Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Is this the ultimate fuel miser?

Hyundai, a company which is currently going from strength to strength, has announced their LPG-hybrid, which almost equals Toyota’s Prius gasoline-hybrid for consumption, but LPG costs much less than gasoline at the pump.

Hyundai Elantra

After being clothed in secrecy for some time, Hyundai Australia executives visited South Korea to evaluate a new hybrid LPG version of the Elantra that could use as little as $10 a week in fuel. Senior Hyundai research engineer Dr Sungho Lee says the company’s hybrids are typically achieving roughly 5 liters per 100 km. That compares with 4.4 L/100 km for the Prius, but with LPG selling for much less than petrol, the small Hyundai’s annual fuel costs would be less than half those of a Prius and much lower than the ubiquitous Toyota Fortuner, for example. The Hyundai could travel close to 300 km on $10 worth of fuel and would probably have the lowest operating costs of any car in the mass market.
Hyundai Australia executives visited Korea three weeks ago to see the vehicle and to be briefed on technical specifications. Hyundai’s director of sales and marketing, Kevin McCann, said “The situation is that while we would not like to be announcing that we are definitely bringing it here, it is under serious consideration. There are a number of things to be clarified. We need to weigh up things like the cost and how it would be accepted by consumers, but it looks like a very viable alternative.”
Since Australia already has the LPG distribution infrastructure, through the petrol service stations, this hybrid would certainly make sense down under, but with the poorer infrastructure here, introduction of such a vehicle could be premature.
The launch date of the new car in Korea has been brought forward by several months to the middle of 2009. Hyundai has already put roughly 100 hybrid LPG prototypes through performance tests and is in the process of final validation of the system.
The Elantra hybrid is believed to use a 1.6 liter LPG-powered engine, backed up by a 15 kW electric motor, driven through a continuously variable transmission. The LPG hybrid car has a lithium-ion battery supplied by LG Chemical Ltd
The Elantra hybrid is fitted with the first of three new hybrid systems the Korean manufacturer is developing. The second hybrid system, with a larger electric motor, is expected to be launched in the mid-sized Sonata in 2010, while the third hybrid system is a plug-in hybrid (which can be recharged from a regular power point) that can operate on the electric motor alone over certain distances.
With vehicles like this Hyundai, the need to bring in oil from overseas will fall, as well as all the greenhouse gases which are (said to be) the main culprits in global warming (which the people in Vladivostok are, however, looking forward to).

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that two speed rear axles are common in trucks, but not so common in cars. Voisin had them in 1928 and Auburn had them in 1932, but two speed rear axles were used even before then. They were used in 1909 in a British car. I asked what was it? Clue - the name became well known in a British racing car in the early 1960s. The answer was the 1909 Cooper; this was a two stroke, and the company was not related to John Cooper of the Cooper F1 and Mini Cooper cars (I believe).
So to this week. The film The Graduate and Guidobaldi Trionfi of Brescia had much in common. Guidobaldi won an Alfa Romeo which starred in the movie, after giving the model its name. What did he call it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Car collectors wanted
After being invited to the opening of John Richardson’s car collection in Ban Chang, it made me think of collecting cars and two interesting ones have come up this month. The first is Steve McQueen’s famous Porsche 908 Spyder which is up for sale in the US.
Fresh on the heels of movie legend James Coburn’s Ferrari fetching a world record $11 million at auction now it is Steve McQueen’s Porsche.
Fans of McQueen’s 1971 movie Le Mans, based around the famous 24 hour race, will be watching the auction in the US in August with great interest.
The 1969 Porsche 908 Spyder sports car is the one that McQueen and F1-racer Peter Revson finished second in at the 1970 Sebring 12 hour race before it became the world’s fastest camera car in the Le Mans race the same year. Two cameras were mounted on it to produce footage for the Le Mans movie.
The 908 Porsche Spyder is expected to bring between $1.5-$2.1 million. Dig deep.
The second collectible is another race car, this time in Australia. It is the MG which British Leyland called in 1971, “The world’s fastest MGB” has just been offered for sale.
The advert runs: MGB Super Bee 2 as raced by Dr Iain Corness for Young Lions British Leyland race team. In storage for 30 years and needs restoration. Has 160 hp push rod engine, close ratio gearbox and limited slip diff, all engine internals are British Leyland race parts. 5 magnesium Minilite wheels. Also a 1500 MGA twin cam engine with MGB 5 bearing block crank and rods to build up a 2 liter MG twin cam engine which was in car when raced by Iain Corness. $25,000 for complete package.
Now this race car I know very well, because this is the one I built and developed and raced 1969-1970-1971 for British Leyland. For the 1972 season, it was outlawed by the motor sport authorities in Australia as being “too fast for the (Prodsports) class” saying I would have to run in the top class against CanAm McLarens and the like, so I stuck it in the garage in disgust and went motorcycle racing instead. In 1974 it was bought by twins Peter and John McCabe, but they never raced it. Peter was killed in an accident at the Lakeside circuit in Queensland (not in the MG) and their mother extracted a promise from John that he would not race it, and it was stored under the family home in Murwillumbah in Australia. When John died last month from cancer, he had just advertised it for sale. In its final guise, with the two liter twin cam engine (the first MGB twin cam in the world) it set lap records at every circuit it ever raced at, but unfortunately had a finishing record of only 50 percent. It was only after the final blow-up that we found the cause, and the reason remains in my head until someone makes a replica of that engine!
Now before you start working out the exchange rate between baht and Aussie dollars, the import duty getting it into Thailand is 1.8 times the value placed on it by the Thai Customs department - not what you might have paid for it! Ouch!

Porsche 908 camera car

Super Bee in 1971

What did we learn from the Canadian GP?
Well, the first thing we learned was that it was not worth staying up to 2 a.m. just to watch it. It was a travesty of a race - in fact it was not a “race” at all, but rather a lottery as to where you were when the safety car was deployed. Hard fought advantages became nullified immediately and in the resulting jumble that followed we had the sight of Barichello in the uncompetitive Honda leading the race.
Having said that, the race winner deserved the top step of the podium. Robert Kubica in the BMW did not put a wheel wrong anywhere. Having started from second on the grid, the safety car did him no favors either, but he was able to build up the buffer needed to win, while other drivers were just winning walls. Kubica is now ‘hot property’. Nick Heidfeld, BMW’s second driver (and he is the ‘second’ driver these days), was in the right place at the right time and gave BMW their first 1-2. He needs a few more podiums, or else he will be replaced by Sebastian Vettel next year.
Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes) showed that he had the speed being 0.6 seconds quicker than Kubica in qualifying, but still lacks maturity. He was disadvantaged by the safety car period, but was so intent on getting back out into the race when both Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Kubica went past him while he was being refueled, that he did not see the fact that both of them had stopped at the pit lane exit red light and drove straight through and into Raikkonen. (Perhaps he has been taking lessons in Thailand?) Kubica in the post race interview even thanked Hamilton for choosing the Ferrari, rather than his BMW! Hamilton also received a penalty of a 10 place relegation in the next Grand Prix.
Another driver who displayed red-green colorblindness was Nico Rosberg in the Williams, who had been up with the leaders when the safety car came out, dived into the pits and then drove into the back of the Hamilton-Raikkonen duo at the exit of the pits. He also picks up a 10 place penalty for the French GP. His team mate Nakajima managed to trip over his own front wing coming into the pits and careered straight into the pit wall entrance. Bad day in the pits for the Williams team. Sir Frank would not have been pleased.
Renault’s sulky Spaniard gets rattled too easily these days. His attempts at passing Heidfeld became more and more ragged, until he eventually spun out and hit the wall. His tardy team mate Piquet also had his share of spins, despite his slow pace, and eventually retired with brake problems. I think he had them on from the start!
That Red Bull mixture must be the elixir of life, giving veteran David Coulthard enough energy to catapult him into third by the end of the race. Coulthard hasn’t seen the podium for so long, it was a wonder he knew what to do when he got there. His team mate Mark Webber was in the wrong place all day and finished miserably out of the points.
Vettel in the Toro Rosso did have a good day and finished in the points after starting from the pit lane, whilst his team mate Sebastian Bourdais dribbled round at the tail of the field and even admitted that he could not drive the car. He did not have to apologize, we could see that already.
So that was the Canadian GP. A shambles, run on a track that was breaking up so badly the drivers were five seconds a lap slower at the end than they were in the beginning. Kubica may have enjoyed it, but the rest of us did not.