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Update May 2015


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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

Automania - Update May 23, 2015

Monaco Grand Prix this weekend

Tight squeeze in Monaco.

Following on from the win for Nico Rosberg and another 1-2 for Mercedes in Spain, is there anyone willing to hazard a guess for the winner at Monaco this weekend? With the limitation in passing opportunities round the Monegasque houses, pole position becomes very important. The most critical part of this Grand Prix will then happen on the Saturday. And that’s qualifying. He who is on pole, has a greater than 75 percent chance of winning. So who will be on P1? So far, all the money is on Hamilton, despite Rosberg’s pole in Spain.
Mercedes has built cars that are very fast over one lap (Qualifying), resulting in pole positions at every GP this year, and their cars are nearly bulletproof, as could be seen in Spain!
However, Monaco is the Grand Prix to be seen at this weekend (as opposed to a Grand Prix to see motor racing at). It is not the GP to go to, unless watching B List ‘super-stars’ is your idea of fun. This may, of course just be jealousy on my part, not even making the D List… The harbor will be bollard to bollard expensive yachts and the villa car parks will have all the Lambos, Ferraris, Bentleys and Maseratis you would ever wish for, and so much for the global financial depression. If you go for the atmosphere, then this is the GP for you. If you go for GP motor racing, forget it and go to Spa. Monaco has been processional for the past decade, and in my opinion is unfit for real F1 racing (but then again, I forgot it is the Bernie Show).
I will be watching the race from my perch in front of the big screen at Jameson’s Irish Pub, Soi AR, going there at 6 p.m. for a meal and a beer before the race at 7 p.m. Why don’t you join me?
Mind you, I did find an excellent viewing spot if you want to fly over. On Thursday May 21 you could have experienced a full day in Monaco on a trackside super yacht experiencing luxury hospitality including breakfast, lunch and a full array of refreshments including a complimentary bar with free flowing champagne and cocktails.
The luxury triple deck super yacht will be moored in a premium zone 1 berth along the Quai des Etas Unis (between the exit of the tunnel and the corner at Tabac), just meters from the track where you will be able to catch all the action in the most stylish surroundings. I’m sorry, I didn’t ask the price!


An ‘electrifying’ Monaco

Tripped over the results from the Formula E Prix which was staged at Monaco a couple of weeks ago. Reading through the results it is almost all made up of ‘failed’ F1 drivers! Read through and see what I mean.
Sébastien Buemi
Lucas di Grassi
Nelson Piquet Jnr
Sam Bird
Jérôme D’Ambrosio
Nicolas Prost
Stéphane Sarrazin
Scott Speed
Charles Pic
Antonio Felix da Costa
Nick Heidfeld
Jarno Trulli
Karun Chandhok
Vitantonio Liuzzi
Jean-Eric Vergne
Salvador Duran
Loïc Duval
Daniel Abt
Jaime Alguersuari
I watched their ‘highlights’ and am afraid I was totally turned off by the whizzers. You think the current F1 cars have a dreadful sound, these Formula E cars reminded me of Electrolux vacuum cleaners, and driven by ‘also-rans’.


BMW looking at the niche markets

2016 BMW 3 Series.

BMW has indicated their intention to explore different market segments of the auto industry, but not at the expense of the 3 Series and 7 Series.
However, it could be said that BMW has actually too many choices in the marketplace.
Many of BMW’s niche models are based on its passenger sedan line-up, such as the 3 Series/4 Series, which has expanded to six variants - 3 Series sedan, Touring, Gran Turismo, and the 4 Series coupe, convertible and Gran Coupe - but SUVs such as the X3 and X5 have also spawned coupe-style versions in the X4 and X6 respectively.
BMW senior vice-president for Asia-Pacific and South Africa, Hendrik von Kuenheim said model proliferation is discussed “every day” at the company and has proven successful in a number of markets to date.
“The 3 Series GT - 10 years ago it was never even discussed,” he said. “But in the Asian markets it has been very successful. It has a business class feel in the rear seat and it has been very well accepted in some markets. In other markets they are not ready for that now.”
“There is a point when there is no more business case. When we think, what could we have done with that money, could we do something more successful with the money?”
Admitting that some models were more successful than others, von Kuenheim hinted that some “may disappear” in the future but did not go into detail.
He did, however, hint at future X-badged SUV models on the way, which will include the seven-seat X7 due in 2017/18 and could extend to a smaller sibling to the X4, dubbed X2.
“If we don’t offer choice, you might start losing. The question is: what is the next big niche? There are two more X models coming in the very near future, just because the consumer trend has gone that way.”
BMW last week released details of the mid-life update to its top selling 3 Series range, and while he praised rival Mercedes-Benz’s latest C-Class, von Kuenheim said the refreshed 3 Series range will compete well against it.
“Mercedes has a fresh product. It’s an appealing car. The good thing is, Mercedes is back. It’s … much better when you have a sharp competitor. It took them a long time to come back but they are back. There is nothing wrong with that because it keeps you on your toes.”
He continued, “I am very confident … I believe we still have the ‘ultimate driving machine’. We have a good facelift and some good upgrades and we will take the fight to Mercedes.”
Von Kuenheim said BMW’s luxury flagship - the 7 Series sedan - would continue to be the showcase for its latest technological advancements, despite a consumer shift towards luxury SUVs.
He said the rollout of comfort and safety advances in cars is so rapid that a company might only have exclusivity on the innovation “if you are really lucky for six months” but added that the large sedan would always showcase new technology first.
“The 7 Series will always be the technology leader,” he said. “We will get a lot more frequent updates on the cars as new technology comes. It will always be the pinnacle, as it is for Mercedes S-Class, which is also a bloody good car. That is the total competence which is available in the German motor industry.”
Despite the rhetoric there is no ignoring that the Mercedes range looks like today, while the BMW offerings look like dated face lifted old body styles.


Ford wrong foots the hot hatch makers

Mustang!

Ford has revealed the full Aussie price list for the new Mustang ahead of it hitting showrooms in Australia in December. The starting price for the 2.3 liter EcoBoost Fastback, is A$ 44,990 with the automatic variant costing an additional A$2500.
That price undercuts many hot hatches such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Subaru WRX STI and Renault Megane RS265.
The EcoBoost’s 2.3 liter four-cylinder engine produces 233 kW and 432 Nm, which far outperforms most of the hot hatches in its price range.
The V8-powered Mustang GT is also a bargain priced at A$54,990 for the manual and A$56,490 for the six-speed automatic.
This makes the Mustang GT competitively priced against six cylinder, two door sports coupes such as the Lexus RC350 (from A$66,000), Nissan 370Z (from A$56,930) and BMW M235i (from A$79,930). It is also comfortably underneath V8-powered coupes such as the Lexus RC F which is priced from A$133,500.
Ford claims it has 1200 firm orders for the Mustang and has also received interest from more than 15,000 potential customers and believes that more customers will flock to the new sports car after the announcement of its competitive pricing.
“With such sharp pricing, we’re signaling that there’s a new Ford performance car coming and we intend to grab our rightful share of enthusiasts who value style, technology, performance and the history that the Mustang name brings,” says Graeme Whickman, Ford vice president marketing, sales and service.
Both variants come with the option of either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, electric power steering, 19 inch alloys, LED taillights, rain sensing wipers, sat-nav, reversing camera as well as Ford’s new SYNC2 infotainment system which is accessible through an eight inch monitor on the dash.
OK. That is the position in Australia, will it come to Thailand? I believe it could as this is the first Mustang also produced in RHD. There is a Free Trade Agreement already in place if Ford would like to bring the Mustangs up to Thailand, in exchange for the Fiesta’s we build here.


Autotrivia Quiz

Quiz item.

Last week I asked you to look at this photo. What is it?
It is the Ryno, a sort of Segway style unicycle. Has a top speed of 16 kph according to the manufacturer. The history is interesting. Tony Ozrelic (Ryno’s co-founder) was an engineer and inventor with a keen interest in self-balancing machines. Thanks to an online tutorial Tony posted about how to build a Segway from off the shelf parts and plywood and an email from Chris that said it might only take a few weeks to write the software, Chris Hoffmann and Tony connected. Chris had already built the mechanical frame for prototype one but was lost trying to figure out how to write software.
Tony came by, took the electronics parts, and in a week had built a small two-wheeled contraption to show-off his self-balancing software. Over the next few years, Tony built the circuit boards and other components in his garage shop. Today, what is inside the Ryno is a product of all that experience and all that testing. I think I could like one!
So to this week. Which American racing car was named after a ground bird?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]


Automania - Update May 16, 2015

What did we learn from the Spanish GP?

Well, we learned that Rosberg (Mercedes) has the speed needed to win races, his team mate Hamilton has plenty of tiger, the McLaren team should just go home and forget about 2015, the race was boring, but some light entertainment ensued with the new game called “Run over the pit crew” with Alonso winning but then retiring, handing the win to Grosjean (“Lotus”), whose front jack man was seen later with an ice bag on his cojones!
But back to the “race” at Barcelona. Hamilton lost his advantage by not qualifying on pole for this GP, as opposed to the four GP’s already run this year. Rosberg claimed pole and (like Hamilton previously) ran away and hid, never troubled at any stage, being eight seconds ahead of the pack by lap 10.
Hamilton said after the race was over, “I had quite a poor start; it is a long time since I have had such a poor start. But I did my best to recover and I just tried to fight but this track is not very good for overtaking which is a shame. Whatever you do you just cannot get close enough. In the end it was a matter of damage limitation.”
Ending up third was Vettel (Ferrari), who had been third in Qualifying. He had briefly managed to get up to second at the start, but with fading tyres relinquished the position to Hamilton. His team mate, the loquacious Raikkonen, did improve from seventh on the grid to come in fifth, one of the very few to improve. Will Kimi still be at Ferrari next year? Vettel wants him there (because it makes Vettel look good)!
Fourth was the other Finn, Valtteri Bottas in the Williams. Looking good on paper but actually a million miles away from the winning Mercedes. His team mate Massa climbed slowly up to sixth and stayed there in a no-drama drive, which is unusual for Massa, not reading from his multi-page excuse book for a change.
Seventh, and on his fourth exploding Renault engine for the series was Ricciardo who goes to bed every night praying for a Mercedes in the engine bay. A good drive on second rate equipment. He should go to Mercedes next year, or see his shiny star fading (depending of course that Hamilton goes to Ferrari).
The Roaring Tossers fought amongst themselves, as did the Saubers and anyone else still running, none of which are competitive. Yawn, yawn, yawn.
And so finally to McLaren, one of the teams that produced world champions and world championships, with Button saying after the race, “My car was pretty scary to drive today: as soon as I touched the throttle, it just snapped away from me. It was unpredictable: in low-speed corners, the car was just slow, because I got wheel-spin immediately; in the high-speed stuff, it was just scary.” I’m sorry, but this is not good enough. Ron Dennis should sack all his staff and concentrate on selling supercars to people with questionable skills but very deep pockets.
Going back to Hamilton’s post race interview “…I just tried to fight but this track is not very good for overtaking which is a shame. Whatever you do you just cannot get close enough.” Simple answer - drop Barcelona. Bernie has no compunction about dropping better tracks from the calendar!
The next GP is at Monaco on May 24 which will probably be another bore-fest, being on a track on which it is well nigh impossible to pass.


No race meeting this weekend

Sorry, the next GP is next week and at Monaco on 24 May. A race which gets almost as many hangers-on as the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight (which was a farce). Monaco is much the same, being as near as damnit impossible to pass.


Another silly SUV

DBX.

Aston Martin is following the lead of Bentley and Rolls-Royce with its own take on a luxury off-roader.
The DBX Concept was shown at this year’s Geneva motor show which looks for all the world like a DB9 that has a 10 tonne lorry run up its rear end.
Aston Martin has now confirmed plans to build the opulent high-riding SUV, having received a $387 million cash injection from its shareholders to expand beyond its current line-up.
Aston Martin has already toyed with the notion of an SUV on two previous occasions. The first was the Lagonda concept displayed at the 2009 Geneva motor show, while the most recent was the much more smooth, coupe-like DBX concept revealed at this year’s Swiss expo.
Newly-appointed CEO, and former Nissan executive Andy Palmer confirmed the DBX will form the basis for its first-ever production SUV following its more positive reaction from critics and customers alike. The investment will also include development for new platforms that will underpin replacements for its long-standing Vantage, DB9 and Vanquish coupes.
“This additional long-term funding will enable us to add extra model lines and broaden our presence in the luxury market segment by the end of the decade,” he said.
“The DBX concept has generated interest far beyond our expectations. The additional investment announced today will allow us to realize the DBX and other new luxury vehicles that will form the strongest and most diverse portfolio in our history.”
The Aston Martin DBX will compete with rival SUVs currently under development from Bentley and Rolls-Royce. Both are expected to be more conventional-style wagons than Aston’s high-riding two door coupe concept. However, Lamborghini has toyed with a similar idea for its Urus that is due in 2018.
While Aston Martin revealed the DBX as a fully electric concept - powered by in-wheel motors and featuring a Lithium-sulphur battery pack - the production model is understood to be driven by a conventional combustion engine. It has yet to provide any official technical details on the DBX, but it is expected to further leverage the British brand’s tie-up with Daimler, which will supply electronic architecture for all future models as well as engines from its performance division, Mercedes-AMG.
A report in the UK's Financial Times last week indicated Aston Martin is looking for production facilities in the USA to build the DBX, as its current factory in the British midlands is unlikely to have the capacity to meet the expected demand, particularly from markets such as China and Middle East.
The speculation lends weight to the notion that the DBX could be based on the new Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV range and built alongside at its plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Incest is rife in the automotive industry.)


New BMW 7 Series under testing

2016 BMW 7 Series.

Like so many other manufacturers, BMW has subtracted weight from the current 7 Series. Extensive use of carbon-fiber and alloy has been used to cut the car’s weight by up to 130 kg.
Carbon-fiber is used to form the passenger cell but has secondary advantages in increasing the torsional rigidity and strength of the car.
BMW claims with the cell in place, “sheet metal elements can be adjusted accordingly, allowing body weight to be significantly reduced.”
The platform and passenger cell, known as ‘35up’ by BMW, will be used in the future for models from the 7 Series down to the 3 Series.
The exterior of the new 7 Series is very similar to the current 7 which has remained unchanged for the past six years, though it has a longer, wider nose and lower roofline and is very similar to the “Future Luxury Concept” shown at the 2014 Beijing motor show.
Engines will remain similar to current range; however, it is believed that the V12 may be dropped. A plug-in hybrid is likely, with BMW's heavily committed technology that will first appear on the X5 xDrive40e.
The model will expand its safety equipment, including as standard or optional a more sophisticated Driving Assistant Plus with steering and directional control assistant, Lane Departure Warning Assistant with active side collision protection, and rear collision prevention and cross-traffic warning functions.
The next 7 Series may also have autonomous driving technology for use in some European cities, as the concept of autonomous cars becomes closer to reality. The technology is the result of a recent partnership between BMW and German automotive giant Continental.
BMW also says, “The latest update of the Integral Active Steering system, along with the first electromechanically driven Dynamic Drive roll stabilization system, contribute to a further boost in comfort, dynamic prowess and assurance on the road in the new BMW 7 Series.”
BMW said air suspension will be standard, with a self-levelling function and the company’s electronic Dynamic Damper Control will also be included. “Its electronically controlled dampers improve the primary and secondary ride of the sedan and sharpen its dynamic attributes.”
Much is being said about remote parking, but other manufacturers like Ford already have that, though BMW claims the next 7 Series will be the world’s first volume production car with a remote control parking function, building on the self-parking tech currently available.


Sunny days ahead

Solar car for sunny days.

An ambitious team of undergraduate students from the University of New South Wales are on the brink of creating the Southern Hemisphere’s first road legal solar sports car.
Having built and raced five generations of solar sports cars, SunSwift’s latest prototype “eVe” holds the world record for the fastest electric vehicle over a distance of 500 kilometers on a single battery charge.
Now, the team is taking on the grueling task of redesigning and rebuilding almost every aspect of the vehicle to make it street legal.
Business Manager Rob Ireland said the challenge was in creating a solar powered vehicle that met the Australian Design Rules.
“To be able to register the car for the road, we need to include side impact protection, windscreen wipers, headlights and a number of other components,” he told news.com.au.
“Making these changes will add weight to the vehicle, so its energy system will also need an upgrade.”
Currently the battery pack and solar panels mean the car can reach distances of 800 km from a single charge.
Ireland said the team wanted to make the vehicle equally as practical, stylish and functional as a regular car.
“To make the vehicle a commercially viable product and not just a science experiment, we need to offer the luxuries found in a petrol powered car,” he said.
“We want a two-seat car that can travel long distances at very high speeds without losing the comfort.”
As Sunswift is an entirely student-led, not-for-profit organization, the team relies on donations and sponsorships to continue operating.
“Other teams working on similar projects have multi-million dollar budgets and we don’t receive anything close to that,” he said.
“To think we are just some Aussie battlers fighting against the odds and competing on the world stage is pretty rewarding.”
SunSwift hope to have the car finished by July.


Autotrivia Quiz

Brough Superior.

Last week I asked which manufacturer who built the “Rolls Royce of motorcycles” also built a superior car? This was too easy with a flurry of entries. It was of course Brough Superior, even though they were initially not called that. George Brough made approximately 85 cars. Built between 1935 and 1939, they were powered by Hudson engines and had a Hudson chassis. Three models were made, but only two reached production. Early cars did not carry Brough Superior badges as Brough thought the cars sufficiently distinctive in themselves.
So to this week. Look at this photo. What is it?

Quiz item.

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


Automania - Update May 10, 2015

Spanish GP this weekend

F1 in Spain.

The Spanish GP is on this weekend, and the question on everyone’s lips is can Ferrari keep taking the game to Mercedes, and can Kimi stay awake long enough to put The Finger in his place?
Spain has a long history in GP racing, and the 5 km Circuit Catalunya was opened in 1991. A temporary chicane was built at ‘Nissan’ (a very shallow curve) in 1994, but for 1995, ‘Nissan’ was straightened reducing the length of a lap to the 5 km length.
The race will start at 7 p.m.
Will Maldonado hit three or four cars at the start? Will Alonso just keep his nose clean and get a Honda McLaren into the points?
We will know the answers to all these questions by Sunday night.


Design your own Viper

Viperrrr!

Last year, his first full calendar year as president and chief executive of the Dodge automotive brand, Tim Kuniskis spent time at two massive Viper owners’ homecoming-style events. He wanted to talk to them about their experiences and their expectations for what might come next.
But instead of just talking about their cars, Viper owners wanted Kuniskis to see their cars. They wanted, Kuniskis said, “to show you what they did to their car to make it their custom car, from a license plate to the interior to the paint.”
What each owner seemed to want, the brand’s leader realized, was a car that was unique.
“That sparked an idea,” Kuniskis said, explaining that since, unlike other cars, every Viper is built by hand, from its engine to the chassis to the interior, and they’re even painted one at a time by hand, and since the car had been in production through several generations and thus “we had a toy chest” of possible components, why not let customers create a truly one-of-a-kind Viper and get it built right on the Dodge assembly line?
Go to www.driveSRT.com/Viper and click “get started” on the Viper GTC Customizer, which allows you to build your Viper from among what Dodge says are 25 million build combinations, including 8,000 exterior paint color options, 24,000 custom stripe colors, 16 interior trims, 11 wheel options, seven aero packages, four suspension options and three brake packages.
Once you’ve made your selection (be sure to use the 360-degree interior view tool and zoom in to see the grain of the leather and carbon fiber), you can download a PDF of your car to save and to share - and you can pick from among various backgrounds and angles for that PDF image, which includes a specs sheet for your unique Viper.
You can stop there, or you can actually buy a 2015 Viper GT (MSRP of $94,995) and get it equipped to your specific and unique specifications. Do that, and nobody else can duplicate your choices - including your specified shade of paint color - during the entire 2015 model year. Your car is a true one of one.
Other than the cost of the various options, there is no extra charge for the unique build. But your car does come with a personalized instrument panel badge, concierge service (meaning you can take delivery at the factory), and access to a special Viper Ambassador Owner’s Portal so you can track your car’s assembly.
Because colors look different on different computer screens, you can go to a Dodge dealership and look at a paint chip of your selected color, and Dodge also will send you a flat piece of metal sprayed with that color.
If you’re still happy, next you’ll get a 1:18 scale Viper-shaped “speed form” sprayed in your color so you can take it outside and see how the color looks in three dimensions in the sunlight.
If you’re still happy, you lock in your order and your car starts its hand-built assembly process. And it does so even if you’ve chosen to paint it a strange shade of green with pink racing stripes.
As Kuniskis noted, a Viper is not a car that anyone needs, but if someone wants one, Viper owners can buy anything they want, and besides, it is their car, a unique car, truly a one of one.
Having driven an earlier iteration of a Viper, it is just a sensational motor car. A brute of a thing that will keep you smiling the next day.


Race cars for the road

This is getting silly!

Lanzante, British McLaren F1 specialist will convert your P1 GTR for the road after demand from some of the 40 customers who bought one.
The $3.5 million, 736 kW P1 GTR was originally for exclusive track days held at private track days at some of the world’s best race circuits but the lack of number plates has proved too frustrating for some.
Announcing the new race car-to-road conversions in British car magazine, Autocar, Dean Lazante said, “We will be tackling all conversions on a case-by-case basis. What we do will depend on where the customer wants to run the car and what the regulations are in that region. But whatever we do it will always be done sympathetically; the GTR has been built to be a step beyond the P1, we’re trying to keep as much of that spirit as we can. It will still be lighter, have more power, better aero and so on.”
Expect at least one to come to Thailand. Unfortunately it isn’t in my garage.


Open the door to an Aventador

Equally as silly.

The Aventador LP750-4 SV - claims 2.8 seconds for the 0-100 km/h sprint with the promise of a top speed beyond 350 km/h.
Just 600 examples of the limited-edition model will be built and it has been to China at the Shanghai motor show, teasing Chinese buyers who are expected to snap them up.
The history of the SV models goes back to the Miura (1966 to 1973), which was built by Ferruccio Lamborghini - who built his own cars after falling out with Enzo Ferrari.
Aventador SV development has focused on weight reduction and extra power, with the car weighing 50 kg under the “standard” Aventador with a tweaked 6.5 liter V12 producing 552 kW/690 Nm.
To get the weight down, carbon-fiber figures in the weight-loss program. Further savings come from deleting the standard satnav and stripping out all sound proofing.
Tech modifications include sports-tuned magnetic and sharper steering matched to more aggressive settings in the Haldex all-wheel-drive.


When an S63 AMG Coupe isn’t quick enough

Comfortably silly.

If you feel the “standard” Mercedes S63 AMG Coupe is a tad underpowered, go back to the Mercedes showroom and order the Brabus version.
The company’s latest project sees them putting one of Mercedes-Benz’s most stylish coupes on a crash (probably a Freudian slip there) diet and producing a car that is an astonishing lesson in relentless performance.
Top speed is now rated at 350 km/h through the increased engine displacement via a Brabus-spec crankshaft, pushing the factory 5.5 liter out to 5.9 liters. Twin turbochargers are also bolted on to produce a massive 850 hp and a silly 1,450 Nm of torque.
The entire setup is available on the Silver Arrows’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system or if you are Nico Rosberg’s cousin, you can opt for the rear-wheel drive only option.
Exterior and interior modifications come standard in the form of unique Brabus badging, carbon fiber trim all round and a new custom interior fit out including a 400 km/h speedo.


Herbie to tackle F1

Herbie, the VW Beetle which starred in six movies (1969-2005), may need to be resurrected, following an upset in the VW Board.
Rumors of Volkswagen heading to Formula 1 have gained momentum over the last few days due to a power shift at the very top of the group.
Volkswagen's chairman Ferdinand Piech has stepped down from his role, resigning last weekend following a clash with his chief executive Martin Winterkorn.
Piech has in the past been the stumbling block in a potential move into F1 due to a personal feud with F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone (and that’s not all that difficult).
In sharp contrast, Winterkorn has been credited with expanding VW's presence in motorsport. However, only time will tell whether this move brings VW into F1.


Autotrivia Quiz

A very easy one last week. Why did the bug-eye Sprite get eyes on the bonnet? To get them high enough for the legislation of the day. It was designed to have the headlights at the leading edge of the bonnet.
So to this week. Which pre-war racing driver was thrown from his car and ended up under the ambulance which then took him to hospital?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]


Automania - Update May 2, 2015

Maybe the sky isn’t the limit?

AeroMobil.

For all those wishing for a flying car, here it is! The AeroMobil flying car which transforms in seconds from an automobile to an airplane, say the manufacturers.
“AeroMobil is a flying car that perfectly makes use of existing infrastructure created for automobiles and planes, and opens doors to real door-to-door travel. As a car it fits into any standard parking space, uses regular gasoline, and can be used in road traffic just like any other car. As a plane it can use any airport in the world, but can also take off and land using any grass strip or paved surface just a few hundred meters long.
“The current flying car prototype AeroMobil 3.0 incorporates significant improvements and upgrades to the previous pre-prototype AeroMobil 2.5. It is now finalized and has been in regular flight-testing program in real flight conditions since October 2014.
“The AeroMobil 3.0 is predominantly built from advanced composite material. That includes its body shell, wings, and wheels. It also contains all the main features that are likely to be incorporated into the final product, such as avionics equipment, autopilot and an advanced parachute deployment system.
“AeroMobil 3.0 also implements a number of other advanced technologies, such as a variable angle of attack of the wings that significantly shortens the take-off requirements, and sturdy suspension that enables it to take-off and land even at relatively rough terrain.”
I have looked at their video and it is very impressive; however, the ‘pusher’ prop at the rear is not guarded, and you will not be allowed to fly to your door as they claim, well at least not in my Moo Baan!


Anyone for a Renissa-Benz One Tonner?

Benz One-tonner.

Daimler and Renault-Nissan have confirmed a three way venture to develop a Mercedes-Benz mid-sized dual-cab pick-up on the architecture of the Japanese car-maker’s new Navara.
This is apparently a long term production, as the Mercedes side of the deal is slated for production in 2018.
Production of the one tonner will see the Mercedes truck initially rolling down production lines beside the D23 Navara in Renault’s Argentinian facility and Nissan’s production line in Spain.
Mercedes will lead the design of its own model to deliver “all of Mercedes-Benz’ distinctive characteristics and features.”
The same philosophy is being seen at Renault developing its own one-tonner which is also based on the forthcoming Navara.
The French version will go into production next year at the Mexican Nissan factory in Cuernavaca, but manufacturing of the Mercedes pick-up is expected to come online soon after with the first examples from 2018.
Global production of the three separate models will total 120,000 a year with about 70,000 of those coming from Argentina, boosting productivity in the various manufacturing regions.
Daimler AG board chairman Dieter Zetsche said the Renault-Nissan Alliance had allowed Mercedes to enter a new segment with minimal costs.
“Mercedes-Benz is the fastest growing premium brand in the world,” he said. “Entering the rapidly growing segment of midsize pickups is an important step in continuing our global growth path.
“Thanks to our well-established partnership with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, we are able to drastically reduce the time and cost to enter this key segment.”
The first versions of Mercedes' pick-up are expected to be work-horse variants appealing to tradespeople and leisure seekers, but a more hardcore on-road focused AMG version is not out of the question. (Anyone for a V8 twin turbo Navara?)
Speaking at the New York International Auto Show, Mercedes-AMG board of management chairman Tobias Moers confirmed that a high-performance AMG version was a possibility in time.
“The pick-up project would be successful but we have to wait a little bit,” he said. “We don't have an understanding for that now. We’ve never been in that segment and honestly we don’t have any experience so we need to do some research.
I’m sorry, but for me, the idea of a tradesman’s pick-up being a Benz just doesn’t sit well.
Any European-branded one-tonne dual-cab pick-up will go head to head with Volkswagen’s Amarok, of which more than 8000 were sold in Germany last year. It is also expected that VW will build the Amarok here in Thailand.


Nissan revamps the March in April/May

Talking with the CEO of a car hire firm in Pattaya, he said that the Nissan March was his best rental vehicle, pleasant to drive, reliable and well accepted by the public.
Entry level export March features cruise control, power windows, USB connectivity, and Bluetooth phone pairing and audio streaming as standard, while the top-spec March benefits from the addition of satellite-navigation, reversing camera and upgraded interior cloth trim.
Also available are fog-lights, automatic headlights, rear spoiler, 15 inch alloy wheels and LED tail lights.
Exterior cosmetic changes to the March include a redesigned front fascia with Nissan's V-Motion front grille, a new bonnet, guards, headlights, and wheels, while inside there is an updated center cluster and instrumentation.
The new look city car is launching locally at the end of the month, after being revealed 18 months ago during the 2013 Frankfurt motor show, with Nissan choosing to delay the model to clear old stock and to ensure competitive pricing and specification on the refreshed model.


Why can’t I find one of these abandoned cars?

Mercedes 300 SL.

Being in Thailand does have some disadvantages at times. People don’t abandon a 300 SL Mercedes, for example. More likely to be an Isuzu pick-up, though I did find a 1975 Datsun 510, but the next time I went to have a closer look, it was gone! Mind you, I still look in backyards, just in case “my” 300 SL is there and waiting for me!


How did we survive?

I came across an article written by the late John Weinthal, Automania’s Editor at Large a few years ago, where he described ‘road racing’ in 1963, in Brisbane, Australia. This prompted nostalgia, a nasty disease at times!
When I look back at my motoring career, the first thought that comes into my head is “How did I survive?” In this world of ABS, airbags and microprocessors that measure everything from how often you change gear, to how hard you stomp on the brake pedal, and all in the name of safety, are these things necessary, or were we (you and I if you are over 50 years of age) just lucky?
On reflection, I have to say that I think it is the latter. We were just lucky.
In the article I mentioned, he reflected upon a time when we pitted a 1949 MG TC against a Mk X Jaguar. I hasten to add that this was a long time ago (about 45 years, I estimate). The combatants were John Weinthal in the 1963 Jaguar Mk X and myself in the 1949 MG TC.
Here we were in 1963, coming from a party where several rum and cokes were consumed (by John, I hasten to add - I was on beer), and would we have been over the 0.05 limit (which was brought in many years later)? If I am honest, then I think we would have been, though we were certainly not clinically falling-down drunk.
The road out to the Queensland University was subject to the city speed limit of 30 mph in those pre-metric days (50 km/h), and to get 1,900 kg of a Mk X to drift requires a little more speed than 50 km/h. And drift it did indeed. So here we were, over the (today’s) limit of 0.05, over the (then) speed limit of 30 mph, and now living to tell the tale. How did we do it?
The first thing is that there were not so many cars on the road, and at 11 p.m. even less. The police did not have breathalyzers and speed guns to easily trap the unsuspecting motorist, and since there were so few cars at such a late hour, they were happily watching TV in their respective police stations.
The cars we drove were certainly nowhere near as safe as the cars of today. Would an MG TC pass an ENCAP test and come out with a five star rating? With a 25 year old wood framed body on a simple ladder frame chassis, there would have been no stars for the MG.
But what about the Mk X? Undoubtedly stronger and safer than the MG TC, but it had no airbags. In fact, I doubt if it even had seat belts. However, John did not get to crash test the Mk X under these extremes (and with test cars, especially not).
On the other hand, I did get to crash test the MG TC some time later. I survived. It did not. There was more than a modicum of luck involved. We were certainly “just lucky” in more ways than one.
With cars that now have more computing power than we had when we put astronauts on the moon, which can second guess our next moves and even over-ride our pressure on the brake pedal if it “sees” a looming problem that we haven’t, can detect if we have strayed from the lane we are traveling in, and if all else fails, deploy a minimum of six air-bags.
No, the “luck” factor is very definitely not as important as it used to be - as long as we use all the safety features that modern technology provides for us.


Autotrivia

Last week’s Quiz Car.

Last week, in an attempt to slow the Googlers again, I asked you to please identify this car. Clue: early 1930s. It was one of my favorites, the Bucciali TAV, with the underslung chassis making the stance most aggressive. But what a car! It was Front Wheel Drive, before Citroen’s Traction Avant and had an infinitely variable automatic transmission made by Sensaud de Lavaud.
So to this week. Why did the bug-eye Sprite get eyes on the bonnet?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Monaco Grand Prix this weekend

An ‘electrifying’ Monaco

BMW looking at the niche markets

Ford wrong foots the hot hatch makers

Autotrivia Quiz


What did we learn from the Spanish GP?

No race meeting this weekend

Another silly SUV

New BMW 7 Series under testing

Sunny days ahead

Autotrivia Quiz


Spanish GP this weekend

Design your own Viper

Race cars for the road

Open the door to an Aventador

When an S63 AMG Coupe isn’t quick enough

Herbie to tackle F1

Autotrivia Quiz


Maybe the sky isn’t the limit?

Anyone for a Renissa-Benz One Tonner?

Nissan revamps the March in April/May

Why can’t I find one of these abandoned cars?

How did we survive?

Autotrivia

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