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 Is It Really A New Idea???

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PostSubject: Is It Really A New Idea???    Fri Dec 28, 2012 5:15 pm

Many vehicle manufacturers claim their vehicles are a totally new idea, or utilise cutting edge technologies, how true are these claims?

The crew cab pick up was the preserve of the late 90's and went on into the millenium as a popular vehicle choice as it could carry 5 people in comfort and you could throw a pallet of bricks in the loadbed at the weekend.
Armstrong Siddeley were a massive engineering concern and had many offshoot companies, during World War II they turned this over to wartime production along with many other engineering and manufacturing organisations, but following the war they were the first vehicle manufacturer to offer a totally new car due to their massive engineering expertise; other manufacturers continued with their pre-war vehicles when they resumed production. They bought the Lancaster saloon and Hurricane coupe to the car market, and a couple of oddball versions which has the passenger compartment shortened to seat only two or three people and the rear of the passenger compartment and boot space was turned into a loadbed. These vehicles were called the Station Coupe and Utility Coupe respectively, basically they were the worlds first production pick up's.
Both offered the latest styling, two litre six cylinder engines, pre-select gearboxes, and all Armstrong Siddeley vehicles were well made and designed. This 6 cylinder 2.0 L engine was reasonably powerful and provided a huge amount of torque for the day and most were exported mainly to Australia and New Zealand where many still remain. Being a cross between a car and a pick up made them an outback dwellers dream as they had the power and performance and luxury levels of a car and they could still throw everything from tools through to fencing and supplies through to drums of fuel in the back.

Environmental vehicles have always featured through automotive history:

British Leyland developed the ECV 3 in 1980, this was an engineering exercise to develop and showcase British technology and was a fully working prototype which featured a lightweight aluminium frame with bonded aluminium technology, onto this frame was bonded a number of aluminium panels and many plastic external panels to lighten the vehicle. It featured the latest aerodynamic efficiencies and has a coefficient of drag of 0.25 due to the aerodynamic styling and flush fitting features such as windoes and mirrors and very lightweight mechanical components, it had a 3 cylinder engine and packaged the same internal space as a Ford Mondeo into a vehicle slightly larger than a Metro. This vehicle averaged a credible 63MPG which was exceptional then ans even the most efficient town cars of today struggle to average such economy in the real world.
No production versions were ever made and this one prototype is still around and in full working order in the Rover museum at Gaydon.

If we move back a little earlier in time we can look at the BMW 700, this was a rear engined BMW which featured a twin cylinder 700cc motorcycle engine in the rear to reduce noise and to provide economical and fuel efficient transport, it had a top speed of 70MPH from its 30HP engine and like todays 3 series you could buy a saloon, coupe, and convertible; if you wanted a performance version you could buy a CS variant with twin carburettors and 80 HP. This was the real money spinner for BMW as well as the car which ensured their survival as 188,000 were sold from 1959 to 1965.

Around the same time Citroen entered the economy car market with the Citroen Bijou which employed the mechanical components of the 2CV and its 425cc engine, they were grafted into a plastic body designed by Peter Kirwan Taylor who designed the Lotus Elise, the vehicle was built in Slough and very few were sold due to the fact you could get a real Austin for much less money. It was a heavier car than the 2CV and obviously much slower and thirstier so people stuck with the 2CV.

Citroen did much the same thing with the Citroen LN, this was a badge engineered Peugeot 104 which had the later 2CV mechanicals grafted into it and while the later engine was the 602cc 2CV engine it was still underpowered for this small car and very noisy. Citroen switched from the 2CV engine to a 4 cylinder engine and called it the Citroen LNA.

Air Vice Marshall Donald Bennett was famous during WW II for his exploits with the Pathfinders and in 1954 he set up a company called Fairthorpe and decided to build economy vehicles for the war weary masses, it has to be speedy and thrifty so he employed a lightweight plastic body and a BSA 250cc motorcycle engine and built the Fairthorpe Atom. This was followed by the BSA 650cc or Triumph engined Atomota which was very rapid and handled well for its day, but they lacked any creature comforts and people stayed with mainstream vehicles instead of the very economical and rapid Fairthorpe's.

Hanomag of Germany made railway engines, but switched to their version of an economy car for the common people. Their claim to fame that they took economy motoring as far as they thought they could with a two seater vehicle which had its body made from raffia and a single cylinder 500cc engine, it was very narrow and only had a single headlight and rear light and the two people sat one behind the other; it was fantastic as a lightweight vehicle and performed well on rural roads and narrow winding hilly roads, but its light weight and rear engine meant it had a tendency to wander all over even in the lightest of breezes.
Several hundred were sold and some still survive.

Fiat entered the economy vehicle market many years ago and decided to take this further with a concept vehicle in 1992, they asked several vehicle designers and builders to build a concept vehicle on their Cinquecento as they knew the Cinquecento was the right vehicle for that period of time. Zagato produced the Z-ECO which was basically a Cinquecento which had half its passenger compartment hacked off from the scuttle panel to the rear of the car. This left the drivers front seat and half the rear seat behind it leaving it as a two seater; the section where the passenger compartment was hacked off was fitted with a flat deck from behind the front bulkhead to the rear of the car, under this was used for storage and this gave the vehicle more storage then the original Cinquecento. Its real trick came from the flat deck as it housed a bicycle, not any bicycle but an electrically powered one which could be pedalled or propelled using its electric motor, you simply placed it on the flat deck of the car and plugged it in to charge it and if you hit a traffic jam you park and jump onto your bike to continue your journey.

Almost every vehicle manufacturer has a diesel vehicle in their range, but in the 1950's things were different, petrol was getting cheaper and fuel economy wasn't important and most family sized vehicles would struggle to achieve 25 MPG as an average figure for mixed driving. Standard fitted a diesel engine to their Vanguard and this was the 2.0 litre diesel unit they fitted to Ferguson tractors and they were reliable, durable, and extremely fuel efficient if very noisy and a poor performer.
Standard Vanguard diesels were very fuel efficient and averaged 50 MPG even with the extra weight of reinforcing the chassis and their heavier gearboxes with electric overdrive on 3rd and 4th gear. They were made from 1954 - 55 and then discontinued, many of them were sold to the Port Talbot Steel Works in South Wales and a number still survive.
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PostSubject: Re: Is It Really A New Idea???    Fri Dec 28, 2012 10:12 pm

The name rang a bell, Fairthorpe Atom. Way back in the mists of time,when all my friends were into bikes, one spook of an uncle who had one of them, he was always trying to obtain it, but never did. May be after i left Essex he might have it now.
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PostSubject: Re: Is It Really A New Idea???    Sat Dec 29, 2012 1:26 am

Lotus is a name synonymous with lightweight 2 or 2 + 2 high performance vehicles which are low on power relative to other performance cars, yet counter this with light weight to give high performance levels for modest power outputs.
Lotus came up with project Eminence which was a luxury limousine capable of carrying up to 6 passengers back in 1985, it was unique in many areas and notably weight, its unique feature was that all variants would be bulletproof as standard, its main competition would be from Rolls Royce, Mercedes and Cadillac who all sold normal luxury limousines and converted them, and this was expensive and added a lot of weight and cost to the already heavy and expensive vehicles. Lotus had put their expertise in composite technology to good use as they could build bulletproof versions of a car using Kevlar and they would weigh as little as 1.5-1.7 tonnes compared to the Rolls and Mercedes models which often weighed over 5 tonnes after conversion, and the Cadillac weighing close to 10 tonnes depending upon specification. Lotus set the bar high and utilised aerodynamic efficiencies and low weight to allow the lightweight V8 engine to have a modest power output for reliability, yet still manufacture a large vehicle which handles like a Lotus and give it performance figures of 0-60 in less than 6 seconds and a top speed exceeding 160 MPH which compared with supercar performance of the day.
Featuring niceties such as ABS and traction control and programmable handling meant it could perform extreme manouveres to outhandle any attacking vehicle, and a top speed high enough to outrun them meant when it was announced Lotus had a problem with a jammed switchboard from a variety of customers ranging from heads of state, senior politicians, many of the worlds dictators, and a variety of despot's whi feared for their lives.
Lotus took this vehicle right through the design stages and right up to manufacturing as they even had the moulds and jigs designed to build the car, but Cadillac were so concerned that their parent company General Motors bought Lotus to stop them actually building it, and they even banned all Lotus employees from talking about it, if they did they would be sacked.

Many people know the Smart car built by Mercedes, but is this really a new idea? if we go back to 1973 we find the Minissima which is a fibreglass compact car which is a cross between a town car and a people carrier, it was designed by William Towns who designed the Aston Martin DBS and Lagonda, it features a length of less than the width of most other cars, a single rear door, and Mini running gear located under the dashboard. You parked by reversing upto the kerb and got out straight onto the pavement and the vehicle didn't protrude out into the road any further than a normal car. British Leyland couldn't summon up the guts and imagination to build it so it was sold to a bicycle manufacturer called Elswick who produced it and called it the Envoy, they widened the rear door and converted many to niche vehicles for wheelchair bound disabled people who opened the rear door and manouvered themselves in while still in their wheelchairs.
Very few were actually sold, yet some still remain.
Many other variants of this type of one box vehicle were designed by British Leyland during the late 1960's and most would be described as people carriers today, they featured the one box body, compact running gear, high levels of glass, a tall upright stance and fairly compact wheelbases, many had sliding doors for safety reasons and many had flexible seating arrangements which could give up to 12 seats or be removed to turn it into a van.
If British Leyland had invested in these ideas, and had a little foresight they could have produced the first Smart cas and people carrier by 1975.

Jeep are known worldwide for theyr 4X4 vehicles, but in 1948 they did something quite unique, they had masses of spare manufacturing capacity following war production and decided to make a fun vehicle for the masses, they did this by taking a civilian Jeep and removing the 4 wheel drive system, lightening the chassis and running gear, fitting luxury seats and a convertible top and marketed it as a fun vehicle. Unfortunately the Jeep Jeepster was a vehicle of the wrong time as most of the world was suffering the ravages of war and people wanted and needed a 4 wheel drive due to the ravages of war, and the destruction of towns from mechanised fighting and bombing. Jeep thought they had found a new market for their lightweight 4X2 Jeep, but it only remained in production for three years before it was discontinued so they could continue producing what the world wanted and needed, four wheel drive Jeeps.

Daihatsu are famed for their four wheel drives and their F20, F50, and F55 models showed they could produce a range of utilarian 4X4's which were exceptional off road and very reliable workhorses which came in a range of bodies ranging from hardtops, soft tops, crew cabs, and pick up's, and all at a price which was much less than a Land Rover or jeep and was much cheaper to run and very easily maintained. They translated this knowledge into the Fourtrak and later on the lighter Sportrak to cover the working end of the market and the fun markets.
In the late 1980's they produced a concept 4X4 which was called the Trek, this was a cross between a quad bike and a 4X4, it was a narrow single seater vehicle with a chassisless structural thick floor design for strength and a folding steering column, roll bar, and seat and it provided an option of petrol or diesel engines, high ground clearance and plenty of storage in is thick floor for any amount of equipment. They were designed to be narrow and light so they could go where a larger 4X4 couldn't, and they were even designed with an electric winch as standard.
Their unique feature was the folding top which folded flat to form a bed, they also had another unique feature which was their tent top which could be erected in under 2 minutes to give either a mosquito net or a tent to heep out the rain.
Unfortunately they never went into production, although several prototypes were built, yet they harnessed all of Daihatsu's off road technology and innovation into one small vehicle.

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PostSubject: Re: Is It Really A New Idea???    Sat Dec 29, 2012 1:39 am

may not have been that ec (cheap to run) but Citroen may have been the first with self leveling suspension, Before LR had it on the Range Rover then the D3, we had a C5 I think it was and you could raise and lower the suspension, very easy to change a puncture.
You lifted it up high put jack under then lowered it onto the jack witch raised the wheel.
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PostSubject: Re: Is It Really A New Idea???    Sat Dec 29, 2012 4:03 am

Yep, CITROEN WERE the first with self levelling suspension. And GM (Vauxhal / Opel) were the first with the genuine hatchback too,although a couple of other brands were only weeks behind! As assassin said, none of it is really new!

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PostSubject: Re: Is It Really A New Idea???    Sat Dec 29, 2012 5:38 am

Were they? Mercedes used it first, about 20 years before Citroen and abandoned it because it was unreliable and never made it into production.
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PostSubject: Re: Is It Really A New Idea???    Sat Dec 29, 2012 9:15 am

I may be wrong (won't be the first time) but I thought the Merc system was simply a form of air supsension, didn't realise it was a self levelling system!

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PostSubject: Re: Is It Really A New Idea???    Sat Dec 29, 2012 12:18 pm

yes, it was self levelling and only fitted to the rear suspension, it was later developed by Bosch and improved and faster electronics made it viable if very expensive. Around the samr time Citroen were working on a hydraulic system which made its debut on its road cars and other companies such as Rolls Royce, Bentley (same company then) worked on their own systems along with BMW, Maybach, GM Europe, and many others.

As you say its nothing new, just the development of other systems which makes the systems viable.
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PostSubject: Re: Is It Really A New Idea???    Sat Dec 29, 2012 8:53 pm

I learn something EVERY DAY!!

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PostSubject: Re: Is It Really A New Idea???    Sun Dec 30, 2012 2:00 am

Electric cars are even better because there were commercial vehicles electrically powered in the 1950's which were town runabouts and delivery vehicles and many major retailers had them, then a company called Elektrification developed them into a number of other electric vehicles and they, along with electric milk floats were based on the Oldham traction battery packs. These were large lead-acid packs which were very heavy, but you could service them by adding acid or distilled water instead of simply throwing them away as you would with modern batteries, thus giving them a very long working life.

Electrification made a number of electric vehicles based on a smaller Oldham Lead-Acid battery pack and a 7.5 HP motor, they made a light van, light pick up, a people carrier in hard top and soft top, and their rickshaw, and they were designed for enclosed environments such as factories and holiday camps, the various electricity companies used them as runabout vehicles and many rickshaw's were used by holiday camps. They had a top speed of 30 MPH and a range of 55 miles and ferried visitors and their luggage around various holiday camps, and many components around various factories.

Time moved on and rare earth magnet motors replaced the old DC brush motors used in the traction motors, and the traditional (and very heavy) lead-acid batteries were replaced with very high output, and very lightweight lithium-ion battery packs, this gave much higher power outputs for motors coupled to lightweight battery packs which were maintenence free and these are now powering the modern electric and hybrid cars.
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