The Williams FW08C: A Champion’s Car

The year is 1983. Imagine, for a moment, that you are the Formula One champion of the world.

You own a Learjet, a penthouse in Munich, a country mansion in England, a chalet in Austria, and a villa on Ibiza. To earn the world championship title you drove every lap absolutely flat out in an era where safety just meant sacrificing speed. To get into the series in the first place, you earlier became a Finnish kart champion, and then did so again four more times. But that wasn’t enough, so you went on to earn karting titles throughout Europe, too.

Then, moving through multiple racing series around the globe and seeing massive success, you found yourself in Formula Two, Formula Atlantic, and Formula Pacific where you ended up first place the season before hopping into an F1 car.

However, it wasn’t until seven years later that you found true success here, when the stars aligned and dropped you into the TAG Williams Racing Team.

Keijo ‘Keke’ Rosberg didn’t need to imagine this. This was his reality, a reality of which he was very aware of: “I’m a cocky bastard and I know it,” he famously once said.


In an era where reliability was nearly non-existent and guts got you the glory, Rosberg took the title in 1982 with a single grand prix win and five separate podiums. He earned points (which were only awarded to the top six) in all 16 races he finished that year but one; he finished 8th in Monza. Rosberg tallied 44 points over the season, ending just a nose ahead of Didier Pironi and John Watson, both of whom were sitting on 39.


The following year, this very chassis was the car that Rosberg drove — at least for the majority of the season. Although he couldn’t muster a second championship, Rosberg did pilot FW08-07 to a win at the Monaco Grand Prix.


Williams FW08-07 is now owned by Erich Joiner and my tour guide for the day was TJ, the mechanic in charge of maintaining the impressive fleet that lives in the shop that was once Vasek Polak’s.

TJ is an old school guy who is quick to tell you anything and everything about the cars that Erich owns and races; in other words, he’s the perfect one to show me around the very special Williams.


I started with the parts that didn’t need much explaining, peeking first into the aluminum-framed cockpit. In contrast to today’s top-level formula cars, the ’83 Williams is elegantly simple, complete with a wood-grain shift knob tucked over to the right side.

It’s obvious that seating was tight and crumple zones didn’t yet exist, and to further this observation TJ showed me the point on the chassis where the pedals sat, an area suspiciously close to where the spindly double wishbones are located. With a big laugh and a sly grimace, TJ asked if I’d ever heard of the ‘Lola Limp.’

I hadn’t, but there’s probably enough context here to figure it out if you’re the same…


The result of this dangerously functional design is a car which is far more compact – and beautiful – than those that race today.


With a full aluminum monocoque — or aluminium in Oxfordshire where the car was designed — the FW08C weighed in at just under 1,200lb (540kg) but managed to produce 530 horsepower to the wheels.


Of course, what I was most interested in was where this power came from, so off came the bodywork.


The 2,993cc Ford Cosworth is a 90-degree V8 DFV-based engine, upgraded to DFY specification which encouraged quicker revs and a higher redline at 11,600rpm. Rife with sunning details and incredible simplicity, the naturally aspirated Cosworth power plant is as much a work of art as the rest of the car.


It’s also notable that the engine block itself was a stressed member of the chassis, a necessary design decision to vastly increase the stiffness of the frame while keeping weight to a minimum. This extra stiffness was required as suspension rates were increased in efforts to provide more grip in the wake of the outlawed ground effects techniques of ’82.


Producing 177 horsepower to the wheels per liter of displacement – again, 530whp – meant that the FW08C would have nearly 1 brake horsepower per kilogram it had to push around (1bhp/2.2lb). This power was delivered through massively wide wheels which measured 16 inches in the rear (and 15 inches wide up front).


While this chassis, 07, is the more significant car having the race win at Monaco with world champion Rosberg behind the wheel, a sister chassis, FW08-09, has an interesting story to tell as well.

During a test, 09 was the first F1 car that Ayrton Senna drove, and although Senna was reportedly faster than both Williams drivers, Williams was contractually bound to Rosberg and Jacques Laffite.


It seems impossible, but with now ROKiT Williams Racing seemingly treading on thin ice after falling from roughly third to dead last in the standings since 2015 — and with two out of 10 Formula One teams changing ownership this year — someday all we may have of the once-great Williams F1 team are their successful cars of years past.

Not large in stature, the FW08C is an absolute monster of a car. The last of the naturally aspirated Williams Formula One racers of the era, it’s thanks to collectors like Erich who bring these cars out to historic races that we still get to hear the glorious sound of that 3.0-litre Cosworth V8.

Although, you won’t catch the “cocky bastard” of a world champ behind the wheel anymore…

Trevor Yale Ryan
Instagram: tyrphoto



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Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, Uranium... Aluminium


Keke was a childhood hero for a lot of Finnish kids. I was born in '83, but still we sang songs of his deeds, on playgrounds a few years later. Really, there was a song made for him, that goes something like this: "KekeKekeKekeKeke Ruusperi Ruusperi". Here's a clip of him in '84, driving this very car on my home town track, Ahvenisto Circuit. I think his lap time is still the unofficial record on that track.

Finland in the 80s was too small a country for a "cocky bastard" like Rosberg. You can feel the resentment, towards the discouraging attitude of the day in his old interviews. I guess that made him even more mythical, as he really came across as a self made man who couldn't care less about the naysayers. He might have only won one championship, but he was (maybe still is) smart and tough as nails.


Awesome comment and cool video, too!


Another great story

I’m really hoping you guys go out and do a story about Wörthersee coming up in about a month or two


Can't tell if that's sarcastic or not, but currently arranging our Wörthersee trip at the moment!


I have been expecting an other post about that toy look like shop since it was published, it wa sso tidy that cars looked like they were miniatures, still expect to read more about it, even about the double Eames lounge chairs


Haha I'm sure I'll be back sooner or later as they have some pretty cool cars there but you might have to read more about the chairs elsewhere...


I like these cars because they remind you what matters when you're really going for lap times. Time Attack cars are hilarious in that they will do so much work and their cars generally can't go more than 15 minutes without over heating.

A real race car like this one is an example of something that can lap faster than the current crop of WTAC cars despite being old and it will do those laps for hours. This is a real race car, not a race car by Internet or YouTube standards.


I wouldn't call WTAC cars 'internet' or 'youtube' race cars. They do the job they're meant to, as does this car. WTAC rules are the way they are so that any average team can be competitive unlike in Formula 1 where a dozen or so groups throw millions and millions of dollars into development. Like Neil said, both are cool in their own way...


You forget Time Attack cars are limited to Yokohama A050 semi slicks at WTAC, most are based off road going cars. A lot of the WTAC guys are just a small shops or one guy with some money and a racing hobby. These F1 cars are pure bred race cars, operated by Factory racing teams with massive budgets, driving on 16' wide wheels with full slicks. Both are awesome in their own way


Fair, but i wonder how far back you would have to go in F1 to equal the times of current top level TA cars.


What an epic machine. Great article


Great Article!!!! solid 5/7