Theme : Aerodynamics – Index of Efficiency

They don’t get any more aerodynamic than this…

Photo via ultimatecarpage
Photo via ultimatecarpage

What you’re looking at here is the last of the pure streamliners – the 1964 Panhard CD Le Mans. This Index of Efficiency contender for the 1964 Le Mans race boasted a drag co-efficient of a mere 0.12, reputedly the lowest of any racing car to date. This car is significant for two reasons: it marks Panhard’s final appearance in the legendary 24-hour race and the swansong of the thermal efficiency index class; discontinued due to the rising speeds of the main contenders turning these 848cc participants into dangerous mobile chicanes.

GT40 rells in the CD Panhard at the 1964 Le Mans - photo via Autodrome
A Ford GT40 reels in the CD Panhard at the 1964 Le Mans – photo via Autodrome

Oddly, today’s Le Mans races have become (to some extent at least) indices of efficiency – more of a showcase for alternative drivetrains and new fuel-saving technology than a demonstration of firepower. Sadly, Panhard is no longer with us, a victim of the late sixties contraction within the motor industry, but the exquisite little CD reminds us how a little can go a very long way. It also demonstrates how the advent of downforce altered the aesthetics of racing cars irreparably.

CD Le Mans - photo via Imcdb
Pretty slippery – CD Le Mans – photo via Imcdb

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

9 thoughts on “Theme : Aerodynamics – Index of Efficiency”

  1. I am in mind of something the great Archie Vicar once said to me about the Le Mans ‘Index of Thermal Efficiency’. It ran along the lines of it being a demonstration of just how mollycoddled the French had become when they gave a prize to a racing car just because it had the best heater.

  2. Simon: are you not thinking of the Circuit Paul Ricard and Archie VIcar´s views on French onion soup being served too hot? I think the comment is in one of his mid 60s articles on the Renault 6 which he crashed there.

  3. Richard. As you know, Archie was not the best map reader. He generally navigated via hostelries and, I sometimes suspected, by sense of smell. It can’t have been the Circuit Paul Ricard since that wasn’t constructed until the very late 60s. However, he might have been mis-remembering and it would be typical of him to choose the first race circuit that reminded him of alcohol. Incidentally, did he ever test a Pernod .. I mean Panhard?

  4. At the risk of highjacking this thread, I feel obliged to share what I’ve come across while browsing through some new automotive publications this past weekend.

    Among those was a book on Mercedes’ W124, which also covered its development period. I don’t need to stress quite how much I respect Daimler’s products of that era, but even then, I was astonished at the way that proud, stubborn and seemingly old-fashioned company worked during its heyday.
    As shown in the book, one concept for W124 that was being investigated in earnest was a Kamm-tailed saloon with rear wheel spats. If the author is to be believed, this wasn’t a mere flight of fancy, aimed at showing the public through some semi-candid photography that Daimler actually weren’t a bunch of old farts. No, one of the most conservative brands in the world, during a period of particular stylistic restraint, was actually pondering the very concept of the executive saloon.

    I wish I could present you with some photographs, but the bookseller’s was empty, apart from myself and the shopkeeper, who probably wouldn’t have taken kindly to any snapping attempts. I can only try and outline something along the lines of a larger, more upright Citroen BX. Which might also explain why I’m glad the concept didn’t go ahead in the end.

  5. Kris. I remember that, in the early 80s, Audi were running a 200 prototype with rear wheel spats. Then of course there’s Mercedes own Auto2000 project

    http://5komma6.mercedes-benz-passion.com/der-w126-damals/entwicklung-forschung/auto-2000/

    Car design seems very hit and miss sometimes. You can come across the cast-offs for a classic design (Bill Lyons Jaguars even) and it seems amazing that the same apparently talented and tasteful people could have been involved.

  6. Forgive me if I am writing something that has already been addressed (I am just getting back into this web thing) but looking at the Panhard above it becomes apparent why its drag coefficient is so small. Note in particular the gentle tapering of the rear of the car- this helps keep the boundary layer of the airflow attached to the vehicle form rather than generating greater turbulence. Obviously, to generate anything you need energy, and thus generating less of something means that you are utilitising the available energy more for what you want it for- in this case moving forward as fast as possible. I was intending to write a whole article on the topic but I cannot find the time- forgive me.

  7. Spa in Belgium, perhaps. Amazingly the Renault 4 was unscathed but the other two cars were burnt out entirely. The cause was not proven but some suspected a forgotten pipe. The Monteverdi and Bitter received good reviews which might have placated their owners.

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