Dr. Iain Corness

Thursday, 29 January 2015 11:04

Alfa Romeo brings out a stunner in the 4C

Alfa Romeo will be releasing the new 4C this year. If you were quick enough, a special Launch Edition - limited to 1300 worldwide - will be available, featuring a host of mechanical and exterior extras and priced at (I guess) 5 million baht.

The 4C is simply stunning in the ‘looks’ department, and is much smaller than you imagine.

Power comes from the all-new turbocharged 1.7 liter four-cylinder gasoline engine is backed by Alfa’s own TCT (twin-clutch transmission). No manual gearbox option exists here or overseas for the 1025 kg 4C. It also features RWD.

 Alfa Romeo 4C. Alfa Romeo 4C.

The direct injection-equipped, all-alloy motor that the 4C shares with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV developing 177 kW at 6000 rpm and 350 Nm at 2200 rpm, giving the 4C a zero to 100 km/h time of 4.5 seconds.

It has alloy front and rear sub-frames attached to the composite tub, composite body panels and the alloy engine to keep the weight down.

Front suspension is double-wishbone with MacPherson struts in the rear, and an electronically controlled rear diff between the rear wheels. Conversely, there is no power assistance of any sort at the steering wheel. The brakes are Brembo steel items.

The driver can select one of four driving modes via Alfa’s DNA switch, mounted on the center console - All-weather, Natural, Dynamic and Race - which will change throttle, diff and transmission maps accordingly.

There is also a launch control function built into both Dynamic and Race modes, while the latter setting completely turns off both stability and traction control.

The wheel sizes are not the same all-round, with 17 inch fronts (with 205/45/ZR 17) and 18 inch rears (with 235/40ZR 18), all tyres being Pirelli P-Zeros.

Minimalism dominates the cabin with sports bucket seats, leather-wrapped, flat-bottomed steering wheel devoid of controls other than a pair of paddle shifts.

Luggage is just a little more than a change of underwear and a toothbrush with 110 liters in the rear, but no storage is available up front.

The more expensive Launch Edition will come equipped with a host of interior and exterior upgrades, including upsized rims in matte black, uprated dampers and sway bars, a muffler-less exhaust, sports seats, carbon interior trim, Bi-LED headlights, a carbon rear wing and carbon mirror caps.

Alfa Romeo global CEO Harald Wester highlighted the racing heritage of the brand in developing the 4C. “With its technological solutions derived directly from Formula 1, the Alfa Romeo 4C creates a fusion of body and machine, an extension of its driver’s soul that is ready, capable and willing to respond and deliver,” he said. (All wonderful PR-speak, considering Alfa Romeo has not been involved with F1 since 1988. Hopefully the 4C is not using 27 year old F1 technology!)

The 4C will be built in the Maserati factory in Modena, Italy.

Thursday, 29 January 2015 10:59

Autotrivia

Last week I wrote about a car preserved in the Turin Automobile museum, which was built for the Monaco GP of 1935. It had an eight cylinder radial two stroke engine and front wheel drive. I asked what was this car? It was the Monaco-Trossi.

So to this week. I am very French. Manufactured in the early 1950’s. Killed by the French government taxing big cars. What am I?

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Quiz carQuiz car

Wednesday, 28 January 2015 14:47

Living longer with EPS?

Back in the good old days when oils came out of the ground, and not manufactured in a research lab, there was a type of lubricant called “EP”.  That acronym stood for “extra pressure” but has nothing to do with the medical EPS acronym, which stands for ElectroPhysiolgic Study.  Of course, one of the great problems with acronyms, is that the letters can stand for all sorts of other things, such as in this case “Earnings Per Share” (currently a doubtful entity with Wall Street still tottering) or even more esoteric, “Elizabeth’s Percentage System, a mathematical formula developed by Elizabeth Zimmermann to determine how many stitches to cast on for a sweater” - but who knits sweaters these days?

Medical EPS is a relatively new diagnostic procedure in which we can see just how well the electrical side of your heart is working.  Just the same way as your engine needs a correctly timed electrical spark to each cylinder, your heart chambers need a correctly timed electrical impulse to make them contract at the right time (the rhythm or heart beat).

When the electrics start malfunctioning, the heart will also malfunction.  Disturbances of normal heart rhythm may only cause annoying symptoms (palpitations, lightheadedness, dizziness) that pose no serious threat to life.  Other rhythm disturbances, however, can be associated with dangerous risks (loss of consciousness, seizures, stroke or cardiac arrest).  These varying symptoms can occur when the heartbeat is seriously slowed, dangerously rapid, or just highly irregular.  Heart rhythm disorders can be part of almost any type of heart disease, and can be provoked by various medications or electrolyte abnormalities, but can also occur in the absence of readily identifiable underlying heart problems.  These disorders are called ‘arrhythmias’.

Some arrhythmias can occur without symptoms and may only be picked up during an ECG (electrocardiogram), but the simple ECG will not pinpoint the electrical breakdown, only indicate that there is a malfunction somewhere.

An ElectroPhysiologic Study (EPS) is one of a number of tests of the electrical conduction system of the heart performed by a cardiac electrophysiologist, a specialist in the electrical conduction system of the heart.

The EPS should pinpoint the location of a known arrhythmia and determine the best therapy, determine the severity of the arrhythmia and whether you are at risk for future life threatening heart events, especially sudden cardiac death, and can also check the efficacy of medications being used to regulate heart rhythm, and evaluate the need for a permanent pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD).

The way the EPS is done is where modern medical technology is used.  Just as when an electrician tests the conductivity of a wire with a testing light, to test the heart’s electrical system, several thin, flexible, electrical catheters (fancy wires each about the thickness of a strand of spaghetti) must be inserted into various parts of the heart, to test the electrical pulses.

To provide maximal sterility of the catheters being inserted, the introduction sites are thoroughly cleansed.  Most catheters are inserted via needle punctures through the anesthetized skin, making cutting and stitching unnecessary.  Once the catheters are carefully positioned inside the heart, the electrophysiologist uses computer equipment, making recordings of the heart’s intrinsic electrical properties.  Occasionally, electrical stimuli are administered to the heart by the conductive catheters, to check its response.

The catheters enter the heart via the right atrium, which is the low pressure side of the heart.  The advantage of this is that the right atrium is where the electrical generator (the SA node) is located.  The right atrium is also the location of most of the common re-entrant pathways associated with atrial flutter.  If a catheter is placed with the distal tip in the right ventricle, it may be possible to measure conduction through the central electrical tissue bundle, which is useful to determine the level of heart block (where the atria and the ventricles beat independently.  If the catheter is placed in the coronary sinus, it is also possible to measure electrical activity in both the left atrium and the left ventricle without entering the high pressure arterial system associated with the left side of the heart.

EPS can save your life.

Thursday, 22 January 2015 13:24

Mazda MX-5 World Series race car

Mazda has already announced the new MX-5 Cup one-make race series events that will be launched globally in 2016, but this was the first time we’d seen the fully painted race version sitting on slick race rubber.

It is based on the US-spec Cup Car with six-point roll cage, with adjustable suspension, slick tyres, bigger brakes, race harness and seats.

There is an annual four-hour MX-5 Media Race at Japan’s Tsukuba Circuit in September this year with 25 examples of the coupe take to the 2 km long track. (Perhaps I should let Mazda know I am available!)

The US-spec car will incorporate a 2.0 liter engine, the Japanese version will get the 1.5 liter SKYACTIV engine that will be offered on the Japan-spec production model, which is due to be in the showrooms in June this year.

Thursday, 22 January 2015 13:23

New cars revealed in Tokyo, too

Mitsubishi used the 2015 Tokyo auto salon to reveal its most powerful Evo yet, the Evolution 10 Final Concept.

Mitsubishi have apparently called it quits with the Evo 10 to be the last of the popular Evo series, so no Evo 11 to look forward to. However, rather than say there actually will be an Evo 11, they have called this latest iteration the Evolution 10 Final Concept.

Incorporating a retuned ECU and new HKS turbo churning out 353 kW, this is the most powerful Evo yet.

The Final Concept Evo is based on a five-speed GSR and generates 135 kW more power than the GSR, with an upgraded cooling system (larger air intakes and intercoolers) designed to improve thermal dynamics. A new exhaust, adjustable suspension from HKS and 19-inch Rays forged wheels are also added.

Currently it will have a 6 speed auto transmission, but after March this year it can be ordered with a 6 speed manual box.

Thursday, 22 January 2015 13:20

Honda’s hybrid-Mugen combo

Honda focused heavily on combining its best technologies in a range of hybrid-powered Mugen-tuned production cars. With the Mugen Legend large car leading the way boasting an original Mugen carbon fiber spoiler and rear wing and 20 inch wheels, Honda has also added ‘hybrid’ to other Japanese models to create the Mugen Grace (sold here as the Honda City), Mugen HR-V, Mugen Fit RS AutoSalon Special and Mugen Jade.

Mugen Grace.

Thursday, 22 January 2015 13:18

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned a famous ‘production’ sports car that had a top speed of 370 km/h with a fuel consumption of 80 L/100 km. With turbocharging it developed more than 1000 BHP. I asked what was it? It was the Porsche 917.

So to this week. There is a car preserved in the Turin Automobile museum, which was built for the Monaco GP of 1935. It had an eight cylinder radial two stroke engine and front wheel drive. What was this car?

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Wednesday, 21 January 2015 15:40

Blood group differences - Thai and Farang

A couple of weeks ago, a call went out to the farang population in Thailand for some Rh negative blood. This happens around three times a year, and each time this stimulates some of our more public spirited foreigners to ask why there is a shortage, and what can be done about it?

The basic problem does come down to some of the many differences between Caucasian races and Asian races, and I’m not talking about cultural differences here. Just as there is a difference in hair types and skin types, there are differences in blood types as well.

The question is often asked as to why the blood collection agencies just don’t stock up on the rarer groups, so there is always some to call upon. Unfortunately it isn’t that easy, as the ‘shelf life’ of blood is only around 30 days.

Blood transfusions and blood banks only came about in the 1930’s with Sergei Yudin of Russia organizing the world’s first blood bank at the Nikolay Sklifosovskiy Institute, which set an example for the establishment of further blood banks in different regions of the Soviet Union and in other countries. By the mid-1930s the Soviet Union had set up a system of at least sixty five large blood centers and more than 500 subsidiary ones, all storing blood and shipping it to all corners of the country.

News of the Soviet experience traveled to the United States, where in 1937 Bernard Fantus, director of therapeutics at the Cook County Hospital in Chicago, established the first hospital blood bank in America. In creating a hospital laboratory that preserved and stored donor blood, Fantus coined the term ‘Blood Bank’. Within a few years, hospital and community blood banks were established across the United States and in 1940 Willem Johan Kolff organized the first blood bank in Europe.

With the discovery of blood groups, generally classified by the ABO system (so we are generally either A, B, O or AB) it was soon apparent that there were differences in their distribution in the world. There are many reasons for this, including susceptibility to disease of various blood groups, population drifts, inter-marriage and others. However, the end result is that simplistically the Asian population has a different distribution of ABO groups from the Caucasian population; for example, blood group B is far more predominant in the East than in the West.

When you look at one of the other blood typing systems, the Rhesus grouping into Positive or Negative, even greater disparities become apparent. The Asian population has very little Rhesus Negative (0.3 percent), compared to the Caucasians (15 percent). For interest, 50 percent of Basques are Rhesus Negative, one of the highest in the world.

Recently there has been the discovery of another blood type called the Bombay group. This is a version of O +ve, that was not compatible with the usual O +ve blood. First identified in Mumbai, from which the group derives its name, so far there have been just 179 such cases reported in India. However, even in India, there have been cases where doctors could not find a donor for transfusion of the Bombay group blood that would have been necessary. Even though it has first been identified in Mumbai, the city is now believed to have just 35-40 people with the group.

Consequently, you can see that when there is a need for blood for a number of injured Caucasians in an Asian country, the chances of there being sufficient blood stocks are virtually nil.

If you are a farang resident in Thailand, please have your blood grouped and if you are Rhesus Negative, go on a register at the local Red Cross, or even the nearest large hospital, so that you can be called upon in emergencies.

Currently, post disaster (or ‘between disasters’) there is no desperate shortage, but since blood does not keep ‘forever’ there will be times in the future when we will need Rhesus Negative blood, so don’t spill it in the streets, spill it at the Red Cross!

My hospital has regular donation days in conjunction with the Red Cross, so keep that in mind too.

Thursday, 15 January 2015 11:06

Bucciali TAV

There have been some amazing motor cars over the years, especially from the late 20’s and early 30’s. The Bucciali TAV was a classic example, built along the lines of the Bugatti Royale.

Thursday, 15 January 2015 11:01

A pick-up you won’t get here

The world’s fastest pick-up was released in Australia in 2014. Holden Special Vehicles unveiled the world’s fastest pick-up in September and the first 150 sold out in one day despite a THB 2.7 million price tag.

With even more demand, Holden Special Vehicles then built another 250 versions of the HSV GTS Maloo (including 10 for New Zealand) because some longstanding customers missed out.

HSV GTSHSV GTS

The HSV GTS Maloo is powered by a supercharged 6.2 liter V8 with 430 kW of power and 740 Nm of torque and can do the zero to 100 km/h dash in 4.5 seconds, as fast as a Porsche. It also has the biggest brakes ever fitted to a pick-up anywhere in the world. With that kind of performance, the owners of these ‘super pick-ups’ will need the big brakes.

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