Chapter Nine Conclusions
At the time production got underway after the Second World War there were six companies making front wheel drive cars. By 1970 there were eighteen. Of the 1950 manufacturers, Panhard had been taken over by Citroen and car production discontinued. In East Germany IFA had been replaced by Wartburg, who made an updated version of the DKW F9 design, which remained in production until 1988, finally with a Volkswagen Polo engine after that company had acquired the factory. The other East German front wheel drive car was the Trabant. The Trabant was the successor to the IFA F8 and evolved from that design. It too finished up with a Polo engine replacing the two-stoke twin cylinder unit in the last model the P601. That was towards the end of production, which was in 1990.
The reformed DKW company in West Germany, had been renamed Audi, and had joined Volkswagen and NSU in a group. SAAB was continuing to grow, but Hotchkiss had gone out of business.
Of those that had joined the ranks of front wheel drive car makers BMC makers of the Mini and the 1100 and many others, continue to make front wheel drive cars under the name of MG Rover in the factory at Longbridge Birmingham were the original Mini was produced.
After a lapse of ten year, Ford Europe returned to the ranks of front wheel drive car manufacturers in 1976 with the Fiesta made in a new factory in Spain. The name NSU disappeared with the demise of the Ro80. Lancia became part of the Fiat empire and continue to make front wheel drive cars based on Fiat designs as does Autobianchi. The French manufacturers, Citroen, Renault, Peugeot and Simca until being part of the Chrysler group, remained completely committed to front wheel drive.
In Japan, Subaru continued to make front wheel drive cars until all wheel drive cars became their speciality. Honda continued to expand it's model range with front wheel drive cars and Nissan replaced old rear wheel drive models with new front wheel drive designs.
Volkswagen in Europe phased out its rear engined models with front wheel drive cars that took their design principles from Audi, starting with the Passat. The Oldsmobile Tornado was a design dead end, but remained in production until more conventional front wheel drive designs appeared in the United States.
What of those manufacturers around the world that hadn't produced front wheel drive cars before 1970? A new manufacturer Zuastava in Yugoslavia began producing front wheel drive cars derived from Fiat designs in 1971 and Alfa Romero began production of the Alfasud in a new factory in southern Italy in 1972. In Japan Deihatsu produced their first front wheel drive car in 1977 and Mitsubishi in 1978. Also in 1978 in the United States, Chrysler introduced the Dodge Omni and the Plymouth Horizon, both versions of the Chrysler-France Horizon. General Motors German branch Opel introduced the Kadett in 1979 and Mazda first produced a front wheel drive car in 1980.
The trend towards front wheel drive continued with more manufacturers adding cars to their model ranges. In the USA Chevrolet introduced the Citation and Ford the Escort that was based on a Ford Europe design in 1981. Also that year Suzuki produced their first front wheel drive car. Seat in Spain introduced the Marbella which was a Fiat Panda clone in 1982. Toyota produced their first front wheel drive car in 1983 and Hyundai, Volvo, Lada, Proton and Skoda followed in the next five years.
Cars have been manufactured in the town of Mlada Boleslav in the region of Bohemia in Czech Republic for almost a hundred years. They have been made under the name of Skoda for almost eighty of those years.
Skoda engineers experimented with a small front wheel drive car as well as other layouts before settling on a rear engine configuration for the 1000MB. They didn't get another chance to produce a front wheel drive car until they started work on what was to become the Favorit. The Favorit was the last Skoda designed and introduced in the Communist era. After many frustrating years Skoda had to assemble a design team to produce an up to date car in a very limited time. The team led by Jaroslav Kindl rose to the occasion. The Favorit's specification followed the by now universal transverse layout with an all alloy, over head valve four cylinder 1289cc engine, McPherson strut from suspension, with trailing arm and torsion bar independent rear suspension. It was clothed in a body designed by Bertone, giving it a touch of Italian style. On sale in 1987, a million Favorit's had been produced by 1994.
The Felicia introduced in 1994, was the first model to be produced after Skoda joined the Volkswagen Group. It used the same engine as the Favorit.
Even the most determined proponents of the
old order have had to produce front wheel drive models to extend their
model range. Mercedes-Benz introduced the "A" series in 1999. BMW had become
manufacturers of front wheel drive cars by default with their brief ownership
of MG Rover. They now produce the new Mini since giving up ownership of
MG Rover and 43 years after the original Mini design that did so much to
promote front wheel drive cars.
That has left a small minority of manufacturers without at least one front wheel drive model. These are mainly prestige or sporting carmakers with a limited ranged of models.
It is shown in the proceeding chapters that there are many different front wheel drive configurations, each with it's advantages and disadvantages. Those that have the engine within the wheelbase have fallen out of favour as the advantages of compactness and forward weight distribution become apparent.
The fore and aft configuration is the only one to use if a horizontal-opposed engine is used, but they have been little used since the 1980's. The use of a long inline engine also requires an fore and aft configuration, as the engine/gearbox package would not fit into the space available. The inline four-cylinder engine predominately used in the last twenty years has proved to be very suitable for transverse installation as has small Vee six's.
Various versions of the Rzappa joint are universally used, both at the outer end of the drive shaft, and at the inner end as pot joints, taking up the variations in shaft length as well as the angular variations. The development in front wheel drive transmissions have been utilised in rear wheel and all wheel drive transmissions, transforming drive train technology to a state of sophistication unimaginable forty years ago.
What of the future, as the development of front wheel drive has helped all wheel drive to become commonplace will all wheel drive continue its spread to all cars as the technology evolves. Only time will tell.
Front Wheel Drive Links