Hooniverse Asks- What's The Coolest Bit of Automotive Mechanical Engineering?

desmo-1956-ducati1 Our cars and trucks, motorcycles, scooters and mopeds, all are made up of a myriad of mechanical bits that all work together in one way or another for the vehicle to do what it is intended to do. Those subsystems – brakes, fuel injection, suspension, etc. – each have a specific job, but as they say about de-sheathing felines, there is more than one means to an end. Take for example the operation of intake and exhaust valves on your typical four-stroke engine. Most – like 99% of them – work through the interaction of two processes- the force of the valve spring to keep them closed, and the force applied against that by the cam lobe or intermediary rocker to push them open. This works fine for most engines, but for those designed to turn to seemingly impossible rpms, the weakness of the valve mechanism becomes evident as the springs become unable to return the valves to their seats quickly enough, resulting in what’s called valve float and the inability to maintain one of the basic tenets of the internal combustion engine, compression. To account for this deficiency, we have the desmodromic valve train, which uses active mechanical actuation both to open and close the valves, eliminating the springs entirely. The design was invented back in the 19th century, not because of rev-crazy Victorians, but because at the time contemporary metallurgy wasn’t able to create efficient and sustainable valve spring performance. That’s one mechanical sub-system that I think is really cool, and one that I’m reminded of every time a Ducati motorcycle goes speeding by. But what about other systems, things like bell crank suspensions or radar cruise controls, those too are pretty crazy awesome?  Buts are they the most so? What do you think is the coolest bit of automotive engineering? Image source: StraightSpeed

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