Active 4 Wheel Steering (4WS) is a very obscure feature in the automobile world. Active 4 wheel steering is a system of steering in which a turn of the steering wheel will steer the front wheels one way and the rear wheels the opposite way using a power delivery system. It came with the promise of improved cornering and increased stability.
Though 4WS was avalible on a variety of road vehicles over the years, it became a popular fad in the late 1980’s and the early 90’s particularly with Japanese sports cars. All Japanese car manufacturers offered a car equiped with some form of 4WS. By the mid-90’s intrest in the technology waned and many discontinued the 4WS persuits. The option improved handleing, but the extra weight it tacked on negated any gains in handleing.
4WS was also offered on the GMC Serria and Chevy Silverado from 2002 to 2005 primarily for it’s simplification of backing up trailers. However many felt that the trailers were weird to back up with the option, and the high price tag of the option made it very unpopular.
Wing windows are an example of automotive technology that has been abandoned simply as a cost cutting measure for the factory. The windows were triangular windows at the front of the door that could be opened to allow air to circulate in the passenger cab.
The wing window was a common vehicular feature in passenger cars. During the last years of the 1960’s some cars began to shed the wing windows. By the mid 1970’s, most all passenger cars had no wing windows. Many pickups had wing windows until the mid 1990’s, and commercial trucks didn’t shed them until the mid 2000’s.
There are few vehicles now available with wing windows. The proliferation of air conditioning and their small effect on air circulation and the cost of installing them on all of the vehicles made them undesirable for companies to install them. Most people didn’t care if their vehicles had wing windows or not so they were quietly phased out.
Tires are the one of the most important components of a vehicle. It didn’t take long for an improvement in tire technology to render its predecessor obsolete. Solid car tires had ceased to exist by 1929, replaced by pneumatic bias-ply tires.
Bias-ply tire construction utilizes body ply cords that extend diagonally from bead to bead, usually at angles in the range of 30 to 40 degrees, with successive plies laid at opposing angles forming a crisscross pattern to which the tread is applied.
In the 1949, Arthur Savages patents on steel belted radial tires expired and tire companies quickly developed and widely advertised the new radial tires. By the 1960’s, bias-ply tires like the ones pictured were out modded. The new radial tires lasted longer, went flat less often, offered a stronger sidewall that improved handling, and an improved smoother ride. Bias-ply tires still are used for some applications such as light trailer tires, certain equipment and other specialty applications.
Knock-off hubs were common of sports cars up to the 1950’s but are almost never used on modern automobiles. The principle of the hubs was to allow a racing crew to quickly change a wheel by simply striking the hub with a hammer and unscrewing it instead of unbolting 5 or more lug nuts on each wheel. The concept was carried over to production model cars as an aesthetic choice.
The hubs were often used with wire wheels which was another popular styling choice of the era. The hubs were on many vehicles of the era, many chromed. However as the 1960’s came about, the hubs and the wire wheels that accompanied them fell out of favor for cast alloy or magnesium wheels that used a traditional bolt pattern and the knock-off hub fell out of use.
Though genuine knock-off hubs fell out of use, fake hubcaps that look like the knock-off style hubs that conceal the lug nuts remained an option on vehicles from the 1970’s all the way to the early 2000’s. This option is not a popular factory choice for modern cars. The hub caps and genuine hubs are available for custom installation on vehicles.
The Flathead Engine or Side-valve engine as it is also called is an engine with the valves in the side of the cylinder head instead of the top as in an overhead valve (OHV) engine. Most all engines produced today for road going automobiles in the United States are of the overhead valve type, until the 1950’s flathead engines were all but too common.
The flathead design is a much simpler design than the comparable OHV engine. The OHV design used push rods and rockers to control the valves where the flathead used a direct drive system that had fewer moving parts. This made the engines more reliable and easier to make. The simpler engines also could turn over faster.
The 1960’s in America saw the beginning of the era of horsepower. The flathead engine configuration was limited in it’s ability to produce horsepower due to the limitations of the flow of fuel, air, and exhaust. These limitations and the demand to supply horsepower to the American market. By the 1960’s most automobiles are equipped with overhead valve engines. The flat head was still produced for some motorcycles and industrial applications until the late 1970’s.
The Flathead is a perfect example of technology that couldn’t keep pace with consumer demands and became obsolete. With the advent of dual overhead cams and the like, the return of flatheads as a mainstream engine design isn’t likely.
Nearly a century ago, cars were often made of steel and wood. Cars of the early 20th century sported real wood unlike cars today. Not only where trim features such as steering wheel grips, pedals, handle grips, and dash boards but in some cases structurally crucial components of the vehicle such as wheel spokes, body panels, and seats.
The Oldsmobile pictured above has wood spokes in side a steel rim. This was a common practice then and a cost effective maneuver. It also added a cosmetic appeal. Steel spokes were also in use at the time, but a lot of manufactures chose to use wooden wheel spokes for these reasons.
The use of wood was all well and good for that era. Back then roads were poor and cars were not very fast. Many cars would hardly ever exceed 40 m.p.h. whether they could actually go that fast or not simply because of the limitations of the roads.
No modern car made for the developed world dare use wooden wheel spokes or wooden body panels. The fact that most cars in America regularly exceed 55 m.p.h. or more, along with the increased number of cars hitting the highway every day would make the use of wood very difficult. Wooden body panels would shatter and splinter in an accident. Further more, wood is not a uniform material making it difficult to balance the wheels. It is tough to imagine a 15 year old wooden anything winging along the interstate at 80 m.p.h.
Modern car manufacturers today commonly use aluminum, magnesium, composites, plastics, and other materials to lighten their cars but don’t look for wood any time to soon to show up in your new car.