By Andrew Mackinnon
Australia needs to have its own manufacturer of motor vehicles again, now that it no longer manufactures any motor vehicles in the country. Japan hosts car manufacturing, similarly South Korea, the United States of America, Germany, France, China, Russia and the United Kingdom. Multiple African countries also host car manufacturing – Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda.
Car manufacturing is right up near the apex of manufacturing, which is probably occupied by aircraft manufacturers. Innovative Australian minds need something to apply their skills to. It wouldn’t be difficult at all to build a superlative range of motor vehicles in Australia because the overwhelming majority of vehicles manufactured around the world today are poorly designed. Front-wheel drive vehicles are an engineering abomination that account for at least 60% of all motor vehicles manufactured worldwide today. Toyota makes cars that are so ridiculously curvy that at least 20% of the potential cargo space in their vehicles is eviscerated. Mercedez-Benz vehicles have an absurd number of unnecessary, complicated electronic systems that make them very difficult and very expensive to maintain.
I suggest an Australian car manufacturer named “Boxcar”. Its point of difference would be the boxy design of its vehicles which maximizes their cargo space. Instead of wildly curved sides that intrude upon potential cargo space, its sides would be mostly vertical, including its rear. It costs a lot of money to acquire and run a motor vehicle, so it makes logical sense that its cargo space should be as large as possible to enable the vehicle to carry as much as possible. Why would anybody want to spend all that money on their car, only to find that they can’t fit a fridge in the back?
It would be ideal for Boxcar vehicles to be made of aluminium, in order to resist corrosion and minimise weight (thus maximising their power to weight ratios), but I defer to the experts on the need for steel in the structural parts of the chassis.
Boxcar vehicles would be rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Engines would only be mounted with their crankshafts parallel to the sides of the vehicles, unlike many ghastly front-wheel drive vehicles today.
Rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles with their engines mounted in this way are easier to maintain than front-wheel drive vehicles because the timing belt is accessible at the front of the engine bay and is therefore easier to replace. Replacement of the timing belt at the required service interval is critically important for many vehicles. Failure to replace the timing belt at the required service interval can lead to engine failure, necessitating the replacement of the engine.
There is one very important reason why front-wheel drive vehicles became the standard to be followed in the middle of the 1980s, so that the majority of passenger vehicles produced today are front-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive vehicles are more difficult to work on, making it more difficult for vehicle owners to perform their own maintenance and repairs, which would save them many thousands of dollars in the medium to long term on maintenance and repairs.
The engines that would power Boxcar vehicles would ideally be diesel engines, both reducing the risk of fire in an accident (since diesel fuel is not easily ignited) and allowing them to run on recycled cooking oil.
The transmission of the Boxcar vehicles, whether manual or automatic, should not be bolted on to the rear of the engine, but should instead be positioned just in front of the rear wheels near the rear of the vehicle. The differential would bolt on to the rear of the transmission and would drive the two rear axles (ie. constant velocity joints) that drive the rear wheels.
For vehicles with manual transmissions, the clutch would attach to the fly wheel at the rear of the crankshaft of the engine in the normal way. It would be covered by a bell housing. A propeller shaft would transmit rotational power from the engine at the front of the vehicle to the manual transmission near the rear of the vehicle. Vehicles with automatic transmissions would have a similar kind of layout except that the clutch is absent.
There are two very important advantages to positioning the transmission, whether manual or automatic, in front of the rear wheels near the rear of the vehicle.
Firstly, the weight distribution of the vehicle is dramatically improved. Instead of most of the weight of the vehicle being in the front half of the vehicle, predominated by the engine and transmission, weight is more evenly distributed between the front and rear of the vehicle. It is common knowledge that many rear-wheel drive vehicles whose transmissions are bolted on to the rear of the engine suffer from a lack of traction at the rear wheels and deficient handling as a result of a lack of weight at the rear of the vehicle.
Secondly, it is much easier to change the clutch on a vehicle whose manual transmission is positioned in front of the rear wheels near the rear of the vehicle than on a vehicle whose manual transmission is bolted on to the rear of engine. This is because one only has to remove the lightweight bell housing from the rear of the engine, after first removing the propeller shaft, in order to change the clutch on a vehicle whose manual transmission is positioned in front of the rear wheels near the rear of the vehicle. There is no need to remove and replace the very heavy manual transmission.
A good example of a vehicle whose transmission is positioned in front of the rear wheels near the rear of the vehicle is the Volvo 360, which was manufactured by Volvo from 1976 to 1991.
The rear suspension of Boxcar vehicles should be so over-engineered that the rear axles never break no matter what conditions and stresses they’re subjected to.
To open the rear hatch of any vehicle and find that there is a lip, being a difference in height between the bottom of the hatch when closed and the level of the cargo space in the rear of the vehicle, is asinine. The bottom of the rear door or doors of the vehicles that Boxcar would produce (such as two barn doors of equal size) should be at the same height as the level of the cargo space in the rear of the vehicle, so that items can be easily moved into and out of this cargo space.
Most motor vehicle manufacturers around the world today design their vehicles to wear out prematurely so that the owners will be forced to buy overpriced spare parts in order to maintain and repair them. Boxcar could earn itself a stellar reputation by designing its vehicles to last as long as possible, thus winning over the hearts and minds of people who have long since abandoned car ownership to shield themselves from this chicanery which has been going on for decades.
It is a national embarrassment that the most popular vehicles in Australia, the Toyota Corolla, the Toyota Camry, the Toyota Hilux and the Toyota Landcruiser, are all designed and manufactured many thousands of kilometres away in Japan.
I look forward to the day when the most popular vehicles in Australia are designed and built in Australia by Boxcar.