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Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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Open Diff: What Automotive Innovations Never Had a Chance?

Posted February 23, 2022 4:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: prototypes show cars

Automotive history is rife with innovation. Possibly even defined by new ideas. But while Mr. Gretsky's aphorism of missing 100% of the shots you don't take is true, you still miss a few that you do take. And with cars, there are plenty of good ideas that failed in the market for one reason or another.

More recently, good ideas can fail to take off simply due to the realities of the modern automotive business. Cars are standardized to a high degree, so when something new comes along, it faces a headwind against adoption. Fail to reach critical mass, and there's not enough volume to sustain production, let alone long-term parts supply. Audi's short-lived UFO brakes are a great example. It was an unconventional design with the rotor mounted inside the disc—the resulting domed shape of the carrier made the disc look like a flying saucer. But the layout allowed for larger swept area for a conventional disc inside an equivalent wheel diameter. In other words, better braking without the weight penalty of larger wheels. That wasn't enough of an advantage to overcome a few early problems with the system, and it faded into history after a few years.

Other breakthroughs get superseded by existing technology, or just turn out to answer a question nobody asked. Like Michelin's PAX tire system, most notably used on the Bugatti Veyron supercar but also found on the Honda Odyssey minvan. With a locking bead and a rubber ring mounted on the wheel to support the tire in the event of loss of pressure, it was a foolproof run-flat system that could run longer. It was also expensive and complicated, and required service locations to buy new equipment. It also came out right when conventional run-flat tires were becoming widely available. What's more, the reliability of regular tires has improved so much that even those more affordable run-flats are hardly necessary for most of us.

What other innovations can you think of, and what kept them from changing the automotive world? Let us know in the comments.

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#1

Re: Open Diff: What Automotive Innovations Never Had a Chance?

02/23/2022 10:16 PM

Buell's rim mounted brake rotor. Makes the wheel lighter because the torque from the brake rotor doesn't have to pass through the hub and the "spokes". And you get serious braking power by clamping on the rotor at a longer radius. Two-finger stoppies are no problem.

But Harley-Davidson didn't want to keep the Buell line going so they dumped the line and all the innovations that Erik Buell designed into his motorcycles.

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#2

Re: Open Diff: What Automotive Innovations Never Had a Chance?

02/24/2022 9:14 AM

I remember when the Chrysler Turbine Car was introduced. It had few moving parts, ran smoothly, and could run on a variety of fuels.

High cost killed it.

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Re: Open Diff: What Automotive Innovations Never Had a Chance?

02/24/2022 2:06 PM

There was also a problem with poor efficiency at low speeds. Gas turbines shine near maximum speed, but put almost all of their power at low speed into the compressor section. A turbo-electric hybrid with a small battery or large capacitor would be an alternative to a fuel cell-electric vehicle (assuming that the latter will take too long to be practical in the near future). It may be worth a study to see if improved manufacturing technology since the 1960s would bring down the cost of the gas turbine engine to a competitive level.

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#4

Re: Open Diff: What Automotive Innovations Never Had a Chance?

02/24/2022 11:14 PM

The stainless steel body...

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Re: Open Diff: What Automotive Innovations Never Had a Chance?

02/25/2022 1:52 PM

What I really want is stainless steel brake lines !!

I keep vehicles long enough for the OEM coated steel lines to rust out.

I know you can buy them in the aftermarket, but the manufacturers won't put them in at the factory for the sake of a few dollars.

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Re: Open Diff: What Automotive Innovations Never Had a Chance?

02/25/2022 4:40 PM

....and rotors!...

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