GENERAL ARTICLES

Motoring

WARREN B. HASTINGS November 15 1938
GENERAL ARTICLES

Motoring

WARREN B. HASTINGS November 15 1938

Motoring

GENERAL ARTICLES

WARREN B. HASTINGS

WITH THE opening of the National Motor Show of Canada in the Automotive Building, Exhibition Park, Toronto, Saturday, November 26, the Automobile Year of 1939 will be well launched, and the open season of previews which began late in August will have ended.

The automobile is the most highly and precisely processed, as well as the most complicated, article of commerce in general demand. It is, moreover, the most complex in the variety of materials used in its construction.

Every motor vehicle produced in the world has a Canadian content. A third of the nickel output goes into motor vehicles and Canada produces more than ninety JKT cent of the world’s nickel. Canada, too, is the largest producer of long staple asbestos used in the manufacture of brake linings and clutch facings. Many a Canadian miner, lumberjack, farmer, fisherman and workman in the employ of power-producing companies and railand waterways-trans|*>rt companies unwittingly works on the production of motor cars, and the contents of his pay envelope therefore include automobile dollars and cents.

There are approximately 15.(XX) persons employed in Canada's automobile plants, and another 16,500 in the 202 Canadian jvarts and materials plants which supply them —textile, paint and rubber plants; smelters, rolling and stamping mills, forges; battery plants, spark plug plants, brake-lining plants, gear plants. lx>lt, screw and nut plants, to mention but a few. For parts and materials, the Canadian automotive industry spent in Canada more than eighty-five million dollars last year. No mean jxirt of the forty million dollars expended in Western Canada last year for farm products came originally from the Canadian automotive industry.

That is one facet of the background of the brilliant array of new' season models. Another is that the Canadian provinces are now investing in highway construction, improvement and maintenance, approximately seventy-five million dollars per annum big business in anybody’s language. Yet that is little more than a quarter of the annual revenue Canada derives from tourist traffic. Nearly four times as many cars of United States registration ply our roads each year as are owned in Canada.

It is not to be forgotten that road work, too, provides

employment indirectly as well as directly and ranks as a major industry, thanks to the motor car.

Yet another facet of this background was pictured in these columns a year ago under the title, “A Car Is Built.” Back of that graphic presentation of a multiplicity of manufacturing processes, dramatic behind-the-scenes preparations for the birth of a car take place. The modem motor car, in fact, is a composite of the thought, the research and the inventive genius of some of the world’s greatest savants, some of whom passed to their reward long before Gottlieb Daimler first propelled a road vehicle by mounting in it an internal-combustion engine (1885), let alone before Emile Levassor’s invention, three years later, of the sliding gear set, of which he said derisively, “It’s barbarous, but it works.” Somewhat less barbarous—it still works.

Designing a New Model

T TSUALLY work is started on the design of a specific ^ model two or three years before it is introduced. Before the 1938 models were presented at Canada’s National Motor Show a year ago, engineers, designers and draftsmen were working on the 1939 cars that will be seen at the forthcoming show. Today, test drivers and technicians are driving disguised chassis of 1940 models in proving grounds, on speedways, over burning desert sands, on snowand ice-carpeted high mountain trails. In laboratories and tool shops, innumerable bench tests “to destruction” are under way. Cars are being tested in hot rooms and in fifty-degrees-below-zero cold rooms, Millions of dollars are spent in quest of improvements and latent weaknesses. The time is long since past when car manufacturers can "try it on the public” with impunity.

Enter the engineering departments of the leading motorcar companies and you will find hundreds of automotive engineers and technicians engaged in research and development work. Some are metallurgical specialists, some rubber experts rubber of various kinds is used in as many as 300 places in a car—fabric authorities, engineers who have devoted years to the study of springs and suspension. Some of the engineers devote their time exclusively to the improvement of carburetion and manifolding, some to ignition and some to combustion—and so it goes.

Some of the strangely rigged machines in the testing departments have earned for them the title, “torture chambers.” Imagine if you can a machine dropping on a spring a 1,400-pound weight, “equivalent to the worst possible road bump,” forty million times. If the samples tested cannot “take it.” they and the lot from which they were selected are rejected.

New cars first take form in the minds of practical dreamers; dreamers with the ability to make dreams come true. Every large company has a number of such. Usually they are artists, schooled in style and with engineering training and experience. Sometimes they sketch their designs in pencil, sometimes in color. A few of the drawings are selected to be worked into detailed designs. The best designs are submitted to the engineering, sales and advertising executives, in largeor full-scale drawings in color. Once past these exacting censors, the changes suggested and agreed to are made, and from the drawings a sculptor makes a clay scale model about three feet in length, finished in color. This then runs the gauntlet of criticism, and additional models, embodying suggested variations, .are molded. Full-size reproductions in plaster on wooden frameworks are then made of the approved models, also large-scale section drawings. Dimensions and other specifications are checked in accordance with mechanical and passenger-accommodation requirements. When the designs are finally okayed by executives, draftsmen make engineering drawings of the model, and in due course blueprints are made. Wooden models of particular parts are made, as well as wooden patterns for the manufacture of the dies that will stamp out the body panels.

Materials, trimmings, fittings, “body hardware” such as door handles, and colors are selected. Then when the necessary tools are made and installed, and the intricate co-ordination of flow of parts and materials from sources of supply has been arranged, the new model is ready to go into production.

The time lapse between the conception and birth of a new car is. as has been indicated, usually two years or more. Already engineers are discussing proposed features of the cars of 1941 and even 1942. Some companies have drawings of style trends still farther ahead.

Generally, engine designs of the 1939 models were determined eight or nine months ago, chassis design seven or eight months ago, and in April or May new bodies on new chassis were undergoing road tests -disguised, of course. Usually by July the necessary revisions have been made, and the months-long, costly process of body die making is under way.

"The motor vehicle has put some forty-five million of us into the transportation industry as owners — Ours is the greatest transport business in the world"

Improvement Never Ceases

THE automobile industry is proud of its products for 1939—and not without reason. But that pride does not blind it to the fact that its products are as good as they are because the relentless spirit of progress everlastingly demands improvement—better performance, appearance, dependability and value.

For the next few weeks the new cars are news, and as each new series has its première it is spot news. The recent simultaneous announcement of the Mercury by Henry Ford in the United States, and in this Dominion by Wallace R. Campbell, president of Ford of Canada, made the front pages. This car, a V-8 of advanced design in the lower medium price bracket, between the Zephyr and the DeLuxe Ford V-8, had been the subject of much speculative gossip for weeks before its announcement.

Why this intense interest?

The new products of no other industry arouse such general or intense public interest as to induce tens of thousands of people to pay admission fees to their annual presentations. Why? General Motors’ Kettering provided a partial answer when he drew attention to “the curious incurable habit of people everlastingly wanting to be somewhere else.”

When the motorization of Canada was little more than half what it is today, R. J. Deachman made a survey in Ottawa, during a Parliamentary session, to find out the major subjects of conversation. The enquiry revealed that motor cars, motor touring, automotive transport and good roads rated above all the other principal topics combined.

S. L. Frank, president of Studebaker Export Corporation, in the course of a conversation with the writer several years ago, remarked : “The purchase of a motor car remains a major emotional experience for the vast majority of motorists.” It is apparent then that the new cars are not

merely news but are exciting news. They are the subject of endless controversy, as cars have been since their advent and will continue to be for years to come, for we are far from finality in design, and there is every indication that changes will be more fundamental in the next half decade than they have been in the past decade and a half or more.

Consider the arguments that will rage over the merits and demerits of mounting engines in the rear when cars of this type are introduced. It is no secret that practically all the car makers of this continent have built experimental jobs of this type and are conducting considerable research on them. There is much to be said for this design, dynamically, economically and as a basis of better streamlining. Advocates of the rear-mounted engine contend that it will permit the redistribution of weight necessary to equalize pressure on tires when braking at high speeds. This, in turn, makes possible the most efficient braking and steering control at high speed. Steering, too, can be made lighter, even with less gear reduction, and fkx>r boards need be no higher than road clearance requires. I leat, engine noise and umes will be blown back from, instead of toward, the passenger compartment.

Critics of rear-engine mounting contend, on the other hand, that further lowering of the seating level is undesirable; heat, fumes and noise from the engine compartment do not enter the txxly of the modern wellinsulated car; surveys of motorists indicate little dissatisfaction with riding and general control characteristics with the exception of a general feeling that brakes should be more trouble-free and their shoes longer lived. Brakes of the 1939 model cars generally will show improvement in this respect.

Meeting Public Demands

ACCORDING to a comprehensive enquiry conducted by Thomas G. MacGowan, president of Facts, Inc., an independent marketing research agency in New York City, reported in a series of articles in Automotive Industries, the first improvement desired by the great majority of motorists is greater gasoline mileage. The “recession” in the United States doubtless had not a little to do with that response. It does not square, however, with such prevalent uneconomic driving practices as fast acceleration, high

cruising speeds and precipitate stops, all of which dissipate gas and increase wear and tear. Severe braking of a heavy car at sixty miles per hour makes of the braking mechanism. including of course the tires, a heat-dissipating engine of 2,000 h.p. That 2,(XX) h.p. thus thrown away is generated by the consumption of gasoline. Generally, the new season mcxlels will give greater gasoline mileage, thanks, in large part to improvements in carbureter and manifold designs.

The second improvement most widely asked for is better visibility. A large proportion of the replies adversely criticized as much larger than necessary the door posts of cars, especially those flanking the windshield. While betterment will be observed in the 1939 models in this regard, in some much more than in others, there is still room for improvement.

Safety and brakes rank next. An accident-conscious public demands body structures that are more crashproof, and urges that overall durability be increased.

After oil economy, in the indicated demand, comes roominess. In the new models, luggage compartments as well as passenger accommodation are appreciably roomier. The trend toward wider seats continues, and a number of makes reveal in this as in some other features, such as running-board elimination, the influence of the Cadillac 60 Special. In others the frontal treatment of the Lincoln Zephyr is reflected, while sweeping rear panels which conceal trunk compartments are reminiscent of the stylistic pioneering of the Chrysler Airflow.

Hudson can point with pride to the fact that it pioneered the current trend toward transference of gearshift control from the floor boards to the steering column a trend that all but embraces the full complement of 1939 cars. Nash, fix), might find warrant for bragging in the general improvement in car heating, “defrosting, defogging, air-conditioning equipment.” Real car air-conditioning, however, is not yet.

Engine performance ranks eighth on the list of desired improvements. To this end there have been a host of refinements but no radical departures. This is true of other chassis units also. Riding ease ranks ninth. It sounds simple but is the product of many complex factors, among others, seat conformations, upholstery structure and materials, as well as spring action and reaction characteristics, location of axles, distribution of mass and ratio of sprung to unsprung weight, sway stabilizers and shock absorbers. All these factors have been scrutinized with a view to improvement. Several more builders have adopted the wishbone and coil-spring type of independent front suspension which is standard on more than a third more 1939 makes of cars than all other types of independent and conventional suspensions combined. McLaughlin-Buick and two or three other makes with very soft rear springs have installed the Panhard type of sway arresters to provide stability in cornering.

The Public is Boss

LEGIBILITY of instrument dials is * tenth on the list of desired improvements. Some manufacturers have made noteworthy revisions, but none yet approximates the practical ideal in the degree of eye deflection necessary to observe the dials while driving. The new luminous

color-changing speedometer-dial pointers are meritorious. All the 1939 Chryslermade cars have this feature. The dial pointer is green to thirty miles per hour, then changes to amber, and at fifty m.p.h. to red.

Rated eleventh in popular demand is. mark you, appearance. Appearance below dial readability and away below oil economy! It’s fantastic! The reason is. of course, that a considerable proportion of respondents felt that they rated themselves by their replies and were ashamed to admit they were interested in aestheticconsiderations.

The industry is not, nor has it been, deceived. Actions of consumers speak louder than words. In the enormous cost of retooling for the production of new models, body dies are by far the most expensive item, running to many hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single new series of models. The automotive industry is not addicted to squandering millions per annum in flouting public opinion. On the contrary, possibly no other industry has a better or more sensitive appreciation of the fact that the public is the big boss. That big boss has a means of indicating jxjsitively and decisively his pleasure and displeasure, and by that grim means, demand, he has shown that it is very costly to precede by much or loiter far behind the procession in design.

The trend toward fairing headlamps into fenders, indicated a year ago, is much more general in the 1939 models. The Graham styling in this respect is far from inconspicuous. Someone has described it as “the lea ping-forward fender.” Interiors are markedly more ornate in some makes, while nearly all exteriors are more chaste, or perhaps one should say, freer from unnecessary excrescences. Rear lights in the 1939 models are more or less generally mounted flush in, instead of on, rear fenders or body panels.

There are two or more schools of thought on nearly every car feature. Should the radiator be maintained in more or less its traditional guise? Rolls-Royce in England and Packard on this continent give an affirmative answer to that query. However, in this they are opposed to the general trend. There are more than a few designers and engineers who predict that even the low-placed lateral butterfiv-wing grilles will disappear and the visible exterior of cars be sheer throughout.

According to data received by the writer prior to the editorial deadline, Studebaker in 1939 will continue to have, as an exclusive feature, the “hill-holder”—a gadget that automatically prevents cars equipped with it from rolling backward on a grade. The purchase by Hupp of Cord tools and body dies caused considerable speculation in automotive circles, that was set at rest by a letter to stockholders announcing that the body dies, somewhat modified, would be used for a lower-priced Hupp “six” and a “four” of conventional chassis design—not front-wheel drive like the Cord. These will supplement, not supplant, the established Hupmobile “six” and “eight” lines.

With the passing of the Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg, Graham was left as the only stock car produced on this continent with a supercharged engine as standard or optional equipment, despite the fact that superchargers have long been standard on the leading English and European sports cars.

The demise of three well-known cars has been mentioned. Since their eclipse, another and greater maker of cars, PierceArrow, has joint'd the long list of defunct automobile manufacturers. Famous from the swaddling clothes days of the industry as a patrician, the Pierce-Arrow was one of the pioneer “three great P’s” of a generation ago, Packard, Peerless and Pierce-Arrow, of which the first alone now remains in production. Since the inception of the industry on this continent, approximately 1,500 car-manufacturing companies have been incorporated, of which about half actually reached some stage of production. Today you can count on your fingers and toes if you indulge in so quaint a practice—the makes of cars, by name, that are manufactured on this side of the Atlantic. Someone has remarked that the manufacture of cars “is a swell demonstration of the wheeze, ‘the higher the fewer.’ ” Certainly when car output was a small fraction of what it is, there were many times as many makes.

Die-stamped steel body panels have had not a little to do with that. The cost of dies for the stamping of the front fenders of a low-priced car is $135.(XX) or more. Modem production tooling costs are prohibitive for small-scale output.

Probably some readers may recall the first post-war National Motor Show of the United States, held in the Grand Central Palace. New York City. There were almost a hundred makes of cars on display—and a considerable number of small production car manufacturers then in operation were not represented ! A hydraulic drive was a feature exhibit in the new devices, accessories and parts section. Possible Changes

O MOULD gear sets be fully or partially automatic? One of the leading car manufacturers has spent literally millions on the development for production of a fully automatic gear set. Another at great cost has evolved a different type in combination with a fluid flywheel. Hydraulic drives for cars were developed three decades ago, but not to the point of production. All these cost more to manufacture, and weigh more than standard gear sets. Perhaps one or more of the fully automatic variable transmissions will be introduced as standard or optional equipment in the not distant future on a car or cars produced on this continent. Semiautomatic units of more than one type are no new story. There are those who contend, on the other hand, that most drivers are their own automatic gearshifting device, going through the necessary motions without conscious volition.

Reports of Professor Lea’s glowing description of the Salerni hydro-kinetic transmission device to the British Association for the Advancement of Science late in August, made the news columns of daily papers around the world.

While there have been changes in practice there has been no new principle in hydraulic transmission discovered since Dr. Fottinger developed his torque converter in 1905. There is an efficiency loss with the best of hydraulic couplings, while the loss with the fluid converters is twelve per cent or more. Fottinger's device, installed in ships between the steam turbines and the propellers, was supplanted by the helical gearing perfected by Sir Charles Parsons of turbine fame, because of its greater efficiency. The renaissance of the hydraulic coupling for marine purposes was due to the development of light Diesels and the desirability of connecting teams of these to a single propeller. The so-called Daimler fluid flywheel is a hydraulic or fluid coupling. They are rather widely used in England and Europe on Diesel streamlined rail cars and trains, as well as some buses. Despite Professor Lea’s roseate predictions that caused such a “to do” in England, considerations of cost and production will militate against a general use of hydraulic couplings and hvdro-kinetic converters on private passenger cars, according to authoritative opinion.

Several makes in the low-priced bracket, not excluding Willys, have been quite appreciably lengthened. Few, indeed, of the 1939 cars have been so little altered in appearance as to be recognizable at a glance.

Generally it may be said of the 1939 cars that they will provide safer, more comfortable, more economical transportation than their precursors. The motor vehicle has put some forty-five million of us into the transportation industry as owners. Ours is the greatest transport business in the world. Either by the criterion of passenger miles or by that of total horsepower of vehicles, automotive road vehicles rate far above rail-, waterand air-borne carriers combined.

This greatest of transport systems—the motor vehicle and the network of hardsurfaced roads which it has brought into being -developed despite “exalted” scepticism as well as active antagonisms of many kinds. That august body, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, contended at its convention in 189(3 that the horseless carriage could never be widely used because of the skill necessary for its operation. “The driver,”

it was declared, “has not the intelligence of the horse in shaping his path !” That year the red flag two m.p.h. law was repealed that had alienated from England the world leadership in the automotive industrial development that her engineering and manufacturing genius, enterprise and energy would have assured.

“The Toronto Show”

CANADA'S National Motor Show has been internationally acclaimed as the world’s finest automobile salon. John A. C. Warner, New York, secretary of the Society of Automotive Engineers, told the writer last winter that he had spread the news in show centres from New York to Los Angeles that those who desired to see how a motor show should be staged and conducted, ought to visit what he termed “The Toronto Show.”

Chicago in some respects has emulated Canada’s National Motor Show, as have others in lesser degree. For instance, the Summer Automobile Salon in Grosvenor House, Piccadilly, London, England, and the more recent Automobile Concours d’Elégance in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris, France, each liad, as a secondary attraction, a Fashion Show.

Canada’s National Motor Show has been for years a “must” entry on the social calendar. Its glitter, glamor and pageantry provide a splendid setting for the comingout party of the debutante products of a great industry. The automobile industry, combined with those parts of other industries directly dependent on and tributary to it, such as the automotive parts, tire and rubber industries, compose Canada’s greatest manufacturing industry in payroll, employment and value of production. In conditions of employment, including wage scales, it rates at or near the to]). Thanks to its exports, it disburses more money to Canadians than it receives from Canadians for its products. Its net cash value to Canada has exceeded fifty million dollars in a single year. It has done more than any other industry to advance the technological skill of labor. The value of its contribution to a balanced diversified economy—without which no nation has achieved eminence—is incalculable. It is as true as it is trite to say such an industry is a great national asset.

It has been ])ointed out that those Canadians dependent directly or indirectly for their daily bread on the automotive industry of Canada, considerably exceed in numbers the population of Hamilton. They are scattered across this Dominion. So widespread and diverse are the ramifications of the Canadian automotive industry’s sources of supply of materials, parts, goods and services that there is scarcely a hamlet so remote, or indeed a citizen so isolated in Canada, but that it, he or she directly or indirectly benefits from its operations. The faith of its leaders in the future of the Dominion is attested by its investment of between fifteen and twenty millions of dollars in new plants and equipment during the past two or three years, thus tangibly contributing to Canada’s progress and prosperity. Its leadership in vision, energy and constructive courage has also been of no mean intangible value to this country, but that is another story. And now “the Show’s the thing.”

It will reveal downward revisions in prices, more and better car for less money. Indeed both qualitatively and quantitatively the 1939 dollar will command unprecedented purchasing power in the 1939 motor car. Better Corn

Years of Experimenting Enabled Lester Pfister to Develop a Valuable Variety

HOW an Illinois farmer endured years of ridicule in order to develop finally a species of corn that made him rich and put an extra ten million dollars in farmers’ pockets, is told by George Kent in The Country Home Magazine.

In 1935, while his neighbors were averaging $2,000 for a season’s work, Pfister took in $35,(XX) payment for corn seed that he had developed. The following year he sold for $10 a bushel every kernel he could raise, and took in $150,000. Here was a corn that would outyield anything ever grown in Woodford County by anywhere from six to thirty-five bushels !

Pfister s quest for hybrid corn began in 1925 after a chance meeting in Des Moines with Henry Wallace, then an Iowa farm editor, now Secretary of Agriculture.

Into the black earth Pfister tucked the seeds from 388 ears of top-notch Krug corn. On each tassel that sprang from the stalks he tied a paper bag. On the earshoots he tied another. When he figured the tassel bag was full of pollen, he slipped it off. This he inverted quickly over the silk of the ear on the same stalk. Then he snapped off the tassel. This was inbreeding. During his experiments he used 100,000 bags, made 50,000 hand pollinations.

At harvest time he discovered the many strains that had been blended to make Krug corn. Here were stalks thick as a baseball bat that wouldn’t stand erect; here, tassels without pollen, cobs without kernels. A few bore runty ears, but were rooted deep and stood straight and strong. Ruthlessly he discarded the weaklings, saving only 115 ears that showed promise. The following spring he planted them.

For five back-straining years he planted, bagged and eliminated, in addition to operating the farm for his living. In 1929 he was down to four ears. These were the twisted, misbegotten children of five inbred generations, but they were tough, had root systems that bored deep and made the most of the minerals in the earth; they stood erect in high winds and went through the summer unmarred by disease. He shelled these four ears, and was ready to make his first crosses.

The com was planted in three rows. He designated the middle row the sire or pollinator, and this time he snapped off the tassels on the female stalks as fast as they appeared. The male tassels were free to shed their pollen in the silks of the rows on either side.

No rain fell and the sun was desperately hot. Stalk after stalk wilted. But Pfister, advised to irrigate, said simply: “If they can’t take it, let them die.’’

That winter he looked at the ears of his first crosses. No longer the undersized, gnarled offspring of cousins and sister and brother matings, these ears were wonderfully filled down to the tips with evenly kernelled, heavy corn. From experiment stations he obtained federal inbreds to cross with his own. I íe was still dissatisfied.

During 1931 and 1932 Pfister let his corn ride out grasshoppers and chinch bugs as he had let it ride out drought. “Let the weaklings die,’’ he said.

At harvest he shucked 225 bushels of the finest corn ever seen in Woodford County. Passing farmers jumped off their wagons to take a look. To some, Pfister gave a bushel or two.

Pfister now has a 580-acre farm, free of debt. He rents another 800 acres. His seed business will probably soon gross $1,000,000 a year.