Ed Welburn Drives the Oldsmobile Aerotech

Oldsmobile Aerotech Concept

Oldsmobile Aerotech Concept

Track Tested, FIA Approved
While GM, March, and Foyt’s own employees were hard at work piecing together the Aerotech, plans to run the car at the Brickyard fell apart, thanks in no small part to GM’s legendary inter-brand politics and bureaucracy. Louckes’ team chose instead to make a pass at the closed-course speed record at the Fort Stockton Test Center in Texas.

Before that could happen, however, Foyt needed to shake down the car. By late 1986, construction had wrapped on the first Aerotech, which was then shipped to GM’s proving grounds in Mesa, Arizona, for preliminary testing. Foyt was a little skeptical of a car built with flamboyant bodywork and without his input, but soon found himself at home in the Aerotech at speeds up to 218 mph around Mesa’s banked oval.

“After the first shakedown runs in Mesa, Foyt was just thrilled,” Welburn recalls. “The relationship between AJ and I shifted considerably once he saw how stable the car could be.”

The success of the Mesa runs, coupled with the forced change of venue, prompted Oldsmobile to revisit Welburn’s original long-tail design. Construction of a second Aerotech was ordered at the end of 1985. Built again from a March chassis, the second car was almost a dead ringer for the first, but differed in two ways -- the rear bodywork was elongated and tapered downwards, and the Batten-built single-turbo Quad 4 was replaced by a twin-turbo 2.0-liter developed with a little help from Fueling Engineering. Olds never talked specifics, but the twin-turbo Quad 4 was reportedly good for more than 1000 horsepower.

The Oldsmobile camp descended upon Fort Stockton on August 26, 1987, with Foyt’s team, FIA officials, and the requisite safety crews in tow. Initial runs with the short-tail Aerotech fell just shy of the 250.919 mph closed-course speed record held by Mercedes-Benz’s CIII-IV prototype, prompting the crews to improvise aerodynamic modifications (i.e. taping over the cabin air inlet) to eke additional speed from the car. In the meantime, Foyt hopped into the long-tail car, which had yet to be shaken down and tested on a track. After a few practice runs, he was blitzing through the flying mile at an amazing 275 mph.

The next day, Foyt made flying mile runs in both directions of the track, averaging 267.399 mph, a record that remains unbroken. Following that, Foyt switched to the short Aerotech, laying down a closed-course speed record of 257.123 mph, easily surpassing the C111-IV’s previous record.

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