(first posted 12/3/2015) The recent conversations here about the Corvair’s excessive rear-weight bias (64%) got me thinking about what car had the most excessive rear weight bias ever. And this is what came to mind; a picture that always gives me the willies when I think about how this car must handle in a fast curve. Unfortunately, no specs are available to confirm my guess, but the 1930 Burney Streamline was lightly built, on aircraft principles, with fabric covering the body’s aluminum frame. But hanging out back was a large and heavy OHC eight cylinder inline engine (make unknown). One of the headlines covering it proclaimed “Streamlined Auto Can Almost Fly”. Take it fast enough through a curve and hit the brakes, and I’m sure it would. Another superlative: it must have the most accessible engine ever.
Here’s a rendering of the Burney taking to the air. Given its rear weight bias, it probably didn’t take much to catch air with the front wheels.
Here’s Sir Dennistoun Burney with his creation. It’s actually a quite advanced car in many respects, just not one that was realistically going to be produced in large numbers. twelve were built, with one going to the Prince of Wales. But it graphically showed the benefits of aerodynamics given thta it could readily hit 80 mph with only 80 hp. And it showed at least some of the benefits of a rear engine, removing the noisy contraption to the rear; that also allowed a lower floor and roomy passenger compartment.
It’s a concept that the 1933 Tatra T-77 would bring to production. But at least the Tatra had a compact, air-cooled V8, in an effort to lighten the rear load a bit. As it turned out, that still wasn’t good enough, as the T-77 was notorious for its wicked snap oversteer. The even lighter T-87 improved on that, but it too was a “killer”, and Hitler eventually banned his Luftwaffe officers from driving it, because of too many deadly crashes.
Here’s the Burney in a detailed cut-away (click for full size). If I had to guess, it probably carries over 75% of its weight in the back, given its super-light frame and body. maybe even 80%. Of course, that would improve a bit with passengers in the front seats, but still….this is asking for trouble.
More info and images of the Burney are here: carstyling.ru
That thing is UG-LY!
I thought the man in the first picture was pulling the engine.
Too bad General Motors didn’t think of this pull-out feature for its transverse-mounted V6 and V8 motors. You have no idea how frustrating and exasperating it is to replace the spark plugs buried so deep next to firewall. I’ve lost count of broken ceramic sleeves when I turned the wrench at wrong angle. And nicked knuckles on my fingers. Not to mention how many solar systems I spewed out in anger.
Yeah, I found out that General Motors did indeed redesigned the mounting system for its transverse-mounted V6, namely 3.1 and 3.4 litres fuel-injected version. Disconnect the top dog bone mounts then rotate the V6 slightly forward to create more space for changing spark plugs.
The driver’s weight would counter balance some of the engine’s weight because the driver is much farther from the rear axle than the engine is. But the design does not look good to me. The engine probably should have been in front of the rear wheels or over them.
It would only be safe if they ditched the engine completely.
Looks like Nissan emulated some of this styling as of late.
Ha ha, no doubt! It also looks like somewhat of a precursor to the Toyota Prius…….great on aerodynamics, but a liability on the visuals. In some ways, it looks like a hugely proportioned Beetle, with less effective styling…..probably because the Beetle could be considered “cute” styling, whereas this looks like a gigantic insect; semi grotesque. Interesting concept, though, as is the rear V8 engine. With a lot of these earlier designs in automotive history, the R&D was funded by the unfortunate car brands that were either way ahead of their time, or ones that served as an example of what not to do. Seeing as that this was made in 1930, the Great Depression must have made these ideas look doubly ill-conceived in an era where transportation was a luxury, not a right.
From the front, it looks like something from a children’s booked, with a name like Bertie, Basil or Marmaduke.
From the rear it looks like an accident waiting to happen, with transverse leaf springs and all.
The text in the cutaway talks of a weight of 4250lb, and everything of any substance is over (the gearbox) or behind (a big engine) the rear wheels. That’s probably why the front wheel are so far forward.
Good in the snow perhaps?
No doubt excellent in the snow for its’ day – as long as you only needed to travel in a straight line and didn’t mind backing slowly and gingerly down any hills you needed to descend!
The cut-away view shows an EIGHT cylinder engine behind the axle! With that nice weight and torque, I think I’d end up lifting the front wheels right off the ground at every traffic light.
I guess my dented oil pan would ultimately limit this travel, but still, I really don’t want to be unloading my front wheels with every gear shift!
I didn’t look close enough; so it is. Yikes!
Rated at 22hp is about 2.2 litres or a smallish 6 yet some of the blurb claims an 8 it must have been a small one.
Bryce: you didn’t read it carefully. It says that the engine (clearly described as an “OHC eight cylinder”) puts out only 22 hp at cruising speed, because the body is so aerodynamic. But it says the engine is capable of putting out 80 hp. This is clearly a large engine.
I read rated at 22hp, which would be RAC rating based on capacity bhp of 80 is derived differently all British cars had a RAC rating for road tax the way its written doesnt really make sense. But neither does a lot of the blurb reducing the weight on the tyres at speed is seen as an economy measure for tyre wear,instead of creating obvious traction problems what were these guys smoking?
It doesnt say anywhere whether the engine was iron block or alloy if it was alloy it might have been no worse than a VW or Tatra which I guess would be bad enough, with a full load of 7 humans aboard it was probably quite balanced with only the driver, not so much.
Following up on your question of iron or alloy block, and searching the net, I see mention of an Alvis FWD chassis turned back to front for the first car (Yikes!), with Beverley, Lycoming, and Armstrong-Siddeley engines being used for later cars – does anyone know the likely block composition for these? I know Armstrong-Siddeley was an engineering-driven company, but I think their use of a hiduminium alloy block might have come too late for this.
Then it developed into the Crossley-Burney with (I’d assume) a Crossley engine. Dare I say, only the sort of car your stereotypical ‘Mad Englishman’ would expect anyone to buy?
The only Armstrong Siddeleys Ive ever seen from that era were iron block my Uncle in Sydney has a 1926 and 1934 sedans the 20s model is the worlds only survivor and its in survivor condition dents included unrestored I think they now reside in Gosford at his sons place.
Lycoming straight eights were definitely iron blocks. And flatheads. Think Thirties Auburn.
Lycomnig and Armstrong-Siddeley were both aero-engine companies, so maybe some aluminium?
Even if it had an aluminum block and head (which is reasonably likely), it still wouldn’t have made all that much of a difference. An engine this large and long, hanging out so far in the back, would have had a very negative affect on the wight balance regardless if it was an alloy or iron block.
Taking any car into a fast curve and hitting the brakes smacks of driver incompetence something engineers rarely take into account, they assume the potential owner knows how to drive properly.
Faults and all an interesting design.
Progress come through experiment and thinking outside the square?
Interesting stuff Paul. One has to wonder if new owners received any driver training from the maker of these (and similar). Yikes.
A few more pictures from 1930:
The article says that as the car picks up speed the aerodynamic forces reduce weight on the tires…. A really bad design.
The back end – the whole car reminds me of M.C. Esher’s “Curl-up” creatures!
Agreed. “Organic design”.
64% is nothing unusual at all for a Rear Engine + RWD car. No idea why you would think this is the worst ever.
How about an old GMC ‘New Look’ transit bus? Some had Detroit 8V-71’s hanging quite a ways back there, and were transversely mounted to boot. Never saw one crash, but saw plenty moving at a high rate of speed.
I, too, was wondering about many buses, but the long wheelbase ameliorates that effect, IIRC.
Front clip makes it look like an aardvark, but that`s OK. I like unusual cars,and this one is definitely out there.
Forgot to mention……can you imagine driving behind one of these things and perpetually having to watch out so that you don’t smash into the back of it? It’s like driving behind someone who has a bunch of pieces of long wood or a huge ladder or something like that in the back of their truck, hanging out their tailgate.
Kind of reminds me of a Rumpler Tropfenwagen, aerodynamicized and with the engine behind the rear wheels instead of ahead. Interesting creature…
This looks like the sort of car which would chase you in fever dreams!
Had some fun doing a little research:
“For the finalised form of his sensational motor-car Sir Dennistoun used a straight-eight twin-cam 66 x 106mm (2956cc) Beverley-Barnes engine with MareIli coil-ignition; had one of their engineers had a look at an Alfa Romeo? Beverley-Barnes, of Beverley Works, Willow Avenue, Barnes, SW, had been building cars since 1924 (another “Forgotten Make”) beside supplying parts for other manufacturers including Bentley Motors, and were happy to sell these engines for £50 each at a time of sparse business.”
“Rarest of all quality high-powered touring cars of the 1920s was the Anglo-Belgian Beverley-Barnes, built in Barnes, South West London, in a factory beside the Beverley Brook. Principals of the company were all Belgian – Monsieur Dolphens, Monsieur Flamand and Count Lenaerts. Dolphens was the engineer with Flamand and Lenaerts the financiers. The company specialised in precision engineering and during the First World War built under licence the French Le Rhone air-cooled rotary aero engines for the Royal Flying Corps… All Beverley-Barnes cars featured mightily impressive straight eight cylinder overhead camshaft engines with aluminium pistons. Beverley later supplied some of the engines to Sir Dennistoun Burney for his Burney Streamline cars…”
– “The Straight eight Beverley-Barnes engines in the earlier cars proved unreliable, and in the final three cars examples were replaced by US-built 6-cylinder Lycoming or UK built Armstrong-Siddeley units.”
Great stuff. And good lord, seeing as the luggage is got at through a lifting rear glass window, it’s surely the world’s first hatchback!
Btw, is the vid silent?
I like this video because it properly puts the car in the context of what else was on the roads in 1930. The London Taxis and buses look like archaic relics in comparison. Amazing vision of the creator to design this car, and then build it. Yes there are obvious shortcomings, but it takes people like this to make progress happen.
20%/80% F/R is a good guess I think, and it looks like it’s on swing axles. Deadly. The Dauphine and Simca 1000 both had at least 65% rear weight bias thanks to their cast iron engine blocks.
Oh my. She’s the “Badonkadonk” Queen of the road. Turns every bump into a Railroad like crossing experience. They probably had to sedate the designer to keep from making it rear wheel steering. Nevertheless it is a drivetrain as interesting as it is terrifying.
Ok, now I’m completely intrigued.
Burney wasn’t the nutter this car might make him appear to be: he did the design the successful R-100 airship, after all. Believe it or not, and contrary to all our amused assumptions here, one of his primary thoughts in designing this way was what he saw as the dynamically INCORRECT set-up of most cars at this time.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you more because his 1932 article explaining his thinking – it seems agreed that he never intended full production, but did intend to get a proper maker to licence his ideas – is behind a university link that I’m hoping someone here is able to access. Namely, it’s a thing called “SAE Transactions”, Vol 27 (1932) at pages 57-63. It comes up under JSTOR, and seems to require a university enrollment to access (free) articles, but maybe one of our SAE readers can get it? I really hope so!
This article by Bill Boddy in Motorsport from 1991 is very interesting, with Rolls-Royce being interested. Everyone seems very aware of the weight distribution issue, but, contrary to our times, of the likely benefits of the engine far out back.
Thanks for that; very informative.
“The first car used an Alvis front-wheel-drive chassis effectively turned back-to-front but adapted so the new front wheels steered. Later cars used Beverley straight 8, Lycoming and Armstrong Siddeley engines.”
For 37 years later, this shows leaps and bounds in advancement. Compare a 1984 car to 2021 and the differences are mostly electronics.