Engineers battle for right
to design next-generation fighter jet
The battle: Win the contract to build the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The players: Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The mission: Design and manufacture a supersonic, radar-evading, single-engine, combat aircraft so flexible it can be used by three branches of the armed service and that costs approximately $30 million. The stakes: With an estimated total-program life of 50 years, the project could guarantee their military-aircraft business' survival into the next century.
According to the Department of Defense, the JSF must fulfill certain requirements. For the U.S. Navy, JSF should be a first-day-of-war fighter aircraft to survive an enemy's initial strike. For the Air Force, JSF would be a multi-role aircraft; and for both the Marine Corps and U.K. Royal Navy, JSF is to provide short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft. Combining these requirements is where the engineering challenges lie.
Using in-house expertise. Boeing has experience with military aircraft, including the F-22. The company is responsible for 1/3 of the F-22 project, while Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor, is responsible for 2/3. But according to Aviation Week & Space Technology, Boeing has not built a successful military fighter in more than 50 years. Its recent acquisition of McDonnell Douglas, however, could provide the resources and talent lacking in the military-fighter arena. But McDonnell Douglas has had a 30-year lapse in winning a design competition for a major fighter or attack aircraft; the Pentagon rejected its bid to be included in the JSF competition and went with Lockheed and Boeing instead.
If a key to JSF is affordability, then Lockheed Martin seems well positioned. At its Fort Worth, TX, site the company has been producing F-16s for almost 20 years. According to Lockheed's Communications Manager for Tactical Aircraft Systems Joe Stout, Lockheed has managed to cut the cost of producing its F-16 by 38%--even though its factory volume dropped by 75% over four years.
To be all it can be for each service branch and still cost $30 million per plane, all models of the Lockheed Martin JSF would have common outer mold lines across the fuselage and wingbox. Other common parts include the canopy, radar, ejection system, subsystems, most of the avionics, and structural geometries. "With JSF, we're shooting for an optimum amount of commonality. We will manufacture the aircraft on a single production line with simple holding fixtures that can accommodate cousin parts and assemblies for each respective service variant," explains Mike Packer, director of manufacturing affordability on JSF.
The planes would also employ unitized structures: portions produced as single parts instead of being assembled by hand from a multitude of pieces and hundreds of fasteners. The canopy frame, for example, is fabricated from a single aluminum casting with no fasteners. By comparison, the F-16 canopy frame has 48 parts, 70 shims, and 500 fasteners.
Boeing incorporated affordability into its design by using a modular approach. Because this generated such a large number of common parts, all models can be assembled on a single production line resulting in lower unit cost.
The simplicity of the Boeing JSF design is underscored by having only four basic structural components: a single-piece wing, integrated forebody, center fuselage, and aft fuselage/tail. Instead of fastening two wings to the sides of a fuselage like most planes, this concept calls for the fuselage to be attached underneath a single composite wing.
"The biggest expense is drilling holes and filling holes, and we want to have as few of those as possible," notes Fred May, deputy program manager, JSF program at Boeing.
The Lockheed Martin team is cutting potential manufacturing costs by applying lessons learned from its experience with cocuring in the Japanese FS-X program. In cocuring, composite parts are bonded together without conventional metal fasteners. Tooling techniques also derived from the FS-X program, together with a proprietary new modular tooling approach, would allow Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems to significantly reduce the cost of manufacturing composite materials for use in bulkheads of the JSF.
Boeing plans on producing its JSF prototypes with jigless manufacturing techniques, including determinant assembly, a process that uses part features to quickly align various components with very little assembly effort.
Tools for streamlining. Boeing will also use CATIA, a CAD program from Dassault Systemes, to further streamline manufacturing. "We will transfer digital component definitions from CATIA directly to computer-controlled machines for part fabrication," says May.
Lockheed is also using CATIA as its CAD program, but not an off-the-shelf version. "We and Dassault are working together to build one unique next-generation devlopment system," explains Woody Sconyers, director of modeling and simulation at Lockheed Martin.
Boeing is taking the CAD lead from its commercial arm. "Commercial went to CATIA quite a while ago, and they work regularly with Dassault Systemes. We have an agreement that allows us to take advantage of all of that work," May says.
The planned marriage of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas may cause some initial CAD problems. McDonnell Douglas uses EDS Unigraphics as its CAD system; in order for the two systems to communicate a STEP translator must be involved, perhaps causing initial confusion. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, it could be early next summer before the deal between Boeing and McDonnell Douglas is approved by the government, so CAD changes don't appear imminent.
Lockheed has been very busy developing other integrated computer-based tools and capabilities to cut costs, including simulation software and virtual reality (VR).
"One of the concerns our engineers have about digital mock-ups is losing the sense of scale," explains Sconyers. "VR lets you regain that sense of scale and the engineers can then immerse themselves in the design. They can test for certain factors, such as, 'Can I really remove this part and replace it? Can I reach certain elements to assemble them in the factory?'" Simulation software, not yet chosen, will be physics-based and allow animation as well as actual sequences.
In other attempts to trim costs, both companies are instituting product data management (PDM) software systems, as well as using intranets and web-based technology. According to May, everything at Boeing is networked together. "Not only will we use PDM, but we have a network based on web technology that provides cost schedules."
Lockheed is still in the selection process for a PDM system, and is also integrating all of the development team efforts through Internet-based communications. "The Internet offers us some very powerful tools for collaboration and that's key," Sconyers says. "We have design talent at multiple sites and we want to take advantage of that talent by tying it together through a collaborative engineering environment. We call it virtual co-location."
In order to pool that talent, both Lockheed and Boeing are instituting the use of Integrated Product Teams (IPT). "We are a strong believer in IPTs, and used them on F-22 and 777," explains May at Boeing. "We set up a team that has total responsibility for its piece of the airplane; and it has to design, manufacture, and support everything that is involved in that product. It is almost as if we have a number of independent small companies all part of the JSF program."
Lockheed Martin, according to Dave Wheaton, vice president and JSF program manager, "takes advantage of the low-cost rapid-prototyping at the Skunk Works; the integrated product team structure, technology, and lessons learned from the F-22 program office in Marietta; and the total systems integration and lean production capability in Fort Worth."
But even with a highly trained team, revolutionary designs and manufacturing, and the best of computer technology, both competitors have a lot of challenges ahead. And even if working prototypes are delivered as scheduled in FY 1999, it remains to be seen if lawmakers will actually approve final production of the Joint Strike Fighter.
Some lawmakers view the development of JSF as a good determinant as to whether the defense industry can achieve the goals that the JSF puts forth. Actually dishing out the money could be another ballgame, since some in Congress may be more inclined to support upgrades of already operational aircraft or purchases of previously designed ones.
It is clear that in order to survive, JSF must prove it is a legitimate and affordable multi-service airplane. Engineers and engineering practices will be key to that effort.
--Marne Turk, New Products Editor
What this means to you
• New strategies for cutting number of components.
• New engineering opportunities.
• Potential new techniques in large-scale project management.
Turn-signal switch 'Escorts' in new era
Troy, MI--When DuPont Automotive Technical Specialist Paul Kane goes to work, he might be headed to Troy-based DuPont Automotive...or to Dearborn-based United Technologies Automotive (UT Automotive). As a resident engineer, Kane and his UT Automotive teammates recently realized the fruit of their labor with the launch of new turn-signal switches for the 1997 Ford Escort/Mercury Tracer in record time.
"Teamwork and communications during the three-year program allowed us to identify potential challenges early by working together," Kane explains. "This enabled us to develop plastics to meet stringent functional requirements for the switch."
"Having a resident engineer on site each week definitely improved communication and shortened the lead time on this complicated switch," adds Tom Allard, principal engineer, UT Automotive. "We evaluated existing switches and produced ours to surpass previous benchmarks."
The switch and housing feature materials never before used in automotive applications: two new grades of Zytel® 74G43WBK196, a 43% glass-reinforced nylon for the turn levers; and Zytel 74G33WKBK156, a 33% glass-reinforced nylon for the stem and hazard button.
For the switch body housing, UT Automotive looked to DuPont for an acetal resin with improved molding characteristics. Design of experimental molding trials were conducted at DuPont Automotive molding facilities in Troy to establish final molding parameters. Through process testing, DuPont Automotive found that Delrin® 8511 met the need for improved processing, better impact, and higher stiffness at elevated temperatures.
Computer simulation takes elevators to new heights
Brazil--When Atlas Ele-vators determined that computer-aided engineering (CAE) technology was the best solution for some of its engineering challenges, the company began using ANSYS finite-element analysis (FEA) software from ANSYS Inc., Houston, PA. Since that time, FEA capabilities have helped Atlas reduce time-to-market by allowing engineers to test designs on-screen without expensive testing and physical prototypes.
These benefits have increased Atlas' competitive edge, officials say, which is particularly important to a company that markets its products in more than 30 countries worldwide. "We completely reached our goals of reducing our design cycle by more than 50%. This advantage makes us a much more efficient and custom-er-driven company," says Hiroshi Jojima, project lead-er at Atlas.
Today, final testing and physical prototypes are only needed for safety evaluations. "Through the use of parametrized models, we can simulate and test many design alternatives and choose the optimal one that meets minimum weight requirements. Using this methodology, we reduced more than 50% of the material costs of our products," adds Jojima.
With ANSYS, Atlas engineers build just one prototype to validate models. The software's capabilities allow users from cross-functional teams to review and evaluate designs for performance--a strategy that was not possible using the traditional "build and break and redesign" approach to new product development.
Plastic fenders KO aluminum, fiberglass
Wakarus, IN--Front fenders for the redesigned Utilimaster Corp. walk-in van have thrown a knock-out punch to their aluminum and fiberglass predecessors. Although the polyurethane RIM components tipped the scales 20 lbs lighter, they gave away no points in the ring to their counterparts when it came to impact resistance and stiffness.
The new right and left fenders, weighing 12 lbs each, posed a filling challenge for molder R-I-M Inc., Elkhart, IN, due to their 20 x 24 x 30-inch dimensions. Enter Bayer Corp.'s Polymers Div., Pittsburgh. The winning formula: Bayer's Bayflex® XGT-140 elastomeric polyurethane RIM system. The new system, used for the first time on the fenders, combined an extended gel time for easy mold filling, yet exhibited the physical performance Utilimaster demanded. It also offered a flexural modulus of 140,000 psi at room temperatures.
"The Bayflex system gave us more flexibility with the design and assembly of the fenders by allowing more curved surfaces," says John Knudtson, Utilimaster's director of advanced engineering. "The fenders also will take tremendous impact and just bounce back, unlike aluminum and fiberglass fenders."
R-I-M's parent company, Elkhart Pattern Works (EPW), built the fenders' prototype tool, which featured an epoxy shell mounted in an aluminum casting. For production, the epoxy shell was replaced with an electroformed nickel shell. EPW also added more cooling lines to the mold to optimize heat transfer.
With the material, R-I-M experiences shot times of eight seconds, a cycle time of around four minutes, and a mold temperature of 150F. "The extended gel time helped us fill the mold and get excellent physical properties," notes Jerry Scrivo, R-I-M/EPW's engineering manager.
Digital Physics brings CFD to the desktop
Lexington, MA--Exa Corp. has introduced its PowerFLOW computational fluid dynamics analysis package based on what the company calls Digital Physics technology. This technique solves fluid-flow problems using integer processing, rather than floating-point processing. Company officials say that PowerFLOW is therefore well-positioned to leverage Sun's UltraSPARC-based machines; and Sun has partnered with Exa to port the software to its Ultra Workstations and Ultra Enterprise servers.
Exa aims to provide engineers with the ability to analyze designs on the same computers the designs are created on. To this end, PowerFLOW eschews the differential equations typical of CFD programs in favor of a particle-tracking approach. Solutions concentrate on the interaction between the surface of a solid object, such as a wing or car body, and the surrounding fluid. Engineers are able to construct and solve CFD on the desktop in a few hours.
PowerFLOW reads files from Pro/ENGINEER and other MCAD systems. The engineer specifies parameters describing the characteristics of the fluid. The software then automatically parallelizes the problem and builds a lattice of discrete elements, called voxels. The results of a simulation can be displayed in a variety of formats, including streamlines and ribbons, vectors, isosurfaces, and isolines.
Because of its reliance on Sun's Visual Instruction Set (VIS) graphics processing, PowerFLOW problems must run on UltraSPARC VIS-capable machines. Pre- and post-processing can be performed on other Sun platforms, as well as workstations from Silicon Graphics and Hewlett-Packard. Annual workstation licenses for PowerFLOW begin at $15,000 a seat.
Cavalier coupe aims for the high end
Watertown, MA--Since Chevrolet introduced the revamped Cavalier in 1995, the model has gotten a new lease on life. I recently drove the 1997 Cavalier Z24--a "high-end" Cavalier--and walked away impressed that a Cavalier could pack so much equipment and give a great ride, but slightly dismayed once I saw the price tag.
Already known for its safety features, the Cavalier Z24 comes with standard 4-wheel antilock brakes, automatic daytime running lamps, driver and front-passenger airbags, belt guide loops for seat belts, and an enhanced traction-control system. The car also meets federal dynamic side-impact requirements. The new PassLock theft-deterrent system eliminates the need for a special resistor-equipped ignition key. A sensor causes the ignition module and instrument cluster to become a matched set from the first time the vehicle is started at the assembly plant. If someone tries to start the car without using the proper key, the car will start but immediately shut down and remain disabled for 10 minutes.
A "progressive ride" system and coil-over-shock rear suspension let GM engineers tune the chassis to communicate responsive road control to the driver and minimize bumpiness. A torque axis mounting system that reduces engine vibration also makes for a smooth ride.
Features you might not expect to find on a Cavalier included: AM/FM stereo with CD player, electric sunroof, rear decklid spoiler, twin remote electric mirrors, electronic speed control, 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission, power windows and door locks, 16-inch cast-aluminum wheels, electric rear-window defogger, and remote keyless entry for both the doors and the trunk. (Some of these features are options, but they all came with the car I drove.) The Z24 comes standard with a quite responsive 4-cylinder, 16-valve 2.4l twin-cam engine (a 2.2l engine is standard with the other models) that delivers spirited acceleration.
One feature I missed was having the gear guides by the floor-based shift light up at night. I had parked the car at a shopping mall during the light of day and returned with my booty well after sunset. As I prepared to back out of my space, it occurred to me that I wasn't sure I was in reverse because I couldn't see the "R" on the floor. I actually opened the door to make sure I was in the right gear since the gear indicator on the dash didn't stand out enough for me to notice it right away.
Overall, though, I definitely enjoyed the Z24 and thought its looks and feature package rivaled those of more expensive sports cars. But the Cavalier line is known for two things: safety features and modest prices. And at $17,730 for the Z24 I drove, I wouldn't exactly describe it as inexpensive.
--Julie Anne Schofield, Senior Editor
Virtual prototyping key facet of design initiative
Sunnyvale, CA--Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space is using virtual prototyping software from Division Inc. to help integrate weapon systems into the next generation of warships for the U.S. Navy. The Simulation-Based Design (SBD) project, funded by DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, is initially intended to explore how the operation of ships' guns and missile launchers interact with the rest of the vessel in real time.
"Our final goal is a 50% reduction in development time," according to Paul Shattuck, director of simulation-based design at Lockheed Martin Missile & Space Advanced Technology Center, who is working on the SBD project. SBD engineers are looking at a variety of computer tools to compress the design cycle.
Using virtual prototyping in the design of complex military and commercial systems has the potential to substantially reduce design cost, risk, and development time, according to Jeff Hultquist, Division software development manager.
Division's dVISE virtual prototyping software is a suite of tools for creating, rendering, and animating 2-D and 3-D objects in realistic environments. The software can accept CAD models from a number of commercial programs, such as CADDS 5, Pro/ENGINEER, and Unigraphics. Division is assisting Lockheed Martin in integrating dVISE into the DOD High Level Architecture protocol for collaborative design.
Phase One of the SBD project concentrated on evaluating warship design. Lockheed Martin was selected as the lead system integrator for Phase Two, which will explore ways for the technology to be used in other DOD applications and by industry.
In addition to Lockheed Martin, other SBD participants include: Newport News Shipbuilding, Electric Boat Corp., and the Naval Research Labs.
Toaster has a 'crumb clean' design
St. Joseph, MI--Ever fight that never-ending battle of trying to keep crumbs and grease off the family toaster? Well, KitchenAid's® latest premium line of toasters should make that job much easier.
The new toasters, part of the KitchenAid Countertop CollectionTM, combine easy cleaning and long-lasting color. Helping to make this possible: Rynite® RE9100P PET thermoplastic polyester resin supplied by DuPont Engineering Polymers, Wilmington, DE.
"Rynite outperformed other plastics we evaluated in color stability, high-temperature resistance, and stain resistance," reports Kathy Hayes, product manager for the KitchenAid Small Appliance Business Group at Whirlpool Corp. Not only do the PET resins provide enhanced color stability, high-temperature stability, and chemical resistance, but they have a UL94 V-O flammability rating.
The housing's smooth-flowing lines and one-piece construction were designed to be both pleasing to the eye and easy to keep clean, Hayes adds. There are no seams to attract grease and grime.
The housing has large planar surfaces and measures 16.1 × 4.6 × 6 inches. The base design incorporates a variety of integral assembly features, including numerous vents and supports on its underside for power-cord storage.
A keypad component molded from DuPont Zytel® 101L nylon contributes to the convenience and reliability of toasters equipped for digital programming. Its four integrally molded touch pads maintain their spring-back features, thanks to the nylon's flex-fatigue resistance.
The new KitchenAid toaster line consists of four models with a variety of feature choices. All use microprocessor technology and a self-centering bread rack aimed at delivering consistently even toasting.
FEA optimizes seal design
Salt Lake City, UT--Finite element analysis (FEA) is sometimes portrayed as a tool suitable for only the most exotic problems--computing stress on the components for the Space Station, for instance. Don't tell that to Eric Anderson, FEA design engineer for Parker Hannifin's Packing Division. He specializes in leveraging the advanced nonlinear analysis capabilities of MARC Analysis Research Corporation's (Palo Alto, CA) FEA software for design optimization and problem solving on elastomeric components used in fluid-power equipment.
One such problem involved a leaky hydraulic cylinder on an exercise machine. The leak rate ranged from three to five percent, and proved quite irritating to consumers. And though Parker Hannifin didn't design the original seal, Anderson took up the challenge to improve it.
He began by modeling a cross section of the original design. It surrounds the shaft of the hydraulic piston, and is held in place by a coil spring that sandwiches it against a stop. Four lips on the working face of the seal were designed to wipe oil from the shaft, but obviously weren't doing the job.
Anderson's model showed that in the installed position, the last lip didn't even contact the rod and that the third lip touched just slightly. In addition, the contour of the outer edge of the seal was such that fluid pressure actually pulled it away from the inner wall of the cylinder. This leak path around the outside of the seal was exacerbated by the positioning of a mold code number on the bottom of the seal.
Still using MARC's FEA, he then modeled several possible solutions, finally settling on a three-lip design in which, unlike the original, the first lip exerts the least pressure and the third lip the most. He changed the material from a nitrile to a polyurethane for increased wear resistance and added two ridges to the bottom of the seal to prevent oil from escaping around the outer diameter.
The result: "Engineers at our customer tested the seal so hard that they burned it due to heating of the fluid," says Anderson, "but there were no leaks."
Applying similar analysis, Anderson has used MARC software to redesign bumper stops for a pneumatic nail gun and a U-cup seal for the piston of a snowmobile brake caliper.
--Mark A. Gottschalk, Western Technical Editor
A fuel-cell for the gas pump
Detroit--It was a rather lightweight forum for a call to arms. However, Chrysler Corp. announced at the 1997 International North American Auto Show that it was confident enough in its automotive fuel-cell technology to ask others to drop what they were doing in this area and join it.
"The components of Chrysler's fuel-cell stack are proven technologies," says Christopher Borroni-Bird, the auto-maker's advanced technology specialist. Nevertheless, he estimates it could be 15 years before fuel cells hit the streets, if ever. Concentrating research and development efforts on one approach could spur advances more quickly. "The main issues remaining to be solved are size and cost, neither of which are trivial," Borroni-Bird says.
Fuel-cells, which produce electricity at ambient temperatures from a reaction of hydrogen with oxygen aided by a platinum catalyst, are seen by some as possible successors to the internal combustion engine. Chrysler's configuration liberates the required elements from gasoline, or any readily available fuel. Surplus power is stored in batteries to aid in acceleration.
Chrysler is going with a gasoline-fuel approach--in the face of criticism from, among others, the Union of Concerned Scientists--primarily because of the multi-billion-dollar infrastructure already in place to support it. "What's better?" asks Peter Rosenfeld, Chrysler's director of advanced technology planning. "A vehicle that cuts emissions by 80% that's out on the road, or a zero-emissions vehicle that's gathering dust?"
--Michael Puttré, Associate Editor
Polymer gears up for gears
Houston, TX--If gear design presents a problem, try adding these letters to your alphabet soup of plastic materials--PK, which stands for polyketone. The versatile thermoplastic polymer offers a balance of material properties ideal for producing long-lasting, trouble-free gears when compared to polyamide (PA) and acetal (POM), the two polymers most widely used for this application.
Among PK's key balanced-property values: chemical resistance over a broad range of applications, and significantly less moisture absorption than most PAs, according to John Kelly, staff research engineer at Shell Chemical Co, which makes PKs under the tradename CARILON®. As a result, the PKs have a negligible effect on gear performance and dimensions. Moreover, PKs are said to withstand impact and creep-rupture better than POMs, while exhibiting better creep-resistance than PAs. This, in turn, might offer some performance advantages for plastic gears that abruptly run into stalled conditions, specifically some actuator applications.
PKs have an added benefit in their favor for gear design--lubricity. When run against themselves in sliding or rolling contact, PKs have demonstrated they can stand up better against wear than PAs or POMs. And when run on steel under pure sliding conditions, PKs have shown they can operate longer than PAs and are the equivalent to or better than POMs.
For more information on CARILON thermoplastic polymers, call Shell's John Kelley at 888-CARILON .
Dispensing system improves pen assembly
Lincoln, RI--At the heart of Cross ball-point pens is a mechanical propel-repel mechanism that exposes the tip for writing and retracts it for storage. Though the mechanisms work well, the machines used in assembly required significant, costly maintenance. By changing the adhesive dispensing system, the A.T. Cross Co. improved throughput and reduced both maintenance and adhesive use.
Previously, automatic assembly machines incorporated dispensers to apply a dot of adhesive to one part and a dot of activator to a second mating part in the three-piece mechanical assembly. Joining the three pieces initiated curing, completing the subassembly.
Trying to reduce maintenance without sacrificing quality, Cross redesigned the assembly process. Now, two of the parts rotate as a fine bead of adhesive is applied over exactly 340 degrees of the circumference. The 20-degree gap is the key to preventing over application and avoiding adhesive buildup on the dispensing needle that could affect subsequent assemblies. Activator is similarly applied to the third surface to ensure a quality bond.
Another challenge was finding a reliable dispensing system that could make the adhesive bead on rotating cylinders only 0.203 inch in diameter, without requiring high maintenance. Cross turned to EFD Inc., East Providence, RI, which proposed a dispense valve/-control system with pressurized reservoirs for the adhesive and activator.
The model 752V-UH valve incorporates a flexible diaphragm with a life of more than 100 million cycles. It provides extremely fine output control and low maintenance. The matching model 7000 valve controller provides microprocessing circuitry to ensure repeat timed output within 0.00005 seconds. And the controller features input/output signals to allow the dispensing system to communicate with the assembly machine's computer.
Most importantly, mounting the controller near the valve enables time setup, adjustment, and purge functions to be performed at the point of valve output, simplifying dispensing-cycle setup. And using the controller's independent processor eliminates the need to reprogram the host computer when valve output is established or changed.
"The reduction in maintenance allows us much better utilization of our resources," says Gary Vario, tool engineering supervisor at Cross. "We used to have a skilled toolmaker spending 8 to 10 hours a week adjusting equipment. Now, that time has been reduced to almost zero." Another benefit: a 50% reduction in adhesive use.
Sports, smokes, and mirror images
Chrysler's introduction of the Dodge Durango sport utility at the 1997 Detroit Auto Show featured half a dozen puns on the names of competing vehicles. This served not only to stun the crowd into submission, but also pointed out how crowded the market is becoming.
The presentation typified the tempo of the show, where manufacturers seemed to be loudly bringing out vehicles to match something else already on the road. Lincoln had its own huge Navigator sport utility. Mercedes announced one too, the M-Class all-activity vehicle. Meanwhile, Land Rover, perhaps the originator of utilities--sport or otherwise--blanched, diluting its once-wicked Defender with automatic transmission and the designation "station wagon."
There was a lot of smoking on the show floor, only partially explainable by the pack of foreign journalists in attendance. The Auto Show struggles to resist 1990s sensibilities. BMW alone kept historical torches lit with dancing girls in short skirts ("Good for them," snorted a politically incorrect Canadian journalist.) And Volvo pointed out you can get a gun rack on the Outdoors package for the V70 wagon. Volvo also presented its sexy C70 convertible coupe: quite a departure for the safety-first Swedes. It's safe, too, they assured.
In fact, Europe was the soul of indiscretion. The sticker on the Lotus 3.5l turbocharged Esprit V8 proudly hailed its $1,500 Gas Guzzler Tax, kicking the price up to almost $85,000. Lamborghini's latest spacecraft, the 5.7l V12 Diablo Roadster VT, seemed to sneer "If you have to ask…" to passers by. Ferrari celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with an appearance at the show (after six years' absence) bringing the F50 Formula 1-capable road car, which sports a 4.7l V12 engine.
"North America is Ferrari's most important market," declared Gianluigi L. Buitoni, president and CEO of Ferrari N.A. Then he added, somewhat disingenuously, that the 1997 456 GT was available with automatic transmission for the "pleasure" of American drivers. This brought snickers from the Europeans. More candidly, Buitoni admitted that meeting U.S. government emissions and particularly safety standards was trying emotionally: "You have to crash six cars," he implored.