New Auto Developments (Jun, 1935)

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New Auto Developments

Top-Drive Wheels
A NEW type of drive for vehicles is announced by a western company, which obtains a lower suspension for the body (12″ above ground) by applying the electric motor’s pinion to the top of the wheel, inside the rim. Each wheel is sprung and geared independently; but the electric system equalizes their motion, without using the brakes, while on a descent. An eight-wheel design is planned for maximum safety.

Luminous Numbers
PEDESTRIANS who carry headlights will be able to take the numbers of passing cars at night by their reflection, if the jewel-studded type of license plate shown above is adopted, as recently recommended to the crime conference at Washington. It is like road markers, in principle.

Streamline German Racing Type
THE novel car body shown at the left, with its enclosed body for the driver, has reduced air resistance, as compared with models in which there is an open cockpit, causing air drag. It is a 270-horsepower machine, but weighs only 1650 pounds without tires, fuel, etc. Its inventor, the late Dr. Hans Nibel, developed also the heavy-oil motors of the newest Zeppelins.

“Electric Hand” Shifts Car Gears
MANY years ago the self-starter first made the automobile really a woman’s convenience; but until now the gear-shift has demanded muscular effort, as well as taken up space and caused annoyance in driving, often at critical moments. Now the gear-shifting is done by the power of engine and battery, also clearing the front compartment of the car until three people can ride comfortably in it, by the new invention shown here. An emergency brake lever is retained, but under the cowl, out of the way. The gear changing is done by a finger lever in a five-position “selector switch” on the steering post.

The application of power is very ingeniously provided from the engine; as the pistons sweep up and down, they produce a vacuum. This is controlled by sliding-plunger valves operated by solenoid magnets, which cause suction on a diaphragm in the “diaphragm cylinder” and a piston in the “shift cylinder.” The latter, which is larger, controls the shift lever on the transmission assembly; the diaphragm cylinder, by the aid of a rod, selects the operation which the shift lever is to perform, just as it would be moved by hand in the old models. This is governed by the electric circuits which the selector switch controls through the “interlock switch”; the positions of the lever on the selector switch correspond, in miniature, to those on the old-fashioned gear shift, but require only the pressure of a finger to accomplish.

  1. M.S.W. says: December 5, 20118:49 am

    I wonder how many accidents where cause by the “Electric Hand” shifter from vacuum pressure issues (ie: loss of pressure, fluctuating pressure) Now if it was ALL electric be much more reliable.

  2. Mike Brown says: December 5, 20119:36 am

    I’m sure they used a vacuum accumulator for the actuating vacuum, which is the same way power brakes work today. To avoid variations with fluctuating vacuum under engine load, since the vacuum actuator for the shift only needed a burst of vacuum once in a while, you could just use the engine vacuum to pump down a big can, and use the can for the actuating vacuum as needed.

    I had a couple of cars with vacuum operated windshield wipers, which required a constant supply of vacuum so the accumulator idea wasn’t practical. There’s nothing like losing your windshield wipers just as you needed them most, going up a long hill.

    The preselector gearshift was used on Cords, as I recall from seeing them in museums. You used the little lever to pick the next gear you wanted, and then when you depressed the clutch pedal the gears changed.

  3. JMyint says: December 5, 20119:37 am

    Not very many I would say, because modern automatic transmission use vacuum in much the same way. In a modern transmission a vacuum modulator applies pressure to the shift valve that controls the hydraulic pressure (instead of mechanical linkage) used to shift gears.

  4. hwertz says: December 5, 20115:48 pm

    Well, in a *modern* automatic, a whole mess of vacuum and hydraulic fluid operated check balls and passages are replaced by a set of computer controlled shift solenoids, to determine which gear to go into. (For instance, on a GM 4 speed auto, the shifter really has park, reverse, neutral, and 2nd.. then the shift solenoids turn 2nd into 1st, 3rd, and 4th. The solenoids still shunt around hydraulic fluid though.) The earlier electronic automatics, these shift solenoids decided shift points but they still used the vacuum modulator to determine shift hardness. A few years later, this was replaced by a pulse width modulated electronic modulator, so shift hardness was also controlled electronically.

    But, anyway.. interesting idea. There are a few new “automatic” transmissions (favored by Volkswagen especially) where it’s really a stick shift, but with some electronics instead of a stick shift and clutch pedal. This is a real early precursor to it. Moving the emergency brake lever to under the hood? That doesn’t sound like a good idea at all.

  5. Toronto says: December 5, 20119:37 pm

    hwertz – I think the “parking brake under the cowl” means under the dash in more modern terms. I’m not sure when they went from a hand lever to either a pull-cane (twist to release) like some Chryslers and Ramblers had, or the foot-pedal/hand release that GM adapted.

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