Royal equality

Is discrimination by age less objectionable than discrimination by sex? Yes, if the alternative is discrimination by both. Or so the reasoning might go as Britain considers whether its law of succession to the throne should be changed in tune with equal opportunity for the sexes.

As it stands, a monarch's eldest son is first in line - namely, Prince Charles. But who should succeed him? A member of Parliament proposes a bill to eliminate gender as a criterion and thus guarantee that the Prince and Princess of Wales's firstborn, due next year, would have the right of succession whether a son or daughter.

This would follow the enlightened example established by Sweden a couple of years ago. The only question may be why Britain, with all its notable kings and queens, didn't become an equal opportunity employer long before.

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Chevrolet is now at a 62-degree windshield on some models and is trending toward 65 degrees by the mid-'80s, although Nedley says that he himself doesn't see much of an aerodynamic gain by going that far.

''It's more a matter of styling,'' he observes, adding that the big gains in lower CD were in windshield angles up to 59 degrees.

* For minimum wind resistance, wheel covers and wheels that don't require covers will be designed with maximum flatness in mind and be fairly flush with the tires. Large holes in the wheels or wheel covers are ruled out because they cause turbulence and increase drag. Small functional holes are acceptable, however, as they help to cool the brakes.

Such are the changes in body styling over the next few years.

Aerodynamics has taken on special importance, not only to get improved economy, but because of the downsizing trend in automobiles these days.

''As cars get smaller, they get lighter faster than they get smaller,'' asserts Romberg of Chrysler Corporation.

''Aerodynamics forces have a great deal more influence on small, light cars than they do on large, heavy autos,'' he adds. To put it another way, Romberg says that ''an aerodynamically 'clean' car is a good-handling car, particularly when you are speaking of a small, light car.''

To achieve optimal design these days, the wind tunnel is essential to both auto designers and engineers.

The Chrysler K-car (Dodge Omni and Plymouth Reliant), for example, received a total of 320 hours of wind-tunnel testing so as to reduce drag of the original body design by 20 percent.

Chrysler uses two modern wind tunnels - one at the firm's proving ground in Chelsea, Mich., about 50 miles west of here, and the other in Ottawa, which is operated by the Canadian National Research Center.

For the past 31/2 years Mr. Lewry has been the executive engineer for aerodynamics at Ford. Ford uses the Lockheed aircraft tunnel in Marietta, Ga., till its own $25 million tunnel is built.

Aerodynamics is best identified as an art, says Nedley of Chevrolet.

Looking at the aerodynamic gains made in recent years by most automakers by raising the rear deck (trunk lid), Nedley predicts that the height of the deck on GM's all-new A-cars, the intermediate Chevrolet Celebrity, and others due on the road in Janaury will be the limit in the foreseeable future.

Chevrolet has ''tried a lot of things with varying degrees of success'' under the car to improve CD.

Wind-tunnel tests prove that the front end is by far the most important area to clean up aerodynamically. The farther back you go (on a car's underside), the less important modifications are for streamlining.

Air dams are becoming vital in the front, but they must be carefully tuned to each model in the wind tunnel. They are capable of a ''one-two'' punch, according to Nedley.

First, there's lower aerodynamic drag; second, the air dam helps with the air-flow rate through the radiator. In short, it has the effect of helping to ram the air through the radiator.

One of the reasons for the success of the X-car is its fuel economy. Basic to the economy is the performance of the cooling system. The electric-powered fan, for example, runs a minimum part of the time because even a slight forward motion of the car is adequate to keep the engine from getting too hot.

Less running of the fan translates into better fuel economy, because gasoline isn't required to charge the battery to replace the current used by the cooling fan.

The forthcoming all-new replacement for the Chevrolet Camaro has a good example of outside mirror design for least wind noise and minimum drag.

At Ford, the 1985-86 models, fairly close to completion in the styling studios, will reflect the bulk of aero advances that are available to engineers and stylists today.

Drip moldings will be gone, particularly at the A-pillar (the pillars at each side of the windshield). Very little will protrude beyond the sides of the car. Outside rear-view mirrors will be streamlined and door handles mostly recessed, according to Lewry.

A great deal of work will be on the vehicle's underside to make it more slippery.

Only six months ago designing cars with a 0.30 CD was considered a ''very aggressive'' target, Lewry reports.

Now, he adds: ''There is no question'' that 1985-86 cars, at least the sport vehicles, will get below a CD of 0.30.

Most progress, explains Lewry, is made ''in little bits and pieces.

To highlight the modern trend where the designers and engineers work together as a team, Lewry says his office is in the Ford Design Center in Dearborn instead of in some engineering complex remote from design.

''We both report to the same boss,'' he concludes.

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