The show kept me for three days this year, and was
certainly one of the more pleasant ones I have been to. After the past
few years of my coming up to the manufacturer’s stands and asking
for English language press kits, they have finally begun to respond
and more than 50% had them this year. I fully realise that this is
Thailand, but it is an “International” Motor Show, and being the
second largest motor show in Asia (Tokyo is slightly larger) and
attracting foreign journalists, English language should be offered.
One car that has really started to grab my
attention is the MINI Cooper. I have had more than a couple of the
original Mini’s over the years and it may be nostalgia, but I reckon
they look great, and in the tin, even better. They are actually much
larger than they look in photographs, and very much larger than the
original ones, yet they have captured that ‘retro’ look perfectly.
In this country the range begins at 2.2 million
baht for the MINI Cooper Look 1, up to the Look 4 at 2,449,000 baht.
These all have the 1.6 litre naturally aspirated engine, developing
115 BHP (85 kW) at 6,000 RPM. Top speed is quoted as 200 kph and the
0-100 clicks comes up in 9.2 seconds, so it’s not exactly a
fireball. The ‘cooking’ model also comes with automatic CVT
(continuously variable transmission) with Steptronic.
The MINI Cooper S still has the 16 valve 1.6 litre
engine, but gets a supercharger to lift the power output to 163 BHP
(120 kW) and lift the top speed to 218 kph and lower the 0-100 times
to a healthier 7.4 seconds. Transmission in this case is through a 6
speed Getrag manual gearbox. To stick one of these little jiggers in
the garage will set you back 2.6 million, or 2.7 fully loaded, as they
say in the trade. I want one.
One vehicle that did not set my hormones working
overtime was the new offering from GM, being produced at the Rayong
facility. Called the Chevrolet Optra, this is the Daewoo Lacetti by
another name and the South Korean origins are too obvious, with that
characteristic gawdawful styling. It also looks old fashioned. Compare
it to the Mazda Prot้g้, which has been around for a
couple of seasons, for example. The blurb claims that it was a styling
joint cooperation between Pininfarina and Daewoo Design. Looks to me
like the Italians got the rear vision mirrors and the Koreans got the
rest. Known as the Lacetti in Korea, the name is apparently derived
from the Latin word “Lacertus,” which means “energetic,
muscular, youthful, and full of strength”, but for my money I think
it is derived from Olivetti, having all the aerodynamic styling of a
typewriter. However, it may be a great car. I shall leave the final
judgement till I’ve driven one.
There is a definite ‘push’ towards electric
vehicles and the ‘prettiest’ ones there came from the Gem people,
G-E-M standing for Global Electric Motorcars. These work on a basic
‘cab’ with different body styles from the front seats backwards.
These include a short tray pick-up and long tray pick-ups, 2 passenger
cars and 4 passenger vehicles. The power supply is from 6 x 12 volt
rechargeable batteries and it is claimed that the lekky motor will
propel the 500-800 kg vehicle (depends upon configuration) at 40 kph
for a range of 70 kays.
Price? Ah yes, there’s always a downside, isn’t
there. For the two person configuration they retail at 395,000 baht,
up to 550,000 baht for the long tray pick-up. However, if you are into
saving (what’s left of) the planet, this could be worthwhile looking
Now if your pockets aren’t deep enough to hold
395,000 baht (or if you’ve got short arms) and still want lekky
power, my mad mate Paul Markham showed me some great little bikes at
the show. These are really popular, with Paul getting over 90 orders
in the first week. Again these come in all shapes and sizes, but the
‘motorcycle’ one, called the Storm, has been storming out the
doors at 14,900 baht. Regular readers will be aware that I have a soft
spot for the lekky bikes, using one every Jesters Charity Bike Ride,
and even keep a little Honda Raccoon electric bike for small errands.
Well, that was before my lady friend appropriated it as being the
ideal mode of transport to go to the shops and the markets.
Benz 350 convertible
I must also admit to making an error in last week’s column, where
I called the M-B 350 convertible, a 280. Here is the photo to prove
just how wrong I could be. I claim old age and free booze as the