10/26/14 Earlier this week we made a trip down to Thunderhill for a private track event. It was a chance to show off the D2 and even benchmark it against some pretty fancy machinery. How's McLaren P1 for a comparison? Video here. We did OK :). Overall the D2 held its own among the supercars. Definitely performance-wise anyway. The styling and details still need to be refined further but it's only a matter of time and already in the works for the 2015 model year.
This was also the first test of the new bellcranks on the D2. According to Jonathan they improved this car even more than they did the D4. We'll be making production parts and updating all 9 other running cars shortly. The patent app is in the works as well. The first laps Jonathan took with the car showed some high-speed vibration but with a few tests we tracked it down to one of the rear tires, something has gone wrong internally with the R1. Fortunately we had a set of NT01s in the trailer. Swapping to this well-used set fixed the vibration. As a testament to the new suspension, the car on NT01s (which it previously didn't like) is now better than it has ever been on the R1s. Here's a video of Jonathan's test lap. After sorting out the vibration Jonathan spent the rest of the day giving demo rides. Reviewing the datalogs showed a best of 3:27.5 on the new 5-mile course. Not bad for street tires, with passenger and not pushing all-out.
The wing is also coming along - first parts were pulled from the molds. I haven't taken any pix of it next to the D2, but here are some with the D1 and D4 which will also get new aero.
11/04/14 The latest performance improvements to the D2 have highlighted the fact that the styling is a bit behind the dynamics. Development is a process and there is a huge learning curve involved. As we take some aspects of the car to the next level, the rest needs to follow. So with that in mind I've been doing some styling studies. The pictures below are just that - experiments to see what adds to the appeal and what doesn't. There will be many more iterations before I pull the trigger on the revision of tooling (and one requirement is that existing chassis be retrofittable with whatever new stuff I come up with).
First was an exercise taking essentially the D1 body and scaling it up to fit the D2 frame. What I learned from this is that people generally are more comfortable with closed-wheel setups. And that D1 styling is OK :)
I may revisit this angle later but in the meantime I wanted to see how various approaches with stronger ties to the existing D2 design would work. First I did a couple of renderings of the bare chassis. Yep, they look just like they do in real life.
Then I started with a quick initial setup (yellow), then refined it (grey). After which I asked for feedback from a number of people.
The feedback has been quite educational. What I asked for was people's basic reactions, how they felt about the car. My goal is to have the initial reaction be 'I WANT' and then let the rationalization happen as needed. With the car as it is in current state, the process is actually the opposite - people see and experience the performance, then they rationally come to the conclusion that nothing can touch the D2 in terms of bang for dollar (we're talking streetable cars here, for track only the D4 is more effective). Then they decide whether the styling is something they're OK with. This has in fact put cars in customers' hands but I want the WANT :)
That journey is far from complete but I think I'm making some steps in the right direction. Below are a few renders of work in progress. Obviously many refinements are needed including a detailed plan of how everything would be made. And yes based on my own experience with our demo, to make a reasonably useful streetable car a closed cockpit is a must. Removable 'gullwing' doors seem to be the most rational approach so for the moment that's what I"m going with. And yes it makes a big difference aero-wise as well (see first two pix).
Below is what the current stage of the styling studies looks like. It is not the final version and there are many revisions ahead. Specific areas still to be addressed - nose, windshield area, side 'pod' surfaces, fenders and how they interface with the rest of the shape, lights and so on. Still, I'm interested in honest reactions so if you have a moment email me what you think.
There are a few things in the above pictures that need addressing and some I already took care of while others still need to be resolved. This kind of stuff is fun up to a point and then it quickly becomes frustrating, feeling like it's going nowhere. That's when I go and do some machining, of which there's plenty to be done :)
Lest you think that all the work lately is virtual we're making progress on the LSA powered supercharged D2 (as well as turbo D4 and Stiletto). Quite a few things are different on the LSA from LS3 versions. Based on the experence so far, for most customers I'd recommend supercharging an LS3 rather than going with LSA, if forced induction is what they want. But we're getting it sorted nevertheless. Oh yeah, and machining is getting done too.
11/10/14 I asked for feedback and that's what I got - over 60 emails. The first thing this has accomplished is confirm my belief that the current D2 styling is in need of a major update. Fair enough and serves to move this task up in the priority list. The current version is an unusual design, of the kind that can grow on you over time if you give it the chance, but it does have many shortcomings. Every time I walk by our demo in the shop from the back I note to myself that I rather like it. Then I walk by the nose and see what could really use a lot of work. Those who have followed the blogs know how I got here, now I need to move forward.
The feedback has been quite educational. I learned a lot about how people perceive and react to certain aspects of a car. I suppose (hope?) they teach you this stuff in design school. Me, I learn by doing as always. Without getting into too many details, the gist of it is - enclosed wheels, hourglass shape, emphasis on the mid-engine location, refinement of surfaces and lines. Then there are functional requirements - the radiators have to be fed a LOT of air, getting in/out has to be feasible, we have to be able to make the thing and so on.
And of course the most important lesson in all this - styling is very subjective. It's impossible to please everyone. So I have to keep in mind who my target audience really are and give more weight to feedback from that group.
Design is a process. First step is to establish a framework, a 'theme'. What the car is and isn't. Get some overal shapes and lines down. Fortunately having everything in CAD this part can be pretty efficient, as long as I don't get bogged down in details. 99% of the iterations I do in my head. Yes, I'm aware of traditional processes - swoopy sketches, presentations, meetings, scale models, full scale clay, etc. I've seen it firsthand and I know it's not appropriate for our situation. Let's just leave it at that. When I sit down in front of the computer I've already shortcut through many months of it in my in-head simulator. Helps to be both the client and the vendor in this process - meetings are short and to the point :)
Anyway, below are two sets of pictures of the latest direction. First is the rendered group - this was done after processing all the feedback, much soul searching and some experimentation.
This has drawn much more positive reviews from several people who actively engaged in the styling discussion. But of course it's still unfinished. The side slats are too angular, the windshield too square, the nose disjointed and so on. So with much more discussion I'm now narrowing down the direction. The screen shots below are not rendered as they are still very much a work in progress. Note that some attention has been given to the nose, roof line and windshield. The front fenders will be redone completely to better integrate into the overall design so look at them as placeholders for approximate size and shape. Basically all areas still need lots of work. After I get the front fenders closer to what I want I'll run CFD on this version and see what else needs to be done to the overall shape and then it's time for the details. Better integrated lights, surface refinement, splitting it into manufacturable (and serviceable) panels, panel interfaces, hinges, seals, closures, vents, mounts. Then molds and actual parts. Yep, I'll be busy for a while :)
Overall it's coming together. As you look at the above pictures keep in mind that the car is about the size of an Elise (except a foot wider), weighs less and has 430hp in base form :). This is the package I've always wanted to create and it's taken this long to begin getting there.
Based on eveything learned from past experiences, my target for having the new bodywork done is late spring. Any orders placed now will have the option of current or future bodywork and as a promo the new style is available for the same cost as old for the next 5 orders placed. Once it's all done, being considerably more complex it will definitely be more expensive but it really will make the D2 a different car. Which brings me to a point - it's the bodywork, details and style that defines what a car is. The chassis enables it and lets the designer/builder focus on the essense of their creation without worrying about the mechanicals. Many very different visions can be built on the same platform (not a new concept, big OEMs call it platform sharing).
So, for those who are inspired by all the above to try creating their own bodywork, we're now offering more delete options on the D2 kit including deleting the rollcage for those who want to make a roadster like Sector111 are doing with the Dragon. Basically we've put in six years of hard work and now have a variety of tested components and technologies. We can supply a would-be car builder with anything from uprights to complete chassis, customized if need be. One-off or limited production, it's all good. It's a 'shortcut to the dream' and I'm hoping it will enable more people to stop dreaming and start doing. You know how to reach me :)
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