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The Timeline of Aero

  1. 1933: Dymaxion

    Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion prototype ensured a low-drag plan view by using a single rear wheel to steer and a mid-mounted Ford V8. Very unstable, though

    Read the full article on How Aero Works, here

    This article was first published in the February 2012 issue of Top Gear magazine

  2. 1934: Tatra T77

    The Tatra T77 (or T77a, 1938) boasted an ultra-low Cd of 0.212. And it wasn’t just a claim for a solid model, as lots are. It was recently measured in VW’s tunnel for real

  3. 1947: UrSaab

    Saab’s famous aeroplane heritage shows in the 92 prototype - the UrSaab. Cd was about 0.35. Sad postscript: like all Saab’s museum cars, it’s now for sale

  4. 1954: Alfa BAT 7

    Alfa’s one-off by Bertone, the BAT 7 (Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica) had a Cd of under 0.2. Highly impressive. Not so great for over-shoulder visibility, though

  5. 1955: Mercedes SLR

    Mercedes SLR sports racer has an erecting parachute air-brake contraption, to augment its drum brakes and crossplies at the 180mph top end

  6. 1962: Alfa Giulia

    The Alfa Giulia had a better Cd than a Porsche 911 of the same year. It might have looked boxy, but it proves much aerodynamic success lies in the detail

  7. 1973: BMW 3.0 CSL

    Just check that Seventies-licious air dam at the front. And the knives atop the wings, roof spoiler and a rear wing you could hold a banquet on…

  8. 1974: Citroen CX

    The Citroen CX was named after the French for Cd. It wasn’t just low-drag, either - it has a concave rear window to keep it clear of rain at speed

  9. 1978: Porsche 928

    Ah, the Porsche 928… the car that was reported to have lower drag in reverse than going forward. Myth never proved, but it did sprout several spoilers later in life

  10. 1982: Audi 100

    The Audi 100 had very low-drag, including coming over all flush, in the windows, that is. So even the little 2.2 was faster than a 3.5-litre Rover V8

  11. 1984: Lancia Thema

    The amazing Lancia Thema 8.32 has a Ferrari V8, raising top end to 150mph. At speed, the world’s first automatic-powered rear spoiler emerges from the boot

  12. 1986: Porsche 959

    Porsche’s 959 had much spoilerage and many vents, plus automatic ride height that dropped it to reduce drag at speed - it could knock on 200mph. Impressive

  13. 1994: McLaren F1

    The McLaren F1 wasn’t just a pioneer in speed, carbon and centre seat. Aero was way ahead: extractor fan, flip-up spoiler, ground effect with balanced downforce

  14. 1998: Audi TT

    The Audi TT went from concept to production largely unchanged. But the aero wasn’t quite right - it had rear lift - and was recalled to get a bolt-on rear spoiler

  15. 1999: Lotus Exige

    The Lotus Exige gave downforce, mostly courtesy of that huge rear wing. Essentially a track car, designed not to slide - trying to do so is not advised

  16. 1999: Ferrari 360

    The first road Ferrari to employ a flat floor and a diffuser for underbody aero. As a result of this, suspension and transmission had to be redesigned to fit

  17. 1999: Audi A2

    Specifically the 1.2 TDI - the super-frugal version with thin tyres and most holes blocked off. High tail and arched roof foreshadowed today’s hybrid designs

  18. 2005: Bugatti Veyron

    The Veyron’s rear wing has positions for low drag, high downforce, braking drag and cooling. High engine intake replaced in SS version by NACA duct to cut drag

  19. 2006: Ferrari 599

    A car with flying buttresses over the rear quarters. Whole lot neater solution than a tray spoiler, and they look great as the light jinks through

  20. 2010: Chevrolet Volt

    The much-vaunted Volt pares down the Cd by careful shaping and myriad details. On a car for US freeway commuters, every mile of electric range matters

  21. 2011: Pagani Huayra

    The Huayra uses four fast-acting active electrically powered spoilers, two front and two rear, to control downforce left-right and fore-aft, just as it’s needed

  22. 2011: Honda Civic

    This model year Civic diesel gets little ears to improve tail-end air separation. Every little helps when you’re chasing away each gramme of CO2

  23. 2012: Ford Mondeo

    Although this Mondeo looks like the old one, it drops drag by 10 per cent, bringing underbody shielding and active radiator shutters to a mass-made family car

  24. 2012: BMW i

    BMW’s i cars use low-drag basic shapes, plus narrow tyres, underbody shielding and air curtains to cut wheelarch turbulence. Won’t be cheap to build or buy

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