Updated: Jan 21
1967‘s Race car material of the future?
The Protos was a formula 2 wooden monocoque open wheel racer that appeared in the 1967 Formula 2 season. This wooden rocket was powered by the standard F2 225hp 1594cc DOHC 4 cylinder Cosworth FVA.
These little light weight open wheelers had a very aerodynamic shape, and a semi-enclosed 'bubble' canopy over the cockpit that was quite a ahead of its time. The Proto was designed by Frank Costin. Coming from a back ground in aero design with wood from his days with De Havilland Aircraft Company he would take what he learned and apply it to this light weight race car.
The chassis was built of a very unique construction being made of very light but fragile laminated and adhesive bonded plywood & multi-tubular steel rear spaceframe.
As modern open wheel monocoque chassis are made of very light and extremely strong carbon fiber, Frank Costin’s Protos racers had the light weight box check but not so much on the strength.
The cars ware fairly quick and nimble, sadly it was not a front runner and would not score a win during the European F2 season. Behind the wheel of these unique machines were Brian Hart of (Brian Hart engine fame) and Pedro Rodríguez (Very talented motorcycle and auto racer)
At the Mediterranean Grand Prix, Pedro Rodriguez battled for second place with Jean Pierre Beltoise and had a major accident. The cars chassis turned into more or less toothpicks, the steering wheel can be seen in one of the pictures. This crumpled steering wheel was one of the largest parts left of the car, after the engine. Rodriguez was flung ahead of the leader, Sir Jackie Stewart, miraculously avoiding the worst: luckily only a broken ankle from this terrible crash.
I love to see these unique and sometimes crazy ideas tried. Frank Costin’s thought process wasn’t wrong the construction and design of these cars is pretty much how all modern open wheel racers are built today the problem was the type of material.
If you never try you’ll never know.