We are often lucky enough to hear from some people who were there back in the day of the Aero Wars. Recently, Mark Perry, Project Technical Lead Engineer (retired) email@example.com at Lockheed Martin, was one of those individuals. He was reading an article on our site and reached out to add some add some useful information. Below is his email.
If anyone has similar information on how our cars were designed and built please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I recently came across your November 14, 2015 article regarding wind tunnel testing and I might be able to shed some additional light on the subject for you. I worked for 34+ years at the Lockheed Martin Low Speed Wind Tunnel in Marietta Georgia. This wind tunnel was commissioned in August of 1967 and has performed over 125,000 hours of testing, approximately 55% of which has been for automotive customers. We did most of the North American full-scale aerodynamic and wind noise wind tunnel testing for the Big Three from the late 60’s until each built their own facilities; Chrysler (1968 – 2001), GM (1969 – 1980) and Ford (1971 – 2001).
Our first test for Chrysler is documented in literature as I’m sure you are aware. This test was performed in August of 1968 and included both 3/8-scale and full-scale models of the Dodge Charger 500 and the Plymouth Satellite/Roadrunner NASCAR race cars. You’ve probably seen photos of this test.
Ford had a wind tunnel, known as Wind Tunnel 2 or Hurricane Road, that was built in the late 50’s and is documented in SAE paper 590283, Climatic Testing Indoors – Ford’s Hurricane Road. This wind tunnel was designed primarily for climatic testing, i.e. testing of the radiator/engine cooling as well as the HVAC system of the car. It was not designed for aerodynamic testing, as it was not equipped with an external balance to measure the aerodynamic forces and moments. They did, however, occasionally use it for aero testing by adding four load cells, one under each tire, to measure aero forces and moments. It was far from ideal, as the tunnel cross-sectional area was fairly small and the load cells lifted the model a few inches off the floor.
Regarding the letter in your article, it mentions changing the tire pressure. I have never seen a 3/8-scale model with inflatable tires so this leads me to believe that this letter is referring to full-scale testing in their WT2. There are photos of the GT-40 in this wind tunnel, so I know they used it for some race car testing. There were no other tunnels in North America prior to 1967 that were capable of testing full-scale cars.
I should add that the Big Three did conduct a lot of 3/8-scale testing using wind tunnels at Wichita State University, Texas A&M, and the University of Maryland.
Some of this is probably old news to you and I’m not sure what information you already have but please feel free to let me know if you have an questions.
Project Technical Lead Engineer (retired) email@example.com