More on the Motor Show
If you are thinking of going up to
Bangkok to see the 32nd International Motor Show this weekend, don’t
go. It finished on April 6. However, I have some notes on the cars
and printed some in last week’s Automania column, and here are some
Let’s get the “pretties” out of the way first. Unfortunately these
have become an integral part of motor shows (not just here). Every
stand has half a dozen young women decked out in some ridiculous
costume, some with even more ridiculous hats.
Learning specifications parrot
fashion, you get a brief description of the car, from someone who
wouldn’t know a camshaft from a carburetor. A complete waste of time
and money, in my book. If I want to take photos of some girl’s legs
I can do that easily on Walking Street and that’s just the start of
the relationship! No, let’s have an engineer on the stand, able to
speak with authority on the vehicles. Wiesmann, for example, had a
multi-lingual engineer, able to discuss the concept behind the cars
and the mechanical specifications. Such a refreshing change.
Probably the most noteworthy
vehicle was the new Honda eco-car which impressed me with the room
inside. Even with the driver’s seat racked right back, there was
still knee-room for an adult expat in the rear. The interior was
simple, but easy to understand. Rotary knobs/dials are so much
better than repetitively pushing electronic buttons (and let’s not
get into the dreadful BMW iDrive). It is up against the Nissan
March, and is marginally more expensive, but many people will like
the corporate “Honda” face, rather than the Nissan’s ‘bubble car’
look, last seen on the Mazda 131 of around 15 years ago.
While on the eco-cars, Mitsubishi
displayed their Concept Global Small vehicle, the one on display
being the concept car previously displayed in Geneva. Despite
looking very similar to the Ford Festiva, this is an interesting
vehicle, but unfortunately will not be available in any numbers
until 2012. It will be produced locally at the Nissan Laem Chabang
Concept Global Small
Every year I have to mention
Wuling. Cheap and from China, but you can have a new one in your
driveway for peanuts. There was a new, funky, electric car from
Wuling as well and priced at 280,000 baht. A bit like a tarted up
golf cart, but a very inexpensive way to show you are a ‘greenie’ at
Lexus has really lost the plot.
The new CT 200H can only be described as ugly. The rear is pure
Nissan Tiida, which would never win a beauty contest, and the front
plain. For a ‘brand’ that was supposed to be the showcase of
Toyota’s excellence, it is now failing miserably. Toyota has lost
the ‘exclusivity’ it has tried to produce with the Lexus name and it
has descended into being a rebodied Toyota, I am afraid.
One of the smoothest looking cars at the show was the VW Scirocco.
About 2.6 million baht is the only drawback, but it is a much nicer
car (and cheaper) than the BMW 1 Series or any of the Mini variants,
but more expensive than the Volvo C30 at 1.9 million.
The other Chinese brand was Chery,
who showed a mid-sized cross-over for around 850,000 baht, which
looked to be well engineered and not too ‘plasticky’ in the
interior. The Chery QQ appeared to have had a face-lift, but remains
the inexpensive four door cheapy made from discarded soft drink
Porsche had a 911 Carrera S on their stand, yours for 15.6 million
baht. I am totally unable to justify the price, but having owned a
911 and raced a couple of Carrera’s I would shell out for one, if I
had the readies, which I don’t. Also on the Porsche stand was the
Panamera, which still looks like a fat pig, even though it is a well
engineered Porsche with four doors.
F1 scrutineering - the ‘real’
Following the exclusion of the two Sauber cars at the Australian GP
for wing irregularities, I asked a Formula 1 scrutineer just what
was the procedure at race meetings. The answer which I have placed
here is very interesting.
“Not all cars are checked at the track before they race. The weigh
station (which also has the templates for height width and wing
measurements, etc,) is open for the teams to use at all times.
“During Practice there is no real scrutiny but that changes at the
start of qualifying. All vehicles are then considered to be in Parc
Ferme and in race condition. From here though, the testing is ad hoc
and at the whim of the FIA officials. After each qualifying session,
various cars are selected for testing and have the templates run
over them. At the end of qualifying all of the top 10 cars are
tested with several getting the royal treatment.
“After the race the top three get the serious treatment and then the
rest of the point winners get a less serious going over but a going
over all the same. From there all of the remaining cars running get
a run over the station and this is where illegalities (height,
width, weight, etc.) should show up as the cars can’t be touched
after the race until released by the FIA.
“The scrutineers jobs are mainly to look after the vehicles during
Parc Ferme (this also means going out on the start line with the
cars) to ensure no parts are changed or adjustments are made that
are not on the ‘allowed list’ during the Parc Ferme period.”
The factor that stands out for me is the fact that the really
serious testing is done ‘after’ the race. Surely it would be better
to have this done ‘before’ the race, and stop similar situations
like the Sauber one.
What did we learn from the Australian Grand Prix?
Well, the first thing we learned
was that the Hispania Racing Team was truly dreadful. How any team
wishing to be part of Formula 1 can appear at the first meeting of
the year with two cars that had never turned a wheel is inexcusable.
Fortunately, neither car met the 107 percent rule and were
non-starters. This is not a team of minnows to be pitied, but a team
of incompetents to be laughed out of the paddock.
We also learned that it was possible for a Lada to make the podium
and for a rookie to do the entire race with only one stop for tyres,
as opposed to the multiple stops of everyone else. We also learned
that the highly complex and technical Drag Reduction System (DRS)
which was going to give the chasing car 12 km/h increase in top
speed, and thus promote passing, did not work. Forget all the
theoretical stuff. The movable wing did not work. Period.
While Vettel in the Red Bull was the master class of the entire
weekend and fully deserved his win, the real heroes were Petrov in
the “Lotus” Renault/Lada, claiming third spot on the podium and
Sergio Perez, the Sauber Rookie who came in seventh and only used
one set of tyres. How? Wasn’t he told that the Pirelli’s turn into
jelly after 15 laps? Well, that’s what they all said (except Perez).
But before Perez had time to celebrate his result, the FIA stepped
in and declared both Saubers had illegal rear wings! Now these cars
are subjected to scrutiny before they go to race - and apparently
were legal, but somehow, after the race they contravene the
regulations. These regulations cover size and placement of the
wings, easy enough to check, so how did the FIA let Sauber race an
“illegal” car and then find infringements afterwards? The stewarding
in Formula 1 has always been a joke. Sauber has indicated it will
appeal the decision. Good.
While Vettel ran away with the race, it is interesting to look at
the fastest laps during the race. Massa and Alonso (Ferrari) were
the quickest cars, followed by Webber (Red Bull) and Vettel,
followed by Button (McLaren), Perez (Sauber) and Petrov in the
“Lotus” Renault. And just by the way, Perez set his fastest time on
lap 39, well past the so-called life of the tyres. Another good
theory blown away.
Hamilton, in the lead McLaren, had a good race, never letting up,
and deserved his second place, as did the Russian Petrov deserve his
third. For a driver who was in danger of being dropped after last
year, the Australian GP was a great turn-around.
Mark Webber, hoping to please the locals, turned in a very
disappointing performance. Almost a second slower than his team mate
in qualifying, and finished the race 38 seconds adrift. The
Australian’s fans, of which there are many, will be hoping he has a
better result in the next GP in Malaysia. If he wants to drive for
Red Bull next year he must improve.
As for the rest? Nowhere.
Mutterings from the Bangkok International Motor Show
What is the most important item to take to the 32nd
Bangkok International Motor Show? A good stout pair of walking
shoes! The new venue in the Challenger Hall of the Impact Arena is
huge, and the exhibitors' booths correspondingly larger. Undoubtedly
the best motor show ever staged in Thailand.
A new name to the Bangkok International Motor Show is Wiesmann, a
bespoke manufacturer of incredibly fast sportscars, spoiled for me
by the matt paintwork, but the pseudo retro look is very appealing.
The Wiesmann brothers were enthusiasts of the British sports cars of
the 50's and 60's, so when they started building their own cars, it
was natural that they would use the period in their own design.
From the rear, the car is Austin Healey 3000, whilst from the front
it is unashamedly Jaguar XK 120. However, that is where the retro
finishes. The car is built on BMW underpinnings, using the V8 of the
M3 or the V10 of the M5. In the lightweight body/chassis this
results in stunning performance. The BMW donor does not include the
unloved iDrive, so the Wiesmann remains a sheer performance sports
The interior is totally encased in leather, and while the red
interior on display was rather fetching, the other car with the blue
interior did not appeal too much. Local distribution is being
handled by Bhiyute Chiemprasert, who also has Brabus and 9ff
(Porsche derivative). If you have between 12.5 and 14.9 million baht
drop him an email on
For me, the show was not so much about new eco-cars such as
the Honda Brio, no matter how important they are, but more about some of the
off-the-wall items seen this year. Take the Brabus "tank" for example, or what I
named the "Bra Bus". Huge housebrick styled Mercedes GL with astonishing
performance with zero too 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds. The best or perhaps the worst
of both worlds!
But if you wanted the worst, go no further than the Mitsuoko
stand. Take a sick bag with you - you will need it.
Ssanyong did shoot their sstylist and the new Korando looks
as good as most others in the small soft-roaders, but the old Actyon is not
saved by two go-faster stripes on the bonnet, I am afraid.
New Ssanyong Korando
No! No! No!
BMW displayed their Mini brand in semi-darkness, a ploy to
disguise just how porcine and oversized the Mini has become. The four door
version is so far removed from Sir Alec Issigonis' concept that it does not
deserve the name 'Mini' any more. Such a shame that this icon of the British
motor industry should end up in this way. The main BMW stand was full of the
range being offered by BeeEmm, including the fugly 1 Series and the
General Motors, for once in its life at the motor show, presented an interesting
and informative display with some history from its beginnings in 1911 (yes, 100
years of GM) and examples of their pickups from a 1926, to 1956, to 1960 and now
the latest Colorado, which looks a very handsome unit.
New Chevrolet Colorado
Arch rivals Ford presented the new Ford Ranger, designed in
Australia and to be manufactured here. The vehicle on display was, however, a
mock-up (and I believe is the same one shown in Australia last year). The
Colorado will steal a march on the Ranger, being available long before the 2012
season, in which the Ford becomes readily available.
New Ford Ranger
The just released Honda Brio eco-car generated much interest,
with a base price of 399,000 baht, but with a few options was soon 505,000 baht.
The interior was remarkably roomy, and even with the driver’s seat in the rear
position to cater for farang legs, there was still adequate knee room for the
rear seat passengers.
New Honda Brio
More on the motor show next week, with some comments on the
ridiculous “Pretties” and their even more ridiculous get-ups. Remember it is at
the Challenger Hall at the Impact Arena and closes April 6.
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