In 2006, BAR Honda went to the Bonneville Salt Flats and became the fastest outright F1 car ever made at a bit over 248 miles per hour. It was an incredible project. I just never thought about what it would take to clean up afterwards.
Patrick Morgan runs the charmingly-named Dawn Treader Performance, a second career restoring modern F1 cars and Indycars, having moved on from working on them when they were new in the first place. He’s an authority on this stuff, and it’s utterly fascinating to see what he works on. In this case, it’s that salt flats F1 car.
As it turns out, running on the salt flats... covers everything in salt.
And salt corrodes.
As such, Morgan called this the most difficult work he’d ever done. And this is a guy who has rebuilt V10 F1 cars, right at the height of their complexity, when not all of the parts were available or even legal to use anymore. (Here’s a fun video explaining how that all worked.)
It’s interesting to see not just for how grody everything got, but just how wonderful F1 cars are put together. Look at how neat the hubs are. On a normal road car, these pieces are so much clunkier and globbier in their design. F1 stuff is so pure and clean and focused.
And there’s all kinds of wonderful packaging solutions, too, like these couplings that mate up just because they’re perfectly machined and located:
Though the grody stuff is great on its own:
And is so satisfying to see cleaned up:
It’s funny to see how all of F1's various exotic materials hold up to getting sandblasted at 248 mph:
Part of the BAR Honda’s speed was that the rear wing got swapped out for a fin. I had forgotten it wasn’t just a fin but a rudder. Thanks to Patrick now I know what that actuator looks like:
It is always a joy to see F1 tech up close:
This was still in the V10 era, and these engines absolutely howled. Here’s how they gulped in air and fuel in these carbon trumpets. It’s interesting, again, to see how all of these different material properties interact. It reminds me of the SR-71 leaking fuel while sitting on the ground, the titanium body meant to expand with the heat of flight:
Getting all that salt out took three months, apparently, making this kind of like the ultimate car cleaning, just of a priceless piece of racing history.
Give Dawn Treader a follow, there are a few more photos of how this car worked and how other restorations have gone on the account. It is a satisfying and enriching experience.