This Pininfarina Concept Could Have Changed F1 Forever: Weird Car of the Week
Today motorsport execs are struggling with safety regulations. A number of driver deaths have caused many to question just how safe these vehicles actually are. It was a similar situation in the 1960s—what many consider a golden age for racing, also became a key decade in implementing new safety features throughout. One very important vehicle in the fight for stricter regulations was the Pininfarina Sigma Grand Prix. What was essentially a road-going Formula 1 concept, the Sigma transformed from a simple idea, into a full on effort to improve safety in Formula racing. RELATED: See More of the Strange 1969 Pininfarina Sigma Grand Prix Concept
Built Out Of Need
The idea was the brainchild of Robert Braunschweig, editor-in-chief of Swiss motoring magazine Automobil Revue. With the amount of deaths in Formula 1 during the time, Braunschweig decided someone needed to investigate the issue further, and called for the help of famed design studio Pininfarina.
Designer Paulo Martin was tasked with building the safer Formula 1 race car, and the backing from a few key automakers helped transform the idea into a realization. Enzo Ferrari donated the V12 and a number of different parts to the project, while Mercedes and Fiat provided technical advice.
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Strange Look, Safe Driving
After months of work, the final product came to fruition. The result was a significantly safer vehicle. A specially-designed chassis allowed for two separate compartments: one for the driver, one for the V12 engine. The concept was that, upon impact, the compartments would collapse separately and keep the driver safely in the middle of the vehicle.
The bodywork along the front of the car was wide, flat, and reinforced for added protection. The extended front and side panels meant that wheel-to-wheel collisions could also be avoided.
The rear wing was moved above the driver. It not only improved downforce, but also acted as a sort of roll cage if the vehicle were to flip upside down. There was also an automatic fire extinguisher system, a kill switch for the electronics, and one of the first implementations of a six-point harness with restraints for the driver’s head.
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Where Is It Now?
The Sigma first made its world debut at the 1969 Geneva Motor Show, and now has a permanent residence at Pininfarina’s personal concept collection.