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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Update August 27, 2016

Spa this weekend

After the mid-year break, the F1 circus starts again, with this weekend’s race at Spa in Belgium. F1 returns to one of the best tracks on the calendar – Spa Francorchamps, a circuit that everyone enjoys (are you listening, Bernie).

Now we get a real race circuit, with Eau Rouge being the corner for those with big hearts (and large cojones). Remember Webber’s pass on Alonso around the outside of Eau Rouge a couple of years ago! Will Mercedes be dominant again? Will Hamilton keep his swelling head under control? Will Rosberg overcome his psyche? We will know by Sunday night.

The race will start at 7 p.m. our time and we watch from Jameson’s Irish Pub on Soi AR, next to Nova Park. The big screen is great. Come at 6 p.m. for a meal (the Sunday roast specials are great value) and a drink and discussion and let’s hope for some real racing again.

The best laid plans …

Miller Ford V8.

Put a celebrated auto engineer and the might of a world manufacturer together and you must get a winning car. The Ford GT40 was born from that sort of thought, as was the Ford Cobra, but it had all been done before.

In 1935, genius race car constructor Harry Miller entered into a deal with Preston Tucker and the Ford Motor Company to produce 10 racing cars that would dominate the Indianapolis 500. Miller created arguably the most beautiful and advanced racing car of the day, but victory wasn’t in the cards, and Ford’s subsequent public humiliation at Indy kept the automaker out of racing for decades and nearly bankrupted Miller (though Tucker emerged unscathed).

A reminder of what might have been was seen when one of the 10 Miller Ford V-8 Special Indy Cars constructed for the 1935 race crossed the auction block on Friday, August 19, at Mecum’s Monterey sale.

Being so many years ago, history is somewhat clouded, but the most likely has Preston Tucker contacting Miller with the idea of creating a stock block race car in a fully modern chassis, then pitched the idea to Edsel Ford, not Henry. Even the reported source of the project’s funding differs, with some attributing it to the Ford Motor Company and others crediting a group of Ford dealers.

What is certain is this: In February of 1935, a contract was signed between the Ford Motor Company and a Dearborn supplier named Miller-Tucker, Inc., to design and build a quantity of 10 race cars for the 1935 Indianapolis 500, each priced at $7,500. However, the needed equipment and parts didn’t arrive at the Miller-Tucker shop until March of 1935, giving the business the near-impossible task of designing, building and testing 10 potentially race-winning cars in less than 60 days.

Miller’s design called for front-wheel drive, which he’d utilized in a 1924 racing car based upon the successful 1922 Miller 122. The Miller Fords would also debut four-wheel independent suspension, and in an early attempt at minimizing drag, would use wing-shaped cast aluminum suspension pieces and a (somewhat) streamlined body that ended in a tapered boat tail rear. The lack of a driveshaft meant the Miller Fords could be lower to the ground as well, dropping the center of gravity and enhancing stability in corners.

To use a 21-stud, flathead Ford V-8 (rated at roughly 150 horsepower in race trim), Miller turned the engine and two-speed transmission 180 degrees. The layout also moved weight rearward to create a better balanced race car, and on paper, the Miller Fords had everything needed to prove competitive on the track.

Working with such a compressed time frame, Miller had just hours, not days, to test his bold new design. Initially, things looked promising, but in qualifying the Miller Fords proved significantly slower than the competition, and just four of the cars qualified for the 1935 race. Had the cars occupied the front row and the start of the second row, perhaps the pressure on Miller would have been reduced, but instead the Miller Fords began the race in 26th, 27th, 29th and 33rd place, meaning that no car qualified higher than the ninth row, and one qualified dead last.

The results were dreadfully embarrassing for all concerned. The top three retiring before half distance, and the last one finishing 16th.

The common fault was that the steering box was located too close to the engine, and heated to the point where the grease melted and the gears expanded, locking the steering wheel in driver’s hands.

In the aftermath, Henry Ford reportedly ordered all 10 race cars back to Detroit, where they remained locked away in a warehouse for the next several years.

The Miller Ford auctioned was not described as having raced at Indianapolis, though it is said to be one of the 10 originally built by Harry Miller. Shown at Amelia Island in 2013 in the “Cars of Harry Miller” class, the red over white race car has been awarded an AACA Senior and Race Car Certification, and is eligible for a variety of vintage oval track events.

Would you buy this pick-up?

GM Maloo.

General Motors in Australia are producing this pick-up, called a ‘Black series Maloo’. A V8 with all the bells and whistles.

6.2 Liter V8 petrol, six-speed manual, 340 kW and 570 Nm, 12.6 L/100 km, RWD. I’d rather have one of these than a Colorado.

A 40 percent bigger bug

A very big Bug.

Are you a VW Bug lover? But find it a little small? Follow this link for your ultimate car. 5061733501001_5061717547001.mp4

It only took four years to build, so yours will be ready in 2020!

Best looking cars

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.

This list of the supposed 10 best looking cars of all time came out of America, so they can be excused for the inclusion of a couple of Yankee cars. The list was:

1. 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL

2. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California

3. 1963 Chevrolet Corvette

4. 1964 Aston Martin DB5

5. 1965 Jaguar E-Type

6. 1966 Ford GT40

7. 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4

8. 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T

9. 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV

10. 1973 Porsche Carrera RS

Like the W194 Grand Prix car, the 300 SL borrowed its 3.0 liter overhead cam straight 6 from the regular four-door 300 (W189 “Adenauer”) luxury tourer introduced in 1951. The engine was canted to the right at forty-five-degrees to fit under the 300SL’s lower roof line.

A groundbreaking Bosch mechanical direct fuel injection was installed, boosting power almost 25 percent over the Grand Prix car’s. Derived from the DB 601 V12 used on the high-powered Messerschmitt Bf 109E fighter of World War II, it raised output from 130 kW; 177 PS (175 hp) to 160 kW; 218 PS (215 hp), almost double that of the original Type 300 sedan’s 86 kW; 117 PS (115 hp). The result was a top speed of up to 260 km/h (160 mph) depending on gear ratio and drag, making the 300 SL the fastest production car of its time.

However, unlike today’s electrically powered fuel injection systems, the 300 SL’s mechanical fuel pump would continue to inject gasoline into the engine during the interval between shutting off the ignition and the engine’s coming to a stop; this unburned gasoline washed lubricating oil from the cylinder walls, which not only left them unprotected in affected areas during start-up but would dilute the engine’s entire oil supply if the car was not driven hard or long enough to reach a sufficient temperature to evaporate the gas out of the oil. To reduce the dilution of oil by gasoline when stopping the engine, the owner’s manual advised “turn the ignition key to the left while idling. Do not on any account try to stop the engine at a higher speed.”

Clutch operation was initially very heavy, remedied by an improved clutch arm helper spring which reduced pedal force. From March 1963 to the end of production later that year, a light alloy crankcase was used on a total of 209 vehicles.

Aerodynamics were not well developed immediately post-war, but the Mercedes engineers realized that aerodynamics played an important role in the car’s speed, with Mercedes-Benz engineers placing horizontal “eyebrows” over the wheel openings to reduce drag.

Unlike many cars of the 1950’s, steering was relatively precise and the four-wheel independent suspension allowed for a reasonably comfortable ride and markedly better overall handling. However, the rear swing axle, jointed only at the differential, not at the wheels themselves (as VW and Porsche), could be treacherous at high speeds or on imperfect roads due to extreme changes in camber. The enormous fuel tank capacity also caused a considerable difference in handling depending on the quantity of fuel on board.

It was an amazing car for its day and still draws crowds 60 years later.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I said that in the early days of motoring, steam cars reigned supreme, but the invention of one accessory saw the internal combustion engine out-sell the steamers. I asked what was it? It was the electric starter motor, making internal combustion engines easier to start and no waiting for a head of steam. The sales of steamers plummeted from then on.

So to this week. Post-war saw some strange and sometimes unique motor cars. One was the first post-war transverse front engine FWD car built in the UK. And before you say “Mini” – it wasn’t the first! It had a two-stroke, two-cylinder motor that was mounted transversely in the front and connected to the front wheels through a four speed synchro gearbox. The high price and lack-luster performance had doomed its production. Only 600 units were produced. So what was it?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] or [email protected] Good luck!

Update August 20, 2016

The ultimate Honda?

New Honda NSX.

In the early 90’s Honda revealed its NSX, a mid-engine sports car which sported an aluminium chassis and was yours for around $A160,000. Expensive, but not off the planet.

In 2017, Honda is bringing the name back again, in a bid to rival Porsche, Audi and Ferrari. This iteration of the NSX is AWD and is a hybrid and has “supercar” looks.

Weighing in at 1800 kg it is on the heavy side and the weight distribution is not well balanced at 42:58 front to rear. However, Honda obviously expects the AWD feature will be enough, and overseas reports would appear to bear that out.

Double wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear – both fashioned largely from aluminium – support the 1800 kg and carbon ceramic brakes are employed for retardation.

No price listed for Thailand at this time, but $A is $420,000, so expect a price tag in the 20’s in Thailand.

Other data:

Engine: 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol, electric motors

Power: 426 kW at 7500 rpm

Torque: 646 Nm at 1500 rpm

Transmission: 9-speed dual-clutch automatic, AWD

Fuel consumption: 10.0 L/100 km

All reports indicate it is a true performance car; however, when you raise the garage roller door in the morning and the sun glints on the H, your next door neighbor is not going to say, “Wow, you’ve got a Honda!” And the front of the NSX with a distinctly Japanese grin does nothing to help it in the marketplace. In the history of Honda, I predict that the new NSX will be regarded as an oddity.

Get ‘em at your local 7-Eleven?

Have you noticed just how many MG’s are on the road these days? Manufactured in Rayong as a joint venture between SAIC (China) and CP (Thailand) the new MG’s are starting to grow on me (like a skin rash). The smaller MG3 looks too much like all the other eco cars, but the MG5 impressed me at the Bangkok International Motor Show and has started to appear on our local roads in appreciable numbers.

Unfortunately for SAIC/CP, the name MG conjures up two seater sports cars and not four place sedans. However, it is now many years since MG produced a real sports car and we should just be thankful that SAIC have kept the nameplate going.

Thailand and Australia develop the Colorado

New Colorado.

Australian engineers have worked with international General Motors colleagues to iron out wrinkles in the Colorado pick-up’s steering, suspension and refinement levels for the facelifted version that will be revealed on September 1 to take up the fight with a flock of tough rivals in the booming light truck market.

Although GM Brazil is the global “home room” for Colorado development, the Australian branch of GM has revealed it not only co-developed the revised model but also hosted the final development drive – dubbed the 100 percent buy-off ride – by GM representatives from Brazil, Thailand, India, the United States and Europe, as well as Australia, about eight months ago.

The international contingent belted the pick-up along Australian bush tracks, back roads and highways before signing off on the production version that was developed in response to customer feedback about the current version that was launched in 2012.

The new-look Holden Colorado is already rolling off the Thai production line in readiness for the September launch that will be followed almost immediately by the debut of its similarly upgraded SUV sibling, formerly called Colorado 7 but now going by the international moniker of Trailblazer.

Apart from working on the revisions at the Lang Lang proving ground in Victoria, Holden engineers travelled to Brazil to help with the Colorado engineering program that has wrought major changes to the chassis and powertrain to induce what Holden claims is “car-like refinement and improve driveability” in the latest version of the Thai-built one-tonne pick-up that is sold under Chevrolet badges in other markets.

Electric power steering with a faster steering rack, progressive front and rear dampers, revised spring rates, a thicker front stabilizer bar and different tyres are among the major chassis changes.

Powertrain engineers even shifted the balance shaft on the 2.8 liter diesel engine as part of the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) improvement measures that also include a new automatic transmission torque converter, revised engine and transmission mounts and anti-noise shielding on the diesel injectors, timing cover and oil pan.

The new Colorado has a central pendulum absorber (CPA) type that is usually seen on premium diesel passenger cars. The CPA converter helped to reduce engine noise and vibration by cancelling out torsional vibrations normally felt in the cabin.

“The added benefit to the CPA is the ability to apply a revised transmission calibration strategy with results in driveability and fuel economy improvements.” Development engineer Ms Watt said GM has focussed on improving refinement and drivability.

“We’ve also had the benefit of international experience, as the Colorado program was a co-development project between GM Brazil, GM Thailand and Australia – a great example of the type of engineering work Holden will be responsible for in the future.”

Although the Colorado’s diesel engine has had a balance shaft modification, it retains the same level of performance, with 147 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque in the automatic transmission-equipped variant. The manual version’s engine is detuned to 440Nm of torque, but gets a new final drive ratio for improved drive quality, particularly while towing.

The new Colorado will also get new safety features such as rearview camera and driver’s knee airbag across the range. Selected models will have forward collision alert, lane departure warning, front and rear park assist and tyre pressure monitoring.

For those into entertainment, the new Colorado has the upgraded MyLink infotainment system and gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and 7.0- or 8.0-inch color screens with Bluetooth streaming and DAB+ radio as standard.

The current model is the third best-selling pick-up in Australia behind the top-selling Toyota HiLux and second-placed Ford Ranger.

It will be interesting to see if these fairly minor changes will woo customers away from arch-rival Ford with its Ranger.

By Tata to Paradise

I have never owned a Tata, but I have experienced an “extended” trip in/on one, but the bottom two ratios only.

Having been in the (then) new Tata extended cab pick-up for the drive from north Koh Samet, to Paradee Resort on the southernmost tip, I can assure you it was impossible to get fast enough to get into third gear. Not even if your name is Sebastian Loeb, the ex-world rally champion.

However, rather than being driven around in a Tata on a tropical island, I was actually supposed to be driving around the freezing north of Scotland in a rental car, but Iceland put paid to that idea, when a volcano that nobody can spell and even fewer people can pronounce, decided to spew thousands of tons of ash into the air which threw thousands of planes back onto the ground. Mine included.

Now if you really want a point to ponder upon, next time you are down the pub with a couple of mates try this for size, is it morally correct that an inanimate object like an insurance company can refuse payout of an insurance policy because of an “Act of God”, when the person taking out the insurance is an Atheist, so does not hold with the very existence of a god to start with? Let me know your answer sometime.

I have to admit that I dislike air travel. It goes against the laws of nature, as far as I am concerned. This aluminium skinned device is supposed to fly, weighing 442,000 kg. All other flying devices are covered in feathers, with the heaviest being the male Zimbabwean bustard which takes off from the runway Number 2 at 19 kg. I am sure you are delighted to know this. That sure is one heavy bustard. However, there I was, mentally gearing up for 24 hours at 30,000 feet, and suddenly there I wasn’t.

This is where Koh Samet comes in. It only took one call to my old friend Hans Spoerri (now retired) of the Samed Island group, and the family was booked into the Paradee Resort. Not only does one not have to get there in a heavier than air flying machine, but it is also only a little over one hour from my house in the Dark Side (the smarter end of Pattaya). Well, not quite. The jumping off the mainland point is the hour and 10 minutes away, but you do then have to find a way to Koh Samet itself.

The Paradee people gave me the option of a speedboat ride from Ban Phe harbour, the recommended way, or the slow ferry to the northern end and then the Tata from there. I chose Tata.

This was not a misplaced trust in Mr. Tata’s pick-up, but rather came from the fact that speedboats have a habit of throwing people overboard. They do, believe me. Try taking out an insurance policy against being thrown overboard as a speedboat passenger and then sliced and diced by the props, and there will be guffaws all round from the friendly insurance people, who are only too happy to take your money, but not so swift in giving you some money.


Last week I asked what was the first air-cooled racing engine, which had a large fan to force air across the cylinders? Hint: do not jump to the first conclusion! The correct answer was not Porsche, but it was a Frayer-Miller in 1906.

So to this week. In the early days of motoring, steam cars reigned supreme, but the invention of one accessory saw the internal combustion engine out-sell the steamers. What was it?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]  or [email protected].  Good luck!

Update August 13, 2016

For Sale – one owner for 82 years!

One owner 1928 Rolls-Royce.

Allen Swift (1908 – 2010) drove the same car for 82 years. The car was a Rolls-Royce Piccadilly-P1 Roadster he had received new as a graduation gift from his father in 1928. To save you getting the calculator out, he drove the car until he died aged 102 years!

He was the oldest living owner of a car that was purchased new, and by the time of his death, the car (and Mr. Swift) had covered 1,721,998 kilometers.

This would have been one of the Springfield Rolls-Royces, manufactured up until 1932.

After his death, the car was donated to a Springfield museum.

Middle aged spread

 Mini and its big brother MINI.

Humans are not the only group on this earth to suffer from Middle aged spread. Motor cars do as well. The most obvious is the badge marketed as MINI by its manufacturer BMW. The latest iterations are so far removed from being “mini” that it is laughable. If your car was Sir Alec Issigonis’ groundbreaking ADO 15 Mini, this new MINI makes a mockery of the terminology.

And BMW’s have themselves grown larger. Look at today’s 3 Series compared to the compact 3 Series sold up to the late 70s.

Of course, BMW is not the only manufacturer to have stacked on the fat. Look at today’s Toyota Corolla, compared to the Corolla of three decades ago.

The Honda Jazz is another fine example of growing bigger with age. No longer a small car, it could almost be mistaken for the Innova from the same stable.

Thailand tops export market into Australia

According to the Australian Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, 23,803 Thai-made vehicles were exported to Australia last month ahead of 23,359 from Japan.

The Thai vehicle industry was the biggest single winner of the free trade agreement Thailand signed with Australia in 2005, but it also has gained from the revolution in what of vehicles preferred by the Australian consumer. Passenger cars’ market share continues to slide, down to 41.6 percent last month and on track to be overtaken by SUVs by the end of this year.

SUVs last month had a 37 percent market share while light commercials sales also continued to rise, now with 18.5 percent of new sales.

The “light commercial” segment is dominated by Thai assembled vehicles with top sellers being the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hi-Lux, followed by Holden Colorado, Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi Triton and the Mazda and Isuzu equivalents.

Among other popular vehicles either fully or partially sourced from Thailand are the Mazda 2 and CX-3, the Honda Civic and Ford Fiesta and Focus.

Are you willing to pay for hybrid technology?

I ran this item a couple of years back, but with all the new interest being shown in BEV’s, I found it interesting that the infrastructure required has not happened in the interim. It is a bit like the chicken and the egg.

Detroit (AP) - Inspired by spiking gas prices and growing concern for the environment, U.S. consumers are showing more interest in hybrid vehicles despite their higher price tag, according to a survey released last month.

Seventy two percent of recent car buyers said they are definitely or probably interested in getting a hybrid for their next vehicle, up from 58 percent of consumers in 2005, the survey by marketing and consulting firm J.D. Power and Associates showed.

But once the average $5,000 price differential for a hybrid was revealed, only 46 percent said they still were interested.

Mike Marshall, director of automotive emerging technologies at J.D. Power, said rising gas prices and a heightened effort by consumers to be more environmentally conscious are at the root of the increased interest in fuel-efficient and low-emission hybrids.

He said hybrids held up well despite their cost and were the top vehicle technology feature over $500 in which buyers were interested.

By comparison, consumers remain skeptical of clean diesel technology (and so they should!), which can improve fuel economy by 30 percent over traditional engines and has a lower premium of $1,800. Just 37 percent said they were interested in that technology, the study said.

Marshall said consumers don’t have much knowledge of diesel technology, but that could change as more offerings hit the market.

“There’s a lot of education that’s needed on alternative powertrains and alternative fuels, diesel in particular because of its performance in the first round, the noisy, the dirty round,” he said. “That’s not where diesel is today.”

While car buyers’ interest in hybrids is growing, their fascination is highest for cheaper new technologies such as backup assist cameras.

The study found that interest was highest for blind spot detection at 76 percent; backup assist at 74 percent; and navigation systems at 73 percent. But interest fell once the $1,500 premium for navigation systems and the $500 price tag for blind spot detection was revealed.

When prices were revealed, interest was highest in backup assist, at 68 percent; active cornering headlights, at 65 percent; and wireless connectivity systems, at 53 percent. All three of those options are $300 or less.

Marshall said safety features have long dominated the study but have recently fallen behind other features like voice-activated wireless connectivity and other entertainment options. Last year, he said, premium surround sound was one of the top five features in the study.

Marshall said automakers are paying attention to that trend and are bringing what used to be thought of as luxury features into mainstream brands more quickly. One example is the Microsoft Corp. system known as “Sync” in Ford Motor Co. vehicles that will expand into Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motor Co. vehicles soon. The system allows people to use voice commands to control personal music players and telephones.

J.D. Power surveyed 19,000 people in April who purchased or leased a new vehicle in the last three years.

Footnote: The current crop of hybrids available in Thailand, some through the grey market, are really far too expensive as far as looking at purchasing one as an economic answer to the rising fuel prices. Toyota were talking about importing and marketing the Alphard people movers in the 3.5 liter V6 guise with the six speed auto transmission. This they can bring in under the Thai-Japan Free Trade Agreement, but cost was mooted to be around 4 million THB. You would probably have to keep it for around 10 years to get your money back in fuel savings

Government to switch on EV production

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has brought up the concept of Thailand being a hub of Electric Vehicle (EV) production, with the Cabinet agreeing to EV promotion. This is in addition to Thailand promoting eco cars and hybrids.

The EV production covers Plug-In Hybrids (PHEV and HEV), Battery Electric (BEV) and Fuel Cell EV’s. The news was not welcomed by Toyota and Honda, who said that the market in EV’s is not big enough to warrant the tooling up that would be required for EV’s.

However, Mercedes are stepping up their PHEV production with the S500e and C350e models already being produced in their Thai plant. Mercedes believes that EV’s will be the “next wave” in the auto industry, with only battery charging stations slowing the acceptance by Thai drivers.

In an environment full of doom and disaster, with sales figures plummeting, Mercedes are showing an 8 percent growth in passenger vehicle sales over the first six months of 2016, up to 6,504 vehicles, of which more than 1,000 have been PHEV’s.

Auto or Manual?

Never mind ‘autonomous’ cars, the debate is not over with ‘auto’ versus ‘manual’ gearboxes. Forgetting personal preferences for a minute, much has to do with the intended use of the vehicle.

Modern automatic transmissions go back to an early “horseless carriage” gearbox developed in 1904 by the Sturtevant brothers of Boston, Massachusetts. This unit had two forward speeds, the ratio change being brought about by flyweights that were driven by the engine. At higher engine speeds, high gear was engaged. As the vehicle slowed down and engine RPM decreased, the gearbox would shift back to low. Unfortunately, the metallurgy of the time was not up to the task, and owing to the abruptness of the gear change, the transmission would often fail without warning.

Today’s automatic gearboxes have grown from two speed autos to currently a nine speed being the maximum number of ratios. ZF Friedrichshafen and BMW were responsible for introducing the first six-speed (the ZF 6HP26 in the 2002 BMW E65 7-Series). Mercedes-Benz’s 7G-Tronic was the first seven-speed in 2003, with Toyota introducing an eight-speed in 2007 on the Lexus LS 460. Derived from the 7G-Tronic, Mercedes-Benz unveiled a semi-automatic transmission with the torque converter replaced with a wet multi clutch called the AMG Speed Shift MCT. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee has the world’s first nine-speed automatic transmission for a passenger vehicle to market.

Following the acceptance by the marketplace of auto transmissions in the 60’s, comparisons started to be made between the two types, with manuals favored because of fuel economy, and also quicker in acceleration. But that was not to last, clever engineers developed the twin-clutch auto transmissions which are now quicker than even the most enthusiastic driver in a manual.

Manuals can be more affordable, and more economical, and with the more vital driver involvement, still seem to win plenty of fans in Europe, where they are still a popular choice (in the UK for example, 75 percent of cars sold in 2013 were manual equipped), but in the US 93 percent of all cars sold are automatic. One should also remember that automatic transmissions are easier on the drive train and eminently more relaxing to drive in stop-start city driving.

So what do I drive? Quite frankly, for round town, give me my automatic any day, but for the race track, it must be a manual to give me (the driver) that sense of control at all times (even though it may not be). I suppose it’s because I like to know what gear I am in, and not some ratio the electronic brain thinks would be better.


Last week I asked who said, “How come some tiny little California startup, run by guys who know nothing about the car business, can do this and we can’t?” It was Bob Lutz when he was in GM, talking about the Tesla. Bob was also dismissive of global warming (now called climate change) saying “Global warming is a total crock of sh*t.”

So to this week. What was the first air-cooled racing engine, which had a large fan to force air across the cylinders? Hint: do not jump to the first conclusion!

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]  or [email protected].  Good luck!

Update August 6, 2016

Jim Clark

Jim Clark.

A few words about Jim Clark are in order. With almost 20 Grands Prix in a year these days, statistics can be very deceptive. When Clark was competing there were generally about 10 Grands Prix only, so obviously his total number of wins were less than those of today, but look at these statistics to get an idea of just how good Jim Clark was as a Grand Prix driver: He holds the record for most Grand Slams, taking pole, fastest lap, race win and leading every lap of the race in 8 races (1962 British Grand Prix, 1963 Dutch Grand Prix, 1963 French Grand Prix, 1963 Mexican Grand Prix, 1964 British Grand Prix, 1965 South African Grand Prix, 1965 French Grand Prix, 1965 German Grand Prix).

Jim Clark won the 1963 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps in extremely wet, foggy and rainy conditions. After starting eighth on the grid Clark passed all of the cars in front of him, including early leader Graham Hill. About 17 laps into the race, with the rain coming down harder than ever, Clark had not only lapped the entire field except for Bruce McLaren, but he was almost five minutes ahead of McLaren and his Cooper. This would be the first of seven victories for Clark and Team Lotus that year. Clark was also a winner in touring cars, Indy cars, F2, F1 and rallies. A huge talent. And a very retiring man, as opposed to today’s spoiled brats. His gravestone says “Farmer”, above his world championship achievements.

Aston Martin celebrates Spitfire milestone

Aston Martin Spitfire.

(It has been quite a while since I read such blatant marketing rubbish, but here you are!)

Eight Aston Martin Vantage V12s are to be built to honor the 80th anniversary of the famed WW2 Supermarine Spitfire, the iconic British fighter aircraft that helped shape the Battle of Britain in World War 2.

The cars are to be known as Vantage S Spitfire 80, the cars will be prepared by Aston Martin and sold through its Cambridge dealership.

All eight will be finished in a new paint hue, known as Duxford Green, which is named after the first RAF base where the fighters were stationed.

The Duxford Aircraft Restoration Company will also produce a handful of bespoke parts for the car, including exhaust tips that will, according to Aston, mimic the ‘rainbow bloom’ effect of the Spitfire’s straight pipes from its 27 liter Merlin V12. (I warned you this was rubbish. Exhaust tips! I must order one.)

(It gets worse.) Along with the tips, owners can opt to have a serial number of a Spitfire inscribed on the Aston’s side strakes, while the car’s bonnet vents will be color coded and a satin carbon rear diffusor added.

The yellow pinstriping also pays tribute to the finish of the first Spitfire, while solid silver Aston wings will be affixed front and rear.

The Royal Air Force roundel has been incorporated into the dashboard, a ‘Spitfire 80’ logo is added to the head rests, while red webbing door pulls and inserts mimic the Spitfire’s interior. Even the airbag cover is inscribed with a unique aircraft code.

What does not change is the car’s mechanical specification, the Spitfire 80 is powered by a 5.9 liter V12 engine outputting 424 kW and 630 Nm through the rear wheels, giving a 0-100 km/h time of 3.9 seconds.

The vehicles will be handed over to their new owners at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, where the owners will have a chance to run their new machines down the Duxford airstrip. (Winkers!)

Thai deputy prime minister announces SAIC plant

SAIC Motor has agreed to build up to 100,000 pick-up trucks a year in Thailand. The new truck is a rival for the likes of Great Wall’s upcoming Steed and a raft of Japanese and American one-tonners – is in the final stages of development in China where it will go on the market next year under SAIC’s alternative LCV brand, Maxus, alongside the V80 and G10 vans.

It is unclear if this is that same vehicle that is being proposed for production in Thailand which is regarded as the global hub of one-tonne pick-up manufacturing, exporting thousands of vehicles such as the Toyota HiLux and Ford Everest across the world.

The vehicles will be built by SAIC’s Chinese-Thai joint venture, SAIC Motor-CP, at Rayong, where the organization announced in May that it planned to build a second plant at a cost of between 30 and 40 billion baht.

The new factory will more than triple the company’s Thai production capacity from 50,000 to 150,000 units a year, and in Thailand’s currently depressed auto production, this is very welcome news.

Pick-up production in Thailand would give SAIC ready access to the ASEAN market while also – potentially – providing duty free access to the Australian and New Zealand markets along with relatively low-cost shipping.

SAIC’s other export brand, MG, also has considered shipping at least one model from Thailand to Australia at some point after the brand returns to the Australian market in October, although the three models – the MG6, MG3 and GS – all will come from China initially.

The pick-up is likely to surface at next year’s 2017 Auto China in Shanghai in April. The SUV will come later, most likely with a 2018 start date.

What did we learn from the German GP?

Well, we learned that Nico Rosberg will never win the World Championship. We also learned that these days driving indiscretions are being recorded and telecast, and so being pinged for driving straight into another car is objective these days, not subjective! Sorry, Nico but you deserved your 5 second penalty. Not that it mattered, you were well and truly beaten anyway.

Despite ‘only’ qualifying in second, the race was all Lewis Hamilton’s (Mercedes) from the second the lights went out at the start, literally coasting to the win unchallenged.

At the start, the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo were next to push Rosberg down to 4th. This was to herald a race Rosberg would like to forget. Riccciardo, on a different tyre strategy from his brash young team mate, was unchallenged after taking over 2nd and while never able to challenge Hamilton, was never challenged himself. He will take the top step of the podium in the second half of the season, but it may need Hamilton to DNF.

Having a lonely race were the two Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen in 5th and 6th and it will take every minute of the next four weeks for Ferrari to get up to the front again. More heads will roll and an optimist will be someone who takes their lunch to work at Maranello.

Last car on the same lap as the leader was the Force India of Hulkenberg who drove a well calculated race, conserving his tyres and being able to pass the Williams of Bottas with seven laps to go.

There were many dices during the hour and a half race, with the McLarens of Button (8th) and Alonso (12th) generally in the middle of them, along with the Haas duo of Gutierrez (11th) and Grosjean (13th).

As for the rest? Middle to rear of the pack drivers, struggling with rear of the pack cars. Make-weights and mobile chicanes or, as in the case of poor old Massa, (Williams) another bumper car. They should start Massa from the pit lane each race to try and get Felipe through the first corner without damage.

After the dire threats of “track limits”, the stewards seemed to have dropped that regulation as being unworkable. The other idiocy called ‘communications’ has also been quietly dropped and we heard the dialogues between pit wall and driver once more. However, the signal is so poor, most of the transmission is impossible to understand.

Despite this, I am sure that by the time the second part of the season begins, the FIA will have dreamed up more ridiculous rules to keep everyone confused.


1 Hamilton Mercedes

2 D Ricciardo Red Bull

3 M Verstappen Red Bull

4 N Rosberg Mercedes

5 S Vettel Ferrari

6 K Raikkonen Ferrari

7 N Hulkenberg Force India

8 J Button McLaren

9 V Bottas Williams

10 S Perez Force India

The next F1 GP is August 28 at Spa. With his confidence at an all-time low, do not put your money on NR, even though Mercedes will have expensive counselors working with Nico day and night for the next four weeks. Time for Mercedes to consider drafting in the other Nico (Hulkenberg) for 2017. They don’t even need to change the signs in the washroom.

Natter Nosh and Noggin

The Pattaya car club meets at Jameson’s Irish Pub on Soi AR next to Nova Park. The next meeting is on Monday August 8 at Jameson’s at 7 p.m. A totally informal meeting of like-minded souls to discuss their pet motoring (and motorcycling) loves and hates (plus lies and outright exaggerations). Come along and meet the guys who have a common interest in cars and bikes, and enjoy the Jameson’s specials, washed down with a few beers. A couple of the members are scrutineers at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, so they may have some scuttlebutt about the F1 scene, and one is just back from driving around Australia towing a caravan! Always a fun night. Be prepared to laugh a lot at some of the antics of the members (when they were younger)! The Car Club nights are only on the second Monday of the month (not every second Monday)!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked you to study the photograph – what is it, and who drove it? I want to know both. It was the footwell of one of Prince Bira’s ERAs.

So to this week. Who said, “How come some tiny little California startup, run by guys who know nothing about the car business, can do this and we can’t?”

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] or [email protected].  Good luck!

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