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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wheel Drive Links