Aug. 7, 2008
Your two car reviews (Chevy Malibu iLT and Buick Enclave, June 5) do your readers a disservice since these vehicles represent anachronisms based on today’s fuelconsumption requirements.


Why these cars?
Anyone who has to commute to work needs a car that gets far more than 22 mpg in the case of the Chevy and unknown in the case of the Buick. Information about fuel-efficient vehicles now or soon-to-beavailable would be useful as would information about what is available in other high-fuel cost areas such as Europe so we could press manufacturers and government to make more fuel-efficient vehicles available.

My personal experience shows that Ford Focuses and Mondeos available in Europe deliver what converts to be 40+ mpg as the norm. So did an Alpha Romeo GT1, Renault Megaine, and VW Passat. It appears the technology exists to deliver twice the mileage of U.S. vehicles. It’s just not here.

Rich Riggs

Giving our readers information is hardly a disservice. And we are unaware of any fuel-consumption requirements other than CAFE standards. By the way, GM sold 2,939 Enclaves in May of this year, a 56% increase over last May. It also sold 15, 792 Malibus, a 39.1% bump over last May. So apparently not everyone believes these vehicles are anachronisms. — Editor

Everything old is new again, again
The opposed-piston, opposedcylinder engine you describe in your column (“One less conspiracy,” May 8) sounds a lot like the Junkers Jumo 205 diesel. A JU-86 so equipped broke a distance record in 1934 while flying emergency earthquake-relief supplies in South America. It was a six-cylinder vertically opposed engine in which exhaust ports were controlled by one piston and intakes by another. The exhaust side ran about 10% ahead of the intake. The idea has also been employed in gasoline 2-strokes, but usually with side-byside pistons connected by a common chamber.

The design was given to Napier (a British engine company) as a war reparation and was turned into the Napier Deltic. John Kerry’s Swift boat may have been powered by one.

Aldis Jameikis

More people moving
The letter from Kim L. Ground (“Power to the people mover,” June 5) reflects my own belief that hybrids are not an elegant solution for fuel economy. Plugins make more sense and are less elegant. It violates sound principles to lug around equipment you seldom use. The people-mover concept lets individuals control their surroundings and provides mobility to an efficient network. Everything can be optimally designed with fewer compromises. Imagine the economic stimulus an implementation of this sort would create. Investigation into devices like these will yield better results than squeezing a few more mpg out of current technology or flex fuels. Both hybrids and plug-in would require building up the electric grid, which presents more opportunities. It would also be good to get out of the current era of products developed because we can rather than because of a need.

We need to look at all activities in light of the current energy crunch, ask why is it done, and develop new approaches. Remember the 70s was when the factories went through self-analysis to compete against companies. Then in the 80s engineering was involved in applying Japanese manufacturing techniques to the office. The hype at that time was that management would be the focus in the 90s, but I didn’t see that happen. Anyway, now is the time for society on a whole to be more efficient and definitive.

Jim English

Death wish?
I just read Berke on Safety (“How to mistreat a hair dryer,” May 22). Unfortunately I missed the first article so I can only now write. I am a mechanical engineer and do not throw out anything I can fix. I have fixed my wife’s hair dryers far too many times over the past 15 years. There is one major hazard issue that I believe was missed.

You have covered the main issues like being dropped and fraying the cord. But the main failure mode I have encountered is a problem with the thermal shutoff switch. This switch will shut off power to the hair dryer if the internal temperature climbs too high. The most common cause of overheating is lint plugging the intake screen. This screen gets plugged up easily but is never easy to clean. Seems to me that a pull-out “easy-to-clean” screen like the ones in clothes dryers would be a good idea.

In general, I usually wind up removing the screen completely. Although this could increase the risk of hair or other items being sucked into the hair dryer, my wife has never had an issue with this.

Once the thermal switch has been used a few times, it seems to get weaker and weaker. So I take the hair dryer apart and solder the switch shut. This works well as long as I do not leave any extra lead inside the heating coil, which causes an immediate short. But soldering the switch shut means the hair dryer has no “overheating” protection.

No matter how often I have reminded my wife to clean out the intake screen she never does until the thermal switch kicks in. At that point I usually get whacked on the back of the head, with a rather hot hair dryer, as if it was my fault it overheated. So from a hazard analysis you might consider adding the brain cells lost as a result of the repeated impacts to the back of my head.

Rick Wucherer

This is one of the strangest responses I have received regarding my column. This guy seems to be actively trying to burn his house down or at least do in his wife. - Lanny Berke

Gadget guesses
Nash Rambler

John B.

The car is Studebaker Hawk built around 1954-56.

Ross M.

Of course the Gadget is a Studebaker. Looks like a Lark, but the exact year I am not sure. The background, however, is even more interesting: the Potawatomi Zoo pond in South Bend. I remember being there when I was about the size of the boy in the picture. I remember looking through the fence at the ducks just like he is doing.

Bruce M.

Webasto Sliding Sunroof on a 1959 Mercedes-Benz Type 220S Ponton sedan

Joe M.

Chevrolet Corvair?

Roy S.

Name that gadget
Be the first to identify this gizmo from a past issue of Machine Design and win a fabulous prize, along with the honor of seeing your name in an upcoming issue. (This one’s a bit obscure since too many readers knew the previous one.) E-mail entries to [email protected] and put “Gadget” in the subject line.

It seemed almost everyone knew the car was a Studebaker Lark, but fewer knew the model year. (And that sliding sunroof is made of vinyl, not canvas.) The first with the correct answer was Richard Putz. Studebaker went out of the car-making business in about 1966 and now survives as Studebaker- Worthington Leasing, a subsidiary of State Bank of Long Island. It leases industrial products including HVAC equipment, medical equipment, printing presses, as well as test and measurement equipment.

A fixed link to structures

Readers can now download the start menu for software discussed in the June 5 story, “A better way to design high performance structures” with the url machinedesign.com/SST-START-MENU-MD1.xls. In addition, the Web site for the company mentioned in the article is isogrid-sst.com.

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