While the automotive styling products business is booming, true aero products are still tough to find. Usually the most that can be hoped for are cooling benefits or minimal downforce. Some JDM companies are trying to change this, but most rely on theoretical aerodynamics. Probably the largest reason for this is that wind tunnel time is prohibitively expensive. But what if a company that specializes in actual race car aerodynamics decided to make a product for the aftermarket?
Enter Dome. They’ve been a race car constructor and designer since 1965. Their latest product is the awesome S102 above. In 1995, they decided to take a shot at the aftermarket with the ST205 Celica. But instead of attempting to improve the already relatively good aero of the car’s body, Dome decided to fix the biggest aerodynamic flaw of the vehicle and create a prototype-style underfloor and diffuser. This isn’t just form being secondary to function, this is function being the sole objective of the part. Dome measured a 9mph increase in top speed, a 7.8% improvement in fuel economy and a very useful 200lbs of downforce. While I think this represents JDM at its best, apparently not enough people did and the project was canned.
With the rising popularity of time attack there has been a resurgence of interest in real aero and now diffusers are becoming much more common. I think the most logical progression of this trend will be full under floors. Although they may be hard to market since they are so large and retuning them takes real engineering and wind tunnel time, the benefits of such a product are obvious (and well illustrated below and explained at Mulsanne’s Corner).
Is the Dome Celica a sign of things to come? As much as I hope so, only time will tell…