Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Rolls Royce convertible for those with deep pockets

For most of us, the only time we will perhaps be seen in a Rolls-Royce is if it is in a hearse. But me? I wouldn’t be seen dead in one! Boom! Boom!

R-R Drophead

However, if you really want wind in the hair, as well as the winged lady out the front, be prepared to dig deep. Rolls-Royce launched its ultimate convertible in Australia, priced at $1.19 million, and by the time you get it here, expect more than 100 million baht. This flight of automotive fancy is the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe.
The Drophead sits at the top of the Rolls-Royce price range, above the Phantom and the extended-wheelbase Phantom. It was also seen as the 100EX concept car of 2004. This new car follows the concept car very closely.
The production Drophead is built off the same platform as the regular Phantom sedan, although it is 225mm shorter. It employs 1300 unique parts, but does share the same giant 6.8 liter V12 which puts out 338 kW and 720 Nm. That is enough torque to tow Chiang Mai City Hall down to the river.
Being an open car, structural modifications had to be made to the chassis to keep the car rigid, and these make the Drophead 70kg heavier than the Phantom sedan for a grand total of 2620 kg. Despite this bulk, the Drophead goes from zero to 100km/h in just 5.9 seconds, just 0.1 seconds slower than the regular Phantom.
The doors are a return to ‘suicide’ doors, being hinged at the rear, while the folding roof is also a return to the days of yore, being fabric, rather than folding metal as most convertibles are these days. Rolls Royce chief-designer, Ian Cameron said, “There is nothing more romantic than drive a convertible in the rain at night and hearing the drops hit the roof. In conversation with customers, we realized that they feel the same.” And if you believe that bit of spin, you’ll also believe that the majority of buffaloes in this country are all at the veterinarians.
The interior is typical Rolls-Royce, with a couple of forests felled and a herd or two of cows slaughtered. It seats four people in comfort and there is a surprising amount of space for rear passengers with more than enough legroom to make this car a truly comfortable four-seater.
The ‘piece de resistance’ are the two Rolls-Royce umbrellas with carbon-fibre rods. These are stored inside the car’s front quarter panels in holes that are exposed when you open the doors. They are also very expensive, costing $1,000 if you leave them somewhere and they get nicked.
Rolls-Royce Asia Pacific regional director, Colin Kelly, said the Drophead would appeal to customers who didn’t mind drawing attention to themselves. “It is for successful people who are confident and don’t mind people looking at them,” he said. “You are certainly going to be noticed, it’s not the kind of car you drive if you are in a witness protection program.” Nice to see the R-R people have a sense of humor.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what car was called the ‘sticking plaster’ car? It was the Lloyd LP 300 which had fabric bodywork and was known as the Hansaplastwagen. The year? 1951 and was another crumbling stone in the Borgward empire.
So to this week. Think Nissan. Datsun had its roots going back to 1912 when K. Den, R. Aoyama and A. Takeuchi got together and produced the “DAT”, from their three initials. After a break, they began producing cars again in 1931 and these were known as the ‘son of DAT’, or otherwise ‘Datson’. However, in 1932, they changed it to ‘Datsun’. Why?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


F1 points score
There are three races left in the 2007 world championship, and mathematically there are only four drivers left in the hunt. The two McLaren-Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Alonso, and the two Ferrari drivers, Raikkonen and Massa, though Massa has to be the long shot at this stage, as it would need both McLaren drivers to score no points in two of the three races.
The current scores are:
1 Lewis Hamilton 97
2 Fernando Alonso 95
3 Kimi Räikkönen 84
4 Felipe Massa 77
However, there is a more than fighting chance that Alonso and Hamilton will take each other out, and a win by Raikkonen would put him right up with the McLaren drivers for the final two races. However, a DNF in Japan for Raikkonen and a win for either Alonso or Hamilton would put the 2007 title out of the Ferrari driver’s reach. It is an interesting situation.

More on the McLaren penalty
So Ron is 100 million dollars out of pocket, and excluded from the Manufacturer’s Championship, but the drivers can still get points. It all seems a little silly to me. If McLaren is judged as having benefited from Ferrari information, surely the drivers benefited as well? Knowingly or unknowingly.
It would have made more sense to penalize the drivers 10 grid spots, so there would still be a full grid, and let’s see them come through the field. Agree?

Goodbye Colin McRae
Most car enthusiasts would have heard that the former World Rally Champion Colin McRae was killed when his helicopter suffered a major failure and fell 50 meters into a valley. His five year old son Johnny was also killed as well as a friend of Colin’s and another young boy.
According to all reports Colin McRae was neither big-headed or arrogant, despite being a world champion but just loved life, a fact confirmed by local identity John L Hamilton, whose cousin Colin McRae had married, now leaving her widowed.
As well as being a legend in rallying, Colin McRae was friends with many across all forms of motor and motorcycle sport, including current F1 driver Scotland’s David Coulthard with whom he was going to contest the Race of Champions at the end of the year, and Italy’s supreme two wheeled exponent Valentino Rossi, who dedicated his last win to McRae’s memory.
Automania joins with the motoring world in extending its condolences to the McRae family.

Volvo reveals new safety features
The Frankfurt Auto Show had ‘safety’ as one of the concepts this year, and as always, Volvo rose to the occasion, displaying some of their safety systems, already available as options.
A brief recap of Volvo’s highlights in safety is called for - Volvo opting for laminated windscreens in 1944, seat belts in 1959 and the driver’s airbag in 1987.

Volvo safety feature.
Some of Volvo’s push this year was seen in a driver alert control (DAC) system to alert tired and inattentive drivers, a lane departure warning (LDW) system and collision warning system offered in the S80 with automatic brake function to help prevent front-to-rear impacts (this is similar to the one being offered in the top end Mercedes-Benz models).
The LDW is not the same as the blind-spot camera system currently available as an option. Research figures show 90 percent of all crashes are the result of drivers being distracted.
The DAC system alerts the driver when concentration levels are affected, for example during long journeys. LDW and DAC are part of the same option package, called driver alert system, that was introduced in Europe on the Volvo S80, V70 and XC70 late last year.

2008 Volvo S80

Volvo Cars Safety Center director Ingrid Skogsmo says safety is a key philosophy for the company. “When it comes to preventive safety, we have the same approach as when we develop protective systems,” she says. “In other words, Volvo’s safety research and technical development focuses on areas where new technology can create significant positive results in real-life traffic.”
DAC was developed after studies showed driver fatigue was a major safety issue globally. The exact figures are hard to quantify, but most researchers put it at 25-35 percent.
DAC is activated at 65 km/h and remains active above 60 km/h. A camera, sensors and a control unit monitor driver behavior, the camera continuously measures the distance between the car and the road lane markings. If for some reason the driver veers off the road, they are alerted via an audible signal.
A text message also appears in the car’s information display, where a coffee cup symbol alerts the driver to take a break.
DAC works in conjunction with LDW, which Volvo believes can prevent between 30-40 percent of single-vehicle crashes between 70 km/h and 100 km/h. LDW will sound a warning chime if a driver crosses the road markings without a reason.
The collision warning with auto-brake function senses an imminent impact and brakes to slow the car when the driver fails to react.
However, I am not sure if the new S80 Volvo released in Thailand will have such safety features. A country where ‘safety’ usually takes the back seat.