Automania - Update March 27, 2015
Malaysian GP this weekend
Sepang is the host for the second round of the 2015 F1 calendar. Will we have a
repeat of the awful Australian Grand Prix, or will this be another year of
different winners, such as we had in 2012?
The Malaysian Grand Prix is being held once again at the Sepang circuit.
Hopefully we will miss the late afternoon monsoons which are so prevalent in
Malaysia this time of year. But will we miss the FIA’s next attempt at
heavy-handed knee jerk reactions?
Qualifying is on the Saturday at 2 p.m. and there will have been some feverish
work for a couple of the teams to get ready for Malaysia, with only a few days
break since Melbourne two weeks ago. Red Bull will be fitting new engines and
gearboxes! Will Sauber have three seats again? Can anybody get even close to the
It should be noted that Williams are running Mercedes engines, supposedly equal
power units, but nowhere near as quick as the factory team. Why? If the engines
are the same, what demon tweak has Mercedes found in the chassis or aero?
The race begins at 2 p.m. (Thai time) on the Sunday and we will be watching as
usual in front of the big screen at Jameson’s Irish Pub, Soi AR, next to Nova
Park. Join us for lunch and a couple of beers before the GP starts. The easiest
way to find us if you haven’t been to Jameson’s is to turn right into Soi 4 from
Pattaya Second Road and follow it up and around for 200 meters and Jameson’s is
on your left hand side. You can’t miss it.
The next Grand Prix is at Bahrain on April 19. Don’t miss it!
Fuel cells is the way to go, says Lexus
Lexus chief backs fuel cells, not hybrid technology, as the propulsion of the
future. The head of Lexus’s international division has taken a shot at plug-in
hybrids as the company’s rivals go more towards that technology.
Lexus executive vice-president international Mark Templin says the company is
not rushing to adopt plug-in technologies, despite parent company Toyota selling
a plug-in version of the Prius in the US.
“I believe that plug-in hybrid is just a stepping stone to the next technology,
which is fuel cell,” he says. “Most consumers don’t use them the way they’re
designed to be used. Most people don’t plug them in all the time.
“Governments give tax breaks, or regulations are pushing people, to do that but
the reality is that in markets where they are being sold today, most people
don’t plug them in all the time. They just drive them like a normal car.”
Templin says people continue to fill their cars with petrol and the benefits of
reducing CO2 emissions - the reason for governments subsidizing the technology -
are not being realized.
Lexus is believed to be working on a fuel-cell version of its LS limousine that
could break cover in the next couple of years.
Its approach contrasts with that of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, which are
pushing ahead with plug-in variants, despite the fact that BMW is also flirting
with hydrogen cars.
Audi plans to launch at least one plug-in hybrid model a year.
Benz will roll out 10 new plug-in hybrids by 2017.
Daimler board member Dr Thomas Weber says, “The plug-in hybrid is an investment
in the future of Mercedes-Benz and we believe it will become established as the
successful technology for maximum efficiency coupled with powerful dynamic
Rival Audi plans to launch at least one plug-in hybrid model a year, while BMW
has launched the i3 and i8 plug-ins already.
Porsche has plug-in versions of the Cayenne hybrid and Panamera sedan and its
918 sports car is also a plug-in. Research and development head Wolfgang Hatz is
a fan of the technology.
Where does the hydrogen come from?
“I believe that plug-in is a very nice technology. You can drive locally
emissions-free,” Hatz says. “We have the SUV, the sedan and the sports car. So
in each market we are present we have a concept.”
He says fuel-cell vehicles aren’t on the company’s radar. “I don’t think a 911
hydrogen fuel-cell car is the right answer. My doubt is, where does the hydrogen
Critics of fuel-cell vehicles point out that the most affordable way to produce
hydrogen is through fracking, which creates questions about environmental
friendliness. On the other hand, many argue electric cars plugged in to a grid
powered by coal are no better than petrol cars.
So is the proposed Lexus the first hydrogen car? No, it should also be
remembered that Honda released its FCV some years ago called the FCX Clarity.
Production began in June 2008. It was introduced in Japan in November 2008. The
FCX Clarity was available for lease in the U.S., Japan and Europe. In the U.S.,
it is only available to customers who live in Southern California where several
hydrogen fuel stations are available. As of 2010, 20 FCX Clarity cars were
leased for US$600 a month, which included collision coverage, maintenance,
roadside assistance and hydrogen fuel. In 2014 Honda announced the end of
production of the FCX Clarity for the 2015 model. From 2008 to 2014, Honda
leased a total of 45 FCX units in the US. There are around 10 others on lease in
Japan and another 10 in Europe. In 2010, it was reported that there are a total
of 50 FCX Clarity available for lease in the U.S.
However, before that, there was the BMW Hydrogen 7. The BMW Hydrogen 7 was a
limited production hydrogen vehicle built from 2005-2007 by BMW. The car was
based on BMW’s traditional gasoline powered BMW 7 Series (E65) line of vehicles,
and more specifically the 760Li. It uses the same 6 liter V-12 motor as does the
760i and 760Li; however, it has been modified to also allow for the combustion
of hydrogen as well as gasoline, making it a biofuel engine. Unlike many other
current hydrogen powered vehicles like those being produced by Honda, General
Motors, and Daimler AG - which use fuel cell technology and hydrogen to produce
electricity to power the vehicle - the BMW Hydrogen 7 burns the hydrogen in an
internal combustion engine.
Once again, further development has been stymied through a lack of
infrastructure. There are more “top up” stations for battery cars than for
hydrogen cars, so the plug-in is much more viable than pure hydrogen cars.
Koenigsegg Regera tops 1119 kW and 2000 Nm and accelerates to 400 km/h in 20sec.
The new Regera hybrid hypercar boasts a combined petrol-electric output of more
than 1119 kW of power and 2000 Nm of torque, making it the “fastest
accelerating, most powerful production car ever”.
The new car was displayed at the Geneva Motor Show, and just 80 examples of the
Regera will be hand-built at the company’s Angelholm production facility in
Sweden, but Koenigsegg said in a release that the number 80 also represents “the
principle of domination, control and achievement in Pythagorean Numerology”.
(These PR jocks leave me speechless at times!)
Koenigsegg’s twin-turbo aluminium 5.0 liter V8 powers the 1628 kg two-seater,
pumping out 821kW and 1250 Nm.
Three YASA-developed electric motors - one 180 kW/260 Nm on each rear wheel and
another 160 kW/300 Nm motor on the crankshaft - supplement the energy from the
internal combustion engine and allows for torque vectoring, regenerative braking
and “extreme” driver response.
According to Koenigsegg, the electric motors make up the “most powerful
electrical motor set-up in production car history”.
A hybrid-specific transmission, invented by the founder and dubbed the
Koenigsegg Direct Drive transmission (KDD), directs drive to the rear axle
without the need for multiple gears, reducing drivetrain losses by up to 50
percent when compared with a regular automatic or continuously variable
A 9.27 kWh liquid-cooled battery pack feeds the motors that produce 520 kW/820
Nm. When paired with the internal combustion engine, the power tops out at more
than 1119 kW and 2000 Nm.
The performance is staggering. Zero to 100 km/h in 2.8 seconds, 150-250 km/h
takes 3.2 seconds, while 0-400 km/h is covered in less than 20 seconds. Top
speed is said to be more than 450 km/h, making the Bugatti Veyron quite
pedestrian by comparison.
The coupe can also be charged via a Type 2, mode 3 charging point, with the plug
hiding behind the registration plate at the rear. It also offers 50 km of
All body closures - including the doors, boot and bonnet and more - are
automatic, a feat the company says is a world first.
Wheels and tyres are 19 inch front and 20 inch rear, and other standard gear
includes power windows, adjustable pedals and steering column, leather interior,
six-way electronically adjustable carbon sports seats, carbon ceramic brakes,
tyre pressure monitoring system, leather interior, power folding wing mirrors
and a titanium exhaust system.
No need to rush, there’s not too many in this market!
Tesla introduce the ‘Buy Back’ program
Tesla has introduced a finance plan for its Model S luxury sedan, which
guarantees the resale value of its high-performance electric vehicles after
The American car-maker is offering to buy back any Model S purchased under the
Tesla Resale Value Guarantee program for at least half the price of a 60 kWh
variant after 36 months. That is equivalent to leasing with a 50 percent
residual after three years.
There are some catches (there always are) as the full guarantee value is only
offered for vehicles that have covered fewer than 60,000 km and the Model S must
have been financed for a repayment term of between 36 and 60 months.
In Australia, the guarantee is the result of a deal struck between Tesla and
Australian finance provider Macquarie Leasing and offers a resale price “among
the highest of any premium sedan made in volume.”
Tesla Australia spokesperson Heath Walker said the finance and guaranteed value
package gives further peace of mind to Model S owners.
“Every car owner wants a fair and transparent financing program and an assurance
that their car will retain its value,” he said. “Only Model S gives us the
ability to combine that for them. I am proud that Tesla can offer Model S owners
increased confidence in the value of their purchase.”
Last week I noted that there was a very simple device stopping vehicles from
running backwards, seen in vintage cars. The same principle is used today in
automatic gearboxes. What was it called? It was called a “sprag”. Now that was
more difficult for the googlers!
So to this week. An easy one, what did Lt. Zebulon Pike do when he got to the
top of Pike’s Peak?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Automania - Update March 21, 2015
124 Spider from Maziat (or perhaps Fizda?)
Artist’s rendering of the Fiat 124 Spider 2015.
The long awaited sports car from Alfa Romeo, built on the Mazda MX-5 platform,
has gone through another name change. Now FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has
revealed that the new sports car will be sold as a Fiat and called the 124
Spider, resurrecting the name after 30 years. This was confirmed by FCA CEO
Sergio Marchionne at the Geneva Motor Show.
Three years ago the company confirmed that the fourth-generation MX-5 would form
the basis for a new European convertible, which at the time was expected to be
badged as an Alfa Romeo. However, it is now known the Mazda-based car will be a
Whilst the platform is derived from the new MX-5, the engines will be very
different between the Fiat version and the Mazda donor.
For its MX-5, Mazda will offer two engines with a choice of 1.5 liter or 2.0
liter SkyActiv naturally aspirated four-cylinders, but it is expected that power
for the new Fiat roadster will be sourced from within FCA powertrain ranks.
This includes the 1.4 liter T-Jet turbocharged four-cylinder (found in the
Abarth 595) and the 179 kW 1.7 liter in the Alfa Romeo 4C and Giulietta QV.
The chassis of both vehicles will share a majority of design features, but the
skin will look very distinct, with the Fiat including nostalgic echoes of the
124 roadster of the 1960s.
The last Fiat to sport the 124 Spider badge was only available in Europe and the
United States from the mid 60s to mid 80s and had the simple front-engine,
rear-wheel drive roadster recipe - the formula Fiat is expected to return to for
the new 124 Spider.
Little else is known about the new European roadster, but with the Mazda MX-5
launching later in the year, Fiat’s 124 Spider could be revealed some time in
2016, although a 'concept' could precede it.
More rubbish from the FIA
The Federation International de l’Automobile (FIA) is re-arranging the
deckchairs on the Titanic yet again. This time bringing in legislation that the
drivers cannot change their helmet design during the course of the 2015 season.
It must be wonderful knowing that everything else is hunky-dory, so they can now
look at the final major problems like helmet design. Very shortly I expect a
bulletin detailing what color socks may be worn on GP weekends.
A good friend (who can remain nameless just in case the FIA starts a witch hunt)
gave me a copy of Scrutineer Technical Documents. Just simply amazing! There is
even a formula to show how high the sides of the racing boot must be to remain
legal. And for those of you waiting with bated breath, it is 0.15 x length + 7.5
And if you ever wondered at the number of officials in the pits, they are made
up of the following:
Tyre allocation team 2
Initial scrutineering team 6
Garage scrutineers 6
Tyre checkers 10
Weighing platform scrutineers 5
Pushing car marshals 6
Fire Marshals 2
Chief scrutineer 1
I’ll add them up for you - that’s 38!
Now what the scrutineers check for includes seeing the car number on the
driver’s helmet and that leg padding is 25 mm thick. Wow!
Technology or styling the way forward
In 1993, energy technologist Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute
suggested that major automakers could use existing materials and technologies to
produce an ultra-lightweight, highly fuel-efficient vehicle. The ‘supercar’ he
envisioned would incorporate lightweight plastics, computerized controls, and a
hybrid powerplant. It would weigh roughly 500 kg and achieve well over 150 miles
per gallon. Lovins felt it would, however, need a revolution in the industry to
change the engineering concepts of ‘power’, rather than ‘weight’.
But as lightweight materials have become cheaper to manufacture and use, their
adoption in production cars has become more widespread. Magnesium and aluminium
alloys created car parts that were cost-competitive with conventional
components. An example is that BMW uses a magnesium block and they took 10 kg
off the weight of the engine alone, obviously a major gain and also lowered the
car's centre of gravity by 25 mm so it improved handling.
BMW are not alone in the weight loss department. Bentley have produced the new
Supersports, which boasts a zero to 100 km/h time of 3.9 seconds, despite its
weight of 2240 kg. However, this all-up weight is over 110 kg lighter than the
base model Bentley (if there ever is such a thing as a “base model” Bentley)!
It was the late Colin Chapman who really applied the light weight concept to F1
cars many decades ago, and the Bentley exercise shed weight by firstly tossing
out the rear seats (26 kg saved), then another 45 kg was saved by replacing the
sumptuous leather front seats with new carbon fiber bucket seats (sourced from
the Bugatti Veyron). Carbon fiber disc brakes saved another 39 kg.
The Supersports features the same twin turbo 6.0 liter W12 (ex-VW) engine to
other Continental models, but the boost pressure has been increased to produce
463 kW at 6000 rpm and 800 Nm of torque at 1700-5600 rpm. Look back at the BMW
concept which has 265 kW and 800 Nm of torque in total and, since it weighs only
1395 kg, as opposed to the 2240 kg of the Bentley, which one will you put your
money on for a standing start 400 meters? Well, I hope you did put your money on
the Bentley which covers zero to 100 kph in 3.9 seconds, but the BMW is no
slouch either having a 0-100 kph times of 4.8 seconds, despite giving away 200
kW to the Bentley.
Amory Lovins’ concept was made public over 20 years ago, but the technology
direction he proposed has now been shown to be on the right track (and that’s
not racing track, but the everyday highways). Hybrids are definitely here, and
Toyota and Honda are expanding this technology throughout the range of their
vehicles (take a look at the tail end of the next Camry you see - it just might
Fuel economy is becoming increasingly important in a world that is afraid of
crude oil shortages and increasing prices as the world’s economic crisis
hopefully passes. For example, BMW’s Vision ED will return 3.8 litres per 100
km. The production BlueZero vehicles from Mercedes-Benz are also under 5 litres
per 100 km, as are VW’s Blue Motion range.
The winds of change are upon us. Stylists are less important. Engineers are more
important, and technology will reign supreme.
What did we learn from the Australian Grand Prix?
Well, in the days before the race weekend we found we had the incredible
situation in the Sauber garage with three drivers and two seats playing musical
chairs. By Friday and the first practice session the music was still playing as
the drivers ran around the available chairs. Then, Sauber having lost the court
case, the third driver was threatening to press contempt of court charges which
would see the Down-Under heavies confiscate the whole Sauber shooting match and
the imprisonment of Monisha Kaltenborn, the person at the top of the Sauber
Grand Prix package. At the last minute on the Friday, the aggrieved driver, who
had won the case in both Switzerland and Australia, backed down from his threats
and Sauber could finally race, using the two pay drivers. How much did that cost
Meanwhile, in the “Manor” garage, the mechanics were still trying to get their
(last year’s) car started, as someone had forgotten the electronic ignition
keys! This team was called Marussia last year and raced at most of the Grands
Prix till it ran out of folding green. Saved by a white knight at the start of
this year, it was told by the FIA they could run last year’s cars until they
were able to build a new one (which would have been last year’s anyway, with a
new color scheme). So there they were, transporters, race cars, two drivers (as
opposed to Sauber’s team of three), spares, stop watches and everything else,
and they didn’t have the software needed to start the engines. So this team,
which was already down to its bootstraps, wasted all that money and never turned
a wheel in anger!
But the farce didn’t end there. Two of the race cars did not manage to complete
the warm-up lap from the pits to the grid.
Kevin Magnussen, driving the McLaren Honda (in place of the recuperating
Fernando Alonso) popped his multi-million dollar engine after half a lap, so was
a non-starter for the race. Someone at Honda will be committing ritual Hara-kiri
over this, using a bent con-rod as the implement of destruction. However,
Engineer-San will have some explaining to do first!
Joining Magnussen on the sidelines was the Russian Red Bull driver Daniil Kvyat
who lost fifth gear on his way to the grid. “It was there, when we gave him the
car, asserted the mechanics.” Team Boss Christian Horner will need a shed load
of Christian charity over that one.
And I don’t need to remind you that this is the pinnacle of world motor sport,
and not the five lap dash for old bangers at Bira.
For the cars that actually made it to the start, the race began with the two
Ferraris hitting each other and cannoning into Pastor Maldonado in the “Lotus”,
who promptly ended his race at the second corner. Pastor never needs
encouragement to park his car in the wall. At last count that is the third time
he has done that in four races in Australia. But it is amazing just how much
forgiveness $50 million buys you!
Other interesting items included Kimi Raikkonen ‘s retirement on lap 30 with his
loose left rear wheel. This came after the crew had trouble screwing on the
wheel nut at the pit stop.
Oh yes, I almost forgot with all the excitement - the two Mercedes cars were
first and second, Lewis Hamilton from Nico Rosberg, and the remaining nine
finishers were nowhere. Third placed Vettel (remember him? The Finger) was 35
seconds behind the winner and 11th (and last) was Jenson Button in the McLaren
Honda two laps behind.
Let us hope that next week’s Malaysian GP is better.
When are the GP’s being telecast?
Unsure of the telecast time? Here is the Formula 1 Calendar 2015, with local
Thai time, to make it easy for you to arrange your Sundays.
||Malaysia Grand Prix
||Chinese Grand Prix
||Bahrain Grand Prix
||Spanish Grand Prix
||Monaco Grand Prix
||Canadian Grand Prix
||Austrian Grand Prix
||British Grand Prix
||German Grand Prix
||Hungarian Grand Prix
||Belgian Grand Prix
||Italian Grand Prix
||Singapore Grand Prix
||Japanese Grand Prix
||Russian Grand Prix
||United States GP
||Mexican Grand Prix
||Brazilian Grand Prix
||Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Last week I noted that Daimler (1946) and Packard (1948) had something in
common. What was it? Daimler was the first to use them, and Packard was the
first large-scale user of them. It was electric windows!
So to this week. There was a very simple device stopping vehicles from running
backwards, seen in vintage cars. The same principle is used today in automatic
gearboxes. What was it called?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Automania - Update March 14, 2015
F1 season kicks off this weekend
The first race of the season begins in Melbourne Australia this weekend. Only
now will we see just how good or otherwise the teams really are.
McLaren have had a dreadful official testing over the last couple of months, and
the following statistics table may surprise some of you.
Last time I checked the race time in Melbourne, the organizers were still saying
the starting time was to be confirmed. However, I believe it should be noon our
Bangkok International Motor Show
Our Motor Show.
It’s that time of year again, when Bangkok is in the spotlight with our own
International Motor Show. This motor show is the one accredited by the
Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles (OICA) for Thailand,
and is for the manufacturers to display their models, more than the dealers. It
is being held at the Challenger Halls 1-3, Impact Muang Thong Thani. Public
dates are March 25 to April 5.
I will be present for the Press Day (March 24) and will be featuring some of the
more interesting vehicles over the next few weeks in this column.
No longer a hairdresser’s car!
Audi's new second-generation R8 supercar has received an online unveiling ahead
of the car's official debut at the Geneva motor show next month.
The new model is lighter, faster and sharper than before and unlike the original
R8 will only be available with a V10 engine from launch.
Powering the new R8 is a mid-mounted, dry-sumped and naturally aspirated
5.2-liter V10 that is carried over from the outgoing model but boosted from 386
kW/530 Nm to 397 kW/540 Nm in standard form, resulting in a claimed 0-100 km/h
time of 3.5 seconds.
The quicker V10 Plus model uses the same 449 kW/560 Nm unit as the Lamborghini
Huracan, and matches the Lambo's 3.2 second 0-100 km/h time.
The engine isn't the only part of the R8 shared with the new Huracan either. The
new multi-material space-frame platform is also derived from the V10
The R8's passenger cell is a hybrid structure made from a combination of
lightweight aluminium and carbon fiber which weighs just 200 kg, allowing for a
bodyshell that's 15 percent lighter than before.
The B-pillar, transmission tunnel and rear bulkhead are all made from carbon
fiber reinforced plastics, while the roof and structural framework are made from
The result is a body structure that is 40 per cent torsionally stronger than
before in the previous R8.
Like the outgoing model, the new R8 uses an S-Tronic 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox
and Quattro all-wheel drive system which can now send up to 100 percent of the
V10's torque to either end.
The new model looks essentially the same as the old model with the exception of
width - it is now around 11 mm wider.
The overall shape hasn't changed dramatically either, but sharper lines give it
a significantly more muscular appearance.
The first-generation R8 coupe's trademark contrasting ‘sideblades’ have been
included but are now much smaller and only cover the side air intakes.
The new model also features a more significant aerodynamic package with an
aggressive rear diffuser, and fixed carbon fiber wing on V10 Plus models.
As standard the new R8 rides on 19 inch alloys with 245/35 front and 295/35 rear
tyres which hide unique weight-saving wave-shaped steel brake discs while carbon
ceramic discs are fitted to the V10 Plus.
The interior has also received a thorough makeover, featuring a new Audi
TT-style wing-shaped dashboard and fully digital instrument display with
There is also a new sports steering wheel with engine start/stop and drive mode
select buttons. The V10 Plus model gets a further two buttons, one for
controlling the sports exhaust system and another rotary dial for selecting dry,
wet and snow programs for the stability control system.
Like other Audi Quattro models, the R8 features four different driving modes
which vary the throttle response, gear shift speed, steering weight and damper
stiffness if adaptive suspension is specified.
Modes include comfort, auto, dynamic and individual, which allows drivers to
select their ideal combination.
GM to restructure in Thailand, seeks worker separations
General Motors intends to restructure in Thailand, as it will phase out
production and sales of the Chevrolet Sonic vehicle and sales of the Chevrolet
Spin and will launch a voluntary separation program for all salaried and hourly
GM has already announced it will stop producing vehicles in Indonesia, shutter
its Bekasi plant and cut 500 jobs by the end of June, and said the restructuring
in Thailand includes its corporate office in Bangkok and manufacturing plants in
Rayong. GM did not immediately say how many employees it hopes to see
voluntarily leave. It has 3,200 at its Rayong plant.
“We must accelerate the transformation of our operations in Southeast Asia,
particularly Thailand given the sluggish domestic market demand, by implementing
changes to increase customer satisfaction and our competitiveness, speed up all
processes and put us in a better position to achieve future growth,” Tim
Zimmerman, president of GM Southeast Asia Operations, said.
GM said it responding to market trends and customer demand for the Chevrolet
Colorado truck, Trail Blazer and Captiva SUVs and Cruze compact car. Those
vehicles total more than 75 percent of Chevy sales in Thailand and 95 percent of
GM Thailand exports. GM has also said it is withdrawing participation in
Thailand’s Eco Car Phase 2 program.
Stefan Jacoby, president of GM International said, “We are focusing our
investments where the opportunity for GM’s growth is the greatest. We have made
solid progress in our region, and this decision is an important part of this
(It would appear, on the surface, that an optimist will be someone who brings
his lunch to work!)
Lamborghini announces Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce
Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce.
Another stratospheric supercar was announced at the Geneva motor show in March.
Called the Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce, it is a special edition of the
existing Aventador. The 750 in the name comes from the 750 horsepower thumping
out of its V12 engine, while the Superveloce simply means “high-speed”. It is
fitting, as Lamborghini only gives that label to its most extreme, track focused
cars as a swan song for a model at the end of its production run.
On top of its increased power, the Aventador Superveloce is lighter and has
better aerodynamics which results in the ability to accelerate from 0-100km/h in
2.8 seconds, with a top speed of more than 350km/h. Or as its maker puts it:
“The fastest and most emotional series production Lamborghini ever.”
To reduce weight, carbon fiber has been used extensively throughout, with the
car seats and door panels now made from carbon. To further reduce weight, the
infotainment system has been thrown out, so has the carpets and certain noise
This is another pseudo-road car, which is really only for the race track.
Wait for the Daihatfeng
Japanese carmaker Daihatsu Motor is to supply fuel-efficient engines to Dongfeng
Motor. China's second-largest state-run carmaker apparently wants to use the
engines to capture demand for subcompacts that meet coming exhaust regulations.
This will be the first time for Daihatsu, a Toyota Group company, to supply
engines to a carmaker outside the Toyota family. Under the plan, Daihatsu will
supply about 50,000 engines from its Indonesian plant to the Chinese automaker,
based in Hubei Province, sometime this year.
Daihatsu and Dongfeng are in final negotiations, the sources said. Daihatsu is
expected to provide 1,000 cc or so engines for Dongfeng's DFSK subcompact,
according to the sources. The cars are expected to get more than 20 km to a
liter of gasoline.
The Chinese government plans to raise fuel-efficiency standards for passenger
cars to the same levels as in Japan and European countries by 2020. As such,
major Chinese carmakers are moving to buy fuel-efficient engines from more
technologically advanced foreign automakers.
This will be the second time for Daihatsu to send engines from its Indonesian
plant to a Chinese automaker. It already has a contract to supply about 100,000
engines a year to the FAW Group, China's largest state-owned automaker, based in
Jilin Province. FAW is a Toyota partner.
Daihatsu also supplies subcompacts to Toyota in Indonesia. Even though Dongfeng
competes against Toyota, Daihatsu wants to boost output at its Indonesian plant,
which Daihatsu thinks will benefit the Toyota Group as a whole.
In addition, Daihatsu is negotiating to supply engines to Beijing-based carmaker
BAIC Group, according to the sources. BAIC has a close relationship with German
automaker Daimler AG.
Since I own both a Dongfeng and a Daihatsu, I think I should be eligible for
some sort of an award!
Last week I noted that the name “Mercedes” came from the daughter of Monsieur
Jellinek, the distributor of Daimler-Benz cars. There was another woman who lent
her name to a new line of sports cars in the early 1950’s. What was the sports
car? It was the Doretti, Italianizing the lady whose name was Dorothy.
So to this week. Daimler (1946) and Packard (1948) had something in common. What
was it? Daimler was the first to use them, and Packard was the first large-scale
user of them.
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Automania - Update March 7, 2015
2015 Nitto 3K season kicks off at Bira
Close company in the Retro class.
The local promoters are well into the organization of the 2015 meetings. This
weekend is the first Nitto 3K meeting and we will be running in the Retro class
in the TBX Mk 1 Ford Escort.
This class has been dominated by the BMW E30s, with a couple of very quick
BeeEmms from Urs Schonenberger’s stable. Representing the Japanese
manufacturers, Mark Titterington has an indecently fast Toyota DX and will be
the man to watch.
Our Escort is basically as it was when we raced at the new F1 circuit in Buriram
in December, but we did have to replace the clutch and flywheel. As a bit of a
Chinese New Year present we have repainted the Escort with white over blue,
similar to the colors we used in 1981 when my friend John English and I raced
Mk1 Escorts for the biggest Ford dealership in the Southern hemisphere at that
time. If you are into nostalgia follow this link
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEyl9En9oFE. The Escorts were up against the
best V8s that were the top cars in the category at that time, and we were the
first “little” cars home in 5th and 6th places.
Come and visit us in the pits on the Sunday afternoon. Our races are scheduled
for 3 p.m. and 3.45 p.m. but they never seem to be able to run to time!
Tesla scores best in the US again!
The American Consumer Reports magazine has been going in the USA for around 80
years. Each year they poll their readers as to the reliability and satisfaction
from the various cars on sale in the US. In 2013 it was the new Tesla S that
topped the poll, and it was the Tesla S that topped the poll again in 2014.
Consumer Reports had this to say about the Tesla. “For all of the impressive new
vehicles released in 2014, none was able to eclipse the innovation,
magnificence, and sheer technological arrogance of the Tesla. That’s why it’s
our best overall pick for the second consecutive year. Through the course of
their life cycles, cars become obsolete quickly as newer models appear with
updated gizmos. But with Tesla’s over-the-air software updates, a Model S that
came off the line in 2013 has many of the same new features as one built today.
Despite the Tesla’s teething problems at launch, our subscriber reports showed
average reliability. The Model S is a technological tour de force, a
high-performance electric vehicle with usable real-world range, wrapped in a
The Vulcan - a triumph of technology and absolute failure of reason
Aston Martin Vulcan.
At the Geneva motor show Aston Martin revealed its latest offering, the Vulcan.
This is an 800 BHP supercar which defies all reason. You can use it at the track
- but you can’t drive it there. Yes, that is correct - you cannot road-register
this exclusive car. It is an expensive toy for rich boys. Very rich boys.
Uniquely for Aston Martin the new supercar - limited to just 24 examples
worldwide - will allow owners the opportunity to precisely tailor their track
day experience through a graduating scale of detailed power and dynamic
CEO, Dr Andy Palmer, said, “Aston Martin Vulcan is, by its very nature, a rare
and thrilling supercar. Designed and engineered to deliver a genuinely bespoke
driving experience that draws on our rich heritage, this car tailors its power
and handling to both the capabilities of the driver and the characteristics of
“A sports car for true sports car lovers, I believe the Aston Martin Vulcan -
and the unique ownership program that sits behind it - sets a whole new standard
in the ultra-high luxury supercar class.”
Styled entirely in-house by the Aston Martin design team led by Chief Creative
Officer Marek Reichman, and with a design language hinting at the next
generation of Aston Martin sports cars, this supercar is powered by the most
potent iteration yet of the company’s naturally-aspirated, 7.0 liter V12 petrol
Utilising the techniques of world-class motorsport engineering, the supercar
sees its power-to-weight ratio exceed those of the GTE cars which compete in the
FIA’s annual World Endurance Championship.
Comprising cutting edge engineering including that sourced from the brand’s
successful GT racing campaign, the car features a carbon fibre monocoque and
body constructed by Aston Martin’s long-term specialist body engineering and
manufacturing partner Multimatic, integral limited-slip differential, magnesium
torque tube with carbon fiber propeller shaft and Brembo racing calipers acting
on carbon ceramic racing disc brakes which measure 380mm in diameter at the
front and 360mm at the rear.
Drive is channeled to the 345/30 x19 rear wheels and Michelin race specification
tyres through a race-bred rear mid-mounted Xtrac six-speed sequential shift
Track-derived pushrod suspension with anti-dive geometry is complemented by
Multimatic’s Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve (DSSV) adjustable dampers and
anti-roll bars front and rear, driver-adjustable anti-lock braking, and variable
This new track car will comply with all relevant FIA race safety requirements.
Aston Martin’s Director of Special Projects and Motorsport, David King, said:
“Taking the extensive learning from our various successful racing programs and
applying it to this exceptional track car for customers has been an exciting and
sometimes challenging task for the team here at Gaydon.
“Our deep and broad motorsport experience, allied to our renowned road car
expertise, has allowed us to make the Aston Martin Vulcan the absolutely
compelling proposition it is today.”
Prior to taking delivery of their cars, the 24 new owners will be offered the
opportunity to take part in an extensive and detailed program of intensive track
Experienced racers including Aston Martin Racing’s Le Mans-winning Darren Turner
will support owners on their learning journey, offering them the chance to
refine their track driving technique and increase their ability through a
carefully-constructed series of practical and theoretical driver training
Using a number of exciting high performance Aston Martins including the V12
Vantage S and One-77 road cars and the Vantage GT4 race car, customers will
gradually build experience and develop their track technique, before beginning
their thrilling personal journeys into the immense performance potential of
their Aston Martin Vulcan.
David King said, “We will be running a series of exclusive track day events
commencing in 2016 that will offer the opportunity for these customers to
explore their driving capabilities, and the car’s performance potential, on some
of the world’s most famous and glamorous race circuits.”
There will also be the option of time in the virtual race car world of Darren
Turner’s Base Performance Simulators, where buyers will have ample opportunity
to further refine their driving style in the safety of the digital race track.
No longer the exclusive preserve of Formula 1, it is widely acknowledged that
using a simulator can help prepare a driver for any race; improving technique
and consistency as well as, ultimately, lap times.
Almost infinitely flexible in terms of color and trim options, the exclusive new
sports car will be offered to buyers through Aston Martin’s VIP sales program,
using the expertise and luxury customer service that is now a hallmark of the
brand’s ‘Q by Aston Martin’ bespoke personalization service.
Dr Palmer added, “We have already received strong interest from the customers we
have spoken to about Aston Martin Vulcan.
“The cars will blend our traditional Aston Martin values of Power, Beauty and
Soul with an unrivalled ownership experience; a unique combination that will
guarantee their place in the brand’s rich and charismatic history.”
Performance data, together with further technical details about the
ultra-exclusive track-only supercar, will be released closer to its track debut
later this year.
So when you look at this whole thing dispassionately, it is obvious that this is
a marketing exercise to appeal to the very rich. A car to have to say, “Look at
me.” A car that most of the 24 owners will not be able to drive properly, and at
least one will end up deserted in a desert somewhere.
There is nothing “pure” about this car. Aston Martin and all the DB models are
being cheapened by this car they have called the Vulcan. And a car, despite Dr.
Palmers assertion that it has “traditional Aston Martin values of Power, Beauty
and Soul”, I would beg to differ. It is an example of failure of reason. It has
Last week I noted that there was a sports car which was a hit, but was canned by
the group which had just bought out the entire company because the engine came
from another manufacturer. What was it? Clue: 1964-1967. It was the Sunbeam
Tiger, something like a British Ford Cobra with its UK chassis and a Ford V8
engine shoehorned into the engine bay. Unfortunately, the Sunbeam name was part
of the Rootes Group, and when this was sold to Chrysler, they did not want a
Ford product powering one of their cars.
So to this week. The name “Mercedes” came from the daughter of Monsieur
Jellinek, the distributor of Daimler-Benz cars. There was another woman who lent
her name to a new line of sports cars in the early 1950s. What was the sports
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Automania - Update March 1, 2015
New Ford GT to be built in Canada
New Ford GT.
The born-again Ford supercar, to be built in small numbers in Canada; could be
headed for Le Mans.
The Blue Oval's new-generation Ford GT will be built in smaller numbers than
expected in Canada by the company’s long-standing motor racing partner
The announcement was made at the Toronto motor show, where Ford said the new GT
will enter low-volume production at Multimatic in Ontario next year, increasing
speculation the company intends to return to the Le Mans 24 Hour in 2016.
Ford said it reinvented the GT to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its 1966
LeMans win. Those cars were known as Ford GT 40, but at some stage Ford let the
GT 40 name go, and was unwilling to buy it back at the high price asked for it.
Boardroom decision was then to call the new iteration, the Ford GT. Multimatic
has worked with Ford since 1992 and was part of the team that won the LMP675
class in the 2000 LeMans race.
US reports say only a few hundred examples of the Ford GT, a ‘liquid silver’
version of which was also shown overnight at the Chicago show, will be built
annually in Canada, priced well over $US200,000 apiece.
Multimatic has 12 manufacturing facilities in five countries, including the US,
UK, China, Mexico and Canada.
Based around a carbon-fibre tub and wrapped in carbon-fiber bodywork, the new
Ford GT made its surprise world debut at the Detroit motor show last month.
Powered by a circa 450 kW twin-turbo 3.5 liter V6, it was designed by Ford
Australia design chief Todd Willing and features aluminium pushrod suspension,
active aerodynamics and dihedral doors.
The new GT super-coupe is one of 12 Ford Performance models the Blue Oval has
promised to deliver, starting with the new Focus RS, F-150 Raptor and Mustang GT
I spoke with a senior Ford executive last week, who has seen the new GT and who
said it was just stunning. It certainly looks fantastic in the photographs, but
is even better in the flesh.
Ford produced just over 4000 examples of its last GT between 2005 and 2006.
Volvo tries on a new face
Volvo has had the global launch of the new XC90 SUV - a model
the company describes as its most important since the debut of the original
version 13 years ago.
Volvo these days is owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group who acquired
the Swedish car maker in 2010.
The redesigned seven-seat wagon is an all-new model, being the first to use
Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform, its Sensus advanced
connectivity system, various new active safety features and additions to its
Drive-E powertrain family including a new ‘twin engine’ plug-in hybrid.
Volvo Car Group product manager Lars Lagstrom said the new model builds on the
reputation of the well-received original with significant improvements to ride,
handling and safety technology. “The first XC90 was a revolution and we had a
totally new approach to SUVs,” he said. “We have kept that heritage and gone one
step further with a more ‘unicentric’ approach.”
“We have all the safety features in, even more than we have ever had, and much
more strength and refinement. We have done a completely new platform, and had
the opportunity to have the most modern front and rear suspension to get the
optimal ride and handling agility that everyone is looking for in this segment.”
Lagstrom claims the XC90 is the first genuine seven-seat - as opposed to
five-plus-two-seat - SUV in the world to offer a plug-in hybrid powertrain, and
added that it was benchmarked against the Mercedes ML-Class, BMW X5 and Audi Q7.
The XC90 line-up will consist of seven variants made up of three new
specification grades and three four-cylinder powertrain choices from Volvo’s
Drive-E engine family.
The all-new four-cylinder lineup starts with the 2.0 liter D5 twin-turbo-diesel,
producing 165 kW at 4250 rpm and 470 Nm between 1750-2500 rpm, resulting in
0-100 km/h in 7.8 seconds.
The T6 petrol is also a 2.0 liter, but it is supercharged as well as
turbocharged and delivers 235 kW at 5700 rpm and 400 Nm from 2200-5400 rpm for a
0-100 km/h time of 6.5 seconds.
Volvo’s T8 plug-in hybrid combines the T6 petrol engine with a 60 kW/240 Nm
electric motor and a 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery for a combined output of 294 kW
and 640 Nm.
The hybrid can cover 0-100 km/h acceleration of 5.9 seconds, and it is naturally
the lowest consumption of the three powertrains, with a combined fuel
consumption figure of 2.5 liters per 100 kilometers.
The other options offer strong economy figures of 7.7 L/100 km for the T6 petrol
and 5.7 L/100 km for the diesel.
Every variant offers an all-wheel drive layout and is matched with a new
Aisin-Warner eight-speed automatic transmission.
The electric motor is located over the rear axle while the battery is positioned
in the central tunnel, which Volvo claims has not impacted cabin space.
A new double-wishbone set-up is used at the front, with two transverse links to
attach the wheel to the car, which Volvo says helps improve cornering, as well
as reducing bodyroll, understeer and torque steer.
At the rear end the XC90 uses an integral link axle with new lightweight
transverse leaf springs replacing the outgoing model’s coil springs.
T8 variants gain a few features unique to the hybrid, including a ‘pre-
conditioning’ system that allows drivers to cool the drivetrain, battery or
cabin from within the car or via a smartphone app.
Standard equipment includes keyless start, auto-dimming interior and exterior
mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, daytime running lights, LED headlights with active
high-beam and ‘active bending’, power tailgate, roof rails, cruise control,
sat-nav and 19 inch alloy wheels.
In terms of safety, the XC90 gets a parking assist camera, front and rear
parking sensors, lane-departure warning, collision mitigation system, hill-start
assist and a road-sign recognition system.
Volvo is certainly attempting to win back some of the drivers of previous
Volvo’s, but for me, the XC90 looks very staid, but then so did older Volvo’s.
Scrappage - is this the way to go?
Many years ago, to buy a new vehicle in Singapore, you had to hand in another
vehicle for scrap. This was done to keep the motor car population at sensible
levels in the small island state. Of course, the question was ‘what do you do if
you haven’t got a car to scrap’? The simple answer was that the dealer would
supply it, to comply with the regulations, and you drove away in your new
A similar incentive scheme has being offered in Europe for vehicles more than
nine years old, but not to keep the number of cars down, but to stimulate new
car sales, with an additional spin-off that the new cars have to be ‘greener’
than their ten year old forebears.
Sales in Germany rebounded in response to the $100 billion government program
offering a scrappage bonus of about $5000 for cars over nine years old and this
has also been followed by some other countries which are offering similar
subsidies to boost sales of new cars. However, like many government ideas, I am
told the scrappage system just died a quiet death!
Thailand’s answer to boost new car sales was the rebate scheme for first cars
and in the eco-car category. This looked as if it were a winner, but like so
many things here, nobody quite thought it through. A mad scramble at the dealers
and cars driven away, to be repossessed later as the new owner could not afford
the monthly payments. What this did was artificially boost new car production,
which then went flat in the following years. It also killed the secondhand
market, to the stage that secondhand vehicles can be bought for next to nothing,
and the used car yards are still hurting.
No, government intervention has rarely assisted the common man.
Last week I asked what car was going to be called “Goat Poo” in Italian? (They
did change the name which was Caprino, before mass production!) It was then
released as the Ford Cortina.
So to this week. There was a sports car which was a hit, but was canned by the
group which had just bought out the entire company because the engine came from
another manufacturer. What was it? Clue: 1964-1967.
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