Fuel oil – is the end in sight?
With all the to and froing going on in the
Middle East, revolts in Africa and South America, the price for crude oil
continues to set new records. A couple of months ago we were reeling when the
price per barrel went past $50. Now it is breaking $70. Tomorrow it will be in
triple figures, (or at least by the end of this year).
So what does all this mean? Is the end in sight? Quite
frankly, no. But it does signal the end of cheap fuel at the pumps. Even my
little Mira which used to take B. 300 to fill, now is over B. 500.
However, it does amaze me that the fuel companies have
managed to come through all this looking like ‘clean-skins’. They all have a
more than vested interest in the prices going up. It’s called increased
The world has enough supplies of crude to maintain
transportation at its present level of consumption for years to come yet. With
the financial aspect being driven by supply and demand, by (artificially)
emphasizing potential decrease in supply, higher prices can be charged. Perhaps
I am too much of the cynic, but I do not follow the dictum that we are about to
However, perhaps it is time to take the long term viewpoint.
Diesel makes more and more sense. Even though the price for a liter of diesel is
almost the same as for a liter of petrol, a diesel powered vehicle will travel
almost twice the distance per liter, compared to its petrol powered variant. In
real terms, this halves the fuel bill per week.
The real economizers are the hybrids, but they are currently
so expensive you would have to do a million kilometers a year to be in front in
the long run. When hybrids come down in price, we will all have one. In the
meantime, all you can do is drive up to the pumps – and pay up!
Have you watched the WTCC?
Again it was motoring enthusiast Peter Wehrli
who suggested I watch the World Touring Car Championships (WTCC) for some
‘real’ action, compared to F1. I finally managed to find it on Eurosports
TV, and the action is certainly thick and fast. One driver immediately brought a
lump to the throat – Alex Zanardi (who lost both legs in a fearsome crash in a
CART race), driving a factory BMW fitted with hand controls and who was right up
there at the pointy end, challenging for the lead.
The championship rules are devised to keep everyone together
performance-wise, and a Chevrolet (nee Daewoo Lacetti) Optra was even on the
podium last week. SEAT had something like six factory drivers and cars, but it
was an Alfa-Romeo which took top step on the podium in the race from Monza. If
you can find Eurosports on your TV, the motor racing from the WTCC is excellent.
However, finding it is the big problem! Thanks for the information, Peter.
Last week I asked how many makes of electric
cars were there between 1896 and 1939? The answer was 565! (I counted them all!)
So to this week. Which driver lost his left hand in 1965 and returned racing in
1966 using a hook? Hint – he had 111 victories and was an American.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Some more details on the Bentley Continental GT
There is some very interesting history behind the Bentley
Continental GT and Continental Flying Spur (the four door variant). Really just
so terribly, terribly British, but the background is more than just a little
The marque Bentley has always been one that has attracted
folklore and mystique. The early race cars were dismissed by such luminaries as
Ettore Bugatti as “the fastest lorries in the world,” despite the fact that
Bentley had won the Le Mans 24 Hour race, beating Ettore’s efforts, on more
than one occasion.
In many ways, even since its inception in 1919, Bentleys has
been an anachronism, vehicles appealing to the very rich with a need for speed.
The problem for Bentley back then was that there were not enough people with
deep enough pockets after the economic crash in the 30’s (yes, there has been
more than one economic crash, other than the SE Asian one of 1997, may your NPL
never be repaid), and Bentley Cars as a separate manufacturer went under, then
being swallowed up by Rolls-Royce.
You are also probably not aware of the connection between
Adolf Hitler and the Bentley marque. This one is even more esoteric, but it was
Volkswagen, the car of Adolf’s dreams, that came to rescue Bentley (yet again)
from another financial morass. By that time, both Adolf and W.O. were long gone
(fortunately for both, and for us) when in 1998, following a most complicated
buy up and division of assets, Rolls-Royce ended up under BMW, while Bentley
went to VW.
However, no need to be confused over what VW are doing with
Bentley. In 2004, they launched the (new) Bentley Continental GT. 52 years
earlier Bentley had produced a very exclusive version of the Bentley. It was a
full four place motor car, with the Fastback having an exceptionally advanced
body design from the coachbuilders H.J. Mulliner, and marketed as the fastest
production four-seater in the world. Only 208 were built, and it was called the
In 1991, still as part of the Rolls-Royce conglomerate, the
Bentley division reintroduced the Continental. This was another two door with a
385 bhp V8 engine later rising to 420 bhp. These were again gentlemen’s
sporting carriages. But the best was yet to come.
With the release of the 2004 turbocharged Bentley Continental
GT, it was again the fastest four place production car in the world (it peaks at
just 2 mph short of the magical 200 mph ‘double ton’) and its technical
specifications are superb. Acceleration times of 4.8 seconds for zero to 100 kph
and a top speed in excess of 300 kph put this vehicle in real supercar
territory. Despite costing around 21 million baht in Thailand, it is also
appreciably cheaper than other supercars, and since it carries four adult-sized
people (not a 2+2 legless midgets like a 911 Porsche) it represents a motoring
milestone. An expensive motoring milestone.
The technical data reveals an exciting motor car, beginning
with the engine. This is the parent manufacturer’s W12 cylinder engine (72
degree angle between two main banks, 15 degrees between staggered cylinders),
bore x stroke 84 x 90.2 mm, capacity 5998 cc; 4 valves per cylinder, 4 overhead
camshafts; Bosch Motronic ME7.1.1 digital engine control, twin KKK turbochargers
(0.7 bar boost), air to air intercooling, delivering 552 bhp/411 kW at 6,100rpm,
torque 650 Nm (479lb ft) at 1600 rpm.
If your eyes have glazed over reading that, sifting through
the ‘engineer-speak’, the engine is like two V6’s side by side (to make it
a 12 cylinder) and working on one common crankshaft. At four valves per cylinder
you then end up with 48 valves, being actuated by four camshafts (one for each
bank). Despite only being 6 litres in total capacity, it delivers almost 100
horsepower per litre, and staggering amounts of torque. Whilst not delivering
the 900 Nm of a Maybach, 650 Nm is enough to tow the new D2 hotel in Chiang Mai
at least half way through the Thapae Gate!
To deliver the torque to the ground, the GT uses a 6 speed ZF
6HP26 automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive with a central Torsen differential,
complete with ASR electronic traction control. AWD is also another milestone for
Bentley. Gear changing is via steering wheel paddles and the driver can decide
on conventional automatic or clutchless manual gear changes.
The electronic and mechanical sophistication expected in a
supercar continues all through the vehicle, with independent suspension front
and rear; air springs, Bosch ESP5.7 electronic stability program; TEVES
ventilated disc brakes front 405mm diameter (15.9in) and 36mm (1.4in) thick,
back 335mm diameter (13.2in) and 22mm (0.9in) thick, anti-lock device plus HBA
(Hydraulic Brake Assist) and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution), and MSR
drag torque control.
Like the Bentleys that preceded the new GT, this Continental
is an imposing vehicle, with a wheelbase of 2745mm (108.07in); sitting on
275/40R19 tyres mounted on 19 inch rims. But for the average new Bentley owner,
all this sophistication is taken for granted, it is after all, what they have
paid for, wrapped in one of the best looking packages on offer today. The
interior again typically Bentley with several forests felled to provide the wood
for the trim, and a herd of cows (12 mooers in fact) needed for the acres of
leather used everywhere inside the car.
But VW did not finish there, they looked back once more at
traditional Bentleys and saw the 1957 Bentley Flying Spur, a four place and four
door vehicle, and by stretching the Continental GT slightly, they produced the
2006 Continental Flying Spur, another four place, four door ,also shown at the
Bangkok International Motor Show (which incidentally had a “Sold” sticker on
it by the second day).
The power plant for this new car is the same twin-turbo W-12
engine as the Continental GT, with its astounding 552 horsepower. That’s
enough to launch this 5500 pounds of metal, leather, and wood from 0-100 kph in
about 4.9 seconds. Not bad considering the two door takes 4.8 seconds!
So what about the French Bugatti connection? Well, Bugatti
also fell to VW, so the two great marques have eventually become stable-mates.
VW building the 400 kph Bugatti Veyron supercar, with a price ticket that I
envisage will be around 150 million baht in this country. It makes the Bentley
Continental GT seem like a bargain by comparison. Perhaps I should order two of
them! A two door for weekdays and the four door for family weekends!