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Archive for May, 2014

Classic Cars: Holden Monaro.

There’s something about the shape of a classic two door car that attracts the eyes like little else; Jaguar found that with the E-Type, Ferrari with the GTO (and pretty much every one of their cars!) and Australia’s Holden did it with the Monaro.

HK GTS MonaroJuly of 1968 saw the release of the first “two door pillarless coupe”, with the HK Kingswood losing two doors, gaining a redesigned roof and kickstarting a legend, with the release of the Monaro. There were three models; the base, the GTS and the GTS 327. The entry level model came with Holden’s trusty 161 cubic inch cylinder engines with the GTS offering the 3.0L or 186 c.i. with standard or 186S engines. Naturally enough, the GTS 327 came with the Chevrolet 327 V8, with 186kW or 250 brake horsepower. Engineers originally claimed the engine bay was too small to hold the American iron, fastracking development of an Australian designed and built V8, however a remeasuring found the Chev would slot in nicely. The HK Monaro also provided Holden with their first victory at the Bathurst 500 race, with Bruce McPhee and Barry Mulholland (piloting the car for just one of the one hundred and thirty race laps) backing up the pole position and fastest race lap. The HK was distinguishable by the narrow, American influenced tail lights and a short vertical/wide horizontal bar in the grille.

HT MonaroBarely a year later the facelifted HT Monaro arrived on the scene. The 327 was dropped in favour of the 5.7L 350 cubic inch and the HT saw the addition of a two speed Powerglide automatic. The hairy chested V8 had 300 ponies (224kW) in manual form and was slightly detuned for the auto. The HT also saw the introduction of Holden’s own 4.2L and 5.0L V8s plus, later in the HT’s life, the three speed Trimatic automatic. The grille was updated with the addition of a plastic, multi slatted design and increased in size tail lights, plus the addition of a round speedometer, replacing the strip style. Go faster stripes,available on the HK and located on the driver’s side, were relocated to running down the centre of the HT. Looking good but performing no real function were two air intakes on the bonnet. Rubber bushes in the suspension replaced the sintered bronze bushes found in the HK. 1969 also saw the formation of the fabled Holden Dealer Team; put together by racer and engineer (the late) Harry Firth, the team featured rally ace Colin Bond, McPhee and Mulholland, Tony Roberts and a young, almost untried driver named Peter Brock.

HG Monaro1970 launched a new decade and the HG Monaro. External changes were mild; the grille was separated into two part, taillights were modified slightly, some badging was added and chromework reduced. At the front of each fender was a bold “350” decal, to stamp its authority on the road. The non 350 powered GTS had a softer suspension, improving the ride and disc brakes at the front were added as well. The HG would also be the last of the smoother, rounded design before the release of the HQ.

1971 had the world watching their tv sets to see what was happening in Vietnam and the HQ Holden was released as well. A sleeker, more angular design, the HQ Monaro had a completely different profile yet had the family resemblance; a larger rear window and squarer rear quarter window seemed to ease the sporty look, with the design HQ GTS Lina Mintnow seen as one of the best to come from an Australian design studio. There was a change of engine and name specification, with the GTS nomenclature being V8 only. There was the addition of the LS range,with engines from 173 c.i. in the entry level non LS, through to the 3.3L or 202 c.i. six and above for the LS. From the start until 1973 the HQ had no body striping, plus, with the HQ Statesman luxury vehicle also being fitted with the 350, there was a perception the range wasn’t as sporty as before. The three speed Turbo-Hydro automatic gearbox also was seen as a dulling of the range, at the time. Adding to the spice was the change to a smaller car for Holden’s main racing duties, the Torana. It wasn’t until 1973, with the release of the first four door Monaro GTS that body striping was added to the HQ range, possibly in an effort to clearly differentiate between the Kingswood and the Monaro. A final kick in the pants for the Monaro faithful was the deletion of the 350 decals, being replaced with a generic V8 bootlid badge. In 1974, the final year of the HQ, the manual version of the 350 was discontinued and the engine itself was shortly after deleted from the range, along with the slow selling auto.

1974-1976_Holden_HJ_Monaro_GTS_sedan_01The facelifted HJ continued the Monaro name, with leftover HQ two door bodyshells being fitted with the HJ’s squared off front end whilst the four door GTS became a model in its ownright, with the HQ GTS being an optioned up Kingswood. The GTS also came with either the 253 c.i. or 308 c.i. engines as the 350 c.i. and entry level coupe were discontinued, however the LS was continued with the 3.3L. Just 337 LS coupes were produced, making them one of Australia’s rarest production cars. The GTS coupe was discontinued with just over 600 examples produced. Of note though was the ability to option in bodywork in the form of front and rear spoilers.

Mid 1976 saw the release of the HX range, effectively a mild facelift and also effectively the end of the Monaro nameplate. Alongside the four door Monaro GTS sedan, there was the release of the specced up LE two door pillarless HX GTScoupe, complete with glitzy gold wheels and leftover eight track cassette players, plus emission controls for the engine.

Late 1977 had the Holden GTS released, complete with four headlight grille, disc brakes all round, front and rear spoilers as standard, the introduction of Radial Tuned Suspension and the 4.2L as the standard powerplant, being shuffled aside in June of 1978 in favour of the 5.0L. At the same time, Holden had also released the Opel based Commodore, with the then mid sizer ending the run of the GTS in December of 1978. The HZ itself was phased out in 1980.HZ GTS

In the late 1990’s, Holden designers produced a concept car; based on the Commodore of the time and shown at the Sydney Motor Show in 1998, the media quickly christened the coupe concept as a Monaro and such was the public interest the car was put into production. Available as the CV6 with a supercharged 3.8L V6 or CV8, featuring Chevrolet’s 5.7L V8 and with six speed manual or optional four speed auto, the CV6 failed to ignite and was dropped soon after introduction. The car would also be sold as a Pontiac GTO, with styling changed at the front to suit the American market, plus the Monaro was updated front and rear in line with the introduction of the VZ Commodore. VT VZ MonaroPublic interest quickly waned, however, with export markets drying up and some questionable styling changes affecting public perception overseas, the final Monaro was sold in February of 2006. Various racing versions including a 427 c.i. powered car were raced whilst Holden Special Vehicles released their own under the name of Coupe, not Monaro, including a limited run all wheel driver version. With Holden discontinuing local manufacturing by 2017, it’s exceptionally unlikely that the Monaro name will ever be seen again on a Holden badged vehicle.

How Far Can You Go On One Tank?

I don’t know about you, but I’m always trying to go for as long as possible in between trips to the bowser.  There are a number of ways of eking out the fuel and minimising your fuel consumption, but how far can you go on just one tank?

According to the Guinness Book of Records for 2014, the furthest you can go on one tank of fuel is 2545.8 km, which was achieved by a pair of Croatian drivers named Marko Tomac and Ivan Cvetković. They were driving a Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI Bluemotion which was not modified and had to carry two people plus their luggage. This is the second time that the Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI Bluemotion has picked up a world record for hypermilage, as the pair of British drivers who held the record busted by the Croatian team also drove one of these super thrifty little beasts. Drivers watching their petrol pennies take note.  Crunching the numbers reveals that this adds up to 32.2 km/litre, which is the equivalent of 3.10 litres/100 km.  As the drive was made over a variety of roads in Croatia, we can presume that this is combined fuel economy.

The little Passat also holds the record for the world’s best fuel economy for non-hybrid cars, with a team of two US drivers clocking up 3.10 L/100 km on average as they drove through all 48 of the contiguous states in the USA (i.e. not Alaska or Hawaii), a trip that took six fuel top-ups and 13,071 km.  However, for the same drive, the record holder overall (i.e. with hybrid cars included) is a 2006 Honda Insight , which managed 3.16 L/100 km.


Kia Optima
hybrid), the rest of us have to be realistic. Little hatchbacks just won’t fit our lifestyles and our families.  But we still want to save a few cents at the bowser.  What can we do?  Well, there are a few things.

  1. Watch what you’re carrying as luggage. The official records required the cars to carry two people plus luggage to make the comparison fair. This is because every 25 kg increases your fuel consumption by 1%.
  2. Keep the air-con off.  The air-con is powered by your engine.  Opening the windows is a thriftier option, until you get up to higher speeds.  On the open road, having the windows down creates more drag and reduces aerodynamics, thus making you burn more fuel.
  3. Drive smoothly and without aggression.
  4. Pick the right gear to keep the revs at their most efficient.
  5. If you can select your drive mode, put it on Eco. Most cars with selectable modes have the Eco option.old-petrol-pump
  6. Whip off the roof rails if you don’t use them. Obviously, if they come as standard fitted to the car, you can leave them on, as removing them may damage the vehicle and they will have been designed to be aerodynamic. But ski pods and the like shouldn’t live up there full-time.
  7. Keep your tyres at the right pressure.  All tyres leak.  If you want to see the difference between fuel consumption with a flat tyre and with a properly pumped tyre, get a bike.  Let a bit of air out of the tyres and ride around the block. Now pump the tyres back up and ride the same circuit.  You will feel the difference.

 

 

Vale Sir Jack Brabham.

Brabham_67_france_01_bcThe words “household name” get thrown around loosely at times, however in the late 1950s through help me with my homework to the 1960s it was hard to not know of Jack Brabham. Knighted in 1979, Sir Jack Brabham passed away at home on the morning of May 19, at the Gold Coast in Queensland, aged 88.
Born in the Sydney suburb of Hurstville, April 2nd 1926, John Arthur “Jack” Brabham was exposed to the automotive field very early; at the age of 12 he’d learnt to drive the family car and trucks of the grocery business his father had. He studied metalwork and technical drawing, before moving into a duopoly of study (evening course in mechanical engineering) and daytime work at a garage. On the 19th of May, 1944, he enlisted into the Royal Australian Air Force, becoming a flight mechanic, contrary to his wish to become a pilot however there was already a surplus amount of aircrew.

An American colleague, Jonny Schonberg, persuaded him to watch a category of racing known as midgets. Popular at the time, it was enough to have Jack interested and he built a car and engine which Schonberg raced. After Schonberg’s wife stepped in, Brabham took over and won on just his third night of racing. He won the 1948 Australian Speedcar Championship, repeated the feat a year later and also added the South Australian Championship plus the 1950 and ’51 silverware. From here, Brabham became interested in road racing, buying and modifying cars from the Cooper Car Company. He raced in Australia and New Zealand until 1955, picking up the nickname Black Jack along the way. After competing in the 1955 New Zealand GP, Jack went to the UK to try his luck there. He drove an ailing car in the 1955 Grand Prix, retiring with a broken clutch. It was also around this time that the Brabham and Cooper name became intertwined, with Brabham working with the Cooper factory and racing their cars, including the Formula 2 category.

1959 saw the Cooper cars receive a power boost with the addition of 2.5L engines to the company’s team, with immediate results for Jack, winning the 1959 Monaco GP and the British GP after a tyre conservation drive saw him win ahead of rival and friend Stirling Moss. It came down to a close championship fight between Brabham, Moss and Ferrari’s Tony Brooks, with Brabham running out of fuel and pushing the car across the line for fourth. It was, though, still enough to get the required points. Brabham, being as competitive as always, though teh cars and he could do better; he asked his friend (another soon to be Aussie legend) Ron Tauranac, to come and work with him in the UK. Brabham and Tauranac worked side by side in upgrading and selling cars via Brabham’s car dealership but it was in racing that their future lay. With advice from Ron, Brabham took a Cooper car, helping to designthe Cooper T53 and took the car to five successive Grands Prix victories, including the Belgian Grand Prix, where Stirling Moss was injured retiring for two months to recuperate) and two others were killed.

Tauranac and Brabham formed Motor Racing Developments, racing a Cooper before moving to a team he created in 1962 and racing cars powered by the FIA’s choice, a 1.5L powerplant. There was no success that year and little at all before 1966 saw a change to 3.0L engines. The other teams had unwieldy and unreliable 12 cylinder engines; Jack persuaded Australian company to help develop a V8, based on the American Oldsmobile alloy block. It was a proven engine which would give better reliablity, allowing them the advantage and the other teams catchup as they struggled to make their engines reliable. This would end up creating a piece of history that still stands; with Ron Tauranac and Brabham building the BT-19 car, powered by the Repco 3.0L V8, Brabham won the French Grand Prix, becoming the first ever driver to win in a car of his own construction. He’d win four races straight, becoming the first and only driver to win a championship in a car bearing his name. Jack was 40 in 1966; stung by media questioning his ability, he’d uncharacteristically recated by appearing in a beard and hobbling to his car with a cane at the Dutch Grand Prix. To rub it in, Brabham won the race.Brabham race car

1968 was the beginning of the end for Brabham’s racing career; retirements in the first seven races, minor points in the German GP and then four more retirements. In 1969 Jack suffered injuries to a foot in atesting accident and told his wife he’d retire at season’s end, selling his share of the team to Tauranac. Having found no decent enough drivers to race in his team in 1970, Jack postponed retirement, winning in his first race. After some good finishes he did retire at the end of the season.

Jack stayed busy in retirement; running his cars at events such as the Goodwood Revival, saying racing kept him young. His first wife, Betty and he had three sons; David, Geoff and Gary.In 1994 Betty and Jack divorced, with Brabham remarrying in 1995, to Margaret. But by the mid 2000s, health issues started to creep in. He was almost completely deaf thanks to the years of racing without the protection today’s drivers take for granted, there was kidney dialysis and macular degeneration in the eyes. Brabham’s achievements though were being acknowledged, with a suburb in Perth being named Brabham and an extension to the Sydney Motorsport Park (formerly Eastern Creek Raceway) taking the full length to 4.5km and being called the Brabham Circuit and an automotive training facility was opened in Queensland in 2012, being named the Sir Jack Brabham Automotive Centre of Excellence. Sir Jack Brabham made his last public appearance just one day before his passing, with one of the cars he had built.

Vale Sir Jack Brabham.Brabham

Book Review: “History’s Greatest Automotive Mysteries, Myths and Rumours Revealed”

In my blogs over the last few weeks, I’ve been drawing inspiration from a fantastic book picked up by chance from the local library:  History’s Greatest Automotive Mysteries, Myths and Rumours Revealed by Preston Lerner and Matt Stone.  It’s such a fun read and is bound to be interesting to most visitors to Private Fleet, so I thought I’d better let you all know about it so you can read it for yourselves.

bookcovercarhistory

The book takes a look at some of the most popular stories circulating in the automotive world, then takes a long hard look at whether the stories are true or not.  The authors have done their homework pretty thoroughly, it seems, almost like the Mythbusters but in print.

The book is divided into six sections: Urban Legends, Crime, Racing, Hollywood, Death and Inside the Industry, with the various popular stories to be investigated being slotted neatly into one of these categories.  This structure makes it very easy to pick up and put down, and you can dip into it wherever you fancy.  As well as the main stories, the authors have included boxes with little extras and tangents – such as the development of the Batmobile for the 1960s TV series, which is included in the chapter about Model Ts coming in “any colour as long as it’s black” in a box entitled “Born To Be Painted Black”.

What are some of the stories that they investigate in this book?  Here’s a smattering to give you the idea:

  • The Darwin Award-winning Chevrolet Impala fitted with JATO rockets that crashed into a cliff in Arizona at 350 mph, 125 feet in the air – did this really happen?
  • The Hyundai  driven by Rodney King when he was beaten up by the LAPD goons, triggering the Los Angeles riots in 1991 – was he really speeding at 115 mph?
  • Did Bonnie and Clyde send a letter to the Ford Motor Company thanking them for making the perfect getaway car?
  • Would the notorious Ford Pinto been capable of flying if it had wings fitted?  Yes, that’s flying with an L not frying – what the Ford Pinto became better known for.
  • Is there a conspiracy involving the US Government, Big Oil and motor companies to supress the development of the electric car, as popularised by a documentary released in 2006? (Drivers of the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV know the answer to this question)
  • Did the people who bought bits of the Porsche 550 Spyder that James Dean was driving when he crashed experience chronic bad luck and disaster, suggesting that the car was cursed?
  • Did Steve McQueen drive all of his own automotive stunts in the iconic car chase scene in the 1968 thriller movie Bullitt? 
  • Who really won the very first Indy 500 race? Was it actually Ray Harroun (who is credited with the win) or was it Ralph Mulford?
  • Has a monkey called Jocko Flocko won as many NASCAR Grand National races as Mario Andretti?
And if you add wings, can it fly?

And if you add wings, can it fly?

 

And the answers to all of these questions?  Well, for that, you’re going to have to read the book yourself.

Title: History’s Greatest Automotive Mysteries, Myths and Rumours Revealed

Authors: Preston Lerner and Matt Stone

Published: 2012 by Motorbooks

ISBN-13: 978-0-7603-4260-2

Hardcover, Kindle ebook available.  http://www.amazon.com/Historys-Greatest-Automotive-Mysteries-Revealed/dp/0760342601/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400449989&sr=8-1&keywords=History%E2%80%99s+Greatest+Automotive+Mysteries%2C+Myths+and+Rumours+Revealed

Disclaimer: The writer and Private Fleet are not associated in any way with the authors or publishers of this book.

Czech Mate: Skoda Octavia Ambition Plus sedan.

Octavia frontOctavia: younger sister of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus. Skoda: younger sister of the automotive giant, Volkswagen. Together they’ve come up with a surprisingly capable vehicle with a definite Ambition to be seen. A Wheel Thing says hello to the Czech based manufacturer for the first time and likes the first impressions of the Ambition Plus sedan.

Physically it is a decent sized vehicle, it’s just shy of 4.7 metres in length with a 1.8m width and stands just under a metre and a half tall. Octavia engineUnder the test car’s bonnet is a seemingly small 1.4L turbocharged petrol engine, Octavia consolewith 103kW and 250 Newton metres of torque. It’s this figure that comes into play with a weight of just 1340 kilos (dry) to move. Putting that grunt down to the front wheels (225/45/17) is the job of a seven speed DSG; the close ratios have the Octavia motivating quickly, especially once the stutters of first and second are out of the way. A good prod of the go pedal sees the numbers change quicker than a blink, with the DSG ‘box sliding home gear after gear seamlessly, providing a wave of get up and go, belying the size of the engine. It’s that torque, available from 1500 revs through to 3500, with the tacho flicking up then down on changes, through to the peak power point of 5000rpm keeping things bubbling. Being front wheel drivem it’s partial to the occasional snort of the tyres when provoked yet torque steer is noticeably absent.

Octavia rearThe exterior is familiar yet new, with Skoda’s design team stamping their own mark on the VW based chassis. Audi-esque tail lights bookend a smart looking front end, with a chin mounted grille framed by driving lightsOctavia wheel underneath the moustachioed main intake grille and slimline, slef adjusting headlights. There’s (in the case of the Ambition Plus) a radar sensor smack bang in the lower middle grille; get too close to a vehicle in front without you using your brakes and wham! the Ambition Plus will take you by surprise and brakes itself. Hard. It’s a smooth, clean sheetmetal with the Octavia, with a well balanced profile and a single crease line at the bottom of the doors. There’s a kickup on the rear seat passenger windows whilst the wheels are trim and tidy looking five spoke alloys.

Octavia dashThe interior mix is an oddity; it’s a feeling of mod-tech and 1970s hotel; Octavia seatingthere’s the presence sensing touchscreen for entertainment and engine/gearbox setting changes, parking assistance and sensors butting up against a somewhat dated plastics look on the dash and door trims (piano black and dull, lustreless very dark grey) with the dash itself the old style block design, with no real amalgamation into the doors and a “beige” look to the seat trimmings, being a mix of black and patterned cloth. The seats themselves were comfortable without being spectacular, fully manual in adjustment and had the odd feeling of being seated higher than they looked. The position certainly provides good all round vision, except the wing mirrors are too small for true safety. Cargo space is huge, with the liftback providing both easy access and a cavernous amount of room at well over 500 litres.Octavia left rearOctavia cargo spaceOctavia rear

There’s a neutral feel through the tiller, with enough subtle feedback to provide road information to the driver, with the steering ratio just a couple of turns or so lock to lock. On the road the suspension is initially compliant, absorbing most smaller ripples and undulations and there’s a definite sensation of tautness underneath, allowing the Octavia to be thrown around without feeling perturbed. On tarmac it feels planted but did seem somewhat twitchy in a cross breeze and coming into an unsealed surface road it understeered dramatically and braking did not really help. The brakes themselves have a good bite, early in pedal travel without feeling grabby and provided a good level of confidence. In profile the Ambition seems to sit high with the 17 inch wheels not looking as if the wheelarches are filled but there’s little noticeable body roll regardless. Acceleration, as mentioned, is rapid once the turbo has spooled up bhowever the DSG ‘box did tend to hold fourth in certain driving conditions and was somewhat buzzy while doing so. Economy is quoted at around 5.9L/100km and A Wheel Thing saw little that would dispute that claim.

Skoda offers capped price servicing, with service intervals 12 months or 15000 kilometres, whichever comes first, complementing the sharp pricing. The range starts at just under $23000 with the Ambition Plus kicking off at $26790 driveaway (at the time of writing) plus $475 for metallic paint. The supplied car came with the optional Tech Pack (push button stop/start, cruise control and more) taking the price to a lick over $31K.
It’s a good car but suffers from being largely unseen on Aussie roads; that’s a shame because it’s roomy enough for the average family, drives well enough for the average punter and is keenly priced with a decent amount of equipment. Go here for more information: http://www.skoda.com.au/models/octavia/
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Misplaced Accent From Hyundai

Accent profileIt’s a sad, sad, situtation, sang Elton John, about what I don’t know, however, for A Wheel Thing, it could apply to having a major manufacturer having two cars so very close to each other that one of them is potentially superfluous. Hyundai has the Accent (a nameplate used to deflect hangover angst about the unlamented Excel) and the i30. They’re both very similar, down to the previous model i30 looking almost exactly like the current Accent. A Wheel Thing spent time with the 2014 Accent SR and asks why the Accent is still here. It’s a five door hatch, the SR supplied was in a smooth metallic grey and funky looking alloys inside 195/50/16 Kumho rubber, has LED daylight running lights sweeping around and under the slimline headlights and the long, vertical tail lights that neatly integrate into the sheetmetal and sweep into the roofline underneath a modest spoiler. There’s two solid crease lines,one from atop the front wheel arch and Accent noserunning to the reverse light section in the tail lights, the other breaking up the solidity at the bottom of the doors. Accent rearIt’s not unattractive, with the ID subtle by having a single SR badge on the hatch lid. At the front there’s the signature, subtle, hexagonal imprint in the design, flanked by a pair of cornering lamps. Lay the profile side by side with the previous i30 and you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re twins. The Accent hatch is 4115mm long x 1700mm wide by 1450mm in height, wheelbase is 2570mm and front/rear track is 1493/1489mm. Under the bonnet is a GDI (gasoline direct injection) 1.6L four potter, offering 103 kilowatts and 167Nm (6300/4850 revs respectively) through a six speed manual (in the test car supplied, auto available) with a slightly lower spec available with the MPI (multi point injection) power plant. It’s a slick gearchange, with no real weight but just enough to give feeling whilst the gate is a touch close with first and third sometimes becoming the gear selected but not wanted; more often than not it was third when I wanted first. Accent engineClutch is well synchronised in its pressure and pickup point, offering the chance to move the lever quicker through the gate at higher revs. It’s a competent package all round, but the lack of torque is noticed against the 1600 odd kilo gross vehicle weight. Hyundai quotes 6.1L/100 km (combined) from its 43 litre tank, which seems pretty much on the mark. The interior is basic but functional, centred around a matt coat five inch touchscreen for radio and auxiliary inputs. Not unexpectedly, with Accent dashHyundai’s continuing focus on build quality, it’s ergonomic, a good mix of plastics to the look and touch, with a simple yet effective Accent cabinsweeping design to the dash. Aircon controls are the same, simple yet effective, with colour coding for temperature and icons for the speed and direction. The driver’s view is as equally simply effective, with two no nonsense dials for revs and speed bisected by a monochrome LCD display for fuel and temperature with the steering wheel also basic with minimal controls, limited to audio and cruise with Bluetooth phone controls attachedAccent console to the buttons around the touchscreen. Seats are cloth trimmed, manually adjusted, well padded yet not as snug on the support to the body. Accent bootCargo space is considerable for the size, with up to 600L available. On the road the Australian refined suspension is noticeable, with subtle refinements to the McPhersion strut front/torsion bar rear, providing a smooth and refined ride. Powered through some roads that are tight, twisty, off camber, the Accent surprises by being nimble, adhesive, flexible, rarely unflustered by sudden directional changes, absorbing the bumps and transmitting little through to the cabin. Steering input is somewhat numb however, with no real information feeling as if it’s been transmitted back to the driver and brakes haul up the Accent nicely and minimal fuss. The Kumho tyres are fairly quiet on coarse chip road surfaces and the overall feeling is of quiet control.Accent wheel The reason A Wheel Thing queries the need for the Accent is this: the i30 offers a 1.6L diesel or petrol 1.8L and 2.0L, with the 1.8L not providing that much extra torque or power. Overall dimensions (4300 x 1780 x 1470mm) are again barely different from the Accent; weight is lighter in the Accent (i30 is 1850 kg GVM) and fuel economy really isn’t that much different for the i30, being an extra litre per 100km quoted. The overall feature set in the i30 (http://www.hyundai.com.au/vehicles/i30sr/specification-range isn’t enough to really differentiate apart from a 7 inch screen and some interior design touches. So, Hyundai, why keep the Accent, especially that in your normal passenger range it’s this or the Elantra (another confusing entry to the Hyundai passenger range given the i30’s quality), not the i something nomenclature. With a sedan available in both levels (i30 and Accent) also, the Accents stacks up against the i30 with no seemingly obvious (to A Wheel Thing, at least) need to have it. Regardless, it is a good car and info can be found here: http://www.hyundai.com.au/vehicles/accent/specification—range At the time of writing Hyundai have factory pricing specials so contact your Hyundai dealerfor information.

Any Colour As Long As It’s Black…

There’s a persistent story circulating around the automotive world that Henry Ford said that the original “Tin Lizzie” (Model T Ford) could come in “any colour as long as it’s black.” Certainly, if you catch a glimpse of a lovingly restored (or maintained) Model T at a car show or in a museum, you’re probably going to see a black one.

ford model t poster

But did Henry Ford actually say this?  Was black really the only colour that traditional Ford cars came in?  Sorry to bust everybody’s bubbles of belief, but this is more or less an urban legend.  Model Ts didn’t just come in black.  Mostly black, yes.  But all black, no.

According to one fairly well researched book on automotive history I came across lately, Ford used a number of different colours throughout the years.  These days, you get several colour choices for your model, with slightly different colour choices for each different model in the marque. For example, the current line of Ford Fiesta comes in light blue, cobalt blue, white, black, orange, silver, medium grey and red.  The Ford Territory, on the other hand, comes in dark red, bronzy brown, three different shades of grey, black, white and blue.  Ford used to do this sort of thing right at the start of its production history. In 1909 to 1914, Fords came in red, green, grey or blue.

1908-1927-ford-model-t-1

However, from 1915 to 1926, only one colour was available, mostly as a cost-cutting exercise.  Hands up who can think what might have happened in 1915 that required businesses to cut back on costs?  Well done to those who answered World War I and extra bonus marks to those who mentioned the influenza pandemic.  After these global crises were over and people had a bit more money to burn – and when Ford’s competitors started offering a few more colours – colour came back to the Ford factory floor in Detroit. In 1926, green came along.  In 1927, a veritable rainbow rolled off the production lines, with two shades of maroon, four shades of green, brown, blue and grey being on offer, alongside a colour that experts call “moleskin” – which sounds like a sort of black.

The reason why the story about Tin Lizzies coming in “any colour as long as it’s black” is because the main production years for the Model T was in the 1915–1926 period.  Model Ts may have been basic black but they were cheap, which made them very, very attractive in the postwar period.  They were probably a real godsend for the various social workers of the time across this tricky time: doctors could rush to seriously ill patients quickly with the motor car; vicars, district nurses and the like could do the rounds and bring aid to the folk they were responsible for more efficiently.

As to whether old Henry Ford actually said the thing about any colour blah blah blah, this book I got hold of is silent. He may have done during the black period of the Model T. But it wasn’t company policy or part of the image of the Model T. It wasn’t born to be black from the beginning. And if you’re very, very lucky, you can come across some of the gaudier models out there.

Back to the Future: Ford Signs Off With the Last GT.

Although Ford Australia will cease local manufacturing in the next couple of years, it hasn’t forgotten about its history; with a nostalgic nod to the past, Ford has resurrected, for the final time under Australian making, the iconic GT moniker. There’s also the return of the three fabled numbers, 351. In this case, rather than the brawny 5.8L V8, it’s a supercharged 5.0L with 351 kilowatts. Having said that, the engine will need to rev to a stratsopheric 6000 rpm, just a few hundred more and with some in reserve compared to the carbie fed monster of forty years ago, when GT became a byword for pure, unadulterated grunt.

The one that really fired up the GT legend.

The one that really fired up the GT legend.

Marketed under the FPV banner, the GT F, as it will be known, has had substantial work performed on its engine and transmission electronic control systems in order to reach that iconic number. GT FFrom Ford:

“To achieve the engine’s landmark output, Ford’s engineering team developed an updated version of its Powertrain Control Module (PCM) software which, combined with a unique calibration strategy and torque management techniques, has provided a number of improvements in engine and vehicle performance while ensuring the vehicle meets Ford’s durability requirements. Specifically, the new software has delivered improved functionality of the boost control system, enabling finer tuning of the supercharger for further optimisation of the power and torque output of the engine. This electronic management has also ensured that while power is improved, no extra load has been placed on the driveline or the engine components themselves, ensuring continued durability.As a result of this fine tuning, maximum torque remains at 570 Nm of torque from 2,500 – 5,500 rpm. However, peak torque is produced for as long as possible throughout the full engine rev range, making the new GT F sedan even more responsive on the road or for track days.”

Seconds to last in a line of legends.

Seconds to last in a line of legends.

There’s no lack of grip, with 275/35 Dunlop Sports Maxx tyres wrapping 19 inch diameter alloys, plus Ford are adding a launch control feature; braking comes in the form of Brembo 6piston calipers at the front and four pots at the back. The exterior is apparently going to be a “hark back” to the heady days of the 1970s, with a black stealth highlight design to complement the five colour range (white, blue, black, orange and dark grey).

Compared to the now unbelieveably cheap price, for what the original GTHO was, of under $5000, this GT will come with a sticker price of $77990 (plus on roads) however there are rumours that the allocated run of 500 (plus 120 utes) has already been presold.

 

 

 

BTCC 2014 Review: Honda Dominates at Thruxton Thriller

Thruxton race track is considered one of the fastest and most thrilling tracks across Britain, and it is for this very reason that it has been a regular on the BTCC calendar for almost as long as the championship has been running. The infamous Church Corner is one of the fastest corners in British motor sport, with cornering speeds of over 120mph. When the BTCC grid puts rubber to tarmac, one can rest easy knowing that they will be in for a Thruxton thriller, and 2014 definitely did not fail to deliver.

Thruxton Circuit Layout

Thruxton Circuit Layout

Thruxton in recent years has very much been dominated by Honda, and 2014 was very much a similar story. Throughout all of the practice sessions and qualifying, reigning champion Andrew Jordan took a commanding lead on the time sheets. The Yuasa Hondas of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden were not too far behind, clocking up an eventual 1-2-3 in qualifying. The Hondas have never been the fastest machines, but it is their handling that puts them on top. Thruxton may appear to be a speed track, but its constant cornering requires a strong handling package. The track pushes cars to the very edge of adhesion, and unlike the laborious new Tilke-tracks with endless tarmac run-off, if you make a mistake at Thruxton you WILL be propelled off into the countryside.

No mercy. Only the greatest shall survive.

Speaking of the touring car greats, Thruxton saw the longest-standing record in the BTCC finally fall. All the way back in 2002, at the dawn of what was then a new era for touring cars Yvan Muller set a blistering time of 1.16.369. During qualifying, Andrew Jordan finally toppled the time with a 1.16.192. People can say a lot about developments from year to year, but it did take 12 years to beat a lap record, AND it was only by 0.177.
Qualifying saw the return of Ford to the competitive end of the field, with Mat Jackson putting his Focus on 4th. Rob Austin on the other hand has always admitted that Thruxton has not suited his Audi all that much, and the best he could manage was a lowly 21st.

The Ford team impressed across the weekend, thanks to a turbo adjustment. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The Ford team impressed across the weekend, thanks to a turbo adjustment. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The first race proved exactly why Andrew Jordan and Pirtek racing are the current champions of the sport; having never won at Thruxton despite numerous pole positions, Jordan finally beat his demons and drove away from the field in the perfect driving display, followed by the Yuasa Hondas. After a slight mistake in race two, Jordan lost his lead to flying Flash Gordon Shedden. Rob Collard got one of his proudest podiums to date in race two after getting an absolute demon start off the line. It is one of the advantages of running a rear wheel drive car after all.

The conclusion of the second race was somewhat premature, following an incident between Rob Austin and Nick Foster, ending in Foster’s car literally leapfrogging the circuit barrier and into the countryside beyond. Fortunately both drivers were unharmed and both would return for race three. However, the incident did bring out the red flags for race two.

During the first two events, the reverse grid had only affected the usual suspects at the top of the time sheets (Honda, MG and BMW). However, as Giovanardi (who finished 10th in race 2) put his hand into the lottery-style draw, he pulled out, you guessed it, his own number. With the top 10 reversed for race three and Giovanardi on pole, were we going to see a bit of a mix up to proceedings?

Jack Goff proved the Vauxhall Insignia is a worthy touring car in race three. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Jack Goff proved the Vauxhall Insignia is a worthy touring car in race three. Image Credit: BTCC.net

With the reverse grid, race three was never going to be dull. As the lights went out, Giovanardi charged away in his Ford, only to be quickly caught and passed by the race three master himself Colin Turkington. Behind him, Adam Morgan lost his Mercedes and shot into the side of Plato which brought about a fitting end to his highly disappointing weekend. Plato comes away from Thruxton with a 6th. 7th and a DNF to his name. That is never helpful for a man who wants to win title number 3!

After a horrific accident involving Ollie Jackson brought out the yellow flags (Ollie was fine, his Proton…not so much), the charging Mat Jackson passed the 3rd place Jack Goff. After a blistering end to the 2013 season, Goff has not yet impressed too much in 2014. His 2nd place start gave him the chance to shine again. As the race began he found himself 3rd behind Giovanardi, challenging hard to pass the Italian former champion.

It appeared to many that Jackson had passed under yellows; Goff had already slowed to obey the flags and Jackson powered past him. But no call came for him to give the place back to Goff. In my view, at NO point is it alright to pass under yellow flag conditions; and it is common courtesy to not pass when the car in front is already beginning to slow. Technically speaking it may not have been illegal, but I think it goes against the spirit of the sport. Maybe that’s just me.

After the first safety car, Turkington stormed back off into the lead only to be halted by yet another incident. Simon Belcher rolled his Toyota Avensis at Church and went barreling into the woods at over 120mph. His car completely disappeared out of sight; luckily a few seconds later a slightly dazed Belcher appeared from the trees. We can but hope his car can be repaired for the next round!

Simon Belcher was lucky to walk away from his gut-wrenching roll. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Simon Belcher was lucky to walk away from his gut-wrenching roll. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Mat Jackson proved that he is very much back on form, eventually taking Giovanardi to lead home the Ford challenge for a double podium. There has been talk about the ‘balance of performance’ by adjusting the turbo boost on each car; Thruxton in my eyes proved that in the case of the BTCC it really does work. The Ford team are now a new addition to the top of the field and will challenge for more podiums and wins throughout the season.

As the race neared its end, Neal and Collard were tussling for position when Neal pushed Collard in order to get passed. And so, in the true spirit of touring cars, as they entered the Cambell-Cobb-Seagrave complex on the next lap, Collard sought his revenge and gave Matt and rather large push sending them both off onto the grass and losing places. Collard would finish 10th and Neal 23rd. Some would say that the push was uncalled for. But touring cars is a fair sport. An eye for an eye and all that.

If there was a prize for unluckiest driver of the weekend, it would usually go to Rob Austin. But this weekend it would have to be Alain Menu. After finishing a promising 7th in the first race, Menu was given a drive through penalty for being out of position in his grid box when the field reformed after the warm up lap. He struggled back to 18th in race two, to then manage an 11th in race three. The only good thing to come out of his constant need to battle up the grid this year is that he has retained his lead in the Jack Sears trophy. Upon his return to the touring cars in 1993 with the new Ford team at Pembrey, Andy Rouse described his return as ‘having a target painted on the side of his car’. It would appear that for Menu the same is now true. But as the double champion and ultimate touring car star, he will battle through it.

Yet another unlucky weekend has kept Menu his lead in the Jack Sears Trophy. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Yet another unlucky weekend has kept Menu his lead in the Jack Sears Trophy. Image Credit: BTCC.net

However, it was not all bad luck for Team BMR at Thruxton. After starting the weekend with a rebuilt car, Aron Smith worked his way up to 22nd in race one, 14th in race two and then 7th in race three. Steady progress lead to a good final result for Smith. As soon as Team BMR stop suffering some of the worst luck in recorded history, they may finally be able to challenge for podium finishes and maybe even the odd win.

Following the end of the racing, concerns were raised about the safety of the track at Thruxton. Simon Belcher called for gravel traps to be installed around Church. Considering the high speed nature of the corner, any collision there can be massively dangerous. It was just lucky that Jackson, Foster and Belcher all escaped their excursions into the wilderness with no injuries. It is an issue that must be discussed and perhaps these incidents are the wake up call that some needed.

We leave Thruxton knowing that the rest of the season will only get better and better. The Ford challenge has finally reached a competitive level with Jackson and Giovanardi, which will upset the balance of power at the top. With MG having a disappointing weekend and Honda dominating so powerfully, have they suffered a damaging blow to their championship hopes? Will Rob Austin along with fellow luck-absentees Team BMR finally get something to go their way later on in the year?

For full results and championship standings please visit: http://www.btcc.net/results/

Follow me on Twitter for more Touring Car madness @lewisglynn69!

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

The Dale Debacle

About 40 years ago, the automotive world was struggling with the oil embargo imposed by the oil-producing Arab nations.  People were turning away from the gas-guzzling muscle cars and looking for thriftier models.  This was the economic and social climate that really helped the Mini take off and catch public imagination. But it also made people vulnerable to scams like the Dale debacle.

In 1974, newspapers and magazines were carrying articles (all based on press releases) featuring the “car of the future”: the Dale.  The Dale was promoted very, very aggressively by someone called Liz Carmichael, who the press releases said was a widowed mother of five who planned on taking on the patriarchal automotive industry (this was the era of rampant feminism and burning one’s bra).  The Dale itself looked sleek and space-age and got people drooling – although the single rear wheel behind the two front ones looks downright weird today.  It claimed to be able to do 70 mpg (3.36 litres per 100 km), have a top speed of 85 miles per hour (136.8 km/h) and to cost only US$1995. It was supposed to be built of super-tough materials that would withstand crashes and were nearly bulletproof.

Dale_03_1000

The reality turned out to be somewhat different. At first, the manufacturer of the Dale, Mr Dale Clifft, had actually been trying to create a more fuel-efficient vehicle, which he originally intended to be a sort of motorcycle. Then he met Liz Carmichael, who made Clifft an offer he couldn’t refuse.  She started an impressive marketing campaign, putting out plenty of glossy and hyped-up brochures and sending press release after press release to the papers to drum up interest in the new Dale.  The Dale looked impressive and sounded like the answer to everybody’s motoring problems (well, nearly everybody’s).

Along with all the pre-release hoopla, there was also an invitation to invest in the company and buy shares in it.  The money started rolling in for Carmichael and Clifft in the form of shares and early orders.  Expectations were high on the part of the investors, the motor trade industry and motoring enthusiasts in general.  A mock-up prototype of the exterior design was put on display at the Los Angeles Motor show.

An automotive journalist named Mike Salisbury decided to find out more about this wonder car for Car and Driver magazine. He found a bright yellow vehicle looking like the one in the press releases standing proudly on one corner with guys in geek glasses standing around with clipboards looking as though they were oohing and aahing over it.  However, Salisbury quickly spotted that this impressive shell had no accelerator pedal or steering wheel. A sneak peek under the bonnet revealed a lawnmower engine.  A quick conversation with Liz Carmichael hinted that there was something funny about her as well as the car.  A suggestion that the glossy, attractive exterior didn’t match the interior works…

LizJerry

Naturally, after the revelations that the Dale was an utter fraud, the cops started closing in.  They descended on the home that Carmichael was thought to have shared with her five children. What they found was an empty home, a bunch of wigs, heavily padded bras, depilatories and a fingerprint that proved that Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael was actually Jerry Dean Michael, a convicted criminal who had been on the run in drag for at least ten years.  The glamorous woman turned out to be more than just metaphorically ballsy.

After a scandalous trial where Liz/Jerry tried to represent him/herself in court as being a pioneer like Henry Ford (with the small difference that Henry Ford actually had a car that worked rather than just an impressive shell).  He/she skipped bail and went on the run again before finally being caught in the 1980s.

And what happened to the Dale?  The three mock-ups, which were little more than shells, now live in collections and museums in California.  They are not exactly given feature spots.