Like all car enthusiasts, we love a big rear wing. Some of these generate real downforce, others are for show, but all are fantastic.
One of the most polarizing automotive design choices any automotive designer can make is the inclusion of a rear wing. Rear wings, or spoilers, are often added to race cars to spoil the flow of air across the vehicle and thus eliminate unwanted turbulence that could cause the vehicle to lose traction, become airborne or otherwise behave erratically on the track.
So if spoiler technology is designed for race cars, why have so many street machines become factory-equipped with huge rear wings?
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and, in this case, the old adage is true. Many factory-issued car spoilers are designed to make street-legal versions of race cars look more like race cars.
One of the most collectible classics of the modern era is the Ferrari F40–a stunning example of lightness, power and beauty. The car was named to honour the company’s 40th anniversary, and at the launch journalists spontaneously broke into applause, mesmerized by a sensuous shape that screamed speed. A tall rear spoiler dominated the design, which showed a resemblance to the 288 GTO. But otherwise, the form was quite clean.
Lambo’s legendary wedge was outrageous enough without a wing. When the Italian marque made one an option in the late Seventies, few could resist, even though it was entirely superfluous. Designed for F1 upstart Walter Wolf, the tray reached its most preposterous form on the monstrous LP5000 QV variant.
Ford Escort RS Cosworth
Mention the word “wing” to a Ford fan and they will shout “whale tail” at you.
The Ford’s Escort Cosworth boasts one of the most radical spoilers of all time, but did you realise that some were actually sold without it? In some countries the Escort Cosworth’s mighty rear wing was not allowed. In Switzerland, for example, the whale tail was declared a danger to motorcyclists in the event of a crash and thus all of its examples used a smaller rear spoiler. Even in the UK, later examples were offered with the option of a spoiler.
Porsche 964 Carrera RS 3.8
Porsche is no stranger to rear wings: from the 930 Turbo to the 993 Carrera RS, the Stuttgart marque has long been sticking duck tails and spoilers on its special edition sports cars. Best of the bunch? The double-layered number that appeared at the back of its 964 Carrera RS 3.8 – an ultra-rare performance weapon released in 1993 to homologate the equally mighty RSR racer. Stripped of all unnecessary elements, the RS was so slight in lightweight guise that the wing did well just to keep its wheels on the ground.
BMW E9 CSL
In racing trim, BMW’s iconic 3.0 CSL had an aero kit so sharp-edged and striking it earned the sports saloon a memorable nickname: the Batmobile. On the road? The feisty Seventies special wore the air ducts and fender fins, but no rear wing, because it was illegal on German roads. Instead, BMW hid the spoiler in the boot for self-installation. So, while the track car was prevailing in the European Touring Car Championship, new CSL owners were installing their own rear wings that helped it win.
Originally built over four generations –it was the fourth and final coming of the Supra that had the greatest rear end. Whether or not the wing on the Supra is functional or not is up for debate. But like many cars in the 90s, the presence of a spoiler meant one thing–force-fed power under the bonnert.
Built to go stock car racing and released for the road in very limited numbers, the Plymouth Superbird was not your average muscle car. It was paired with a V8 and a four speed manual gearbox, but it also looked like a rocket ship and had a rear wing big enough for it to take off. The rear wing was actually styled by a missile scientist.
Mercedes-Benz 190E Evo II
Executive cars aren’t where you’d usually expect to find a wing, let alone one as extreme as the Evo II’s. Then again, the limited-edition Mercedes was no ordinary executive car. The Evo II was introduced in 1990 and had a number of cosmetic and mechanical changes including a wild-for-its-time aerodynamics package, an in-car adjustable suspension, improved brakes, bigger 17-inch wheels, and a reworked AMG 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produced 235 horsepower.