How fast to you have to be going for a spoiler to be of any use?

design, science
Dear Tom and Ray:

Are spoilers anything but a way for guys to identify a car as sporty? I ask because my friend (a guy) is convinced that they give a driver more control by forcing the back end of the car down onto the road. I agree but say that you'd have to be going a lot faster than 65 mph for it to have any effect. Am I right? -- Gwen

RAY: Of course you're absolutely right, Gwen. On a racing car going 220 mph around a curved track, a spoiler helps keep the rear end of the car on the ground. But at 65, or even 75 or 85 mph, a spoiler is like a big sign from the manufacturer saying: "Our market research showed that guys think our car is wimpy. ... We hope this piece of plastic helps."

TOM: It's purely a fashion statement, Gwen. It's like wearing hiking boots around the city. It serves no useful, mechanical purpose whatsoever on a street car.

RAY: It's not unlike naming a cheap, Korean subcompact the "LeMans," or calling a two-door version of the Dodge Dart the "Swinger."

TOM: Both of which were done, by Pontiac and Dodge, respectively, by the way.

RAY: Spoilers tend to be a cheap way to make a not-so-sporty car appear sportier. And you'll notice that, in most cases, the truly good-handling cars don't have them because they don't need them.
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design, science

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