The revolutionary Czinger 21C is making waves with its unrivaled AI-powered design process and 3D-printed components. However, the Czinger vision goes beyond the delivery of hypercars. The plan is to change the way automobiles are designed and assembled. Lukas Czinger, co-founder of the company, has a front seat to this revolution. After unveiling the 21C Blackbird at the Quail during Monterey Car Week, we caught up with him to discuss what the future may hold.
How long have you been a car enthusiast?
As long as I can remember, to be honest. I remember getting my first Porsche; I think I was four or five. It was a little, 1/18 scale, yellow 911, and I think that was it. It was a little windup car. But no, from there, I always just loved things that moved, that put you in motion, airplanes, cars. And at the start, it was less so about the engineering and more just the fascination with speed and the way they looked. 'Cause you're a kid, right? You're not thinking about the engineering yet. But for me, that then grew into a real passion. Probably when I was about 12, 13, 14, it got serious, and I started thinking about the way cars are built, engineered, designed. And I think I built up my first car, new suspension, new turbo, new wheels, roll cage, and I was 14. Mitsubishi Evo 8. I was out there, Fast and Furious style.
A father-son team of founders. Whose idea was it?
(laughs) Well, I'd say we started as a tech business called Divergent. And fundamentally, my father, Kevin, had the founding thoughts of 'there's gotta be a better way to design and manufacture and assemble,' and this can solve the pain points that auto is facing, on the environment, on the capital, on the iteration time within it. And I joined him very, very early on in that mission about seven years ago. I became a co-founder in the business, and from there, these ideas evolved, and you really start creating.
So, in terms of patents, for example, which tells part of the story, Kevin's got about 120. I've got about 60 myself, so we're both the lead inventors, one and two of the company. And we put together the team, and we run and operate the team. He's the CEO, I'm the COO. So he is doing a lot of the public-facing, and also in aerospace and defense, leading a lot of the conversation at conferences. And I'm running the day-to-day operation at the office.
That's cool. So you guys must be close?
We're very close. We've been close our whole lives. People say unique, but unique means unique because it's different; most people don't have that sort of relationship with their dad, I do. And it's just different. It's been different for us our whole lives. And we work very well together as partners. And for sure, it's from my end, but it's also from his end too. Seeing me as an equal, to respect me in that way is not always what a father would do with their son, so I'm thankful for that for sure. And that's what makes it work, you know? Otherwise, it would not work.
So, in recent years, we've seen a good number of hypercar companies. Hypercars don't have a clear definition, but we can loosely agree on what a hypercar is. What inspired you to decide that the hypercar was the direction you want to go?
Well, we built a technology company that fundamentally makes the highest-performing structures in the world, right? A computing system that can design things that are more efficient, then manufacture them using 3D printing to be stronger and lighter weight. And where do you want to apply that technology first? Into a halo product that fully captures the advantages in that lightweighting, in that structural optimization. So we said, "Let's take this new technology, let's make the world's most advanced vehicle with it." What's the world's most advanced vehicle? Let's not sugarcoat it; it needs to be the fastest car in the world.
So we sat down, we said, "This technology can lead to making the fastest car in the world." This is going to be good brand building; this is going to showcase the technology. Let's not make it only track-legal, 'cause we want to show it through full emissions, make a full production car with the system, and that's what we've done. So we're inspired to really show people that this was a leap forward in technology. And that isn't actually just a saying. It's reflected in a leap forward in vehicle performance, which is why that black car has the track record at Laguna Seca and Circuit of the Americas against the best sports car brands in the world, multiple seconds.
That is relevant to my next question. Czinger broke the lap record at the Circuit of the Americas and Laguna Seca. What was that like for the folks who built the car?
Some of them are right behind you. For us, you work incredibly hard at something, right? And you have your successes, and you have your failures, and that happens every day, you know? Every day you have new successes; every day you have your failures. And then there's these moments where one moment defines two, three years of work, right? It's literally one lap in two minutes is the definition of success or failure. So when it goes your way, and you realize that success, it's like realizing two years of work all at once. The amount of emotion that obviously Kevin and myself felt, but also our team, who was there on site with us, was immense, of course.
Was everybody on the site?
Not everyone, but we had a good 50 people out there, and the office was watching, and there was a big celebration when we came back.
So if you were going to point to one thing that was your greatest achievement, what would that be? Collectively, as a company.
You know, I think about the future so much it's hard to reflect on, on achievements, to be honest. But I'd say just enormously grateful and proud of having created a technology that I think can fundamentally change the way things are designed and made for the better. In terms of environmental impact, at scale that this is going to have, taking 30, 40% of the mass out of the structure means 30, 40% less material. Once we're making millions of vehicles, by supplying everyone in this industry with this technology, that's when we're going to have that scale in that. So I think I'm most proud of working this hard on something that I think will actually make a difference.
So, talking about that; how would you explain the technology to the casual car enthusiast who doesn't really care about what's under the hood?
To me, it's basically describing these three pillars that automotive runs on, right? Designing the part, manufacturing the part, and assembling the part. And we do those three things completely different. We use supercomputing and AI to design the part. We use 3D printing instead of casting and extrusions to make the part. And we use frictionless robotic assembly to assemble the part. That fully replaces a 100-year-old Henry Ford style of assembly and methodology in auto for something that is new and frankly revolutionary in terms of the products you can make, and also how that system functions.
And I'd say that's probably the most high level description of how I can do it. You're going from the analog era of making hard tooling that can only make one shape, and trying to make a lot of that shape, so that you can amortize off that tooling. And instead, you're doing, you know, Mac desktop publishing. You went from the typewriter to the laptop. Typewriter had fixed keys, laptop, you can print a Bible or a comic book, right? That's essentially the magnitude of difference.
So, talk about the 3D printed parts. What parts are we talking about? I'm assuming it's not everything, right?
So rim centers, the pedal set, the transmission, the rear frame. So if you look at the chassis, by mass, the majority of it is printed. Full crash structures, front frame, rear frame, full suspension. If you look at the powertrain, exhaust is printed. A lot of the actual engine itself was printed. EV motor housings are printed.
And then the transmission case, which you see over there (pointing to one of the displays), also fully printed. So we started out suspension chassis systems, and then we said these functional systems, the EV systems, the transmission, the core V8 powertrain, we can actually combine function and print the shells of those, pass fluids through that printed structure. That braking system at the very end, you've gotta go see, 'cause the caliper is printed directly into the knuckle. And the hydraulic fluid goes directly into the printed caliper. One piece replacing about 30 pieces. 30% lighter.
That's incredible. Okay, one final question, what's your favorite car, outside of a Czinger car?
Oh. You know, I've got this, 1956 F100 Ford pickup truck, it's in a similar color to this (points at the 21C on display). That's probably my favorite car.
That's interesting. That's not what I was expecting. I was expecting it to be a sports car.
You can't fool me with saying, uh, something too similar to the 21C here.