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Ground Effects On Race and Street Cars

Updated on April 25, 2012

Automotive ground effects kits are an aerodynamic method of controlling air around a car to increase stability. Designers incorporate some of these ideas in the design of street and passenger cars.

Race Car Automotive Ground Effects Kits

The airfoil, called a spoiler, was one of the first aerodynamic innovations. A spoiler shape is like an airplane wing and uses the air pressure against it to force the car against the pavement to increase stability. This increases drag against the car, but the increased stability is a net gain over the drag.

Side skirts that touched the track, and a curved underbody were added to the wings and spoilers concept. As air went under the car, the skirts kept it from going out the side while the curved bottom reduced air pressure behind the curve. This sucked the car to the ground and allowed higher speeds around corners. Mario Andretti won the 1978 Formula I World Championship in a Lotus that used these principles. Johnny Rutherford won the Indianapolis 500 in 1980 in a Jim Hall ground effects Chaparral. It was the first true ground effects car to win the 500 mile race.

Street Car Automotive Ground Effects Kits

Streetcars now incorporate some of the automotive ground effect ideas to control the air around, under and over the automobile. In addition to adding these components giving better aerodynamic qualities by stabilizing the car, it gives the car a sportier custom look. These kits include front and rear air dams and side skirts. They direct the air to the side of the car and prevent it from getting on the underside of the car where it could cause lift.

Automotive Ground Effects Kits

If these components aren’t built into the car at the factory, automotive ground effect kits can be put on the car after market. The owner can remove or have these kits removed because they attach to existing bumpers and bodywork. These kits are made to fit most brands of vehicles, and are manufactured by several suppliers.

These additions vary in price. The fiberglass resin kits are more expensive than the fiberglass kits. The fiberglass kits will break apart more easily while the resin fiberglass compound is tougher.


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