100 bhp per Litre
24 April 2007
Former Chrysler Chairman, Lee Iacocca is often credited with inventing the
But give true credit to his trusted engineering - product development
sidekick. They worked together on the original 1964 Ford Mustang.
Hal Sperlich, is more accurately called the "father of the minivan."
But the title and his formula did not come
When Sperlich, (like Iacocca) worked at Ford Motor Company, it was Sperlich who came
up with the then-radical design idea for a FWD minivan, which Henry Ford II promptly rejected by
tossing both the idea and the man out the door in the mid-seventies.
But in 1977-78, Chrysler, then much in need of product innovation, adopted both Sperlich
and the FWD minivan formula concept and profited hugely from that decision. Sperlich
to President of Chrysler) writes:
lacked confidence that a market existed, because the product didn't exist. The
auto industry places great value on historical studies of market segments.
Well, we couldn't prove that there was a market for the minivan because there
was no historical segment to cite.
Thus, in Detroit,
most product-development dollars are spent on modest improvements to existing
products and most market research money is spent studying what customers like
among available products. In 10 years of developing
the minivan we never once got a letter from a housewife asking us to invent
one. To the skeptics, that proved there wasn't a market out there."
Project T-115, Inventing a "Magic
It's hard to
remember, but before the minivan and SUV, you had traditional rear wheel drive
Station Wagons and Full-size vans,
(which wouldn't fit into a standard garages), so Sperlich knew that he had to
make the Project T-115 van garageable. In addition, to garageability, Mopar
planners knew they had to design the minivan with a friendly interior. A focus
on clever interior packaging and thoughtful interior features was important in
developing the new market segment, the T-115 was about to create.
By making the
vehicle front-wheel drive, designers could ensure a low, flat floor, which
allowed for easy entry and exit, as well as space for chair-high seating.
To ensure a passenger-friendly vehicle, Chrysler designed a side-sliding
passenger door that opened 30 inches, the size of a standard home door
opening. Other requirements included a flat floor and 48 inches between wheel
wells, perfect for fitting a standard 4' x 8' sheet of plywood and allow
seating for three adults. There were even two cup-holders!
(the initial minivan development program) cost $700 million (U.S.) and took
about five years - a small price for a "magic wagon" that would
forever change the mode of family transportation. Little did anyone
realize what "chart-busting" or
"segment-defining" impact these popular vehicles would have on the world
automotive scene for decades.
The second generation (Gen-2) T-115 (1991 - 1995)
was rather ingeniously redesigned by (now-retired) Chrysler
C. Gale, who had just been given charge of the profitable Minivan
division. Gale also oversaw the very successful "cab-forward"
the Plymouth Prowler, the Dodge Viper and Ram truck, and the PT Cruiser introductions in the nineties.
Wind tunnel testing revealed the
T-115's aero drag coefficient of:
Cd = 0.43 and a total Frontal Area of 26.97
Note: Despite the T-115's boxy shape it was cleaner than
any existing (circa 1984) station wagon!
Compare this to the Omni GLH Turbo's figures of:
Cd = 0.42 and Frontal Area of
|Specifications for Gen-2 1991-95 T-115 FWD
||T-115 SWB 3-door van
||T-115 LWB 3-door van
|Overall Length, in.
|Overall Width, in.
|Overall Height, in.
|Curb Weight, lbs.
|Cargo Volume, cu. ft. (All seats removed)
|Cargo Volume, cu. ft. (5-passenger seating)
|Cargo Volume, cu. ft. (7-passenger seating)
|Fuel Capacity, gals.
|Front Head Room, in.
|Max. Front Leg Room, in.
|Rear Head Room, in.
|Min. Rear Leg Room, in.