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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Bira this weekend

Mk1 Escort shell waiting paint.

The Nitto 3K meeting with the Retro cars is scheduled for September 9. We are still hopeful that the Securitas Mk1 Ford Escort will be rebuilt in time. Anybody got a spare quick steering rack in the bottom of their cupboard? More next week!

The Thai-Australia FTA in action

Ford Territory from Down-Under.

Everyone’s rough idea of what a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) means, is that two countries can export/import to each other without duty, keeping the costs down for both countries. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way.

Despite the supposed FTA, Thailand imposes a 60 percent “registration” penalty on foreign cars with petrol engines over 3.0 liters in capacity, but this is reduced to 50 percent for diesel engines over 2.0 liters. A ‘rose’ by any other name, it would seem.

However, Ford Australia has sent 100 of its locally built and designed Ford Territory SUV to Thailand. These were all top of the line AWD ‘Titanium’ diesel variants with which FoMoCo is gauging public interest with an eye towards more substantial export deals down the track. Apparently, Ford were very pleased with the reception the Territory SUV received at the Bangkok International Motor Show this year.

The Thai export deal is a slight reversal of a familiar flow for Ford Australia, with a growing number of vehicles including the Fiesta, Focus and Ranger - plus the forthcoming EcoSport and Escape SUVs - all sourced from Thailand, the third-largest source of vehicles for the Australian new vehicle market surpassing locally manufactured vehicles.
To the end of July, 84,508 Thai-made vehicles were sold in Australia, only beaten by Japan (234,429) and Korea (84,724), but ahead of Australia’s own domestic production (79,433).

Ford Australia president and CEO Bob Graziano said, “Building on the success of the Territory in Australia and New Zealand, we expect the Territory Titanium model to do well in Thailand. It’s clear Thai customers want the roominess of a seven-seater and the features available in the Territory Titanium.”

A USD 11 million Ford?

Gulf/Mirage GT40.

A 1967 Gulf/Mirage Ford GT40 was sold at auction in the US for USD 11 million plus auctioneer’s fees. Before the auction, the vehicle was estimated that it would reach upwards of USD 8 million.

These days, any GT40 will command huge dollars, and this particular GT40 is one of only two surviving production lightweight GT40 models.

The car’s history also includes an extensive race career throughout the late 1960s and early ’70s from Daytona to Le Mans, as well as the Le Mans trials at the hands of Jacky Ickx. The car was also used as a camera car in the classic 1971 Steve McQueen film, Le Mans, adding to the overall value.

It was presented in the Gulf team colors of Powder Blue with a Marigold stripe, the GT40 lightweight had a 320 kW mid-mounted V8 engine and five-speed manual transmission.

The list of cars which were sold by RMA Auctions of Monterey California, will make you weep, as they sold more than USD 30 million in other rare and collectable vehicles including a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder (USD 8.58m); a 1955 Ferrari 410 S (USD 8.25m); a 1956 Ferrari 250 GT LWB Berlinetta ‘Tour de France’ (USD 6.71m); a 1938 Horch 853A Special Roadster (USD5.17m) and a 955 Aston Martin DB3S that reached USD 3.69 million.

Honda’s Jazz Hybrid goes the other direction

Honda Thailand released its hybrid version of it Jazz a few weeks ago, and now has revealed that the hybrid version will also be exported to Australia.

Thailand’s hybrid Jazz should make its debut at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney on October 18, the Australian-spec model being produced in Thailand alongside the conventional-engined version, taking advantage of the free-trade agreement between the two countries, where Australia does not have a similar “registration” penalty as Thailand has for importing vehicles.

Honda has said it is aiming to sell 10,000 Jazz Hybrids in Thailand - where it starts from 768,000 baht - and an equivalent number in Malaysia, once production commences there next year.

Thai specifications show the Jazz Hybrid is powered by Honda’s familiar 1339cc four cylinder i-VTEC engine producing 65 kW of power at 5800 rpm and 121 Nm of torque at 4500 rpm, combining with a 10 kW/78 Nm electric motor and driving the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission.

Idle-stop technology and a low-speed EV mode are fitted, helping the Jazz hybrid deliver combined-cycle fuel consumption of 4.7 L/100 km and CO2 emissions of 110 grams per kilometer (if you are interested in these numbers), based on internal company figures.

The hybrid chassis set-up is as the conventional model, including the use of a MacPherson strut front suspension, torsion beam rear axle, electric power steering system and standard 15 inch alloy wheels.

In Thailand, Honda is the first to offer a hybrid car in the sub-compact segment and has put a five year/unlimited mileage warranty on the hybrid system, including the electric motor, IPU (intelligent power unit), battery and wiring.

The driver can activate an ECON switch that takes the car into “super economy” mode, resulting in a four percent reduction in torque, smoother CVT shift pattern, increased regenerative braking and altered air-conditioning operation.

The IMA system, battery pack and power control unit are located under the rear cargo floor, which according to Honda has meant no change in either seating flexibility or cargo space.

Thai-spec models come with dual front airbags and ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, although Australian models will have traction and stability control and curtain airbags to enable a good ANCAP rating down-under.

Electric power steering

As mentioned in the piece about the new hybrid Jazz, this car has electric power steering. About eight years ago, I made the prediction that “European cars, because of their smaller sizes and lighter weight have utilized electric steering sooner than across the Atlantic, but I expect electric power steering will replace traditional hydraulic power steering units within the next five to seven model years.” It now seems that I was right when I looked into my crystal ball. (Unfortunately, it does not give out lottery numbers!)

Since hydraulically activated power steering has been around since 1951 when the Chrysler Crown Imperial was the first car offered with the new concept, we should have got it right by now. And we have got it right, to the point that we have developed another system which uses less energy than hydraulic pumps, and in today’s energy conscious environment, less energy used is savings at the petrol pumps.

Today’s systems use electronics and electrics and has dispensed totally with the hydraulics. This was first seen in the Honda NSX sports car and Honda again introduced the system on the S2000 sports car. Smaller, lighter electric units are also used on Honda’s Hybrid Insight sedan (petrol saving, of course). And the Jazz!

However, Honda was not the lone pioneer here, as Saturn used electric power steering on the Vue SUV and the Ion sedan. GM’s 2004 Malibu used Delphi’s new E*STEER unit. Dephi’s system was also used in the 2000 Fiat Punto and Volkswagen’s 2001 Lupo 3L TDI. Other OEM vendors of electric power steering systems are Visteon with EPAS used in the MGF and ZF Freidrichshafen AG with ZF Servolectric.

As opposed to electric power steering, four-wheel steer has also been around for a while, but these have been mechanical systems. Honda offered it on the Prelude but dropped it later, and more recently it was offered on the full-size GM pickups and SUVs. For large vehicles like a pickup truck, this reduced the turning circle from something akin to that of a sea-going oil tanker to that of a small car. However, these mechanical systems were expensive and physically complex.

Four-wheel steering systems of the 1980s were in essence, essentially mechanical, with the wheels linked at pre-determined angles to make up for a vehicle’s tendency to understeer. Towards the end of the 1990s, manufacturers such as Nissan were beginning to develop solutions based on electrically and even hydraulically-operated actuators to take the dynamic performance of their vehicles forward. Electronic control of rear wheel steering has enabled handling to be fine-tuned even further, notably in the case of rear-wheel drive vehicles.

Auto engineers know there are many advantages with electric/electronic systems in automobiles, and one significant savings lies where electrical and electronic components actually replace conventional mechanical and electromechanical components. Such is the case with electric power assisted steering systems, steer-by-wire, and active steering systems, including electro-hydraulic power steering, magnetic power steering, intelligent steering systems, active rear-steer systems, four-wheel steering systems, steer-by-wire, and multi-axle steering systems. This is a complex area of engineering that covers active, passive, and semi-active suspension systems, electromagnetics, damper suspension, digital suspension control, and vibration and handling control systems.

These advances have been acknowledged, but complexity and cost has stopped them becoming universally adopted, but as electronic systems become more sophisticated and costs become more affordable, many of these advancements are now becoming available in mid-range production automobiles.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Bira this weekend

The Thai-Australia FTA in action

A USD 11 million Ford?

Honda’s Jazz Hybrid goes the other direction

Electric power steering