Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

300 km/h and topless

Don’t get too excited, this is not Luscious Lolita on speed, this is Bentley’s new Continental GTC Speed.
The Continental GTC Speed drop-top follows the GT Speed coupe released in August 2007. It has the same upgraded (ex VW) 12 cylinder engine that enables the ultimate cruiser to blast from 0-100km/h in around 4.5 seconds.

Bentley Continental GTC Speed
With the roof up, giving improved aerodynamics, the GTC Speed convertible is able to hit an impressive top speed of 322 km/h. With the top down you lose 8 km/h, leaving you at 314 km/h at full noise.
This new Continental gets 448 kW of power, a 9 percent increase over the “standard” Bentley from the twin-turbo W12. The torque output is even more impressive, rising 15 percent to 750 Nm, available all the way from 1700 rpm through to 5600 rpm. This is fed to the road through a six speed automatic with manual override if you think you can emulate James Bond.
Bentley has lowered the suspension 10 mm at the front and 15 mm at the rear to improve the handling of the GTC Speed. It also has retuned the power steering to give the driver more response.
Bentley has fitted the GTC Speed with wider 9.5x20 inch alloy wheels, which have specially developed 275/35-section Pirelli PZero high-performance tyres.
Whilst Bentley usually has no aero add-on bits, the GTC Speed does get one on the boot to keep it stable at high speeds.
Like the Speed coupe, the convertible is available with optional carbon-ceramic brakes with larger 420 mm front discs and 356 mm rear discs. Quite frankly, at the money you pay for a Bentley and the speeds it can do, I would have considered that the best available brakes should have been mandatory. The carbon brakes get eight-piston callipers which are also 20kg lighter than the standard brakes.
So has Bentley (hiding behind the VW symbol) continued to make a gentleman’s sporting carriage, or as Ettore Bugatti once said, the fastest lorries in the world? The answer is yes, but how many of these top end cars will go out the door in these financially troubled times, I am not sure.

Autotrivia Quiz

RHD Bugatti

Last week I asked which pre-1970 Bugatti models came in left hand drive? The correct answer was “none”. Up till then they were all RHD.
So to this week. Harry Ferguson is remembered for the tractor and the four wheel drive vehicles. He was also famous for something else in Ireland. What was it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


BRM rises from the ashes
Yet another famous British automotive name is to be resurrected in 2009, with the news that Bee Automobiles recently announced 250 mph AWD electric racing car will compete as the BRM Bee Four ERV in the British Hill Climb Championships this year.
The car it is reportedly using a new type of electric motor featuring a segmented armature. Each 13 kg motor (one for each wheel) delivers a peak power of about 50 kW and peak torque of 130 Nm, making it 200 kW and 520 Nm all up. Simulations show that the same motor, developed by the Electronic Power Group within the Engineering Department at the University of Oxford, is capable of achieving a peak power of over 150 kW and a peak torque of over 200 Nm. Remember, that is per wheel, as these are in-wheel motors.

1948 BRM being pushed as usual
All of the car’s direct technological influences have not yet been revealed, but the web site hints at who might be involved when it states the car has been “designed by a team accustomed to winning Formula 1 Grand Prix” (they must be pretty old, as that was some time ago when Graham Hill and Sir Jackie Stewart gave the marque 17 F1 wins and a drivers and two constructors titles). Mind you, the in-wheel technology dates back to 1902 with Dr. Porsche’s Lohner cars. Nothing’s really new!
It is 60 years since BRM was founded by Raymond Mays, who had built several hill climb and road racing cars under the ERA brand before the war, and Peter Berthon, a long-time associate. BRM had backing (both financially and in kind and labour) of the British motor industry and its suppliers channelled through a trust fund.
This proved an unwieldy way of organizing and financing the project, and as some of the backers withdrew, disappointed with the team’s slow progress and early results, it fell to one of the partners in the trust, Alfred Owen of the Rubery Owen group of companies, which primarily manufactured car parts, to take over the team in its entirety. In fact, between 1954 and 1970, the BRM team entered its works F1 cars under the official name of the Owen Racing Organization.
According to the press release, “The BRM Bee Four electric racing car will be consistent with BRM’s long history of innovation and teamwork, and will be a great demonstration of Rubery Owen’s modern focus on environmental technologies. It will also be a marker for a new breed of motor sport, one which minimizes environmental impact and is overwhelmingly cost effective, but at the same time is phenomenally fast.”
Paul Owen, grandson of Sir Alfred and managing director of Rubery Owen’s Environmental Technology Subsidiary Rozone Limited commented, “Rubery Owen is very pleased to see the BRM name once again being used to drive forward an innovative development to take motor sport to new levels. For the last decade, our Rozone subsidiary has been seeking to develop technologies under the umbrella of ‘Sustainable Solutions’ - solutions which try to balance economic, social and of course environmental considerations, all within a framework of teamwork and co-operation.
“We believe that the BRM Bee Four project demonstrates this perfectly - acknowledging the past, enhancing the present, and creating the future. At a time when we are all examining the cost effectiveness and environmental impact of many parts of what we do, we hope that the project will demonstrate that motor sport can be both these things - but without forgetting the ‘social’ aspect or the importance of fun, enjoyment and competition - the main reasons we all do it in the first place!”
All very lofty ideals, as were the ideals behind the original BRM. However, on paper the BRM Bee Four should be blisteringly fast (but so was the original BRM in 1948 - on paper!).

Go park yourself!
Ford is introducing a new Active Park Assist technology on its 2010 Lincoln MKS flagship sedan and new Lincoln MKT seven passenger luxury crossover. Available in mid-2009 as an option, Active Park Assist uses an ultrasonic-based sensing system and Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) to position the vehicle for parallel parking, calculate the optimal steering angle and quickly steer the vehicle into a parking spot.
The EPAS system utilizes a steering column mounted electric motor that provides steering power assistance on demand and typically consumes less than seven percent of the energy of a conventional hydraulic rack and pinion power steering system.
Active Park Assist system uses sensors on the front and rear of the vehicle to guide the vehicle into a parking space. The technology is a major leap forward in speed and ease of use compared with the camera-reliant systems offered by competitors, including a video camera-based system offered by Lexus. Ford’s system requires less driver interface and reduces the risk of selecting a parking spot that is too tight. Ford’s Active Park Assist is claimed to also work in downhill parking situations, unlike competing systems. To park the vehicle, the driver activates the system by pressing an instrument panel button, which activates the ultrasonic sensors to measure and identify a feasible parallel parking space. The system then prompts the driver to accept the system assistance to park.
The steering system then takes over and steers the car into the parking space hands free. The driver still shifts the transmission and operates the accelerator and brake pedals, so you don’t give up total control.
A visual and/or audible driver interface advises the driver about the proximity of other cars, objects and people and provides instructions.
While the steering is all done automatically, the driver remains responsible for safe parking and can interrupt the system by grasping the steering wheel.
Active Park Assist is enabled by Ford’s advanced EPAS technology. In addition to helping with parallel parking, EPAS improves fuel economy up to five percent, while reducing CO2 emissions and enhancing steering performance compared with traditional hydraulic power assisted steering systems. EPAS saves fuel primarily because the steering system is powered by an electric motor connected to vehicle’s battery, as opposed to engine-mounted hydraulic pump steering systems. By 2012, Ford plans to fit nearly 90 percent of the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury line-up with EPAS.
“As we use advanced technology like Electric Power Assisted Steering to improve the fuel efficiency across our vehicle line-up, we have the opportunity to introduce new comfort and convenience innovations like Active Parking Assist,” said Ali Jammoul, Ford’s chief engineer for chassis engineering and steering systems. “This is technology not for the sake of technology, but technology designed to meet the needs and wants of customers.”
As Ford introduces EPAS in more vehicles, it will be able to offer Active Parking Assist in more models. In addition, Ford is working on using EPAS and other sensors for other smart technologies, including one that could prevent a vehicle from drifting out of lane on the highway.
Active Park Assist works in tandem with other new technologies that will be offered on the 2010 MKS and MKT and other Ford Motor Company vehicles, including Blind Spot Information System (BLIS™) and Cross Traffic Alert. BLIS employs a sensor on the outboard rear quarter panel that monitors the traditional blind spot area, and can notify the driver with a warning indicator light in the corresponding side view mirror if the sensors in this optional system detect a vehicle in the blind spot. Cross Traffic Alert uses BLIS sensors to help detect cross traffic when backing out of a parking space.