Automania

No Formula 1 this weekend!

After two in a row, the next GP is the Canadian on the 13th. More on the pre-event rumours next week!


VW Golf R32

Many years ago I remember lusting after one of the first ‘hot hatches’ to come to Oz. It was the Golf GTI - the first hot Golf to get Down-under. These really were pocket rockets in the mid 70’s. Powerful 1.6 litre engines and light weight. Sh*t off a shovel performance, but the longevity was not there in those days. Especially if you hit something! The light weight was achieved at a price. They were not the vehicles to try derailing the Bangkok-Hua Hin express!

VW in Australia has just released another hot hatch, called the Golf R32, and our Down-under correspondent John Weinthal has been trying today’s hatch on for size. Here are the Words from Weinthal.

VW Golf R32

“Volkswagen’s hottest number for now is the Golf R32; a lavishly equipped $63,000, three door, four seater. R32 refers to the eager, big torque (320Nm @2800 rpm) 3.2 litre 177kW V6 engine up front. VW might have us see this as today’s rendition of the car for which the term ‘hot hatch’ was originally coined - the fabled razor edge styled Golf GTI of the mid-seventies. But is it? VW also has a 110kW four cylinder front-wheel-drive Golf called GTi. It has essentially the same body as the all-wheel-drive R32, but costs just AUD 37,000. Is that the real successor? Or could it perhaps be my favourite VW sports sedan? That’s the AUD 55,000, 2.8 litre 150kW V6 four-door Bora 4Motion. This Bora also has the safety advantage of constant all-wheel-drive.

“Reviewing the R32 was a hardship only on corrugated dirt and Brisbane’s worst broken suburban excuses for streets. I don’t know why, but every Golf I have driven over the past decade has seemed like it wanted to self-destruct on bad roads - then regained its regular Germanic solidity on all the rest.

“Sure, the R32 rides on 40 profile tyres on 15 spoke alloy wheels, but that’s no excuse. Other hot cars wear similar rubber; cars like the much cheaper and even quicker Subaru WRX, Chrysler’s delicious Crossfire and perhaps the R32’s nearest conceptual competitor - the even more powerful 184kW 3.2 V6 Alfa Romeo 147GTA which costs AUD 3000 less at a near 60 grand.

“There was much argument between father and son over which we preferred between the Alfa and the Golf. He wanted the Golf mainly because of its all-wheel-drive. I would choose the front-wheel-drive Alfa for its utter agility and incredible empathy with the driver’s will at all times.

“Both are quick of course with 0-100 kph acceleration times in the mid 6 seconds bracket, the Alfa being slightly the quickler. Both are as impractical for more than two people as most three door hatches with body-hugging bucket front seats.

“To Hell with practicality - both could see you license-free in very short order, but you’d have had much fun before that disaster struck. The Golf sticks to all but the worst surfaces with terrific authority. Apart from a very loud but nonetheless pleasing exhaust note it can feel almost too refined for its role. It is the matured Golf perhaps, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your own state of development regardless of your age. Personally I like a bit more involvement - the threat that I’d better concentrate full-time.

“This R32 was ever so keen to protect me from myself. And it backs up its idiot-proof all-wheel-drive with the latest in electronic braking and stability aids and a full house of front and side air bags.

“At a whopping 1540 kg the R32 is twice the weight of the fabulously frantic 780 or so kg ’70s Golf GTi. Thankfully it develops a little more than twice the power from an engine of twice the capacity and which boasts a couple more cylinders. While most of the 280 kg weight hike over the current Golf GTi can be attributed to the four-wheel-drive gubbins, the R32 also has a complete equipment package including all the usual electrics, leather heated seats, proper air-con, automatic xenon headlamps, cruise control, a delightful six-speed gearbox and so on.

“This is an easy car to like. It’s such a pity we can barely sample its true performance and handling capabilities on our ludicrously speed restricted roads in Australia. How the Germans must laugh at us!”

Another interesting review from John Weinthal, unfortunately any Golfs here are ‘grey’ imports, but we certainly don’t have the speed limit problems they have in Australia.

The physics involved in Drag Racing

I must admit that I have never been all that enamored of Drag Racing. I used to say that it dragged on all day and half the night as well! However, the Top Fuel dragsters are something else again. Anything that can get to 532 kph in just over 400 metres in 4.4 seconds from a standing start is spectacular. I am indebted to bike freak Norm Aylward for the following data (so if it’s wrong, blame him - not me!).

First, some useful info: One Top Fuel dragster 500 cubic inch Hemi engine makes more horsepower than the first 4 rows at the Daytona 500.

Under full throttle, a Top Fuel dragster engine consumes 1 1/2 gallons of nitro methane per second; a fully loaded 747 consumes jet fuel at the same rate with 25% less energy being produced.

A stock Dodge 426 Hemi V8 engine cannot produce enough power to drive the dragster’s supercharger.

With 3000 CFM of air being rammed in by the supercharger on overdrive, the fuel mixture is compressed into a near-solid form before ignition. Cylinders run on the verge of hydraulic lock at full throttle.

At the stoichiometric 1.7:1 air/fuel mixture for nitro methane the flame front temperature measures 7050 degrees F.

Nitro methane burns yellow. The spectacular white flame seen above the stacks at night is raw burning hydrogen, dissociated from atmospheric water vapor by the searing exhaust gases.

Dual magnetos supply 44 amps to each spark plug. This is the output of an arc welder in each cylinder.

Spark plug electrodes are totally consumed during a pass. After half way, the engine is dieseling from compression plus the glow of exhaust valves at 1400 degrees F. Only cutting the fuel flow can shut down the engine.

If spark momentarily fails early in the run, unburned nitro builds up in the affected cylinders and then explodes with sufficient force to blow cylinder heads off the block in pieces or split the block in half.

In order to exceed 480 kph in 4.5 seconds dragsters must accelerate at an average of over 4G’s. In order to reach 200 mph well before half way, the launch acceleration approaches 8G’s.

The Bottom Line; assuming all the equipment is paid off, the crew worked for free, and for once nothing blows up, each run costs an estimated $1,000 per second.

The current Top Fuel dragster elapsed time record is 4.441 seconds for the quarter mile (10/05/03, Tony Schumacher). The top speed record is 333.00 mph (533 km/h) as measured over the last 66' of the run (09/28/03 Doug Kalitta).


Don’t try and outrun the Italian police

Unless you have something that can do more than 309 kph, don’t try and outrun the Italian rozzer’s latest pursuit car - a Lamborghini Gallardo! However, you will be able to differentiate it from all the other Gallardos on the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway, because their one is blue and white with a flashing blue light on the roof and signs on the doors that say Polizia.

Apparently it was donated by the Lamborghini factory in Bologna, but I don’t think we’ll see any in the hands of the Highway Police here, with its local price tag of 19.5 million!


Anybody want to buy a Dongfeng?

The auto world’s attention has been on China recently, with rumours of many manufacturers moving to open plants and alliances in the huge Chinese marketplace.

One of these is Dongfeng. Last year, Dongfeng negotiated a merger with Nissan that gave the Japanese automaker a 50 percent share of Dongfeng. What Dongfeng got was access to the capital and technology that it needs to compete with its larger Chinese rivals such as Beijing Automotive, who are currently snuggled up tight with DaimlerChrysler.

However, all in the garden isn’t rosy. DaimlerChrysler recently has seen much moving and shoving being done in the German automaker’s boardroom, as it tries to get out of some not so profitable deals in Asia. It has refused to inject more capital into Mitsubishi and is doing nothing with Hyundai. The union with Chrysler is also said to be unhappy, so the three pointed star is not too happy.

But China could be a turnaround for the Mercedes-Benz nameplate. DaimlerChrysler (China) Ltd. Chairman Roman Fischer has announced plans to assemble Mercedes sedans in China with partner Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings and C-Class and E-Class sedans should start coming off the assembly line next year.

The concept is to cash in on the burgeoning luxury market in China, before BMW and Audi, both of whom are well entrenched, get too strong a hold of the market.


Another car-jacking scheme

This came to me from Peewee Cochlan, who has some contacts with the ‘other world’ and sent me the following:

Be aware of new car-jacking scheme (this could also be used as a ploy for kidnapping). Imagine you walk across the parking lot, unlock your car and get inside. Then you lock all your doors, start the engine and shift into reverse, and you look into the rear-view mirror to back out of your parking space and you notice a piece of paper stuck to the middle of the rear window. So, you shift into park, unlock your doors and jump out of your car to remove that paper (or whatever it is) that is obstructing your view. When you reach the back of your car, that is when the car-jackers appear out of nowhere, jump into your car and take off!

Your engine was running (ladies would have their purse in the car) and they practically mow you down as they speed off in your car. Be aware of this new scheme that is now being used.

Just drive away and remove the paper that is stuck to your window later. Be thankful that you read this. I hope you will forward this to friends and family especially to women! (I did better than that, Peewee. I printed it here. Dr. Iain). A purse contains all identification, and you certainly do not want someone getting your home ad dress. They already have your keys!


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what vehicle was first with cogged belt drive for overhead camshafts? It was the Glas S 1004 of 1962.

So to this week. Where was the Eiffel made? This was a model made by a famous manufacturer?

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

Good luck!