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by Dr. Iain Corness

The Bangkok International Motor Show

It’s on again, brighter, bigger and better than ever they tell me. The Grand Prix International group who masterminded this automotive extravaganza has just sent me some preliminary details. Press Day is on the 30th of this month (and yours truly is on the official guest list), with the Official Opening being held on Saturday the 31st. The show will run through to the 8th of April, opening each weekday at noon (11 a.m. on weekends and holidays) and closing at 10 p.m.

It is being held once again at BITEC, which is good news for the Pattaya folk, as it is situated at Bangna at Km marker 1, and we don’t have to drive through Bangers to get there. Over 130 companies will have their wares on display, with big expositions from DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, General Motors, Ford and BMW. Mitsubishi, Volvo, Mazda, Isuzu, Jaguar, Ferrari and Thai Rung will also have one marque stands, while Kia, Skoda, Seat and Citroen are combined; as are Alfa-Romeo, Fiat and Hyundai; as well as Audi, VW, Rolls-Royce and Peugeot.

In addition to the manufacturers and distributors, there are the usual accessories, including one hall just crammed full of the sound system jockeys. You should be able to find your way to Hall 2 by ear with Clarion, Sony, Pioneer, JVC, Alpine, Kenwood and Nakamichi all winding up their tweeters and woofers!

There is another separate section for motorcycles which will include the majors: Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha. I believe the cute little electro bikes are going to be there too. I mentioned these Ecolux cycles last year, and they make so much sense. I’ll see if I can do a track test on one while I’m up there!

The whole show is truly a glittering spectacle, and our Thai offering is well deserving of the “International” title it has been awarded - now recognised world-wide as an important exposition in Asia.

The Amari Orchid Motor Show

Have you ever noticed the car shows that bob round town? There’s been some at Big C recently, but the very latest was a display of the new Benzes from DaimlerChrysler at the Amari Orchid Resort. The German Ambassador was there for a function, sponsored by DaimlerChrysler, so what better way of using the evening than to display the cars. They had an S280 along with a C200 Kompressor and an E200 there, but I’d have the C200. Great car! They did have a Chrysler Jeep with the 4.7 litre V8, but I’d still rather have a Benz. Wouldn’t you?

Automania Quiz

Last week I mentioned the four enthusiastic British brothers who founded a new sports car marque in the UK. Their names were Bob, Ivor, Trevor and Douglas, and I asked what was the name of the marque? The answer was Ginetta. The Walklett brothers began with the G2 kit car in 1958, which led on to a string of very successful club cars. The whole thing died around 1973 with the G15, after the British government imposed VAT, successfully killing the kit car concept.

A couple of weeks ago I asked about the TR3B and I finally got the definitive answer from Mac Thompson in Bangkok, who wrote, “The TR3B is a rare and interesting car produced in very limited numbers due to a major panic back at Triumph in 1962. The new TR4 was not the instant success that was predicted, and fears gripped the management that the design was too radical. The TR4 after all, had added ‘soft’ luxuries such as wind up windows to compliment the more modern styling. The result was that the TR3 was hastily reintroduced, but given the ‘B’ designation. The car then inherited some of the running gear of the TR4, such as the all synchro gearbox and Laycock overdrive. Eventually, of course the TR4 took hold, and the last of the side screened cars became history!”

Nice one Mac, and you certainly earned your beer with that research. Drop by when you’re next in Pattaya.

So to this week, and it’s an easy one. Mr. Bean CBE drove a particular brand of motor car. What was it? For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to fax 427 596 or email [email protected]

Schumi’s Helmet

Some of you may have picked up on the fact that Michael Schumacher was involved in a court case last month over the brand of helmet that he wears. In motor sport, like in many pro sports these days, you can sign up with a manufacturer for them to supply you with their gear and if you’re a really big star like the World Champ, then they give you a sack of gold as well. Apparently Bell Helmets had the contract with Schumi, but Michael had become enamoured of another - a German made Schuberth. End result was that Bell slapped a Breach of Promise suit on Michael and much money has been changing hands ever since. He put on a great song and dance about the helmet he used in the race in Melbourne apparently giving him problems as it was letting too much air into the helmet under the visor, so let’s see what brand he wears for the rest of the year!

The alternative helmet is said to be much lighter than the Bell, which is always a big plus in motor sport. Remember the slogan that Bell used 30 years ago? It went “If you think you’ve got a $10 head, then use a $10 helmet.” Certainly got the message across. In Schumi’s case it is more like “If you’ve got a $2 million head...”

Vauxhall Astra

Our Down Under correspondent, John Weinthal, has just returned from the UK where he tested, amongst other vehicles, the latest Vauxhall Astra. There could just be a slight chance that we could get this Opel origin vehicle here, but don’t hold your breath. Here are the Words from Weinthal.

“I’ve had the great good fortune to drive a rather special, yet still everyman’s car, over the past three weeks. If you were living in the UK, the choices and priorities are different. Suddenly fuel economy emerges as a major factor - at 78 pence a litre its about two and a half times what we reckon is too much in Australia.

“But even there you can still have a car which is different by virtue of its style and performance with more than fair economy. In fact there are many choices there, but for me it was a brand new 2.2 litre Vauxhall Astra Coupe. We probably won’t see this sleeker Astra in Australia either, which is a pity. Holden dealers could do good things with it.

“This Astra coupe is made for General Motors, mainly as an Opel, by super-stylist and limited volume manufacturer Bertone in Italy - although the test car was badged as a Vauxhall for Britain.

“The 108 kW non-turbo Astra appeals as a distinctly Eurostyle full four-seater with a very useful boot. Natural competitors would include the Honda Integra, Toyota Celica, Ford Cougar and the value-packed Hyundai Coupe.

“These cars pander to the sybarite in all of us. The Astra had air-con, power windows and mirrors, remote central locking, ABS brakes, air bags and a decent sound system. The Vauxhall’s sharp chassis ensures precise handling and excellent ride.

“The Vauxhall had some shortcomings, coming without remote opening for the boot and petrol filler. It’s also a bit lame to give up 80 percent of the glove-box to a CD changer, especially when the car is not over-endowed with oddments pockets and bins anyway.

“Australia could do a lot worse than introduce the Astra Coupe, or - even better - the fabulous looking Astra convertible. This was also styled by Bertone and launched at the Geneva Motor Show.

“It was a fun few weeks overseas, not least for the contrasts in motoring in such vastly different conditions - the crowding of London versus almost car-free Brisbane Australia; and the positive driving of London and the drowsy dim-witted Brisbane version.”

Hopefully John will be back in Thailand for the Bangkok International Motor Show where he will renew contact with the local manufacturers on the Eastern Seaboard.

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