by Dr. Iain Corness

Natter Nosh and Noggin

The car (and bike) enthusiasts will be meeting again this Monday night (11th) at Shenanigans Pub at 7 p.m. This is a totally informal meeting of like minded souls which meets on the second Monday of every month to discuss their pet motoring (and motorcycling) loves and hates. It is free to join and I suggest that you bring along magazines or photographs so that the group can get involved in the discussion. Generally we have something to eat while we are there and wash it down with something amber, hence the name, Natter, Nosh and Noggin. Just ask any of the lovely Shenanigans girls where Dr. Iain and the group are and they will point us out and give you a push.

The original Beetle finally turns turtle

After 48 years, Volkswagen de Mexico finally produced the last old-style Beetle on Wednesday, July 30, at its Puebla, Mexico, plant. Approximately 1.7 million classic Beetles were built in Mexico when production ended. The plant will continue to build the New Beetle (coupe and convertible) and Jetta.

They even raced them!

Dr. Porsche’s incredible design concept Beetle has been assembled in 20 countries with worldwide production totalling approximately 21.5 million units. However, one should never imagine that the last Beetle is anything like the first ones. Really, only the concept is the same - rear-engined, air-cooled, swing axle rear and torsion bar front. The process of development over the years has made the last Beetle a motorcar you could still live with today (just), while the original 1200 cc job would be a veritable museum piece on today’s roads.

Mitsubishi Outlander - AKA Airtrek

The Airtrek was displayed by Mitsubishi at the Bangkok International Motor Show this year. Our Down-under correspondent John Weinthal, has tested the Oz variant, known as the Outlander, and has come away with mixed feelings. Here are the Words from Weinthal.

Mitsubishi Outlander

“My first day in the Mitsubishi Outlander raised two questions. One concerned the front styling - we can come back to that in a moment. The second was rather more important. I wondered whether we need yet more choices in the increasingly popular light four-wheel-drive market.

“The Outlander replaces the effective but unpopular mini-Pajero - the oddly-named iO.

“Outlander is a latecomer, so we have to ask if it has the goods to woo buyers from current class standouts like the Nissan Xtrail, Subaru Forester, Toyota’s youthful RAV4, Honda CRV, Suzuki Grand Vitara and Hyundai Santa Fe.

Mitsubishi Airtrek

“The answer lies partly in the fact that this is a burgeoning market. Sales continue to rocket ahead at the expense of the larger four-wheel-drives and conventional station wagons in particular.

“Mitsu’s weapon is a five-seat all wheel-drive wagon which comes in two specs costing AUD 32,000 and AUD 37,490, plus the usual dealer and government charges. Both are powered by a 100 kW, belt-driven, single overhead cam, 2.35 litre four cylinder engine. The only transmission is Mitsubishi’s excellent four-speed auto with alternative manual over -ride - Sports Mode in Mitsubishi talk. It is a first class auto.

“The Outlander weighs more than 1550 kg - or one and a half tonnes - so I feel that a manual would improve performance and fuel consumption, while knocking some dollars out of the initial asking price. But no doubt Mitsu knows its potential market better than me and they must reckon that auto is today’s customer choice.

“That said, this Outlander gets off the mark and cruises without hint of its relatively low power and not insubstantial weight. These numbers are more evident in print than in the driving.

“Outlander has a particularly roomy feel for five adults. Luggage space is OK and it can be boosted by folding the rear seats. There are some useful storage spots but the front door pockets are narrow and oddly shaped - almost useless.

“Standard equipment, even on the AUD 32,000 LS model, is more than generous. There are power windows and mirrors plus remote locking of course. There’s air-conditioning, cruise control, a four-speaker stereo radio with CD player, folding centre rear armrest with built in cup-holders and intermittent wipers. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution are optional on this model. They are standard on the XLS, along with such items as a sun roof, roof rails, six speaker sound system, body coloured door handles and similar fripperies.

“On road, the Outlander is brisk enough. It has an unexpectedly quiet and smooth, even soothing, ride. One also soon appreciates the supportive and multi-adjustable driver’s seat. Even its thirst was less than one might expect.

“Thus, we come to Outlander’s main distinguishing feature - apart from the excellent auto with its change-lever mounted on the fascia which allows squeezy walk-thru from left to right and further enhances the roomy appearance.

“Frankly, nobody liked the front styling. The bull nose did not grow on me over a week - I grimaced, but was inclined to agree, as humorists suggested more apt names might be Outlandish or Outrageous.

“One can only wonder what the Mitsu Australia people were on when they chose this US-inspired nose over the handsome face of the Asian versions which I saw at the Bangkok Motor Show and in Malaysia recently. They say this will become the new look for all Mitsubishis - I wonder if there is a rethink going on. One can but hope so. At least they dropped the name Airtrek with which this thoroughly competent, well equipped, quiet and comfortable newcomer is saddled across Asia!

“Sadly, so far we also do not get the high performance Evo model I saw while abroad -drop-dead handsome with reported performance and handling to match. Let us hope Mitsu will look to this one for our future - but, please, stick with the original Japanese styling. It’s looked terrific on the streets.

“Meantime - does the world need another all-while drive five-seat, occasional off-roader? If we do then the Outlander is a more than worthy contender. (Thank you John, Dr. Iain.)

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what sports-racing cars was actually built at the Nurburgring Circuit in Germany? Clue - the years were 1950-53. The answer was the Veritas built by Ernst Loof. The first ones had pre-war BMW 328 six cylinder engines, with a tubular frame and alloy panels. In 1950 they began to use engines supplied and built by Heinkel, better known for its aviation products. This was a single overhead cam 2 litre engine, developing up to 140 BHP and mated to a five speed gearbox.

So to this week. I am looking for what clever race car manufacturer decided that instead of a tube frame chassis, he would be able to build a lighter machine by using monocoque construction. This was done using plywood and sheet metal to build the monocoque, and the cars were very aerodynamic, looking like a rear facing aerofoil. What was this car, the first monocoque in racing?

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

Good luck!

Mayhem at Bira!

The last AIM Motorsports promoted meeting at the Bira Circuit was one that kept the Clerk-of-Course very busy. The GP at Silverstone may have had the de-frocked Irish priest running down the track in his green BVD’s, but the Bira Circuit had one driver who blew up on the main straight, dropping oil everywhere and stopped on track, unbuckling himself, putting the car into neutral and legging it to safety. However, as well as leaving the car in the middle of the track, he did not put the handbrake on, and the circuit being downhill at that point it happily rolled into the following corner. All that could be done was for the C-of-C to bring out the red flag and halt the race, when all that should have happened was for the driver to pull off the circuit and the race would have continued unchecked.

If that was not enough, during the Group N + C race it became necessary for the Safety Car to be brought out. When this occurs, every flag point displays the yellow caution flag (which means that no passing is allowed), as well as the SC board being shown at the start-finish line. Unfortunately the novice race drivers were all suffering from a bad attack of the “red mist” and kept on racing, finally catching up with the Safety Car, suddenly realising they had to slow down. Not only did one slow down, but he also decided to stop on the grid! Luckily the massed field that followed all managed to miss him! After the race there were a few drivers in front of the Stewards for a “Please Explain”.

Bira Results:
Touring Cars Group A
1. Apatron, Pola Pola Racing Team, Honda.
2. Nattavut, Toyota Team Thailand, Toyota Altis
3. Hatai, D2 Racing Sport, Honda.
Sport Challenge
1. Gilles (France)
2. Kittipong (Thailand)
3. Oliver (Switzerland)

Sport Grand Champion
1. Sant, Singha Soda PTT Racing Team
2. Piti, Singha Havoline Racing Team
3. Chayanin, Singha Havoline Racing Team

Volkswagen Golf MK V growing up (and out)

This is the first official photograph of Volkswagen’s fifth-generation Golf due early next year. It is longer, wider and higher than the current model. VW hopes the new Golf will regain the title of Europe’s top selling new car. The current VW Golf is ranked in third position in Europe, with Renault’s Megane top of the heap. The Golf has followed the trend shown by all manufacturers, where the models just keep on getting larger - like human beings, I suppose!

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