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New is not always first

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Random Access Memory - we humans call it recollection - of recounting historic events or facts is just not as reliable as RAM –hopefully- is in a computer.

How many times have you been given to understand that a certain item or occurrence was the first, — only to learn that, someone, somewhere, sometime, had already “been there, done that”?

Let’s look at a few occurrences or inventions that were hyped to be brand new, but on second look had been around long before; the electric vehicle (EV) itself is a prime example, but that is another story.

One highly advertised innovation in this day of striving for alternative transportation is gasoline direct injection. It is a great advancement from the carburetor, and an evolution of the throttle body, which was just an electronic carburetor.

Electronic management of the 4-stroke engine is the greatest advance in more than a century in the life of the internal combustion engine. (ICE)

Explaining the 4 strokes in simple terms: Every pre-electronic-age engine on the downward, or intake stroke, had the piston(s) suck gasoline with the air from the carburetor, and most of it mixed with air in the cylinder(s) and burned after the upward, or compression stroke when the sparkplug had ignited the mixture. The expanding hot air of the combustion (never an explosion) pushes the piston(s) down to turn the crankshaft (power stroke), before moving upward again during the exhaust stroke to remove the burned air-fuel mixture.

Those are the four strokes of the most common ICE; hence 4-stroke engine.

Now to the mistaken believes: While many of the newest hi-end cars today have direct fuel injection, the famous Mercedes 300SL ‘Gullwing’ of 1954 was the first to have gasoline direct injection (GDI) sixty years ago — that is what most people believe(d). The hidden truth is that the tiny Gutbrod post-war creation of 1952 was the first production car with GDI. With a tiny 2-cylinder two-stroke engine of only 663 cc, GDI boosted the Superior 700E’s power to 30 HP, 22 kW (kiloWatt) by today’s new measurement. One of these engines is on display at the German Museum in Munich, and a restored Gutbrod, sold by RM Auction in February 2013, raised $16,100, more than ten times its original price.

Car collectors are the guardians of our automotive history; and “museums are the memory of society”, said Lea Vestergaard, an Australian scholar of museums.

Turbo-charging is the latest and greatest way to gain back horse-power which was lost by downsizing engines to increase fuel efficiency and lower emissions in our current quest of alternative transportation.

New? Hardly. BMW and Porsche are considered to be the pioneers of that ‘new’ technology on the 2002 Turbo in 1973 and the 911 Turbo in 1974.

Wrong again. Oldsmobile offered the Jetfire engine with turbo-charging already in 1961, as well as on the potentially amazing Corvair with its 911-Turbo-like engine, the car that was suffocated and choked to death by the book of a politically inspired zealot who mistakenly thought he knew something about technology.

Less exciting than the technology may be advances in safety and comfort, but just as important; take the safety belt for example; Not Volvo or Mercedes, but American car manufacturers Nash (now extinct) in 1949, and Ford in 1955 offered seat belts as options. Volvo’s compatriot Saab introduced seat belts as standard equipment in 1958, and soon this became the standard in automobiles.

Almost forgotten, it was really Tucker who first had seat belts in its 1948 Torpedo. The car also was the first to feature a telescoping steering column, padded dashboard and many other safety features which can be explored at the above link.

These examples show that history from as recent as fifty years ago is difficult to relay. Today’s search engines (should that not be motors, being electrically powered?) make it possible to uncover many almost forgotten facts.

Soon we may be able to do that right from our engine-less electric motor-car – in the coming age of the connected car.

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