As a passenger in a car speeding around a racetrack, I usually look out the windshield and scan the turns ahead, just like the driver. But as I am being taken on a hot touraround the Thermal Club South Palm track by IMSA racer Joel Miller, my view ahead is blocked — from the driver’s seat.
Unlike almost every other car in existence, the 21C has a tandem seating arrangement with a mostly glass canopy that can be felt straight fromfighter jet. From the back seat, my only option is to look out the long side windows when cornering, which is still a pretty cool view, although it’s still a slightly unnerving experience – we’re hitting well over 150mph on the straights, and I have no idea what’s coming. But the seating arrangement isn’t even the boldest thing about this American-made hypercar, which is one of the most interesting and innovative vehicles I’ve ever come across.
At first inspection, the 21C might remind you of an LMP1 Le Mans prototype or some other kind of extreme racing car, but its styling is truly unique. The tandem cab allows for a narrow body but a wide stance, with the 21C’s body looking like it was wrapped around a Formula 1 car. This is the high-downforce model that’s designed for heavy-duty track use — the low-drag, long-tail luxury model comes soon — and there’s an extreme aerodynamics package that includes a bladed front splitter and a huge, top-mounted rear wing.
Still, it’s not something specifically for a track. The 21C is fully homologated for use on US roads, meeting all crash test standards and emissions regulations.
The 21C has one large butterfly door on each side, and despite the lack of a B-pillar, it’s hard to slide into any seat thanks to the extra-wide and tall sills. The front seat is a super thin carbon fiber bucket, while the rear “seat” is cast straight from the chassis. The passenger also doesn’t have many pads or protrusions to grab onto. I’m 5’9″ tall and have to bend over to get into a comfortable seating position and with a helmet I don’t have much head room. There’s at least plenty of legroom, with your feet resting next to the driver’s seat.
Roller coaster for road and track
Powering the 21C is a 2.9-liter, twin-turbo, flat-cylinder V8 engine that was designed in-house by Czinger and is mated to a seven-speed sequential transmission that sends power to the rear wheels. The engine itself is already wild, producing 950 horsepower and revving to 11,000 rpm. But Czinger also pairs it with an 800-volt electrical system, a 2.8-kilowatt-hour battery, an electric motor on the front axle and two motors on the rear axle. Despite all that, the 21C weighs less than 2,900 pounds.
Total power is 1,350 horsepower, although this prototype is a few hundred horsepower less for the first time. Czinger quotes a 0 to 62 mph time of 1.9 seconds, and the 21C takes just 8.5 seconds to reach 186 mph from a standstill, requiring just 5.4 seconds more to come to a standstill from this speed. Top speed is 253 mph, or 281 mph for the low-drag car. Acceleration is immediate and intense, with the V8’s high-pitched soundtrack enhanced by the hum of the electric motors. This kind of instinctive physics rivals the feel of even the fastest electric cars, and the deceleration is just as shocking. Brakes on the 21C are carbon-ceramic, with 16.1-inch discs and six-piston calipers at the front and 15.3-inch discs with four-piston calipers at the rear. The 21C also uses regenerative braking, which both aids deceleration and charges the battery via a motor-generator.
Straight line speed is only part of the picture. The 21C produces 1,356 pounds of downforce at 100 mph and a whopping 5,512 pounds at 200 mph, and wears Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2R tires that are as close to a true race tire as you can get. The hybrid setup provides precise torque vectoring capabilities that really make the 21C feel like it’s on rails through corners – like riding one of those high-speed roller coasters. There is no noticeable feeling of weight transfer and zero body roll; even when we hit curbs on the track, the 21C feels perfectly planted and stable. From the passenger seat, the 21C easily competes with GT3 race cars in terms of speed, grip and g-forces.
Drop the large rear clamshell to reveal the engine and you’ll discover what really sets the 21C apart. Where you’d normally see a jumble of straight lines and carbon fiber struts building up the car’s structure, the 21C’s engine bay looks almost organic. That’s because almost everything about the 21C is 3D printed using artificial intelligence. No, seriously.
3D printing the future
Czinger was co-founded and is currently run by father-son duo Kevin and Lucas Zinger, the former of whom is also the CEO of Czinger’s parent company Divergent, a pioneer in 3D printing technology. Walking into the company’s headquarters in Torrance, California, is more like walking into Iron Man’s lab than a traditional car company. (Also gives shades ofalthough Czinger’s robots and AI are hopefully not about to rebel against humans.)
The company’s innovative Divergent Adaptive Manufacturing System essentially automates the design and development process for most 21C parts. Engineers include the attributes and constraints each component needs in a computer, from how much it should weigh and how it should fit and connect to other parts, to what kind of g-forces it should withstand and how much it will cost to produce. The AI software then generates the perfect design by running thousands of simulations to optimize the shape and construction of the part, making them as strong as possible.
This takes a fraction of the time than usual, eliminating so much engineering work and resulting in parts with a unique appearance that mimics many things found in nature, such as the cell wall of a plant under a microscope or the tendons in a muscle. Control arms, for example, are hollow with an internal structure that saves weight and increases strength compared to a normal vehicle arm.
Once DAPS comes up with an optimized design for a part, they are produced by some of the largest 3D printers I have ever seen. Czinger’s printers are some of the most advanced in the world, using 12 lasers that can print many times faster than other systems. AI also optimizes the manufacturing process so there is no metal waste from creating each part. Divergent also came up with the aluminum alloy used by the printers. Right now, the only things that aren’t 3D printed are the carbon fiber body panels, the wheels, the leather and fabric interior components, the suspension, and the entire drivetrain, but Czinger is working on adapting many of those parts to printers as well.
Divergent’s technology also made it easier and faster to improve the 21C during its development. The working prototype I rode is the only one Czinger currently has, and that’s partly because it doesn’t need to make another one. It only takes hours to invent, refine and print a new part where it used to take days. If the engineers have an idea how to improve something, they simply have the AI come up with the perfect solution, print it, and then put it on the car. This is the 10th iteration of the 21C since it was first shown in 2020, and Czinger will surely continue to improve it before it goes into production.
But the real party trick, at least visually, is how it all comes together. Since even the biggest 3D printers can still only make things that would fit in the space of a large oven, smaller parts must be manufactured and combined to create a usable component. Czinger uses ultra-strong adhesives, also designed in-house by the company’s scientists, which can harden in just a few seconds and result in a stronger bond than existing solutions. DAPS also offers ways to attach parts to each other that do not require special brackets or mounting points, as each part is designed to fit organically together.
Instead of a traditional assembly line, Czinger uses a group of about a dozen robots, all arranged in a circle. One robot will hold a component while others reach in to apply the adhesives and glue other parts together. Once the robots have all the parts, assembling a part, such as a car’s subframe, takes only minutes. And since the entire process is AI-optimized and doesn’t require any molds, dies, or special fixtures, it’s easy for robots to move on to the next project with little downtime. The whole thing is pretty mind-blowing, especially when you get to see the manufacturing process up close.
Just 80 examples of the 21C will be produced at a starting price of about $2 million each, with about half likely to be the low-drag model, with deliveries beginning next summer. The 21C is infinitely customizable, with owners able to spec their cars exactly how they want.
Czinger is already thinking beyond 21C. During the Monterey Car Week, the next Czinger model will be presented. The company is also growing rapidly, with its several hundred engineers and designers complemented by some of the best from the Mercedes and Williams F1 teams. There’s a lot of exciting stuff on the walls in Czinger’s design studio, and the 21C sequel will be more massive a higher-volume model, although the company and the products it offers will still be more McLaren than Mitsubishi.
Beyond simply making Czinger an established name in the high-end automotive space, the real goal is to license Divergent’s innovative processes for use by other major automakers, something that is already in the works with multiple brands. Using Divergent’s AI software and 3D printers will allow other brands to ditch or downsize huge swaths of their factories, eliminating the need for things like stamping lines. While the final assembly of the 21C is done by hand, the manufacturing process can easily be scaled up and further automated, with 3D printers and robots working alongside a more traditional assembly line.
What Czinger and Divergent are doing really looks like the future of automotive manufacturing. The DAPS process is faster, smarter and cheaper than traditional manufacturing and results in much less waste and better productivity. It can be used to improve any type of vehicle on the road. It just so happens that the showcase for this new technology is an absurd hypercar.
The Czinger 21C Hypercar is the future of automotive manufacturing
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