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Archive for January, 2014

Corporate Knight Rider: BMW introduces virtual marketplace

Don’t you just hate it when you are watching a program on television or about to watch the latest hilarious clip on YouTube and then you are faced with one of the greatest menaces known to modern human life? ADVERTS. One of the few words that brings a horrifying shudder of recognition to any humble soul. Who doesn’t just love watching an emotionally charged thrill ride of a film, and just as the lead faces the greatest battle of his life, standing on the edge of his own mortality, you hear those famous words…

“ARE YOU PAYING TOO MUCH FOR YOUR CAR INSURANCE? HAVE YOU HAD AN ACCIDENT AT WORK THAT WASN’T YOUR FAULT?”

It is just the BEST isn’t it? Anyone would think that we are all living in a money crazed world where profits are everything. But I am getting distracted. My point is, adverts are pretty annoying, right? It would seem that you cannot escape them. Even some of the most famous tourist landmarks are characterised by advertising. Times Square. Piccadilly Circus in London. Sometimes it does feel nice to escape the corporate manipulation, I don’t always want the latest mouthwatering burger filled with the tastiest flavours covering the meat… Is anyone else hungry all of a sudden?

Sometimes the drivers seat of my very own cave of tranquility is the only escape there is from this modern menace. Well, if you have the radio off that is. The uninterrupted joy of driving is a sensation that rivals no other. Car manufacturers would never want to do anything to ruin that. That would just be idiotic. I mean, imagine if a company decided to change its manufacturing process and put advertising inside your car. What mindless, logicless, money-driven, cheese eating surrender monkeys would…

Oh hey BMW...

Oh hey BMW…

…I’m sorry what?

…so BMW have announced the introduction of the ‘virtual marketplace’ to their new models. If it was going to be anyone, it was probably going to be the Germans. The BMW is THE definition of golf playing, money driven, bluetooth wearing businessmen. So in many ways it is the perfect choice for a car that tries to sell you products as you drive along. Economically speaking it is a stroke of genius, considering how much time most of us spend behind the wheel. And with all the technology available inside cars these days, chances are you could purchase all these glorious products as you drive. Here is some advice on advance, maybe you shouldn’t go driving if you have had a bad day or are feeling depressed. In your drive home from work, you may have bought yourself a whole new wardrobe, and if there was traffic maybe even a whole new kitchen. It’s a real risk that we all have to recognise now. Thanks BMW, thank you so much.

With all this talk of intelligent cars, it is only a matter of time before BMW go completely insane and create this... not that I would be sad about this

With all this talk of intelligent cars, it is only a matter of time before BMW go completely insane and create this… not that I would be sad about this

Is there any logic to this seemingly insane move by BMW?

Well honestly, when you look into some of the details, it may not be as mind-bogglingly ridiculous as I first thought. Some of the proposed aspects of this virtual marketplace include some consumer useful location-based services. For example, the system will be able to locate free parking spaces, cheap fueling stations and even provide deals on coffee breaks along your route. This actually sounds quite attractive. The cooperation with the GPS system in the car actually makes a great deal of sense. If I could have a car that would automatically find me the most fun driving route home, I am not going to be one to complain.

Were you starting to be sold on this idea after all? Well hang on a minute, because I haven’t finished yet. Just as I was beginning to think that this virtual marketplace could be a step in the right direction, BMW deliver yet another near knockout blow. I think the BMW technology team are quite fans of ‘1984’. They are proposing that this new system will ‘predict’ the needs of the driver based upon the proposed route, weather conditions and time of day and produce a tailor made advert selection.

What a load of total rabbit remains. It is almost scary to think that a car might ‘know’ what you need. It is almost a dark, twisted version of Herbie or Knight Rider. Can you imagine being told by your car that based on the length of time you spent at your last coffee stop, your bladder is full and there is a toilet located a few miles up the road?

kitt-20070403025803441

“Oh hey, I noticed that it is your wedding anniversary today and you have not got a present yet. There is a jewellery shop 10 miles from your current location. But based on your usual relationship attitude, I have also located for you the nearest service station that sells flowers”

If these cars could indeed predict the needs and wants of the driver, the consequences could be disastrous. We all know what many single men are like, and the kinds of things they like to enjoy when they are alone. Imagine if a man in his BMW suddenly had the latest adverts for the closest dirty chat line beamed to his system. Distraction may not even cover it.

BMW will be watching...

BMW will be watching…

BMW, did you really think this through?

However, based on everything I said there is one salvation. One escape from this world of commercial advertising. The OFF button. BMW have promised that this service will be optional and can be used at the drivers’ convenience. Good save, BMW. Good save.

What are your views on this? Would you like to have yourself tailored advertising on your drive?

Let’s see how this develops over time…

Keep Driving People!

Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love!

Commercial Hire Purchase – Buying a Car Through Commercial Hire Purchase

If, as a business, you are looking into the possibility of using a commercial hire purchase to obtain your next car, there are of course going to be things to bear in mind before you take the plunge. Obtaining a commercial hire purchase is these days fairly easy, with a number of commercial finance products to choose from with a fixed repayment system over a number of months.

Although here at Private Fleet we are not car financers, we can in this blog post look at some ways of buying a car through commercial hire purchase, and guide you in the right direction when it comes to setting a repayment structure or financing your purchase.

Deciding Commercial Hire Purchase is For You

There are many deciding factors when it comes to deciding whether commercial hire purchase is what you’re after. Organising finance is one of the most important things when it comes to buying a new car – but there are many benefits of commercial hire purchase you’re likely to find if you pay for your car upfront. Be sure to take a good look at your situation and decide whether the benefits outweigh the responsibility of having set monthly repayments.

How Does it Work

As already mentioned, with commercial hire purchase you repay a fixed amount over a number of months – with the vehicle becoming your sole possession once the repayments have been finalised. If you are a commercial user or a business, and you account for Goods and Service Tax (GST), there may be tax deductions available – and usually interest levels are fixed quite low as the finance is secured against the value of the vehicle.

At the end of the fixed term, you can often trade-in the vehicle, or re-finance the residual value to keep the car.

Setting your Payments

Only going for what you can afford naturally os the name of the game – but it pays in many instances to look at what deals are available with attractive interest levels. Many car manufacturers are vying for business during worldwide economic recession, so some excellent offers could be possible – with attractive service, warranty and insurance deals. Be sure to use some form of before you set up a commercial hire purchase, so you know exactly what pay structure is expected of you.

Commercial Hire Purchase

If you’d like to find out more from us about what exactly a entails, visit the hire purchase section of the site. If you’d rather stay away from operating leases, and would like to know more about other finance options, such as Novated Leases, contact us today:

http://www.privatefleet.com.au/about-us/national-contact-details/

Call: 1300 303 181

 

Four Wheeled Multiculturalism.

australian_flag_3Much has been made of the fact that, for such a relatively small population base, Australia has one of the highest number of car brands to choose from.  Sure, it’s a case of overkill but in the light of Australia Day, let’s have a look at our multicultural automotive range.

Home Grown
Holden
Holden has to be a first up runner with a history that goes back to the 1850s. James Alexander Holden emigrated to South Australia from the The V8 SupercarsU.K. and established a saddlery business. In the early years of the twentieth century the firm had evolved to perform carriage building and upholstery repairs before establishing a body building facility in 1919. By 1923 they were producing around 12000 shells, including for Ford Australia whilst their own factory was being completed. 1926 saw General Motors (Australia) established after two years of Holden Motor Body Builders producing for GM. It was 1931 when GM bought out the firm and it became General Motors-Holden. Apart from the locally built Commodore, the range is either Korean sourced (Malibu, Barina, Captiva) or world car based (Volt and Cruze).

Ford Australia
Ford Australia was established in the mid 1920s, as the Australian arm of the American owned Canadian branch. At the time, Ford Canada was a separate entity to Ford North America, with Henry Ford granting building rights to Commonwealth countries for Canadian investors. Of note was the release of the coupe utility in 1934 and the engineered for Australia Falcon. The “ute” as it’s famously become to be known, was born outCoupe utility of the Depression era need to perform dual duties, moving both family and livestock plus, as a working vehicle, became eligible for loans to farmers as passenger cars were seen as a luxury. Like Holden, Ford Australia sources virtually all of the vehicles from overseas; think Fiesta or Focus and, of course, the recent announcement of the Mustang returning as a Ford backed product for here.

Toyota Australia
Although it can be argued, that as a Japanese owned company, it’s not strictly Australian, that argument could be applied to both Ford and Holden. For the sake of expediency, I’ll leave that alone.
The Australian history of Toyota goes back to the 1950s and the Snowy Mountains hydro electric project, with Thiess Toyota importing the LandCruiser for the project. Production of Australian made Toyotas was underway by 1963, out of Port Melbourne by Australian Motor Industries. corolla-1965In 1972 Toyota bought out the share in AMI that British Leyland held and by 1978 was producing engines for export. In 1986 the first Australian Toyota car was exported, to New Zealand whilst in 1994 the vehicle manufacturing section had shifted to Altona, Victoria. Currently Toyota Australia continues to build the Camry and Aurion in Australia and imports a range of other vehicles including the legendary Corolla nameplate and the tough as guts HiLux.

There’s also HSV (Holden Special Vehicles), HDT-SV (Holden Dealer Team Special Vehicles) and the now defunct, in their own right, Ford Performance Vehicles.

World Brands
Mitsubishi Australia is now, alongside Nissan Australia, full importers of the Japanese brands vehicles into Australia. Mitsubishi-Lancer-Evolution-GSR-PictureNissan, originally known as Datsun, first came to Australia in the 1950s whilst Mitsubishi Australia came into being in 1980 after taking over the Australian arm of American brand, Chrysler. Both companies built vehicles here and now, as full importers, continue to offer cars covering most segments of the Aussie market, including the long running nameplate Lancer, Triton, 370Z and Navara, just to name a few.
Mazda is perhaps one of the biggest Japanese brands selling in Australia, with the Mazda3 the best known. Alongside is the CX5, a better packaged entity than the now discontinued CX7, plus the multi-award winning Mazda6 and solid BT-50 platform shared with Ford’s Ranger.
Honda is another major Japanese brand for Australia, with the local operation dating back to 1981. Based in Tullamarine, north of Melbourne. Their current range includes the multi award winning Odyssey, the Jazz and the long name plated Civic. Isuzu (trucks and 4wd utes), Infiniti (Nissan’s luxury arm), Subaru, Suzuki, Lexus and even Yamaha are other Japanese brands currently available in the automotive market here in Australia, with vehicles such as the Liberty, Swift, IS 250 and Yamaha’s all terrain vehicles.

From Korea comes Kia and Hyundai, with the former part owned by Hyundai (nearly 33%). Kia goes back to 1944 and gained traction in 1986 by coproducing cars with Ford. Hyundai dates back to 1967 as a motor company but even further back, to 1947 as the Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company. Models currently include the Sorento/Santa Fe, Sportage/ix35 and Cerato/Optima/i30/i40 models. There’s also SsangYong, perhaps better known for their “unique” vehicle designs such as the Stavic and Korando.

In the UK there’s a long and distinguished historical link to Australia when it comes to cars. Small open cockpit cars such as the Caterham, Westfield and Lotus 7 butt up against Jaguar with their XJ/XF/XK range of luxury and sports oriented models,jag f type hard top plus their new F-Type convertible and hard top. Long time stable mates Land Rover chime in with their range, such as the Range Rover, Land Rover Discovery, the glorious looking Evoque and the tough as nails Defender. There’s the stunningly gorgeous Aston Martin family, including the DB9, Rapide and the blindingly beautiful Vantage. For something quirky, there’s old timer Morgan with their quirky three wheeler of the monstrous Aero Supersports, plus speed kings McLaren with the 12C and, of course, Rolls-Royce, Bentley and the (BMW produced) Mini. For race car lovers, based out of Sydney Motorsport Park at Eastern Creek, is the Radical brand, a two wheeled Le Mans style open cockpit firebreather.

reventonThe Australian market certainly loves the Europeans, with brands such as: Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen all long termers and the recent reappearance/disappearance of Opel from Germany being found here, plus the once one car brand but now diverse Porsche (911/Cayman/Boxster/Cayenne and the forthcoming Macan); Renault/Citroen/Peugeot from France; Maserati, Fiat, Lamborghini, the legendary Ferrari sports cars and Alfa Romeo from Italy plus, rarely but expensively, Pagani. A brand seen as a leading exponent of safety in their cars, Volvo, have maintained a presence here. Volvo, founded in 1927, hail from Sweden and were once renowned for producing boxy looking designs. Once owned by American giant, Ford, and now owned by Chinese conglomerate Geely, the brand offers cars from small (V40) to large all wheel drives such as the XC90. The other well known Swedish maker, SAAB, are currently undergoing a substantial restructure after going bankrupt and then bought by Hong Kong based National Electric Vehicles Sweden.Citroen ds3

Not unexpectedly, the Americans have a sizeable presence, with Chrysler presenting the 300C, chrysler-300-srtthe Jeep range (think Wrangler and Grand Cherokee), Dodge Journey (shared with the Fiat Freemont), Chevrolet (predominantly imported cars such as the Camaro and SUVs range), the mooted return of Cadillac, Ford US (again predominantly SUVs or models shared with other companies such as Mazda) and the sporty Mosler. On the other side of the planet comes Tata, owner of the Tata-Tuff-Truck-Front-3-4finalWJaguar/Land Rover group, with the recent introduction of the Xenon 4×4 dual cab ute, against the Chinese Great Wall range of SUV and 4×2/4×4 single and double cab utes. There’s Geely as well, plus Chery, both recent entrants to an already crowded market place.

Clearly, when it comes to automotive brands, Australia truly is a diverse mix and and four wheeled multicultural one at that.

What’s On The Menu for 2014

The 2014 British Touring Car Championship has been blown out of the stratosphere with an announcement to end all announcements. Team BMR has been teasing fans and media alike for some time with rumours regarding the identity of its four driver line up. Throughout the day, the phrase ‘Double Champion’ was thrown around. And only a few minutes ago, fans of the BTCC were given the greatest gift they could ever have asked for.

Joining Jack Goff, Aron Smith and Warren Scott for Team BMR is the absolute legend of motorsport, Alain Menu.

Alain Menu is one of the greatest living touring car drivers. He managed to conquer the BTCC twice during the Super Touring Era, which can be described as the galactic emperor of touring car racing. Success in the BTCC during the 90s gained international recognition; to win a championship propelled you into the history books as one of the great racing drivers. To win this title twice in this time, this was more than your average champion.

The distinctive No.2 Renault Laguna of Alain Menu defined the BTCC in the mid-90s

The distinctive No.2 Renault Laguna of Alain Menu defined the BTCC in the mid-90s

I first became aware of Menu in 1992 in which he drove a BMW, with little success. From 1993, Menu began his love affair with the Renault team. The Renault 19 seemed to only really work in the rain, which in Britain is never a bad thing. However, it will not gain you championship success. In 1994, the 19 became the Laguna, and for 3 years in a row Menu finished second in the championship. That is three times coming so close to ultimate glory. And then in 1997, the Williams Renault team and Menu had had enough. Not only did he win the championship, but he absolutely annihilated the competition, securing himself the championship just over half way through the season. Never before had such a dominant display been shown without accusations of cheating. (I am of course referring to the 1994 Alfa Romeo challenge, but that is another story). In 1998, Menu was still the best driver on the grid (in my humble opinion) but due to a run of bad luck, his championship challenge left him 4th overall.

This is what you call bad luck…

It must have felt so good to finally have No.1 on the side of his car after 3 years of near misses

It must have felt so good to finally have No.1 on the side of his car after 3 years of near misses

In 1999, Menu joined the flagging Ford team with Anthony Reid and together gained significant success with the new name. However, it was in 2000 that Menu proved the flame was still very much alive. In a Ford team with the two other legends of Rickard Rydell and Anthony Reid, Menu proved that he was still the one to beat. However, unlike in 1997 the title went down to the final race at Silverstone.

The Super Touring Car era was over. And what a moment to end it on. The greatest touring car driver winning the final Super Touring championship in the greatest manufacturer to have ever been involved in the sport. It was an emotional moment I have to say. Especially because it was a night race.

The multi-million pound Ford Mondeo brought Alain Menu his second BTCC championship in 2000

The multi-million pound Ford Mondeo brought Alain Menu his second BTCC championship in 2000

From 2005 t0 2013, Menu made the move to the World Touring Car Championship with the Chevrolet team. When he first joined, the team was driving the Lacetti, soon to be replace by the Cruze. By 2011 and 2012, Menu was back to his winning ways, finishing 3rd and 2nd respectively. As great an achievement as this is, by this stage the FIA had once again ruined yet another racing series and Chevrolet was the only team that really mattered in the WTCC. It was clear that Menu wanted a fresh new challenge. While Menu was travelling around the world, the BTCC was recovering from its early 00’s slump to become something magical again. The BTCC is his home. No one can resist its charm. Let alone the true God of the sport.

The Chevrolet Cruze defined the WTCC in the last few years. And for Menu it proved successful

The Chevrolet Cruze defined the WTCC in the last few years. And for Menu it proved successful

Alain Menu defines what it means to be a Touring Car driver. He has the speed, the consistency and the regulated aggression needed for greatness. He knows how to race on the limits of what is possible without having to break the rules to get what he needs. He is one of the few drivers who can race and pass others cleanly without feeling the need to push him out the way to get what he wants. He possesses talent, a rare and indeed powerful ally for any race car driver.

He also has one of the most infectious personalities on the BTCC grid. Always smiling, always there with a cheeky wink. I have met the man twice and he is seriously one of the nicest men you will meet. Always willing to chat and have a picture with you. When asked who they think will win the 2000 BTCC season, only he could get away with…

“If I had to pick anyone, it has to be me, eh?” *cheeky wink*

Hearing that my favourite living race driver is returning to my all time favourite race series has made me the happiest person I could be. I was already excited for the upcoming season, but this has just taken it to a whole new level.

Good luck Menu, it is time for you to show these people what racing really is once again.

Menu will be driving the Volkswagen Passat CC. Only the Season Launch at Donington Park in March will reveal the look of the car that will seat the great man himself.

The stage has been set. The legend has returned. Here we go…

The face of a legend. Oh that smile...

The face of a legend. Oh that smile…

Keep Driving People!

Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love!

When Smart Keys Go Through The Wash

smartkeyWhen I first encountered them, I considered smart keys to be a bit of an unnecessary frippery.  However, I have grown to like them very much, especially on our recent family camping holiday.  If the kids discovered that there was something they needed in the boot or the back of the family Ford Fairlaine after we had turned in for the night, there was no need to go through all the palaver of wriggling out of bed, pulling on dressing gowns and getting out of the caravan (hence the need for a large-engined Ford) and unlocking the car.  One press of the button and the MP3 player or book could be retrieved by Mr or Miss Forgetful.  I guess heaps of us have also come to enjoy the convenience of smart keys as well.  Some of the modern ones (especially on some of the recent releases from Mercedes) get even smarter, unlocking the door for you if you get within a certain radius and no need to even press a button.

However, the other day, seeming disaster struck.  In spite of the family policy of putting car keys in the wooden bowl on the fridge where they belong once you’ve finished driving, a set of car keys got left in the pocket of a pair of jeans (and it wasn’t me who did this, incidentally).  And the jeans went through the wash, smart keys and all. The keys were only discovered at the bottom of the washing machine after going through the full wash, rinse and spin.  Panic.  Did they still work?  (We do have a spare set – always a good idea, as accidents happen).

They didn’t.  However, all was not lost.  For one thing, the actual key bit can still be used to unlock the door and the boot manually the old-fashioned way.  There is a way to get them working again without all the hassle of having to order a new one and get it activated – a lengthy and expensive process.  It was very simple, too:

Step 1: Open up the fob of the smart key.  There’s a weeny screw on the back of our set that needs an equally weeny screwdriver to open up.  Every home should have a tiny screwdriver in both flat and Phillips for jobs like this.  Other keys may open in another way, so have a good look at what you’ve got.

Step 2: Take out the battery.

Step 3: Dry the battery and let the rest of the key’s innards dry out properly.  Leaving it in the sunshine is the best bet.  Don’t be a muggins and try putting it in the microwave or in a conventional oven.

Step 4:  Put the battery back in and put the key back together again.

Hey presto – one key almost as good as new again, unlocking and locking the door and the boot again like magic.  If we wanted it to be just as good as new, we could have changed the battery – they do run out after a while.

A quick bit of research has also revealed that if your smart keys fall into liquid that isn’t fresh water (i.e. not the washing machine, toilet or swimming pool), an extra step can be added between Steps 2 and 3.  This step will involve giving everything a good rinse in clean fresh water to get all the salt water/beer/coffee off the working parts.  However, I can’t vouch for this one, not having tried it personally.

If you are really unlucky, the “open it up and let it dry” method won’t work and your smart keys are stuffed.  In this case, your only hope is to either (a) use the spare set, (b) resort to locking and unlocking the car manually or (c) getting a new $et of $mart key$ from your local lock$mith.

And guess who’s going to be checking pockets before doing the laundry now?

F1 Cars: Rock Star Superstars

The world of F1 has been thrown into intense debate with the recent announcements regarding the the 2014 season. Over the last few days, a selection of the top teams have released the official designs of their new cars. McLaren, Lotus, Williams and Ferrari have all proven that the new cars definitely are…different. The visual assault to the eyes mixed with the array of other regulation changes have resulted in a military barrage on the credibility of the sport. And so I thought it was about time to bring some light hearted happiness to proceedings. In the world of motorsport, F1 represents the pinnacle of what is meant to be possible. And as it turns out, mind blowing lap times and rib cage rattling power is not all that is possible. Once their day job is over, they take to the night and their secret passion is let loose. For an F1 car, is a rock star.

The new McLaren 2014 F1 car and its distinctive 'gentleman sausage nostril'. I think we all need a distraction

The new McLaren 2014 F1 car and its distinctive ‘gentleman sausage nostril’. I think we all need a distraction

I have been scouring the web of late and I have come across some absolute gems.

May I present to you a selection of F1 cars and their greatest hits. Stand aside AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Queen and Black Sabbath, here is a whole new lesson in music, a V8 powered lesson.

1. Happy Birthday – Lotus F1

I would like to kick off proceedings with a celebration (probably). Somewhere around the world, it is someones birthday. And so, let us take a moment to celebrate *insert name here*. Happy Birthday! (whoever you are)

As awesome as this video is, I would also like to draw your attention to the gentleman on the far right of the video. He is standing mere inches from a ear shattering brute, and he feels no need to cover his ears. You sir, have ears of steel, and I commend your bravery.

2. Top Gun Theme – Mercedes F1

There are not many people in the world who are not Top Gun fans. The Top Gun theme is nothing but a timeless classic. But I can bet you have never heard a version like this…

3. God Save The Queen – Renault F1

It is time to stand up and salute. This is the Renault F1 car doing the UK proud with this whole new version of the British National Anthem. Perhaps during the Golden Jubilee celebrations it should not have been Brian May performing this on top of Buckingham Palace…

4. The Star Spangled Banner – Red Bull F1

You know those Americans love any excuse for some patriotism, so maybe next time they should roll out an F1 car. The power, the theatrics, the glory, what more could they possible want to make them feel more American?

5. When The Saints Go Marching In – Minardi F1

Minardi were never overly successful in their F1 adventure, so perhaps they should have discovered music earlier. What makes this video that extra bit more special is the presence of a wonderful conductor. He really does give it the performance of a lifetime. This is definitely worth a watch.

6. Deutschlandleid – Red Bull F1

They have been gifted with the best car in the field and a German superstar to match their need for glory. And so it would make perfect sense for the Red Bull machine to blast out the German National Anthem. A fitting tribute to a man who will most likely become a legendary name in F1. This one really is an orgasm for your ears.

7. La Marseillaise – Renault F1

Renault are a French-based team, so it was only a matter of time before they got their personal god powered rock god to belt out the French National Anthem for them.

8. We Are The Champions – Renault F1

There has been a whole host of famous musical names who have attempted to cover the irreplaceable Freddie Mercury on a song that is known by people the world over. And you know, seeing as F1 is meant to be a motor racing event that tops all other racing events, what other fitting song to end this greatest hits run through than this? The anthems to end all sporting anthems. Freddie would be impressed, guys.

The Power, The Theatre, The Legend. Finally there is another musical titan to cover the great man...

The Power, The Theatre, The Legend. Finally there is another musical titan to cover the great man…

I hope you have all enjoyed my brief ride into the world of musical motoring greatness. If any of you have found other examples of great F1 covers of some musical classics, I would love to hear about it!

Follow me and join the musical madness on Twitter @lewisglynn69!

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

Award Winning Wine: The Golf GTi

Golf GTi November WheelsThe timing of things can be fortuitous sometimes; I was fortunate to have the Volkswagen Golf 103 Highline in the driveway when Wheels magazine announced the Golf as recipient of their prestigious Car Of The Year award. The week prior I had the presence of the top of the range GTi, so, like any smart person, a drive to the Hunter Valley was called for, to sample fine wine in liquid and four wheeled form.Golf de Bortoli
The roads chosen were windy, twisty, varying in elevation, the ideal test for such a vaunted chariot. Starting from the lower Blue Mountains directly west of Sydney, north through Penrith and Windsor and through to the delightful Wisemans Ferry, to the joy of the two younger occupants of the GTi. From here the nose went east then snaked north, paralleling the freeway before coming to a right hander at Wollombi before nor’easting to Cessnock, southern gateway to the Hunter Valley.
Golf engineThe GTi is powered and that’s definitely the appropriate word, by a firebreathing 2.0L turbo petrol engine. With 162kW on offer there’s plenty of upper end however there’s an astonishing 350 Newton metres of torque from as low as 1500rpm. Coupled to VW’s six speed DSG (direct shift gearbox http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct-Shift_Gearbox) it’s enough to launch the 1300 odd kilo hatch to 100 km/h in a handy 6.5 seconds (claimed). Given some welly it’s a shove in the back as the gearbox ratchets its way through with barely a feel of change whilst the dual exhaust emits a snarly pop on the upshift. It’s immensely flexible and incredibly linear in its delivery, thanks to some tricky engineering like the TSI system (http://www.volkswagen.com.au/en/technology_and_service/technical-glossary/tsi-engine.html dual fuel injection (cylinder and inlet port), friction reduced internals and variable valve timing. Somewhat surprising is the lack of torque steer through the front driven wheels; it’s simply unnoticed if there was any, possibly due to the torque vectoring system fitted. Gears can be selected via both the lever and the finely finished paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
The Golf GTi comes with switchable suspension settings (think Cabernet Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Shiraz), Golf gearshiftranging from Comfort through Normal and Sport to personalised settings, which remained untouched during A Wheel Thing’s tenure. Due to the abysmal road surfaces on much of the trip, Comfort was selected which did its best to absorb most of the lumps. Normal firmed up the response whilst Sport went harder and, sometimes, was the better pick for the unevenness. The GTi sits flat in turns at speed but, on the most unsettled surfaces, still managed to crash through to the bumpstops although there was no ongoing rebound or wallowing. Around town in Cessnock, the GTi is mild mannered, well behaved, docile, showing no signs of the demon that lurks under its shapely bonnet. The table top flat torque (available past 3500rpm) eases the Golf around with no fuss, with the Golf consolestop/start system (normal key ignition, not press button) kicking in when the brake pedal is depressed far enough; a light lift of the foot keeps the brake on but restarts the engine. Being a dual clutch transmission, there’s some hesitancy, a delay when moving from reverse back to first and some indecisiveness on light throttle. Combined with the Normal suspension it makes for an exhilarating drive. Then there’s the pin point steering, responsive to the mildest touch and with a progressive feel lock to lock, entered via a solid, chunky yet tactile, flat bottomed tiller.
The seventh generation Golf is much like its cousin, the 911, stamped definably with DNA traceable Golf noseto the very first of its kind. Five door hatchback, wheels pushed to the corners, solid C pillar, shortish bonnet and decent glasshouse have been design hallmarks of the Golf since its release in the mid 1970s. This model is an evolution of the previous, with subtle changes to the nose, headlights and rear lights. Colour plays a big part in how a car looks and the GTi provided came in a glossy fire engine red, complete with black plastic highlights and LED daylight running lights (DRL). It certainly looked the part, especially with the five spoke “pick axe” style alloys, clad in grippy 225/45/18 tyres. Punted Golf dashthrough corners on flat surfaces, the Golf is superglued velcro, the suspension working to keep the car flat, the steering responding almost as if though thought was being transmitted via the driver’s brain, the engine delivering when asked and the exhaust barkingGolf wheel in response. On the back roads in the wine country, it’s a tantalising, almost sensual experience.
Of somewhat questionable flair is the tartan seat covering; contrasting vividly against the varying shades of black in the interior, it’s a bright if somewhat unusual choice of fabric for the sporty and comfortable seats. Being a smallish car overall, rear leg legroom is immediately compromised. Thankfully for the smaller occupants, their father isn’t eleventy feet tall but there still was noticeable shoving in the back. The dash itself is elegant yet simple; a lovely touch that harkens back to analogue screens is the rolling number Golf rear seatchange for distance covered rather than the traditional instant change plus also offers compass direction. The dials have a classic look, simple black on white with a chrome ring lending class whilst framing a screen with an efficient colour graphic Golf seatsdepicting the vehicle itself. Climate control aircon, a small yet clearly legible monochrome touchscreen with a presence sensing feature, colour map display (with a voice readout that was sometimes out by 300 metres) that worked on a pinch and pull zoom basis plus showed your road location on the radio screen, bluetooth, rear parking camera and heated seats complete the picture. Of note was the fuel gauge; it barely moved as in there was no movement until the 180km mark, then suddenly a quarter of the 50 litre tank was shown to have been used….that’s not entirely inspiring. Golf bootA note on that gauge; it’s broken into fifteen segments, rather than a standard four or even eight. Economy averaged around 9L/100km over the week. Rear cargo space is reasonable, holding a decent week’s worth of shopping, a 60/40 split fold rear plus ski ported rer seat setup plus there’s a full sized spare (steel) wheel under cover. The boot opens via the prominent VW badge. Safety wise there’s airbags aplenty, electric parking brake and hill start assist, collision sensing braking and more.
The Golf GTi is like a fine red wine that’s been cellared; subtle yet powerful, improving over time from a good if somewhat rough base, to a well honed and thoroughly enjoyable experience. The sediment particles left over are the downsides of the GTi, unavoidable to a point but are there none the less. From a tick under Au$42k for the manual and $44k (plus on roads, check your local dealer) for the DSG auto, it may seem pricey to some, but when you factor in the sheer useability as an overall package, especially if purchased to be used by one or two people that enjoy what the driving experience is all about including that slingshot like acceleration and go kart handling, it’s a small price to pay for an awarding winning car. There’s a three year and unlimited kilometre warranty, capped price servicing to go with the twelve month/15000k service intervals to sweeten the deal.
More details can be found here: http://www.volkswagen.com.au/en/models/golf/highlights.html

Return of a Legend: BTCC Super Touring Titans

The British Touring Car Championship is the premier race series in the UK. The championship holds a special place in the hearts of fans and drivers alike. When attending a Formula One race weekend, it is hard to pretend that your Ford, Holden, Vauxhall or even Mercedes is anything like the hyper powered god machines that are F1 cars. However, the joy of touring cars series whether it is the V8 Supercars or the BTCC is that the cars are relate-able to all of us. You have the chance to own your own road going version of a Honda, Holden or Volvo. The BTCC began back in the 1950s and is still going strong today. A lot has changed over the years; the series began with multi-class racing all with a chance of winning the final title. However, in the 1990s this was replaced with a single 2 litre class that would go on to become known as the ‘Super Touring Era’. This was the golden age of Touring Car Racing in the UK.

The BTCC in the mid 90s was the pinnacle of motorsport

The BTCC in the mid 90s was the pinnacle of motorsport

It was a British series that had captured the hearts of fans the world over. And with action like this there was no other competition that would even come close… The Super Touring Age of the BTCC

Sadly, the year 2000 was the final flourish as the world bid farewell to the Super Tourers forever. The budgets dropped, the series began to follow the BTC Touring Regulations which would then become the Super 2000 and now the Next Generation Touring Car rules. Some of the greatest racing you will ever see took place in the 1990s, and the closure of the 2000 season brought about a tearful goodbye by the fans of the sport. They were gone forever.

You are not going blind, that is a Volvo Estate that entered the BTCC in 1994. Don't get that in F1 now do you?

You are not going blind, that is a Volvo Estate that entered the BTCC in 1994. Don’t get that in F1 now do you?

Or so we thought. Because they’re back.

It is now official that the Super Touring Trophy will now be supporting the main BTCC season this year. Considering that the 2014 BTCC grid has reached capacity for the year I was excited enough. But then this happened and my excitement blew through the roof. Don’t get me wrong I love the modern BTCC; I am still one of the firm believers that the BTCC is leading the way in motorsport not just in the UK but across the world. There has to be a reason why the championship gained global recognition. As much as that magic was lost in the early 2000s, it is definitely undergoing a resurgence. However, as good as the modern championship may be, it will never match the glory of the past. The Super Touring Cars defined my childhood; they taught me what motorsport was and I will be thankful to them forever.

The Ford Sierra Cosworth dominated the BTCC in the 1980s, especially under the dominant control of Andy Rouse

The Ford Sierra Cosworth dominated the BTCC in the 1980s, especially under the dominant control of Andy Rouse

I first encountered the Historic Touring Cars last year at the legendary Brands Hatch race track as part of their Summer Super Prix event. The last time I had seen the Super Touring cars had been 12 years previously in the year 2000. I had the single most absolute pleasure of attending the Snetterton Night Race. There is something special about seeing a multi-million pound racing Ford Mondeo charging its way around a track and dominating all that lays before it in the day time; during the night all those senses that got you excited are turned up to 11. It is a common saying that when you lose the ability of one sense the others are heightened, and my sweet holy cheese grater the SOUND made by those Super Tourers at night have the destructive power to give me a crisis in the trouser department. That moment when the cars took to the track for the first time last year was one I will truly never forget.

The multi-million pound Ford Mondeo brought Alain Menu his second BTCC championship in 2000

The multi-million pound Ford Mondeo brought Alain Menu his second BTCC championship in 2000

Technologically we may never develop the ability to make time travel or teleportation a reality. The fact my Mac right now tells me that teleportation is not even a real word is proof enough that even the most modern of technology lacks the belief in humanity’s ability to invent it. This is especially true when the technology is created by humans in the first place. Essentially, we are developing an inbuilt lack of faith in our own ability. But that is another story.

An Alfa Romeo racing on 2 wheels in 1994? Oh yes, that's right

An Alfa Romeo racing on 2 wheels in 1994? Oh yes, that’s right

Our lives are filled with a selection of triggers that will transport us to the happiest place you could ever dream of. And for me, seeing those cars on my favourite race circuit will always shoot me back to my childhood. My childhood was a time filled with happiness, expectation, excitation and a sense that no dream was unreachable. Seeing those cars were the very representation of that freedom of childhood. Unlike F1, they were relate-able and gave me the hope of achievement. Anything was possible. Now I have got older however I have of course been introduced to the harsh brutality of reality. But last year, as the 21 year old me shuddered with excitement, I was a child again.

So far, the Historic Touring Cars will be supporting the BTCC at the amazing Oulton Park circuit. Hopefully as the season progresses more circuits will be announced. And you can believe it that I will be at Oulton Park.

The HTCC was a huge hit with fans when it returned last year

The Super Touring Trophy was a huge hit with fans when it returned last year

Stick around for more news and announcements! Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Because who does not want to be a child again?

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

Tips for Tradies

Tradies. Contractors. Those vital people who come around to your place to do something practical that you can’t do for yourself. They come in all flavours – gardeners, electricians, cleaners, plasterers, carpenters, builders, interior decorators, etc. etc. Perhaps you’re one of them.

Now, one thing that every tradie needs is a decent vehicle.  There are some jobs that you just can’t do using public transport or on a bicycle.  But what do you need to look for in a set of wheels if you are a tradie?  What do you need to keep in mind before you head over to our car reviews to pick yourself the right car for your work?

  • What tools do you need?  You are going to have to carry everything you need with you to every job.  This means that you’re going to have to put it somewhere in your vehicle.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that a van is a must, in spite of the popularity of vans with tradies.  Anything with a decent dollop of luggage space will do the trick – even a ute will do if you carry gear that can stand getting wet.  MPVs, 4x4s and station wagons are other options. If your business is less tool-intensive (e.g. mobile computer whizzes, pet groomers or piano tuners) then something smaller can work – a hatchback allows easy access to the few tools that you do have.
  • Do you need to pull a trailer?  Builders, gardeners and carpenters often have to haul around a trailer, either to take large amounts of stuff to the clients’ places (builders, carpenters) or to take stuff away (gardeners).  You’re going to have to consider engine size and type in this case.
  • Ground clearance.  Some jobs need a decent bit of ground clearance, especially if you’re going to have to take the vehicle over rougher ground to get your gear right where you want it.  Others don’t so much.  Utes and 4x4s have good ground clearance, which is why they’re popular choices for most tradies.  However, a lot of contractors just run around on regular roads in the suburbs and can park on the street or in the driveway, so ground clearance isn’t always necessary.
  • Signage.  Are you planning on putting your business logo and contact details on your vehicle?  It’s a good way of attracting new business.  In this case, you may have to consider the colour of your vehicle. If your usual logo is plain black, it’s not going to show up on a dark coloured van or 4×4.  If you have more than one vehicle for your business, it’s good if the vehicles match.  However, if you’re a sole trader or owner/operator and you only need the one, then you can be a bit flexible when it comes to colour.  White isn’t the only colour for a van or work vehicle.  I knew a tradie once who scored a van cheap because the previous owner had given it a metallic pink paint job.  One quirky logo later and he had a very eye-catching work vehicle that stood out among the fleets of white ones.  Similarly, there is no rule that says that gardening/landscaping contractors have to have dark green 4x4s in spite of the “close to nature and good in the bush” image these tend to have.

Formula One 2014: New Rules and Expert Views

Recently I published the official Private Fleet review of the Autosport International Show 2014 which I had the absolute privilege of attending. The show was something of a celebration and a sneak peak into the world of motorsport in 2014. Some of the highlights included details of the BTCC, WRC and the best of national motorsport. It may shock you to your very core to discover that Formula One did indeed play an instrumental role in the talking points of the weekend. As you may have expected, the sheer size of the event meant that there was no way I could fit all the juicy details into one article. It is no secret that I have never really been a dedicated fan of modern Formula One. In fact, I am of the firm belief that the sport is ruining the heritage and name of motorsport. The problem is, F1 is the most commercial of any global race event and for many people is the only motorsport that exists. So for me to be excited for the new season was always going to be rather difficult. However, when word reached my ear drums of a whole host of changes to the sport, it did get me thinking. Therefore, while I was at the Autosport Show, I was fascinated to hear what the experts thought of these new changes and the state of modern F1.

I was lucky enough to have some pretty big names in the world of Formula One at the event, all of whom threw themselves into the public firing line to answer our questions. Some of these people included David Croft, a broadcaster who has shared many years of experience in commentating on Formula One, Adrian Sutil, the ex-Force India driver who has just made the move to the Sauber team, Martin Brundle, driver come voice of F1 commentary and John Surtees, a timeless legend of motorsport. Here is a quick overview of the dramatic new changes that have been introduced to F1 for 2014:

  • The 2.4 litre V8 powered engine has been sent to the museum and been replace by a 1.6 litre turbo charged ‘power train’ that focuses on energy recovery.
  • Forget KERS, it is now ERS (Energy Recovery System), which gives 33 seconds of an extra 160BHP electrical energy per lap
  • Aerodynamic changes – front wing is now shorter, and lower, which will bring the whole front nose down. There will be different exhaust air flow and a smaller rear wing
  • A new Pirelli tyre
  • Double points for the last race
  • Fixed driver number to be used throughout their career between 2 and 99, with 1 being reserved for the current champion if they decide to use it

Before I divulge the information and opinions I heard from the professionals, let me just shoot my opinion out there. I understand that these rules have the potential to dramatically change the sport, but it makes me wonder why this is happening all at once. One level of analysis could be that it was becoming obvious that the championship was beginning to become boring, predictable and turning many people away. As I always said, why people got so excited over the miniscule number of overtakes in a race really was a worry when in all other forms of motorsports, overtaking is one of the foundations of a race and will happen more times than you can shake a stick at.

Whenever I voice my concerns and criticisms of F1, I am always met without fail with a barrage of abuse and a lackluster defense from people. Just because it is called Formula One does not make it automatically better than every other type of motorsport, but I think the glitz and glamour has gone to many peoples’ heads. Anyway, while I was at the Autosport Show and I was in the ‘Live Action Arena’ I was finally given the proof I was looking for. As the show began, David Croft attempted to wow the audience with mention of the new season of Formula One…

“So who enjoyed Formula One last year LET ME HEAR YOU!”

…the most awkward of awkward silences gripped the stadium…

“That is not much of a surprise really… but give us a cheer if you’re looking forward to the exciting new 2014 season!!!”

…in a room with 5000 people, you could probably have heard a flea farting…

It says a great deal that at a dedicated car show which attracts car lovers the world over falls silent at the mention of F1. It seems that the true lovers of motorsport have spoken (or in this case, stayed silent). The fact even a Sky broadcaster who is paid to love F1 even admitted that the 2013 season was dull. I do in a way admire the fan boys who refuse to see any fault with the sport when even those who are most involved with the sport admit there are issues. Clearly ignorance is bliss.

Having seen designs of some of the new cars, I have got to be honest in saying that I feel sorry for the drivers, i would not want to be racing in the most famous and glamorous form of motorsport in a car that appears to have a droopy gentleman sausage attached to the front of it. Furthermore, as much as I am glad that F1 is slowly becoming greener, it really does sadden me that the engines keep getting smaller and smaller. One of the reasons I am a car lover is the noise; the roar of a race car engine is meant to make the hairs on your neck stand up and rattle you down to your very core. And yet the more the years go on, the cars just sound like high powered bee hives.

With the new regulations, the nose of the car will be a lot lower... Looks erm... wonderful

With the new regulations, the nose of the car will be a lot lower… Looks erm… wonderful

In terms of the double points and fixed number decisions, Twitter really did sum it up for me…

“So as struggles with bankrupt teams and one-driver domination we get fixed numbers and double points. Because that’ll fix everything.” 

“Why stop at double points for last race. How about triple points for third and no points fourth but 100 for fifth and a kinder surprise egg?”

“No need to debate the FIA’s double points for final race idea. Daft. Far too much messing. F1 in danger of becoming a joke”

“Double points for the last round in F1… I can see sprinkler systems and short cuts coming in soon.

Honestly, the FIA really do have a habit of ruining every single series they take control of, whether it is F1, GTs, WTCC or the World Rally Championship. They take a great series and turn it into a one horse race with the most ridiculous rules that only seem to favour the teams that have the most money. And then there was that whole business where Ferrari would barely ever get penalised as the FIA seems to be on the Ferrari bank roll.

Next, drivers will have to start the race by performing the macarena, spinning around 5 times, then jumping in and driving off, having to complete one lap in reverse, and navigating jumps, land mines and Indiana Jones style boulders. Ridiculous does not even cover it.

The new rules do not seem to have gone down too well with many of the drivers and teams either. The main worry is that the sport is losing any sense of credibility and is merely clutching at straws to salvage the burning wreckage it has become. One of the most popular aspects of the new F1 2013 videogame for example is the chance to drive old classic F1 cars. The film ‘Rush’ showed the story of one of the greatest F1 rivalries in history. And the film Senna documented the life of the greatest F1 driver who ever lived. I am noticing a common factor here. I think F1 has finally realised that it has fallen off the edge of the Olympus that it used to be and is now trying literally anything and everything to try and make it good again.

Once again, my time at the Autosport show did nothing but emphasise these arguments I have made. When asked the question, ‘What was your favourite era of F1 and where is your favourite track?’, Martin Brundle, Adrian Sutil AND John Surtees were all picking eras such as the 60s, 70s or 80s, and tracks like the old Spa, the old Silverstone, Monaco, Jerez. When asked about the new tracks they seemed highly dismissive and would even joke about how some tracks like Singapore are rather laborious. Brundle and Surtees reminisced in fond detail about the close racing, the spectacle, the noise and the thrill of F1 ‘back in the day’. The racing would be close and drivers had barely any driver aids. Sounds a lot more fun really doesn’t it?

Those were the days...

Those were the days…

Although they did not say it outright, it seemed apparent that these legends of the sport did not seem too impressed by the state of modern F1. They all loved the old school tracks, and maybe it is not just the public who are massively against tracks designed by Hermann Tilke. Hearing some of the stories told by Surtees really did blow all these modern guys out the water.

When asked about the upcoming season, the stars of F1 had some interesting views on the direction of F1 2014:

Adrian Sutil

“People are quick to criticise the new rule changes in Formula One, but they may actually be a good thing. We will all have to completely change our driving style to suit these new cars. With the high levels of torque there is wheel spin when changing from 4th to 5th, which we have never had before. Not only that but the new aerodynamic changes means that oversteer will become common on most tracks, That is exciting isnt it? As a driver I am looking forward to it, especially since moving to a new team because it is a whole new challenge that we can build on from the start”

Martin Brundle

“This new double points system seems to be answering a question that no one was really asking. Not only that but it does devalue the other races. I think many of the teams will be heading to Melbourne at the start of the year with very basic cars with these new regulations. It will take a lot of time for teams to get on top of these new rules. I do hope that because of this the races will become a lot more exciting and a lot more unpredictable. Chances are that Red Bull will still be the team to beat, but it should be a lot less of a one horse race. Also, I have been told by Ross Brawn that what is going on at Mercedes is very exciting and that he left behind a team very excited for the new season. Lewis Hamilton fans will definitely be in for a good year this year.”

John Surtees

“Everything is just so much different now than what it used to be. With these new changes it may be that the sport begins to go back to how it was in the classic era. Formula One cars used to have no driver aids and it was all about driver skill, as I am sure Martin [Brundle] will agree. These new changes will make the racing closer and as they are so different, no one will know what is going to happen at the start of the year. It really is quite exciting, forgetting the specifics of some of these new regulations”

It really was fascinating to hear these legends speaking about the modern world of Formula One. They may not have said outright that modern F1 is not as good as it could be, listening to them reminisce so fondly about the past would lead one to believe that is what they were implying. Looking at their reactions to certain questions and how they were speaking gave the impressions of hope; it would seem that they are hopeful of the new season, hopeful that the new regulations will bring about positive changes. I guess the main problem with these new regulations is that on paper they seem utterly ridiculous, but I have hope that when put into practice they may indeed be successful.

Interestingly, Christian Horner has predicted that 2014 will begin with a very high drop out rate in races of up to 50%. He believes that with the new regulations, it may bring about many problems for teams and until they have got to grip with them all, audiences may see a lot of cars retiring over a weekend.

I really do hope I can be proved wrong with all this.

Finally, both Surtees and Brundle spoke heavily about the hierarchy and politics involved with motorsport. They both argued that one of the inescapable problems of motorsport and F1 in general is that it is often only open to the super rich, and because of the money needed to fund a season, there is no other way around it. Scholarships for drivers would be a good strategy for breaking down barriers in the future, but where would the money come from? The motorsport industry gives jobs, money and a way of life to so many people and both Surtees and Brundle hopes that one day successful drivers will not just be those who have the biggest pockets but those who have the talent to be at the top. The Red Bull funded race academy is just one example of how the sport is trying to break down the traditional elitist barriers. Good luck to them I say.

As I said at the beginning, it says a lot that there are so many critics of the sport in its state, and I am glad that something is being done to address it, however silly it currently seems. It has not been said outright, but these changes I believe are the FIA admitting that the sport does have faults and changes have to be made. At the end of the day, there will always be people who love F1 to the end of their days, and those who will always be critical. And as I bring this to a close, I just want to say that I am highly critical of F1, but on the other hand I would still love it to return to the success it used to have in its glory years. One day the politics and the technical will fall and the racing will once more take over as the spectacle and talking point of the sport.

The new regulations for the 2014 F1 season may appear to be filled with illogical stupidity, but maybe, just maybe it will be the revolution that we have all been praying for. Just remember, Charles Darwin was once told his concept of evolution was stupid, and now look where we are.

Let’s raise our glasses to the future!

Like me? Hate me? I would love to hear about it, find me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!