With few exceptions, the American performance car of the sixties was a pretty straightforward beast: a traditional, proven suspension and platform layout, big V8 up front, fat tires and all of it dressed in an imposing body often painted in some of the more vivid colours of the spectrum, with decals and striping to emphasise the point. Simple, effective and to most eyes handsome as well as desirable: why do it any different way?
There were of course alternatives of European origin such as MG, Alfa Romeo and Porsche, but those appealed to a different kind of customer – often one who had experience with them while serving abroad in the military after WW2. Continue reading “The Shark That Swam Against the Tide”
Today DTW remembers Renault’s post-WW2 series of rear-engined cars.
The post-war worldwide success of the Volkswagen Beetle(1) encouraged manufacturers as diverse as Fiat, NSU, Renault, Rootes, Skoda, ZAZ and even General Motors to emulate its mechanical layout, with varying fortunes. In so doing, many appeared to miss the point that the Beetle was successful despite rather than because of its rear-engined layout.
A rear-engined design typically involves many compromises with regard to packaging for luggage space, engine accessibility and cooling, and handling and stability. The smaller the car, the less important these compromises are, but the layout becomes increasingly unviable as the design becomes larger and more powerful. Porsche spent the best part of sixty years engineering out the instability(2) caused by having a heavy weight mounted aft of the rear axle on the 911, while General Motors suffered huge reputational damage owing to claims of dangerous instability made about the rear-engined Mk1 Chevrolet Corvair.