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Golf ball dimpled Lexus LS 460 L – Click above for high-res image gallery

Now that Tiger Woods is no longer shilling for Buick, the opportunity for another automaker to enter the golf world and attract some eyeballs is wide open. Lexus is a sponsor of the U.S. Open that just teed off this week, and to make sure its participation is remembered, the Japanese automaker commissioned the production of an LS 460 L with a dimpled body just like a golf ball.

The creation of this oddity is actually an interesting story. At the PGA Golf Show in Orlando, FL last January, Lexus approached Brad Smith of Lima, OH who earns a living making those mailboxes shaped liked giant golf balls. After being asked by Lexus if he could put the same surface on a car, Smith approached his friend Rick Davis and together they found a composite polymer that would work. The two buddies built the car in Davis' two-car garage, though Lexus likes to refer to their operation as the "firm" responsible for the car's creation. Lexus took delivery of the dimpled LS last week right before it made its debut at the U.S. Open in New York on Tuesday.

Dimples help you drive a golf ball farther, faster and with more control. Do you they do the same for the Lexus? Perhaps Tiger Woods should get behind the wheel and find out.

Photos courtesy of Gavin Jackson and The Lima News

  • The passenger side door panel of the Lexus 460L shows the creation and work of Brad Smith and Rick and Sam Davis who were contracted by Lexus to fit the car with the plastic composite panels to make the car look like a golf ball. GAVIN JACKSON/The Lima News
  • From left Brad Smith, Matt and Rick Davis stand with a Lexus LS 460L Tuesday afternoon that they retrofitted with golf ball style paneling for Lexus to be the Official Vehicle at this weekend's U.S. Open. The trio took 12 weeks to design the dimple panels that were taken from the concept of Smith's golf ball mailbox. GAVIN JACKSON/The Lima News
  • Brad Smith and Rick and Matt Davis, in back, stand with a Lexus LS 460L Tuesday afternoon that they retrofitted with golf ball style paneling for Lexus to be the Official Vehicle at this weekend's U.S. Open. The trio took 12 weeks to design the dimple panels that were taken from the concept of Smith's golf ball mailbox. GAVIN JACKSON/The Lima News

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Wonder how this would affect a radar gun or laser? Hmmm where is that ball-peen?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Golf balls actually used to be completely without dimples long ago. As they wore, it became clear that the used, flat-spotted, dented, and chipped balls flew farther and straighter than their brand-new, perfectly spherical counterparts. It was from this, that the aerodynamic advantage of dimpled golf balls was deduced.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'd love for them to measure the before/after effect on aerodynamic drag...
      • 6 Years Ago
      Anyone else get reminded of that Fastskinz car covering that claimed to increase gas mileage?

        • 6 Years Ago
        Danget I'm stupid. You linked the article right there at Popular Mechanics. Anyway, I think Autoblog reported on that PM article a few months back.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yea, exactly. Also, didn't Autoblog test it, as well? Or was that TTAC? Can't remember. But someone did.

        Oh wait, I think it was popular science. Maybe?
        • 6 Years Ago
        If done properly it should increase mileage and decrease drag on the vehicle. the dimples create pockets of air as if its almost a cushion against the on coming air. mind you the decrease in drag is really not that great but it is still something.

        it causes less friction to have the oncoming air be diverted by the pocket of air then flat metal.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I was thinkin the same thing...

        • 6 Years Ago
        I just wana know how they made the dimples, and how long it took them to do the whole car.
        • 6 Years Ago

        ...A better explanation than "cushions of air" might be:

        Air is viscous, however, viscous effects are only significant in a thin layer very close to the surface, called the "boundary layer."

        There are two types of flow in the boundary layer: laminar and turbulent (the names are telling, and a quick Google image search will show that the visual difference is very obvious between the two). Generally, the flow on a panel begins laminar, and transitions to turbulent, the location of transition depending on a nondimensional parameter called the Reynolds number (Wiki for more info).

        There are two primary forms of drag cause by viscosity: skin friction and flow "separation" (wiki it) the former called skin friction drag, the latter most often termed "form drag" or "profile drag" or "pressure drag."

        Skin friction drag is higher for turbulent flow than for laminar flow. However, it is harder for turbulent flow to separate from the body, so profile drag for turbulent flow is generally lower than for laminar flow.

        In the case of blunt bodies (golf balls) with fairly extreme surface curvature, flow separation is the biggest drag problem, while for streamlined bodies (say, an airplane wing at low angle of attack), skin friction drag is the biggest drag problem.

        Hence, for a blunt body like a golf ball, it is best to trip turbulent flow as early as possible. The dimples add "roughness" to the golf ball surface, and hence help to trip turbulent flow, aiding in flow attachment and profile drag reduction.

        For a fairly streamlined body like a Lexus LS (and I'm sure they design it to be so), dimples may unnecessarily increase skin friction drag (i.e., it'd be like attaching blocks of sandpaper to your car).
      • 6 Years Ago
      So Tiger is driving his new dimple-skinned Lexus LS and pulls into a gas station. He gets out and the attendant gawks inside and is amazed by all the luxuries and amenities. He spots to golf tees lying in the center console and asks Tiger what they are? Tiger answers: "Oh, I just use those to put my balls on when I drive." "WOW!", the attendant replies, "these Lexus guys sure think about everything, don't they!"
      • 6 Years Ago
      I believe this vehicle will be supplied to various governments around the would for their dimpleomats.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm neither a golfer nor a car designer, but I guess the point of the dimples on the golf ball are to prevent "fluttering" of the ball, i.e. alternating separation of the boundary layer. That happens because the ball is spherical. Furthermore, it rotates during flight. The solution is influencing the boundary layer everywhere on the surface, hence the dimples (I guess). A car on the other hand will (in most cases) not rotate while moving and have a defined forward and rear facing part :D, so you don't need the dimples, you just use a sharp edge (i.e. simple little "spoiler lip" on the trunk or at the end of the roof) to prevent moving separation zones/unwanted turbulence. Therefore, I'd say no dimples for my car, please.
      Any golf ball or car designers on here to tell me if I'm right or wrong?
        • 6 Years Ago
        I rarely play golf and am not a car designer, though, judging by the student work that gets posted here every once in a while, I would think much of the aerodynamics is left to the engineers, not the "designers." I'm not sure what you mean by "alternating separation of the boundary layer." I agree the golf ball can have spin. First, assuming no or insignificant spin, due to radial symmetry of a spherical golf ball, boundary layer transition is the same regardless of your angle (i.e., every 2D slice looks the same). If the golf has side spin (i.e., spin colinear with the direction of flight), that shouldn't effect what you're concerned about. If it has topspin/backspin (i.e., spin orthogonal to the direction of flight), flow velocity in the frame fixed and rotating with the golfball, flow on top will be faster/slower than flow on the bottom, meaning turbulent transition will occur sooner/later on top than on the bottom. What does that do to drag? Don't think there will be much change in the net drag, but there will now be a moment on the ball due to drag, I can't tell you what direction that moment is in, it all depends on the balance between skin friction and how soon the boundary layer separates.

        I think it is generally accepted that the reasoning behind dimples is to trip turbulent flow and to reduce flow separation at the expense of greater skin friction drag. This results in a net drag loss in the case of a bluff body like a golf ball, but a Lexus LS is hardly a bluff body.

        Though I agree with your conclusion, and give a simpler reasoning: if dimpling actually did reduce drag on cars, everybody would already be doing it.
        • 6 Years Ago
        yes, yes i can.

        you are both right and wrong.

      • 6 Years Ago
      This car would be no good for me. It would continually slice to the right and get lost.
      • 6 Years Ago
      A piece of poetry by Robert Frost comes to my mind, appropriately titled "Design"

      I found a dimpled Lexus*, fat and white,
      On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
      Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
      Assorted characters of death and blight
      Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
      Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--
      A snow-drop Lexus, a flower like a froth,
      And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

      What had that flower to do with being white,
      The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
      What brought the kindred Lexus to that height,
      Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
      What but design of darkness to appall?--
      If design govern in a thing so small.

      *in the original, it's about a spider, not a Lexus
      • 6 Years Ago
      WOW! It comes pre-hail-damaged! No worries about parking outside in areas that have big hail.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The best commercial would be golf-balls on golf-tees on a dynamometer...remember those Lexus wine glass commercials from the 90s?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Just remember that the surface area of a golf ball does not hold a consistent face to the wind.

      So for a proper test this car needs to be doing crazy amounts of donuts...
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