Front Wheel Drive
The story of pioneers of
the front wheel drive motorcar
Chapter Seven Towards
Simca had been producing rear engined cars
since the beginning of the decade, but produced a front wheel drive car
in 1967 the 1100. They reused an old engine, but it's transverse location
and the transmission that went with it was new. The 1100 remained
in production for twelve years. During that time Simca became Chrysler-France
The Fiat 128 of 1969 was the final break
through by Dante Giacosa. After a lifetime of exceptional car designs both
conventional front engined and also rear engined cars. In the 128 he brought
together all the features that are considered conventional today. Transverse
engine/gearbox/ off set final drive with unequal length drive shafts, in
conjunction with MacPherson strut front suspension. Rack and pinion steering
and disc brakes on the front wheels. The 128 had wishbone and transverse
half-elliptic spring independent rear suspension.
Fiat had dealt with all the bugs associated
with a new concept in the Primula and the 128 was a great success with
one and a quarter million produced by 1972. Although the wheelbase was
2.45 metres, the overhang each end was minimal, resulting in a compact
car but with ample passenger space.
In the same year Autobianchi produced a
smaller car using a layout similar to the Primula but this time using McPherson
struts instead of the wishbone front suspension. The A112, was Fitted with
a 903cc engine that was also fitted to the rear engined Fiat 850.
By 1970 NSU had developed a conventionally
powered front wheel drive car. The K70 utilised the Ro80 floor-pan and
suspension. It was clothed in an angular body. In place of the rotary engine
it had a water-cooled inline four single overhead camshaft engine of 1605cc
developed from previous NSU air-cooled units and a conventional for speed
gearbox. It was ready for production when NSU merged with Audi that was
already part of the Volkswagen group of companies. The K70 was never marketed
as an NSU but in 1969 it became the Volkswagen K70. This was the first
Volkswagen front wheel drive car although every detail was of NSU origin.
Over two hundred thousand examples were produced a five year run, not
much by Volkswagen standards, but it was the beginning of the end of the
rear engined VW.
The next Autobianchi model was the A111,
introduced in 1970. Again similar in layout to the Primula but larger and
with a1438cc engine as fitted to the Fiat 124.
The following year, Montebone, Giacosea's
successor produced the Fiat 127. A smaller version of the 128, fitted with
the 903cc engine. From that time the Giacosa configuration proliferated
as other manufacturers adopted front wheel drive for their new models.
The Cherry 100A of 1970, was Nissan's first
venture into front wheel drive. By 1986 and four models later, over three
and a half million examples had been made. The Cherry had the by now classic
transversely mounted inline four cylinder engine, as have all subsequent
Nissan front wheel drive cars to date.
The configuration of the components as used
in the Fiat 128 was to become the preferred layout used by the manufactures
that increasingly turned to front wheel drive for their new models. Also
in time some manufacturers that had been producing front wheel drive cars
with their own configurations also turned to this layout
Wheel Drive Links