Charge of the light bri­gade

Aussies are out to show the world, writes Craig Duff

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

AN AUS­TRALIAN-de­vel­oped car­bon­fi­bre auto pas­sen­ger cell has been adapted from Boe­ing aero­space technology and at­tracted in­ter­est from car­mak­ers such as Toy­ota and Holden.

The hi-tech car­bon-fi­bre/plas­tic com­pos­ite is the same ma­te­rial used in F1 cock­pits.

Work­ing out the tools and tech­niques to mould the ma­te­rial into the bends, nooks and crevices that make up an oc­cu­pant cell has given an in­take of auto stu­dents an in­sight into the next-gen chal­lenge of build­ing cars made of light­weight com­pos­ites that cure at low tem­per­a­tures.

It is also the lat­est ma­jor update on the FR-1 light­weight con­cept ve­hi­cle cre­ated by the non­profit Au­toHori­zon Foun­da­tion to show­case lo­cal au­to­mo­tive tal­ent, us­ing the in­dus­try’s most in­no­va­tive com­pa­nies to over­see stu­dents in a hands-on hi-tech train­ing cen­tre.

The mis­sion of Au­toHori­zon founder Brian Tanti is to en­cour­age au­to­mo­tive de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing tal­ent by part­ner­ing with TAFE auto de­part­ments and then get­ting teach­ers from com­pa­nies that are push­ing the bound­aries of their fields.

And it is one of the many rea­sons he’ll cite why the non-profit foun­da­tion should be high on the fund­ing pri­or­i­ties for state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments.

‘‘We’re giv­ing lo­cal stu­dents hands-on train­ing and un­der­stand­ing of cut­ting-edge auto tech­nolo­gies, from the car­bon-fi­bre FR-1 cell to work in the lat­est elec­tric-power sys­tems,’’ he says.

‘‘Those skills then move through the in­dus­try as grad­u­ates en­ter the work­force, but if we don’t chal­lenge them, our bright­est au­to­mo­tive stud- ents will go over­seas for train­ing ex­actly along the lines of what we aim to pro­vide.’’

He says that with each change in govern­ment, at ei­ther level, he must re­it­er­ate Auto Hori­zons’ role and re­peat the pitch for fund­ing.

‘‘It’s part of life for non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions,’’ he says, ‘‘though most don’t take a lot of con­vinc­ing af­ter they see the work we do.’’

The FR-1 runs on cus­tom hard­ware de­vel­oped in as­so­ci­a­tion with Marand Pre­ci­sion sus­pen­sion spe­cial­ists.

It is pow­ered by a 6.2-litre Holden V8, matched to a Fer­rari transaxle to power the light­weight road­ster via the rear wheels. Tanti says a Porsche transaxle was an early op­tion, but it was ul­ti­mately re­jected be­cause it would have raised the car’s cen­tre of grav­ity.

‘‘We’ve tried to ap­ply best prac­tice at ev­ery el­e­ment from de­sign to pro­duc­tion and this car’s a sym­bol of what Aus­tralian can do.’’

Tanti says SEMA — the mas­sive US af­ter­mar­ket auto show — is keen to show the car at next year’s event.

‘‘The FR-1 is at­tract­ing at­ten­tion and SEMA will help us put the word out to the world that Aus­tralia can hold its own at a global level.’’

Break­through: Au­toHori­zon founder Brian Tanti with the FR-1 con­cept car chas­sis and (right) state-of-the art en­gi­neer­ing ex­clu­sively de­signed

for the FR-1.

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