Open Menu
Open Menu

What’s under your hood?

Published in

Still image captured from public domain film hosted on the Internet Archive.

This educational film employs various teaching aids such as animation, component cutaways, exploded views, working transparent models, and an actual vehicle to briefly illustrate the basics of how an automotive engine, clutch, transmission, driveshaft, differential, and brakes operate. It was presented by purveyor of several educational shorts Charles Cahill and Associates and produced by Parthenon Pictures.

This is the Second Edition of this particular title. Its “publication date” is listed as 1973 on the Internet Archive, and a late-model Mustang convertible, a Pinto, and a VW are shown at the beginning and end to reinforce the early 1970s timeframe. An internet search revealed that the National Library of Australia lists the First Edition as being produced in 1967, which explains why the music, delivery style of the narrator, and some of the instructive items come across as being from an earlier time despite this presentation’s later date.

An impressively detailed 1963 Chevrolet 327 engine and drivetrain cutaway in a chassis is employed for learning purposes numerous times. For the ignition and fuel system descriptions, a generator-equipped Chevy V-8 engine is used. Interestingly, a breaker-point ignition system is explained but an electronic ignition isn’t mentioned, despite the fact that automakers and aftermarket companies offered them by 1973. Also, a generator is discussed, but not an alternator.

The mostly transparent ¼-scale plastic engine appears to be nearly the same as a model I built for a high school project about 35 years ago. It was the “Visible V-8” from Revell. Remarkably, it’s still available. I just built the engine though. I didn’t have the driveline and chassis shown here. Being able to see the inner components of the engine actually moving makes understanding how they work together a lot easier than reading about it in a book.

How the clutch, transmission, and differential operate are also discussed and demonstrated on the transparent model’s drivetrain. An exploded view is used to illustrate a quick mention of automatic transmission operation. The driveshaft, universal joints, and the differential come next, and the drum brakes are discussed, but disc brakes aren’t.

The film is informative, but it is basic. Proving you can only fit so much info into 10 minutes and 42 seconds, at 1:16 “4 stroke cycle” is shown on the screen but the individual cycles aren’t identified. For example, the word “exhaust” isn’t mentioned here or anywhere else in the film. Neither is the oiling system nor some other pertinent engine parts.

Regardless, this vintage short is still an entertaining excursion into automotive nostalgia.