Last week I asked which British Grand Prix team built their cars to the 3 liter
formula, when the limit was 2 liters? Clue - it was 1922. And the correct answer
was Vauxhall, now part of the beleaguered GM/Opel group.
So to this week. What car manufacturer began operation in Thailand in 1960, gave
up in 1976 and began again in 1995?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Lexus LFA - the Japanese supercar
Not to be outdone, the Japanese also have a new supercar. The Lexus
brand is usually associated with quiet luxury, impeccable build quality and
drivers over 60 years of age, but Toyota, owner of the marque, is boasting a V10
Lexus with a maximum power of 412 kW, and maximum torque 480 Nm. Zero to 100
km/h is 3.7 seconds (goodbye Audi) and the top speed is 320 km/h.
Lexus say this LFA is a true “clean-sheet” design, and was created by a small,
passionate and dedicated team of engineers whose achievement has been to push
the boundaries of technologies materials and engineering at every stage to
produce a car like no other to have carried the Lexus badge.
Constructed using advanced carbon fiber technology, the rear-wheel drive LFA is
powered by a bespoke, high-revving 4.8 liter naturally aspirated V10 engine,
matched to a rear-mounted six speed sequential automatic transmission. This is a
purpose-designed six speed Automated Sequential Gearbox (ASG) that drives the
rear wheels via a limited slip differential. To help achieve the optimum 48:52
front to rear weight distribution, it is contained in a transaxle mounted over
the rear axle.
The ASG is operated by paddle shifts mounted on the steering column and is
engineered for exceptionally fast shifts: an upshift can be effected in just 0.2
The system has four driving modes: Auto, Sport, Normal and Wet, activated by a
selector dial on the dashboard. Each mode has a specific gearshift program, and
engine and brake control logic systems to let the driver tailor the car’s
performance to suit driving conditions.
Keeping the car’s weight to an absolute minimum was one of the defining elements
in the development of the LFA and this led to the decision to switch from using
aluminum for the car’s construction to advanced Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic
(CFRP) for the chassis and bodywork.
At four times the strength of aluminum, CFRP gives the LFA an exceptionally
stiff and strong structure, and also delivers major weight advantages, saving
around 100kg on an equivalent aluminum body. CFRP accounts for 65 percent of the
body-in-white, with aluminum alloy used for the remaining 35 percent.
With its staggering performance, the LFA has one of the most advanced and
powerful braking systems fitted to any production car, appropriate to meet the
demands of its 320 kays-plus performance capabilities.
The brake discs are made of Carbon Ceramic Material (CCM), which as well as
being lighter than steel, gives fade-free performance in all conditions. The
front discs are 390 mm in diameter and 34 mm thick, gripped by six-piston
aluminum calipers; the rear discs measure 306 mm across, are 28 mm thick and are
fitted with four-pot calipers. All use high-friction micron pads, manufactured
exclusively for use with CCM brakes.
Passive and active safety provisions are in line with the LFA’s exceptional
performance. The central carbon fiber reinforced plastic central structure is
extremely strong and provides excellent impact protection. Crash boxes are
fitted front and rear that are designed to deform in a controlled fashion in the
event of an impact. That at the front is made of CFRP; that at the rear from
extruded aluminum. Side impact protection includes strong and rigid carbon fiber
side members and door structures comprising an aluminum inner panel and a Glass
fiber reinforced Sheet Moulding Compound (G-SMC) outer skin.
The LFA is equipped with Lexus’s Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM)
system, which co-ordinates the smooth operation of the ABS, vehicle stability
and traction control systems as the vehicle approaches its performance limits,
based on critical data on brake operation, yaw and roll rates, individual wheel
speed and longitudinal, lateral and vertical acceleration
Passive safety features include two-stage adaptive front airbags and seatbelt
airbags for driver and passenger and a driver’s knee airbag.
In the words of Chief Engineer Haruhiko Tanahashi, “The LFA is a thoroughbred
supercar, a machine engineered to achieve a single goal - to deliver a supreme
driving experience. Over the past decade we have pushed every boundary in
pursuit of this goal and I believe we have created the most driver-orientated
car we possibly could.”
Even though Lexus will only hand-assemble 500 examples, at a maximum rate of 20
per month, that should be enough to blow the ‘fuddy-duddy’ Lexus image away!
Yes, I’d have one.
Lexus LFA supercar
China auto sales jump 78 percent in
Associated Press - China’s vehicle sales vaulted 78 percent in
September from a year earlier, widening a lead over the US as the world’s top
auto market, with sales spurred by tax cuts and government stimulus spending.
Overall vehicle sales totaled 1.33 million units, while passenger car sales
climbed 84 percent to 1.02 million units, the China Association of Automobile
Total sales for the first nine months of the year rose to 9.66 million units, up
34 percent from a year earlier, it said.
September was the seventh month that China’s auto sales, boosted by tax cuts and
subsidies as part of Beijing’s stimulus, exceeded 1.1 million units. Sales in
smaller cities have also been booming as automakers rush to woo first-time car
buyers with new models.
China leads the world in total 2009 sales, with the US in second place with
January-September sales at about 7.85 million units. US sales fell 23 percent
from a year earlier in September to just under 746,000, following a summer
buying spree driven by big discounts to consumers.
Given the weakness in other major markets, global automakers are looking to
China to drive revenues amid sluggish demand elsewhere.
China, with 1.3 billion people, has long been expected to overtake the United
States as the biggest vehicle market. But the US economic slump hastened that
shift by depressing American sales while China surged ahead.
“The China market we expect to surpass the U.S. market in size for both the
right and the wrong reasons,” General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson told reporters
in Shanghai on Tuesday. Henderson predicted a “very modest recovery” in 2010 for
the US market, but China, he said, would continue to enjoy very strong growth.
“The China market has benefited from economic stimulus that has generated
primary demand. We see substantial opportunities in product-driven,
competition-driven growth,” he said.
A book to go looking for
Lefebvre - The Life Story Of A Passionate Automotive Pioneer is the
biography of André Lefebvre by Gijsbert-Paul Berk and gives a revealing insight
into the work of a practically unknown aeronautic engineer who, after building
and racing competition cars for Gabriel Voisin in 1933, created for André
Citroën the revolutionary front wheel drive Traction Avant (also known in some
areas as the Light Fifteen). He was responsible for the minimalist 2CV and the
Citroën DS which was the sensation of the automotive world in 1955, and is still
an icon of original automobile engineering and avant-garde design today.
Andre Lefebvre’s book
Published by Veloce, containing 150 pictures, some of which are from André
Lefebvre’s personal archives, this unique book pays tribute to the brilliant
engineer who left car enthusiasts around the world such an important heritage.
The 144 page hardback book is available now from www.veloce.co.uk.