Automania - Update May 30, 2015
Nitto 3K Kumho Race Meeting this weekend at Bira
Dr. Iain at the wheel of the 1973 TBX Retro Mk 1
The local series, sponsored by Nitto and Kumho tyres, and 3 K batteries, has its
second round of the six round championship at the Bira circuit on Highway 36
Many different classes will be competing, ranging from highly modified sedans to
eco-cars, pick-ups and my group, the Retro cars (pre 1985 sedans).
Plenty of action over both Saturday (qualifying and heats) and Sunday
(championship races). Come and see us in the pits, there is a bridge over the
circuit from the grandstand, and get a photograph of yourself with the car that
you remember from the early 70s.
In the first round in March we chased a mysterious misfire, which turned out to
be a petrol pump that decided it wouldn’t! That puts us a little behind the
8-ball, but there are five more rounds, so we can make up the leeway. Both the
crew and myself enjoy the challenges!
Our races on the Sunday will be sometime after lunch, but at the time this
article went to press the exact starting times were not available.
Ford fits their inflatable rear seatbelt to the all-new Mondeo
Ford’s inflatable seat belt.
Back in 2011, the Ford Explorer in North America was fitted with an inflatable
belt designed to reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear-seat passengers,
often children and the older group who are more vulnerable to such injuries.
This technology is now being fitted across the Mondeo range (which we may or may
not get in Thailand).
In the event of an accident, the belt rapidly expands to disperse crash forces
across a body area five times greater than that achieved by a conventional
Sensors trigger the release of compressed gas out of a cylinder housed below the
rear seat, through the buckle and into the belt.
The Inflatable Rear Seatbelt is fully deployed down the length of the lower side
of the seatbelt away from the face in less than 40 milliseconds.
The Inflatable Rear Seatbelts have been tested extensively using the Ford crash
test dummy family and it has been proven to offer extra protection over the
standard rear seatbelt system.
The inflatable belts operate like conventional seatbelts in everyday use and, in
Ford’s research, more than 90 percent of those who tested the inflatable
seatbelts found them to be similar to or more comfortable than a conventional
belt because they feel padded and softer.
Good idea Mr. Ford, but why stop at the Mondeo? I’m sure the Fiesta and the
Focus would benefit from this technology.
Another youngster on the motor racing way up
While I suppose people might think I’m on the way down,
here’s another local driver for you to look out for on the way up - James
Runacres. James is 20 and has been through the usual apprenticeship of
go-karting, even winning on his first outing in one.
Following expert advice that he has to move up from karting,
he has now commenced on the long climb to the top, with the ultimate being
Towards that end, James entered Asian Formula Renault (AFR)
this year, with the determination and support from existing formula drivers to
achieve a respectable placing, thus his ultimate acceptance into Formula 3,
Formula Renault 3.5 or BRDC F4.
If you are to aim for F1 (open wheel racing category) it is
best to start with an open wheel class, and this was why James joined Asia
Racing Team and has been entered in the Asian Formula Renault Series (AFR) which
consists of races across Asia.
The Asia Formula Renault Series is held between March and
November, with six large, widely promoted, extremely popular and well attended
events. The race meetings span between Zhuhai, Shanghai and Macau in China, and
Sepang in Malaysia.
James is a totally focused driver, regarding this sport as a
personal challenge to be better than the current winners and will not accept
anything but being the best. His performance is already very impressive within
this series, with lap times far better than those with greater experience at
The first race at Zhuhai, China in March, confirmed the
enormity of spectators attending the circuit and the extensive interest by the
Media in AFR. The race was televised across China and the rest of Asia, adding
to the exposure of all the sponsors involved.
James, being one of just a few European drivers, became a
central figure and now enjoys a massive following for a young driver. He
qualified 2nd for his first ever race in Formula Cars, posted fastest lap in the
race and second fastest in race 2, confirming that he is a driver whose going to
The following round of AFR in Sepang gave James an
opportunity to race on an F1 track and he managed 2nd in round 3 & 4, putting
him into a very strong 2nd in the Championship.
Like all levels in motor sport, AFR is expensive, and higher
up you go on the ladder, the more expensive it gets. For James, to run at the
top of AFR here is the breakdown of his costs:
|Formula Renault 2.0 entry cost
|Additional Practice days
|On Track and Personal Insurance
|Total for one years is then
|Bringing that to “real” money
||THB 3.9 million
Which brings James to see me, hoping I can help him find
sponsorship. For potential sponsors, the Asia Formula Renault Series is an
excellent opportunity to obtain exposure throughout the Far East, particularly
in China, Malaysia, Macau, Hong Kong and Singapore. Sponsors of the drivers
within this series are already reaping the results of these events, which being
its 16th Season, has an immense following of fans, both at the events and from
You can get more details from James himself
email: [email protected]
Instagram: http://instagram. com/jrunacres/
(I found him a very polite and pleasant young man with his
feet on the ground, rather than a head in the clouds. If you are a potential
corporate sponsor, I do suggest you look at his sponsorship proposal. But of
course, if all you want is to come along to local race meetings and have an ale
afterwards, there is an Mk 1 Ford Escort that would love to meet you!)
What did we learn from the Monaco GP?
Well, we learned, if we didn’t know already, that this track is quite unsuitable
for today’s F1 cars. Watching Hamilton (Mercedes) jumping the kerb and using all
the footpath trying to get past the car in front is surely enough evidence. And
who cares about B-list “personalities” I have never heard of. We line up in
front of TV sets all over the world to watch MOTOR RACING, not B-list models and
footballers. Did you get that, Bernie?
But back to the race that Hamilton won and Mercedes lost. After dominating
Qualifying and taking pole almost half a second quicker than his team mate
Rosberg, Hamilton had first almost in his grasp, until a pit wall cock-up took
the win from Hamilton and gifted it to Rosberg. However, motor racing is a
cut-throat game and a win is a win is a win. You never turn one down! The record
book only shows who actually crossed the finish line first, not who ‘should’
have crossed it first. He who was first became 3rd and the meek inherited the
earth or something like that.
Inheriting second, after the Mercedes mistake, was Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari),
laughing all the way to the bank. Or should I say Casino? His team mate,
laughing boy Kimi Raikkonen, ended up sixth behind the two Red Bulls, after Dan
Ricciardo (sponsored by toothpaste, or so the rumor goes) gave him a helping
hand towards the shrubbery. Kimi was less than amused.
The Red Bulls had an agreement that if the Colgate Kid could not get past
Hamilton, then he would hand the place back to Kvyat on the last lap, which he
did (unlike the days when Vettel and Webber had less than sporting agreements)!
Now comes the thorny question hanging over the 17 year old Dutchman Max
Verstappen who completely misjudged his position relative to another car,
ripping his front wheel off against Grosjean’s rear wheel and spearing into the
safety barrier. Was the lack of judgment because he was 17? Or not enough
experience? Or just bad luck? Or is he Mad Max after all? As can be pointed out,
many older and more experienced drivers have made bad judgments, so should we
just accept Verstappen’s incident as bad luck? According to the race stewards we
should not, they found Verstappen was at fault and he has been penalized five
grid places for the next GP.
A sterling drive was to come from Perez (Force India) into 7th place, avoiding
other cars, kerbs, Maldonado, B-listers and the odd paparazzi. Because he was
not bouncing off others we hardly saw him on the telecast, but he was there.
Similar fate with Nasr in the “Saubr”(?) 9th and Sainz 10th (Toro Rosso).
McLaren were shaking hands with themselves having two cars running in point
scoring positions, let’s forget about standing on a podium. Unfortunately,
Alonso’s gearbox decided not to give him any gears and he was once again a
non-finisher. However, Alonso said after the race, “We need to keep improving
the car to ensure these sorts of things don’t happen again. Still, having these
problems this year is good, because it means we won’t repeat them next year.”
Next year! The man’s a masochist.
As opposed to masochism, the supreme optimist has to be Pastor Maldonado
(“Lotus”), who lines up on the grid, thinking he will see a chequered flag. He
hasn’t all year and Monaco was to be no different. His sixth DNF in a row is
probably worth a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
Last week I asked which American racing car was named after a ground bird?
Really too easy again, but it is hard to find answers that can’t be ‘Googled’.
It was the Chaparral which is also known as the Road Runner (pursued hotly by
Wylie E Coyote with his latest device from the Acme company).
The Chaparrals (race cars) were certainly ahead of their time and were in the
early days of ground effects and wings - especially with their movable aerofoil
- though do remember that Mercedes had a movable “air brake” of the 300 SLR’s in
So to this week. In 1935 the 0-60 mph time of 8.8 seconds was set by a car with
a straight 8 engine and an American chassis. It was the fastest 0-60 in the
world. What was it?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Automania - Update May 23, 2015
Monaco Grand Prix
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.
Lucas di Grassi
Nelson Piquet Jnr
Antonio Felix da Costa
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
“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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
“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
“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.
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?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
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
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
What each owner seemed to want, the brand’s leader realized, was a car that was
“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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Automania - Update May 2, 2015
Maybe the sky isn’t the limit?
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
“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?
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
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
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
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,
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.
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