When Giants Roamed the Earth

Nowadays it seems that small is the big thing in automotive.

Nowadays it seems that small is the big thing in automotive. There is the Tata Nano, of course. And the MINI (although it is getting larger). There is the smart fortwo, although it seems that many people have wised up and smart USA sales through the end of March 2010 are off by 71.7% compared to the same period in ’09, according to Autodata Corp.

The Fiat 500 is another diminutive vehicle, and many people are anxiously awaiting its arrival in the U.S., now that Fiat is running Chrysler. Two other cars—although not in the same tiny class as others named, but comparatively compact nonetheless—that are being anticipated in the U.S. market, having already made their marks elsewhere in the word are the Ford Fiesta and the Chevrolet Cruze.

However, once there were bigger beasts on the highways and byways. Cars that were nearly as big as the dinosaurs whose decomposed bodies became the oil that eventually powered these eight-cylindered beasts. Cars with pistons nearly as large as the drums that contained the oil. . . .

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OK. That’s not an automotive piston. Well, not the big one. But it is a piston that was produced in the moderately distant past by an automotive supplier, Kolbenschmidt Pierburg. (Which continues to produce large-bore pistons for construction and ag equipment.) The photo is from the company’s archive, as it is celebrating its centenary this year. The company, incidentally, is a pioneer in aluminum pistons, which it has been producing since 1920, which was otherwise the Iron Age when it came to piston production.

Our congratulations to Kolbenschmidt Pierburg.