This is my thread for my little marque of Automation cars, which I call Quasar. It’s supposed to start around 1965 and end around 2010 in the wake of the 2008 economic crash and years of declining competitiveness. But before we get to 1965, we must get ~the lore~ out of the way. So let’s get started!
The story of Quasar Cars, Inc. can be traced all the way back to the early 1930s with German-Jewish aircraft engineer Ariel Lieberman (1903-1977). Lieberman was fascinated by fuel injection, a then-new and unproven technology associated mostly with the Levavasseur 8V aircraft engine of the World War I era and certain Swedish truck engine designs. These engines were unreliable, vastly more expensive than carbureted designs, and the Swedish Hesselman design also boasted terrible compression and even worse emissions, but in theory fuel injection could be enormously superior to carburetion in performance, refinement, and economy. Lieberman’s company Lieberman Aero-Werke (LAW) then sold a variety of light aero engines largely for export, as the aircraft industry was heavily restricted by the Treaty of Versailles. Lieberman, together with LAW’s engineering chief Hans Mandel, designed a new fuel injection system designed as a retrofit to LAW’s popular LA40 inline-six aero engine. Unlike previous systems which injected fuel directly into the cylinder, Lieberman’s system placed the injector near the intake port, which made the system simpler, more robust, and much cheaper to build. However, the port injected LA40E (Einspritzung) engine only reached the prototype stage when the newly elected Nazi Party government issued the Reichstag Fire Decree in March 1933, giving them essentially complete control of Germany.
With anti-Semitic hysteria sweeping through Germany and German democracy now officially dead, Lieberman destroyed the prototype and all of the tooling for the LA40E, abandoned LAW and fled Germany for Switzerland on April 14, 1933, taking most of LAW’s engineering documents with him. LAW’s remaining assets were expropriated and handed over to Daimler-Benz, while Lieberman restarted his engine works as Lieberman Motor-Werke (LMW) in Bern in early 1934, this time focusing on twin-cylinder motorcycles, as he no longer had the resources to build large, multi-cylinder aero engines. LMW’s first machine was the LMW Walküre motorcycle, introduced in October 1934, with a carbureted 500cc engine followed shortly thereafter by the Walküre 500E with Lieberman’s port fuel injection system, modified for road use. While the 500E was expensive and temperamental, it was praised by the motorcycle press for its fuel economy, throttle response, and smooth running and ultimately over 90,000 500E bikes would be sold. However, disaster struck again in 1938 when Germany annexed Austria with the assent of the Western Allies. Combined with rumors escaping Germany of mass killings, riots, and secret prison camps, the news meant to Lieberman that no place in Europe was safe for Jews and he had to move again. In the summer of 1938, LMW was liquidated except, again, for its engineering documents, and Lieberman fled to the United States, this time for good.
During the late 1930s, Lieberman presented his port fuel injection system to the Western Allied governments, as well as major aerospace companies like Douglas, Rolls-Royce, and Packard, but was turned down by all of them, and his Walküre motorcycle, relaunched as the LMW Valkyrie 500i in the US, was a slow seller in the United States. During the Second World War, LMW closed and Lieberman went to work for Packard as an engineer, while his eldest son Elijah (1926-1946) joined the United States Army and participated in the Normandy invasion through the end of World War II before losing control during a joyride of a captured Tatra luxury car. Three days after V-J Day, Lieberman quit Packard along with three other Packard engineers to form Gordon-Jensen-Lieberman-Voigt (GJLV) with the four’s collected savings and a $3.5 million loan. Lieberman’s business partners, especially Cameron Voigt (1910-1983), were impressed by his port injection design, which he had revised several times during the war by modifying a late production Valkyrie in his garage. Voigt in particular was interested in adapting it for auto racing; Lieberman was skeptical, wishing to resume production of small, ultra-efficient motorcycles, and furthermore he had little love for cars and even less after the death of his beloved Eli driving a car far faster than he knew how to handle. The other three argued that motorcycles had little future in Europe and even less in the United States and that the only way forward after the war was with cars.
They immediately set about conceiving a design; in their jubilant postwar optimism they conceived of a “world car”, a practical and efficient family car using as many of the new technologies developed during World War II as possible, a car with no links whatsoever to the world of the past (though, ironically, their design had many links to Hans Ledwinka, the engineer behind the Tatra 77 that killed Lieberman’s son). It was to have a monocoque construction and overhead camshafts like an aircraft, and room enough to be acceptable to American families within a footprint small enough to navigate crowded European cities. The only concession to the old ways was its engine placement, which was against the firewall in the old Panhard layout as Lieberman was strongly against a rear engine layout (the Tatra 77 having been rear-engined), but power was routed to the front wheels like the Citroën Traction Avant for better agility and traction in poor weather. The car was still tall and narrow like a pre-war small car but with much more room inside, as the bodywork now extended outward to completely envelop the rear wheels, reducing the fenders to ornamental rudiments. The wide-body design also allowed for a double wishbone suspension similar to that of the front of the Traction Avant to be used both front and rear, eliminating the axle altogether. At the heart of it all was a 1.2 liter inline four engine using Lieberman’s port fuel injection system. The initial proposed dual overhead cams, like a World War II military aero engine, were simplified to a single cam, but even still the engine shamed any contemporary economy car engine, rated at 60 horsepower at 4900 rpm and 26-40 miles per gallon depending on driving conditions; this was likely quite generous due to the SAE gross rating standard used, with the actual crank horsepower being estimated at 45-50. However, the sheer vigor of the engine, brought about by its fuel injection, made the car much quicker and more sporting than its numbers suggested. The engine was easily capable of revving to 6000 and beyond, but a fuel cutoff was added to the injection system that engaged at 5000 rpm to discourage waste of fuel.
The prototype, designated WS1200, was demonstrated privately on October 13, 1947 to members of the Truman administration as well as representatives of the British government, in order to secure funds for mass production. While all who tested WS1200 agreed that it was nimble, efficient, comfortable, and a pleasure to drive, and it was stable at highway speeds all the way up to its maximum of 86 mph, its radical technology made it far more expensive to build than leftover “people’s car” designs like the Volkswagen and Citroën 2CV; the Truman government estimated that a mass produced version of WS1200 would cost at least as much to build as a full-sized Chevrolet or Ford. GJLV pointed out that costs could be reduced greatly over time through economies of scale as long as losses could be funded for a few years, but neither government were interested. WS1200’s engine also had a fairly wide bore and short stroke (though still more undersquare than was the custom in America), increasing its tax horsepower in many European countries and making it even more unaffordable there. In addition to cost, the Americans and British were suspicious of the French-derived drivetrain technology, and the aggressively rounded, almost tubular design that provided WS1200 with its ample interior reminded many of the inspectors of a slug or a larva. The future of WS1200, and the company, seemed bleak.
At the same time, the victorious Allies were busy enacting the Morgenthau Plan, entailing the stripping of Germany’s industrial and economic assets and their disbursal to firms in Allied countries. GJLV initially sought the KdF-Wagen plant in Wolfsburg that would later produce the Volkswagen Beetle, but the plant was handed over to the British instead, saving the Volkswagen—all four founders considered the Volkswagen inferior to WS1200, but Lieberman most of all because of its Nazi Party origins and its engineering resemblance to the Tatra 77. Instead, GJLV received a Daimler-Benz plant in Hamburg. The plant had been badly damaged by the firebombing of 1943, but Wehrmacht veterans were forced to clean and repair the factory by the occupation government and machine tools were confiscated from BMW, DKW, Messerschmitt, and other companies and installed in the factory. Now GJLV had a factory that could mass produce WS1200 without the help of the Allied governments, but they also faced the prospect of marketing an unusual and expensive car in war-ravaged central Europe. WS1200 was put on a boat from GJLV’s headquarters in Sacramento, California to Germany to be re-engineered into a new car for the new market. For WS1200 to survive, it would have to change.