GERMANY : ITS ROADS AND ITS CARS

GERMANY: ITS ROADS AND ITS CARS

MR. BRIAN G. ROBBINS, M.Sc., read his paper, "Sonic Impressions of Germany, Its Roads and Its Cars," before several Graduate Branches of the I.A.E. last February and March. As we are unlikely to have papers on the cars of France, Italy or Russia, this must be taken as completing the series of I.A.E. papers on the influence of national conditions on car design. Those dealing with Great Britain (Maurice Platt) and the U.S.A. (Maurice 011ey ) have already been reviewed in MOTOR SPORT. Mr. Robbins's paper is rather jumbled and deals rather extensively with political matters, while the author quotes speedometer figures of perform

ance (in an paper 1) and refers to two weekly motor journals by the names of their publishers in the quite unnecessarily highbrow manner of the scientist. But much of interest is contained therein, although the paper is a less informative analytical survey of the effect of national conditions on design than were those of Platt and 011ey. Some extracts follow, with Editorial comment within brackets. In referrinab to the German State Motor Roads the author states that the courage and foresight entailed in the decision to build these roads cannot be over-estimated. There is no mystery about the roads themselves. . Given the territory, the labour and the necessary tonnage of materials, the work could have proceeded under the direction of any soundly qualified civil engineer. The gigantic scheme consists of constructing a network of about 4,500 miles of double-tracked roads reserved solely for motor-driven vehicles, free of cross-roads, and level-crossings, built with the object of linking up the main districts and important cities of Germany, to enable the motorist to travel with a minimum of expenditure on fuel, with a maximum factor of safety. [Acceleration and braking certainly burn fuel at an alarming rate ; an Italian 1,100 c.c. saloon in which we recently covered 90 miles in two hours on British main roads did only 20 to 21 m.p.g.] Six hundred and fifty miles were opened to traffic on the 27th September, 1930, and another 650 miles will be opened each year for a further six or seven years. Several hundred thousands of workers will be employed on road work and related industries, such as plant making, building material, and motor-car manufacture, during this period [while our unemployed draw the dole or

go to conscription camps]. Maximum safety of movement on these German motor roads is assisted by total exclusion of pedestrian, cycle and animal traffic, complete separation of Opposing traffic streams, elimination of crossings, clear control of traffic at inter-sections, clear and simple road signals. and no right of access from adjoining frontage lands. !Note the Kingston By-Pass, one of London's most important exits, has been rendered one-way in patches only, and the central kerbs are largely invisible at night, for the lack of cheap, foolproof reflector studs. Widening this road entails hanging about thousands of antiquated lanterns whose oil-consumption must be enormous, although advertising posters, houses and churches are rendered effectively visible by modern floodlighting methods. And this busy road is extensively ribbon-built. At the Malden section, where frontage is safely isolated by cycle paths, motor traffic is cautiously restricted to :30 m.p.h.] Maximum traffic flow and lowest cost of operation are assisted by uniform road surface of high standards of accuracy and permanence, minimum tractive resistance by easy gradients, ample curves, and super-elevation where necessary, highest attainable standards of Visibility, and parking places off the highway. The absence of severe gradients has shown high horse-power to be unnecessary, and whereas at the Berlin Show of 1936 certain commercial vehicles and passenger coaches were exhibited with power-units of 300 li.p., similar vehicles shown last spring had engines: of approximately half that output. Considerably higher top gears may also be employed. Many production cars were quite unable to stand the strain of Autobalmen driving, and bearings, pistons, valves and gaskets have been found wanting. [We have heard of an expensive British sports-car throwing rods on the straight bit of " A.1 " near Grantham]. Certain cars taken to Germany from other countries have been special offenders and have thus emphasised that touring cars can only be driven at speed on normal mixed traffic highways for comparatively short durations. [Brooklands proved that ages ago and goes On proving it.] The average surface of German roads other than the Autobahnen is not good, which fact doubtless has had a material effect in encouraging independent suspension. As the motor road system becomes more complete, however, so the more conventional and simple methods of springing will be found quite satisfactory. [Opel has already returned to ordinary front suspension for one new model.] The danger of drivers falling asleep at the wheel by reason of fatigue, the monotony of the road and engine noise is very real on the Autobahnen, and is a constant menace very difficult to combat. [But lots of drivers seem very nearly to fall asleep on our rolling English roads. The Autobahnen are not without bends interesting at the speeds at which they are likely to be taken.] The author then mentions the export and production figures for the German Motor Industry. The export figures increased from 7,784 vehicles in 1929 to 23,423 in 1935 and the increase between 1934 and 1935 was 77 per cent. In January 1937, Germany exported twentythree cars to England ; in January 1938, the number was 1,067. The output is. 271,000 annually, equalling that for the United Kingdom in 1935. The factories are very scattered. Government assistance and relief from direct taxation are emphasised. The percentage sales for 1935 are given as : Opel 42.8; D.K.W. 15.7; Wanderer 4.1 ; Horch 1.1 ; Audi 0.4; Daimler-Benz 6.4; Adler 9.8;

Hanomag 4.5; othe.s 7.4. Ford 5.2 and other foreign maies 2.8. The tendency towa 1s eliminating the chassis frame and malmg ti e steel body shell serve to carry the power unit, transmission and axles is emphasised, also that of the increasing r her of streamline bodies availabln on production touring cars. Opel Ladet ' and Opel " Olympia " are given as examples of the former, also 21-1itre Adler, and Maybach of the latter. [Lagonda and Lancia used composite construction years ago.] The paper concludes with notes on the four German best sellers—Opel in the 4135 to 4485 group, D.K.W. at 4169, Adler as 4230 to 4370, and Mercedes-Benz at 4390 to 41,890 (British market prices). Small engine sizes, independent suspension, with one exception independent rear suspension, and both f.w.d. and rear drive are evident amongst the best-seller types. The author mentions that he was driven at speed from Russelsheim to Cologne in a 2/-litre Opel saloon and. enjoyed a most comfortable journey. He was also driven from Stuttgart to Russelsheim in a 2.3 litre Mercedes-Benz and a very fast and comfortable journey was accomplished. Part of the route lay along the Heidelberg-Frankfurt State Motor Road and the maintained speed, according to speedometer, was about 105 k.p.h. (approximately 67 m.p.h.). The paper closes with reference to the AutoUnion and Mercedes-Benz racing cars and the D.K.W. and B.M.W. record-breaking motor-cycles, and tribute is paid to the late Berndt. Rosemeyer. [Perhaps the lesson of these three papers is that it is wise to use a car manufactured in the country in which one is resident. But there seems no hope of British John Citizens buying only British cars—no more so than of our car manufacturers boycotting sales to the police to put an end to prowling gongsters. Certainly our cheap small cars do not handle like Continental cars over twisty, rough going, but in the larger classes the new 90 m.p.h. Wolseley 25 and 3-litre Talbot, for instance, can surely stay the American invasion, nor does any country build a finer big sports-car than our 41-litre Bentley.]