Lotus 79: Black Beauty: The Sign of the Black Horse

[Year 1978]

“The Lotus 79 was a classic beauty whose innovative technology building upon that of the Lotus 78 totally redirected the course of all racing car design”

“A significant turning point in the history of F1 racing as was the 49 a decade earlier”


“The Lotus 78and 79 were not only two of the most important FI cars built and raced by Team Lotus but also hugely significant in the history of motor racing”


Autocar magazine July 22 1978 British GP report Lotus 79 Princess Road test

Peter Windsor writing in Autocar in July 1978 commented:-

“Today we marvel at the car of the year-at its fine detailing and its effectiveness. If proof was needed of Chapman’s status, then the 79 shows that the man is without peer”

Taylor comments of the 79:-

“Winning six World championships races in a single season , the new Type 79 or John Player Special Mk.IV did much to secure Colin Chapman’s reputation as the most successful racing car designer in the history of F1” [ applicable in period]

The Type 79 was possibly Chapmans greatest achievements and the last significant car of his tragically cut short life. Therefore, we feel duty bound to do this justice and the article is more detailed.

The editors suggest that subscribers will increase their appreciation of this this car with the benefit of some background and are directed to A&R preparatory articles on the Lotus 49, 72, 76, 77 and 78

Subscribers might like to see A&R structured and complementary pieces on:-

  • Lotus Indianapolis cars
  • Ford Cosworth DFV
  • Hewland and Getrag gearboxes
  • Sponsors series including: Olympus, Martini and Essex and Tissot

Chapman/Lotus Evolution, Context and Continuum

The background events are important as they set parameters in which Chapman and his team operated. By the time of the Type 79 Chapman and his engineering colleagues were steeped in: –

  • Aviation theory and practice including aerodynamics
  • Holistic appreciation of chassis and suspension
  • Tyres working with other elements
  • Engines vis competitors, searching for exclusive additional performance, cost limitations
  • Design team, respect, collaboration, specialisms, integration
  • World events and economics impacting on road car business and hence to race budget –reference also varying sponsorship contributions
  • Chapman’s conceptual grasp of fundamental principles and purities
  • The regulations [through this era pertaining to wings and skirts etc.]
  • Fixed parameters, costs and strategy vis widespread use of Ford Cosworth DFV by competitors
  • Data, evidence, test rigs, intelligence, feedback and experience

In previous articles we have noted the context and envelope that shaped Lotus this is extremely important and the foundation of appreciating Chapman/Lotus design methodology. It’s important to factor in world events .The mid 1970’s [Lotus 78 introduced 1977] was expiring difficult financial times amidst the world economic turbulence and oil crisis.The types 76 and 77 had not ben major successes; hence Chapman seeking new ideas. During the design and construction of the 78 Chapman also experienced: –

  • A reduction in JPS sponsorship
  • Development of a dedicated Lotus engine
  • The launch of the Elite and Eclat
  • He bought into the boat business Moonraker /Marauder Marine

Secondly Chapman and Lotus evolved in the light of experience, data, intelligence and disappointment. They possessed greater momentum as a result and this fed their progress and helped define objectives.

Not least amongst their armory was their appreciation of aviation /aerodynamics which had informed their designs from the early 1950’s. More applicable data emerged from tests conducted with the Type 38 at Indianapolis in conjunction with Firestone and tyre technology. This information had directed them toward the wedge shape and gradually into wings [see A&R dedicated article on Lotus 72]. This was complemented by the design teams experience and appreciation of the theory notably Wright and Rudd with experience from BRM.

Nye observed that:-

“In 1976 Lotus were in deep trouble, trying to find a successful replacement for the much loved type 72

He also recorded the history of aerodynamics and wings prior [we paraphrase] to the type 79.wings had been used and the airflow over them forced the cars down onto the roadway.the impact was to increase tyre grip in cornering, braking and accelerating.since this aerodynamic effect which might add 250-400 lb.to the apparent weight of the car at speed, was not actually extra mass to be accelerated, cornered and deacelerated it was virtually a something for nothing development….

“In 1968, Group Lotus – the road car side of the road car side of Chapmans empire was floated as a public company on the London stock exchange ……….. but the early years following the decade brought trouble in the form of the 1973/74 oil crisis and Colin’s company began to feel the squeeze .never the less it pressed ahead with a range of Lotus road cars – ……….. by 1975 Team Lotus had fallen from the FI high wire and Colin was depressed about that .but it was typical of his energetic approach that he established a purpose –built research and development department focusing purely on the challenge of restoring Lotus to F1 winners”

In 1972 Colin bought Moonraker Boats Ltd; they sold engines to Jensen and were in Development of their own Type 907 16 valve 4 cylinder twin cam


“Lotus had always been the “innovator” in F1 technology ………..on the other hand TL sometimes has been racing in the “dark” – victims of its own creative development .the situation became desperate in the mid seventies after some “misses” including the Lotus 76 and 77n but some serious thinking led the design department away from current standards

The Design Team

The following group of men were generally young, eager, motivated and with boundless curiosity .Under Chapman’s direction they included:-

  • M.Cooke
  • Frank Irvine [ link with Imperial College]Wind tunnel
  • Ogilvie
  • Aldridge
  • Lane



“The Lotus 79 also broke new ground in being the first car to be developed using Computer-Aided Design [CAD] process and also the first to carry data-logging equipment that could enable computerized analysis of its chassis, braking and engine performance in the pits during race weekend.This combination of innovation proved devastating to the opposition.”

Complimentary data recording included:-

“Amassed 2.2 miles [3.3 km] of test recording tape, completed over 150 individual investigations, 54 rig tests and 1,400 hours of wind tunnel time at Imperial College”

Aesthetics: Body Beautiful

The all-enveloping body was truly beautiful, steely in black and gold and “indeed a superb looking car masterfully engineered”

The type 79 was considered a large and voluptuous beauty

Quoted in Autocar week ending 22 July 1978 writing about the Lotus 79:

“one top designer has acclaimed the Lotus 79 as “unquestionably the most beautiful and perfect, formula 1 car ever built “Another says that it’s like all great things “simple good looking and devoid of superfluous features” and later in the same article ……….today we marvel at the car of the year- at its wide, enveloping bodywork, its fine detailing and its effectiveness. If prove was needed of Chapman’s status, then the 79 shows the man is without peer.”

Taylor comments:-

“The visual effect was stunning at least with all the panel work in place and with some justification the latest JPs liveried car became known in FI circles as Black Beauty”

Reinforcing these remarks Harding [Cars Facts&Feats] provides a photograph of the 79 [Mario Andretti, Monza 1978 and the comment:-

“The Lotus 79 was technically advanced ,like so many Chapman designs before it setting a standard for others constructors and aesthetically was perhaps the most pleasing of all 3-litre GP cars “


Figure 1.Version 1 .Editors sketch of Lotus 79 to confirm observer’s comments about aesthetics, also exploring JPS logo

The 79 was:-

  • Provided with all enveloping bodywork which was both beautiful and extremely well fitted
  • Cooling was sometimes marginal
  • Evolved from ground effect developed on type 78

Incandela explains:-

“in order to obtain a maximum venturi surface the chassis was very narrow holding a large single fuel tank just behind the drivers shoulders .the whole monocoque was formed of L72 16-18gauge aluminium bonded and riveted together with small steel brackets, except for the anchorage points areas………for aerodynamic reasons the roll over hoop was covered with aluminium sheet rivited to the tubing ………

“The Lotus 79 had side pods on the venturi principle, in which air entering up front was accelerated to exit cleanly at the rear of the car. The wing section was designed and made by Lotus and bolted to the side of the monocoque, they were full length, one piece, made of fibre glass one for each side and had a small stone guard in the aperture at the front in order to protect the radiator.

Underneath each side pod was a pair of “Vortex generators” ,which were small aluminium devices made to accelerate the air under the car .the side pods extended rearwards alongside the top section of the engine ,supported by an aluminium frame on each side of the monocoque and enclosed by an under tray so improving the airflow exiting at the back .the movable skirts ,mounted freely in each side pod wall ,sealed the venturi “U” section air chamber against the road surface to enclose the low pressure area ………….the skirts dropped down with their own weight on plastic “rollers2 and stayed in contact with the ground as the chassis ride height changed …………

the rear wing had an unusual arrangement in that what was known as a rear deck of fibre glass also picked up off the side pods resting on the suspension cross beam and at the back on the gearbox where two large side plates held the aerofioil ……..flick ups were added to fair in the rear wheel, improving the airflow around the rear wing the entire top bodywork sections were held with Dzus fasteners

The lotus 79 was another step ahead of the 78 concept ,exploring and using venturi effect with more downforce and less drag .this was effected by a slender chassis rethinking of weight distribution ,side pod as wide as possible with different sections engine and gearbox enclosed more effective skirts in fact everything to get smooth airflow under and above the car which at the time gave the car the appearance of being aerodynamically “clean”.

Aerodynamics, Wind Tunnel Theory and Practice, Ground Effect

The technical language of aerodynamics is complex and the editors do not wish to bandy terms the concepts of which are not fully understood .Hence we will attempt to explain in layman’s language. Subscribers are directed to authors like Cotton and Incandela for the in-depth interpretation and diagrams that further clarify the principles into construction/ design details.

Wind tunnels had been in existence for some time before they were used by the Lotus team.

The evidence provided could be compromised because the conditions did not replicate those in the real world on the road conditions.

There were significant knock on factors and interactions not least the consequences of:-

  • Heat and expansion
  • Weather
  • Movement

With static objects the wheels did not rotate.

To be fully effective there was a requirement for greater realism and simulation.


“With ground effects the track is crucial. The narrow gap between road and the leading portion of the side pods forms the throat of a venture through which the airflow accelerates into the upswept “tunnel “ behind [a venture is essentially a funnel ,narrow at the throat and broad at the other end –in ground effects car of course it’s more a tunnel than a funnel]

According to Bernoulli’s law the pressure of a gas drops as its velocity increases, so as the air accelerates under the front of the 79’s pods into the tunnels behind, its pressure dropped, sucking it to the ground .it follows that the faster the airflow the greater the suction .smooth airflow is quick airflow and so great attention was paid to reducing turbulence both in front and behind the grand effects portion of the car”

Form and Function: The Wind of Change

Chapman, Wright, and Rudd studied the problem and considered that the use should be made of the air going underneath the car as well as that which passed over it.they devised a car which effectively carried wings on each side of its centre section; the space beneath the “wings” was open to the airstream at the front and rear, but boxed in on the outside and closed off against the road there by a sliding skirt system”

The type 79 adopted huge bolt on side pods so seen from above the square cut machine formed a perfect rectangle, each pod acted as giant venturi .the visual effect was stunning.

From net wiki etc.:-

“The Lotus 79 was a Formula One car designed in late 1977 by Colin Chapman, Geoff Aldridge, Martin Ogilvie, Tony Rudd and Peter Wright of Lotus.

Information from the net: www.f1technical.net/f1db/cars/398

“The Lotus 79 proved to be one of the most successful Lotus cars ever built. It built upon the ground effect foundations that were laid by the Lotus 78 and added several mechanical features that are still standard in today’s F1 cars.

BRM’s Tony Rudd first tested the theory in practice, using scale models in the late 60s. However, the idea was not pursued. March was the first to use profiled side pods on a full-size race car in 1970. The side pods weren’t sealed against the ground and were situated too high to have any effect besides not causing additional drag while making room for extra fuel needed for thirstier races.

Brabham and McLaren experimented with air dams beneath the car but it took some more time until, in 1977, the first proper ground-effect car appeared: the Lotus 78 or, as it was called at the time, John Player Special Mk. III.

Two years before, Peter Wright, Colin Chapman and Tony Rudd conceived of the idea and tested the scale model in a wind tunnel. Initial results were incredible. The Lotus 78 real car did not emulate the model’s values entirely, having about 75% of the predicted downforce but what remained was nevertheless impressive.

The ground-effect is based on Bernoulli’s equation, known as one of the basics of Fluid Mechanics Theory. It basically states that when a fluid flows through a constriction, its speed will rise and pressure will fall. Since air is also considered a fluid, it could simply be applied to a racing car’s aerodynamics as well. If the bottom of the car is shaped correctly, it is possible to create a low-pressure area under the car. Car will literally be sucked to the ground. That phenomenon is known as ground-effect. Since the cornering speed depends on friction between tyres and tarmac, and friction depends on vertical force which is equal to the sum of car’s weight and lift force generated by low pressure area beneath the car; the bigger the pressure-fall is, the better the car performs.

To exploit this effect, the car had side pods shaped as inverted wings thus generating downforce on both sides of the profile. The year before, the edges of the Lotus 78 side pods were sealed against the ground with brush-like skirts, which is important to prevent outside air from interfering with air passing beneath the car and thus spoiling the effect. These skirts were later replaced by solid rubber skirts. The Type 78 was very successful during 1977. Mario Andretti won 4 times and only missed the title because of poor reliability, Gunnar Nilsson won once.

As the season progressed, Lotus began to work on more radical car, designed to completely harness ground effect as much as possible. By chance or by intention, it turned out to be a beautiful car, maybe the most beautiful open-wheeler ever produced: the Lotus 79 or J.P.S. Mk. IV or Black Beauty.

It had an aluminium monocoque chassis with arc-shaped scuttle. One giant fuel cell, permitted by new regulations, replaced three separate cells featured on the Type 78. The Ford Cosworth DFV engine/gearbox/rear suspension block was bolted onto the chassis’ rear end. Radiators were situated into the leading edge of wing shaped side pods. Front suspension was made up of lower wishbone, top rocker arm and inboard coil spring/damper assemblies. Rear suspension consisted of double wishbones, coil spring/damper assemblies and anti-roll bar. Front disc brakes were mounted outboard, rear inboard, on gearbox’s cheek-plates.

Downforce has also risen by approximately 25% over the 78. It proved so good that the design team had to strengthen the car’s chassis to withstand the high cornering forces and the downforce suction. After the modifications, it proved to be even faster than before.

The engine was fully enveloped inside the body panels while the underbody, because of the additional downforce it generated, permitted a smaller drag-inducing rear wing.

Additionally, the Lotus 79 was reputedly also the first F1 car to be designed using wind tunnel and computer design aids. In fact it was the first F1 car to use computers to analyse it in the pits on race weekends.

The Type 79 was not ready for the start of the season but the old Type 78 proved to be man enough for the job, Andretti and Peterson scoring one win each. Andretti debuted the Type 79 in Belgium, the sixth race of 1978 season, qualifying the car on pole, 0.79s ahead of Reutemann’s Ferrari and handsomely winning the race. It was the beginning of a remarkable winning streak that saw Andretti winning four more races and Peterson one, plus a total of 9 pole positions and 5 fastest laps. Lotus won the Constructor’s title with Andretti and Peterson taking first and second places in the drivers’ classification.

The 1978 fairy-tale was sadly destroyed on first lap of Italian Grand Prix. Ronnie Peterson destroyed his Type 79 in testing and, with no spare Type 79 available, had to race a Type 78. A starter’s mistake, allowed the race to be started before all of the contenders had completely stopped at their places, provoking a multiple incident in which Ronnie’s car hit the guardrail head-on. Both his legs were broken and although his injuries were not thought to be life threatening he died of post-operation complications. What should have been Lotus’ and Andretti’s celebration, since he clinched his title in Monza, turned out to be a nightmare. There’s some amount of irony in it because the only other American World Champion, Phil Hill, clinched his title in Monza as well, and his team-mate, von Trips, died in that race as well.

Peterson was replaced in the team by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jarier. Carrying unusual start number 55 on his car he proved 79’s class by setting the fastest lap in his first race for Lotus. In the next GP he qualified on pole and led convincingly until technical problems slowed him.

While the Lotus 79 was head and shoulders above the opposition in 1978, being the only proper ground-effect car, Lotus was somewhat caught sleeping at the beginning of 1979. The Type 79’s successor, the Lotus 80 wasn’t ready yet and later would prove to be a flop. The team started the season with 79s painted in Martini – British Racing Green colours, which replaced the famous black-and-gold John Player Special livery. Carlos Reutemann partnered Andretti. The first two races fell into Ligier’s lap for they had been by far the best-prepared team running new JS11 cars. However, the Lotuses were still the best of the rest. As the season progressed the Lotus found themselves slipping further down the field. Mexican privateer Hector Rebaque bought one chassis and raced it into 1980 without success.

Incredible developments in the ground-effect area followed, cornering speeds rose sky-high and after several heavy accidents, most notably the death of Gilles Villeneuve, the shaped underbody was banned at the end of 1982. The new era saw flat-bottomed cars with only a rear diffuser shaped for creating downforce”.

It’s worth noting that Incanela provides some excellent descriptions , diagrams , cutaways and photographs of the Lotus 79 that graphically indicate physical reality e.g.:-

P111 annotated side elevation and diagram of airflow pattern [drawn by Giorgio Piola]

P157 annotated cutaway of 1978 World Championship Lotus 79 [ditto].he also notes:-

“the rear dampers were relocated out of the airstream next to the gearbox and the exhaust pipe were raised and integrated into the side pods .at the same time the fuel tanks were removed from the sides and relocated within the chassis, being mounted right behind the cockpit,

This not only improved weight distribution but as a result of the repositioning; airflow under the side wings was improved and the car became more aerodynamically effective…….

By making the rear wing slightly less effective….the Lotus engineers achieved their aim of keeping the total downforce generated by the old and new models the same, but improving wind resistance. The Lotus 79 was in fact something like 15% more efficient aerodynamically than the 78”

Specifications [taken from the net – see further details referenced from Taylor and Incanela below in appendix]

Designation: Lotus-Ford 79
Constructor: Lotus England
Chassis: Aluminium monocoque
Front suspension: Upper rocker arms, lower wishbone, inboard spring/damper units
Rear suspension: Upper rocker arms, lower wishbones, inboard coil springs over dampers
Gearbox: Hewland FGA 400 5 speed Manual
Tyres: Goodyear
Fuel tank: Marston, 168l
Fuel system: Lucas
Gearbox: Hewland FG400/5-speed, 55 kg
Instruments: Smiths
Battery: Yuasa
Bearings: Vandervell
Clutch: Borg & Beck


Wheelbase: 2718 mm
Front track: 1730 mm
Rear track: 1630 mm
Formula weight: 575 kg
Wheel diameter (front / rear): 13 in
Rim width (front / rear): 10 in / 18.5 in


Designation: Ford Cosworth DFV 90º V8
Injection: Lucas Fuel injection
Bore X Stroke: 92.5 x 55.5 mm
Capacity: 2997 cc
Valve train: 4 valves / cylinder, DOHC
Power: 475 bhp at 10500 rpm
Torque: 353 Nm at 8500 rpm
Rings: Hepworth & Grandage
Spark plugs: NGK
Weight: 147 kg


Figure 2.Editors sketch working drawings drawn to explore how the design materialized and how form and function was resolved. This version 2 gives the rear end a slightly different treatment. Working from mostly photographs the editor was not 100% certain of the

For an appreciation of the form and functional interaction-see explanatory drawings /diagrams by Giorgio Piola and by cutaway illustrations and the technical analysis provided by Incadela.



Mario Andretti profited greatly from his 1977 experiences .He had learnt that sudden demands should not be made on the car and that ,while the Lotus wan fast ,it had to be driven carefully and as only as fast as was necessary for victory. Andretti……. as the leader he was in the best position to control his rivals……….

Lotus 79: Contemporaries

In order to judge and benchmark Chapman and his team we suggest comparison with the following basket –a more complete list provided in appendix below.

Marque Designer Engine Weight [lb. /kg]

Ferrari 312 T4 M.Forghieri Flat 12 4cam 48v 1301lb/590kg

Ligier JS11 G.Ducarouge Cosworth DFV 1312lb/595kg

Lotus 79 Ogilivie/Aldridge Cosworth DFV 1279lb/580kg

Renault RS10 M.Tetu Renault EF1 V6 turbo 1323lb/600kg

Williams FW07 P.Head Cosworth DFV 1301lb/590kg

[See detailed list in appendix below]

Ferrari 312 T4

NB: Drawings from the net [Car Blueprint’s] and technical information The Encyclopedia of Super Cars


1979 Ferrari 312 T4 Cabriolet blueprint

Encyclopedia comments:

“Forced to retain their flat 12 engine………..Ferrari were stuck with a power plant that was really unsuitable for a ground effect car, where the ideal is to mimimise the central underbody “spine” of the car and give it the largest possible area under the side pods , which are so designed to generate ground effect or suction onto the track.

Ferrari clearly could not compete with designs using V8 or V12 engines in this way. As compensation they maximized the plan area of the T4 making the whole upper surface act as far as possible as a reversed wing to generate extra downforce………and the frontal bodywork was extended far further forward than on its rivals .at the rear the upswept bodywork was designed to smooth the airflow over the huge rear tyres in common F1 fashion”

1978 FI Constructors peers/Competitors

The following information is taken from wiki.

It can be used to benchmark the success of Chapman, Lotus and colleagues. Not least it might be the basis of researching the budgets each team adopted as further yardstick of analyzing Chapman’s achievements.

Lotus took both the drivers and constructors championships in 1978 with primarily the Lotus 79.

Entrant Constructor Chassis Engine Tyres No Driver Rounds
United KingdomParmalat Racing Team BrabhamAlfa Romeo BT45C
Alfa Romeo 115-12 3.0 F12 G 1 AustriaNiki Lauda All
2 United KingdomJohn Watson All
66 BrazilNelson Piquet 16
United KingdomElf Team Tyrrell TyrrellFord 008 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 3 FranceDidier Pironi All
4 FrancePatrick Depailler All
United KingdomJohn Player Team Lotus LotusFord 78
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 5 United StatesMario Andretti All
6 SwedenRonnie Peterson 1–14
55 FranceJean-Pierre Jarier 15–16
United KingdomMarlboro Team McLaren McLarenFord M26 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 7 United KingdomJames Hunt All
8 FrancePatrick Tambay 1–5, 7–16
33 ItalyBruno Giacomelli 6, 9–10, 13–14
West GermanyATS Racing Team
West GermanyF&S Properties/ATS Racing Team
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 9 West GermanyJochen Mass 1–13
NetherlandsMichael Bleekemolen 14–16
10 FranceJean-Pierre Jarier 1–5, 11
ItalyAlberto Colombo 6–7
FinlandKeke Rosberg 8–10, 15–16
AustriaHans Binder 12
NetherlandsMichael Bleekemolen 13
AustriaHarald Ertl 14
ItalyScuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T2
Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 M 11 ArgentinaCarlos Reutemann All
12 CanadaGilles Villeneuve All
BrazilFittipaldi Automotive FittipaldiFord F5A Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 14 BrazilEmerson Fittipaldi All
FranceEquipe Renault Elf Renault RS01 Renault-Gordini EF1 1.5 V6t M 15 FranceJean-Pierre Jabouille 3–16
United KingdomShadow Racing Team ShadowFord DN8
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 16 West GermanyHans-Joachim Stuck All
17 SwitzerlandClay Regazzoni All
United KingdomTeam Surtees
United KingdomDurex Team Surtees
United KingdomBeta Team Surtees
SurteesFord TS19
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 18 United KingdomRupert Keegan 1–13
ItalyGimax 14
FranceRené Arnoux 15–16
19 ItalyVittorio Brambilla 1–14
ItalyBeppe Gabbiani 15–16
United KingdomWalter Wolf Racing WolfFord WR1
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 20 South AfricaJody Scheckter All
21 United StatesBobby Rahal 15–16
United KingdomTeam Tissot Ensign EnsignFord N177 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 22 United StatesDanny Ongais 1–2
ItalyLamberto Leoni 4
BelgiumJacky Ickx 5–8
Republic of IrelandDerek Daly 9–10, 12–16
BrazilNelson Piquet 11
23 ItalyLamberto Leoni 1–3
United StatesBrett Lunger 15
United Kingdom Mario Deliotti Racing EnsignFord N175 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 23 United KingdomGeoff Lees 10
West Germany Sachs Racing EnsignFord N177 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 23 AustriaHarald Ertl 11–14
United KingdomOlympus Cameras/Hesketh Racing HeskethFord 308E Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 24 United KingdomDivina Galica 1–2
United StatesEddie Cheever 3
Republic of IrelandDerek Daly 4–6
MexicoTeam Rebaque LotusFord 78 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 25 MexicoHéctor Rebaque All
FranceLigier Gitanes LigierMatra JS7
Matra MS76 3.0 V12
Matra MS78 3.0 V12
G 26 FranceJacques Laffite All
United KingdomWilliams Grand Prix Engineering WilliamsFord FW06 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 27 AustraliaAlan Jones All
Spain Centro Asegurador F1 McLarenFord M23 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 28 SpainEmilio de Villota 7
United KingdomBS Fabrications
United KingdomLiggett Group/BS Fabrications
McLarenFord M23 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 29 BrazilNelson Piquet 12–14
30 United StatesBrett Lunger 1–14
FranceAutomobiles Martini MartiniFord MK23 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 31 FranceRené Arnoux 3, 5–6, 9–13
United KingdomTheodore Racing
Hong KongTheodore Racing Hong Kong
TheodoreFord TR1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 32 United StatesEddie Cheever 1–2
FinlandKeke Rosberg 3–7
WolfFord WR3
ItalyTeam Merzario MerzarioFord A1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 34 ItalyAlberto Colombo 14
37 ItalyArturo Merzario All
United KingdomArrows Racing Team ArrowsFord FA1
Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 35 ItalyRiccardo Patrese 2–14, 16
36 West GermanyRolf Stommelen 3–16
United StatesInterscope Racing ShadowFord DN9 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 39 United StatesDanny Ongais 4, 13
United Kingdom Melchester Racing McLarenFord M23 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G 40 United KingdomTony Trimmer 10

Taylor comments:-

“By the seasons end, the tables had well and truly turned .Lotus had won the Constructors Cup with 86 points to Ferrari’s 58 and Mario Andretti had clinched the 1978 World championship”.

Tamiya Scale model: The Lotus 79

The editors believe in the value of scale models to help interpret the form and function of the racing cars. Quality productions like Tamiya facilitate this.

1/20 Grand Prix Collection No.60
Lotus Type 79 1978
Item No:20060
Length: 220mm ※Image shows finished model. ※Click to enlarge

【 The Black Beauty 】 In 1977, Lotus introduced a ground effect car, the Type 78 which had a slim monocoque chassis and wide side pontoons with under surfaces like inverted aircraft wings. Round 6 Belgium GP in the 1978 season saw the introduction of the further evolved Type 79. The fuel tanks were placed behind the cockpit and the rear suspension featured effective inboard dampers. Mario Andretti was paired with Ronnie Peterson that year, and the former drove the car to an impressive pole-to-finish debut win. More success followed, with Andretti taking 5 wins to claim the drivers’ championship and Peterson adding another win to help the team claim the constructors’ title. The Type 79 greatly influenced later F1 machines and its overwhelming speed as well as graceful design and livery earned it the nickname “Black Beauty.”
【 About the Model 】 ★1/20 scale plastic assembly kit model of the Lotus Type 79 1978. Length: 220mm, Width: 108mm. ★The sleek, low profile of the machine has been realistically reproduced. ★Front and rear cowlings are removable even after assembly to showcase cockpit, engine, and suspension. ★The distinctive under surface shape of side pontoons are accurately rendered. ★Metal covers for air funnels enhance great scale realism. ★Rubber tires included. ★2 kinds of decals to depict No.5 and No.6 cars are included. ★2 types of roll bars as well as air outlets on side pontoons are included to allow the choice of assembly from the car driven by Mario Andretti or Ronnie Peterson from either the British GP or German GP.


■The low, sharp side profile. Fairings are seen at the back of wedge-shaped side pontoons. Click to see front image.
dot_invisible 2_thmb
■Rear wing features large side panels.
dot_invisible 3_thmb
■In addition to the radiator positioned in the side pontoon, oil cooler and master cylinder are also reproduced.


■Detailed Ford DFV engine is equipped with metal air funnel covers and plug cables for enhanced realism.
dot_invisible 5_thmb
■Accurately reproduced slim monocoque chassis and wide side pontoons with under surfaces like inverted aircraft wings.
dot_invisible 6_thmb
■Front and rear cowlings are removable even after assembly. 2 types of roll bars and air outlets on side pontoons are included.


partsb_thmb dot_invisible decal_thmb dot_invisible ■Parts sprues
B Parts
D Parts
E Parts
F&G Parts
Two kinds of decals to depict either No.5 or No.6 cars are included.


12635_thmb dot_invisible 1/20 Lotus Type 79 1978 Photo-Etched Parts Set
Item No:12635
These photo-etched parts set includes photo-etched parts such as brake discs, radiator, front/rear wing panels, body catches as well as metal seatbelt buckles and seatbelt materials to further enhance the realism of the Lotus Type 79 1978.

David Theme/ Essex Petroleum

David Thieme’s father was the designer of glider aircraft for the US Army during World War II and after moving to New York Thieme attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, studying industrial design. In the late 1960s he went into the business of industrial design and made a fortune, investing some of his profits in oil. In 1973 he closed down the business and moved into oil instead, establishing the Essex Overseas Petroleum Corporation, buying oil when demand was low and then selling it at higher prices when there was a demand, usually caused by political instability. This enabled him to make large profits, particularly in the unstable Middle East. In 1977 he began working with funds from Credit Suisse which enabled him to make bigger trades. In 1979 Thieme was able to indulge his passion for motor racing, sponsoring the side pods of World Champions Lotus with drivers Mario Andretti and Carlos Reutemann. That same year Thieme supported two Porsche 936s at Le Mans with drivers Bob Wollek, Hurley Haywood, Jacky Ickx and Brian Redman.

In 1980 Lotus built a series of 100 Turbo Esprit cars in Essex colours and Thieme announced that he was becoming the title sponsor of the team with Elio de Angelis and Mario Andretti and a third car on occasion for Nigel Mansell. Essex continued as the team’s principal sponsor in 1981 but by then the oil markets had taken a serious downturn following the revolution in Iran and the start and the Iran-Iraq war and a disagreement with backer Credit Suisse resulted in Thieme being arrested in Zurich on charges brought by the banking giant. He was

released after a fortnight (with his bail being paid by Akram Ojjeh) but by the middle of the year Essex had disappeared from the cars.

Burago 14th scale

This scale model indicates the other livery in which the 79 raced.


Figure 3.image from net

Figure 4.Image from the net

Learning Opportunities

Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.

These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.

In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

  • Using our profile sketch insert diagrammatic indication of airflow pattern under-car that creates ground-effect
  • See those for Type 78


  • It’s been stated that most of the success of the 79 was due to its ground effect how can this be substantiated?
  • Study the Bernoulli Principle how did it apply to the type 79.Where else does the theory apply?
  • Obtain and read the theory works on aerodynamics and ground effect quoted in Cotton
  • Compare and Contrast the Type 79 liveries of JPS and Martini /Essex
  • How much data recording and testing was used on the type 79?
  • To what extent were computers used in FI design during the 1970’s? What has been their role and contribution since?
  • The Type 79 and been given the epitaph of being the best looking F1 car of all time debate
  • Which other motor racing marques had experimented with aerodynamics and ground effect?

Exhibitions, Education, Economics

The proposed museum believes that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.

In this instance we consider the following might be appropriate:-

  • Lotus 79 and Chapman’s Tunnel Visio
  • Last of the Lin
  • The Underground Movement
  • The Underground Press
  • Skirtingboards
  • Lotus 79:”Wind Mills of the Mind”
  • Lotus 79:Ground breaking /ground effect
  • Undercover Agents
  • Undercurrents
  • Lotus 79: Splitting Airs
  • Air on a shoestring
  • Vacuum packed
  • The Vorticists :Air and Art


The Type 79 was not perfect.

In many respects it showed cased Chapmans strengths and weaknesses.


The Lotus 79 was an iconic F1 car. Its sleek lines and JPS livery led it to being termed “The Black Beauty” ……..it was a step forward from its predecessor in terms of performance ,although in reality the type 78 scored more wins. Its elegant shape and the black and gold livery became iconic – a snapshot of all that was beautiful in racing car design at the time .however it was more than just a good looking car; it was devastatingly effective racing machine .it powered Mario Andretti to the F1 World Championship title for drivers in 1978………what set the Lotus 79 apart from others was the application to racing cars of the previously understood aerodynamic effect in aircraft ………”


“But in 1978 an improved car ,now the Lotus 79,joined the 78 ; Andretti and team mate Ronnie Peterson achieved total domination, chassis excellence giving the Cosworth –Ford engine another World Championship and beginning a new age-that of “ground-effect” racing cars “

Wiki “In its lifetime, the 79 took 7 wins, 10 pole positions, and 121 points and won the last drivers’ and constructors’ world championships for Lotus. The 79 is credited with pushing Formula One into the aerodynamics era, and its influence is still keenly felt on today’s modern F1 cars. After Rubens Barrichello drove the 79 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2000, he came away raving about its phenomenal grip and traction, and stated it felt like a modern Grand Prix car.[2]


“The Lotus 79 was a classic beauty whose career shared –enormous early success with subsequent mediocre failure,

It represented both the pinnacle of Lotus middle period at the top of the pile and the beginning of their dismal slump in the early 1980’s.

However, it is properly best remembered as the last of Colin Chapman’s team blinding flashes of brilliance –and one more which simply revolutionized all racing car design …”

“the direct result of their deliberations was to unlock the door on one of the most imaginative of all chapman technical concepts ground effect .this harnessing of the under car airflow to produce down force –literally to “suck the car down onto the track –was Chapman’s last great breakthrough a stroke of genius that would bring the team its last World championship title in 1978 thanks to the efforts of Mario Andretti”

[It won 7 GP’s]

When evaluating Chapman the editors recommend a holistic appreciation of the totality of the burden of responsibility he shouldered.

Chapman was a F1 owner, strategist, entrepreneur and manufacturer simultaneously.

These interacted.F1 success drove road car sales.This was more significant in a difficult market as we record in the 1970’s.

Chapman was under pressure for clear strategic thinking and it’s perhaps a measure of his stature that he could focus on deep conceptualization and applications of theory.

He also used young designers with motivation, energy and commitment- often willing to experiment.

Despite difficulties he also attracted some of the best drivers who like Andretti provided feedback.

Chapman was not the easiest of bosses and possibly exercised enormous power but this is also a lesson in management regarding avoidance of bureaucracy. He got things done.

Nye quotes Chapman:-

“If the latest car is winning, then it’s always the best one we’ve ever built. I have not really got time to look back ……” he comments how prophetic the remarks were.

In future articles we will examine the last cars designed by Chapman and give some detail on the “Twin Chassis” which again proves the extent of Chapman’s imagination and problem solving capacity.

Appendix 1.

Additional Specification from Taylor and Incandela

Model JPS Mk.IV /Formula 1 Details from Incandela

Year 1978-79

Accessories Smiths gauges

Body G.R.P .

Brakes F/R 11 inch outboard discs Lotus/Lockheed calipers-Lockheed ventilated disc

C.C. 2993

Carburation Lucas Fuel Injection

Chassis Riveted aluminium alloy monocoque L72 18-16 gauge sheets [weight 80 lbs.]

Clutch Borg & Beck pressure plate’s twin dry discs

Constant V Joints Lotus, Ransome/Hoffman

Engine Ford Cosworth DFV

Front Suspension Fabricated steel alloy upper rockers wide lower w/b inboard c.s/d 41/30 steel fabricated upright, rockers, lower wb adj’ AR Bar

Fuel System 1 Aerotech fuel cell 37 gallon capacity, Bosh high p’ pump

Height 38 inches

Length 174 inches

Oil Cooling 1 Marston or Serk aluminium radiator capacity 2 gallons [app]

Power Output 480 bhp

Rear Suspension Fabricated steel alloy upper rockers wide lower w/b inboard c.s/d

Shock absorbers Inboard Koni, Titanium springs

Track F/R 68/64 inches

Transmission Getrag/Lotus 5 speed or Hewland FGA 400 Lotus drive shafts,

Tyres F/R 10.50 X 13 /16.50 X 13 Good Year

Volume 6 5

Water Cooling 1 Marston or Serk 4-6 row aluminium radiator 2.5 galls [app]

Weight 1265 lb. 1270 lbs. [577 kgs]

Wheelbase 108 inches

Wheels F/R 13X10 inch /13 X 18.5 inch Speedline wheels, Dimag rims

Width 84.5 inches

Rack and Pinion Jack Knight 7/1 ratio

Brake Pads Ferodo DS 11 pads

Lubricant Valvoline

Lubricant piping Aeroquip pipes and unions

Battery 12 V YUASA

Fire Extinguisher Dreadnought-Life bottle

Appendix 2: Lyrics from “Windmills of your Mind”

Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving in a half-forgotten dream
Like the ripples from a pebble someone tosses in a stream
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes on its face
And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind

Appendix 3.F1 cars of 1978 season from Cimarosti

Marque Model Chief Designer 2nd Designer Engine Weight
Arrows FA1 Southgate Wass Cosworth DFV 589
ATS HS1 Herd Gentry Cosworth DFV 585
Brabham BT46 Murray Alfa Romeo 595
Ensign MN06 Nunn Baldwin Cosworth DFV 590
Ferrari 312B T3 Forghieri Ferrari 312B 598
Fittapaldi F5A Bellamy Cosworth DFV 615
Hesketh 308E Dernie Stroud Cosworth DFV 602
Ligier JS7 Ducarouge Carillo Matra MS76 595
Ligier JS8 Ducarouge Carillo Matra MS78 590
Lotus 78 Chapman Bellamy Cosworth DFV 588
Lotus 79 Chapman Ogilvie Cosworth DFV 578
Martini Mk.23 Martini Cosworth DFV 610
McLaren M23 Coppuck Cosworth DFV 589
Mezario A1 Mezario Cosworth DFV 595
Renault DN9 de Cortanze Jabouille Renault Gordini EF1 605
Shadow DN9 Southgate Cosworth DFV 587
Surtees TS19 Surtees Sears Cosworth DFV 583
Surtess TS 20 Surtees Sears Cosworth DFV 583
Theodore TR1 Tauranac Bailey Cosworth DFV 610
Tyrell 8 Phillippe Cosworth DFV 578
Williams FW06 Head Cosworth DFV 588
Wolf WR1 Postlewaite Cosworth DFV 589
Wolf WR5 Postlewaite Cosworth DFV 577


Theme Lotus.Nye.MRP.1986.

ISBN: 0947981098

Racing cars.Nye.Ward Lock. 1980.

ISBN: 0706360389

The Encyclopedia of Supercars: No.27.1991.Aerospace Publishing Ltd; /Orbis

Autocar; w/e 22nd July 1978

The Lotus Book.Taylor.Coterie.

The Anatomy & Development of the FI Racing Car from 1975.Incandela.Book Club Ass.1983.


Lotus 78 and 79: The Ground Effect Cars by John Tipler (Paperback, 2009)

History of the GP Car 1966-91.Nye.Hazelton.1992

ISBN: 0905138945

Lotus 79.Cotton.Haynes.2016

ISBN: 9781785210792

CarFact&Feat.Editied by Harding

Grand Prix Motor Racing.Cimarosti.Arum.1997.

ISBN: 1854105000

Lotus 98T.Slater.Haynes.2016.

ISBN: 9780857337771

Please note the editors of the A&R attempt to give the broadest spectrum of references but not all are available for consultation in an article. However by noting their existence it may assist students in their research.

*Items in italics non A&R library books.