The 1980s. Big hair, big shoulders and big car spoilers. Nothing said 'sporting pretensions' quite like a large, fat rubber spoiler stuck on the back of your humble hot hatch. At Great Escape Classic Car Hire we've just added a Saab 900 Turbo with a full fat whale tale spoiler on the back. As we sit and stare in wonder at this iconic 80s throwback, we can't help wondering where all the fun and spoilers disappeared to?
Modern cars concentrate on low profile tyres, lowered suspension and little eyebrow roof spoilers to say 'speed' but it's all just a little discreet for us here at Great Escape. There is something endearingly innocent about the family sports cars of the 1980s, whose sporting adenda generally had some sort of purpose.
The whale tale spoiler that ended up adorning the rear ends of so many cars started life on production Porsche 911s. Pioneered on touring cars to increase rear end downforce and stick the front engined cars to the ground, it was Porsche that popularised the idea. The name reflects the design of the 911s spoiler, a massive assemblage that fitted over the engine cover and was intended to reduce the 911's famous tendency to create 911-shaped holes in hedges.
The popularity of the 911 whale tale led to plenty of copies, of which the classic Saab 900 turbo was the most obvious. Any saloon car with sporting pretensions suddenly had a rubber spoilerm, including the Cavalier SRi, Alfasud Ti and of course the XR3i. The Ford XR4i took the idea further with a massive appendage, which was later refined and enlarged for the Cosworth versions of the XR3 and XR4. Even the Porsche 928 got in on the act with a much-enlarged spoiler for the S4 version, replacing the wimpy S2's lip spoiler. The competition to get bigger and bling-er was made in the name of aerodynamics, a concept that car designers and marketers 'discovered' in the 1980s, after years of making 3-box bricks.
The whale tale spoiler was initially provided in unpainted rubber finish because manufacturers couldn't crack the paint technology required to cover a flexible surface. Many tried, resulting in flaking bumpers and spoilers a few years down the line.
The whale tale had it's day when insurers decided everyone was having too much fun and they needed to charge us for the pleasure. Insurance premiums for anything with a spoiler and GTI logo suddenly rocketed, resulting in manufacturers drastically toning down the external sporting paraphernalia.
At Great Escape Classic Car Hire we loved that era when designers had free reign to create great looking cars outside the dictates of insurers and before legislation strangled design scope. The whale tale spoiler seems to embody that spirit.