Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Good Karma?

Fisker Karma hybrid

The Fisker Karma made its debut at the Detroit motor show in January. This latest vehicle from Fisker Automotive has survived a legal challenge from rival sports car maker Tesla over claims that Fisker had held back on designs he was contracted to prepare for a forthcoming Tesla product.
Tesla had alleged that Fisker kept his best ideas, which instead turned up on his own car, the Karma. However, earlier this month an arbitrator found in favor of Fisker, instructing Tesla to pay fees and costs of $US 1.14 million. Ouch!
Images of the Karma - which we first saw in design sketch form in June - have surfaced just weeks after Porsche launched its Panamera, a similarly sleek four-door sports tourer, and two months after Maserati launched its updated but still wonderfully delightful four-door, the Quattroporte. Even Lamborghini has got in on the four-door game with its Estoque concept car. Can we expect a four-door Ferrari or Bugatti? Out of all these, the Karma has the worst frontal treatment, almost as bad as the Japanese Mitsuoko Orochi.
The Karma has a plug-in hybrid petrol-electric engine supplemented by regenerative braking (a KERS system). Optional roof-mounted solar panels can be fitted to help recharge the car’s batteries and run the climate-control air-conditioning, and Fisker even offers solar panels you can fit to your home or garage to reduce the amount of electricity needed for recharging.
The plug-in electric motor alone has a range of 100 km, extending significantly when used in conjunction with the petrol motor. Between the two they propel the Karma to 100 km/h in 6 seconds with a top speed of about 200 km/h.
The Karma is expected to go on sale in the US late this year for about $US 116,000.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that Harry Ferguson is remembered for the tractor and the four wheel drive vehicles but he was also famous for something else in Ireland. I asked what was it? Harry was the first man to fly a plane of his own construction in Ireland. This was done in Belfast in 1909.
So to this week. Why was a Packard tourer disguised as a police open Lincoln in Chicago, and when?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Have you got ‘comprehensive’ cover?
It has been alleged that a UFO wrecked a wind turbine in the UK. If this is really the case, and you can check at, what would happen if a UFO destroyed your car? Would you be covered?

Beware of UFOs
Normal UK car insurance (which does not have to cover damage from deranged motorcycle taxi riders) does cover many bizarre accidents. Amongst the potential disasters that are covered by normal comprehensive policies, are:
Monkeys wrecking the car on a drive through a safari park.
A block of frozen urine dropping from the sky and striking the car.
Ditto a meteor.
Crashing into a grand piano left on a hairpin bend of an Alpine pass (this one assumes the insurance includes European cover).
A kangaroo, on the hop from the local zoo, jumping over the car and wrecking the roof en route.
A mastermind criminal, operating from a satellite in geostationary orbit, holding the city council to ransom by taking over the traffic lights and causing gridlock in the streets, during which chaos the car is smashed.
And, a UFO crashing into the car. However (and here’s the first usual insurance ‘get out’ clauses), if the UFO causes an accident by attacking the car, with, say, a photon torpedo, then that would be considered an act of war, and thus would not be covered. Similarly, if an intergalactic war led to Armageddon and resulted in the car being damaged, it would not be covered either.
“It gets more complicated if a UFO hits a wind turbine, causing a rotor blade to shear off which then crashes into the car,” says Gerry Bucke of Adrian Flux Insurance Services. “In that case, the car driver’s best hope is that the UFO pilot’s policy is completely up to date, as it would be simplest to make a claim on the alien’s insurance. Otherwise there may be arguments as to who is responsible for the damage to the car… In the worst case scenario, though, the car would be covered by our policy - it’s just that a claim on it would affect the driver’s No Claims Bonus.” (And I did not make any of that up!)

Car stolen recently?
I was chatting to the MD of Holiday Car Rental the other day and asked him if he had any troubles with Toyota Fortuners in his fleet. “Don’t keep ‘em,” was his reply, “they’re the most stolen car in Thailand.”

Live deterrent
I was aware that they are a very popular vehicle, but I hadn’t realized just how popular! A little research showed the five most likely ways you can lose your car, particularly now that ‘hot wiring’ doesn’t work with newer vehicles. So here are the most common ways the kamoy gets your car.
1. Burglary and theft of the car keys - Still a very popular means for stealing cars. Often where the keys are left out on hall table, kitchen worktop or hanging on hooks in the kitchen or hallway.
2. Leaving the vehicle with keys in and/or engine running - Examples - clearing windscreen or early visit to newsagent. Visits to the re-cycling point at the supermarket before/after shopping.
3. Identity theft - Criminals steal the identity of an owner, then use forged or stolen documents to obtain duplicate key.
4. Selling the car - Criminals ask to take a test drive and drive off whilst owner is getting in or getting out of the car. Another ploy is making ‘payment’ with forged banker’s draft.
5. Lifestyle criminals - This is where the criminals carry out surveillance on the car user and takes the best opportunity to steal the keys. Example, car owner leaves keys in a bag or on table or in jacket pocket unattended in the pub. (And where do you keep yours, when you’re down at Jameson’s?)

Ford flexes its muscles
In all the gloom and doom in the auto industry in North America, have you noticed that Ford have not had their hand out, like GM or Chrysler? The Blue Oval may not be in all that great shape, but Ford is definitely not down for the count, and has even revamped its iconic muscle car, the Shelby V8 Mustang.

Shelby Mustang GT500

The latest version of its supercharged and intercooled 5.4 liter V8 Shelby Mustang was unveiled at the Detroit auto show a couple of weeks ago. “We need to uphold the Mustang badge with honor, the Shelby badge with honor and, most importantly, the Ford badge with honor,” said SVT (Special Vehicle Team) engineer Jamal Hameedi. “The 2010 GT500 is the car that will do all of that.”
The engine is taken from the version of the engine developed for last year’s 40th anniversary edition Shelby GT500KR, which produces 540 horsepower (403 kW) and 510 foot-pounds (691 Nm) of torque.
With a shorter 3.55:1 diff ratio to aid acceleration (but taller top gears in the six speed manual to improve fuel consumption figures), the latest Shelby GT500 is claimed to accelerate from 0-100 km/h in around 4.5 seconds. That is certainly supercar performance.
Developed in conjunction with legendary Mustang figure Carroll Shelby, whose original Shelby Mustangs set new performance marks from 1965 to 1970, the latest Shelby GT500 is based on the new Mustang that was introduced at the Los Angeles show in November. In line with racing traditions, firmer spring and damper rates have been specified to improve grip and handling, as well as give the GT500 a flatter cornering stance, and the coupe rides on 19 inch forged aluminum wheels while the convertible runs 18 inch alloys.
Engineer Hameedi said the steering shaft was also stiffened as part of the overall attempt to make the GT500 more responsive, but easier to drive. “All our changes were about making the car respond as fast and as predictable as possible,” said Hameedi. “It conveys an athletic, confident feel. The shifter, clutch pedal, brake-pedal efforts and overall steering efforts are easier now. We wanted to make sure we had a nice, crisp short-throw shifter that was easy to go from gear to gear.”
Although occupants in the new interior are protected from “unwanted noise” by improved NVH levels, the engineers have worked to ensure a satisfactory aural experience in the latest GT500. “You still hear the supercharger but not so that it’s intrusive,” said SVT chief functional engineer Kerry Baldori. “It’s the same with the exhaust. You want people to know you’re driving something special, but you don’t want an exhaust note that overpowers the whole interior. We spent a lot of time getting the right sound quality out of the exhaust so you get that nice, crisp Shelby sound outside and a pleasant sound inside the cabin. It’s a nice balance; one isn’t overpowering the other.”
The original Mustangs (such as driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt - still the best car chase ever) were actually fairly basic, both in design and equipment. The new ones look to be much better, and a tribute to FoMoCo.

Credit squeezing
With the projected car sales being very depressed, after a dismal November and December 2008, you would imagine that, in line with other countries, interest rates would be coming down. Not fast enough say the potential purchasers.
The rate for new cars is around 3.25 percent and 4.25 percent for second hand vehicles. Also remember that the quoted rate in this country is a flat rate for the duration of the contract.
You can pay the car off early, but you will still have to pay for the interest over the entire term of the contract!

Anyone want an MG Midget?
There’s a 1961 MG Midget on the market. Looks tidy resprayed in BRG, but is a Thai-style restoration, so it is not absolutely pukka. For example, engine and gearbox are now Nissan, which probably isn’t such a bad thing. It also has under-dash aircon. Owner has been progressively restoring the car himself with new MG parts from the UK, but now has no more time to complete. Runs nicely. Phone Tony on 086 156 4305.