When I got invited to take a tour of GM’s Wind Tunnel Facility, I expected that it meant driving out to the middle of nowhere — to the Milford Proving Grounds — in order to do so. As it turns out, the Wind Tunnel is nestled within the campus of GM’s Warren Technical Center, just 25 minutes or so northwest of Detroit. From the outside, it looks like pretty much any other building. However, walking inside revealed a vast, dimly lit and almost cave-like concrete chamber holding a 43-foot fan — with wooden blades no less — powered by a 4,500 hp turbine mill that can churn at 270 rpm and produce gusts as powerful as 138 mph.
This is what GM uses to improve the aerodynamics of their vehicles; a concrete cave and a wooden fan… essentially. But don’t tell Suzy Cody that. Or John Bednarchik, two of GM’s aerodynamics engineers.
I don’t know what your perception is on engineers, but I picture most as generic, with fairly mild hobbies. Maybe a Saturday night out downtown, just to feel risque. Truth be told, Suzy and John took my stereotypes and twisted them up, threw them on the ground and then proceeded to step on them.
See, Suzy spends time away from her career and life at home with two toddlers by competing in roller derby, and drives a Camaro SS on top of it. Her blue hair streaks didn’t give it away though, but yes she has blue hair. As for John, well he’s a well-built CrossFit enthusiast. And if you don’t know what CrossFit training is, that’s because you can barely handle dumbbells and a treadmill, if at all. I was hoping to meet a fellow mixed martial artist while on this tour, but to no avail. Still, I felt right at home with my activity among Suzy and John, who have recently have spent their time tweaking the aerodynamics of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. And it seems they’ve done a pretty good job with it.
As you’ve probably already heard before, the 2013 Malibu (the Eco model in particular) is the most aerodynamic midsized car ever to be graced by the Bowtie, with a .29 drag coefficient. Starting with a pliable 1/3 scale clay model, constantly scraping, sculpting and shaping it until they achieve the perfect combination of a low drag coefficient and style. 400 hours of work later, and nearly every angle and crease of the new ‘Bu was shaped for fuel saving efficiency; an additional 2.5 miles per gallon to be exact.
And it looks good too.