Monday, October 31, 2005

Couple o' links

Hello, and good evening! Following on from the process I claimed to be instigating a little while ago, I've just dropped in tonight to post a couple of links - aim to give you a tinsy key into my psyche. Goes pretty well with the theme of the last (to be continued) red blog, too. ;-)

MPH Online drag-race Detroit in a Z06 Vette

Super Street Online go drifting in Japan

Both of these are articles involving the mis-use of public road space - which is something not to be advised - but the worldlife that breeds such scenes is a fascination of mine, and I am still glad that such things exist...

Picture from the Super Street article.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

#4 A few words on... (Part 1)


Coventry seems like a nice place. It's treated me well so far. But there's something else out there, lurking, just beneath the surface.

You can see it in the broken glass – the spiderwebs of shop-window safety-panes, fragmented by impact – the tough metal shutters, and the furtiveness – the way everyone looks at you as if they're expecting you to start a fight. Which might also explain why everyone is so terribly polite. With the exception of the time I've spent State-side, and with the tiny qualifying annotation about the way people drive here, I've never lived anywhere where the ordinary folk seem to give such a genuine damn about whether your day's going alright. The heaviness of the police presence works both ways, too – you feel safer, but you wonder why they’re so obvious. And the edginess is there in the car scene: the modified hatches, the imports with the exhausts, the euro saloons with the sound systems and the slammed suspension settings... The question is where are they meeting, and what are they doing when they get there – coz it sure as hell isn't obvious from the pavement where I'm standing.

It's not like Bournemouth, my previous geographical location of domicile, where the Westover Circuit is well established – even documented – as the cars subtly (yes, if you can believe such a thing of a cruise scene) signify with little “Burnin Bmth” stickers in their blackedout rear windows. I'd say it was because much of Coventry's city centre is pedestranised or shopping precinct now, but the same can be said of the so-called English Riviera and it doesn't stop them there. You see the cars in Coventry, but you don't see the uniformity – there's nothing obvious in their behaviour, despite the clarity of their existence. Where's the circuit, where – to take another example, from Herne Bay in Kent, where the apparent aim of the game is to have your car dump its turbo between speedbumps along the front – is the strip? Where are they all going?

One of my housemates suggested that they were on their way to benefits office, to pick up their cheque. I thought this was a little uncharitable (lol), but then I remembered a column Russell Bulgin had written once, and suggested instead that they were on the way to pay off the lifeblood-choking finance that’s essential in keeping up the alloy-inches quotient. This gave us a chuckle, but didn’t get me any closer to figuring out what the blasters are up to.

I should explain. These cars fascinate me. I’ve always been far too sensible (or is it, far too insufficient with the funds?) to do it myself, but I can see the appeal. For me – though I guess I might not be representative, hoho – it’s in taking something that is standard and everyday and ordinary, and making it just a little bit different; my desktop pc is home built – which makes absolutely no sense economically as you simply can’t source the parts as cheaply as mass manufacturers, but it interests me more because I did it myself, and because it means I don’t have a dull plastic box under the desk, and because I know what went into it, the specifications of the parts and the quality of the construction (patchy at best, but at least I’m certain of that). I like the lights, and the sounds (back to the cars now), and the dubious looks – though I’m less keen on the idiot driving and the unrealistic parts stickers (like Blitz decals on a Ford Fiesta 1.1, for example. Blitz make Japanese performance parts).

I like to think it’s about individuality and independence. But I could be wrong; an ex-girlfriend of mine claims it’s all about The Bass – a superior knowledge garnered from the experience of having dated a boy racer once when she was about 14. And I suppose it doesn’t have to be everyday and ordinary, either. I have an acquaintance who once had a summer job at Superchips – I remember his incredulity when someone turned up in a Ferrari F40 and wanted it to be made to go faster.

But now I’m lumping the tuner scene in with the blasters, which I’ll probably be told is not entirely appropriate. And there’re questions of designation at issue here, too. None of which get me any closer to the scene in this city, either. So a plan was hatched to go out and find them, but you’ll have to wait till next time to discover how that went.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Unhappy Enzo/Endo/Ending

All done. Just time to add this link from one of my favourite websites - not a pretty picture:


(And I'm sorry about the title, but it's getting late!)

I'm going home for the weekend, but I will see you here on Sunday. :-)

Picture: (though I have no idea where they got it from!)

T#2: CAR style

CAR style Subaru Legacy.

Something a little different this time. We CU Auto Journs were set a task last week to write a “news” piece about a Subaru car using only a press release. My group got the Legacy; as the press release was from last year it was a brand new model launch at the time. We did the thing up as a Quark Express magazine layout, but as I can’t show you that (man, I wish I could—I spent so long tweaking the document that by the end it was beautiful. And this despite only having learnt the basics of Quark the week before…), I thought it’d be fun to mock-up a CAR magazine-style new car appraisal.

Sorry it’s not very relevant, but I did say I was going to vary the content of the Thursday entries somewhat! Oh, and no, I haven’t ever seen the proper CAR version of this—I’m not even sure if it exists. And, as I haven’t driven it, I’ve restricted myself to fair comment about the stuff that I can make a sensible point on.

So, here goes.

Bigger brother steps up
Impreza’s overshadowed sibling comes of age

Hmmm. A new Legacy. That’s like an Impreza in a sensible suit, right?

Not quite.
This is an all new car aiming to take Subaru into the sort prestige territory it’s never been to before – no muddy boots allowed.

No muddy boots? Does that mean Subaru is abandoning its rallying roots?
Not at all—all wheel drive remains across the entire range, which includes saloon and Sports Tourer estate; there’s even a new iteration of the more “off-road” Outback.
It’s just that this time, with more sophisticated styling and the promise of higher-quality interior components, the Legacy is gunning for a different kind of opposition. Less special stage, more executive express.

Ahh, zee Germans!
You’ve got it in one.
It’s not entirely convincing, though. There is a notable improvement inside the cabin, but the outside, while slick, still seems more Toyota than Teutonic. However, there are some neat details, like the Mercedes-esque indicators-in-the-mirrors, even the lowly 2.5i rolls on 17in alloys, and the bodywork swoops and bulges in a pleasing muscular way.

“Pleasingly muscular”, eh? Anything else interesting about the metalwork?
Well, Subaru are making a great fuss about newer, light-weight construction methods—saving about 55 kg per model.
There’s lots of high-strength steel, trick welding methods, and aluminium’s even used in places. The new car is also wider than the old one, with track increased front and rear, has a lower centre of gravity, and is slipperier through the air. Improvements add up to a happy increase in fuel economy—nearly bringing the Legacy in line with 2WD rivals. In addition Subaru have upped the safety levels, with more airbags, better stoppers, and driver aids such as electronic brakeforce distribution. The more expensive models get vehicle dynamics control. ABS is standard across the range.

MPG and safety equipment – is that the most exciting thing to say about it?
Far from it.
At the top of the range there’s a new 3.0 litre six-cylinder boxer engine, good for 245 PS (242 bhp) and 219 lb.ft of torque. And then there’s the spec.B.

The spec.B? Go on…
The 3.0R spec.B to give it its full title.
This is the Legacy’s new halo model, where Subaru takes the top of the range 3.0R model and throws the rally team at it. You get bigger alloys, a six-speed gearbox, and modified suspension with Bilstein dampers all round and inverted struts at the front.

And what exactly is an inverted strut?
Buggered if we know, but it’s an innovation borrowed from the Impreza WRX STi that’s claimed to improve geometry control during hard-cornering and thus boost grip and steering feel.
The STi has also donated nearly half the components in the close-ratio gearbox. So the Legacy does have a bit of nutter at the top of the tree after all. And you can even get it as a Sports Tourer version.

So worth a look?
Oh, definitely.
But whether it’s worth cancelling the deposit on the Beemer is another matter entirely. It’s subtle, inoffensively styled, and the hot ones should have decent cross-county pace—but still falls short of the premium ambitions that the company claims to have.

Picture: Subaru UK


Right! That's all the old stuff, time for a new post - the first proper new post on the new blog...

#3 Badge engineering

Originally posted AOL Hometown: InfinityReversed.
24 October, 2005, 10:35:11 BST

#3 Badge engineering

Well, something happened to my internet connection between 8pm and 11.30pm last night causing it to deny its own existence – and I'm only just able to get online. So, this is a little late, for which I can only apologise.

As an aside, I also had to edit 300 words out of this entry to get it down to 800; that's probably not important, but I wanted to mention it.

Badge engineering?

I got into a bit of an argument last week over platform sharing. Not the most interesting topic for verbal chop-socky, you may be thinking, but the context is the key.

Us lowly auto journalism students share a lectures with the Automotive Design MAs. These guys are the future hotshot creative types of car companies everywhere…and while that might sound like I’m wringing-out the waste juices, the design course at CU is for real – a proven success story – and the reason I’m studying here. I may have mentioned this already. Eh-hem, anyway, these lectures, The Automotive Industry in Context, one of the most important aspects of our education, are being given by an eclectic accumulation of industry related types.

“Consumer Quality Perception: Emotional quality and branding in cars” was the first session. Snaggy title but fascinating concept; you know how sometimes you discover something by accident – serendipitously for those poetic types – you’re not expecting much, and it turns out to be really great? Tweak that a notch, and think about your expectations of specific things – products, services, people, whatever. You presume characteristics or levels of satisfaction by previous experience/reputation/cost, and this – you guessed it – is what forms the basis of quality perception. The significant part is the difference between perception and what you actually get – quality as a gap. The bigger the difference, the bigger the impact, both positive and negative.

Take Skoda. They’ve been extremely clever. All the advertisements they ran post-VAG takeover daring you to believe the badge served the fantastically strategic purpose of keeping owner – and press – expectations low. Low expectations + good product = favourable response. Neat. Then throw in the reasonable cost. No coincidence that Skoda now does exceedingly well in the JD Power survey – ranking second for two years running.

Contrast this with Mercedes, cars that are often bought on an aspirational basis. When they fail to meet their owners’ expectations their reputation is such that regardless of the true physical comparison between the two “brands”, JD Power ranked Mercedes 21st in 2005 – 19 places behind the Czechs and four places below the industry average. Given the motoring press has berated Mercedes over falling quality levels for several years, you have to wonder how long they’ll continue to get away with it – it’s like a monster confidence trick. (I even threw in the potential impact of the very public failures of their Formula 1 engines, but the consensus amongst my fellows was that it’ll be a while yet before the big three-pointed star stops being the stuff that dreams are made of.*)

But Skoda is interesting because if you’re harsh they’re not really Skodas at all: they’re entry-level VAG group, with modified appearance and characteristics supposedly standing them on their own. An example we were given was the Golf GTi; there’s four versions of this car – Audi A3, VW, Seat Cupra, and Octavia vRS, with about £10,000 difference between the Audi and the Skoda. So the Skoda’s a bargain, but the Audi is the premium product that everyone’s supposed to wet their knickers over… I see no problem with this. It’s clever marketing and good strategy – they aim to cover everybody. And VAG are hardly alone with this badge-juggling trick.

Some of the design MAs, however, throw a hissy-fit. They say this is deceiving the consumer, and that the average car buyer is led to believe they are getting an entirely unique-to-brand product. Even if that is the case, does it really matter? If consumers are naïve enough to approach such an important purchase without doing their research, then surely it’s their own lookout – but for many it’s the badge they’re driving, not the car. For these people it won’t matter that they’d have saved ten grand – what matters is they can afford an Audi, and that the purchase shows other people they can. This is how it works for Audi – and it’s how it works for Mercedes. And the shrewd ones who go for the “Czech-made” stickers – they have the right to look contented.

Maybe I’m being unfair, but I suspect the designers’ problem has little to do with concerns over the consumer. I suspect it’s more to do with stylistic integrity. They feel that unless the vehicle is ground-up for the brand then some essence is lost, that somehow the design is compromised. But that’s modern living, baby – “conspicuous consumption” in the mass-production world. People want choice, but they also want value they can afford – meaning compromises; better they come in the conception than the quality. More power to VAG, I say, for pulling it off in such an integrated manner, and giving us that choice. Next step? Developing viable structures that allow further increases in individuality, for the brand and the consumer – surely that’s a project that’ll keep the hotshots happy?

* Speaking of which, does anyone remember the fake film ad that Merc ran for a while a few years ago? Supposedly called Lucky Star, the contrivance was that Benicio Del Toro's central character was so fortunate and so successful that he was under investigation by a government agency, presumed crooked and up to no good. It was even directed by Michael Mann. I wonder how many people thought that their new 500SL was able to change all the traffic lights to green as a result?

The lecture in question was given on 14tth October 2005 by Alonso Blanco-Vero.

For a trip down memory lane, you can see some Skoda jokes here: (provided by a two second search on Google).

For more on the Mercedes advert, start with this article from the Guardian newspaper:,4120,752100,00.html

Picture: Skoda UK


Originally posted AOL Hometown: InfinityReversed.
20 October, 2005, 23:10:04 BST.



As you can see from the previous entry I've decided that I might have more material than a single main posting a week really allows. Sooo, I've introduced a Thursday option (in a slightly different colour - lol); with this I reserve the right to vary the word length a bit - all in the name of entertainment (that entry is just over 1000 words, for example).

More significantly, I'm currently in the process of considering a move - that is changing the blog location - mostly on the grounds that I can get a slicker look without much additional effort elsewhere. I realise - or should point out! - that it's the content that matters, but at the same time if I can look good doing it...

I'll add more on this when I've a clearer idea about my decision.

Finally, as the Holden post might suggest, I'm going to make more of an effort to add links and things to other web-based items that I come across that I find of interest. I feel that this might give you a better idea about what makes my mind tick.

T#1: A tale of two race meetings.

Originally posted AOL Hometown: InfinityReversed.
20 October, 2005, 22:56:46 BST

T#1: A tale of two race meetings.

Ok, so I admit, I don’t do this very often. Visit a race circuit I mean. But this is a year for new beginnings and all that, so forgive me if I need to get up to speed on a couple of things. I guess it’s also a bit problematic that it’s the end of the season for the majority of British motorsport, but I’ll be going loads more next year, and have caught a couple of final round events – which is what I’m getting around to telling you about.

Both the meetings took place at Silverstone, the local circuit for the Coventry University Automotive Journalism course given that it’s only about an hour away. But that’s their biggest similarity, as one was the British F3/GT Championship package on the 8th and 9th October, and the other was the Historic Sports Car Club (HSCC) Championship Finals on the 15th October. So that’s one whole weekend – though I was only there on the Sunday – devoted to current spec Formula 3 cars and GT racers, with their associated support comps, and a single Saturday’s worth of historics, featuring Jaguar XKs, 70s saloons, and similar vintage racing machinery.

First off I’d better point out that I enjoyed both events. You get great value for money given the price of the ticket, and a really full day’s worth of entertainment – especially if you turn up first thing like we did. Our £15 F3/GT spend got us 11 races including the hour long GT round, a warm-up and a qualifying, while handing over a tenner for the HSCC Finals saw nine sets of qualifying and nine races. Access to the paddock was no problem in either case, meaning not only that you can get up close to the machinery – and there were spectacular cars at both meetings, some, like the Trident Iceni bio-diesel super car, not even racing – but also that you can talk to the drivers and team personnel. This invited such incisive questions as, What is it?! and, Are those two Alfas that nearly took each other out part of the same team, then? To which we received nothing but polite and generally very enthusiastic replies. I suppose it may have helped that we introduced ourselves as automotive journalism students and were waving a microphone about but I kind of doubt it – it seemed that everyone was happy to speak to anyone, more than willing to disseminate their fervour.

That said, there are differences between the events that bear indication. I suppose it depends what you’re looking for when you attend one of these things – whether it’s the racing that counts, or the thrill of feeling like you’re at the pointy edge of progress. I don’t mean to be disparaging of the F3/GT event, but the headline races especially weren’t actually that exciting to watch – Charlie Kimball dominated the F3 race in his Carlin Motorsport car, while the Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 360 GTC shared by Nathan Kinch and Andrew Kirkaldy completely destroyed the rest of the GT field. The interest here is in seeing rising stars: F3 drivers such as Kimball, and Bruno Senna (if you want to name drop), and GT racer Phil Keen, who ran a Mosler MT900R very impressively for Eclipse Motorsport until the end of his stint. Then there’s the technological attack on the circuit that the cars represent – the up-shift coming out of Woodcote corner onto the pit straight in Kinch and Kirkaldy’s Fezza, for example, was just brutal. The trouble is that they seem so much like tools, and, given the ambitions of many of the drivers, I suppose that’s what they are.

That’s the biggest contrast. Where the cars are weapons in current race series, in the historic stuff they’re more like motive sculpture – which is not to say they ain’t driven hard. I saw classic Minis with all four wheels off the ground, Jaguar XKs travelling at a velocity I would never have credited – especially the XK120s piloted by Graeme Dodd and John Chisholm – and more oil smoke from some of the competitors than can possibly have been good for them. Many of the cars are even driven to the circuit before racing (although at least two arrived on a period transporter that was work of art in its own right). The grids were huge, covering several classes, and extremely varied – Morgan Plus 8 verses Porsche 928 (in Gulf colours!) anyone? Though curiously the modern equivalent of that played out in the GT racing, too – and because the cars are older they move around rather a lot more. Admittedly this didn’t stop the chap in the Trans-Am from driving around with his arm resting on the window ledge, but he was a bit of an exception. This variety and age combination made for close racing throughout the field – prize battle honours going to father and son duo Charles and Julian Barter who fought over second place all through the 70s Road Sports race (junior’s TVR 3000M eventually relegating dad’s Datsun 240Z into third). I guess I just loved the cars and the racing – I enjoyed the historics better.

It’s worth pointing out that it was cheaper, too. And there was hardly anyone there (that’s a little unfair: quite a few people turned up, but the place was hardly burger-van friendly). Certainly fewer than the F3 and GT cars attracted. I find this somewhat confusing. Admittedly there is this kick you get from seeing the next generation of racing driver at close proximity (I’m thinking of Phil Keen here particularly; I reckon the guy’s got a bright future) but the historic cars were just more fun. It’s difficult to imagine what such series are going to be like in the future, as I can’t think of many modern cars that could be run in quite the same way – but perhaps I need to look into it more, perhaps I’m wrong.

Still, I’ll make the most of it all while I can. GTs, F3, historics, drifting, whatever – 2006 season here I come.


Holden EFIJY

Originally posted AOL Hometown: InfinityReversed.
19 October, 2005, 23:17:03 BST.

Holden EFIJY

Just a quick entry.

This concept car is popping up on sites all over the place, so I thought I'd jump on the proverbial.

Very retro, but sooo beeeu-tiful!

Link to a gizmag article with LOTS of pictures here:

Curiously, the concept isn't on Holden's own website yet, but you can get to them here:

#2: Don't worry, it's only my opinion.

Originally posted AOL Hometown: InfinityReversed.
16 October, 2005, 16:39:23 BST.

#2: Don't worry, it's only my opinion.

You can blame this entry on P.J. O'Rourke, if you like. Or Jeremy Clarkson. (Although the more I read of the former, the more I begin to wonder if the idiosyncrasies of the latter are truly that…). The thing about both of these guys is that they aren't exactly shy about speaking their minds.

I mention the notorious – I think that's a justifiable adjective in his case – outspoken, Republican reporter because I've been reading a lot of his work lately. The relevancy to motoring journalism seems tenuous, but as well as a style that’s seriously worth paying attention to when you're a fledgling like me, Mr O'Rourke has written for car magazines, including the American publications Car and Driver and Automobile. I guess I'm digressing, but I wanted to give someone the credit.

This isn't going where you expect. I'm not about to explode into any kind of diatribe where the only substantiated factor is that my ego is out of control. Quite the opposite. Both of the writers mentioned above are successful in the extreme – lauded as well as criticised in equal measure and equal turn: a success that's based entirely on their fastidious commitment to the value of their opinion. I would never accuse either of them of being entirely out of control – though I’m sure there are others who might disagree with me – and neither of them is beyond changing their minds. But they really don't care about who they piss off in the process, and at times appear guilty of outrageous acts of self-righteousness and excess. Take this passage from an article entitled, “Die, Eco-weenies!” by O’Rourke, for example:

The Green dweebs want a world where individuals don’t count for much, where all the important decisions—such as whether to shift the [Dodge] Viper into fifth—are made in Washington. They want a world controlled by the political process. That’s because the shrub cuddlers are, as individuals, insignificant. They’re losers, the three-bong-hit saviours of the earth, lava lamp luddites, global warming dolts, ozone boneheads, peace creeps, tofu twinks, Birkenstock buttinskis, and bed-wetting vegetarian cyclists who bother whales on weekends. They have no money, sense, or skills. But they can make their mark on politics because the whole idea of politics is to achieve power without possessing merit.

The article was otherwise devoted to the recounting of a junket, the sole purpose of which was to drive a bunch of eco-warrior displeasing vehicles as far and as hard as possible; it dates from 1994, but it gives you a clue.

So where is this going, then. Well, as is obvious by now, I'm attempting to have some sort of success in this business myself. What I’m beginning to wonder is whether I’m not outrageous enough. As I hinted at the end of the last red entry, I like to think of myself as being a pretty reasonable guy. But is reasonableness a marketable commodity?

We were asked to attend the first week of class here with a “personally inspiring” piece of journalism. Figuring that most would bring along written material, or video, I chose a photograph. It’s a picture taken by Andy Morgan of a Renault Clio Cup, being driven by Phil Bennett in Evo magazine, issue 065. I suppose I can’t reproduce it here for legal reasons, so I’ll have to make an ass of myself tryingto describe it to you instead: the car is electric blue, seen from the offside rear-three-quarters, on three wheels approaching a ninety-degree right, on what appears to be a public mountain road – albeit a clear and well sighted one. It’s a stunning shot, demonstrating not only the athleticism of the car, but also the skill of the driver, given that he presumably lived to tell the tale or there wouldn’t have been any copy.

But this wasn’t my point – and here’s where the scary voice of reason kicks in. My point was that many of us on this MA aspire ultimately to be road testers, to do the thing that Phil Bennett was doing, with whatever vehicle comes to hand, on the public highway and never mind who else might be using it. Which is, as I said to the others, all well and good until somebody gets hurt. At what point do you stop and think, well, actually, that was a bit bloody stupid? You see, issue 065 wasn’t the end of the story for that particular photograph, I wasn’t the only one to notice it and gasp, grin wryly, and even think, Jesus, he’s got balls. In issue 067 they reprinted it, in the letters section – with the notable difference that this time they printed the version where they hadn’t photoshopped out the little white Renault 19 coming the opposite way.

The P.J. O’Rourke article can be found in a collection of his works entitled, Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut, published in Great Britain in 1995 by Picador.

[PS: In no way do I intend to disparage Evo magazine with what’s written herein – Evo is one of my most favourite motoring publications! Please don’t sue me – it’s only my opinion…]


Originally posted AOL Hometown: InfinityReversed.
10 October, 2005, 23:38:05 BST.


It seems that I'm writing rather a lot at the moment! So, in an effort to aid understanding of the project I instigated a few posts back, I've decided to colour code the proper entries.

I've gone back and added this to the first one in the series; from now all the full-on Blog entries will be red.

Announcement over.


What to do...

Originally posted AOL Hometown: InfinityReversed.
10 October, 2005, 22:33:08 BST.

What to do if...

...if you're a CU student and you've had your car vandalised on University property.

Ha! you say, that would never happen. They've got security cameras and everything.

Well, yes they do. But despite my car being parked right opposite one, it is apparently unlikely they'll have anything on it as it's focused off on the horizon (the entry "gate"). I'm not actually anywhere near as angry as I may sound. In fact, I was rather impressed with the way the University responded to my misfortune - I had fully expected to be dismissed out of hand.

So, what you do is this. Contact the security people; there's a number for this but with any luck you'll be able to be transfered from General Enquiries using one of the yellow phones. Within ten minutes they had a pair of guys in a van out to my location. They did a great job of making me feel like they actually cared what had happened to my poor BMW, while explaining that in the realms of reality there was probably not a great that could be done. And they also told me the best places to park in order to be well within the visibility protection sphere. (One of these, of course, turned out to be exactly where I would have been parked if it hadn't been choca-block when I got back last Monday night.) They advised me to inform the local police, and were even able to provide the number on the spot. A reassuringly competent response - and even the police desk officer was emphathetic to my plight.

I suppose what I should really be wondering is why I was so convinced I'd get bad service in the first place. Modern life is rubbish? Or maybe it is me. Lol!

[Photo added 27 October, 2005. Not terribly clear I'm afraid - but the scratch is there, I promise!]


Originally posted AOL Hometown: InfinityReversed.
09 October, 2005, 18:31:39 BST.


So, the previous entry is the first example of the weekly (to be!) blog. So far, it's looking like a word limit of 800 words is about right, being not too long and not too short.

Been to Silverstone today, and saw some pretty interesting stuff - including the bio-diesel Trident-Iceni race/road car - but more on that at a later date. What I'm really putting this entry up for is ito complain...

Some oik or oikette or other has gone and keyed the hell out of my car - all the way across the top of the bootlid, and with a good deal of force. This sort of thing really REALLY upsets me. I mean, come on guys, I know it's a BMW, but it's hardly the flashiest bit of kit, and I don't think I've done anything to deserve it! It was by no means perfect, but it was a really nice, clean looking car. And now someone has gone and ruined it. Thanks. Thanks a bunch.


#1: Camera Combat

Originally posted AOL Hometown: InfinityReversed.
09 October, 2005, 18:18:46 BST.

#1: Camera Combat

As I observed the placement of speed revenue – sorry, safety enforcement – cameras on a piece of road I regularly use yet again the other night, it occurred to me that this is becoming a like a form of combat between motorists and the agencies that endorse the use of them. What’s worse, I’m beginning to think that “they” are cheating. Let me explain.

The increasing, insistent focus on excessive speed as the be-all and end-all of road safety issues (ok, so I’m exaggerating, but it that’s the way it feels) is pushing to the fore the detection methods used to point out our degeneracy. They want us to focus on speed cameras, so we do – to the point that I spend so much time worrying about how fast I’m going I think it risks having a negative impact upon my driving. I mean, seriously, what’s more dangerous here, straying a few miles an hour over the speed limit, or maintaining close observation of the road conditions that surround you? Particularly when the cameras in question are SPECS, and they measure your average speed over a section of, say, motorway…meaning that if you have even a single transgression within their jurisdiction you risk prosecution. They’re infra-red, use no film, and record your number-plate even if you’re not exceeding the limit – that’s got to be cheating, hasn’t it?

And obviously there’s a tactic behind the growing numbers of cameras that are out there – and it’s not just an effort to make me emigrate. As the amount of camera-free roads diminishes, so motorists will seek out the few unobserved areas of tarmac that are left, in an attempt to escape their lens-equipped assailants. The increased traffic level over these stretches will likely push the accident rate skywards, thereby justifying the placement of more these “safety devices”…and so it goes on. Slowly (ha ha) we’ll all be reduced to pootling along in constant fear of sneezing and inadvertently tapping the accelerator, or find ourselves buying whatever’s the contemporary equivalent of the Toyota Prius. I fear the day when the general public accepts the logic of GPS based speed restrictors and insurance mandated data-logging black boxes – though I can’t see that happening too soon, as it will probably have a negative impact on the cameras’ revenue raising potential. Did I say it was combat? I think I meant it was like a fox hunt – only the fox is already stuffed.

I appreciate that I’m standing on the sloping, mud slick edge of the moral high ground here. Indisputably, if you are exceeding the speed limit you are breaking the law. There isn’t really any defence against that…except that in certain circumstances I can imagine the use of accelerator sense might require you to speed up to avoid a hazard, causing you to momentarily cross into the realms of illegal activity. What if the guy coming up behind you has mis-judged the differential between your speed and his, and is locked up and about to slam into the back of you? If there is no-where to go but forward, wouldn’t putting your foot down be justifiable? Cameras are indiscriminate, which is good, yes, but they are also unable to make judgements about mitigating circumstances. I would like to see traffic policed by proper, experienced traffic police – in a highly visible marked car with a blue light on the top; this could even end the argument over radar detectors, as anyone stupid enough to get caught this way would deserve what they got. And it’s not as if people don’t just slow down and speed up for the cameras anyway – leading to the introduction of SPECS for one thing, and potentially causing more hazards for another, as the silly bugger in front of you who hasn’t been paying attention or doesn’t know the road stands on the anchors at the last minute, regardless of whether they were actually in excess of the limit.

But I can feel myself sliding further downwards even now. Any argument I can reasonably make either has its fingers trapped in the door of legal culpability, or is myopically squirming in the light of responsibility for hazard perception – even if that hazard is the result of somebody else’s short-sightedness. I can bicker all I want about better driver training (never gonna happen – costs too much money) and real traffic policing (more money issues, and the argument that it diverts resources away from “real” crimes), but in the end if I want to go fast on public roads, then it’s me that’s at fault, and I suppose I had better accept the consequences.

Damn, the battle’s obviously already over. But is that because I’m so reasonable, or because the propaganda won?

[Picture added 27 October, 2005 - free download from]

Coventry University

Originally posted AOL Hometown: InfinityReversed.
05 October, 2005, 20:36:51 BST.


Once again I find myself apologising for the recent lack of entries - although I'm not sure why, as it's not as if anyone ever reads this stuff! However, I am conscious about how this makes me appear, and it is about time I explained my intentions here. Or rather, actually established some.

The title might give you a clue, I suppose. There is a little bit of a theme through the previous scribblings, which is to say I tend to write quite a lot a about cars and such like. Since I got my degree in 2002 I've found myself struggling to really figure out what it was I wanted to do with my life. And the thing is that I got a good degree - I may as well point this out, but please promise not to think I'm smug: I have a first, with the second highest average in the twenty-five-odd year history of the course at the university I attended - but at the end of it no-one particularly seemed to want to employ me. This was my fault, I guess, as I wasn't particularly interested in anything I was applying for. I could make up loads of excuses at this point, but the real problem was that secretly I had an ambition - unfortunately I didn't really consider it to be a very realistic one, leaving me in half-hearted pursuit of a more sensible solution. What I've always wanted to do is write. And even less realistically, it seemed to me, what I've always really wanted to do for a career is write for a car magazine. Hmmm, not much competition there, then.

To cut the story short - not that it's particularly long, rather that it isn't very interesting - I finished my degree, applied to do a PhD, didn't get the funding I needed (oh, the desperate, desperate difference between the humanities, and say, science-based post-graduate research, where there is loads of money and little interest...), and wound-up working a dead-end job for a retail chain that is seemingly determined to mis-manage itself into receivership.

However, working a dead-end job does have its advantages. For one thing, you end up realising that virtually anything else would be better than what you actually are doing - up to, and including, making an attempt upon an impossible dream, even if that means failure in the end. Trying and failing is better than not trying at all. And other such clichés. So two years ago when a sparse column inch in Evo magazine's news section appeared in reference to a new single year MA programme at Coventry University entitled Automotive Journalism, my eyebrows shot up, and I thought to myself, well, maybe that’s for me….

Ok, so I was a little more enthusiastic than that.

In fact, it sounded like the ideal solution. Usually I would be extremely sceptical of any kind of "specialised" degree course, particularly when it's dealing with such a competitive area. But this is Coventry University we're talking about here, with its famous School of Art and Design - within which this MA finds its home - perhaps best known for its Automotive Design programme. So it follows that they have pretty reasonable links to the automotive industry, especially when Coventry itself is the home to such car manufacturers as Jaguar and the now defunct Singer. Quite how well this would reflect on the Auto Journalism MA I hadn't appreciated until I received my induction pack about a week and a half before the beginning of the course, and discovered that one of the first meetings we had was going to be with Steve Cropley, editor-in-chief of Autocar Magazine.

In fact, it wasn't just Steve Cropley. There was also a chap called Peter Burgess, Chairman of the Guild of Motoring Writers. If the university was keen to make a good impression, they certainly succeeded. More than that, it turns out that Mr Cropley was the driving force behind the MA's inception - and while it's first year probably only a qualified success, I think the twelve of us that have made the commitment for the second could really be in for an interesting ride.

Anyways, getting to the point. What I intend to do here is put out a regular blog that will in some way be related to this fickle world of automotive entertainment that I am attempting to crack. Emphasis on the word regular. The idea is that I’ll put something up every week, most likely on a Sunday or Monday. I’ll see how this goes, and adjust it according to whether that’s too much or too little in the context of the coursework I’ll also have to complete. The aim is also to impose a word limit – but again this is subject to figuring out what a sensible one of those actually is. (I’m currently in the process of writing a couple of entries so I’ll soon have an answer to that one.)

So, I’ll see you on Sunday, then.




Right, for the next several how-ever-long it takes I'm about to transfer over all the relevant stuff from the old blog.

Then I'll post the next Thursday spot.

Okey-dokes, here goes...

UPDATE: well, ok, so I'm having some fun with the photos I'm adding so this is going to take longer than I thought! So much for Photoshop's "Save-to-Web" feature reducing file size! Also, some of the entries seem to be appearing out of order, so apologies for that. Go with the dated part at the top to get a clearer idea of what goes where.

Profile Picture

Arf. In order to attach a picture to my profile I have to have a URL for it. In order to solve this slight hiccup, apparently I can publish the picture here and use the blog itself as the reference point. How convoluted is that? Or maybe I'm just dumb. Anyway, here it is - try not to be too disappointed...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Full throttle to the future...

Woohoo! So this is my shiny new blog!

Not much to say in this, the very first post in the InfinityReversed car-stuff blog. Really just checking it's working - lol.

Once I know that it is I'll start moving the relevant stuff across from the old one. Reasons for the move include aesthetics (hopefully), and ease of access (my old one doesn't like Firefox very much).

Speak to you soon,