There are some benefits when some spy shots of cars get out. It gets immediate feedback, like the day the pictures showed up on the web of the pre-production version of the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible. Feedback was, nobody liked the whip antenna on the rear deck lid. Solution: find someone who isn’t afraid to attack the traditional antenna paradigm.
It’s good to see GM finally paying attention to enthusiasts. Furthermore, GM has a distinct advantage with such a diverse and talented workforce to meet enthusiast expectations. Some employees come up with process ideas that save millions per year; others come up with designs that enable a product to be better accepted by the customers.
Such is the case with two local-area engineers working on the 2011 Camaro Convertible, Don Hibbard and Gregg Kittinger. They are passionate enough, not only to drive perfection into every aspect of the vehicle, but to share their own personal expertise into the action.
Since previous attempts to design a spoiler with an antenna failed to achieve the stellar reception required, this time Chevrolet commissioned an antenna test performance engineer and self-proclaimed antenna freak, Don Hibbard. For the record, he is a lifelong Ham radio enthusiast.
According to the latest feature article at media.gm.com, Hibbard and colleague Gregg Kittinger, who share three other patents, attempted what some thought to be the impossible: conceal the AM/FM antenna without sacrificing radio reception.
A key aspect of the goal was not to put the antenna inside the Camaro’s rear window; not because that’s typically where antennas are hidden, but it simply was not an option with the retractable soft-top roof.
The duo knew from the start a novel approach was needed, so they opted to hide the antenna inside the rear spoiler, but with a technical twist. Again, nobody had tried that on a Chevrolet before, because of the hit to radio reception. Furthermore, they had to contend with preserving the car’s styling as well. The Design Studio does not take it lightly when engineers want to change styling surface.
“In 10 months we found an innovative way to improve the overall aesthetics of the vehicle without sacrificing performance and quality,” said Kittinger.
While the shark fin antenna is still needed to transmit XM Satellite Radio, OnStar and cellular signals on the car’s deck lid because it helps propogate the radio waves, the AM/FM antenna is another tech animal. However, designing it as a built-in spoiler antenna eliminated the need for a longer, separate whip antenna to receive AM and FM radio signals unimpeded.
So, those Camaro enthusiasts who complained when they first saw those spy-shots can finally relax. They will get what they wanted, a 2011 Chevy Camaro convertible, with balanced styling along with the function of unimpeded audio reception.
About Frank Sherosky: After 39 years in the auto industry as a design engineer, Frank is now a writer and author of articles, books and ebooks, like “Perfecting Corporate Character” and “Awaken Your Speculator Mind”. Aside from his local duties as Detroit Automotive Technology Examiner, he also trades markets and writes as the Detroit Day Trader Examiner, and nationally for TorqueNews.com. You may visit his author website at http://www.AuthorFrank.com