Supercar Sports Car

Resources for the amateur car designer and builder

Learning Car Design and Construction

Drag Racer (Scratch-Built/Dragster)

Stock Car (Scratch-Built/Late Model)

Aerodynamic Design and Simulation/CFD

The Supercar is a modern road-legal race car usually designed as spin-offs from a manufacturers sports prototype or Formula One racing programs. Supercars have been designed and manufactured by some of the worlds top sports car makers: Ferrari, McLaren, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bugatti, Lotus, Audi, BMW to showcase their technology.

For an amateur race car designer this would seem like pretty formidable company, but it has been the case that many of the supercar manufacturers in fact got started producing one-off designs that were hand-built.

Modern supercars are characterized by theirscratch-builtdouble seatchassis, mid or front-engine rear-drive layout and full-covering aerodynamicbodywork. Almost all are made with composite monocoquechassisbut that does not mean that space frame designs should be discounted.

Many supercars use wings and underbody venturi tunnels to providedownforcethat enables much higher cornering speeds.

Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren F1, Lamborghini Diablo, Bugatti Veyron, Lotus Esprit, Audi R8, Porsche 918, BMW M8 and many more.

Due to thescratch-builtnature of supercars, the designer must be knowledgeable in handling,chassis, suspension, powertrain, aerodynamic and safety design. These six major areas of the car design work as an integrated unit and the designer must have an understanding of how changes to one area affect the others. Much of the design work is iterative, meaning re-designing areas based on new changes to another area. After the iterations are completed, the design will be complete and optimized.

If you are intending on building cars to sell, it would be wise to research your target market and consider the features that your buyer will be looking for. It is also critical that you understand the motor vehicle regulations, injury/death liability and insurance regime in the countries where you intend to sell your car.

Building successive cars, each with higher levels of professionalism in design and build quality, is the best approach to getting into this business. It will also allow you to attract attention, support and investment.

If you are planning on building your own road-going car, you will still need to understand the motor vehicle safety and licensing regulations and insurance requirements, lest you build a car that is not considered road-worthy or insurable.

Weight Distribution:Having a good static weight distribution is important. Depending on the engine/drive configuration, the static weight distribution will likely be heavier at the end where the engine is located. Positioning components at the opposite end to compensate can help to balance the car. Consider the weight transfer of the car and its effect on braking and acceleration. Left/right static distribution should be as close to 50/50 for identical left/right turn behavior.

Suspension:Maximizing the contact patch of the tires with good suspension geometry is of key importance. Suspension, wheel and tire weights (Unsprung weight) affect thecomplianceof the suspension, which in turn affects handling, so keeping all these components as light as possible is an advantage. The suspension pickup point locations impact thechassisdesign. Studying the suspension designs of similar supercars can help establish the geometry used and behavior.

Chassis:Maximizingtorsional rigidityis important to keep the handling responses consistent. The modern supercar manufacturers use carbon fiber/honeycomb monocoque designs and in theory and amateur builder could design and construct their own monocoque. The monocoque has superior strength when well designed, but when damaged, the damage can be nearly invisible and very expensive to repair.designs, while old technology, can be designed to very high levels of strength and supplemented with carbon/honeycomb crumple zones for safety.

Providing openings to make internal components accessible for maintenance is also important, and quite often at odds with the needs to maximizetorsional rigidity. The driver and passenger compartment in aspaceframeoften presents the greatest challenge to achieving a hightorsional rigiditybecause the compartment forms a large hollow box.

Powertrain:Weight distribution is heavily impacted by engine and transaxle/transmission weights and positions. Intake, Cooling and exhaust need to be considered in relation tochassisdesign,bodyworkand aerodynamics. The engine and transmission or transaxle is best chosen from cars with a similar configuration (Front or mid-engine).

Aerodynamic: Aerodynamic devices on supercars are standard fair these days, but they dont have to be. Many a car has made a reputation for brute horsepower and mechanical grip. Frontdownforcecan be generated through shaping of the nose section to create a high pressure flow above the nose, and a corresponding low pressure flow under the nose section. This can take the form of an integrated wing type structure or an airdam. Centraldownforceis usually generated via venturi tunnels formed by an underbody tray. Reardownforceis generated through diffusers and wings that are tuned to maximize the benefits of both. Converging the rearbodyworkgradually has the advantage of reducing drag for maximum top speed, but can be awkward looking on a road going car.

The overall balance of the car is affected by the front, underbody and rear aerodynamic performance so the positioning of these aero devices must be considered. Turbulence generated upstream will also have an effect on the performance of aero devices further back on the car. For maximum flexibility, aero devices should have a wide operating range and adjustability if possible.

Minimizing the drag created by thebodyworkand wings is important to maximize speed.

Safety:Providing a substantial crash/rollover safety cell for the occupants is vital along with a racing seats and multi-point harnesses. Other safety features should include a fuel safety cell, fire protection, and nose/tail and side crumple zones for impacts. Safety should be the prime consideration in all design decisions.

If you intend to drive a vehicle on a public road, always consult and understand the motor vehicle regulations of your country/state before designing or building any race vehicle.

Learn the basics about race cars and race car designfrom our free online knowledge series

Download our free race car design aidsto assist you designing your race vehicle.

In-depth books and learning resources we recommend for supercar design.

Joinourforum to ask and find answers to your supercar design/construction questions.

Due to the precision that is associated with the tuning and performance of supercars, ensuring thechassisis dimensionally accurate and straight is key. The use of a solid, flat and level build space is important. Jigs are often used in this case to ensure that structural tubing stays in alignment during welding/brazing.

The builder should have solid joining and metal working knowledge and skills when fabricating thechassis/rollcage/suspension. While mild steel (1018/1020) is very forgiving, some metals are best welded using a specific method (mig/tig) and some require heat treatments before and following welding to restore their toughness and strength.

Having sufficient space for thechassisandbodyworkconstruction is important, as a cramped workshop can be difficult to work in.

The tools to fabricate thechassisandbodyworkcan add considerably to the cost of your project if you dont already have a workshop, but borrowing or renting items is also an option.

Many components for a supercar can be sourced from production GT/Sports cars instead of being fabricated if doing so is acceptable. This will lower the overall cost. Suspension components are an area where it may pay to use higher-end parts if they reduce weight and provide superior performance.

The bulk of any supercars performance is in the way it interfaces thechassiswith the road through the suspension and powertrain, so focusing on quality parts in these two areas will create a superior car.

Because the car isscratch-built, there will be significant effort in design and construction. There is however, an equally great satisfaction and sense of accomplishment at being one of the very few people in the world who have built their own road car from the ground up!

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