It’s been a long and rocky road for the radical, arrow-shaped DeltaWing project.
The project was born as a proposal for a new type of chassis for IndyCar and later morphed into a race car for the American Le Mans Series, the series founded by key DeltaWing backer Don Panoz.
The benefits of the design are less weight and drag compared to conventional cars, which has been proven in motorsport. The DeltaWing currently competes with rivals with double the power in the premier Prototype class of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. However, its proponents have much greater ambitions for it.
DeltaWing race car at 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona
The DeltaWing racing effort has a spin-off company called DeltaWing Technology Group which is chaired by Panoz and working to develop a road-going version dubbed the GT. The company claims the odd shape could lead to cars capable of returning 74 mpg on the highway without the need for electrification.
DeltaWing rolled out a concept of the GT in 2015 and on Thursday gave us the first look at a prototype which will start testing later this year. The prototype features a modular design that can accommodate either two or four seats, and it can accept multiple powertrains such as small internal combustion engines, as well as hybrid and pure electric setups.
DeltaWing doesn’t intend to actually build the GT. Instead, it hopes to license the technology to existing automakers. The first could end up being Nissan.
Nissan was originally partnered with DeltaWing but the relationship went sour and DeltaWing in 2013 sued the Japanese automaker for using the design for the production-bound BladeGlider concept unveiled that year. The two firms are thought to have reached an amicable solution as Nissan now has a BladeGlider prototype testing, which DeltaWing appears to be happy with.
“We're pleased though not surprised Nissan publicly recognized the innovation and viability of the DeltaWing design,” Panoz said in a statement.
However, Panoz is quick to remind us that DeltaWing is the exclusive owner of the rights to the design, stating, “We have the exclusive ownership of the DeltaWing architecture and its intellectual property, not Nissan nor anyone else.”