Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Highlights of the 2010 Bangkok International Motor Show

Let’s start with the best. The Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS was just sensational, in red, and sitting there with the gull-wing doors up. 6.3 liters of AMG engine set so far back in the chassis to be almost mid-engined. In fact the weight distribution is 47/53 front/rear.

The delectable AMG SLS

With an all alloy spaceframe and loads of carbon-fiber, it only weighs 1,620 kg. With 420 kW and 650 Nm of torque, a seven speed double-clutch transaxle in the rear, acceleration time zero to 100 km/h is 3.8 seconds, and it carries on to a top speed of 317 km/h.

The seats suck you in so well you don’t want to get out – and that was just sitting still on the display stand! Mind you, as the nice man from Mercedes-Benz said, “Please watch your head getting in and out.” The gull-wing doors may look wonderful, but they are not all that practical. I also defy any woman in a tight skirt to get in or out decorously.

SLS interior

Mercedes-Benz has not slavishly produced a ‘retro’ car, but the styling is so reminiscent of the 300 SL of 55 years ago, and yet looks totally up to the minute. And how much to put it in your driveway? About 25 million THB. But if that is a little too much for the back pocket, also on the M-B stand was the SLK 200 Kompressor at a starting price of 3,999,000 THB. Not as visually exciting as the AMG SLS, but you can have six of them for the price of one SLS!

A sole Audi R8 Quattro sat downstairs in a bright red, with a small chromed badge which simply says ‘Quattro”. This one was the real deal, with the Lamborghini-sourced 525 hp, 5.2 liter V 10. The torque curve peaks at a tall 6500 rpm, but more than 350 lb-ft are on tap all the way from 3500 to 7500 rpm.

Audi R8 Quattro

Audi says that the R8 V10 equipped with its R-tronic six-speed single-clutch automated manual transmission (a conventional six-speed manual transmission is also available) will accelerate to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds compared to the 4.6 seconds it takes for the original V8 version.

Another car I put in the highlight section is the VW Scirocco. This looks so much better than the Golf GTI with the same 210 bhp engine. The new authorized importers and distributor of Volkswagen vehicles in Thailand are Thaiyanyon Co. who displayed the New Beetle 1.6 L, the Golf GT and Golf GTI, Passat CC, the Tiguan and the new Caravelle BiTDI, but the Scirocco was the pick of the bunch. I must admit that the title “New Beetle” is now rather incongruous, having been around for at least a decade.

VW Scirocco

It seems strange to put the Wuling vehicles in with the highlights, but they deserve to be there. When you can buy a brand new Wuling Scorpion for 275,000 THB, or put it on the drip feed for 4,125 THB a month (about the same as your kid’s pocket money), you don’t need to wait for a self igniting Tata Nano (three so far, I was told by one of the Indian journalists) or wait for an ugly Nissan March, with a Wuling you can drive away today!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked did Karl Benz work for Gottlieb Daimler, or did Gottlieb Daimler work for Karl Benz? Their legacy is of course the Daimler-Benz company which builds the Mercedes cars. A bit of a trick question. The answer was they never worked for each other. It was many years later that the two companies amalgamated. Sorry about that.

So to this week. Which driver has won the German GP six times?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]

Good luck!

What did we learn
from the Malaysian Grand Prix?

Well, firstly we learned that the team managers of McLaren and Ferrari should be sacked for gross incompetence. The background to Qualifying had shown that for the previous two weeks it had rained every afternoon at Sepang at 4 p.m. It is, after all, the monsoon season, so to be ‘caught out’ and surprised by the weather showed that basic homework was not done. To then have your drivers, which included three world champions (Alonso, Button and Hamilton) sitting in the garage praying that the monsoon will end in five minutes shows a supreme, but misguided, faith in the Almighty, even though it was Easter. Of course it didn’t stop. In fact it got worse. Multi-million dollar idiocy! Martin Whitmarsh from McLaren said, “With hindsight it would therefore have been better if we’d sent our cars out at the beginning of Q1.” Mr. Whitmarsh, that is the first rule of running any race team, at any level. In Qualifying, get a ‘banker’ lap in first and then see what happens later.

Whilst Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) showed a great tiger spirit to get up through the field at the start of the race, the tiger turned into a pussycat at the end playing follow the leader rather than really attacking. Why? The air doesn’t get any more ‘dirty’. My personal theory is that in the latter half of the race, the drivers get into the easier ‘follow’ mode and hope the guy up front makes a mistake. This makes for a dull and uninteresting visual spectacle.

Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) can be forgiven for what was in reality a lack-luster performance as it turned out he had a gear selection problem right from the start. He at least did try to pass Jenson Button (McLaren) and was through until the engine decided it had had enough of the racing too. Please advise how you say the Italian “Oh cacato!” in Spanish.

Alonso’s less illustrious running mate Felipe Massa put in a solid race and passed Jenson Button (McLaren) very cleanly, and is now leading the driver’s championship. He will not stay there long.

Two drivers who did fight were Petrov in the Lada Renault and Jaime Algywotsit in the Toro Rosso. Both of them showed that neither was impressed by the illustrious CV’s being shown to them by the top echelon drivers. Jaime deserved his points for 9th place at the end and Petrov was just unlucky that he was stopped with a gearbox problem.

The ‘all-British’ Lotus team, which currently holds a Malaysian passport bought for it by AirAsia’s Tony Fernandez, did not have a good race in front of their ‘home’ crowd, despite being visited by the Malaysian PM. Enthusiastic post-race press releases claiming that both cars made it to the finish were fine examples of spin doctoring. One car was circulating 20 seconds a lap off the pace at the end. That’s about Daihatsu Mira times with three passengers and a month’s supply of rice in the rear. Gimme a break, Tony.

Must mention the sterling (or is that Deutschemarks?) drive by Vettel in the Red Bull. Unfortunately for the Webber fans, Mark’s star has passed its ascendancy and he is now a very good number 2, ready to take over when required. Sorry.

Another good race from Kubica (Lada Renault) and Sutil (Team Poppadum) and first podium for Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) even though he did not actually fight with anybody all race long. Michael Schumacher’s nuts fell off and he was a non-finisher.

Keep praying for rain for China next weekend!

Some Lowlights of the Bangkok
International Motor Show

It may look as if I am picking on GM each year, for yet another large display area with a bunch of cars thrown at it using no imagination whatsoever. Definitely a ‘run-out’ show for GM, with Aveo and Optra looking to be given the push any day soon, while the company anxiously awaits the Chevrolet Cruze, which has been the savior overseas. Colorado is about to go as well, so GM were certainly short on new product. So what did they do? Their PR people managed to come up with the exceptionally contrived unveiling of a more advanced ‘Bowtie’ logo. You will be enthralled to know that this new logo (which looks just like the old one) consists of three elements including Bow Tie, Advancing Diamond and Open Road, conveying optimism, inspiration, freshness and unrestrained creativity. Hmm. Yes! Talk about the emperor’s new clothes! On GM’s report card: Can do better.

6,000 horses let loose

In the US, the home of oddball automotive creations, comes this, the ultimate tractor. A 42 cylinder, 8,757 cubic inch behemoth.
For those who like to read specifications, take in these numbers:
42 cylinders heptagonal-star/6 cylinder rows
Diameter 160 mm, stroke 170 mm, capacity: 143.500 ccm (8.757 cui)
7 over head camshafts driven by shafts, central steer time adjustment
4 valves/cylinder, 168 valves operated by roller rocker arms one cam moves an exhaust valve and an inlet valve
Rotational speed: up to a maximum of 2500 rpm
Torque: about 15000 Nm (approx 11063 ft/lb)
Power: about 4500 kW (approx 6034 hp)
Fuel consumption: 205 g/kWh resp or about 800 liters diesel/h
Direct injection 9-hole injector
Decentralized fuel injection pump, per cylinder p ~ 1.000 bar
Turbo compound: 1 step axial turbine and 1 step radial blower (p ~ 2,1 bar) joined with crankshaft via 3 parallel hydrodynamic couplings
Compressed air start system is at work with 150 bar compressed air on 2 cylinder banks (12 cylinders)
Engine dimensions: diameter 1,600 mm, length ~ 2,000 mm
This thing could tow the Chaophya Park Hotel all the way down Ratchadapisek Road and across town, though it might have to stop for refueling before crossing the bridge!

6,000 horse tractor