Do you think that cars have lost their soul? Nina Tortosa, General Motors aerodynamicist for the Voltec/E-Flex programs, says that cars look more and more alike because “we all have to abide by the same laws of physics. It doesn’t matter if we don’t like them,” Nina Tortosa told WardsAuto.
Mere mortals have to contend with two certainties – death and taxes. Car designers are faced with a third one: Cd, or the drag coefficient.
When I was in advertising, countless engineers tried to explain the drag coefficient (a.k.a. “Cw-Beiwert” – we were in Germany) to me, until one found an ingenious solution: “You want a low one.”
They also told me the secret why the final car never looks like that flashy design study. The wind tunnel, or now rather the drag simulator is the big equalizer. “It’s a drag,” complained one designer to me, “those damned aerodynamics kill all my ideas.”
Joe Dehner, chief of Dodge and Ram Design at Chrysler, had the same experience: “We, as designers in the late ’80s and early ’90s, were in an organic phase, but aerodynamicists didn’t want organic lines,” he told WardsAuto. “We would take it to the wind tunnel and they would put corners on (it), and (we) would say, ‘You’re ruining my design.’”
Larry Erickson, chairman of the Detroit-based College for Creative Studies Transportation Design Dept. and a former Ford designer, says design doesn’t need to become a victim of aerodynamics. He cites the Opel Calibra, built from 1989-1997: “That car had a killer drag number and looked great.” His advice to students: “Good teams work together to come up with a solution that looks good and is aerodynamic.”