Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Termites applaud Morgan construction methods

Wood-framed Morgan

I was sent a few photographs of the current British Morgan cars under construction, and was amazed to see they are still continuing with wood-framed bodies, dropped over a metal chassis. Whilst it is pleasing to see that some of the old coachbuilder’s skills are still being used, it also prompts the question “Why?”

With carbon-fiber composites now commonplace, why continue with wood? Modern construction techniques are better in every way, from the engineering point of view, but no nostalgia, I suppose. I am amazed that the ‘greenies’ haven’t descended upon the Morgan factory demanding they stop cutting down trees!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what is the name of the Chevrolet Spark “clone” sold in Thailand? The answer was the Chery QQ, with the Spark being built in the same factory as the QQ (I believe). Always remember the Chinese copyright rule - “It is our right to copy!”

So to this week. Two Japanese sports cars had pop-up headlights when they were released. However, in 1994 and then again in 1998, they both reverted to exposed headlights. What were these cars?

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

Good luck!

London to Brighton - or Brighton to London?

The Royal Automobile Club has launched the Brighton to London Future Car Challenge (BLFCC), a new motoring contest for electric, hybrid and low-emission internal combustion engine passenger cars to use the lowest energy on a 60 mile route from Madeira Drive, Brighton to Pall Mall and Regent Street, London. The BLFCC will be held on Saturday, November 6, the day before the Club’s world famous London to Brighton Veteran Car Run (LBVCR).

Starting at Madeira Drive this unique live event will use the traditional, but in reverse, 60 mile veteran car run route for a formal finish in Pall Mall and onto a special ceremonial finish and presentation in Regent Street, joining the assembled display of 125 pre 1905 motor cars in the traditional LBVCR International Concours in front of an estimated 250,000 audience.

The event is not a race but a challenge to demonstrate overall new-energy performance with the participating cars being judged on their minimum energy impact during the run.

The BLFCC is open to road-legal, concept, development, pre-production and production four-wheel passenger cars that feature and promote new/alternative energy in the following three category types:

1. Electric (EV)

2. Hybrid (HEV)

3. Internal Combustion Engine up to 110g/km CO2 emission fuelled by any legal means (ICE).

Up to 100 entries are expected for this inaugural event from manufacturers, institutions, individual motoring pioneers and private owners. The event will be staged, promoted and judged in the above three categories. Within each category, entries will be measured in various modes for their energy used during the event route from Madeira Drive to Pall Mall. The challenge will be to complete the event with the least energy impact.

Each category winner will receive an engraved Royal Automobile Club trophy and the overall winner will receive the coveted Royal Automobile Club Gold Medal. There will also be an award for the best private entry and each classified finisher will receive a Club medal and certificate.

The BLFCC will be judged by the events Technical Panel consisting of: Ben Cussons, chairman (the Royal Automobile Club Motoring Committee); Richard Parry-Jones (Industry); John Wood (Institution of Mechanical Engineers); Dr Ricardo Martinez-Botas (Imperial College London); Steve Cropley (Autocar) and John Hilton (Flybrid Systems).

Sir David Prosser, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club said, “The Brighton to London Future Car Challenge will actively promote and challenge new cleaner energy technology and reflect on the pioneering start of motoring in 1896 - the very first London to Brighton motoring event. Just as the pioneering Emancipation Run of November 1896 demonstrated the capabilities of the then new found horseless carriage, this new event provides the platform to promote and demonstrate the first radical change of the power of the motor car since that day.”

Le Mans Classic 2010

For some people, F1 is not the epitome of motorsport, but the 24 hours of Le Mans is. It has an impeccable history, and that history is still being acted out today. There are drivers from 30 countries competing in the Le Mans Classic for older vehicles, with 230 drivers from the UK alone.

Lotus XI

The cars which will be running include such classics as a 1971 Porsche 917, 1968 Ford GT40 (more than one of them), 1956 Lotus XI, 1953 C Type Jaguar, 1934 MG K3, 1959 Aston Martin DBR1, 1955 Austin Healey 100S, 1964 Ferrari 250 LM, 1964 AC Cobra, 1929 Blower Bentley, 1931 Invicta S, Morgans, Jowetts and so the list goes on. Incredible to think that there is still that level of commitment for the historic classics. I just wish I could be there. The dates are July 9, 10 and 11.

Citroen returns to the DS label

Citroen has confirmed that the DS badge is back. Now on sale in Europe, the premium three-door French hatchback called the DS3 has a choice of diesel or three petrol engines, three transmissions and a selection of customization options.

Citroen DS3

Expected to compete directly with Mini’s entry-level Cooper hatch with a starting price of about A$32,000 is the base DS3 1.4i, powered by a 70 kW 1.4 liter four cylinder petrol engine that will be available exclusively with a five-speed manual transmission.

Next up will be the midrange DS3 1.6i 88, which comes with a - you guessed it - 1.6-litre petrol engine from the Mini, delivering the same 88 kW of peak power. It will be offered only with a conventional five-speed automatic transmission.

Topping the DS3 range, for now, is a 115 kW version of the 128 kW turbocharged 1.6 liter petrol four that powers the Mini Cooper S, this time matched exclusively with a six-speed manual in the top-shelf DS3 1.6i 115.

Diesel versions of the DS3 are on offer in Europe, while a hotter turbo-petrol derivative - aimed directly at Mini’s 155 kW John Cooper Works models - is also on the cards, previewed by the 147 kW DS3 Racing hot-hatch concept at the Geneva motor show in March.

While all DS3s measure 3948 mm long and 1737 mm wide, the auto-only naturally aspirated 1.6 has 134mm of ground clearance, reducing to 130mm for the entry-level 1.4 manual and 126mm for the 1.6 turbo flagship.

Apart from stiffer suspension with 15 mm lower ride height, Citroen’s DS3 Racing-based JCW rival should score new front and rear shock absorbers, 30 mm-wider wheel tracks, 18 inch alloy wheels with 205/40-section tyres, retuned steering, and electronic stability control systems.

When it joins the range next year, the range-topping DS3, final assembly of which will take place in a special workshop dedicated to the first performance DS model, will also wear a specific bodykit comprising lower front and side skirts and special chequered graphics on the roof, bootlid and fuel flap, with other changes extending to chromed door-handles and exhaust outlets.

Inside, the DS3 Racing concept gained carbon-fiber trim on its dashboard, centre console, steering wheel and door moldings, a numbered plate in its roof lining and the Citroen Racing logo on the backs of its unique sports seats, while its bright orange exterior paint color scheme theme was echoed on the dash and gearknob.

All three initial examples of the five-seater DS3 will come with a braked towing capacity of 1150 kg (570 kg unbraked), with naturally aspirated versions riding on 16x6.0 inch alloy wheels with 195/55 tyres. The 1.6i 115 will come with 17x7.0 inch alloys with 205/45 R17 tyres.

Standard equipment for all models will include twin front, front-side and curtain airbags, electronic stability control, ABS brakes, front/rear fog lights, air-conditioning, power windows/mirrors and remote central locking.

In line with the premium positioning of Citroen’s all-new DS model line, which takes its name from the iconic French model sold between 1955 and 1975, the DS3 will come with a range of customization.

While the DS3 will be followed by the new C3, both light-sized French hatches will be followed in 2011 by three all-new Citroens.

They will include the redesigned version of Citroen’s C4 small five-door hatch, the more luxurious DS4 crossover to rival Mini’s forthcoming Countryman (previewed by the DS High Rider concept) and the yet-to-appear DS5 flagship, which will be based on Citroen’s latest C5 sedan.