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 was the first production car to feature front-wheel drive and a transverse engine? If you think you know the answer, traverse the jump and see if you’re right. It seems that, over the course of the century and a half of the automotive age, pretty much every conceivable format of drivetrain position has been attempted. It’s been like the Kama Sutra of cars! For the vast majority of the auto age, the formats of choice in the two largest regions for auto production seemed to be mostly – front-engine/rear-wheel drive in America, and rear-engine, rear-wheel drive in Europe. Today however, pretty much globally, the standard form for most cars is a transverse engine, paired to a transmission beside it, and through which power is sent to the front wheels. This has usurped just about every other layout for mainstream cars today, but the era of it’s first application in a production car might surprise you. From My Auto World:
The first Audi advertising with the ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ slogan appeared in 1971. Even then this technical leadership claim was well and truly justified. If we look back another 40 years we find DKW, one of the companies that later became Audi, introducing its F1 model at the 1931 International Automobile Exhibition in Berlin – the world’s first high-volume production car with front-wheel drive.
Not only was the 1931 F1 the first production car with front-wheel drive, it was the first to offer that feature along with a transverse engine. DKW had long been a maker of motorcycles, and the F1 adopted the company’s 2-stroke vertical twin motorcycle engine for power. Many other production cars adopted front-wheel drive over the ensuing decades, brands like Cord, Ruxton, and of course Citroën which offered the format at both ends of the brand’s scale. Most of those all featured inline engines and transmissions, and it wasn’t until the Mini in the late fifties that transverse engines once again gained significant favor in FWD form. The Mini however placed its gearbox directly below its A-series engine, the two components sharing their lubricant. The first adoption of the modern form of front-wheel drive – engine next to the transmission and drive via unequal length half shafts – was in the Autobianchi Primula in 1964. That car’s technology spawned the layout of Fiat’s 128 five years later. That format was designed by the Italian engineer, Dante Giacosa, and is today the standard for much of the industry, both for front-wheel drive cars, and behind the seats in smaller mid-engine cars like the Toyota MR2, Lotus Elise, and Pontiac’s Fiero. Image: My Auto World