I’m a huge fan of wind tunnels. I’ve been working in them for a significant portion of my professional life, starting in the government sector, now in the automotive industry. I was recently gifted a few interesting documents on the early days of full-scale automotive wind tunnel testing, so I figured I’d share some bits. These are all from a few really old SAE papers from the 60s, so I suspect that if you spent some time with the Googles, you can probably find better pics. Sorry for the grainy quality!

First up are a couple pics from Ford. The first is from 1937, the second from some time in the 1960s. Below them are a few showing the layout and machinery.

1937 Ford Test
1960s Ford Testing
Ford wind tunnel pipc and equipment in the 1960s
This is a diagram of the first full-scale wind tunnel Ford built. That blockage ratio hurts!

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Around the same time, the Germans built a tunnel to do full-scale automotive testing. As near as I can tell, they started operations in 1939. Incredibly, it survived WW2 intact! Here’s a couple pics of their early tunnel in the post-war period:

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For comparison, here’s a pic of what full-scale automotive wind tunnel testing look like today: