The 3-D-Printed Czinger 21C Is Out of This World

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The 3-D-Printed Czinger 21C Is Out of This WorldFredrik Brodén
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The Czinger 21C looks oddly at home in California’s otherworldly desert.Fredrik Brodén

There’s no sonic boom as the Czinger 21C V Max hoovers up Box ­Canyon Road, southeast of Palm Springs. In fact, the hum and hiss of tires, the whir of electric motors, and the hushed sound of the 2.9-liter twin-­turbocharged V-8 at not much more than tick-over dissipate into the hot, dry air, so the car passes almost in silence. The shape, smoothed and elongated for minimum drag, is a fascinating mix of alien and organic, and it moves with an energy that seems almost alive. We’re in ­California, but we might as well be on Mars.

This story originally appeared in Volume 23 of Road & Track.

So, the shattering noise is missing. However, the 21C is a thunderclap for the car industry and manufacturing in general. It’s a revolutionary project born from a heady concoction of hot-­rodding mentality, Silicon Valley ambition and optimism, and a force of will and creativity. This car could only come from this place at this precise time. Czinger, this hypercar, and all the ­technologies it harnesses are creating shock waves that could radically change the fabric of car production forever.

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With its layers of metallic webs and strange biomorphic forms, the 21C’s engine bay is endlessly intriguing.Fredrik Brodén

Does that sound dramatic? Perhaps even slightly absurd? A $2 million hypercar with up to 1350 hp and a top speed of 253 mph, capable of exploding from rest to 248 mph and back to zero in 27.1 seconds, is going to change the world? Just 80 customers will take delivery of a 21C in either a high-downforce spec or the slippery V Max configuration. But the moment you walk into the neighboring facilities of Czinger and Divergent (the parent company working on aerospace and military technology projects) in Torrance, California, the potential wide-reaching effects of this knife-edge innovation reveal themselves, one 60- to 120-micron layer at a time. Czinger creates incredible AI-designed components from atomized alloys—literally powdered metal—optimized down to the very last gram.

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Its narrow, Tic Tac–shaped canopy gives the 21C a Le Mans– prototype vibe.Fredrik Brodén

There are others working on additive manufacturing, but Czinger and Divergent go much further. It’s an end-to-end system. AI-powered design tools take in the requirements of a particular part, such as a rear subframe. The starting points are the physical space available, the loads and temperatures the part will endure, the harmonics or NVH targets, and the proposed duty cycle of the part. Processing power then starts to design and virtually test a part, subtracting and adding thousands of times until it meets all parameters while using the minimum amount of material possible. It’s why, for example, the BrakeNode—a combination brake caliper and suspension component—looks like a life-form that’s evolved over thousands of years or something alien sketched by H.R. Giger.

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In a car this odd, a nonround steering wheel seems natural.Fredrik Brodén

At the same time, AI is maximizing the ­efficiency of part production. The speed is incredible: around an hour or two from somebody saying “Hey, we need a new front subframe for our supercar” to Czinger having a fully realized production-ready CAD model. Perhaps 12 hours after that, it’s a physical part. Not a rough-hewn prototype, but a real, repeatable, highly durable, and extremely light ­production component. No wonder blue-chip OEMs have fully bought in. At Czinger’s facility, dozens of different parts, from suspension uprights to rear subframes, are being created for the most prestigious car manufacturers in the world.

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The view from the rear seat is not exactly panoramic.Fredrik Brodén

Later, I’m shown a ring of robots that pulls all the printed parts together and bonds them with patented adhesives and fixings. They take up 2056 square feet and have the capacity to produce 20,000 complete chassis annually. Aircraft fuselages designed and 3-D printed by ­Czinger’s unique tools also come together here. A car structure, followed by a fuselage, then a military drone—the flexibility is extraordinary. Now imagine Czinger facilities dotted around the globe, each producing AI-optimized components for large OEMs. Complete body-in-white structures that require no up-front tooling costs. It’s mind-boggling. We came to hear about yet another new hypercar with outrageous performance claims and a crazy sticker price. We left wondering whether Czinger might be about to take over the world and beyond.

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The central tub is made by an Italian carbon-fiber specialist. The aluminum subframes are not of this world. Fredrik Brodén

“The ultimate romance and emotion of this thing,” begins Kevin Czinger, “is a small team taking on and beating the world, y’know? It’s like Jim Hall, who studied aerospace engineering at Caltech and then applied that learning to mind-blowing Can-Am cars. It’s the romance of American or Californian hot-rodding. I grew up in Cleveland, but I was reading all of these magazines based here. It’s actually the romance of Silicon Valley too. Small teams, absolute focus.” He paraphrases famed Lockheed designer Kelly Johnson, who led development of the SR-71 Blackbird: “Before the SR-71, you only ever allowed yourself one miracle per program, but the Blackbird was all miracles.” Kevin says his son, Lukas, came up with a phrase that best sums up Czinger’s similarly supersonic ambition: “orchestrated miracles.” Not one—dozens of miracles.

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The 21C V Max prototype driving on Box Canyon Road, near the Salton Sea. Fredrik Brodén

So, the 21C V Max draws on hot-rod ­culture and the power of the skunkworks-style ­mentality that brought the SR-71 into life in nearby ­Burbank back in the Sixties, and it’s made possible by new software and hardware systems developed in complete symbiosis. New fast-­curing adhesives and aluminum alloys were created to achieve the ductile strength to pass crash tests. The 21C is fully homologated to demonstrate the mass-production potential of the technology. The likes of Aston Martin and McLaren use the “show and display” loophole to make their most extreme cars available to U.S. customers, but it’s a point of pride that the 21C tackles safety and emissions requirements head-on.

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Capable of printing just about anything, this ring of robots is currently on break, conspiring.Fredrik Brodén

Yet, it’s also a car. A hypercar. So, it should be judged as such. Customers climbing in might appreciate the gorgeous intricacies of some of the printed parts on display, but they won’t be too mindful of the significance of this technology when the engine starts and the road or track unfurls ahead of them. The car’s success will be measured by what it does and how it makes drivers feel. Kevin isn’t shy about the 21C’s stated targets. “The idea was to try to leap ahead of every single one of the meaningful performance categories that exist across the total spectrum.” Perhaps even more intriguing is what Lukas says next: “Ultimately, we wanted a car that, despite being the fastest and most high-tech, felt exceptionally analog to drive. And you truly felt like you were driving something lightweight, not something that was made to feel lightweight. In that sense, the 21C is more inspired by like, a Porsche GT3 in terms of handling.”

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The 21C looks least radical and most pretty from the side.Fredrik Broden Photography

It could scarcely be more different from the Porsche in execution, of course. There is no ­legacy here, so Czinger was free to play in the hypercar space without boundaries. However, SR-71 inspiration creeps in again, as the 21C has a central driver’s chair and a passenger’s seat directly behind it. Aside from the fantastic view of the road, there are huge advantages in terms of frontal area to reduce drag, plus the narrow cockpit frees up the top and bottom ­surfaces for aerodynamic efficiency and downforce. Czinger claims that the 21C in high-­downforce configuration produces over 4400 pounds of vertical aero load at 190 mph. It’s tricky to make exact comparisons, but while Aston ­Martin claims 2425 pounds of downforce at 137 mph in the Valkyrie, that figure is under braking with the rear wing at its maximum angle.

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To say that this rear-end structure was grown in a lab isFredrik Broden Photography

The car itself has a central carbon-­fiber and aluminum tub built by ARS Tech in Contro­guerra, Italy. An in-house twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V-8 revs to 11,000 rpm, providing 950 hp to the rear wheels via a seven-speed trans­axle, with two electric motors for the front wheels rated at a combined 300 hp. A 4.4-kWh ­battery pack is charged via a crank-driven motor-­generator unit. Initial targets projected a dry weight of about 2760 pounds, but the final production-spec car is closer to 3200. Lotus Engineering is currently working on final emissions testing in the U.K., and chassis development work is drawing to a close at a private testing facility near California City. Customer cars are just weeks away from our visit, and Czinger is determined that lap records will follow. Laguna Seca, COTA, maybe even the Nürburgring. “Dominating Performance” is the mantra around here.

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The V Max version of the 21C does without the big rear wing of the standard car.Fredrik Broden Photography

Under the unyielding sun of the desert and figuratively a million miles from the bleeding-edge production facility just 160 miles west of here, the 21C is something to behold. In V Max specification, jutting splitters, dive planes, and a massive rear wing are eschewed in favor of smooth, simple forms that are teased right out with the long, low rear engine cover. This is the purest form of an unconventional shape, and it works beautifully. Anyone remember the defunct Yamaha ­OX99-11 supercar from the early Nineties? Gawky but compelling, it too had a central driving ­position and inline seating. The 21C is like a super­evolved version of the concept that ramps up the drama and nails the proportions. A Valkyrie seems smaller and more exotic still, but the Czinger 21C hits your senses hard. It’s wonderfully odd.

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BrakeNodes under pressure during durability testing.Fredrik Broden Photography

Swing up the vast butterfly door, sit on the high sill, thread your legs down into the footwell, slide down into position, and the view ahead is outrageous. Quite aside from sitting absolutely in the center of the car, the detailing is exquisite. Not in an ornate Pagani-style way. Instead, the 21C’s race-car vibe is supplemented by material beauty, with the additive-manufacturing core evident in so many ways. From the complex, weblike steering-column assembly to the mostly hollow thumbwheels on the steering wheel with silklike strengthening spokes, the innovation is tangible and tactile. The action of the pedals, the click of the gearshift paddles, the intricate weave of carbon fiber—every element carries an air of consideration and quality.

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Sure, the production Czinger 21C might end up holding multiple track records, but it’s going to be terrible at the Taco Bell drive-through.Fredrik Broden Photography

Today, sadly, we won’t hear or feel the 21C at full attack. Not even close. The V Max pictured here is a prototype, and with final production vehicles coming in weeks, Czinger doesn’t want us to experience a car without representative engine and gearbox calibration.


Even this extremely confident father-and-son duo admits that developing a radical hypercar has not been all smooth sailing. “Doing an engine yourself is a big undertaking. If you look at the blue car [another validation vehicle], we thought we were pretty close,” Lukas says. “Now? I think every single part number has changed. And that was partially the cycle, right? And it’s like when we get something wrong, per se—we get our crash result, we get our engine readout from the dyno—we go back to the drawing board on the design side. We make that design change, and within 48 hours, I can have a new part. I’m going to be back on that dyno. That’s magnitudes faster than typical automotive. So, we are doing things fundamentally different. But we’ve also just had the cheat code of being able to iterate that much faster.”

It’s a compelling story, and one with a real sense of place and timing about it. The hot-rod tradition melts into the idea of seasoned automotive engineers and test drivers working together in fully empowered small teams to push technological boundaries. The factory feeds on the expertise gained from OEM suppliers like Bosch and large manufacturers like BMW, plus SpaceX and Lotus. ­Combining experience with incredibly sophisticated and self-learning tools is a powerful, breathtaking thing to see play out.

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Fredrik Brodén

The skeptic in me has to ask: Will this hypercar ever actually deliver? Kevin looks me dead in the eye and measures his reply carefully. “As the actual people that own and control the company and call it Czinger, yes,” he says. “We will absolutely do that. This car is going to be an actual durable street-legal car. We will, with every particle of our being, make sure of that. America needs a kick-ass real performance company, and with a small team and these super tools, we will deliver.”

The whole endeavor makes this car enthusiast’s heart sing. Less upfront cost, greater flexibility, fewer barriers to entry, faster model cycles, reduced mass—wherever Czinger is going, it can only be good news for people who prize fast-moving creativity. The wild hypercar is almost just a bonus. When I push open the reception door on my way out and step back into reality, the California sun seems to be shining even brighter than usual.

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