SCULPTED FOR SPEED
Ford harnesses pressurized air to streamline the super-sleek Ford GT.
By Kathy Sena Wind Rendering by Graham Hutchings
On the beautifully designed Ford GT, each grille, opening and edge has a purpose: to optimize aerodynamics. “With a car capable of going more than 200 mph, a great deal of time must be spent to manage every molecule of air that travels over the surface,” says Ford GT Vehicle Engineering Supervisor Nick Terzes.
That’s why engineers test the Ford GT at a revolutionary wind tunnel testing area in Allen Park, Mich.—creating a car that is truly shaped by wind.
In Wind Tunnel 8 of the Driveability Test Facility, engineers gather drag and lift data on the Ford GT as high-speed air or visible smoke flows around the car.
“Minimizing drag is the goal,” says Terzes. “We also look at the forces, front and rear, on the tires to ensure they are balanced in such a way that the vehicle will be stable at higher velocities.” This is a critical step in testing vehicles such as the Ford GT that are designed for high-speed and race-track use.
These days, most automobile development is done using computer modeling. It allows for both engineers and studio designers to test different shapes and designs quickly and cost effectively, Terzes explains. But the performance-oriented GT is not just an everyday car—so the engineers took it a step further with the wind tunnel experiments. “We use the tunnel to complement the data and to certify the car,” says Terzes. “It’s important to test a physical model for any interactions that the analytical tools couldn’t capture and to make tweaks that can ultimately improve the feel for the driver.”
As such, every streamlined contour gives the Ford GT an aerodynamic boost—without sacrificing practical operations. “Numerous performance cars in the industry boast impressive numbers,” says Terzes. “But to get there, function often trumps form.” The Ford GT, however, incorporates active aerodynamics, which means that certain functional components literally change the shape of the car while it’s in motion—a deployable rear wing, for example. “These features are primarily designed to increase downforce at high speed, but having them stowed at lower speeds minimizes drag,” Terzes notes.
Some of these optimized details will likely migrate to other Ford vehicles over time, says Terzes—so prepare for a sleek automotive future. For example, the Ford GT uses a fully sealed underbody to help control airflow under the car and reduce drag, which also increases efficiency. “As the need for increased fuel economy remains paramount, we will likely see further use of shielding on all vehicles,” says Terzes. “Features like this are being investigated for future programs as we continue to chase lowering drag while maximizing performance.”
Thanks in part to wind tunnel testing, the Ford GT is a masterpiece of aerodynamics, says Terzes: “With the Ford GT, engineering and design worked in harmony to achieve the desired performance—with minimal compromises.”