Tuesday, November 29, 2005

PoloCross? Well, yes actually.

Ok, so Autocar have pictures of the PoloCross concept in the front of today's magazine...only it's no longer a concept and it's now the Polo Dune.

Still contendor for most pointless vehicle of the next year so far as I'm concerned; a Polo with jacked-up suspension and plastic body cladding...great.

Who buys these things?


Picture from Newspress

Monday, November 28, 2005

Mercedes anti-anti-accident scenario

Seen the story in the press about the "bodged" accident avoidance demonstration by the Mercedes S Class? Turns out it was supposed to be faked anyway, as Merc knew it wouldn't work in the steel-lined hall.

An Autobild "journalist" was supposed to brake the second car, but blew it in all the smoke (if you've seen the TV pictures...were on Top Gear last night). The guy has subsequently been fired.

Suspicious minds amongst you might contemplate the possibilty that this revelation is a damage limitation exercise on the part of the big MB.

Full story here.

Me? I couldn't possibly comment.


Links:

'Smashing' Mercedes demonstration was faked [Motortorque at askaprice.com]

PetrolPrices.com - find the cheapest petrol in your area

One of my colleagues sent me this link last week.

It's a website to help you find the cheapest petrol in your local area. After registering for the service you just pop your postcode in the box and voila it gives you the location of the cheap stuff. And it's not even petro-centric, as it lists diesel, LRP, super-unleaded, even LPG.

It also shows how you're doing against the national average... (grrr).

Cool stuff. Useful even.


Links:

PetrolPrices.com [registration required]


The picture is from the Safety Pass Alliance website. The Safety Pass Alliance promote and provide training for a variety of industries - including on the petrol station forecourt. A worthy cause; you can visit them here.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Richard Burns


Former World Rally Champion Richard Burns, died, age 34, on Friday night. He'd been battling a brain tumour for the past two years.

The first ever British world champion he will be sadly missed by all in the motorsport community.

The Guardian online has an obitury from The Observer here.

Anyone wishing to pay tribute to Richard can do so on the memorials page of his website:

www.richard-burns.co.uk/memorials

His family are asking not for flowers, but instead for donations to be made to Cancer Research.



The car picture is from the Craven Motor Club website; Craven is where he started his motorsport career.

The portrait picture is from the BBC's Sports Review of the Year Page, 2001 - the year he won his world championship.

#7: Vegetables


I bought a carrot this morning from a supermarket. It cost 7p. I thought:

Bloody hell. That’s cheap.

You see, usually, because I’m convenience minded (read: lazy) if I’m doing anything with vegetables I’m stir-frying them. And that means buying one of those bags of pre-cut veg with exotic stuff like beansprouts and water chestnut in. Not that I’m a particularly big fan – those two really only act as a kind of filler – just that it’s easy, and it looks appealing.

But what it really is is a luxury. More than I really need, prepared and provided for me in an easier way than is strictly necessary. So far as Real Life goes, all I really need is a carrot, some mushrooms (26p), a pepper (89p for three), maybe an onion, and so on... Instead of ending up with a bag of bits that’s good for a couple of meals, you can get a whole stock of vegetables that’s probably going to be good for days. And without it costing you much more – per meal it’ll work out loads less.

But I know when I come to chop up that carrot, I’m going to regret it. All the fiddling about with cutting boards and sharpened metal implements, risking a trip to casualty for the sake of some vitamin k and whatever other nutritional value. I’m a poor student, right, so I should be relishing this economising challenge – but hell no, I’m concerned for the reduction in studying time it’s going to cause me (you know how long the queues are at a&e these days, don’t you?). I’m avoiding it, but it’s in there somewhere – my manual carrot-carving abstinence is a lifestyle choice, driven by a lack of necessity. I can get something better, so I shall – and I’m glad that I can.

I’m the same way with cars. Well, sort of. Recently, Autocar ran an article about the potential future of car taxation. They took these plans to conclude that the government was suggesting the Vauxhall Zafira was all the car you’d ever need. Oh great, a box with wheels on and some clever packaging. The problem for the government in this is similar to my problem with the vegetables – is it all the car you’ll ever want? It’s all very well looking for some kind of platonic ideal, but given the choice and the viability how many people are actually going to pick it?

How much car is enough? What do you really need in a motor vehicle, if you’re honest about it? I have been considering for several months now the possibility of getting a smaller car. I mean, there’s all this new cool stuff knocking about – the Toyota Aygo, for example – cool older stuff – the Smart Roadster – and cool even older stuff – the Ford Ka. Being a poor student, obviously it’d be something like the Ka I’d be looking for. Compact, interesting looking, wheel at each corner, reputably chuckable as a tennis ball – old enough to be affordable. Or so you’d have thought.

And…inevitably, sadly, this is where the argument collapses. I would actually really like to run one of these things, but the fact is I’ve got a perfectly serviceable BMW 520i which I bought for £800. I’ve had it nearly two years and it hasn’t gone wrong. It looks nice. It’s comfortable. It goes pretty well for something with 165,000miles on the clock. Ok, so sometimes the electronics goes a little nuts, but that I can live with. Oh, and then there’s the fuel economy. But the only time it’s ever failed to start is when I’ve left the lights on. Practically speaking, the boot’s huge. And the noise it makes is lovely.

Any Ford Ka I could get for that amount of money is going to be ruined. I mean seriously. And the engine is from the 1960s…alright so that’s pretty well known, but you get my point. I’m not exactly going to be outrunning anyone from the lights. The insurance isn’t even much cheaper (I’ve checked). The only place I’d be saving is at the petrol station, and that might not be much of a consolation if I was driving it like I stole it all the time – which I’d probably have to [err…]. Talking of which, I know how long it took the RAC to break into mine when the battery did go flat – and which one I’d rather experience an accident in. So, it’d be harder work, less rewarding, and lower my odds in a head-on with a bus.

Even taking into account the running costs – including the difference in tax – I still can’t see a serious reason for downsizing, especially when the smaller car is likely to cost me more in the first place. I’d like to be all utilitarian and such, but it just doesn’t make any sense. And like the vegetables, I want my cars with filling: it’d take some small car to fill the hole a six-cylinder five series leaves behind.


Links:

Autocar: "Taxing times for British drivers"


Picture:

Yes, that is a carrot plush toy. The image is taken from the Hanung Toys (India) Limited website. Hopefully they won't sue as I'm giving them a free plug.

Like an idiot, I cut up and ate the carrot I bought earlier today before photographing it...despite reminding myself constantly that it had to be done. Duh.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

T#6: Tor's Escort

Been a hectic week already, so here's one I prepared earlier...



Tor's Escort

What on earth have I let myself in for. I realized it was going to be bad — they do have a reputation, after all — but I hadn’t expected borrowing my sister’s car for the day to be quite as awful as this. To be fair, it was suffering a disadvantage from the start — I mean, my daily driver didn’t cost much but it’s a decent car. This, on the other hand, is a MK5 Escort; horrific enough — but one that’s also had the dubious honour of being thrashed by my younger sibling for the previous year and a half. On the plus side, its speedo works, so following a close-shave with a camera van, I talked her into letting me borrow it. I was willing to be open-minded, but then unfortunately I actually had to get in it and drive.

Things don’t actually start off too dismally. Finished in cosmic black, the metallic paint on the late-in-the-line body style, combined with chrome details such as the number plate surround on this edition, makes for a pretty smart looking automobile. The wheels aren’t alloys, but the plastic trims are quite nice… There’s a slight scuff on the front bumper, and it’s not very clean, but visually it’s all going fairly well — until you get round to the passenger side and notice that the wing-mirror is held on by gaffer tape.

Never mind, in we get. I’ll ignore the dashboard plastics — you know they’re appalling. The oval analogue clock’s a nice touch, though, if somewhat out of place. It does have my old Kenwood stereo rather than the stock Ford item, which is an advantage. Obviously I can’t do much to adjust the nearside mirror — but fortunately adjusting the seat position, a simple enough task with the under-seat lever, means it’s still a usable item. Twiddle the little knob to set the one on my side, fiddle with the rear-view, insert the key and off I go.

The world of the MK5 Escort driver is an interesting one. My sister loves this car. But I rather suspect that’s mostly out of stubbornness. The clutch is horrible, with an extremely long travel that ends when your knee bangs the steering wheel, while the other pedals like to trap your feet under the dash. Heel and toeing verges on the impossible, as the brake is so far above the accelerator I keep getting my foot caught under that as well. Visibility is sound, though, as you’d expect from a Ford hatchback — useful given its reluctance to actually stop. Fortunately, the 1.6 supposedly-16v Zetec engine is so lethargic and wheezy it doesn’t really encourage you to press on.

Then there’s the handling. It doesn’t seem to mind turning-in, in spite of the recalcitrant power-steering, but you don’t really feel what’s going on — until the front wheels start tram-lining. The ride manages to wallow and crash at the same time, and you’re never entirely confident about what’s going on at the back, but assuming you won’t really want to go quickly means you’re unlikely to become an accident victim as a result.

A final word on ergonomics: terrible. You want specifics? Well, the pedals are too close and the steering wheel is too far away an Italian driving position, sadly the only trait this car shares with the exotics that coined the term. I tried adjusting the reach on the wheel using a lever on the column, and promptly released the bonnet while moving. Oops.

Forced to say something positive about it, I’d highlight the fuel economy, which is an improvement on my own 24v straight-six. But that’s all I’m going to say — at least until I need to borrow it again.

MPH '05

As promised, here's some more pictures from MPH '05. These are all from the Earl's Court show (the NEC will insist on using sodium lighting...)





Breaking news...

Hello world.

I've got a couple of minutes to kill, so here's some news for you.

Just in (released on the BBC website just an hour ago). There are plans afoot in Edinburgh to hand out free condoms to taxi passengers...yes, really. If the BBC says it, it must be true.

Alright, from that to a slightly more bizarre one - well, sort of. ViGYAN (doncha just love news releases that don't explain acronyms? Anyways, the company is here) are claiming that the application of aviation wax to cars may make for better mpg.

And, in case you were feeling like we were the only ones getting a raw deal, here in the UK... The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting the future introduction of average speed cameras; sounds similar to our own SPECS system. Feel sorry for them here.

Alright, that's it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Well, I thought about it


And decided that I'd post a link to that Renault V10 mp3 anyway... Enjoy. (Funniest thing I've heard in ages.)

Renault V10 mp3 [via paultan.org]


Picture from PadokF1.com

Ferrari Design Comp: we are the champions, etc, etc.


Hardly any time to add stuff this morning, but I suppose that I had better post that a team from Coventry University's School of Art and Design is amongst the winners of the design-a-Ferrari comp that's been running.

That's their design at the head there. Yes.

The automotive design reputation of this university is exactly the reason I'm studying auto journalism here - so it's great to see what they've achieved.

The prize is work experience - of which everyone I know is insanely jealous (especially the auto design students who I live with...!).

Tempting to insert the MP3 I have of the Renault Formula 1 V10 engine "playing" that Queen tune at this point...but I thought better of it. (Better luck next year, eh, Fezza?)


Links:

BBC Warwickshire

Autoblog (which has pictures of the other winners)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Dodge Challenger, amongst others



I have about two minutes to add some news and links here, so what's up in the world of car this morning?

First of all this is everywhere: The new Dodge Challenger concept, which appears to be on a photoshoot: Challenger @ Carconnection @ Detroit News @ Autoweek

Looks preeetty, though, so I'm not too bothered!

ABC News is reporting that the new Honda Civic has been named Motor Trend Magazine's "top car of 2006". More details here.

No offense Volkswagen, but another contender for most pointless vehicle - the CrossPolo (don't worry, it's only a "concept"). Dubspeed has a gallery here.

And finally, Top Gear has a new online car guessing game. Play Wot Car here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Vauxhall are great!

Spent (some of) the day emailing various car manufacturers in an attempt to get some fairly specific information out of them for an article I'm writing.

Thus I have discovered that some - mentioning no names - really need to update the media sections of their website, as I had various bounces regarding non-existing addresses and other such problems.

However, this exercise has had one outstanding star turn - from Vauxhall. They not only replied within minutes, but I was directed given the contact information for someone who might know the answer. When it turned out he didn't, he even went so far as to contact some engineers in Germany in an attempt to resolve this shortfall. This even got me some material I'll be able to use!



Been a good couple of days for the big V actually. The slightly mad Russ Swift demonstrated that the Corsa is in fact good for something other than terrorising other drivers at over 90mph on the motorway (the 1.2 even is fast. I kid you not) - by handbrake turning one beneath some JCBs at MPH '05.

Heheh. I can see this MPH stuff is going to good for days...


Links:

Russ Swift Precision Driving

Vauxhall UK Customer Site

MPH '05


Yes, I did take the pictures.

Oh. Yeah. I forgot.

Minor correction to the previous entry - it's not completely as was: I added a hyperlink.

#6: This is raw: Music

Wow, it took ages to upload those images! Anyways, here's tonight's main entry. This is raw. This is exactly as I wrote it - not because I couldn't be bothered to edit, but because I thought it was an interesting excerise to demonstrate my thought-process in direct action. An hour-and-a-half of my life last night.



Music

I’ll admit it, I was struggling slightly for a post topic for this Sunday. It’s not that I haven’t got a bunch of thoughts banging about upstairs, more that none of them have really had a chance to fully form themselves yet. To prove this point, I’ll mention that I spent about an hour this evening with one particular item, hearing the echo as it bounced around the inside edge of my empty skull…

So, what to do. Well for one thing, I’m typing this the night before I go see MPH ’05 again. If the worst happens, I could always knock something out about that when I get in – but that’s risky. Something else, then.

Well, aren’t I the lucky one? All tucked up in bed at 11.30 (“Saturday night is the loneliest night of the week for me,” etc, etc – to quote one of the crummy car DVDs that resides in my collection, but which makes me smile every time) when my [insert suitable expletive here] buildingmate in the room above switches on his crappy stereo and cranks up the dance music.

Now, he – I’m pretty sure, though we’ve never met… – has a habit of doing this. I tend to amuse my ex- by texting her in complaint instead of banging on the ceiling. But it’s particularly loud tonight – while sticking to the usual god-awful selection of dance or trance or whatever the fuck. Basically bass-heavy, repetitive, shite. I’m sorry – the swearbox seems to have switched itself off this evening. Probably shocked by the vibration.

This makes me very awake. Despite several late nights writing this week, and the early start I’ve got in the morning (somewhat convoluted journey plan – explain another time) I’m obviously not going to get any downtime while my eyeballs are bouncing in their sockets. I lay in the dark for a bit, having also given up on Russell Bulgin, then figured well I might as well use the time and get the laptop out. I put this off for a few minutes on the basis that I actually needed something to say, rather than just killing the planet through battery usage. Then I got it.

[Hold on. Oh God – now he’s playing that bloody terrible recent dance version of “Days of Summer”…]

Context. That’s an interesting thing. I’m aware that I’m often on about it here, but bear with me. How is it that on occasions such as this I want to take every dj, remixer, sampling machine, and sub manufacturer and blast them to the moon – yet when they’re associated with a motor vehicle these things seem to make a certain sense? Actually, I’ll go further than that: there are practically no other circumstances when I will willingly listen to anything with such a regular reminder of its beats-per-minute. I don’t even like clubbing.

At such times I’m reminded that my closet blasterism isn’t always confined to lurking in a blindspot. Much as I physically resist the temptation, the thump of a bassline from the trunk of any passing car always tugs at me to turn round. Usually the rattle of the bootlid or some ineptly secured piece of interior trim confirms my smug superiority complex as a Fiesta full of chavs rolls passed, but sometimes, just sometimes the car impresses as much as the noise. Christ, what’s wrong with me?

This kind of music does have a kind of motive power. No doubt. Night clubs aren’t popular for no reason. That constant thump, slamming you in the back if the sounds are loud enough and the speakers are up to it – just drives you along, it sets the scene, adds atmosphere. Even gets you into the respect zone without the tricksy paint jobs and body modifications – should you care about that sort if thing.

What’s more, I’ve long held the theory that sound systems in cars has become such a big industry because they enable you to have a soundtrack to your own movie. It doesn’t quite work the same with anything else: if you’re listening to music at home you aren’t moving, and like with a personal stereo – sorry, it’s mp3 player these days, isn’t it – not many people are in on the selection. If you’re going to have a soundtrack to your life you want everyone else to hear, right? And I guess like the rest of that scene, there’s a certain something in the dedication and money involved in developing a kick ass ice installation. I remember reading once about a demo van from some company or other that had so many low-range drivers in it they reckoned that it shifted so much air you could probably suffocate anyone you locked long enough in the back.

Funny how I should be reminded of that just now. For the record (ha ha), it’s gone 1am, and he still hasn’t dropped the level.


You can figure the picture out for youself. It is helps, it was taken today!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

And introducing tonite's sketch...

Evening all.

I *just* got back from MPH '05, which I saw for the second time today. Plan to add more on that another time.

Still,, I thought you'd appreciate a picture or two, so here ya go.

Ahh, you say, but I'm being deliberately obscure.

Yup. More sensible pics another time.

Enjoy.




Note the car. Note the Floor.





Gallardo. A car that likes to be touched.




Koenigsegg CCR. Rock!




This is John Barker from Evo's Capri. It was dusty at the first show, it was dusty at the last show. They could've made an effort! (Totally a cool car. More pics on request.)




There's this crazy sports bike...they call it an anti-chopper (more pics - or rather, some actual pics of the actual bike - on this another time).




Thought this was a littie "ironic" given Jenson Button's recent comments in the motoring press... ;')




Mmmm. Gumpert.




One man and his remote control flying Vauxhall.




The lovely Zonda F. (Yes, really, an F.) All industrial and such. An actual car - just to keep you happy.

That's it.


As ever, the pictures are unedited aside from conversion to save-for-web format. I don't think there're any too dark ones...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

I know I shouldn't love it, but I do...

"Sweet" ride in the Singer Hall carpark this evening. And yes, that is two-tone lime green and metallic silver - with a red dividing stripe.

Oh, and I finally saw a Jaguar prototype today (in case I need to remind you, I do live in Coventry). A rather rocking left-hand drive (?) XK in British Racing Green, with minimal nose disguise, trade plates, running on steelies.

Didn't get a picture of that, as although I had the camera in the car I thought it rather more wise to concentrate on driving since I was on the A46. Sorry.



Note: the Nova pics were taken using the uber-tech vga camera on my Nokia - hence the fuzzy quality. Still, you get the idea. And yes, I have blurred the plates.

Friday, November 18, 2005

T#5: Aneurism

Note on the following entry. It's late, I'm tired, and I've opened a mental can of worms with the discussion of the ANPR system (see text below for explanation!). I hate to make excuses but there will be better things written on this, and as a consequence I reserve the right to pull this entry entirely should I need to - on the basis that I've expanded on the discussion and consequently it conflicts with a coursework requirement! Blah.



Richard Porter. Now there’s a man whose sense of humour often eludes me.

However, his column in Evo magazine this month is exactly on the button. By using the French as a contra-example, he successfully exposes the absurdities of the bad habits of British motoring that are causing our tarmac arteries to clog up. Poor lane-discipline, idiotic speeds in the wet, slothful rural progress, the lost art of overtaking – all these things are aiming us towards some kind of automotive aneurism. My God, when you come across five cars sitting sedately in the middle lane of the M1, travelling at a whole 65mph, with nothing between them and the hard shoulder except two white lines and what passes for fresh air – doesn’t it just make you mad? What is wrong with these people? Do they not realise that the vehicles streaming passed their right-hand windows, nose-to-tail in the outside lane at 70, 80, 90mph, could travel more safely and with less chance of aggravation if they just moved over?

Lane discipline is my particular abhorrence at the moment. But that’s only because the majority of the driving I’m doing is either on multilane carriageways, or around Coventry (a unique experience unto only itself). Same journey as above: travelling fast in the outside lane I come up behind someone in Merc ragtop – with two empty lanes inside of them. I flash my headlights, because it’s obvious in spite of the speed differential between us and what should have been the sudden appearance of a large white car in their mirrors, they haven’t seen me. They dutifully move over – but as soon as I’m passed they move back, and carry on with three white lines and what passes for fresh air between them and the hard shoulder. What can you do?

Well, you could undertake. And thus the first pulsations of the aneurism flicker and twitch. I never undertake – unless, as the Highway Code says, I’m travelling in a queue that’s moving faster than the one outside of it. People do though, and this just frustrates the poor individuals stuck behind the slower moving traffic that refuses to budge over. Tension mounts, stupidity occurs. I very vividly remember once watching two duelling Mondeos on the M25 – they began cutting each other up at insane speeds as a direct result of this. The red mists descend and accidents…they loom in the background like visions of the undead, waiting.

Ok, so this is getting a little melodramatic. And actually it’s not the accidents that worry me – these are merely more symptoms of the disease that’s eating away at the road network that provides the lifeblood to every area of this country. What really concerns me is that as we, the motoring public, prove incapable – too lazy, apathetic – of doing anything about these issues ourselves, so someone else out there is looking for the answer, for a cure. And that someone is the ACPO – the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Richard Porter also introduced the French theory on speed camera placement in his recent column – sensible placement, good visibility, and a whacking great sign to tell you one’s coming. How’s that compare to the UK? Starting with the Sunday Times on November 13th, a number of news articles have appeared this week regarding the Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras that have suddenly sprung up around the country. Go back a bit further and you’ll see that these started off being touted as a way to rid our streets of the scourge that is the uninsured driver. I’m all for that – and I expect you are, too.

But – sorry, was it obvious that was coming? – take a look at the way these cameras work. They scan the numberplate of every vehicle that passes, and process it through an enormous computer database. This has vast crime-fighting applications, yes, as it will effectively track vehicle movement throughout the UK and be useful for following suspicious activity. But it also has massive privacy implications as well, because regardless of whether you are doing anything wrong, the data from the cameras will apparently be kept on file for two years. Ignoring the fact that’s a pretty gigantic amount of storage space they’re going to need, expand the remit once again: if these things are tracking vehicle movement they can be used to measure speed.

Plans to place them every 400 yards on the motorway are afoot. This is the utopian dream of Meredydd Hughes, ACPO’s head of traffic policing. As everyone else who has picked up on this comments, that’s an extremely repetitive checking regime – so it’s got to be about enforcing the speed limit.

The justification given is variability – the management of traffic flow. This is the opening gambit of a trial on the M42; even before the crime prevention part kicks in they enforce the variable speed limit. Anyone else suspect this is at least partially due to the revenue raising prospects available in catching the “ordinary” driver in a moment of mishap? These cameras have to pay for themselves, you know.

But managing the flow is important – it’s vital, because more and more of us need to get places and we’re going by car. If we can’t sort our own problems out then it’s going to be done for us. I.e.: if you’re sat pointlessly in the middle or outside “overtaking” lanes you are holding someone up.

Speeds ascend as discipline declines – the frustration of sitting behind someone in the wrong lane sends your foot further into the carpet when the road clears. Greater velocity leads to all kinds of consequences – not the least the increased possibility of a speeding ticket. Bad driving habits cause tremors, and every tremor can become a spike – an accident, a tailback, an interruption in the flow, pressure on the artery. The debate – not argument – we should be having is about the use of public money: driver training vs. increasing revenue collection. I’ve hardly scarred the paintwork so far as talking about ANPR is concerned, a topic that shall return, but it is apparent that certain people in this country see it as an elixir – even for symptoms that shouldn’t exist.

It’s up to us – the motoring public – to do something about this. Before the cameras go Big Brother on us, and our motoring life is reduced to data entries on an electronic list.



In order to avoid confusion, I’ll point out that I’m referring to the Richard Porter that scripts much of the Top Gear TV prog, is author of Crap Cars (of which there's an American version out by the way), and the originator of www.sniffpetrol.com.

For more information about ANPR follow the links:

VIP news on uninsured drivers

The Sunday Times on "spy cameras"

The Register on "Gatso 2 rollout"

Pistonheads on "Gatso 2"


Picture of ANPR camera from
Pistonheads

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Jaguar Marketing Dept. (Take 2)

Let's try that XK photo again, shall we?

Going against my better judgment - and honestly it looked perfectly fine on my nice bright TFT - I've fiddled with the brightness and the contrast. Hope this is somewhat better for the old skool and their CRTs.

Till later...

Well, duh. Some news.

Apparently, drivers of luxury cars are happier (thanks Minneapolis Star Tribune):

Poll

Jalopnik posted a couple of items on car crime in the UK last night. Since the first one is amusing (alright, I know - I cannot condone the theft of three high-end Mercedes, at gun point, from the dealership. Seriously - there are reports of injuries to the staff) and the second one is right next door to my hometown (somewhat bizarre, as well. 60+ vehicles vandalized during a electrical blackout...?!)

Gang steals Mercedes x n

Poole feels the wrath of car vandals


Just to get my own back - well, sort of - I bring you this breaking news:

"
Police from all over Hamilton County are on the lookout for a stolen car, brazenly taken from its owner Wednesday night."

Apparently, there are still crime free areas of the world...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Oh, bugger

Got a bit of a shock earlier today when I accessed my blog from a uni computer with a less than technologically advanced CRT as its visual interface. Turns out that I really should have upped the brightness on that Jaguar shot. Man, it was dark on there. In fact, it had me questioning the readability of the entire blog design. Some feedback on this would be a very desirable thing.

Anyway, as you can see I am reconnected to the World Wide Waste 'O Space. I'll check back in with proper entries come Thursday. Meantime there'll be more interesting news and links when I have it.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Pre-internet Society

I'm disappearing for the weekend. I'm not entirely certain that I'll be able to access a phone socket and go oldskool with the dial-up in order to make a Sunday post, so I give you fair warning now.

However, a post for you, via Jalopnik.

For some reason - and in relation to a 28 Days Later forum in a juxtapositon I don't entirely understand - a couple of guys appear to have accessed the old Rover plant in Birmingham.

They've taken a bunch of shots and put them up on the web here. Since B'ham is only just up the road I figured I ought to draw attention to it. I have no idea if they've modified the images at all, but the atmospherics of the shots are incredible.

(Keep clicking through the thread - which is attracting all sorts of unusual attention; Rover owners, etc - and you'll see there are more pictures posted further on.)


Links:

Rover Factory (bandwidth warning)

Jalopnik.com

Picture via the thread - hope you don't mind guys. The photography is awesome.

Newsy Stuff

I think something's "in the water" this morning. Check these out:

Man Hits Deer Hits Man

Burglar Suspect Arrested, Escapes, Steals Car, (accidentally?!) Shoots Himself

And, I love the stat in the title of this story:

French Riots

How to make friends with Jaguar's PR department


Time for one more entry before bedtime

The above shot is the back end of a brand-spanking Jaguar XK, as seen at the MPH '05 preview/dummy run/rehearsal/first night performance I was at earlier this evening.

If you look closely (I could have Photoshopped it lighter, but I'm generally dubious of manipulated images) you'll see a pool of liquid that formed under the - static - car during the course of the night (shot was taken just before we were ushered out at 10pm). Hell, it's probably nothing, but I post it here in an effort to remind the good fellows at Jag that it's the sort of thing they surely can't afford to have happen to a model that's more or less in a position to make or break the brand

It's a lovely car - though strangely silver doesn't do it any justice (which makes the choice of that colour for the promotional vehicles a little hard to understand; just wait till you've seen a British Racing Green one - they look awesome) - and I wish them all the luck in the world with it. And any Aston comparisons you might be thinking of making? Well, the differences are far more pronounced in the metal - the Jaguar appearing longer, narrower and lower than the "Newport Pagnall" car.

Laterz.

T#4: I miss my bike

In explanation of the lateness of this post, I've been to MPH '05 this evening. You'll hear more on that later. Meantime, here's Thursday's entry.


I miss my bike.


Ahh, carbon fibre. It’s such a silly thing, but a little bit of that can make all the difference. It suggests specialism, and an attention to detail. And if you pair it with lightweight aluminium, well, then you’ve really got my attention. Tires? Make ‘em cut-slicks. Suspension: rock hard.

It’s attention to detail that attracts me so much to the new Z06 Corvette, a car that’s so thoroughly re-engineered it’s an entirely different animal to it’s “stock” spec namesake. But it’s not the ‘Vette I’m thinking of – it’s my bike. And it doesn’t even have Ducati written on the side.

I am, as I mentioned before, a reasonable guy. I’m on an auto journalism programme, but I’m not an automobile uber alles kind of fruit loop. I believe in the right vehicle for the right journey, and while I appreciate the personal space afforded to me by my (strictly speaking, overlarge) motorcar that doesn’t mean I don’t feel guilty. Especially when I’m sat in a t-j on the M1, going no-where, surrounded by dozens of other single-person-occupancy vehicles. On such occasions I often daydream the science fiction that is a viable public transport solution – you know, the stuff of a far-off distant visiscape, the environmentally friendly future of our needs. When all the trees are gone and the oil’s dried-up. Then remember how much I love being able to listen to my own mp3s – at any volume – and make my own choices about when to pull out at an intersection.

Anyway, it was this kind of beautiful idealism that prompted my decision last September.

Ah. Well.

That and the financial aspect. Although, in tuneful harmony with the wistful naivety of the above, this may have been something of a blushing fish variation. Do throw in an element of physical fitness, however – there was definitely incentive in that.

I went and bought a mountain bike – and a bloody good decision it was too.

I say mountain bike: F1 racing cars have more knobbly bits sticking out of their rubber than the tires on my Dawes Ombra. And I say good decision – everyone I knew thought I was mad. You have seen the way people drive in Bournemouth, haven’t you, dear…?

But I figured if anyone else can do it, why can’t I? So what if everywhere is uphill from my house? I’m reasonably fit; if that old duffer in the day-glo overcoat is coping with the gradient, I’m sure I’ll be fine. Who cares if dad refers to our locale as God’s waiting room, and claims the Honda dealers offer a bifocal windscreen option? The thing was I’d be saving the environment. And some money – all the better to afford this course with, when the time came.

So I trotted along to my nearest stick-ontm auto-accessory and pedal-power convenience store, and thought wow, I can buy a full-suspension garish paint job for only £70! Then I looked at the build quality. And without even touching it, the rear brake-lever fell off. Hmmm. Bearable I suppose; I’m ok with an allen key.

But in the name of proper product research I decided to also stick my head round the door of a nearby independent specialist. I left with two hundred quid’s worth of shiny-shiny dark grey and black, street-fighting mean machine: an urban mountain bike, self-motivational transport for the city-dwelling masses.

Urban does not mean it comes free with a hooded-sweatshirt and an ASBO. Ha ha. It means a hard-tail aluminium mountain bike frame with slick tires and a gear-set more accustomed to finding its home on a racer; it means straight front forks with no bump-absorption, gunmetal handlebars and super-sticky grips. Oh, and cool looking black rims with chrome spokes. Plus a total absence of any reflectors at all – though I quickly fitted some tiny led lights as an alternative, and ran with these switched on whatever the time. Note that I never used the flashing setting – the general consensus amongst my car-driving friends being that this was more annoying than visibility enhancing. I also added genuinely carbon-fibre bar-ends – just because I could.

My dad helpfully pointed out that the amount of money the bike cost would have bought ten weeks of petrol. I ignored him and got on with it.

By the third or forth day of riding to work and back I was going everywhere in top gear – including uphill. A journey that started off being a 50-minute round trip soon took less than 20-minutes each way. Speed bumps on the stretch home not only meant air, it meant I could overtake cars – particularly fun if this was a modified hatch: lowered suspension leading to incredulous looks as I sprinted by. The bike meant consistency in journey times, and was often quicker than sitting in traffic at nine in the morning. I was overtaken by another rider on only a couple of occasions (racers and lycra both times), otherwise anyone else under their own power was my target, my emphasis for pushing just that little bit harder in the effort to catch them down the road. I’d arrive at work on time, awake, grinning with the burn. And hey, by this point I was also well on the way to buns of steel. Which was a bonus.

However, no plan is flawless. Riding a bike to work has a whole ballpark full of problems. First off, the weather. Rain actually isn’t too bad – crash-hat with a peak helps with that. As mine weighs practically nothing, riding with a lid on was never a chore. Any kind of breeze at all though and your effort is doubled – which is no fun when everywhere’s upwards.

Then there’s other road users… Hmmm. Tolerant they are not. I full-on stacked it a couple of times all by myself, but getting run off the road by a pair of dicks in a white van really pisses you off. People beep at you for no reason, cut you up, leave no room to pass. And all pedestrians hate you. For all the good that it does, no-one ever seems to appreciate you when you’re on a bike. The guy in the car who actually hit me looked mad rather than sorry, even though he ran into me when he rolled through a give-way line as I was crossing a junction. You have to understand that the populace are dumb and they will pay you no mind in their actions. But your observation improves as a result – which sticks with you next time you’re behind a steering wheel

Biggest problem was with the bike itself. The urban mb is a relatively new genre, and I got the impression that Dawes hadn’t thought it through properly. I had repeated issues with the gear-set; riding as hard as I was, the high, road gearing caused the frame to flex. This lead to the chain rubbing where it shouldn’t, and the resulting squawk with every pedal revolution was seriously annoying – making it sound like I wasn’t looking after the thing. The only solution offered was a mechanism set up so biased it made the “granny ring” – the lowest gear – physically unusable, the bike was no longer able to select it; doesn’t matter I never did, such a forced compromise should never be necessary. The supplier proved wholly unable to remedy this, and Dawes simply weren’t interested. This alone means I’d never buy again from either of them. I’ve also had a new rear wheel, as the joining weld was so poor it was causing a destabilising vibration under heavy braking – the last thing you want if you have to stand on the anchors on a bicycle. And the fittings are rusting – even though the bike lives inside. The issue of riding hard-tail over our scarred asphalt, however, was entirely of my own making – but if you think Britain’s bumpy in a sports car…

Of course, now I’m in Coventry. Coventry’s great because it’s so compact – I’m literally five minutes from anywhere that I conceivably need to be. But it also means my bike here would be pointless; I’d spend as much time locking it up as I would on the journey in-between. So it’s sitting at home in the outhouse, probably feeling sorry for itself, wondering when it’ll next find itself fighting with the traffic. And I miss it, man. I miss it so much. Niggling fault aside, the Ombra has to be one of my all time life-enriching choices. My heart goes out to it, all on its lonesome with no speed bumps to caress. I can feel the environment suffering its absence. And by crikey, without it, my ass is getting big.





Ombra picture is a Dawes publicity shot, though God knows why I'm advertising them here! And, ps: I've gone from nought-to-some html in the last few days - you've no idea how pleased I am to have managed to make this appear at the bottom of the page - even if it was incredibly simple. ;-)

Z06 picture from www.wallpaper.net.au (looks like a press shot)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Normal Service Resumed, then?

Seems the server problem has resolved itself. Well, apart from the text colour of the link - but I expect that's my fault!

See you in the morning.

hmmm...

Ok, having some "server" problems with that entry. I've got to get to class, but I'll check back up on it later.

Sorry for the technical difficulties...

More on the Q7


Further to my post yesterday, The German Car Blog has more information on the ads that just started running for the Audi Q7. This includes links to a German Language site that has some pictures from the shoot that apparently haven't turned up anywhere else yet - including the awesome one at the top of this entry.


Links:

The German Car Blog

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Links n Stuff

The South African Mail & Guardian is reporting that a woman was stung to death by bees after her car crashed into an electrical substation and disturbed a ginourmous hive on the roof.


Top Gear online has just put up another anti-American car rant from Jeremy Clarkson. Read his opinion of the Pontiac Solstice here.

The German Car Blog is reporting that Audi already has 3000 orders for their Q7 4x4... A nice piece of timing by Audi PR no doubt as their funky new ad campaign for the "car" went live in Germany yesterday.

Hurrah for Britich racing driver Justin Wilson. Having won the Mexico City Champ Car Race on Sunday he secured third overall in the championship. Paddock Talk has a nice review.

Dubspeed have a video of the Ferrari Enzo FXX. Mmmm, lovely noises...

And finally...CNN's auto news dept are obviously keeping themselves busy: they have the results of a survey on dating and cars. Whoa, hold on a second - I've just noticed that the survey was commisoned by Ford. You really would have thought they'd have better things to do. Like keeping the company out of financial crisis...


Picture from Autobytel by way of Google images (looks like an official press shot to me).

Monday, November 07, 2005

That's a heck of a nose-bleed

Bloody typical!

Was going to post this tomorrow morning, but someone forced my hand...

Performance Forums

Check the links, they each have different shots. Makes me feel a LOT better about what happened to my car!

Club4AG Forums


Oh, and langauge and bandwidth warning, should you be concerned...