Vol. IV No. 45 - Saturday November 5 - November 11, 2005
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Automania

Godzilla strikes back

Some of the best production performance cars were the Nissan GT-R series, known throughout the world as Godzilla. In fact, the racing version of these twin turbo, all wheel drive cars, won championships everywhere and were eventually (in Australia at least) banned from competition! They were just too good!

Nissan Proto GT-R

However, the GT-R series eventually came to a production halt when by 2001 they were having difficulty meeting emission standards. But fortunately, some people in Nissan had not forgotten the GT-R.

As a ‘teaser’, Nissan showed the Proto at the Tokyo Motor Show and everyone is sure that this is the Proto(type) for the next generation of GT-R’s due out in 2007.

The GT-R Proto, the concept two-door, is said to be close to the real thing, according to Nissan design chief, Shiro Nakamura. Nissan insiders say the car is “80 percent to 90 percent” production ready.

The show car featured extensive use of carbon fibre to keep weight down and although Nissan is not talking about engines, everyone expects a high-performance twin-turbocharged V6, possibly up to 3.8 liter capacity with an output of around 380 kW.

The V6 is tipped to be mated to a close-ratio seven-speed sequential gearbox and all-wheel drive, similar to the original GT-R’s AWD concept. This is the first time Nissan has designed the GT-R as a specific two-door body style and the production version is not derived from the Skyline sedan.

The original GT-R was a hit in Australia, prompting Nissan Australia in 1990 to import 100 of the then R32 model Skyline GT-Rs into the country, at a cost of $107,000 each. I drove one and the performance was simply sensational! This new one looks even more so.

They will not be cheap, but get one and put it on blocks. It will be an instant classic.


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I said that during the hostilities (a lovely euphemism for WW II) there was no real motor racing, but after the war, motor sport began afresh, mainly using pre-WW II race cars. The first post-war race in the UK was run at Ballyclare. I wanted to know, who was the driver, and what car did he drive? It was Thailand’s Prince Bira and he was driving an ERA.

So to this week. Four wheel drive is commonplace these days, but this was not always the case. What was the make of the first four wheel drive to run in a hill climb? Clue, the car was crashed on its second outing, driven by a man with the same name as the car.

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

Good luck!


Delphi plans massive wage cuts or no more union contracts

Delphi Corp. in the US wants its 25,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) represented employees to accept wage cuts from $27 an hour to as little as $9.50 an hour or the company will ask the US Bankruptcy Court in New York to terminate labor contracts.

Delphi also is demanding an end to the company’s job bank, which pays about 4,000 idle workers. The supplier also wants major new employee cost-sharing on health care, reduced holidays and the right to sell, close or consolidate any of its 45 U.S. factories and support centers.

These are all hefty proposals, and obviously ones that the rank and file will not be happy to agree with.

Delphi is not commenting on the proposal, except to say that the provisions are needed for the company to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, said Lindsey Williams, Delphi corporate affairs manager. Delphi, North America’s largest auto supplier, put its U.S. operations under Chapter 11 protection Oct. 8.

Delphi proposes paying one group of production workers $9.50 an hour and another group $10.50 an hour. Skilled workers would earn $18-$19 an hour. A wage of $9.50 an hour is equal to $19,760 a year without overtime, just $410 above the national poverty threshold for a family of four.

The proposal says that Delphi plans to implement the agreement Jan. 1. It would run through Jan. 1, 2012 and Delphi said it sought Chapter 11 protection to relieve losses from high labor costs and from operating unnecessary plants.


Toyota aiming to be Number 1 in 2006

The usual yardstick to compare the different manufacturers is to look at production figures. This kept GM and Ford at the top of the list for many years, until Toyota quietly slid past FoMoCo and into second place.

Other yardsticks looking at the profitability of the various companies saw Toyota at the top, as GM and Ford became embattled with financial problems, but GM still manufactured more than Toyota.

However, the Japanese press claims that Toyota is poised to overtake GM, and will be the world’s number 1 as far as output is concerned, in 2006. To do so, it will raise its production to more than 9.2 million units, the Japanese business daily reported.

Toyota has decided to increase its global production volume by 12 percent next year compared with the 8.3 million units projected for this year, a 900,000 unit increase which, incidentally, is more than Mazda’s annual domestic output, said Nihon Keizai Shimbun.

Daihatsu and Hino Motors of the Toyota group have not completed their plans for next year, but they expect to raise their total production from the 2005 projection by about 900,000 cars amid strong domestic sales. Meanwhile, General Motors is expected to fall short of its global production of a projected 9.12 million units for 2005 due to a drop in sales and factory closures, the newspaper said. However, the General is still looking strong in Asia, with China and Thailand returning good figures. 2006 could be very interesting.


Tokyo Motor Show hints at another Lancer Evolution

Automotive News reports that the Lancer Evo Series looks as if it will carry on past the Evo IX which is currently awaited.

Evo IX

At the show, Mitsubishi rolled out their Concept-X which everyone believes is another teaser for the next Lancer Evolution. Don’t think of “Concept Ecks”, say “Concept Ten”.

The word is that Mitsubishi wants to broaden its base to include more than male performance enthusiasts. So it will offer a car that looks more elegant than the current model. An automatic transmission may also be available, remembering that the current Lancer Evolution is equipped only with a six-speed manual.

“The overall shape is close to the production model,” said Akinori Nakanishi, chief designer for Mitsubishi Motors Corp. “We want a more mature looking, upscale and sophisticated model.”

The redesigned Evolution Lancer will be on a new platform. Nakanishi said that there will be more interior room than the current model and the new four-cylinder engine will produce at least 300 bhp, up from the current 286 bhp. Upscale or sophisticated, call it what you like, but 300 bhp spells performance to me!


LF-Sh concept shows a new, sharp look for Lexus

The Lexus brand has certainly made its mark throughout the world, with some of the newer models looking very desirable. However, the first model and flagship is certainly starting to show its age. Again at the Tokyo show, Lexus, which is looking to challenge Mercedes-Benz and BMW, unveiled a new look for its top of the line sedan.

Original Lexus LS 400

This was the LF-Sh concept which points the direction for the redesigned LS 460 production car, due next spring.

Kazuo Okamoto, executive vice president for R&D of Toyota Motor Corp., said the LS 460 will have a newly engineered V8 engine, as well as an all-wheel-drive hybrid V8 edition with the equivalent power of a 6-liter V12.

But the car’s styling is as important as its mechanicals. The new edition continues Lexus’ expressive “L-Finesse” theme. Lexus wants a family resemblance that avoids small, medium and large versions of the same car. Lexus sources also have confirmed there will be a long wheelbase edition of the new LS.

Okamoto, who was closely involved in engineering the first and second generation LS sedans, said, “It is not at all like any other car. The flagship’s driving performance, compared to the (Mercedes) S class or (BMW) 7 series, can excel over these other makes. The generation to come will have the same impact and shock as the first generation LS 400.” Big words from a little man, but never underestimate what Toyota can do. The “Big Three” did and look where that got them.


A Daihatsu Mira for disabled drivers

There are those unkind persons who say that when you get out of a Daihatsu Mira after an extended drive, you will probably be a cripple, but the company has pre-empted all this by showing the Mira Selfmatic.

Mira Selfmatic

This is a current shape Daihatsu Mira which has been adapted to allow people in wheelchairs to get behind the wheel and drive again.

The usual way to get wheelchairs into motor vehicles is to have ramps to roll up from behind the vehicle, or to have driver’s seats that can swing out of the car to allow the invalid to shuffle over from wheelchair to driver’s chair.

The Daihatsu people have come up with something much more practical for the problem. Instead of having to change chairs, the Selfmatic has its own wheelchair which is then taken completely into the vehicle where it becomes the driver’s seat.

Kiyotaka Yamaguchi, Daihatsu’s senior chief designer, is proud of the aptly named Mira Selfmatic, the car for those with disabilities. According to Yamaguchi, “There are a lot of young guys who have been in motorcycle accidents and lost the use of their legs. They want to drive a real car. And they want to go on dates - but they don’t want their mother to go with them to help them in and out of the car.”

To drive the Selfmatic, a person in a wheelchair rolls into position by the driver’s open door. A lift then brings the entire customized wheelchair into the car behind the steering wheel. The wheelchair is locked in place, and the driver is ready to go. The entire operation takes about 35 seconds.

Apparently it took Daihatsu’s engineers and designers three years to get it to work. The lift had to fit the size and price limits of a standard Mira car. The four-seater goes on sale in Japan on Nov. 14, at a price of 2 million yen, or USD 17,773 at current exchange rates.


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