You can call Dr. Paul Deutschman the “designer of speed“—after all, his name is linked to some of the fastest road and race cars to ever roam our planet.
The new Corvette C7 GT3-R racing car from the ADAC GT Masters series; the segment-redefining Campagna T-REX three-wheeled vehicle; and of course the 254-mph Callaway “Sledgehammer” Corvette all came out of the head of the Montreal-based designer.
But before he took on work streamlining American sports cars and trikes, Deutschman started out by engineering a strange Honda kit car, and, before that, styling hand dryers.
Autofocus.ca recently met with Dr. Deutschman at the Lingenfelter Collection in Brighton, Michigan, home to the largest private collection of cars which he designed.
The 1980s, and the need for speed
Back in the 1980s, there was a lot of interest from several sports car manufacturers to make a road-legal car that could crack 200 mph (322 km/h). The 1986 Porsche 959 came close, but failed—it topped out at just 196 mph (315 km/h). A year later, Ferrari got the job done with the F40, but only just, maxing out at 201 mph (324 km/h).
Then, in the same year, a tuner from Germany shook the establishment with a car called the RUF CTR Yellowbird. This modified Porsche 911 hit a top speed of 211 mph (340 km/h) at Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test track. For some, it seemed like the speed war was over, with the Germans claiming victory.
That’s when America revealed its own secret weapon in the shape of a modified Chevrolet Corvette from a company called Callaway, powered by a 5.7-litre V8 with two Turbonetics T04b turbochargers pushing 22 PSI of boost. The engine was rated at 898 hp and 772 lb-ft of torque; the car was christened “Sledgehammer.”
However, despite the colossal horsepower, the Corvette’s aerodynamics were just not fit for speeds approaching 200 mph. That’s when Callaway called in the doctor—Dr. Paul Deutschman penned a body for the car that would see it effortlessly sail past 200 mph, and look good doing it.
The combination of that brutal powertrain and a Deutschman Design aero body just worked, and the Sledgehammer recorded a top speed of 254.76 mph (410 km/h) on October 26, 1988 at the Transportation Research Center in Ohio.
This record is so impressive, it stood for 22 years, when it was beaten by the 2010 Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, which topped out at 267.7 mph (430.9 km/h)—even the original 2005 Veyron could only manage 253 mph (407 km/h).
How did a car tuner from Old Lyme, Connecticut decide to hire a car designer from Montreal, Quebec?
The designer’s resumé
Deutschman had studied automotive engineering at Hatfield Polytechnic (now the University of Hertfordshire) near London, U.K. However, he always had a knack for design, and shifted his focus towards styling cars while still in university. In 1978, Deutschman joined the Rover styling studio, and worked on projects for other brands also owned by British Leyland.
But Deutschman was born and raised in Quebec, and was eventually compelled to move back to Canada by his wife. His first job upon settling back in Montreal in 1982 was to design a vehicle for GSM, which was vying to win a contract for New York City’s “taxi of tomorrow.” Sadly, the innovative project didn’t succeed—but it was just the end of a beginning.
The birth of Spex Design
In late 1982, Deutschman partnered up with Kell Warshaw to start Spex Design, and the firm’s first paid assignment was to style a hand dryer for Nova. They followed that by jumping into designing a kit car project of their own, the Elf.
Based on the 1973 to 1979 Honda Civic, this cute sports car could transform from a coupe; to a targa; to a full convertible, and helped Spex Design get some recognition—they sold 24 examples of the Spex Elf, and received a full feature in Popular Mechanics magazine. But it was their next project that really put them on the map.
The car was called the Spexter, and it was Deutschman’s idea for what a future Porsche Speedster should look like. The Spexter showed up in many publications, including the cover of Motor Trend and Sports Car International magazines—Porsche must have been watching, because it unveiled its own Boxster concept a few years later, clearly inspired by Deutschman’s design. It was the Spexter that got the attention of Reeves Callaway, the founder of Callaway Cars.
“Reeves saw the article, and he called me up and asked if I could work on a car meant to go 250 mph,” says Deutschman. “Truthfully, I didn’t have a clue, but I answered, ‘Yes, of course.‘”
After a few more conversations, Callaway decided to visit Deutschman in Montreal, and did so by dropping by in his personal Aerospatiale Gazelle helicopter.
“The Spexter was being kept in a building called Habitat, which looks like a bunch of cubes stacked together,” recalls Deutschman. “Reeves picked me up from the airport, and flew over the river to Habitat, and we landed next to the tennis court.”
Callaway was impressed by what he saw in the Spexter—its clean design details and aerodynamic body. “We test drove the Spexter on the Formula One race track,” said Deutschman. “It was a nice, sunny day, and we clicked with each other.” This meeting resulted in Callaway hiring Deutschman for his new project.
Dr. Paul Deutschman with a Callaway C12 in the Lingenfelter Collection
Deutschman, who was quite young at the time, was sent to work on a team with some senior engineers, and things didn’t go perfectly smoothly. The Sledgehammer’s chief engineer was Carroll Smith, who had written lots of books on racing. Deutschman had to work closely with Smith, especially on the Sledgehammer’s aerodynamics.
“Race car engineers care about going fast, not looking good [which is why] Carroll wanted exposed rivets for some duct work on the front of the car.” Deutschman didn’t like the idea, and argued Callaway wanted the Sledgehammer to look like a road car; the much older Smith brushed off Deutschman as “just a young punk.”
“Then Reeves shows up, and since it was his name on the car, what he says, goes,” Deutschman says. “After hearing the discussion, Reeves said ‘There will be no rivets on the car.‘”
While only one Sledgehammer was ever made, its aerodynamic body was fitted by Callaway to its other models, and it became quite popular back in the early 1990s. This success secured Callaway Cars’ connection with Deutschman, who has designed every single vehicle of theirs since 1988.
From the aero body to the AeroWagen
Deutschman’s latest project for Callaway is the C7 AeroWagen, a kammback-roof version of the new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. It began as an idea Paul was toying with one night, some sketches he decided to send to Callaway.
The concept struck a nerve: “Reeves asked me to send more renderings, and also decided to share them with the media, to see how the public would react,” says Deutschman.
The press and public went wild, and requests started pouring in for this “shooting brake” variant of the new Corvette. This one-piece autoclaved carbon-fiber-composite structure simply replaces the rear hatch on the current Corvette Stingray and Z06 coupe, allowing for some extra storage space while reducing aerodynamic drag—the fact it looks cool is an added bonus.
Callaway is well under way to market the AeroWagen component. “If all goes well, we’ll be cutting the moulds in the next few days, and be on the road by the end of the year,” Deutschman said late August.
The doctor’s opus
What’s Deutschman’s personal favourite design? On the Callaway side, he is extremely proud of the C16 Speedster. Deutschman says he loves the purity of its design, and thinks its elongated hood, retro-racer aero-screens, and the incorporation of helmets behind the cabin makes it a design classic.
Only one example of the C16 Speedster was ever created, and it’s currently a part of the Lingenfelter Collection, which also includes notable and rare Callaway models like the C4 Speedster; and “Inky Blue,” a C12 Coupe finished in naked blue-weave carbon-fiber.
Apart from the Callaway assignments – which includes the new C7 GT3-R racing car currently leading the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championship in the ADAC GT Masters series – Deutschman has leant his expertise to other manufacturers.
One of his most well-known is the Campagna T-REX, a three-wheeled sports vehicle that blends car and motorbike. Then there is the Dynasty, an electric vehicle concept that allows for a variety of body configurations on an affordable, and easy-to-produce platform—the rights to that project were bought by Karakoram Motors of Pakistan.
Deutschman, in the driver seat, and Ken Lingenfelter in the Deutschman-designed one-of-one Callaway C16 Speedster,
part of the Lingenfelter Collection
That’s not all. Deutschman has also designed the Lion Bus 360°, a school bus with a body that features no exposed rivets—Deutschman doesn’t like rivets; the Demers Millenium Ambulance; the Bombardier Traxter quad-bike; pickup truck storage cabs for Fibrobec; hand dryers for Comac Corp. and Avmor; and even a boat for the Canadian Electric Boat Company. In other words, Deutschman is no one-hit wonder.
His old alma mater, the University of Hertfordshire, recognized his contribution to the design world by awarding him an honorary doctorate in 2014—hence Dr. Deutschman.
What can one expect from the good doctor next? With the diversity of projects Deutschman is capable of undertaking, only time will tell. For now, if you have a C7 Corvette and you want to give it a visual enhancement, the AeroWagen conversion would be the ideal way to give your car a new personality.