Category: Commentary

Electronic Fuel Injection Article Thesis Statement

Because it grew more elaborate than I had initially envisioned, I realize the original object of the recent article on the Bendix Electrojector and Bosch D-Jetronic systems may have suffered a bit of forest-for-the-trees syndrome, so it might be worthwhile for me to clearly restate the thesis.

The principal object of the article was to investigate the commonly held assumption that Bendix simply sold the rights to the Electrojector system to Bosch, which then tidied it up and put it back into production as D-Jetronic. After delving into this contention at some length, my conclusion is that this isn’t really accurate. Rather, the appearance of the Bendix system in the fifties (of which Bosch was definitely aware) inspired Bosch to launch its own electronically controlled gasoline injection (ECGI) development program, which followed along some similar lines. This project probably would have ended up on the shelf due to lack of automaker interest had developments in California tailpipe emissions standards not forced the issue in 1964. By that time, Bendix, which had mostly shelved its fuel injection program after the failure of the Electrojector in 1957–1958, had secured worldwide patent protection covering many fundamental aspects of electronic fuel injection with timed speed-density metering. So, in order to put D-Jetronic in production for Volkswagen, Bosch was obliged to obtain a license from Bendix to use technology covered by those patents. Bendix retained control of the underlying IP, and subsequently also negotiated a reciprocal agreement for access to Bosch ECGI patents for use in the Bendix electronic fuel injection system subsequently offered by Cadillac and Chevrolet in the mid-seventies.

Neither Bendix nor Bosch invented the basic concept of timed low-pressure/common-rail electronic fuel injection with solenoid-controlled injection valves, which had been tried (albeit without commercial success) in the thirties. However, applying that concept with a metering system capable of handling all the aspects of passenger car operation was a challenging prospect, which wasn’t really completely addressed until the advent of the later Bosch L-Jetronic system (with mass airflow metering) and the addition of oxygen sensor feedback controls.

A Shocking Omission

The other night, I was browsing through Brian Heiler’s Plaid Stallions website, as one does, and had a minor epiphany. When I wrote about the FWD GMC Motor Home a few years ago, I mentioned that it had been part of the Mattel Hot Wheels line for a while, but I neglected to mention that it had also been the basis for the ne plus ultra of seventies girls’ toys: Mattel’s Barbie Star Traveler Motor Home. Blogger Laura Moncur has previously written about her Star Traveler toy and how it even tempted her to invest in the real thing.

Brian Heiler also noted a particularly obscure connection: Mattel used what were clearly the same molds as the Star Traveler for the Big Jim Super Car, part of another, now largely forgotten seventies toy line.

A Historical Note: Ford General Managers

As I’ve said before, one of the things you notice when you do a lot of research in a particular field is that certain pieces of information are repeated over and over again even though they’re wrong. I’ve made those mistakes myself — some times that I know about and probably others I have yet to discover — so I can’t claim any particular moral high ground here, but when I recognize one of these errors, I try to rectify it as best I can.

One common misconception I’ve noticed recently regards Ford in the late fifties and early sixties and the careers of Robert McNamara and Lee Iacocca. Let’s see if we can set it straight:

Continue Reading A Historical Note: Ford General Managers

Oscar Banker, the Automatic Safety Transmission, and the Art of Research

We’re going to take a different approach for this week’s article. Instead of presenting another history, we’ve decided to give you a look at the way we approach the research for these articles, and tackle a challenging comment posed by one of our readers: did inventor Oscar Banker design the 1937-1939 Oldsmobile/Buick Automatic Safety Transmission, the predecessor of Hydra-Matic?
Important author’s note: Much of this article, originally written in 2010, was speculative and thus many things turned out to be off-base or wrong. I’ve opted to leave the article up for the time being (having removed some of the more glaring errors) until such time as I can more thoroughly revise it, but please keep in mind that this is NOT an authoritative piece on Oscar Banker. Caveat lector!
1974 Cadillac Miller Meteor ambulance Power Light
Continue Reading Oscar Banker, the Automatic Safety Transmission, and the Art of Research

Falling Empires Part 3: Wither Detroit?

It will not have escaped even the casual observer that the companies formerly known as the Big Three automakers — GM, Ford, and Chrysler — are in bad, bad shape. GM lost $37 billion in 2007. Ford’s operating losses were $2.7 billion overall, but they lost $5 billion on their automotive operations. Chrysler, which is now owned by Cerberus Capital Management, is not obliged to share their annual results (not being publicly held), but they aren’t doing a lot better. As of this writing, the three companies are asking for at least $34 billion in federally guaranteed loans, a new bailout. In this last installment of our series, we weigh in on the state of Detroit.

1930 Ford Model A Boyce MotoMeter
Continue Reading Falling Empires Part 3: Wither Detroit?

Falling Empires Part 2: The Road Back

In 1981, Chrysler had $1.2 billion in federally backed loans and an array of new products. Problem solved? Not exactly. In the third installment of our series on the Chrysler bailout, we examine the corporation’s rocky road back to solvency — and how it ended up on the ropes again less than a decade later.
1988 Dodge Aries badge
Continue Reading Falling Empires Part 2: The Road Back

Falling Empires Part 1: The Chrysler Bailout

Throughout its 85-year history, the Chrysler Corporation has often found itself engaged in a coquettish flirtation with doom. Although Chrysler sometimes led the American industry in engineering innovation, a combination of ill-considered product choices, quality problems, and misguided management have put it on the ropes more than a few times. The list of disasters is long: the brilliant but commercially moribund Airflow of the 1930s; the catastrophic quality-control issues of the late 1950s; the ill-fated “downsizing” of 1962. The one on everyone’s mind of late, however, is the late-seventies financial crisis that sent ostensible free-market conservative Lee Iacocca to Washington, hat in hand — looking for a bailout.

1988 Dodge Aries Pentastar badge
Continue Reading Falling Empires Part 1: The Chrysler Bailout

Living in interesting times

Owing to the intrusion of other projects, this week’s regular article is going to be delayed until next week. So as not to leave you too wanting for content, though, I thought I would discuss a little more about the philosophy of this site.The brief of Ate Up With Motor is to discuss the history and design of interesting cars. That inevitably leaves you all at the mercy of what your author considers interesting, which bears some explanation.
Continue Reading Living in interesting times

CAFE and Cream: The Rules about Corporate Average Fuel Economy

There’s been a lot of talk in the U.S. in the past year or two about the prospect of raising the requirements for average fuel economy. Current plans call for raising that average from 27.5 to 35.7 mpg by 2015, which has caused considerable alarm in some quarters. To make sense of all this, let’s talk about how the corporate average fuel economy rules work, where they came from, and what they’re designed to do. Also, your author weighs in on the merits of these regulations.

Author’s Note: This article was written in 2009 and is now out of date — it has not yet been updated to reflect subsequent regulatory changes. Reader beware!
1970 Dodge Challenger fuel cap
Continue Reading CAFE and Cream: The Rules about Corporate Average Fuel Economy