By Mike Payne
Each curve and corner of a car like the 2014 Corvette Stingray is a calculated exercise in design. Everything from aerodynamics to air-cooling systems is tirelessly tested in virtual environments, and the results help shape the vehicle that meets the road. It’s a long process that happens behind the scenes, a collaboration between designer and engineer, a fusion of aesthetics and performance. Want a peek behind the curtain?
A high-performance engine like the 6.2L V8 in the new Stingray produces a lot of power, but a lot of heat as well. The airflow in and around the vehicle’s body can do a lot to keep the engine cool, and the Corvette team did plenty of computer testing to find the right balance. “All powertrain cooling airflow development was done in [Computational Fluid Dynamics],” explains John Bednarchik, Aero Performance Engineer of the new Stingray.
Computational Fluid Dynamics (or CFD for short) is the hyper-color software world where wind flow and drag are visually modeled around a vehicle. Think of an infrared color map where red is hot and blue is cold, and the rainbow of colors in between represent differences in drag and temperature. In developing the new Stingray, Bednarchik and CFD Engineer Richard Berger studied a virtual model of the vehicle in countless environments, displayed in a vibrant visual heat map for easy reading.
Once the numbers were crunched in CFD, they were taken into the wind tunnel for “confirmation and validation testing.” Bednarchik, a pair of clay modelers and Stingray design manager Kirk Bennion worked through each reduced-scale version in the flesh, using the wind tunnel to “develop the exterior surface to meet aerodynamic drag and lift requirements.” Next, a full-scale clay model was hand-perfected and wind-tunnel tested, before final validation was performed on prototype vehicles. Then, and only then, was the ultimate Corvette Stingray ready to head to the production line—and, perhaps, into your very own driveway.
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Mike Payne is founder and publisher of TheCoolist.com, the web’s finely curated encyclopedia of cool. Mike’s interest in design, technology and the study of trends is part of his nature, having grown up in a family of automotive designers and visual artists in Detroit. When he’s not managing TheCoolist, Mike moonlights as a commercial photographer, photographing architecture and food for hotels, restaurants, architects and corporate clients.