The Truth About Cars » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 14 Jul 2014 16:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/editorials/ Junkyard Find: 1979 Datsun 210 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1979-datsun-210-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1979-datsun-210-2/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=864545 10 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNames for various flavors of the Nissan Sunny got very confusing during the 1970s and 1980s. Starting in the 1978 model year, the front-wheel-drive replacement for the B210— known as the B310 within Nissan— kept the “210″ name in the United States (meanwhile, you could also buy “510s” that were actually A10 Violets), later evolving into the car that became the Sentra. These were cheap but reliable (for the time) misery boxes, competing with the likes of the Chrysler Omnirizon, and so very few of them escaped The Crusher when they started wearing out in the early 1990s. Here’s a rare example that I found in Southern California in January.
13 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Datsun name had just a few years to go at this point.
07 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI can’t tell the A12 engine from the A14 at a glance; either way, this thing delivers well under 75 horsepower.
06 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPretty typical late-70s econobox interior. At least this car has a manual transmission.

08 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1978 Datsun 210 - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1979-datsun-210-2/feed/ 38
The Shadow Of Johnny Cash http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-shadow-of-johnny-cash/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-shadow-of-johnny-cash/#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2014 18:42:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=865186 Johhny_Cash_Rolls

No, that is not a metaphor for The Man in Black’s musical legacy.

TIM_1064_5595

The ABC TV network was so delighted by the success of The Johnny Cash Show that they presented Cash, in lieu of more cash, with a 1970 Rolls-Royce long-wheelbase Silver Shadow, complete with division. (Note that long-wheelbase Shadows were often badged “Silver Wraith” — JB) The “division” being the pane of interior glass that isolated the chauffeur in the front compartment, thereby adding to the passengers’ privacy. Perhaps as an homage to Henry Ford’s Model T, Johnny Cash’s Shadow was delivered in—black. Cash’s initials appear on the rear doors.

The Johnny Cash Show ran in 58 episodes from June 1969 to March 1971. In retrospect, it is easy to imagine that the show was able to go forward only as the result of an uneasy truce under which the network executives crammed has-beens on the order of alleged comedian George Gobel and oldsters like Bob Hope down Cash’s throat.

That was the price Cash had to pay to have his own show and to be able to feature fresh talent like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan on his own show’s opening night. To Cash’s credit, over the run of the series, his guest lists included Louis Armstrong (who died only weeks after the taping), Odetta, Charley Pride, and The Staples Singers.

My favorite The Johnny Cash Show moment came when Cash sang a duet (obviously a lightly-rehearsed duet), with Canadian folksinger Gordon Lightfoot. Although Lightfoot had recently recorded in Nashville, he had not yet enjoyed the household-name success brought by “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Sundown,” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

Perhaps fearing a memory lapse was coming, at one point Cash, who was having a hard time keeping a straight face anyway, tells Lightfoot, “Sing it, Pretty Boy!” Priceless.

It also should be noted that it was during a remote taping at Vanderbilt University that Cash first performed the song “Man in Black.”

I had always assumed that the comparatively short run of Cash’s show was caused by viewers and advertisers preferring to watch a TV show featuring a country musician who much less resembled Count Dracula. Specifically, that other Pretty Boy, Glen Campbell.

However, multiple sources attribute the cancellation of Cash’s show to the 1970-71 “Rural Purge” of network television, during which nearly all the rural-themed television shows were canceled, despite their overwhelming popularity. (Campbell’s show survived until 1972.)

The rationale was that rural-themed shows such as Green Acres, Mister Ed, Petticoat Junction, and The Beverly Hillbillies were overwhelmingly popular, but primarily among elderly-trending demographic segments, while the younger viewers the advertisers craved were just tuning them all out. Hence, a bloodless revolution: All in the Family, Da; Hee-Haw, Nyet.

(To be sure, there were highly popular non-rural shows that fell under the axe during the Rural Purge, among them, The Andy Williams Show, The Lawrence Welk Show, and Wild Kingdom. Someone with TV-Land connections really should write a book!)

Automobile-auction superpower Barrett-Jackson will offer Johnny Cash’s 1970 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow at no reserve in its Las Vegas Auction, September 25-27, 2014. Barrett-Jackson claims that the vehicle is original, and that it comes with complete documentation. Barrett-Jackson’s policy is to decline to provide estimates for no-reserve auctions.

However, as a matter of broadly-based averages, early-1970s Silver Shadows have a hard time breaking $30,000. An acquaintance of mine paid $16,000 for Sergio Franchi’s Rolls of similar vintage, in daily-driver condition. Whether a deep-pockets country-music fan, or perhaps some museum, wants to make some news with this auction result remains to be seen—literally, as one would expect this lot to be televised.

Photos courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-shadow-of-johnny-cash/feed/ 32
Enter The Bigtruck: Cessna 172 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/enter-the-bigtruck-cessna-172/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/enter-the-bigtruck-cessna-172/#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2014 04:03:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=865138

I know you’ll enjoy this: noted first-poster “Bigtruckseriesreview” takes to the sky in a Cessna 172.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/enter-the-bigtruck-cessna-172/feed/ 69
The Stout Scarab – An Art Deco Automotive Artifact That Was Ahead of Its Time http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-stout-scarab-an-art-deco-automotive-artifact-that-was-ahead-of-its-time/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-stout-scarab-an-art-deco-automotive-artifact-that-was-ahead-of-its-time/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 14:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=858489 img_0274

Full gallery here

In looking at Henry Ford’s forays into the airplane and aviation industries we’ve touched on the story of William Bushnell Stout. Stout was the man behind Ford’s successful endeavor into aviation with the Ford Trimotor. Car enthusiasts, though, might be more familiar with the small run of Stout Scarab automobiles, said to be the “first minivans”. Stout introduced a few other other automotive firsts like air suspension and the use of composite bodies. How much of an innovator Stout was, as opposed to someone who saw value in the ideas of others and brought them to fruition, is open to debate. He was certainly respected by the engineering community, serving as president of the Society of Automotive Engineers. It’s undeniable, though, that Stout saw the promise, later fulfilled, of commercial passenger aviation, and while many of the Scarabs’ more prominent features can be called dead-ends, quite a few of the things that Stout built into his cars are probably present on the car or truck you drive.

William Bushnell Stout was born in 1880 in Quincy, Illinois, though by the time he was in high school his family was living in Minnesota as he graduated from St. Paul’s Mechanic Arts High School in 1898. He attended Hamline University and the University of Minnesota but never graduated, due to developing a problem with his eyesight that apparently improved over time. Adding aeronautics to his mechanical interest, after marriage and a move back to Illinois he founded the Model Aero Club of Illinois, experimenting with model airplanes. He must have resolved the issue with his vision because in 1907 he became Chief Engineer of the Schurmeir Motor Truck Company of Chicago.

wbstout.

William B. Stout

As with a number of automotive and aviation engineers Stout also tried his hand with writing about his passions and in 1912 he was named automobile and aviation editor for the Chicago Tribune. That year also saw Stout founding Aerial Age, the first aviation magazine to be published in America. He was also a contributor to the Minneapolis Times under the clever pen name of  “Jack Kneiff”.

In 1914, Stout was hired to be head engineer of the Scripps-Booth Automobile Company of Detroit. Today Scripps-Booth is best known for making the one-off Bi AutoGo, which had nothing to do with being attracted to both men and women but rather was an enormous two wheeled vehicle (with little outrigger training wheels) that was the first V8 powered vehicle made in Detroit. Of perhaps greater significance to automotive history is the fact that the Scripps-Booth company was one of the firms that Billy Durant bought on his path to create General Motors. Scripps-Booth was the project of philanthropist, artist and engineer James Scripps Booth, an heir to the family that founded the Detroit News and the Cranbrook educational community. The car company he founded made conventional automobiles but also tried to capitalize on the popularity of lightweight “cyclecars” with the JB Rocket cyclecar, designed by William Stout.

img_0329

JB Rocket Cyclecar on display at the Henry Ford Museum. Full gallery here

The moderate success of the JB Rocket brought Stout to the attention of Alvan Macauley, who headed the Packard Motor Car Company. Macauley made Stout general sales manager of Packard and in 1916, when the automaker started up an aviation division Stout was named to be its chief engineer. Stout seems to have been a bit peripatetic because only three years later he left Packard to start his own company, Stout Engineering, in Dearborn.

Stout Engineering led to the creation of the Stout Metal Airplane Company, which I covered a bit in my post on the Trimotor. After Henry Ford more or less edged Wm Stout out of Stout Metal Airplane Company, which built the Trimotor, the aeronautical engineer went back to his Laboratories to apply what he’d learned from making airplanes to designing an advanced automobile. In the 1930s, a number of automotive engineers and designers including Josef Ganz, Ferdinand Porsche and Hans Ledwinka were looking into both aerodynamics and the packaging needs of inexpensive “peoples cars”. Along with those European engineers, Stout embraced the rear engine, rear wheel drive layout as a solution to both of those design issues. In an article in Scientific American, Stout extolled the virtues of moving the engine from the front of the car to the back, “When we finally ‘unhitch Old Dobbin’ from the automobile, the driver will have infinitely better vision from all angles. The automobile will be lighter and more efficient and yet safer, the ride will be easier, and the body will be more roomy without sacrificing maneuverability.”

Stout called his car the Scarab, no doubt because its envelope body shape resembled that Egyptian beetle’s shape. While Ganz had already introduced the idea of naming a car after a beetle, Stout likely arrived at the same idea independently. In any case, Ganz, who popularized the concept of a volkswagen, an inexpensive entry level automobile, and Stout were pursuing different market segments. From 1934 to 1939, Stout is believed to have built a total of 9 Scarabs with a starting price of $5,000, a price that would approach $90,000 in 2014 dollars. For their money, buyers got advanced design features like fenders incorporated into the body, no running boards, and skirted rear wheels. Not quite as obvious but still found on cars today were the Scarab’s hidden door hinges, flush mounted door handles, and flush glass, all intended to improve the Scarab’s aerodynamics.

In recent years, luxury car makers have started incorporating filters to remove dust from their cars’ ventilation systems. The Scarab featured those as well as other modern amenities like ambient lighting, thermostatic heating controls and powered door locks. One reason for being called the first minivan is the fact that while the driver had his or her own door, passengers used a single central mounted side door on the passenger side, similar to the original Chrysler minivans (and VW’s earlier Type II “Bus”). Another reason is that like some minivans, the passenger seats of the Scarab could be reconfigured around a table in the rear of the cabin. Since the seats were not secured to the floor, that might be a safety issue in the event of a collision.

It’s believed by many that the Scarab’s styling was the work of John Tjaarda, whose styling for the Briggs Dream Car, a rear engine streamlined design, would eventually turn up as the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr. Others say that the Scarab was not the work of Tjaarda, whose son Tom Tjaarda had his own successful career as a car designer, but rather was simply influenced by the senior Tjaarda’s earlier “Sterkenburg series” of streamlined monocoque car designs. In any case, the Scarab followed the streamlining style manual, adding a heavy dose of then au courant Art Deco ornamentation. From its headlight grilles and ancient Egyptian theme up front to the elaborate and delicate metal work and chrome trim in back, the Stout Scarab today is considered perhaps the finest automotive expression of the Art Deco design ethos. All nine of the Scarabs, built by a company set up by Stout, not surprisingly called Stout Motor Car, had slightly different interiors, as they were effectively custom, hand built cars.

Besides its radical styling and advanced design features, the Scarab was mechanically interesting. With Stout’s established relationship with Ford Motor Company it’s not surprising that the car featured a flathead Ford V8, but unlike in Ford cars it was mounted over the rear wheels. Output was rated at 95 hp and 154 lb-ft of torque. Driving through a three-speed manual transmission, that 94 hp was good for a 0-60 mph time of 15 seconds, per a modern day test by Special Interest Autos. By using aircraft construction techniques, the Scarab weighed just 3,300 lbs, which is impressive considering that it’s 195.5 inches long and over 6 feet tall. Stout experimented with an aluminum body featuring magnesium doors in his 1932 prototype, but he decided those materials were too expensive to use in the production Scarabs, which were made with steel bodies mounted atop a steel tubing space frame. With the engine and transmission facing towards the back of the car, Stout came up with a layout that would later be used by Lamborghini on the Countach, Diablo and Murcielago. The power of the output shaft of the transmission is transferred to a driveshaft that runs underneath the transmission and engine back to the rear axle.

Click here to view the embedded video.


Click on the settings icon to watch in 2D or your choice of 3D formats.

The suspension of the Scarab was sophisticated for its day, with all four wheels independently suspended. Actually, it might even be sophisticated for a modern car. Up front were lower control arms, coils springs and aircraft style “oleo” struts, while the rear suspension had swing axles (considered the latest thing in the ’20s and ’30s), unequal length upper and lower control arms, lower trailing arms, more “oleo struts” and a transverse leaf spring, something that the Corvette still uses, though from period build photos, the rear struts appear to be “coilover” units with coil springs (see the gallery below). Stout’s use of struts in the rear suspension of the Scarab is said to have been an influence on the development of the so-called Chapman strut, fitted by Colin Chapman to a number of Lotus cars including the Elan. Brakes were hydraulically operated with cast iron drums at all four wheels.

The Scarab was never intended to be a mass market vehicle, with production planned at no more than 100 cars a year. While some promotional materials were made, sales were by invitation only. As would expected those who bought Scarabs were well off, including family names like Firestone, Wrigley and Dow. Still, it was an expensive car and there was a depression going on. Combine a high price and styling that was radical in its day and still looks a little bit odd and you can see why sales never reached projections.

In the late 1930s, Stout started looking into the use of the Firestone Rubber Company’s experimental air springs and fitted them to his personal Scarab and they were also likely installed on Harvey S. Firestone’s Scarab as well. During World War II, Stout was a consultant with the War Production Board regarding the use of smaller industrial facilities and Stout Engineering became allied with the Consolidated Aircraft company, with Stout devoting most of his time developing the Aerocar and Helibus concepts.

img_0373

1946 Stout Scarab Experimental “Project Y”, likely the first fiberglass car. Full gallery here

After the war, Stout returned to the Scarab concept, this time constructing what he called the Stout Scarab Experimental, also called the Project Y or Y-46. The styling was much more conventional than the original Scarabs, with normal sedan styling and two conventional doors but the construction was even more radical. Not only was the Project Y likely to have been the first car built with a fiberglass composite body, Stout predated the Lotus Elite by using the material to implement monocoque frame-in-body construction. The Y-46 also featured air suspension, likely transferred from Stout’s original Scarab (after Stout put over 250,000 miles on that car), and a wraparound windshield, a feature that wouldn’t show up on production cars for almost a decade.

While fewer than a dozen Stout Scarab automobiles were produced, Stout had more success with larger vehicles. Gar Wood Industries produced about 175 transit buses based on Stout’s designs, more or less scaled up Scarabs.

Drivers, then and now, describe the Scarab’s ride as being both smooth and stable. At least five of the nine original Scarabs still exist and a number of them are in running condition including the silver Scarab pictured here. It was made in 1936 and it belongs to Larry Smith of Pontiac, Michigan. It was photographed at the 2012 Eyes On Design show. You can see another of the surviving Stout Scarabs here. The Stout Scarab Experimental Y-46 also still survives, in the collection of the Gilmore Car Museum, near Kalamazoo.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

wbstout. 6a00e54ed05fc288330134804bb5ad970c-800wi 51Bm5CqljeL._SY300_ Bi-Autogo no1937_stout_article oo1907_jack_kneiff_dredge oo1932_stout_car_4 oo1932_stout_scarab_art oo1933_stout_scarab_1 oo1935_stout_scarab_10 oo1936_gar_wood_ad_1 oo1936_stout_pat_1 oo1946_stout_y-46_0 oo1946_stout_y-46_1 oo1946_stout_y-46_2 ScarabBus_01 Stout3-600x423 stoutlucas StoutScarab Stout-Scarab-cutaway-1 ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-stout-scarab-an-art-deco-automotive-artifact-that-was-ahead-of-its-time/feed/ 30
Deliverance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/deliverance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/deliverance/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 15:02:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=863361 Shelby Charger

An old car is a feast for the senses. The gentle curve of a fender or the sharply drawn body line pleases the eye while the clatter of valves and the whine of spinning belts combine to make mechanical music. The exhaust gasses, which smell just a tad too rich, blend with the odors of old motor oil, decaying rubber and that musty smell that wafts from the car’s interior to fill your olfactory, while the mixture of gasoline, oil and grease that makes your hands feel so slippery even finds its way onto your tongue when you bring the fingertip you burned on a hot manifold to your mouth. You see it, hear it, smell it, feel it and can even taste it, all five senses touched by one malodorous, malevolent little mechanical beast. Yes friends, if you hadn’t guessed by now, my ’83 Shelby Charger is here at last.

I had, I am ashamed to say, forgotten the physicality of old cars. As someone who lives with two fairly new, almost totally drama free vehicles, it’s easy to forget that all cars are anything but appliances. Like the washing machine I have running in the other room right now, my cars are competent, clean and perform flawlessly at the turn of the key. I could jump into either of them and drive from one coast to the other just as easily as I could drop another load of clothes into the tub of my washer and know with utter and absolute confidence that I will, in short order, have a load of clean clothes. The Shelby, on the other hand, more closely resembles the antique clock that graces my mantelpiece. It is a magical assembly of whirring gears that human ingenuity has brought together into one marvelous machine and, while it does the job, it requires almost daily adjustment to perform as intended.

shelby charger

Some of our readers may recall that, a few months ago, I posted a plaintive cry for help in choosing an older car. I set down a rather strict set of criteria: it needed to be older, not too nice lest I succumb to the desire to preserve it rather than use it, and it needed to have a manual transmission. I got a lot of great suggestions and a couple of tantalizing offers that I had to pass on but as luck would have it, one of our website’s erstwhile readers in Maryland, a gentleman named Terry, reached out and made an offer almost too good to refuse.

The photos showed a stunning little car and I was instantly smitten. In the flurry of emails that followed, Terry let slip that he was the car’s original owner but that, because like me he often works at jobsites outside of the United States, the car had spent a lot of time sitting. Eventually, it had ended up in a friend’s barn in West Virginia where time, the elements and a family of mice had worked their magic.

But Terry isn’t the kind of man who let’s things slide and although it might have been out of sight the little car was never out of mind. From the far side of the planet Terry plotted and waited and then, on a short trip home, he brought the car back over the Appalachians to Maryland where he dropped it at a local speed shop before heading back overseas. The list of things done was extensive and can’t hope to recount all of it here, I do know that the old transmission was swapped out for a stouter unit from a later model turbo Dodge, the top end of the engine was rebuilt and the car’s rust issues, which sounded extensive, were resolved by cutting out the cancer and welding in new steel. Finally, the car was repainted in its factory colors, set on a set of good looking OZ wheels shod with sticky, performance rubber and returned to its owner.

shelby charger 1

Terry enjoyed the car for a few years but, with an SRT8 Challenger, a 71 Charger and two jeeps in the garage, the little Shelby ended up under a cover in the driveway next to the daily driven Neon RT. While it didn’t exactly languish there it spent more time sitting than Terry liked and so, after reading of my undying love for 80s Dodges on these hallowed pages and hearing my plaintiff cry for one of my own, Terry decided to shoot me an email. Naturally, I responded immediately and on my recent trip to DC I swung through Frederick.
After a brief test drive through the rolling hills I decided that the car needed just a bit of sorting to be perfect for my purposes, but that it really was as Terry had represented a solid, original little car. At this point, because I am still working on a few of the things I think need to be addressed and because my impressions are still a bit muddled by the excitement of having so recently taken delivery, I won’t write a full review, but know now that you will soon hear so much about my adventures with this little car that you will grow to hate it.

Although I only got the car the day before yesterday, I can already tell you that it gets all kinds of attention. The cable guy and the garbage man both asked about it while it sat in the driveway before I got it registered. People asked about it at the inspection station and, once I got the plates on, it drew a small crowd when I took it to the gas station for its first fill-up. The guys in the auto parts store I stopped at all had to go out and see it and I even got asked about it from the passenger of a neighboring car while I paused at a stop light. Everyone, it seems, is excited to see my little Shelby Charger and they all have a question that they must ask or a story to share. It is a strange, visceral reaction that only the most special, elemental machine can inspire and if I cannot jump into it and drive to the far side of the country on a moment’s notice I’m OK with that. No one ever asks about my washing machine.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Leavenworth, KS with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/deliverance/feed/ 82
Junkyard Find: 1979 Triumph Spitfire 1500 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1979-triumph-spitfire-1500/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1979-triumph-spitfire-1500/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=862769 09 - 1979 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe low-value British or Italian sports car that sits in rough condition in a yard or driveway for decades, then takes that sad final journey to the local U-Wrench-It— it’s been a staple of the American self-service wrecking yard landscape for what seems like forever. The MGB and Fiat 124 Sport Spider are by far the most common examples of this breed, followed by the TR7, Alfa Romeo Spider, and the Triumph Spitfire. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’65, this ’67, and this ’75, and now we’re getting right to the end of the Spitfire’s 19-year production run with today’s ’79.
06 - 1979 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLike just about all junkyard convertibles, the interior of this one is pretty well roasted to oblivion by many years of outdoor storage.
07 - 1979 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s possible that someone plucked this tube header before the car got crushed (I shot these photos last October in Northern Californai, which means this car is probably shredded metal bits in a shipping container in Shenzhen at this point), but there’s not much demand for smogged-up 1500s these days.
05 - 1979 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThose horrible 5 mph crash bumpers! Even in this apparently rust-free condition, nobody was willing to rescue this forlorn British Leyland machine.

The emergency run to the hospital in a Spitfire seems like a risky proposition, but it worked out fine in the commercial.

From the land of British Racing Green.

For the man who has lived long and well, it offers a respite from boredom.

This ad offers a more accurate portrayal of real-world Spitfire driving on American highways.

Chicks dug it, though, especially after pulling .87 Gs on the skidpad.

British Leyland had something for everyone!

01 - 1979 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1979 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1979 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1979 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1979 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1979 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1979 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1979 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1979 Triumph Spitfire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1979-triumph-spitfire-1500/feed/ 61
Junkyard Find: 1972 International Harvester Scout II http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1972-international-harvester-scout-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1972-international-harvester-scout-ii/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 13:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=862233 01 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHere in Colorado, Scouts are all over the place, which means that Denver-area wrecking yards get a steady stream of worn-out or abandoned examples. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’70, this ’71, this ’73, and this ’74, and I’ve skipped over a bunch of totally-stripped Scouts that weren’t worth photographing. Today’s find has donated a lot of parts to the local Scout ecosystem, but still intact enough to be of interest.
07 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe IHC V8 was a heavy, farm-equipment-grade brute. There’s probably some easy way to tell a 304 from a 345 at a glance, but I don’t know what it is.
08 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe smog sticker says it’s a 345, but owners of these trucks have always been notorious engine-swappers. Hey, why is there a California catalyst sticker on a ’72? This junkyard goes by VIN records when determining model year, so I suspect that some VIN-swapping magic was performed by a previous owner and we’re really looking at a late-70s Scout.
06 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIHC made a Rallye version of the Scout II, but this looks like a homegrown decal job.
09 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s not incredibly rusty, but there’s no reason to restore a truck like this when you can buy nicer runners for reasonable prices in Colorado.

Does everything a compact, big sedan, or station wagon can do!

01 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1972 International Harvester Scout II Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1972-international-harvester-scout-ii/feed/ 34
Rolling [Gasified] Coal: Gas Bag Vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/rolling-gasified-coal-gas-bag-vehicles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/rolling-gasified-coal-gas-bag-vehicles/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 10:27:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=862441 6a00e0099229e888330147e4413c14970b-500wi

The autoblogosphere is abuzz with the topic of “rolling coal“, apparently the practice of some diesel pickup truck enthusiasts who fiddle with their fuel systems so as to produce voluminous clouds of dense black, sooty exhaust smoke. I have to admit that when I first saw the phrase “rolling coal” in a headline at Jalopnik I thought it had something to do coal gasification and running cars on wood gas or syngas. After finding out that rolling coal wasn’t what I thought it was, I did look into the history of powering motor vehicles on wood gas and ended up finding out about these rather odd looking cars and trucks known as gas bag vehicles. Frankly they’re more interesting to me than whether or not pickup truck driving bros are blowing smoke in the faces of Prius drivers. I believe that you’ll find these vehicles interesting as well.

6a00e0099229e88833014e60e70dfb970c-500wi

The process of using oxygen starved combustion to turn organic material into a combustible gas has been known for 175 years. Gustav Bischof built the first wood gasifier in 1839. By the turn of the 20th century, before the use of natural gas started proliferating in the 1930s, in many municipalities syngas produced from coal was centrally produced and distributed via pipelines to homes and businesses to use for heating and cooking. In 1901, Thomas Parker made the first vehicle powered by wood gas.

6a00e0099229e88833014e60e703bc970c-320wi

The best known use of wood gas and syngas to power vehicles, however, was in Germany during World War II.

woodgascar

Germany was heavily dependent on petroleum mined outside of the country’s borders so gasoline and diesel fuel were rationed for the civilian population in order to reserve those fuels for military use. Germany may have had little petroleum but it had a lot of domestic coal.

6a00e0099229e88833014e60e7ea0a970c-500wi

Considerable effort was also put into industrial scale production of synthetic fuels and lubricants using the the Fischer-Tropsch method. It’s estimated that 9% of the Reich’s liquid fuel and a quarter of the automotive fuels used during the war were synthetics made from coal.

6a00e0099229e88833014e60e705af970c-500wi

In addition to commercial scale synthetic fuel production, by the end of the war there were about a half million German cars, trucks, buses, tractors, motorcycles, and even marine ships and railroad locomotives that were equipped with portable wood gasifiers. Wood gas powered vehicles were also common elsewhere in wartime Europe.

6a00e0099229e88833014e87c5d7e6970d-500wi

The widespread use of synthetic gas to run cars and trucks dates to another war, though, World War One. As mentioned, many cities distributed what was known as “town gas” or “street gas”, a byproduct of making coal into the cokes that are used to refine iron.

6a00e0099229e888330147e4421673970b-500wi

During the first world war, some creative folks in France, the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom figured out that they could run their motor vehicles, like Thomas Parker did, on that gaseous fuel rather than on gasoline, which was in short supply due to the ongoing hostilities.

6a00e0099229e88833015392ff6f2a970b-500wi

One of the barriers facing modern day gaseous fueled vehicles is that compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquified petroleum gas (LPG) have lower energy densities than gasoline so the tanks for the compressed gas end up being about twice the size of a conventional liquid fuel tank. “Town gas” has an even lower energy density than CNG or LPG. At normal atmospheric pressure, the town gas equivalent to a liter of gasoline takes up between two and three cubic meters of volume.

6a00e0099229e888330147e4421216970b-500wi

While today CNG vehicle operators can buy commercial and even home gas compressors, a century ago such compressors weren’t readily available. Also, syngas is made up of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Though it was possible to compress town gas, it wasn’t practical. Carbon monoxide breaks down when compressed and the steel tanks of the day could not contain hydrogen gas without leaking.

6a00e0099229e888330147e4421b99970b-500wi

The solution was to store the syngas in large inflatable bags, essentially balloons, made of coated fabric, that were mounted on the roofs of the vehicles. It was obviously more practical for larger vehicles, like trucks and buses, but some automobile owners made the conversion as well. Some of the commercial conversions included fairings and bodywork to hide the bags and provide some aerodynamic improvement (back then it would have been called “streamlining”), and a place for advertising, but in most cases the vehicles looked like they were hauling around bales of cotton, well, until the bags deflated as the gas was consumed. Some owners built metal or wooden frameworks to contain and protect the fuel bladders, which were made of rubber coated silk or other fabric material. If they sprung a leak, they were repaired with a patch for a bicycle tire tube.

6a00e0099229e888330147e4424895970b-500wi

Because of the lack of energy density, gas bag vehicles were strictly for short range driving. With consumption of 13 liters of gas per kilometer, the equivalent of 22 mpg with gasoline, a 13 cubic meter gas bag would give a range of about 50 km (~30 miles). It’s possible that some drivers fitted some kind of fuel gauge, but apparently most just watched their fuel tank deflate. The vehicles could be refueled wherever town gas was supplied.

6a00e0099229e88833014e87c6b441970d-500wi

The main drawbacks to the gas bag vehicles were fire risk, bridges and the fact that your fuel tank might blow away if you went too fast. Passengers waiting at bus stops were warned not to smoke.

6a00e0099229e88833014e87c6bc43970d-150wi

“Rauchen verboten” – smoking was forbidden at bus stops due to fire risk from gas bag leaks.

Drivers had to plan for overpasses and other potential overhead obstacles and were urged not to exceed 30 mph, both to preserve range and to keep the gas bag secured to the vehicle. Sidewinds were also a problem.

6a00e0099229e88833017d4051db04970c-500wi

Despite their drawbacks, gas bag vehicles’ use has not been restricted to wartime. Because the fuel is an inexpensive byproduct of industrial processes the city of Chongqing, China developed gas bag buses as a cost effective public transportation solution in the 1960s and gas bag buses stayed in operation in China into the 1990s.

chengdu-0018

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/rolling-gasified-coal-gas-bag-vehicles/feed/ 20
Today’s Must Read: Google Doesn’t Get Us http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/todays-must-read-google-doesnt-get-us/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/todays-must-read-google-doesnt-get-us/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 14:02:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=862369 1024px-Jurvetson_Google_driverless_car_trimmed

In the absence of While You Were Sleeping, I’d like to open up the floor to discussion on this spectacular piece from Jalopnik‘s Damon Lavrinc, titled Google Co-Founder ​Sergey Brin Doesn’t Understand Us And Never Will.

Lavrinc lays out the case that Brin and his ilk see

not just cars, but car ownership is inefficient, wasteful, and dangerous. They take up too much space, use too many resources, and, listening to Brin, are an unconscionable blight on society…Brin looks at the world through an engineer’s lens. It’s binary: good versus bad, progress versus stagnation. The idea that someone would derive any amount of pleasure from the act of driving is completely antithetical to the society Brin envisions. Add in the fact that he’s also the protagonist in a world of his own creation, worth $30 billion, and nestled safely inside the Silicon Valley hive mind, and – with the right (Google) glasses – you can see where he’s coming from. Until you can’t.

 

Lavrinc describes this vision as “divorced from reality”, and rightfully so. I personally abhor this mindset for a whole host of reasons, whether it’s because I don’t want an engineer in Silicon Valley deciding to reshape my access to mobility in their pseudo-utopian image, or that Brin stands to profit handsomely from a plan that would engender the obsolescence of one of my favorite hobbys.

Most of all, I resent the mindset that every facet of life must be optimized, engineered or worse “disrupted”. A world like this leaves no room for spontaneity or idiosyncrasy, two of the imperfections that add so much joy to life. But I understand that this is the way the world is going – and if I faced a long, arduous commute, I’d probably have a different opinion.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/todays-must-read-google-doesnt-get-us/feed/ 193
Junkyard Find: 1976 Ford LTD Brougham http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1976-ford-ltd-brougham/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1976-ford-ltd-brougham/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=861817 07 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin
Just after I wrote that non-Country Squire Ford LTDs were rare Junkyard Finds (we’ve had three so far: this ’69, this ’71, and this ’72), I found this majestic yellow four-door hardtop in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard. As an added bonus, it’s a Brougham!


21 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe laugh at Malaise Era big Detroit cars now, with their overwrought heraldic crests and laughably fake wood and leather, but I spent much of my childhood in cars like this and they actually seemed pretty nice at the time.
19 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 351M V8 was big on torque, not so great for horsepower or fuel economy.
17 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one got a lot of use over its 38-year lifespan.


There is no way in hell this generation of LTD managed to get 22 mpg on the highway, even with the not-so-strict tests of the time. It was comfortable, though.

01 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1976-ford-ltd-brougham/feed/ 57
Henry Ford’s Flying Flivver: The Model T of the Air http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/henry-fords-flying-flivver-the-model-t-of-the-air/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/henry-fords-flying-flivver-the-model-t-of-the-air/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:53:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=858449 IMG_0236

Full gallery here

Following the success of the Ford Trimotor, one of the first successful commercial passenger and cargo airplanes, which was introduced in 1925, Henry Ford got the aviation bug and decided to build what he called a “Model T of the air”, a small, affordable single seat airplane. He first proposed the idea to the men running his aircraft division, Trimotor designer William Bushnell Stout and William Benson Mayo but based on Henry’s design brief, neither experienced aeronautical man wanted anything to do with project. By then Henry Ford had bought out all of his investors and partners. All of Ford Motor Company stock was owned by Henry, Clara, and Edsel Ford, with Henry having the greatest share (49/3/48) so the firm was effectively Henry’s private feudal empire. Mr. Ford simply moved the project to a building in the Ford Laboratories complex.

To design the new plane, named the Ford Flivver, after one of the Model T’s nicknames, Ford turned to Otto Koppen. Koppen, a young MIT trained aeronautical engineer. After graduating from college, Koppen enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps where he served for four years under Jimmy Doolittle. After he had a harrowing emergency landing he discovered that his parachute was faulty – had he bailed out he would have fallen to his death. Koppen left the Army and got a job in Dearborn at the Ford owned Stout Metal Airplane Company. His first job there was to design the tail wheel on the Ford Trimotor. Henry Ford had complained that the tail-dragging skid originally fitted to the plane tore up the sod at his airfield, Ford Airport.

After Stout and Mayo turned their boss down, happy with the young engineer’s work on the Trimotor, Henry turned to Otto Koppen. Now some may think that because Ford’s attempt to build an everyman’s airplane ended up not being a successful venture that Koppen didn’t know what he was doing, but after working for Ford the aviation engineer returned to MIT where he had a long and distinguished career as an aeronautical engineering professor. Koppen would go on to develop the world’s first short take off and and landing (STOL) airplane, the Helio Courier. Some of the confusion may be due to the fact that two different versions and five total prototypes of the Flivver were built, with some of the planes being modified as many as three times.

Koppen would later say Ford’s instructions to him were that it had to be a single seat plane that was small enough that it could “fit in his [Ford's] office”. Ford apparently liked the idea of a plane in every garage to go with the Model T that likely was there. The target price was $500.

What Koppen came up with had a fuselage made of welded steel tubing and the wings were made of wood. The surfaces were made of fabric stretched over the frame. Since Ford didn’t like tail-draggers, the Flivver featured a tailwheel mounted to the rudder, making the plane steerable in the ground. That wheel also carried the planes only brake. A custom exhaust manifold connected the cylinders to a stock Model T muffler. Suspension function was achieved by using rubber doughnuts to mount the wheel struts to the wing. At least two different engines were used in Flivvers. The plane was 15 feet long, with a wingspan of 22 feet and it weighed just 350 lbs.

Three additional prototypes were built. Some sources say there were only three Flivvers made, some sources say four and one source says there were two prototypes of the initial design and then three prototypes of a second design, apparently because the first design wasn’t so great. The second design had a bigger wingspan, a sleeker, lower profile and this time the entire plane’s frame was made of steel tubing, covered with coated fabric. Perhaps because the wings were heavier, Flivver 2A had supportive wing struts. As there were plans to use this prototype to set distance records, a 55 gallon fuel tank was installed. Replacing the Anzani triple was a custom horizontally opposed twin made from a FoMoCo design of 143 cubic inches displacement, using Wright Whirlwind internal components, that put out 40 hp. The remaining two prototypes featured this engine. Flying magazine said in 1978 that it was the only Ford designed engine that ever flew.

The first prototype was introduced to the public on Henry Ford’s 63rd birthday, at what was billed as the 1926 Ford National Reliability Air Tour. Crowds flocked to see what some called “Ford’s Flying Car” and celebrities like political humorist Will Rogers posed with the Flivver, though Rogers, a pilot himself, never flew it.

Fliver3

Humorist Will Rogers posing with the Flivver, though he never flew it.

In fact only two people ever flew any of the Flivvers, Lindbergh and Harry J. Brooks, Ford’s chief test pilot for the Trimotor. The young Brooks, who may have also acted as Henry Ford’s personal pilot, became a favorite of the aging industrialist, who let him fly the first Flivver prototype regularly home from work, storing the plane in his garage as Henry planned. Brooks would then commute to work in the morning via air. The pilot used the second prototype to travel between Ford properties and he once raced the plane against Miss America V, piloted by Gar Wood, during the Harmsworth Trophy Races on the Detroit River.

Harry J. Brooks, Ford test pilot, one of two people who flew the Flivver. Brooks died when his prototype Flivver crashed into the ocean due to fuel starvation.

Harry J. Brooks, Ford test pilot, one of two people who flew the Flivver. Brooks died when his prototype Flivver crashed into the ocean due to fuel starvation.

Brooks loved the tiny plane, telling reporters,  “Flying a plane like this is no more difficult than flying a large plane, except in this plane the pilot has to think a little faster.” For the next year and a half, Brooks performed test flights and a some publicity barnstorming with the Flivver, including flying the Flivver into Washington D.C.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The reaction from the press to “Ford’s Flying Car” was ecstatic. If you think the term flying car is inappropriate, that steerable back wheel was intended to allow pilots to drive from their garage to the nearest runway. Popular Science said it was feasible for the “average Joe” to fly, small enough to fit in a garage, with flaps designed for maximum lift for short take offs. A columnist for the New York Evening Sun waxed poetic looking into the future:

I dreamed I was an angel
And with the angels soared
But I was simply touring
The heavens in a Ford

After Charles Lindbergh’s popularity exploded following his transatlantic flight, Henry Ford invited him to visit Ford Airport and fly the Flivver in August of 1927. Lucky Lindy didn’t share Brooks’ enthusiasm for the litte plane, later describing it as ” one of the worst aircraft he ever flew”. I guess that one man’s “think a little faster” is another man’s uncontrollably dangerous.

The long wingspan planes were built to set the long distance record for planes in the 200 to 400 kilogram class. Two attempts were made in early 1928 to fly non-stop from Detroit to Miami, Florida. The first attempt, using the third prototype  ended early when Brooks had to set down in Asheville, North Carolina. A month later, flying the second prototype, Brooks landed 200 miles short in Titusville, bending the propeller but he still managed to set a record of 972 miles non-stop on just 55 gallons of fuel.

While in Titusville for the night, Brooks managed to repair the plane with the propeller from the third prototype that had made the forced landing in North Carolina. To prevent the moist oceanside air from condensing water into the fuel, Brooks stopped up the fuel cap’s vent holes with wooden toothpicks (some versions of the story say matchsticks). On February 25th, Brooks took off for Miami, circled out over the Atlantic ocean off the coast near Melbourne, Florida, where his engine died. The wrecked Flivver washed up on shore but Brooks’ body was never found. When the wreckage was examined, they found the wooden plugs still in the vent holes. In his haste, Brooks had forgotten to remove them before taking off With the gas tank unable to vent, a vacuum was formed, starving the carburetors, killing the engine, and Brooks.

Following the death of his friend and employee, Henry Ford is reported to have been distraught and for a while he stopped further development of light aircraft. Wikipedia says that in 1931 Ford’s Stout division marketed the Stout Sky Car, the first of four one-off light planes that William Stout designed to be as easy to operate and as comfortable as a car, but by 1931 William Stout had left the company he founded, and as mentioned it was a one-off so I don’t know the extent of FoMoCo’s involvement. In 1936, Ford’s Stout division did develop a two-seat flying wing named the Model 15-P. It was powered by a flathead Ford V8 mounted in the back of the plane, driving a tractor propeller through a driveshaft. The fuselage was steel tubing with an aluminum skin, while the wings were covered with fabric. Fully faired landing gear featured large landing lights in the fairings.

Ford 15-P experimental airplane.

Ford 15-P experimental airplane.

After several test flights ended in crashes, however, the 15-P never went into production. Think of it as the Tatra 87 of airplanes, though while the Tatra had a rear mounted V8 and was prone to crashing, it actually made it to production. The Ford Model 15-P was the last airplane designed by Ford Motor Company. The B-24s that Ford build during WWII were made under license from Continental.

Despite his setbacks with small planes, Henry Ford likely never gave up the dream of a flying Flivver in every garage. In 1940, he said,”Mark my words: a combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come.”

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/henry-fords-flying-flivver-the-model-t-of-the-air/feed/ 8
Editorial: Tesla is What Scion Should Have Been http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/editorial-tesla-is-what-scion-should-have-been/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/editorial-tesla-is-what-scion-should-have-been/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:52:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=860249 photo_tenant_tesla

 

It’s not an exceptionally large showroom, but the façade is enormous. The Tesla retail store in Columbus, Ohio wraps around an entire corner of the Easton Town Center, that city’s premier upscale shopping venue. My trip to the store, the first time I’d ever set foot in a Tesla retail location, was an eye opener. Tesla’s retail model is an example of what Scion could have (and should have) been.

Tesla’s presence at Easton is inextricably interwoven with the history of American retailing. Easton is the brainchild of L Brands founder and CEO Les Wexner, who has overseen the growth of some of the country’s biggest names in retail: Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie and Fitch, Bath and Body Works, Lane Bryant, and many others. Easton opened for business in 1999, as part of the new wave of American retail venues that appeared in the late 90s and early 00s. These were indoor-outdoor hybrids, replete with restaurants, entertainment venues, and other “lifestyle” amenities. Consumer response to these new options was strong, and today Easton is still one of the state’s most successful retail development projects.

Easton’s rise was directly linked to the decline of traditional malls. Northland, Eastland, and Westland were opened in the 60s to serve customers in and around the Columbus metro area. Of the three, only Eastland is still in operation, and it’s currently for sale. De-urbanization and the general decline of Columbus’ old neighborhoods near the city’s core hurt these malls, but they were also undermined by changing customer expectations. When Easton opened (as well as the copycat Polaris Fashion Place developed by the rival Glimcher development group), it suddenly made the indoor malls seem like relics of a bygone era. Easton had anchor department stores like Macy’s, a movie theater, some indoor small shops, and other features that traditional mall customers expected. But it also had bars, quality restaurants, a children’s park, and even a luxury grocery store. It also had a myriad number of high-end standalone retailers that were previously only to be found in exclusive locations in big cities: Lacoste, Tiffany’s, Louis Vuitton, Coach, and many others.

Eastland and the other traditional malls didn’t need these kinds of retailers to satisfy the basic demands of their traditional customers. But what the luxury brands did was give Easton a halo of respectability and posh refinement that itself was an object of consumer desire. Although there are plenty of rich people who shop at Easton, a $2500 handbag is well out of reach for most people who go to the mall. What Easton does is give the plebs the chance to rub shoulders with the moneyed set before sneaking into Macy’s to buy a $40 dress. Wexner’s decision to arrange most of the high-end stores along a single boulevard lined with metered parking was a stroke of genius. Every day the main thoroughfare is flanked by an ever-changing lineup of Benzes, BMWs, Porsches, and exotics. The other malls withered, and then crumbled. Northland Mall, just a few miles up the road, was torn down in 2004.

Now, Easton has a store that sells electric cars. It would be tempting to say that this store is unlike any that have come before it, but that isn’t really true. There’s a Model S in the middle, of course, as well as bodiless chassis buck. Otherwise, the Tesla location looks a lot like the other high-end retailers ringing Easton’s perimeter. Soothing but distinctly modern Muzak plays through the ceiling, and everything is brilliantly lit and tastefully furnished. There are a variety of slick technical displays explaining various features of the car, as well as options.

Most importantly, the walls are covered with logo merchandise of every type, shape, and description: t-shirts, coffee mugs, tin lunchboxes, baby onesies. All of this is overseen by Tesla personnel, in this case two young men. They were as fastidiously dressed and groomed as any Brooks Brothers employee, and had the manners of a really good sommelier at a high end restaurant: polite, unquestionably confident, and just easygoing enough to talk you into making a really expensive decision. Or, if you want to buy a $25 shirt, they’d be more than happy to help you with that too. What the Tesla location resembles is not so much a car dealership as the Puma store it replaced: a variety of premium branded goods, sold by handsome young people in a clean and upbeat atmosphere.

Contrast that with my last visit to a Scion daler, which was pretty representative of all the Scion dealers I’ve ever set foot in. The Scion display was in the corner of a much larger Toyota showroom, which was itself part of a large dealer group. It was constructed in the manner of virtually all large car dealers: a bunch of lots and showrooms in their own area, distinct from other retail outlets. The Scion display consisted of a single panel, which was filled with informational pamphlets. Half of these were for products that either no longer exist or are in some kind of planning limbo.

The other half were for the kind of cashback deals and financial incentives that can be found in any dealership anywhere. The only Scion in the showroom was an automatic xD, which was dusty and fingermarked. I fooled around with it for a good twenty minutes without anyone bothering me. I had a salesman on hand about thirty seconds after I started examining the new Corolla. There was some Scion logo merchandise, but it was in the parts department alongside all the overpriced windshield wiper blades and camo pattern trailer hitch covers. There was nothing that jumped out as edgy, different, or alternative. Certainly, there was nothing to make you think you were anywhere but a car dealer.

It was pretty clear that nobody much cared about the Scion side of the dealership, and why should they? People don’t come to Toyota dealers looking for Scions, they come looking for Toyotas. Scion will never be much more than a distraction for the salespeople, who are much more invested in selling Camrys, Corollas, Rav-4s and Tundras. At this point, most Scion sales are either to the limited number of enthusiasts buying FR-S’s, or people who were disappointed to find out that the Corolla doesn’t come in hatchback form anymore and decided to settle for something else instead. Scion urgently needs new product, but it also needs a complete overhaul of the buying experience. The traditional dealership format is completely inimical to accomplishing the stated goals of the Scion brand: attracting a younger clientele to Toyota products, while modifying the traditional dealer experience.

The history of retail is a stream of constant reinvention. Every generation has contributed some important innovation to the backbone of the consumer economy. Online shopping is perhaps the most relevant current example of this trend, but brick-and-mortar stores have been reinventing themselves too. Walmart wiped out many smaller grocery chains, as well as traditional department stores. But it failed to steamroller the entire grocery market because it became synonymous with lower-end retail. Publix, Target, Kroger, and other chains have hung on by offering a more pleasant shopping experience and a better selection of higher-end goods.

Similarly, Easton represents a way of reinventing retail to better serve the needs of a modern, affluent clientele. Tesla, with its direct sales model and glimmer of luxury branding, represents a perfect fit for Easton’s retail model. It’s a brick-and-mortar store, but one with a distinctly modern feel. And although its main product is out of reach for the majority of Easton’s customer base, it still offers other ways to capture some of that Tesla magic. The Tesla showroom is a constant parade of gawkers, most of whom come away distinctly impressed by what they’ve seen. This is ground zero for building a brand, and Tesla is hitting it out of the ballpark. Why can’t Toyota emulate this model for Scion?

The answer, of course, is that Toyota isn’t in any position to disrupt the market in such a way. They are firmly a part of the American automotive Establishment, just as much as any of the Big Three. Their franchise dealers are their lifeblood, and are responsible for much of their American success. Setting Scion up as a direct sales operation would have required throwing these dealers under the bus, as well as a massive legal campaign with no guarantee of success. In short, it would be an incredibly foolhardy move, and it’s no surprise that Toyota eschewed it in favor of following the established model. This meant, though, that Toyota missed the opportunity to do something really revolutionary with the brand, or at least make it seem revolutionary.

When GM launched Saturn, there was nothing on paper that made the dealership model seem any different from previous ventures. However, the focus on customer service and satisfaction was such a revelation that even import brands were caught off guard. Toyota didn’t try to shake up the dealer experience with Scion, besides some milquetoast moves towards customization and fixed pricing. Instead, Scion was just another car brand from the get-go. The unapologetic functionality of the first generation xB, and the promise of an Eclipse with Toyota reliability undergirding the tC, were enough to pull in a decent number of early adopters. After that, the brand languished. Scion didn’t damage Toyota’s fortunes, because the product wasn’t shoddy or defective (for the most part). The brand underperformed, however, because it did not deviate from the norm of American auto sales in any meaningful way. For a brand supposed to be based on youthful rebellion and nonconformity, that was the kiss of death.

It may be too late now to salvage the Scion brand. And if Toyota decides to pull the plug on the FR-S at the end of this generation, it may be that the company won’t keep Scion around anyway. Even so, I believe I have a workable proposal for reversing Scion’s fortunes, at least on the marketing front. Take some of the money that’s being wasted on FR-S TV commercials and use it to open some storefront locations in prime shopping areas.

Let these be places where potential customers can get a feel for the product in a non-traditional setting. Put two or three cars in the showroom, and let a few employees explain their features and options. Give customers the opportunity for a test drive, if that’s workable in a given location. When somebody wants to buy, use the power of that newfangled Internet thing to match customers up with locally available inventory. In short, keep Scion customers out of the arms of dealers until the last possible moment. Use the stores as merchandising fronts for the Scion AV music venture. Be like Tesla, and offer copious merchandising opportunities all along the way. If you’re serious about turning Scion into a “movement,” then provide the means for that to happen. Dealers and a few sponsored events aren’t going to do it for you. Keep the franchisees around for their service and sales infrastructure, but don’t rely on them to market Scion for you. You don’t need to sell six-figure electric cars to create buzz. You just need some good product, presented in a relevant and novel fashion. That alone will buy you a lot of credit with the disaffected youth of today’s marketplace.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/editorial-tesla-is-what-scion-should-have-been/feed/ 48
Saturation Dive: Manual Transmission Gear Design http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/saturation-dive-manual-transmission-gear-design/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/saturation-dive-manual-transmission-gear-design/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=858825 T56_Magnum_1

In the automatic transmission racket, there have been new layouts and power flows galore lately. Your humble author has done a few articles detailing some of the more common designs in the North American market place, with the notable exception of the Aisin design. The design of a RWD manual transmission, on the other hand, is conceptually largely unchanged from the earliest 3 and 4 speed designs like the venerable M22 Rock crusher.This is not to say that RWD manual transmissions have not changed over the decades. The number of gears and torque capacities has increased, shift efforts have gone down, refinement has increased, which are all good things. This article provides some insights into the gear design and sizing for some of the more recent manual transmissions.

T56_Magnum_2

A RWD manual transmission consists of an input shaft, a counter shaft, and an output shaft (also referred to as the main shaft). The input shaft is connected to the engine through a friction clutch, while the output shaft is connected to the drive wheels through a final drive gear and a differential. The counter shaft is rigidly connected to the input shaft through the input gear set. It spins opposite to the input shaft in all gears, and counter to the output shaft in all forward gears. The input shaft and the output shaft are almost always coaxial. For heavier duty applications, there can be more than one counter shaft to increase load capacity. The basic components and operation of a RWD manual transmission are explained in great detail below.

Click here to view the embedded video.

For the uninitiated, this video explains manual transmission operation very well. It is 24 minutes long, and  many of the B&B  will need to pause this video a few times, but any time you spend understanding this video is time well spent. With that out of the way, let us get to the gear design, specifically the first gear.

The torque capacity of a gear set is determined by the following design parameters.

  1. Center distance between the main shaft and counter shaft (more is better for torque capacity)
  2. Face width of the gears (more is better for torque capacity)
  3. Helical angle of the gears (Does not make as much difference as 1 and 2, but generally speaking less angle is somewhat better)
  4. Gear ratio (Numerically lower is better for torque capacity, which is one of the reasons why the Corvette ZR1 has a 2.29 first gear ratio)
  5. The pressure angle of gear set (Complicated, it balances the contact life of the gear with the tooth root life)

The center distance of the TR6060 is 85 millimeters. Face width is 30 millimeters for the first gear (up from approximately 26 millimeters in the T56). The helix angle appears to be around 25 degrees, but as stated earlier it does not have a big impact on the torque capacity so the exact value is not as important. The TR6060 is offered in several first gear ratios, for the purpose of this article, we will focus on the Corvette Z51 first gear ratio, which is 2.97:1. The gear ratio is achieved in two steps. The first step is ratio between the input shaft gear and the counter shaft gear (38 teeth driven and 29 teeth driver), the second step is the first gear set (43 teeth driven, 19 teeth driver) for an overall gear ratio of (43*38)/(29*19) or 2.9655. One thing to note is that of the 4 gears, the number of teeth on 3 of them are prime numbers (43, 29, and 19) while the fourth one (38) is a multiple of a relatively large prime number. This is done to ensure that every teeth on a given gear meshes with every other teeth of mating gear the same number of times to maximize the operating life. With even-number-tooth gears, the same teeth tend to come into contact again and again, exacerbating potential issues.

Some of the essential gear nomenclature is shown in the figure below

There are two failure modes for a gear with no quality issues. The flank can exhibit surface scuffing and/or pitting if the contact pressure is too high or the lubrication is inadequate. Alternately, the tooth can break off at the root fillet due to excessive bending stress. Any given tooth root is essentially a cantilever under bending. There are several different methods to size gears: there are excellent AGMA standards, many different commercial software packages specifically meant to design gears, and Finite Element Analysis. Finite Element Analysis (or FEA) breaks down the geometry into several “elements” of a finite but small size. The underlying physics is solved for in each domain to assemble a stiffness matrix (and for dynamic problems a mass matrix as well), and the stiffness matrix is then solved for stresses in the part. We are going to use FEA to analyze these gears because in the humble opinion of the author, FEA is the most accurate of all design methods for gears provided it is done right.

For the rated 600 lb-ft torque capacity, the first gear set has to carry approximately 780 lb-ft. If the 43T/19T gear pair was a spur gear with “standard” gear design parameters with a 20 degree pressure angle, the stress contours for the gear design are shown below. The stress numbers are in MegaPascals or Newtons of force per square millimeter of area.

baseline_spur

The surface contact stress is well within the limits of what is generally accepted for gear steels, while the tooth root bending numbers are a tad high. You, the driver, would be limited to about 150 miles of driving at rated torque of 600 lb-ft in first gear, which is actually quite a bit of useful life. (Autocrossers beware! — JB) 700 MPa or 100 ksi is widely accepted as the cyclical endurance limit of good quality gear steels with proper heat treatment. The root fillet of the drive gear tooth is where we see the highest tensile stress of approximately 700 MPa or 100 ksi. But since the torque going through this gear set is mostly in 1 direction (except for engine braking or missed shifts into 1), the 100 ksi limit is a little conservative because for situations where tensile and compressive loads are not equal, there is approximately a 20% safety margin at the rated torque level. This correction in life is known as the Goodman correction, and it increases the life by a factor of 2 to 2.5. Therefore for this simplified spur gear set, the design life increases to approximately 400 miles at the rated torque of 600 lb-ft.

A simple way to improve the performance of this gear set is to make the 19T drive gear circular tooth thickness a little higher, at the expense of the thickness of the driven gear tooth, to “balance” the stresses in the two gears. This is also a good idea because the smaller drive gear sees more stress cycles per tooth than the larger drive gear anyway. The gear design shown above is also not practical because there is no lash between the gears, which is generally a bad idea for manufacturability of the parts among other things. The results for a modified gear are shown below

rackshifted_spur

It may be hard to tell from the stress contour, but the changes in the circular tooth thickness reduced the fillet root bending stresses by approximately 5 percent, increasing the margin in the design to approximately 25%, which gets the design life close to 500 miles in first gear at the rated engine torque of 600 lb-ft.

Now obviously the gears in a TR6060 are not spur gears, they are helical gears. If I had a large computer to run analyze the helical gear geometry, it would not be a big deal to analyze the gear geometry with the helical angle thrown in, but as it stands I have a laptop that does everything well except for number crunching. A helical gear obviously has higher loads acting on the gear teeth because of the additional axial thrust load. In other words, the gear isn’t just being turned, it is being shoved in a direction based on the angle of the helical gears. Think of it like a screw that doesn’t go anywhere. But a helical gear also has better contact ratio, i.e. more teeth in contact. In my experience, the difference in stresses between a well designed helical gear set and a spur gear set is less than 10%, unless the helix angle is very large (hence the caveat well designed).

Based on what I see in the TR6060 design, the first gear has a margin of approximately 20%, i.e. even though the rated torque is 600 lb-ft, it should be possible to run 700 lb-ft through the gears themselves. For the remaining forward gear sets (2 through 6), the diameter of the drive gear gets larger, which means that the stresses in the gear drop dramatically. For the second gear at maximum torque, for the spur gear geometry the stress contours are shown below. The fillet root stress is only about 550 MPa, or 80 ksi. A good quality gear steel with the correct heat treatment can deal with this level of stress for a long long time. With appropriate modifications, the 2nd gear has a margin of well over 50 percent, i.e. a life of at least 2000 miles at 600 lb-ft engine torque. (Autocrossers rejoice! — JB)

t56_2nd

 

For fifth and sixth gears, the design margin is usually well over 100 percent. The reason for this is the very high number of revolutions that these gear sets see under load. A 75,000 miles of durability in sixth gear with a 3.42 axle ratio and the usual range of tire sizes translates to 200 million stress cycles on the gear teeth. Therefore it is best to leave sufficient design margins for fifth gear and above.

Of course the TR6060 is often used in applications with only about 450 lb-ft of engine torque with this 2.97 first gear. In that case, the design life is much higher than the figures presented in this article. I would estimate that with a bone stock set up, the first gear will easily last 1200 miles or approximately 12000 WOT launches, the second gear is going to be good for at least 7000 miles, while other forward gears essentially have infinite life.

DISCLAIMER: I HAVE NOT looked at the bearings and the shafts, for these might very well be the weak link in the system, so if your transmission explodes @ 700 lb-ft of torque please do not hunt me down.

The purpose of this article is to provide the B&B with a glimpse of what goes into designing little parts that make up a whole car. Hopefully this article did meet the stated goals.

Acknowledgements: All the finite element analysis in this article has been carried out using a package called GGGears. This is a wonderful open source analysis package, though it is rough around the edges. The commercial equivalents cost a lot of money, GGGears does more than half of what the commercial packages do, and it costs nothing. More importantly, the source code is there for you to look at. Free as in freedom, and free as in beer.

helical

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/saturation-dive-manual-transmission-gear-design/feed/ 38
Bark’s Bites: Two Years with the Boss http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/barks-bites-two-years-with-the-boss/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/barks-bites-two-years-with-the-boss/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=861089 image_2

My first contribution to TTAC was the purchase story of my 2013 Ford Boss 302 Mustang. To be honest, it could have easily ended up being a Corvette Grand Sport or something else entirely; I wasn’t a “Mustang collector” in the traditional sense. You know: when the Boss was announced by Ford, shouts were heard far and wide across the internet about the collectors who would end up purchasing the cars and that they would “stay in the garages forever” or something like that. Those guys. The ones who still have 2,000-mile Mystichrome Terminators or green ’93 Cobras with plastic on the seats.

I had a different plan. Mine was going to be a daily driver, and not only that, it was going to be a daily driver for a guy who had been averaging about 25K miles a year on his outgoing vehicle. Not only that, but it was going to be daily driven in Lexington, KY, where, despite being considered “the South” by much of the country, there are about 15-20 days of serious snowfall a year. Not only THAT, I also have two young children in car seats who were going to have to be taken to school, soccer, ballet, etc. And, of course, I bought it for sporting purposes, too, hoping to participate in the occasional autocross or track day. Seems like pure folly, no?

Well, thanks to the marvelous app Timehop, I was reminded recently that over two years have now passed since that glorious day when I said goodbye to my Pontiac G8 GT (at what has proven to be a stupid, ridiculously low price—G8s are still fetching more than that on the open market two years later) and drove home my Boss. How has it fared in all the categories in which I needed it to be excellent? Well, there’s no shortage of track reviews for the Boss, most of which contain superfluous superlatives. But as a DD? Let’s judge for ourselves and see if you, too, can daily drive a pony.
image

Luckily, my day job changed from one where there was a considerable amount of driving to one where there was a considerable amount of flying, which means that the number of miles on the Boss after 25 months of so is just south of 27K. In mixed driving, I average right around 20 MPG, and on long highway trips, I have been able to get over 23 MPG. Of course, the Boss requires 91+ octane, so fuel costs are significantly higher than they were with the G8, which averaged right around 25 MPG on 87 octane. However, it’s not BAD—we’re not talking Range Rover numbers here. If I didn’t enjoy the occasional take off from red lights or hard charges through the hills of Appalachia, I’m sure it would be higher—but that’s not really the point of this car, is it? Bottom line, I drive it the way I like to drive it and it doesn’t murder me at the pumps.

image_3

Nor has it been particularly tough on tires. I’m still on my original set of OEM Pirelli P-Zeroes (with the exception of one that was replaced at about 2K miles due to an uncompromising nail), and there’s a few thousand miles of treadwear remaining. I will likely NOT replace them with Pirellis, however—there are better performing BF-Goodrich and/or Hankooks to be had that don’t cost $500-600 each. DO NOT drive the Boss 302 in the snow, or at least not on the OEM tires—apparently stupid summer tire driving choices (All-seasons! — JB) run in the family, as my excursion in the snow one day led to a miraculous save from a ditch that scraped my right rear rim significantly. I’m sure the car would be acceptable on snow tires, but I chose to buy a used Subaru for less than a set of wheels and tires would run.

image_1

The trunk has proven to be large enough for just about anything. I can easily fit a 27” suitcase, a duffle carry on, and a tenor saxophone case in it with a little bit of room to spare. A week’s worth of groceries for a family of four presents no challenge to the Boss, as it will easily accommodate the cargo in the trunk. However, a weeklong vacation for the family requires us to take our Flex, as two adults and two children plus luggage is just too much.

As far as the actual daily driving dynamics? Purely delightful. The Boss’ adjustable shocks with five different settings can take the car from harsh and uncompromising on the track to tolerable comfort levels on the street. I’ve never set the shocks to anything other than full soft (street) or full stiff (track/autocross), nor have I felt the need to. The steering rack has three speeds, from Comfort to Sport, and I have found that Comfort is more than enough agility for even spirited street driving, whereas Sport transforms it into an AP1 S2000-like rack. It can get you into trouble pretty quickly, but it can also get you out of it.

The Getrag transmission is the part of the car that probably gets the most flak on the intarwebz, but I’ve never found it to be a problem. If you want a car that’s easy to drive, the Boss just isn’t for you, anyway. I fully admit that I opt not to drive it when there are more mundane tasks to be done—I find my Flex to be a much more mindless drive. The Boss requires engagement of all the senses. If the government really wanted to stop texting and driving, they’d just give everyone a Boss 302—I’m not saying it can’t be done, but you really wouldn’t want to. It doesn’t like being cruised around the neighborhood in first gear. The clutch is still incredibly light and sensitive after two years, and the tires will still easily chirp in third gear. Our noted and prolific commentator, BigTruckSeriesReview, will be either pleased or saddened to know that virtually nothing non-exotic will beat the Boss off the line, especially with Trackey Launch Control— even after 27K miles, 4 seconds flat from 0-60 is a cakewalk. This is a car that demands to be driven, not simply pointed and steered.

The Recaro seats are not the most comfortable things in the world for longer commutes, especially for those who have the misfortune of being in the passenger seat. As the driver, I find them to be tolerable, but all who have endured more than an hour in the passenger’s chair complain of back pain and stiffness. There’s also not really a comfortable position for your passenger to take a nap or relax, as the Recaros are designed for total engagement. But who cares when you’re romping down I-40 from Tennessee into North Carolina, handling curves at breakneck speeds? You and your passenger will be thankful for the lateral support.

The back seats? Quite good for youngsters, and sufficient for short distances for adults. My six-year-old son and three-year-old daughter fit entirely comfortably in their forward-facing child seats, and the seats are surprisingly easy to remove and install, provided that you’re able to climb in and out of the back yourself. Not too hard for me at 5’9”, 175, but for somebody over 6’, it might be a challenge. Also, if either the passenger’s or driver’s seats are being occupied by somebody over 5’9”, then legroom begins to be somewhat compromised. Again, not a problem for me (my most frequent passenger is about 5’5”), but it could be for others.

The interior shows no wear or tear at all—everything still looks brand new when I take the time to vacuum out the cracker crumbs and pick up the toys. Ford put their best people on this one. While it may not have the refinement of a German or Japanese interior, it has been every bit as durable.

On that note—it probably has fewer interior bells and whistles than any $30K car on the market…heck, maybe even any $20K car on the market, but you know that going in. If you want a big navigation screen, leather seats, and a powerful stereo, Ford will happily sell you a Mustang GT for less money (or a Shelby GT500 for much, much more), and you’ll be happier. However, if you want the snarl and handling of the Boss, you’re likely not that interested. Bluetooth and SYNC work perfectly well, although the Bluetooth handsfree phone usage is totally useless once you decide to open up the side exhaust—nobody will be able to understand a word you say. Spotify streams delightfully well through SYNC. Although the stereo won’t inspire any audiophiles, it is more or less sufficient…but who would want to drown out that Coyote engine noise (not that you could)?

Which leads me to this—the Boss is loud, and when you remove the restrictors from the side exhaust and put in the Trackey, it’s LOUD. The rumble under acceleration is heavenly, and the lopey tone at idle is intentionally reminiscent of the original Boss 302. Don’t drive this car unless you like being noticed—everywhere I’ve driven it, whether it’s Chicago, Charlotte, or Charleston, people look at the car (yes, I know—you live in an incredibly wealthy city where nobody would look twice at a Boss 302). I wouldn’t recommend trying to commit any crimes in it. It’s a brash, bold car, both visually and aurally. I suppose that my School Bus Yellow color choice doesn’t help there, either, but none of the Boss colors are particularly bland. Even the Performance White stands out due to the black striping.

Maintenance has been worry-free, with the exception that 5W-50 oil is not easy to find, so you can’t just go to Jiffy Lube or Valvoline for oil changes (not that you’d want to, anyway). Either do it yourself or take it to a dealership, and even they will likely have to run to O’Reilly (as mine does every time). I do have an annoying fan sound coming from the passenger vent, so I’ll likely have to take it in for that when I just can’t tolerate it anymore. Boss 302 forums are totally devoid of “known issues,” and I certainly haven’t experienced anything problematic.

I really want to be “objective” and write some bad things about the car…but I just can’t. It’s been damned near perfect. I have never regretted the decision to buy it once, not even when I write my monthly payment check for it. If you never intend to drive it on the track or autocross, then a GT Premium probably makes more sense, or perhaps a SRT-8 Challenger…but neither of those say BOSS 302 on the side. Used Boss 302s are still commanding near-new money on the used market, but I am guessing that they will start to slide a bit when the new Mustang hits showrooms, and probably further when the GT 350 arrives. Snatch one up, and I guarantee you’ll love yours just as much as I love mine.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/barks-bites-two-years-with-the-boss/feed/ 47
No Fixed Abode: You did what they asked, and now you’re going to pay. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/no-fixed-abode-you-did-what-they-asked-and-now-youre-going-to-pay/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/no-fixed-abode-you-did-what-they-asked-and-now-youre-going-to-pay/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 16:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857945 Big_Brother_Americas_player

You’ve heard this story before: A scorpion asks a frog to carry him across the water.

And you know how it ends, too, I’d guess. It’s a story that has long fascinated me, so a while back I cooked this up:

You and I, standing on a riverbank
Desperately searching for a way to cross
“Take a ride on my back,” I said. “I’ll thank
You not to sting me, lest our lives be lost.”
Halfway across and I’m optimistic
That you’ve transcended your scorpion self
When suddenly there’s a prick and a stick
And that’s never good for a froggy’s health
So sudden we sank, and although you tried
To escape, we were so firmly attached
Both bitter, broken; no wonder we died
With flaws and faults that were perfectly matched

But if I’m honest, I wonder which one
Of us was frog, and which was scorpion.

Naturally, I had a particular woman in mind when I wrote that, but the analogy is true for more than romance; it’s true for those of us who live and work in the United States, particularly if we are inhabitants/inmates of the middle class. We’re the frogs who cross the river of commerce, paddling dutifully in spite of obstacles ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. On our backs, of course, is our government. It always says that it’s trying to help us. Sometimes it even believes it. Its paid apologists in the media and elsewhere will always say that “we are the government”, as if a group of over-privileged mountebanks who don’t even have to use the same healthcare regulations they’ve forced on the rest of us represent the bulk of Americans in any but the most nominal fashion. Still, when the rubber meets the road, they’re on our backs ready to sting us to death the minute we hit deep water.

Here’s the latest idiocy to come out of our pincer-packing passengers: As I reported earlier this morning, the Federal Highway Fund is about to run out of surplus money. It’s funded through a static 18.3 cent per gallon gas tax. Yesterday, the Washington Post published a Wonkblog on the subject.

Before we go any further, notice the subtle framing implied by “Wonkblog”. The phrase “policy wonk” implies someone who is smarter than you or I might be. It’s typically applied to completely charmless would-be tyrants like Michael Dukakis, in order to suggest that they, and only they, are intellectually competent enough to determine what’s best for the rest of us. “Wonkblog”, therefore, implies that you’ll be reading some serious thought about an issue, instead of the type of ignorant pandering to the bleating, inbred electorate the use of which each party believes is limited to its opposition.

Alright then. Let’s check out the serious thought. The piece is entitled “Why we need to raise the gas tax — and then get rid of it.” First off, let me offer this:

To people who write for the Post, the government is “we”. To most Americans nowadays, the government is “them”. Fifty years from now, when our grandchildren are burying the bodies that will have been piled up as a result of that simple difference, it might be useful to remember how often it appeared in print in our day. The Post’s Emily Badger interviews a Democratic congressman from Oregon and fails utterly to badger said congressman, instead giving him a platform to gush about his plans to replace the gas tax. Let’s hear first about why said tax needs to be replaced:

The growth in vehicle miles traveled has actually declined for nine consecutive years. The increase in fuel efficiency has been pretty dramatic. And then we’ve got highway construction costs that have not been declining.

Emily lets this go, but I’m not inclined to. If we’re traveling less often — because we’re experiencing the Lowered Expectations lifestyle of the recession without end — why haven’t highway construction costs declined? If we are using the roads less, why haven’t we seen a corresponding decrease in repair costs? There could be reasons for it, ranging from the deferred bridge maintenance about which we’re always hearing to an increase in costs for petroleum-based paving materials, but that’s less important than the fact that Emily doesn’t question it. Of course, you can see her thinking, the government’s cost of doing anything will always stay the same, or increase. I’m okay with this.

We have to make a transition into something that is use-based… With greater fuel efficiency, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric cars, hyper-efficient diesel, people who are putting the same amount of wear and tear on roads and occupying space and creating congestion have wildly different payments that they make through the fuel tax.

In other words: We — and this time it is the “we” of the government — set up a variety of incentives to discourage low-efficiency freeway usage, from CAFE from blocking the Keystone XL, and people responded the way we hoped they would, and now we need to punish them for that. You, the consumer, invested in expensive technologies from the Prius Plug-In to the Tesla Model S to reduce our energy dependence, believing that you would be rewarded for doing so in lower fuel costs, and now that has to be taken away from you, because highway costs mysteriously stay the same when highway usage drops.

Having set up the pitch with minimal effort, Ms. Badger lets Rep. Bluemenauer start gloating about his proposed and preferred replacement: use tax.

We started in Oregon with a monitoring process. People are interested, it’s technically possible, and it changes driving behavior. When people were aware that they were being charged per mile – and they were aware of the miles that they drove – they drove less.

But one of the elements that came out of the first pilot study was that people were a little uncomfortable with monitoring where they went. It’s ironic that people are self-conscious about that, because with a smartphone, The Man knows where they are. These are people who are tweeting and posting pictures. And we are transforming automobiles into computers on wheels that are keeping track of this stuff anyway.

It’s ironic that women who wear short dresses are self-conscious about being long-lens observed by masturbating perverts. Because those women are tweeting and posting pictures, and they’re standing beneath the Global Hawks anyway. Remember that: if your neighbor has the nerve to Tweet his location once in a while, he’s asking for it. “It” in this case being government surveillance. And you are too, because you’re part of the “people” who like to Tweet.

(Clip NSFW for language)

Let’s hear more about what they did to calm the fears of “you people”:

we gave people a choice, because we really don’t care where they go. We care how far they go. So people could choose – they could do it with an app for a smartphone, they could use an on-board navigation system. They could do it the old-fashioned way when they go for an annual inspection and just have an odometer reading. Or you could pay a big fat, flat fee.

Well, there you go. It’s not exactly decent — imagine a hotel offering discounts for people who would allow cameras in the room — but it allows people to pay extra for privacy after a fashion. Let’s hear more about what we’re going to do to keep going in that direction.

According to GM and Verizon, the technology is there to make this transition. It could be done in months. They’re ready to go. The public’s not yet ready to go.

What transition is this? The transition where you start monitoring everybody’s movements despite what you just said about Oregon’s program? Also, notice that he asked “GM” and “Verizon”. That’s what happens when you bail out one industry and free another from anything that looks like the post-AT&T shackles put there by wiser men: you get toady-corps.

So we need to have a fuel tax increase to be able to have a robust six-year reauthorization, and we need another year or two or three of experimenting, raising the comfort level, giving people choices.

So we’re going to penalize the people who paid to reduce their consumption, as well as everyone else, and then we’re going to start selling the idea of submitting to monitoring. But wait, there’s more, because this guy literally cannot stop himself from frothing at the mouth at the possibilities.

The other thing that is so powerful about the VMT technology

And look: it has a name.

is that we’ll

Not “we’d”, which means “we could”. “We’ll”, which means “we will”.

be able to help drivers do a lot more than just conveniently pay for their road use. The same technological platform will enable people to get real-time traffic information. The seamless payment that’s debited to an account to pay for road use could also be used to pay for a transit ticket, or an Amtrak ticket, or an application they can use to pay for parking.

It’d be an integrated system. It’s very likely that this would be an on-board navigation system. The car companies are salivating at the prospect of doing this. There are people who would pay to be a part of it.

And there are people who will pay to have a woman squat over them and piss into their mouth. I know there are people like this because I’ve met multiple women who pay their rent doing it. But if you try to piss into my mouth then, as one of my favorite writers would say, you better come at me strong because I will take you down.

And now, at long last, we arrive at the Wagnerian moment where this guy just lets his freak flag fly and metaphorically ejaculates all over the face of the kneeling American motorist:

If all we did was set this up to collect the road fee, that’s actually a more expensive way to collect the fee. The gas tax is actually a very inexpensive tax to collect. But if we are able to have a platform that does all these other things, to share the costs, and give people a richer transportation experience, I think people will voluntarily make that transition.

We’re missing all the air quotes, I think, let’s put them back in:

I “think” people will “voluntarily” make that “transition”

When you read “voluntarily” in modern wonk-speak, you can take that to mean “Any amount of resistance short of facing down the Bureau of Land Management with the local redneck militia,” and that’s what it means here as well. The motorists of America will be given a single option: GPS-based usage tracking tied to a central payment account that will also be debited for parking and traffic tickets. It’s perfectly easy to imagine a speed camera just sitting by the site of the road dinging every motorist who goes by at 1mph over the limit a nice, round five hundred bucks. And why not?

Naturally, the same government that manages to lose all the incriminating IRS emails will keep solid-gold-permanent records of your travels until the end of time. If they do it with the justly-reviled public-private partnership, those records will be sold to Equifax and your insurance company as well. With your travel and your Carnivore records, the government knows exactly who and what you are. In real time, they’ll be able to understand your entire life. Imagine the day when driving to an oncology clinic results in a sit-down with your company’s HR representative to discuss your future with the company. Or the day when your employer can simply buy a list of your whereabouts sorted to its particular interest. Or the day when parking your car outside a gun store every Sunday and walking across the street for ice cream results in the ATF visiting your house to discuss your gun-nut tendencies. Or the day when driving through known drug-sales areas results in a SWAT team tossing a flashbang into your child’s crib.

“Oh, Jack, you teatard anarchist commie libertarian,” you’re sighing. “How else are they supposed to address the Highway Fund problem?” Well, I would suggest that destroying the last vestiges of privacy and liberty in this country are not any less meaningful than keeping up the pace of road construction. I would also suggest that it’s not my job to come up with ideas as to how the government can easily accomplish its goals without trampling its citizens underfoot. But since you asked, I’ll come up with one: A ten percent tariff on cheap goods imported from China would add 50% to the existing Highway Fund tax level, enough to address all concerns for the foreseeable future.

The amateur and professional economists on TTAC will no doubt speak at length about how this would disturb the economy. Well, the economy’s disturbed already, ain’t you noticed. And the United States Government has the iron-clad Constitutional authority to levy a tariff. Lastly, if you value the nebulous business interests that are served by Chinese trade over the actual freedom of actual American citizens, you’ve swallowed a lot of Kool-Aid from your one-percenter superiors.

Alternately, the gas tax could simply be doubled. It would be frustrating, and offensive, and it would place a further hardship on people who are already under the heel of transport costs, but it would be honest. And if it causes the entire country to switch to gasoline-free transportation, freeing us from bondage to the Middle East and the indignities of commodities traders? Well, that’s a nice problem for a country, or a scorpion, to have, isn’t it?

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/no-fixed-abode-you-did-what-they-asked-and-now-youre-going-to-pay/feed/ 149
The Culture Of Cars: Real Or Imagined? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-culture-of-cars-real-or-imagined/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-culture-of-cars-real-or-imagined/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 14:16:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857417 Citroen Ami 6. Picture courtesy Citroen

I’ve been on the road for the last few weeks and one of the places I was able to visit was the Smithsonian Institution’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport located just outside of Washington DC. Unlike the National Air and Space Museum located on the national mall close to the capitol building, the Udvar-Hazy Center is an enormous facility and although I have visited other aircraft museums that have had larger collections on display, I think it is safe to say that the Smithsonian’s collection is second to none. The aircraft on display span the history of flight and include both military and civilian examples. More importantly, at least for the sake of this discussion, they come from every corner of the globe and as they sit there, lined up beside one another, it’s easy to compare the craftsmanship of one nation’s products against the next.

Years ago I read an interview with one of the men responsible for the restoration of the aircraft I so recently saw and one of his comments leaped out at me. The national characteristics of each nation, he asserted, was represented in the design and construction of their aircraft. British planes, he said, were complex with many small parts while Italian planes were beautifully constructed but relatively fragile. German planes he continued, were generally well designed with large robust parts, Japanese planes were tinny and lightly constructed while American aircraft were solid and almost agricultural in nature. Of course that article is lost to history and I am left paraphrasing a dim memory, but as I stood there looking over the Smithsonian’s collection that statement rang true and I began to wonder if the same thing could be said of cars.

As auto enthusiasts we spend a lot of time talking about the soul of certain cars, Italians they say have it in spades while the Japanese have traded it away for sewing machine-like reliability. We say that German cars exude a feeling of solidity and technological competence while the best British cars, replete with thick leather seats and burled walnut panels, seem to lack that technological prowess but have instead the comfortable feel of an English gentleman’s club. American cars, and to a certain extent Australian cars, are traditionally agricultural, simple and rough but reliable, and in line with those nation’s connection to the land while French cars are stylish, quirky and unique much like the French people who have always had their own, unique worldview.

But I wonder of those days aren’t gone. National and international standards have forced the homogenization of vehicles over the years while the nature of large multinational companies, which consume one another like a school of voracious fish, constantly ingesting and occasionally regurgitating one another with surprising ferocity, has allowed for an amazing amount of cross fertilization. In house design and development, especially of subsystems like fuel injection and electrical systems, is frequently farmed out to subcontractors and it is common to see cars across several companies sharing similar systems so what then has happened to the national character of our cars? Does it still exist? Did it ever? I wonder…

02 - 1962 Cadillac Sedan DeVille Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-culture-of-cars-real-or-imagined/feed/ 47
The Last True Packards http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-last-true-packards/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-last-true-packards/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:48:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=854657 1956 Packard Caribbean Convertible. Full gallery here.

1956 Packard Caribbean Convertible. Full gallery here.

Last week* was the 58th anniversary of the date that the last true Packard that was built in Detroit by the storied automaker. If you follow the conventional wisdom about Packard, one of the great American luxury car makers, two things are taken as truisms. One is that offering the so-called “junior” Packards in the 1930s, something like Buicks were to Cadillac and Mercurys were to Lincoln, what we might today call entry level luxury, fatally tainted the prestige of the brand, ultimately leading to its demise. The other is that Jim Nance, who ran Packard in its last years as an independent automaker, mismanaged the company into oblivion. Contrarian that yours truly is, I’m not sure either of those things are quite accurate.

1956 Packard Caribbean hardtop. Full gallery here.

1956 Packard Caribbean hardtop. Full gallery here.

The entry level Packards kept the company afloat until military contracts during World War II put it on good enough financial footing to have produced one of the first true postwar cars, Packard’s 1948 “bathtub” models, which sold very well that year. As for Nance, historians say that his ego prevented the merger of four independent automakers, Packard, Hudson, Nash and Studebaker that George Mason at Nash proposed, a conglomerate that could have competed with the Big 3. Also, he later agreed to a futile merger with Studebaker in 1954, a company whose financial situation by then turned out to be more dire than Packard’s. Packard wasn’t profitable but its balance sheet was still sound. Studebaker also wasn’t making money but it was in much worse financial shape.

1956 Packard 400. Full gallery here.

1956 Packard Four Hundred. Full gallery here.

After the merger, in fact an acquisition of Packard by Studebaker, while the 1955 and 1956 models were genuine Packards, made by the company in Detroit, by 1957, Packards were just rebadged and restyled (hideously so, in my opinion) Studebakers. Piscine looking contraptions that are actually collectible as “Packardbakers”. Hence the 1955 and 1956 Packards were the last true Packards and it was Nance who was responsible for them. They’re remarkable cars in a number of ways, worthy of the brand’s name, with advanced engineering features. Considering the company’s limited financial resources by then, Nance and his team did a great job. Frankly, considering their historical significance, their technical features and what I believe was a masterful styling job by Dick Teague, later to head AMC’s styling department, I’m shocked that with the exception of the Caribbean models, particularly the convertibles, 1955 and 1956 Packards sell for relatively low prices.

For the price of an unrestorable tri-five Chevy you can own real history.

For the price of an unrestorable tri-five Chevy you can own real history.

I know of a 100% complete barn find 1956 Packard Patrician, the top of the line for them that year, with just about all the available options including air conditioning and Packard’s Twin Ultramatic automatic gearbox. It’s a solid car with 100% of the parts that I could buy tomorrow if I had a spare $5,000. Five grand won’t even get you a restorable 1957 Chevy these days.

1955 Packard Caribbean convertible. Full gallery here.

1955 Packard Caribbean convertible. Full gallery here.

It’s true that following the introduction of the 1935 One Twenty models, which sold well, Packard’s managers neglected their true luxury line, allowing Cadillac to dominate the luxury market in the 1940s and early 1950s. Nance’s plan was to restore Packard’s prestige by splitting the company’s products into two lines, Packards and Clippers, reviving the latter brand name which had originally been used for a 1941 model. Though the cars were basically the same, Packards sat on longer wheelbases, had some unique features as standard equipment as well as unique options, and they had more elaborate exterior treatments with two and three tone paint jobs and lots of chrome and stainless steel trim.

1955 Packard 400, Full gallery here.

1955 Packard 400, Full gallery here.

Starting in 1949, when Cadillac introduced the first mass-produced high compression overhead valve V8 engine, every automaker tried to come up with a modern V8 to stay in the game. In 1953, Nance convinced the Packard board of directors to invest $20 million in a new motor. It wasn’t an easy task. For all their engineering prowess, Packard was a conservative company and it’s straight eight engines were outstanding designs. As good as the Packard straight eights were, they couldn’t compete in terms of power or prestige with Cadillac’s OHV V8. Bill Graves, Packards head engineer, was in charge of the V8 team, made of J.R. Ferguson, Bill Schwieder, and E.A. Weiss. The design of the V8 was conventional, following the practices at Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Studebaker, but it had industry leading power, with the 352 cubic inch version in the senior Packards producing 260 hp and 275 in the dual-carb Caribbeans.

1955 Clipper. When the Clipper was introduced it was not branded a Packard, to distinguish the more expensive cars. Full gallery here.

1955 Clipper. When the Clipper was introduced it was not branded a Packard, to distinguish the more expensive cars. Full gallery here.

To back up the new engine, Forest MacFarland and Herb Misch were in charge of the latest development of Packard’s own automatic transmission. Automatics were about as important for prestige cars as V8 engines were and it’s a tribute to Packard that they, among all of the independent automakers, were the only ones to develop their own automatic gearbox. Originally called the Ultramatic, the ’55 Packards were to get a new “Twin Ultramatic”. MacFarland was respected enough in his field that the SAE gives out an award named in his honor and Misch later had a distinguished career at Ford where before becoming head of engineering, he had a major role in the development of the first Mustang. Oh, and a guy named John Delorean also had a hand in the Ultramatic.

Clippers had "slipper" taillights. Full gallery here.

Clippers had substantially different taillights than Packards in 1955. Full gallery here.

The ’55 Packards were to have a modern powertrain, so that put them in the game. To make them stand proud of the competition, so to speak, Nance embraced a radical idea for the suspension, something branded as Torsion Level Suspension. It was originally invented by William Allison when at Hudson, but that company didn’t have the resources to fully develop it. Allison moved on to Packard and Nance gave the go-ahead to put the novel torsion bar based suspension on the 1955 senior Packards. I’ve been reading about the Torsion Level Suspension for years now, and I’m still not completely sure how it works, though both contemporary reports and today’s collectors say it indeed works, providing both a smooth ride over things like potholes and railroad tracks and better handling than the other cars of the day. In addition to all of the torsion bars, the system also was self-leveling, actuated by a solenoid activated electric motor. People would sit on the back bumper and be amazed as the car leveled itself. Though it had a seven second delay, one could call it an early example of active suspension.

For 1956, the Clipper got taillights similar to the Packards' "cathedral" style lamps. Full gallery here.

For 1956, the Clipper got taillights similar to the Packards’ “cathedral” style lamps. Full gallery here.

Rather than confuse you by trying to explain something I don’t understand, I’ll let Aaron Severson, the best online automotive historian there is, tell you how Torsion Level Suspension works. You can read his full history of the last Packards over at Ate Up With Motor.

Its main springs were a pair of long torsion bars, anchored at one end to the front suspension’s lower control arms, at the other to the rear suspension’s trailing arms. A second, shorter set of bars ran parallel to the main springs, anchored at one end to the rear suspension arms (sharing the same pivot axis as the main springs) and at the other to an electric compensator motor mounted on the frame’s central X member. There was also a front anti-roll bar, while the rear suspension used two stabilizing links for lateral location.

The interconnection of the front and rear suspension meant that bumps affecting the front wheels were transmitted to the rear axle and vice versa. Since the springs were not anchored directly to the frame, the ride had an odd, floaty quality, but unlike softly sprung conventional suspensions, it sacrificed little body control. Even with Torsion-Level, no Packard could really be called nimble, but cars with Allison’s suspension handled with admirable composure, not nearly as nautically as the ride motions implied.

The electric motor had two functions. First, it kept the body on an even keel; since the springs were not anchored to the frame, the body would come to rest in any position that balanced the preloading of the springs, rather than returning naturally to a level attitude. Second, the compensator provided automatic load leveling. If a heavy load were added to the trunk, for instance, the motor would crank the torsion bars until the car was again level. There was a seven-second delay to keep the system from overreacting to bumpy pavement and a cut-off switch was provided under the dash so that the compensator would not drain the battery with the engine off.

Packard Torsion-Level diagram

A simplified diagram of the Packard Torsion-Level suspension. The main springs (red) are long torsion bars connecting the front A-arms to the rear trailing arms; a set of compensator springs (green) share the same pivot axis (purple), connecting the rear trailing arms to the compensator motor (yellow). The rear does not have an anti-roll bar, but there are two lateral links to locate the rear axle. (diagram, Aaron Severson, referencing 1955 Packard press illustrations)

Packard even offered a limited slip differential. The company was so proud of the engineering features they even manufactured a number of fully assembled chassis without bodies for use as dealer showroom displays. All of that technology, though, wasn’t going to overcome a somewhat stodgy image. While the ’48s were innovative, that novelty wore off quickly and the new bodies designed for 1951 weren’t terribly well received by consumers, one reason for Packard’s financial situation. For the “all new” 1955 models, with so much money devoted to the new engine, transmission and suspension, Bill Schmidt’s design team was going to have to make do with the old body shell. What lead stylist Dick Teague came up with was so good that it’s hard to tell that they recycled. Not only that, but the design was contemporary and modern looking, not at all out of place with 1955-1957 cars from GM, Ford and Chrysler.

1953 Packard Balboa. Full gallery here

They had wraparound windshields, eggcrate grilles, hooded headlamps, “cathedral taillights” (Clippers had smaller “slipper” lights in back), and a continuous fender line running from front to back, elevating as it reaches the rather tall tail lamps, achieving the look of tail fins. By 1955 cars were getting lower so to make the tall 1951 body appear less so, ribbed chrome side moldings along the flanks visually lowered them. Also, by 1955 two door hardtop sedans were gaining popularity and for the first time the Patrician got a  true hardtop companion, the Four Hundred.

"Cathedral" taillights on a 1955 Packard Caribbean. Full gallery here.

“Cathedral” taillights on a 1955 Packard Caribbean. Full gallery here.

Sales nearly doubled from 1954, so the board approved a modest redesign for 1956. Most noticeable are longer “eyelids” over the headlights. There were also some mechanical improvements, and the board also approved the introduction of a Packard Executive model, above the Clippers but below the Patrician, Four Hundred and Caribbean. Engine displacements increased, as did power. The Patrician got a 374 CI engine that put out 290 hp. Again Packard led the industry with 310 horsepower in the Caribbean. The Twin Ultramatic got a optional push button control, a popular feature in the 1950s, now returning at some brands.

1956 Packard Executive. It combined a Packard front end with a Clipper rear end. Full gallery here.

1956 Packard Executive. It combined a Packard front end with a Clipper rear end. Full gallery here.

On paper the new Packards should have been great. Unfortunately they were compromised by quality control, mostly a result of moving production out of the old plant on East Grand Blvd, the one that’s featured in most ruin porn you see from Detroit, to a factory on Conner Ave where the company had started building their own bodies after their body supplier, Briggs, was bought out by Chrysler. Packard’s shrinking dealer network contributed to the quality issue. The Twin Ultramatic isn’t a great transmission, by TurboHydramatic standards, but it works well enough if it is maintained properly. The same is true about all the switches and solenoids used in the Torsion Level Suspension. Cars back then needed a lot of regular maintenance, with some tasks performed every 1,000 or 2,000 miles. Independent repair shops simply didn’t see enough Packards to learn how to maintain and repair them properly. The brand’s reputation suffered. By 1956, the word got out about quality and sales dropped to only 7,568 Packards and about 21,000 Clippers. It should be noted that ’55-’56 Packard enthusiasts point out that when properly maintained, their cars’ transmissions and suspensions work just fine.

1956 Packard dealer showroom display chassis. Full gallery here.

1956 Packard dealer showroom display chassis. Full gallery here.

In the summer of 1956 the Studebaker board stepped in and ended Packard production in Detroit. The death of Packard has been covered numerous times, from numerous angles, since 1958, but I didn’t want to dwell on the death of a great car company in this piece. Rather I wanted to show that while Packard went out of existence as a Detroit automaker, they went out on a high note. James Nance may have made some mistakes, but it was no mistake to make the last Packards automobiles worthy of the marque.

A nameplate after our Editor in Chief pro tem's own heart. "The Patrician".

A nameplate after our Editor in Chief pro tem’s own heart. “The Patrician”.

The cars pictured here were photographed at various Detroit area shows, including the Concours of America, the Orphan Car Show, Eyes On Design and shows at the Packard Proving Grounds.

*The History Channel says that the last Packard built in Detroit was assembled on June 25, 1956. Old Cars Weekly says that it was a few weeks later, August 15th.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/the-last-true-packards/feed/ 37
Junkyard Find: 1977 Volvo 242 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1977-volvo-242/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1977-volvo-242/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857601 13 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIn California, Volvo 240s are going to the crusher in huge numbers as the traditional Volvo-buying demographic transitions to the Prius. This has been going on for at least a decade, and every wrecking yard in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas has at least ten 240s in stock these days. Here in Colorado, the pace is slower but I still see a fair number of 240s (and 140s) in Denver-area yards. Today’s find is an early example of the breed, very straight and completely rust-free. Despite what fanatical 240 worshipers say, the 240 two-doors just aren’t valuable enough to be worth saving once they get a little tired.
10 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI once believed that these “Lambda Sond” emblems indicated the presence of a more powerful engine, ideally suited for bombing through logging roads above the Arctic Circle. Unfortunately, all this means is that there’s an oxygen-sensor-based feedback fuel-injection system in the car. Admittedly, this was unusual in 1977, but still not very exciting.
15 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBecause of American headlight regulations of the era, these hideous single-round-lamp abominations were installed in the first few model years of US-market 240s. By the late 1970s, these cars had better-looking quad-rectangle headlight rigs.
08 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhile the wiring in these cars sometimes crapped out, the good old B engines held together for decades.
03 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one even came with air conditioning, which was serious luxury for 1977 Volvo buyers.
20 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis must be one of the very first “My Kid Is An Honor Student” bumper stickers, judging from its condition.
02 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 240 Jihad is going to hate this: 56,518 miles on the clock! This car probably spent decades in storage before getting junked.
17 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe presence of keys means that it was most likely sold to the wrecking yard by an auction house that got the car as a trade-in or from an insurance company.
05 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’ll bet factory AM/FM radios for these things are very rare, but not at all sought-after.

Here’s a nice collection of Volvo 240 ads from around the world.

01 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1977 Volvo 242 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1977-volvo-242/feed/ 57
Ask The Best&Brightest: Is Vodka’s Future Just A Mirage? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ask-the-bestbrightest-is-vodkas-future-just-a-mirage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ask-the-bestbrightest-is-vodkas-future-just-a-mirage/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857825 julesz

Over the past five years, my home has often resembled the fabled Island Of Misfit Toys, with various people coming and going as fate decreed. That would make me King Moonracer, then, and it has made the infamous Vodka McBigbra the island’s princess. In the near future, however, she’ll be moving out to spend more time with her family. This will reduce but not eliminate her ability to call on my fleet of random cars for backup when her well-traveled 2005 Hyundai Accent requires repair.

It’s new-car time, then. She has the ability and willingness to buy a new 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage DE with continuously variable transmission — having driven a stick-shift M35 truck during her stint in the Army, Vodka’s done with clutch pedals 4 lyfe, yo. I’m inclined to agree with her proposed purchase, John Pearley Huffman’s unfriendly Times review aside.

But surely you have other opinions.

The approximate requirements are:

  • Well under fifteen grand out the door
  • Warranty lasting as long as the payments
  • Automatic transmission
  • Air conditioning
  • And that’s it

We’ve looked at a few low-mileage Accents, but the used-car market is feverishly hot right now thanks to the Obamaconomy/Boehnerdoggle’s wholesale relocation of the middle class to a buy-here-pay-here lot. As much as this woman has suffered in our relationship already, I don’t care to extend that suffering with the acquisition of an Aveo. The Fiesta’s DCT makes me nervous.

I honestly don’t know. The Mirage seems like a decent deal. She rarely drives on the freeway and is physically small (5’5″ and 115 pounds) so the packaging of Mitsubishi’s Thai takeout seems reasonable. What say you? Should we just head over to the Mitsu dealership on Monday and make it so?

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ask-the-bestbrightest-is-vodkas-future-just-a-mirage/feed/ 112
Citizen Honks At Cop For Speeding With Phone In Hand, Receives Ticket http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/citizen-honks-at-cop-for-speeding-with-phone-in-hand-receives-ticket/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/citizen-honks-at-cop-for-speeding-with-phone-in-hand-receives-ticket/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 22:32:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857777

“So you honked at me because you believed I was speeding…”

“Because you were driving recklessly and speeding now, it’s got wet roads and you were on your cell phone.”

What, exactly, makes it safe for cops to use the phone and speed? What about their “training” is irreproducible for the general public?

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/citizen-honks-at-cop-for-speeding-with-phone-in-hand-receives-ticket/feed/ 103
Junkyard Find: 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1981-alfa-romeo-spider/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1981-alfa-romeo-spider/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 13:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=856321 13 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPrices for (non-164) Alfa Romeos have been getting somewhat crazy in recent years, but it’s still possible to get a restorable 1970s or 1980s Spider for non-insane bucks. The proof of this is that rougher examples still show up now and then at the self-service wrecking yards I frequent. In this series so far, we’ve seen this ’74, this ’78, and now today’s ’81.
01 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior is ugly, but it doesn’t show the atomic-testing-grade obliteration that Colorado convertibles get when left outside for years with no top.
07 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAlfa Spiders love to rust, even in single-digit-humidity Colorado.
06 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot worth restoring, but a good parts car.
11 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIts final parking place is next to a Mazda RX-7.

01 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1981-alfa-romeo-spider/feed/ 11
Buick Gets Another Crossover – What Took So Long? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-gets-another-crossover-what-took-so-long/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-gets-another-crossover-what-took-so-long/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 18:10:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=856833 All-new high-end midsize SUV, the Buick Envision, will make its

 

Buick will launch a new mid-size crossover, dubbed “Envision” in China first, then presumably in other markets. All we can say is “hurry up”.

Given the sales strength of the Enclave and Encore, it’s amazing that Buick isn’t busting their hump to get this thing on sale tomorrow. Then again, China is Buick’s most important market, and their thirst for CUVs seems nearly impossible to satiate. No word on what platform this new CUV will ride on, but the Theta chassis that underpins the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain is a good bet.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-gets-another-crossover-what-took-so-long/feed/ 51
Junkyard Find: 1984 Toyota Camry LE Liftback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1984-toyota-camry-limited-edition-liftback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1984-toyota-camry-limited-edition-liftback/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 13:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=856145 09 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe don’t normally put the words “Camry” and “rare” together in the same sentence, but this series is all about finding rare-but-not-valuable oddities (e.g., one of the very last GM J-body. When it comes to rare Camrys, there’s the seldom-seen-in-the-wild Camry All-Trac and the nearly-as-rare Camry Liftback, and I’d found exactly one example of each in wrecking yards prior to today’s find. Yes, here’s another first-gen Camry liftback, this time dressed in whatever Toyota called this strange metallic purplish-brown hue.
01 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBefore car companies got into the whole brevity thing and started slapping plain old LE badges on slightly-upscale trim levels, Toyota added these attractive Limited Edition gold badges on Camry trunklids.
05 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin228,126 miles was very good for a car built 30 years ago.
07 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior isn’t bad and— this being a California car— there’s no rust. Why is this Camry in the junkyard? Perhaps the engine or transmission crapped out, or maybe the car got towed away for too many parking tickets.
10 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 91-horsepower 1S-L engine was enough for 1984, and for 1984 buyers of Toyota sedans.
06 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAir conditioning!

The lack of the macho-ness we expect in 1980s JDM car ads is disappointing here, but this is a Camry.

I’m sure the automobile industry longs for the days of fuel-economy testing that gave the early Camry a 44 mpg highway rating. At 47 mph with a tailwind, maybe.

Room for a rock group… or a group of rocks!

01 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1984-toyota-camry-limited-edition-liftback/feed/ 58
Automotive Archaeology: Where Eaton Crash Tested the First Practical Airbags http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/automotive-archaeology-where-eaton-crash-tested-the-first-practical-airbags/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/automotive-archaeology-where-eaton-crash-tested-the-first-practical-airbags/#comments Sun, 29 Jun 2014 15:16:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=854097 IMG_0271

Full gallery here

One of the Best & Brightest recently asked me to write about the history of automotive safety equipment. Today’s consumers ask how many airbags a car offers as standard equipment but in the 1970s the idea had a difficult time getting accepted, by both automakers and consumers.

The first modern patent on an inflatable safety device to protect people in car accidents was granted in 1952 to a retired industrial designer named John Hetrick, who called it a “safety cushion”. Inspired by a wartime incident involving compressed air and a torpedo he was repairing, Hetrick’s design used a tank of compressed air and inflatable bags located in the steering wheel, the glove box and the middle of the dash as well as in the front seat backs for rear passengers. The system was actuated by a spring loaded weight that was supposed to sense rapid deceleration and then open a valve, releasing the compressed air. Hetrick unsuccessfully tried to get interest from the domestic automakers and because he didn’t have money to develop the idea, it was stillborn. In the late 1950s, when Ford and General Motors both started working on inflatable safety restraints, they determined that any system that worked would have to have a much more sensitive collision sensor and a much faster inflation system. For an airbag to work, it must inflate in the forty milliseconds between the initial collision and the secondary impact of the passengers hitting the dashboard etc.

airbag

Around the same time that Hetrick was working on his safety cushion, German inventor Walter Linderer received a German patent for a similar inflatable cushion system, triggered by the driver or activated by by an impacted bumper.

Who it was that finally made airbags practicable were two men, Allen Breed, a former RCA engineer and chemist John Pietz. Breed’s contribution was twofold. Around 1967 he developed a reliable collision sensor that cost only $5 to manufacture. Then he was granted a patent on an airbag using two layers of fabric that were folded to allow the inflating gas to escape, absorbing even more energy and reducing the impact of the passengers on the airbag. Breed marketed his system to the automakers, eventually making a deal with Chrysler. Pietz was working as a chemist for Talley Defense Systems when they were approached by General Motors looking for something that could be used to inflate the restraints quicker than compressed air. In 1968, Pietz started working with sodium azide, which when combined with a metallic oxide would release nitrogen gas explosively. It worked satisfactorily, and didn’t pose any practical danger to drivers and passengers but Pietz had a hard time getting the auto industry to accept it because sodium azide is toxic when ingested in large amounts. For a long time, though, it was the only practical solution. Since then, nitroguanidine has been substituted as a propellant.

By then, Ford had approached automotive supplier Eaton, Yale, and Towne, Inc. about working on an airbag system. Eaton executive William Carey had sold the company on doing airbag research in the mid-1960s in order to develop a safety system to protect children on school buses. He was initially budgeted $100,000 for the project, which was assigned to scientist Charles Simon. Carey’s team looks at things as diverse as diverse as popping popcorn and how party balloons were inflated. They even experimented with blasting caps supplied by a Detroit area demolition company, though the parts to that experimental bag were never all found. In time the team would grow to 100 people, funded with $35 million from Eaton and another $100 million from all three domestic and several overseas automakers.

They developed what was eventually marketed as Eaton’s “Auto-Ceptor” restraints. A sensor was mounted on the firewall which activated a detonator that released pressurized nitrogen into urethane coated nylon bags. Everything worked quickly enough to be practical but the project was not an immediate success. In 1969, Ford sent a team of engineers to Washington D.C. to demonstrate the prototype to the Dept. of Transportaion but the system failed to activate when the button was pushed. Henry Ford II was so angry when he heard about the failed demo that he temporarily cancelled the program, saying he didn’t want any “Rube Goldberg device” in “his” cars.

Eaton carried on with the research and it was decided by Ford to proceed with offering the safety system on its full-sized Ford and Mercury sedans. However, FoMoCo’s chief body engineer, Stuart Frey, sent Eaton back to the drawing board to resolve a number of issues that he felt had to be addressed before airbags went into production cars. To begin with, there were reliability and performance issues with the components. Of even greater concern was child safety. As then designed, the airbags were giving child-sized crash test dummies what would have been fatal blows. The bags were also not effective for angled crashes and Ford discovered that the deployment of airbags often resulted in broken or blown out windshields.

airbag2

Years later, in the mid-1990s, when concerns over the deaths of 52 children and petite women caused by airbags were prompting regulators to consider warning stickers or even eliminating mandated airbags, Carey, by then retired, mounted his own personal public relations campaign to defend Eaton’s invention. He said that their earliest research showed that unbelted or out of position children could be at risk, something they didn’t hide from automakers or regulators. Carey would eventually be honored by the Automotive Hall of Fame for his team’s development of the first practical airbags.

Much of that development took place at a small test site just south of Eaton’s Southfield, Michigan research center. I found out about it from my brother, who worked as a technician for the company many years ago. He told me that they had a big concrete barrier, mounted on it’s own reinforced foundation that was buried many feet into the ground, and that occasionally they’d hire professional drivers to crash into the barriers to prove their airbags’ effectiveness. That sounded a bit urban legendish, but I learned to trust my big brother a long time ago.

Since the location is just 3 or 4 miles from my house I took the Toyota Tundra Platinum Crew Max I was reviewing for the short drive over there. I found a parking lot with Eaton trucks and my first impression was that the crash facility had been disassembled. There was a concrete pad, but no barrier. Then as I was leaving, I noticed a driveway at the back of the parking lot. My original thought was that it was a private driveway, but as I drove down the ~500 foot straightaway, I spotted the large concrete barrier at the far end of the drive, and I noticed that I was driving directly over two steel tracks embedded in a concrete strip that runs down the length of the otherwise asphalt driveway.

When I got near the barrier and parked the truck, I noticed a second barrier off to the side that was apparently used for testing impacts into poles and the like. The concrete in that second barrier is shaped like a triangle so perhaps it was also used to test offset and angled crashes as Ford body engineer Stuart Frey suggested. Assorted supplemental weights were piled on the main barrier, which I’d estimate was abut 16 feet wide, 4 feet deep and about 4 feet tall, made of reinforced concrete. My guess is that the supplemental weights were used to alter the weight of test sleds. The concrete pad upon which the barrier block stands has some wide fractures, perhaps from all the impacts.

On the cinderblock wall behind the barrier were some no-longer-used electrical utility boxes, with signs of other electrical equipment being formerly located along the path of the track. It’s quite silent and peaceful there now, quite a contrast, I’m sure, to the violent collisions that took place time and again in that location more than four decades ago. In time perhaps the vegetation will encroach on the asphalt track. Some plants are already starting to grow up through the rack at the start of the embedded guides.

I took a few photographs and just for grins I shot some video from the truck as it approached the barrier. Then I went home and sent my brother, who now lives in Jerusalem, an email thanking him for such a cool tip. I’m still not sure about the story about the race drivers driving cars into the barrier. The presence of guide tracks and a small hole through the barrier lead me to believe they used sleds and cables, as are still used in crash test facilities today. Human drivers aren’t very good at uniform speeds and reproducible results. Also, as mentioned before, crash test dummies were already in use when Eaton was working on their airbags.

Click here to view the embedded video.


Click on the settings icon to watch in 2D or your choice of 3D formats. Sorry for the shaky camera work, I wasn’t expecting to shoot video and left my steadycam gizmo at home.

While Carey and Simon may have developed the first practical airbags and can be given credit for saving many lives, their employer didn’t benefit much from the way that the industry and consumers have embraced the technology. Eaton stopped selling airbags in 1975, not being able to justify development costs for the then minimal market demand.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/automotive-archaeology-where-eaton-crash-tested-the-first-practical-airbags/feed/ 39
This Is A Rental Chevrolet Cruze With 55,000 Miles On The Clock http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/this-is-a-rental-chevrolet-cruze-with-55000-miles-on-the-clock/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/this-is-a-rental-chevrolet-cruze-with-55000-miles-on-the-clock/#comments Sat, 28 Jun 2014 15:56:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=854809 IMG_6761

Across the vast and majestic gulf of time and space, the jimmies rustled softly when I had the nerve to review a rented FIAT 500L with four thousand miles under its affordable alloy wheels.

“OMG,” I was told, “after that monstrous amount of vicious rental abuse, which probably included everything from ‘sparking’ to ‘mudding’, there is no way any car would be anything but a floor-pissing mess.”

Imagine my terror, therefore, when I arrived at Louisville’s airport three days ago and saw this:

10441926_10152529958479301_7954838273471599728_n
With nearly fourteen times the mileage of that poor abused FIAT, surely this Cruze would be a complete fright show, right?

A few years ago, I attended the Cruze preview and wrote this:

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is a good car, although at least part of its goodness comes from the fact that it isn’t really that small. It’s well-positioned against the Civic and Corolla. I believe that it beats both of those cars in significant, measurable ways. This is what it is: a good car, a bold car, a car for which no purchaser need make an excuse or feel any concern. This is what it might be: great. That’s for the buyer to decide. This is what it is not: American.

How right was I? Only the most dedicated of GM PR people and Source Interlink publications continue to maintain the facade that the Cruze is anything other than a warmed-over Daewoo. Nor it is a small car: it weighs within seventy pounds of a Honda Accord and feels more solid than its fellow Ohio-assembled sedan on the roll. The question that I had at the time was how well the materials and assembly would hold up.

So here’s a gallery of detail photos I took. Remember, this car has fifty-five thousand miles of uncaring rental abuse on it:

IMG_6759 IMG_6754 IMG_6755 IMG_6752 IMG_6756 IMG_6751 IMG_6758 IMG_6760 IMG_6757

What do you see? I’ll you you what I see: materials that last. From the cloth on the airbag cover to the touch points where the steering-wheel leather wraps around the spoke, this car is just flat holding up. The seats have no cracks: I can’t say that about the pampered 46,000-mile examples on my Porsche Boxster Anniversary Edition, which has been Lexoled and garaged its entire life. The cloth, vinyl, and leather are staying colorfast. The shiny plastic hasn’t faded, cracked, or indulged itself in that weird sparkly delamination that a lot of modern aluminum-alike plastic seems to get after a few years.

How did it drive? Well, my initial judgment might have been clouded by the fact that I was getting out of a 1981 Impala, but the next day I drove the newest and most premium-aspirational midsizer on the market and when I returned to the Cruze my opinion hadn’t changed. It drives like a new car. I’m pretty sure the tires were replaced at some point, since the tread was deep and even across the surface of all four, but there weren’t any wrench marks on the suspension under the vehicle so I’m guessing it’s never even been properly aligned.

Smooth, silent, and heavy, just like you always get with a Cruze. Half a lifetime’s worth of hard riding hadn’t changed its fundamental qualities. I never heard a rattle and I never heard a squeak. As always, the gutless normally-aspirated four had to reach for fifth and fourth on even moderate hills in Kentucky and there was a concomitant thrashing from deep beneath the Daewoo-sculpted bonnet, but the transmission was sure and strong in the shifts, never slipping or lurching or betraying any signs of abuse.

As I drove the big little Chevy from Lousiville to Montgomery, AL and back, the usual virtues and faults declared themselves. The audio and Bluetooth system in the 2012 LT model left a lot to be desired. The seats aren’t really that comfortable, even if they are hard-wearing. And a few traffic incidents that called for heavy braking reminded me that I’ve never liked the way this car stops. But it remains a competent highway companion. The difference in noise and fatigue between the Cruze and a Civic, Focus, or Elantra is significant. No wonder the Buick people thought this would make a great Buick; it’s a great Buick even when it wears a Chevrolet emblem.

At the end of the trip, I checked the self-reported economy:

20140627_210848

That’s just a bit better than what I’d expect from my V-6 Accord on a route like this, but the hills really hurt this car on economy because it’s underpowered. What the Cruze needs is sort of a P-51 Mustang thing. That plane needed the Merlin engine to shine; this sedan would truly shine with the Honda 2.4 under the hood. Economy, performance, and enjoyment would all soar.

I have to admit it: when I saw what I’d drawn from the rental fleet, I was excited because I’ve been waiting to see how the Cruze would do with some mileage on it. Would it fall apart, J-car style, or would it retain its construction and quality? It’s reassuring to see that the latter is the case.

At that launch event nearly four years ago, I heard Scott Burgess “interviewing” a few of the GM engineers. “Why don’t you guys take more credit for what you do on these cars?” he asked. At the time, I chuckled loud and long because anybody could see the the contributions of the American team were pretty much limited to the bumpers and the placement of bowtie emblems. But after a few years, I’m inclined to wind that cynicism back a bit. The American team did have responsibility for supplier selection and assembly design here in Ohio. The design may have come from their Korean small-car overlords, but at some point in the process somebody had to look at everything from the piston rings to the shift lever and give it the imperial thumbs up or down.

When they had to, our guys delivered. Years and miles after that delivery and its own delivery, some of them no doubt beneath the whip of the callous or deliberately hateful, the Cruze keeps on keeping on. Would I recommend one as a used car now? Absolutely. Get the ignition fixed; the rest of it’s ready for prime time.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/this-is-a-rental-chevrolet-cruze-with-55000-miles-on-the-clock/feed/ 135