Chancing Upon Niki Lauda’s 1977 T-Car

Sometimes, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.

While I was at Fuji Speedway last Friday checking out HKS’s drift car video shoot (behind the scenes story coming soon), I decided to drop by the pits over at the main race track. There, a bunch of high-end car transporters were unloading all sorts of glorious metal for the past weekend’s Fuji Wonderland Festival. I had seen many of the historic race cars being pushed around and parked up in the Fuji pit garages countless times before, but there were a few that were completely new to me and warranted a closer inspection.

One of those cars was this 1977 Ferrari 312T2 – an incredible machine with some amazing history.

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This is the T-Car (spare/back-up) that Niki Lauda drove during the latter part of the 1977 season when returning to Formula 1 following his fiery crash at the Nürburgring.

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Since the end of the ’77 season, the car has been sitting in a private collection in the US. It’s regularly taken out, displayed and driven by its owner, but all the while it’s never been touched or altered from when Lauda used it. It’s essentially a 40-year-old F1 time capsule.

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The 312T2 is powered by the Tipo 015, a 2,992cc flat-12 that developed 500hp at 12,300rpm in its naturally aspirated guise. It was an impressively reliable engine that served Ferrari’s Formula 1 program up until the 126C came along, and with it the beginning of the turbo era.

With the 5-speed manual transmission behind it – mounted transversely to improve weight distribution – it all combined to create a stressed part of the chassis. The engine ran mechanical fuel injection, and sat next to the ignition coil is a Magneti Marelli electronic rev limiter.

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For how imaginative and nostalgic these old F1 cars are, it’s amazing to think how much technological progress has been made in the four decades since this 312T2 was pieced together by hand.

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Formula 1 was the most advanced racing series at that time, of course, but these cars were built in such a simple and straight-forward way. It was a good few years before composite materials and proper aerodynamics started completely changing the motorsport.

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I felt claustrophobic just looking at the cockpit that Lauda had to wedge his body into; it’s an incredibly small and tight-fitting space. Seeing three pedals and a manual dog-leg 5-speed shifter makes you think about the skill and bravery required to drive a car like this at 10/10ths.

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Here’s a quick look at the cast aluminum lower suspension mounting for the front axle.

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And the rear setup, with the famous in-board brakes which helped remove a lot of unsprung weight from wheel/hub assembly.

More cast aluminum can be found at the rear in the structure that transferred downforce onto the gearbox and in turn the entire chassis.

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JDM amateur time attack cars probably do a better job of generating actual usable downforce compared to these old racers. Given the minimal understanding of aerodynamics at the time, the front end looks drag-heavy and unrefined.

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But still, for how advanced modern day F1 cars may be, there’s nothing quite like looking over a racer like this – especially when it has such special history.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino
dino@speedhunters.com

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27 comments

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1
Matthew Everingham

An amazing find! Awesome details man! I'm slightly jealous.

Author2
Dino Dalle Carbonare

I couldn't believe it when I saw it! Just your normal day hunting speed in Japan haha

3

Japan never seems to fail to deliver.

4

Their understanding of aerodynamics at that time was not minimal it was quite advanced (though certainly not what it is now) so those wings are doing real work or they wouldn't be there. A contemporary Time Attack car does pretty well too (at least some do) with all that trickle down research from the last 40 years that is essentially free. Many arm chair Aerodynamicist's learn, as you may, that what the eyes perceive doesn't always jibe with wind tunnel data. Those are in-board brakes on the back of the car also.

5

Fully agree Nicholas, was going to make a similar comment. It's insulting to suggest they had a "minimal understanding of aerodynamics".

Author6
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Don't get me wrong, there was understanding. But in the great scope of things it's archaic at best. I do chat to Andrew Brilliant quite a lot about aero, and those 2-3 min I can actually concentrate and understand it always surprises me how vast the whole science surrounding aero really is. It's all evolving and refining so quickly, it really blows your mind.

7

Yeah it just came off as douchy and dismissive.

8

mmm inboard brakes and hub mounted swaybars.

9

That shifter is gorgeous...

10

Incredible machine, amazing photos Dino! This thing just loves being photographed. Such detail! Reminds me of the Yardley Mclaren I took pics of when I was at the MTC last year. Every inch of these cars just wants to be captured!!

11

oh ffs, again!!!
stop this spam shit

12
Milos LIcko Bash Randjelovic

If you want to do something really nice for your car today:
http://luxxio.co.nz/

13

Amazing! It looks like a go cart almost.

14

Amazing to see a classic Ferrari out of the official Clienti Program.

15

Incredible, this is the closest anyone can get to that period nowadays..
I'd have 100 questions, but here's one: the tires look pretty new, are those the original 40 year old, or does someone still produce these, or are these a common size?

16

They must be reproduction ones. Would be dangerous to run old tyres.

17
JBfromSiliconValley

That does it....time to go watch RUSH again. Daniel Bruhl did a great job with the Lauda part in my opinion.

18
Steveland Cleamer

All hail Lord Analogue! Hammered, bent and shaped over molded. Faster is definitely Faster, but I use this exhibit to question if it is better. There is more passion with a little danger too......

19

Problem here. Lauda's crash at nurburgring was in 76 not 77.

20

"Dog Leg" is not the same as "Dog (engagement) Box". Dog Leg refers to the shifter and it's shape, in a Z like a dog leg, a dog box, witch this one is, refers to the fact that it's not Synchronized. The internet also calls the shift pattern on e30 m3, e190 evolutions and ferraris dog leg, i wonder why...

21

That dogleg, absolutely loving it. There's just something so disconnecting about flappy-paddles.

22

Safety and priority were not two words that went together back then. Amazing find!

23
Boaty McBoatface

Beautiful pictures! One thing- all those castings are magnesium. Even the engine blocks are magnesium. Quite magnificent magnesium.

24
Boaty McBoatface

I know because I've worked on it.

25

Do they burn nicely as well?

26

So nice to see a good old classic stick shift race car

27

Fun fact: Due to the way the engine worked, it was technically a 180 degree V12, but most people just call it a boxer.

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