Conceived in 2008, a scale model was built to determine proportional relationships, and placement of the advanced extruded alloy core, composite wrapped, compressed natural gas storage tanks. Incorporation of the greater volume of storage mandated by a gaseous fuel into the overall design of the body was paramount. A first in automobile design and construction, the Magnolia Special was from inception, a dedicated compressed natural gas vehicle.
The construction of this very special automobile began in September 2009. A unique, bare chassis was fabricated from specially formed lightweight, fully boxed steel rails to meet the wheelbase requirement of 116 inches. High strength 20 inch wheels were built specifically for the Excelsior racing tires, and joined with the bare chassis in December of 2009.Powertrain placement to achieve a 47% front, 53% rear overall weight distribution was calculated, and mounts fabricated. The inline six cylinder engine with a bore of 3.6 inches and stroke of 4.2 inches was selected for the ability to produce tremendous torque at lower rpm and allow more time for the highly stable fuel to achieve complete combustion. The octane rating equivalent for natural gas is 130, therefore, high compression 12.5:1 pistons were specially forged and high lift, short duration camshafts utilized.
The five speed transmission drives a rear differential equipped with positive traction and a 3.00 gear ratio for lower rpm at higher road speeds. The solid rear axle articulates with a 4-link system and Panhard rod, and is suspended by adjustable coil-over shocks.
The front suspension employs pushrod actuated, inboard Coil-over shocks and a double a-arm multi-link design with rack and pinion steering. Disc brakes and alloy calipers were placed at all four corners.
With running gear mounted, the focus of the work shifted to creation of the body in the spring of 2010. A bulkhead and stringer Superleggera technique was reinforced with steel tubing surrounding the cabin. Aluminum sheet in both 1100 and 3000 series, in thicknesses ranging from .045 to .135, was formed by hand for the fuselage, and spun for the fenders and wheel wells. The entire undersurface of the car was sheathed as well, to achieve greater aerodynamic efficiency. A system of brass fasteners allowed for easy removal of all body panels to facilitate access to the chassis and damage repair.
The full complement of instrumentation was designed, exclusively constructed, and mated to a wire harness of robust, yet elegant architecture. Utmost attention to detail was paid to the creation of an electrical system that would be waterproof yet easily inspected.
Fixtures such as hinges, knobs, and badging were cast using a traditional two part mold and Jupiter sand. Door handles, hood latches, luggage rack and other fixtures were fabricated from 316 stainless steel.
One year later, in the spring of 2011, the body was filled, finished, and painted using a combination of epoxy and polyester primers, with a urethane top coat. Upholstery was lovingly crafted in a traditional and conservative manner.
In the Fall of 2011, after validation and endurance testing, The Magnolia Special embarked upon a coast to coast record setting run, New York to Los Angeles. She has been built with this purpose in mind. Every engineering decision has been inspired by the desire to produce a long distance endurance racecar that extols the virtues of a clean burning domestic fuel. Aesthetic considerations have been applied with regional influences taking precedent. She has been born of New Orleans and it is our wish to imbue our prototype with the beauty of Louisiana, in honor of our namesake on whose shoulders we stand. We hope that our efforts will delight you, as much as our goals have stimulated and challenged us, to strive for excellence.
On October 25, 2011, the Magnolia Special fulfilled her promise – New York to Los Angeles: 89 hours.