John Barnard on carbon fibre

19.02.20. Designer’s house, London

Car designer John Barnard is a Formula 1 legend. If motor sport is an orchestra of materials then John is its Simon Rattle. Over a garlanded career he worked for Ferrari (twice), Arrows and Prost. But his reputation was forged at McLaren, where he created the first car with a carbon fibre chassis. Lighter and safer, it won a lot of races too.

More recently he has been working on a range of carbon fibre furniture with Terence Woodgate for British manufacturer Established & Sons.

In this episode we talk about quite how controversial it was to use carbon in the early ’80s, with other designers (and the media) believing that in a crash the new car would go up in a cloud of black dust. We also discuss his relationships with some of the biggest names in the sport, including Ron Dennis, Alain Prost and the great Enzo Ferrari; his childhood in North Wembley; the importance of beauty in what can be a brutal business; the profound effect the death of Ayrton Senna had on F1; his innate understanding of a vast range of materials; as well as how he got the nickname The Prince of Darkness.
John Barnard created the Surface Table with Terence Woodgate, both of whom are pictured top, from carbon fibre. Image courtesy of Established & Sons. 

The 640 and the 641 were designed for Ferrari in 1989 and 1990. Image courtesy of John Barnard.