Driving along the other day I spotted a Smart in a used car
yard. It was in blue and black, and eye-catching would be a better word for the
vehicle. A Smart is certainly not the car for undercover surveillance work. (For
those with long memories, remember Maxwell Smart, the TV secret agent? The Smart
was definitely not named after him!) For my money, they look great, and have a
lot more panache than the family Mira. So will we get the Smart here in suitable
Now while the Smart is part of the Mercedes Benz family,
don’t expect that your local Benz bazaar will have Smarts alongside the S
Classes. The president and CEO of Daimler Chrysler (Thailand) Karl-Heinz
Heckhausen, in an article in the glossy mag ASEAN Autbiz, said, “The Smart car
is not yet available in Germany as a CKD. Due to this reason there’s a very
high tax on it. We will only be successful if we can sell the Smart for 600,000
baht. Otherwise it does not make sense. If you import it, that would cost us 1.2
million baht but that is very, very expensive. It does not make sense.”
So there you are - right from the top. Don’t hang around
the Benz showrooms looking for a slightly soiled Smart. They are not coming
here, other than as grey imports.
Anyone got a used Peugeot? Or Caveat Emptor!
Buying a used car anywhere in the world is always a problem.
In Thailand it is even harder. I received this letter the other week from an
ex-pat looking for a Peugeot.
“Dear Automania, I read the newspaper every week and enjoy
your Automania column. I have been here in Chiang Mai for about four months and
have been debating whether to buy a car. I have been very uneasy about driving
here but am gradually getting used to it. Then there comes the problem of
finding a car here. I have visited a number of used car yards but am much more
comfortable with buying directly from owners via classified ads. Do you have any
tips for used car buyers here? What about people who may only be staying a year
or two? Are there any lease or buy back schemes. This might be a useful topic
for your column.
I have noticed a couple of Peugeot 504 Dual Cab pickups here
in Chiang Mai. They are very unusual in Australia (my home) and as a Peugeot and
French car lover, I would love to buy one of these if I am going to buy any car.
How do I find a car like this to buy? What do you think of the possibility of
shipping it home in about 18 months time, and reselling it as an oddity in
Australia, in an attempt to recover my purchase and shipping costs. Does this
sound like a reasonable proposition to you?
I thank you in advance for your time in responding to my
Well Hugh, if you don’t know enough about cars to spot the
dogs in the car yard, it is a case of getting someone who does know to look at
the vehicle. A couple of thousand baht spent with the workshop people to get
them to look any car over is always money well spent. As far as shipping it out
of Thailand and selling it in Oz as an oddity - forget it, Mate! The Aussie car
market doesn’t buy ‘orphans’ and never has. They’d be worth next to
nothing, but ask someone in Australia to look up Peugeots in Glass’ Guide to
Used Car Prices, to confirm this. Lease-back schemes with a guaranteed buy-back
figure are generally only for new cars. Happy hunting.
Canadian GP this weekend
The travelling Eff Wun circus has travelled across the pond
to the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit in Canada for this weekend’s round. This is
an interesting and challenging circuit, at which more than one ex-champion has
found a wall waiting for him.
In the past, the Canadian GP’s were held at Mosport Park,
but in 1978 the new circuit was constructed on a man-made island which had been
used in the 1967 Expo. Originally named the Ile Notre Dame circuit, the location
is one of the loveliest in Formula One with the narrow track threading its way
through lakes and parkland. It is a narrow, medium-fast, 4.4 km circuit with 13
corners which has changed only in minor detail since being built. A new corner
before the pits was added in 1991 and a chicane was added in 1994.
The circuit was named in memory of Gilles Villeneuve
(Jacques’ father) who was killed in 1982.
How quick are the current bunch of F1 drivers?
To begin with, let’s say that this year all of them are
quick (unlike previous years when one driver couldn’t make the 107% cut off
and even had to be replaced for a couple of races as he was too slow). However,
some are definitely quicker than others, and the litmus test is whether the
driver is quicker or slower than his team mate. The Minardi’s might be dogs of
motor cars, for example, but both the drivers get a puppy!
The following table I gleaned from www.pitpass.com and it
shows the average difference in qualifying times between the two drivers in each
team. The faster driver is mentioned first.
WilliamsF1 Montoya - R Schumacher 0.194
Ferrari M Schumacher - Barrichello 0.201
BAR Button - Villeneuve 0.240
McLaren Raikkonen - Coulthard 0.327
Sauber Heidfeld - Frentzen 0.338
Minardi Verstappen - Wilson 0.362
Toyota Panis - da Matta 0.422
Jaguar Webber - Pizzonia 0.684
Jordan Fisichella - Firman 1.229
Renault Trulli - Alonso 1.322
In F1 terms, quarter of a second is a long way. At a circuit
where the cars are averaging 160 kph, the quarter of a second slower driver is
losing around 15 metres every lap. That is equivalent to being one km behind at
the end of the race.
Now look at the table and have a gander at the eight drivers
who are over 0.24 seconds slower on average - Villeneuve, Coulthard, Frentzen,
Wilson, da Matta, Pizzonia, Firman and Alonso. What is the future holding for
those guys? For my money, Villeneuve, Coulthard and Frentzen have all passed
their use-by date. All good drivers, but both getting on in years (in F1 terms)
and won’t get quicker - just the reverse. Wilson and da Matta are new to F1,
but will have to improve if they are going to keep an F1 seat in 2004. Pizzonia
is already under a cloud, but having the talent of Webber in the same team must
be undermining his confidence, but I say he’s a doubtful for 2004 as well.
Firman is just not making the grade and so it will be goodnight nurse for him
too at the end of the year (unless he comes up with another huge swag of gold to
give to Eddie Jordan). The final one is Alonso. The young Spaniard has been on
the podium this year, but seems very erratic in qualifying. He’ll still be
there next year, despite his ups and downs. The oracle has spoken!
Last week I mentioned that wings are now commonplace in race
cars of all categories, and the company that started the craze with wings, as we
know them today, was American. This company had really begun developing and
refining an idea that had been used over a decade previously, but not used as an
aerodynamic aid for cornering. What I wanted to know was what was the item that
was the forerunner of the wings, and what was it used for - and on what cars?
The answers were the American company Chapparal with the movable flap at the
back of the car that was used as air-brakes, but the Mercedes 300 SLR in the mid
fifties had this many years before.
So to this week. And it is certainly difficult to stump some
of you. MacAlan Thompson has the most incredible web-crawling spider out there!
Right, here we go - the leaping cat is the bonnet mascot associated with the
Jaguar marque, but another make used the leaping cat mascot in 1954. Clue - it
was American. What was this car?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]