First, this exotic streamliner prototype flashes both back and forward in time: these aero ideals applied to vehicles for the first time in the mid-century, when aeronautics took massive leaps forward thanks to the atrocious WWII battle needs. Engineers swapping back to the car business brought their knowledge with them. Wind tunnels were a new piece of tech, yet complex simulations were still decades away from determining the true aero shape.
Wind tunnels of the day were mainly to prove already-designed concepts, find faults and tweak details. Designing a car to be this pure aerodynamically was still largely instictual, and required great genius and understanding of wind resistance, downforce and lift.
A flash forward for the time, however, in that the most sleek four-wheeled vehicles today still employ a very similar shape to this stunning recreation. The Shell solar racecars cars are a good example of this tech crossing time and space -- relevant and cutting-edge even in 2015. The CalSOL racer from UC Berkeley shows the computational fluid dynamics that prove the inherent rightness of the design icon here. Near-zero frontal surface area, ultra low and slim wing-like main bodywork, and full shrouding for the wheels, exhaust outlets and cockpit.
The shell is the aerodynamic covering or skin of the car. It is constructed of composites, like carbon fiber, honeycomb, and kevlar, bonded with epoxy. The shell provides a mounting surface for the solar cells and protects the car from the outside environment.
The shell is designed to minimize energy loss due to aerodynamic drag while still accomodating the needs of the driver and providing ample space for the solar array. Design of the shell went through rigorous Computational Fluid Dyanamical testing. The shell for Impulse uses a 3-wheel design with the driver seat in the rear wheel fairing. The shell is made in 3 parts, a top shell, bottom shell and driver canopy.
That's right: this model is not a runner, nor is it the actual world record car designed by Carlo Mollino 60 years ago. That original prototype was lost to history in physical form.
But the ideas and execution are still very important a half-century later, as an engineering achievement as well as a piece of art.
Thus: this exact replica created in full scale by STOLA, a design boutique in Italy, in 2006.
While not operational as a car in its present form, it is a car underneath. And it could drive one day.
Until then, a magically prescient showpiece that all car fans should revere as a trailblazing innovator. The estimate for this no-reserve piece is around $175k, with the sale on December 10th.
1955 Carlo Mollino Record Car Model by Stola S.p.A., 2006
1955 Carlo Mollino Record Car Model by Stola, 2006
To be auctioned on Thursday, December 10, 2015
$150,000 - $200,000
208.5 in. x 77 in. x 33 in.
Weight: 2,535 lbs.
Carlo Mollino was more than just a successful architect. He was also a prolific skier, photographer, writer, interior designer, and even an aerial acrobat. However, one of his greatest and lasting passions was his love for motorsport. In 1955, he, along with Enrico Nardi, created the Bisiluro Damolnar, which amazingly took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans that year. Enthralled by speed, Mollino would later pen several designs for a high-speed record car, though those plans never came to fruition.
The futuristic model offered here is based on one of those designs that he envisioned in the 1950s. The project was brought to life by the artisans at Stola S.p.A., who created a full-scale tribute to the prolific Turinese artist in conjunction with a retrospective of his work. Interestingly, Stola, founded in Turin in 1919, is the oldest Italian company known for building automotive prototypes, including that of the Lancia Lambda, among others. Along with other works by Carlo Mollino, the record car was presented by the Mollino Foundation (Museo Casa Mollino) at the Turin Modern Art Gallery in 2006.