LightAuto

Front Wheel Drive

The story of  pioneers of the front wheel drive motorcar

Part five The Front Wheel Drive Revolution.

At the end of the nineteen fifties, front wheel drive had become almost conventional. Citroen and Panhard in France DKW/AUTO UNION in Germany Wartburg in the DDR and SAAB in Sweden were producing cars exclusively of this type.  The preferred layout being with the engine inline, ahead of the front wheels, with the exception of the Citroen DS19 that had the engine behind. The transverse engine layout had almost gone out of favour, with only the Trabant made for a captive market in the DDR and a small number of ultra light cars, latter day cyclecars, made by Berkeley in the UK.
 DKW produced a prototype Junior in 1957. A 700cc twin cylinder engine was specified, but when the Junior reached production in 1959 it had a 741cc three cylinder engine in an inline layout. It was a small version of the F91. The F91 had evolved through the F93 with a slightly larger engine, to become the Auto Union 1000, now with a 980cc engine. The Junior which increased in overall size and engine capacity to 890cc as the F12, was made from 1963 until 1965.
DKW Junior
A front wheel drive version of the Morris Minor was built but not developed, in 1951/2. With a transverse engine with the gearbox inline and equal length drive shafts with an intermediate jack shaft to extend one of the shafts. It wasn't developed for production. The British Motor Corporation decided to produce a new small car and the design work started in March 1957 Alex Issigonis who had designed the Minor, returned to the front wheel drive layout for this new design. The aim was to produce a very compact car with maximum space utilization. To achieve this Issigonis decided to fit the engine transversely in the car, with the gearbox located in the engine sump. With the final drive unit gear driven from the gearbox it could be located centrally. This allowed equal length drive shafts to be used, without the need for an added jack shaft. The component that made the design acceptable to Alex Issigonis was the Birfield-Rzeppa constant velocity joints made by Hardy Spicer fitted at the outer end of the drive shafts. Early Mini's had flexible rubber drive couplings at the inboard end of the drive shafts. Later manual gearbox models had offset sphere type joints. While Auto-box and Cooper S models had universal joints and sliding joint shafts.  Other features of the Mini design where rubber springs and ten-inch wheels. Prototypes where running on the road in October 1957 and production started in 1959. It was first marketed as the Austin Seven and the Morris Mini-Minor and it wasn't until 1962 that the name was changed to Mini, after popular usage.
BMC Mini
In 1961 Citroen introduced the Ami 6. The 2CV platform was fitted with a 602cc 22bhp engine and a odd four door body. It was produced until 1971 and over a million examples were produced.
Citroen Ami 6
Lancia's first front wheel drive car the Flavia was introduced in 1960. Fitted with a 1488cc flat four engine mounted inline ahead of the final drive. With independent front suspension using a transverse leaf spring and a dead rear axle with half elliptic springs.
Lancia Flavia

Renault abandoned their rear engined small car policy when they introduced the R3 and R4 in 1961. The engine/transmission layout of the 4CV, with the gearbox ahead of the inline engine, was located in the front of a practical hatchback unitary chassis, with the necessary changes to the drive shafts and transmission joints. The long forgotten R3 had a 603cc engine and the R4 a 747cc or 845cc engine. Over eight million R4's were made by 1992 when production ceased. Renault didn't convert fully to the front wheel drive concept until the 1970's.
Renault R4
The next Issigonis design the 1100, was introduced in 1962. At first badged as a Morris but Austin and other brands where later available. Using a 1098cc version of BMC's "A" series engine in an installation the same as the mini. Rubber springs where again used but this time interconnected hydraulically. A system that was fitted to Mini's for a while. The chassis/body unit, styled by Pinin Farina was much roomier than the Mini.
BMC 1100 

In 1962, Ford of Germany intoduced their first front wheel drive car the 12M (Cardinal). It had a 1.2 litre V4 engine ahead of the front wheels, as can be seen in the picture below. This engine was later used in the Saab 96.

Lancia's next new car also had front wheel drive. The Fulvia was first produced in 1963. The 1100cc narrow angle "V" double overhead camshaft four engine was mounted inline ahead of the final drive and four speed gearbox. The suspension was similar to the Flavia.
Lancia Fulvia
 

The last of the two-stroke DKW/Auto union cars the F102 was first produced in 1964. With a 1175cc three cylinder engine mounted in usual DKW manner.
DKW F102 

Diversity of drive train configuration was still a feature of front wheel drive cars of this period, this was to change in the years to come.
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