Audi took our collective breath away when they unveiled the stunning e-tron Spyder in Paris a few weeks back. Those good looks might seem effortless, but Audi’s making sure the world knows that there’s brains behind the beauty.
While chances are slim that you’ll ever see pics of Angelina Jolie putting her makeup on in the morning, Audi’s offering a backstage glimpse at just how the e-tron Spyder got so gorgeous. It’s as much science and math as art and emotion.
Seventeen Audi designers competed internally to pen the e-tron Spyder. Teams were created, contestants were narrowed down, and the final two designs were projected as 3D computer models at an office at Ingolstadt. The winning design went on to be melded with a preexisting undercarriage, with the caveat that 10 firm design elements and specifications known as “hard points” must not be altered.
After the virtual design is agreed upon, work begins on a life-size model. Think of an automotive designer and you might romanticize about the days of Harley Earl chiseling a streamlined Buick out of a hunk of clay. Nowadays, machines do the modeling, taking 18 hours of precision milling to form an e-tron out of plasticine.
Only six weeks before the Paris show, Audi’s head honchos green light the production of an actual show car. The construction team must build thousands of one-of-a-kind parts, creating molds in the shape of vehicle body parts from blocks of foam that are filled with carbon fiber fabric. It’s an ideal material not only because of its light weight, but because it’s easiest to modify over such a short time frame.
In the last days before the car’s public debut, designers polish and prime its exterior and assemble all the parts. Finally, after a coat of paint, it’s ready for Paris.
“The design freedom is what makes a show car so appealing,” said Audi designer Wolfram Luchner. “I always have the original design in my head. My objective is to implement this design with as few changes as possible.”
The e-tron’s turbine-like wheels are an example of where designers made no compromises. Made up of 66 individual pieces of aluminum and carbon, they’d never make it to a production car.
“It became clear to us pretty quickly that this wheel could not be manufactured out of one part, as is usually the case,” said Uwe Haller, who coordinates the construction of concept vehicles at Audi. “The design for the wheels was so well received, however, that we did whatever was necessary to turn the proposal into reality.”
We’re glad they did.