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Archive for January, 2012

Back Flip On Ethanol

A huge back flip has been announced by the NSW Government on the ethanol issue. Both Government and Opposition supported the withdrawl of 91 octane unleaded from the garage forecourts in favour of 10 percent ethanol by 1st July 2012. When this was announced and made law in 2009 there was an outcry from motorists, petrol retailers and refineries alike.

Private Fleet discussed the pros and cons at length here and our readers responded here. It was clearly not a popular decision as many motorists would be forced to pay for premium fuel and virtually every NSW motorist would, arguably, face higher fuel bills as the slightly lower ethanol pump price did not compensate for the poorer fuel economy.

Clearly someone was listening as the O’Farrell government announced on 20th January that the cabinet has agreed to dump the ban on 91 unleaded!

So NSW motorists will be pleased, as will interstate drivers who would be faced with having to put 10 percent ethanol fuel or 95 octane premium brew in their tanks when they venture into NSW.

Do you think it’s a great example of the government listening to the people, or do you think they should have gone ahead anyway?

Have you say below.

Is Running On Compressed Air Just Too Much Hot Air?

In 2007 Tata Motors of India announced to the world that they had developed a car that would run on compressed air and that it would be on the market by 2008. In fact they even displayed a car (see below) and said that at least 6,000 would be on the road within months.

There were some remarkable claims made at the launch of this car:- 

• It would be totally emission free at the exhaust

• It could be re-charged at home in 4 hours, or at a garage in minutes

• It could have a range of several hundred kilometers before it needs a re-charge

• It would be frozen air that could be directly used as an airconditioner etc.etc.

• A fully optioned car could be put on the road for less than $10,000!

It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it. So why haven’t we heard more?

Well, that’s a bit of a puzzle as Tata Motors, whilst being the largest vehicle manufacturer in India (and they also own Jaguar and Land Rover) have gone strangely quiet. Tata did admit to having some heat exchange problems with the technology a couple of years ago. In 2009 the University Of Berkely in California published a report that said “Even under highly optimistic assumptions the compressed-air car is significantly less efficient than a battery electric vehicle and produces more greenhouse gas emissions than a conventional gas powered car with a coal intensive power mix.

On the other hand Luxembourg-based MDI, the developer of the concept, is much more confident.

Their latest design (shown  below with and without clothes) was exhibited at the Paris Motor show last year.


Financial support for this venture has been provided to MDI by Tata, and MDI is certainly upbeat about putting an air-compressed powered car on the roads in the near future.

So will it happen?

We shall see.

Dumb and Dumber-Lambo Catches Fire

It’s sad enough to see a supercar on fire- but how would you feel when it was done on purpose??

This picture is of a brand spanking new Lamborghini that was planned to be the star exhibit at a car show in Portland, Oregon, USA yesterday.

The show safety regulations forbid a car to be shown with a fuel in the petrol tank. So you’d syphon it out, wouldn’t you? Or a better option would be to drive it for 50kms or so, you’d think. Mmmm, not the goons who delivered this car. They decided to start it up and rev it to the limiter in neutral until it ran out of fuel. Then they got fed up doing that so they wedged a piece of wood under the accelerator and walked away for a while. Quite naturally the engine overheated, caught fire and was ruined. Nice day’s work, what???

In Praise Of Slower Driving

Cars are designed to go fast, which is why they took over from horse-drawn transport and bicycles on the road. All modern cars, even the most sluggish and cumbersome, are capable of travelling at a speed that was once considered impossible – about 150 or so years ago, before the advent of the railway, it was believed by the scientific authorities that humans would suffocate if they travelled over 30 mph (about 48 km/h).
However, while modern cars can go three times this “fatal” speed with ease and some makes sold in Australia have their speeds limited (e.g. certain makes of BMW), we don’t always have to go as fast as we possibly can. Sometimes, there’s something to be said about driving a bit more slowly. So what can be said in favour of going slower?

1     It’s safer. Sure, cars have all the safety features that the engineers can think of, but sheer physics will win the day. If you lose control in spite of the ABS, ESP and all the rest of it, and smack into something solid, all that energy will be transferred to your car’s body and to your body. Carnage. This is why speed limits exist, why powerful cars are speed limited and why the cops get so snippy about leadfooted drivers.


2      You use less fuel. Again, it’s a matter of physics. The faster you go, the more energy is needed to get your car to that speed and to keep you there. And this energy comes from petrol or diesel, even in a hybrid vehicle such as the Toyota Prius. Slow down and you save money.


3      You put less stress on your car’s mechanics. Physics again – at higher speeds, more force is needed to alter the vehicle’s velocity – and the velocity changes when you change direction as well as when you slow down or speed up. Change the velocity aggressively or assertively, and this does increase the wear and tear on the tyres, the brake pads, the steering mechanism, etc.


4      When you’re in an unfamiliar place, you can find your way a bit more easily. It’s easy to miss landmarks and road signs – and that includes signs such as speed limits and arrows – when you’re going at a fair clip. How many times have you been barrelling along looking for a particular road only to miss your turning because by the time you had read the signpost and recognised the street name, you’d overshot?


5      To quote an old proverb, galloping horsemen see no flowers. If you are always in a hurry, you often miss some of the beautiful and interesting things around you. The truth of this old saw is often proved by people driving around Perth during June–November: take it slowly and you can appreciate the famous wildflowers; rush and they’re just a blur. And this doesn’t just apply to rural driving in the lusher parts of Western Australia – it also applies in downtown Sydney. If you take it at a more leisurely pace, you get a chance to notice things you wouldn’t otherwise – a small boutique or café, a quirky mural or an attractive/interesting looking person.

Sure, there are times when we have to make the most of the speed that our cars have on offer. And there are times when it’s fun to go faster (but within the speed limits!). But at times, it doesn’t hurt to slow down and enjoy the drive, as well as driving more safely and frugally.

New Car Contest

Here is a quiz with some prizes for you. We’ve got 25 bottles of Nu Finish car polish to give away.

To get your prize just look at the ten cars below and identify them for us. If you get eight of more correct, and you’re one of the first 25 winners, a bottle of Nu Finish will be on its way to you. But these cars won’t be familiar to you, as they are all due to be launched in 2012. However, we’ve given you a clue for each one to make your task a little easier.

Submit your answer by putting your answers in ‘Leave a reply’ at the end of the quiz

Question one:

Clue:  Greenie name for an electric car.

Question Two:

Clue: From Asia- 3 door, but not how you would expect.

Question Three:

Clue:  New brand, old name connected with Holden.

Question Four:

Clue: This brand was last sold in Oz in 1997 as a luxury version of Nissan

Question Five:

Clue:  Jointly developed by this manufacturer and Toyota

Question 6:

Clue:  German performance car, but not an Audi or BMW

Question Seven:

Clue:  A major new car release from Holden should not be a shock.

Question Eight:

Clue:  This compact soft road completes the trifecta for this manufacturer.

Question Nine:

Clue: Oz brand, Thai built ute, single and dual cab.

Question Ten:

Clue:  Chinese tradie to compete with Great Wall.

So, if you think you can correctly identify at least eight of these, put your answers in ‘ Leave a reply’  below and we’ll contact you if you’re a winner. OK, if you’re still puzzled, why don’t you Google ‘cars of 2012’ and you should be fine!

Good Luck!


WOW! We knew you’d have to be quick, but we didn’t expect you to be that quick!

We’ve had 25 winning entries already, so, sorry, the Nu Finish polishes have been polished off!

Country Driving Tips: How To Drive Near Horses

Over the summer, a lot of us head out into the wide open spaces for a holiday. Country driving is a lot different from city driving, with the empty roads and higher speeds being just one of the things. Or should that be “mostly empty roads”? There are other drivers out there on the roads who are driving just as fast as you are, and there are other hazards that you just don’t get in town, and most of these hazards have four feet.

Horses are one such rural hazard and they are legitimate road users, so if you see a horse and rider on the tarmac ahead of you, you can’t get indignant and wonder why they aren’t off the road. As is the case for bicycles, you have to share the road with horses.

However, horses aren’t bicycles and it’s not just a case of overtaking them when you get close and making sure that you give them enough space to fall over safely. Bikes do not have brains; horses do. And a horse’s brain isn’t a human’s brain, so a horse on the road might not react the way a human would. You don’t want a horse coming through your windscreen. It won’t just be the horse and the rider that gets badly injured or killed: as a horse is very heavy (half a tonne for something the size of the average racehorse or stock horse), it could kill or injure you and the front passenger as well.

To drive safely near horses, it’s important to understand how a horse thinks. A horse is a herbivore whose main form of defence is to run like heck. This is often very dangerous for a rider, because of the risk of falling at high speed, as well as the risk of the horse colliding with something because it’s so focused on the scary thing behind it. Things that prey on horses in the wild make growly roaring noises and often take horses by surprise. It takes a fair bit of training to help a horse realise that that roaring thing isn’t actually a jaguar or a lion that can eat them – it’s just a V8 Jaguar or a Holden with a lion on the front. Most horses that are ridden out on the road have had this training, but drivers still have to do their bit, because the basic instincts are still there in that horsy brain.

The first thing you can do is to ease off the accelerator. This isn’t just so you can slow down enough to react in time if the horse suddenly swerves or something unpredictable happens. This stops your engine making that roaring noise that sounds like a predator. Don’t reapply the accelerator until you’re well past the horse.


Secondly, and most importantly, DON’T HONK YOUR HORN! This will hurry the horse up, all right, but in a way that could potentially kill. You want to avoid spooking the horses at all costs.

Horses can be startled by all sorts of things and they have different temperaments. If a horse is giving the rider trouble, it’s best if you can slow down to a crawl as you go past or even stop. The hand signal for “I am having trouble controlling my horse – please slow down” that can and should be given by the rider is the right arm held out (like the right-turning signal from a cyclist) and waved up and down. Of course, if the horse is being particularly difficult, the rider may need both hands on the reins. Use your eyes: if the horse is walking slowly with its head down and its ears pricked forwards or tilted to the side, it’s relaxed. If it has its head high and its ears back, it is agitated.

Share the road with horses – drive past slowly and considerately, and enjoy it as part of the sights to be seen in the countryside.

Nostalgia Time

Modern cars have come a long, long way from what they used to be. When I first was given the steering wheel (which was down our rather long driveway when I was about ten years old and we had a Mitsubishi Sigma Galant station wagon), thing like airbags, GPS and pyrotechnic seatbelts weren’t even dreamed of. And there certainly is no substitute for modern safety features – people can walk away from a serious crash with just a few bumps and scratches (and a rather bad case of the jitters, admittedly), whereas the same crash in an older car would have involved serious injury and possibly fatality. Dual-zone climate control means that there’s no more fights about “I’m too hot” and “I’m too cold”, and pollen filters make car trips more bearable for those who suffer from hay fever.
But there’s something to be said about older cars, and most drivers over a certain age (and a few under that age) get a bit wistful when they see an older car, and more than a few of us still own older vehicles. But just what is it about older vehicles that we like?
• Nostalgia: if you have a lot of happy memories associated with a certain make or model, you are likely to want to own one.
• Simplicity: Some drivers who have been on the road a long time find the multitude of gadgets and electronic bells and whistles in modern cars to be a bit overwhelming – or even unnecessary. Another aspect of simplicity that appeals to some car enthusiasts, especially those who like to do a bit of tinkering in the garage, is that older cars that don’t have everything done by electronics and electrics can have some repairs and tweaks done by a keen amateur – anyone with a good set of tools can replace a wind-up window, but you have to really know what you’re doing if you try to fix an automatic window.
• Fun: This is one that appeals to passengers rather than drivers, but older vehicles (especially utes and four wheel drives) tended to have ghastly suspension but bouncy springs. The seats weren’t very adjustable and they certainly didn’t have any lumbar support other than a pillow, but they were like a trampoline when you went over a speed hump.
• Charm: The original Mini Cooper was drawn by hand. Later, cars tended to be designed by computers, taking aerodynamics into account. Most modern vehicles do have aesthetics applied to them by a real human, but very few capture the bug-eyed cuteness of the VW Beetle, the Mini or the Fiat 500, which is why new versions of these have been release that combine the best of the old with the best of the new.
Drivers can have other reasons for owning an older vehicle. Some people are holding onto one because they believe that it will become a classic one day: after all, the Model T Ford was once as common as muck, but is now a rare and coveted vehicle. Others stay with an older vehicle because they don’t give a damn about fashion and status, and can’t be bothered upgrading. To each their own!