By on January 4, 2012

Have you heard the old joke about the three Jewish engineers and Henry Ford? This is the version at Snopes.com:

It was a sweltering August day in 1937 when the 3 Cohen brothers entered the posh Dearborn, Michigan, offices of Henry Ford, the car maker.

“Mr. Ford”, announced Norman Cohen, the eldest of the three. “We have a remarkable invention that will revolutionize the automobile industry.”

Ford looked skeptical, but their threat to offer it to the competition kept his interest piqued. “We would like to demonstrate it to you in person”, said Norman.

After a little cajoling, they brought Mr. Ford outside and asked him to enter a black automobile parked in front of the building. Hyman Cohen, the middle brother, opened the door of the car. “Please step inside, Mr. Ford.”

“What!” shouted the tycoon, “Are you crazy? It’s over a hundred degrees in that car!”

“It is”, smiled the youngest brother, Max.; but sit down Mr. Ford, and push the white button.

Intrigued, Ford pushed the button. All of a sudden a whoosh of freezing air started blowing from vents all around the car, and within seconds the automobile was not only comfortable, it was quite cool.

“This is amazing!” exclaimed Ford. “How much do you want for the patent?’

One of the brothers spoke up: “The price is One Million Dollars.” Then he paused.

“And there is something else. The name ‘Cohen Brothers Air Conditioning’ must be stamped right next to the Ford logo on the dash board!”

“Money is no problem,” retorted Ford,” but there is no way I will have a Jewish name next to my logo on my cars!”

They haggled back and forth for a while and finally they settled. Five Million Dollars, and the Cohens’ name would be left off. However, the first names of the Cohen brothers would be forever emblazoned upon the console of every Ford air conditioning system.

And that is why even today, whenever you enter a Ford vehicle, you see those three names clearly printed on the air conditioning control panel……….NORM, HI and MAX

The story isn’t even apocryphal. Except for the part about Ford’s Jew-hatred it’s complete fiction. Willis Carrier invented refrigerant air conditioning and Packard, not Ford, was the first automaker to offer it in a car.

Now, though, did you hear the one about the Jewish engineer that invented the Volkswagen? Actually, that story isn’t a joke, and it’s not fiction, or at least a persuasive case can be made that it’s true.

(Read More…)

By on February 14, 2010

[Note: A significantly expanded and updated version of this article can be found here]

That air presented the greatest obstacle to automotive speed and economy was understood intuitively, if not scientifically since the dawn of the automobile. Putting it into practice was quite another story. Engineers, racers and entrepreneurs were lured by the potential for the profound gains aerodynamics offered. The efforts to do so yielded some of the more remarkable cars ever made, even if they challenged the aesthetic assumptions of their times. We’ve finally arrived at the place where a highly aerodynamic car like the Prius is mainstream. But getting there was not without turbulence. (Read More…)

By on January 5, 2008

The dorsal fin is what put it over the top for me, literally. When I was a tyke of six in Austria, I ogled cars like a fifteen year old with X-ray vision at a cheerleading camp. But the most tataliscous bod my eyes could never get enough of was the Tatra down the street. Its radical aerodynamic form was already twenty years old, but with its dorsal fin, tear-drop shape, rear engine and uncompromising fluid lines, the Tatra positively screamed “futuristic” to me then. Hell, it’s still ahead of the times today. (Read More…)

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