You Suck At Aerodynamics

Illustration for article titled You Suck At Aerodynamics

Don’t feel bad. Everybody sucks at aerodynamics. Well, I guess people who have actually studied aerodynamics don’t, but as far as us normal, everyday jackasses? We’re terrible. Or at least, I am, when it comes to looking at cars and guessing how aerodynamic they are.


I realized this when my friend Tom Jennings sent me a link he found of a blog entry from a guy who bought a 1974 copy of The World of Automobiles 22-volume automotive encyclopedia.

The bloggist, someone called Tamerlane, had scanned a couple pages from the encyclopedia showing the coefficient of drag (Cd) of a bunch of well-known cars.

If you’ve ever thought you could guess the Cd of a car by looking at it, that chart should be enough to humble you. Aerodynamics are far more complex than we think, and things that look sleek often aren’t, at least according to the wind.

So, to have some fun, I’ve grabbed some of the lovely, simple illustrations from the chart and turned them into a series of little visual quizzes: two cars per image, and you can try and guess which one is more aerodynamic, which, of course, means a lower Cd number.

Actually, that’s not exactly true; as many commenters have pointed out, I’m a drooling simpleton who doesn’t understand how important frontal area is to aerodynamics. So, keep that in mind. Frontal area is a big deal, and I’m an idiot.

You can see the answers by sliding the red bar to the left. I sure hope this works on mobile platforms!


Want to give it a try? No cheating, now!


We have fun here, don’t we? We sure do.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!:


You also suck at aerodynamics because all you did was look at the Cd and totally ignored frontal area. Drag has two components. Cd is one, frontal area is the other.