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Westinghouse Air Spring Option


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With this new topic I like to bring the Westinghouse air suspension system to your attention. This was an option for upper class cars in the years around 1910-1920, before baloon tire were introduced.

Since November 2019 I own a Locomobile equipped with these air springs, and I find it difficult to get information and gain knowledge about it.

As a starting point, I like to ask: Does anyone have this booklet shown below and would like to scan it for this forum? This advertisement would give a good introduction.

westinghouse 40453_0.jpg

Edited by Ittenbacher Frank
missed a word (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, alsfarms said:

Good subject matter.  I am anxious to learn more about the upscale shock absorbers.

Al

Dear Alan, these "air springs" are not only shock absorbers (which were usually added to car's axles for reducing the bouncing or jumping), they are an additional telecopic suspension which is integrated into the car's chassis in series with the traditional leaf springs, it is involved into the wheels guiding and steering geometry, and makes you ride on air cushions. The function is amazing. I will explain later.

Edited by Ittenbacher Frank
added a sentence (see edit history)
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And here is the latest: The air spring was finally patented in 1925, the patent application was placed in 1919, the documents were prepared in 1918. The valve arrangement seems different from the previous drawing, but the function's description is similar: An upper pressure chamber and a lower vacuum chamber, a piston with seals and valves in between, and an internal piston pump for maintaining the pre-set pressure levels.

pdf page 1.jpg

pdf page 2.jpg

pdf page 3.jpg

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I have ridden in in a Pierce-Arrow 48 fitted with a set of these. It did make a smooth ride for sure.  However, I was more taken with the rest o the P-A and didn't pay  much attention to the Air Shocks.

A

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The guys who have them seem to like them………not sure I would want a set on my car. 

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They do look like 1910’s Chapman Valve fire plugs. For some reason, ever since I saw them on a hearse as a kid in the 70’s, it just makes me think of funeral cars……..

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1 minute ago, edinmass said:


They do look like 1910’s Chapman Valve fire plugs. For some reason, ever since I saw them on a hearse as a kid in the 70’s, it just makes me think of funeral cars……..

Yeah like the guy in the back of the hearse cares about a smooth ride.😎

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Given the road system in the early days I’m sure they were an improvement and a luxury item. Unfortunately they give the vehicle a truck utilitarian look that hurts the lines of the car. IMHO.

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10 hours ago, George K said:

Given the road system in the early days I’m sure they were an improvement and a luxury item. Unfortunately they give the vehicle a truck utilitarian look that hurts the lines of the car. IMHO.

ok, George, I will try to avoid discussions about ugly or beautiful, because things are only beautiful if you believe they are, and sometimes it takes some time to get used to a certain look or shape.

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13 hours ago, George K said:

Yeah like the guy in the back of the hearse cares about a smooth ride.😎

 

George......the customer is ALWAYS right........even when he is dead! 

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1 hour ago, Ittenbacher Frank said:

ok, George, I will try to avoid discussions about ugly or beautiful, because things are only beautiful if you believe they are, and sometimes it takes some time to get used to a certain look or shape.

Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. You’re an engineer and find it’s function interesting. I find their vertical protrusion in all four corners aesthetically damaging. All good as it’s what makes the world go round.

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From the technical point of view, I think we have to understand why these things were invented, and how they work.

Driving on bad roads with small-volume & high-pressure tires and stiff leaf springs was and still is no fun. What the designers could do was

- using longer leaf springs could only be done to a certain degree, separating their spring action job from their wheel guidance job (as Loco did) was complicated, heavy and expensive.

- adding additional small coil springs between the end of the leaf springs and the frame was common, see the photo. I guess this might help to absorb some smaller vibrations. I wish I knew how a car with this spring arrangement drives on bad roads and around S-turns. Ed, can you share your experience?

IMG_4690.JPG

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- using bigger tires (heavier and more expensive, made the car less sellable), and real balloon tires became available much later, during the 20s.

- Thick seat cushions were the way to increase passenger's comfort(Loco advertised their 10 inch upholstery), but the car had to suffer.

Therefore the "Riding on an air cushion" must have sounded like a dream, and when it became technically possible, it must have been claimed as a sensation, similar to the Citroen ID/DS with the hydropneumatic suspension in 1955. In reality it was obviously less spectacular, because it didn't become a commercial success.

You have to consider that the Westinghouse air spring is only connected to one end of each leaf spring, the other end is connected to the chassis rail. That means: 2" travel on the air piston is only 1" travel on the wheel. You will also notice: If you lift the front axle by inflating the air springs, the front axle will tilt forward, thus changing the castor angle. If you lift the car too much, it changes the steering noticably:

The operating manual describes the result as "wobbly in the steering", I made my own experience and will explain later what consequences that has on the road.

7 (2).jpg

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The function of the internal parts is probably not so necessary to fully understand, but you should keep in mind that there is a pressure chamber in the upper part of the cylinder, a vacuum chamber below, an oil filling to a certain given height (which is explained in the instruction book), and an automatic pump which returns leakage oil back from the lower to the upper chamber while driving the car.

You have to take care of three different lubricants: a. the oil inside the air chamber, b. oil for the lubricators (located outside the cylindrical body), and grease for the spring shackle.

8 (2).jpg

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The advertising mentioned that these air springs could be added as an option. I don't think that this was so easy or at least not comfortable, safe and long-lasting in every case, because the chassis frame has to be modified in order to offer the flange plate with four threaded holes for the cylinder base, the leaf springs needed to be modified, the steering geometry probably needed individual adjustment, in case of 3/4-elliptic springs at the rear you got to modify it to half-elliptic, and so on.

I wish I knew how many they produced, and how much it had cost to a. purchase a set of four and b. to have them installed. In an older post it is said that it would probably have cost around 1000 dollars to have a set of four Westinghouse air springs factory-fitted to your car. Hard to believe.

In the 1917 operating manual they list the price for a reconditioned unit, in case you have to exchange one after the warranty has expired: 37,50 for one, at a nominal charge, equal 150 $ for a set. Imagine you order a brand new Locomobile, plus preparing your car, plus the installation work, plus magin, ...this option was not cheap.

19 (2).jpg

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In 1923 Westinghouse offered their air springs for a reduced price already, I just don't know what this price includes: between 75$ and 125$ for different sizes (they were available as diameter 2", 2 1/2" and 3" units), but was that price for one, for four, or for four including installation? And soon afterwards they were not offered any more for passenger cars.

36203-1567172001-9908756.jpg

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Before coming to my 1917 Loco, I like to share some photos of cars with these air springs which I saw over the years or found online:

1914 Stearns, 1915 Cadillac, 1917 Haynes, 1917 Pierce Arrow, 1919 Cole, 1922 Fiat, and some cars without knowing their year.

1914 Stearns 1 D55D0D91-7126-4A48-820E-F9CBB0A66613.jpeg.4c971058e2195d313092cbbfab90fec0.jpeg

1914 Stearns 2 4B29C35F-5264-41CC-A53E-09CE0EE24893.jpeg.b3f08cbcd056696204ed3bbc7eaa380c.jpeg

1915 Cadillac V8 1915 1.JPG

1917 Haynes IMG_3494.JPG

1917 Haynes IMG_3497.JPG

1917 Haynes IMG_3503.JPG

1917 Pierce-Arrow 1917 1.JPG

1917 Pierce-Arrow 1917 2.JPG

1922 Fiat 38400-1565096572-4132812.jpg

1924 Cadillac biga.jpg

Cadillac ca mit Westinghouse Unk32021.thumb.jpg.989829a687450bbf0478eb6669519c4d.jpg

Fiat _1447289823_resized_caster_057.jpg

Fiat rear.png

model-381-e1295549728500.jpg

stevens-duryea melbourne-brindle-gallery-opener__medium.jpg

1919 Cole klein.jpg

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Posted (edited)

By the way, the Locomobile spare parts catalogue is clearly showing that other springs must be used on cars with Westinghouse suspension. This indicates that it was usually sold as factory accessory?

Another interesting detail: the spare part numbers were obviously issued ascending order. The spring part numbers for the Sportif (here called 4-passenger) are higher than for the Westinghouse springs, which means the Westinghouse option was prepared before the first Sportif was sold (when was that, by the way?)

Another interesting note: Locomobile used different rear spring arrangements for different body styles (definitely for differences in weight, maybe also for size (rear overhang) and height=center of gravity?): 6 leafs, 7 leafs (2 types), 8 leafs, 9 leafs and 10 leafs.

On some cars the longest spring is on top, on others the longest one is on the bottom.

On my 1917 tourer (open, 7 seats, with Westinghouse suspension) I count 11 leafs in the rear and 14 in the front axle...strange. Longest on top. I will try to compare that with other Locomobiles.

 

Spare Parts Book Chassis 1917 page 1 (2).jpg

Spare Parts Book Chassis 1917 page 97.jpg

Spare Parts Book Chassis 1917 page 98.jpg

Spare Parts Book Chassis 1917 page 99.jpg

Spare Parts Book Chassis 1917 page 100 (2).jpg

Edited by Ittenbacher Frank (see edit history)
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I have driven three or four cars with them, all Pierce Arrow's. One was a 66, the others 48's. Didn't notice anything special about the ride, but they were all in my early to mid 20's so I was distracted by the cars....not the ride! They sure were expensive when new, and I suspect that if they were much better than everything else, we would see lot's more of them. Let's face it........people with real money did long distances with their cars by putting them on the train in their baggage car while they rode in their own Pullman car...........toss in that say 70 percent or more of the big and expensive cars were kept in the city's and did most of their miles there..........driving long cross country distances wasn't popular till the mid 20's.......

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)
On 4/18/2022 at 11:13 PM, Ittenbacher Frank said:

Dear George, I saw that and placed an offer already yesterday. I do not know the difference between junior and others. Perhaps I will learn that later? Thanks and regards to you!

Just for your information: I won that bid and will let you know the content of that brochure as soon as it will have arrived in my home.

Edited by Ittenbacher Frank (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

dear George, thanks for this photo! Obviously a car with Westinghouse air springs, but no Loco. The right cylinder shows this eye which is usually used on the front suspension for the round connecting bar which acts as an additional chassis stifferer.

The dog seems to enjoy sitting in the tire. How about these dogs, what's your opinion?

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0 Dog-Rides-Comfortably-in-Sack-on-Running-Board.jpg

0 travel-crate-Version-2.jpg

0 dog_box.jpg

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on a humorous note.........  I know why we don't see any of these exterior dog carriers, we as a society now treat dogs as one of the family and they now get better treatment by riding inside the automobile.  Things have certainly changed.  In my Grandparents time, dogs were pets, favored maybe, but still they rode in the back of the truck and were most happy to do so.  I see now that pet insurance can be purchased just like insuring your children!

Al

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On 6/9/2022 at 3:56 PM, Ittenbacher Frank said:

dear George, thanks for this photo! Obviously a car with Westinghouse air springs, but no Loco. The right cylinder shows this eye which is usually used on the front suspension for the round connecting bar which acts as an additional chassis stifferer.

The dog seems to enjoy sitting in the tire. How about these dogs, what's your opinion?

0 running-boards-1.jpg

0 Dog-Rides-Comfortably-in-Sack-on-Running-Board.jpg

0 travel-crate-Version-2.jpg

0 dog_box.jpg

Being a minimalist my first inclination is the sack. But for clean up I have to go with the Lion type cage. Amazing how dogs are considered something other than pets in this country. I have owned and enjoyed many dogs but please don’t call me a pet “parent”! Their a dog biologically impossible.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/19/2022 at 4:55 PM, Ittenbacher Frank said:

- using bigger tires (heavier and more expensive, made the car less sellable), and real balloon tires became available much later, during the 20s.

- Thick seat cushions were the way to increase passenger's comfort(Loco advertised their 10 inch upholstery), but the car had to suffer.

Therefore the "Riding on an air cushion" must have sounded like a dream, and when it became technically possible, it must have been claimed as a sensation, similar to the Citroen ID/DS with the hydropneumatic suspension in 1955. In reality it was obviously less spectacular, because it didn't become a commercial success.

You have to consider that the Westinghouse air spring is only connected to one end of each leaf spring, the other end is connected to the chassis rail. That means: 2" travel on the air piston is only 1" travel on the wheel. You will also notice: If you lift the front axle by inflating the air springs, the front axle will tilt forward, thus changing the castor angle. If you lift the car too much, it changes the steering noticably:

The operating manual describes the result as "wobbly in the steering", I made my own experience and will explain later what consequences that has on the road.

I like to explain my experience with the steering's behaviour change after filling the air springs: After having the black Sedan on the road for nearly 2 years, I thought I know Loco's steering quite well, which is: unreasonable to turn at standstill, still a bit heavy when you try to turn the wheel fast at walking speed, very precise around bends with a nice self-centering action, and rock steady at high speed.

I expected the same on the Tourer, having the same 35x5 tires, same wheelbase and same front axle status (not worn, well adjusted and lubricated). The first few test rides kept my mind busy with all engine related issues, just in the beginning of this year I filled the air springs for the first time. I knew one of the front units lost pressure after a short time and I didn't know the importance of reaching the exact height yet, so I over-inflated them to a height maybe 1 or 2 inches below the maximum, and drove off. The car steered nervously, I had to correct my path frequently, and the first turn out of town, at perhaps 25-30 mph, scared me: The Loco wanted to go into the ditch, and it needed force on the steering wheel to convince it to come back into the straight again! Not nice at all.

Then I learned from the Westinghouse operating manual: 2 inches from the bottom is the desired value at the front axle, and 3/4 at the rear.

4 (2).jpg(front)1404516922_5(2).jpg.c43fc65382f92a7b2f7e4a793872c9dc.jpg(rear)

 

With this height setting, the steering is really perfect: The self-centering effect came back again, the stability on a straight course is fine, the required force on the wheel to go into a turn is much less then on the Sedan. Doing short S-turn in a city in between parked cars can be done with one hand!

By this I learned: The word "wobbly" should be taken seriously.

7 (2).jpg

Edited by Ittenbacher Frank (see edit history)
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The next lesson learned is regarding the air leaks. I had big doubts that I would be able to open the units for inspection. I read in some place that holes have to be drilled into the cylinder head, in oder to attach a very long lever for applying the required force. I didn't feel well with that idea.

At first I tried to fill a bit of thick gear oil into the air chamber (hoping that thick oil reduces the leakage rate throug the seals), but no result. Air and oil, both leaked. Then thin oil, same result.

As a next step, after I had opened the drain plug over night, I filled a bit of gasoline into the air chamber, drove half a mile around the block, then tried to drain it again, but it didn't work, just a few blobs. With the help or a bit of air it resulted in this mess:1997181566_0sauereiTourer.JPG.913ed24862313cecddfa812745841c69.JPG

As a next step, I filled half a pint of diesel fuel and drove 10-15 miles, and drained again (similar mess)

Finally, after one more flushing, I filled the exact quantity of hydraulic oil (HVLP46). I hope this will work because it has a very good deareation ability and nearly no additives. I filled air to the desired pressure&height, and for several weeks it didn't leak/drop air any more. I will keep you informed about the progress.

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