Eff Wun Calendar and assorted thoughts

It is now only three weeks before the first GP of the 2003 season, and all the indicators are there for a closer result than we saw last year. The new Qualifying format will be used for the first time, with Friday’s times giving the reverse grid run off for the one lap dash for the final grid positions. With Michael Schumacher often being known to have the odd ‘off’ in Qualifying, we might see some different faces at the sharp end of the grid this year. Again, let us hope so!


The F1 grid is without the loquacious Irishman Eddie (the mouth) Irvine this year, for the first time in the last decade. Quite frankly, for my money that is no loss. Eddie was well known for his ‘slagging off’ of all his fellow drivers, and would do anything to get column inches. His results were really nothing to write home about, and his second place in the Championship three years back (after Michael Schumacher broke his leg) did not indicate his true worth. That was demonstrated by the fact that Ferrari didn’t want him again. Do you think Ferrari Team Manager Jean Todt would have let a potential champion slip out of his grasp? Not likely! No, our Eddie just happened to be in the right place at the right time. A few newspapers reported Eddie as saying he was willing to drive for nothing to get a seat this year at Jordan for 2003, but Eddie Jordan himself said this was all rubbish.

I see there is a book out about EJ and (the best F1 internet site) gave it a good review, so look for it at the bookstores.

Here’s one for the Big Bike freaks

My English mate Alan Coates put me on to this beast of a bike, and all the Harley owners out there please do not pick on this machine. This is a four wheeled motorcycle sporting a V10 Dodge Viper engine and will rattle off the 0-100 kays in a shade over 2 seconds and top 400 miles per hour if they can find the rider who is willing to hold it on for that long!

Dodge Tomahawk

OK, I know it is only a concept bike, but it is real, it does go and hats off to Chrysler for having the enthusiasm to make it. Here’s how Chrysler sees the exercise. “The Dodge brand philosophy always challenges us to grab life by the horns,” said Trevor Creed, Senior Vice President - Design, Chrysler Group. “In the case of Tomahawk, grabbing and holding onto anything for dear life is a necessity. It’s just that extreme and passionate; a glimpse into the soul and commitment of true enthusiasts.”

“This is a bold faced slap against mediocrity,” Creed said. “Tomahawk is a scintillating example of what creative minds can do when given the opportunity to run free. It is a pure mechanical sculpture and a joyous celebration of the artistry and emotion of design.”

Never mind the rhetoric, this is certainly a mind blowing bit of gear. Brief specifications are:

Dodge Tomahawk Concept

Engine: 505 cu. in./8300 cc aluminium Viper V-10 engine

Suspension: Four-wheel independent suspension

Horsepower/Torque: 500 hp/525 lb.-ft. of torque

Estimated Top Speed: Potentially more than 400 mph

Style: Single rider

Now while the Jeep Wrangler concept made it into production and the Chrysler Sloper also, I doubt very much if we’ll see this one make it past concept stage. However, if you want to order one, expect a ticket price of around $250,000. I have to say that if I had that sort of money to burn (like the ATM delivery driver in Bangkok) then I would order one, just to display it in my lounge room. The ultimate in excesses!

Diesel Fitter!

Remember the old joke? Man claimed he was a diesel fitter for a lingerie shop. When questioned that this seemed a rather strange place for a man of his skills, he explained that his job was to bring the knickers up from the stock room and hold them up in front of the customer and say, “Diesel fitter!” Boom, boom!

BMW 320d

Now up till very recently I turned my nose up at diesel engines, nasty knocking smoking things that they were (and still are when you look at some of the older song taews plying the local streets). However, it really is time to review the whole diesel engine scene, with the Europeans in particular producing some very good diesels.

Certainly one big plus (especially with high European petrol prices) is the cheap diesel fuel, and the incredible fuel economy that you get out of a diesel is the second. Freeway cruising in a diesel BMW 320 returns something over 60 miles per gallon (about 21 kays per litre -or 4.7 litres per 100 km - if my maths is holding up correctly) and that is nothing short of staggering. No wonder diesel is popular.

Looking at just four of the Euro-diesels, all round about 2 litres, you have the aforementioned BMW 320d, the Ford Mondeo 2.0 DCi, the Saab 9-3 2.2 TiD, the VW Passat 1.9 TDi and the Audi A4 1.9 TDi. The quickest is the Beemer at 134 mph (215 clicks) with the other three only about 15 kays slower. Acceleration times again show just how quick the BMW really is, with the 0-100 kays coming up in 8.9 seconds, but even the others, which range between 9.9 and 12.1, are not all that slow either.

While we are currently enjoying inexpensive gasoline, this may not last forever, especially with George Bush’s finger poised over the button. In Asia, diesel is the fuel of choice, so about now might be the time to start looking at a diesel engined import. Citroen, VW and SEAT are all here already. It doesn’t have to be a song taew!

A new meaning to the words “A Large Dealership”

American Roger Penske (yes, the motor racing Penske) is into flogging cars these days, but if you’re going into the car sales bizz, then take a look at this for a dealership. Penske’s place is called Chauncey Ranch, in Scottsdale, Arizona, and it covers 41 acres (please don’t ask me how many rai that is, I do not understand area measurements) and sells 12 brands.

Now if you want to test drive your choices of new cars then don’t worry, you do not even need to leave the dealership as there are two test tracks behind the showrooms, one for bitumen burners and the other for off-roaders.

Servicing facilities? Again don’t worry. There are 253 service bays. Each of the service bays at Chauncey Ranch includes a bench, toolboxes, a computer, fluid delivery and recovery systems and a hydraulic lift. Parts the technicians may need are delivered from 46,000 square feet of inventory through Remstar International’s automated storage and retrieval equipment.

Penske expects to sell a staggering 12,000 vehicles at the complex this year, and is convinced that the sheer size of the complex is an advantage that will justify the huge investment, reportedly in excess of $100 million.

Chauncey Ranch was completed late last year by UnitedAuto Group Inc. (UAG), which was ranked the second largest dealership group in the United States in 2001 with revenue of $5.9 billion. And incidentally, Penske is the CEO of UAG.

The dealership also houses the Penske Auto Racing museum and even has a Starbucks coffee shop on the second floor. Parking for the old jalopy? No worries here either, behind the showrooms is a 3,000 space parking lot, plus a Hertz rental outlet, collision repair shop, a fuel station and a car wash that can clean and detail as many as 700 vehicles a day.

Of interest are the margins that a huge operation such as this is expecting. While not disclosing specific details for Chauncey Ranch, a spokesman said that anticipated margins for various departments should be similar to those for UAG as a whole. According to the 2001 annual report, gross margins were:

8.3 percent for new vehicles

10.6 percent for used vehicles

44.9 percent for service, parts and collision repair

58.5 percent for finance and insurance.

While the margins look slim when selling new cars, if you sell enough of them the bottom line looks fine. Again from their 2001 annual report, the money came from the following:

New car sales: 35 percent

Service, parts: 34 percent

Finance, insurance: 17 percent

Used-car sales: 14 percent

Now then, does anyone want to buy a used pick-up?

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what happened to the Jaguar XK 100? Well, the XK 100 was a 2 litre four cylinder version of the XK 120 sports car of 1948 and was released at the British motor show. The demand was not there and it never went into production.

It must be time we went back to the other side of the Atlantic, or our American readers will get upset (again?). Ettore Bugatti bought a couple of American cars he saw at Montlhery, near Paris, to adapt the twin cam cylinder heads for the Bugatti racers of the day. What were those cars, and what were they doing in Europe?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]

Good luck!