Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Ford recreates the Bullitt Mustang

2008 Bullitt Mustang

The car chase in the 1968 movie Bullitt has always been the ultimate in my mind, and it was interesting to read that the book “The Greatest Movie Car Chases Of All Time” awarded Bullitt its prestigious accolade last year.
Author Jesse Crosse voted the Bullitt chase better than other iconic movie chases including the chase through Paris in the 1998 movie Ronin, which came second; the little known 1973 movie The Seven Ups (third) and the famous Mini Cooper S chase in the Italian Job of 1969 (fourth). “It’s not just the inclusion of the fabulous cars, the fabulous city and King of Cool that makes Bullitt the best chase in the world,” he says. “The engine soundtrack of both cars is simply awesome. “The cinematography broke new ground and in-car footage is raw and gritty, with plenty of opportunity to watch (the drivers) in action.”
I agree totally. When I first saw this movie, as the cars rumbled around San Francisco, it came to the point where the villain clicks on his seatbelt, which reverberated around the theatre, and then the engine noise turned into a savage roar and the chase was on.
The reason why this chase is so good was that it was filmed in ‘real time’, with an especially set up camera car in full race specifications. Only by doing this can you record the way a car ‘dances’ on the suspension at racing speeds. If you have a copy of Bullitt, run it again and see just how the cars move on their suspensions. Completely correct.
So here we are 40 years later and Ford showed a variant of the growling, retro-styled Mustang at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt is an update of the 1968 pony car driven by Steve McQueen in the movie.
Ford will produce just 7700 for the American market, with a starting price of $US31,075 (about 1 million baht at the current exchange rate - weep)!
It will be a close replica of the original 1968 Mustang. For the movie, all the exterior badges and logos from the car were removed. The new car features the same Dark Highland Green paint, lack of badges, scoops and spoilers. Ford will also offer the car in black. The word Bullitt is on a graphic on a fake petrol cap on the boot.
The new car features a 4.6 liter, 3-valve V8 that delivers 235kW at 6000 rpm and 440 Nm of torque at 4250 rpm. Top speed is 240km/h and it has a 5-speed manual gearbox. It even features a polished aluminium shift ball designed specifically for the car.
Ford is hoping the car re-ignites sales of the new Mustang, as in the US, sales figures show Mustang sales are down 18 percent in the first 10 months of this year.
If you could buy one here for 1 million baht, I’d have one!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked which was the first car to be offered with a synchromesh gearbox, and when? Clue was it was not Britain. The correct answer was Cadillac in 1929. The UK manufacturers did not offer synchromesh until 1932 with Vauxhall and Rolls-Royce. Incidentally, the first all synchromesh gearbox was built by ZF in 1931, but it was not fitted as standard equipment until 1933 on the Alvis Speed 20.
So to this week. What was the first diesel engined private car? Not trucks or buses.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Proton’s saga prolonged
By John Weinthal
Proton shares shed 18 percent to a seven year low of RM 4.02 on November 21 in the aftermath of the Malaysian Government’s announcement that it had failed in its bid to marry off its failed motor manufacturer.

Proton Persona

The official line on the ending of partnership discussions with VW and GM is that Proton, which lost ‘only’ RM 591 in the year to March 31, is now strong enough to go it alone, partly thanks to claimed initial sales success for its booted Gen11 model, the Persona four door sedan.
The New Straits Times reported on November 21, “The Government has decided not to seek foreign partners for Proton for now, ending months of protracted talks for possible strategic alliances with several firms … All negotiations have been discontinued. The reason is recent positive developments in Proton especially in domestic sales and exports.”
For me it was always beyond comprehension that VW would ever meet the Malaysian Government’s conditions. These no doubt included a continuing significant shareholding and the associated political meddling in everything this ill-conceived and money-hungry venture ever attempted. A GM link was even more unlikely - and barely desirable - in view of that company’s own massive problems.
Over the past two years Proton’s home market share has slumped from more than 40 percent to around 30 percent. Toyota/Daihatsu family company Perodua is now undisputed Malaysian market leader.
The official Malaysian dream machine is boasting of new export prospects for Proton in Iran, Thailand, Indonesia and China among others. No thought appears to be given to why people abroad would wish to take on products which are widely regarded in their homeland as poorly designed, unreliable, and of depressing quality build hence bereft of resale value.
“Proton lacks global competitiveness as it has a poor brand image, has no real global presence to speak of and lacks the necessary technology to compete against other carmakers,” said the CIMB Group, Malaysia’s second largest financial services provider.
The bad news for Malaysians is that exorbitant duties and other charges will continue to apply to all imports as undeclared subsidies for Proton. Malaysians will continue to pay among Asia’s highest prices for any imported vehicle.
VW, having failed to strike a viable deal with Malaysia, may well look elsewhere - maybe Thailand or even Indonesia or Vietnam - if it follows through in its understandable quest for expansion in the ASEAN region. Watch this space.

Is Ford saying Ta Ta to Jaguar?
As reported here some time ago, the beleaguered Ford Motor Company has been shedding its other brand investments as it attempts to get its own financial figures in the black. Aston Martin was the first to get the heave-ho, and now Jaguar and Land Rover are next on the chopping block.

Tata styling exercise

However, this time the oh-so-British brands do not look as if they might have an oh-so-British knight in shining armor coming to the rescue. It is the Indian car makers Tata and Mahindra and Mahindra that appear to be front-runners, though the private equity company One Equity along with former FoMoCo top dog Jac Nasser is not out of the picture yet.
Stumbling blocks include FoMoCo wanting to retain a share in the companies (just in case they can get the brands to show a profit) and also to supply the engines. Other concerns include a potential shift of component suppliers out of the UK, to India of course.
If you are interested, my spies tell me that Ford is looking for around US$ 1.5 billion (or something over 40 billion baht, but if you wait a week it will be even cheaper as the US dollar crumbles yet further).

Swiss Heir To A1 Heights
By motoring editor at large John Weinthal in Malaysia
A1 GP came to Asia for Round 3 of its third season at Malaysia’s Sepang Circuit last Sunday - but Asian racers were unable to snare any of the major spoils.
The day belonged to Neel Jani who took pole, fastest lap and the chequered flag for both races hoisting Team Switzerland to series leadership.
Jani won the Sprint race ahead of France’s Loic Duval and Germany’s Michael Ammermüller, who put in a superb performance to secure a third place in his maiden A1GP race.
In an incident-packed Feature race in scorching weather conditions Jani was joined on the podium by Brazilian rookie Sergio Jimenez, who started the race sixth and led for 15 laps, with Duval third.
Jimenez is a protege of double Indy 500 winner, CHAMP Cars and 1972 F1 World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi who heads A1 Team Brazil.
Macau Grand Prix victor Oliver Jarvis was unable to repeat his earlier A1 run of success taking seventh place in the Sepang Sprint and 10th in the Feature race for Team Great Britain.
Switzerland now leads the title challenge on 61 points ahead of France on 53, New Zealand 46, Holland 39, South Africa 37, Britain 36, Ireland 31, Germany 24, Brazil 22 and Mexico 17.
Round 4 will be at China’s Zunghai ciruit for the first time on December 16.
This third A1GP season resumes at Lake Taupo (New Zealand) in January followed by Australia’s Eastern Creek (Sydney), Durban, Mexico City and Shanghai. The final will be at England’s Brands Hatch on May 4, 2008.
A1 GP embraces drivers from 22 nations racing identical Lola-built open-wheelers. The 600 kg cars are powered by identical 520 bhp, 3.4 liter, aluminium, quad cam V8s made by Zytek, a British engineering company with a reputation for success, pursued both on and off the track.
However, next year’s season will see the identical A1GP racing cars powered by a V8 engine supplied by this year’s F1 championship winners, Ferrari. At the Sepang race, Ferrari also supplied the pace and safety cars and a Maserati (owned by Ferrari) Quattroporte as the medical FIV.
Over the same weekend, the Formula BMW finals were held in Valencia, and it was Austrian and German drivers who scooped the pool. Philipp Eng (Austria) of Team Mücke Motorsport was the winner of the third Formula BMW World Final. At Valencia’s “Circuit de la Comunitat”, the 17 year old celebrated a dominant start to finish victory. Marco Wittmann (Germany) was awarded the runner-up spot. The reward for Jens Klingmann’s (Germany) progress through the field from 11th on the grid was a third-place finish.
The highest placed driver from the FBMW Asia group was Thailand’s Jack Lemvard, driving a rented race car from one of the European teams, beating the much vaunted Jazeman Jafaar, considered to be one of the hottest prospects from Asia.