Bowlby and Eakin, who had also worked at Ganassi, left their families behind in Indiana and headed to California. Simon Marshall, another former colleague, drove west from Atlanta with his wife and two dogs. Together they rented an apartment near Gurney’s shop that they called Delta House and embarked on a grueling schedule of six-and-a-half-day weeks. (Ex-AAR designer John Ward worked 50 hours a week, which Eakin calls “part-time.”) Working in an office carved out of an AAR storage room, they started from the proverbial clean sheet of paper. “We didn’t have a library of parts or CAD data from some previous car to work from,” Bowlby says. “When our computers arrived, they were completely and utterly blank.”
high-end go-kart. All of the suspension components are bespoke. (Due to the complex shape, each front upright took about a month to make.) The Performance Friction carbon-carbon front brakes are so small that they look like they’re from a model-car parts bin. The four-inch-wide front tires, made by Michelin, are one of a kind, as are the wheels.With the exception of Formula One cars, almost all modern racers are built primarily of parts bought from motor-sports vendors. But virtually nothing off the shelf fit the DeltaWing. There was no room for a steering rack, so Eakin designed a space-saving steering system vaguely similar to what’s found on a
In early March, seven months to the day after the first part was sketched out and barely three months before the race at Le Mans, the DeltaWing was ready for its greatest trial. Its carbon-fiber body still unpainted, the car rolled out of a trailer bearing AAR’s striped logo at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, a track north of Los Angeles. Representatives from the engine, tire and brake manufacturers that had signed on were there to see how their products performed. But foremost in the mind of everybody milling around the paddock was that nagging question: Is this thing gonna turn?
The honor of making the first run in the DeltaWing went to Gurney’s son Alex, a world-class sports-car racer himself. He climbed into the cockpit and, after stalling the engine twice, eased the car into a leisurely first-gear lap around the paddock. When he returned to the garage, Bowlby was there to greet him. His greatest fear was that the geometry of the front suspension would make the steering wheel difficult to turn.
“Is the steering light?” Bowlby asked.
“It did exactly what I wanted,” Gurney said.
Somebody shouted, “It turns!” The crowd broke into a ragged cheer.
Two other drivers also tested the car at Buttonwillow, gradually ratcheting up their speeds and generating reassuring technical data that helped persuade Nissan officials—who’d spent weeks speaking to Bowlby on a daily basis—to continue providing technical support for the car. The Nissan-branded DeltaWing was officially unveiled later in March. But for those who were there, Buttonwillow was the real debut. As Peter Brock, principal designer of the car Dan Gurney co-drove to a GT class victory at Le Mans in 1964, put it: “That was like seeing the Wright brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk.”single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.