BMW tests a wind tunnel against a hairdo

Interesting | October 29th, 2009 by 7

The new BMW wind tunnel in the north of Munich: a place that can even surprise the much-travelled Sylvie van der Vaart. She sits in …

The new BMW wind tunnel in the north of Munich: a place that can even surprise the much-travelled Sylvie van der Vaart.

She sits in a 1987 open-top BMW 3 Series Convertible, authentically dressed in an eighties-style Bordeaux-coloured dress, her hair down and put into perfect shape by a hair specialist. She is slightly nervous before the “test drive”: “I’m a little on edge because I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen with all this wind.

But BMW has assured me that it’s all safe.” The huge rotor of the wind tunnel slowly starts to turn, from the control centre you can see a gentle breath of air slowly but surely developing into a stiff breeze at 60 km/h. After this windy test drive, the result is clear: the hairstylist on the set is not too happy since the only thing the tousled mane of model and TV presenter Sylvie van der Vaart would be good for is an eighties music video.

BMW tests a wind tunnel against a hairdo

The outfit and hair are restyled and we shoot forward into the year 2009: a current 3 Series Convertible now gleams in the light of the wind tunnel. Sylvie van der Vaart appears with a business look – an elegant beige-coloured trouser suit. She smiles into the camera and waxes lyrical about open-top driving in Madrid, where she lives. “Open-top motoring is just the thing for me!” says the 31-year-old. Waiting at the wheel in the wind tunnel, she once again waits in suspense for the next test run as the huge rotors start to move. The improved aerodynamics of the vehicle with reduced air turbulence in the interior is clearly visible to all those on the set. The long, straight hairstyle hardly moves a millimetre. Sylvie van der Vaart smiles as she steps out of the car: “What a difference from the older model! I couldn’t feel the wind at all – I even had to check to see if they’d even turned it on.”

Shortly after the shoot in Munich, van de Vaart was diagnosed with cancer at an early stage and successfully treated. She quickly started working again – both in the photo studio and on television. “Discipline is very important in my line of work,” she says. She quickly got used to wearing a wig, too – and continues to drive open top.

The hairdo experiment illustrates 22 years of progress in automobile development. Facilities such as the new Aerodynamic Test Centre enable engineers of the BMW Group to improve aerodynamics at an early stage of the development process so as to make a contribution to increasingly efficient vehicles. In addition to lightweight construction and drivetrain, aerodynamics has a key role to play in automobiles of the future.

Sophisticated aerodynamics is one of the key variables in the BMW Groups EfficientDynamics approach. BMW is a forerunner within the entire automotive industry in terms of the reduction of CO2 emissions. In the EU, the BMW Group’s new car fleet of 2008 has an average CO2 emission level of 156 grams per kilometre – well below that of other premium manufacturers.

[Source: BMW ]

  • Doug

    This is soooo weird! All this production activity and it’s all about the model and the shoot.

    They really should have had some sanity checks like string/ribbons conveying the wind power outside the car, to compare to her sensuous hair tossing inside the cockpit. Or she could have leaned out the window to show where the boundary was and just how strong the wind was in hair-mussing.

    Otherwise, there were no signs that this was anything more than a gentle breeze (aside from that incomprehensible metric system nonsense). There were no other effects of highway-speed wind on the photographers or anything near the car. Can the wind tunnel localize the airflow that much?

  • Doug

    “I’m really excited because I don’t know what’s going to happen…!” LOL

  • Victor

    It”s not Sylvie van der Vaart but Sylvie Meis, she married to the dutch soccer player Rafael van der Vaart (of Real Madrid). Both are big celebrities in Holland ;)

  • http://n/a JoeDoe

    @ Doug: Have you been in a wind tunnel? I have – the wind beam is focused so well that even sheets of paper won’t lift or move outside of the ‘active area’. I experienced this myself at speeds well over 62 mp/h (100 km/h), standing next to the car but outside the stream.

  • Doug

    Nope, never been in one. I’m trying to find some decent pictures of theirs to understand how they could accomplish this, but supermodel hair has dominated the google results.

    I can see you creating a directed stream of air, but it’s going to quickly break up as it interacts with the with the still air. The only good way to maintain “laminar” flow is to move the air in the entire room such that the wind is gradually more intense as you approach the center. The room would have to be sort of bell-shaped, along the lines of the bernoulli principle. Does this make sense? Or is this what they’ve done?

  • http://n/a JoeDoe

    The room is rectangular. And it is true that there is some turbulence on the boundary between the still air and the stream, and the stream gets wider towards the end – the opening where the wind leaves the tunnel is larger than the entrance. And although I’m no aerodynamics expert, I would think that the stream wouldn’t break up totally, because only the edge of the stream interacts with the still air. Plus, all air that gets added needs to go to the only exit eventually, it is as much ‘sucking’ as the entrance is ‘blowing’ because it is a closed loop system.

  • Doug

    Ohh…. is there a fan at the rear? Or is it ducted back to the front fan for the suckage?