038 wallpaper June 2000

Paul Davies

A VAN IS A VAN IS A VAN. Or so you might think when it comes to the elementary principles of transport design. Davide Tonizzo from Toronto's D design agency, however, doesn't agree. And to prove it, he's come up with this shapely not so petite number guaranteed to turn a few heads as it cruises down the main boulevard or local strasse. A perfect combination of form and function, the aesthetics of the SRW genuinely compliment the purpose: Tonizzo has developed a single piece of fiberglass to fit over a standard Ford E350 chassis reducing weight and therefore fuel consumption. There is a flip-up rear door and users can stand fully upright in the cargo area. The clients, Unicell, understandably see the top-class SRW setting new standards in van design.

The National Post Eighth Annual
Design Exchange Awards

Gold Prize in Business/Industrial Projects
January 2001

The National Post Design Exchange Awards program is Canada's only professional, multi-disciplinary design competition. This program judges the commercial and social effectiveness of designers' work in order to encourage business and public appreciation of the impact of design excellence on the economy and the quality of life in our community. Winning projects demonstrate the power of design and the important role that it plays in every aspect of our lives, from the business bottom line to basic comfort, from child safety to environmental impact. Winners of the 2000 National Post Design Exchange Awards will be announced in a National Post special supplement on design to be published on January 30, 200 1. Additionally, winning entries will be displayed at the Design Exchange (Chalmers Design Centre) from January 25 to February 11, 2001.

January 2001


Designed by Davide Tonizzo for the Canadian truck body anufacturer, Unicell is a sinuous, aerodynamics van. Tonizzo belonging to the Canadian Design D group injects a skillful combination of form and function into the creation of Unicell SRW cargo van. Built on the basic structure of the Ford E350 van, Unicell is built using a single, surprisingly aerodynamics fiberglass shell. The curved surfaces, designed with meticulous care, give Unicell notable strength, while the choice of a lightweight material, fiberglass, offers notable fuel savings. The rear door is also highly innovative: it folds up partly onto the roof, for easier loading and unloading of goods. The interior compartment is totally sealed, made in a single piece without the use of rivets, thus preventing any needless heat loss. The small size of the Unicell chassis makes the vehicle simple and quick to maneuver, offering unbelievable ease of handling in traffic.

The Tornto Star - Section G25
October 21, 2000
Clever Aero Van Is Totally T.O.
Wheel Test - Paul Fleet

Spacious Aerocell cheats wind, parks in a standard space.

There's a new Canadian truck on the roads. That's right -Canadian. Not just assembled here, it was conceived, designed and built in Toronto. The Unicell Aerocell SRW has brought automotive style and aerodynamics - and a few other tricks - to the traditionally boxy cube van. Handy for moving your stuff or for small businesses, cube vans offer the most walk-in space in a regularly licensed vehicle. Hence the name cube, as in cubic capacity. Traditionally, cube vans have been the proverbial box on wheels. Out in front of the big square box is the cab of a pickup or van, such as the Ford Econoline or GM's G-van sold as the Chevy Express and GMC Savana. (Dodge stopped making such versions of its Ram Van years ago.) They are called cut-away vans because the partially completed chassis looks like that when it is shipped from the manufacturer's factory. Subsequently, a body builder completes the vehicle with the addition of a box on the back. That's where the Toronto connection comes in.

DEL Equipment has been putting equipment on trucks since the end of World War II. Founded as Diesel Equipment Limited in 1945 by Canadian Army engineer Jack Martin, it has put its three letters in a yellow oval on literally millions of trucks with specialized bodies. More than 20 years ago, DEL bought a neighboring fiberglass boat builder and eventually started making single-piece truck bodies.

Today, Unicell and DEL are run by the next generation of Martins, Roger and Paul, and there are DEL operations in the U.S. and the U.K. plus distributors in Australia and South Africa. In North America, the company is the sole producer of fiberglass cube vans. Other cube vans are built from riveted aluminum or fiber-reinforced plastic panels in a frame. Unicell is also now making bodies for a recreational vehicle (RV) maker and amusement rides. At the Toronto factory, the most impressive sight is the garage-size moulds and robot-like jigs that apply most of the fiberglass - all of which were designed and built by the company itself. A few years ago, the company noted strong demand for small cube vans with single rear wheels, particularly in Quebec and the States. They had made a semi-aerodynamic version of the larger, dual-rear wheel model, but the company wanted to do more than simply bulge the front of the square box. So, a couple of Toronto consultants were brought in.

Stylist Davide Tonizzo, of Design D, was born in the city but cut his design teeth in the automotive design studios of his ancestral homeland of Italy. He put the new look on paper, and Karel Caslavsky of C-Tek Consulting Inc. digitized it for the computer modeling.

The new Aerocell SRW is more than just slightly aerodynamic. It is a whole new shape that also features an innovative rear door - instead of a large roll-up or double barn door style common to delivery vans,

Unicell created a double hinged set-up like those used on aircraft doors. With simple horizontal springs like that of a garage door, the large clam- shell rear door pops out slightly and slides up out of the way, requiring less than 24 in (0.6-metres) of lateral space behind the vehicle. That compares to 36 in (0.91 m) required for a traditionally hinged 1996- 2000 Dodge Caravan rear hatch. It opens easily from the outside and can be opened from within, with a bit of a push. Closed, it seals uniformly around the entire metal-reinforced opening for a water- and wind-tight fit.

Open, it is easily closed with the hanging strap. A grab handle on each side of the opening is integrated into the body. The slightly higher than normal bumper step height prevents the loading and unloading from being completely easy. There is ample stand-up room inside, while natural illumination is provided by the translucent skylight in the roof. Over the cab and under the roof fairing is an additional storage area with a lipped edge to secure smaller items. Below, a small sliding door provides access to the cab. That door is typical of traditional cube van construction with a loose fit. Between the van cab and body, the inside trim also shows some ill fitting trim. The only other less-than-perfect fit was the gap in the rear door seam, which narrowed to almost touching, and should just be a matter of trimming the fiberglass edge of the door.

Otherwise, the body is well built. Plastic panels fine the inside covering the rough side of the fiberglass.

The 11.5 ft (3.5 meter) plywood floor has more than 4 ft (1.2 m) between the walls over the single rear wheels. The improved aerodynamics of this new Aerocell SRW should result in improved fuel economy. Its users have reported 15-18 per cent reduced fuel consumption, says Unicell chief engineer and vice-president, Scott Vader. Unicell's fiberglass construction is, of course, impervious to rust.

The better aerodynamics of the SRW also improves the vehicle dynamics with quieter driving. The buffeting effect from winds and other large trucks passing by is reduced dramatically. Despite the large box, the overall length is quite tidy, thanks to the standard-length wheelbase. The single rear wheel keeps the width close to a regular production van. Thus, the Aerocell SRW fits into a standard parking spot just like a regular van or pickup truck. Only the Ford steering lets down the driver of this vehicle. It is vague and requires an alert touch. The power of the gasoline 5.4 L Triton V8 engine is more than sufficient to accelerate the Econoline underpinnings into highway traffic, even with a load on.

Price is about $30,000 ($7,900 plus the chassis at $21,595 or $22,180 with options).

Freelance journalist Paul Fleet is Wheels' truck reviewer.
E-mail: pfleet@idirect.com


Ford E350 Vacuum
Flipper Skee-Doo
Keyboard Chair
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