Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

‘Our’ Fiesta range heading down-under

GoAuto from Australia reports that the 2011 Fiesta range will be imported for the first time from Thailand in the final quarter of this year.

Thai Fiesta on way to Australia

The WT Fiesta model will be available in five-door hatchback and, for the first time, four-door sedan body styles.

As with the newly Thai-sourced Mazda2 built for Australia in the AutoAlliance factory in the Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate, the revised Fiesta will no longer be available in three-door hatch guise.

The Ford variant will be powered by an all 1.6 liter four cylinder engine range, as opposed to the 1.5 liter engines in the Mazda2 range.

Ford’s new six speed Powershift dual-clutch automatic transmission will be available in both the new Fiesta five-door and sedan.

Another option is the Euro-made, manual-only Econetic 1.6 Duratorq diesel engine with 66 kW and 200 Nm while returning a fuel consumption rating of 3.7 L/100 km and CO2 emissions of just 98 g/km.

GoAuto states that as expected, production of the 2011 Fiesta in Thailand, which has a free trade agreement with Australia, has coincided with an increase in standard specification, although pricing will not be revealed until closer to launch.

All Australian Fiestas will, however, be fitted as standard with electronic stability control, the potentially life-saving safety feature that is currently standard only on the Fiesta Zetec.

Five airbags, ABS brakes and emergency brake assist will also be standard across the range, with seven airbags - including a driver’s knee airbag - to be standard on all but the entry-level models, which also score standard Bluetooth connectivity with voice control. All Australian export Fiestas will come standard with an aux-in connection for personal audio devices.

While a new range of nine exterior paint colors and three interior trim choices will be available, most changes apply to next year’s Zetec model, which will be fitted with a new sports suspension comprising specially tuned front struts, bushings and anti-roll bars, plus new sports front seats.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last time I asked what car did Bob Lutz and Carroll Shelby put together? It was my all-time favorite muscle car, the Dodge Viper. In its final form it delivered 500 bhp from its V10 and had a reported top speed of 190 mph (around 310 kph) and sub-4 second zero to 100 kph. Dodge claim excellent brakes as well as the grunt, but I have to say that the one I drove was the model with brakes optional as if nobody had ticked the box to get the (optional) retardation!

So to this week. Sebastian Vettel calls his Red Bull race car “Luscious Liz”. What very popular car from the late 70’s and early 80’s started off life being called “Brenda”? (Answer on page 17)

Good luck!


Care for a trip to Hanoi?

The Classic Tiger Rally is on again. Open for all cars built before 1978 (which rules out the family Daihatsu Mira), the rally is scheduled for February 17 to March 17, 2011, so you have plenty of time to prepare for it. The organizer is John Brigden who masterminded the first Tiger Rally in 2008.

The start is Bangkok and the route covers Kanchanaburi, Siem Reap, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), Luang Prabang and finishes in Hanoi.

You can get more details from Worldwide Classic Car Rallies, 44 Dartford Road, Sevenoaks, Kent, TH 133 TO, telephone +44 1732 740 216.


Spanner set going cheap

I was fortunate to be given a couple of books (thanks Alan), with one on tuning Fords and the other on tuning BMC sports cars. Both books were published in 1971, so they were almost 40 years old.

How times have changed. And prices too. A 10 piece spanner set was 45 shillings complete with free postage! A gadget to help you synchronize carburetors was only 4 pound 15 shillings and you could get a head modifying kit for 45 shillings, complete with a rotary file and three grindstones of varying shapes.

All that work on the cylinder head and you probably got a 5 percent increase in power, if you were lucky. These days you go to some electronic turkey who with a laptop computer puts a new chip in the ECU and you drive out with an instant 50 percent increase and nobody even gets their hands dirty. Forget about rotary files and grindstones. No, ‘porting and polishing’ is not a dying art. It is dead and long gone.

The horsepower figures that you could expect to extract from your road going Ford or BMC vehicle after high compression pistons, big valves, stronger valve springs and a tricky camshaft were about 80 bhp per liter. Racing engines in formula cars were getting 100 bhp per liter and that was neck-snapping stuff. Look at the 2.4 liter V8 F1 engines of today with 700 bhp. That is almost 300 bhp per liter. Yes, there have been some great advances in auto engineering in the past 40 years.

Unfortunately, so much of it is electronic trickery which I quite frankly do not understand. This is another reason I have decided to run in the “Retro” class for pre 1978 vehicles at the Bira circuit, rather than the more modern categories. And as another bonus, we will have the only “Retro” car with a “Retro” driver, and the Mk1 Ford Escort runs a simple coil ignition, something I do understand.

Mind you, it would be difficult to buy a 10 piece spanner set for 45 shillings any more.


GM sets about rebuilding globally

Martin Apfel, the local president of General Motors Southeast Asia Operations, General Motors (Thailand) and Chevrolet Sales (Thailand) announced the company’s vision and mission including GM’s business growth plan which involves fostering engagement and building relationship with key stakeholders, developing quality products, enhancing service level and focusing more on the customers. The plan is aimed at maximizing growth for GM across the region as well as promoting Thailand and Southeast Asia to be the global hub for the US’s biggest automaker.

On top of that, GM head office in the US has announced that Edward E. Whitacre, Jr. will step down as CEO on September 1, and as chairman of the board by the end of the year, having successfully led the company’s return to profitability after the most turbulent period in its history.

Dan Akerson, 61, who has served on the GM Board of Directors since July 2009, will become CEO on September 1 and chairman by the end of the year, ensuring a smooth transition and continued positive momentum for company.

“My goal in coming to General Motors was to help restore profitability, build a strong market position and position this iconic company for success,” said Whitacre. “We are clearly on that path. A strong foundation is in place and I am comfortable with the timing of my decision.”

Whitacre, 68, joined GM as chairman of the board on July 10, 2009. On December 1, 2009, he was named chief executive officer. He led the company after it emerged from a historic bankruptcy to become a profitable automaker again.

“Ed Whitacre was exactly what this company needed, at exactly the right time,” said Pat Russo, lead director on the GM Board. “He simplified the organization, reshaped the company’s vision, put the right people in place and brought renewed energy and optimism to GM.”

“Dan Akerson has been actively engaged in and supportive of the key decisions and changes made at the new GM. He brings broad business experience, decisive leadership and continuity to this role,” said Russo. “The Board of Directors deeply appreciates the leadership Ed has provided and is pleased with the serious commitment Dan is making to the company. We look forward to his leadership.”

Perhaps a note here about just how large GM actually is, will be of interest. General Motors traces its roots to 1908. With its global headquarters in Detroit, Michigan, USA, GM employs 217,000 people in every major region of the world and does business in some 140 countries. GM and its strategic partners produce cars and trucks in 34 countries, and sell and service these vehicles through the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, FAW, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. (More information on the new General Motors can be found at www.gm.com or www.gmthailand.com).


Bio-Bug flushed with poo power

The UK’s first poo-powered VW Beetle, called the Bio-Bug, has taken to the streets of Bristol in what has been hailed as a breakthrough in the drive to encourage sustainable power.

The Bio-Bug runs on methane gas generated during the sewage treatment process. Waste flushed down the toilets of just 70 homes in Bristol is enough to power the Bio-Bug for a year, based on an annual mileage of 10,000 miles.

Bio-Bug

GENeco, a Wessex Water-owned company, imported specialist equipment to treat gas generated at Bristol sewage treatment works in Avonmouth to power the VW Beetle in a way that doesn’t affect its performance.

Mohammed Saddiq, GENeco’s general manager, said he was confident that methane from sewage sludge could be used as an alternative energy source and was an innovative way of powering company vehicles.

He said, “Our site at Avonmouth has been producing biogas for many years which we use to generate electricity to power the site and export to the National Grid.

“With the surplus gas we had available we wanted to put it to good use in a sustainable and efficient way. We decided to power a vehicle on the gas offering a sustainable alternative to using fossil fuels which we so heavily rely on in the UK.

“If you were to drive the car you wouldn’t know it was powered by biogas as it performs just like any conventional car. It is probably the most sustainable car around.”

But using biogas from sewage sludge is yet to take off in the UK despite a significant amount being produced everyday at sewage plants around the country.

To use biogas as vehicle fuel without affecting vehicle performance or reliability the gas needs to be treated - a process called “biogas upgrading”. Rather than de-odorizing, it involves carbon dioxide being separated from the biogas using specialist equipment. If all the biogas produced at the Avonmouth plant (18 million cubic meters) was converted to run cars it would avoid around 19,000 tonnes of CO2.

The Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) said the launch of the Bio-Bug proved that biomethane from sewage sludge could be used as an alternative fuel for vehicles.

ADBA chairman Lord Rupert Redesdale said, “This is a very exciting and forward-thinking project demonstrating the myriad benefits of anaerobic digestion (AD).”

GENeco said if the trial involving the Bio-Bug proved successful it would look to convert some of the company’s fleet of vehicles to run on biogas.

And before you ask, the Bio-Bug does not have an unmistakable exhaust odor.