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Nissan DeltaWing may spawn production car

The radical racecar to which Nissan lent its name may end up in production

Published: March 27, 2015, 4:00 PM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 2:04 PM

DeltaWing streetcar rendering

The Nissan DeltaWing is one of those really weird looking racing cars that somebody thought would be superior on the track due to its innovative design — aerodynamics, low mass, easier to control, etc. It wasn’t, but as with many racetrack ventures, things do translate into real-world advancements.

So it’s not a complete surprise to hear the DeltaWing (which apparently no longer carries a Nissan connection) will spawn not just a street version but perhaps a series of vehicles for everyday roads, according to a release from the builder.

The DeltaWing made its race debut at the 24Hours of Le Mans in 2012. The result of a collaboration between Nissan (which supplied the NISMO race-tuned engine in exchange for primary sponsorship) Dan Gurney’s All American Racers, Highcroft Racing and motorsports mogul Donald Panoz, the DeltaWing became an immediate media darling due to its unconventional design, compared to race cars of the time (and since).

DeltaWing racecar

The design was meant to improve aerodynamics (on straightaways and in corners) without the need for front or rear wings. It features a teeny tiny front track (just 24 inches), widening to over five feet at the rear, where the engine is located. After a disappointing finish at Le Mans (following a crash), it did meet with better success at the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, where it finished fifth despite having to be rebuilt after a crash in practice.

The original consortium was dissolved and Panoz carried on, creating an enclosed cockpit version to bring the DeltaWing up to class regulations for the ALMS series but it has failed to meet with any moderate form of success, often qualifying not just slowest in its class but also slower than cars in “slower” classes.

Because it is significantly lighter than fellow competitors, the car is powered by a smaller engine, which means it’s able to remain competitive in terms of power to weight, and it also is considerably better than its competitors when it comes to fuel economy.

It’s the latter that Panoz is hoping will attract consumers who are drawn to the vehicle for its radical design.

In the release meant to demonstrate the viability of a street car, makers DeltaWing Technology says it is moving forward on plans to make two-and four-seat configurations for street use, which will reportedly deliver better than 4.17 litres per 100 km (roughly 57 mpg) combined fuel economy, which would rival many of today’s hybrid cars. The company further estimates a highway rating of 3.18 L/100 km (about 74 mpg).

The reason would be the use of a fuel-efficient 138-hp 1.4-litre four cylinder engine the company claims would take the car to 100 km/h in about six seconds. The main credit for the low fuel economy and high-performance acceleration goes to the narrow front end that is less unencumbered by the wall of air vehicles must move around their bodies as speeds increase.

“This key milestone allows us to immediately move forward with our plans to build prototype two- and four-seat DeltaWing vehicles and begin real-world testing,” concluded Panoz.