OEM Report: Automotive
Wednesday | 30 May, 2012 | 12:18 pm

Lightweight retro roadsters

By Julie Sammarco

Wiesmann GmbH uses aluminum to enhance vehicle performance

June 2012 Wiesmann GmbH, Dülmen, Germany, a niche manufacturer of retro-style cars, is not just concerned with manufacturing good-looking, high-end luxury vehicles. Although the company has been making handcrafted cars since the 1980s, with sticker prices up to $300,000, Wiesmann has shifted from using steel for parts on its vehicles to using aluminum.

Wiesmann chose aluminum for its latest model, the MF5, to engineer a lighter-weight vehicle, according to Kathrin Gengel, public relations for Wiesmann.

“Using aluminum for the monocoque chassis was for lightweighting the cars,” she says. “Not only for fuel efficiency but [also] for enhanced vehicle performance.”

An aluminum monocoque-style chassis—a chassis built from one solid piece of aluminum and bent into position—is important not only because it lowers the weight of the vehicle but also because it’s uncommon. “The majority of cars produced are made with a steel chassis,” says Gengel. “But more and more manufacturers are starting to use aluminum for this.”

Vehicle manufacturers will continue to opt for lightweight aluminum solutions to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions and enhance vehicle performance, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Common Wastes and Materials report. In 2010, about 1.5 million tons of aluminum were used to make durable and nondurable goods, such as appliances and automobile parts, according to the same report.

“The secure aluminum monocoque, the extremely low weight, the powerful engine and the exclusive details pave the way for pure driving pleasure, which is exactly what we had in mind,” said Friedhelm Wiesmann, co-founder and owner, in a press release. “Fiberglass-reinforced composite materials in combination with the monocoque and the space frame guarantee maximum quality and stability plus low weight.”


Manufacturing processes
Wiesmann sports cars are manufactured by hand, from the chassis to the electronics, seating and assembly. Each vehicle is made in about 350 hours of work and are often a buyer’s second or third car. They are fun vehicles, not everyday cars, said Wiesmann.

The MF5, which was showcased at the International Motor Show IAA in September 2009, has a bonded and riveted chassis built in the aluminum monocoque style. The front suspension has an aluminum double wishbone suspension with coil springs and anti-roll bar. The rear suspension has an aluminum double wishbone and trailing arm suspension with coil springs and anti-roll bar. The body is a high-quality fiberglass.

The first Wiesmann model, the MF3, put into production in 1993, was manufactured with a hot-dip galvanized steel frame, along with other steel parts and aluminum paneling.

The body construction team at Wiesmann manufactures the molds used to make body parts, as well.

Although Wiesmann is a unique company in many ways, its ideas about lightweighting vehicles are in line with many other automobile manufacturers in the market today. Whether manufactured by hand or otherwise, “vehicles that are made lighter are beneficial for the manufacturer and for the customer,” says Gengel. “We can create the cars we love and still keep customers happy with style, beauty, fuel efficiency and a long vehicle life.”

The Roadster MF5 is powered by a 4.4-liter V8 TwinScroll twin turbo engine (six-speed sports automatic transmission). It has 555 horsepower and can accelerate from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour (roughly 0 to 60 miles per hour) in 3.9 seconds and has a top speed of about 193 miles per hour. MM


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