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Breakthrough: The MacPherson strut

2 years ago

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David Twohig | Engineer


24 October 2022

Not many automotive systems still retain the names of their inventors. And those that do tend to be somewhat obscure or archaic – think Gurney flaps, Roots superchargers, Woodruff keys, Panhard rods.

But one component is neither, and there is a damn good chance that two of them are holding up the front axle of your car at this very minute: Earle S. MacPherson’s eponymous struts. It’s most definitely MacPherson, by the way, not McPherson. Let’s get the history bit out of the way first, before we talk about the strut itself, and try to decide if it was the best thing since sliced bread, or the worst thing since burned toast.

Captain MacPherson came back from WW1 to work as an engineer for companies like Chalmers, Liberty and Hupmobile: names which have fallen far deeper into obscurity than his own. In 1934 he joined GM, where he was quickly promoted to Chief Engineer for the Chevrolet Cadet. The Cadet was a revolutionary project – it was to be spacious, remarkably light (less than a tonne or 2200lbs) and aimed at the very affordable price tag of under $1000.

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