Thursday Trivia

Thirsday Trivia
Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars!
This week’s question: What was the first automobile to feature a front suspension incorporating both coil springs and shock absorbers?
If you think you know the answer, make the jump and see if you are right.
An automobile’s ride is a subjective matter. Some people like to float along as though on a cloud of marshmallow fluff, while others want an engaging ride that let’s them commune with both the car and the road as if the threesome were a single unit.
All of that of course comes by way of a vehicle’s suspension, and two of the most important components of the suspension when it comes to road feel handling and ride are the shock absorbers and the springs.
56375Today was have many types of each. Shock absorbers, which are named for their specific function—controlling suspension compression and rebound—presently come as either liquid or gas-filled tubes. Those can be mounted secondarily to the main suspension component structure, or in the form of struts, as a part of it.  For springs you might find torsion bars, coils, air, or leaf springs, but unless you’re driving a truck, hopefully not the latter.
Semi, quarter, or fully elliptic springs were what the earliest cars generally used as a springing medium. That form arose from the horse-drawn carriages that preceded the automobile, and were a natural adaptation for motorized travel. They were not the most stable however, offering little in the way of side motion control, but they proved to be stout and simple to make. Coil, or helical, springs on the other hand offered a more compact design, as well as non-linear function- parts of the coil
The shock absorber became a necessary addition as builders found springs alone to be an insufficient weapon against uneven roads and changes in direction. The earliest forms used metal plates separated by friction material to slow and control the motion of the rising and falling axle. Later the tube shock became the friction shock’s ubiquitous replacement. The use of both coils springs and shock absorbers wouldn’t become widely realized until after WWII, but the first car to feature booth of these features together, came a lot earlier than that.
From Motorera:

On a summer day in 1904 a young man by the name of William Brush helped bring about the modern automobile suspension system. Driving his brother Alanson’s Crestmobile, Brush was rolling along too fast for the unpaved roads of the day and went into a curve at 30 mph. The car’s right front wheel skittered onto the dirt shoulder and whammed into a deep rut. Almost at once, the wheel started to shimmy violently. The undulations of the jarred right front elliptic leaf spring had sent shock waves across the solid I-beam axle to the left side of the vehicle. This set the entire front of the car to vibrating furiously. Brush was caught unawares and lost control. The car crashed through a barbed-wire fence, hit a ditch and overturned in a cow pasture.
Several hours later young William ‘fessed up to Alanson, whose demeanor switched from stern to thoughtful, since he was trying to design a better car. That car, dubbed the Brush Two-Seat Runabout, finally appeared in 1906. It featured a revolutionary suspension system that incorporated two innovations never before assembled together: front coil springs and devices at each wheel that dampened spring bounce — shock absorbers — mounted on a flexible hickory axle.
Some European car makers had tried coil springs, with Gottlieb Daimler in Germany being the leading exponent. However, most manufacturers stood fast with leaf springs. They were less costly, and by simply adding leaves or changing the shape from full elliptic to three-quarter or half elliptic, the spring could be made to support varying weights.

Today you can buy a modestly priced road car that has handling characteristics that were once reserved for the most high-tech race cars, and before that unthinkable to even the greatest automotive engineering minds. That’s just the march of progress. When it comes to your car going, stopping, and turning on roads glassy smooth or otherwise, you can thank that progress, as well as those who have safely gotten us here.

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  1. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    And from the ones I’ve driven, the only manufacturer that actually has wood in their front suspension and steering is Audi.
    Going by the feel through the steering wheel.