Autos of Interest: When you say “running model” or “running car,” do you mean it was built for engineering tests?

Ruzzin: No, it was a demonstration vehicle and it was easily achievable. That’s because the new design was done over an existing platform, with existing door hinges, tailgate hinges and all that. So, they could get to this running car pretty easily; as compared to an all new vehicle that would need to have everything manufactured.


Autos of Interest: Would those “existing hinges” be examples of hard points that are often referred to?

Ruzzin: Yes, the hinges are attached to the pillars or what we would call the “pillar inners,” the part you see. In this case, we had the running gear, the insides of the doors—we did change the glass belt-line but there was a lot that was either carry-over as actual parts or parts from engineering that were very close. Each person within their responsibility would make a judgment as to how much they could keep.


Autos of Interest: Were there any styling metrics or goals established, such as hood height reduction?

Ruzzin: No, we didn’t have a goal like that. We just put it where we wanted.

The aerodynamic drag on the old car was something like 0.485; the new car ended up at 0.325. (The Coefficient of Drag multiplied by the Area, in front view, is the true aerodynamic performance value; the CDA.) With a slightly smaller frontal area the resultant improvement in fuel economy was dramatic.

On the rendering it was actually lower and Dave asked us to raise it. The Caprice had a dead-vertical front end and Dave said, “Give it a little more volume so that we can get it to look like a complete Caprice replacement.” We did that and it really was a good thing to do to the car.


1991 Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Autos of Interest: Some modern vehicles have outside mirrors attached above the belt line, just behind the base of the A-pillar (i.e., the patch); others are mounted on the body, below the beltline. Is this a matter of styling preference or do other factors dictate the location?

Ruzzin: We would like to put the mirrors on the patch, usually, but a lot of it depends on the location of the driver, in relation to the mirror. Ultimately, you have to fulfill the Federal requirements for rear vision through the mirror.

We would usually want to locate a mirror on the patch because it keeps the body design cleaner. Sometimes you can’t do that, though, depending on the angle of the A-pillar and you have to bring it back. The Corvette is a good example of that. What happens is, to meet the Federal requirements, you have to provide a certain field of vision, and as the mirror goes further forward, it has to get bigger to meet the requirement. Kind of like a cone, the further away something moves the bigger it has to be to be seen.

For the Caprice, we wanted it on the patch—we released it on the patch. Later, they brought it back and had put it on the body. I don’t know why that is. They may have retained the old mirror pad and just redid the base of the post that the mirror sits on. There could be a number of reasons why it was done.


Autos of Interest: In your commentary on the photos you mentioned a “kill the wire wheel” campaign. That effort succeeded, bringing about the newly designed cast aluminum wheel for the upscale Caprice Classic model. Could you expand on that?

Ruzzin: The wheel that’s in that photo was actually the Caprice’s original design. Sometimes, when everybody is busy, and something needs to get done, the person with the least going on will get to do it. So, I was there one Saturday and I just laid the wheel out.

The design actually goes back to the Chaparral wheel that was done for the Chaparral race cars; it had been done in our basement by Larry Shinoda. Bill Mitchell came in one day while Larry was designing wheels for this Chaparral race car and said, “Just make it look like a wire wheel. Never mind all that other stuff.” So, Larry did this wheel that looked like a wire wheel. It was three-dimensional, the spokes were deep, yet it was a two-dimensional wire-looking wheel. The design was copied all over the world, including by big companies like BBS.

It’s very interesting though. I didn’t think much about it at the time but I’d laid it out for Caprice like a front-wheel-drive wheel, with the face way out. That actually helped the car look a little newer, you know, rather than a deeper rim.

So, later I left Chevrolet to work for Cadillac and there, holding course, were wire wheels. And, you know, the wire wheel companies were just cranking them out like there was no tomorrow. Well, that started the whole thing over again and I did another wheel. But this Cadillac was a front-wheel-drive car, so the face was also out.

When Dave Holls saw it, he said, “You can’t do that. That’s the wheel on the Caprice.” I told him the story and said, “Dave, we have to do something.” He said, “Okay, let me think about it.”

So what he did was, he went to Chevy and he told the guys that they had to push the face of the wheel in and have some rim. That was his justification for letting us both follow the same direction. So, it did kill the wire wheel at Cadillac also.


Continued on page 12.

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