Category: Sports Seller:Liu Yang Requirements: iOS 3.2 or later Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad File Size: 62.8MB Version Reviewed: 1.3 Price: $0.99
Influential Cars is an engaging little app for gearheads and perhaps others with an interest in or curiosity about automotive history and design. It’s relatively simple format is 50 pages of car photos accompanied by profiles of each model depicted.
The selection of subjects is more eclectic than is often typical of such compilations, which appeals to me more than another review of familiar retinues of supercar exotics and unattainable classics. Both categories are represented in the Influential Cars collection, but there are also examples of rides that you and I might realistically aspire to owning—indeed, a couple I actually have owned.
One category thoroughly covered is minimalist basic transportation cars like the Citroen 2CV, the original British Motors Corporation Mini, the Austin Seven, the Fiat 600 (why not the similar but more iconic 500 is a puzzler), Henry Ford’s Model T, and even the execrable Soviet Bloc era East German Trabant.
There’s also a sampling of a few interesting car designs that never made it to production, like U.S. architect and designer Buckminster Fuller’s 1933 Dymaxion concept car, a radical rear-engine three-wheeler with the single rear wheel doing the steering. Extremely maneuverable and able to turn within its own length, The Dymaxion car was able to carry 11 passengers while achieving 30 miles per gallon fuel economy, which would be respectable performance for a motor vehicle of its size and capacity today.
If Google’s self-driving car project ever goes mainstream (or even sidestream) something like the Dymaxion might be an ideal platform to take full advantage. As for the Dymaxion car’s actual influence on the development of automotive design, Wikipedia notes that the most direct example would be the 1960s era Fiat 600 Multipla, whose extreme rear-mounted engine and driver position above the front axle mimicked the Dymaxion’s layout, creating an extremely compact car/van hybrid that could either seat six passengers or be used for moving bulky cargo loads.
Other Influential Cars inclusions I was delighted to discover were the also ahead of its time but more practical contemporary of the Dymaxion—Doktor Hans Ledwinka’s Czech Tatra with its aerodynamic shape and rear-mounted V8 engine, and the likewise rear-engined Chevrolet Corvair (I owned 1966 model Corvair Corsa Coupe, and yes, I’m a rear-engine enthusiast).
Unfortunately, the Corvair homepage photo is possibly the worst shot in the collection, and of a somewhat ratty example, and one general criticism I have of this app is that the quality of photos is inconsistent (although to be fair, in some instances for historical reasons), ranging from excellent to mediocre and everything in between. Another is that Influential Cars only supports portrait orientation for the selection home pages. It partly switches to landscape mode for the respective photo albums, but with the navigation buttons awkwardly positioned sideways on the right-hand margin.
Another oddity I noted was that the Volkswagen Beetle page is for some reason titled “Origina Berlinetta,” so something may be getting lost in translation, since I infer that English is not the developer Liu Yang’s first language. Speaking of language, Influential Cars supports four: English, German, Traditional Chinese, and Simplified Chinese.
Influential Cars is an enjoyable diversion for automobile aficionados like me, and evidently a labor of love, which counts for a lot. The universal app is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, requires iOS 3.2 or later, and is available on the App Store for $0.99. A free, ad-supported Influential Cars Lite version is also offered, although it’s s a bit vague as to what differences, if any, other than the ads, there might be in the free version, which I didn’t test.