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New Class Lets Stanford Students Restore a Piece of Americana (Restoring Cadillac DeVille)
Stanford report ^ | June 14, 2012 | BROOKE DONALD

Posted on 06/17/2012 4:51:13 PM PDT by nickcarraway

A new course in mechanical engineering explores product design and manufacturing through the restoration of an old Cadillac DeVille.

The course description for a new seminar in mechanical engineering describes exploration into topics of design and manufacturing, and tells students they will consider questions of American identity and history.

Then it says this: Every student can expect to get his or her hands dirty.

"This quarter we decided to try something a little different, a little scary," says Greg Kress, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering who is helping teach the class.

That's ME397: Design Restoration. And in it, students learn by restoring a 1962 Cadillac DeVille – the car, complete with space-age fins, that defined luxury in that bygone era.

The students have worked on installing new brakes, pulling out and repairing the engine, hooking up a new transmission and pretty much rewiring everything.

"People don't build cars like this anymore. People don't build products like this anymore," Kress says, pointing to the blue Cadillac propped up on blocks in the lot of the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab. "But this whole car comes from an era. And you have to ask, what does it symbolize? What does it represent?"

A goal of the class was to explore those questions and understand design through the eyes of the manufacturer. Another was to have the car running by quarter's end.

"I had no reason to believe that wasn't a perfectly reasonable goal," Kress said. "Turns out it was. Now we're just desperately trying to get it mobile enough to move."

The car belonged to Kress' grandfather and took him on cross-country sales trips. It transported Kress' father to college.

More recently, however, it was sitting in a garage like a "big piece of junk."

Kress always wanted to restore it but didn't have the know-how or the means. He also didn't want to complete his studies in engineering without ever having tinkered with a car. He didn't think other students should either.

"Maybe that's just an old-fashioned way of thinking, but to graduate with multiple degrees in mechanical engineering and not actually know how a brake works doesn't seem to make sense," he said.

So the course was born. A 1-credit class, it's part of Stanford's Revs Program, which studies all things car from an all-discipline point of view, including art, history, engineering, design and social science.

The students in the class are computer scientists, fine arts majors, mechanical engineers and product designers.

"When it comes down to getting in there with a grinder," Kress says as he points to a student crouched in the space where the engine will be, "it doesn't matter what major you are. That's a nice thing with this class. There's a leveling effect. It's too complicated for any one of us."

Kress describes the class as having three parts: basic shop class, project management and design inquiry.

"What really attracted me to this class was exploring the car not only as a mechanical object but as a piece of design," said Alex Gamburg, a junior majoring in design.

His hands grimy from tinkering with the brakes, Gamburg said he hardly even drives cars, let alone repairs them.

"This has been a very demystifying experience in some ways and in other ways I'm even more amazed these things actually roll because of the difficulties we've had to go through," he said.

Some of the difficulties had to do with getting parts for something so old. And while Kress purchased an old repair manual, it still left questions about how to do certain tasks.

"There's a lot of sourcing to be done [on parts]," said Marcus Albonico, a first-year master's student in mechanical engineering. "It's a headache, but the more you do it, the better you get at it. So I've gotten much better through this course."

"One of the biggest things I've learned at Stanford is the power of building a good team," Kress said. "We have a few informal rules in this class. One is to not work alone. Another is if you don't know how to do something, find someone who does. And if you do know how to do something, find someone you can teach."

The course met weekly throughout spring quarter. There are no exams and no grades.

"The structure is fluid. The course is designed so that whatever you want to tackle, you can tackle it," Kress said.

As long as you're OK with getting your hands dirty.


TOPICS: Education; Hobbies; Miscellaneous
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1 posted on 06/17/2012 4:51:23 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

Really futuristic, I dig the fins.


2 posted on 06/17/2012 4:54:24 PM PDT by mylife (The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts)
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To: nickcarraway

There’s some irony there...a class full of students at one of the best universities in the world can’t get a ‘62 Cadillac up and running, but if you gave that same car to a bunch of high school kids in some rural corner of Oklahoma or Georgia or Pennsylvania or California, they’d have the thing not only shining like a diamond and ready to cruise the local strip, they’d have it doing 12-second passes at the local dragstrip by the end of the semester.

}:-)4


3 posted on 06/17/2012 4:55:26 PM PDT by Moose4 (...and walk away.)
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To: mylife

Wow, that is a neat car. I’ve seen the massive convertibles with the huge fins, but I’ve never seen a 1962 sedan like that before. The shape of the greenhouse and the way the pillars are done is really cool.

}:-)4


4 posted on 06/17/2012 4:57:51 PM PDT by Moose4 (...and walk away.)
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To: nickcarraway

If I read Stanford’s website correctly it’s about $13k per quarter for a high school auto mechanic’s class. Brilliant.


5 posted on 06/17/2012 5:06:04 PM PDT by hometoroost (Frodo lives!)
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To: nickcarraway

My dad owned a 62 Cadillac exactly like that


6 posted on 06/17/2012 5:07:26 PM PDT by South Dakota (shut up and drill)
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To: mylife

I’m trying to remember if it was Arthur C. Clarke or another classic sci-fi writer who wrote about the most popular engineering classes of the future - building low tech stuff like steam engines, smelting metal, hand making items that were late 19th and early 20th century. The kids supposedly learned more about practical applications of principals that way and it was more fun that watching simulations.


7 posted on 06/17/2012 5:13:07 PM PDT by tbw2
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To: mylife

I’m trying to remember if it was Arthur C. Clarke or another classic sci-fi writer who wrote about the most popular engineering classes of the future - building low tech stuff like steam engines, smelting metal, hand making items that were late 19th and early 20th century. The kids supposedly learned more about practical applications of principals that way and it was more fun that watching simulations.
This course could be the start of that trend.


8 posted on 06/17/2012 5:13:26 PM PDT by tbw2
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To: nickcarraway

Pah. If they want a real challenge they need to move up to the ‘56 Eldorado....replacement parts are hard to find, certainly not cheap, and do not generally match another year around it.


9 posted on 06/17/2012 5:13:54 PM PDT by GenXteacher (You have chosen dishonor to avoid war; you shall have war also.)
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To: nickcarraway
How 'bout that. Stanford has Shop class now. Fixing up the perfesser's car for him free of charge. How quaint.
10 posted on 06/17/2012 5:14:14 PM PDT by hinckley buzzard
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To: Moose4

LOL I used to build small block Chevy motors for APBA racing hydroplanes in the basement my frat house. Luckily there were some big strong pledges to carry them out after they were assembled.


11 posted on 06/17/2012 5:18:15 PM PDT by nascarnation
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To: nickcarraway

Southside Chicago will think of him often...


12 posted on 06/17/2012 5:26:22 PM PDT by MrEdd (Heck? Geewhiz Cripes, thats the place where people who don't believe in Gosh think they aint going.)
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To: GenXteacher

They could tackle my raggedy 68 Willys jalopy Jeep wonky elelctrical system. Most of the rest I can handle.

Right now I have an ignition problem that is stumping me probably because it is so simple I’m sure. I’m forgetting or overlooking something.

I’ve put on a new coil, new distributor (electronic), cap, wires, and a second ignition module. The plugs were replaced a couple years back when it was a sort of active project. I’ve pulled the plugs and they look pristine. Plus pulling #1 plug to rework timing.

I’ve got power on both sides of the coil and inside the module on the two wires connecting to the coil. There are two other wires on both modules that have never lit up with a test lamp.

The most I have gotten is a brief sputter. I haven’t fooled with it much lately due to work and the heat.

The only thing that concerns me with the aftermarket distributor, an Omix-Ada is that is keyed to fit one way. The old worn out distributor wasn’t. Assuming the old engine wasn’t in time to begin with, I am hoping this isn’t part of the problem.

After a pull start when it was found a few years ago, it did run but really rough.


13 posted on 06/17/2012 5:28:23 PM PDT by wally_bert (It's sheer elegance in its simplicity! - The Middleman)
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To: South Dakota

So did my Parents, in Robin’s Egg Baby Blue. We also had a 1965 Ford Mustang Hi-Perf 289cid (271hp) V8, and I could use either on dates, when I turned 16 in 1966, in HS.

http://www.mustang-links.com/1965_mustang.html

Hot stuff!


14 posted on 06/17/2012 5:31:40 PM PDT by carriage_hill (All libs & most dems think that life is just a sponge bath, with a happy ending.)
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To: nickcarraway
Wing windows.

15 posted on 06/17/2012 5:33:36 PM PDT by I see my hands (It's time to.. KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHER FREEPERS!)
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To: wally_bert

Find an old MGB/TR3/Jag/Austin and rip out the Lucas Electrical System, and install it. Runs like a charm. LOL! (Seriously, I wish I could help, but that electrical stuff’s above my pay-grade...)


16 posted on 06/17/2012 5:36:19 PM PDT by carriage_hill (All libs & most dems think that life is just a sponge bath, with a happy ending.)
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To: wally_bert

Have you checked the grounds?

In my experience, it’s the most overlooked item when troubleshooting electrical problems. Everybody goes over the hot and forgets the ground is equally important.

A common problem on both sides are connections that are intact enough to test out with a meter, but don’t have the capacity to actually carry enough current to do the job - like hidden corrosion inside connectors or under them. Most of the grounds don’t get moved around like the hots, so problems don’t show up as easily.


17 posted on 06/17/2012 5:51:18 PM PDT by chrisser (Starve the Monkeys!)
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To: carriage_hill

http://www.steeldreamz.com/1951_Ford_Coupe_146869976.veh#

My little gem.

should be here Friday.


18 posted on 06/17/2012 5:57:13 PM PDT by Hammerhead
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To: carriage_hill

http://www.steeldreamz.com/1951_Ford_Coupe_146869976.veh#

My little gem.

should be here Friday.


19 posted on 06/17/2012 5:57:21 PM PDT by Hammerhead
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To: nickcarraway
Sharp car. I've had 5 Caddys.
'88 Fleetwood Brougham - my first "large car", a <0>sweeet ride
'90 Sedan de Ville - picked it up cheap, it was in excellent condition, sold it in 6 months
'94 Eldorado ETC - very nice
'96 Eldorado ETC - very very nice, did some mod's
'98 Eldorado ETC - very very very nice, quite a few mods, 28 + mpg @ 70 mph, 150 +...;)
20 posted on 06/17/2012 6:00:34 PM PDT by Tainan (Cogito, ergo conservatus sum)
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