It’s all platforms, synergies and shared componentry these days. Let’s imagine a more interesting world.
Economies of scale and platform sharing, hello. That means de Dion axles, narrow angle Vees, odd suspension solutions and three-cylinder boxers are out. Common seat frames are de rigeur. The world car is a five door hatchback with an L4 petrol engine (EFI) and MacPhersons up front and something boring at the back: torsion beams? Six speed manual box. Check. Discs all around, no doubt. Maybe that’s optimum but it’s not much fun.
I have asked DTW readers for theoretical cars before, focusing on the brand and model range structure. Here I am politely asking you to imagine a single make car company whose USP is idiosyncrasy albeit useful idiosyncrasy. Suggesting a front-engined diesel selectronic sports car with leaf springs is fun but not much use.
The things you can consider are engine type such as V-5, L5, V6 and V8 or even stranger configurations. And why? It is only since Volvo have given up on L5 engines that I realise I miss them as an option and they gave Lancias a pleasant quirk. Air-cooling is a dying art but worth the trouble to avoid freezing up in winter.
Suspension is a rich areas for oddness. The de Dion has been out of vogue for a very long time. Volvo and Corvette (it’s a sub-brand, isn’t it) still do transverse leaf-springs. Multi-link suspensions aren’t too outré yet it is seldom I hear of much innovation or strangeness in that class. Citroen have given up on hydropneumatic. What about rheostatic? Or Hydrolastic?
Inside the car: you can have three-abreast seating, umbrella gearchanges, no gearchanges, floor mounted pedals and ashtrays too.
And this still leaves the body-style. We are all bored of CUVs even if the market is not. The contrived designs we see result from there not being enough good variations left in the format so to differentiate the stylists must go for unhappy novelties.
To what kind of car would you fit your quirky engines, brakes and steering? In the end, the idea is to think of a characterful car that fulfils a motoring need and not merely a vehicle to support an extinct engineering concept. If you have ideas for even less obvious things such as ribbon speedos and lever HVAC controls then please fire ahead. Worm and roller steering, sir? Plastic body? Wooden panels? Go on, spoil yourself. What about fabric and material – do they still even make velour, MB Tex or East of England Cloth?
Another thing is that you could consider the placement of the elements. In the 1960s handbrakes could be between the driver and the driver´s door. Batteries could be behind the front wheel or in the boot. Spare wheels could be under the bonnet or on the bootlid. Audi hung engine out in front while Skoda had them way behind the rear bumper.
Maybe I am asking here for the archetypal classic car in new form. What mix of the best aspects of exctint/endangered car engineering would you put in a hypothetical brand aimed at giving the fun of a classic minus the rust and despair of maintenance? What kind of car have you in mind? An amalgam of Italians? An compote of French? A blend of German? A muddle of British?
I look forward to your thoughts about the ultimate idiosyncratic car.