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DEARBORN – “If you build it, he will come.”
When talking about the 2013 NASCAR Fusion that memorable line from the movie Field of Dreams could be altered slightly to, “If you build it, they will race.”
In the 20 months since all of the manufacturer’s first met in Daytona Beach to discuss the parameters of a next-generation stock car for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, much has been done by those who work on behalf of Ford Racing. It started by collaborating with the Design Center to create a look and feel that mirrors the 2013 production Fusion, and has continued with exhaustive wind tunnel and on-track testing to ensure it will be competitive.
Now the time has arrived for all of that work to finally take physical shape as the actual sheetmetal that will be used to build the 2013 NASCAR Fusion gets stamped and shipped to every Ford race team.
“We’ve had the design community engaged to where we got the look of the car, and we’ve got the aerodynamicist involved for the performance. Now we took that combination and got together with the engineers and the stamping engineers to make sure we could physically manufacture the car,” said Ford Racing NASCAR Operations Manager Andy Slankard.
In order to do that, a series of Ford Racing consultations took place with representatives from Roush Industries and Quality Metalcraft, who produced the parts and pieces, and race team personnel charged with building the new car.
“Some of the challenge is just dealing with the various teams, making sure that everyone’s requirements are into that part,” said Michael Dettloff, senior product designer, Roush Industries. “That’s probably the biggest challenge someone on my end has to face. One team may want it this way and another team may want it yet another way, so it’s a time-consuming process and we’ve got to get those compromises made.”
The process was made even more difficult considering the fact that an increase in brand identity meant more detail as far as character lines and styling cues.
“The new 2013 NASCAR Fusion had to go through extensive engineering to develop the whole sides of the car,” said Jeff Green, sales engineer at Quality Metalcraft. “That’s something we didn’t really have in the past because they were flat panels, so because of the complexity of the parts, there was a lot more upfront engineering and time that was taken to develop the product, which, at the end of the day, I think came out perfect.”
Quality Metalcraft Director of Engineering Mark Anderson agreed. ““It’s more exciting being involved up front with a lot of the styling features that you generally do not see in the race cars,” he said. “The challenge is now that there are a lot more styling features is ensuring that they can be manufactured. By working hand-in-hand with the product designers and talking about what is achievable and what isn’t, we come up with concessions of what works for them and what works for us in a short period of time.”
And it’s been that short period of time which has proven to be another challenge for all involved because the 2013 NASCAR Fusion has gone from drawing board to finished product in near-record time.
“The big difference that you see between the prototype version like we’re doing with the race car and the production vehicles that we roll out on the lines and ship to regular customers is the compression of time,” said Tom Stebbins, program manager, Quality Metalcraft. “ We do this in less than four months from receiving the math data to shipping parts. In a production vehicle you’re probably looking at a year to a year-and-a-half from the time the concepts are started to the time we’ll actually ship parts, so this is vastly compressed. We have to move very, very quickly and it’s a lot different.”
Adding even more pressure throughout the process, according to Slankard, is the fact all of these pieces need to be exact in order to conform to NASCAR’s inspection process, which takes place before and after each race.
“The 2013 Fusion has a lot of characteristics in it and NASCAR is working very hard to make templates that hold those tolerances in tight order. We needed our suppliers to work with very tight restraints so that each piece is ready to go to the race track immediately,” he said. “The good news is through working with everyone involved, we were able to get the tight tolerances that we need to race during the 2013 season.”