Tyrrell 008

The Tyrrell 008 was originally a fan car

Unraced 1970 - 1979

In 1976 and 1977, Tyrrell Racing drove with their revolutionary P34. The first, and only, six-wheeler who raced and even won a race! In 1977, it became clear that Goodyear stopped developing the 10-inch front-wheels. Tyrrell came with a conventional car with just four wheels, the Tyrrell 008. What many don’t know is that the Tyrrell 008 was intended to be fitted with a fan on the back of the car. We all know what happened how Brabham dominated later with their BT46B.

Derek Gardner was Tyrrell’s designer since 1970 and his P34 was his last Formula One car he would design. In 1977 he left the team while already working on the new Tyrrell 008. Maurice Phillippe was hired by Ken Tyrrell to replace Gardner. Maurice was not unknown in the Formula One. Back in the 1960s, he worked for Team Lotus.  He was partly responsible for the design of the Lotus 49, Lotus 71 and the Lotus 56 Indy car, which was powered by a turbine.  In 1974, he designed for Parnelli the VPJ4 F1 car. Mario Andretti showed some reasonable results with that car.

Besides Maurice Phillippe, Gene Varniers was one of the other designers who created to seem what the conventional Tyrrell 008 was.  What many at the time and still today don’t know is the secret behind the design. It was designed as a fan car.  If you see the Tyrrell 008 today, look at the top of the engine cover there is still a hole where the air would came out.

How did the Tyrrell 008 fan car look like? Probably similar to the known Brabham BT46B. A big fan mounted on the front of the crack-shaft, so in front of the engine, this would have a cooling solution as it would pump air through the radiators, which were placed horizontal on the rear end of the chassis underneath the fuel cell. The other advantage of the fan was the stability of the car, the car would be sucked to the ground when driving.  

Brian Lisles was responsible for the development of the fan.  Many fans were tried to see what the effect was on the car, and of course the amount of sound it produced. The fan would be mounted on a silent block at the end of the crank. In the factory, the team set up a test rig for the Tyrrell 008 where Brian could test the fans.  When the team found the perfect match, they moved in secret to the Paul Ricard circuit in France. There the team would test the Tyrrell 008 in secret well they thought they would.  The team arrived in late 1977 on a cold circuit with the car. As far as I know Patrick Depailler tested with the car.

It didn’t take long before Tyrrell uncovered several problems with the fan on the Tyrrell 008. One of them was a high temperature. Even it was a cold day, the temperature was excessively high and it was almost impossible to have a clean cooling stream. A couple more problems occurred and the team decided to mount conventional radiators on the car, which helped a lot. The temperature issues were gone.  The team decided to keep with the conventional radiators and left the fan concept for what it was.

What many don’t know is that Willy Kauhsen original plan was to enter the Formula One in 1977 with a car designed by Maurice Phillippe. A side note he was not the only designer who came up with the fan concept.  The car was to be fitted as well with the well-known fan. Maurice worked as freelance designer between 1975 and 1977 for Fittipaldi. The Kauhsen was to be powered by the Alfa-Romeo engine. Looking back at it, Kauhsen only made their debut in 1979 and after a couple of races the team disappeared from the grid.

Back to the test session on that cold day in late 1977, a Brabham employee saw the Tyrrell 008 fan car when the chassis was placed on stands. He saw a fan was mounted to the back of the car. A year later Brabham drove with the same concept during the Swedish Grand Prix held at Anderstorp. They instantly won the race. It would be the only race for the car as Brabham retired the BT46B and returned with the B46. Did Brabham used the info they received during that test session to create their fan car? Jim Hall quoted saying that the concept they used came from a team close to them.

In the autumn of 1977 David Cox, who would design the Brabham BT46B and later would appear with his Lion Grand Prix 12 wheeler, came to the Tyrrell Racing factory for a job application for track engineer. Out of eighty applicants he was one of the six that were invited to come to the factory.
During his visit of the factory, were he heard he would not be hired, he saw the blue prints of the Tyrrell 008 fan car. A concept he worked on years before, though never applied it on a car.

Maurice Phillippe was mad at David Cox that he looked at the blue prints. However, when he gave them his word he would not tell it to others both David and Maurice discussed the design. David was asked if he knew if the design would be workable on the car.  He told Maurice that the design would not work properly on the design as it was at that stage.

When Brabham showed the world, their BT46 David Cox quickly phoned Bernie Ecclestone to tell him the car would have cooling issues. This mostly came through the radiators that were mounted in a different angle.  Then He convinced Bernie Ecclestone to have it let over. He showed Gordon Murray, the Brabham designer, were the problems were. He proposed the fan car and soon Brabham appeared with the Brabham BT46B. We all know how that went.

Sources:Autosport magazine/Forum, Gene Varnier, Archive David Cox