In the last few months, we've been chronicling the design and construction of Christian Rado's all-new Toyota Celica Pro FWD racecar. As with any project of this magnitude, progress has been erratic at times, due to manufacturing delays and supply issues. The 2004 season is now officially under way, so the sense of urgency at Norwood's Texas facility is high.
The team hopes to have the car complete in time for the NDRA season opener at Dinwiddie, Va., and the construction crew of Bob Norwood, Tony Palo, Shawn Fischer and Andrew Campbell is virtually working around the clock to meet the deadline.
Finishing the car is only the first step. Testing is an important part of any new project, especially one that features as many new ideas as this one. So the timeline is advancing even faster than the event calendar suggests.
The delayed schedule is driving Christian Rado out of his mind. Racers are not known for being patient. "I was in L.A. for the opening round of the series," he says. "Nothing is worse than watching your rivals from the sidelines. Every race is painful to see. All I want to do is get out there with them. I understand the construction can't be rushed, but I feel like a first-time dad waiting for the baby to be delivered. It's unbelievably frustrating."
"The biggest problem is we end up waiting for special parts," team leader Bob Norwood explains. For example, Turbonetics had to manufacture the intercooler as a one-off so it took awhile to arrive. Without it, the team couldn't build the exhaust manifold, mount the turbo or bend the tubing. It's an unavoidable issue with a scratch-built car, but Team NORAD is doing all it can to minimize the delays.
This month we look at the current state of play and fill some of the gaps in our earlier articles. With completion seemingly just around the corner, our future articles will focus on the testing and tuning as well as the car's highly anticipated debut.
Chassis, suspension and bodywork
The chassis is now complete except for a few minor details. All of the brackets, mounting tabs and controls have been positioned and welded. The only exceptions are the supports for the intercooler and oil tank. These won't be fabricated until the one-piece carbon-fiber nose section is complete because of clearance issues.
"Without the front end, we can't finish the positioning of the final tubing." Tony Palo explains. "It's pretty tight and we don't want to do it twice. The carbon work should be finished in the next few days and it'll only take a few hours to finish the chassis once we have all of the parts in hand."
The rear swing-arm-style suspension, complete with custom-wound titanium springs, is finished. The team is still waiting for the titanium springs for the Penske shocks. "They're on the way," says Norwood.
The carbon-fiber doors are fitted and the carbon floor panels are being installed. The only exception to this is the rear diffuser panel.
"We spent a lot of time on the diffuser," Norwood explains. He wanted to eliminate the need for a large, drag-inducing rear wing so he hired an aerodynamics expert to find an answer. He came up with a diffuser design that will have minimal drag, but will greatly improve the car's stability at speed. The team provided the carbon fabricator with a plug that was machined on the massive CNC mill. Shawn Fischer spent a lot of time making sure it was perfect. The diffuser is built into the rear floor panel, which in itself is a fairly complex part. "The diffuser/floor panel is finished and now we're waiting for a visit from the UPS man."
The rest of the lightweight carbon-fiber panels are finished and waiting to be installed. The only delay is it will be far easier to install the floor and diffuser before the rest of the body goes on, so common sense dictates the team waits until the floor is fitted.
The Lexan windows are cut, drilled and ready to be installed once the rest of the body is finished. "There's no point in installing the Lexan at this stage," Norwood points out. "By the time we've finished the car, it'll just be scratched and dirty." The windows will probably be the last thing to be installed after the body has been painted.
The engine development program has been progressing rapidly. At this stage, the cylinder heads and short-blocks are being assembled at the LC Engineering facility in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.