Brabham Alfa Romeo BT46b

John Watson

Unfortunately for John Watson, driving the Brabham BT46b “Fan Car” is arguably the reason most remember his F1 career by.

In an outlandish attempt to utilise a large fan to accentuate ground effect that had been so effectively employed by competitors Lotus in the Type 78, Brabham and their design team of Gordon Murray and David Cox, used a loophole in the regulations to attached a giant fan to their car, legitimising it’s use as part of the cooling system.

It was an alternative method of achieving the downforce so successfully seen with the Lotus; a lack of understanding, along with technical restrictions of the existing Alfa Romeo engine, meant the use of a fan was seen as an effective solution, sucking air from underneath the car and generating considerable amounts of additional grip as engine speeds got higher.

Of course, the other teams, wary of such an innovative addition, protested this new application and the innovative thinking behind it, and challenged the legitimacy of the fan and how it affected the performance of the car.

Even so, at the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix, Watson and Lauda qualified the BT46b in second and third on the grid respectively, demonstrating the technologies instant effectiveness.

The race didn’t pan out so well for the British pilot, as he retired on lap 19 due to a throttle issue, ending a sole race in very unique car.

If not for reliability, Watson may well have seen a podium – his team mate Niki Lauda drove to the BT46b’s only Grand Prix win the race by over half a minute.

Modelling the BT46b

As a pretty early 1/43 scale kit by Tameo, this model was a fairly simple build in terms of number of parts, but not in terms of finish and awareness of in fitting those parts.

As I am discovering with experience, and typically for metal kits, this needed a little TLC in order to get the part ship-shape before painting.

Plenty moulding excess and some wonky drill holes meant that test fitting of the parts was an imperative step to check everything was in order – a little refilling and drilling of the mounting points for the front wishbones was required, but not much else.

I also took time to enlarge the apertures on the top of the bodywork for the radiator and cooling grilles, anticipating that painting would create a pretty tight fit, and wanting to achieve a flush application, I was glad I took the time to do so.

The only real issue was again the decals, simply due to the age. Even with the most delicate teasing and coaxing, some these aged decals still cracked at the slightest movement, particularly those that needed to conform round the rear of the car, or the white Alfa Romeo pin stripes.

I’ll also mention the windshield, which came uncut in the kit. Not only was trying to cut and shape a delicate 1/43 windshield incredibly fiddly when you have sausages for fingers, but fixing something so small and delicate in place also provided a unique challenge.

Wood glue and some very low tack masking tape proved to be the way forward, but not after several very annoying attempts.

Again, I focussed on trying to achieve as smooth a finish as I could, and while it’s not perfect by any means, this build is another step in the right direction.

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