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)
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)
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
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
“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
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
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.