Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars!
This week’s question: What do the original Mazda Cosmo, 1991-2004 AWD Chrysler Minivans, Mitsubishi i, and the 2016 Renault Twingo all have in common?
If you think you know the answer, make the jump and see if you’re right!
It’s not always the case that something needs to be common to be found to be in-common, and in fact it’s often the odder shared attributes that are the most interesting.
That’s the case with today’s fun factoid, a feature shared by a number of—well, very disparate—cars that itself is pretty unusual. The cars we note – Mazda’s spaceship-like Cosmo, the All-Wheel Drive editions of Chrysler’s class-leading at the time Minivans, a tiny egg that Mitsubishi cheekily offers today, as well as the new Smart-car derived Renault Twingo – all have a unique feature in common.
Ah, but what could that be? Let’s turn to Wikipedia to learn what they, and a number of other cars and trucks, all share that you might not have thought they would.
A de Dion tube is an automobile suspension technology. It is a sophisticated form of non-independent suspension and is a considerable improvement over the swing axle, Hotchkiss drive, or live axle. Because it plays no part in transmitting power to the drive wheels, it is sometimes called a “dead axle”.
De Dion suspension uses universal joints at both the wheel hubs and differential, and uses a solid tubular beam to hold the opposite wheels in parallel. Unlike an anti-roll bar, a de Dion tube is not directly connected to the chassis nor is it intended to flex. In suspension geometry it is close to the trailing beam suspension seen on many front wheel drive cars, but without the torsional flexibility of that suspension.
Alfa Romeo is probably the most famous adopter of this technology, using it on the Alfa Romeo Alfetta, GT, GTV, GTV6, Giulietta, Alfa 6, 90, 75/Milano, SZ/RZ. Other production vehicles using this suspension include the Lancia Aurelia (fourth series onwards) and Flaminia, first and second generation Prince Gloria, the original Mazda Cosmo, Volvo 300-series, Rover P6 and Dodge Caravan & Grand Caravan (all wheel drive version from 1991–2004), DAF 46, DAF 66, all Iso cars (Iso Rivolta IR 300, Iso Grifo, Iso Fidia, Iso Lele) and early Bizzarrini 5300 GT Stradas, some of the largest Opels, such as the Opel Diplomat “B” of 1969, all Aston Martins from 1967 to 1989, Ferrari 375 and 250TR, first generation Maserati Quattroporte, Bugatti Type 251, Mercedes-Benz W125 and W154 as well as Auto Union Type D.
The Smart Fortwo and Smart Roadster micro-compact cars produced by Daimler AG, Mitsubishi i kei car produced by Mitsubishi Motors and the Caterham 7 (a development of the Lotus Seven after Lotus sold the design rights to Caterham Cars), are the only cars currently in production that utilize this arrangement, as well as the products of some kit car companies. A recent vehicle to use this suspension coupled with leaf springs was the Ford Ranger EV. The American built MV-1 van by VPG also uses this suspension in the rear with leaf springs and is just starting production in spring 2010. 4WD variants of the Honda Fit use a De Dion style suspension in lieu of a torsion bar.
In its era the de Dion suspension offered an appealing mix of weight saving and movement control, at the expense of some space and the advantages that fully independent suspension affords. The multi-link suspensions developed in the Nineties by Honda, BMW, Mercedes and others proved more versatile in application, but as you can see above, when simplicity is valued, the de Dion is still a viable choice.
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