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The Airflow’s “worst”-ness derives from its spectacularly bad timing.Twenty years later, the car’s many design and engineering innovations — the aerodynamic singlet-style fuselage, steel-spaceframe construction, near 50-50 front-rear weight distribution and light weight — would have been celebrated.The Flyer represents something we’ll see several times on this list: The drive to make the absolute cheapest, most minimal automobile possible. Buckminster Fuller was one of the century’s great nutjobs, a walking unorthodoxy who originally conceived of the Dymaxion as a flying automobile, or drivable plane, with jet engines and inflatable wings.It would be one link in his vaguely totalitarian plan for the people to live in mass-produced houses deposited on the landscape by dirigibles.A Hotshot actually won the “index of performance” — an honor for the best speed for its displacement — at the 1950 Six Hours of Sebring, puttering around at an average of 52 mph.What killed the Hotshot was its engine, a dual-overhead cam .75-liter four cylinder, not cast in iron but brazed together from pieces of stamped tin.Okayyyy…Deprived of wings, the Dymaxion was a three-wheel, ground-bound zeppelin, with a huge levered A-arm carrying the rear wheel, which swiveled like the tail wheel of an airplane.The first prototype had a wicked death wobble in the rear wheel.
While the general conformation of the automobile was largely sorted out in the first decade of the 20th century — particularly that business about four wheels — Reeves thought perhaps eight or a minimum of six wheels might provide a smoother ride.
Companies such as Rolls-Royce, Cadillac, Hispano-Suiza and Voisin were making potent and luxurious automobiles, the technical achievements of the age.
And then there was this, the Flyer, which is no more than a motorized park bench on bicycle wheels. It was actually a five wheeler, with the dinky 2-hp Briggs and Stratton engine driving a traction wheel on the back, like a boat’s outboard motor.
When these brazed welds let go, as they often did, things quickly got noisy, and hot.
The most ineffective bit of French engineering since the Maginot Line, the Renault Dauphine was originally to be named the Corvette, tres ironie.