More Car for Your Money

WARREN B. HASTINGS October 15 1939

More Car for Your Money

WARREN B. HASTINGS October 15 1939

More Car for Your Money


Secretary, Canadian Section, Society of Automotive Engineer*

SOME OF the new season models are so unlike their antecedents that to identify them at sight one must first look at their name plates.

Others outwardly resemble their immediate precursors. But two innovations that will be widely publicized and that have been all but universally adopted as standard equipment for 1940 models are sealed beam headlights and much improved safety glass.

The 1940 automobile models reveal revisions in design ranging from superficial face-lifting to major operations. For the most part these revisions, both great and small, elaborate trends already well defined a year or more ago.

Distinctive styling, clearance of gearset levers from the floor of the front compartment, marked improvement in driver and passenger vision, lower roof lines with increased headroom and wider bodies, longer wheelbases, more fairing of headlights into fenders, more general adoption of no-slam door locks, gains in independent wheel suspensions, more with-or-without running board options, more commodious luggage compartments, more powerful yet more economical engines, improved readability of instruments, more extensive use of plastics on instrument panels, more general adoption of “catw alk” grilles—all of this, and much more that was descriptive of the cars of 1939, is applicable to the new season models.

This should not be construed as indicating that progress in design of many cars has been merely nominal, for such is not the case. The accumulative effect of literally thousands of revisions has been a product that is safer, more comfortable, more economical, more reliable, more beautiful and more tractable than its predecessors. There is scarcely a unit that has not been improved.

Never in the past have there been as striking demonstrations of the responsiveness of the industry to consumer criticism as are found in the cars of 1940. Examples of this are provided in the cars of every price bracket. For instance, Barney Roos, Vice-President in Charge of Engineering for Willys Overland and a past president of the Society of Automotive Engineers, has provided the Willys-Overland with appreciably more headroom without heightening the roof line, has given it softer seats, a smoother, more powerful, yet more economical, engine, much improved suspension and steering, as wrell as marked improvement in appearance.

Packard, at the other end of the scale with its highpriced cars, has supplanted its “12” and “Super 8” with two entirely new “8” series that are said to outperform the superseded models in every respect. Packard’s narrower radiator flanked with catw^alk grilles is the most radical departure this company has made in frontal styling since it replaced its flat front radiator with one of “V” design.

In the medium-priced field we find the McLaughlinBuick has projected backward the side rails of its frame full body length, and Hudson and Nash have gone to the wishbone and coil spring design of independent front suspension. This type, pioneered by Mercedes-Benz, is now standard on all but two or three makes of cars manufactured on this continent.

Nash engineers have developed a new type of steering linkage which provides easier handling, especially in parking, with driving stability at cruising speeds. The new Nash has a turning radius of twenty feet.

Hudson has, as the boys in the game say, “zephyrized” its frontal treatment in a smartly distinctive manner.

A Huge Retooling Investment

T/\ T. KELLER, president of Chrysler, said at a press preview meeting that not a single body die used in the last year Chrysler passenger cars—Plymouth, Dodge,

Motor standards of safety, efficiency and economy go higher every year — A preview of the 1940 models

DeSoto and Chrysler—w^as retained for the manufacture of the 1940 models. He stated that his company had invested in jigs, tools and dies for its new season cars in excess of fifteen million dollars.

Colonel R. S. McLaughlin, president of General Motors of Canada and a vice-president of General Motors Incorporated, informed the writer recently that General Motors’ disbursements for jigs, tools and dies for the production of its new season’s cars—Cadillac, Chevrolet, LaSalle. McLaughlin-Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac—total over sixteen million dollars.

Mr. Keller also stated that Chrysler has recently appropriated an additional three million dollars for the construction and equipment of an addition to its engineering and research building. Chrysler cars have been reengineered. mass redistributed, and axles have been located at complementary percussion points to provide improved riding qualities. The fluid flywheel, similar to that with which His Majesty’s Daimlers are equipped, is a feature of the patrician series of Chryslers.

General Motors is introducing entirely new lines in several makes—distinctively styled cars that reflect the design departure pioneered by Cadillac in the “60” special series, with lowered floors and roofs, unusually wide bodies and larger window space.

Studebaker’s Champion met with the warmest reception accorded any car introduced in many years by this pioneer manufacturer. It has been but little altered in design, either mechanically or superstructurally. The larger series reveals some noteworthy improvements. A simple but very

practical one is the locating of the chromium belt line at the level of the streamlined safety door handle, as handles, when doors swing open where cars are parked in close proximity, mar the finish of the panels they encounter.

At the time of writing, retooling costs for the production of the new Ford passenger cars—Lincoln, Lincoln-Zephyr, Mercury and Ford are not available. They will doubtless total many millions. Add to the retooling of the “Big 3’’ that of the independents, and over fifty million dollars were invested in new manufacturing equipment before a wheel turned in the production of the 1940 cars.

Generally more attention has been given to rear as well as front wheel suspension to provide softer rides. In a number of cases longer rear springs of the doubly tapered leaf type have been installed. McLaughlin-Buick and Oldsmobile continue, with improvements, their distinctive coil-spring rear susjjensions.

Headlights, without exception, have been' faired into fenders or “catwalks,” and this is by no means the only advance in the elimination of protuberances.

Whether desirable or not, more cars are offered without running boards—standard or optional—than ever before. With low floors and widened bodies—and the widening of bodies ranges from two to five and one half inches—the running board is regarded by some as a hindrance rather than a help to ingress and egress. On the other hand the omission is not liked by some passengers who inadvertently have tried to step on a running board that wasn't there. Where cars are driven extensively over dirt and gravel roads, motorists have learned that the running board provides protection from dust, mud and stones to the side Ixxly panels and especially the lower front section of the rear fenders.

The Sealed Beam Headlamps

BECAUSE of the increased electrical current needed to operate the new sealed beam headlamps, cars have had to be equipped with larger capacity generators and batteries, switches and wiring. This explains why installation of this new lighting equipment will not be generally practical on older motor vehicles now in operation.

A feature of the sealed beam lamp development is the concerted manner in which the automotive industry collaborated with the illuminating industry, the Society of Automotive Engineers, the Engineering Committee of the Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and the Automotive Safety Foundation, in bringing about this change, which has been rated—with four-wheel brakes, safety glass and steel body construction—as a major contribution to highway safety.

The incidence of fatal accidents ranges from three to five times greater after dark than during the daylight hours. This high accident frequency at night ha3 been attributed

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to the inadequacy of motor lighting equipment. It was to cope with this condition, which included the frequent practice of outdriving headlights, that the sealed beam headlamps were devised. These new lamps project their beams much farther down the highway and provide a much wider diffusion of light than the conventional type of headlights. To provide this better illumination, lamps of higher candle power (fifty) were found to be essential. This exceeded by a considerable margin the statutory limits established in most states and provinces. Consequently, with the installation of sealed beam lamps as standard equipment, legislation governing lights had to be amended. An improved lens was devised, and two beams of equal light intensity provided, one higher than the other; the country beam to be used when no vehicles are approaching, and the traffic beam, which depresses the light and throws it slightly to the right, when counter-moving vehicles are approaching or when traffic is heavy in both directions.

Both beams are controlled by a foot switch located to the left of the clutch pedal on the floor boards. The sealed beam headlamp, with its filament reflector and lens, forms a single hermetically sealed unit. The filament is said to maintain its efficiency throughout its life. As the reflector’s mirror surface is protected from dust and moisture, it does not deteriorate. The reflectors of conventional headlamps not infrequently lose one third of their reflectivity in a year, and two thirds in ; three years. Two types of sealed beam units are being produced; one is all glass, the other a metal and glass combination.

The adoption of sealed beam headlights has resulted in the standardizing of light switching. A two-position switch is provided—one position to turn on the headlights and the other to light the parking lamps. It was realized that if the country beam were left on when vehicles were approaching from the opposite direction, it would prove dangerously dazzling. It was therefore decided to provide a red warning light on the dash to glow continuÍ ously, when the country beam is in use. It is an additional reminder to the driver whose car is equipped with sealed beam lamps, the first indication being the marked contrast between the road illuminations provided by the country and traffic ! beams. Two screws provide the only I adjustment necessary with these new ! lamps. By means of these screws the : lamps are aimed, one controlling the eleva-

tion of the beam and the other its alignment with the vehicle.

Properly used, the new lamps should make a real contribution to safety in night driving. Abuse, by failure to use the traffic beam when it should be used, would constitute an intensified glare menace. The new lamps are a real step forward, but are by no means the final answer to the socalled headlight problem. Higher efficiency lamps lately developed will soon make possible the use of polarized head lamp lens and windshields, according to automotive engineers.

Plate Glass and Safer Driving

THE NEW safety plate glass is also a real contribution to traffic safety.

I According to Dr. Andrew H. Ryan, of ! Chicago, tests indicated that looking through safety sheet glass produced sixty-two per cent greater eye fatigue than looking through safety plate glass, and resulted in 140 per cent more headaches. Eyestrain symptoms he mentioned, include smarting, heaviness, haziness, burning, aching, twitching, watering and blurred vision. Such symptoms as tiredness and sleepiness occurred with seventeen per cent greater frequency when looking through safety sheet glass than when looking through safety plate, he said.

“The ability to judge distances, as measured by the government perception test for aviators, was greatly impaired when a piece of safety sheet glass was placed in the subject’s line of vision. The average error when looking through moving safety plate glass was only 2.75 centimetres; the average error through safety sheet held in a stationary position, 14.63 centimetres— an increase of 432 per cent.”

The new safety plate glass is made of more highly polished laminations of plate glass than heretofore employed, with a new plastic sandwich between these laminations, much tougher, stronger, yet more flexible than the types previously used. The glass consequently provides better visibility and has a far greater resistance to shocks.

Another interesting glass development is the installation in a number of the new models of rear windows curved in conformity with the contour of the rear body panels.

If you visited the General Motors Parade of Progress at the Canadian National Exhibition, among the “Wonders of Science” you saw there were ladies’ frocks of soft lustrous silklike fabrics made from spun glass, and others of woollike material made from skim milk.

At the Ford tractor preview, Henry Ford told the writer of drinking a glass of “milk” made from extracts of whole-wheat grains and soya beans, that so closely simulated the flavor and consistency of cow’s milk as to defy differentiation.

Asked what progress was being made in the development of body panels of plastic to supplant steel body panels, Mr. Ford said that he had hammered the plastic body panels of one of the company’s experimental cars, without blemishing them. Car bodies of plastic will be in production much sooner, he said, than many realize. His comments recalled a remark made by Bob Graham, Chairman of the Export Committee of the Automobile Manufacturers Association and vicepresident of Graham-Paige, to the effect that farmers will be growing a large part of motor cars “in the raw,” in the not distant future. Mr. Ford said that the seats of the new Ford tractors are of plastic.

One sometimes hears this remark: “I don’t see how they can further improve motor cars.” A partial answer to that is provided by the new season models. A fuller answer, of course, is that one cannot think of any part of a unit that is perfect and therefore not subject to improvement.

The development of superfinish by Chrysler is but one of the recent “impossible improvements” that occurs. It was a chance development of the shops, not the technical laboratories.

A good deal of progress has been made in the last decade and a half. In 1925 the average car produced on this continent sold for $1,007, had a wheelbase of 106Yi in., a shipping weight of 2,356 lb. and a peak developed horsepower of 32; did 22.6 miles per gal. at 20 m.p.h., and its braking power was 12.4 feet per sec. per sec. Its 1939 counterpart sold for $766, had 114>^ in. wheelbase, a shipping weight of 2,913 lb., a peak developed horsepower of 83.9; did 22.7 miles per gal. at 20 m.p.h. and its braking power was 27.6 ft. per sec. per sec.

The great value of the automotive industry to Canada has been stressed in these columns. Thanks to its export business the industry annually disburses millions of dollars more to Canadians than it receives from Canadians for its products. It has played a large part in developing a balanced national economy. Directly and indirectly the industry provides employment for thousands of Canadians, and its wage scale and working standards are the highest of any major industry. It takes pride, not without abundant warrant, in its courage, vision and dynamic energy.

Its products are precisely processed, widely consumed and the most complex by reason of the variety of materials from which they are fabricated. It produces them at a price that must be the envy and despair of practically every other manufacturing industry. So widely scattered are the industry’s sources of supply of goods and services that there is scarcely a hamlet—or, indeed, a persontoo remotely located to benefit materially through the disbursements of Canada’s automotive industry. There is a very appreciable automotive industry content

to be caclulated in evenCanadian dollar.

What of the roads? Last year Canada invested in highway construction and improvement more money by many millions than in any previous year. Ontario's share of the total was over fifty million dollars. This is a lot of money in anybody's language, yet it is an investment abundantly warranted. The dividend paid by tourist traffic alone on Ontario’s investment in highways last year exceeded one hundred and thirteen million dollars, according to the Dominion Bureau of Statistics.