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by Dr. Iain Corness

Cross Dressing?

The Buzzword in the auto world these last 12 months is “crossover” vehicles. A couple of years ago it was the SUV (sports utility vehicles) then BMW came out with an SAV (sports activity vehicle), but now it’s the crossover.

These crossover vehicles should not be confused with transport used by Women of the 2nd Category to cross Beach Road in the late evenings, but are supposed to be cars which can run about on the dirt, without necessarily being dedicated 4x4’s, carry plenty of gear like a station wagon, yet carry passengers in comfort on the black-top.

Included in this group are such things as the Volvo V70, the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Subaru Liberty Outback, the retro looking Chrysler PT Cruiser, Ford Focus, Toyota Rav-4, and the Honda CR-V.

Latest to join this lot from GM is the Pontiac Vibe, which as you can see from the photo, is a fairly funky looking 4 passenger door small people mover cum off-roader. Actually, I quite like the look of it.

Pontiac says this about its Vibe: “Uniquely combined, Vibe defies the traditional vehicle classification. It offers a spacious interior in the disguise of a compact car, and features of a sports car, sport wagon and SUV all at the same time. It rides tall, has available all-wheel-drive, offers unexpected storage systems and cargo-hauling capacity, and features a surprising level of performance.”

I think “uniquely combined” is stretching the friendship a tad, but there is no doubt about the fact that this is a neat looking motorcar. The engine is a 1.8-liter, 130 BHP, 16-valve, four-cylinder with 125 lb-ft (170 Nm) of torque mated to a four-speed automatic. I would not be surprised to find that the engine has Opel origins as our local Zafira’s, and could even share a common platform with other GM products.

The word is that the Vibe is not a concept car; but is ready for production in the California NUMMI plant, which GM shares with Toyota. Another interesting marriage of convenience, no doubt.

At last?
The successor to the E type Jag

The F type Jaguar concept has been shown at Detroit, and FoMoCo, which now owns the illustrious once all-British marque, has said that they are ready to go into production of the car.

As you can see by the photograph, it resembles the XK8 in frontal treatment, with the addition of a chin ‘splitter’, but the “hippy” rear wheel arches are definitely reminiscent of the long departed E type.

It is expected that the go-power will be supplied by one of the Ford sourced V6’s they have available, and I would not be surprised to find a huffer and puffer hanging off the side of it either. When the original E type came out it just blew everyone away with its performance, so expect the F type to be similarly a mind blower.

Ford are saying that the F-Type roadster will not be built on an existing platform, thus avoiding criticism from those traditionalists upset at the thought of sharing with a Ford product. The word is that the platform will also be used for a new Aston-Martin (also owned by FoMoCo these days), a thought that should disturb no one.

Ford have put a huge bagful of money on the table to support their F1 Jaguar team, with Bobby Rahal head-hunted from CART plus other engineers, designers, etc., and undoubtedly it is expected that a revamped Jaguar F1 presence will help add some mystique and flavour to the new F type. However, if the Jaguar F1 is as reliable as the year 2000 model expect heads to roll. Ford will want the F type to be a success riding piggy-back on the success of the F1 programme, not a lemon like the XJ6 series one.

Automania Quiz

Last week I asked what was this car? Clues included being 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. It was the 1967 Lamborghini Marzal.

The Marzal was the forerunner of the Lamborghini Espada, another great looking vehicle which was unfortunately damned by abysmal engineering design and lack of build quality. It was eventually said by many people that all Espada’s should have been fitted with a tow hook at the front to get it home, and a tow bar and trailer at the rear to put all the bits in that fell off during the journey. To change the spark plugs in the all alloy V12 took one day. You had to first take off the air cleaners from the 6 double choke Weber carburettors, then take the carbs off, then take the inlet manifold off. Having done all that you could then get at the plugs with a ground down plug spanner and then rebuild everything in order. Yes, one day!

So to this week. Think back to when we had the first posthumous world champion - the very talented Jochen Rindt, who died in a practice accident at Monza driving a Lotus. Two other race drivers perished that year too. One was Bruce McLaren who was killed testing one of his Can-Am cars at the Goodwood circuit. Who was the other? I want to know the driver’s name and the car he was driving.

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

Free goodies for Opel Owners

When GM decided to turn the Opel Zafiras into Chevrolets, there were those who thought that the parent manufacturer was deserting the Opel brand in Thailand. Not so, says GM. General Motors, through its Chevrolet dealerships, has a New Year’s offer for Opel owners. Hop in and get a super service for your Opel, with free oil filter change and labour costs, or 50% off engine oil cost and 15% discount on parts. This offer is only until January 31st, so be quick. You will be able to get the 15% parts discount through to March 31st, so keep that in mind too. Opel owners should contact the customer service centres of Chevrolet Sales Thailand on (02) 937 0180, ext. 3.

By the way, there are three new Chevrolet Dealerships in Bangers - Thepnakorn Motor Sales, Detroit Autocenter and Viriyah Auto Sales, so you now have eight to choose from in the capital.

On the way up

Just got the news that young Australian James Courtney has secured a seat at Jaguar in the F3 team. This is the stepping off place for F1 these days, and I hope Courtney makes it. He is a very talented driver and has been a Karting Champion. James drove to a brilliant 1st place in the final round of the British Formula Ford Zetec Championship at Silverstone last year and won the UK Formula Ford championship. In winning the title, James equalled Jenson Button’s record total of six wins in the season. Remember the name. You read it here first!

What next? Chinese BMW’s?

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the head office of BeeEmm is looking at production of their cars in China, with talks being held with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd. It is mooted they want to build the 3-Series car and X-5 Sports Activity Vehicle in China.

The Hong Kong Economic Times stated that Brilliance China Chairman Yang Rong said talks with BMW were progressing well, countering reports in the local press saying discussions had broken off. With VW already in China, BMW does not want to be left behind.

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