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Archive for February, 2014

Optimal Appeal For Kia’s Big Car

Charles Darwin espoused “The Theory of Evolution”; it certainly applies to the world of automotive transport and Kia’s Optima is a brilliant case in point. Starting off as a somewhat ugly duckling, it’s now a classy swan. With a profile not unlike Jaguar’s gorgeous XF, it cuts a sharp figure on the road, but is everything else up to the task? I check out the entry level Si Optima…Optima profile
The Driven Heart
Optima engineIt’s well and truly a common engine size at 2.4L and churns out a respectable 148 kilowatts, albeit at a high 6300 revs. Peak torque is 250 Newton metres at a revvy 4250rpm, with the engine drinking from a 70 litre tank. Economy is quoted as being 7.9L per 100 kilometres on a combined cycle, with the weak spot being the urban figure, a tick over 11.2L. A Wheel Thing averaged, over a week, a tick under 10L/100kms in a predominantly urban driving program. Tagged as GDI, for gasoline direct injection, it’s a freespirited, if slightly buzzy, piece of engineering, revving freely when asked and quietly tootling around when not.
The Clothing Store
Lithe, angular, curvaceous where it counts, the Optima has a sense of presence on the road. The vehicle provided came clad in Optima nosePlatinum Graphite, a metallic grey which looks superb on the sharp panels. A gloss black grille, swept back and wrap around style headlights give the Optima an arrow head front end, moving to a high belt line and sweeping back into a coupe Optima rearstyle rear roof line, endcapped by an angular taillight cluster. It’s cohesive and balanced. The Si misses out on the LED running lights as featured on the SLi and Platinum. At 4845mm in length, 1830mm wide and under 1500mm in height, it’s a trim and taut looking beast however it’s a touch porky at nearly 1600kg.
The Office Space
Base model it might be but the seats provided some of the best support and least stuffing around to get a comfortable seating Optima dashposition I’ve had in weeks. A mixture of manufactured leather and cloth, Optima cabinthe wrap around of the wings and what feels like just the right amount of padding go, immediately, a long way to starting a journey comfortably. An efficient dash layout, sensibly laid out switchgear, paddle shifts, wide opening doors, a 500 odd litre cargo space are let down somewhat by a cheapish looking and feeling steering wheel. Optima bootAlthough symmetrically laid out, there’s a touch too many buttons to look at plus there’s an Eco button hanging off the bottom right which could have been better located elsewhere.
The audio system screen is the tried and proven red dot matrix design, it sounds good but the menu system to adjust the sound becomes nonintuitive after the first two steps. The Si has an old tech foot operated park brake as well, somewhat out of tune with the rest of the tech, such as reverse camera (shown in the rear vision mirror), traction control and Hill Start Assist.
On The Road
The lack of torque is an issue at times, initially off the line and when required to make an overtaking move. It’s geared to be around 2000-2200 revs at freeway speeds, requiring either a bit of preplanning and a deft right foot or a hefty thump on the go pedal, sending the tacho surging past 4000 revs and the six speed auto back to fourth, sometimes third. The brake is beautifully Optima Si wheelpressured, wonderfully modulated, reading the driver’s desire to squeeze down to a stop as equally well as a momentary dab or a full emergency brake. The suspension is the well proven combination of McPherson strut front/multilink rear, providing a sublime ride on smooth surfaces and ironing out the niggles all too often found, aided by the 215/55 section rubber, wrapped around 17 inch alloys with a five spoke tuning fork design. Turn in is precise however it feels more weight on centre and lightens up left and right, feeling, oddly, as if the steering is activating the wheels from the top rather than from inside the hubs.
The Wrap
Time, money, research, result. Time and money well spent on research and the result is the Optima. The test car is priced at $31990 + ORCs and metallic paint is $595. Click here: http://www.kia.com.au/showroom/optima for more.

DIY Car Repairs: Safety Tips And More

Having spent a fair part of the weekend tinkering around with a screwdriver trying to see what was wrong with the electric windows in my Ford Fairlane, I thought I’d better talk a bit about DIY car repairs and maintenance. To my fellow female motorists, this is something that I really encourage you to have a go at. For one thing, it can save you a couple of bucks, same as it does for any DIY person; secondly, it makes it less likely that the few male chauvinist pig* mechanics out there are going to try to rip you off if you do end up having to take your car to an expert – they’re unlikely to charge you for “fixing” something that wasn’t wrong if you tell them precisely what’s wrong. And if Her Majesty Elizabeth II of England (and, for the time being, Australia) can do it, so can you!

There are some things, however, that are best left to the experts. Things to do with electric and electronics, for example. You really need to know what you’re doing with this sort of thing, same as you would for a computer (probably because it is practically a computer). The only exceptions are fuses, spark plugs and light bulbs – they’re easy enough for a DIY person to do. Turn the ignition off first.

The internet has made it easier for DIY motor repairs people, as you no longer need to buy a book of diagrams or grab one from the local library. You can usually find a collection of videos or diagrams online easily enough. It’s smart to familiarise yourself with what things are supposed to look like before you begin.

When you get around to tinkering with your car, you should always bear a couple of safety tips in mind:

  1. Don’t smoke and keep the garage well ventilated.
  2. Unless you actually need to run the engine, make sure that it’s cold before you start poking around.
  3. If you have to get underneath your car and you have to raise it (not always necessary if you’re thin or if your car has high ground clearance), then put it on proper supports rather than just a jack or on a wooden box. Make sure that you put it in gear and put the handbrake on to stop it rolling backwards. Even a small little hatchback could crush you if it comes down on you.
  4. Let someone know that you’re working on the car just in case, especially if you have to go underneath it.
  5. If near moving parts, tie back long hair, wear tight fitting clothing and remove jewellery.
  6. Keep alcohol out of the picture.

A few basic tools will do the job for DIY work on the car, although real enthusiasts will probably invest in some fancier ones.  Personally, my rule of thumb is if it can’t be done with the basics, it’s a job for an expert (or else for my husband’s friend Trev, who is one of those enthusiasts with lots of tools).  Occasionally, you need a few other simple tools that you are likely to have around the place. Sometimes, when my husband has been working on a car, that tool is me – an extra pair of hands to hold this, put pressure on that or pull that. Especially as small female hands can get into gaps that big bloke hands can’t.

My suggested toolkit for basic DIY car repairs comprises the following:

  • Screwdrivers – star head and flat head, and possibly one of those fancy square head ones as well;
  • Socket set;
  • Adjustable wrench;
  • Can of WD-40 or CRC 5.56
  • Pliers, especially long-nosed ones
  • Light hammer – not for banging anything on the car but for tapping the wrench to get that stubborn nut started without risking your knuckles
  • Spare nuts, bolts, screws and washers.

Lastly, you need a dollop of common sense. That’s the essential tool. Also the ability to give up and take the thing to the mechanic if you need to.

car-repair-women-3

*Small rant on the topic of male chauvinist pigs and car repairs. While hunting online for a good image for this post, trying to show a woman fixing a car, most of what I came across was either a woman staring at the open bonnet and generally looking helpless, or else some cheesecake picture involving skimpy clothing (often tight-fitting torn denim a la Daisy Duke) and artfully applied smears of motor oil. Grrrrr!

Convicted Driver Still Road Legal on 54 Points

Most of the time, if you asked me if I believed in the concept of luck, chances are that I would say no. However, there are occasions that most definitely question this belief of mine. And my latest news nugget from the United Kingdom is one of these very occasions. Due to a series of monumental misunderstand and lack of communication, a man from Kent (UK), despite having 54 points on his driving license, is still legally allowed to drive on the road. Not only is this an eye-watering figure, it also smashes the previous record of a man in Liverpool who had 45 points on his license.

Keith Baldock from Kent, had a long history of convictions from drink driving bans, driving without insurance and stealing petrol from other cars. When taken to court, he was handed a 30 point punishment (5 per conviction) by the judge. However, Baldock managed to convince the judge to let him remain able to drive, using the reasoning that he needed his car for his profession as a mobile tyre fitter.

Keith-Baldock_2830078b

Keith Baldock. Image Credit: Facebook

The problem came when the court realised after the sentencing that Baldock had already collected 24 points from previous convictions, but due to a lack of communication between the courts and the DVLA (Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency), this fact had passed unnoticed. Furthermore, the law states that any change in the ‘substance of a sentence’ must be done within 56 days. This time had passed, which meant Mr Baldock had gotten away with it.

When I first heard this, not only was I outrageously shocked, but I was overcome with the dark cloud of confusion. I just do not understand how anyone could have committed that many driving offences and still, under any construction, still be deemed able to drive on the roads with law-abiding drivers. Furthermore, how can one person be so catastrophically bad and immoral when it comes to driving that they amass 54 points. I will let that number sink in some more. 54. There are a large range of offences that will get you ‘Penalty Points’ on your record. The most common offence is most probably going to be speeding, which will gain you a whole 3 points.

Now obviously the procedure of handing out points is a long and complex issue, so I have helpfully provided the above link to explain how it all works. But, to keep it nice and simple, lets say that to gain yourself 54 points, you would have to commit 18 speeding offences. It takes a special kind of moronic idiot to manage that. Clearly in this case of this guy, I have found this special kind of moronic idiot. This explains the high levels of shock I am experience. But what about the confusion.

The other side of my reaction is total and utter confusion. Once I had managed to process the fact that someone had managed to amass such a number, I was then struck with another thought. How has the driving authorities managed to still grant this guy the legal right to be able to drive on our roads? On my roads? I too am a resident of Kent, so chances are I have to share the roads with this guy. Maybe I have come into contact with him before. It is a worrying thought. I don’t often feel unsafe on the road but knowing that the courts and the driving authorities that be are allowing people like this on the road, it does unsettle me slightly.

baddrivers

Let’s examine the facts here…

  • The law states that you can be disqualified from driving if you collect 12 or more penalty points
  • This rule applies in the time period of 3 years
  • Points remain on your license for anything from 4 to 11 years
  • Points on your license significantly increase your insurance premium

First of all, we have the question of disqualification. If 12 is indeed the usual limit for disqualification, how did Baldock manage to persuade a judge that 30 was still acceptable to have while driving on the road. In most cases, drivers cannot be banned if they rely on their car for their job. In less extreme cases, this is a perfectly acceptable statement to make. But to be handed 30 points in one ruling must surely be an isolated circumstance that can overrule this. Especially as the conviction included counts of theft, dangerous driving and driving without insurance. This is not the kind of person that should be allowed on the road.

I have known people to have received 6 points on their license and had their insurance premiums jump up rather dramatically. Similarly, I would therefore imagine that trying to get insurance following a ban would have you paying through the roof. So what would happen when you try and get insurance when you have 54 points and have previously been banned? But then again, this would clearly not be a problem for him considering he was driving without insurance anyway. This is clearly a sound strategy, and will not in any way get him in yet more trouble in the future. Clever one this one is.

But there is one issue with this whole debacle that bothers me more than anything else. In what universe did BOTH the courts and the DVLA not manage to realise that this guy already had 24 points on his license. That is double the number of points that would constitute a disqualification. And they managed to forget this? All that was needed was a simple bit of communication between the two. Surely it cannot be that hard, all the courts had to do was look into his driving record. And considering the severity of the situation, why did they not go directly to the DVLA and work together in finding the best punishment for this erm… gentleman. Due to this very basic and downright embarrassing mistake, this man managed to retain the right to drive, when personally I would have permanently removed his driving license. It is not even like it was a single offence, but Baldock is a REPEAT offender.

Keith Baldock, you are one of the luckiest men I have ever had the displeasure of hearing about. Yet, you have managed to make me believe in luck. To you sir I say congratulations, for being a colossal moron yet still managing to get away with it (mostly).

I would love to hear your views on the matter!

Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Keep Driving!

Peace and Love!

 

 

 

Cockneys, Cricket and Congestion: Britain has busiest roads in Europe

When I say ‘Britain’ to those of you who do not live here, you probably have numerous images that spring to mind. The Queen, Buckingham Palace, Fish and Chips, Posh people, Cricket, Rugby, The Beatles, David Beckham, Doctor Who, Russell Brand, Cockneys… If I collaborated all of the outside opinions of my home land I am sure the list would go on for light years. However, when it comes to the United Kingdom, I bet you the word you hear more than most is ‘London’, and the next logical step would be the ‘London Cab’ or the ‘Routemaster Buses’. Essentially, the heartland of the tourist impression of Britain is the transport system in the capital. It is at this crossroad that the dream and reality collide in an explosion of opinion and ridiculousness. If you ask any Brit, or most specifically a Londoner what they associate most with their country, chances are their answer will actually be very similar to ‘London’, ‘taxi’ and ‘bus’ in that they are all a contributory factor to the horror that befalls us all.

Congestion. Traffic. A stationary hell on wheels.

And following research undertaken by World Bank, the ever-British moaning has been confirmed; Britain has the most congested roads in Europe. And within the UK itself, London is the very eye of the traffic storm.

London TrafficSo, what are the statistics here?

  • There are 77 vehicles per square kilometer of road
  • This number is 76% higher than the general European average

The fun does not end there, the research has even identified the congestion down to the street level:

  • The top 10 busiest roads are ALL in London
  • Two of the high scorers are Bedford Road in Clapham (South London) and Greenhill Way in Harrow (North West London)
  • But there can only be one winner, and that is Jamaica Road in Southwark

I know what you are probably wondering, and to answer your question, Jamaica Road is so congested that during peak times, traffic has been recorded to be moving at 0.08mph. To put that into perspective, take your average walking pace and try walking around 30 times slower. How is that even possible? Exactly dear readers, the traffic on the road is THAT bad.

If we take the premise that Britain is the most congested country, it does bring with it some potential positives. If we do have a lot of traffic, it means that the cars on the roads are not travelling as fast. And if Britain follows in the tracks of development, there will be more and more cars on the road, which will only slow us down even more.

The increase in traffic therefore may decrease the number of road traffic accidents and subsequently human injury or death. Of course such a statement is implying a direct causal correlation between the two. Just because the traffic is moving slower does not necessarily mean there will be less incidents and injury. Perhaps I am being typically British and hurling cynicism into the mix here. But the statistics do appear to agree with me on this in that British roads have been named as the safest in the world; in the 1970s there were around 7,700 road deaths and yet last year there were only around 1,800.

So maybe, next time you find yourself in Britain, just remember that it is not all Beatles, Beckham and Buckingham Palace. Next time you find yourself with London on the brain, I can promise you that I will most likely be stuck in some endless traffic jam, praying for some sanity and some road freedom.

I hope you have a nicer time of it in Australia, I would love to hear about your driving experiences. Britain has been named the most congested in Europe, but how does it compare to the rest of the world?

Let me know on Twitter @lewisglynn69!

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

Automotive Dinosaurs: Welcome to Jurassic Autopark

There is no doubt that cars are awesome. Big ones, small ones, fast ones and slow ones, make your choice and still you will find a world of automotive awesome. In much a similar vein, ever since the release of Jurassic Park I have been convinced that dinosaurs exist in a whole universe of greatness. You have heard me tittle on about cars all the time, whether I am ranting away about drivers on the road, singing the praises of motorsport or reporting the dangers of hybrid cars on the market. If Private Fleet had a sister site named Jurassic Fleet, I can promise you I would be a regular contributor on there as well. Until that day however, you are all saved from my dino-love.

But what if I told you that on the wonderbox that is the Internet, there exists a whole new species. There are those who love cars, and those who love dinosaurs, but then there are those people who dreamed of a combination of the two. That sounds ridiculous, I hear you cry. And you would not be wrong in saying that, but hear me out, they exist. Witness now a whole new world…

“Dr Grant, my dear Dr Sattler… Welcome, to Jurassic Autopark”

The T-Rex looks angry, maybe she is against the size of the carbon footprint those 4x4s are leaving...

The T-Rex looks angry, maybe she is against the size of the carbon footprint those 4x4s are leaving…

I have excavated through the fossils of the Internet and come across a selection of dino-car gems that I just could not resist sharing with you. I mean, I love dinosaurs. How can anyone not love dinosaurs? Having come across cars that have been dino-designed, I can very much say my life has just become a whole lot happier. If you are having a sad day then fear not, I have come to you with a carnivorous gathering of reptilian wonders. Or if you wish to follow current arguments that dinosaurs were closer to modern day birds than reptiles, then no need to (birds of) prey no more, I have got some avian-auto-ancestors here for you right now.

invaliddinosaur

Hang on a minute, when I said the combination of cars and dinosaurs, this was not what I meant. People often ask me why the dinosaurs died out and why they did not become the dominant species on the planet. Well, is this not the answer you were looking for? Their motor industry never really took off.

Let’s try this again shall we…

dinocar1

To the person who saw this snow covered car and thought, “I want to turn this into a kick-ass dino-car”, you have to be one of my favourite people, and I wish to meet you so I can give you a hug. Most people see a car covered in snow and either write in it or use the snow for snow-ammo. But then there is that one person who wants to bring back the glamour of the stegosaurus to the modern world. This is greatness in its purest form.

dinocar2This began life as a VW Beetle. I can say with almost full certainty that this is no longer a beetle in any way, shape or form. This is not something you will see crawling around in the undergrowth. This is now a brutal beast of burden. You would think of squashing this under your foot. With those chunky off road tyres, and those spines, you would not want to come across this while alone in the forest. Just hope it is in a good mood. But seriously, this is one amazing piece of machinery. I think I know what my choice of car will be on my busy London commutes from now on.

Artist Credit: Ryan McGuire

Artist Credit: Ryan McGuire

If Barney the Dinosaur ever had a car-cousin, it would have to be this little beauty. This may be one of the cutest things ever to pass by my eyes. When I see this I also get the impression that if Dino the Dinosaur from the Flintstones was brought back to life today, this would probably be how he would look. Playful, happy and fun. What more could you want from your very own dino-car?

dinocar4This is truly a great example of a DIY-nosaur. If you loved my cheeky word play then chances are you will love the guy who came up with this dino-tricycle. I love the thought of someone sitting in a park, and behind the bushes you suddenly see the skeleton of a stegosaurus bobbing on past. Night At The Museum come to life. I told you dinosaurs were awesome right?

dinocar5As with the traditional construct of any entertainment based presentation, I have saved the best for last. This was the very image that started my quest for dino-car greatness. We have seen dino-cars of all forms, most of which are still fully functioning automobiles. The reason I love this so much is that I have a feeling its creator is my kind of person. They did not just add the generic spines to the top of an old Beetle, they have most literally formed the perfect combination of car and dinosaur. This sculpture has been created from materials that are associated with road travel, including car parts, traffic cones and all that general nonsense.

Maybe this car is in fact a metaphor. Let’s deconstruct this and see what I can pull out of myself. The car is painted green, symbolising the need for greener modes of travel, considering that we are slowly destroying the planet. The source car is an old VW Beetle. The Beetle is a car that uses the fuel powered combustion engine. The Beetle was also made popular by none other than Hitler as ‘the peoples’ car’. Hitler was a Nazi. The Nazi attempt at world domination was crushed by the Allied forces. The Hitler-led Nazi movement therefore suffered an ‘extinction event’. The dinosaurs too suffered an extinction. However, as Jurassic Park proved, dinosaurs can be brought back to life and spread chaos and havoc across the land.

What more, the engine of the Beetle was in the back of the car, and we all know that when people think through their behinds bad things often happen. True fact right there.

Therefore, this sculpture stands as a warning; the traditional combustion engine is an automotive dinosaur in a world of hybrids and electric power. We must move forward into modern technology. Also, Nazis are bad and we should not let them rise up again. I bet you never thought I could mention Hitler in an article about dino-cars. But I did. It is all about the metaphors.

I told you I was going to pull something ridiculous out of my brain.

Sometimes, what can I say, I do not want to talk about a serious driving topic. We all need some light hearted happiness every now and again.

If you enjoyed that, feel free to follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

 

The More Things Change….

Being the circuit commentator for Sydney Motorsport Park has a few advantages; I’ve met quite a few of Australia’s best or more well known racing drivers and, occasionally, get to work and be involved in some pretty high profile events, such as the Top Gear Festival. Saturday 15th February was a big day as it was the official test day for Australia’s top tier racing category, the V8 Supercars and I was the MC for the event.V8Supercars-Launch_SMP 15 Feb 2014

As is the wont of the weather, it was wet, wetter than standing underneath Niagara Falls, it felt like. It certainly didn’t stop the cars nor did it stop the crowd. Both built slowly; the crowd was considerable by midday and the cars times dropping rapidly per lap as the rain eased and the track dried. Of prime interest was the new entrant to the category, a revisiting of an oddly popular name for the sport: Volvo. The car is the S60, the team is Garry Rogers Motorsport, known for their left of field approach and fostering of young talent, in this case Kiwi born Scott McLaughlin, alongside experienced Swedish driver Robert Dahlgren. With GRM’s long term backer, Valvoline, prominently displayed on the sides, the cars looked the part but the party piece is the engine. A 60 degree vee configuration and of five litres capacity, it doesn’t have the same  bass note of the rest of the field, instead it’s a higher pitch, certainly not unpleasing to the ear. With work being done by the Swedish company’ performance arm, Polestar, it’s a return to Australian tin top racing after a break of over fifteen years. Here’s a look at the car: http://www.volvocars.com/au/all-cars-my13/volvo-s60/Pages/video.aspx.Volvo V8 Supercar sans warpaint

After the rain had stopped, times dropped and dropped quickly; at one stage there was a new quickest time every couple of laps before plateauing. To give an indication, laps were around one minute forty six seconds (1.46) to start off before bottoming out at one minute thirty!

Another highlight was the now traditional grid walk, with the cars lining up on the main straight and the crowd being able to walk around them.  This was kicked off by a stunning announcement from the larger than life Betty Klimenko, head of the Erebus Racing team. Rather than spending a fortune on a media driven team launch, Klimenko decided instead to donate what she estimated may have been spent to the Westmead Childrens Hospital. The sum? A tidy $50, 000 thank you….Volvo V8 Supercar Sydney

The Volvos performed well, perhaps better than expected; having said that, Dahlgren’s car was the only one to momentarily retire, with a power steering hose coming loose and spraying fluid onto the hot engine, laying down a sizeable smokescreen. Given the field, 25 cars in all, was spread by a mere 2.5 seconds at the end of the test day, it bodes well for the return of Volvo to Australian motorsport, with their first real test being at the fabled Clipsal 500, in Adelaide, covering the first weekend of March. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Welcome back, Volvo.

Timed Traffic Lights?

Have you ever had one of those days when it seems like you get caught by every single red light on your daily commute? Traffic lights have been annoying us for a very, very long time.  Apparently, the first lights were set up in the UK back in 1868 (yes, in the country that also brought us speeding tickets). These lights used variations on railway signals and controlled the bustling traffic outside the British Houses of Parliament. London has had traffic issues ever since…  The original lights exploded after less than a year of use, as they used gas for the lighting system.  The USA then copied the idea but threw in electricity for lighting (thanks, Mr Edison) and added a yellow light.

Nowadays, we’re all familiar with the red-yellow-green system. However, a few people need a bit of a reminder that the yellow (also known as orange or amber) actually means “slow down and prepare to stop” rather than “put your foot down so you can get into the intersection before the light turns red”.  j

I guess I’m not alone in sitting at an intersection waiting at a red light and wondering “How much longer am I going to wait for?”  Other questions that flit through my mind is whether or not it’s going to be worth popping the gear into neutral or not while I’m waiting rather than sitting there with the auto still on Drive and the brake on.

And it looks like there are starting to be attempts to answer this sort of question.  There are rumours on the internet of a new LED traffic lights system that has been designed by someone named Thanva Tivawong.  This design gets rid of the traditional row of three lights (more if you’ve got a multilane intersection with left and right turn arrows, plus lights for bikes or buses or trams) and replaces them with an hourglass shaped display. The hourglass changes colour and “sand” trickles down, showing how much more time you’ve got left before the lights change. They also have a “get ready” yellow light between red and green – a sort of “ladies and gentlemen, start your engines” signal so you know when to start getting in gear.

sand-glass-traffic-lights-3

Comments on the web have included queries about how colourblind drivers are going to cope, as you don’t have the usual red up the top, green down the bottom convention (which was put in place for the sake of colourblind drivers).  I guess something could be sorted out – horizontal stripes for red and vertical stripes for green, maybe.

As far as a quick flick around the web can make out, it’s unclear whether or not these lights are actually installed anywhere yet. They may still just be a concept.  Certainly, there would be a lot of legal hoo-hah and research before they actually get adopted anywhere.

This isn’t the first time a designer has tried to include time left into a traffic signal. There was the “Marshalite” design that came out in the 1940s that had an arrow that travelled around a circle like a clock hand, moving from red to green, with a brief segment painted amber. These were an Aussie innovation and several of these were around Melbourne until the 1970s. You can still find one on display somewhere in the Melbourne Museum.

marshalite

But I have to admit that the traffic light system that I liked best was the rather basic one that they had in La Paz, capital of Bolivia, in the late 1980s, when I lived over there. Most traffic lights outside the city centre were operated manually by a cop, except late at night when there wasn’t much traffic (not sure what they did then – I was never out that late).  The cop would sit there flipping the switch up and down, with a brief pause in the amber section that showed yellow for all directions. There were no problems with hoons using the “get ready to go” signal as an opportunity for a drag race, as there was a cop there watching everything.  The cop would usually change the lights when the waiting traffic on any road built up to a certain level. Usually is the operative word. Most motorists knew perfectly well that if a chauffeur-driven Mercedes swept along, standing out like a sore thumb in the middle of the Beetles, Ladas and Pajeros, the lights would be operated in its favour… after all, it could be a government official or the head of police in there.  The human factor would also come into play if you were (a) good looking and female, and gave the cop a nice smile; or (b) had a heap of kids waiting to cross as pedestrians.

It probably isn’t the world’s most exciting job and it probably doesn’t have to be done by fully-fledged cops, but couldn’t this sort of system be a solution to unemployment problems?

Rise of the Machines: Problem with the ‘Planet-Saving’ Prius

The Toyota Prius has undergone somewhat of a metamorphoses over the years of its existence. It would appear that the Prius has left the automotive world in search of a new career, as a fashion icon. Since its inception back in 1997, the Prius has become the spearhead of a whole new generation of green motoring. In terms of hybrid auto-mobiles there was no competition (apparently). For nearly 15 years now, it has become the fashion accessory for ‘the celebrity’. They may own fleets of pointless 4x4s and multi-million dollar hypercars, but if they own a Prius they appear to have the ridiculous belief that they care about the environment and mother earth. The worst part is that the glossy magazine reading public actually believe this nonsense. I have always had my doubts about the Prius as a ‘green planet saving’ car, but it would seem that now there is a whole new problem.

News has reached my ears that Toyota has had to recall 1.9 million Prius hybrids due to a software fault that may be causing the cars slow down suddenly. The Toyota Prius claims to be saving the planet, and maybe it will achieve that by killing off the human population, driver by driver. The machines are rising up. This is the revolution we all feared.

Welcome to the kamikaze Prius.

The Toyota Prius - car or fashion star?

The Toyota Prius – car or fashion star?

The cars in question are the current range of Prius’ that have been in production since 2009. Essentially, a software fault is causing a mass of warning lights to come flashing in the poor face of the driver. It has been reported that in some cases, it has caused the hybrid system to shut down which will stop the car even while driving. Even if this is not the case, the fault still causes the car to enter a ‘failsafe’ mode which will significantly reduce the power of the engine and the batteries.

It does not take a genius to work out that this could be massively dangerous in certain circumstances, whether it is in the busy city or on the open road. Toyota has said that there have been no accidents, injuries or fatalities yet reported by the problem. There is a very strong chance that this may be true, but I am always highly suspicious of this. If I wanted to preserve some form of credibility for my company, I would not disclose yet more bad news related to my product.

Is Toyota hiding something? Are they hiding a dark secret?

The world has proclaimed that the Prius was a revolutionary step forward in the automotive world. Technologically, the hybrid system was a breakthrough, but maybe Toyota discovered something else… They pushed the limits of the technology to a whole new level. What if the technology…came alive? They thought they could control their new power.

Did they learn nothing from Jurassic Park? If you try and create new life and you abuse the power of creation, it comes back to bite you...

Did they learn nothing from Jurassic Park? If you try and create new life and you abuse the power of creation, it comes back to bite you…

Whatever the truth behind the matter may be, it does introduce a new and very important issue into motoring. As the years go on, we are relying more and more on computer systems within the cars we drive. As I am sure we have all experienced, there are times when the computer you are using will just freeze or shut down altogether?Can you imagine that while driving along at 70mph along a motorway?

“Your Prius has discovered an error and must close. Would you like to send an error report?”

I believe that the future of motoring should also look to the past for inspiration. Hyper-futuristic computer hard drives may not actually be the way forward. What ever happened to simplistic motoring? It is always good when it works, but I will forever be worried what happens when this computing power goes wrong.

On a more serious note, I am glad this has happened to the Prius. I do believe that it is proving that the car is not as perfect as the worlds’ media and the celebrity world has often made out. I have always had my doubts about the eco-friendly nature of the car anyway. It boasts better fuel economy, but fuel economy is, to the most part based on how well the driver can drive the car. If you drive the Prius like a lunatic, you will get no better fuel economy than you would from any other car. In fact, Top Gear have even explained how the Prius is just as damaging to the environment as any other car, and even proved that against a BMW in set conditions, the fuel economy is not that amazing.

I am never going to deny that the Prius was a step in the right direction, but I do hope that people will accept that it is in no way perfect. Preserving the planet should be the biggest priority for car companies in the future; hybrid cars are an elegant solution, as are electric cars. With the release of the McLaren P1, it proves that electric power can be harnessed with the traditional engine for astronomically mind blowing results.

The future is bring, the future is green (most likely).

I just hope that the Prius revolution can be stopped before they take over. It’s always the quiet ones.

Keep Driving People!

Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love

Buying a Used Car – 7 Things to Consider

Buying a used car is something most of us do at least once in our life. It’s a right of passage for many people – buying a new car is a great feeling, and especially good you find an excellent deal and are able to enjoy trouble free motoring.

If you’re looking at buying a used car that’s maybe 1-2 years old, Private Fleet can help. We get access to a large amount of trade in vehicles – you’re always able to access the very best of what’s out there.

If you buy a used car from Private Fleet, you can be sure that the vehicles is in an almost good as new condition. We’re proud of our ability to source the very best cars out there, but even if you’re not buying through us, here are 5 things to consider when buying a used car.

Check the history

When buying a used car, you need to make sure you know at least a little bit about its history. The history can tell you a lot not just about the car but the type of person who has owned it in the past. Check for service intervals, and when the all-important cambelt or timing belt was changed. The more you know about the service history of a car, the more you’ll be able to mitigate future, costly repairs.

Does it have any leaks?

Check all the hoses, tubes and pipes in the engine, and if possible, the underside of the car. Leaks can often be hidden, and provide slow burning problems that worsen over time. Piped not doing their job can also affect a lot of components – stay aware from vehicles that obviously display these kind of issues.

Check for corrosion

Hidden corrosion can be the arch nemesis of your car and its health. Inspect the wheel arches, the wings and as much of the sills as you can – poking suspect areas. If you finger goes through the rust, steer well clear

How does it turn at slow speeds?

Drive the car slowly and make a series of 90-degree turns left and right. Observe how the car steers and the feedback from the road – are there any knocking noises? If there are, it could signify wishbone or anti-roll issues. It’s repairable, but be wary, and make sure you factor this in to the amount you’re willing to spend on the car.

Have the tyres worn evenly?

Tracking and balance issues caused by problems to the suspension and the anti-roll system can make the tyres wear unevenly. Even if there’s no outward sign of issues with the internal structure of the car, uneven tyre wear can potentially give the game away.

Check the condition of the fluids

As well as making sure you’re checking the levels of the fluid in the car, check the quality of it too. If the oil is brown, black or grimey, it could be an indication that it hasn’t been changed in a long time. Sludge build ups also indicates this, alongside the possibility of overheating problems. Additionally, check the quality of the coolant – dirty or off-colour water needs to be changed.

Test drive the car

Of course this goes without saying, but you would be surprised how many people buy a car without scrutinising it or understanding the specifics of how it drives. If you do buy the car, you will of course discover idiosyncrasies you’ll have to deal with – but most major issues can be discovered by taking it on a drive at all speeds and making sure it goes through the gears.

If you’re looking to we have here at Private Fleet a vast wealth of knowledge about the car industry in Australia and how to get the best deal possible. We have access to a huge amount of vehicles that have been traded in – contact us for more information.

Buying a Used Car

And Then There Were None……

The earlier than expected news that Toyota Australia will also cease manufacturing came as no surprise apart from the timing of the announcement. Widely expected to be in March, it nonetheless completes the trifecta with Ford and Holden announcing their cessation of manufacturing last year.

Workers are said to be devastated at the news, whilst Toyota said: “Together with one of the most open and fragmented automotive markets in the world and increased competitiveness due to current and future Free Trade Agreements, it is not viable to continue building cars in Australia.” There’s another 2500 jobs to go with the Altona engine manufacturing plant but it reaches further than that. As one person on Twitter said: “One day I’ll be telling my kids we built cars in Australia”. That’s a fair point because now gone are the days where one might aspire to work in the car industry. It’s history that will write the future of manufacturing full stop, but now the longer term situation needs to be examined, with component suppliers, transport groups and more all to be affected by the decisions made by the last three companies. 1623653_10151881747945598_1621931517_n

Naturally, there’s fingers being pointed at the current Australian government, with the not unexpected slamming of them by Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary Dave Smith, saying: “I think disastrous is the best way to describe it. In the space of the few months the Federal Government has come to power they have just destroyed the car industry and they make no apology destroying it. Fifty-thousand jobs will go because of an ideologically driven position that we don’t support inefficient industry. We’re the only country in the world that thinks that.” As has also been pointed out, so many other businesses that don’t get assistance are still in operation so it again begs the question, what processes were being undertaken internally for so long that allowed this to happen? Free trade agreements haven’t helped, nor have successive governments with a lack of subsidies to keep encouraging companies to continue.

Regardless, it’s a sad, sad day for the automotive industry and the associated businesses.