Nothing at the two fall automobile shows that in the Grand Central Palace from October 24 to 31 and the other in Madison Square Garden from November 2 to 9indicates so surely that the automobile has reached the final stage of its development, as the fact that novelties of type are' conspicuous by their absence. Outside of the buggy-type machine and the two-engine automobile, there is very little among the exhibits which can be called a radical departure from the all-prevailing type. Compared with last year, there is a marked increase in the number of runabouts exhibited, this, indeed, being the fashionable machinp of the season. The runabout owes its popularity largely to its smart appearance and the absence of that heavy and more or less cumbersome appearance which characterizes the limousine top or the hood-covered tonneau. Most of those exhibited have 4-cylinder engines of from 30 t i 40 horse-power, although there are also a number of 6-cylinder models. There are not many changes in the chassis from last year. The pressed-steel, riveted, frame is used almost universally; but a decided improvement in appearance and ease of riding has been secured by thi more general adoption of the platform spring suspension, in which a transverse spring is carried at the rear, in place of the old spring hangers, and attached at its ends to the two half-elliptical side springs by universal joints. A few manufacturers are making the frame with a drop to clear the axles, the object of this being to place the frame and gear lower down, and keep the whole driving shaft in as near a straight line as possible. The arrangement has the further advantage of lowering the center of gravity of the car. The car bodies are, almost without exception, exceedingly handsome examples of the coach-builder's art, and there is noticeable a gratifying tendency toward severity and simplicity of outline and detail, the more or less elaborate curvature of earlier cars giving place to straight lines. There is evidence, also, of better taste in the matter of color; although a few fanciful designs are shown which stand out in rather unfavorable contrast with the other machines. As the engine is the all-important element in a car, so it was the first to be brought to its final type. There is but little change of consequence to be noticed from last year's models. The most significant feature is the growing popularity of the six-cylinder engine. This is attributable to the fact that the increased cost and trouble of maintenance which were predicted, have not materialized, and the public have found that the theoretical advantages of less vibration and a more constant torque abundantly justify the extra cost of this type. For hill climbing and the general emergencies of the road, the six has proved itself to be decidedly superior to the four-cylinder type. As a rule, magneto ignition is used, with the jump spark as an auxiliary ; ball bearings have advanced in favor, and a few makers are using the non-adjustable silent type. Fans are now driven by gears instead of by the old belt drive. A few makers are doing away with the pump and substituting thermo-siphon circulation, which has been used for some years on the foreign Renault car. Two-cycle engines are exhibited in both shows. One maker has three and four-cylinder models in addition to the two-cylinder runabout of last year. On the other hand, the older maker of this type has returned from the use of four to the use of two vertical cylinders. The most popular form of transmission appears to be the three and four-speed, sliding gear, selective type. Some machines with four-speed transmission have the direct drive on the third speed, the fourth being used for sprints and the direct for all ordinary running. Friction disk transmission is exhibited on a few makes. It owes its success largely to the perseverance of one or two western firms; and their lead is now being followed by several other manufacturers. An improvement on the original type, which is shown on a six-cylinder, 75-horse-power car, consists of a planetary gear transmission, in which conical rollers, made of compressed paper, take the place of the usual spur and internal gear. This transmission has two speeds, and its merit lies in the fact that the friction drive is in use only on the low speed and the reverse. This car has no gears in the transmission, the only gears being those of the bevel gear drive at the rear axle. The friction disk transmission is used extensively in the increasingly popular buggy type of machine, in which differential gears are dispensed with and double ratchets are fitted to the ends of the countershaft for forward and backward motion. A few cars carry a transmission connected to the differential at the rear axle. This arrangement has proved very suc-cessful during the past two or three years on one of the leading American cars; it is also in limited use in France. The advantages claimed are that it permits of a long straight shaft from engine to rear axle, and reduces the angularity, and, therefore, the loss of power. There are few parts of the automobile in which such diversity can be found as in the clutch. There are three main types which share in popular favor. Chief among them is the well-established cone clutch, which has the advantage of extreme simplicity. Its reputation has been acquired in many years of service, and when it is made of sufficient size to match the power of the engine, it gives most satisfactory results. The other devices have been designed to secure large frictional resistance with small size and weight, and chief among them is the floating-disk or ring clutch, in which, by making use of several rings and disks, it is possible to secure a large frictional surface in a small space and with relatively little weight. The rings vary both as to their diameter and number, one car using as many as nineteen disks, and another disks that are as much as 14 inches in diameter. The expanding and contracting band types also meet with much favor, since they can be compactly and accessibly mounted in the flywheel, and also since they hold well and can be readily adjusted. Not very much that is novel is exhibited by the tire manufacturers, although there has been an all-round advance in quality. A non-puncturable, self-healing tube, exhibited at last year's show, has been tested with promising results, and is again on exhibition this year. There is also shown a filled tire, containing a special composition of glue, glycerine, etc. It is said to have been quite successful and has been welcomed on those machines whose service exposes them to severe tire troubles. Some half-dozen types of quick-detachable rims seem to have all given satisfactory results. This device has proved to be a great advance over the old style clincher tire. Unquestionably one of the most novel cars at the. Automobile Club of America's show in the Grand Central Palace was a large electric touring car fitted with the new Edison storage battery, the card on Which announced that the batteries were good for a continuous run of 100 miles. Another car which excited considerable interest was provided with a two-engine motor, there being two entirely separate 24-horse-power, four-cylinder engines, arranged side by side, parallel with the longitudinal axis of the machine, and connected by transverse chains to the transmission shaft. The makers claim that such a car, with two 30-horse-power engines, exhibits a saving of weight of some 5 per cent over a 60-horse-power car with a single engine. The principal merit of the car is that, in case of one engine breaking down, the other remains to bring the car- home. The advantages of twin engines have long been recognized for marine service, and the safeguard against absolute breakdown which the division of the power insures is as valuable on an automobile as on a steamship. The other distinct novelty is the buggy-type automobile, of which no less than twenty different makes are on the market. These cars use a friction disk, or other form of friction drive, and are very simple and economical in construction. The wheels and bodies are essentially those of the standard type of horse buggy, the former being of large diameter and shod with solid tires. It is claimed that the cost of such tires, including maintenance, is not more than one-fourth as much as that of the pneumatic tire. They are capable of a speed of from 15 to 20 miles an hour and their low cost of from $500 to $850 is rendering them exceedingly popular with people who are satisfied with a moderate speed and who cannot afford the heavier cost of a large machine. They are used extensively by physicians, and are becoming popular among the farmers and residents of smaller towns and villages. The low-cost car is also represented- by several small runabouts, one manufacturer offering a single-cylinder engine car at a cost of $500, while a double-opposed-cylinder or four-cylinder runabout can be had for from $650 to $700. Although there seems to be no relative gain in the number of steam cars, the two companies which exhibit are doing a large business. The well known advantages of good hill-climbing ability, simplicity of operation, and reliability, have served to maintain the steam car in popular favor.
This article was originally published with the title "The Automobile at the Recent Shows" in Scientific American 97, 19, 320 (November 1907)