It’s an extremely complicated question to start answering, because of the different periods and different types of cars. You have to pick between sports cars and F1 cars—you have such different categories. I admire innovation. One of the most innovative cars was the early Chaparral with glass fiber monocoque chassis. Chaparral was one of the first to recognize the importance of downforce, so I would put Chaparral as a make very high up the list. Of course, the innovation of the car was connected to the innovative nature of Jim Hall and the way he could turn his hand to new ideas. He seemed able to think beyond what other people of the day were doing, and that’s a quality I admire. On the whole, the cars that impress me came from pretty interesting people.
The other thing that has really changed from the late 1970s/early 1980s to today, is the huge diversity of aerodynamic approaches. If you go back to the early 1970s, with the huge difference in car shapes, from the Lotus 72 (the wedge-shaped cars) to the Tyrrells (which were quite boxy) people were really doing aerodynamics by eye at that point and they didn’t really know what they were doing—witness the Tyrrell six-wheeler. If you remember, the six-wheeler had been done for aerodynamic penetration, but we now know that at anything under about 600 mph, that’s totally irrelevant…you’d have to be supersonic. Ken was ambitious, but not that ambitious!
This is a kind of rambling answer. I wouldn’t like to choose any one car, but from sports cars—perhaps because they had such an influence on me when I was growing up—the GT40 and the 917. As you know, the Ford GT40 had such an impression on me that I now own one, a racecar with a serious history (VRJ Profile, August 2003). That car had a basically good design, yet we are still making it work better, but more importantly it has such lasting interest and influence…it is still an important racecar. From Formula One cars, I would have to say the Lotus 79 and after that, I would then sound very cocky because I would choose a car I was involved with so I won’t do that!
The Lotus 79 that appeared in 1978 was immediately very quick, and won six of its first eight races. Of course, it had good drivers but it was the technical aspect of that car that impressed me. It then went on into 1979, though it didn’t do nearly as well, but it was another example of innovation in car design.
I may well be guilty of missing out cars like the C-types and D-types, but the fact is I don’t really know very much about them. It’s not that they were before I was born, but because I wasn’t old enough to understand anything about racing cars. I find it difficult to look back that far and form a judgement.