SOUTHFIELD — A concept for an electric Lincoln Continental for 2025 will be displayed as a quarter-scale model at the Lawrence Technological University exhibit at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Lawrence Tech students Colin Bonathan and Jeeho Cha came up with the plans as a summer project in Lawrence Tech’s undergraduate degree program in transportation design, and the model was built in Ford Motor Co.’s product development center. Lawrence Tech’s exhibit will be in the main concourse of Cobo Hall.
In designing the exterior, Bonathan paid close attention to computational fluid dynamics in order to maximize the aerodynamic values of the concept car. The sleek body is designed to cut through the air with streamlined wheel housings, “active” wheels with wide tires, and a grill that balances aerodynamic and cooling requirements.
Cha designed the interior with a mahogany console and floor and fully reclining Alcantara seats. The Lincoln emblem is part of the glass roof design, and at night the actual location of the stars are projected onto the roof. A bonsai tree is in a retractable console in the back seat. Other luxury features include a retractable food cooler and beverage dispenser, center-opening doors, and a sliding trunk bed.
Ford officials liked the concept so much that they commissioned the quarter-scale model for display at the Auto Show.
The Lawrence Tech students used computer design programs to develop their concept car, making it relatively easy for the professionals at Ford to build the model. The students bypassed the traditional clay modeling and went straight to the computer programs that generate the specifications used to manufacture the parts of a scale model or an actual automobile.
This level of technology training isn’t found at other undergraduate programs, according to Adjunct Professor Doug Gaffka, a retired Ford designer.
“Lawrence Tech students are way ahead of other design schools in terms of computer technology. I’m impressed by the way that this Lincoln Continental model comes apart. The students are thinking ahead to how the model will be displayed,” Gaffka said.
Bonathan explained that he started with the desired wheel base and then placed the occupants, the electrical system and other components in his concept vehicle before he finalized his design ideas for the exterior.
“We’re not just doing pretty pictures. We’re designing beautiful cars that actually work,” Bonathan said of the transportation design program at Lawrence Tech.
Bonathan visited the design center of Ford’s product development center in Dearborn where the model was fabricated from the electronic designs. One decision that needed to be made was the color scheme of the model.
“We have visualization in the programs we use so we can put in a color to see what it looks like,” Bonathan said.
This was Cha’s first opportunity to design an automobile interior, and the experience may change his career path.
“I like doing interiors more now. It’s not just one form, but several forms that have to be designed in a cohesive way. There are more problems to solve,” said Cha, who chose Lawrence Tech because of its comprehensive approach to transportation design that includes technical and engineering aspects.
The director of the transportation design program is Keith Nagara, a former Ford designer who also has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He emphasizes the importance of engineering factors that must be dealt with before a car design can move to the manufacturing phase.
“There is a technology influence that makes Lawrence Tech’s program unique. These students think holistically, go beyond styling, and take manufacturing into account in their designs,” said Adjunct Professor Brian Baker.