Hooniverse Asks: What’s a modern vehicle spec rooted in some layer of history?

Weird question, I know. The reason I ask it is that I’m spending the week in a 2022 Lexus LX600. This is now our Land Cruiser here in North America. It’s a fancified 300-Series yet it’s still quite a capable machine even if it gives up some off-road extras. It doesn’t get front and rear lockers, nor does it have the Land Cruiser’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System. It does have, however, the 112-inch wheelbase. Lexus says this has been employed on the LX model since 1995. With Land Cruisers, this came into play on the 80-Series trucks.

Lexus and Toyota call this a golden ratio. I’m not sure that’s the correct use of the term based on my degree in Time’s Listening to Tool’s Lateralus. But I don’t feel like arguing the point. What I am interested in hearing about are other automotive specs on modern vehicles that are rooted in some layer of history?

10 Comments

  1. Sounds more like a coincidence that’s useful as a marketing flex.

    IH was known for never making two different parts when one would serve, but that was thrift rather than religion. I think they kept the 100 inch wheelbase (except Terra and Traveler), the steering box and 2WD front axles from 1961 through 1980.

  2. wheel bolt patterns! in a just world, everyone would agree to a common five bolt spec.

    also, not quite what’s being asked, but i absolutely hate how we size tires. ID-OD-width should be the callout.

    1. You can have my three-lug wheels when you pry them off my cold, dead Volvo!

      I mean, not the parts car, obviously. It’s dead but I may still need those for the running one.

  3. Electric cars typically operate at much higher voltages, but still contain 12 volt batteries.

    1. I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that 6 volt batteries are really just three 2 volt batteries and 12 volt batteries are just two 6 volt batteries. And they’re really all 2.1 volts to begin with. So there’s no such thing as a 12 volt battery.

      Now, my 13.8 volt lithium ferrous phosphate battery, well, that’s just what it says on the tin. A series of 3.2 volt batteries. 4-5/16ths of ’em!

      1. That depends on how pedantic you want to be regarding terminology. Quite technically, a battery is made up of individual cells; a 12-volt battery is a thing, precisely because it is made up of cells with individual voltages that add up to 12(-ish) volts. And of course that Mag-lite flashlight you used a couple decades ago was powered by 5 D-“cells”, but your transistor radio ran off a 9-volt “battery” (which, if you opened it up, you would find 6 x 1.5 volt tiny cells packed inside).

        1. …and further on, it’s the same with EV batteries. Those big boxes just hold a lot of small batteries, sometimes really just 18650’s or pouches as in the Leaf. But how will that be with solid state batteries? Will they scale the same?

          Most of the weirdest issues a ZE0 Leaf can have will be traced to the 12V battery. It’s the first car since my 1971 Volvo 145 in which I carry a 10mm wrench permanently – because resetting the car by removing the minus-pole will fix most odd shenanigans.

    2. Related: The 12V automotive accessory power outlet is a de facto standard with a very different historical function. It was originally designed to hold an electric cigar lighter. As such, it was the most convenient exposed electrical outlet in a car, so people made accessories powered by that outlet. Most cars no longer come with the lighter component, but the socket remains just to power all those accessories.

  4. Not just bolt patterns but wheel and tyre/tire sizes. Perhaps not as obvious in the USA which is now the only country not to have gone metric, (except, it seems, the US military), but wheels are still sized in inches. Despite Michelin’s attempt to change that with the TRX.

  5. The “golden ratio” wheelbase doesn’t make sense by itself. I understand that it refers to the wheelbase and track width, and while the former hasn’t changed the track width has increased 100mm. If they mean the overall length that has gone up too. Possibly the use of the word ratio is a translation issue.

    Historically-driven specs that come to mind are mainly engine sizes: Ford 5.0, Dodge 392. Then there are the misapplied ones or if we’re being generous what used to be specifications but are now names, M-B “63” (M156 was 6.2l) or LR 90/110 Defenders.

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