A Classic Guide; Essential Reading for the Classic Car Enthusiast
Although nearly fifty years old this book should be on the bookshelf of all sports and racing car fans. Car technology may change but basic suspension principles do not.
The credentials of the authors are impeccable, Michael Costin was the Development Director at Lotus when he wrote this book with the technical writer David Phipps. Supported by the clarity of the drawings by James Allington this book is still probably the most accessible book on the subject as it is written in straightforward language without compromising the technical content.
Chassis - Purpose, History and Space Frame Principles
It starts by setting out the purpose and history of car chassis. It describes the chassis as the structure for locating and linking together all the mounting brackets needed by a car. Apparently the chassis is the last item to go onto the drawings to join up all the other components and brackets that have been located in space
After exploring materials and basic manufacturing techniques focus moves onto a fuller exploration of the principles of a true space frame. This was the favoured chassis for most racing cars of the time and is still in common use in many racing classes as it is cheap and easy to build and repair. It is also used extensively in the kit car industry and for one-offs.
Analysis of Chassis Types and Their Characteristics
The book goes on to describe the history, and to analyse the characteristics, of the various types of chassis. It goes from the twin-tube or ladder chassis which is still often used by Hot Rod builders through multi-tubular, especially the space frame, that were popular at the time the book was written in the 1960s. It is still used in some classes and for one-off, limited production and kit cars. The text also describes the monocoque chassis which is still used in modern racing cars, albeit using composites such as carbon-fibre rather than aluminium. It finally covers unitary construction which is the norm for mass-market vehicles.
It is all explained with reference to classic racing cars such as the C and D-type Jaguar, Bugattis Birdcage Maserati, Lotus, Cooper, Ferrari and the like using diagrams and photographs. It even shows that the all composite chassis is not new as it describes the Lotus 14 Elite of 1957 which was of all composite (fibreglass or GRP) unitary construction with steel only being used for the front suspension sub-frame and windscreen hoop.
Suspension Principles and Types
First setting out the principles of suspension and how factors such as roll, weight transfer, centres of gravity and roll centres affect road holding and handling characters the book moves on to explain the various suspension types. It explores how designers have tried to achieve the desired characteristics; it does so clearly without resorting to heavy technical language or mathematics.
The principles are still valid and wishbone suspension described in this book is essentially still in use on modern racing cars such as Formula One, GT prototypes and Indy cars. The differences are in the materials, how the dampers and springs are actuated and their characteristics.
Designing a Custom Sports Car
The book works through the process of designing a sports car using a space frame chassis which was considered the optimum at the time. It does not just consider the chassis and the suspension but all the other elements such as brakes, engines and gearboxes, wiring or cooling; where radiators and oil-coolers go and how are they plumbed to the engine.
This leads on to worked examples of the calculations. For the general reader they may be of little or passing interest but for a designer would have been essential reading hence they are in the appendices.
Checklists and Worked Calculations for Car Chassis and Suspension Design
The Appendices takes the would-be designer through all the calculations and the strength characteristics of materials needed to ensure a reliable structure and suspension. They only need basic algebra and trigonometry to understand – many successful cars through the 1960 and 70s were built with the aid of his book. Of course these are all in Imperial measures (pounds, feet , inches) but the principles would still apply when using metric measurements.
Something for Everybody - Car Enthusiasts and Engineering Students
This book should appeal both to the interested layman and to the new student of automotive engineering. It has something for every sports and racing car enthusiast and should be on all enthusiasts' book shelf. It was originally published by Batsford in 1961 with a second edition in 1965; the snag is that it is now collectible and copies, when they become available, are on sale at prices from £150-320 ($250-500) – incredible for an old engineering book.
First appeared on Suite101