Friday, 24 January 2014

Market Driven Economy VS Performance Driven Society

Can you imagine how varied our streets would be today, if at the cessation of hostilities in 1946 the US goverment had mandated all brands selling cars in the USA must have one model line made of Aluminum.

 To kickstart this they could have offered a hundred year supply of aluminum in the form of surplus aircraft etc. Aluminum is the most common alloy on our scarcely resourced planet. It is also one of the easiest to recycle. Mined once used forever. If this goverment intervention had been planned today Aluminum would be incredibly cheap. Likely used instead of plastic in most applications. Cars would last indefinitely. Its not the mechanicals that kill a car, its the corrosion. Furthermore plasma electrolytic oxidation could replace painting. Oh what a wonderful world it would be.

The aluminum cars that do exist are universally desirable. There is no debating the world would be a better place if all cars where aluminum instead of steel. Not only for their green credentials but also for the boost to performance gained through weight loss.

 The holy grail of handling, which is really what makes daily driving inspired or insipid is a prisoner of physics. Where the rubber reality meets the road in this equation is the unsprung weight or more scientifically expressed mass. Less weight in the wheels tires and parts of the suspension result in a ride that is not only more responsive, but also runs freer of unwanted vibrational feedback.  If you want a dramatically superior bicycle lose twenty pounds.

That is why you will find more exotic alloys in the suspension system than any other place in the car. (a slight tangent, for this reason the fashion of big wheels is the opposite of form following function, your car will handle best with the smallest wheels possible) Synchronicity applies if you lighten the load on the unsprung portion of the suspension.  Behold magical additional ancillary benifts: less materials used, and less energy (smaller lighter power-train) required for the same performance.  Why has it taken until 2014 for this obvious wisdom to be applied to the mainstream?

Ford with the aluminum bodied F-150 is the first mainstream brand  to the plate. Pioneers get the arrows as Sony with the Betamax can sadly testify. Products like the Betamax did not fail due to a flawed execution like the Apple Newton. Ground breaking innovations mostly fail because we have enabled the masters of human philology to create a market driven economy instead of a performance driven society.

The pickup is the heart and soul of the redneck culture. Will it buy science over superstition? In the case of the F 150 the logic is so irrefutable that it should easily win the hearts and minds. Nothing makes a redneck cry faster than the first rust on the quarter-panel with no zero interest loan from the dealer to nip it in the bud.

However that has not stopped GM and Chrysler from embarrassing themselves in a desperate attempt to cast doubt on the truth.  Chrysler communicates "Battleships are not made of Aluminum, steel is real" GM sublimes " Submarines are made out of tough rolled steel and so are our truckbeds"  GM and Chrysler are not stupid, they say stupid things because it works.

Clever Snake Oil statements like those above gaining traction with a sizable public are the reason we live in such a troubled world. Godspeed Aluminum automobiles and all their ancillary benefits. Next time someone tries and sell you a battleship when you need a streetcar, you know who to give your money to!
Image above created by William Banzia7. Surfing with Food and Beverage warning in effect.


  1. Ford is not the pioneer here. Land Rover has been producing the aluminum-bodied Defender and its predecessor since 1948. A production run of over 2.5 million. The concept has been proven over and over again, in the world's quintessential rugged utility vehicle. There is a world outside of the United States, you know. Please try to pay attention to it from time to time...

    1. Hi Evil Brad. A picture is worth a thousand words? Did you read the paragraph of that talks about the desirability of the existing aluminum cars, all exotics. There is a picture of the new all aluminum Land Rover below. My point was that despite the proof, taking a aluminum bodied truck with a steel frame mainstream was still a gamble.

    2. And Evil Brad, as you so accurately point out, I dd not make my point clearly. Thanks for the editing help.

  2. I saw the Range Rover in the photo. But that is not what I am talking about; that is just a luxury vehicle, a toy like the other cars pictured with it. The Defender, and the Series Land Rovers before it, are true utility vehicles, which have been the workhorse of a pretty major -- and demanding -- chunk of the world for the past 60 years. Relied upon in their millions. That's pretty damn mainstream if you ask me. Only "exotic" if your horizons are defined by American pop culture...

    1. Point taken Brad. Growing up one of my neighbors had one, the rood was gone but it still hauled logs and was used as like today's ATV. Betmaxx sold millions of units and was used by pro's until very recently. I have seen very few defenders in my life, and I have lived and traveled far and wide. I would say the Defender was a specialty vehicle likely used more in the UK and the thrid world commonweatlth than the resat of the world