The Porsche Carrera GT | Part Seven

The Porsche Carrera GT

Porsche Carrera GT

Trendsetting monocoque body concept

The Carrera GT is the first car in the world, whether on road or track, to feature a brand-new design and construction concept. Both the monocoque and the entire frame carrying all the car’s modules and components are made of carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFP). Unlike a conventional body structure with a large number of individual components, the monocoque comprises just a few shell elements bonded to one another in a high-pressure furnace (another principle registered by Porsche for a patent). The central unit performs all structural functions normally handled by the bodyshell of the car. The drivetrain is firmly bolted to the chassis via the frame supporting the engine, these two principal structural components acting together to provide one complete unit with a very high standard of torsional and flexural stiffness: essentially it is the backbone of the Carrera GT. These modules serve to support the front and rear suspension assemblies and, at the same time, absorb any forces fed in by the crash structures, holding the body panels and the cockpit in position.

CFP is the generic term for composite fibre materials featuring a large share of carbon and often used in aerospace applications. Porsche has opted in favour of this material for the Carrera GT’s high-performance components, since this is the only way to combine supreme performance and driving dynamics with minimum weight and maximum stiffness. Benefitting from this supreme stiffness, this high-tech fibre material also means superior safety on the road, the Carrera GT providing a level of all-round rigidity (maximum flexural and torsional stiffness) absolutely unprecedented on an open-topped production car. Despite the lack of a fixed roof, it is better than the high standard of stiffness offered by a modern coupé and comparable to the stiff body structure of an all-out racing car.

Carbon structure enhances vehicle safety

Apart from its outstanding driving characteristics, the Carrera GT is also a very safe car. This ultra-high-performance sports car offers all of Porsche’s well-known active safety features even at the highest speeds, complying with all worldwide crash regulations. In its levels of torsional stiffness, the Carrera GT sets a new record for open cars, excellent passive safety being provided by the strength of the composite carbon fibre monocoque passenger cell and supplemented by integral rollbars on the A- and B-pillars. For even greater strength and safety, the A-pillars are further reinforced by high-strength steel tubes.

Taking passive safety to an even higher level, the longitudinal arms or “chassis legs“ on the Carrera GT are made of high-strength stainless steel. This crash structure at the front and rear, comprising suitable deformation profiles, ensures smooth and consistent absorption of energy and impact forces with the bumper system featuring an ultra-strong aluminium crossbar and impact tubes. Particular attention has been paid to providing suitable protection of the 92-litre (20.25 Imp gallon) fuel tank – the safest place for the deep-drawn aluminium tank is within the monocoque structure between the passenger cell and the engine compartment. Inside the cockpit, four airbags make yet another contribution to the car’s high standard of passive safety, with full-size front and side airbags for both driver and passenger. The side impact system also features a reinforced door panel with high-strength steel tubes serving to absorb impact energy.

Functional elegance

The cockpit of the Carrera GT offers the functional ambience of a genuine racing car, with low weight a priority. This target was achieved thanks to the use of high-tech materials throughout – the upward sweeping centre console, for example, is made of carbon and is firmly connected to the chassis of the car in the interest of extra safety. On top of the console is an ultra-light, galvanised magnesium assembly housing all buttons and switches. The gearshift lever, with its ball-shaped knob made from laminated birchwood – a nod to Porsche’s rich motor racing heritage – is positioned far up on the centre console, close to the steering wheel in the interest of superior sporting ergonomics.

The Carrera GT is the first production car in the world with seat buckets made from composite carbon-fibre mixed with non-splintering aramide fibre better known as kevlar. Covered in supple leather upholstery, the seats weigh a mere 10.3kg (22.7lb) each, approximately half that of a conventional Porsche production seat. But despite this purist approach inspired by competition, the need for comfort and refinement has not been forgotten.

Accordingly, the Carrera GT is available with air conditioning and the Porsche Online Pro navigation radio, which includes a BOSE sound system, at no extra cost. As the name indicates, the Porsche Online Pro radio offers not only audio functions, but also a navigation system and a tri-band telephone complete with hands-free operation as well as e-mail and internet functions.

continues... | Part Eight
Published 1 June 2004 Melanie Carter

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