Try as I might, I’ve never been successful at installing a wind tunnel into my home or even backyard. Turns out, it’s not as simple as grabbing giant fans from your local gym, and placing them in a crudely nailed-together plywood tube. The good news is that there’s another option for me if I want to assess the aerodynamics of my 1948 Willys Jeep (there’s literally no aero data to be found for it!): This amazing Ford F-250 once owned by an aerospace company.
Available right now on eBay with a starting bid of $2,999.99 is a “1999 FORD F-250 7.3L DIESEL custom trunnel.”
God that’s a great name for an automobile, especially when you realize that it’s just a portmanteau of the words “truck” and “wind tunnel.” Oh yeah, that’s right, this truck is basically a platform on which to mount whatever object you want to do aerodynamic testing on. Except, instead of that platform remaining stationary and a fan shooting wind over the object, the platform moves with the truck. Here’s what the description in the ad says:
Ford F-250 trunnel was customized and used by Xcore aerospace as a rolling wind tunnel test platform it has the cool factor starts and drives
You might have heard of Xcor, a private company that promised to take people to space in a “suborbital spaceplane” called the Lynx. We wrote a piece on it in 2014, and included this cool rendering of what we referred to as the Lynx “reusable launch vehicle”:
As the Los Angeles Times wrote in its 2018 article on the Midland, Texas based firm, promises to bring people into suborbital space were never kept, as Xcor filed for bankruptcy in 2017:
One customer of space tourism firm Xcor Aerospace Inc. thought his flight would come in 2011. Nael Hamameh expected 2015 to be the year he would finally achieve his childhood dream of going to space, having paid Xcor $100,000 for a ticket.
But 2015 came and went. After hearing no word of progress, Hamameh asked for a refund. Xcor told him it would try to find someone else to buy his ticket by the end of 2017, but at the least, he would receive $35,000. Then, it all came crashing down in November 2017, when Xcor filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy, in case you’ve forgotten, is the one in which all assets are liquidated. Chapter 11 is the one where things are shuffled around a bit.
Left over from when the company was still around is a 2015 report on the Lynx’s progress. Just look at this thing:
Also in that report is a fun tidbit about how the company was going about its aerodynamic testing. “Instead of opting for traditional wind tunnel testings, we found a way to analyze all components in a more cost effective and time efficient manner,” the report reads. “So a little while ago, we decided to use a truck to run a sub-scale Lynx model up and down the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port.”
That truck was the Trunnel:
Here’s an image of the Xcor team trying to understand the aerodynamic environment of the test area above the truck, where a 1:3 scale Lynx spaceplane would be placed for assessment:
The rear-wheel drive truck is powered by a venerable 7.3-liter diesel motor bolted to a 4R100 four-speed automatic.
Headroom looks rather limited, but the seats are thin and mounted down low, so maybe it’s not horrible?
I, for one, see lots of potential.
Could you imagine showing up to work in a vehicle called the Trunnel? Especially if you worked in aerodynamics, I think it’d make you the king of your field. Or at least it’d get you some cool-points around the office.