Archive Gallery: PopSci’s Most Lovingly Illustrated Cutaways

PopSci slices away at concept cars, warplanes, Xerox machines, backyard observatories and more
While most vehicles today use mineral oil-based lubricants, there are manufacturers championing the use of fully synthetic oils, which reportedly perform well in extreme service conditions. Synthetic lubricants become popular between the late 1930s and early 1940s when German scientists started looking for alternatives to their low supply of crude materials. Here, we discussed the perfect synthetic lubricant, which would never have to be changed and would work perfectly regardless of outside temperature. Car gears would work more smoothly since the ideal synthetic oil wouldn't produce carbon, sludge, or other forms of waste. This cutaway shows what happens to the inside of an automobile engine once it is exposed to ordinary motor oil. Sludge in the valve chamber impedes the oil-vapor lubrication of valves, it clogs the oil screen, and it collects inside the oil pipe. Not a pretty picture (but on our pages, it's a pretty illustration indeed). Read the full story in "Lubrication Without Oil"

As our archives’ lovingly-illustrated cutaways show, true beauty does lie within, whether you’re a mechanical dinosaur, a Xerox machine, or a World War II aircraft.

Click to launch the photo gallery.

While most of our cutaway drawings are of car engines and weaponry, we couldn’t resist including a few whimsical entries, such as our 1926 conception of the future’s electrically-powered home. For all the things we got wrong in the 1920s, we’re proud to say that we were right in illustrating a cutaway that included basement washing machines, electric dishwashers, and curling irons that could be plugged into the wall. A rotating observatory mounted on a merry-go-round track, a 100-pound satellite, and of course, the electric dinosaur round out our more fanciful features.

Then there are the cutaways that tickle our instinct to take things apart. There’s one of the Polaroid Land Model 100, which came with electric components instead of mechanical gears and springs. Meanwhile, a diagram of the General Motors 1951 LeSabre concept car reminds us of everything we have yet to learn about fixing an engine.

But enough words. The real joy in this gallery are the intricate illustrations, so look inside to see them for yourself.

And read our 2011 dissections of How It Works:

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