Despite the fact I’ve only watched F1 properly for about 10 years, I absolutely love F1 history, especially the obscure and the weird. So here are the weirdest, unique and interesting F1 cars I can think of. I may do more of these for other things as well, I have a lot of random obscure knowledge in my head.
Ferguson P99 – 1961
Created by Ferguson Research, run by Harry Ferguson, part owner of Massey Ferguson, yes, the tractor company. The P99 was the first 4WD F1 car, and the last front-engined car to win an F1 event. The car only entered one championship race, the 1961 British GP, and retired, then was also disqualified for having a push-start.
It ran a few other times in non-championship races, performing particularly well in wet conditions, and won the Oulton Park Cup from second on the grid with Stirling Moss in the car, winning by over 45 seconds.
Lotus 56B – 1971
Another four-wheel-drive car, but this one isn’t special simply because of that, it had no gears and was powered by a Pratt & Whitney gas turbine engine. For those unaware of who Pratt & Whitney are, they make plane engines, this is an F1 car powered by a modified aircraft engine. The Lotus 56 was an Indy 500 entrant in 1968, and the 56B was the F1 variant for 1971. The car qualified on pole at the Indy 500 but none of the three cars finished the race, two of which retired very late.
In regard to F1, the 56B made three championship entries and three non-championship entries, failing to score a single point and only being classified once. The Lotus 56 is one of the cars in Project Cars 2 as well if you fancy driving it, it is possibly the strangest car you will ever drive on any game, very quiet and of course no gears but well worth giving a drive.
Tyrrell P34 – 1976
The first six-wheeled F1 car and the one almost everyone knows of. The basic idea of the unique design was to have the front wheels fully inside the bodywork to reduce drag, however, the wheels would have been too small to turn well, so they added an extra pair of front wheels to compensate. The P34 was the only six-wheeled car to race and even managed to win a race, the 1976 Swedish GP and had 14 podiums in total, ten in 1976 and the last four in 1977.
Brabham BT46B – 1978
Commonly known as the fan car, the BT46B featured a giant fan on the back for “cooling” and definitely was not intended to create downforce and suck the car to the ground, not at all, only for cooling. The car only ran for a single race, the 1978 Swedish GP, and won by over 30 seconds, lapping every car that was off the podium. It was then banned pretty quickly and never raced again.
Ferrari 312T6 – 1977
Another six-wheeled car, and one that never raced, it was just bizarre. Rather than use the huge rear wheels that were standard for the time, the 312T6 had six wheels all the same size as the front wheels would be. The rear wheels were similar to that of a truck or van, just two rear wheels stuck together, very simple, but too wide to ever be allowed, so I’m not exactly sure what they were thinking in the first place.
The most unique thing about the 312T8 is that it never actually existed, nor was it ever meant to as far as I’m aware. A single picture of it was released, possibly to cause the other teams to look into the same thing and waste their time/resources. Whether this staged image actually worked how they wanted or not I don’t know, to me it looks fairly obvious they just placed some extra tyres next to a static car on a track, but this was at a time many people were working on six-wheeled cars.
Williams FW08B – 1982
Six wheels again! And the only car on this list I’ve actually seen in person, and I’ve seen it on three different occasions. The FW08B took a different design to the six-wheeled cars that were previous and has an incredible gearbox. Like the 312T6 all wheels were the same size and the front wheels, but it had two rows of rear tyres, all of which were powered, resulting in a six-wheeled, four-wheel drive car, with ground effect.
The improvement on the car was massive and it was banned before it could be used in a race, this was the car that limited the rules to four wheels and two driven wheels. Williams previously made another six-wheeled test car as well, the FW07D, the gearbox from which was taken and used for the FW08B, only the one gearbox was ever made as far as I am aware.
There was also the March 2-4-0 that came before with Williams with a similar design and layout, but they were far less successful with their gearbox and four wheel drive, so given the similarities I’m only fully mentioning the FW08B.
Williams FW15 CVT – 1993
Another weird Williams that was never raced, Williams tested with a continuously variable transmission in 1993, and a video of the test even exists on YouTube. The car sounded strange, and with the CVT gearbox and all of the other tech Williams had in the car at the time, this was probably the most technologically advanced F1 car. The gearbox was banned before it could be used in a race.
Life L190 – 1990
This is slightly different to most cars in this list, as it was an absolute failure in every possible way. The Life failed to even start a race, it failed to even get into qualifying, due to the pre-qualifying used at the time. But while everyone else in F1 in 1990 was using V8s, V10s, V12s and in one case a flat 12, Life used their own W12 engine, which had three banks of four cylinders, it was heavy and underpowered, the chassis wasn’t any good either.
When I say the car and engine were failures, I mean it, the car was usually 20 to 30 seconds off the pace just to get out of pre-qualifying, and the best pre-qualifying time was still roughly another five seconds off the pole.
McLaren MP4-26 – 2011
The only recent car in my weird car list and one I really liked, not quite as weird or clever as some of the others but entirely unique amongst the grid. The MP4-26 had L shaped (more or less upside-down) sidepods to enable more air to get to the rear of the car after the banning of the double diffuser. The car did well, won six races and came second in both championships, but it was some way off the dominant RB7.