Home Automotive Reference History Road & Track Illustrated Automotive Dictionary

The Los Angeles Times - October 11, 2000

An Illustrative Means to Demystifying Automotive Jargon

Character line. Tramlining. Wheel hop. Confused? Don't be. The meanings of these and 1,300 other automotive terms are explained and illustrated in the newly published Road & Track Illustrated Automotive Dictionary.

Illustrations are plentiful and well marked, with labels for items shown other than the one being defined. The writing is clear and concise, and cross-references are plentiful.

The author, John Dinkel, knows his stuff. He worked for three years as an engineer at the former Chrysler Corp. before moving into writing and editing, including 20 years at Road & Track. He also is a successful racer, having won the Nelson Ledges 24-hour race four times.

This volume is a revision of one that came out in 1977, which itself was based on a series of articles that appeared in Road & Track in 1975-76.

The book mixes fairly common terms, such as "power brakes," with more obscure engineering language, such as "laminar flow," which describes smooth airflow over a surface.

Even if you aren't an enthusiast or an automotive writer, the book makes a useful tool for when your mechanic is talking over your head. Although some people don't want to know, anyone looking to have the intricacies of the automobile demystified will find this volume a worthwhile investment.

And, finally, to end any confusion:

  • "Character line" is "any thin groove or ridge in the surface of a car body, often ornamented, that results from an intersection of planes."

  • "Tramlining" is the British term for "nibble," which is "a condition in which a car's tires tend to follow pavement irregularities such as grooved sections of freeways or the metal surfaces of bridges."

  • "Wheel hop" is "an undesirable condition in which a wheel . . . moves up and down so violently that it actually leaves the ground."

  • —Robert Beamesderfer, Times Staff Writer