"We are really lucky [with] this team," Norwood boasts. "We have got some talented people on board and they all have input into what we're doing. Tony Palo is a great fabricator and race engineer with a lot of experience on front-wheel-drive cars. Sean Fischer is our physics guru and is normally responsible for figuring out if some of our more way-out ideas can be made a reality. The enthusiasm of the youngsters and my years of figuring out how to go fast is a great combination. Our team is really a team in every sense of the word, but sometimes I have to pull rank and make a final decision, otherwise, we'd end up talking about it for weeks without getting any work done."
A visit to the Norwood facility in rural Texas reveals just how much thought is given to the design and construction of the car. The shop walls are made from white-board material and are covered in engineering drawings, mathematical formulae and notes on the design. Every day at the shop starts with a discussion on what needs to be done, who will do it and how it will be carried out. Any new ideas are discussed and drawn out on the walls. Democracy in action is a beautiful thing, indeed.
The starting point for the construction of the chassis was the fabrication of a custom "chassis jig." Manufactured from massive steel beams, the chassis jig provides a perfectly true base on which to start welding tubes together.
The base of the jig represents ground-level, and custom clamps were machined and welded on at the relevant points to dictate ground clearance and locate the main tubes. Next, Norwood positioned the engine block and transmission assembly and marked the wheelbase, width and other crucial measurements on the jig. Finally, the long task of manufacturing a state-of-the-art chassis was under way.
The first tubes to be positioned were the front cross-tube and the bulkhead cross-tube. Next, the tubes that run on either side of the engine were cut and positioned; from this point on, the chassis started to resemble a racecar in record time.
All of the tubing is 4130 chrome-moly and with half an eye on the minimum weight rules all areas that aren't structural, load bearing or dictated by the SFI specs are manufactured of the lightest tubing possible.
Of course, designing and constructing a state-of-the-art chassis is never a matter of just welding tubes together in a random fashion. Norwood's team had access to several high-tech modeling and stress analysis computer programs to back-up the years of hands-on experience in the team.
"We have really made an effort to take the guesswork out of the process." Physics guru, Shaun Fischer, explained. "The technology available these days enables us to design parts that are lighter, stronger and more efficient. Most of the main components of the car have been carefully analyzed on the computer before we ever start to fabricate them. A perfect example of this is the rear swing-arm assembly. We had an idea what we wanted but once the stress analysis was completed, we discovered we could save a significant amount of weight and make the part stronger by pressing chamfered holes into the sheetmetal. We had to buy some special tooling to do the job properly, but in the end, we really want to leave as little as possible on the table."
Once the basic structure of the chassis was completed, Norwood's next step was to get Christian Rado on a plane from Pennsylvania for a first fitting. If this sounds like Rado is getting measured for a custom suit, then it's a statement that's not too far from the truth.