If you're an aspiring car designer or just an automotive technical buff, have I got a cool illustrated engineering bible for you. This oil and water-like combo goes together better than you'd expect.
I was contacted by Curb Industries about their latest book release titled, "H Point: The Fundamentals Of Car Design & Packaging." I thought to myself; "Great, a book about engineering, how interesting could this really be?"
I received a package via USPS a few days later and honestly, didn't get around to opening it for a day or so. I knew what it was. What the heck did I just get into? Eventually opening the terrorist-proof package, I found a brand new copy of the book waiting deep within. Pulling it free from the clutches of the manila and bubble-wrapped packaging I noticed the slick sports car sketch that adorned its otherwise unassuming cover and thought that this could only be a ninja-like ploy to draw an unknowing potential customer into the engineering death pit that sits between the covers.
Then I noticed the cool little car illustrations inside (reminding me of doodles I had drawn in the margins of my high school term papers) and the foreword written by Ralph Gilles; VP of Design, Chrysler and Freeman Thomas; Design Director, Ford Advanced Design. They're both design guys; what the heck are they doing here? Like oil and water, designers and engineers just don't mix. Taking this into consideration, I decided to sit down with H Point on my favorite white reading chair and flip through a few of its thick, glossy pages. It didn't take long. I was sold.
The introduction baby steps the curious reader through the historical story of vehicle architecture from the creation of the first wheel in Mesopotamia in 4000BC, the art and science of the 1922 Bugatti Type 35, the passenger priority of the 1959 BMC Mini, the triple XL 1992 AM General Hummer H1 and finally on to the future of urban mobility, emerging neighborhood electric cars like the
Jalopnik Mobile Command GEM E4.
Chapter 1 covers the most basic understanding of vehicle packaging and the designs that support the different and varying architectures. The author explains, in the simplest and most informative method, the anatomy of the modern car, the human interface, the placement of occupants, powertrain, storage, rolling hardware, key hard points and more.
The history lesson was fun, but I decided to delve further into the depths of this eye-opening book. Chapter 4 starts to get into the really fun aspect of designing cars, the proportions. If you've ever looked at a car and thought to yourself; "Self, why does this car look so goofy? All the elements are there, but there's just something that doesn't look quite right." Aside from really bad design, this can be attributed to a poorly designed architecture. Take for example most mid-90 to '05 GM passenger cars. The wheelbase looks wrong in most cases, both in width and length. Kind of like a fat kid on roller-skates. Now look at a BMW, any BMW, from any era and you'll see quite the opposite. BMW knows how to design an architecture that the sketch monkeys will like and will look right rolling down the boulevard. They've got wheels that fill the wheel well, strong shoulders, nice dash-to-axle and short overhangs. This is good proportion and it all starts with the engineering team. This chapter walks through key dimensions for both interior and exterior, necessary hard points for powertrain, safety, etc. These are the magic pages that any aspiring car designer or engineer should pay attention to. You'll learn a lot here without it boring you to death.
It just keeps getting better the further and further I get into this designer's guide to the engineering galaxy. Powertrain selection starts in Chapter 7 and develops the idea of designing for the driven wheels, engine size and location. Now there are a few anomalies that have made it through the pipeline, but I won't mention any names (the front wheel drive, Mitsubishi 3000GT SL) since all are innocent until proven guilty by a hot, grease soaked, LeMons judge, jury and executioner.
Upon happily and curiously ingesting all 224 well-written and considerately illustrated pages of H Point, I had to sit back for a bit and ask myself a few final questions; "What just happened? Did I just learn something that I had been kicking and fighting against my entire professional career? Did I…like it??"
You can pick up your very own copy of H Point: The Fundamentals Of Car Design & Packaging from Design Studio Press. Whether you're an aspiring car designer, engineer or just a weekend grease monkey, trust me when I say, H Point is definitely worth the price of entry.