1992 GM Ultralite Concept
Even though the concept is powered by an unconventional engine for a passenger car, the experimental 1.5-liter, three-cylinder (code named CDS-2) produced 111 HP and 127 pound-feet of torque. Weighing about 173 pounds, the little engine was chosen in part due to the low height characteristic of two-stroke engines. Another benefit is that it eliminated the need for oil changes.
The rear-engine configuration necessitated a unique exhaust system also. It is largely made of stainless steel but the muffler is aluminum and shaped like a wing, thereby doubling as an airfoil to direct airflow underneath the car.
So how did Ultralite perform? According to GM’s documentation, it could hit 60 mph in 7.8 seconds; run through the quarter-mile in 16 seconds flat, at 90 mph; and hit a top speed of 135 mph. Not bad at all.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention, it was EPA rated at 45 miles per gallon in the city and 81 mpg on the highway. Driving a constant speed of 55 mph would return 96 mpg and cruising at 50 mph would raise its mpg capability to 100.
But this all has less to do with power output than it does with how much mass the motor had to set in motion.
The Ultralite is purposefully named. It only weighs 1,400 pounds. GM estimates that four typical passengers would account for more than 40 percent of Ultralite’s gross vehicle weight.
The concept’s body structure is entirely constructed from carbon fiber composites. That kept the body’s weight down to an astounding 420 pounds and increased its stiffness to several times higher than that of a traditional vehicle.
Unfortunately, the impracticalities associated with carbon fiber, particularly back then, had to do with cost and manufacturing. The materials for the concept’s body alone came to $13,000, and it had to be hand constructed.
Although, it has a Demolition Man look (which isn’t an unfair association), that look helped it to achieve a drag coefficient of only 0.192. Put in other terms, GM explained that “the power required to push the Ultralite through the air at 55 mph is 4.0 HP compared to 15.0 HP for a contemporary mid-size sedan.”
Upon opening the gull-wing doors, the level of differences from a standard car are fewer and less dramatic.
It’s attractive inside but clearly not where the project spent the majority of their time or resouces. I suppose, simple is a word that would sum it up.
Where the interior is inoffensive, I can see how the exterior could polarize people’s opinions. Overall, I can’t say I’m particularly fond of this concept’s appearance, but considering the goals GM had set, style expectations probably shouldn’t be set very high. Plus, when you consider it can achieve 100 mpg, it looks pretty darn good.
There are many attractive details and touches that will be more evident in the larger pictures found in the photo gallery. There are also several more images than were shared above and I zoomed in on sketches on the wall in the background of one of the shots.
Continue below to the photo gallery.