Make Chiangmai Mail | your Homepage | Bookmark

Chiangmai 's First English Language Newspaper

Pattaya Blatt | Pattaya Mail | Pattaya Mail TV

 
 
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

MINI has unveiled the new MINI Hatch

New MINI

Ever since taking over the MINI marque, BMW has been trying every trick in the book to make the public nostalgic hearkening back to Issigonis’ ground-breaking concept of the original small Mini with a wheel at each corner, front wheel drive and a transverse engine layout.
However, for me, any connection to the original Mini was lost as soon as BMW insisted that the marque be known as the MINI (all caps). The last straw is the size of these vehicles. Make no mistake, they are no longer small cars.
The body of the new MINI is 3,821 mm long (MINI Cooper S is 3,850 mm), 1,727 mm wide and 1,414 mm tall. This makes it 98 mm longer, 44 mm wider and 7 mm taller than its predecessor. The wheelbase has been extended by 28 mm, while the track width has been enlarged at the front by 42 mm and at the rear by 34 mm. As I said, there is nothing “mini” about this car.
BMW wax lyrical with press releases stating, “Even though the new MINI is instantly recognizable - something which comes from having such a globally identifiable design - the car is completely new from the ground up. Every component has been back to the drawing board in an effort to optimize its function, performance and style.
“The result is ‘The New Original’, a MINI which is distinctly familiar but enhanced in every single way. It features significant improvements in technology, engine efficiency and power delivery, driving dynamics, quality and - of course - personalization. Inside, the new MINI Hatch is quieter than the outgoing model, with improvements to acoustic refinement inside the cabin.” “New Original” they say. What nonsense. Alec Issigonis is revolving in his grave over that piece of PR-speak.
BMW beats the drum with the following: “Exterior: unmistakable design, contemporary style. Behind the changes, the new car has classic MINI proportions and an instantly familiar design that’s packed with character. Traditional cues such as the hexagonal contour of the radiator grille, circular headlights, ‘side scuttle’ indicator surrounds, upright rear light clusters and black lower body edging have all been subtly reinterpreted.”
But it doesn’t end there with “Personalization: more of what people love. MINI pioneered the concept of automotive personalization and that spirit of individuality continues with the new Hatch. The list of interior and exterior customizable components, and the options for them, is extensive. Most popular are expected to be a John Cooper Works rear spoiler, various decorative trims for roof, exterior mirrors, bonnet, seat upholstery, interior surfaces and new Color Lines.” Think back to the original Mini – about all you could get were bumperettes and you could spray the roof a different color and put some ‘go-faster’ stripes down the bonnet. That “spirit of individuality” came just from owning a Mini. A roof mounted rear spoiler would have been laughed at. As this one should be also.
Remember the dinky little 10 inch wheels on the original Mini? Don’t expect that today. “The new MINI Cooper Hatch and MINI Cooper D Hatch ride on 15 inch forged light alloy wheels, which have low weight and excellent aerodynamics. The MINI Cooper S Hatch is fitted with 16 inch light alloy wheels as standard. Rims up to 18 inches in diameter are available as optional extras.”
I will acknowledge that this is 2013 and technology has progressed, and the new MINI incorporates this. “Inside the cabin, new technology ensures that the new MINI is the most connected car in its segment. A new LED display concept, the first of its kind, provides the driver with visual feedback whilst operating the car and creates a premium ambience. It reflects a maturity and confidence in the brand’s design and engineering, a car which pays tribute to its unique British heritage yet stands ready to lead MINI into the second half of the decade and beyond.”
I’m sorry, but telling me that MINI is “a car which pays tribute to its unique British heritage,” is really too much for me to swallow. I’m sure it will be great to drive, will turn heads and give the owner pleasure. But the MINI isn’t a Mini by any stretch of the imagination.


Dems is da brakes

Disc brakes

A little history if I may. Ever since man managed to make contraptions that were self propelled, man very quickly afterwards found that he needed a reliable way to pull up. The first to experience this was a military steam tractor, which with a top speed of three km/h managed to knock down a wall on its maiden outing. The fact that it weighed several tonnes did not help the retardation process either.
It was further back than you imagine, and was in 1769, and that very first self-propelled road vehicle was a military tractor invented by French engineer and mechanic, Nicolas Joseph Cugnot (1725 - 1804). Cugnot used a steam engine to power his vehicle, built under his instructions at the Paris Arsenal by mechanic Brezin. Apart from knocking down walls, it was used by the French Army to haul artillery at three km/h on only three wheels.
During the late 1800’s, we began to see many more self-propelled vehicles, and with the diversity in designs, there were also many different retardation devices. These included brakes on the fly wheel, or on the prop shaft, rather than at the wheels. And if you would like some other interesting facts, the disc brake was patented by British engineer Frederick William Lanchester in 1902. It did not gain immediate acceptance as although it was reasonably efficient for the slow moving vehicles of the time, it was noisy. Very noisy, with the copper brake pads running against the disc.
The next technological advance to come to grips with Lanchester’s disc brakes came from another engineer, Herbert Frood (later to become Ferodo). Frood lined the pads with asbestos and solved the noise problem but the disc brake would not become standard in Europe until much later, by which stage, the world had found out that asbestos was a dangerous material.
Another of the famous names in automotive history is Ransom E. Olds (Oldsmobile) who demonstrated just how much better deceleration he could provide with his early drum brake which featured a stainless steel band wrapped around a drum on the rear axle. It certainly was better than the stick on a tyre brake of the hansom cabs of the day.
This external drum brake was not without problems either. On hills, where the brake unwrapped, motorists could not rely entirely on this design. This led to another very crude piece of technology called the ‘sprague’, which was a metal spike which when released would stick in the ground behind the car and stop it running backwards!
We have certainly come a long way since then. My racing Escort for example, uses EBC pads giving it a stopping power of the next best thing to a brick wall!


What did we learn from the Brazilian GP?

Well, we didn’t get the fairy tale win for the retiring Mark Webber (Red Bull) nor for the final Ferrari drive for Brazilian Felipe Massa. However, we did get the best Grand Prix of the year. More action in 71 laps than we have seen all year collectively.
So it was another record breaking performance from Vettel (Red Bull). Undoubtedly the star performer of the year, and probably many years to come. Now, if he would only stop waving “the finger” and stop his girlish screams he would have the world at his feet. However, he should go to bed each night saying a prayer to Adrian Newey, the most talented F1 designer on the planet who has given him the best toy on the track.
It was second place in the final GP for Mark Webber, the very straight shooting Aussie. A case of always the bridesmaid and never the bride for Webber. So he goes to pasture with Porsche and Le Mans. Let’s hope he has better luck in sports cars than he had in F1.
One driver who has matured in the best possible way is Fernando Alonso. I used to describe him as the ‘sulky Spaniard’, but he has certainly grown up in the past couple of seasons and has been team leader at Ferrari. He will be joined by the eloquent Finn, Kimi Raikkonen for the 2014 season. Will this be a good driver pairing? Somehow I think not. Latin temperaments and Scandinavian humor will not go together in my opinion. Ferrari had to buy him out of his contract a few years ago. Will history repeat itself?
Fourth place went to Jenson Button, who drove sensibly to the best placing for McLaren all year. His team has given Sergio Perez the flick, which is probably not the best decision, as he has outdriven Button on more than one occasion, however incoming Kevin Magnussen is reportedly a huge talent. We shall see.
The Mercedes management must be wondering if they spent their money wisely. Fifth placegetter Nico Rosberg has been outdriving Lewis Hamilton of late, and my spy in the pits reports that his fellow competitors are muttering that Hamilton has changed recently, taking a dog with him everywhere and he is proclaiming that he has found God. Helmet spotters will have noted the religious motif on the back of his helmet. We have had notable drivers in the past who believed that God would take care of them in all situations. Most of them died.
Sauber’s star Nico Hulkenberg finished in eighth with a restrained drive, and we still have no news as to who he will be driving for in 2014. The most obvious seat is “Lotus”, but with Maldonado and his millions, and “Lotus” being financially strapped, he could easily lose that seat.
And while on the French team, Grosjean managed to pop his final V8 engine in a spectacular fashion. Never mind, next year he gets a 1.6 liter V6.
And now we must wait for the 2014 season with the new engines, larger KERS and other distractions. However, will Pirelli be able to make tyres that last more than eight laps, for example? Will the stewards continue with inexplicable decisions? Will the FIA come up with even more silly ideas in the name of ‘competition’? 2014 will tell us all.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

MINI has unveiled the new MINI Hatch

Dems is da brakes

What did we learn from the Brazilian GP?