Automania

More on the Bangkok International Motor Show

I am sure there is a man walking the streets in all the major cities of the world, holding a placard stating “The end is near”, as the automakers are all showing more than a passing interest in alternate fuels. The idea is to break our dependence on oil supplies that George Dubbya didn’t manage to get for us from the sands of Iraq.

Mercedes E 200 NGT

There are many ways of doing away with our dependence upon it (oil, not George Dubbya), and many ways of going about the same concept. This was very noticeable with the dual fuel Mercedes E 200 converted to run on petrol or Compressed Natural Gas. This was a very professional approach, with the gas bottles under the floor of the boot, and even a pair of white cotton gloves to wear, just in case you had to open the compartment.

By direct comparison was the dual fuel vehicle from the engineering students at the Chulalongkorn University. This was an experimental vehicle with a ‘bird-cage’ heavy tube frame and dual fuel operation. It was a bit too over-engineered for me (they could have used much lighter tube and got much better performance), but they all enjoyed themselves building it, so it doesn’t really matter. Just look at the smiles from the uni students.

The Chulalongkorn dual fueller

Toyota showed off their Fine N concept vehicle, which looked very radical and space-age, but it really was anything but. This vehicle relies on hydrogen gas to drive fuel cells, which in turn produce an electric current to produce forward motion. The electric motors are in the wheels, which looks something new, but actually this is exactly the same principle used by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche in the Lohner Porsche of 1902. The wheel has certainly gone the full circle with this one. However, the styling is certainly tomorrow, and looked eminently capable of being produced.

Fine N naked

While on the electric concept, there was a very interesting stand from an American company called Wavecrest. They have a patented ‘adaptive’ motor in the rear wheel of their bicycle (another Porsche style hub motor), with a battery in the hub of the front wheel. WaveCrest’s TidalForceฎ line of high-performance electric bicycles is setting new standards for speed, range and quality. Powered by the 750 watt WaveCrest Adaptive Motor system in the rear wheel and a rechargeable NiMH battery in the front wheel, these electric bicycles provide as much power as needed to climb hills and cover long distances. Riders can pedal for exercise or use the variable-speed thumb throttle on the handlebar to activate electric power for convenience and comfort.

Fine N clothed

On the same stand they also showed the Adaptive Motor system applied to locally made motor scooters, capable of speeds up to 60 kph. The in-wheel design avoids the use of noisy and inefficient gears and belt or chain drives. The regenerative braking function provides increased range, shorter stopping distances and reduced brake wear. Most importantly, the system can be installed on a variety of light electric vehicles with little to no modifications to the vehicle. They also had a small roadster there with their electric motor, but I was unable to see into the engine bay as they had lost the keys!

Wavecrest electric bicycle

However, for the real ‘petrol-heads’ there were still some companies not into the doom and gloom mode. One such is BSP Motorsports which was at the show displaying a bolt-on supercharger kit for Toyota Corollas, being presented by a delightful young lady in what must have been the ultimate in ridiculous costumes, complete with silver leg braces and blue plastic hot pants, featuring silver belt with twin handcuff pouches!

However, the supercharger was the real deal, a bolt-on delivering another 20 percent more grunt in Japan, though their local agent, BSP’s Nontimuk Jotisalikorn, said that they would be confirming this figure with their own testing in Thailand, as we are unable to get the 100+ octane fuels they get in Japan. The complete kit, including installation, is around B. 150,000, and if you are interested you can get more information from Nontimuk, telephone 02 874 1144. Tell him the Doc sent you!

Last week I also mentioned the numerous 1886 Benz dog cart replicas which the factory commissioned. What I did not know was the fact that the first female motorist on record was actually Karl Benz’s wife, Bertha, who in 1888 traveled 180 kilometers from Mannheim to Pforzheim and return to demonstrate to the world that her husband’s invention had real possibilities! She was right! Since the vehicle only develops 0.9 BHP, she had to take their two sons to help push the beast over some of the higher hills.

Benz 1886


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week, I asked what was the make of the first car to come to Thailand? Who owned it? And what year? The answer was Mercedes in 1905 and it was imported by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). I couldn’t find a pic of the 1905 vehicle, but here is the 1907 Mercedes. Interestingly, the Thai Royal Family also has a very extensive collection of Mercedes vehicles, including several on display at the motor show belonging to the Crown Prince.

So to this week, and this is really very interesting. Last year I asked about the origin of the chequered flag (“checkered” for all my American friends who can’t spell) and I have to admit that I didn’t know the answer myself. I was hoping to be enlightened, but that was not to be at that stage. However, since then, Pattaya’s Car Club stalwart Vic Garra has managed to come up with what definitely sounds correct. So let’s see what you make of it this time? What was the origin of the chequered flag to signify the end of a motor race? The ‘real’ answer next week if you can’t find it either!

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

Good luck!