Jeep Wrangler

The concept of “jeeps” has been around for a while, and the Jeep Wrangler is one of the latest versions. Our Down-Under correspondent John Weinthal spent some time with one and describes it as a Tonka Toy for big kids. Here are the Words from Weinthal.

“For this week we will drop all serious judging criteria. The vehicle is the Jeep Wrangler - the latest interpretation of the four-wheel-drive which started the whole game way back in the Second World War. By now it serves no real purpose beyond amusing some semi-crazies who do not care who thinks of them in that light. Approach the Wrangler with all this in mind and I defy you to have anything but fun. Purposeful, practical motoring is not on the Jeep menu.

“This thing is as basic as a car can be, a veritable Tonka Toy for big kids. It has four wheels with large balloon tyres, an unstressed 130 kW, 4 litre six cylinder engine and a five speed manual gearbox in which fifth gear is very, very rarely called for.

“Power windows? This baby’s windows are zippered in and sealed with Velcro. Remote locking? Forget it, there’s not even central locking. You use the key for the doors and the tailgate as well as the fuel filler, glovebox and console bin. Carpets - no thanks. A steel floor with rubber mats is so much easier to hose clean after a day’s fun in beach sand or muddy paddock.

“Needless to say there’s no wiper for the easily scratched plastic rear window, and while the front wipers probably meet legal requirements, they are noisy as they scrape their single-speed way across the flat, fold-down windscreen.

“Of course the Jeep is a very competent and rugged off-roader. It is also a four seater with quite good room for a couple in the rear. Hood up it can feel a little claustrophobic and luggage space is sparse to put it mildly, even with the rear seat folded forward. Practicality was not a priority. There are tiny door bins and a small glove box and central cubby.

“The soft-top is extraordinarily difficult and time-consuming both to remove and to replace. To stay dry it might be best to listen to the forecast a few hours ahead and call some skilled and muscular friend to raise the roof and sidescreens should rain be headed your way. It is no wonder one seems only to see Wranglers topless on fine days. There are hardtops available but surely they defeat the entire point of this fun machine.

“It is truly difficult to imagine anyone choosing a Wrangler as their everyday car. But Wrangler rides surprisingly well and the front seats are extremely comfortable. The centre armrest and cutaway doors transform them into virtual armchairs and the steering wheel adjusts in the vertical plane ensuring a fine driving position.

“Wrangler has adequate performance on-road and there’s heaps of torquey urge when the off-roading gets truly serious. The air-conditioning will rarely be used I suspect but the powerful heater could be handy on crisp evenings. The stereo is easy to use and can be played loud without too much distortion.

“For those who want to experience an original the AUD 36,000 Wrangler takes up the challenge. Auto adds AUD 2000. It is an option many would enjoy as the five-speed manual is nothing special and fifth is a joke until you are on the highway, preferably pointed downhill. (In Thailand it comes with just the three speed auto and costs around 1.6 million baht - Dr. Iain)

“Impractical, expensive and frequently a right pain to live with, Jeep’s Wrangler can also be huge fun for any extrovert pair or quartet in their more carefree moments. Driven single-handed you can choose to enjoy or ignore the bemused looks from bystanders, but it’s an experience best shared with friends - a right jollymobile, specially in the day-glow yellow of the review car.”

(Thank you John. The last time I drove a Wrangler, the ‘fun’ aspect was what stayed most in the memory too. Dr. Iain.)

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked you to take a look at this photo. What was the make of this car, and what movie was this still from? The correct answer was a tricked up Ford Falcon (that’s a dummy supercharger on top) and the movie was Mad Max, and that’s a very young looking Mel Gibson sitting on the mudguard.

So to this week. Let’s get right away from movies (but congratulations to Dusit Dave Garred who got the Mad Max question correct and first in, and who admits he knows nothing about cars, but has wasted several lifetimes in the back row of movie houses in Sydney) and this is for our American cousins who often complain they’ve been left out. What was the first American car to win an international sports car race? Clue - it was 2,000 km long.

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

Good luck!

Motor Show

Just a reminder that the Bangkok International Motor Show is on from March 26 through to April 4. This is, in my opinion, the ‘real’ motor show, as this is where the manufacturers showcase their cars and the concept cars of the future, not just a chance for the distributors to try and sell off the cars before the year’s end. This year there are around 130 participants from 11 countries represented. By the way, there is also a good selection of motorcycles as well as accessories and 4WD off-roaders.

I must admit I am looking forward to seeing the Maybach. Anything that has a price tag of around 100 million baht had better be breathtaking. And for those not so engrossed in the actual machinery, most manufacturers have presenters with particularly nice chassis’ as well!

The show hours are 12 noon until 10 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. on weekends and holidays. If you want to know more you can visit the website

What did we learn from the Malaysian Grand Prix?

Well the first thing we learned in Qualifying is to never count your chickens till they’re hatched. Bird Flu might get ‘em - or the driver may get it all wrong like Sato (BAR) and Alonso (Renault). Up till the run that counted, all the pundits were predicting a fight between Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso for pole. Their predictions were about as good as those from the turbaned gentlemen who stroll along tourist stretches telling fortunes.

The second item we learned from Qualifying is that two hours is far too long. If I can’t keep concentrating or being excited by the TV, then nobody will. The two sessions to get pole are repetitive and boring, and the oaf commentator for Star Sports who gleefully shouted, “Who said Formula 1 Qualifying isn’t exciting!” after Alonso spun, doesn’t know what motor racing is all about. If the epitome of excitement is someone spinning, then gawdelpusall!

By the way, I also received an email from a DC fan (never mind, just keep taking the tablets, or perhaps double the dose, you’ll get over it) to say “Anyway my point of writing is that you seem to not be enjoying the F1 coverage this year. Have you thought of checking out the coverage on our local cable channel? The coverage of the OZ G.P. on Sophon was coming from South Africa (I think), and used the UK channel ITV’s coverage - not only did we get Martin Brundle, James Allan etc. but no adverts, which made it better viewing than what we get in the UK.” Worthwhile checking out, because the blethering oafs on Star TV are hopeless.

So what did we learn from the race? Well the first thing was that Michael Schumacher is still the class act, motoring away from the pack very easily. Forget the TV twats trying to say that Montoya was going to be able to take the fight up to him. He was not.

The one engine rule for the weekend seems to have caught out more than a couple of teams. Ralf Schumacher’s engine did very convincing hand grenade impersonations, as did Takuma Sato’s BAR and Kimi Raikkonen (for the second race in succession). Raikkonen can no longer be called the ‘iceman’ after he punched a track marshal after his McLaren failed. Kimi will have to keep his disappointment in check in future.

Many others did not live up to expectations - Barichello was a very distant fourth, behind his team mate. Alonso seemed to be going well, but then faded by mid race and was never in contention. Mark Webber, after getting all the glory in Qualifying had a nightmare race. His Jaguar not selecting gears at the start, dropping him right back to the tail of the field. He pulled back up to have a coming together with Ralf Schumacher and get a puncture, then was penalised for a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane and eventually spun off and could not get out of the kitty litter. A fitting end for a sh*tty day!

One driver who had a great day was Englishman Jenson Button in the BAR, coming in third for his maiden podium finish. The BAR team this year looks so much improved over last year’s patchy efforts. Perhaps the money that was saved by not having the expensive Villeneuve around their necks has gone towards improving the machinery!

The next round in one week will be at the new circuit in Bahrain. Can the rest stop Schumacher? At this stage it does not look like it. So much for those who predicted that Schumacher had lost his edge over the Xmas break and was no longer motivated.