Although the name Daewoo (pronounced day-woo) is relatively unknown here in the United States, that's not true for the rest of the world. Daewoo Group is a Korean corporation that consists of 31 companies in Korea and 311 overseas subsidiaries involved in trading, construction, hotels, heavy industry, ship building, electronics, finance, telecommunications, and automobiles. As a global power, Daewoo is the 18th largest company in the world. On the automotive side, in 1992, Daewoo ended a partnership it had with GM and began building its own global network of production, research, and development. In fact, in 1997, Daewoo Motor Sales Company produced its millionth vehicle.
With a multitude of resources at its disposal, it's no surprise Daewoo entered the lucrative U.S. car market in late 1998. At press time, Daewoo had sold nearly 25,000 of its subcompact Lanos, compact Nubira, and midsize Leganza sedans in the United States. With such success behind it, Daewoo is now poised to enter the red-hot sport/utility segment early this spring with the new Korando.
The Korando's debut, however, won't be while it's at an auto show and covered with freshly waxed paint and a slathering of tire dressing. The Jeep Wrangler-sized Korando will debut in the Baja 1000 race this year, competing in the Stock-Mini Class. Daewoo hired Swift Engineering to oversee the race vehicle's development, and Swift in turn handed the fabrication and engineering chores to Arciero Racing Teams in Irvine, California. When we photographed the race vehicle, the Korando had been with Arciero Racing for a mere two months. That's not a heck of a lot of time to develop a Baja-quality machine completely, especially for a vehicle not yet sold in this country.
SCORE allows very few modifications on the Stock-Mini race vehicles. Fortunately, Arciero has substantial desert racing experience, and the Korando comes stock with some pretty stout equipment.
Powering the stock 4,200-pound Korando is a Mercedes-Benz 3.2L straight-six. This motor had been used up to 1996 in Mercedes E and S-class sedans and currently comes standard in the premium G-Wagen SUV. The motor is reported to develop 217 hp at 5,500 rpm and 228.5 lb-ft of torque at 3,750 rpm.
For Stock-Mini, the motor and drivetrain must be left stock, so the team simply added dual Optima batteries and relocated them to the rear of the vehicle for weight and serviceability. A Mercedes four-speed automatic is used for the race vehicle and features a 2.74:1 First gear. In preparation for the sometimes sweltering conditions of Baja, Arciero added a tranny cooler along with a cooler for the power steering. For Baja comfort, the crew also moved up the shifter slightly and converted it to a lever-style system. A Tremec five-speed manual will be the standard transmission on the production Korando, and it will come with a generous 3.77:1 First gear. Splitting the power in both the stock Korando and the race version is a full-time 4WD Borg-Warner transfer case with a 2.48:1 low range. We suspect this is the same B-W case that comes on Ford's Explorer.
The Korando uses an independent torsion bar and a double-wishbone suspension up front, while the rear gets a five-link, coil-sprung, solid-axle suspension. Although the rear axle looks astonishingly like a Dana 44, both the front and rear axles are manufactured by Korean Precision Corporation for Daewoo. Both axles come stock with four-wheel disc brakes.
Gearing on stock vehicles with 255/70R15 tires is 4.89:1. Yet, to turn the 33-inch BFGoodrich Baja T/A race tires on bead-locked 15x7 Ultra wheels, Arciero needed to acquire lower gears. Due to the newness of the vehicle and the scarcity of parts in the United States, as of our photo shoot, the lower gears for Baja were still on the way. The 5.36:1 gears will come from Precision Differential and Chassis (PDC) here in California, and, interestingly, Arciero tells us the parts have Dana part numbers.
Daewoo sent an electrical engineer from Korea to assist Arciero with the project. He helped the team eliminate many of the unnecessary electronic accessories and recalibrate the computer for the larger tires.
One of the electronic accessories Arciero will keep for Baja is what Daewoo calls Automatic Braking Differential (ABD). ABD is basically like a four-wheel traction-control system, braking wheelspin when it's detected. The system works off the differentials, which may make it better suited for the trail than some of the brake-dependent systems available currently. Since Stock-Mini does not allow the diffs to be modified with a spool, the ABD system will be the only traction aid for the Korando in Baja.
While the major suspension pieces must be left unaltered in Stock-Mini, Arciero fabricated a new shock mount system tied into the full rollcage. At each corner is one 10-inch-travel, remote-reservoir, external-bypass, Bilstein shock, and each is specifically valved for the application. Eibach was contracted to develop some higher capacity coils for the rear, since the team will carry many spare parts and tools. A 2-inch body lift was also fabricated to clear the larger tires. Although Arciero could have engineered a bit more suspension travel, it did not want to risk overextending the stock CV joints. Instead, it reigned in the rebound just shy of maximum droop with some limiting straps. In addition to creating a full rollcage, Arciero partially mated the body to the 'cage to reduce the torsional flex significantly.
Inside, racing seats and full harnesses were installed along with all the proper (and vital in Baja) gauges in the dash. To keep the pilot connected with the copilot, the crew installed an intercom system. And to allow the team to breathe in the thick desert dust, an air-filtration system was developed.
We'll have more information about production Korandos as well as the upcoming Grand Cherokee-sized Daewoo Musso, due out in early 2001, in a future issue. FW