Dr. Iain Corness

Friday, 04 September 2015 10:49

The high cost of recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US has investigated vehicles rolling away in recent years. In 2012, Honda Motor Co. recalled 870,000 SUVs and minivans because they could roll away after the safety agency opened a preliminary investigation. NHTSA also opened an investigation into 120,000 2002-07 BMW 7 Series vehicles over concerns the vehicles may roll away after being parked. In 2012, BMW recalled 45,000 2005-08 7 Series vehicles with the “Comfort Access option.”

Last year, Ford Motor Co. recalled 92,000 vehicles in North America, including 2013-14 models of the Taurus, Flex, Ford Police Interceptor, Lincoln MKS and Lincoln MKT; 2012-14 Ford Edge; and 2014 Lincoln MKX.

Jeep Grand Cherokee.

This year it is Fiat Chrysler looking down the barrel of the gun as some of the Jeep Grand Cherokee models as the NHTSA has opened a formal investigation into roll-away incidents in 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs.

Apparently NHTSA noticed complaints submitted by Jeep owners and identified similar reports contained in early warning documents submitted by Fiat Chrysler.

Reports say the 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee can roll away even after the shifter is put into park. The incidents can happen whether the engine is running or not.

The problem is an electronic one on the 408,000 model year 2014-2015 Grand Cherokees that are equipped with an electronic gear selector similar to the fly-by-wire system.

Old style shift mechanisms were actual, with the lever moving shift levers at the gearbox, but in the models in question, it is a “virtual” system with electronic paddles moving forwards or backwards.

The investigation will determine if the Jeep Grand Cherokees should be recalled or if the investigation should be expanded or closed. Fiat Chrysler has enough problems without a compulsory recall.

Wednesday, 02 September 2015 16:49

Italian GP this weekend

The GP circus moves to Italy, the home of Ferrari and the Tifosi. Spa was a bit of a let-down two weeks ago, so let us hope that Monza will give us some real racing, and hopefully the rest of the fields will be nearer to the Mercedes duo. And with a bit of luck Vettel (formerly known as The Finger) will have got over his paddy.

Wednesday, 02 September 2015 16:47

Audi Q6 e-tron for production

Audi, which has been dabbling with electric car technology for a few years has now indicated it is ready to challenge Tesla at its own game.

Audi’s e-tron concept is confirmed for production – and the manufacturer has unveiled a 512kW ‘RS’ version.

Audi has confirmed it is preparing to go after the hi-so electric-SUV market within three years with its first mass-produced full-electric vehicle.

The Q6 is a four-seat, coupe-style crossover e-tron wagon which will be shown in concept form at the current Frankfurt motor show.

The Q6 e-tron is billed as a close-to-production concept that accurately previews a new crossover aimed squarely at the Tesla Model X. The German car maker has confirmed the Q6 will usher in the design language that will influence all of its upcoming EVs over the next few years. The images published by Auto, Motor, Und Sport don’t show the Q6’s front end, but from the side it appears to borrow more than a few styling cues from recent additions to the Audi lineup like the Q7 and the A4.

Audi Q6 e-tron.

The concept’s rakish D-pillar gives it a slightly less utilitarian look than the Q5, but it’s still nowhere near as sporty - and aggressive-looking - as the BMW X6 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe. It will be built largely out of aluminum in a bid to partially offset the weight added by the bulky battery pack.

Power for the Q6 e-tron will come from an all-electric drivetrain built using components common to the R8 e-tron. Although full details are still being kept under wraps, sources close to Audi have revealed the electric motors will be good for up to 512 kW.

The Q6 will offer a maximum driving range of about 500 kays it is claimed, meaning it will be able to drive further on a single charge than the Model X, at least on paper. Recharging will be through the inductive charging technology, dispensing with cables.

The vehicle reportedly will come in two states of tune: a standard e-tron for everyday driving and a high-performance RS version, called R-tron, with an estimated 512 kW of power in short bursts – not far short of American electric sportscar specialist Tesla’s most powerful model, the Model S P85D that has two motors with combined power of 568 kW.

Audi is calling the vehicle e-tron quattro, meaning it has a form of all-wheel drive that, rather than the traditional driveshaft and differential arrangement, has electric motors on the front and rear axles driving all wheels in what Audi calls ‘electrified quattro’.

This is through having one motor at the front and two at the back in a powertrain drawing on technology pioneered in the rear-wheel-drive Audi R8 e-tron sport scar.

One of their other future cars, the R8, will have only a limited production, while the Q6 e-tron is supposedly scheduled for mass production.

With e-tron, Audi is claiming a world record in aerodynamics for an SUV, with a drag coefficient of 0.25 Cd, thanks to moveable elements at the front and sides, as well as a completely closed underbody.

The moveable elements apparently include an air suspension that lowers the body closer to the road above 80 km/h. At the same time, a rear spoiler and diffuser are deployed, such as the Porsche design for some years.

The German publication Auto Bild says the Korean-supplied lithium-ion battery pack with an energy content of between 90 and 95 kWh will be located between the axles in a drawer arrangement for easy access.

Remembering that this car is an SUV, Audi is claiming a sub-4.0 second 0-100 km/h time and a driving range of “significantly more than 500 km on a single charge”. (That is supercar performance, but is it really necessary in a shopping trolley?)

The R8 e-tron that was shown at the Geneva motor show has 340 kW of power and 920 Nm of torque from its two rear-axle motors, pushing the two-door coupe from zero to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds.

The battery pack of the Q6 SUV concept is expected to weigh about 650 kg, and while the low center of gravity will aid handling, the overall weight of the e-tron will be pushed to almost 2.5 tonnes. The pack will be cooled by air channeled through vents.

Images of the e-tron’s interior show space-age controls based on organic-LED (OLED) screens that apparently delivers 3D images. These represent Audi’s latest take on a modern interior, following similar layouts shown in the company’s Prologue series of concept cars.

It is currently not known where the Q6 will be built, but indications are that it might be built alongside the Q5 at the new Mexican plant.

Wednesday, 02 September 2015 16:33

Local races

There is a meeting at Bira this weekend. Fun picnic races with everything from the roaring Retro’s to amazing pick-ups. We will be there with the TBX Retro Ford Escort Mk 1, the oldest race car in the field, but not the slowest. Racing starts 0830 Saturday and 12 noon Sunday.

TBX EscortTBX Escort

Wednesday, 02 September 2015 16:31

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that a Dutch rally was won three times by someone in 1949, 50 and 52? I asked who was this person? It was the Tulip Rally and the driver was Ken Wharton. Ken Wharton was one of the drivers of the first BRM’s circa 1949-52.

In the rally, he even drove a Ford Anglia (the model before the backwards rear window).

So to this week. Which driver repaired his broken chassis with wood from his hotel furniture, finished 12th with no clutch, no exhaust pipe and only one gear?

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 .

Wharton in the BRM 1952.Wharton in the BRM 1952.

Wednesday, 02 September 2015 16:27

A dangerous distraction for motorists

I am sure you will have seen a few cars running around with a rubber “key” on the back window and smiled as you went on your way. It may then be of interest to know that the powers that be have decided that the rubber key is a dangerous distraction for other motorists and have outlawed it being applied to cars. Dearie, dearie me! Is that the most pressing factor in the road toll? Give me strength! If they really wanted to stop distractions, I think a ban on mini skirts would be much closer to the mark, don’t you? I don’t turn round in my seat to look at rubber keys!

Dangerous distraction.Dangerous distraction.

Wednesday, 02 September 2015 14:58

Can you stop growing old?

My father was only afraid of one thing – growing old. So he didn’t. He died aged 56 of a massive heart attack.

That’s probably just a bit too radical, but there must be a way of slowing down this aging problem.

Fact: we are all getting older. Not wiser nor necessarily richer, just older. However, getting on in years still beats the alternative. Just keep your place reserved in God’s waiting room and you’ll be right.

World-wide the retirement age is creeping up. Even in Thailand’s civil service the retirement age looks like becoming 64. In Australia it is now 67. The world is becoming an old age retirement home!

OK, so we are all living longer, what can we do to get our arthritic hands on the elixir of youth? If you believe the popular press, the answer to aging is multivitamins. Peddling mega-vitamins is a megabuck industry, credited with improving your health, your love life, and fixing everything from falling chins to falling arches.

One trend is to take daily doses of antioxidants such as beta carotene, vitamin A and C or selenium to protect yourself against cancer, heart disease or signs of premature ageing. There is some scientific ‘proof’ that people who have a high level of antioxidants in their diet have a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers. That is why the nutritionists say we should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. However, other studies also seem to suggest that taking those same antioxidants in pill form may not have the same effect and may even be harmful. Who do you believe?

Cancer Research UK says, “These products don’t seem to give the same benefits as vitamins that naturally occur in our food.”

The British Heart Foundation agrees. A spokesman saying, “Research does not support the claim that taking extra antioxidants in the form of supplements will benefit the heart.”

Let us listen to some experts in the field, and not the back of the cereal box. Catherine Collins, chief dietitian at St George’s Hospital in London says, “The whole idea that you must meet some vitamin and mineral target every day of your life is a marketing myth. You can eat lots of fruit and veg one day and not much the next but over a week you will still get the right amount of nutrients. There is very little scientific evidence that there is any benefit whatsoever in taking a daily multivitamin - even in old people. You cannot exist on a poor diet then shore yourself up with a multivitamin. The idea that taking high quantities of vitamins will give you a health boost - like putting premium petrol in your car - is complete nonsense.”

Dr Toni Steer, nutritionist with the British Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research in Cambridge, states supplements cannot compete with real food because when we eat fruits and vegetables the vitamins and nutrients interact with other chemicals to produce positive effects on the body. “If these same vitamins are pulled out and isolated in pill form, there is no guarantee at all that they will have the same effect.”

Another nail in the multivitamin pill coffin came from the US journal of the National Cancer Institute which found that men with prostate cancer who took more than seven multivitamins a week were 30 percent more likely to get an advanced and fatal form of the disease.

The American Medical Association found that people who took antioxidant vitamin tablets (particularly vitamins A and E, and beta-carotene) were more likely to die earlier than those who did not. Oops! That isn’t something you will read on the back of the multivitamin bottle.

Let’s look at the old Vitamin C to ward off the common cold, as proposed many years ago by Linus Pauling. Common claim: one gram doses will ward off or even cure the common cold. Reality check: the human body can absorb only 500 milligrams of vitamin C and will excrete the excess. Vitamin C reduces the average length of a common cold from five days to four and a half – if you are lucky.

Finally, do I take multivitamins? No.

Friday, 28 August 2015 09:23

The Landy’s swansong

Production of the Land Rover Defender will end in October after almost 70 years of continuous construction, with more than 2 million vehicles produced over the years.

Well we learned by the Saturday that Lewis Hamilton was in a class by himself, and we also learned that the FIA are a bunch of numbskulls.

After Qualifying, with Hamilton almost half a second in front of his second placed team mate Nico Rosberg, it reminded me of the way Schumacher could stamp his authority on a race. Half a second is a long way in F1. From pole he just ran away and hid.

However, the FIA, the keeper of the rules of racing, managed to decree that Alonso and Button in the underperforming McLarens were to be penalized 105 grid places for the Sunday. Legislating a 105 grid spots penalty in a 20 grid field is quite silly. This was for changing engines, but this shows that the rule is also silly. Is this beyond the FIA’s collective intelligence? Words fail me (and that’s a rare occurrence).

It is of interest to look at some other penalties meted out at Spa. Grosjean (“Lotus”) was given a five-place grid penalty for changing a gearbox. Button was given a total of 50 grid place penalties for changing various elements of the power unit. Alonso was given a total of 55 grid place penalties for changing various elements of his power unit. Verstappen (Toro Rosso) was given a 10-place grid penalty for using a sixth power unit. Raikkonen (Ferrari) was given a five-place grid penalty for changing a gearbox. Can some extremely clever person tell me why? You break something and you replace it with a non-broken one. You have already had a penalty, missing some practice running or qualifying. Just what is so heinous about changing broken bits other than a very contrived plan to mix up the racing?

So to the race, which was boring, though some scribes are already talking it up to try and avert the slide in popularity experienced by F1. It was won by Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes with team mate Rosberg behind him. The also-rans came home some 30 seconds or so later, with Grosjean leading the rest or I should say those that were still running.

Hamilton was his usual modest self, saying, “In 2015 my qualifying has been awesome, and after the break I really wanted to get back to it and translate those poles into strong results.”

After Qualifying in third Valtteri Bottas (Williams) took a distant ninth in the race after his team managed to fit three soft Pirelli tyres and one medium one to his FW37 after his pit stop on the eighth lap, earning him a drive through penalty. Why? So the crew stuffed up, but that’s no reason for a penalty.

While still on tyres, Ferrari gambled on Vettel’s tyres going the distance. Three did, but driver side rear didn’t with one lap to go. Initially everyone was sympathetic. Initially, until he started mouthing off, “Things like that are not allowed to happen,” he told the BBC. “I tell you what’s upsetting. What’s upsetting for one thing is the result. We deserved to finish on the podium.” The lower lip was well and truly out.

So Grosjean got the popular vote and then waxed lyrical about being a father, but the racing was devoid of interest. The race may not have actually been as boring as it looked, as the TV coverage was very poor, the director apparently unable to provide continuity but giving the viewer snippets.

All in all, quite disappointing. Let us hope Monza next week will be better.

Friday, 28 August 2015 09:21

USD 9-12 million for a Jaguar?

It would have to be a very special Jaguar to command that kind of money, and Sotheby’s are confident this Lightweight C-Type will bring in that kind of money.

In just six weeks, Jaguar produced the XK120C, later called the C-type, which used modified mechanicals from the XK120 in a tubular steel space frame, covered in a wind-cheating aluminum body styled by Malcolm Sayer. Only three works C-type Lightweights were ever constructed, and one of those cars, chassis XKC 052, is the one to be offered at Sotheby’s Monterey sale.

XKC 052.XKC 052.

The Jaguar set numerous benchmarks in the process, including a lap record of 105.232 MPH, a 24 hour speed record of 93.495 MPH; and an event distance record of 2,243.886 miles to win Le Mans in 1951.

For 1953, Jaguar produced a new version of the C-type, fitted with a lightweight aluminum body crafted from thinner panels than the original, a lighter tubular steel space frame, a rubber fuel bladder and a more powerful 3.4 liter engine. A new cylinder head was fitted, a higher-lift camshaft was added, and the original pair of SU H8 carburetors were replaced by three 40 mm Webers. The net result was boost in horsepower from 200 to roughly 220, and with the C-type Lightweight’s use of disc brakes in all four corners, providing better braking.

In 1953 XKC’s were first and second at Le Mans and XKC 052, driven by Peter Whitehead and Ian Stewart (and the car to be offered by Sotheby’s) was fourth. At the end of the 1953 season, XKC 052 was rebuilt to Le Mans specifications and sold to the Ecurie Ecosse. As an Ecurie Ecosse entry (Border Reivers), the C-type Lightweight enjoyed success at the hands of drivers like Jimmy Stewart (older brother of Jackie Stewart), Roy Salvadori and Ninian Sanderson. By the end of 1954, XKC 052 had delivered eight wins, four seconds, four thirds and three fourth-place finishes for Ecurie Ecosse, (and some of those successes I watched as a school boy at the Charterhall circuit).

In 1971 the C-type Lightweight was bought by collector Martin Morris, who kept it for 30 years, and oversaw another restoration in 1986.

In 2000, XKC 052 was sold to an American collector, who returned it to its 1953 Le Mans mechanical specifications and in Ecurie Ecosse livery. Great care was taken to replicate the original body as closely as possible. Since the work was completed, the C-type Lightweight has been exhibited at venues like the Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance.

Definitely a car with an amazing history – but USD 9 million? I’m not so sure! And it is a bit like grandfather’s axe.

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