The CAR Top 10: extreme dieting measures

Published: 09 September 2015

► Extreme weight saving measures
► Plastic windows, binned radios
► Cord-pull door handles, no back seats 

It’s too heavy? Drill holes in the chassis, scrape the paint off, spec plastic windows, lose the door handles. Job done.

1) GT2’s Porsche crest bonnet sticker

Porsche GT2 bonnet crest sticker

There’s no point in going to the trouble of making a carbon bonnet and then weighing it down with a low-tech anvil of a metal badge. The Porsche crest on the bonnet of a GT2 RTS is actually a transfer. Also ideal for thwarting screwdriver-wielding schoolboys.

2) Mercedes SSKL

Ever heard of drilling holes in the chassis to save weight and boost the supercharger? Well Merc did that

In an effort to reduce weight and keep its ageing SSK competitive, Merc drilled a load of holes in the chassis and boosted the supercharged engine to over 300bhp. The thing was seriously quick, but the Emmental chassis was soggier than a Dairylea sandwich.

3) Ferrari F40 interior door handle

Ferrari F40 interior cord door pulls

For a car that employed some pretty serious technology – carbon and Kevlar panels, aggressive aero – some of the F40’s weight-saving measures were distinctly primitive. Witness the cord door pulls, which could have come straight from an early 1960s Mini.

4) MX-5’s rear-view mirror

Mazda MX-5 rear-view mirror

‘Gram strategy’ wasn’t in fact Flying Burrito songster Parsons’ plan to get as wasted as possible, but Mazda’s belief that the cumulative effect of cutting a little here and there is as useful as cutting whole kilos in one single area. So while the Mk3 MX-5’s rear-view mirror saved just 23g, the same thinking applied to the whole car pegged its weight to just 10kg above that of the 1989 original.

5) Pontiac aluminium exhaust manifold

Pontiac aluminium exhaust manifold

Drag racing was such big business in early ’60s America that besides selling aluminium body panels, Pontiac offered a set of aluminium exhaust manifolds for its 405bhp, 6.9-litre V8s. Fortunately a slick-shod Catalina so equipped could turn sub-13sec quarters – any longer and the things would melt. 

6) Bentley Supersports breathing in

Bentley removed the backseats on the Supersports

Bentley chucked out the back seats, then added carbon brakes and lightweight buckets to lop 90kg from the GTC’s kerb weight. Sadly, the resulting ‘lightweight’ special still weighed 2395kg, as much as two Megane R26Rs or an Elise carrying 21 passengers. 

7) Wot, no paint?

Extreme weight saving - lets strip the paint

Just as French racing cars were traditionally blue and British ones green, so German racers were always white. Until, so the absolutely untrue story goes, Mercedes found its GP cars above the max weight limit at scrutineering for a race at the ’Ring, and scraped the paint off to meet the regs.

8) McLaren F1 custom hi-fi

McLaren F1 custom hi-fi - no radio or cassette

Gordon Murray’s 1000kg kerbweight goal for the F1 eluded him, but you can’t fault him for effort. The tool kit was made of titanium and the custom-made Kenwood stereo featured a CD player but no radio or cassette. Hang on, surely storing all those CDs would add needless grams? The moustache, too.

9) Megane R plastic windows

Renault simply removed the glass and put in plastic to save weight

Renault’s engineers struck a bargain with Euro NCAP, promising to add more safety kit across its entire fleet in return for them turning a blind eye to the plastic glass and racing belts of this GT3-lite Megane. Superb car but customers turned a blind eye too and the thing was more floppy than the polymer glazing.

10) M3 carbonfibre roof

BMW M3 carbonfibre roof

BMW’s M3 CSL was the first to start the carbon roof trend. The science is that it lowers the centre of gravity; the practical bit is that it makes the job of police spotter planes so much easier when someone’s reported you for pulling third-gear powerslides on your favourite motorway slip road.

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker