Peugeot 206 WRC

Automotive Engineering

The automobile, late 19th century – Transformed daily life, our culture, and our landscape

Between 1920 and 1970, improvements in cars, roads, airplanes, and even railroads made travel faster, cheaper, safer, and more comfortable. Since then, travel in the developed world has improved slowly at best.

An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor. Most definitions of the term specify that automobiles are designed to run primarily on roads, to have seating for one to eight people, to typically have four wheels, and to be constructed principally for the transport of people rather than goods.

Modern automotive engineering, along with aerospace engineering and marine engineering, is a branch of vehicle engineering, incorporating elements of mechanical, electrical, electronic, software and safety engineering as applied to the design, manufacture and operation of motorcycles, automobiles, buses and trucks and their respective engineering subsystems.

Car engine (video 1:40) – How a car engine works

Lincoln Highway – Oct 31, 1913 – The idea of the Lincoln Highway came from Carl Fisher, the man also responsible for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Miami Beach. With help from fellow industrialists Frank Seiberling and Henry Joy, an improved, hard-surfaced road was envisioned that would stretch almost 3400 miles from coast to coast, New York to San Francisco, over the shortest practical route. The Lincoln Highway Association was created in 1913 to promote the road using private and corporate donations. The idea was embraced by an enthusiastic public, and many other named roads across the country followed. Americans’ enthusiasm for good roads led to the involvement of the federal government in building roads and the creation of numbered U.S. routes in the 1920s. The Federal Highway Administration and the Interstate Highway System are the culmination of these efforts.

What’s the problem?
Wheels go round
Rallying is a form of auto racing that takes place on public or private roads with modified production or specially built road-legal cars. This is a point-to-point format. Participants and their co-drivers drive between set control points (special stages), leaving at regular intervals from one or more start points. Rallies may be won by pure speed within the stages or alternatively by driving to a predetermined ideal journey time within the stages.

Preparing the cars and participating in a rally follow steps in the [/Engineering%20Design%20Process Engineering Design Process]. Cars conform to specific rules. Group B cars are not based on production models, and these are rallying supercars. The most radical and impressive were the Peugeot 205 T16, Renault 5 Turbo and the Lancia Delta S4, with flimsy fibreglass bodies roughly the shape of the standard car tacked on to lightweight spaceframe chassis, four-wheel drive, and power outputs reportedly as high as 600 hp (450 kW).

  • AskGroup B had few restrictions on technology, design and the number of cars required to compete. Weight was kept as low as possible, high-tech materials were permitted, and there were no restrictions on boost, resulting in the power output of the winning cars increasing from 250 hp in 1981, the year before Group B rules were introduced, to there being at least two cars producing in excess of 500 by 1986, the final year of Group B. Why were there so few rules?
  • Imagine – How did the designers change the cars to be very fast? What are the characteristics of a successful rally car?
  • Plan, Create – Each class had different weight limits, maximum tyre sizes, etc. The most important classes for Group B were the 3000 cc class (2142.8 cc with turbo or supercharger), 960 kg minimum weight (Audi Quattro, Lancia 037) and 2500 cc (1785 cc), 890 kg (Peugeot 205 T16, Lancia Delta S4). How did they produce the power improvements? What were some of the construction techniques used? What materials were used?
  • Improve – The combination of lightweight chassis, sophisticated aerodynamics and massive amounts of horsepower resulted in the development of a class of cars whose performance has not yet been surpassed within their category, even nearly three decades later. However, there were a number of safety issues and several fatal crashes in the class. What were some of the safety issues?

That’s engineering

  • four-wheel drive – schemes for providing power to all of the wheels. The system sends exactly the right amount of torque to each wheel, which is the maximum torque that won’t cause that tire to slip.

Engineering ideas

  • transportation, automotive engineering, performance, aerodynamic, air flow, powertrain, engines, electric vehicles, spaceframe chassis, four-wheel drive, torque, traction, wheel slip

Do it
Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • build one of these toy cars using household materials, or design and build your own
  • create a test track and compare the performance of different car designs
  • build a rubber band powered car

Learn more…