Carbonfibre may now be used everywhere in the motoring industry, but was of course first seen in motor sports. The very first structural use of carbon in a car is said to date back to 1981 when McLaren came with its MP4/1 model. It became the first F1 car to use a monocoque chassis of carbon fibre composite.
But there may have been earlier uses and I was recently sent a clipping which indicates so. Dated April 1969 the article is all about the Le Mans Essais (tests) of that year and gives some great insights. The Unipower GT famously made it to that Le Mans test day, too, and it was great to read the following: "British interests were upheld by the Healey-Climax V8 2-litre prototype and Piers Forester with his carbon-fibre element bodied Unipower 1.3." Yes. 'Carbon-fibre element bodied'. Twelve years before McLaren, that is.
Unipower aficionado Gerry Hulford had mentioned it before (here), writing: "The car had a very thin fibreglass body strengthened by carbonfibre strands laid across the fibreglass (I saw it with Piers Forester when I visited the Works in May of 1969)". Unfortunately the car itself does not survive as it was crashed and written-off at the Nurburgring in September 1970 using a Ford 1600 engine. The yellow racer that Gerry has is a replica of the Le Mans car (which I didn't know when Maximum Mini 1 was published back in 2009!)
But back to the use of carbon fibre, if only it was for that very early date. I have asked a little around and Michael Cooke came back with the following: "Although it was invented in the 1950s as a stable consistent filament, it was a research laboratory in England that first made a workable form in the mid 1960s, I'm sure it was a division of Courtalds that managed to weave / produce the sheets. It is possible that they teamed up with or sold to the motoring industry, but my knowledge is not motorsport based. But motorsport has always found uses for other industries developments, eg - aluminium honeycombs, titanium, inconel et cetera. Most of the initial development was for industrial and defence uses but motorsport is always is very quick to capitalise on the developments of new materials. Earlier carbon composite materials are quite different from later/modern composite composition though."