I saw a 1977 Masa Slingshot leaflet on ebay (source), copied below.

It has a lot of differences from a modern tadpole, in particular what looks like a "spoiler" on the front.

Is this similar to a spoiler on a sports car that is intended to provide more downforce to the wheels at high speed? Would that be effective / beneficial on a trike? I have read that this design was intended for oval track racing, so I assume the riders would get up to a good speed, so maybe that makes sense. I also read that with its long wheelbase a lot more weight went onto the rear wheel than on today's trikes, which also support the idea. And the brake seems to be on the rear wheel as well which seems consistent with that impression of weight distribution.

On the other hand, is this device just intended for something else? It actually isn't very wide or large in comparison to the frame, you'd think for relatively low-speed spoiler more surface area would have helped and looks like it should have fit. Would extra downforce even be needed? Plus, a larger "spoiler" might have acted somewhat like a fairing to reduce drag. (Is that actually all it really is, just an early or inexpensive / lightweight fairing design?)

Looking around I can find other images of these Masa trikes but very few which have that attachment. The few examples I did find lacked any explanation, though a forum post did use the same term "spoiler". No examples of modern racing recumbents or trikes that I could find had anything like this.

enter image description here

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    I also doubt this smaller spoiler would create any appreciable amount of downforce. Maybe it’s supposed to improve aerodynamics? But it looks too low and wide for that. Maybe it’s intended as luggage rack? Also seems unlikely. – Michael Feb 5 at 8:30
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    Are " oval track racing" courses banked on the turns like a velodrome? If so, the bike is essentially going "straight-ahead" on the turns so downforce would be unnecessary and simply add drag. I'm stunned that an advert from the late `70s shows a helmet and claims a disc brake. Nice find. – Criggie Feb 5 at 8:33
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    It looks like a perfectly designed ramp to shot every flying small rock, debris or other things flying around, directly into the smiling face of the pedaling earthling. Nonetheless, it looks good to place some advertising. – EarlGrey Feb 5 at 9:23
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    It could be some kind of bumper to protect the steering link too. – ojs Feb 5 at 10:03
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    It's a snow plow, obviously! – Daniel R Hicks Feb 5 at 13:57

According to this post from an owner the wing is for looks:

Earlier models came with an aluminum ‘wing” over the front axle, probably more for looks than anything, and a bullet-shaped, sports car-styled rear mirror on the left side.

According to the post the trike was made specifically for on track racing against like trikes.

MASA was a Japanese company, but targeted the US with this form of racing. In 1975 they finally brought a few of these over here and did some exhibition races between their own staff. It never really caught on, but they still imported about 1500 of these into the US over a three year period.

and later

Since these trikes were focused on track racing only against like trikes, the lack of braking and their size was not a problem. Their wide, long front end was thought to be better protection for the rider.

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    The owner does say "probably" which suggests that in his experience it wasn't effective. But that doesn't really go to what the maker's intent for it was. Interesting that post also notes it was relatively heavy, which also discounts the idea that a functional spoiler would be needed. – StayOnTarget Feb 5 at 16:28
  • To put the makers claims in context, they also claim its "almost like piloting a grand prix racing car". – mattnz Feb 5 at 19:49
  • @StayOnTarget: Why would a spoiler be unnecessary on a heavy vehicle? Without a spoiler (or other aerodynamic device) velocity in a turn is entirely independent of vehicle weight. – Michael Feb 6 at 15:23
  • @Michael I was thinking that lighter vehicles benefitted from the spoiled helping to push them downwards to grip the road/track surface better. I'm not sure I got your point about velocity and weight though. – StayOnTarget Feb 7 at 12:23
  • @StayOnTarget: Why do you think that a spoiler would be unnecessary on a heavy vehicle? Some people are under the misconception that lighter vehicles have an easier (or some also think harder) time going around turns. In reality (discounting aerodynamic effects) it doesn’t matter. It’s friction vs. centrifugal force which both have a linear relationship with mass. Of course if we consider aerodynamic forces, for a heavier vehicle the spoiler would have to be larger to have the same effect. – Michael Feb 7 at 14:31

I found another source of images of a similar brochure with more detail.

It states that the trike has an:

"aerodynamically-designed polished chrome steel front spoiler"

So it was clearly intended for aerodynamics, although not specifically to increase downforce.

Actually this text seems to be very carefully (weaselly) worded - it says "aerodynamically designed" rather than "aerodynamic". It seems to me they are not claiming it actually had any real benefit.

Original text:

enter image description here

Cut from the bottom left of this page:

enter image description here

Brochure cover image:

enter image description here

  • Anyone know where I can archive the original photos and link to them from here? – StayOnTarget Mar 20 at 12:14

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