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Monday, June 12, 2006

The Truth about Cars - Carbon Fiber: So Good It Hurts - By Jonny Lieberman

Sitting behind the wheel of a Maserati GranSport GT, cruising along at maybe 50mph (the speedo was busted). I’m waiting for one of the lights ahead to switch from green to red. I’m supposed to turn into the lane next to whichever light remains green, then back into the center lane before coming to a stop. The right light turns red. I jink left, feeding the wheel from my right hand to my left, keeping both arms positioned at nine and three. When I re-grab the wheel with my left hand, I encounter a harder-than-steel carbon fiber steering wheel. I jam my middle finger but good. Man, I hate that stuff.
Ever since the super leggere McLaren F1 debuted, pistonheads have regarded carbon fiber as the ne plus ultra material for high-end whips. The triple-scientifically complex baked resin is both lighter (faster!) and stronger (survive!) than steel. Porsche’s Carrera GT was the first car to boast a carbon fiber monocoque chassis, which is way stiffer than two coques and the F1 way of things. Of course this totally rad material has an equally outrageous price tag; the Carrera GT sold for $440k. Alternatively, you can retro-fit your 997 cabin with carbon fiber (steering wheel, transmission tunnel, doors, pull handles, cupholders, door sills, shift knob and e-brake) for around $6500. An aftermarket E36 M3 carbon fiber hood will set you back a mere $1050.
Pricey yes, but should you pull an Erikson and smash into something at 200mph, at least you’re safer with carbon fiber than steel, right? Er, no. Top Gear fans will recall that The Stig crashed an 800hp+ Koenigsegg CCX’s carbon fiber nose into some old tires. As Jezza noted, the Koenigsegg’s front was shattered, like glass. Translation: carbon fiber withstands one [massive] impact and… that’s it. If Mr. Erikson’s Enzo had struck another solid object after shearing in two on a telephone poll, he couldn’t have blamed the crash on Dietrich, or anyone else.


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