Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Mun Maak Rally

Thailand has just had its own ‘Cannonball Run’ called the Mun Maak Rally. This went from Hua Hin to Bangkok and then down to Pattaya, ending up at the Hard Rock Hotel.
The official website described it as: “Drivers are treated to a 5-star experience that could be described as being the ultimate road-trip. It’s not a race, and attracts all kinds of people and vehicles to participate; from vintage to modern supercars, and from rock stars to the simple car enthusiast. The 2009 rally is a 1day, 400 km drive across Thailand.”


Local Westfield agent (Lotus 7 clone which has been tested here a couple of months back, buy one!) Julian Dobrijevic competed in the rally and said it was a blast from start to finish. The cars competing were mainly exotics, including Porsches, Ferraris, a Lotus Exige S, Lambos and even an X-Bow, and of course, a Westfield! The cars were flagged off at 30 second intervals, but it did not take some of them very long before they were passing the earlier starting competitors.
The winner of the rally was the car that most closely approximated the ‘legal limit’ elapsed time for the journey, but most cars were well under that time. Naughty! Naughty!
The next one is January 2010, and if you want to prepare a Westfield for the event, give Julian a call on 087 022 2087, or email julian

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what and when was the first private car designed and built in the USSR? It was the NAMI-1, a small twin cylinder tourer in 1926.
So to this week. When you hear the term ‘People’s Car’ you think of VW, but another country also produced their ‘People’s Car’, which was the first private car built in that country. What country was it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


British motoring ‘criminals’
Over 40 percent of UK motorists admit to talking or texting whilst driving, despite this being banned since 2003. Not only that:
72 percent of motorists also admit to eating and drinking behind the wheel
85 percent listen to loud music
64 percent use a sat nav
93 percent change the CD or radio station whilst they drive - all of which can actually result in penalty points.
If that’s not enough, more than 60 percent of drivers admit to shouting and gesticulating at other motorists and nearly a quarter smoke whilst driving - something which could potentially be banned in the near future.
90 percent of motorists in the survey also admit to driving over the maximum limit whilst on the motorway.
64 percent admit to driving over the limit whilst in a built up area.
So where do we all stand on those statistics? The ‘guilty, your Honor’ queue starts behind me!

Battery swapping technology set for EVs
Electric vehicles are coming. And sooner than you think. The world was brought to its knees more than once by the pimps at the pumps and their arbitrary pricing of oil, working on the “what can the market stand” figures.

A Better Place to exchange batteries?

California-based firm Better Place held the first public demonstration of new technology that can swap over an electric car battery in less time than it takes to fill a car with petrol.
The system operates via a conveyor belt shuttle system positioned in a pit beneath the car. Robots remove the depleted battery, the shuttle moves along to position a new battery under the car and another robot installs it. Better Place says the process takes less than a minute.
It is claimed that drivers would only use the battery switching stations occasionally, as most would re-charge their cars daily via plug-in recharging outlets in homes, offices or shopping centers.
The current crop of plug-in electric prototypes have a range of between 60 km and 160 km, but it is expected that will have improved by the time the Better Place infrastructure is in place in 2012.
Better Place plans to use only renewable energy for its recharging network and claims to have interest from a number of providers.
It plans to set up a charging plan similar to mobile phones, where electric car owners can subscribe to a usage plan of their choice. While mobile phone providers charge for minutes, Better Place would charge for kilometers.
In a press announcement in Yokohama, Japan, the company’s founder Shai Agassi said Better Place had the same business model as the large oil companies, but sold “clean kilometers” rather than dirty ones.
“For nearly a century, the automotive industry has been inextricably tied to oil. Today, we’re demonstrating a new path forward where the future of transportation and energy is driven by our desire for a clean planet and a robust economic recovery fueled by investments in clean technology, and one in which the well-being of the automotive industry is intrinsically coupled with the well-being of the environment,” he said.

Red Light cameras
Technology is catching on in policing. Rather than pay the man in brown, you can now get a nice letter from the prosecutors and pay them instead. We came across this the other day when my wife got a letter advising that she had gone through a red light in Bangkok, and here was a pic of her car to prove it, and now kindly pay up.
Interestingly, the car in the pic was an Avanza, such as my wife did own last year, but the number plate was not the same! She, incidentally could prove she had not been in Bangkok on the date/time in question. And even more interesting was the fact that when we sold the car in January (as a wreck) we had officially deregistered it, and handed in the number plates.
My wife paid a visit to the registrations people here and was given the contact details of the person owning the red light running number plate, whom she contacted and forwarded the prosecution slip. We shall see what happens next.
However, if they put a red light camera on any intersection in Thailand, they would more than cover the cost of the equipment in two days. Agree? And it would get rid of gridlock. Wouldn’t that be nice?

A mirage of massed Mira’s
Took a trip out to the Bira circuit a couple of weekends ago to watch the Super Club cars. This turned out to be very much a ‘club’ meeting with lots of cars and plenty of camaraderie. I was particularly taken with a massed field of Daihatsu Mira’s in all different colors. Some were turbocharged, some seemed to be bog stock standard, but they were all out there and having fun.

A pink Mira at full noise

In the pits there were many interesting vehicles, including a 1973 RS Carrera, complete with duck tail, but instead of the 2.7 engine, the cover stated 3.2. There was another 1976 Porsche 911, complete with Turbo-style whale tail (increases the impression ratio, I always used to say about mine)!
The Westfield which I track tested a couple of months ago was also competing, and novice driver Julian Dobrijevic came home with a well deserved third place.
The next Super Club meeting is scheduled for 27 and 28 June, but I suggest you check with the circuit website before you head on out.