Within the frame of the Concorso d’Eleganza di Villa d’Este, the organisers arranged a very special exhibition at nearby Villa Erba dedicate to a special category of car design (and engineering).
With the simple title of “Streamlining” the exhibition presented by the Prototype Museum in Hamburg shows the development of car with extreme streamlined bodywork designed to minimize air resistance and maximize performance (and fuel consumption in relation to performance).
To that aim, engineers and designers also seeked for maximum weight reduction and to get the best of the small engines powering their cars.
Here, and in the following posts, I like to report about the exhibition in general and of the very special, and often history making, cars on exhibit at Villa Erba.
Streamlining is the general term applied to the design of aerodynamically optimised car bodies. It goes back to what was considered to be the ideal shape as represented by the body of an airship. It is for good reason that Tom Wolfe entitled his famous 1965 collection of articles “Kandy-kolored Tangerine-flake Streamlined Baby” (http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780553380583&view=excerpt), referring to the US cars of the 1950s and 60s as designed by Raymond Loewy and others. The range of cars in this special exhibition, though, should persuade you that the phrase “aerodynamics of the motor vehicle”, coined in Germany by Reinhard Koenig-Fachsenfeld, more closely hits the mark of streamlining and that the cradle of the aerodynamic car was to be found in Germany.
For streamlining not only involves reducing air drag to a minimum, it also embraces the phenomena of lift and down-force, which come into play in our everyday cars as much as in motor racing – where they are, of course, infinitely more significant by dint of determining victory or defeat. The Cd figure, or drag coefficient, cited in every test report – and in sales brochures – is the reference parameter which, multiplied by the frontal area of a body, gives you the vehicle’s aerodynamic drag.
The exclusive and very interesting examples of streamlined cars on display were:
PORSCHE 356 COUPE (1950).