|Fulda Reifen: dedicated to “high-performance” products
In the 1920s, the sales managers at Fulda Reifen, known at that time as Gummiwerke Fulda, were quite sure that the brand’s image should not be communicated in isolation from the end-product that stands on four tires.
Consequently, they bought a bus, had it converted into a luxury coach and as of 1925, presented Fulda’s new patented Parabel tire all over Germany and the neighboring countries. The first of a long series of special models was born.
Whether advertising vehicles equipped with record players and loudspeakers, the tail section shaped like huge tires, standing in front of the Reichstag in Berlin (1931), whether as a tire test streamlined bus with special license for speeds over 140 km/h (1961), or as a show truck series (from 1985) to demonstrate the respective latest high-tech truck tire generation – in all chapters of the Fulda company history there have been Fulda special vehicles.
The most challenging technical commission to produce a special model in the first half of the company’s history with the simultaneous mysterious conclusion was awarded by Fulda in 1938. The starting point was the rapid development in automotive design in the 1930s which, due to the increasingly refined aerodynamic automobiles, permitted higher and higher speeds. In addition, the construction of the “Autobahn” provided motorists with the opportunity to travel further at higher speeds.
That was a challenge to the tire industry. Bernd J. Hoffmann, Managing Director of Fulda Reifen comments: “My pragmatic predecessors did not hesitate long: At Dörr & Schreck, a renowned vehicle-maker in Frankfurt, they commissioned the construction of a vehicle for tire tests. Precondition for this order was the assurance of the manufacturer that the vehicle could regularly make high-speed tests at more than 200 km/h.”
Dörr & Schreck accepted the order and looked for the absolute leading cooperation partner in automobile manufacturing at that time: Maybach Motorenbau. Together and with the help of the well-known aerodynamic specialist, Freiherr Reinhard Koenig Fachsenfeld, they designed a three-seater streamlined car on the basis of a Maybach SW 38 chassis. The Fulda coupé with its two-color paint job and pontoon form had a long extended tail section sloping to the rear. From a bird’s eye-view the overall line looked like a rectangle with rounded edges. The rear wheel arches were completely panelled, as was the underbody, even the door handles were partly recessed.
To reach the speed of over 200 km/h demanded by Fulda, the technicians installed a 6-cylinder engine with 140 hp. The exceptionally low air resistance coefficient of 0.25 (a figure of 0.6 was usual at that time for series-produced vehicles), also helped guarantee this speed. The precondition was, however, that the chassis did not exceed a weight of 1,600 kg.
On 27 July 1939, Dörr & Schreck finally announced the completion of the SW 38: “The car is extremely interesting and beautiful. It lies well on the road and the streamlined shape already makes itself felt at 60 km/h. Soon afterwards the car was delivered, but as a result of the outbreak of war its use was soon to be very limited. During the chaos of war the test vehicle disappeared and was never found again – its whereabouts remain a mystery to this day.
Looking back, it seems that the Fulda managers at that time could not foresee two future developments:
An idea wins space.
|The idea – the tire – the car: The Exelero project
Ultra-high performance tires, top products for demanding motorists with high performance cars are not introduced to the market every year. They are the result of intensive tests over many millions of kilometers in technical laboratories and under the most extreme road conditions at high speed. Years go by before they achieve
|their optimal performance profile in the critical eyes of the tire specialists.
In 2005, the successor to the long successful and tried and tested Carat Extremo will be introduced to the specialist trade. A summer wide tire of an extra class – the Fulda Carat Exelero. High performance – sporty, dynamic and and comfortable.
How and in what setting such a high-end product should be presented?
Why not once again design such an automobile built around a top Fulda product? The previous concept was successful.
This time the problem was different. The Exelero tire line, for the first time tested in advance by the TÜV (Technical Control Board), is not comparable with the predecessor generation. This applies to the design and the extended extreme sizes up to 315/25 ZR 23 version! A complete wheel in this still weighs around 46 kilograms.
How can the claim of this tire technology be interpreted in automotive form?
Maybach agrees to make a platform available on the 57 basis.
An idea takes shape.
What ever happens no retro design!
Why not revive a good und effective cooperation once again? In the middle of the 1990s, Fulda Reifen had already had a show truck designed by the students of Pforzheim Polytechnic’s Department of Transport Design under the direction of Professor James Kelly. Since the year 2000, to mark the 100th anniversary of Fulda, this uniue vehicle with its futuristic aura, the trailer of which can be divided lengthwise in the middle and extended, has been on the road for use at many events.
Not only Fulda, also its cooperation partners Maybach and the design department of DaimlerChrysler have had very good experience with Pforzheim Polytechnic and were happy to agree. On the part of the Polytechnic, Professor Kelly and Professor Lutz Fügener assumed responsibility for the project and selected four students from the 6th semester who should produce designs under identical conditions.
On behalf of DaimlerChrysler, Professor Harald Leschke who manages the Group’s future projects, assumed responsibility for the project and the links with the students to the company’s design department.
Because the students not only worked on the design in the college. They were also given the unique opportunity during a practical semester to work directly in DaimlerChrysler’s design center in Sindelfingen, under the wings of the design professionals. Included was the use of the latest technological facilities right up to 3-D animation.
The implementation of the creative ideas was handled quickly and very professionally. From the initial briefing at the Polytechnic (only formal specification from Fulda: Whatever happens no retro design!) through to the selection of the final design which should be realized, just less than eight months passed by. In the end, Fredrik Burchhardt 24, from Bowenden, emerged as the winner. His design was the most appropriate in terms of the transformation of the design from the study into reality. Also the relation of the design between the two vehicle generations was most striking in Burchhardt’s design.
However, Professor Leschke lavished his praise on all the students involved: “Even though Fredrik Burchhardt’s design won in the end, the ideas of the three other students should also be integrated. The project will remain a joint effort. Every single one of them displayed so much imagination, each of the designs could have been realized.” In appreciation of these good performances, all four designs were milled as 1:4 scale models.
Ultimately, the design results can be described as a complete success. The Fulda/Maybach project car was created in a unique interplay between design students, their professors, the specialists from DaimlerChrysler and the Fulda team. The result: a new vehicle dimension.
The designers brings together the best of two vehicle genres – the grandeur of a limousine and the fascination of a coupé. As a result, the Fulda/Maybach project car combines muscular strength and apparently infinite elegance.
The designer mission was accomplished: The Exelero project is the ambassador of a new tire generation, the Fulda Carat Exelero in sizes up to 23 inches.
An idea on the move.
A legend lives.
Following the many model phases, whether it be the 1:1 study, the exterior design model as a reference for the form release, the interior reference model, the innumerable wind tunnel tests, the bodywork for the chassis in working order with subframe – eventually these phases of searching and coordination are concluded. Now it is time for the technicians and engineers.
Fulda’s arguments were very clear right from the start:
The standard type 12 Maybach engine with Biturbo turbocharger produces 550 hp. Even this imposing engine cannot accelerate a vehicle weighing around 2.6 tons to a speed of around 350 km/h.
The designers dipped into their technical box of tricks and increased the cubic capacity from 5.6 to 5.9 liters. They further optimized the turbocharger and, lo and behold, the 700 hp and torque of at least 1,000 newton meters calculated for the desired speed was achieved. After around 100 hours of non-stop testing on the engine test bed, corresponding to a road test of about 15,000 kilometers, the unit was ready for use.
Leon Hustinx, the Director of Sales and Marketing at Maybach, was so impressed by the Exelero project that he quickly and unbureaucratically provided Fulda with the platform of a Maybach 57 limousine.
That simplified construction considerably. Nevertheless, a great number of details had to be changed, among others:
All in all, however, the necessary changes were made in the short time available.
The development work connected with the rim and the wheel proved equally tricky. Rolf Dieter Stohrer, Senior Manager Car Tires and responsible for wheel and tire technology in the Fulda project team contacted several rim manufacturers and realized the rim called for in the design with Ronal. The corresponding design was milled by Ronal from a complete piece of metal, i.e. from a solid block weighing 257 kilograms a rim measuring 11.0 x 23 inches was produced with a weight of just 23 kg. All four rims were individually produced and because they are turbine wheels, the direction of movement had to be taken into account. Thus, two were produced for the left side and two for the right. However, these Ronal rims are only needed for the “See true” vehicle model. This is the exact copy of the Exelero sports coupé which, however, is not used in the road but merely at show events.
The real rims for the high speed tests come from ATP-Excentric in Bremen. The reason: the ATP rims have a cross spoke design which can be simply fully-panelled for the speed tests. This procedure means an additional 3-4 km/h for such gigantic 23-inch wheels. The air pressure of the tires will amount to 3.6 bar for the high speed tests. As a rim can bear a load of 1,050 kilograms, for example, the load on the rear axle of 1,400 kilograms is no problem, i.e. there is a sufficient reserve.
After all technical requirements included in the engineers’ specifications had been checked, the tests began.
An idea conquers the road.
Sunday, 1 May 2005, 5.45 hrs., sunrise in a radiantly blue Southern Italian sky. The atmosphere is tense on Nardo’s 12.5-kilometer circuit. Klaus Ludwig, a three-time DTM winner sits in his racing gear and helmet, apparently completely calm, at the wheel of the
|Maybach Exelero and waits for the signal to start in his attempt on the record.
This highlight of the project had been preceded by a number of intensive tests, starting with the various wind tunnel phases. In accordance with the results, the Exelero was optimized correspondingly.
Peter Kühlwein, one of the most experienced experts of TÜV Automotive GmbH, Gruppe Süd, tested and evaluated the safety-relevant vehicle components like the seats with the safety belts and the weight distribution within the car.
All points were checked off to the satisfaction of the TÜV engineer or otherwise reconfigured.
When all the reservations from the side of the DaimlerChrysler specialists, the tire engineers and the TÜV experts, had been satisfied, nothing stood in the way of the final mission in Southern Italy.
The entire team already arrived on Thursday. On this day and the next, the Exelero was completely checked yet again. On Saturday the team checked all the measuring facilities and conducted trial measurements as well as several test laps with technical project manager Jürgen Weissinger at the wheel.
Early on Sunday morning then everything was ready: The final test could begin.
The FIA standardized measuring unit registered a world record top speed of 351.45 km/h!
Klaus Ludwig’s comments after breaking the record: “It was unbelievable how easily the vehicle could be handled at this record speed. Particularly the tires conveyed an absolutely safe feeling. Everything was simply just right: technology, chassis and tires.”
Bernd J. Hoffmann, Managing Director of Fulda Reifen, thanked all the teams involved for their outstanding efforts: “Everybody gave their best and thus made this success possible. The vehicle and tires supplement each other perfectly.”
An idea becomes reality.
|Photos and Text by DaimlerChrysler AG & Maybach|