Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The beast (#ProjectCaden)

I know this guy who is working on the coolest project on the planet. Yes, I happen to be married to him and no, I'm not in the least bit biased but I think you'd still agree with me. This is one badass beast.

To say it's been an exciting journey so far is the greatest understatement of the decade. But I'll let Carlos explain with his own words. He recently wrote about #ProjectCaden on his blog.

Here's to the open road! 


Holistic and Transparent
By Carlos Salaff
Originally posted on Kinja; 9/29/15

I held a great position as a Senior Designer at Mazda, and worked with some wonderful people. Why would I leave? Lots of reasons -- but one of them was the desire to create holistic design. The word "holistic" is often tied to a medicinal philosophy, but I am talking about designing a car as a total object -- from the ground up. As a designer at a major car company, tasks are generally confined to exterior and interior design. The guts and inner workings of a car are developed by the engineering group, with minimal interaction along the way between the two. This division of disciplines leads to obvious difficulties. A look at a modern car shows a division between the function and the looks of a car. There is a skin of rubber, plastic and foam, hiding the mechanical inner workings. I believe that as a result, we are a society becoming increasingly out of touch with our machines. I believe there are others like me, who crave to be more deeply connected to our cars' mechanical beauty, and view such things as art.

One goal of #ProjectCaden was to design the car as a whole, without these divisions. It is an approach where each functional element is also aesthetically considered -- similar to industrial architecture. I wish for Caden's drivers to see and feel the mechanical workings of the car, to be deeply connected to the machine through transparency. 

In the image below, the wishbones and rear tires will be visible through the "tunnel" gap.

The rear tires and wishbones will be most dramatically visible from the rear. Very Porsche 917-inspired, there will be no traditional cover at the back, exposing the beauty of the elements. Chassis structure and mechanical working will be on display through the rear glass. 

I designed Caden from the ground up in the computer. I started with some rough exterior sketches, then began a constant cycle of zooming in and out through the car, adding detail with each design pass. A satisfying right/left brain volley. As a designer, I felt a new level of freedom, as the car was the way I envisioned through and through. On the journey, I have learned a good deal about automotive engineering, and it has allowed me to minimize the types of compromises that can frustrate a designer who wants to go more than skin deep.

A project like this also requires engineering expertise. After establishing as much detail as possible with the chassis, I handed the blueprints over to Robert Metcalf of Metcalf Racing. The chassis is inspired by classic Group C, Formula 1 and GTP cars. Metcalf's experience restoring and racing these very cars came into play as he did an expert design pass on the suspension geometry and a refinement pass on the structure of the aluminum monocoque tub. Metcalf will also be fabricating Caden's entire chassis. 

I designed the tub with a central driving position. The inboard-mounted coilovers (black tubes) will be mounted in plain sight in front of the instrument panel. I want the driver to see the car working, the suspension moving. After sending Metcalf my blueprints he designed in a steel bulkhead at the front of the tub, for reinforcement. In this way, the chassis development has been a back-and-forth process. On the right is the nickel-plated steel bulkhead. 

The tub parts -- the floor, sidepods and front box are being shaped and positioned at Metcalf Racing. Steel suspension pickups will be built into the front box for safety (anti-intrusion) and strength. The floor will be an aluminum-honeycomb sandwich for increased rigidity. The tub is a thing of beauty and will be on display as much as possible, while creating "warm" areas of trim for the passengers. 

The concept of transparency entails an honesty of materials. The aluminum skin of the car will be -- for the most part -- left bare, to celebrate the inherent beauty of the raw material. 

After all, naked is beautiful.

Follow #ProjectCaden's entire journey here