Drop the Subject – (Part Three)

Raindrops keep falling – bringing our monopod history to a close. 

Not THAT Mustang. Image: Forums aaca

McCarty Mustang, 1948

Had he been able to actually get his new car enterprise off the ground, Ford Motor Company may have had to think of a different name for one of its most successful models. Roy McCarty worked at a Lincoln dealership but had bigger plans – to Continue reading “Drop the Subject – (Part Three)”

Drop the Subject – (Part Two)

Further precipitation. Continuing our examination of the streamlined monopod. 

Library.cshl.edu/ Greenprophet.com

Bridges Lightning Bug, 1936

Doctor Calvin Blackman Bridges (1889-1938) did not have the background one would expect of a car designer. He was a highly respected geneticist who had contributed the first paper ever to the journal, Genetics and had invented the binocular dissecting microscope.

Bridges built his car in his spare time, machining many parts himself on a lathe. Being rather safety-conscious by the standards of the time the doctor used an early plastic named Pyralin instead of glass for the windows, a forced air ventilation system to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and a steel and asbestos firewall between engine and passenger compartment. Unusually the front suspension was constructed of a motorcycle fork on each side.

Bridges had this to say about his Lightning Bug: “My whole aim was to Continue reading “Drop the Subject – (Part Two)”

Drop the Subject – (Part One)

We break out the wool tufts for a two-part story documenting the early days of streamlining. 

1936 Arrowhead. Bob Cunningham

In the 1930s they were widely publicised as the shape of automotive things to come, the so-called raindrop-shaped streamliners. That raindrops are tadpole-shaped is a common misconception however; falling raindrops are perfectly round. Ball bearing and lead-shot manufacturers exploit this phenomenon of falling liquids: molten lead is dropped from a great height into a cooling liquid with perfect spheres as a result.

Some raindrop cars made it to the actual volume production phase; early Tatras, the Fiat 600 Multipla and of course the SAAB 92-96 being amongst the best known examples, but most efforts would fail to find investors or public interest and remained one-offs or extremely limited production at best. Nevertheless some of the endeavours, initiated by people as diverse as a geneticist, a rocket scientist and a carrot juice maker are worthy and interesting enough to Continue reading “Drop the Subject – (Part One)”

Steamrollered

The pursuit of pure aerodynamics is rarely pretty – as this unusual story from Croatia illustrates – in abundance.

(c) Yuri Samoylik

The vehicle in a sorry state seen here, slowly decaying in an impound lot in Split, started out as a radical aerodynamic concept from Croatia that piqued the interest of both Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz. What is it, how did it end up here, and what happened to it? No, it has not been the victim of an unfortunate steamroller mishap although at first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that: it really was designed to look like this.

Lifelong Ferrari aficionado Zlatko Vukusic (he named the restaurant-café he owned after Enzo’s firm) dabbled in car design and specifically aerodynamics in his free time. Through contact with erstwhile Ferrari chief engineer Giotto Bizzarini in the early nineties, the Croatian was able to Continue reading “Steamrollered”

It Came from Outer Space

You’re engaged in some innocent retail therapy and then this beams down from planet Piëch.

Starship XL1. All images: Driven to Write
The car that fell to earth. XL1 amid the hatchbacks. All images: Driven to Write

As we’ve pointed out, Driven to Write never sleeps and while we don’t always get about as much as we’d like, our eyes and ears are everywhere. So while some of us are battening down hatches in windswept West Cork, others get to swan around a decidedly more temperate Marbella – a matter about which your correspondent is not bitter.

Now clearly, the sight of a VW XL1 in Cork’s fashionable out of town shopping outlet of Mahon Point would undoubtedly elicit the sort of panic that would do Orson Wells proud, but equally its appearance at Marbella’s La Cañada Parque Comercial must have prompted at least several Andalucíans to at the very least, Continue reading “It Came from Outer Space”

Mercedes’ Movable Feast

Mercedes-Benz gets aero on everyone’s ass at Frankfurt.

Mercedes Concept IAA. Image via gizmag
Mercedes Concept IAA. Image: gizmag

While this week’s Frankfurt show-stopping Porsche Mission E concept appears to offer a vision of the future where (Porsche) drivers are offered the very latest propulsive technology wrapped up in a reassuringly familiar (if nicely proportioned) package, Mercedes-Benz have taken a sharply divergent approach; Daimler’s brave new world being a starker affair altogether. Continue reading “Mercedes’ Movable Feast”

An American View of Bristol

Via the Bristol Owner’s website I found this nice American take on Bristol cars. The photo is from the Curbside Classics website which I can’t recommend highly enough.

This is a Bristol 411 from the time when Bristol cars were beautiful.
This is a Bristol 411 from the time when Bristol cars were beautiful: thanks to Curbside Classics for the image.

The 411 looks like a combination of the proportions of a Jaguar XJ-6 and the surface treatment of a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. We have had some debate about the British ability to style cars. This one shows that a British car need not be heavily ornate to look good.

Theme : Aerodynamics – Release The BATs

Aero could be fun too…

The three BAT cars - photo via carnewscafe
The three Alfa Romeo BAT cars – photo: carnewscafe

Aerospace iconography permeated everywhere throughout the 1950s, particularly car styling. So when Alfa Romeo commissioned a series of concept cars, science fiction melded with aerodynamic theory, creating the extraordinary BAT cars.  Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Release The BATs”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Index of Efficiency

They don’t get any more aerodynamic than this…

Photo via ultimatecarpage
Photo via ultimatecarpage

What you’re looking at here is the last of the pure streamliners – the 1964 Panhard CD Le Mans. This Index of Efficiency contender for the 1964 Le Mans race boasted a drag co-efficient of a mere 0.12, reputedly the lowest of any racing car to date. This car is significant for two reasons: Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Index of Efficiency”

The Great Curve

Britain’s Aerodynamic Pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer profiled.

Image credit: (c) Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory/NASA

During the 1930s, rapid advancements in aviation were in no small way fuelled by a growing understanding of the science of aerodynamics. Following the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, with scientific interest supplanted by urgent necessity, the pioneering research into airflow management would now come with an added dimension. The increased application of wind tunnel testing allowed engineers to Continue reading “The Great Curve”

Theme : Aerodynamics – The Great Curve – Costin and Sayer Part One

Britain’s Aerodynamic Pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer profiled.

_67988830_1952malcolmsayermodelinsmoketunnel

During the 1930s, rapid advancements in aviation were in no small way fuelled by a growing understanding of the science of aerodynamics. Following the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, with scientific interest supplanted by urgent necessity, the pioneering research into airflow management would now come with an added dimension. The increased application of wind tunnel testing allowed engineers to properly assess the behaviour of aircraft in simulated flight and more accurately determine the most efficient shapes.
Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – The Great Curve – Costin and Sayer Part One”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Buttresses, A User Guide

Driven To Write attempts to decipher an aerodynamic staple but finds the going surprisingly turbulent.

york cathedral
Flying buttresses on York Cathedral. Image unknown.

In architectural terms, a buttress is defined as a structural member built against or projecting from a wall serving as a support or reinforcement. They were more prevalent at a period when structural engineering was more of a naive art, employed as a support against sideways forces. As architect’s skills developed, the need for buttressing decreased, latterly viewed as something of an admission of failure, much like an air dam or spoiler in automotive terms. There are several types of architectural buttresses, the most visually spectacular probably being the ‘flying buttress’, a structural device used in the design of many Gothic cathedrals.

Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Buttresses, A User Guide”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Spoiler Alert!

Why do they do it?

Kit

Some things, as they say, do just what it says on the tin. To my mind, the rear boot excrescence is generally well named. There are some exceptions but, generally, if a car’s designed right, it shouldn’t need an add-on. And, if it does, what about those poor buggers in lesser variants who can still get within 20 kph of the bespoilered version. Are they safe?

Incidentally, I’m well aware that you could nit-pick and point out that, Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Spoiler Alert!”

Theme : Aerodynamics – Introduction

The Editor Gets All Slippery

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The first cars were not fast enough for anyone to be particularly concerned about the amount of air that stood in the way of their progress. Therefore, although drivers soon learnt to hunch themselves over the wheel to reduce the passing air’s effect on themselves, it took longer to realise how important it might be to reduce their effect on the passing air.

Before we come to Aerodynamics, we must come to Streamlining. Streamlining is not the father of Aerodynamics, it is the somewhat camp uncle. Streamlining is to Aerodynamics as Gastronomy is to Nutrition. It is more fun. Although based on the concept that air should pass unhindered over the vehicle body, Streamlining was not usually scientific. It was sometimes based on theory and experimentation, Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – Introduction”