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Industry

The Automotive Industry 2

Design, Engineering & Excitement!

Engineering

What is engineering, how does it work?

Engineering is defined as building things via the use of scientific principles. In practice, engineering is trade-offs and fighting the limitations of our abilities and imagination. It’s reducing expenses, not just of a part, but of the parts to build a part, the industrial machinery and equipment. It often means a lot of tedious and dirty work to get to a finished product.

Here’s a wonderful video comparing two corporations’ products. It’s pretty conclusive which cars are the better engineered for roadability.

Just a note that there may be some bias since this was sponsored by Chrysler, but they really did have better performance and handling, at the cost of a cushy ride and usually somewhat higher noise levels. Trade-offs.

Engineering can also mean recognizing better ideas, and adapting them, leading us to this Swedish manufacturer.

Koenigsegg

Koenigsegg’s new luxury car, the $1.7 million Gemera, is a magnificent hybrid electric solution to the “cars problem,” and its general concept should be implemented by all manufacturers, who need to understand a game-changer when they see it.

Koenigsegg Gemera

You will ask, “How are mainstream car makers going to do that? They’ll go out of business at that price!”

They shouldn’t imitate the price, of course, but the concept.

The Gemera is powered by a three (3) cylinder engine of 600 HP and three motors of a combined 1100 HP for a total 1700 horsepower.

Quick & Dirty Summary

  • Introduction to engineering
  • Koenigsegg’s advanced engineering
  • The straightforward solution
  • FoMoCo
  • Reworking the Thunderbird
  • Tricks of the trade
  • A styling revolution
  • Tips for designers: Going retro
  • Tips for designers: Chrysler 300
  • The Horrors: Inexplicable styling missteps
  • Summary

Yes, 600’s crazy power for an engine, never mind one with only three cylinders. Note that fewer cylinders means fewer parts to help make it cheaper, an important consideration. But the engine still sounds bad-ass thanks to big cylinders.

With more power than typical V-8s, this engine can be adapted for more or less power simply by choosing turbocharging or no.

Why is this important?

By having an adaptable engine, you potentially never have to design a new engine, which is a terrific savings of resources. Note also: no turbo lag at all should be noticeable, when powering your ride with electric motors as well as an engine.

Cooling is more efficient with three cylinders as well, and I’ve seen other places tout that the fewer cylinders the less internal friction, but more important is the compact size, which is ideal. Small size means you can optimize for passenger and cargo space. And no need for any nonsense “cylinder deactivation” though you could implement that with Koenigsegg’s Freevalve system (no valve train, but using electro-hydro-pneumatic controls to open and close the valves). Turning some cylinders on and off is hard on an engine, due to hot/cold spots leading to thermal stresses, for one, and therefore stupid to do.

Koenigsegg’s engine is revolutionary in another way. It runs on pretty much any fuel. On alcohol it produces hardly any emissions.

The hybrid approach done the right way is the answer, with a natural gas-powered engine, or, using the Koenigsegg design. Mazda is going to introduce a hybrid using a rotary engine as a range extender only, so it recognizes the importance of this type of setup.

This mindless pursuit of a switch to battery-only cars is dopey and doomed. Batteries are too marginal. The holy grail solid state battery is turning out to be a farce. Toyota’s attempt was to be released in 2021, now rescheduled to 2025 — or 2030. Or “whenever.”

And so what, even if it is successful?

Even with better batteries there’s still the problems of recharging, the sparse availability of chargers on the road and the range anxiety, and the absurd weight of too many batteries. Only two ways to easily deal with this, having the charger built in your car or having the road itself provide a way to charge (and hope the power doesn’t go out), and, ideally, cheaper and fewer batteries. With the Koenigsegg design, the solution is today.

Manufacturers need to be smart. It’s also in their mandate to create the best profits for their shareholders. Smart is to take the best design available and license or emulate it. Right now, it’s this advanced hybrid design. Of course, it would need to be adapted for lower cost. Easy enough, 1700 HP is not an essential for a family car.

Here’s a prediction: those manufacturers that don’t move towards this type of system will be the ones that go under, again. There’s no other feasible way to meet all the “green” rules.

Due to the overwhelming incompetency in almost all management these days, they’ll mostly bungle it. The incompetency can be attributed to sins such as corruption, arrogance in ignorance, “diversity quotas,” and so on. There are very few truly competent people in any organization. There seem to be many that are talented in a specific area, but fall apart when big changes are required. But a main problem is managers who are solely promoted to that position through nepotism or for their bossiness, suckholery, and unquestioning obedience to superiors.

In sum, the whole electric car push is a farce. It can’t work on the path its on now, with only batteries. Yet a simple switch to a hybrid using a small, clean-burning engine is the straightforward solution.

Did Chevy need V-8s in 289, 305, 327, 350, 390, 409… cubic inch displacements? Well, at the time, for different applications, it may have made sense. Today, one engine can be used over a wide range of applications, cars and trucks, with only tweaking and optimization going forward. Power levels are, as mentioned, controlled by adding turbo(s) or even a supercharger, or by changing the electric motor configurations. The cost saving is tremendous for a car company to never have to design another engine, or at least delay it much longer!

Hybrid is the only practical solution. Why would a company want to subject your customers to the looming risk of running out of juice and long charge times if it doesn’t have to?

An absurd ~50 MPG fuel economy regulation for cars is coming up, a physically impossible requirement. Understand that it is, like all these types of demands, mostly phony, and government lackeys do it constantly to get payoffs/bribes/graft in order to later roll back these pie-in-the-sky edicts.

Again, there’s also the intention to get us out of private transportation altogether.

And More, Yet More Bailouts?

There are lots of recent videos predicting yet another GM bust.

Yet, defying all reason, almost all the automakers are suddenly going to pure electric, taunting plain logic. These imbeciles don’t realize, or care, that they’re putting themselves out of work. We have to assume they’ve been promised something special when the time comes.

As usual, GM provides a humorous note: They tried, with the Volt, to do something clever with hybrids, but failed miserably. Too expensive, too ugly, not a very good car. Oddly, it seems to have been designed similarly to the excellent Prius, so they probably screwed it up with typical GM cheapening and corner-cutting.

Turning now to design, let’s take a look at Ford.

The Ford Motor Company

Adulteration

Notice the weird way everything is adulterated in foods, to the point now where it’s hard to find something like a simple juice without artificial sweeteners and other additives? And then, if you do find reconstituted a.j., for example, it’s extra-diluted with water, a new scam to hide the cost cutting. I doubt it’s all inflation, especially when wages are stagnant and all business is consolidating into monopolies, with monopoly price fixing — and vertical integration. They just want enormous, even larger profits, using inflation as an excuse, so they dog-pile on we poor suckers.

“Retro-modern” Ford Thunderbird

2002 Ford Thunderbird

Looking back at the 2002 Thunderbird is a good example of this adulteration in automotive terms. This blob design was in keeping with the times — even Mercedes utilized this type of ugly sculpting. When it was new, it seemed fresh, but the utter laziness of these smoothed and simplified designs doesn’t hold up.

blobby 2000 Mercedes ML430

This was produced when the so-called jellybean was their ultimate expression of “modern.” The shaved, contoured styling ruined a lot of cars, like Mercedes, because it ultimately looked cheap. And it is.

That ugly period in design was ideal for the penny-pinchers at Ford.

They thought they really had something with that chintzy little knock-off, that Playskool simulation, but it wasn’t. Not a real Thunderbird. The original was classy, with substance. The new one, which may have been exciting at first glance, if you didn’t have anything to compare it to, is a disappointment.

We’ve seen that horrible catfish maw somewhere else before… but where? Where? Ah, yes: Studebaker Hawk!

1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk

If anyone is still fooled by that T-Bird, an evaluation reveals too much flex on bumps, two-seat impracticality, reduced trunk space, and a lousy convertible top that gets creased up and mangled in its storage area, among other problems. If the Chinese had done this, what would our thoughts be? Probably less favorable, that it was a mocking imitation.

Based on the Lincoln LS model, mediocre at best, the 2002 Blunderbird came with self-inflicted problems that were completely unnecessary, but are so typical of Ford. It was based on an expensive/cheap platform — poorly engineered, but probably expensive for Ford due to poor effort and execution. It was space inefficient, and only a two-seater (in this iteration), when they already know a four-seater is required for much better sales. That lousy, awkward convertible top was inexplicable from a company that knew how to successfully tuck an entire solid roof in the trunk back in the 1950s! The car flexed like Gumby and was basically a piece of plop.

Chrysler made similar mistakes with its Prowler, and inflicted another: it only ran a V-6, not an eight! But they at least had an excuse — it was a styling exercise meant to test the use of aluminum in their cars, and Ma Mopar never expected or tried to sell many.

One thing about convertibles, though. They are criticized for being noisy and having less protection, but there’s no reason now, with carbon fiber and better insulation, many more cars can’t be hardtop convertibles. It’s simple prudence, since convertibles hold their value better. With some flex engineered into the solid tops, they could be designed to easily fit in the trunk space. There should be more on the roads. People who don’t like being wind-buffeted, seemingly have forgotten to only have the top down for low-speed cruising.

There’s something noticeable with the car companies: They produce something “luxurious,” when it isn’t, but could make a very nice lower-tier car.

Now give the 2002 T-Bird another look. The vehicle would have made an ideal different model, with a few tweaks to the front and rear clip and rear fenders. Make it a four-seater (easy enough, the platform it’s based on was). And strengthen the chassis so cutting the roof for a convertible doesn’t turn the car into a stick of warm butter.

Mad Magazine didn’t suffer Fords lightly.

The Furd Foulcar

Lets also take another look at that old bucket, the “Furd Foulcar,” which could be resurrected quite nicely.

Falcon

T-Bird with Falcon face

Now, don’t look too hard at this mashup with the Falcon face grafted on the 2002 T-Bird. It’s just a crude paste-over, we’re not impressing anyone with graphic artistry. But it looks about 10,526 times better anyway. Authentic, whereas what they put on the road is artificial. The original Thunderbird was detailed and artful, the lazy 2002 washout is a caricature, not an homage.

You might want to modernize the Falcon front clip somewhat, but it looks just fine as is. The chrome bumper looks good too, or it might also look nice in gloss black. Why not bring that type of bumper back for some cars? They were way more effective too. Well, you know why, they save sixteen cents a car or something without them.

Yes, cars now have “safety standards,” that limit their design choices, but those standards are a bunch of noise. Nothing in the “standards” seems to prohibit the worst offenders from being lumbering behemoths, like Cadillac Escalades, tearing up and down the roads.

Here’s something delightful: Make those target sights on the front fenders the turn signals, the amber turn signals in the bumper the fog lamps. It looks like the Stude already did this trick with the turn signals.

A Word about Ego & Tunnel Vision

They set out to design a “luxury-sport” car with the 2002 Bird, and didn’t realize, in their ego, that they failed at both luxury and sport. However, they did a design for a different car that isn’t bad, as we see, when it is repurposed. But again, in their ego, they never thought to do that. Well, it’s not necessarily ego, but tunnel vision. They were fixated on a “sport luxury design,” and it didn’t work out that way. Or, they considered their instincts flawless, and were wrong. Strangely, it looks like there was already the influence of “old Falcon” in their work, though.

It’s a funny thing. How do you set out to “design a luxury car?” What’s fun is to look at Chinese designers’ ideas of “luxury,” or old Russian Volgas for your dose of “people not clear on the concept.” Same thing happens on occasion with American, German and Japanese products, though usually not so woeful.

Design Tricks

We could make the Falcon a little longer, as seen here.

T-Bird with lengthened Falcon face

But that would make it look less of an economy car in this case, so we reserve the slight front lengthening for the Mustang, as you can see. It’s a design trick, and an economical way to share a platform, the important dimensions of a car, while making it appear they are different cars. It’s cheap to extend the front clip out as you like ahead of the front wheels, whereas stretching the distance between the wheels or between front wheels and windshield pillar is costly.

Speaking of design tricks, note the positioning of the headlights, high on the fenders of the 2002. Part of what makes a modern car look modern was introduced in the 1960s, by GM by lowering the position of the headlights. So yes, in a way the front face of the 1963 Falcon looks more modern than the 2002 Bird.

Explaining the Mustang

The 2002 T-Bird design suits the Mustang too. In fact it’s a massive improvement over all the modern Mustangs, which are too chunky and heavyset, and overdone.

T-Bird with Mustang face

The Mustang was originally successful because it was relatively inexpensive, because it was a Falcon. Nowadays, to drive proudly home in a new Mustang costs about 50% more money in real terms. That is, the thing is overpriced. Ford might tell you, “Oh, we couldn’t do a Falcon based on the LS platform, it would cost too much.” BS. They designed the platform poorly and inefficiently, that’s all, and tried to recoup losses by selling cars on the platform for an astronomical sum.

This use of the LS platform for the Falcon and Mustang would have been an efficient use for economy of scale.

Comparison

The first strip below provides a comparison of the old vehicles, we have ’57 T-Bird, ’63 Falcons and the ’66 Mustang… looks like a Shelby with some mods? Well, its a classic Mustang face with a few embellishments. The second strip compares the 2002 Bird, short and longer Falcon mock-ups, and Mustang mock-up.

old cars compared

modifications compared

Manufacturers’ Tricks

There’s another reason they wouldn’t make this more elegant-looking, stylish Falcon, though.

Modern cars are priced in the ionosphere, yet they often give you only crap for your money, especially if you aren’t shelling out the big bucks. It’s yet another slap in the face. It’s incomprehensible to me how a car can be priced at an average annual salary after taxes, just for a “family sedan,” never mind insurance, gas, oil and maintenance, cleaning, parking, tickets…

You know, people might like to have a luxurious-looking car even when they spend less. It’s still a lot of money, even for an economy car, why shouldn’t they get something that looks decent? It doesn’t cost any more to provide luxurious styling cues, but they want to rub people’s noses in it if they only pay for an “economy car.” Another industry trick, of course.

The ’50s and ’60s Styling Revolutions

Chrysler started a design revolution with its 1957 cars that were “longer, lower, wider,” shown in the video above. The streamlined, sophisticated cars were a complete, refreshing modernization from “bowler hat” styling. But they didn’t know where to go from there, and simply kept doing variations on the same theme. It took GM to step forth with that idea to simply lower the headlights in the grille, and push the wheels outward, closer to the sides of the car.

Pontiac took advantage. It advertised hard, the “Wide Track” look of its cars, and they did look fantastic. All cars today carry the influence from those breakthroughs from Chrysler and GM.

Design Tips for the Manufacturers

Here’s a design tip: If you must go retro, you need some frills and frippery, the sculpting, heavy chrome and fine details those early models possessed.

A second thing, and a very important point they really should take heed of: They should, but don’t tend to, produce multiple designs at once, case in point: the Chrysler 300. They should have had freshenings, updates and redesigns in the bag for the next decade at least before release of the new 2005 model, instead of freezing up and finally, too much later, releasing a tired, lukewarm effort that diluted the original appeal of the vehicle.

By doing your new design, plus several updates in advance, you have enough to do updates for the next 12-15 years, or 4-5 refreshes. Styles will have changed by then, so then you can do a larger revision. They obviously didn’t do that with the 300, and sales suffered needlessly.

2006 Chrysler 300

In the case of the 300, they already have an ideal form for a large car, and they could get away with making fewer, minor changes at each update. They say it’s like a Bentley, why not embrace that and use a few more cues from that make?

modified Chrysler 300C

The aftermarket had already been playing with the grille since almost the beginning. But adding the Bentley headlights makes for an interesting change, too.

The Horrors

For those wondering, it isn’t a case of hindsight being 20/20 or other BS. It was apparent at the time, that most car flops would be flops. You think anyone thought the Edsel was attractive? “My, what a beautiful car,” people were lining up in praise? No, it made people avert their eyes, or shake their heads in disgust! Jokes abounded regarding the Edsel. Except for the Ford fanboys and die-hards. If you served them up plop on toast and put a Ford blue oval on it, they’ll buy it. It seems every make has its indiscriminate boobs who will buy its crap, no matter what.

  • the Cimarron – perhaps the worst of the bunch, this rebadged Cavalier almost destroyed Cadillac as a business
  • the Edsel – Ford was staggered by the billions in losses on this, too
  • the ’62 Dodge
  • the ’60 Plymouth
  • the ’61 Plymouth
  • the ’60 Ford
  • the ’58-’60 Lincolns
  • the ’59 Chevrolet

Oh, there were many more disasters, but not many that flaunt themselves so shamelessly.

Some people don’t care for some of the small cars that came out in the ’70’s, like Pinto, Vega and Mustang II, but they were somewhat attractive cars that could’ve and should’ve been salvaged. They were disasters in their own right, but if the companies had committed to improving them, they would have been a decent response to the Japanese invasion that devastated the domestic makers.

Cadillac

Cadillacs were mostly just gilded Chevys, sometimes too obviously. The simple problem with Cadillac, that persists to this day, is that they never took it seriously past the 1960s. You can’t have a Chevyllac in this day and age, when there is Mercedes and there is Lexus and a number of other quality marques.

At the near-death moment, they decided to “save the brand,” and started an initiative to make “sporty Cadillacs,” but didn’t commit the budget or the common sense to do it properly. It was the GM “lipstick on a pig” approach.

And, crucially, Caddies were never intended to be sporting. What was needed was an effort from scratch that should have been processed the way Toyota did when starting Lexus: produce an initial, superior car, from scratch, price it to be an unusually good bargain, and build the brand from there, adding new product when suitable.

Now, it’s pretty much just the Escalade that’s keeping them above water.

The 1982-88 Cimarron was their biggest fiasco, but there were others, and you could include all of their sedans and coupes for at least the last 10 years, which just never caught the public’s fancy.

Allante

Cadillac Allante

Sometimes Cadillac division really tried and just couldn’t excel. This GM blunder, produced for the 1987-93 model years, wasn’t as catastrophic, but was stupid in execution and should’ve not been made. They spent too much money building it overseas and shipping it back from Europe. Plus it had its share of woes, was only a two-seater, and was too expensive.

It only broke even, if that, but perhaps would have been an interesting concept car, with an eye to a sporty &/or smaller Cadillac to be produced later as a Seville coupe.

Seville

Here is an instance where they did something right: In 1975, they tweaked and re-skinned the Nova, hung a presumptuously huge price tag on it, and called it a Cadillac Seville. In this case, the Nova wasn’t so bad, so the Seville wasn’t a failure. In fact, the Nova Seville was a coup, and, due to some diligence, made a decent smaller, cleverly styled Cadillac. (Hover image to see the Chevrolet Nova.)

Lincoln
Versailles

Ford’s laughable antics need mention, too. The tarted-up heap called Versailles was Ford’s Cimarron, but the puny effort failed, rightfully. It was almost indistinguishable from the donor Granada and only lasted from 1977-80. (Hover image to see the Ford Granada, which was also presented for sale as the Mercury Monarch.)

Summary

There are no “problems” when there are solutions. “Renewables,” “car pollution,” and the like are now proven non-issues.

That the solutions aren’t implemented means there is no will to implement them, not that there is a chronic problem.

We’ve already visited some solutions in previous blogs, like how hemp oil provides a limitless, endlessly renewable source of oil.

Which would be good, even though oil isn’t running out and cannot run out in 20 years, or 200 years. Recall that the oil already has run out, according to failed past “predictions.” But remember: There is no end to the hemp oil that can be grown, and the stuff is a weed (heh-heh, weed) that grows almost anywhere. And no end to the alcohol that can be produced. And, those fuels are cleaner burning. In fact, the Koenigsegg engine cleans the air as it runs (in already polluted places, mind you, but beggars can’t be choosers).

As to the matter of design, it looks like the manufacturers still have a lot to learn. They stumble around, basically waiting for some talented genius to come rescue them. Guys like Harley Earl, Bill Mitchell, John DeLorean, Virgil Exner or Elwood Engel. It’s amazing that these companies can endure for 100 years +, yet they seem to retain no accumulated knowledge over those years that would make their work easier and more effective. They still bungle and stumble their way through, hit and miss, like drunken toddlers. Well, that’s another one of the weird follies of life, apparently.

(Updated July 1, 2022)


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