Sunday, January 29, 2006

#14: Let's go retro


The latest rumours are:

Lamborghini will build the Miura re-hash they showed at Detroit.

But the Challenger and the Camaro concepts are still in will they/won’t they land, even if commentators (and vast swathes of the motoring public) continue to suggest these nostalgia exploitation devices (NEDs) might just be what their respective manufacturers need in order to drag their sorry asses out of “junk” status. Say what? Oh, alright then – that’s really only an issue for GM. At the moment.

I have to say, the Challenger I like. Even more so than the slightly insipid greatest hits of the Mustang currently on sale, this Dodge NED hits a lot of the right buttons in its history robbing design. The Camaro, however, has a fat ass and looks like it’s short-sighted as well as having a scowl. But it’s the Miura that really leaves me cold.

I can’t understand this. With the Murciélago and the Gallardo, the Big Bull has produced two of the most successful and distinctly unique sports supercars of recent times. They are unmistakably their own. They fizz with brand identity, and you can trace the heritage in their DNA even while they exist inescapably in the now. They are modern cars for a modern Lamborghini; sharp like the handling, fierce like the performance, and technical like the engineering. If Lamborghini persist with the reported madness and build the Miura, they will sweep all this contemporary integrity into the rubbish bin, and the progressive force which must feed the automotive industry if it is to survive will be weaker as a result.

It’s not exactly Lamborghini’s fault, but I have a problem with retro cars at the moment. The original Miura is flawed genius, which probably suits historical reflection on the manufacturer very well. It’s consistently voted one of the greatest looking cars of all time, while also stirring uncomfortable memories of incidental on limit handling and an ill-judged technical design – why not set the latter straight by exploiting the assets of the former. Perhaps it’s harmless, but it seems to undermine everything that they have recently achieved, and makes Lamborghini look like a company that has reached the end of a journey through the great hall of ideas.

I can almost forgive Ford the GT. For whatever reason they wanted to build a supercar, and the only relevant heritage in the history of the marque is a super-successful sports racing car that happens to look as good today as it did then. Given the correlation with their upcoming centenary celebrations at the time, it’s hardly surprising the executives decided to plunder the archive. It was one of the few ways to legitimise the project, and I doubt it would have been half as successful without its predecessor’s styling lines. Shame about the alloy design, especially, but you can comprehend where the GT is coming from.

I suppose you can make a similar argument for the BMW Mini – a car that probably would not be so successful if it didn’t look quite so cute, and has a similar heritage defying problem fully negotiated. However, the Mini’s biggest illegitimacy is in its disrespect for the original thinking that hallowed Issigonis’ creation – the complete absence of useable rear seats being the main exhibit. Totally a NED. And what about the PT Cruiser; I’m sorry to break it to you but if you drive one of those, people are laughing at you. Retro is wrong – at least partly because all others are demeaned by this Daimler-Chrysler mush.

(And will somebody please tell Porsche to get off the fence and build a modern sportscar. Build it alongside the 911 for all I care, but don’t let the rest of us suffer because of the wilfulness of some of your regular customers. Put all that techno-cleverness to use on something that isn’t hamstringed by misguided engine geographics and styling from thirty years before I was born. We won’t suffer the under-nourishment of the Cayman for long.)

Neoteric – that’s an appropriately “cool” sounding word; what’s wrong with neoteric design? Not everything has to turn out as bland as the second generation Ford Focus – look at the new Civic, a spaceship for the road. Nissan’s URGE concept has been received with rapturous bliss. The Bangle-ized BMW’s are a mixed bunch – but perhaps only because of the perceived over-reaction to the Seven, which in hindsight turns out to be the best looking (pre-blur tool facelift, anyway), and the most individual saloon on the road. At least until all the other manufacturers started steeling little bits of its styling cues, which is the certain way to judge its success.

I appreciate there are risks involved, but as many manufacturers are suddenly discovering there are also great dangers in being seen as sitting still. In this era of increasingly rapid technological advancement, any appearance of hesitancy may indicate that you are lost. I need proof from that this isn’t overwhelming you – I need to know you are making the most of the exciting developments available all around us. I want the new, and I want it to look new. Don’t give me warmed-over antiquity with rose-tinted side glass.

Let’s go retro? Let’s not.




Links:

Well, the American Lamborghini site is quite fun, so if you'd like to take a look at that it's here.

Dodge Challenger, amongst others [internal]


Pictures are both from Carwalls.com, a desktop wallpaper site. The top one - you guessed it - is the "new" Miura concept; the bottom one is the Nissan URGE.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Playboy goes racing


I've been looking for an excuse to post that picture for ages.

No, not a belated reference to the late, great Steve McQueen, or anything like that. Playboy Enterprises has stuck its...er...oar into the 2006-08 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series, entering six cars of varying...stature.

For more details see MPH-Online, via Jalopnik.



Links:

Playboy Goes Full Speed With Grand American Racing @ MPH-Online via Jalopnik


Car pic is from Jalopnik. The other picture is a pal of mine, and her friend.

Update Flurry

Well, not so much a flurry, more of a flake or two.


M69


Was on the M69 the other night, between Coventry and Leicester. My God, that's a fast bit of road; I wasn't exactly hanging about, but a couple of cars overtook me and just disappeared. Sheesh.


The Resentment lives on

It's heartwarming to see that some people still have an irrational insecurity around BMWs - even £800, 16 year old ones. I got back to my car later the same night to discover that someone had kindly written "cock" in the salt and murk on the driver's side window, and drawn a picture of a penis in the passenger glass behind. Was very amused!

GT4 Update




'Welcome to the house of sleep deprivation' said Matt, as he opened the door for me at 10.45am. I was back to check up on the boys' progress; thing that struck me first was how unbloodshot Matt's eyes were...but then he wasn't running the final stint, and so was under a duvet on the sofa.

Andy completed the final laps without major incidence (although again, pitting just before the end he took on far more fuel than was necessary), though by this point they were four laps up and driving was a little bit more of a relaxed affair. Laptimes were running in the 7'20-'30 range, rather than the 7'. Amusingly, while the PS2 itself wasn't running at all hot, and the steering wheel coped with the task admirably, they had in fact developed a "fault" during the course of the event. For some reason, the pedals had uncalibrated themselves and they were running without maximum throttle - enough of a problem to lose them 20mph at the top end down the straights.

With Van Halen's 'Final Countdown' on the stereo, they finished with a total lap count of 197 (my suggestion that they target 200 the next time was met with derision...) in an elapsed time of 24:06'52.787, Andy's original hot lap time still standing. They had, however, lost count of the number of accidents as they discovered it was difficult to keep track while the other player was off-stint and asleep. Biggest issue seems to have been the cold during the night - you can read Sean's update as a comment on my earlier post to see that Andy was driving in a jacket - and the muscle fatigue in the left arm, casued by the clockwise nature of the circuit.

Well done, chaps!


Links:

T#14 GT(2)4(hours) [internal]

Sean's Update [internal via comment on the above]

Friday, January 27, 2006

T#14: GT(2)4(hours)

Sorry for the delay in posting this.

Right, now, to explain. Just in case you were wondering about the sorts of things we get up to, us motoring journalism students, here’s a little insight into my evening…!


Friday 27 January, 2006.

18:45 ish.

Hey, well arrived here at 5.45pm

By here I mean Tim and Andy’s, where Matt and Andy are taking on Gran Turismo 4 – in a 24 hour race at the Playstation game’s representation of the Nurburgring…

They kickedoff racing at 11am this morning, and as I write this are seven hours and 40 minutes into the session. The plan is for them to take to hour stints, and race right through to 11 on Saturday morning.

The pizza’s been bought, snack foods and Red Bull abound – already there’s a collection of Mars Bar wrappers littering the floor, with the accompanying detritus of camera equipment, lap diagrams, magazines and recording paperwork. There’s a clock on the wall showing them the time, and the PS2 is being held above ground level in the aid of cooling and air circulation, supported by copies of F1 ’05 (another PS racing game) and Le Mans (the Steve McQueen movie). The control interface is a rocking chair kitted out with a plank of wood, some clamps and a Logitech special edition Gran Turismo steering well. The car they’ve picked is a BMW M3 GTR, rated at 450bhp, similar to the winning car at the real event in 2005.

Andy is about an hour and three-quarters through his second stint, with about half an hour to go before Matt takes over (Andy having had to cut his first effort short in the aid of a comfort break). Matt also started the race. Both are complaining of muscle pain in the left shoulder already. They’ve crashed the car a total of 30 times so far, had 13 pitstops, and are literally just lapping the second place car for the second time as I type this. Fastest lap at this stage stands at 6’53.380, completed by Andy during his opening attack.

Music on the stereo so far:

Rock Godz

Tenacious D

The Pixies


19:47ish

Matt’s just taken over for his third stint. The Chemical Brothers are on the stereo, and his first lap – number 72 so far – was somewhat rent with incidents. But he has just stuck in a 6’55…which is the closest either of them have got to Andy’s fastest lap time in a while.

Currently the accident counter is at 34, and they’ve taken their 15th pitstop. The change-over highlighted the difficulties they may face as the night goes on and they grow more tired, as not only did Andy fluff the exit, but the seat got skewed and Matt found himself without total authority over the control surfaces, resulting in a slow minute or so as cables and pedals were re-arranged. Pizza has been distributed and gratefully received (Tim acting as catering manager).

Lap 75, and counting.


21:00 and counting

Various conversation have ensued, more music has gone on the stereo (Red Hot Chili Peppers By The Way seems to have been a favourite). More provisions have been purchased by yours truly – although they in fact have more than adequate supplies, I decided that there was definitely not enough chocolate.

Between stints, Matt snoozes (or tries to; mostly he just lies down) and Andy showers. They change drivers again, although this time the only major incident is when Andy forgets to press the button and inadvertently ends up with a full tank of fuel (a tank lasts longer than a set of tires, and since they’re well in the lead it is seen as overkill to attempt any unnecessary stop strategies).


22:00ish

It’s been a heavy week in various ways, so I decide it’d be wise for me to leave and try and get some sleep. The next party from the support crew, namely Sean, should be along in the not too distant future, to be followed by a threatened visit from Graeme at about 4am when he finishes work. A third lap is put on the second place BMW – which briefly undoes the damage when Andy makes a mistake, but is soon banished from the rearview mirror.

Just before I go, however, I do get to witness Andy make an effort to beat his own fastest circuit of the track. At this point the race’s been running for 11 hours; first lap with tyres up to temperature after pitting, Andy puts the hammer down – with much encouragement from Matt, who realises after a minute in just how fast he’s going – and pulls out a 6’53.708. Watching the level of concentration necessary to achieve this in isolation is impressive, but coming about eight hours after the original effort, it’s a pretty fierce mental achievement. And to prove the point, Andy crashes almost immediately after crossing the line and stating he’s going to try again.

Which makes you think. These guys are performing an impressive feat of endurance despite the limitations of its virtual reality; imagine what it must be like in the real thing.

Matt and Andy are using their experience for the basis of an article in our upcoming MA Magazine Project.


For further information about the magazine, or to sponsor the production, please contact:

infinityreversed@yahoo.com

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Time Ticks By

...really, really, REALLY fast at the moment.

Which is to say, if I don't get the post up tonight, I will get it up tomorrow - even if I have to use a different internet connection!

Apologies for the delay, should it occur.

ir

Monday, January 23, 2006

Self preservation society

Good grief - most predictable entry title ever? I think it's a contender.

Almost slipping by in the shadow of the champagne glasses of more "prestigious" auctions this weekend (Google "Bond's DB5" if you're struggling with context there; or see any of Jalopnik's recent Barrett-Jackson Scotsdale posts) the BBC is reporting the sale of a trio of number plates, shining in the light of any car fan's nostalgia. Need a clue? They were previously attached to a trifecta of patriotic Minis... Something I didn't know, however, is that they weren't any old numbers:
"HMP 729G, which was also Michael Caine's prison number; LGW 809G, the gang's flight number and GPF 146G, from the Grand Prix Flag."
The sale takes place at Cheffins auctioneers in Cambridge on 26 January.

In other news, the China Daily is reporting on the rise of illegal street racing in Bejing.


And I'm still getting over how
unbelievably bad the new rallying coverage was on ITV yesterday...


Links:


Italian Job car plates auctioned
@ BBC


Illegal car racing comes to Bejing @ China Daily



Picture is from oqdiamondm.com. I believe it may be for sale. But I could be wrong.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

#13: Camera Action

I haven’t written anything about speed cameras for a while, so I thought I’d better bring myself up to date. There’ve been a number of recent announcements that make interesting contributions to the seemingly perpetual discourse that surround these electronic sentinels of “safety”, but I’m going to try and take a look from the government’s perspective.

November year last saw the “shock” decision from the government to rein in the increasingly fast-paced proliferation of camera-blight on our highways. Sceptics look upon this as some kind of popularity drive – but I would question this claim simply on the basis of why then? There had been no louder uproar than usual about anything in particular in relation to these infernal devices – unless you count the limited coverage surrounding the upscaling of so-called “Gatso 2” Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras, or Road Safety Minister Stephen Ladyman’s appearance on Top Gear. If you really want me to be cynical the first of these may bare some further contemplation; however…

This is an occasion where I would really like to believe the official version of the truth, that the relevant agencies and departments really have reached the conclusion the effectiveness of the safety camera has reached a plateau, prompting consideration of alternative methods including better education and other means of enforcement not accusable of being exploited as a revenue raising technique. This is a supposition that’s supported by the government’s companion insistence that the camera systems are no longer to be allowed to pay for their own replication. The public, while no doubt keen to see the number of road deaths reduced, is uncomfortable with the justification for existing methods, and is looking for better accountability – especially when non-penalising schemes such as active speed warning signs are seen to work just as well.

There are a number of other “issues” with the camera strategy that I haven’t really touched on before. Firstly, there’s contemporary analysis of the number of police officers caught exceeding the limit by the cameras in comparison to the number of £60/three point fines issued. As the headline in the Mirror put it “45,741 COPS CAUGHT BY SPEED CAMERAS 934 COPS PUNISHED FOR SPEEDING”; that works out as two percent. Now there’s obviously a problem with recognising how many of these represent an emergency response, but Kevin Delaney of the RAC is certainly convinced that something is ‘clearly wrong’, even if Essex Police rightfully point out that ‘Cars going to one incident can cause several cameras to go off.’

Another problem is the issue of wrongly issued tickets. This not only occurs in cases of mistaken identity, but also when there are apparent difficulties with the accuracy of the equipment. The tractor story I posted earlier this week involved a vehicle capable of a maximum speed of 26mph, yet saw its registered keeper issued with a ticket for doing 85mph on a road it had never been on because “somehow” the number plate had been misread. On the icWales website there is a story from late December about a biker who was wrongly accused of doing 46mph in a 30; by getting hold of the photographs from the camera and properly analysing the road markings he was able to prove that his actual speed was in fact only 18mph. It took him seven months to clear his name.

And there’s a further argument now being advanced by Safe Speed’s Paul Smith. Writing in The Scotsman, Smith suggests that speed cameras are actually ‘killing us’ because they are altering our perception of what’s important in safely negotiating road travel. I’m not going to outline his argument in detail, but you can access the opinion here. He also has some interesting things to say about the statistics surrounding the 30mph limit as well, which nicely segweys me into my next point.

I can see the government’s problem. They have to be seen trying to do something about road safety and the legal limitations on public speed, when the reality is that our road networks actually work rather well. Take motorways: everyone knows that they are supposed to do 70mph, but also that they work perfectly well the majority of users are travelling at 80-85, or even 90mph. The difficulty is that if the limit was raised to legitimise these velocities (which modern cars are more than capable of withstanding) more people would then start to travel at 100, or 110. At which point, due to the sheer weight of traffic, things might start to get interesting.

Similar principles apply at urban speeds. While I welcome moves like the Road Safety Bill which seeks to reduce the number of points endorsed for minor offences, the problem is it makes exceeding the urban limit appear as a minor offence – when all the time we are being told that the speed makes a massive difference to the likelihood of survival should a child unfortunately wander into the way.

My solution remains clearly visible, sensible policing by actual police officers, who are best placed and well trained to make informed judgements on individual circumstances. What are the chances?


Links:

I've got lots of links for you on this one (but then I haven't embedded as many as usual), including a few that are not directly relevent, but along a similar theme.

T#5: Aneurism [internal]

March of speed cameras halted @ Times Online

Speed Camera Onslaught Halted @ Pistonheads

45,741 COPS CAUGHT BY SPEED CAMERAS 934 COPS PUNISHED FOR SPEEDING @ Mirror.co.uk

Motorist proves that cameras can lie... @ icWales

Safety vanishes in a flash with cameras
@ Scotsman.com

Demonstrating why such things are deemed necessary, from the SundayMirror.co.uk today:
151MPH BIKER LOON [Oh, and please don't be thinking I'm a regular Mirror reader; the recent mentions are all Google's fault and just a coincidence.]

UK Speed Cameras
is a site about...speed cameras.

Speedcam.co.uk is a site loosely dedicated to opposing speed cameras in the West Midlands ('Gatso capital of the UK' apparently); has some amusing pictures of blown up cameras, if you're into that sort of thing.

And finally, here is the Department of Transport's Safety Camera site.

Red Bull gives you....


...an apparent determination to Out Run The Law at all costs.

At least two of the UK's newspapers' websites are today reporting an incident involving a 48 year old man, 50 miles of police chase, and 20 cans of Red Bull.

Twenty.

Peter Edwards, of King's Lynn in Norfolk, was sentenced to four months in jail on Friday, and banned from driving for four years. In the process of evading the police, he reached speeds of up to 80mph on A-roads (errrm...), pulled out to overtake police cars ahead of him trying to reduce his speed, and even drove straight over a roundabout (though no-one is reporting what
size of roundabout it actually was). He was eventually stopped when the tires on his car were punctured. The Sunday Mirror, being the Sunday Mirror, also reports that at one point he was 'seen to strip off behind the wheel so he was driving semi-nude.' The Independent neglects to mention this obviously pertinent fact.

Edwards, who admitted dangerous driving, had over 10 times the recommended daily allowance of caffine in his system.
The Independent quotes Professor Jim Horne of Loughborough University saying, 'this was a massive amount of caffeine and it would have had an extraordinary effect on him', and a spokewoman from Red Bull, claiming:

'Research has proven that just one or two cans of Red Bull can help alleviate the effects of tiredness. There is no added benefit in consuming the product in excessive amounts. One can of Red Bull contains the same amount of caffeine as a cup of filter coffee.'

So now you know. The police thought they were pursuing a drunk driver.


Links:

POLICE-CHASE DRIVER BLAMES 20 RED BULLS @ SundayMirror.co.uk

Move over, white van man: Red Bull driver is the new road menace @ The Independent Online [registration may be required; oh, and their website seems to suck - but it might just be Firefox]


Picture is from Total Motorsport, who can be reached here.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dan Gurney's 1967 Eagle T1G-Weslake


Imagine my surprise when I checked Jalopnik this morning, and discovered that they'd mentioned this blog in one of their entries. Admittedly, I'm always mouthing off in their comments section, and do send them things that might be of interest, but still - what an honour. The drop was in reference to the Eagle Weslake picture (above) put up as part of my Autosport International "review"; given the interest I figured I'd post the other shots just in case anyone wants to see 'em. My Dad's a big Gurney fan anyway, so at least he'll appreciate it if no-one else does. Personal favourite detail? The quilted leather cockpit lining, second last.

I did also try looking for a site that could give you a little more information on the car. However, the best I could come up with was Atlasf1's The F1 FAQ. It's a repsonse to a question about American F1 winners, and you can link to it here. (You'll have to scroll down a bit.)

Here are the other pics:







Links:

Yale-Type Weighs in on Rallying @ Jalopnik

The FI FAQ

Ahh, kudos! Jalopnik... [internal]

T#12: Autosport International [internal]






Pictures are all mine. Yes, a couple of them have been cropped.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Crikey, does this make me a proper journalist?




My first ever commissioned article is now available for everyone to read!

(Excuse the exclamation mark; it's pretty exciting as far as I'm concerned!)

Co-authored with a couple of my colleagues (for various reasons) Eric Gallina and Sean Moriarty, it's up on Car Design News - hence the banner there - and is concerned with the Coventry University Auto Design MA show from back in December.

Go take a look, if you like. It's here.



And, in answer to my question: probably not, but surely even I'm allowed to dream?!


Links:

College Exhibition: Coventry University MA Degree Show 2005 @ Car Design News

The most beautiful car in the world, and Oi, bring my Rolls back

The Autoblog is reporting that the Alfa Romeo Brera has been awarded 'the most beautiful car in the world' status at the 21st International Automobile Festival, Paris. It's ok looking, I guess...

Pistonheads, however, has a couple of more, eh-hem, amusing stories.

Firstly, a farmer has been sent a speeding ticket for doing 85mph in a tractor with a max velocity of only 26mph. The numberplate was misread, apparently. What about the rest of the vehicle? Clearly didn't have 'Massey-Ferguson' written on it, did it.

And second, the Tracker anti-theft system, which uses a location beacon and satelites and other such trick stuff, has recovered its most expensive stolen vehicle yet. 270Ks worth of Rolls Royce Phantom was recovered without damage within seven miles of its unauthorised removal.


Links:

Alfa Romeo Brera wins "Most Beautiful Car in the World" award @ Autoblog


Warp Tractor 9 and 270 grands worth of Rolls Royce Phantom Tracked Down @ Pistonheads

Revolving number plate? This is the twenty-first century, don't you know


As you may have spotted, James Bond is to drive an Aston again when Daniel Craig gets his first outing as the 00 agent later this year.

I mention this partially because I wanted to post that sketch picture of the mysterious "DBS" they're wheeling out especially for him. Which I like rather a lot. But also because I was thinking, you know how the DB5 in Goldfinger had a revolving numberplate - what about a modern version?

This is something I've been thinking about a while, actually. I mention it now because if I ever get around to finishing the novel (hoho) someone else might have beaten me to it...I'm at least fairly sure at this point that this hasn't happened yet.

So, the idea: rather than a revolving plate, how does the concept of a high definition flatscreen VDU panel grab you?


Maybe not so good for hammered metal plates, but I reckon you could get a "visual display unit" to work for the good old UK reflective plastic. A registration you could disolve or change at will - how about that? Completely illegal of course, but just think, you could probably display video sequences on it when parked, all sorts of cool stuff.

You heard it here first.


Links:

007 to drive new Aston @ Pistonheads

Casino Royale is due out later this year. Best guess, check in with the InternetMovieDatabase [IMDb] for the latest info.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

T#13: Illumination


The winter months. What do they mean for an automotive enthusiast such as myself?

The roads are slippier, yes. The car is dirty, also yes. Gritters will inevitably pebbledash your paint at some point. But more urgently, they make the days shorter, the nights longer, and the skies darker.

Which means that people will have their lights turned on more often.

Actually, no – I’m not about to launch into some diatribe about drivers failing to dip their mainbeam, or those idiots that leave their foglights on for no apparent reason. I’m not even particularly bothered about the xenons that dazzle you regardless of their relative elevation. I’m far more interested in the lights themselves… Come on then, which manufacturer’s got the best looking illumination on this fair island?

The technology is such now that designers can do terrific things with the light clusters that form the signature of cars moving in the dark. That’s not to say older models aren’t interesting – I love the segmented taillights on Lotus Cortinas – but modern materials mean more fun. More expensive maybe, but definitely more fooling about, too.

Some of my fellow AJs groan at the thought of active lighting systems. I don’t mean ones that switch themselves on automatically (that’s just lazy, though arguably a safety feature for the otherwise terminally forgetful), or swivel to help you see round corners. When LED headlights arrive, as they surely will given the amount of concept cars that make use of them, these powerful “bulbs” take up so little space that conceivably manufacturers could install several and allow you to alter light patterns at the flick of a switch. The cruise scene, which already inserts strobes and other devices – including TVs – into the orifices once solely the reserve of humble filament, is presumably salivating already. Personally I’m also excited at idea of being able to change the appearance of my vehicle by selecting which lights I turn on. But maybe that’s my closet blasterism coming out again, as the others seem to think that’d be sad.

Cruisers have an obvious appreciation of the importance of lighting in relation to vehicle appearance. Probably this is predicated by the fact that they mostly come out at night, but changing the lamp installations is one of the easiest modifications to make; from there it’s only a small step to neons, and LEDs in the valve covers and washer jets. Trace the trend back, and if you like you can blame the Escort Cosworth – a plan which I’m sure will appeal to some people. The twin-headlamp conversions carried by the rally cars smeared quickly onto more ordinary ‘Scorts, transferred to Mk3 Golf GTis seeking the soul of their forebears, and then it was off.

I’m not about to argue this is always successful – some of the replacement clusters are ill-judged to say the least. But a few work really well, like Quadconversions’ ‘Afterburner’ LED taillights, which look fantastic on Peugeot 306s, and the kits that saved the front of the bug-eyed 2001 Impreza. The trouble with the cruise scene, though, is that no matter how good something looks too many people with the same mod and it just ends up boring – so more extreme variations emerge. This has happened to the Lexus-style clear rear lenses; looked good the first time you saw them, now they’re tacky and dull.

Enough of the aftermarket, what about the stock stuff?

This is not going to be an exhaustive list. In fact…

…I’m sorry, there’s not much I can do about this: BMW wins hands down, no argument, throw the money on the table.

I mean, sure, the back end of the Citroen C5 estate may look like a couple of glowing devil’s horns, and the series one Jaguar S-Types did have LED rears like rocket boosters; but Maserati simply blew it when ditched the boomerangs (thanks, the American market; and notice how whenever you see one in a film it’s an early one with those rear crescents in place), and the Bentley Continental GT has these weird elliptical outlines that look like one egg balancing badly on another. Nissan’s Skylines may have a Ferrari-aping double-circle going on at the back – that’s iconic now but not individual enough. Switching to the nose, you can always tell when it’s a Mercedes behind you, but that doesn’t make those cool. BMW lights come with their own refrigerator. It’s just a fact.

Look at the rears. They’re all LEDs, so just hang the expense and get on with it. Take the last of the previous model 3-series, set up in a pattern that always makes me think of the Ministry of Sound logo – I don’t even like dance music but this still somehow looks good. The new 5-series looks like it’s toting a pair of fiery tomahawks. And the skinny slits on the back of the current generation 7, dissected by a diagonal of darkness – a snake staring back at you. I love that car: all gangly and bulbous, yet sophisticated, sharp, and with an indefatigable air of absolute mystery (ok, so with the iDrive… Nobody’s perfect).

I will concede that BM don’t always get it right. The lights on the back of the X3 look like fractured mirrors the day after a bar fight, and the Compact…well, even the engineers admit they got those Lexus rip-offs wrong. Let’s just pretend the Compact doesn’t exist actually, as the strange bonnet cut outs over the front lamps are a little, er, acquired, as well.

But otherwise, it’s the headlights that deliver BMW’s killing blow. They’ve diminished the effect slightly with the most recent models, but no other manufacturer comes close to the Frigidaire-rivalling chilledness of the “angel eyes” up front. (I prefer to think of them as the instrument of the Mysterons myself, menacing in the darkness.) Beyond the looks the neatest thing about it is that no other manufacturer can counterfeit them, as the inspiration would be so blatant even non-car people would notice. A totally unique identity, all beautiful and aggressive at once – whether you see this as good or bad, people move over faster when they see those in the mirror. Even the modders don’t seem to have dented their appeal, despite some really nasty looking copies being out there.

The ultimate lighting machine? The Z4 even has ivy-cool side repeaters, for heaven’s sake.


Links

Quadconversions can be reached here.


The picture is from Colin's Journal, I believe it was taken by Colin himself.

What happens when...

...a bunch of Automotive Journalism students find someone as apparently oblivious to regimented car parking spaces as this guy? (We can all respect the need to keep a little rebellion alive in our souls, but that's just plain antisocial.)


Well, er, this happens...









Oh, and for another tip: don't go bowling with Automotive Journalism students if the lanes have "mph" sensors. Otherwise, enjoy!



PS: sorry about the quality of the pictures, I only had my phone with me (supposedly two megapixels, but whatever). And, yes I have brightened them, which is another reason they're a little grainy - just hope you can see them alright. Blurred plates as usual.

PPS: no, it was not a set-up.
:)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

(#12): Update

Hey there. Apologies, I’ve been out of action for a couple of days…going to plug you in with a little update, let you know where I’m at with the start of my second term.

First off, it’s perhaps my fault – maybe I missed the email – but I haven’t got any results to tell you about so far. Last term we handed in:

  • An aide memoir on law for journalists
  • A local government article
  • A central government piece
  • 1700 words split between several pieces (automotive topics)
  • 1300 words of “reflective writing” relating to the 1700 words and/or the “newsday”, where we produced a 16 page magazine
  • 3000 word article on an industry subject

But as yet I haven’t heard anything. This term is shaping up to have a pretty heavy workload, but I should be able to manage it without too much difficulty so long as organize myself properly.

Anyways, to get you to Tuesday (today), here’s my motoring week (and a bit).


SUNDAY, January 08.

Having left home on Saturday, but detoured via a friend’s, I drove from Canterbury to Coventry on Sunday afternoon. As already reported, this was a much better experience than I expected, given the weather conditions. The moment with the guy on the sliproad is still making me start a little when I catch myself thinking about it unintentionally, though – which is dumb because it wasn’t that big of a deal; obviously I’m not working hard enough yet to take my mind off it. Coming soon, I reckon.


MONDAY, January 09.

A bit of running round today led to the following, in this order:

Saw an unmolested Renault Clio Williams (sorry, don’t know if it was a 1, 2, or 3) about two minutes out from my accommodation while walking to the supermarket. That’s rare enough, but this example was piloted by a cute, unpretentious looking blonde – now why can’t I meet women like that?

Then I saw my first proper Focus ST – that is an actual one owned by an apparent member of the public, rather than a show car. Yes, it was in eye-scorching metallic orange, just as it should have been.

The third thing I saw was a little less cool. Fortunately travelling on the opposite side of the dual carriageway was a car (Peugeot I think, should it matter) which appeared to have its windscreen held in by masking tape… There was one big strip across the top of the screen at the roof join, and two others that started about half way up the glass and carried over into the middle of the roof. Scary stuff.


TUESDAY, January 10.

3pm saw our first class of the term. Not a great deal of action otherwise. We were given an outline, and spent most of the time figuring out magazine issues for the publication we have to do this term. Turns out we didn’t do too good a job of this as the majority raised themselves again today…oops.


WEDNESDAY, January 11.

Class was delayed in order for us to attend a talk by Tony Stelliga, the Canadian owner/director of Marcos – a British sportscar manufacturer (previously) of acquired taste he’s rescued from death. In a lecture intended mostly for design students – the third year undergrads are doing a project involving the company– he spoke at length about the gestation of the current line-up, the drop top TSO and fixed-head TSO GT, and the Marcos design process. Most convincing argument for the use of imported engines and drivetrains; by using the running gear from the American Corvette rather than home grown produce, Marcos has access to a regulations friendly package that enables them to market their cars overseas without the expense of emissions approval, and so on. The company, under Stelliga’s guidance, makes considerable use of computer-aided technologies – not only in terms of design, but also engineering models, and manufacturing, allowing them to outsource much of the build process and still rely on getting a high quality of finish. Most intriguing, however, was talk of using the LS7 engine and drivetrain from the Z06 model Corvette, a car I am very much enamoured with. Given the good press the GT’s been receiving I’m looking forward to seeing the result...


THURSDAY, January 12.

Autosport International, of which I have written about already.

Got back to an intro class on the Journalism Themes and Issues course we’re taking this year. Was fun as I got to freak everyone out about our technologically infested future when given the task of providing ten points on “Media” in 2020. Might return to that if I can tie it into cars in a proper fashion. Heheh.


FRIDAY, January 13.

Was my birthday. No classes. My mum sent me an amusing “mini cake” from M&S, and I opened some cards. Celebrated by buying the recent Dukes of Hazard film on DVD. Watching it again (I saw it in the cinema) I was struck – again – by the awesome car control. The movie itself is trite, though it does have Johnny Knoxville and Burt Reynolds in it, but the car control… My favourite example is when “Bo” is navigating an inner-city ‘circle’ and The General remains in an absolutely constant state of oversteer drift around the outside of other moving traffic for what seems like minutes. Beautiful.


SATURDAY, January 14.

Historic Rally Car Register open day at the Heritage Motor Centre, in Gayden. The open day wasn’t all that special for a casual observer – but then that wasn’t its purpose – and although the turnout of cars was quite low, there were some interesting vehicles there. I particularly liked the couple of Lancia Fulvia Sports, which were just gorgeous. It did give me an opportunity to look around the museum, though, which I hadn’t done before. Not that big, but really cool because not many of the cars are fenced off – you can actually walk all around them. Amongst the really unusual stuff, like Towns designed city cars there was also an Aston Martin DB7 Zagato (fantastic looking device), oh, and Lady Penelope’s enormous six-wheeled pink Ford from the live action Thunderbirds movie. You’d never be able to park it.

One other thing; on the way out of Coventry again that evening, saw a new Civic on massive polished rims. It looked like a spaceship. They make everything else on the road seem so last century. Just read today that Volkswagen have brought forward the release date for the next version Golf to 2008, and suspect the Funky Honda may have something to do with it. You can almost hear Ford (for example...) going ‘bugger’ from here.


SUNDAY, January 15 + MONDAY, January 16.

Was out of town. Thankfully the return journey proved to be less memorable than the previous one.


TUESDAY, January 17.

So here I am, sat in the library.


Be back with you again soon.


Links:

Marcos official website

Heritage Motor Centre

T#12: Autosport International [internal]

#10: Gearknobs and grab handles [internal]

T#4: I miss my bike [internal]


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Author's Note


I'm disappearing into the world without internet...

Not sure what that means for Sunday's post as yet. Will do my best.


Picture is new 06 Subaru WRC car
from Autosport International on Thursday. No particular reason, I just like the shot.

Ahh, kudos! Jalopnik...


Hey, hey. If it's not CAR magazine, it's my favourite automotive website.

Check out this post on Jalopnik:

Connaught Type-D Released at Autosport International


They even used the picture I sent them!

Excellent!





Links:

Connaught Type-D Released at Autosport International @ Jalopnik

CAR magazine [internal]