics form a ‘human shield’ at Red Bull Racing, and Lotus to avoid people seeing any innovation.

Yet… In 1978 the Brabham fan was covered by a black plastic dustbin lid! That is so not Bernie style! And neither was Murray, in his Sex Pistols or John Lennon T-shirts, let alone the fluorescent socks or a single finger nail painted day-glo orange… But he designed winners – and that is all that mattered.

Murray was – as he says in the video – embarrassed at the Fan Car’s speed. It was controversial, but there was no doubt it worked.

Murray also had a big fan base in the crowd, and one of the most famous banners was the “Gordon Murray is God”, made by Cobra Magazine, the Brabham Fan Club. A photo of that appeared in magazines worldwide.

He is an innovator, and when he moved to McLaren designed one of the most successful cars in F1, calling himself “The Tall Ciggie Packet.” Then, feeling the F1 rules were becoming more restrictive, he stopped and designed the McLaren F1 road car, with no restrictions at all.

Gordon Murray

His F1 days will be fondly remembered. All the Brabhams from his pen were not only gorgeous, they were winners and, again pushed boundaries, from side-pod radiators and more.

In writing this story I polled a number of F1 people, and others I respect in racing worldwide. Of the 30 or so I asked, only two chose Newey over Murray (and Mr Dutchman and Mr Youth, you know who you are!)

One of the best responses I had was this: “Murray was good at making a jet fighter out of triplane regulations. Adrian Newey is evolutionary… Gordon Murray was revolutionary.”

So true.

Special thanks to LAT Photographic http://www.latphoto.co.uk/ and Sutton Images http://www.sutton-images.comand Bryn Lennon /Allsport

Check out both their webistes for images and prints

Also to Martin Read and Cobra Magazine for their images, as well as a barrel of libelous laughs.

Follow @MotosportRetro and @Hallbean on Twitter and join in on the discussion on Facebook

Don't miss out! Our best stories, direct to your inbox!