If someone from Robert Bosch GmbH boasts during the SAE World Congress that 'Bosch wrote the book on automaking,' the point might be well taken.
For the past 69 years, the German parts giant has been delivering the world its wisdom on automotive science in the form of a little reference book that adorns the desks of engineers from Berlin to Bombay.
English-language readers know it simply as Automotive Handbook - no 'The' in the name. The book's cultish audience refers to it variously, and incorrectly, as 'The Blue Book,' 'The Bosch Book,' 'The Bosch Blue Book,' and even 'The Automotive Book.'
In German-language circles, where what began as a cheerful yellow calendar supplement has been in circulation since 1932, the correct name is Kraftfahr Technisches Taschenbuch. The German name also is without a 'Das.' This week at the SAE World Congress in Detroit, the North American industry will have the chance to buy copies of the new fifth edition of the handbook, hot off the presses. Bosch updates the text about every four years. But what Americans will get as the $44 '5th Edition' actually will be the translation of the 23rd German edition, which was published in 1999.
1.25 million copies
Previous editions have sold as many as 85,000 copies. Since 1932, Bosch has sold a total of 1.25 million copies of the book. In addition to German, French and English, das buch also has been published at one time or another in Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Dutch, Italian and Finnish.
It is to the auto industry what Joy of Cooking is to the home kitchen, what Farmers' Almanac is to gardeners, what Dr. Spock is to clueless new parents.
Over the past seven decades, as cars and their components went from mechanical to electromechanical to electronic to flirtations with the virtual, generations of Bosch technical writers have holed up in Stuttgart, attempting to explain it all.
Their work is not for the faint of heart. No automotive subject is too grisly for 'the editors,' as the Bosch technical editorial team modestly refers to itself. Among the new edition's 962 pages, there is:
An explanation of the 'Karman vortex principle' (don't ask).
The correct equations for determining spur gear thickness (transverse or normal profile, please?).
The physical factors that determine 'creep behavior' (late-night phone calls?).
And, just to be handy, there's a chart with which your hot-weather r&d team in Tunisia can find out what time it is for your cold-weather testing team in Fairbanks, Ala. Just to avoid creep behavior, no doubt.
Bring your calculator
The new book is 70 pages longer than the 4th edition - even after Bosch dropped an entire section of conversion tables. The editors' reasoning: 'The calculator is now an everyday item.' Which is surely a polite German way of saying, 'Dude ... a conversion table? We've got to squeeze traffic telematics into this whale.'
Also new for the 5th edition are pages on fuel cells, crash sensing, adaptive cruise control and digital car audio technology.
So why does Bosch go through the assuredly taxing exercise of being the global industry's definitive source? Especially since the book is financially a red-ink item for the company?
'Bosch feels committed to the tradition of the book,' says Bosch spokeswoman Martina Horton in Stuttgart. Bosch 'also feels responsible to make the existing knowledge accessible for everybody, in particular also for training and further education.' In other words, they do it because they can.