Vol. V No. 39 - Saturday September 23, - September 29, 2006
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by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 

 


Automania

What is an auto employee worth?

Well, 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 be tight-wads!
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 miser. Sorry!


The best racing drivers of all time

Jim Clark

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 bravado.
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.

Nuvolari

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 discussions.
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!


Autotrivia Quiz

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 Aston Martin.
So to this week. What car had its headlights raised so that it passed road registration regulations?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!