From the box to the teardrop and back again by Georg-Christof Bertsch

" Streamlining, the drag coefficient, also sometimes called the Cd value, and more colloquially as today's 'tear-drop' and 'muscle car' design, appear to these advanced contemporaries to be at once both cheap and pretentious. In the words of designer Darius Zieba, the doctrine goes something like this: "There is no longer any future in designing cars which look as though they are moving even when they are standing still. Although, until recently, that was the ultimate in car design." It once seemed that the transition from the boxes of the early thirties, such as the rectangular Opel P4, to the revolutionary streamlined Chrysler Airflow was irreversible.  

Since then, that aerodynamic shape and streamlined livery have been written into the car designer's handbook. So how come, today, angular, square-shaped, boxy cars such as the Fiat Panda from 1980 (advertising slogan: "Die tolle Kiste"... "The fabulous box") are once again such a hot commodity amongst industry insiders?

The answer to this question lies in the shape's symbolic function. Zieba again: "We were once developing a streamlined car design for an automobile manufacturer. The team leader came to us and said, 'To tell you the truth, that's no better than a lorry.' And he was able to demonstrate this to us immediately in the virtual wind tunnel." The lorry, with its long box-shaped trailer actually performed better in relative terms. Anything to do with aerodynamics is quite complicated in any case. Let's look for instance at the Porsche 911 (1985) and the Fiat Panda from the same year. Both have a Cd value of 0.38. Aerodynamic drag increases exponentially, so at a speed of 200 the Panda would, of course, perform worse than the Porsche. But for vehicles not set on breaking any speed records anyway, such as town cars, one can say that, in principle, an angular vehicle shape does nothing to adversely affect its aerodynamics. "


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