Chevrolet engineer gets to help shape part of automotive history.
Charlie Rusher, 31, is a noise and vibration engineer at Chevrolet in Milford, Michigan.
Q: What do you do as a Chevy engineer?
A: I make Corvettes sound like Corvettes. I fine-tune what the engine sounds like, both inside and outside the car, at our Milford, Michigan, testing facility, the Milford Proving Ground. There’s a 65-year heritage behind the way these performance cars sound, so we take the work very seriously. I’m the composer of a symphony, in a way.
Q: How would you describe the Corvette’s engine sound?
A: It’s different for each of our three latest models. The base model’s sound is the tamest. The Grand Sport, our midlevel model, has a wider body and sits lower, and the engine sound is more rambunctious. The Z06, our supercar, has a powerful, aggressive sound.
Q: Have you always been into cars?
A: I’ve liked mechanical things since I was a kid. As a teenager, I attended stock car races with my best friend, who raced on dirt tracks. I also helped him work on his car. I loved being around that culture. At 16, I got my license and my first truck. I’d tinker with the engine and the exhaust system, which I work on now.
Q: What is your background?
A: I took design classes and basic engineering in high school and got a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from what is now Missouri University of Science and Technology. While in college, I worked in two co-op programs and had two internships, here and at Chevy’s technical center. In January, I’ll have been here six years.
Q: How do you develop the sound?
A: The sound is a combination of the engine and exhaust system outputs, and there needs to be a balance between the two. I manually adjust pipes in the exhaust system and record engine sounds digitally and adjust them. We place microphones all over the car for recording. I might do 40 iterations of the engine and exhaust system sounds before I’m satisfied.
Q: Do you talk to many Corvette owners?
A: I do, at car shows and Corvette meets. I’ll ask owners how their car sounds without telling them what I do, and most of the time they’ll answer, “It sounds awesome. I love it.” When I finally say I’m the lead engineer of the team that develops that sound, they act like I’m a celebrity.
Q: Do you ever get bored?
A: Never. Turning into our driveway every day and seeing the Milford Proving Ground sign, I get goose bumps. I think to myself, “You get to do this every day.” I’m helping to shape a part of automotive history. It’s a big responsibility.
Q: What’s one of the most interesting parts of the job?
A: At one point, we drive a car onto a chassis dynamometer, which is like a rolling road. We hear the engine with no outside noise and can go from there.