Monday, March 27, 2006

"I'm back" [insert exclamation marks as necessary]

It's true. Work experience is over. And most excellent it was, too.

But, I am off to Holland for the next few days.

With any luck things will be properly up and running again the following week.

Friday, March 17, 2006


This was, admittedly announced acouple of weeks ago, so I can’t exactly be accused of reporting breaking news on this occasion.

However, as anyone who pays attention knows, I am thoroughly fascinated by Project 1221 – a Modena based enterprise that claims to be developing a turbine powered supercar. This is an awesome conception – sounds utterly balmy, but if you poke around a bit really does start to make sense…1500hp from an engine that weights less than half as much as the 1000hp lump in the back of a Bugatti Veyron. And is much more compact. Exactly.

Getting to the point:

In addition to the two variants of MF1 supercar they’ve already announced (the 1500hp jobbie), they’re now publicising their intention to build a smaller, less expensive model – called Aellopous.

I could quote you a load of bumpf from the press release, but since you can just go and look at it online I’ll spare you the majorly “florid” stuff (as Channel4’s website put it. Hold on, Channel4 reporting on Project 1221? And the Project claim they’re not getting much press…?). Swiftly:

This project concerns a remarkably light, compact, agile and relatively more accessible model, the Aellopous, which due to both its power and its extremely low weight will dispense nothing less than landmark performance.

Ample luggage capacity, extra-long travel range, selectable left-hand and right-hand drive and optional armoured protection will also feature in the Aellopous as these are considered essential characteristics for all Project 1221 vehicles.
Sounds a lot like the original MF1 brief (which makes me want to see that one even more – given how out of control it appears to have become).

As an aside, someone – who shall remain nameless – accused me of being invidious when I compared the Freestream T1 to Project 1221’s MF1, an association I had made due to both companies claiming 1000bhp/tonne power to weight ratios. Perhaps the Aellopous makes a better comparison to the T1, given its ‘extremely low weight’ pretensions? Hmmm.

“Aellopous,” incidentally, is from Greek mythology. The Project likes to have a bit of a game with its naming conventions it seems, what with “Project1221” being ‘a cryptic hint of the aspirations of the marque,’ and the M and the F standing for Mauro Forghieri, its chief engineer (amongst other notoriety in his portfolio…).

Aellopous was one of the daughters of Thaumus and Elektra [which I mention only because I have a bit of Jennifer Garner twitch], and a harpyiae (!). The name, apparently, means “the stormy one” or “Swift-footed Like a Storm Wind.” Also known as Iris, Goddess of the Rainbow, a messenger of Hera, and apparently one of the few able to journey to the underworld at will.

Erm, make of that what you can…


Aellopous @ Project 1221
There's more of a PR on their 'Updates' page, but this may not be there if you're viewing this at a later date - click the archive link at the bottom

Project 1221/Turbine: Links [internal]

Project 1221: new two-seater model @ Channel 4
Ignore the picture on this page - it's an MF1 shot, not the Aellopous.

And, finally, some Greek mythologising for you:

Image is from the Aellopous PR. Hence the quality - being apparently publicity shy the Project seems to like releasing low rez images.

Speed Camera Update

So. What exactly is going on with the government’s speed camera policy?

Back in December, Transport Secretary Alistair Darling sent out some good feeling vibes to the motoring public when he announced changes to way the cameras are funded. No longer will camera partnerships be allowed to use the revenue raised every time the flash bulb goes off to pay for more flash bulbs. Self-replicating stealth taxation coming to an end? The country rejoiced; anti-speed campaigners presumably muttered into their coffee.

Then, on 17 February. the Times reported that April 2007 sees the end of current regulations regarding camera usage.

This raises two main issues that motorists should be aware of.

Firstly, the cameras will no longer have to be painted yellow – leading to renewed concerns about subterfuge and camouflage. Safety campaigners – and the Times quotes Mary Williams, chief executive of Brake – claim this is beneficial because people only slow down briefly when they spot the little yellow lollypop, then speed up again once they’ve passed beyond the range of it’s beady little eye. Others point out the safety implications – if you can’t see it you can’t use it as an accident blackspot identifier. As the Times puts it:

Kevin Delaney, the head of road safety at the RAC Foundation, said: “We are concerned that some partnerships will conceal cameras and risk losing the trust of motorists. It makes sense for cameras to be yellow because it slows people down at accident blackspots.”

Secondly, the reasoning behind camera placement is also set to change. Currently regulations require collisions involving three deaths or serious injuries, plus three resulting in slight injuries, all within a kilometre and three years of the placement site. This is set to change – potentially allowing the partnerships to put cameras anywhere they see fit. While there may be a convincingly emotive argument for the placement of cameras in the vicinity of schools – as the Times has Chief Constable of North Wales, Richard Brunstrom putting it:

“Parents often write to us and ask us to put a camera outside a school because the traffic is so dangerous. It’s very difficult to write back and say, ‘Please let us know when your son is killed and then we can consider putting a camera there.’ ”

– there’s also an issue of presumption of guilt, and concerns that cameras will simply be placed where they will make the most money. Especially if they are chosen in lieu of other equally as effective measures, such as road humps and active limit signs that alert drivers when they are exceeding the legal speed.

A final, less than reassuring quote from the Times article:

A Department of Transport spokesman said: “Local authorities will have freedom to use cameras where appropriate and where they see fit. But we do not want to see a return to the bad old days of cameras being hidden behind trees. We are minded to use guidance to achieve this, but if authorities flout it we will consider regulation. If they want to paint cameras grey we will want to know why.”


As a further update to this issue, and in the interests of fairness, I would like to point out that the Norfolk “Casualty Reduction Partnership” has already come out as saying their cameras will remain yellow. This decision has been taken on the basis that having them brightly coloured makes drivers more aware of their speed, according to the Norwich Evening News.

Relatedly, Tuesday’s Guardian, has more on Automatic Number Plate Recognition (APNR) cameras. In a front page article there is speculation that Britain is becoming ‘the most watched country in the world,’ as police look forward to using APNR to spot motorists speaking on mobile phones, or who aren’t wearing seatbelts. The actions of the woman pictured – in pretty much all of the press last week – applying her make-up during rush hour traffic only serves to support arguments for such surveillence.

Realistically, the technology isn’t good enough for that sort of thing yet. And any such attempt will doubtless be severely resisted – I mean, who on earth likes the idea of their every movement inside a motor vehicle being observed and analysed by squared-eyed operatives in a CCTV bunker? And I speak as someone who rarely does anything except drive when sat at the wheel.

What does this all mean? Basically, we’re stuck with the bloody things – it’s now just a question of exactly how much we let the government and tha camera partnerships get away with using them for. If we aren’t already the most observed nation on earth, I reckon we’re short odds on taking the title.


Go Slow: the police win the right to camouflage speed cameras @ timesonline

Speed cameras will stay yellow @ Norwich Evening News

Surveillance on drivers may be increased @ Guardian Unlimited

#18: "All speed, no limit...?" [internal]

#13: Camera Action [internal] lots of links on this one

Still alive

As you can probably tell, all did not go according to plan on Monday. However, I am about to add a couple of posts, so stay tuned.

Friday, March 10, 2006

There will be... post on Sunday. This is because I will not have access to the internet.

Also, I'm struggling with Internet Explorer here, so can't do justice to the piece I've been working on during the day. I shall return on Monday...hopefully with portable Firefox.

Still, I hope you'll appreciate me letting you know.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

As aerodynamic as a house brick...

I will just mention this, though - which I found on the internet this morning:

Don't look now, but I think that building is following us

This is a story in the South African Mail & Guardian about a woman who avoided a speeding ticket after it was shown that police officers were failing to calibrate their detection equipment correctly.

During her trial, the judge order a test...which ended up suggesting an entire building was moving at 1kph. If I had a mind left it would be boggled.


Don't look now, but I think that building is following us @ Mail&Guardian online

T#20: Work experience


Right, I'm sorry about this, but I have very limited internet access at the moment, so I am unable to put up a proper post.

I'm currently on work experience at a UK motoring magazine (there was a clue in the previous entry), which also makes things a bit difficult. I'm using a company computer, so have none of my own photos or files. This makes me a little sad - but the work experience itself is more than making up for it!

However, I am workingon some entries and will endeavour to blog them as soon as this is practically possible.

I thank you.

Down in the Gumperts?

My apologies to Gumpert; according to this week’s Auto Express their stand position at the Geneva motorshow was nothing to do with them – in fact, they were very disappointed about it. They were hoping to be plonked next to the other supercar manufacturers, but the show’s organisers stuck them down in the basement instead.

Doesn’t explain the CDRs, though. Still, my handwritten Gumpert CD will probably be something I treasure for a long time, so that isn’t as bad as it sounds.

Sorry for the lack of pictures...see the above post.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

#19: The Geneva Motorshow

Super bumper edition for you in the meanwhile, however...

The Geneva Motorshow

Life isn’t like the movies. If it was, Saab might actually have the intention to build the concept they’re currently showing at Geneva.

The Geneva motorshow this year is big. Always a prestigious event, 2006 has scored heavily in the exciting cars stakes with unveiling’s from Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Koenigsegg, Spyker (actually scratch Spyker; they’re showing an SUV that stands a good chance of redefining vulgar in any pictorial dictionaries out there), Pagani – all that sort of crowd. You’re going to be able to read countless proper accounts of the event in any number of automotive publications, so I’m going to go ahead and just pick out my highlights.

The Saab plays an important part. I was hanging out with one of my fellow aj students, and, what with him being a bit of a Saab fanboy, we spent a quite a lot of time on their stand. No tightly-clad (there wasn’t so much of the scantily in evidence anywhere – this is a high-class even, don’t-you-know) show-girls for the Swedish arm of GM; just a bunch of their production models, a GM promo about bio-fuel involving a give-away plant in a tin, and easily the best-looking concept car in the building – the Aero X.

Part of the reason we spent so much time on the stand was my colleague’s interview with Anthony Lowe. We also got right onto the turntable with the Aero X, complete with a Lowe guided tour. The car is intended to function as a way for Saab to try and figure out what the hell they’re doing with their design language, rather than preview any form of production ideal. Lowe seemed concerned that Saab may be losing it’s distinctiveness, and offered such a blank-page project as a way of getting this back. There are some neat details to support the vehicle’s role here – the ice-block rear lights, echoing those currently being well received on the 9-3 Wagon, for example – but really it is completely dominated by the way you access the passenger space.

It seems a funny project for Saab to be taking on, but it seems that they are not happy with the current method for getting in and out of a sportscar – low rooflines, wide sills, currently it’s a bit of a kafuffle. Their solution’s the old raising-roof clamshell, where the top of the cabin moves up and forward allowing entrance with ease – just step on in. Not exactly new, but brilliantly executed, with bits moving here and there in order to get themselves the most out of the way, and functioning so well it was easy to imagine it as production reality. Lowe suggests this unlikely anytime soon – simply on the basis that given current technology it would be too easy for critics to say the system was good enough – but is obviously immensely proud of the finished result, and hopes to see it explored as an option for the future. Aero Xcellent…

Speaking of concept cars and Xs, Mitsubishi rolled out their Concept X design study for the next generation Evo. Since everyone was paying attention to the model reclining full length in their other concept – the EZ, which appears to be some kind of VW Microbus for the Judge-Dread generation… – at the time I had no trouble clambering all over this beautiful monster. Easily my second pick for concepts (third would actually be the EZ, it was immensely cool looking for something the shape of a housebrick) this is also packed full of cute details. Rocking carbon-fibre for the roof, an interior with buckets all round, screens in the seatbacks, enough metal to blind a hip-hop artist, and a cylinder in the back that was either NOS or a fire extinguisher, externally the Evo-X kind of looks like a shark that someone lopped the tail off and stuffed full of steroids before jamming on some wheels. Phat with a spelling I’ve never used before. It also had this funky bracing like a flattened rollcage, including a central spar reminding me of the GTR concept that Nissan showed a while back. Want one.

Other concepts that stood out for me: the 207 RCup, a badass Peugeot hot-hatch concept that’s probably too extreme to be feasible; the Honda Civic Type R Concept, which was exactly what it says on the tin, and very…yellow – as many have commented already, what happened to Championship White? Honda also showed the FCX hydrogen fuelcell vehicle – pretty; the Rinspeed zaZen natural gas Porsche, although it stood out for being garish, rather than great – Swarovski crystals in the tail-lights, etc, etc – but I like the fact it looks a little like an origami 959 with a jetfighter canopy stuck on top; hidden in the hospitality suite, Lamborghini’s new Miura was worth seeing, if only to wonder why; Aston Martin showed the Rapide – was very amusing watching an adult man fitting himself into the back seat, when he closed the door he was practically sat with his head between his knees; and finally, the Geneva Mini Traveller concept, which was all Red Cross for cars – a mechanic’s van with old Lucas paraphernalia and a press pack cartoon of it as a race-car support vehicle towing an original. Too cute.

Alright, back to reality. Of a sort. Seriously, if you were me, what sort of cars would you be looking at Geneva. I mean, I could have done the whole press conference thing, but…well, that can wait until I ever get a career doing this. More to the point, given that almost all of the unveilings had already been previewed on the internet and so, this sort of show is now more of a public than a press event – so you could say I doing what most people would do. However, as it happens, I did kick off the day with Mercedes at 8am – Smart revealing a more hardcore Brabus ForFour first, then onto the AMG show that was the MercB conference proper – caught GM and made a deliberate effort to attend Lamborghini, but aside from that it was an exercise in avoiding the crowds rather than being devoured by them. So, let’s talk performance cars, shall we…

Actually, AMG came close to having the best car there as far as I’m concerned. But perhaps tellingly – given the repetitive nature of the German horsepower one-upmanship parade – this was the 1971 Spa race-winning 300SEL 6.3 V8, complete with an engine note that could fell trees and obviously fresh from some well-deserved TLC, the smell of unburnt fuel it left in the air was almost worth the price of the plane ticket on its own. Absolutely fantastic looking thing, all bug-eyed with spotlights, bright-red paint, and resplendent with the full leather interior it was still wearing in spite of the rollcage. I resisted the temptation to ask when this new model was going to be on sale.

Total favourite, however, has to be the Koenigsegg CCX. Koenigsegg still hold the official record for world’s fastest road car with the CCR – as the Veyron hasn’t been tested yet; they had a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records on their stand. The CCX aims to go even faster, and meet US type-approval. A fabulous piece of engineering at apparently any cost, it even features carbon fibre wheel rims – a world first on a road car, and helping give it the lowest unsprung weight of any current supercar, so they claim. [Jalopnik has the full press release online here.]

The carbon fibre was being let loose all over the place – but king of the weave was undoubtedly Pagani, showing the Zonda F ragtop in bare carbon finish. Evo this month reports that’s a £28,000 option, but up-close you can see why: the finish is perfect. Getting it all to line up that way must take a special sort of effort, so no-wonder it commands a special sort of price. Beautiful interior, as ever with Pagani.

It’s amusing that following an entirely scientific poll conducted on what I’ve seen so far online, most people did what we did and completely avoided the Ferrari stand when trying to get a picture of the new 599. It was much easier to get a photo and a close-up on the Pininfarina stand, where they had one finished in a far more tasteful shade of Ferrari red than the ruby metallic over by the rest of the prancing horse collection. Thoughts on the rest of the car? Well, it’s big. Styling is much what you’d expect from a modern Fezza, although certainly an improvement on the 612 (and anyone who says the 599 looks better in the metal obviously hasn’t seen the photography in – again – Evo, where they’ve more than done it justice with some spectacular shots). Ferrari’s these days aren’t really my thing – but I suppose that I may change if I ever get to drive one.

Lamborghini, Porsche, BMW and Audi – the other big names showing big performance were notable for different reasons. Lamborghini created the biggest maul when they whipped the covers off the LP640 Murcielago; the desk for the press kits was uncomfortably close to the car – it’s a wonder no-one died in the crush. The 640 looks like a batmobile finished in that curious shade of gloss primer grey, a colour choice which suggests they wanted people to concentrate on the performance rather than the flamboyance. It was nice enough – the rear lamps, for example, have this Lotus Cortina triangled circle thing going on which will look amazing in operation I think – but perhaps due to that colour it seemed as subtle a weapon as a mace, too much the brute to be cool. And the damn thing is so big; I’d be asking them if they could fit that new 6.5 lump into a Gallardo.

But at least I noticed – which is more than I can say for Porsche. They had the new 911 Turbo there, which is so crammed full of wicked technology (variable geometry turbo – great fun) that if they manage to crowbar anything else in the average arch-villain won’t need a secret hide-out anymore, he’ll just buy one of these. However, the main show car was in a shade of silver that did nothing for it, and everyone’s a little taken aback by those Wolverine wheels. More problematic, I must have walked past the Cayman (again, unfortunate colour choice of a rather weedy yellow) half a dozen times before I even noticed it was there. It just looks like a 911 that’s been a bit ill. What’s the point? Apparently they had the new 911 GT3 there as well, but oops, somehow I missed it. Hmmm.

BMW’s new breadvan, the Z4 M Coupe, look more like the previous M Coupe than I expected – on the basis that it is muscular and awkward. The M cars seems to be having problems with their alloys at the moment, too; like the M6, the M Coupe looks a little let down by the wheel design. Audi was weirdly all about the new A6 Allroad, which sort of gave the impression they couldn’t bothered. The RS4s were all there, though, including the new cabriolet; this is the thing that Audi does better than any other manufacturer, badassifying their cooking models, and the drop-top is no exception. More strangeness in the propeller/turbine theme running through their display – no-one seemed to know what this was about, including the official Audi people we asked. If anyone’s got an explanation I’d be glad to hear it. They did also have a block of ice with a Quattro logo imbedded in it, if that helps…?

Quick mention for Gumpert, who were hiding in the basement (amongst the accessory vendors) with their Apollo. I wouldn’t like to say for sure but I’m guessing they’re a little strapped for cash, given the (presumably, and in comparison) cheap stand, and the press material on plain hand-titled CDRs. The car, complete with acidic orange finish, seems to be further along now, with a really nicely finished interior and door openings cut further into the roof to improve access. Glad to see it there – the flying fist of current supercars. Less of a mention for Lotus, who’s new Europa is, erm, well, it’s an Elise beaten with an ugly stick.

I’m going to end with Alfa Romeo. A lot of people seem to be having an orgasm over the Spider. That’s their prerogative. I can’t quite figure out why, but Alfa’s styling isn’t hitting the spot for me at the moment – it’s a little slab sided and squinty, or maybe I’m just awkward. Oh well.

Those were the best bits of Geneva for me as far as the cars themselves were concerned – feel free to ask about anything I haven’t mentioned.


"I Travel at Extreme Speed": The Koenigsegg CCX @ Jalopnik

#14: Let's go retro [internal]

T#19: Can you feel the fibre of my fabric? [internal]

More pictures to follow. Hopefully.

Best laid plans...

Having said that of course, it then transpires that I have three weeks of work experience starting on Monday. In London.

Not sure what this means for site content as yet. We shall see.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Normal service will be resumed

It has been a ridiculously tough last two-three weeks, which is why the post quota has been down and the lameness counter has gone up.

However, the magazine project is now finished and the competing coursework has eased off from its extremes.

Needless to say, a more normal service will be resumed. Just as soon as I've gotten a little rest.

T#19: Can you feel the fibre of my fabric?

"Random" photo posting on the basis that a picture paints a 1000 words.

I had a feeling that this week was going to be all about the carbon...