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How old is my Y Type?

No one ‘invented’ the motorcar. It was built up over the years from things that already existed and had been invented, discovered or developed for other reasons. So just how old is the technology that your Y Type uses? Do bear in mind that the horse-drawn carriage had many of the so-called ‘cycle parts’ of our cars, i.e. steering, brakes, etc.


Beginning at the front we find the radiator that cools the water, this appeared in 1889, just after Otto had perfected his four-stroke, petrol piston engine in 1885. Gearboxes were common on lathes in workshops in the 19th century.


To permit the engine to be disconnected from the gearbox there is a clutch, the first record of such a device is in 1786. Whilst the gearbox itself has been around for centuries, often belt driven, the sliding-pinion gearbox in your MG dates from the 1890s. Synchromesh, and American invention designed to make gear changing easier arrived in the 1920s.


To steer the car and have correct geometry so each wheel follows the right radii, Ackerman steering arrived in 1916. To permit the rear axle to rise and plunge with its leaf springs, the drive shaft between the gearbox and it required flexible joints, the Universal Joint was first seen in 1676.


The pneumatic tyre was around as early as 1845. Drum brakes as we know them are a late development, they were first fitted to cars in 1902.


The ladder chassis of the type our cars sit on is from 1927. But the most eye-opening device on the car is the differential unit in the rear axle, that permits the wheels to follow different radii on curves so rotating a different speeds. This has been seen in artifacts that date back to the first century BC.


Now, if we could only find out how old the wheel itself is?


Neil Cairns.