Better Than Bubble Wrap | Performance Racing Industry
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Better Than Bubble Wrap
By Dan Schechner on January 31, 2019

Have you ever heard the story of Bubble Wrap? If not, it’s worth a quick run-through.

In the late 1950s, a couple of engineers named Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes wanted to create a new kind of wallpaper based on a product they’d developed that was made up of two plastic sheets, joined together, with air bubbles in between.  
   
At this point you may be asking, “Who on earth would cover their walls with this stuff?”

The answer: literally nobody.

But while the concept of a cushiony wall covering in every American home fell flat, Fielding and Chavannes realized their creation was unique, namely in that it was both lightweight and a good insulator. So they had an idea, and in 1960 the pair founded a new company—Sealed Air Corporation—and began marketing Bubble Wrap as their trademark brand.       

Just like that, the world’s most entertaining packing material was born!

So what’s that got to do with motorsports, you ask? The tale of Bubble Wrap shows us that a product created for one purpose may be just as useful (or in some cases even more so) in a decidedly different application. It also demonstrates how redirecting—or reframing—one’s perspective can breathe new life into something whose original design is a good fit beyond its intended use.      

And therein lies the approach we took for this month’s coverage of race suspension components, albeit with a twist: We wanted to know which shocks, springs, etc. that already WERE effective in their originally designed-for application had been successfully repurposed for another.

Turns out nearly every top manufacturer we contacted for input had at least one example of such a product.

For the team at QA1, it was the Proma Star Double Adjustable Coilover, which was initially engineered for drag racing but, thanks to its exceptional versatility, has proven more than capable in today’s growing UTV market. “That adjustability allows you to adapt, whether that’s to the conditions of an event or to the configuration of the car itself,” noted Dave Kass.

Another supplier told us about bypass shocks that were originally designed for hardcore off-road racers, but whose adaptability and exceptional heat management capabilities had proven beneficial in Late Models and modifieds; still another explained how their aluminum bushings—developed to replace factory rubber bushings on the front lower control arms of road racers and autocrossers—have gained favor in the drag race community. “By limiting front end lift,” noted George Hsieh of Whiteline, “it also limits weight transfer to the rear at launch, allowing the front tires to get better traction when the vehicle is launched hard, and that results in better ETs.”

The history of innovation in racing is filled with stories like these, and I encourage you to read our report, “Shocking Versatility,” which begins on page 76, for a comprehensive look at how one segment of the racing market has leveraged this concept to develop creative solutions and fill a specific need… even if it wasn’t the original intent. Think Bubble Wrap, only better.

About the Author
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Dan Schechner is the Editor of Performance Racing Industry Magazine.
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