Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2006   by Jim Anderton

What’s the perfect car?

What's the "best car" on the road? It's a question I'm often asked as are many in the repair aftermarket. There's no one way to measure what is the best car, but for my personal machine that car would...

What’s the “best car” on the road? It’s a question I’m often asked as are many in the repair aftermarket. There’s no one way to measure what is the best car, but for my personal machine that car would have to be simpler than current technology. I’d start with body-on-frame construction with double wishbone front suspension and a solid rear axle with front-wheel-drive. I’d like alignment adjustable with shims on the upper A-arm mounting bolts and greaseable balljoints, tie-rod ends and suspension bushings. Half-shafts would be removable without popping balljoints or losing transaxle fluid.

I’d want polymer bolt-on body panels like a Saturn, and identical finned drum brakes all around. Fuel and vapour lines would be plastic with quick release connectors, while brake lines would be stainless steel, including bleeders. Fuel tanks would be plastic, with a built-in drain plug, and the hangar assembly would be accessible from a hatch in the trunk floor. The fuel system would be TBI with the pressure regulator and fuel pump built into the throttle body. Ignition would be coil-near plug so inductive pickups could still be used, and the conventional spark plugs would thread into steel inserts.

Valve actuation would be DOHC with internal chain, and the water pump would drive from one camshaft at the top of the engine, with the alternator keyed to the other. There would be no belts, and hoses would be silicone or blue EDPM. Hose clamps would use thumbscrews and headlights would tilt out to allow access to the halogen capsules.

Every sensor would have a tiny LED that glows to show correct voltage levels, and all connectors would be common, keyed and removable without tools. There would also be OBD connectors under the hood as well as under-dash, and all airbags could be disabled with a single plug under the hood.

Steering would be electrically assisted rack and pinion, and the transmission would be manual, but constant-mesh using brake bands like an automatic. The engine and transaxle would share the same oil and the filter and drain would be side by side and open like a faucet. And I’d lock the doors and wind the windows up myself with no power assists. There would be oil, air, cabin air, and coolant. Gauges would be mechanical, including oil pressure and water temperature, and the instrument cluster would swing open from the top without removing steering column components.

I could go on, but by now you get the picture: reliability. Reliability, however, doesn’t mean the end of service in my world. Conventional spark plugs would be fine. But. I’d want to inspect them frequently anyway. And greasing would return as an important service procedure along with changing the many filters. I’d like a world of greaseable, re-buildable, reliable technologies that make it economical to keep a car or light truck going for decades with regular service. The result would also be higher residual values and older cars on the road longer.

And that works for everyone.

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