By Andrew Mackinnon
Last updated: 7th December, 2021
Australia needs to manufacture motor vehicles again, now that it no longer manufactures any motor vehicles in the country. Japan hosts car manufacturing, similarly South Korea, the United States of America, Germany, France, China, Russia and the United Kingdom. Multiple African countries also host car manufacturing – Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda.
Car manufacturing is right up near the apex of manufacturing, which is probably occupied by aircraft manufacturers. Innovative Australian minds need something to apply their skills to. It wouldn’t be difficult at all to build a superlative range of motor vehicles in Australia because the overwhelming majority of vehicles manufactured around the world today are poorly designed. Front-wheel drive vehicles are an engineering abomination that account for at least 60% of all motor vehicles manufactured worldwide today. Toyota makes cars that are so ridiculously curvy that at least 10% of the potential cargo space in their vehicles is eviscerated. Mercedes-Benz vehicles have an absurd number of unnecessary, complicated electronic systems that make them very difficult and very expensive to maintain.
I suggest an Australian car manufacturer named “Boxcar”. Its point of difference would be the boxy design of its vehicles which maximises their cargo space. Instead of wildly curved sides that intrude upon potential cargo space, its sides would be mostly vertical, including its rear. It costs a lot of money to acquire and run a motor vehicle, so it makes logical sense that its cargo space would be as large as possible to enable the vehicle to carry as much as possible. Why would anybody want to spend a lot of money obtaining, running and maintaining their car, only to find that they can’t fit a fridge in the back because the sloping sides of the car prevent it from fitting next to the other cargo that they’re transporting?
To open the rear hatch of any vehicle and find that there is a lip, being a difference in height between the bottom of the hatch when closed and the level of the floor of the cargo space in the rear of the vehicle, is asinine. The bottom of the rear door or doors of the vehicles that Boxcar would produce (such as two barn doors of equal size) would be at the same height as the level of the floor of the cargo space in the rear of the vehicle, so that items can be easily moved into and out of this cargo space.
It would be ideal for Boxcar vehicles to be made of aluminium, in order to resist corrosion and minimise weight (thereby maximising their power to weight ratios), but I defer to the experts on the need for steel in the structural parts of the chassis.
Boxcar vehicles would be rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. No Boxcar vehicles would be front-wheel drive. Engines would only be mounted with their crankshafts parallel to the sides of the vehicles, unlike most ghastly front-wheel drive vehicles today.
Rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles with their engines mounted in this way are easier to maintain than front-wheel drive vehicles because the timing belt is accessible at the front of the engine bay and is therefore easier to replace. Replacement of the timing belt at the required service interval is critically important for many vehicles. Failure to replace the timing belt at the required service interval can result in the timing belt wearing out and breaking, which can lead to engine failure that necessitates the replacement of the engine, if the engine is not designed to allow the pistons and valves to cycle in an uncontrolled manner without hitting each other and thereby damaging each other.
There is one important reason why front-wheel drive vehicles became the standard to be followed in the middle of the 1980s, so that the majority of passenger vehicles produced today are front-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive vehicles are more difficult to work on, making it more difficult for vehicle owners to perform their own maintenance and repairs, which would save them many thousands of dollars in the long term on maintenance and repairs.
For example, it is much more difficult to change the clutch on a front-wheel drive vehicle with a manual transmission than a rear-wheel drive vehicle with a manual transmission, because the constant velocity joints on the front-wheel drive vehicle must be removed with difficulty before the manual transmission can be removed in order to change the clutch. It is also much more difficult to change the timing belt on a front-wheel drive vehicle than a rear-wheel drive vehicle, because the timing belt of the front-wheel drive vehicle is close to the side of the engine bay so that it is difficult to access, whereas the timing belt of the rear-wheel drive vehicle is accessible at the front of the engine bay and is therefore easier to replace. It is also difficult to change the constant velocity joints on a front-wheel drive vehicle, which need to be repaired or replaced periodically when the rubber boots surrounding the constant velocity joints wear out and tear, allowing dirt and other contaminants into the grease surrounding the constant velocity joints, thereby damaging them.
At least 60% of the motor vehicles manufactured in the world today are front-wheel drive in order to provide the dealerships of motor vehicle manufacturers with a source of revenue from performing maintenance and repairs on the front-wheel drive motor vehicles that they sell.
The engines that would power Boxcar vehicles would ideally be diesel engines, both reducing the risk of fire in an accident (since diesel fuel is not easily ignited) and allowing them to run on recycled cooking oil.
The transmission of the Boxcar vehicles, whether manual or automatic, would not be bolted onto the rear of the engine, but would instead be positioned just in front of the rear wheels near the rear of the vehicle. The differential would bolt onto the rear of the transmission and would drive the two rear axles (i.e. constant velocity joints) that drive the rear wheels.
For vehicles with manual transmissions, the clutch attaches to the flywheel at the rear of the crankshaft of the engine in the normal way. It is covered by a bell housing, which has an input shaft built into it with a circular flange on the end of the input shaft protruding out of the bell housing. The manual transmission near the rear of the vehicle has another input shaft protruding from it with another circular flange. A propeller shaft transmits rotational power from the bell housing to the manual transmission. The propeller shaft bolts onto the circular flange protruding out of the bell housing at one end of the propeller shaft and onto the circular flange protruding from the manual transmission at the other end of the propeller shaft.
For vehicles with automatic transmissions, the layout is similar except that, instead of a clutch attached to the flywheel, there is a torque converter attached to the flywheel.
This layout was popularised by the Volvo 300 Series, which was manufactured by Volvo from 1976 to 1991. The transmission of vehicles in the Volvo 300 Series is positioned in front of the rear wheels near the rear of the vehicle.
There are two important advantages to positioning the transmission, whether manual or automatic, in front of the rear wheels near the rear of the vehicle.
Firstly, the weight distribution of the vehicle is dramatically improved. Instead of most of the weight of the vehicle being in the front half of the vehicle, predominated by the engine and transmission, the weight of the vehicle is more evenly distributed between the front and rear of the vehicle. It is common knowledge that many rear-wheel drive vehicles whose transmissions are bolted onto the rear of the engine suffer from a lack of traction at the rear wheels and from deficient handling as a result of a lack of weight at the rear of the vehicle.
Secondly, it is much easier to change the clutch on a vehicle whose manual transmission is positioned in front of the rear wheels near the rear of the vehicle than on a vehicle whose manual transmission is bolted onto the rear of engine. This is because one only has to remove the lightweight bell housing from the rear of the engine, after first removing the propeller shaft, in order to change the clutch on a vehicle whose manual transmission is positioned in front of the rear wheels near the rear of the vehicle. There is no need to awkwardly remove and replace the heavy manual transmission.
The rear suspension of Boxcar vehicles would be so over-engineered that the rear axles (i.e. constant velocity joints) never break no matter what conditions and stresses they’re subjected to.
Most motor vehicle manufacturers around the world today design their vehicles to wear out prematurely so that the owners will be forced to buy overpriced spare parts in order to maintain and repair them. Boxcar could earn itself a stellar reputation by designing its vehicles to last as long as possible, thus winning over the hearts and minds of people who have long since abandoned car ownership to shield themselves from this chicanery which has been going on for decades.
It is a national embarrassment that the most popular vehicles in Australia, the Toyota Corolla, the Toyota Camry, the Toyota Hilux and the Toyota Landcruiser, are all designed and manufactured many thousands of kilometres away in Japan.
I look forward to the day when the most popular vehicles in Australia are designed and built in Australia by Boxcar.