Into the Stratus-Sphere
Special to DRO by Geoff Stunkard
Photos courtesy Dodge Motorsports Engineering
and the author
things as tough as they are on the NHRA circuit,
every advantage is required to stay competitive.
While Top Fuel cars are fairly generic, the
Funny Car and Pro Stock divisions are ruled
by certain sanctioning body regulations to make
sure they are specifically identifiable. When
DaimlerChrysler (under the umbrella of the new
Dodge Motorsports & Mopar Performance Parts
Platform Team led by John Fernandez) began making
plans to restyle their cars in both divisions
based on the 2003 Stratus R/T, they used what
is likely the most serious aerodynamic technology
ever applied to drag racing, for what was truly
a million-dollar makeover.
The project was headed up by Terry DeKoninck, the platform's lead NHRA Aero-
Thermal Development Engineer, who began with the Stratus funny car body that made its debut on Dean Skuza's one-car team in mid-2002. Using a computer design program called CATIA, which allows for 3-D CAD/CAM design, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), and full-size and true-scaled prototyping, DeKoninck and the design stylists at the DaimlerChrysler Technical Center in Auburn Hills, Michigan built a computer file of a generic funny car based on NHRA specs and then "morphed" it into a Stratus.
From these files, a 3/8 scale model was built from carbon fiber (lead photo), tested in the company's wind tunnel complete with a 3/8-scale chassis, and then finalized back into the CATIA program by laser scanning.
The finalized body files were sent to OEM supplier Roush Composites, who used CNC machinery to cut an exact, full size funny car prototype buck from pieces of hard foam.
The five-axis equipment does a rough cut, then
a final cut, and the sections are prepped, sealed,
connected into a single unit, and then "splashed"
into a female form that will serve to create
the final bodies from space-age carbon fiber
or Kevlar components.
||Blocks of hard foam are glued
together to roughly approximate the envelope,
or size, of the final CNC-generated buck
for the funny car.