Last week I asked which British Queen drove an electric car around the grounds
of Sandringham House? It was Queen Alexandra in 1901, and the car was a Columbia
made in the USA.
So to this week. What British Grand Prix team built their cars to the 3 liter
formula, when the limit was 2 liters? Clue - it was 1922.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
A bummer for Hummer?
The iconic US monster Hummer, much loved by the military, has finally
been sold to China’s Tengzhong with an 80 percent stake. A private entrepreneur,
Suolang Duoji, will hold the remaining 20 percent stake. It wasn’t too expensive
at USD 150 million, as far as brands are concerned.
Under the agreement, which is still subject to final approval by government
agencies in the US and China, Tengzhong will acquire ownership of the Hummer
brand, trademark and trade names, as well as specific intellectual property
rights necessary for the manufacture of Hummer vehicles, but does not get the
manufacturing plants in the US.
GM’s Shreveport plant in the US will continue to build the Hummer H3 and H3T
until June 2010.
Since the fighting in Afghanistan will continue for a little while yet, the
ready market should continue.
Final 2009 GP this weekend
The new Abu Dhabi Yas Marina grand prix circuit hosts the final GP of
2009 this weekend. Somewhat anti-climactic as both the drivers and manufacturers
championships were won at the Brazil GP two weeks ago, with Jenson Button taking
the World Drivers Championship and Brawn GP taking the Manufacturers
Abu Dhabi is the most oil-rich in the region and the 5.55 kilometer Yas Marina
Circuit has been built using the motorists’ money, extracted at the petrol
pumps. Roll on electric power!
Located on Yas Island, the PR blurb says the track is set to revolutionize the
design of future Formula One circuits. Boasting top speeds of 320 km/h and
average speeds of 198 km/h, it features nine right turns and 11 left turns and
is one of the few venues on the calendar to run in an anti-clockwise direction.
It has been designed by circuit architect Hermann Tilke, and apparently Yas
Marina has a waterfront setting scenic enough to rival the likes of Monaco and
Valencia, but hopefully will not be as boring as that pair of venues.
All of the grandstands, including the massive hairpin seating area, are covered
to protect spectators from the desert sun, whilst the state-of-the-art pit
building boasts 40 garages.
As well as the waterside marina area, there are high-speed sections, tight
corners for overtaking, and even a twisty street circuit-style sector.
Many countries looking at Thailand’s light cars
The AAT factory on the Eastern Seaboard looks to have its future
guaranteed as many countries are lining up for the Mazda2 and its Ford Fiesta
siblings. The facility is a joint-venture between Mazda and Ford, known as the
AutoAlliance Thailand (AAT).
Mazda Australia is investigating the possibility of importing its Mazda2
hatchback from the new factory in Thailand - a move that could significantly
reduce the price of the Japanese brand’s smallest model in Australia, and it is
the bottom line that drives the auto sales business.
The Thai-made Mazda2, which will be the brand’s core model in the ASEAN region,
is expected to attract 20,000 sales a year across Asia.
“The Thai-produced Mazda2 will be a key element in Mazda’s future growth in the
ASEAN region, which is continuing to see growing demand for small cars,” said a
Mazda spokesman at the start of Mazda2 production at its new plant in Thailand,
which has a free trade agreement with Australia, dispensing with the 10 percent
duty rate for passenger cars (five percent from January). The retail price
advantage of new vehicles imported from Thailand, which also has lower labor
costs than in Japan and Europe, is substantial.
Consequently, Ford Australia has already announced it will source its Fiesta
hatch - currently built in Germany - plus a new sedan derivative, from the same
Thailand plant from mid-2010.
The $500 million AAT factory will supply a range of ASEAN nations with both
Fiesta and Mazda2 models, and Mazda spokesman Steve Maciver has confirmed that
Australia could be one of them.
“We’re obviously aware of what’s going on at Mazda at a global level and at this
stage Mazda2 production in Thailand is confirmed only for South East Asian
countries from next year,” said Maciver.
Like all of Australia’s Japanese-brand utilities, most of Honda Australia’s
passenger car range now comes from Thailand, including the five-door Jazz and
the closely related light-sized City sedan.
Similarly, an all-new light-car from Nissan, which could replace the Micra, has
also been confirmed for production from March 2010 in Thailand, which is rapidly
becoming the automotive production powerhouse within Asia.
Driving home under the weather
Up till recently, all the drivers in Thailand were aware of the fact
that the police did not have any real way of proving you were driving with a
blood alcohol reading of over 0.05. They didn’t have any breathalyzer kits. But
that situation has gone. They do have kits and very shortly they will be in your
province. You have been warned.
I believe the best and surest way to counter claims of high readings is to have
your own breath tester. For one, if you find you are over the limit, take public
transport home, and two, if you are challenged you have some sort of evidence
that you are not DIC.
There is a new handheld tester in the UK, AlcoSense One, and it is the lowest
priced product ever to be approved by the tough US Dept of Transport Standard
for Hand Held Breathalyzers.
Interestingly, a recent Drink Drive survey undertaken by AlcoSense revealed that
no less than 90 percent of respondents underestimated the number of units of
alcohol in a pint of lager and in a 250ml glass of wine. Both drinks in fact
contain 3.4 units. The most popular answer was 2 units, almost half of the
correct alcoholic content.
Top 10 cars - another survey
A recent British magazine (Octane) has published its list of the top
10 ‘coolest’ cars. Their definition of ‘cool’ that meant the cars had to be
post-war, non-racing and not uptight or neurotic, whatever that is supposed to
So here we go, in reverse order to keep the suspense going:
10. Bentley T1 James Young. More than 1800 Bentley T1s were sold, but
body-builder Jim Young only built 15 of his version, which cost 10 times more
than the standard H.J. Mulliner model. So if ‘cool’ means expensive, this one is
right there. But for you and me? Forget it.
9. Mercedes-Benz 300SL. This one in the gull wing form is probably one that we
would all vote for - unless you have already owned one and know that the air
circulation inside, with the non-wind down windows is hopeless. Great one to
keep in the garage and store for the next 50 years as well.
8. Jaguar E-type Series 3. Octane went for the last of the E-types, and
specifically the last 49, which were all black and came with a plaque to tell
you exactly that. This V12 will overheat anywhere from five degrees south of the
7. Citroen SM. This is the Citroen with the Maserati engine. Two losers in the
early 70’s placed together. Think of Mussolini driving a 2CV and you’re starting
to get there.
6. Buick Riviera. Built between 63 and 65 and has almost as much rust as the
Fords of the era.
5. DB5 Shooting Brake. Only 10 were built by Harry Radford until he learned the
error of his ways. The saloon was much better.
4. Land Rover SIIA. They’ve got to be pulling our legs.
3. Ferrari California LWB. This is more like it. A genuine classic (only 51 were
built) which none of us could afford these days. Around USD 6 million.
2. Mini. This I also agree with. The Mini changed the way we thought about small
cars and the Cooper S models were definitely ‘cool’.
1. Jaguar XKSS. This car was the result when Jaguar decided to turn its racing D
type into a road car. One of the world’s most desirable cars. I’d make it number