Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Bangkok International Motor Show open

The 32nd annual Bangkok International Motor Show opened to the public last Friday (March 25). Now held at the Challenger Hall (Impact Muang Thong Thani), Bangkok, it is the greatest auto spectacular in Thailand. I will be there covering the show and will report further next week.

Saving money at the pumps

With the price of fuel going up with the increases in crude oil prices, we are all going to need more money at the pumps to fill the family chariot. It is then probably worthwhile looking at ways to increase the kilometers you can get out of one thankful.

1. Slow down - stick to the legal speed limits and see how much you save! (You can save even more at lower speeds - driving at 80 kph instead of 110 can cut your fuel bill by 30.)

2. Check your tyre pressures often. Under-inflated tyres can cost you eight percent more fuel (and they'll wear out faster too).

3. Drive smoothly and consistently. Fierce acceleration and harsh braking both cost money. You'll save wear and tear on brakes, tyres and suspension too.

4. Turn off the air conditioning system when not needed - the engine has to work harder to power them.

5. Have your car serviced in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations. A well-maintained engine is more efficient and less polluting.

6. Remove roof racks and boxes when you don’t need them - even empty they can increase drag and therefore fuel consumption. Remove heavy items from the boot, too.

These recommendations came from the Haynes Publishing group whose manuals are very well respected in the world.

How did we go at the Nitto 3K meeting?

Round 1 of the Nitto 3K Retro Series was held at the Bira Circuit on Highway 36, just outside Pattaya March 19-20, and our last minute entry in the Securitas Mk 1 Escort was not without dramas. The Retro Series is for pre 1978 cars, and to find 40 year old cars in Thailand that are not rust-buckets is difficult. However, we did find one, but the Securitas team only took possession of the 1973 Mk 1 eight days before the meeting.

The car was basically an unfinished project of the previous owner, with much of the modifications done, but the whole package was still not in race trim.

In the eight days, the mechanic Simon managed to bend up a roll cage and weld it in place, find a race seat and fit it complete with three inch race harness, machine the wheels for better location on the hubs, while the car was in at the paint shop being transformed into the Securitas corporate white.

With assistance and advice from one of the other competitors, Gavin Charlesworth (E30 BMW), we completed all the formalities of registering the race car for the Nitto/3K Series and managed to get out on the Bira circuit for a shake-down on the Friday afternoon. Nothing fell off so that was considered an auspicious start to the weekend’s racing.

What it did show was that without the wider 15 inch wheels and the Nitto NT 01 compound tyres, we were really up against it. However, we consoled ourselves that if nothing else we were setting our benchmark and we will be able to see how we can improve during the 2011 Retro season.

After qualifying, we found ourselves in 17th position (out of 24 starters) and that was better than we had hoped. In the race on the Sunday we had some spirited dices and finished 14th, beating a much younger and heavily modified BMW to the line, much to the delight of our fans.

The car certainly did look the part and generated much interest and nostalgia in the spectators and I must thank our main sponsors Securitas, ESC, CEA Projects, AA Insurance Brokers and Cromwell Tools.

Lambo reveal the Aventador in Geneva

Lamborghini Aventador

Lamborghini released the successor to the Murcielago at the Geneva Motor Show, called the Aventador LP700-4. Similar in looks, it has, however, much different technology with a new V12 engine, a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis and pushrod suspension.

The monocoque tub chassis weighs only 147.5 kg and offers very high torsional rigidity. It has aluminium sub-frames at each end onto which the suspension, engine and transmission are mounted.

The name comes from a particularly brave Spanish fighting bull and the LP 700-4 refers to the engine output in horsepower and the fact that it drives all four wheels.

The new engine is a short-stroke V12 rated at 515 kW (at 8250rpm) which is more powerful than the Lambo LP 640 and LP 670, and has a marginally better torque output (690 Nm versus 660 Nm).

Being a lighter car than the predecessor (90 kg), the factory figures for the Aventador claim zero to 100 km/h in 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 350 km/h, making it one of the quickest and fastest production cars ever built.

The claimed consumption figures are 17.2 L/100 km EC combined and CO2 output (398 g/km) is down by 20 percent - as if anyone cared when you are slapping down something I estimate will cost 80 million baht in this country. In fact, I have never met anyone who either knows, or cares, about the CO2 output of their car.

Transmission is through a seven speed auto transmission, which it is claimed is the fastest robotised gearbox in the world, with shift times of 50 milliseconds (40 percent faster than the Gallardo). However, this is not a dual clutch transmission.

The driver can select Strada (road), which offers a fully automatic shift, the more focused Sport and the extreme Corsa (race), which includes launch control.

The Aventador has the scissor doors (as Countach, Diablo and Murcielago), and an optional transparent cover to show the mid-mounted engine, an aggressive rear diffuser and an electronically-deployed rear wing, which sits flush with the bodywork at rest, rises to 11 degrees at mid-range speeds for greater downforce and flattens out to only four degrees at high speeds to reach maximum velocity while assisting directional stability.

Other Aventador features include electronically controlled air intakes for the engine, carbon-ceramic composite disc brakes (400mm in diameter at the front with six-piston calipers and 380mm with four-pot calipers at the rear), an electronic parking brake, 19 inch rims on 255/35 section tyres at the front and 20-inch rims with 335/30 rubber at the rear.

The British advantage

This gem came from an old friend. Thanks Gordon!
Conjoined twins walk into a pub in Toronto and park themselves on a bar stool. One of them says to the bartender, “Don't mind us, we’re joined at the hip. I’m John, he’s Jim. Two Molson Canadian beers please.”

The bartender, feeling slightly awkward, tries to make polite conversation while pouring the beers. “Been on holiday yet, lads?”

“Off to England next month,” says John. “We go to England every year, hire a car, and drive for miles, don’t we, Jim?” Jim agrees.

“Ah, England!” says the bartender. “Wonderful country, the history, the beer, the culture...”
“Nah, we don’t like that British crap,” says John. “Hamburgers and Molson’s beer, that’s us, eh, Jim? And we can’t stand the English; they’re so arrogant and rude, not civil and polite like us Canadians.”

“So why keep going to England?” asks the bartender.
“It’s the only chance Jim gets to drive...”

The “new” E-Type

Jaguar is losing the plot, as far as I am concerned. When the E-Type first came out, it was an immediate sensation. Such looks, and such performance, though today a seven second zero to 100 km/h is no longer neck-snapping.

The new Jaguars do not have the presence of the old E-Type, but take a look at this one.

Growler E

A Swedish design firm, Visualtech, has confirmed it will build a very limited run of production cars based on its Growler E, a re-imagining of the Jaguar E-Type. According to company sources, the plan is to have the first Growler ready for delivery in the summer of 2012.
When I say “limited run”, Visualtech is indicating this will be three or four cars only. However, if there is the demand, Visualtech may build a very short series run of the cars, with help from Steyr or the Finnish firm Valmet.
The engine will be Jaguar, the 5 liter supercharged V8, from the XKR and 600 BHP is rumored. Visualtech expects that will lead to a 0-100 km/h time of under 4 seconds.
The body of the Growler E is a composite body glued to a carbon fiber structure, with front and rear tube frames holding the running gear. The cost of a Growler E in the US is estimated at $700,000 if they make a series run, and closer to $1.4 million if they only make a few. Now factor in Thai customs and duties, add on your birthday, multiply by the first number you thought of between 90 and 100 and call it baht. I don’t think we’ll see any around these parts, unfortunately, but what a great looking motor car.

Some indications from the Geneva show

For me, Geneva has always been a show for exotics ever since I saw the Lamborghini Marzal there. These show cars are ones that the manufacturers build ‘because they can’. I put cars like the new Aventador in that category (featured this week), along with Bugatti Veyron, Pagani Zonda and Koenigsegg and the like. This year there was even an electric Rolls Royce Phantom, as if any roller owner needs to worry about greenhouse gas emissions.

However, there are many vehicles which went on show in Geneva, ostensibly as concept cars, but will most likely be made if the response to the vehicle design is favorable.

The first to catch my eye is the Ssanyong SUT1, a double cab pick-up, which is no longer so ugly you would only drive it with a paper bag over your head, as is the case with the current Ssanyong offerings.

Ssanyong SUT 1

Another is the Suzuki S, which looks like a three door version of the current five door B-segment hatch. Which it really is. These Suzuki B-segment cars are real head-turners and will more than rival BMW’s Mini variants.

Suzuki S

The Ford B-Max on display in Geneva will be the pointer towards an MPV based on the Fiesta underpinnings, and should be one of the models that could be built here in the new Ford factory on the Eastern Seaboard, along with the Focus and its derivatives.

Bangkok Motor Show update

How many of the Geneva concepts will be shown at our Bangkok Motor Show? I do not know as we go to press, but I suggest you do not miss the 2011 Motor Show, being held at the Challenger Hall, Impact Muang Thong Thani arena for the first time, as the event had outgrown the BITEC venue. The motor show runs from March 26 through to April 6.

The promoter’s budget is in the region of 160 million baht, making this show a veritable spectacular event. Toyota has the largest stand at 2,600 sq. meters, with Mercedes and BMW also reserving large display areas.

Vehicles which we know are coming include the Honda Brio eco-car, the new Mazda 3, the Chevrolet Colorado concept, the new Ford Ranger and the Mitsubishi eco-car.