Ford and Honda both announced supercars at this year’s Detroit Auto Show. It’s worth taking a look at some of the key features in each of these vehicles to gauge where automotive technology is headed.
Originally developed in the mid-1960s, the Ford GT won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race for 4 consecutive years from 1966 through 1969. At the 2002 Detroit Auto Show, a concept car was shown that captured the look of the original racing car but made it practical to own and drive on regular roads. Slightly more than 4,000 Ford GTs were produced in model years 2005 and 2006.
Now a new version has been unveiled. Beginning production in late 2016, the GT will be available in select global markets to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford GT race cars placing 1-2-3 at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Although its predecessors all featured V8 engines, the newest version will be fitted with a twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6, producing more than 600 hp. Ford is keen to show that its chosen path of downsizing engines for fuel economy still offers plenty of power.
Low weight is an important factor for production vehicles as well as race cars, and the new GT has a carbon fiber passenger cell with integrated seats and aluminum front and rear chassis sub-frames encapsulated in structural carbon fiber body panels. The exterior shape minimizes drag and optimizes downward forces. An active rear spoiler is used for control of braking, handling, and stability at speed. Carbon fiber is a very important material for light vehicle structures, and the new GT will give Ford some practical experience in production. Ford also announced at the show that it has formed a joint venture with DowAksa (itself a 50:50 joint venture between Dow Chemical and acrylic fiber supplier Aksa) to develop carbon fiber for mass-market vehicle applications.
The original NSX, developed by Honda (though badged as an Acura in North America) from 1989 through 2005, sold more than 18,000 vehicles over 15 years. The model has always been a showcase for the latest Honda technology, and the company is now relaunching the NSX as a reminder of its latest technology developments. Production is slated for summer 2015, with first deliveries before the end of the year.
Like the Ford GT, the NSX features advanced V6 engine technology (Honda has never offered a V8 engine in its consumer vehicles despite developing one for racing use in Indy cars and Formula One). The new NSX will feature a twin-turbocharged V6 engine with a 9-speed dual clutch transmission and Honda’s Sport Hybrid system, which uses three electric motors to boost power and enhance handling – one at the rear and one at each front wheel.
Managing airflow is again a priority, and Honda engineers have carefully tuned the vents and air intakes for maximum efficiency. The first-generation vehicle used all-aluminum construction for light weight, but the new model has a space frame design consisting of an internal aluminum frame reinforced by ultra-high strength steel, all anchored by a carbon fiber floor. Body panels are made of a combination of aluminum and sheet molding composite. Suspension members are all cast aluminum.
Both of these supercars come from mass-market manufacturers that want to showcase their advanced technology. As my colleague Sam Abuelsamid observes, they manage to demonstrate a combination of high performance and fuel efficiency. When the time is right, some of the processes, design concepts, components, and materials will make their way into high-volume production.
Tags: Automotive Industry, Clean Transportation, Conferences & Events, Electric Vehicles, Transportation Efficiencies
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