The Birth of Automobile Industry
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FROM: Vol. XLIV, No. 4 October 1923 issue
The National Geographic Magazine
THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY
An American Art That Has Revolutionized Methods in Manufacturing and Transformed
By WILLIAM JOSEPH SHOWALTER
The following article presents a careful survey of the economic consequences of the development of the motor
vehicle and a layman's impressions of the highly technical automobile manufacturing industry. The latter were
gained during months of observation and inspection in the largest automobile factories in America, under the
guidance of automotive engineers and manufacturing superintendents.
With thirteen million motor cars and trucks now running on the roads of the
United States, and with the annual demand for new ones in excess of three millions, America is both literally
and figuratively "stepping on the gas" in the making of transportation history.
A quarter of a century has brought a development in the automobile industry that has
outrun the dreamers, confounded the prophets, and amazed the world.
In 1898 there was one car in operation for every eighteen thousand people, each of
them a hybrid creation secured by crossing a bicycle with a buggy, and in-stalling in the product a noise,
sputtering little engine that startled the people in the streets and sent the horses on the high-ways into
To-day there is one motor vehicle to every eight people, and the worst of them is a
marvel of silence and service as cornpared with the best of its early predecessors.
Thirteen million motor cars! Who can visualize them! Five for every freight and
passenger car on all the railroads of the United States! Enough to carry half the people of America in a
The Lincoln Highway, from the banks of the Hudson to the Golden Gate, is 3,305 miles
long. To put them all on that highway, even in traffic-jam formation, would require that it be widened so
that fifteen cars could stand abreast!
THE LINE-UP AT THE START
OF THE SPEEDWAY 500-MILE TEST AT INDIANAPOLIS
"These terrific tests have always brought the
engineering talent of the country together. Under the lessons learned there, cylinder displacement has been
reduced, fuel economy has been evolved, and safety has been forged into every element of your car and mine, on the
mighty anvil of a speedway and under the powerful hammer of high speed. Harmony, balance, dependability, tire
mileage, and studiness have come from the flaming forge of a hundred miles an hour."
DOUBLE-DECKING FLAT FREIGHT CARS FOR BIG MOTOR-CAR
Despite the fact that a third of a million carloads of cars were shipped from
factories last year, and 75,00o more from assembling plants, and still other thousands by Great lake
steamers, it has been necessary to send many cars to distribution centers in drive-away fleets. One
manufacturer maintains a corps of drive-away men, sending the cars out in fleets of ten, each with a captain
and a mechanic. Drivers are not allowed to raise the hoods of their cars and must keep their assigned
positions in the fleet. The speed is held down to 25 miles an hour.
MOTORIZED TRANSPORT IN THE UNITED STATES ARMY
THE DISPATCHER'S OFFICE IN AN AUTOMOBILE PLANT
These boards, in the production department of a major plant, control the passage
through the factory of material and parts, bringing them together at the right time and showing the status of
operations all the way through to the finished product.
ROUND TRIP TO THE SUN EVERY 21 HOURS
The service they render is proportionately large. Assuming that the average car is operated only
ten months in a year and runs only twenty miles a day, their aggregate travel amounts to seventy-eight
billion miles annually.
Such a mileage figure being so vast, we might conclude that ten months a year
and twenty miles a day overestimated the average car's performance, but both gas and tire data tend to justify
an even greater mileage.
It is estimated that the gas consumption by the motor cars of the country will exceed six
billion gallons this year. It is generally held that, taking every type of car, the average driver is able to
coax fifteen miles out of each gallon of gas he puts into his tank. But even on the basis of thirteen miles per
gallon, a little arithmetic gives the enormous total mentioned above.
It is also believed that the average tire, fabrics and cords, delivers more than 8,000 miles of
service. On the basis of the number of tires put on automotive wheels annually, the aggregate motor-car mileage
would be eighty billions.
Three times as many motor-miles on the highways as car-miles on the railways is a marvelous
record for so youthful a competitor of rail transportation.
Counts at the New York City ferries and elsewhere indicate that the average car carries 2
passengers. This means that more than thirty million people take to automotive wheels every day, or more than
nine billion annually eight times as many as are carried by all the railroads.
The transformation in the lives of the people which these figures indicate stands almost, if not
quite, unparalleled in any quarter of a century of human existence.
Starting out as a plaything, trans-formed into a luxury, and then becoming, in turn, a definite
element in our standard of living, the motor vehicle has assumed the role of a highly efficient factor in our
ransportation system, touching the lives and promoting the welfare of America as few developments in the
history of any nation have done.
TRACTOR-SEEDING ON AN UP-TO-DATE FARM
STUDENTS LEAVING THE PINE LEVEL, ALABAMA, JUNIOR HIGH
TEN OF A KIND TAKING THE TWIN PEAKS' GRADE ON HIGH AT SAN
A San Francisco distributer decided to show the world what his cars could do on a
heart-breaking hills. Ten owners, once a woman, came to the scratch at the foot of the hill and not a gear
was shifted after the start. The power of the American-built motor represents an outstanding engineering
ARMY TRUCKS AT CAMP HOLABIRD, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
The truck on the right is the regulation army truck widely used by our Expeditionary
Forces in France. In the middle is the new six-wheel truck recently devised (see page 404). By the use of
oversized tires, the ratio of weight per square inch on the road surface is reduced from 7 to 217/2. The
truck at the left is also a new design, built at Camp Holabird and having a four-wheel drive. This truck will
go almost anywhere that a caterpillar tractor can operate, and some places it cannot, and at the same time it
has a high road efficiency.
TRANSPORTATION THE LADDER OF
Transportation, some one has well said, has
been the ladder upon which humanity climbed from a condition of primitive life to that of a finely wrought and
As the number of automobiles has grown, the wealth of the country has in-creased. In
1909 we had less than three hundred thousand motor vehicles in commission and the national income amounted to
less than twenty-nine billion dollars. To-day, with our thirteen million registered vehicles, the national
income is around sixty billion dollars.
Although we are, as a nation, according to Moody, the statistician, spending more
for our automobile service than is being spent for railroad transportation, shelter, or heat and light�more,
indeed, than for any other item in our national budget except clothing and meats�our savings-bank deposits
and every other index of economic well-being tell the same story of the growth of our national
Economic readjustments are taking place on a major scale, and with increasing
momentum, under the irresistible impact of automotive mileage.
Cities are spreading out. Long Island is built up for half its length to accommodate
those who make New York the metropolis of America ; so is New Jersey from Morristown to Long Branch and from
Jersey City to the Empire State boundary at Suffern. Even Connecticut, as far as Stamford, Greenwich, and New
Canaan, is peopled with those who work in Gotham by day and sleep in the country by night.
Chicago has the same story to tell, with its scores of consequential colonies, its
dozens of outlying subdivisions. Philadelphia and San Francisco are but other examples of how men are coming
to work in town and live in the country.
Not only in a residential way are cities undergoing a change, but also in a business
way. The trek of branch banks far out beyond the business district is but one straw showing the direction of
the transportation wind. The lack of parking space down town is making an ever-widening business district and
new centers of commercial activity in every major urban community. The era of down-town crowding is forcing
the future to change radically our orthodox type of commercial concentration.
BUYING PEACHES ON A NEW YORK STATE HIGHWAY
Motorists in New York and New England find everything, from apples and peaches to
eggs and jellies, offered for sale by the roadside; and the prices are usually surprisingly low.
CLEARING NEW GROUND WITH A TRACTOR
Five acres per day can be cleared with a thirty-horsepower tractor and a
twenty-four-inch plow. The reader born on a farm will doubtless remember the time when the brush this machine
plows under had to be grubbed out, piled and burned, and the ground "ripped" up with a "bull-tongue" shovel
A "COMBINE" AT WORK ON A CANADIAN FARM
This machine cuts, threshes, and delivers to the wagon alongside more than foo acres
of wheat a day. Many elderly people can remember the grain-cradle and hand-flail era, when it would have
required the labor of some three hundred men to do the same work in the same length of time, to say nothing
of the twenty-eight horses required to haul in the crop. Even the hinder and the threshing-machine would call
for about sixty men and forty horses for cutting, hauling in, and threshing a hundred acres of wheat in a
BONANZA FARMING IN CANADA
This picture of operations in a seven-thousand-acre Canadian wheat-field shows the
character of the competition the American farmer must meet in the future. One tractor and six men do the work
of twenty-eight horses and fourteen men, with horse-drawn binders. The high cost of labor will do more than
any other agency to bring about lower production costs on the farm by necessitating an increased substitution
of machines for hands.
A similar transition is occurring on the farm. No longer are the farmer's
children isolated. They can find their diversion in the pleasures of urban life after the day's rural
tasks are done.
High schools are spreading out through the rural districts, and the general
substitution of systematic secondary education for the little red schoolhouse type of training is of vast
moment to America. Rural horizons are being pushed back.
The twenty miles that once represented a day's journey in the farmer's little world
are now less than an hour's spin. The broadening experience that travel brings ; the development of
judgment and decision that automobile driving requires; the spread of mechanical knowledge that car
maintenance entails: the demand for initiative and enterprise in those who would own and operate an
automobile, are giving to the American people a training the value of which cannot be estimated in dollars
Many a wise leader of industry has sensed the significance of car ownership by his
employees, and is encouraging them to buy homes where houses are detached and where they can own cars. The
president of the Baldwin Locomotive works has told his men that he wants all of them to have initiative
enough to own cars.
ELEVEN OUT OP EVERY THIRTEEN MOTOR CARS IN THE
WORLD REGISTERED HERE
What people could appreciate and capitalize the advantage of the motor car so well
as those of America? Their wealth is more widely distributed than that of any other nation; their average
income is equaled nowhere else on the planet; furthermore, they have an unexcelled genius for quantity
production. It is these facts that are responsible for eleven out of every thirteen motor vehicles in the
world being operated on American roads, and for twelve out of every thirteen produced in a given period being
Surveying motor-car registration, we find that South Carolina has more cars than
Australia or Argentina ; that Kansas has more than France or Germany ; that Michigan has more than Great
Britain and Ireland.
Indeed, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland, with a combined population
smaller than Poland, and with an aggregate area more limited than New Mexico, have more automobiles in
service than the whole world outside of the United States.
Even the District of Columbia has more motor vehicles than Austria, Belgium, Brazil,
South Africa, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, India, Japan, Jugo-Slavia, Mexico, The Netherlands, New
Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, or Switzerland.
In a group of twenty-eight major cities of the country, there are more cars stolen
annually, even, than are used in Austria, Belgium, Japan, or Mexico.
The insatiable demand for new cars, in spite of the tremendous number al-ready in
service, is disclosed by the fact that many more will be called into commission this year than were built
from the birth of the industry up to the end of 1915.
Available figures indicate that the total car sales for the year will approximate
five millions, including two million used vehicles. This means that one family out of every four in the
country annually figures in an automobile transaction.
BOOKS COME BY MOTOR TO GLADDEN THE LIVES OF
THE COUNTRY CHILDREN
Many counties are introducing a motorized circulating library
service for the rural districts.
A VIEW OF CHARLES STREET, BOSTON, WITH THE
COMMON ON THE RIGHT AND THE PUBLIC GARDEN ON THE LEFT
The passing of the day of putting down the tops of touring cars is
to be noted wherever cars are parked.
DROP-FORGING A FRONT AXLE
After the heat treatment the axle ingot comes to this big, four-ton
hammer and is forged into shape. This machine can be so delicately operated that it can be made to tap a watch
without breaking the crystal.
A REMINDER OT THE TIME WHEN GRAIN WAS SOWN
Handpower gave way before horsepower a generation ago; and now, in
its turn, horsepower is facing a formidable rival in tractor power.
WHEN WILL THE POINT OF SATURATION BE REACHED
With such facts before them, men naturally pause and wonder how it can be that the
long anticipated "point of saturation" that is, the hour when the country's demand for new cars will be limited to
replacements is not reached.
All the economists have been predicting its arrival for years. A decade and a half ago it was
learnedly urged that the wealth of the country could never support more than two hundred thousand new cars a year.
A little later it was being said that when the registration reached the five-million mark it would slow down to the
slight annual increase required for the growth in population.
But that mark was passed and the expansion continued, with ten millions as the limit beyond which
it seemed impossible to go. To-day that limit has been exceeded and there are once more many considerations which
would seem to indicate that the "point of saturation" is close at hand. Car registration is now up to the point
where it is only a million behind the telephone listings of the country, only seven millions behind the total
number of families, and even closer than that to the total number of dwellings.
Yet contrary to these considerations, and in spite of the warning from financiers that many
people who can't afford them are buying cars, and in the face of the additional fact that 70 per cent of the cars
being sold are bought on the deferred-payment plan, the demand goes on unchecked except as affected by seasonal
A study of Uncle Sam's expense ac-count for motor-car transportation shows that it
totals seven billion dollars annually. Men naturally wonder how we can go far beyond that, but they forget that for
every dollar added to our national automobile transportation expenses we add several dollars to our national
WHO CAN AFFORD AN AUTOMOBILE?
An old-time, long-headed man in the automobile industry has a theory that seems to be the answer
to the issue of who can afford to buy a car.
"I get tremendously tired of all this talk about this man and that man not being able to support
an automobile," said he. "It's just like the question of whether a given man can afford to get married or not. One
man, in whom only his bride has confidence, makes a success of matrimony and life. On the other hand, an-other man
embarks on the matrimonial sea who is regarded as well fixed, and he makes a total failure of his
Many a man is "made" by marriage, and not a few are developed by automobile ownership. But just
as matrimony enriches the nation, however much it costs in dollars and cents, so does transportation�and that 'is
what the automobile is.
Many things are happening that promise to postpone our arrival at the "point of saturation," however much the signs
indicate its nearness.
Graphs of prices and production show that price reduction has always served to widen the demand.
Every fifty dollars' reduction in selling price opens up, according to the graphs, a new field of a million
The deferred-payment plan also widened the market tremendously for all cars, and now the
much-discussed "five dollars down and five a week" scheme of the Ford Motor Company is enrolling hundreds of
thousands of new customers.
But that plan, it seems, is not exactly what on its face it appears to be. The dealer is to use
his judgment as to how many months these payments will have to continue before the customer gets his car. If the
latter convinces him of his ability to go on paying, the car will be delivered after thirty weeks. Otherwise, the
whole sum, even, may be required before delivery is made, and by that time the buyer will have had a pretty good
lesson in thrift.
THE CYANIDE OF POTASSIUM FURNACES IN A DETROIT MOTOR-CAR
Heat-treating and case-hardening have done a vast deal toward making the automobile
stand the strains to which every-day usage puts it. This one plant uses enough cyanide every day to destroy the
entire population of the New World.
DISK-PLOWING THE RICH PRAIRIE SOIL OF THE MIDDLE WEST
The thousands of quarter-section farmers do not make interest on their investment, much less a
profit, with dollar wheat. The large tract, with power-farming methods, can show a profit, even at such a
DRAGGING OUT STUMPS IS ONE OF THE MANY JOBS ASSIGNED THE TRACTOR WHEN THE
"BUSY SEASON" ON THE FARM IS PAST
THE FINAL ASSEMBLY LINE IN A BIG AUTOMOBILE FACTORY
When cars were first built, all the parts were simply dumped in piles on the floor.
Now a frame starts down one line, an engine block down another, a transmission and rear axle down others. When they
all meet, they have each been assembled and are ready to be united into a completed chassis on the final assembly
HUMAN EFFICIENCY AND THE AUTOMOBILE
A questionnaire sent out to thousands of automobile owners at random all over the country throws
some light on the specific increase in efficiency that the motor car brings to its possessor. The summing up
of the answers shows a 56.7 per cent increase in working
Applied to the millions of car-owners, this would represent the equivalent of adding nearly
seven million new workers to the nation's productive forces.
The promotion of efficiency in those who own cars is only the beginning of the direct returns
that the industry makes in balancing the tremendous expenditure for automobile transportation. It gives
direct employment to more than a million men and indirect to two or three times as many. It buys the major
portion of the country's plate glass, a vast share of its iron and steel, most of its aluminum, much of its
leather. It gives the railroads much more freight to haul than it takes from them.
It has sent hundreds of thousands of people into the suburbs, where rents are cheaper and living
conditions better, and where the savings in rent offset the car's maintenance costs, leaving the better
living conditions as dividends.
Yet the direct contributions to national prosperity are small compared with the indirect
contributions briefly referred to above�the expanding city and the narrowing countryside. What stories the
rusty little cars parked around the rural high school could tell of boys and girls who will finish their
secondary education, when their parents never got beyond the sixth grade!
Before the coming of the motor car, the farmer who was not up at five in the morning or who had
left the field before sundown in the evening was accounted a 1 shiftless tiller of the soil. From seven to
seven in the field, with his morning and evening chores before and after, was his routine.
HOME OWNERSHIP INCREASES WITH CAR
That he is now released from such a grind; that his family is
coming into its normal share of diversion and recreation ; that he can provide his children with opportunities that
fate hitherto denied him, is due mainly to the motor car and the train of advantages it has brought him. The farm
bureau, the rural woman's club, the parent-teacher association, are but a few evidences of his intellectual
emancipation. In Pennsylvania 65 per cent of the farmers own motor cars, and other States show similar
When will the point of saturation be reached, in the light of such direct and
indirect returns, and in view of the fact that fewer deferred-payment buyers de-fault on their cars than on
household furniture ; that definite statistics show home ownership increasing with motor-car registration; that
national income increases as automotive transportation outgo swells?
Measured by California's present ratio of car-owners to population, it will not be
reached until the present registration of the country is doubled.
Yet even California has not settled down to replacements. Measured by Indiana's
existing ratio, the ultimate registration of the country would reach eighteen mil-lions, but Indiana still shows
herself far on the sunny side of saturation.
Those whose past predictions have been most nearly justified by the trend of events
are making new predictions to-day, and these are that the point of saturation will not be economic, but rather
physical. The congestion in the big cities is fast growing so great as to keep thousands of motorists out of the
A GROUP OF CHILDREN FROM SIX STATES FORMING A HAPPY
CIRCLE IN OVERLAND PARK CAMP GROUNDS, DENVER, COLORADO
Hundreds of cities and towns have provided camps for tourists, most of them
equipped with electric lights, kitchens and sanitary conveniences, and provided with police protection. One
Missouri town of 7,000 inhabitants recently made a count. Its citizens welcomed 23,52o cars, carrying ioo,000
passengers, during the touring season. More than 3,000 cars, carrying I2,000 passengers, stopped at the town's free
A CROSS BETWEEN A BICYCLE AND A BUGGY, IN THE EARLY
DAYS OF THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY
Haynes, Ford, Duryea, Winton, Olds, and Apperson are names that will live as
the founders of a vast industry who builded better than they knew.
A BIG ENGINE-BLOCK BORING MACHINE IN OPERATION
Boring some fifty holes, of various sizes and in four directions, at a single operation is
typical of the methods of automobile manufacturers in reducing the cost of building cars by the elimination
of unnecessary hand labor.
FACTORY TESTING OF
Before being packed, speedometers are given a final test for
accuracy by running them at different speeds on a testing machine. This is the last of the 557 inspections given
each instrument and its parts in the course of its construction.
BIG CITY TRAFFIC PROBLEMS
With all the traffic officers and signal systems, the task of handling the ever-flowing stream
of motor cars and trucks grows apace. Some 42,000 motor vehicles pass the crossing at Fifth Avenue and
Forty-second Street in New York every twenty-four hours ; 4,500 in a single busy hour is not an unusual
The block-signal system on Fifth Avenue, with traffic moving in a series of stops and starts,
controlled from a central tower, has accomplished much, but even it is destined to prove inadequate.
Boulevard traffic regulation, based on the Fifth Avenue practice, has also helped in many cities, but here
again inadequacy is only a few years away.
Propositions are now coming from the foremost authorities for the establishment of express
streets, where cars will move at rates of from forty to fifty miles an hour, and where gates will be
established at intersections, just as at railway crossings. Commissioner Harriss, of New York, says that New
York needs three north-and-south highways of this character, with traffic moving on each of them in three
parallel lines in both directions. These streets, he says, will have to be four hundred feet wide and
elevated in special instances.
Chicago is installing a synchronized traffic-control system similar to that now in operation in
New York. This system of towers will extend south on Michigan Boulevard from Randolph Street, with the master
tower at Jackson.
So great is the congestion in the famous Loop District in Chicago that proposals are being made
to take all pedestrians off of the street level and to pro-vide second-story sidewalks for them. The streets
could then be widened to the building lines, almost doubling their present curb-to-curb width, and the
sidewalks would be reached by stairways, ramps, and elevators. Vehicular and pedestrian traffic, each out of
the way of the other, could move twice as fast as now and many times more safely.
It is pointed out that such a plan would give two display window stories instead of one, and
that the thousands of people who now avoid the Loop District because of its congestion would come back to
trade there, their reclaimed business being large enough to more than compensate the property owners for the
cost of the change.
The day may not be so far in the distance when the horse-drawn vehicle will be legislated off
the crowded city thoroughfares, to lessen congestion, just as heavy traffic has been banished from the
boulevards to protect the motoring public. Likewise, the clay will inevitably come when truck traffic will be
separated from passenger-car traffic on the busier high-ways through the countryside, just as is now the case
on the fine Roosevelt Boulevard out of Philadelphia.
But whenever the point of saturation is reached, and by whatever route, it will not come before
all manufacturing facilities available to-day will be kept busy making replacements. The average life of a
motor car is six years. If i8,000,000 cars shall prove the limit, replacement requirements will call for
three millions a year, which represent the present annual production.
THE AUTOMOBILE AN EFFICIENT MECHANISM
There is little wonder that the auto-mobile has caught the imagination of the American people. A
race of individualists, the sense of power to go where they will, in their own way, has a deep appeal.
Further than that, a mechanically minded people, they find a thrill in the possession of a mechanism whose
purring motor bowls them along the highways at a pace that exhilarates and brings a change of scene every
minute. They have a sort of subconscious reverence for its mechanical merit.
And well they may! Consider what a present-day model automobile is. Its engine might be likened
to a Gatling gun capable of propelling itself a mile a minute and, if it be a "six," of firing nine thousand
shots a minute in doing so, with-out noise, undue heat, or disturbing wear, but rather with a smooth hum or a
peaceful purr that is music to the ear of the motorist. A "four," even at twenty miles per hour, fires two
thousand shots a minute.
The crankshaft must do three thousand full turns in the average car to carry it a mile, and each
piston must make six thousand trips through its cylinder, with a stop between each of them, in making that
mile. At sixty miles you ask each valve to open, admit the live, or discharge the dead gas, and close again,
in 1/2oo of a second. And they are expected to do it with clockwork regularity.
The car also brings to its owner an individual light-and-power plant with which he may start his
car and light his path. It gives him a clutch that lets him make or break the power between his engine and
his car at will and in a twinkling; a gearshift that lets him choose between power and speed and makes the
change in a moment ; brakes that give him complete control of a ton and a half vehicle with a slight pressure
of the foot or a light pull of the hand. It furnishes him with tires made of a rubber composition nearly
three times as durable as leather and fully three times as resistant to a sand blast as iron.
Compared with any previous instrument of transportation, the automobile is a wonderful device. A
railroad engine, made to run over the smoothest roadbed in the world and with comparatively slow-moving
parts, must be overhauled at the end of every run. On the other hand, given gas and oil, grease and water, in
proper quantities, the "trusty old bus" will hum along for two hundred miles a day, willing to give you, if
it is a "six," more than half a million flywheel revolutions, nearly two million sparks, and more than seven
million piston stops and starts, and be ready to repeat the performance on the morrow and many other
EXPERIMENTAL TRANSPORTATION TWO
The blacksmith and the owner of a one-hoss shay survey with
disdain the new-fangled machine which presumes to travel rubber-shod over rough highways. And for many seasons,
before the day of perfected motor and of service station, it was the horse or the mule which pulled the new
invention out of mudholes and sand beds when engine balked and tires subsided.
BESIDE A MOUNTAIN OF ICE CAST UPON THE SHORE OF GREEN
BAY, NEAR ESCANABA, MICHIGAN
Ninety per cent of the public buy their cars from 20 per cent
manufacturers. The other 80 per cent of the manufacturers divide the remaining 10 per cent of the sales among them.
But catering to the 10 per cent who want something different means a trade worth more than half a billion dollars a
HAULING PULP WOOD IN THE MAINE
By combining truck, tractor, and bob-sled, the Maine lumbermen
have found a practical way to move pulp wood, used in the manufacture of paper, over the ice and snow in
AN AUTOMATIC HIDE-MEASURING MACHINE
This mechanism is able to compute instantly the square footage of a hide with all its
irregularities. As the hide passes through, every square inch is automatically noted and the total registered
on the dial in front of the operator.
PROBLEMS THAT REMAIN TO BE SOLVED
Yet, far as our automotive engineers have gone in making a dependable, fool-proof, vibration -
defying, long - lasting motor car, they realize that much distance remains yet to be traveled before the goal
of excellence they are striving for can be reached.
To begin with, our engines to-day de-liver us only ten cents' worth of power for every dollar's
worth of gas they burn. Their pistons must travel twenty inches, on the basis of one explosion to every four
strokes, to deliver five inches of push to their load.
Likewise, our cars ask us to move from 400 to 5,000 pounds of dead weight per person carried,
depending on whether they be loaded "flivvers" or big sedans with only the owner inside. These and other
items in the present car's make-up stand as a perpetual challenge to the auto-motive engineer, and he is
addressing himself vigorously to the task of correcting then.
RUNNING DOWN THE "KNOCK"
When cars were first made, the builders simply bored holes in blocks, put pistons in them, and
had engines. They had only a general idea of what happens when a spark is applied to a compressed charge of
gas in an engine cylinder. When the explosion took place under high compression, there came a knock that
seriously reduced the engine's efficiency. All sorts of explanations for this knock were offered.
Then Mr. C. F. Kettering and his associates of the General Motors Research Laboratories decided
to look into cylinders and see what does actually happen when a spark ignites a charge of gas.
They built a glass engine, and through its walls were able to see what occurred. They found that
in an explosion under high compression there is a secondary detonation whose energy waves move seventy times
as fast as those of the primary explosion. It is the conflict of these two series of energy waves that makes
the power-destroying "knock."
How to overcome this detonation be-came the next problem. The whole list of elements and
compounds known to the laboratory was gone over and every one that offered any hope was tested. It was
finally found that by adding tetra ethyl lead and a second compound in the pro-portion of about five
thimblefuls to the gallon the secondary detonation was entirely avoided, and smooth running, even under the
high compression beyond the control of a retarded spark, was made possible.
It has been found that the new combination makes five gallons of gasoline do the work of six,
and the engineers assert that by reducing the size of the cylinder and the stroke of the piston it will be
possible to produce higher-speed engines that will more than double the present mileage obtained from a
gallon of gas.
On the other hand, there are engineers who say that while this will make possible the saving in
gas, it will result in a corresponding wear on cylinder walls by the increased distance the pistons must
travel to produce a mile of transportation.
The reduction of weight in cars is a very important item in the future plans of automobile
design. One noted manufacturer says that unnecessary weight is as useless in a car as a cockade on a
coachman's hat, if not more so, since the cockade at least serves the purpose of identification. The
reduction of weight means smaller motors, lighter axles, and less cumbersome frames and running gear, all of
which promise less expensive tires and decreasing operating costs.
A FLEET OF TRUCKS ON THE COURTHOUSE PLAZA IN BALTIMORE EN ROUTE FROM DETRIOT TO
EVEN THE MOUNTAIN COTTAGE FEELS THE TOUCH OF THE
Washington County, Maryland, sends its free library service up into the
foothills of the mountains to carry the benediction of books to the poor.
FINISHING THE METAL WORK ON THE BODIES OF A QUALITY
MAKE OF CAR
Such bodies as these require about a hundred days from raw material to
finished product. The new steel, baked-enameled bodies go through the factory in less than two
MINIATURE "TWIN-LEG" SEDAN
A Boston mechanic built his son a toy automobile with everything orthodox
save an engine. The young motorist insisted on finding a "cop" who would "arrest" him.
OVERCOMING THE NECESSITY OF WATER-COOLING
One of the new departures in engine design that serves to reduce weight is the substitution of
copper-cooling for water-cooling. The function of water in an automobile engine is to carry the heat from the
cylinders to the radiator cells, where it is released by radiation.
For a long time, at least one manufacturer has been able to produce an air-cooled engine, with
iron fins surrounding the cylinders, that has stood up well in every-clay service. The engineering text-books
all declare that it is impossible to fuse copper and iron in a commercial way. however, at least two
manufacturers have succeeded in doing so, and two cars are now on the market with copper cylinder jackets
which claim to give radiation efficiency fully up to the standard of the modern water-cooled
Copper, being much more efficient as a heat-radiating medium than iron, makes an ideal
substitute for water, eliminating radiator repairs, freezing dangers, etc. The copper-cooled engine weighs
less by about 130 pounds than a water-cooled engine of similar horsepower and cooling efficiency.
One of the prime causes of short life in motor cars is neglect in the matter of lubrication.
Owners of fleets of cars, notably some of the taxicab companies, get from 200,000 to 300,000 miles out of a
machine. The owner of an individual car considers that he has clone well when his odometer registers 5o,000
miles. His neglect of lubrication is more frequently responsible than any other one item for his low
The General Motors Research Corporation has been working on the task of producing a nonfriction
bearing, and demonstrations at Dayton point to complete success. Instead of melting the metal and molding the
molten fluid, it is powdered, put into the mold in that form, and subjected to heat. The alloy has a lower
melting point than the steel itself and thus is made a homogeneous part of the material. When taken out of
the furnace, the bearing has a certain porosity not present in bearings molded in the orthodox manner. It is
capable of absorbing a certain percentage of its weight in lubricants.
Under dynamometer tests these bearings have been run at 2,000 revolutions per minute, which is
equivalent to a speed of the crankshaft of a car running 40 miles an hour. Although told that they had been
running for 3,600 and 3,700 hours without stop, they were still cool enough for me to bear my hand on them
when I examined them.
With frictionless bearings, burned-out bushings will probably be a thing of the past. The
antifriction element in them will be used mainly to counteract neglect. It will be the savings-account funds
of car operation not to be drawn on except in emergency.