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4th March 1924, Page 11
4th March 1924
Page 11
Page 12
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An Analysis of the Trend of Chassis Design. Facts and Figures Relating to Production During the Past Year.

IN THE YE.ARS that immediately preceded the war new models of commercial vehicles from America were being introduced into this country with unfailing regularity, and every few months witnessed the appearance of a new chassis or a modified version of a known production from the States. Some of these chassis were built, it was said, expressly for the British market, whilst others were replicas of certain types sold in America, although marketed here under a name which was unfamiliar in the country of their origin.

As one would naturally expect in the case of a flood of competition of this description, many of those models which were totally unsuited to operate under conditions in Gteat Britain, or were only backed by a half-hearted publicity campaign, made little headway, and •disappeared from the sphere. of competitive enterprise within a 'short period of their first appearance. There is little doubt that some American speculators, who believed that the productions supported by their money and initiative would take the British commercial market by storm, were doomed to a sad awakening in spite of the ability of American manufacturers to undercut the prices charged by British builders for a chassis of like capacity.

A few of the better-known American productions have, it is true, withstood the test of time and many British users hold high opinions of such chassis as the Pierce-Arrow, G.M.C.., Reo, Peerless, which, as a result of efficient and economical running, have deservedly achieved a certain amount of poPularity. British manufacturers are not now faced with the same volume of competition from America, although in so far as many of the commercial-vehicle factories of the States are capable of extremely large outputs which, when not entirely absorbed in their country of origin or in those countries where the tentacles of American enterprise have spread, may quite conceivably find their way on to the British market, that which does exist must not he underrated: Industrial vehicle makers in this country should, therefore, keep themselves an fait with the progress that is being made in the States, and to enable them to be in possession of facts and figures relating to the industry in America at the end of last. year, we propose to deal in a summarized form with an informative article which recently appeared in . our American contemporary, Motor Transport, in which an analysis is given of the trend of design.

With the production barometer registering a figure of380,000 commercial vehicles and buses the year 1923 is hailed by American manufacturers as marking a record period in the history of the growth of the road transport industry. It is a singlar fact—what does it inch, catel—that in a year which was generally considered to be a lean one from the point of view of the volume of business transacted the figure exceeds the production mark of the year 1922 by 128,000 vehicles, and, moreover, that it surpasses the figure for the year 1920.

i.e., 322,000, when sales were inflated by war stimulation and post-war demands consequent on the inability of the railway companies, who were emerging from State control, to deal with an increasing _volume of freight. The production of 1923 was approximately 50 per cent. greater than that for the preceding year, and for the sake of comparison we reproduce a diagram, which shows clearly the annual production for a period of seven consecutive

years, and from which it will be readily observed that the collective output of Americas factories has been trebled in this period. The figure for 1921 offers illuminating evidence of the state of dc. pression in the industry at that. time, largehr influenced, as it. was, by artificial]; inflated production in the two preceding years.

useful indication of the popularity of the various models according to carrying capacity can be obtained 1:'2, perusing &mow the following tabulation showing the percentage of each type of vehicle manufactured in the years from 1919-1923 inclusive :—

Capacil y. 1019. 1920. 1911. ton or less ... 21 19 22.9

1-14 tons ... ... 56.6 62 18.9 2-2k tqns 16.6 12 10.8 8-8.1 tons ... ... 8.8 4 2.3 4.5 tons and over ... 4.2 3 5.6 1922. 1911.

24-5 16.1 61.8 75.8 10 3.9 1.76 2.9 2.21

From this table it will be observed that the 1-1-tonner has increased very considerably in popularity during the past few years; whereas the 2-21-toneer has shown a rather. marked decline in

favour. The remarkable preponderance of the vehicle with a carrying capacity of from 1-11-tons is, of course, mainly due to the fact that 57 per cent. of the total production—in terms of vehicles 214,736 —emanated from the Ford works, the whole output comprising ton trucks. Theremaining 43 per cent, was contributed to by 118 different manufacturers.

These facts reflect, the dependence of the status of the industry upon the Ford Co.'s activities. The Ford output a year earlier was 134,444 vehicles, equivalent to 43 per cent, of the total number of vehicles produced.

The much-augmented output of Ford ton truck chassis is, of course, responsible for the percentage loss in practically every other capacity of vehicle, but it must not he assumed that this factor indicates a falling-off in the manufacture and use of vehicles of greater carrying

capacity. Rather does it show that there has been an all-round increase in the number of vehicles constructed of

each capacity. This assertion is substantiated by the facts contained in the following table, which shows the percentage gain or loss of vehicles of dif ferent capacities based on the figures for 1923 compared with those for the preceding year ;—

Some British manufacturers may feel disposed• to make a comparison between graphs showing their output by months in 1923 and that reproduced herewith which shows the total monthly production of the American commercial vehicle industry for last year.

By contrasting the contour of the respective curves certain deductions may possibly be made to show the relative improvements in the motor vehicle markets of America and Great Britain. A healthy state of affairs is revealed by the position of the curve in December fast when compared with its location at the beginning of the year. The marked increase in production in the period from March-June is brought about by the demand for passenger vehicles at that time of the year, and it will be noted that after reaching the peak in -June the curve makes an appreciable fall.

We receive such a number of inquiries for the truck output of the Ford factory in America that at this point it is worth while giving the figures for each month last year, and to enable a ready comparison to be made we also publish (in brackets) the comparable figures for 1922. They are as follow :—January, 11,481 (3,688); February, 12,912 .(5,947); March, 19,408 .(8,846); April, 20,426 (11,522); May, 26,995.. (15,141) ; June 25,134 (15,507); July, 18,422 (13,3:34); August, 18,967 (13,910); September, 14,847 (9,151); October; 15,897

(13,116); November, 13,984 (14,160); December, 15,263 (10,122).

We can now pass on to an analysis of the trend of . design, and in this connection, the composite diagram reproluced on thia page is deserving of close study, for it shows at, a glance the variations in the form of final drives employed on American commercial vehicles over a period of six years. It. will be seen that from the years 1919-1924 worm drive has held a most commanding lead, and that during this period the percentage of adherents to this form of drive has remained more or less stable, the figure for 1924 being only 14 per cent. ahead of that for 1919. It is somewhat curious that internal gear drive—a typical form of drive in America—has shown a steady tendency to decline in popularity. Double-reduction gearing is now used on 3 per cent, of the vehicles produced, and as the year 1919 only registered per cent, for this class of drive, it will be deemed to have made much progress. Chain drive still claims a small number of followers and its percentage indicator has varied but slightly during the past five years.

In reading these diagrams sight should not be lost of the fact that all the finaldrive averages are calculated On the number of models offered in each particular year and not on the total number of chassis produced.

'The dominance of the worm for rearaxle drives, as based on the number of models in different classes' and not on the volume of production, is shown to be 58 per cent, for light-capacity vehicles (1-11-tonners); 69 per cent, for mediumcapacity vehicles (2-4-i-tonnera) and 76 per cent, for large-capacity vehicles (5-tanners and over).

Upon analysing the current specifications of vehicles listed for production daring 1924 we note that • there are 9 different models available for 'carrying. loads up to 15 ewt., 134 for loads between 1 and 1/-torts, 220 for the wide range from 2 to 41-tenners and 83 for carrying 5 tons or over, apart from 39 chassis expressly built for passenger transportation—a prodigious total of 485 models.

So far as the smallest models are concerned, all are fitted with four-cylinder engines, 78 per cent, of them incorporating electrical starters as standard equipment, although in the ease of the remainder such equipment is available at extra cost. Small vehicles of this description are mostly employed for speedy transport often involving fre quent stops, and the need for the provision of some form of engine starter in

order to economize on the fuel bill has apparently impressed itself upon.American makers. British makers please notel


The average chassis weight of the vehicles in this class is 2,500 lb. and the average wheelbase 9 It. 10 ins., the shortest wheelbase being 8 ft. 4 Ms. and

the longest 11 ft. 3 ins. Pneumatic tyres are naturally used on these light models, the average dimensions of those on the front wheels being 32 ins. by 44 ins, and those at the rear 32 ins. by 44ins. In the class ranging from 1-1i-tonners, 48 per cent, of the vehicles have electrical starters fitted as standard equipment. The average bore and stroke of the four-cylinder engines fitted in these models is 3 ins. and 51 ins. respectively. There is a marked increase recorded in the number of vehicles fitted with pneumatic tyres on front and rear wheels, the percentages in which such equipment conforms to standard specification being 54 and 53 respectively, the

average dimensions being front tyres 54 ins. by 5 ins, and rear tyies 34 ins. by 6 ins. The average wheelbase is 11 ft. 5 ins. and the average chassis weight 3,570 lb.

In the wide range of vehicles embraced by those of 4-4-tons capacity we find that 10 per cent, are fitted with

engine starters. Four-cylinder power,

units of conventional design figure in the specifications of these models, their average bore and stroke being 4 ins. and 51 ins, respectively. In this class, solid tyres as standard equipment have fallen very considerably from 72 per cent, for the front wheels and 77 per cent, for the rear wheels in 1923 to 37 per cent. (front wheels) and 41 per cent. (rear wheels) for the current year. Cushion tyres are snaking certain headway on models of these sizes.

We now come to the heavy class of goods-carrying vehicles in which we find

that 7 per cent, are fitted with engine starters. Solid tyres are, of course, preferred on lorries with carrying capacities exceeding 5 tons, although, here again, the cushion tyre isfinding some adherents: The average wheelbase for these models is 13 ft. 8 ins., •ancl the average Chassis weight 8,641 lb.

Withone or two notable exceptions. _ . such as the various models of pierce

Arrow, Autocar and Mack, -American manufacturers still favour the. use .ef. essential components built by specialists for use in their chassis. Engines which are still widely used include Continere, tal, Buda, Wisconsin, Waukesha. The names of. Brown-Lipe, Borg and_ Beck, and Fuller loom large as manufacturers of,clutches and gearboxes in the specifications of American commercial vehicles, such components usually being. built up to form a unit with the engine. The Timken still remains the most popu

lar form of rear airle.

Of the 39 chassie which are produced specifically for •paseengerscarrying,_7 of them have .six.cylinder engines., These models are mostly of the saloon type, arid seat between 20 and '30 people, although three double-deckers are listed to seat 51, 65 and 67 passengers respectively.