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The MacPherson strut: How modern suspension is rooted in 1940s tech


#1

Suspension technology in automobiles has evolved at a glacial pace. Many modern cars can trace the technological roots of their suspensions back decades. Once such example is the MacPherson strut front suspension, which is near ubiquitous on front-wheel-drive vehicles (and the Porsche 911). But who is this MacPherson guy, how does his design work, and why is it still around?


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/01/29/what-are-macpherson-struts

#2

Good article on a forward looking GM of the past. I wonder why MacPherson’s ideas didn’t make it onto the compact unibody cars of the early 60’s, particularly the Corvair. Seems like Ed Cole and MacPherson would have known of each other. Too bad GM didn’t use their own ideas.
The main reason for the Corvair’s shortcomings were cost issues relative to the competition and the swing axle rear suspension. Seems like a Chapman type strut suspension could have been used at the rear and possibly avoided the terrible camber change and rear wheel tuck condition that plagued the first generation. It most likely could have been done for a similar price. I understand that Chapman patented his design in the late fifties but I’m sure GM could have worked around it or paid the royalties. It also seems like a low cost design.
I’m not sure I agree with your comment about the glacial pace of suspension design. Automobile technology evolves based on need and cost. The Corvair was certainly a driver of change, especially when you look at the second gen rear suspension multi-link design. This design was driven by a need to correct the oversteer and tuck and was an advanced design for an economy car or any other at the time. I think the cars handle well even to this day. Unfortunately, it was again more expensive than the competition and further pushed the Corvair’s demise due to internal cost/profitability at Chevrolet.
Thanks.