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2020 Corvette Exterior Design Manager Kirk Bennion Interview

Corvette Exterior Design Manager discusses the C8 aero challenges

Walt Thrun Jul 29, 2019
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Kirk Bennion has been working with the Corvette design studio since 1986. Kirk is an avid amateur race driver and understands the importance of how aerodynamics improve a Corvette's track performance. He and his team were responsible for the exterior design of the C8 mid-engine Corvette. It is a radical departure from the previous C7 front engine architecture that it precedes. Team Vette caught up with him at the very successful C8 Reveal in Tustin, California.

 

Vette: Congratulations on the exterior design of the C8 Corvette. The beautiful C7 was a hard act to follow. What was the biggest aerodynamic challenge you were faced with on this design?

KB: We worked very hard to incorporate low drag and manipulate downforce into this car. All of these factors had a huge impact on the end result of this car. For example, getting the two heat exchangers in the front and two in the rear of the car to function properly created an aerodynamic challenge.

Vette: What issues did you encounter locating the heat exchangers?

KB: We had to make sure they were mounted in the proper locations in order to maximize their air flow and not disturb the overall design of the car. It took us an enormous amount of time to determine where to position them and shape the inlets to provide maximum cooling.

Vette: How did you manage routing the plumbing from the front radiators to the engine?

KB: The plumbing was not too bad, because we didn't have any exhaust running down the center of the car. The center tunnel was free for us to route the plumbing to the engine.

Vette: Tell us about the hydraulic front lift system?

KB: This has been a constant request from our customers that started when we introduced the C6 Z06. Frontal curb damage has been a constant occurrence. The front cameras helped. However, getting the C8 as low as possible was our goal, but in addition we had to make the car user friendly. The hydraulic front lift system mitigates many of this issues.

Vette: How does it work?

KB: When a customer approaches a speed bump or any other kind of road obstruction they press a button to activate the system. The location is sent via GPS to a satellite and it is stored in a cloud memory. The next time the driver approaches this location the hydraulic front lift system activates automatically. The system can store up to 1,000 locations. The front shocks are fitted with a small hydraulic pump that is activated by an electronic switch when it get a signal to raise the car.

Vette: The C8 seems to have more definitive body lines than the previous C7. Why is that?

KB: This car is very fast and aerodynamics play a big role in keeping this car stable at all speeds. It is easy to see the influence of aircraft design in the body shape. The body ridges help direct the air flow around the body and into the cooling inlets. Cooling and downforce help keep this vehicle stable. The development is part art using clay modeling and digital mathematical computer design. We started at the front of the car and found the highest wind velocity is at the center of the car. We did not want a bunch of air under the car because that creates lift so we used air dams to manage that flow. The car has a hybrid rear spoiler that helps the air exit the rear of the vehicle from the left and right side of the bumper. The C8 has fans tucked within the bodywork to help pump air into the engine compartment and then evacuate it under the car and through vents in the rear window and bumper.

Vette: What do you like the most about the outside of the car?

KB: We took all of the fat out of the car, the design is very taunt over the mechanicals underneath the panels. We left no stone unturned and constantly asked ourselves if we could be do something better and more unique than the previous car. However, we always wanted to make sure the car looked like a Corvette.

Vette: Kirk, it is a brilliant design and it maintains Corvettes heritage, congratulations!

KB: Thanks!

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Kirk Bennion has worked in the Corvette design studio since 1986. He currently is Corvettes Exterior Design Manager and is responsible for the C8's exterior.

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Aerodynamics played a big role in the development of the C8 mid-engine Corvette. Kirk and his team spent endless hours fine tuning the body to ensure it had minimal lift and low drag. The end result is stunning.

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Correctly locating two large heat exchangers in the nose of C8 was an aerodynamic challenge for Kirk and his team. This C8 is fitted with the Z51 Performance option. (Photo Courtesy of Chevrolet)

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The lower heat exchanger coolant hose in this photo shows how it is routed towards the center of the car. The fender well has a vent to extract hot air from the heat exchanger.

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The heat exchanger coolant hoses are routed to the engine compartment through the center tunnel.

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The front lift system can be activated by the driver. When the system starts, it pumps fluid into the front shock absorbers and raises the nose two inches.

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The lift system is data linked to a GPS satellite. After it encounters an obstruction it sends the information to the satellite and stores it for future use. It can save 1,000 obstructions.

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The exterior body design directs air into the car's cooling system like the opening behind the door that is shown here. (Photo Courtesy of Chevrolet)

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Hot air is extracted from underneath the car as well as the two grills on the rear fascia. The rear window is also vented to extract engine heat. (Photo Courtesy of Chevrolet)

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Each raised line on the body has an aerodynamic function. The body shape must prevent lift and extract heat from the rear of the car. The design team accomplished both goals. (Photo Courtesy of Chevrolet)

Photography by Walt Thurn

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