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Car Design 1

Re this week’s Where's Car Design Going?, I wondered about noise as a possible section that might have been included. Is today’s NVH significantly better than the EH Holden?

Roger De Salis
New Zealand

Yes, vastly so.

Car Design 2

"Where's Car Design Going?" - Bravo!  Some excellent points.  Might the "sweet spot" be a modernization of an older car?  For example, refitting newer engine management and shoulder belts, maybe even adding in airbags and ABS to an older model. 

Another aspect of the newer cars is that they are more isolated - less NVH, but also far less sense of danger at speed, less awareness of what the wheels/suspension are really doing - so easier to get to speed and overcook things relative to conditions. The added safety features often provoke a compensatory response in drivers - with airbags and ABS, they gain an illusory sense of security and tend to follow more closely and brake later. The introduction in the US of 3d brakelights (centre stop light) led to an initial reduction in rear-end collisions, then the rate crept back up as people acclimated (and as large SUVs crowded the roads and the sightlines of other drivers).  Finally, the added mass of the newer models necessitates larger engines, brakes, etc - a small light car (such as a Mazda Roadster/MX5/Miata or Lotus Elise) really exemplifies all the merits to be had from reducing excess. 

Personally, I don't mind cranking my own windows or turning a knob to adjust my seat, but then I like to shift my own gears too.  Thanks for the perspective - on paper, the new cars are "vastly superior", but in practice they often feel a bit "off" (some would say soulless and without style, even)

Boris Kort-Packard
United States

Updating the safety of an old car to be anywhere near current standards is impossible – the safety needs to be incorporated at the design stage.

Car Design 3

On the article "Where's Car Design Going?", I couldn't agree more but I also can't see there being a change any time soon. The motoring magazines (not yours!) seem have too much influence on Australian manufacturers’ design decisions. Every new model must have more power than the last or it will surely be condemned by the writers. How about reducing weight instead? A new VE weighs as much as the last WB Statesman, a BF as much as a 70's LTD!  New cars have thinner metal, the glass is half as thick and they seem to have done away with side intrusion beams. Airbags seem to have replaced the fundamentals of good design physics.

Sharply angled windscreens cause more heat to enter the car. Thank god the HVAC of a new car is better than an old one because you can't roll down the windows instead as the wind buffeting is unbearable (try and sit in the back of a new Falcon, it will almost blow out your eardrums with the windows down).

Boots seem to be getting smaller with every model despite the absence of full-size spare wheels. New style strut boot hinges which the magazines say are a 'must' for a new car make the boot opening smaller, allow leaves and water to collect on the platform causing rust and the struts will surely fail in short order. A well-designed cantilever design doesn't have to intrude into the boot area at all.

The biggest cause of new cars lack of ride is directly attributed to the larger wheels and low profile tyres fitted as standard nowadays. I am willing to bet if 15-inch wheels were fitted the ride would be much better without any detrimental effects on real-world handling.

The biggest worry I have is that people are becoming complacent with their driving skills as new cars are so un-involving. Brakes are much better with ABS and EBD that people seem to sit much closer to each other on the road. ESP will surely be 'mandatory' fitment on cars within two years as the motoring writers have deemed it a necessity. How crazy will this allow people to drive while the electronics save them from a sure-fire accident. What will happen when they switch it off one day? Or worse, get into another car that doesn't have it?


New cars are far safer than old cars. Boots are huge. We like ABS and think ESP the biggest safety innovation in car electronics ever. But as the original article said, we do agree on ride...


First up, good job. I have been a reader since issue one and a subscriber not too long after.  Over the years I have found many good, informative articles, which do not simply focus on the big name, big price tag modifications.  I especially like the articles which cover areas of modification which aren't normally considered (e.g. undertrays, the Airtabs trial).

Like a lot of people I am a little dismayed at the repeated articles. But my only real issue with them is that they do not always state they are reprints of previously printed articles (you wouldn't believe how many times I've read a quarter of the article with that nagging "I've read this somewhere" feeling before realising I've got a print-out at home in my folder of "good info"). But overall I like the continuation of new articles, and there have been some reprints that I honestly missed out reading the first time around.

So I say, "good on ya!"  Keep up the good work, and keep bringing us articles on how to mod street cars for better street performance.

P.S. I recently trialled some Airtabs on the roof at the racetrack. There are a few mitigating circumstances (improved driving performance over the day, and possible shift in wind speed/direction) but with the Airtabs I was regularly seeing 160+ km/h down the straight, compared to a pre-Airtab absolute max of 160 km/h. I would be keen to hear if anyone else has tried Airtabs out in any situations.

Lindsay Young
New Zealand

We state when an article has previously appeared only when the article is time sensitive. We’d suggest that if you can read a quarter of an article without realising it’s been run before then you can’t remember it very well!

Oval Cranks 1

In your recent column Driving Emotion on innovation that leaves modified cars for dead, your observation of oval-shaped chain-rings makes perfect sense from a muscle physiology perspective. The relationship between muscles force vs length has long been understood. This link is a good primer: or use You will immediately recognize the force vs length curves as similar to the ovality curves shown on Chris Bell's Highpath Engineering site.

Many people’s first contact with the application of matching load to muscle length is when using the Nautilus brand of exercise equipment. Here the drive chain/belt drapes over the ovality of the “nautilus shell” shaped gear/pulley. The intent is to better match the load on the muscle to its capability over the range of motion. Now imagine doing arm curls using free weights; a mass small enough to move at full extension and full contraction would be too small to effectively strengthen in the power zone near resting length. However choosing a larger mass would limit the range you could move it over. Similarly, I’ve thought other low hanging fruit would be scaling crank length to leg length.

George Barrett
United States

Oval Cranks 2

Re: Driving Emotion Engineering innovation that leaves modified cars for dead. I have a Repco road bike (Superlite) that is 10+ years old and it has "Bio Pace" chain rings that are elliptical. Like you say you don't feel the shape, it just feels easier. I thought that the idea was just a fad and manufacturers decided to revert to the norm. Did a little research - 10secs and came up with these resources for you and (note on recumbents right at end).

Simon Brown

Measuring Exhaust Pressure Pulses

In Frank's Exhaust, Part 2 you described a problem of measuring exhaust back pressure and recommended using an "electronic pressure transducer." But your article mentioned a problem with dealing with power pulses. This sounds like a problem we have reading non-sine wave shaped AC signals to get an RMS (root-mean-square) result. Could the algorithms for RMS measurement be used to measure the effective back pressure?

Bob Wilson
United States


Technology, technology wonderful technology!

In response to Technology of Adaptive Cruise Control... So, will our cars come with ottoman's next so we can put our feet up, have a drink and eat popcorn while we watch the latest Harry Potter movie on our widescreen windscreen, and never touch the controls?! One wonders where the heck we're heading with all this stuff. Maybe the car manufacturers should be inventing technology to identify driver fault on the occurrence of motor incidents.  Even better still put the blame on the car...  "I didn't do it, the car was driving me!" And when this technology fails, the car manufacturers can charge us our life savings to replace it because we absolutely need this stuff to get from point A to B.

The money invested into this type technology would be better used in fixing our roads, then maybe we could use the technology when we travel on our Christmas Holiday sojourn along the Highway One parking lot.

My philosophy = KISS. Nevertheless, another great article!!

Malcolm Land

Car airbag logging system can identify faults in driving – more on this coming soon.

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