Ask Jack: Can We Flip the FWD Script?

The late Janet Reno once described herself thusly: “The fact is I’m just an awkward old maid with a very great affection for men.” Similarly, I think of myself as a liberal-arts type with a very great affection for engineering. I’ve designed a few bicycles in my time, and I’ve earned most of my bread by programming in various languages, but I’m not qualified to draw a bridge, create a capacitor, or invent an engine. Those are special and particular disciplines that attract special and particular people. I ain’t one of them.

Nevertheless, even as an outsider it seems plain to me that there are two kinds of automotive engineering: the inventive kind, as practiced by Henry Ford and Colin Chapman, and the iterative kind as practiced by the vast majority of engineers currently working in the business. When Jim Hall put a wing on the Chaparral, he was doing inventive engineering; when the Mercedes F1 team runs through ten thousand CFD calculation sequences to remove crosswind drag by 0.5 percent, that’s iterative engineering.

Inventive engineering gets the headlines, but iterative engineering pays the bills. Which leads me to today’s question, which asks? Can’t we be inventive when it comes to front-wheel drive?

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