21 April 2016

Five racing-inspired automotive nose jobs

When Soichiro Honda said “racing improves the breed,” he probably wasn’t referring to aesthetics. Over the years, some truly curious changes have been made in the interest of homologating “production” cars for racing. Few modifications have been more fascinating or controversial than the aerodynamic nose jobs of the 1970s and 1980s. Here are five of the most famous racing-inspired automotive nose jobs. You can judge the aesthetics for yourself:

  1. 1984-89 Porsche 930S “Flachbau”- The 930S slantnose or “Flachbau” raison d’ être was more homage than homologation. Its unique flat, sloping nose was inspired by the brutal Porsche 935 turbo competition cars. Porsche’s best customers saw those cars— driven by the likes of Derek Bell, Bob Wollek, Klaus Ludwig and Jacky Ickx— kick the crap out of nearly all comers in IMSA. A certain subset of wealthy Porsche buyers wanted their street 930s to resemble the all-conquering 935 comp cars.  Porsche’s Sonderwünsch (“special wish”) department addressed that by cooking up a new set of fenders and retractable headlamps for these specially ordered 930s. The M505 option package as it became known, cost a whopping $26,000 more than a standard 930 in 1986 dollars. The same money would have bought a new 924S in those days.

  2. 1970-73 Nissan Fairlady Z G-Nose- Pretty as it was, the standard Nissan S30 (the 240/260/280Z) wasn’t particularly slippery in stock form. Its drag-inducing inset grille and sugar scoop headlamps didn’t exactly put the “efficient” in drag coefficient. The G-nose resolved those issues by capping the grille (turning the car into a bottom breather) and covering the headlamps. Massive tacked on fender flares allowed the use of larger tires. Nissan’s objective was homologating the car for Group 4 racing.  Real G-nose cars are almost invariably right hand-drive as these were JDM only cars. U.S. Datsun dealers did briefly sell G-nose kits and over the years, it seems like virtually anyone with a fiberglass “chopper” gun in his garage has sold aftermarket G-nose kits.

  3. 1969 Ford Torino Talladega- The Torino was Ford’s NASCAR platform in the late 1960s and early ‘70s.  Unfortunately, like most cars of the era, in stock form, it had the aerodynamics of a three bedroom suburban ranch house. Under patron and racing enthusiast “Bunkie” Knudson, Ford’s president at the time, considerable resources were directed toward making the Torino more slippery, including a new extended nose with a flush grille instead of the stock inset piece. All production took place in the first two months of 1969. Several hundred more than the required 500 homologation copies were built for reasons that nobody alive today seems able to explain. The Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II was essentially the same car. In the end, competition from Mopar’s wing cars turned out to be rather stiff and something truly weapons-grade was needed, cue the Torino King Cobra. Just three Torino King Cobras with a Nissan G-nose-like drooping nose were built before Knudsen was fired and the project came to a halt. Mecum Auctions recently sold one of the rare King Cobras for over $500,000, a bargain compared to a far more common Plymouth Superbird.

  4. 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona- The Charger Daytona was built to dominate NASCAR. Its fiberglass nose cone and massive rear wing were the products of some of the first computer-aided automotive design work. Certainly no human could have conceived either the wing or the nose unaided. They certainly worked. The Charger Daytona became the first NASCAR racer to exceed 200 mph. Irony being no stranger to NASCAR, the Charger Daytona lost the 1969 Daytona 500 to a Ford Torino Talladega. Talladega was won that year by, you guessed it, a Charger Daytona.

  5. 1970 Plymouth Superbird- The Superbird was perhaps the most famous car that emerged as a result of the NASCAR aero wars. Sporting a similar nose cone and wing to the Charger Daytona, (in this case starting with a Road Runner), the car succeeded in bringing Richard Petty back to Mopar. The Superbird was produced in larger numbers than the Charger Daytona and Torino Talladega as a result of a NASCAR rule change that upped the number of copies that had to be built from 500, to two for each dealer (which in this case amounted to over 1,200 cars).  A 426 Hemi-equipped Superbird can credibly lay claim to being the ultimate American muscle car.

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