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Archive for June, 2012

Vehicle Safety: Modern Accessories That Preserve Lives

Henry Ford is credited with creating the affordable automobile.  Because of mass production and assembly lines, by the 1920s an automobile purchase was in the reach of most of the population of the developed countries.  A Ford Model T cost less than $300 USD in 1920; much lower priced than the $1,200 USD it brought in 1909.  Now the masses of working class people could afford modern transportation.

 The early vehicles could travel at speeds up to an amazing 50 miles per hour.  The mechanical brakes of those vehicles were little better than dragging your feet though, and the steering was kind of vague, thus many accidents occurred, often seriously injuring the occupants.  Improvements were made in steering, brakes, tires and suspensions making vehicles much safer to operate, but accidents still occurred, mostly from driver error than from inadequate equipment.

 

As the modern age of automobiles arrived, the attempts to make them safer increased.  Padded dashboards and instrument panels, collapsible steering wheels and finally seat belts were added to new cars.  Some of these, most notably the seat belts, were an aftermarket addition.  Injuries from car wrecks became less severe even when many of the vehicles involved were totally destroyed, or at least irreparable.

The modern auto era has brought the safest vehicles ever made.  There are airbags galore, three-point harnesses for passengers and driver, child seats that are like a safety cocoon for the little ones and a host of electronic safety devices:  Stability control, anti-lock brakes, collision warning alarms, back-up cameras, lane departure alarms and adaptive cruise control.  Some vehicles are designed with the passenger compartment as a safety box, collapsible front and rear frame members and reinforced doors and roofs.  All this has been done in the name of safety and occupant protection, a worthy cause.

One area the vehicle manufacturers haven’t been able to address is “the loose nut behind the wheel.”  Driver training in some areas of the world consists only of teaching the mechanics of operating a vehicle, but none of the responsibilities that go with an operator’s license.  Courtesy while driving seems to be an after thought instead of a conscious action.  Drivers don’t signal their intentions, pull out in front of faster moving traffic and change lanes without checking their mirrors and turning their heads.  Thus we still have vehicular collisions, but at least we are a lot safer.

 

Hyundai Steel: Where Your Car Comes From

What do you do if you’re a very big Asian car manufacturer and you want to make sure that the steel that goes into your vehicles is top quality. If you’re Hyundai, you buy and/or create your own steel mill. If you drive a Hyundai or are thinking of buying one, you probably don’t really stop to think about where the steel came from before it became a car, but it’s quite fascinating. According to one particular advertisement, Hyundai get very picky indeed about the steel that goes into their cars and have designed the factory in question to make sure that what you get going into the car in question is steel and nothing but steel.

 
The process starts off with iron ore and coking coal. Ever wondered where the ore from Australia’s mines ends up? Although a good chunk stays in the country and gets used here, the majority of what comes out of our mines ends up in Asia for manufacturing. Some of the iron ends up at the big Hyundai steel plant in South Korea. The coking coal comes from a range of places, with Australia and New Zealand both doing their bit to keep the supply up. The iron ore goes into a blast furnace and is heated to become liquid metal. During this process, from the moment it leaves the boat, the metal stays in a sealed factory section to make sure that absolutely nothing gets into the molten metal – dust and other bits don’t mix with iron very well and can compromise the integrity of the iron/steel and make it weaker than it would be otherwise. Not that people have only just discovered that metal doesn’t mix with mud – this principle is used as a symbol in the Bible (Daniel 2: 41–43). Hyundai is very proud of its closed loop system where even the raw materials are kept in hermetically sealed chambers to keep out contaminants. The tight sealing has another advantage: contaminants can’t get out of, say, the coking furnace. After it comes out from storage, the iron ore goes through the process of sintering or grinding before it goes into the furnace. At the same time, the coal is coked and transported to the blast furnace. The coke is used to heat the blast furnace, and the iron is melted so the pure iron can be purified and the slag extracted. Now the iron is ready to become steel.

 

Steel, as you see it in your car, is an alloy of iron. During the steel making process, the unwanted elements that make the metal weaker are whipped out and the elements they do want to make it stronger are added in. At the Hyundai factory, the aim is to make a low-carbon steel (carbon is the principal element that combines with iron to make the alloy known as steel). The steel making process takes about five steps before it is carted off to become sheet metal and, ultimately, Hyundai cars. Of course, there are several more steps between the furnace and the factory floor. Cars aren’t the only thing that Hyundai produces steel for – the sheet metal also gets turned into whitegoods such as fridges and freezers, and ships. It’s kind of ironic (interesting word) that some of that metal that left Australia in the form of iron ore from the mines ultimately comes back in the form of a finished vehicle that will whizz around the streets of Sydney.

 

Hyundai don’t just work with raw iron ore and coking coal. They also form part of the recycling chain and take steel scrap (e.g. bits of crushed cars, etc.) and turn that into products. But they don’t use recycled steel in the cars, as the quality of the iron/steel may have been compromised. Instead, the recycled steel goes for buildings, bridges, power pylons and the like.

 

It’s a moot point whether Hyundai should be using more recycled steel in its vehicles. On the one hand, it’s good to know that the company wants to make sure that it only uses the best materials in what it makes so safety isn’t compromised. On the other hand, we all know that iron is a non-renewable resource. Six of one and half a dozen of the other, really. Maybe Hyundai will one day find a way of making sure that its recycled steel is just as good as the virgin steel – I certainly won’t be surprised if they do.

 

Find out more about the Hyundai steel factory and the process of iron ore becoming cars at the Hyundai steel website: http://www.hyundai-steel.com/ (and select English for the language).

 

World’s Weirdest Cars- Have Your Say

Over the century plus of mass car production some real oddities have emerged. We have expressed  our thoughts on the World’s Weirdest Production Cars here.

Our list is far from exhaustive so you may agree with some, strongly disagree with others, and have some strikingly odd examples that you think should have been included.

We’d like to have your thoughts that we can publish in a future newsletter, so please add your comments below.

Novated Lease Infographic

A lot of people have asked us to try and put together a simple explanation on what a Novated Lease entails – probably because we rank #1 in Google for the term. So our friends at Prestige Performance Centre were kind enough to put together an infographic for us. Hope you like 🙂

Pic of novated leasing

Dream Cars, Concept Cars & Engineering Exercises

The late, great automobile designer at General Motors, Harley Earl, was fond of producing engineering exercises in his GM Design Group. These one-offs were shown in automobile shows to gauge public interest, but also just as often to showoff the talents of Earl’s great design team. A number of these concept cars went on to become production models, though greatly modified for better adaptation to mass production. Some of these one-offs were completely roadworthy vehicles and were driven by Earl and other top GM executives.

Among the dream cars that made it to production are the 1953 Buick Skylark, a sporty, V-8 powered convertible with low-cut doors and racy looks that still are hot today. Raymond Loewy Design Studio produced a show car for Studebaker in 1952 that evolved into one of the best classic designs of all times, the Studebaker Starliner coupe. This car evolved into the Studebaker Hawk series of the late fifties and sixties, but none of these were as beautiful as the original concept car penned by Robert Bourke of Loewy Design.

The Chevrolet Corvette is another concept that made it into production and is still a sports car icon today. However, more concept cars were not put into production for a variety of reasons, than were used as a basis for a production car. One of these is the Oldsmobile F-88, a two-seat convertible that was shown in 1954, the year after the introduction of the “Vette.” This V-8 powered and loaded-with-options personal sports car would have competed directly with the Corvette, which in 1953-4 was powered by an anemic six-cylinder backed by a two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. It is reported that Chevy executives lobbied successfully to squelch production of the sporty Olds. Of the two or three concepts made the only F-88 known to be in existence was sold at a Barrett-Jackson Auction for $3.24 millions and now resides in the Gateway Colorado Automobile Museum on a special rotating display.

The Ford Thunderbird first appeared as a concept, then as a production model in 1955. The two-seater was a response the success of the Corvette from rival Chevrolet. In 1958 the T-Bird morphed into a four-seat, personal luxury coupe and convertible and created a whole new market segment. Later entries in this niche market were the Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Riviera.

In our current automotive era the automobile shows around the world continue to be used to promote engineering and design concepts even more than they were in the classical car era. The concepts today are even more imaginative that they were in the sixties and every manufacturer has at least one on their viewing stand.

Concepts bubbling on the boil

Some of the concept cars that are sitting-in-waiting are pretty special.  Like a spoilt child, there may be some of us that are getting a little impatient and asking the question: when’s this one going to arrive?  New designs are getting fruitier and more flavoursome, and it’s exciting to see the flair that is going into these new creations.  Take a look.

Alfa Romeo has the exciting new Alfa Romeo 4C on the boil.  This looks a little like a Lotus Elise, and certainly has the curves and arches in the right places.  Overhang is minimal, so you can bet it’s going to love the corners!

How about the BMW GINA?  The surface of the BMW GINA features a new skin that BMW says is highly resistant to expansion.  The material is also durable, and flexible.  Underneath the exterior is a light aluminium framework which can adjust the cars flexi-skin.  Adjustable via electronic and hydraulic controls, the body shape can be reshaped according to the owner’s wishes.  Pretty cool.

Chrysler looks to be bringing in a nice new electric-powered 200C concept model.  With an interior flamboyance, well-dressed exterior and the Chrysler ENVI (electronic) drivetrain, this is a special medium-to-large size sedan.  Certainly, the concept Chrysler 200C may well provide a petrol-powered 200C for production.  The EV (Electronic Vehicle) would be awesome if it makes it into production.  Best keep our ears to the ground.

Your next Ford Explorer, at least in America, looks a premium machine that has futuristic looks and some excellent features.  The concept is also a demonstration platform for Ford’s new EcoBoost family of engines.  Powered with EcoBoost engine technology, the smaller engine packs power to match larger engines while achieving 20-30 percent gains in fuel-economy.  Range Rover: watch your back!

Jaguar has a beautiful concept car in its line-up.  The C-X16 features a next generation touch-screen communications system with supplementary buttons that provide shortcuts to top-level menu functions.  Further controls take their inspiration from devices such as smartphones and tablets and provide multimodal functionality.  But just check out the car’s sexy lines!

Kia GT is a striking new design on the ranks.  It’s a sleek and muscular four-door sports sedan with a rear-wheel drive layout – just the perfect set-up for loads of fun and excitement.  A 4690 mm length includes an extended bonnet, little front overhang, powerful rear haunches and a truncated rear end.  Power packs a 3.3-litre turbocharged Lambda V6 GDI engine generating 534 Nm.  Drive to the rear wheels is via an eight-speed automatic.

A van, but a special multi tasking large van, the Nissan NV2500 concept offers a brand new design plan and forward thinking – including a 3-Zone interior and flexible utility and storage solutions.  The NV2500 Concept’s “wall-less” mobile office/workspace design includes a computer workstation, fold-down conference table, numerous storage compartments, cargo/tool tie-down racks, nearly six feet of interior height and an awning-style side panel that opens to create a standing outside workshop table.

Renault has its Alpine A110-50 concept car which I can’t wait till we see it on our roads.  Flowing bodywork, half-domed headlamps, a unique 3D rear window, air intakes on each side that echo the ducts on the rear wheel arches and the carbon-fibre bodywork that features a new shade of blue which refreshes and reinterprets the famous original ‘Alpine Blue’ colour.  The doors feature a scissor motion.  Power is plenty, and comes from the 3.5-litre, 24-valve, 300 kW, V6 engine that is planted in a mid-rear position.  Handling promises to be very special.

How Aspirin Can Cure A Headache

Hey, this is an auto blog- how come we’re talking about headaches? Well, there is a connection.

It’s a real headache when you get a flat battery, and a couple of aspirins can cure it- the flat battery, not the headache!

If you don’t have a sealed battery and you can unscew a battery cap, simply pop in a couple of aspirins, screw the cap back, run back into the car and try to start it again.

It’s claimed that the acetylsalicylic acid in the aspirin and the sulfuric acid in the battery create a chemical reaction that may be enough to give sufficient charge for one starting attempt.

I’ve checked it out and it does seem to have some credibilty, so if you have a flat battery, try this, and if it works let us know.

The End Of The Rego Sticker?

Hot water, soap, razor blades and wet towels, all useful in getting last year’s rego sticker off the windscreen (mind you, leaving a ‘curl’ on the corner seems to do the trick, too). This is a routine that has been followed by every motorist since 1932 when registration stickers were first introduced
But this may be a thing of the past for most Australians as three states have already done away with them, or are in the process of doing so.

Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Yes! Good Idea because:-

1. It Saves Money
NSW claims it will save over half a million dollars a year in printing costs alone. The West Australian Government thinks it saves a million a year.

2. No Longer Necessary
Police cars are now equipped with electronic camera techniques that enable quick playback on whether a targetted car is currently registered or not.

3. Saves The Hassle Of Removing Old Stickers
No argument there

No! Bad Idea because:-

1. People Will Forget To Renew
OK, they mean to renew, don’t, but don’t get ‘sticker shock’ by suddenly seeing their out of date sticker on the windscreen.

2. People Will ‘Forget’ To Renew
They don’t really mean to renew, and they hope to get away with it. Some may (which reduces the overall savings benefit), but most won’t, and they’ll get fined in the process.

3. Extra Police Time Doing Rego Checks
That probably won’t be the case as the proliferation of automatic number plate recognition cameras will make the task more streamlined with or without sticker evidence (and the extra income from fines should help, too!)

4. Increase In Unregistered Vehicles Impacts On The Innocent
If there is a significant increase in unregistered vehicles on the road it could prove expensive for innocent people. An innocent driver involved in an accident with an unregistered vehicle may have to pay for his own damage or lose a no claim bonus, mechanics doing a test drive need to be sure that the car is registered- and there’s no visible means, no third party insurance will even impact on innocent pedestrians.

Whilst it is quick and easy to check on the currency of registration of a vehicle through the state’s website, it is still nowhere near as easy as looking on a windscreen.
All the states’ Road Ministers have confirmed that they do, and will send out sufficient renewal notices, either by email, post, text or all. (The WA authorities have now implemented text reminders where possible).
Motoring organizations have generally welcomed this initiative, but one disquieting fact has emerged from one participating state.
Western Australia were first to scrap rego stickers, in 2010. But an RAC of WA poll recently undertaken discovered that 70 percent of West Australian drivers prefer to have a rego sticker on their car to remind them of an up and coming cost.
If the public don’t embrace it, then it’s a real problem. Are they right to reject it? Will they get used to it? Will other states follow suit? (Tasmania looks to be the next) What do you think?  If you live in SA or WA we’d like to know how it has affected you. If not, are you going to welcome it?
Have your say by clicking below.

Your Dream Ride: Classic or Modern?

Your Dream Ride: Classic or Modern?

Some of us have lived long enough that what were our daily drivers in our youth are classic cars today. Most of you, however, have only recent memories of some of the great classic vehicles you have seen at car shows, in old movies or some of the televised car auctions that are now the rage in some parts of the world. Those of us who owned and drove them daily have a different perspective of these so-called classics.

While many of these classics are beautifully designed and some of them have what were very advanced features in their day, they don’t hold a candle to modern vehicles. It is hard to find a vehicle today without such amenities as; electronic fuel injection, an automatic transmission, air-conditioning, power steering, power brakes, power windows, stereo radios with CD slots, traction control and sunroofs. Can we live without these? Sure we can, but do we want to?

Here are some of the items you lived with when you drove one of these fifties-sixties-seventies classic cars:
Maintenance – The type and quality of lubricants available then necessitated that the oil be changed every three thousand miles or five thousand kilometers. The chassis also had lubrication points that required a squirt of grease. Modern cars need little or no greasing and the motor oil is good for two to three times that as in the sixties.

Repairs – Sure, modern parts may be more expensive, but very few classic cars could be driven sixty thousand miles/one hundred thousand kilometers without a complete engine rebuild. The transmission and clutch were probably replaced long before this.

Tire and brake mileage – Most of the classical car tires would last about twenty thousand miles, with the brakes having worn out shortly before that. Modern tires will safely run four or five times as long, and the brakes as well.

Driving and handling – Most classic cars were softly suspended and rolled heavily when cornering. Only a few of the classic sports cars handled well, but most of them were expensive then and astronomically priced today.

Performance – In the sixties, a six second run to sixty miles-per-hour was very fast and any top speed over one hundred mph was good. Even the most sedentary modern econo-box will have a higher top speed and some of them will turn in sub-six seconds to sixty.

Given the choice, I would much rather drive a modern car than one of the classics, even some of the more exotic classics. Driving should be a pleasure and the trip, not the destination, should be the reason to get behind the wheel.

Whoops, I did it again!

Isn’t it just the worst when you think you’re all sorted, and then bang, you hit the letterbox on the way out the drive or scrape the front air dam at the supermarket?  What about the runaway trolley that bumps onto the side of your car; doesn’t that just grate you?  However, accidents do happen.  What accidents to do with your driving experiences would you be bold enough to fess-up to?  What about this one that recently happened in Turkey?

It was a normal day at the office for the forecourt staff at the gas station in Turkey, when, out of the blue, a woman driving a late model Porsche 911 Turbo popped her foot on the wrong pedal.  Now we all no how quickly one of these cars can accelerate!  She carried on passed the pump and bowled on up to the counter inside the gas station store.  The achievement was captured by several security cameras, showing the footage of the white Porsche 997 pulling into the station before suddenly accelerating, crashing into a nearby car and then driving through the store.  You can take a look on this video.  The footage was posted on the Turkish website Haber365, which was first picked up by Carscoop.  The driver of the Porsche and one female passenger were unharmed in the incident, though an employee at the gas station did, unfortunately, suffer some minor injuries which were treated at a local hospital.

Most bumps and dings are more mundane.  Mine certainly have been. But you do get a few that are funny.  One story I have of my husband.  Always fun to share these tales about your nearest and dearest, aren’t they?  He was backing off a church lawn, where he dutifully checked in the right wing mirror, then the left wing mirror.  There was nothing behind that he could see, so back he went, straight into the oak tree.  Oops, he forgot to look in his rear view mirror!  Thank goodness for parking sensors and rear parking aids!

And if you think that just because a car has been owned by a respectable vicar with a string of degrees after his name is reliable (which the salesman is quite keen to tell you), think again.  Our vicar has had a string of little bumps and dings, including one rather similar to the one in the Turkish video where the gearbox wasn’t in neutral when the accelerator pedal went down during some test at the mechanics.

So what have been your funniest car accidents?  Drop us a line and let us know!