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Around the Corner
November 6, 2012 1:30 AM   Subscribe

Around The Corner: How Differential Steering Works (9:31) is a brilliantly simple explination of the deceptively simple concept of differential steering by the Jam Handy Organization in 1937. It makes a great introduction to this more advanced modern explination (4:44) for the layman.

Much more from the Jam Handy Organization including:

Doctor in Industry (55:57) -1946
Epic history of industrial medicine in the first half of the 20th century, showing how manufacturers and the medical profession came to terms with one another and culminating in GM's rehabilitation program for returned World War II veteran

The Golden Years(14:32) -1960
Bowling made respectable and appealing to middle-class Americans through modernization and "Populuxe" design.

A Ride for Cinderella (10:50) -1937
Cinderella relies on a Chevrolet to carry her home by midnight through obstacles and storms.

Detroit: City on the Move (18:12) -1965
Promotional film made for the City of Detroit, an unsuccessful bidder for the Olympic Games. With views of city highways, automobile manufacturing, a diverse population, and social activities, all shot prior to the city's economic decline.

How a Watch Works (19:18) -1949
A simple demonstration of the basic design and operation of a watch, including stop-motion animation showing a watch being assembled from many parts.

Three Smart Daughters (Singer Screen Ad) (1:21) - 1940
Three young women impress their men with their home sewing skills.

A Case of Spring Fever (8:17) -1940
Gilbert Willoughby is punished for voicing Luddite ideas (complaining about pesky springs) by "Coily," an obnoxious, animated spring who subjects him to the hassles of a springless world.
posted by Blasdelb (27 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
My housemate has the LEGO version covered.
posted by alex_skazat at 1:39 AM on November 6, 2012


American Look (28:04), made in 1958, is also the definitive Populuxe film on 1950s automotive, industrial, interior and architectural design.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:39 AM on November 6, 2012


As a non-mechanical person who's just getting into off-roading, I love this stuff. If anyone has links to good 4x4 For Dummies type videos, please post them here!
posted by mannequito at 2:08 AM on November 6, 2012


It's depressing to me how little the vast majority of people know about these things today (including myself). I wish we could bring back classes in the trades for any students who want to take them. I'd love to take some of these types of classes at my local community college, but who has the time or money?

Great post! Thanks.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 2:33 AM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, I'm going to have to watch these all. The differential one was great. I had an understanding of what a differential was and roughly how it worked ("with gears") but having the explanation built up like that is perfect. That was really great.
posted by disillusioned at 3:16 AM on November 6, 2012


The saddest thing about this for me is that American cars pretty much stuck to that embarrassing clunky axle design until the eighties, slathering oversized coal carts in fins and dagmars over lousy engineering as a shorthand for the future despite the fact that others did so much better so very, very early in the game.
posted by sonascope at 4:07 AM on November 6, 2012


This also reminded me how much I like A Case of Spring Fever, which pretty much sums up why you don't want your friends to find Jesus.
posted by sonascope at 4:15 AM on November 6, 2012


Love the simplicity combined with the ingenuity. Today we'd probably solve that problem with microprocessors (stamped out by underpaid workers in China) communicating with the wheels in XML.
posted by DU at 4:41 AM on November 6, 2012


Love the simplicity combined with the ingenuity. Today we'd probably solve that problem with microprocessors (stamped out by underpaid workers in China) communicating with the wheels in XML.

This is depressingly accurate.
posted by odinsdream at 5:02 AM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The saddest thing about this for me is that American cars pretty much stuck to that embarrassing clunky axle design until the eighties,

Um. It didn't stop then. Even the Mustang is only just getting rid of a solid rear axle in the next version. For some reason the US car market stuck to that ridiculous concept for about 50 years after the rest of the automotive industry dropped it as the piece of outdated junk that it was. It has a place in trucks, but not in cars.
posted by Brockles at 5:14 AM on November 6, 2012


Um. It didn't stop then. Even the Mustang is only just getting rid of a solid rear axle in the next version. For some reason the US car market stuck to that ridiculous concept for about 50 years after the rest of the automotive industry dropped it as the piece of outdated junk that it was. It has a place in trucks, but not in cars.

Well, in addition to being a fast car, the Mustang is meant to be a simple and (relatively) cheap car. They are sort of a truck, in that they needed to be able to be beat to death and keep kicking.
posted by gjc at 5:55 AM on November 6, 2012


For other uses of differentials, see this older post about analog fire control computers.

Warning: deep timesuck potential.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:58 AM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


After watching the Spring Fever film I get where Come Back Zinc (terrible video quality) comes from! Thanks.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 6:07 AM on November 6, 2012


"Warning: deep timesuck potential."

I figured it would be especially great for today for many.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:16 AM on November 6, 2012


the fact that others did so much better so very, very early in the game.

From that same link.

"The development costs of the Traction Avant, combined with the redevelopment of its factory, were very high and Citroën declared bankruptcy in late 1934."

Oops.

It has a place in trucks, but not in cars.

It's cheap. It's *dead* cheap. Cost matters. Indeed, that was the entire point of the Mustang and the pony cars that followed. Cars like the Corvair Monza, the Futura Sprint Falcon, and Dodge Dart GT were well thought of sporty compacts, but this guy you might have heard of with a penchant for changing the entire auto industry in the US* decided that something that looked like them, and went reasonably fast in a straight line, but was much cheaper than them would sell well.

So, he put basic components from the Ford Fairlane into a sporty two door chassis with a straight six engine, called the the Mustang, and sold it for $2386. And sell, it did. Of course, people wants more power. They really never cared about turning. They *did* care about rear wheel drive, and how.

So it stuck with the solid axle, because anyone who wanted to turn, anyone who really wanted a car that drove, wouldn't go anywhere near a Mustang -- so why put in things that would attract them?

In an ideal world? Yeah, we would have dropped it. But it took a long time for the costs of independent rear suspensions supporting big power to the back wheels to drop to the point where they were at least close to solid axels, and, of course, the fact that the Mustang has become much less a *cheap* car has changed that pricing model further.

The current Mustang is built on the D2C platform** (it's the only car built on it.) The platform is loosely based on the DEW*** platform, but the DEW had four wheel double-wishbone independent steering, and the D2C has MacPherson struts in front, and the solid axle in the back This is much cheaper in both components and assembly time.

Money. Always, always money.




* Lee Iacocca. Seriously, this guy created the Mustang (and thus, the entire pony car segment), the Dodge Caravan (and thus, the entire minivan segment). Well, he also was responsible for the K car and the Pinto, so not all was good. But seriously -- he created, out of whole cloth, two segments of the industry that *still* exist today, and are still *wildly* popular.

Two.

**D sized 2-door Coupe

*** D/E sized (bigger than mid, smaller than full), Worldwide.
posted by eriko at 7:08 AM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course, people wants more power.

Not all people. And not even those other people in all contexts.
posted by DU at 7:33 AM on November 6, 2012


Brockles isn't talking about the original Mustang, folks. The Ford Mustang in 2012 has a solid rear axle. This is not because it's a fast cheap car that is meant to be really reliable (were old Mustangs reliable?) it's because it's a macho cheap car with far more style than substance.
posted by Scientist at 8:48 AM on November 6, 2012


The 2003 Mustang Cobra dropped the live axle for an IRS, and people hated it. Hated it. It ends up that the typical Mustang owner is more interested in drag racing than taking corners at speed. And the live axle works perfectly for that reason.

The 2015 Mustang is going to be very interesting.
posted by hwyengr at 8:53 AM on November 6, 2012


The original post was about the differential, not the type of axle. A Mustang, Maserati, Mack truck or Farmall M all use a differential allow the outside wheel to turn faster than the inside wheel in a turn. How the power gets from the differential through the axle to the wheel is a different matter.
posted by leaper at 9:22 AM on November 6, 2012


Citroën may have declared bankruptcy, but they ended up recovering, produced the Traction Avant for twenty-three years, and still managed to introduce technologies that are just now becoming common in the business. Modern cars have yet to catch up to what the DS was in 1955. They're more reliable and less inclined to rust, but nothing approaches the serious engineering that Citroën was doing until they got squelched by Peugeot, another glum purveyor of rear wheel drive conservacarts.

Americans sold a lot of coal carts, and they somehow managed to convince people that the lousy-handling "pony" cars they excreted into the market were "sporty," but in terms of engineering and design, there's a very good reason why an 850cc three cylinder two-stroke Saab trounced the Ford Falcon's ass in the Monte Carlo back in the day. American cars are best suited to people who prefer interstates to winding roads, and their engineering will always, always be subject to the salesmen first, then the accountants, then...maybe...an actual engineer.
posted by sonascope at 9:57 AM on November 6, 2012


The original post was about the differential, not the type of axle.

The live axle derail is based on the presence of said axle in the differential video, and the shocking fact that an element shown in a video produced in 1937 is still in the same use today. Especially when so many advanced alternatives are available.

But yeah. Differentials are awesome. Before seeing this video a while ago, I always figured that the pyramid constructing aliens gave them to us.
posted by hwyengr at 10:11 AM on November 6, 2012


One gets the idea that this one about how an animation studio illustrates how a engine works is a little self-referential.
posted by DU at 10:45 AM on November 6, 2012


In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that I drive a giant Ford F-150 of the last utilitarian generation of the breed, complete with approximately a kilometer of driveshaft and a differential larger than the entire transmission in my poor old Citroën Dyane, so I'm partly speaking from the state of exasperated bemusement I feel when I'm crawling around under my truck.

To un-derail a bit, I should add that I'm fascinated with the extension of the differential—the limited slip differential and its relations. As I've been getting used to the trade-up of going from years of driving Citroëns and Saabs to a Miata and then to the big blue ox I'm driving now, I'm often made acutely aware of the limitations of a differential that is not limited-slip, particularly when working my way around a wumbly muddy dirt road or a recently rained-on greasy city street. Zzzhwizzzsh!
posted by sonascope at 12:39 PM on November 6, 2012


No one posted the MST3K version of A Case of Spring Fever yet?
posted by Chrysostom at 12:55 PM on November 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jam Handy, reminding you to keep your preserves in a convenient location.
posted by subbes at 6:31 PM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please.

We'd use JSON.
posted by effugas at 8:52 PM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting! This is the stuff our grand fathers and fathers grew up knowing because it was so cheap and simple to work on your own car back then. With the automation in cars now a PC or computerized code reader is pretty much a requirement in any weekend warriors garage. Most of the work goes into diagnosing the issue not working on it.
posted by empty vessel at 5:31 PM on November 7, 2012


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