What is an auto employee worth?
if it is a top employee at Ford Motor Company, that person is worth a
veritable fortune. $20.5 million dollars in the first year, which is
more than most Ford employees will make in a lifetime with the
company. Kind of staggering, huh?
I have been self employed almost all my life, so I have never been a
member of a trade union, but in this issue, I would have to say that
my sympathy is with the rank and file. Nobody is worth 20.5 million,
especially when that person has been employed as a hatchet man, to
work out how many of the rank and file are to be killed off in the
next 20.5 million dollars worth of 12 months.
The person under discussion is the new CEO of Ford Motor Co, Alan
Mullaly, late of Boeing, who turned that company around financially by
sacking thirty thousand workers there too. Mind you, to be fair, his
second year’s salary at Ford is a paltry 2 million dollars, but he
can get large share parcels if he can influence the share price of
FoMoCo in a positive upward fashion over the next three years.
This is not an isolated issue, however, as across the paddock at
financially troubled GM, their CEO Rick Wagoner gets a base salary of
2.2 million but actually took home 5.5 million it seems after bonuses.
Glad to see the place is going so well!
The econo car – and my family’s part in its history
With us all trembling as fuel reaches $100 a
barrel, the world is looking at technology to save the planet. We need fuel
misers, and so I felt it incumbent upon me to show my hand early, and to stamp
indelibly on the minds of those who matter, that I am a trend-setter. I have
been an econo-car exponent for many years.
However, I should point out that my venturing into the realms of inexpensive,
gasoline sparing motoring, has been both genetic and environmental. This nature
and nurture concept may have some of you doubting, but please read on.
My father was the first econo-car exponent in my family, and indeed was one of
the first to build one of these models more than 60 years ago. It was war-time
and Adolf’s on-going bun-fight (AKA WW II) had left the north of Scotland a
little low in gasoline supplies. A petrol miser was the obvious answer, but
there weren’t any (even if you had the readies to buy one, and my family
certainly did not), but my father was always capable of thinking outside the
box, and so he designed a cheap and economical car for two people, which he was
quite sure was going to set the motoring world on its ear.
Starting with two bicycles placed side by side, he welded them together.
Coupling the handlebars was a little tricky, but he managed with a rather crude
tie-rod concept. Next a body was made of some heavy cardboard (this was the
prototype, remember). Having constructed this, it was placed over the twin
bicycles, and the North of Scotland’s first econo-car was ready to run. With
my long-suffering mother reluctantly seated on the second bicycle seat, they
headed off on the maiden voyage. Unfortunately for my father, Mr. Ackerman and
his steering geometry had been ignored by him, at his peril. Rather than setting
the motoring world on its ear, the badly designed coupled steering set the
econo-car and its occupants on their respective ears at the first corner.
As they were extricating themselves from the badly twisted prototype, it also
began to rain, and the cardboard coachwork quietly and soggily enveloped the
bicycle frames. My mother refused to get back in, muttering dire threats,
including withdrawal of conjugal rights, and Scotland’s first econo-car was
dismantled. A triumph of intellect killed by the pains of reality!
So for me, there was already this genetic inheritance of econo-interest. There
was also the environmental inheritance that countless generations of Scotsmen
before me had implanted in my fertile brain. “Keep a hauld o’ yer bawbees”
being primary amongst these environmental messages handed down from generation
to generation, huddled around the hearth for warmth. (For those readers with
absolutely no Scottish background, the phrase literally means, “Look after
your halfpennies” or even more plainly, “Be cautious with your money.”)
With these epithets being drummed into small Scottish boys from birth, it is no
wonder that Scots as a race, are recognized by having long pockets and short
arms. In fact, the kilt has no pockets at all, explaining another reason why
Scotsmen are not known for their munificence! Or put another way, are known to
But back to today. Did I rush out and buy a hybrid? Or a diesel? No, I turned my
back on all this technological nonsense, kept a hauld o’ my bawbees and bought
a Daihatsu Mira. Several years later, my fuel bill is still under B. 500 per
week and maintenance costs are also minuscule. With over 120,000 kays on the
clock, the dearest bill was at 100,000 km when I had new CV joints, timing belt
and anything else I could think of and the bill was around B. 20,000.
Mira is the ultimate disposable motor car. If a motorcycle bounces off it, do I
care? No I don’t. You can park it anywhere. Nobody wants to steal it, because
nobody wants to buy such a down-market runabout. But they don’t know what
they’re missing. For our congested roads it is perfect. I am deliriously happy
with my econo-car, and can’t see the sense in spending mega-baht for a petrol
The best racing drivers of all time
I was recently presented with an Australian Auto Action
magazine by Vic Garra, a Melburnian. In this magazine they rated the 100 best
Grand Prix drivers, and there was certainly some discussion around the table.
For example, Michael Schumacher was rated at number 7, whilst Juan Manuel Fangio
was slotted in at position 6. The frustrating part was that the Auto Action we
had only went from numbers 50-6. No 1-5! After a week it was all too much, so I
rang the magazine in Sydney Australia to get someone to tell us their last five
drivers! Their take on it was:
5 – Jim Clark
4 – Ayrton Senna
3 – Bernd Rosemeyer
2 – Gilles Villeneuve
1 – Tazio Nuvolari
Since that list produced some immediate reactions, I decided to look carefully
at their final five. The first factors to spring to light was that Nuvolari was
the only one to die in his bed! All the others died with their cars. Jim Clark
was the only one of this five to drive totally with his head, no fuss, no
Between the trio of Rosemeyer, Gilles Villeneuve and Nuvolari, they must have
used up the world’s complete supply of brave pills. These were drivers who
never gave up, with Nuvolari and Rosemeyer being the only drivers to tame the
500 hp Auto Union mid engined racers designed by Dr. Porsche. Rosemeyer was to
unfortunately end his life when thrown out of one while attempting the world
land speed record.
Ayrton Senna was a very complex character, being totally aggressive on the track
and yet totally compassionate off the track. This was very similar to the mental
make-up of Gilles Villeneuve, the ultimate wheel-banger.
Jim Clark and Tazio Nuvolari were the only ones in this
quintet who could win in anything, be that sportscars, sedans or GP cars, and
Nuvolari was the only one to carry a gramophone recording of his national
anthem, just in case the organizers did not have one (which did happen at a
German GP when Nuvolari beat the acclaimed Mercedes and Auto Unions, in front of
an outraged Adolf Hitler, who refused to shake his hand)!
Rosemeyer and Nuvolari were the only ones to start their racing lives on
motorcycles, Jimmy Clark starting competitive life in a DKW, Senna in go-karts
and Villeneuve in snowmobiles!
Now whether these five were really the top five is still a matter of discussion,
but I would personally agree with Clark, Senna and Nuvolari. I would also have
put Fangio in the top five, not number six. But it makes for interesting
The stories about Nuvolari are the stuff of legends. Look at the pic of
Nuvolari, holding the steering wheel outside the car. It had come off and
Nuvolari continued driving using a pipe wrench on the steering column like a
tiller! Having had a monumental crash on his motorcycle in practice and breaking
his back, he had himself plastered in the crouching position to lie on the
motorcycle, was carried to the bike and won the race. He also followed arch
rival Varzi in the last night stages of the Mille Miglia with his lights off,
and at the last possible minute, flicked them on and drove around the astounded
Varzi to win again!
Last week I mentioned that there is a hill
climb course in England whose name was incorporated into a car company. By
reversing the names of the founder and the hill climb, you get the name of the
car make, which is still going today (and in fact, if you have deep enough
pockets, you can buy it). What is the name of the hill climb? Clue, the founder
sold the company to two gentlemen called Renwick and Bertelli in 1926. The
correct answer was the Aston Clinton hill climb, and incidentally the make was
So to this week. What car had its headlights raised so that it passed road
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