alfadriver
alfadriver PowerDork
3/9/13 9:18 a.m.

One of the reasons I like reading about racing history is to see quite a few "almosts" or "IF's" happening throughout the development of cars...

Being an Alfa guy, a lingering one for me originates from the TZ- which had independant rear suspension. Sadly, it didn't work, and instead of fixing it, for the next decade, Alfa race cars used a live axle. Granted, it worked really well- the GTA, GTA Jr, and GTAm turned out to be pretty famous race cars. But what if?

In the recent issue of Vintage Racecar there's a small article written by Colin Crabbe, where he writes about his experience as an F1 team owner. Generally getting second hand cars, doing well, and having a great time. It was interesting to see him take a M7A that he bought from McLaren, improve the aero, and go faster. He noted the side pods being a key part of the development. Then the "almost" year- he got a March 701, also with side pods. The pictures clearly show the side pods as a wing. Had they used some kind of basic skirt, it would have kept the air under the car doing the work as opposed to coming in from the sides. Ground effects. This was 1970- Lotus didn't do a good ground effects car for another 7 years. There were a few other trials from other teams- but this private team was darned close.

So, lets open this up. Other "almosts" "if" "before it's time" technologies that ended up changing everything.

Javelin
Javelin MegaDork
3/9/13 12:32 p.m.
alfadriver wrote: So, lets open this up. Other "almosts" "if" "before it's time" technologies that ended up changing everything.

Rambler's fuel injected 1957 Rambler Rebel comes to mind...

alfadriver
alfadriver PowerDork
3/9/13 2:02 p.m.
Javelin wrote:
alfadriver wrote: So, lets open this up. Other "almosts" "if" "before it's time" technologies that ended up changing everything.
Rambler's fuel injected 1957 Rambler Rebel comes to mind...

I have copies of papers where Alfa was experimenting with a form of EFI in the 30's. It used a solenoid type injector and something like a distributor for "logic". It was apparently used for the MM and the Targa at least once....

Was the Rambler mechanical or electrical injection? Mercedes had a mechanical one in the Gullwing, and the Corvette had a injection system as well in the 50's.

noddaz
noddaz HalfDork
3/9/13 6:52 p.m.

Stolen straight from Wiki:

Wiki Wiki who posted the Wiki said: Fuel injection option The Bendix "Electrojector" electronic fuel injection (EFI) was to be optional on the 1957 Rambler Rebel with a flashy introduction at the Daytona Beach Road Course trials.[9] The Rebel's Electrojector equipped engine was rated at 288 bhp (214.8 kW).[1] This was to have been the first mass-produced engine with a transistorized "brain box" fuel injection system.[10] A Rambler Rebel with the optional EFI was tested by Motor Trend, and they recorded this sedan going faster from a standing start than the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette with mechanical fuel injection. The Bendix system's public debut in December 1956 was followed by a March 1957 price bulletin listing it as a US$395 option, but because supplier difficulties, EFI Rebels would only be available after June 15.[11] This was to have been the first production EFI engine, but Electrojector's teething problems meant only pre-production cars were so equipped: thus, very few cars so equipped were ever sold,[12] and none were made available to the public.[13] The Rambler's EFI was more advanced than the mechanical types then appearing on the market and the engines ran fine in warm weather, but suffered hard starting in cooler temperatures.[11] As a result, all of the production Rebels used a four-barrel carburetor. Nevertheless, the EFI option remained in the published owner's manual.[14]

Which does not necessarily mean it is true...

slantvaliant
slantvaliant SuperDork
3/10/13 9:57 p.m.

More on the Bendix Electrojector, which was also used by DPCD (Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler, and Desoto) for a bit.

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt SuperDork
3/11/13 9:23 a.m.

Another "what if" - in 1965, what if the NASCAR engine arms race had kept going on unabated and we saw a 427 SOHC vs 426 Hemi war, continuing into 1966 with Chrysler following through on their threat to build a DOHC Hemi "Doomsday" motor that they apparently threatened NASCAR with to get the 427 SOHC banned?

This could have happened either with NASCAR not instituting the production engines only rules, or with Ford building production cars with the Cammer. The muscle car era would have been very different if it had turned into an overhead cam motor war.

wspohn
wspohn Reader
3/12/13 12:47 p.m.

Here's another 'could have been'.

In 1958 MG crafted a DOHC engine by grafting a new head onto the 4 cylinder B series bottom end. The resulting 1588 cc Twin Cam engine produced 108 BHP (2 more than the slightly later Lotus of the same size did) at 6900 rpm and put MG, for a couple of years, square on the tail of Alfa as far as having a technologically current engine design.

Intended to be made in small numbers for the enthusiast and racing markets, they most notably utilized it in EX181, a tear drop shaped streamliner that both Sterling Moss and Phil Hill ran at Bonneville, setting 1500 cc records at 245 mph and then qualified it for the 1600 class by simply boring it slightly to 1506 cc with which Hill set a new class record of 255 mph. The supercharged engines put out around 300 BHP.

The car was rushed into production before full development could be completed, by an anxious marketing department and due to a lean burn situation caused by the SU carb floats sticking at certain RPM, started coming back on warranty. The ended up killing the engine (and the model, which was also distinguished by having peg drive Dunlop knock off racing wheels and 4 wheel disc brakes - only the second production car to have the latter).

Had MG allowed time to detect and solve the vibration and lean burn issue before they started selling, we would doubtless have had an 1800 and possibly larger DOHC engine available in the MGB which would have helped sales and competition results right through the 1960s.

Another 'almost'....

wspohn
wspohn Reader
3/12/13 12:48 p.m.

PS - some fools still race with that 'defective' engine....

VClassics
VClassics Reader
3/12/13 1:44 p.m.

Sometime around 1961 Aston Martin had the idea of building engines for use by other manufacturers. They settled on a four-cylinder, 2.5L version of the DB4 engine, using as many of the same components as possible. This would reduce their unit costs dramatically while not competing with their own six-cylinder. Supposedly, four blocks and heads were cast, but only three engines were completed.

The test mule for the first engine was a Jensen-built Volvo P1800 purchased from a local dealer. Fitting the engine was not entirely simple, as it required a custom radiator, changes to the engine's sump to clear the P1800 cross member, and a big bulge in the hood. This boosted power from 100 HP to about 150, but also added 60 pounds or so to the nose of the car. Apparently there were problems with vibration, and the project was not developed further. What happened to the test car is not known, but the engine was taken out of it.

At least one of the engines still exists, and is running is a different P1800 in Switzerland, a detailed recreation of the original.

TR8owner
TR8owner Reader
3/12/13 2:57 p.m.

Another almost was not using the Dolomite Sprint 16v head in the Triumph TR7. The engine was readily available and it would have produced way more power than the 8v. The 16v head was simply a bolt on to the same engine block. BL actually did make a handful of TR7 sprints for the UK market, but decided to keep the 8v for reasons known only to them. If the TR7 had been produced with the 16v it would have been a much better car. The early TR7's were also 1" higher because for all their wisdom - BL management thought that Americans would want a "softer ride". The first batch of TR8 coupes were also automatic transmissions because BL management thought that's what the American market would want.

With management decisions like that its little wonder that British Leyland went belly up.

chaparral
chaparral HalfDork
3/13/13 12:22 a.m.

The turbines at Indy have to be #1 on this list. I wonder where a 450-hp, 150 lb engine would've gotten race cars to today...

Denny Hulme & co told a story about how they actually discovered ground effect in 1972 with the McLaren M20, but couldn't spare the time to test it extensively or build new parts to take advantage of it.

I was once asked to leave the Richard Petty Museum for looking underneath the 1967 Plymouth that won 27 from 48 races. It's pretty clear what Petty, Inman, and some unsung aero engineer from Chrysler Corp. did there, and I think that's where the ground effect story starts.

JoeyM
JoeyM UltimaDork
3/13/13 5:22 a.m.

The tyrell 6-wheel racers (neat idea, but tried before tire technology could cope with the forces and heat created) and the chaparral sucker cars probably belong on the list

Gearheadotaku
Gearheadotaku UltraDork
3/14/13 1:40 p.m.
slantvaliant wrote: More on the Bendix Electrojector, which was also used by DPCD (Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler, and Desoto) for a bit.

Wow, cool stuff!

Adrian_Thompson
Adrian_Thompson UltraDork
3/14/13 2:35 p.m.
TR8owner wrote: Another almost was not using the Dolomite Sprint 16v head in the Triumph TR7. The engine was readily available and it would have produced way more power than the 8v. The 16v head was simply a bolt on to the same engine block. BL actually did make a handful of TR7 sprints for the UK market, but decided to keep the 8v for reasons known only to them. If the TR7 had been produced with the 16v it would have been a much better car. The early TR7's were also 1" higher because for all their wisdom - BL management thought that Americans would want a "softer ride". The first batch of TR8 coupes were also automatic transmissions because BL management thought that's what the American market would want. With management decisions like that its little wonder that British Leyland went belly up.

I used to have a TR7 Sprint, not one of the real ones, but a Tr7 with a Dolly sprint engine in it. Great car until one of the two bolts holding the cam gear in place failed, the cam slipped and..well you konw the rest.

Adrian_Thompson
Adrian_Thompson UltraDork
3/14/13 2:40 p.m.

Does this count? In December 92 Senna tested a Penske Indy car as he didn't like the technology and driver aides in F1. If he had gone there and stayed he might not have been in the Williams in 94. Also imagine Mansel Vs Senna Vs Piquet in Indy cars? Might that have allowed CART to survive the IRL split...

friedgreencorrado
friedgreencorrado PowerDork
3/14/13 5:26 p.m.
Gearheadotaku wrote:
slantvaliant wrote: More on the Bendix Electrojector, which was also used by DPCD (Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler, and Desoto) for a bit.
Wow, cool stuff!

x2. Loved the picture of the internal works of the ECU. Looks like an old Heathkit radio set.

Argo1
Argo1 Reader
3/16/13 8:54 p.m.
chaparral wrote: The turbines at Indy have to be #1 on this list. I wonder where a 450-hp, 150 lb engine would've gotten race cars to today...

+1 Lots of inovation was stiffled at Indy during that era.

kingston250
kingston250 None
3/18/13 3:47 a.m.

You discus some good points here. I am also interested in learning about the history of racing because racing is my hobby. i really like the racing.

VonSmallhausen
VonSmallhausen Reader
3/18/13 6:47 p.m.

I have evil dreams of somehow getting the the twin cam head of the dolly sprint onto the Stag's V8. One bank should work just fine, the other will take some creativity. If they had done that in the 70s I think the 3.0 L Stag V8 might have been held in a little high regard.

wspohn
wspohn Reader
3/21/13 11:54 a.m.

Reminds me of the time a friend and I were sitting in his garage sharing a bottle of wine and talking. He raced an old sports racer with Olds 215 power and worked as a mechanic on Jensens. We looked at a bare 215 block he had sitting there, then at a Lotus head off a Jensen Healey engine he had removed to do a valve grind on. Then we looked at each other and we both grabbed the head and took it over to the block, where it turned out that the bore centres of the two engines were as near as never mind the same.

He thought very seriously about grafting a pair of Lotus 4 valve heads onto the GM block, but never quite had the time to do it. Might have been pretty interesting.

TR8owner
TR8owner Reader
3/21/13 3:30 p.m.

Repco had aready beat you to that and won the F1 championship for Brabham, but what a cool idea you guys had.

wspohn
wspohn Reader
3/22/13 12:03 p.m.

Yeah, but the Repco Brabham engine was only SOHC as opposed to DOHC, and it didn't put out all that much - around 300 BHP which even by the end of the 1960s was below par for a race engine - Ferrari in the same class produced 360 BHP.

OTOH it was reliable and they won a couple of years with it so it was certainly a great exercise for them. Great looking engine, though - and you wouldn't need a bonnet on a street car that used it!

aussiesmg
aussiesmg UltimaDork
3/23/13 10:32 a.m.
wspohn wrote: Yeah, but the Repco Brabham engine was only SOHC as opposed to DOHC, and it didn't put out all that much - around 300 BHP which even by the end of the 1960s was below par for a race engine - Ferrari in the same class produced 360 BHP. OTOH it was reliable and they won a couple of years with it so it was certainly a great exercise for them. Great looking engine, though - and you wouldn't need a bonnet on a street car that used it!

They chose SOHC for a few reasons including, but not limited to: smaller size, reduced complexity, reliability, and lower weight.

Winning a couple of championships might be considered a remarkable feat as it is still the only driver "built" car that won a championship, never mind two of them.

Yes it is pretty, sounds even better

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZ6ho4fQ_zo

Curmudgeon
Curmudgeon MegaDork
3/23/13 2:03 p.m.

Not an 'almost', the first Caddy Northstar engine used a set of 912 Lotus cylinder heads. GM got two complete engines from Lotus, pulled the heads and plopped them on the 'mule' block. The short blocks languished for several years, then a GM engineer bought a Jensen Healey, transplanted the 907 head on the 912 short block and stuck it in his car.

Lore has it that the 4 port 13B rotary was considered for the J-H as well...

Our Preferred Partners
P6RfrKyQ8hBkKCUCZJGsru7Wg60UmCrKcnR51fkEMMfv2pvT30sWVQPAuK0Sso8R