Where’s your spare key?
Grand Theft Auto.
The other Sunday, my 10 year old son asked for the car keys to get his homework
out of the boot. With admonishments not to lock the keys in the car, I began to
get suspicious when he had not returned with keys in hand after five minutes.
Wandering out to the car port I was met with a very nervous boy, armed with a
coat hanger, attempting to open the boot. Yes, keys locked in the boot and the
spare key? Yes, the spare key was lost by the previous owner, and I had meant to
get another one cut, but had not yet managed to do it.
Fortunately for my son’s physical health, I knew there was a roadside locksmith
about one km up the road and father (still angry) and son (tearful) set off on
Unfortunately we found he doesn’t work on Sundays, this information coming from
our local laundry lady, who said she would find someone else. (Laundry ladies
are wonderful people, they know all your innermost secrets, as well as
everything happening in the neighborhood.)
True to her word, she arrived on her motorcycle with a young lad on behind who
had a very thin wire and a pair of pliers. This was no graduate from a
locksmith’s apprenticeship, but probably more likely a graduate of the Cambodian
hot car enterprises.
In under 10 minutes he had the driver’s door open, giving us access to the
manual boot opener. Boot with the keys inside!
“Give him three hundred baht,” said Mrs. Laundry, whilst refusing my offer to
cover her time, fuel, local knowledge, etc. She knows now that I won’t take my
laundry to the opposition only two doors up!
Monday and I presented myself to the ‘real’ locksmith who ran me up a copy for
B. 150, so now where to put the spare?
My daughter suggested my work desk at home, but that doesn’t help me in
emergencies away from home. “Put it in the glove box,” one wag suggested.
The other suggestions were to leave it behind the bar at Jameson’s, or at a
local restaurant. However, the most intelligent suggestion was to zip-tie it
under the car where it would not be seen. That way the spare and the car would
always be together.
So now I am looking under the car to see if I can find a likely spot.
Any further suggestions are always welcome.
Force 1 puts 555 kW into the marketplace
VLF Force 1.
A new supercar was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in
Detroit. Called the Force 1, it shares the 555 kW/928 Nm 8.4 liter V10 of the
This new car has been designed by Henrik Fisker, who has used his new company
VLF Automotive, focusing on sports cars with large-capacity naturally aspirated
petrol engines, and the Dodge Viper is certainly one of those!
VLF was founded by Fisker, and involves former General Motors vice chairman Bob
Lutz and manufacturing authority Gilbert Villarreal. The company title borrows
the initial of each founder member’s surname.
With a $US300,000 price tag the Force 1 goes up against the far cheaper
Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Spyker C8, Aston Martin Vanquish and the Viper with
which it shares an engine, but VLF says its latest creation delivers “the best
performance in its price class”.
With the use of extensive carbon-fibre construction this has kept weight to
about the 1500 kg giving zero to 100 clicks in 3.0 seconds and on to a top speed
of 351 km/h, but still provides a “luxurious contemporary interior for two
people”, say VLF. Transmission is either six speed manual or six speed auto.
Sports seats can be optioned as the most lightweight manually adjustable
versions or electrically adjustable.
The Fisker-style body is a head turner with large air intakes at the front, a
couple of NACA ducts at the leading edge of the bonnet and Ultra Thin Ventilated
(UTV) tail-lights and slender peeping headlights not unlike the Mazda MX-5.
Wheel size is at the edge of extreme at 21 inches with Pirelli P Zero rubber and
the car’s dimensions are 1243 mm high with a 2018 mm width and 4545mm length.
Fisker had previously founded Henrik Fisker Design, which produced a number of
concept vehicles but has not resulted in a confirmed production model. The
Fisker Karma belongs to the Chinese parts-maker Wanxiang, which bought Fisker’s
company in 2014.
Last week I asked about the hearse, based on a Jaguar E-Type chassis
that was driven by a young movie star. What was the name of the star, what year
and the name of the film? It was Bud Cort, it was 1971 and the film was Harold
and Maude. The music for this cult film was by Cat Stevens.
So to this week. What is the link between Prince Chula Chakrabongse, HG Wells,
Rudolf Valentino, the Shah of Iran and the Sultan of Morocco?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
[email protected] or [email protected] Good luck!
John Surtees MBE, OBE and now CBE
Surtees motorcycling champion.
John Surtees received a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)
honors, but no knighthood.
As an all-rounder, John Surtees is difficult to beat. From 1956 through 1966,
Surtees gained seven FIM motorcycle championships, including four in the 500cc
class, equivalent to today’s Moto GP; a 1964 F1 world championship for Ferrari;
and a 1966 Can-Am championship that came after a crash nearly ended his racing
career. Previously awarded MBE and OBE honors for his contributions to
motorsport, Surtees was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire
(CBE) on the 2016 New Year’s Honors list by Queen Elizabeth II.
Surtees proved adept at motorcycling from an early age, winning his first
grass-track races at age 15. At age 21 he was a member of the Norton factory
team, where he bested reigning world champion Geoff Duke at Silverstone and
Brands Hatch. Hired by MV Augusta for 1956, Surtees delivered his first 500cc
class championship for the Italian brand in his debut year.
From 1958 through 1960, Surtees utterly dominated the sport of motorcycle
racing, racking up 32 victories in 39 races and capturing both the 350cc and
500cc world championships in all three years. As if this feat weren’t impressive
enough, Surtees claimed 500cc victories at the Isle of Man TT in all three
years, adding 350cc class wins in two out of the three years as well. However,
in 1959 Surtees began his career as an open-wheel driver in an F3 car owned by
Surtees finished second to a young Jim Clark that day, and his performance
earned him a four-race trial with Lotus in 1960. DNFs plagued Surtees at Lotus
(and later, at Yeoman Credit Racing and Bowmaker-Yeoman Racing), but his
assertive driving style landed him a role at Ferrari in 1963. Here, he’d deliver
his first F1 victory at the Nürburgring in 1963, followed by an F1 World
Championship the following year 1964.
A testing crash at Mosport in 1965, behind the wheel of a Lola T70 Can-Am car,
nearly ended Surtees’s driving career, and ultimately led to his departure from
Ferrari two races into the 1966 season. He’d return with the Cooper team for the
very next race, delivering a win and two podium finishes throughout the season’s
remaining seven races. Despite his earlier mishap in the Lola T70, Surtees would
also capture the 1966 Can-Am championship, beating Mark Donohue, Bruce McLaren
and Phil Hill in the process.
Surtees would continue racing in F1 into the 1972 season, competing for Honda,
BRM, and eventually, Team Surtees. Started in 1970, the management of Team
Surtees, which ran cars in both F1 and F2, took an ever increasing amount of his
time, prompting his semi-retirement as a driver late in the 1972 season.
Eventually, Surtees would leave racing behind, opting for the less complex and
less political world of motorcycle and automobile retailing.
In 1959, Surtees was awarded Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
honors for his contributions to motorsport, and in 2008 he was granted Officer
of the Order of the British Empire honors for the same reason. His latest
achievement, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, is just one step
below knighthood, an honor that Surtees’s fans have long been petitioning for.
(For me, Surtees is more eligible for a knighthood than Stirling Moss for
Surtees also had personal tragedy when his son Henry was killed in a race in the
UK in 2009.
John Surtees wasn’t the only motorsport figure acknowledged during the 2016 New
Year Honors celebration, either. Paddy Hopkirk, best known for winning the 1964
Monte Carlo Rally behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper S, received MBE honors for
both his contributions to motorsport and his work with charity SKIDZ, which
provided youth training in mechanics until its July 2015 liquidation.
Maria Teresa De Filippis
Maria Teresa De Filippis.
The first lady F1 driver was Maria Teresa De Filippis, who died in January at
the age of 89.
De Filippis, who was born in Naples, began racing after her brothers bet that
she wouldn’t be fast enough. She started three grands prix for Maserati in 1958
and achieved a best finish of P10 at the Belgian Grand Prix.
She attempted to qualify for two other events but was unable to before walking
away from motor racing in 1959 following the death of her team owner Jean Behra.
“Very sad to hear Maria Teresa De Filippis has passed away. The first Lady Grand
Prix racer and driving force of the (retired) Grand Prix Drivers’ Club,” tweeted
former driver Martin Brundle.
Alex Wurz added his condolences, “We lost another pioneering member of the
Motorsport world today, Maria Teresa de Filippis, the first woman to race in F1.
The late Lella Lombardi is the only other woman to start a Formula 1 race,
making the grid in 12 grands prix between 1974 and 1976. Britain’s Divina
Galica, the South African Desire Wilson and the Italian Giovanna Amati all tried
unsuccessfully to qualify for the F1 races.
Stand aside for the FF Zero 1
Another electric car designed to out-do Tesla. FF Zero 1 has 1,000-horsepower
and includes the ability to exceed 320 kph and accelerate from zero to 100 kays
in less than three seconds.
The technology behind this one is an adjustable chassis that can accommodate
strings of batteries that are more easily changed than single batteries. The
number of batteries would depend on car size.
“Aero tunnels” have been incorporated into the design to channel air through the
vehicle to reduce drag and cool the batteries. (We looked at this concept of
channeling air through a car in Australia in 1980 but decided that the extra
drag caused by the air flowing through the tubes nullified any theoretical
advantage. Perhaps we should have persevered?)
The company’s senior vice president of research and development, Nick Sampson,
says he expects the first production car to be ready in two years.
The concept car with its teardrop shape and aerodynamic tunnels that allow air
to flow through the car and cool the batteries will probably not be produced in
that form, said Nick Sampson.
“It’s more an illustration of what is possible with its underlying tech
currently being tested in other cars,” he said.
Central to that is a proprietary engineering platform model that supports a
range of vehicle types, cutting back on development and production time.
The architecture that can be altered for different body styles is not a new
development, though the different configuration of batteries is.
What is the Haas F1 team?
The team is the first American constructor to submit an entry since the failed
US F1 project in 2010 and will be the first American team to compete since the
unrelated Haas Lola outfit raced in the 1985 and 1986 seasons. The Haas Lola
team was owned by former McLaren boss Teddy Mayer and Carl Haas, who is of no
relation to Gene Haas.
Following the collapse of Marussia F1 during the 2014 season and the auctioning
of their assets, Haas purchased the team’s Banbury headquarters to serve as a
forward base for their operations.
Unrestricted by testing regulations until the season the team enters the sport,
Haas plans on shaking its new car down in December 2015 ahead of the start of
pre-season testing the following year. Haas approached Italian manufacturer
Dallara to design and build their chassis, with a power unit supplied by
Ferrari. Former Jaguar and Red Bull Racing technical director Günther Steiner
will be the team principal. Haas confirmed its new car had passed the mandatory
FIA crash tests on January 8.
The team announced on September 29, 2015 that Romain Grosjean will be one of
their drivers for 2016. On October 30, 2015 during the Mexican Grand Prix
weekend, it was officially announced that Ferrari test driver Esteban Gutiérrez
will be joining the team for the 2016 season.
How will Haas F1 fare in this its first season? Do not expect it to be a front
runner, but I do not think it will be a tail-end Charlie. Some serious money has
gone into the project, and F1 lives on serious money!
Last week’s Quiz Car.
This week’s Quiz Car.
Last week I asked about the model, manufacturer and the date of this car. This
was the Mercedes-Benz Land Speed Record car, which was actually loaded on ship
to go to Bonneville in the USA when war was declared in 1939. It was designed to
do 600 km/h. Its official designation was the T80.
So to this week. Another pic. This hearse, based on a Jaguar E-Type chassis was
driven by a young movie star. What was the name of the star, what year and the
name of the film?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
[email protected] or [email protected] Good luck!
New Focus shows the others its RS
The new RS Ford 4 cylinder has 345 horsepower with all-wheel drive and returns
times 0 to 100 km/h in just over 4 seconds.
While Henry Ford is supposedly the author of “any color as long as it is black”,
the new RS comes in two colors – white and blue, though there is an option
called ‘Prestige Paint’ offering two more colors - grey and black.
Where the previous RS Focus was fitted out with clever limited-slip
differentials and complex independent suspension to stay on the black stuff, the
upcoming RS is using all-wheel drive in an effort to rein in its 345 HP.
This upcoming RS is the first to utilize all-wheel drive and cast alloy 19 inch
wheels, though there is another option to fit 19 inch forged alloys for the real
Advertised as both lighter and stronger than the standard Focus RS rims, the
high-spec forged alloys are shod in ultra-low-profile 235/35 R19 Michelin Pilot
Sport Cup 2 tyres.
This car has to be the ultimate boy-racer’s chariot!
The greatest driver of all time?
Who was/is the greatest driver of all time? Lots of candidates, with Juan Fangio
one of my favorites, in addition to Rudolf Caracciola and Tazio Nuvolari.
Comparing drivers across many decades is difficult, to almost impossible, but if
we were to look at bravery instead of wins, then one driver stands out – Tazio
Nuvolari, the Flying Mantuan.
Perhaps his bravery was almost suicidal, such as hoisting a plane on the roof of
his father’s house and trying to fly from there. Fail!
But by the 1920’s he was well known for his exploits on motorcycles, such as
breaking his legs and getting the casts applied while sitting on his racing
motorcycle, having the crew hold his bike upright for the start, and again when
he finished. First of course!
His racing car career began when he borrowed a Bugatti and won the Rome Grand
Joining the Alfa Romeo team in 1930, he won the European Championship title with
two wins and three seconds in 1932, as well as victories in four
non-championship grand prix. Nuvolari and co-driver Battista Guidotti won the
Mille Miglia in a Zagato-bodied Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS, becoming the first to
complete the race at an average of over 100 km/h. At night while lying behind
his team-mate Achille Varzi, he tailed Varzi at speeds of up to 150 km/h with
his headlights switched off, so that he could not be seen in the other car’s
rear-view mirrors. He eventually switched them on to overtake “the shocked”
Varzi near the finish at Brescia.
When Alfa Romeo withdrew from racing in 1933 he remained with Scuderia Ferrari
who ran the Alfa Romeo cars on a semi-official basis. Later in the season he
switched to Maserati, but it too pulled out at the end of 1934 and although
Ferrari initially refused to take him back, the intervention of Mussolini led to
a change of heart.
In 1935 he enjoyed his greatest season against the might of the state-sponsored
German Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union teams, winning the grand prix of Pau and
Nive. Perhaps his most stunning performance came in the German GP when he beat
the fancied home teams despite his car being totally outclassed and a botched
pit stop. The 300,000 crowd rose to acclaim him but the Nazi elite looking on
were furious. The German organizers claimed they had lost their recording of the
Italian anthem, to which Nuvolari presented them with a recording he had brought
to the meeting! In 1936 he enjoyed similar success.
In 1938 he ran an Auto Union car at the Swiss Grand Prix, ostensibly as a
one-off but the move became permanent in 1938 and he remained until the
cessation of racing at the outbreak of World War Two, winning the last race in
Belgrade on the day war broke out.
Although he resumed after the war, he was in his mid-fifties and his health
failing. Nevertheless, there were still triumphs. He won the Grand Prix de
l’Albigeois in a Maserati in 1946 and drove brilliantly to finish second in the
Mille Miglia the following year.
His final race was in 1950 - by then he admitted he was no longer able to
withstand the effects of exhaust fumes, and even before he quit he often coughed
up blood while driving. There are photos of him driving with one hand, and
holding a blood stained handkerchief to his mouth with the other hand.
He suffered a stroke in 1952 and died from a second one a year later.
Thousands of Mantuans attended his funeral in a mile-long procession, with the
coffin placed on a car chassis that was pushed by Alberto Ascari, Luigi
Villoresi, and Juan Manuel Fangio.
Dr Ferdinand Porsche called Nuvolari “the greatest driver of the past, the
present, and the future”. Enzo Ferrari once drove with him and recalled even on
bends “he never took his foot from the accelerator”.
Tazio Nuvolari still generates a passionate following such as this testimonial
“I don’t care what anybody says ever, before, now, or for ever after. Tazio was
and is and for ever will be the greatest driver of all to ever sit behind the
wheel. Anyone, and I mean anyone who disagrees is an uninformed idiot with no
clue of racing history. Racing, even at the highest levels, to-day is a pathetic
joke compared to the 202s to the early 702s. The cars don’t really go all that
much faster than they were capable of on straightaways in the mid 302s. Tazio
I don’t think we have to be quite so one-eyed, but undoubtedly the life of
Nuvolari is one of legend.
Read more at http://en.espnf1.com/alfaromeo/motorsport/driver/9291.
Running without air
One of the topics in Facebook recently has been an airless wheel, which many
think is a new development. Sorry to say that it is not.
About 10 years ago I featured the Tweel (tyre and wheel), a product of
Michelin’s research. It looked as if Michelin had scored a huge technological
breakthrough. “Major revolutions in mobility may come along only once in a
hundred years,” said Terry Gettys, president of Michelin Americas Research and
Development Center. “But a new century has dawned and Tweel has proven its
potential to transform mobility. Tweel enables us to reach levels of performance
that quite simply aren’t possible with today’s conventional pneumatic
That was 10 years ago, and despite Tweel winning all sorts of awards, it isn’t
on production cars yet. Michelin claimed its “Tweel” has load carrying, shock
absorbing, and handling characteristics that compare favorably to conventional
pneumatic tires; however, the tyre has a lot of vibration when driving over 80
km/h. In addition, higher rolling resistance was found and provide much less
suspension than similarly shaped and sized pneumatic tires. Other problems for
airless tires include dissipating the heat buildup that occurs when they are
Lynn Mann, a spokeswoman for Michelin’s North American headquarters said the
company has developed airless tire prototypes for the military but has no
contracts to provide them. Michelin is concentrating efforts on low-speed,
low-weight uses of an airless tire on construction equipment first.
“We are years away from having a passenger car application,” Mann said. “We do
have a very early prototype for a passenger car. When you get it up to a high
speed, 80 or 100 kph, there is noticeable noise. We need to solve the noise
Others have begun their own research into airless tyre/wheel technology, and one
such group has been making further inroads towards commercial reality.
One new group is called Resilient Technologies LLC and is based in Wisconsin,
USA, which is working on a US$18 million project with the US DoD (Department of
Defense) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to research and develop a
non-pneumatic tyre for use on heavy-grade military vehicles such as Humvees.
Tyres have proven to be the weak link in military Humvees, which can be
immobilized by the scourge of the 21st century urban battlefield, the IED
(Improvised Explosive Device). Once the mobility of a vehicle is compromised in
a hostile environment, its inhabitants’ life expectancy closely approximates
zero. There have been numerous cases of this in Iraq, for example.
As neither Michelin’s Tweel nor Resilient’s Airless tyre have a tyre-like
pressurized air cavity, they cannot be punctured, thus assuring continuous
Resilient has been developing their airless tyre over the past two years,
starting with production models for lawn tractors and now to full-size Humvee
The Resilient design relies on a precise pattern of hexagonal cells that are
arranged, like a honeycomb, in a way that best mimics the ‘ride feel’ of
ordinary pneumatic tyres. The honeycomb geometry also does a great job of
reducing noise levels and reducing heat generated during usage - two common
problems with past applications.
Further projects will include evaluating sidewall designs, which will give the
tyre a more conventional look.
As part of that development, Resilient performs a static load test to meet the
Army’s requirement that it be able to handle a maximum load of 1,746 kilograms.
Will there be a civilian application after the military one? I would suggest
that you will see this within five years – but will the price be competitive? In
theory, these tyres could be cheaper to produce than the current laminated
carcass tyre. An interesting thought. However, remember where you replaced a
tyre when the tread was too shallow, with these airless wheels you replace the
tread and the wheel.
Here is a URL with several older motoring movies which was sent to me by Paul
Schoenkopf up in Chiang Mai. Thank you Paul.
Some of them are quite long as well, so settle down in your favorite armchair
with a glass of Stonefish Merlot and enjoy.
Last week I asked about wooden wheels, which were used on Henry’s Model T Fords.
However, I asked which car company was still offering wooden wheels as factory
equipment in 1939? It was Mercedes Benz!
So to this week. Look at the picture. I want the manufacturer and the date.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
[email protected] pattayamail.com or [email protected] Good luck!
Think yourself lucky you’re not in Oz
I was given the following information from a friend in Australia, and you will
be interested in what the Australian States consider as law-breaking, and the
size of the fines, which I have approximately converted to baht.
Here are 8 Aussie road rules you didn’t know for the 2015-16 summer holidays.
By the way, if you get too drunk to drive, then you can get a learner driver
steer you home in Western Australia – but not in any of the other states.
1) Did you know it is illegal to creep forward through a red light to let an
emergency vehicle through gridlock traffic? And if you’ve activated a red light
camera, the ticket’s on you. It is also a fine in most states to not give way to
emergency vehicles (three demerit points and fines of close to B. 10,000 in most
states). The message: don’t do anything stupid or illegal, but do get out of the
2) It is an offence to run an orange light if police deem you had time to stop
safely. The penalty is the same as for a red light, carrying three demerit
points and a fine of up to B. 14,000 in some states.
3) It is illegal for a driver to operate a mobile phone (other than to make a
call) in a Macca’s drive-thru and similar driveways because “it is still a road
by definition and technically a line of traffic”. And wait for this one -
resting your phone on your lap is a ticket as well - even if you’re not using it
- with fines up to B. 10,000 and six points this holiday period in NSW, and B.
12,000 and four points in Victoria.
4) We all know littering is illegal, but did you know that includes apple cores
and banana peels, which many of us flick out the window because it’s
biodegradable? Aside from the danger of encouraging animals to the roadside to
eat the scraps, the fine for littering is dearer from a moving car in some
states. In NSW it increases from B. 5,500 to 6,000, the same as flicking a
5) Don’t toot and wave goodbye to friends and family: that’s two tickets. One
for improper use of a horn (up to B. 10,000 in some states) and another for
“limb protrude” (in NSW, where the penalties for most offences are highest, the
fine is B. 10,000 and three demerit points for the driver and B. 10,000 for the
6) Don’t forget to re-register your trailer. That trip to the tip could cost you
up to B. 20,000 if it’s unregistered.
7) It is illegal for a bike rack to obscure your car’s number plate B. 15,000
and three demerit points in NSW, but in Victoria there is also a fine for having
a bike rack fitted when it is not carrying bicycles B. 4,500.
8) Opening a car door and accidentally hitting a cyclist or pedestrian is a B.
10,000 fine in Victoria. The fines for not leaving enough room for cyclists are
up to three demerit points and B. 10,000.
So now you can see why I say that Australia is over-governed and over-regulated!
Thailand, of course, is at the opposite end of the spectrum, which isn’t good
either. However, in comparison, the B. 200 for being alive or other “offences”,
as meted out by the roadside police means we are in heaven already.
The end of the “Lotus” farce
Renault has officially confirmed its “controlling shareholding of Lotus F1 Team
Limited”. In a statement issued on Monday, several hours after an insolvency
petition that would have put the Enstone team into administration was formally
dismissed, reads as follows:
On Friday 18 December 2015, Groupe Renault and Gravity Motorsport S.a.rl, an
affiliate of Genii Capital SA, formally and successfully completed the
acquisition by Groupe Renault of a controlling shareholding of Lotus F1 Team
The new team name, full management structure, team partners and other details
will be announced during an event to be held in Paris in February.
In the interim, a new board of directors has been appointed, with Jérôme Stoll
as Chairman and Cyril Abiteboul as Managing Director.
Following the signing of a letter of intent by Groupe Renault and Gravity
Motorsport S.a.rl on 28 September 2015, the parties entered into the various
agreements on 3 December 2015. Since then, all parties involved have been
working relentlessly to comply with all of the contractual and legal obligations
under the agreements to enable the transaction to successfully complete.
The technical teams are making good progress to have the 2016 car ready for
testing in Barcelona at the end of February.
(Of course, while all this is going on, the factory is making seven replacement
chassis. One for Gutierrez and six for Maldonado.)
The future of the ASEAN auto industry
The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is now upon us, and if you think that will
sparkle up the auto industry, you are a born optimist. Ford’s new ASEAN
President Mark Kaufmann does not have the same optimism and is predicting a 6
percent fall in vehicle production for 2016 for the region.
There are many factors involved here. Malaysia introduced a 6 percent GST,
Thailand has a new excise tax based on CO2 emissions, decreasing overseas
investment, a credit squeeze and the carry-over from artificially inflated
demand brought out by the first car buyers scheme, producing an extreme
slow-down when the scheme ended.
In 2014 regional sales dropped 10 percent, with Thailand the biggest loser on a
34 percent drop.
In 2015 the negatives outweighed the positives, so that although Vietnam and the
Philippines showed an upwards sales movement, their entire auto industry was
still small, and with Thailand’s sales being again so low, along with Malaysia,
Indonesia and Brunei, these factors have produced the outlook of a further fall
of 6 percent.
Quite frankly, if the member countries in the AEC don’t apply themselves to this
problem, China will take over as the manufacturing hub for ASEAN. China has the
capacity and has been importing technical assistance.
More silly names
Last week I mentioned silly names, and here’s a few more that were sent to me:
It used to be that the most silly names given to cars were usually Nissan. How
many red blooded blokes would buy a car called Cedric, for example (and
apologies to all those chaps called Cedric by their parents, nothing personal)!
In the past few years, Nissan kept up their silly names with things like a
“Queen cab” (what a friend of mine bought because he was gay) and then there was
the Tiida, and the best of the unpronounceables, the Quashqai!
While still in Japan, Mitsubishi managed to come up with the Canter Guts light
truck and the never to be forgotten Mitsubishi Mum 500 Shall We Join Us?
However, Volkswagen have now applied to join the society for silly names, too.
Firstly there was the Touareg, then there was the Tiguan, which VW said was a
cross between a tiger and an iguana – I am not making this up - but I would have
loved to watch the mating of its parents. But now, VW has released the Amarok, a
pick-up, and we are told the name means “wolf” in the Inuit language which is
used by the Eskimos at the North Pole when they’re not clubbing the odd seal
cub! It will have to end up being called the “Anorak”.
And if you manufacture in America?
In the US, the national automotive watchdog is the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA). This organization has apparently limitless powers
and it has just fined BMW US$10 million, part of a US$40 million civil
settlement over BMW’s safety lapses.
Under the settlement, BMW admitted it did not comply with minimum crash
protection standards, failed to notify owners of recalls in a timely fashion and
failed to provide accurate information about its recalls to NHTSA. Naughty,
However, as well as being naughty, it would appear that BMW are slow learners as
the NHTSA fined BMW US$3 million in 2012 for similar problems.
The vehicles in question are the 2014 and 2015 MINI Coopers, which failed the
side-impact crash protection.
The US$40 million settlement includes a US$10 million fine, a requirement that
the company spend at least US$10 million meeting the order’s performance
obligations, and US$20 million in deferred penalties if the company fails to
comply with the order or commits other safety violations.
In an effort to get BMW to clean up its act, the automaker has agreed to retain
a government-approved independent safety consultant and disclose updated
procedures to NHTSA.
Last week I asked. “Knock!” Who’s there? “Harry”. I asked what is the
significance of this to motoring today? This was all about octane ratings and
Sir Harry Ricardo (26 January 1885 – 18 May 1974) was one of the foremost engine
designers and researchers in the early years of the development of the internal
combustion engine and engine knock with detonation, and oversaw the research
into the physics of internal combustion that led to the use of octane ratings, a
rating scale still used today.
So to this week. We are all aware of the Model T Fords with wooden wheels, way
back then. However, which car company was still offering wooden wheels as
factory equipment in 1939?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
[email protected] or [email protected] Good luck! For the Automania
free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
The Bentley Speed Six
Bentley Speed Six.
They simply don’t make them like they used to. This is a Bentley Speed Six, a
marvel of British engineering from 1930, which was restored to its glory in
honour of the legendary 1930 Bentley ‘Blue Train’.
In 1930, British motor company Rover advertised that it beat the world-famous
‘Train Bleu’, a luxury express train, designed to take British aristocrats and
celebrities from Calais to the French Riviera.
Originally, the Bentley Speed Six was introduced in 1928 as a more sporting
version of the Bentley 6½ litre.
Following the advertisement, Captain Joel Woolf Babe Barnato, a British playboy
millionaire and chairman of Bentley, wagered £100 that his Bentley Speed Six
could beat the train as well. (Back in 1930, the average annual income in the UK
The Blue Train version produced 200hp, reached a top speed of 200km/h (125mph),
and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1929 and 1930. In both races, the driver
was none other than Barnato – the Chairman of Bentley Motors.
Tripped across an Edsel
About 15 years ago I saw a blue Edsel in a workshop on Sukhumvit Road. I went
back a week later and it had gone. Last week I was traveling along the (dirt)
road at the back of the dark side, and there was an Edsel in a small panel shop.
With the small number of Edsels built, it has to be the same one.
Edsel was a classic example of building what you think the public wants, without
checking first. It was a horrendous flop. The American public didn’t like its
looks at all.
The Edsel’s most memorable design feature was its trademark “horse collar” or
toilet seat grille, which was quite distinct from other cars of the period.
According to a popular joke at the time, the Edsel “resembled an Oldsmobile
sucking a lemon”.
The Edsel’s front-end ensemble as it eventually appeared bore little
resemblance, if any, to the original concept. Roy Brown, the original chief
designer on the Edsel project, had envisioned a slender, almost delicate opening
in the center. Engineers, fearing engine cooling problems, vetoed the intended
design, which led to the now-infamous “horse collar.”
The Teletouch pushbutton automatic transmission selector was an extremely
complex feature. It proved problematic in part because the steering wheel hub,
where the pushbuttons were located, was the traditional location of the horn
button. Some drivers inadvertently shifted gears when they intended to sound the
horn. While the Edsel was fast, the location of the transmission pushbuttons was
not conducive to street racing. There were also jokes among stoplight drag
racers about the buttons: D for Drag, L for Leap, and R for Race (instead of
Drive, Low and Reverse). The control wires for Teletouch were also routed too
close to the exhaust manifold, which often caused unpredictable movement of the
selector mechanism and, in some cases, complete failure. The electrical design
required drivers to shift from Park to Reverse to Neutral to Drive, in that
order, to avoid overloading the Teletouch motor. The motor was also not powerful
enough to bring the car out of Park while on a hill, so dealerships would
instruct drivers to set the parking brake before pushing the Park button.
Complaints also surfaced about the taillights on 1958-model Edsel station
wagons. The lenses were boomerang-shaped and placed in a reverse fashion. At a
distance, they appeared as arrows pointed in the opposite direction of the turn
being made. When the left turn signal flashed, its arrow shape pointed right,
and vice versa. However, there was little that could be done to give the
Ford-based station wagons a unique appearance from the rear, because corporate
management had insisted that no sheet metal could be changed. Only the
taillights and trim could be touched. There was room for separate turn signals
in addition to the boomerangs, but the U.S. industry had never supplied them up
to that point, and they were probably never seriously considered.
Mechanics of the time were wary of the 410 cubic inch Edsel E-475 engine because
its perfectly flat cylinder heads lacked distinct combustion chambers. The heads
were set at an angle, with “roof” pistons forming both a squish zone on one side
and a combustion chamber on the other. Combustion thus took place entirely
within the cylinder bore. This design was similar to Chevrolet’s 348 cubic inch
“W” engine, which was also introduced in 1958. While the design reduced the cost
of manufacture and may also have helped minimize carbon build up, it was also
unfamiliar to many mechanics.
It was said in the American auto circles that the Edsel was the wrong car at the
wrong time. However, they are now collector’s items and a good one is worth
Samsung’s “see through” truck
Samsung Safety Truck.
With Thailand’s road toll being the second worst in the
world, the following, which came from Argentina, would be very applicable here:
Have you ever found yourself driving behind a semi-trailer truck? If you’re on a
single-lane highway or road, it can be a nightmare. Even though the truck is
driving relatively slowly, you cannot overtake it due to its size, and because
you cannot see what is happening in front of the truck.
However, Samsung has developed a solution that may make this problem a thing of
Argentina’s statistics on traffic accidents are among the highest in the world,
with most of these accidents occurring on two-lane roads and particularly in
situations of overtaking. With this in mind, Samsung developed a technology for
trucks that seeks to enrich the lives of people through innovation. But more
than that, this time the goal is more ambitious: to save lives.
How does it work? The Safety Truck consists of a wireless camera attached to the
front of the truck, which is connected to a video wall made out of four exterior
monitors located on the back of the truck. The monitors give drivers behind the
truck a view of what is going on ahead of the truck, even in the dark of night.
This allows drivers to have a better view when deciding whether it is safe to
overtake. Another advantage of the Safety Truck is that it may reduce the risk
of accidents caused by sudden braking or animals crossing the road.
Samsung led the prototype development by providing large format display samples,
and conducted a test with a local B2B client.
Samsung has been able to confirm that the technology works and that this idea
can definitely save the lives of many people.
The next step is to perform the corresponding tests in order to comply with the
existing national protocols and obtain the necessary permits and approvals. For
this, Samsung is working together with safe driving NGOs and the government.
This technology works, but what price for the four exterior monitors? And what’s
the chance of their being stolen?
Where the road toll started
Despite Thailand having (almost) the worst road toll in the world, the deaths on
the road didn’t start here. There was little more than a handful of petrol cars
in Britain when Bridget Driscoll, 44, took a trip to the Crystal Palace,
south-east London, on 17 August 1896. She could be forgiven for being bewildered
by Arthur Edsall’s imported Roger-Benz which was part of a motoring exhibition
taking place as she attended a Catholic League of the Cross fete with her 16
year-old daughter, May, and a friend.
At the inquest, Florence Ashmore, a domestic servant, gave evidence that the car
went at a ‘tremendous pace’, like a fire engine – ‘as fast as a good horse could
On the other side, the driver, working for the Anglo-French Motor Co, said that
he was doing 4 mph when he killed Mrs Driscoll and that he had rung his bell and
One of Mr Edsall’s two passengers during the exhibition ride, Ellen Standing,
told the inquest she heard the driver shout “stand back” and then the car
Mrs Driscoll had hesitated in front of the car and seemed “bewildered” before
being hit, the inquest heard.
Edsall had been driving only three weeks at the time and - with no license
requirement - had been given no instruction as to which side of the road to keep
to (very similar to some of the drivers in Pattaya).
With conflicting reports about the speed and manner of Mr Edsall’s driving, the
jury returned an accidental death verdict.
Nonetheless, the National Motor Museum’s libraries officer Patrick Collins
admits there was “quite a lot of anti-car feeling” in the UK at the time. “A lot
of people didn’t want drivers running around the country scaring horses,” he
explained, adding that there were fewer than 20 petrol cars in Britain at the
These first cars were subject to strict safety laws which had been designed for
steam locomotives weighing up to 12 tonnes. Each vehicle was expected to have a
team of three in control; the driver, the fireman - to stoke the engine - and
the flagman, whose job was to walk 60 yards in front waving a red flag to warn
horse-drawn traffic of the machine’s approach.
The flag requirement was ditched in 1865 and the walking distance reduced to 20
yards, although speed limits of 2 mph in towns and 4 mph in the country remained
Mrs Driscoll died just a few weeks after a new Parliamentary act - designed for
the new and lighter petrol, electricity and steam-driven cars - raised the speed
limit to 14 mph, while the flagman role was scrapped altogether.
The coroner told her inquest that he hoped hers would be the last death in this
sort of accident. Little did he know how times would change over the following
century, with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents estimating more
than 550,000 people have been killed on Britain’s roads since then (and
Thailand’s road traffic accident experience is even worse).
Last week I asked what was the first motor car to be designed
and built as a complete engineering entity, rather than cobbled together with
odd bits and pieces. Clue, it was built in 1895, though production models were
not made until 1900. It was one of the first cars where a part could be fitted
to all the cars of that model. This was a technique that came from gun
production! The answer was Lanchester. Cadillac and Ford were much later.
So to this week. “Knock knock!” who’s there? “Harry”. What is the significance
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
[email protected] or [email protected] Good luck!