Aerodynamics and Design


As manufacturers squeeze all the fuel efficiency they can out of their designs, aerodynamics have been a huge concern –as well as looking sleek and advanced, an aerodynamic car cuts wind resistance for enhanced fuel efficiency. Modern designs are a pretty far cry from the boxy sedans of the 70s and 80s, but aerodynamics is hardly a new concern.

All the way back in 1923, Romanian engineer Aurel Persu ruminated on the ideal aerodynamic design; Persu decided that the ideal aerodynamic shape found in nature was a raindrop as it falls to the ground, with a super-low drag coefficient of 0.04. With that as a target, he began to draw up an aerodynamic sedan, with tall wheels mounted flush with the body inside fender wells, a steeply-raked front end, rear wheels spaced much more closely than the front, rounded contours and a rear end that tapered sharply. The Persu ...[more]

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TBT: 1968 Plymouth Road Runner Hemi


Something about the mid-size B-body Dodge/Plymouth cars has always held an appeal; their no-frills appearance called to mind a muscle car version of a highway patrol car. In ’68, Plymouth already had the GTX , based on the Satellite two-door, but they felt the need for a stripped-down counterpart to the more upscale GTX. Their goal: a car that could run a 14-second quarter mile and sell for under $3000.

Chrysler paid $50,000 to Warner Brothers for the name and likeness of Wile E. Coyote’s nemesis the Road Runner (as well as $10,000 to engineer a “beep beep” horn), and the Road Runner was born. The no-frills Road Runner had a plain-jane cloth-and-vinyl bench seat  and rubber floor mats; its base engine was the 335-hp 383 V8. For an extra $714, you could get the Road Runner with the 425-hp ...[more]

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How to Choose the Right Tire


Before we start talking about which tires you need, you should determine whether it’s time to go ahead and get tires…

The minimum depth where tire tread is still effective is 2/32”. Anything lower than that and your tires will no longer resist hydroplaning in wet weather, dry traction is reduced and traction in snow is practically nonexistent. Tires now include “wear bars” at the base of the tread, running at a right angle to the tread; when the wear bars show through, the tires are at the end of their service life. The old-timer’s gauge is the “penny test,” where you put a penny, Lincoln’s head down, into the tread. If the top of the tread no longer touches Lincoln’s head, then it’s time (some now recommend the same test with a nickel or quarter).

Of course, when yo ...[more]

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Today in History: Six Millionth Honda Civic


The word “ubiquitous” might have been coined specifically for the Honda Civic. Civics are so common, such an everyday sight that you don’t even notice them anymore…until you actually pay attention and realize that there are a LOT of Honda Civics on the road.

On July 23, 2007, the six millionth Civic rolled off of Honda’s production lines; the Civic was introduced in 1972 and has been through numerous generations and nine separate design iterations along the way. The tiny two-door first-generation Civic couldn’t have come along at a better time; in ’72, the American auto industry was being shaken up by the first oil crunch as the Middle East turned off the spigot. Big, wasteful cars were suddenly on the outs, American companies were scrambling to introduce (very mediocre) small cars, and in no time the ...[more]

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Caring for New Tires


Tires are something that most people just do not give a lot of thought to until something goes wrong and it’s time to replace them. The good news is, they don’t really need a lot of maintenance (certainly not as much as your car’s mechanical systems do), and it’s pretty easy to take care of them and get a long service life from them. Ther e are a few things, though, that you do need to keep in mind with your new tires.

  • Watch your driving habits. Obviously, if you regularly mash the gas pedal hard enough to break traction and burn rubber, that will take a lot of life off your tires. Besides that, though, be careful about your braking and cornering habits, and go easy over potholes and railroad tracks; they will all take a toll on your tires.
  • Check your ...[more]

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Performance Tire Roundup


Performance cars need performance tires. But what’s the difference between performance tires and ordinary touring tires?

Performance tires are usually made with a softer tread compound for “stickiness” and improved grip, reaction and handling on dry pavement – the compromise is in shorter tread life. Many true performance tires also don’t do well in colder weather, and many drivers switch over to all-season or winter tires in colder months.

Tires with H or V speed ratings are typically considered “performance touring” tires, and many are designed for all-season wear. Tires with the W, Y or Z rating (and an aspect ratio of less than 55) are ultra-high-performance tires, designed for high-speed handling.

We rounded up a few of our best- ...[more]

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Today in History: Ford's First Order


Henry Ford wasn’t the first out of the gate with automobiles and the internal-combustion engine – Daimler had a jump on that in the late 19th century – but Ford was definitely the first to see the potential of mass production, mass marketing, and the economy of scale that could make cars affordable for the middle class.

On July 15, 1903, Ford Motor Company took its first order, for an $850 two-cylinder Model A with a “tonneau,” or back seat. Manufactured at Ford’s early Mack Street plant in Detroit, the car was delivered to its new owner, a Chicago dentist, about a week later.

Ford had been working as chief engineer at Detroit’s Edison Illuminating Company plant when he designed and built his first car, the Quadricycle, in 1896. By 1903, he had lined up the investors and financing to fo ...[more]

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Today in History: The Dymaxion Car


Engineer/architect Buckminster Fuller was a true early-20th-century eccentric, perhaps best known for his geodesic dome and semi-prefab Dymaxion House, which could be assembled on-site almost anywhere.

In the 1920s, Fuller began drawing up his Dymaxion Car (the name  is a mashup of “dynamic,” “maximum” and “ion”). The first sketches were pure left-field stuff, with a teardrop design, a single tail fin and a third wheel that was intended to lift off the ground at speed. After some redesigns, Fuller set up a production facility for the Dymaxion in an old Locomobile automotive factory in Connecticut. The first Dymaxion was produced on July 12, 1933, with a steel frame and a body made of curved ash wood panels with an aluminum skin and painted canvas roof.

The Dymaxion was projected to to ...[more]

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Today in History: First 3-Point Seatbelt


If you’ve ever seen pictures of collisions from the 40s or 50s, you might have been surprised at how well the cars would hold up in a fairly serious accident. Even with collisions at 30 or 40 mph, the cars would look only slightly banged-up…the passengers, on the other hand, usually fared much worse. In those days before ‘crumple zone’ designs, the passengers would be the ones absorbing the energy of an impact. In fact, the prevailing wisdom in those days was that a passenger’s chances were much better if he was “thrown clear” of the wreck.

Today, of course, we know better.

By the mid 50s, padded dashboards were starting to appear in some cars, dashboards were being redesigned to get rid of protruding knobs and switches, safety glass was improving and so ...[more]

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Today in History: First 3-Point Seatbelt


If you’ve ever seen pictures of collisions from the 40s or 50s, you might have been surprised at how well the cars would hold up in a fairly serious accident. Even with collisions at 30 or 40 mph, the cars would look only slightly banged-up…the passengers, on the other hand, usually fared much worse. In those days before ‘crumple zone’ designs, the passengers would be the ones absorbing the energy of an impact. In fact, the prevailing wisdom in those days was that a passenger’s chances were much better if he was “thrown clear” of the wreck.

Today, of course, we know better.

By the mid 50s, padded dashboards were starting to appear in some cars, dashboards were being redesigned to get rid of protruding knobs and switches, safety glass was improving and som ...[more]

Read More