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by Dr. Iain Corness

The Mercedes star

Read an “interesting” piece in the Bangkok Post the other day, which was a thinly disguised press release from DaimlerChrysler in der Vaterland, purportedly about the origin of the name Mercedes.

As any regular reader of this column would know (since we featured it about 18 months ago), the origin came from the lovely young Mercedes Jellinek, and the Canstatt Daimlers in 1900 were then named Mercedes after her. However, the story went on, in between waffle about the new DaimlerChrysler plants, to bring up the Mercedes star, and I quote “(it) was added in 1909 and according to legend, at the wish of Gottlieb Daimler who saw it rising symbolically above his home and the factory at Deutz.” Well, old Gottlieb certainly had long vision for that one - he died in 1900!

The Post story went on to say that the star was framed in a circle from 1916 and became a bonnet ornament as well in 1921. Please take a gander at the 1921 Mercedes 28/95. No circle. I’m sorry.

However, what was not in the Post’s story was that Mercedes Jellinek’s sister was called Maja, and the Canstatt Daimlers which were known as Mercedes in France and Germany were sold as Maja’s in Austria! Must say I like the name Mercedes better, and so, apparently, did the rest of the world.

The girls’ father, Emile Jellinek, also preferred the name Mercedes, using his daughter’s name as his “nom du course” in motor racing. In the early 1900’s it was fashionable not to use your own name, but to use an assumed name instead. Emile chose Mercedes and so poor old Maja dipped out again.

Assumed names are still used today, but usually for very different reasons. I even raced for the first two years of my racing career as “Ian Gordon” because the car was under hire purchase and my father would have killed me if he’d known I was racing!

That was the past - Now for the future

Read an article in an Aussie motormag this week about the projected future of urban driving, by a young journo, Michael Stahl. Well, relatively young, I used to know his father Max Stahl, Editor of Racing Car News, who even said nice things about “new driver Ian Gordon” in 1965!

But back to the story, using technology already here, Michael predicts that we will all be monitored by GPS to see where we are, where we’re going, and whether we will be permitted to enter CBD air space. Yes, air space. Young Stahl predicts multi-level “road” networks, where we will be assigned our level and through the integrated car phone we will be guided into our proper place.

While all this sounds too ridiculous to be true, as well as GPS etc, Stahl mentions such other things already here as the Volvo infra-red camera device that sets the driving position according to the position of your eyes and the car phone that automatically calls for help after an accident. There is also the Ford “RescueCar” which FoMoCo has apparently previewed, being a tiny camera in the rear view mirror that will transmit an in-car photo so that the rescue services can see how you are doing (and who you were doing it with)!

What really prompted me to think about Stahl’s concepts was the current proposal being put forward to the FIA boffins that when the cautionary yellow flag is displayed during a race, there will be an electronic signal sent out to over-ride the throttle in the race cars and automatically slow all the vehicles down to a control speed.

Now this may sound half alright in theory, because as we all know (especially anyone who has ever raced) when the yellow is displayed it means you lift off for half a nano-second, in a sedan turn on the tail lights (so it looks as if the brake lights are on) and press on trying to catch up with the guy in front who may actually have slowed (if you’re lucky). So the concept sounds truly equitable.

But it ain’t. It’s downright dangerous. Imagine you are on the limit half way through the preceding corner, and suddenly the Clerk of Course hits the Yellow button and you’re on half power! You fall off the road - instantly!

I’m sorry, in the ultimate arena of man and machine, for gawdsake, let’s see what the “man” can do. After all, we pay them enough to show off their talents. The 30 million USD that Mrs Schumacher’s eldest boy gets is no pittance after all.

When you think about it, probably go-karts are the only remaining finest test. There’s no electronics, no traction control, no fly-by-wire throttles. There’s an engine, drive chain and brakes - and a controller called the driver. I think I’ll go and talk to Andy Scheidegger at Pattaya Kart Speedway about running a round of the world championship. The best man really will win!

GM Isuzus

As hinted at by one of the head sherrangs during the official Grand Opening of the GeeEmm plant in the Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate, the Zafira production plant is gearing up to produce some Isuzu models. Nothing official yet - but you read it here first. The General is not here to play and is definitely getting serious about its market share, believe me. FoMoCo should get the binoculars out and look across to the next paddock at the ESIE.

Automania Quiz

Last week I asked what did Augustus Cesare Bertelli and Sir Arthur Sutherland, Bt., K.B.E. have in common? The answer was Aston Martin, where Bertelli was a designer and director of the company in the early 30’s and Sir Arthur, gawdblessim, bailed the company out of debt and installed his son as co-director with Bertelli.

So to this week’s autotrivia. Look at the photo with this section this week. What is this car? Clue - this was a project car designed and built by the house of Bertone. Some more clues? Its upholstery was silver and the overall theme was hexagons. The seats were all hexagonal both back and squab, the rear window was made up of hexagonal sections. It was a true four seater, with access to the rear seats through the huge gull wing glass doors. So that’s enough. What was it called and what year was it?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to fax 427 596 or email [email protected]

Dirty doings

My old mate, Captain Sitthichoke has sent over some details on his next fully escorted off road tour. Called the Thailand and Malaysian Rain Forest Expedition, it kicks off on the 7th of February, going via Had Yai and then on into Malaysia and returns to Thailand on the 11th.

It costs 10,000 baht per car, with a maximum of 3 people on board, with extra members 2,500 baht and children under 5 years old are free. This includes two nights hotel accommodation with breakfast at Had Yai and Penang, plus the expedition leader and sweeper car assistances, officials and all the paper warfare at the borders being taken care of.

This looks very cheap for what you get, and Capt. Sitthichoke is very experienced at this type of event. Places on this will close very soon and the number of cars is limited. If you are interested, give him a ring today - (038) 431 672 or 01 - 865 5878.

The vehicle needs to be fully serviced and fitted with winching kit and recovery strap, plus all the usual off road necessities, but Capt. Sitthichoke will advise you on everything required. If you want to go - ring now! Tell him the Doc sent you.

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