Has Anyone Built a Car This Way?

I mean, with an engine designed to be cheap, and run for about 50,000 miles. at this point, you would remove it and put a new one in. the engine would be made of cheap stamped metal (no cast block), and be ultralight. It would be made in such a way that no repairs would be needed for its 50 K mile lifespan. The money you would save from repairs/maintenance would be a plus, and you would always have a "next to new’ car. The engine would be designed so that it could be simply unbolted and lifted out, an engine swap would take 30 minutes.
Did anyone ever build such a car?

Yeah, it was called the Yugo*!* :smiley:

Seriously, automobiles are very complex devices throughout, and they subject the human body to seriously dangerous situations. There is a minimum level of complexity and durability that must be maintained. Plus you cannot make an internal combustion engine out of stamped metal nor can you design one with that specific a lifetime. If 50% of them lasted the 50K miles the other 25% would go 70K and the last 25% only 30K.

Again, like the Yugo, a cheap car is going to be junk its entire lifetime.

Crosley built a car with a stamped sheet metal engine in the 40s. I don’t think cars generally lasted 50k miles then, though.

YUP! - See here :smiley: The problem was that returning GIs and new families wanted a Big, Quality, Showy car rather than a small cheap efficient one.

I’ve seen pictures of a 1930’s milk/delivery truck that had a slide-out “power module” in the back much like the drivetrain of a 1960s Volkswagen only with a 4 cylinder flathead. Modules could be exchanged for repair to keep the truck in service. I’ve seen design exercises (Porsche?) of an “updatable” car with easily changed body panels and major parts. These provisions seem expensive would only appeal to a few enthusiasts.

The hard part is you can’t design durability this precisely, it depends on maintenance, useage, environment, etc. Performance generally declines, a engine won’t simply stop working, so you’d have a lot of unhappy customers willing to keep driving worn-out engines but unwilling to buy another of your brand. Also it’s easier and cheaper to design a little better quality that to add the cost of quick change and easy service features.

It sounds like you’re describing an air-cooled Volkswagen. You would still have to do maintenance every 10,000 miles though (IIRC), but the engine can be swapped in far less than 30 minutes.

Thinking about it, people have made hydraulic lifters and electronic ignitions for these. Apart from oil changes, these might extend the time to scheduled maintenance to 50,000 miles.

The idea of a swappable engine is very old. J. Walter Christie was using one in 1909.

making the engine out of stamped metal wouldn’t really be all that cheap; you’d still need the metal to be thick enough not to distort under physical load and thermal expansion, and still would require more or less the same kinds of finish machining as a cast block e.g. for the cylinders, deck, cam/main bearings, etc. plus the cylinder head(s) would still have to be cast anyway.

considering how labor intensive it would be to make such a thing, I actually wouldn’t be surprised if sand casting an iron block was considerably cheaper.

Hmmmm not really. Even if your engine idea could work, the cars interior and exterior would age. Cars with 50-100k miles don’t appear or smell new.

I saw an unrecognizable car on the road a few weeks back. Had never seen one before, and I didn’t know what it was. I searched online, to no avail.

Thanks to your post steronz I was able to determine that it was a 1948 Crosley Woody Station Wagon, like this: http://cdn.barrett-jackson.com/staging/carlist/items/Fullsize/Cars/93569/93569_Rear_3-4_Web.jpg

Anyway thanks for that and I don’t want to hijack the thread.

You are very much not recalling correctly. The factory-recommended oil change intervals were 3,000 for normal service and 1,500 for cold weather or city driving, and you had to do a valve adjustment at least every other oil change.

Certainly back in the hippie days, people would buy VW’s, not maintain them well, and wind up routinely replacing the engine. That definitely wasn’t how they were designed to be operated, though, and rather defeated the purpose of driving the economical little bugs. With good routine maintenance, a VW engine would last pretty close to 100,000 miles.

Interestingly, a lot of the real die-hard VW drivers who put a lot of miles on theirs would just plan on rebuilding/replacing the engine every 80-100k or so but sometime in the 80’s or 90’s when oil started getting better VW engines stopped wearing out. These days going well over 100k even to 200k on a rebuilt aircooled VW engine isn’t unusual. You still gotta do those valve adjustments though. (Unless you’ve got a sweet hydraulic lifter setup.)

Interesting…yet, you can still buy single grade motor oil today-why? Why would you use it?

small engines (think lawnmowers and industrial engines) sometimes use it; single-viscosity oils are available without detergent additives which is what you want if the engine doesn’t have an oil filter.

also, some older diesel engines (e.g. Detroit Diesel two-strokes) still on the road take a single-viscosity oil.

What are the max pressures and temperatures in a gasoline internal combustion engine (“ICE”)?
My WAG is that, just like for guns, you can make the non-critical parts out of stamped metal. But since at least the 80s, those non-critical parts are likely to be made from synthetics rather than stamped metal.
The critical parts, however, must be made of heavy duty stuff that will last a lot more than 50 000 miles or 1000 rounds. There’s no sweet spot where you get to use such high pressure and temperature for 50000 miles/1000 rounds safely but then a bit past that, it can’t be relied upon for more. The critical parts of both engines and guns have to be made of high quality steel.

Anyone know the kinds of steel alloys (perhaps even the technical numbers) used in the critical parts of guns and ICEs?

In guns, those critical parts are the barrel, chamber and at least parts of the bolt assembly. In engines, I presume the cylinders but I don’t know enough about ICE to say more. If anyone does, please tell us what parts of an ICE are put under the most stress. It would be ill-advised to make those out of stamped metal.

Back in 1971 I worked in an independent repair shop. Reliability of AC VWs in hot weather was horrible. We had many cars that averaged about 10K between serious engine repairs such as burnt valves, or destroyed engines.
I am totally underwhelmed with AC VW motors. They suck.

don’t know the grades, but steel alloys are typically used for the connecting rods, main bearing caps, valves, valve springs, tappets, rocker arms/pushrods (if equipped) and sometimes the crankshaft. nowadays cylinder heads are nearly always cast aluminum. cylinder blocks are either cast iron (gray iron for most with some new engines being cast from compacted-graphite iron) or cast aluminum usually with spin-cast iron liners for the cylinders.

I remember a friend cheerfully saying those same words back when he was making a good living fixing them.

I didn’t realize or recall that the oil change interval was that short. I do remember the oil system and oil temp being the weak link. It seemed that oil coolers extended the engine life; recycled oil (the cheap stuff from the convenience store) could wind up as thick as Karo Syrup when the car was towed in for a rebuild.

I remember that Kertzman’s VW (Quincy, MA) could swap out a VW engine in 16 minutes. the engines always sounded terrble-with a distinct metal on metal clashing sound.

makes sense; on a non-water-cooled engine the oil contributes a lot more to cooling the engine.

Yeah, air-cooled VW’s suck in hot weather, that’s why they kept selling them in incredible numbers in Mexico and Brazil until the mid-2000’s.

Not to insinuate anything about your early career, but a big part of the problem with the old VWs was that people took them to normal service stations where mechanics treated them just like an American car of the era. One of the big things was that mechanics tended to tune them by ear just like they would a Ford or Chevy, which resulted in them setting the idle way too low. The VW engine would idle just fine at 500 or so RPM, but it was supposed to be set closer to 1000 to keep the fan turning fast enough to keep it cool at idle. And of course you didn’t know the thing was overheating until you started seeing the flickering oil light of doom, by which time the damage was largely done. The famously easy engine swap was also easy to screw up because if you didn’t get all the engine compartment seals and ductwork on correctly (including the often overlooked thermostat) you’d get overheating problems in hot weather (and no heat in the winter.)

lots of people will settle for crappy cars if they’re cheap enough. How do you think Chrysler managed to sell so many Sebrings between 2007-2010? :wink: