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Old 08-27-2011, 03:28 PM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default Retired auto designer has idea to improve tail-end auto aerodynamics



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This is the first in a two-part series about auto designer Colin Neale. Click here to read part two looks at an interesting aerodynamic concept Neale would like to see an automaker or academic institution test in a wind tunnel.

Colin Neale tells a story about how he was working on a model for a two-seat electric concept car at Ford when a now-famous top executive walked into the studio for one of his regular visits.

Neale often worked on what he called “hand models,” which were about 15 inches long. His boss, Elwood Engel, had chosen one to develop as the small electric vehicle.

Neale said Engel liked to meddle in the design process, particularly in the clay. So when Engel left for a European business trip, Neale and his colleagues saw the opportunity to get the clay model done while he was gone.

“We went like hell for 10 days because the boss couldn’t interfere,” Neale said.

Upon his return, Engel loved the completed project, which was called Firefly. What happened next would change history.




The Capri was based on the Ford Consul Classic sedan. Neale bought this one and had it shipped to the states.

While making one of his weekly visits to the design studio, Ford Vice President Lee Iacocca saw the model, turned to a product planner and said: “Maybe we ought to dust off our sporty car plans again.” Neale’s little design exercise would eventually lead to the Mustang, one of the most successful vehicle launches ever.

“It was the spark that created the Mustang,” Neale said.
The Mustang spawned an entire category, the pony car. For Iacocca, it was one of many successes that would come to define one of automotive history’s most celebrated figures.

Neale started his long career in 1953 working for Briggs Motor Bodies in England, but Ford bought out Briggs and Neale became the head of the Ford of England design studio.



There, one of his designs was the original Ford Consul Capri, a car that was underappreciated in the 1960s, but is now seen as a classic. In fact, the car’s timeless design endured so well that Ford continued to use the Capri name on other sporty cars for the next three decades.

The Capri project was an offshoot of the Ford Consul Classic with its weird reverse-rake backlight, a feature Neale hated, but was dictated by Dearborn. Neale liked the Classic’s lower body. It just needed a more pleasing greenhouse.



Neale liked the Capri so much that he bought a lovely pale yellow example in England and had it shipped to the states, where it was never sold.

After designing the Capri, Neale took Engel up on his long-standing offer to join the Dearborn studio. Throughout his career Neale did both interior and exterior design work. He started the advanced interior studio at the Ford Styling Center before following Engel to Chrysler, where he was in charge of interior design. Later, he was responsible for exterior and interior design for Chrysler’s international operations, retiring from Chrysler in 1977.
Neale continued his career with Ritter-Smith, followed by Magna International, working until his 80th birthday.

Even in retirement, Neale continues to stay busy. Recently, Neale obtained a patent for a new device aimed at improving aerodynamics over the last quarter of the body. Click here to read the story.






This is the second part in a two-part series about retired auto designer Colin Neale. Click here to read part one, which looks back on Neale’s long career designing the cars we drive.

Automotive designers have gotten really good at designing cars that barely tickle the air as it slips past the front end and caresses the sides and greenhouse. But when that same air gets to the back end, well, there’s not a whole lot for a designer to do.

“Everything just goes to hell” at the back end of the car, said retired auto designer Colin Neale. “It’s called turbulence.”
Neale says for a car to have perfect tail-end aerodynamics, it would have to be a 100-long teardrop.

Since 100-foot long cars aren’t practical, Neale has come up with an idea that might work instead. Neale obtained a patent for what he calls S.C.O.T. – or Spin Control of Turbulence – that might offer a solution.




Neale's S.C.O.T. device would condition the turbulent air is it slips over the rear end of the car.

First conceived in 2004, Neale’s idea is to attach freewheeling turbines to the C-pillars – the pillar between the rear doors and the back window – to condition the air as it goes over the back of the car.

“The proposal is to generate this intervention by having freewheeling fan assemblies so positioned that they may be activated by consistent high-speed airflow, so ducted and directed that they pour spinning airstreams into the turbulence,” Neale, 84, wrote in the introduction of his proposal.

Initially, the fan housings could be retrofitted to existing vehicles, but could also be incorporated seamlessly into the greenhouses of new designs.
Even if they are simply attached to existing models, Neale thinks car buyers would accept them.

“People are used to add-ons of all kinds,” Neale said, pointing to pictures in his proposal showing wings, scoops and oversized lights attached to a variety of cars.

So far, Neale’s idea is little more than a hypothesis. He’s had a prototype of his fan and housing built and he attached it to a Chrysler LHS for some crude tests. About all those tests demonstrated was that the fan could generate powerful airstreams.

To find out if the idea has merit, Neale would like to see a government agency fund a wind tunnel study. Another possibility would be an academic institution doing tests on the concept.

Of course every automaker these days is looking for ways to generate electrical power, from regenerative braking to solar panels. Could Neale’s S.C.O.T. fans be used as generators? Neale said he’s thought about that, but wants to focus on bringing some discipline to that unruly air turbulence first.

Neale, a former designer for Ford, Chrysler, Ritter-Smith and Magna International, is no stranger to patent generation. In fact, he was awarded 18 patents, mostly for seating systems, while he was at Magna, the last company he worked for, retiring when he was 80.

He tried to offer his air management proposal to Ford, but ended up with little more than frustration as he tried to make his way through the tangled bureaucracy of the giant automaker. That he was offering it to an automaker where he worked for a significant number of years seems to have mattered little.

Does the idea have merit? Neale would like to find out.
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Old 08-27-2011, 04:24 PM   #2
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So far, Neale’s idea is little more than a hypothesis. He’s had a prototype of his fan and housing built and he attached it to a Chrysler LHS for some crude tests. About all those tests demonstrated was that the fan could generate powerful airstreams.
Blah. Wake me up when/if he comes up with results. Until then proven things such as the Kamm back will (rightly) reign supreme.
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Old 08-27-2011, 11:14 PM   #3
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How long will it take for some jackass to attach motors to them to try and generate thrust? :LOL:
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Old 08-28-2011, 10:10 AM   #4
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Wouldn't the free-wheeling generators simply create drag? Even if the air was "conditioned" to create less drag on the rear end, I would think that would be negated by the drag of the actual fans being spun. There is no free energy...
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Old 08-28-2011, 11:49 AM   #5
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How long will it take for some jackass to attach motors to them to try and generate thrust? :LOL:
Stage 2 aerodynamics, yo.
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Old 08-28-2011, 01:27 PM   #6
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I read it as far as "hand models" then couldn't get George Costanza out of my head.
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Old 08-28-2011, 01:51 PM   #7
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Wouldn't the free-wheeling generators simply create drag? Even if the air was "conditioned" to create less drag on the rear end, I would think that would be negated by the drag of the actual fans being spun. There is no free energy...
Seems like it to me. Then he goes on to wonder whether it's a good idea to use them to create electricity? I don't think this is going anywhere...
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Old 08-28-2011, 02:09 PM   #8
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Blah. Wake me up when/if he comes up with results. Until then proven things such as the Kamm back will (rightly) reign supreme.
Or boat tailing, which is the act of making the rear of the car look like the front of an upside-down-backwards boat.

Seriously, besides the cool story about the Mustang this article doesn't do too much.
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Old 08-28-2011, 06:54 PM   #9
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Or boat tailing, which is the act of making the rear of the car look like the front of an upside-down-backwards boat.

Seriously, besides the cool story about the Mustang this article doesn't do too much.
IIRC, a Kamm back is simply a teardrop (or reversed boat, if you will) cut off with a sharp plane.



It was a crappy automobile by many accounts, but it sure nailed the aerodynamics:

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Old 08-28-2011, 07:32 PM   #10
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This little free-wheeling fan is merely an elaborate vortex generator.

It creates turbulence or flow disruption, in order to re-direct airflow.

A boat tail is a function of designing the bodywork to maintain laminar airflow until it re-merges on the trailing edge, rather than just leaving it to eddie-current in a low-pressure void behind the shape. It tapers to a line, rather than tapering to a single point, but the principle is roughly the same.

A Kamm tail is a principle that says if you cut off a boat tail, or other tapering shape, very sharply, the laminar flow cleanly dis-engages from the shape, and follows the taper as if it were there, even when it is absent, and a low pressure air space takes the place of the tapered shape, with a distinct air-shear boundary.

A Kamm tail is not just a vertical tail surface, it has to do with the whole shape, and it's taper from the widest and highest point aftward.

Plus the pictured tear-drop shape doesn't address frontal aerodynamics. The front of a tear drop is the result of air resistance on a fluid with surface tension. A solid can be much sharper, and retain it's shape. A sword or other sharp object has less air resistance than a drop of water per square inch. But both a rounded form, or a sharp form, are better for airflow management than a blunt flat-faced form.
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Old 08-29-2011, 09:24 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by shikataganai View Post

It was a crappy automobile by many accounts, but it sure nailed the aerodynamics:

Your constant (and at this point predictable) slamming of all things hybrid BESIDES your beloved Prius is getting old. We get it, you like your car, you hate the other options that exist/existed. Let's move on, ok?
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Old 08-29-2011, 12:26 PM   #12
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Your constant (and at this point predictable) slamming of all things hybrid BESIDES your beloved Prius is getting old. We get it, you like your car, you hate the other options that exist/existed. Let's move on, ok?
At least he complimented the First gen Insight for it's wonderful aerodynamics .

And the original comment about the 100 foot boat tail is crap, eg the Aptera only needs 3-4 feet of boat tail to reduce the aerodynamic footprint.

Because, aeroplane right?
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Old 08-29-2011, 02:14 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Tristar Racing View Post
Your constant (and at this point predictable) slamming of all things hybrid BESIDES your beloved Prius is getting old. We get it, you like your car, you hate the other options that exist/existed. Let's move on, ok?
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At least he complimented the First gen Insight for it's wonderful aerodynamics .
The 0.25 Cd of the 1st gen Honda Insight and 3rd gen Toyota Prius and the 0.26 Cd of the 2nd gen Toyota Prius are quite amazing for production cars. It shows that those designers didn't simply slap in a hybrid powertrain for city fuel economy and then call it a day. Instead they did their homework and optimized aerodynamics, rolling resistance, weight, and put in the hybrid bits, too.

If you think I only praise the Prius then you just haven't been paying attention. See the ongoing RX-8 thread or my OT paean to big SUVs, for teh baby jeebus's sake.

Even when limiting discussion to just hybrids I have praise for other makes, too: I like GM's two mode hybrids, for instance, and like the Volt in concept, just not at its current pricepoint or packaging. I do have a particular dislike for Honda's IMA offerings, aerodynamics aside, on the other hand. I think the Civic Hybrid and second gen Insight are poor offerings for many reasons.
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Old 08-29-2011, 03:01 PM   #14
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Remember when the Subaru XT's 0.29 Cd was amazing?
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Old 08-29-2011, 11:13 PM   #15
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Remember when the Subaru XT's 0.29 Cd was amazing?
It was the most aerodynamic car at the time.
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