Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Book review, Speed Read Car Design by Tony Lewin

This is a fast read indeed, and covers the topic admirably, exactly as stated on the cover, but the art inside... wow, it's a cross between Grundy and Nagel. I effing love it.

see what I mean?

I have very little to quibble about, however, as soon as you read it, you too may stumble over the author giving Henry Ford the credit for mass production assembly lines. Oldsmobile did that before Ford. http://justacarguy.blogspot.com/2011/07/drastic-effect-of-assembly-line.html in 1901, and the author states ford did it in 1908. Now, I'm sure Ford improved the hell out of any process he gave his attention to, but, give credit where it's due, especially in history. Ford went a step farther, and revolutionized the manufacturing process, and even invented the "moving" assembly line in 1914. It changed the way the world manufactures things, and the 250 car companies that failed to adapt, and adopt this method, were out of business by 1930.

And if you're as much a car nut as I am, you'll know the trivia about the drag coefficient on page 30, that ascribes the 1st under .30 to the 1982-91 Audi 100/5000, which to me seems to add to the other many Eurocentric mentions in the book to show a bias toward European car makes, and ignores the research that should be done before making a statement, or, having an editor or proofreader fact check everything before going to print.

The Charger Daytona, and Superbird .29, 1969 and '70
The Tucker was .28, and that was 1948.
The Tatra T77 was .245, (some sources say .21) and that was in 1934

Of course, the number of cars that can be learned about in a fast check of drag coefficients, like, oh, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automobile_drag_coefficient tells me a lot more that I knew the trivia on...

So, that claim about Audi? Bogus. Nissan 300zx was also, .30, also, same year.
Saab 92, 1947, .30  Lotus Elite and Europa were .29 (1958 and '66)

I'm going to pass on the cars made in less than a handful, the Dymaxions, the Disco Volante Alfa and BAT Alfas,   they simply don't compare to a produciton car in this discussion, nor do all the land speed racing streamliners like the .117 Goldenrod of the Summers Brothers, the 1938 Phantom Corsair, and other concept cars

Anyway, that's a lot to read, but only boils down to the 2 things I found erroroneous that a proof reader should have caught. Hell, I did, and I'm nothing more than a high school grad with zero professional training or experience at editting or proof reading. It's just car knowledge, and he got it wrong.

(how did he forget about the aero drag coefficient of the Tucker...? he put a Tucker print in the book!)

Getting back to the review...

I totally dig the many facets the author digs into, seriously, he picks the whole car design world apart, and down to the nitty gritty. It's fantastic. The rims for pete's sake! He tells you why and what rims are about... the expensive cars get this type, the racy ones get that type... and suddenly, I get it! Now you see what I mean?

Oh wow, the creases! You've probably read Robert curmudgeon - Cumberford - cranky old cravat wearing guy.. .. right? Knows his shit, and dishes on one car a month in Automobile magazine. Well, I've read dozens of his discourses on auto designs, and I didn't get what he said about the creases until I read this book's chapter on the creases. Yup... it's that good.

And the Corvair shoulder line... I hadn't realized, and that's what's brilliant about getting educated while you read - the AH HA! moment of realizing something, like the Corvair. That shoulder line set a new thing going in car design. Seriously, it's rare to do something as monumental as make a change that others imitate.. like the Tatra, which VW stole the design of for the Bug... yeah, they settled out of court for a million bucks eventually... well, whatever the monetary unit is in the Czech republic.... but the Corvair inspired BMW, NSU, Simca, Hillman and Fiat to copy that shoulder crease. Hey, I am amazed. You may not be.

And now, Mercedes has a "no more creases" policy  " “The time of creases is over,” proclaimed Gorden Wagener, Mercedes' head of design" Apr 2017. How about that... I hadn't heard about that.

The use of mascots/hood ornaments, fins and badges... even the script of the car maker and why expensive cars don't put the model name on the car, but inexpensive ones do.

This is seriously cool analytical thought applied to car design. Damn, this is cool stuff. I love this.
Why are some car models numbered (Mazda 3, BMW M3) but others get kick ass names (Demon, Hellcat) or made up invented words that do not exist in any language (Toyota Yaris and Aygo)

Rolls Royce Phantom, they engineered the wheel hub badge to stay fixed, so when driving or parked, you only see that RR right side up.

And the details.. oh man, I dig the details... like, the key fob. How it feels in the hand, shape, weight, texture. That's all design stuff. Does it only lock/unlock the car, or will it start the car too? Do the vents rotate, roll, flip, louver, or... not even appear on the dash? VW Pheaton doesn't have the vents because Piech hated vents.

https://books.google.com/books?id=ge05DwAAQBAJ&pg=PA11&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false  for a sample look at the book of the 1st couple chapters


  1. Interesting, lovely illustrations. Would love the book. But Lewin missed (at least) one car in the aero story – The 1951 Gregoire-Hotchkiss at 0,26. See https://t124.com/forum/forum/general/tech-talk/8575-coefficient-of-drag-for-124-s and http://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-european/automotive-history-three-french-deadly-sins-part-1-the-hotchkiss-gregoire/

    1. He missed a lot of cars... I think Lewin may be a bit stuffy, and not familiar with many cars. How the hell did he miss the Superbird and Daytona? Those figure mightily among musclecar lovers, which I'm certain Lewin has never been. I forgot to count how many times he name checks the E-Type Jag, but I wouldn't be surprised if he names his kid E type. He's that much in love with it, and no doubt, ignores most anything that doesn't fit his ideal in car design.

  2. P.S. , as was the Panhard Dyna; http://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-european/automotive-history-three-french-deadly-sins-part-2-panhard-dyna-z-pl-17/

    1. I dig those Panhard designs! http://justacarguy.blogspot.com/2016/10/panahrd-kinds-funky-cool-odd.html