Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


MAGNETO-RHEOLOGICAL technology, as featured in BWI’s clever engine mounts was yesterday’s topic, with a promise today of Part 2’s related memories of one sort or another.

I start with a little etymology: “Rheology” traces from the Greek, wouldn’t you guess; ρεύμα, stream. Rheology is the science dealing with the flow of matter, which is exactly the context in which I first learned of the term.

Attending Worcester Polytech on a United States Steel Corporation scholarship back in the early 1960s, I was also offered work in 1962 as a Summer Technical Associate in its American Steel & Wire Division lab in my native Cleveland.

Unlike some of my other summer gigs (maybe I’ll tell you about selling Fuller Brushes for a single evening), this one was indeed technical, and even reasonably lucrative. Ninety-three cents an hour sticks in my memory; $37.20 a week, gross; $1934 were I to work there year around. And before you scoff at that, check out the CPI Inflation Calculator of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In today’s dollar, I was earning $7.59/hour.

What’s even better, the project assigned to me by the lab manager was a non-trivial one: to determine a reproducible means of measuring flow characteristics of a family of certain lubricants.

What did lubricants have to do with wire production? A lot. Steel wire is made by drawing the heated product through finer and finer dies, with fancy lubricants used to facilitate the draw.

I was, in a sense, a Summer Staff Rheologist. No, not really.

I did learn that some materials flow in a Newtonian manner, their stress linearly proportional to strain. For example, a single-grade motor oil is Newtonian; a multi-grade is non-Newtonian.

Some non-Newtonian materials are thixotropic: Their viscosities diminish with duration of the stress. Beach sand is an example. A crab can lie quietly atop the sand or squirm around a bit and sink into it.

Other non-Newtonians are pseudoplastic: Their viscosity depends on the amount of stress: Blood or ketchup, for instance, gets thinner the more intensely stirred.

I confess I don’t remember which lubricant was which, but anyway it was American Steel & Wire’s proprietary information so mum’s the word.

A Ferrari gated shifter; here, a 550 Maranello’s. Image from Meguiar’s Online.

Back when Ferrari owners knew how to drive a manual, we all admired the appearance of the marque’s uniquely gated shifter. Less admirable, particularly among early mid-engine Ferraris, was this shifter’s misbehavior under heavy acceleration.

The engine would react to its ample torque by rotating on its mounts in the opposite direction. This in turn would screw up alignment of the shift linkage.

More often than not, under really enthusiastic acceleration (as in R&T track testing), I’d encounter a blind alley in the first dogleg shift. (With reverse off to the left, this would be the 2-3 shift; with reverse part of the double-H, it would be the 1-2 shift.) Only by pausing a bit (and losing a tick of time) could the shift be accomplished at all.

I bet magneto-rheological engine mounts would have cured this. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays, 2017


  1. Bob DuBois
    August 18, 2017

    I found a couple of interesting tidbits in your article. Re:being a Fuller Brush salesman. In the early ’60s, I had a related job. After the Fuller Brush man had made a sale, and received the ordered merchandise, it was my job to make the delivery and collect the bill. In return, as I recall, I was paid 10% of whatever I collected.
    I also recall that many years ago, Sears advertised their house paint as “thixotropic”.I’m not sure what it meant, except that maybe on stirring it became less viscous and easier to apply.

    August 21, 2017

    Speed shop owner in Austin, Texas did put a V-8 350 Chevy into a Datsun 240 Z for a customer. Set it all up, had everything aligned, fluids filled, connections made, static tested. Now to test drive. He motored to the stop sign at the street. Revved it up and popped the clutch….picked up the windsheild from the street, drove back to the shop and called his customer to talk about the rollcage to be installed.
    Paul Knowles–story from….1985?
    Twisting body and stress.

    • simanaitissays
      August 21, 2017

      A great tale. It reminds me of Morgan suspension dynamics: the chassis is the actual suspension; the springs are only hub locators. Park a classic Morgan with one wheel pitched above the other three, and the doors may well jam shut. All in good handling fun.

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