FINISH SYMBOLICAL OF THOROUGHNESS.
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By "The Inspector."
IF YOU ASK the average man for his opinion as to the real difference between British and American chassis, he will, in nine cases out of ten, without very much intention of being explicit, answer you: " Oh, well, of course, there's a lot of difference, hut, generally speaking, I should imagine it is largely a question of finish." That isra,n opinion that I myself have heard expressed with a good deal of frequency. Now, while there is a considerable deal of truth in this judgment, it will not do to let it stand without some attempt at analysis.. One inust not, for instance, assume that no American cars are well finished. And before one ever reaches that decision it is necessary to Snd.eavour to establish what essentially is implied by this quality of "finish," Plating Does Not Mean Finish.
A definition, based on practice, is by no means easy to arrive at. The average owner, • with only the veriest smattering of technics, has in mind that finish consists of silver or brass plating, paintwork and upholstery of unimpeachable quality, the . absence of rough surfaces on castings and stampings, and so on. He will tell you of a vehicle which has clumsy forged. lamp brackets or poor paintsverk (even if its running is silkiness. itself) that it is poorly finished. Whereas, it is quite possible, although not altogether likely, that the " fits" throughout the chassis are to very
fine Newall limits. • .
Finish Makes the Rolls.
• Perhaps it will help to illustrate fine finish by indieating the Rolls-Royce chassis as being the last word in the art and practice. And yet the Rolls is by no means the last word in design. There are chassis every bit as good as the Rolls, but the search for one upon which more " finishing " has been expended is a fruitless one. Then probably at the other end of the scale we get the Ford and similar " rush-job " Americans, in which quantity production has necessitated the ruthless cutting out of any and all processes which are in any sense individual to each machine. These examples will serve too as generalisations, when we consider, not the internal mechanism of the chassis, but the paintwork, upholstery, coach-irons, etc., upon which the average man bases his criticism. Output in quantity tells its tale in these characteristics in just the same way. So that it would appear to he justifiable, to assume that what really constitutes finish, whether of chassis or eoachwork details is exactly what you do not get when you are out for quantity output and that alone.
Hand-made or Machine-made ?
Kioes not the same considera,tion arise in the old cases of the comparative merits oLhand-rnade and machine-made goods of all kinds, whether it be lace, or boot soles, or whatnot? In one ease each item has the inditidual attention of the worker, whilst, in the other, that is all left to the machine, and the only thing that matters to the worker is the total for piecework purposes. It is quite possible to produce on a quantity basis heavily-plated parts, but that will not constitute them well-finished. When production is • placed solely on as comprehensive a machine-made basis as is possible, high finish becomes impossible. So that it is, probably, quite true to classify the difference between the average Yankee chassis and one of our own, for instance, as very largely one of finish. But we Must not forget that there are well finished machines produced even in America, although, as a rule not being produced on American quantity lines, they are not competitive in other. countries.
I am one of those Who view with just a little concern the Possibility of re-action to the present lackadaisical factory methods here, in the form of an output craze which will outdo the 'Yankee at his own game, just as we have in the past with bicycles, boots arid other products. The cure for our present• productive troubles and costs is, of course, "output." But in urging this most necessary and desirable recovery, we must not forget that it has been finish and honesty of material and individual workmanship that have created Britain's remarkable goodwill for her products in the past.
The Travelling Platform.
I am also one of the few who do not whole-heartedly approve of the methods of travelling platform erection and similar means for ,anything but the Ford class of product. And certainly for the production of from 'two to six ton lorries I would have none of it, any more than I would for locomotives, for ihstanee: British-built lorries cannot be slung together in spectacular shush manner, .unlesSthe builders are aiming at no more reputable construction than is considered sufficient by most of the American factories. I am not concerned with -criticising the difficulties of effective platform assembly, in the . absence of almost overwhelniing supplies of components and material, but only at the moment with the undesirability of altogether eliminating "individual work'. Now I can imagiee two Fords as' 'being 'alike or as nearly alike Ilbt to matter, but when they are done, they remain Fords! But I can never imagine, nor have I ever heard of two locomotives, built to the same designs, which do not present very marked differences in behaviour—yet both of them are probably excellent. .
How Good Should a Machine Be?
It is just a question of how far it is desirable to finish one chassis. And with this problem is linked the query, yet unanswered, as to whether it is better policy to build and finish a machine that will last for 20 years, or whether it be better to design and build aestructure that is intended and expected to be outclassed and masked for the scrap-heap after a few years-sof service. While design is still in embryo, it is as well not to build for our descendants, but once the drawings may be judged to be approaching some sort:of finality on general points, it appears to me to be desirable to maintain the British characteristic of "built. to last." On -these lines one might argue that the Ford woad have been better built to last longer, that its design has been modified hardly at all, and that there has been no need to scrap. But the Ford was built only to sell in huge quantities at low prices, and:ita prospective life, I imagine, entered little into the plans of the designers. In that way there was an enormous market without bothering about replacement orders.
It will, I think, be a mistake if we lose sight of our centuries-old reputation for good work and finish and barter it for a world goodwill on a purely quantity basis. There will he 'plenty at the latter game in the next few years, but competition amongst builders of the best chassis, using the term in the sense of finish, will be nothing like so acute.