4WD description


The track racing fraternity has dabbled with four wheel drive from time to time but it is currently banned from Formula-One (F1) Grand Prix and from Indy Car style racing. Of course four wheel drive is extensively used in rally cars, a trend begun by Audi.

1902: The Dutch firm Spyker built a racing car with full-time four wheel drive and a 6-cylinder engine! It won a hill-climb held by the Birmingham motor club in 1906.

1932: Harry Miller raced a 5L V8 4WD at Indianapolis.

1932: Bugatti built two type 53 4.9L 4WD hill climb cars, said to have been inspired by a front-wheel drive Miller and also in response to the difficulty of getting 300hp onto the road through the skinny tyres of the era. Three T53s were made - one is at the Schlumpf collection, one is in private hands and the fate of the 3rd is unknown. The cars achieved some success in hill-climbs, particularly in the wet.
Bugatti T53: wheelbase 2.6m, track 1.25m, front susp.: 2 x indep. transverse leaf springs, rear susp.: live axle, leaf springs, 8-cyl, 2-valves/cyl, dohc, 300bhp, 4972cc, bore 86mm, stroke 107mm, super-charged, 4-speed manual tranmission, four wheel drive, 3 diffs.
The steering swivels used plain Hookes joints (universal joints) not c.v. joints and these inevitably produced unpleasant feed-back in the steering, leading to severe driver fatigue in long events. The front suspension used leaf springs as the top and lower suspension members and was perhaps insufficiently controlled as a result.

1934: Miller V8 4WD at Tripoli and Avus GP [Motor 1969].

During the 1930s, Auto-Union and Mercedes-Benz indulged in a classic struggle with racing cars that had 8-cylinder, V12 and V16 supercharged engines of up to 6-litres and finally developed well over 500hp before capacities were restricted to 3-litres super-charged (or 4.5L unblown) in 1938. Despite having skinny tyres and enormous power, these cars were two wheel drive.

After WWII, Formula-One racing commenced with engine limits of 4.5-litres naturally aspirated or 1.5-litres super-charged. In 1948 Porsche built a (mid-) rear-engined car with a 283kW supercharged 1.5-litre flat 12-cylinder engine and four wheel drive, the type 360 Cisitalia, for Piero Dusio. The driver could select two wheel drive, e.g., for cornering, and four wheel drive for maximum grip on acceleration. The BRM 1.5-litre V16 (4x2) rates as one of the most magnificent failures from the post-war period.

1954: Engine limits were reduced to 2.5-litres unboosted or 750cc super-charged; no one seems to have taken up the 750cc option. Mercedes-Benz returned seriously to F1 Grand Prix racing with the W196 (4x2) and dominated 1954 and 1955. There were plans for a 4WD version of the W196 but this did not eventuate. Mercedes-Benz achieved two world championships to Fangio, before withdrawing from F1 racing.

1961: The engine capacity for Formula-One cars was reduced from 2.5 to 1.5-litres. Ferguson Research devised the Formula Ferguson (FF) four wheel drive system. Jack Fairman drove the 4WD Ferguson Project 99 (P99) F1 car in the British Grand Prix at Aintree. Later, Stirling Moss won the Oulton Park Gold Cup race in it; there was rain during the race but Moss's practice time was second fastest - 1m44.8s v. 1m44.6s by Bruce McLaren in a Cooper - so the P99 was no dry-weather slouch. This innovative car has a front mounted Coventry Climax 4-cylinder engine, Ferguson Four Wheel Drive System and Dunlop Maxaret ABS brakes. Moss nominated the P99 as his favourite Formula-One car in the September 1997 issue of MotorSport and he knew a few cars. The P99 is now at the Donington Museum.

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