There’ll be some high octane thrills from Chevrolet at this year’s Paris Motor Show, with the debut of an all-new concept car designed to celebrate the brand’s motor sport heritage and push Chevy’s styling language to the extreme. The WTCC Ultra will be the focal point of the Chevrolet stand in Hall 5 at the Paris Expo, and is much more than just a styling study.
The Chevrolet WTCC Ultra has got what it takes to be the star of the Paris Motor Show – and not just because its rear spoiler shoots so brashly up towards the heavens. The bold and aggressive design of the racecar study takes the Chevrolet body language to the extreme. "We wanted to explore the concept of a Chevrolet muscle car reinvented for Europe," says David Lyon, Executive Director GM Asia-Pacific Design. "A concept that celebrates Chevy’s racing heritage with a very forward looking design."
The ready-to-drive concept car set to premiere in Paris was developed by a GM team around the globe (for more details, see page 4). It is the vision of a new generation of touring car- a design icon that bends the present WTCC regulations. "In addition to the premiere of the Chevrolet WTCC Ultra, we are also celebrating our second victory in the World Touring Car Championship," says the boss of Chevrolet Europe, Wayne Brannon, referring to Rob Huff’s success in Brno in Czech Republic on September 3. "Our commitment to the WTCC is of enormous value for emotionalising the brand."
In line with Chevrolet’s diesel offensive, the compact WTCC Ultra (length/width/height with spoiler: 4,324/1,906/1,569 mm, wheelbase: 2,650 mm) is equipped with a powerful 1,991 cm3 diesel unit generating 139 kW/190 hp. The basic version of the four-cylinder engine is the common rail unit with four-valve technology and variable turbine blade geometry currently powering the Chevrolet Captiva and due to go into the Epica from spring 2007. The increase in performance was achieved by raising the turbo boost pressure.
The WTCC Ultra has a sophisticated independent wheel suspension on McPherson struts on both axles. The lower wheel control at the front is taken care of by an A-frame arm, while at the back, two additional wishbones and one trailing arm link the wheels precisely to the chassis.
To keep the unladen weight as low as possible, the designers of the WTCC Ultra have made plenty of use of modern lightweight materials. The body parts are finished in "Stealth Blue", a further development of the familiar Chevrolet blue, and are made of a glass fibre and carbon fibre laminate. The flat underbody of the fully functioning touring concept car, which also graphically divides up the vehicle because of its dark colour, and the front and rear spoilers are made of a plain weave carbon fibre composite. The window frames and the air inlet grilles at the front are finished in semi gloss dark grey. They make an attractive contrast with the glossy silver-painted wheels and the polished aluminium door handles, number plate and centrally positioned tailpipes.
Another aerodynamic feature apart from the flat underbody and the spoilers is a rear diffuser to create additional downforce.
The design: As dramatic and exciting as possible
For Ewan Kingsbury, the Lead Designer of the WTCC Ultra, "aggressive", "muscular" and "dramatic" are the words that first spring to mind when he is asked to describe the design of the new project. "As the chosen theme of the car was a concept racecar, this immediately gave me license to push the passion and aggression of the styling to the extreme".
The proportions of the WTCC Ultra give the impression of a car that looks fast even when it’s standing still. "A car’s proportions are the biggest factor in its appearance, so all the early work concentrated on this area," said 25-year old Kingsbury, who studied transport design at Coventry University in England and subsequently worked for Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) Design before moving to GM in Australia. With the WTCC Ultra, the designers pushed the front screen forward to create a more aggressive frontal bias, with the added bonus of visually shortening the front overhang. The track was widened significantly to 1,685 mm at the front and 1,670 mm at the rear, giving the car a more muscular and powerful stance.
The lines and surfaces were created to project the impression of great energy under tension, captured at the moment before unspringing. "The intention was to give the concept a fresh, exciting and aggressive combination of surfacing and graphics," explains Kingsbury. All the lines on the car, plan view lines included, accelerate rearward of the front door, to give the car more speed, and keep the visual weight in the correct position. A dramatic effect is created by the steeply rising sweep of the lower window-line, which, together with the small separate front quarter-light window between the A and B posts, serves to create a fresh identity.
The sharp, accelerating graphics contrast with more organic, flowing surfaces. Kingsbury: "A dominant surface feature evident in the car is the use of ‘broken’ lines in many areas. This is most obvious in the waterline on the bodyside. This line contributes to the frontward biased proportions, by drawing the eye forward and down." Equally striking are the powerful wheel arches to accommodate the 20" slicks needed to keep the car on the road.
New Chevrolet front end graphics form the main fuselage of the body. The front section is dominated by two grill apertures which are visually split by a body colour section to accommodate the Chevrolet logo.. "When designing the front section, we took inspiration from birds of prey," explains Kingsbury. "The form of the lights is crucial to exhibit the correct expression." The indicators, which are fitted into the top of the light unit, have been used to graphically ‘hood’ the main LED projector element, while the reflectors are captured by an aluminium surround.
The interior: As ergonomic as a production-line Chevrolet
"Our general aim was to bring the sporty nature of the exterior design inside," explains Breony Crittenden the designer in Australia responsible for leading the colour and materials design. "We opted for raw dark surfaces by using, for example, unpolished metal or matte carbon fibre inserts. By doing this, we kept a little secretive about the material, and called this design principle the "stealth theme". But Batman fans will get their money’s worth in the WTCC Ultra, too: The upper part of the dash is finished in rubberised paint - and was inspired by the suits in the film “Batman returns”. Overall, the Ultra’s interior consists of materials and textures selected for their performance characteristics creating an aesthetic of functional beauty. .
For weight distribution, the driver is situated as far back and as low as possible. All the control surfaces of the car are designed to be exactly where the driver requires, from the steering wheel and sequential gear selector, to the adjustable pedalbox and the console-mounted electrical switches. The inner door releases in the front doors are also situated further back than usual to be in reach of the driver. The steering wheel is similarly rearward of normal, and houses all the technical information readouts for the driver in two screens. The main circular screen displays the gear selection and tachometer, as well as oil and water temperatures, fuel and oil levels, and brake bias. Four push buttons on the wheel control the functions of the main screen. The second screen situated in the top of the ergonomically designed wheel rim displays the tachometer as a graphical display, to aid the accurate timing of gear selection. The surface treatment around the circular screen emulates the wheel arch design on the exterior.
The seat also borrows aspects of the exterior, comprising complex interwoven surfaces that echo the broken lines of the exterior. The striking form of the frame and the upholstery is designed to support and protect the driver, and is made from carbon fibre composites with self-skinning polyurethane cushions. Aggressive sculpting of the frame and cushions provides ergonomic support of the driver to ensure a comfortable driving position. The surface of both the cushions is broken up by an asymmetrical pattern of raised dots, designed to give added grip to the driver. The seat provides head and neck protection via wings that project either side of the head support, and a six-point racing harness is employed to keep the driver in position. The love of detail is also evidenced by the embossed Chevrolet insignia on this harness belt. Nowhere on the car are there any printed logos or letters – everything is embossed, milled or cast.
The project: As global as the Chevrolet brand
"The WTCC Ultra is the most global concept vehicle GM has ever created," says Peter Bramberger, GM Design Manager in Australia. Indeed, the way it took shape is indicative of Chevrolet’s international alignment. The initial concept and early design work was developed in South Korea by Max Wolff and Steve Eum from the GM DAT Advanced Design Studio.
The dynamic look of the car stems from "down under" – it was the Australian GM design department that came up with the exciting contours and the no less striking interior. Not the first hot Chevrolet GM’s Australian subsidiary has styled: Currently a team at GM Holden is working to turn the Chevrolet Camaro concept car into reality.
The design of the WTCC Ultra was coordinated and approved by GM Design Vice President, Ed Welburn (USA) and David Lyon, Executive Director GM Asia-Pacific Design (South Korea). GM Vice President Bob Lutz was involved in the project from the very beginning and enthusiastically supported it.
All the exterior design development was carried out at GM Holden Design, where the clay model was constructed. The interior was also built completely digitally in Australia. The WTCC Ultra prototype vehicle was entirely constructed by the Japanese company, YDS, which had already built the Chevrolet studies, T2X and S3X. For the animation to be shown at the Paris Motor Show on the Chevrolet Europe stand, GM Technical Centre in India created the 3D data for the outer skin from the clay, and the Swiss company, Protoscar, produced and rendered the animation to a storyboard provided by GM Design
European input was provided by GM Europe Engineering but also by the British motorsport specialists, Ray Mallock Limited (RML). The technical partner for the Chevrolet team in the WTCC helped with race components and the chassis. "Apart from that, suppliers like Hella, Osram, Dupont and Kumho participated in the development of parts for the vehicle. These companies are based globally, and once again an example of the global nature of the WTCC Ultra," said Bramberger.