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Ludwig C. Boehner, Volkswagen’s Chief Engineer, read an address two years ago before the Magnesium Association,a report of which appears in a recent issue of Magnesium. Herr Boehner said that the use of magnesium contributed a great deal in keeping down the weight of the VW car and micro-bus, the curb/payload ratios of which he quoted, respectively, as 1,600 lb./850 lb. and 2,400 lb./1,700 lb. The VW lorry has a ratio of 2,100 lb./ 2,000 lb.

Herr Boehner stressed the need for low engine weight when this is located at the rear of the vehicle and gave a weight of 270 lb. for the VW power unit, of which the engine alone weighs only 170 lb. He went on to say that a greater load on the back than on the front wheels is inevitable with rear-engine location, and that the weight distribution of the VW — 45:55 with two front-seat passengers, 42:58 with four passengers and luggage — should not be exceeded if satisfactory control is to be retained.

A saving of 110 lb. is achieved by using magnesium engine castings weighing 36 lb. in finished form, which represents 7 per cent. The combined weight of the machined split crankcase halves and crankcase assembly is only 20.5 lb., principally because wall thickness and sections are no heavier than would be necessary in an equivalent grey-iron casting. The crankshaft runs in bearings formed of aluminium tubing, only No. 2 bearing being split, and the camshaft runs direct in the magnesium. Magnesium, said Herr Bochner, has excellent bearing qualities. If reboring is necessary, VW machine about 0.010 in. off the face of the two halves and then re-assemble. Incidentally, 25 studs are used in these assemblies, screwed in mechanically in one operation.

The VW split transmission housing and back-axle assembly, also in magnesium, weighs 13.5 lb without studs. Other magnesium parts (weights within brackets) are: transmission support bracket (1.4 lb.), steering-box cover (0.19 lb.), oil-pump housing (0.24 lb.), camshaft timing gear (0.53 lb.).

VW produce all magnesium castings in their own foundry, approximately 500 men working in three shifts (this in 1955). The area is 65,000 sq. ft. The melting furnaces are of steel, induction heated. More than 600 tons of metal can be melted before relining of the furnaces is necessary. There are nine furnaces capable of holding 1,300 lb. of metal and melting it in approximately 40 minutes, and these are 36 furnaces of 400- to 1,000-lb. capacity. VW magnesium alloy is similar to S.A.E. composition 501A. A small amount of beryllium is added. About 120,000 crankcase castings could be made from one mould before re-working was necessary but approximately 70 per cent, of waste metal had to be trimmed off, so a conversion to pressure die-casting was introduced, the transmission housing and small parts already being die-cast. The pressure die-cast machines work on the cold chamber principle, each one producing about 18 transmission halves an hour, a piece every three minutes. VW buy magnesium in America, Norway and Germany.

In drawing our attention to this paper, John Reed, of Magnesium Elektron Ltd., expressed the hope that British manufacturers of new small cars will not overlook the advantages of magnesium-alloy castings.

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An article by E. R. Bonner in the October issue of the Irish journal Motoring Life raises again the question of how the Volkswagen originated. After paying the usual tribute to the excellence of this car, and recalling that over 50,000 were sold in America last year, Mr. Bonner suggests that Wolfsburg may be hard put to it to evolve a new model, basing his argument on the fact that Dr. Porsche is dead and that it is possible that, in any case, he merely copied Ledwinka. Mr. Bonner refers to the 1921 Type 12 Tatra, designed by Ledwinka, which had a front-mounted, fan-cooled flat-twin engine, a backbone chassis, all-round independent suspension, and engine and transmission formed as a single power pack. In 1934, he argues, Ledwinka moved even nearer to the subsequent Porsche design, because by then the Tatra incorporated rear engine and aerodynamic body. In 1936, he emphasises, the new Type 97 flat-four air-cooled Tatra was introduced which “anticipated every major design feature which has commonly come to be regarded as peculiarly Volkswagen.”

Although this argument could be as nebulous as suggesting that Alvis is responsible for the Citroen because both have built front wheel-drive cars, historians may like to investigate in detail the arguments of Mr. Bonner. But he is probably wide of the mark so far as a new VW is concerned, because, at Earls Court, we were told that although this is unlikely to appear before 1962, several experimental new models are in existence, with the Porsche company looking after research work.

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While at the Plaistow Repair Depot of VW Motors Ltd. the other day we had further evidence of the esteem in which these cars are held by their owners. A 1947 model came in, distinguishable by its divided back window, short gear-lever (surrounded by an ashtray!) controlling a crash-box and cable brakes. It had been involved in a minor accident and its owner was arranging for it to be repaired and resprayed. “The mileometer has been round three times but I wouldn’t change it for any other car,” he said. He has his eye on a Karman-Ghia, for which there is a waiting-list of many months. Even in America the waiting list for an ordinary VW is six months!

*

From Australian Motor Sports comes further news of the fabulous Round-Australia Trial, which covered 10,500 miles and in which VWs finished in the first six places and comprised the three highest-placed teams. They write: “Last year, part of the mountings on the front suspension gave trouble on that ridiculous Kajabbe run. Despite the fact that such strenuous conditions will never be encountered by 99 per cent. of production cars, examples of the fracture were flown to Germany for examination, and as a result were redesigned. The whole exercise is tackled with that typical Teutonic thoroughness which was displayed in the European racing season of 1955, by the Daimler-Benz concern. In each case, the tremendous increase in sales more than warranted the effort.”

Incidentally, we have been taken to task for not mentioning a British achievement in this VW-dominated toughest of trials. So we willingly pay tribute to the 3½-litre Mk. VIII Jaguar which, so ably driven by Mrs. Geordie Anderson, finished seventh behind the 1,100-c.c. economy cars. Standard Vanguards were eighth and ninth, a Holden 10th.

*

The minority of readers who chide us for publishing so much about the Volkswagen may be interested to know that Motor Sport is by no means alone in this. The American sporting monthly Road and Track usually has plenty to say about them, and in its November issue published an article — “Beauty and the Beetle — Much as we admire the Volkswagen’s virtues, it wins few beauty contests —  should it?” After saying that to meddle with the VW’s basic beetleness could be heresy in the face of such success — and, incidentally, firmly attributing the VW’s conception to the brilliance of Dr. Porsche — they give two possible re-designs of the body that should appeal to American buyers. — W. B.

750 M.C.

The 750 Motor Club, which caters for Austin Seven owners and builders of Austin Seven-engined and Ford Ten-engined Specials, now has more than 2,000 members and has sold over 4,000 copies of its “Special Builders’ Guide.” A bulletin is issued monthly. The Secretary is C. Peck, Fernlea, Westerham Hill, Biggin Hill, Kent.

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Showing the Flag

Richard E. V. Gomm, 63, Ford Street, Hockley, Birmingham 18, make those metal Union Jack emblems which certain patriotic motorists like to bolt to the bonnets of British-made cars. Obtainable from leading garages and accessory stores, these Gomm badges cost 16s. a pair, complete with fixing bolts. They measure 2¼ in. by 1⅜ in.; owners of lightweight specials will note that the pair weigh 2 oz.

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Foreign Cars in U.S.A.

According to Global Press, sales of European cars in the U.S.A. surge towards a 100 per cent. increase over those of last year, whereas American factories are experiencing a falling off in export sales, which have slumped 28 per cent. over 1956 exports in the first six months of this year.

Small cars are making considerable inroads into the American market. An analysis of sales to the end of June shows Volkswagen still in top position, with over 31,000 sold, although VW’s share in the total market has dropped from 58 per cent. in 1956 to 37 per cent. this year, due to more cars in the market. Of other European cars, Renault sold 7,334 cars, M.G. 6,615, Dagenham Ford 5,792 and Volvo 5,473 cars in the first six months of this year. Volvo imports rose from a mere 100 in the first four months of 1956 to 5,000 for the same period this year, and Fiat sent its “floating garage,” the Italterra, to the Pacific coast with 1,000 cars last June.

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Correction

The Butterworth Engineering Co. Ltd. asks us to state that the Elva-A.J.B. did not retire at the B.A.R.C. Autumn Goodwood meeting with a dropped exhaust valve. It retired with stripped teeth in the gearbox.

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