Friday, April 22, 2011

Engineering the Ride: Ford Engineering, 1952, and the "mechanical man"

An early type two arm friction shock absorber
Ride control certainly has gone scientific!

Hi folks -- one area of auto history that needs much more study centers on ergonomics, ride comfort, and research studies done on ride comfort. These studies have been around at least since the 1920s. As I was reading a 1952 issue of Speed Age last evening I came upon this entry that was a part of a story by Charles J. Yarbough, "A Day with the Ford Engineers." In this article the author goes on to say:
"Close to the top in the fantastic array of instruments used in seeking the ultimate in comfort is a gadget billed as "a mechanical man with a seismograph in his stomach." Engineers developed the 'man' using the human form as a model.
The 'man' is designed with a center of gravity and weight distribution determined from statistics of the average person. Head and legs were omitted and when in use, 'his' lap is covered with instruments.
'He' could be the ideal back-seat driver. Placed beside the driver, its uncanny instruments provide information on riding comfort an car performance, tests springs, shock absorbers and cushions.
Three accelerometers measure the slightest quiver or shake, up, down, or sideways and the unbiased report is an audible as an irate wife.
To determine the course over which the 'man' goes for a ride, survey teams actually built a highway of potholes and bumps. Some of Detroit's worst highway surfaces have even been duplicated on the testing grounds."

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