The Can-Am era was a transitional point in race car design. The term “aerodynamics” as applied to racing car design can be divided into two periods: 1) low drag and 2) downforce. Prior to the adoption of big American V8s for racing in the early Can-Am era, increases in speed were accomplished by the reduction of aerodynamic drag. The Daytona Cobra Coupe was a perfect example as the increase in top speed of a Cobra roadster from 165 mph to 200 mph was accomplished by the simple adaption of changing the body to a slippery form.
However, higher speeds began creating unwanted lift so the designer’s next goal was to counteract lift by creating “downforce” with simple aerodynamic devices like spoilers and front air dams to reduce attached airflow that contributed to lift. The only detriment to such devices was they caused an increase in aerodynamic drag! So… the only way to solve that problem was to increase horsepower to overcome the drag. The Can-Am era essentially ended when horsepower became so expensive (e.g. turbo-charged Porsche 917s) that the privateer racers couldn’t compete. With no field to effectively compete with the “big money” required to win, the series died. It sure was fun while it lasted though! Probably the most exciting motor racing ever devised.
- Peter Brock