T-Drive Failure, Ford’s Dream of a Straight-8 in the 1990s in the upright movement of his car

In the week before the first Gulf War, Ford featured a modular engine design in its layout in the 90snd is calling back the most luxurious automobile ever made. This is the story of “T drive“And Ford’s modular straight Eight That it never made to produce.

Welcome to the Auto Archives, the show in which we return to our personal collection of Car Styling magazine. These issues are filled with ever-uploaded online pictures, sketches and interviews. I wish I had time to go through each page.

Straight-eats are rare The engine you will ever encounter, only 1920s Cruella Devil-grade land boats and 30s under long hoods. Why Ford took a stab at making a modern version is an interesting question, but perhaps even more interesting is the time when Ford gave the idea its shot at revitalization. This was actually the only time such a design could be attempted, and this is probably also the main reason that it never extended beyond that experimental stage.

Illustration for an article titled T-Drive Failure, 1990s Dreams Put a Straight-8 in Your Direct Rays

The image: Wade

Before I go, I explain what this engine was. It was a straight eight, so like a straight six or an inline-four, you got eight cylinders in a (very long) line. Ford’s T-Drive system, however, had four cylinders on one side, four on the other, and power was moved to the middle of the transmission. You can imagine A type of “T” shape, hence the name. Instead of a very long hood, with the T-Drive you got a kind of short but wide. These are the most modern cars anyway, so the T-Drive meant that Ford could turn a relatively large car into a relatively small car. Actually, the prototype running for the T-Drive was not a Mustang or Crown Vic. It was a compact Ford Tempo. You probably had no hope in hell of tramping the 4.0-liter V8 under the hood of the Tempo, but you might find a 4.0-liter direct drive there. You can see how Ford shook things up there Our old remap post on this from 2010, All of this going back to the original source for information. This will happen DrivingEnthusiast.net.

DrivingEnthyer.net also dug up T-Drive’s patent. In the video at the top of this post, I asked you to hear that I had to read the whole thing, but since these words are written here, please enjoy it It was filed with the US Patent Office in 1991 and published in ’93:

A T-drive power transmission mechanism consisting of an engine with crankshaft perpendicular to the axis of the transmission drive, a hydrokinetic torque converter with transmission and a right-angled drive that connects the torque output element of the gearing with the transverse axle halfshaft Is, the torque input element of the gearing is being substantially connected to the crankshaft gear located at the midpoint of the crankshaft.

There are some good technical illustrations of how all works, so I’ll include them here, including a Ludo crankshaft:

There are a couple of Why T-Drive made all this on the show floor of the 1991 Detroit Auto Show, but not in showrooms and driveways. Here DrivingEnthyer.net elaborated on the pros and cons, detailing that this is a system that has a huge degree of flexibility. You can make four, six or eight cylinders Engines use the same batch of all parts, and you can set them in the same size cars, and you can use it with any type of front-, rear-, or all wheel drive:


  • Family approach to a range of engines
  • Due to engine size, and placement ahead of axle centerline, front, all- or rear-wheel drive configurations may be engineered
  • Rear-wheel drive may have variations of the current off-the-shelf transmission (saving money)
  • Advantages of packaging for “cab-forward” design
  • The transmission is located in line with the midpoint of the crankshaft. This allows for a much lower engine placement, and similarly less hoodline
  • Marketing: Provides centerpiece engine technology to Ford, as Subaru is with its Boxer engine family.


  • Packaging, NVH, Durability
  • Harmonics, torque pulse and gear rattle
  • Limited bore size (torque, breathing, valve area) and displacement
  • Engine weight on front axle-line, creating weight-balance issues as front-wheel drive car
  • Front- or all-wheel drive will require engineering variations on the current transmission
  • Heavy transmission placement behind the engine – specific design changes are required on existing front-wheel drive-based platforms (when a point is capable of using an existing transmission).

This explains the special points of the T-drive, but it misses two other issues for the T-drive.

The major advantage of the T-Drive was that it was modular. We see this in a revival of straight-six engines, like Mercedes. A modular design allows you to easily build smaller engines into larger engines, such as playing with smaller Lego blocks. One problem, however, was that Ford was already There was a modular engine system. Whoever listened to the 1990 Mustang A burnout on the far side of the city will reveal this. The “Mod Motor” was Ford’s main V8 for the entire period of the 1990s, and used common parts to make it different cylinders and with different levels of technology.

While we have only got V8 and V10 mod motors, PopSci reported in late 1990 That Ford Mod Motor can reduce V6s to 2.0-liters. We never got them in production, but the mod motorCame in all types of displacement, with single and double overhead cams and lots of flexibility. This was not a big break from the norm.

Finally, I cannot stress the T-drive times enough. In 1991, the world was the victim of a global recession. Again, the ’91 Detroit Show ‘took place literally a week ago when the Gulf War helped show the world the financial filth. And Japanese people Bubble era It was about ten seconds away from the burst. The country is called “Lost Decade”, a depression that ended the permanent two. Bubble Era had promoted ambitious technological developments, particularly in Japan, but also pressured the rest of the world to catch up. In the 1980s, we saw revival of V12 in BMW and Mercedes, we saw Twin-cam engines become mainstream, And turbo engines, and Twin-turbo engine, Too. Japan was churning Commuter hatchback with engine revving 9,000RPM There were engines whose likes were never seen again, such as Mazda’s triple-rotor design seen in the incredible Yunus Cosmo.

The scale of progress was negligible, and it was poised to continue until the economic collapse of ’91. In the world of cars, every player had to finish their budget. Was fordRug to be fully alive. I can not imagine trying experimental pilotS againUse of old technology before WWIIS High on someone’s priority list.

Hence T-Drive died. And he is a bummer! The car we saw it in, Contour Concept, made it into production, but with conventional engines as boring jellybeans. There was no T-drive. There was not a bonded-aluminum chassis, such as the concept, or razor-thin projector headlights, or wheels that only had spokes on one-quarter Of the rim.

I often wonder what cars would have looked like if the bubble had never burst in the 90s. But these are useless dreams that have no end, T-drive cylinders are in a row for the horizon.


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