The Czinger 21C is an all-American hypercar. Clocking more than 1200 horsepower depending on the spec, a claimed 0-62 mph time below two seconds with a top speed knocking on 270 mph, and tandem seats, the debut production car from the L.A.-based company isn’t messing around. Only 80 will be built, costing $1.7 million, so it’ll be something of a pipe dream car for most.
For all its impressive stats and promises of high speed brilliance, the 21C is something more: a very public showcase of parent company Divergent’s new proprietary manufacturing technique. Their way of building things, according to CEO Kevin Czinger, has the potential to change the way cars are produced globally.
“That will assemble 10,000 vehicle structures a year,” Czinger says as we walk through his facility. “With $3 million, it replaces $500-million-plus of body assembly.” That is a small group of robotic arms, capable of moving at two meters per second and assembling parts with 100-micron (0.004-inch) accuracy. The setup can assemble the innards of a 21C in less than an hour, holding the structure aloft at varying angles while parts are autonomously installed.
Lukas Czinger, Senior Director of Automation and Manufacturing (and Kevin Czinger’s son), explains: “This system is very different in that it uses no tooling. We call it a vertical assembly. It’s not line-based, it’s cell-based assembly. And it’s done to a precision that’s not seen in automotive much. When two parts are coming together, we’re talking about joining them relative to CAD computer system.”
This robots can stop what they’re doing and be programmed to work on something else within a short timeframe—something you can’t do with a traditional production line. Lukas adds that the compact cell of robots, roughly 17 meters by 17 meters, means that not only is it fast, but it’s incredibly compact compared to conventional assembly-line machinery.
Divergent’s jam isn’t just robots. The company also specializes in innovative materials. See, under the skin the 21C is 3D printed, with parts produced on-site at Divergent. The company uses a homegrown lightweight high-performance alloy, plus carbon fiber and other materials. The company also uses innovative virtual design when coming up with components: A computer finds the optimal design based on how strong a part needs to be, required mounting points, and size parameters. The software designs parts in a more organic, naturally strong way.
Once the piece is designed, printed, and applied to a structure by robots, Czinger was keen to emphasize that they should be robust enough to last the lifetime of the car, or longer. But if a part should need replacement, the old one won’t be thrown away: the component will be atomized back to its base material, ready to be reprinted into something else, minimizing waste.
There’s more to the 21C than printing and assembling the innards and calling it a day. Each car takes thousands of hours to fully assemble—each 3D-printed component needs to be printed, then sanded down to shape before it’s applied to the chassis. After that, the car’s structure and bodywork is assembled, powertrain put in place, painted, fettled, and finished.
David O’Connell, Czinger’s Chief Design Officer, was given a novel brief, as Czinger Sr. wanted something pretty specific: “I wanted a car with two people seated in line, and I wanted to have that roof line, with the T70-type front fenders,” the founder says. Thankfully for O’Connell, he was more than able to provide it. As the designer tells me, “what was really nice about our relationship, and still is, is that [Czinger] never said: ‘Dave, here’s what I want it to look like.’ I took those three simple cues and that’s when we started this process.”
There were some admissions from the Czinger camp that the car might be a little tricky to get in and out of, thanks to its construction. But the broad, thin doors were designed to make the car accessible even in a tight spot. The 21C’s doors open curbside, configurable depending on the market. (The other side will open too, but only as an emergency measure.)
It’s a dramatic looking car, one that will certainly stand out in a lineup of 1000-hp hyper hybrids, but its powertrain is equally special. Behind the cabin is a Czinger-designed 2.9-liter twin turbo V-8 pushing out 950 hp—the world’s most power-dense engine, according to Czinger. The V-8 drives the rear wheels, while two potent electric motors drive the fronts, allowing the car to produce up to 1250 hp at 11,000 rpm, and 1061 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough, Czinger says, to get the 21C down the quarter-mile in as little as 8.1 seconds at 170 mph. Launch edition cars produce 1190 hp, but weigh a little less, maintaining a power-to-weight ratio that exceeds the magical 1-hp-to-1-kg number. Track-spec cars come with the full 1250 hp and a similar power to weight ratio, while the road car hits the one-to-one bullseye. Keeping the weight low and the power high ensures the Czinger will have few competitors.
As if its production, engineering, and general exclusiveness isn’t enough, Czinger’s machine is a flex-fuel car, meaning it can run on Vulcanol, a fully-renewable methanol made from captured carbon dioxide. That means, in theory, the 21C could be a zero-net-emissions V-8 hypercar.
Czinger himself has been a car guy since forever, building karts and cars in his garage in Cleveland, and he dailies a 600 hp tuned Mitsubishi Evo. His inspiration for Divergent, and the Czinger car company, is based on his childhood. He read work from Nobel prize winner John Von Neumann, and was inspired by his theories of a “universal constructor.” The idea that a machine could create anything you want inspired him to look into 3D printing, and create the businesses he runs today.
Czinger sees his tech as a way to let artists and creatives do more with less, expressing themselves in new, sustainable ways. Also, it can allow people in hard-to-reach places to create vehicles bespoke for their regional needs. However, the side effect of his childhood wonderings, and adult tech know-how, is that he’s ended up with his own hypercar. Something he rather likes the idea of: “It’s groovy and you can drive it on the street.”
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