What will the outcome be if a temperamental caravan manufacturer and an unruly designer merge to build a Formula One car?
Once again, we can simply turn to history for the answer, which then turns out to be: Nothing particularly good.
In 1971 German Günther Hennerici was experiencing great success with his Eifelland caravans, and was at the same time (and this must surely be a rather rare coincidence in the caravan world) fascinated by the idea of building a German Grand Prix car – the first from that country since Porsche in the early Sixties. The initial plans were very ambitious but also time consuming, and as Hennerici was not particularly patient he turned to the solution of acquiring a factory prepared and race ready March instead. This was certainly not unheard of at the time and might even have worked. Aside from the fact that the March was the infamous 721X, which seen from todays vantage point turned out to be a thoroughly bad car. Niki Lauda drove it and later stated that it was the worst car he had ever driven. So Rolf Stommelen in the Eifelland team clearly had the odds against him.
It got worse yet, as the equally infamous designer Luigi Colani then came into the picture: Already in 1972 he was controversial to say the least, and had developed a design philosophy centered on the organic shapes of nature as the right solution – even for a racing car. However, he had never designed a racing car before, and while other teams by then had begun to use wind tunnels, Colani’s design was the result of what he felt looked right, a fair portion of sensation, and five mens work in just 100 hours.
The result was spectacular. To look at, at least. Unfortunately, besides the initial tests, the Eifelland car did not manage to set any impressive lap times, which is, let’s not forget, mainly what a race car is about.
Even before the first race, the original Colani nose cone was dropped in favor of a regular March 721 nose, and it did not stop there: Almost race by race throughout the entire season, Colani’s revolutionary forms were replaced by more conventional body elements – until the car eventually ended up resembling a March 721X again. Not that it really helped, and after half a season the race was over, so to speak. At least the car had been reliable and completed six out of eight races, but there had been nothing sensational or revolutionary about its best result as number 8.
Yet it wasn’t even the car as such which made Eifelland throw in the towel: The caravan business suffered a fire and weak economy both of which led to a takeover by competitor Meeth. The new owners had zero interest in motorsport at all. So the poor Rolf Stommelen ended up with the remnants of the team – for free!
Without it changing anything, though: the Eifelland Formula One car was a failure. But a spectacular one – at least in the beginning.
ViaRETRO-bonus-philosophy: I guess there’s a morale in the story somewhere. Maybe we should not be so hard on caravaners out there? Even in Formula One they are slow.