Dr. Iain Corness

Thursday, 30 April 2015 14:08

Maybe the sky isn’t the limit?

For all those wishing for a flying car, here it is! The AeroMobil flying car which transforms in seconds from an automobile to an airplane, say the manufacturers.

“AeroMobil is a flying car that perfectly makes use of existing infrastructure created for automobiles and planes, and opens doors to real door-to-door travel. As a car it fits into any standard parking space, uses regular gasoline, and can be used in road traffic just like any other car. As a plane it can use any airport in the world, but can also take off and land using any grass strip or paved surface just a few hundred meters long.


“The current flying car prototype AeroMobil 3.0 incorporates significant improvements and upgrades to the previous pre-prototype AeroMobil 2.5. It is now finalized and has been in regular flight-testing program in real flight conditions since October 2014.

“The AeroMobil 3.0 is predominantly built from advanced composite material. That includes its body shell, wings, and wheels. It also contains all the main features that are likely to be incorporated into the final product, such as avionics equipment, autopilot and an advanced parachute deployment system.

“AeroMobil 3.0 also implements a number of other advanced technologies, such as a variable angle of attack of the wings that significantly shortens the take-off requirements, and sturdy suspension that enables it to take-off and land even at relatively rough terrain.”

I have looked at their video and it is very impressive; however, the ‘pusher’ prop at the rear is not guarded, and you will not be allowed to fly to your door as they claim, well at least not in my Moo Baan!

Thursday, 30 April 2015 14:06

Nissan revamps the March in April/May

Talking with the CEO of a car hire firm here in Pattaya, he said that the Nissan March was his best rental vehicle, pleasant to drive, reliable and well accepted by the public.

Entry level export March features cruise control, power windows, USB connectivity, and Bluetooth phone pairing and audio streaming as standard, while the top-spec March benefits from the addition of satellite-navigation, reversing camera and upgraded interior cloth trim.

Also available are fog-lights, automatic headlights, rear spoiler, 15 inch alloy wheels and LED tail lights.

Exterior cosmetic changes to the March include a redesigned front fascia with Nissan’s V-Motion front grille, a new bonnet, guards, headlights, and wheels, while inside there is an updated center cluster and instrumentation.

The new look city car is launching locally at the end of the month, after being revealed 18 months ago during the 2013 Frankfurt motor show, with Nissan choosing to delay the model to clear old stock and to ensure competitive pricing and specification on the refreshed model.

Thursday, 30 April 2015 14:03

Anyone for a Renissa-Benz One Tonner?

Daimler and Renault-Nissan have confirmed a three way venture to develop a Mercedes-Benz mid-sized dual-cab pick-up on the architecture of the Japanese car-maker’s new Navara.

This is apparently a long term production, as the Mercedes side of the deal is slated for production in 2018.

Production of the one tonner will see the Mercedes truck initially rolling down production lines beside the D23 Navara in Renault’s Argentinian facility and Nissan’s production line in Spain.

Mercedes will lead the design of its own model to deliver “all of Mercedes-Benz’ distinctive characteristics and features.”

The same philosophy is being seen at Renault developing its own one-tonner which is also based on the forthcoming Navara.

Benz One-tonner.Benz One-tonner.

The French version will go into production next year at the Mexican Nissan factory in Cuernavaca, but manufacturing of the Mercedes pick-up is expected to come online soon after with the first examples from 2018.

Global production of the three separate models will total 120,000 a year with about 70,000 of those coming from Argentina, boosting productivity in the various manufacturing regions.

Daimler AG board chairman Dieter Zetsche said the Renault-Nissan Alliance had allowed Mercedes to enter a new segment with minimal costs.

“Mercedes-Benz is the fastest growing premium brand in the world,” he said. “Entering the rapidly growing segment of midsize pickups is an important step in continuing our global growth path.

“Thanks to our well-established partnership with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, we are able to drastically reduce the time and cost to enter this key segment.”

The first versions of Mercedes’ pick-up are expected to be work-horse variants appealing to tradespeople and leisure seekers, but a more hardcore on-road focused AMG version is not out of the question. (Anyone for a V8 twin turbo Navara?)

Speaking at the New York International Auto Show, Mercedes-AMG board of management chairman Tobias Moers confirmed that a high-performance AMG version was a possibility in time.

“The pick-up project would be successful but we have to wait a little bit,” he said. “We don’t have an understanding for that now. We’ve never been in that segment and honestly we don’t have any experience so we need to do some research.

I’m sorry, but for me, the idea of a tradesman’s pick-up being a Benz just doesn’t sit well.

Any European-branded one-tonne dual-cab pick-up will go head to head with Volkswagen’s Amarok, of which more than 8000 were sold in Germany last year. It is also expected that VW will build the Amarok here in Thailand.

Thursday, 30 April 2015 13:59

How did we survive?

I came across an article written by the late John Weinthal, Automania’s Editor at Large a few years ago, where he described ‘road racing’ in 1963, in Brisbane, Australia. This prompted nostalgia, a nasty disease at times!

When I look back at my motoring career, the first thought that comes into my head is “How did I survive?” In this world of ABS, airbags and microprocessors that measure everything from how often you change gear, to how hard you stomp on the brake pedal, and all in the name of safety, are these things necessary, or were we (you and I if you are over 50 years of age) just lucky?

On reflection, I have to say that I think it is the latter. We were just lucky.

In the article I mentioned, he reflected upon a time when we pitted a 1949 MG TC against a Mk X Jaguar. I hasten to add that this was a long time ago (about 45 years, I estimate). The combatants were John Weinthal in the 1963 Jaguar Mk X and myself in the 1949 MG TC.

Here we were in 1963, coming from a party where several rum and cokes were consumed (by John, I hasten to add - I was on beer), and would we have been over the 0.05 limit (which was brought in many years later)? If I am honest, then I think we would have been, though we were certainly not clinically falling-down drunk.

The road out to the Queensland University was subject to the city speed limit of 30 mph in those pre-metric days (50 km/h), and to get 1,900 kg of a Mk X to drift requires a little more speed than 50 km/h. And drift it did indeed. So here we were, over the (today’s) limit of 0.05, over the (then) speed limit of 30 mph, and now living to tell the tale. How did we do it?

The first thing is that there were not so many cars on the road, and at 11 p.m. even less. The police did not have breathalyzers and speed guns to easily trap the unsuspecting motorist, and since there were so few cars at such a late hour, they were happily watching TV in their respective police stations.

The cars we drove were certainly nowhere near as safe as the cars of today. Would an MG TC pass an ENCAP test and come out with a five star rating? With a 25 year old wood framed body on a simple ladder frame chassis, there would have been no stars for the MG.

But what about the Mk X? Undoubtedly stronger and safer than the MG TC, but it had no airbags. In fact, I doubt if it even had seat belts. However, John did not get to crash test the Mk X under these extremes (and with test cars, especially not).

On the other hand, I did get to crash test the MG TC some time later. I survived. It did not. There was more than a modicum of luck involved. We were certainly “just lucky” in more ways than one.

With cars that now have more computing power than we had when we put astronauts on the moon, which can second guess our next moves and even over-ride our pressure on the brake pedal if it “sees” a looming problem that we haven’t, can detect if we have strayed from the lane we are traveling in, and if all else fails, deploy a minimum of six air-bags.

No, the “luck” factor is very definitely not as important as it used to be - as long as we use all the safety features that modern technology provides for us.

Being in Thailand does have some disadvantages at times. People don’t abandon a 300 SL Mercedes, for example. More likely to be an Isuzu pick-up, though I did find a 1975 Datsun 510, but the next time I went to have a closer look, it was gone! Mind you, I still look in backyards, just in case “my” 300 SL is there and waiting for me!

Mercedes 300 SL.Mercedes 300 SL.

Thursday, 30 April 2015 13:54

Autotrivia - Friday May 1 - May 7, 2015

Last week, in an attempt to slow the Googlers again, I asked you to please identify this car. Clue: early 1930s. It was one of my favorites, the Bucciali TAV, with the underslung chassis making the stance most aggressive. But what a car! It was Front Wheel Drive, before Citroen’s Traction Avant and had an infinitely variable automatic transmission made by Sensaud de Lavaud.

So to this week. Why did the bug-eye Sprite get eyes on the bonnet?

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 .

Last week’s Quiz Car.Last week’s Quiz Car.

Thursday, 30 April 2015 12:31

DeVine goes to Northern Italy

The Royal Cliff Wine Club was launched on 28th April 2001 to show the resort’s enthusiasm for promoting wines and hosting wine-related events. It has enjoyed tremendous success from its very first function, and 14 years later is known simply as the deVine Wine Club.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015 16:17

Take this tablet three times a day

I received notice the other day that they have found a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. But reading further, they haven’t! However I’ll tell you more about that next week.

Read any of the popular press (as opposed to the scientific medical press such as the Lancet, for example) and you will read about vaccines being developed to save us all from AIDS, cancer, next year’s elephant flu and halitosis.

Unfortunately, the next generation vaccines and drugs are still in the testing phases, because they need rigorous testing. Remember that in 1976 a vaccine was rushed through by order of an American president, and I believe more people died from the vaccine than died from the flu from which it was supposed to protect the public. It also left a large number of people with a nasty condition called the Guillain-Barre syndrome, and about 30 percent of those with Guillain-Barré still have a residual weakness.

Have you ever wondered just how a new drug finds its way on to the pharmacist’s shelves? Just how do the pharmaceutical companies manage to develop newer vaccines and drugs such as ACE inhibitor antihypertensives when there were already plenty of alternatives? Or the apparently stiff competition in the drugs for males with Erectile Dysfunction.

However, when any new medication is formulated, there begins a very long process before the new “wonder drug” is licensed for use by the public. Part of that process is testing the compound on live beings. Note I did not say “human” beings. Those live beings are usually convenient test animals, of which Mr. Rat the rodent is a prime example.

We always need to know how poisonous the new drug is. Mr. Rat is then fed the new compound in ever increasing quantities until the dose high enough to kill 50 percent of the rat population is reached. The scientists call this the LD50 (Lethal Dose for 50 percent) for the new compound - but remember this is for rats. If it takes 10 mg of compound A to kill 50 percent of the rats, but only 1 mg of compound B, then B is 10 times stronger than A.

Pregnant Mrs. Rats are also fed the new drug and the offspring are thoroughly examined to see if there are any abnormalities, greater than the ‘normal’ amount of expected abnormalities. Yes, no animal, including us, is without a usual percentage of birth abnormalities. Laboratory rats in particular are well known for being able to develop all sorts of abnormalities if you even just look at them sideways!

Only after this exhaustive testing is the drug then used in limited test runs on a very limited human exposure group. And, by and large, that does not include testing on productive age females.

All this takes an enormous length of time, so next time you read of the new wonder drug “breakthrough” do not expect that this will appear in the pharmacy next week. Unfortunately too, many of these new drugs will end up never being released as further examination and research often turns up problems that only made themselves apparent after long term usage.

However, even the ones that do get released have to be approached with caution. Just because rat testing appeared to show that the drug was “safe”, does not mean that humans will also react the same way. However, man (or woman) is not a large rat! This is one reason why women in particular must be very careful with the drugs they take during pregnancy, particularly in the first three months, that time when the growing fetal structures are susceptible to toxic chemical damage. In fact, any woman who has to take regular medication should ask her obstetrician about the relative risks. However, this does not mean stop taking the tablets as soon as you miss a period. Letting the maternal problems run unchecked can be an even greater risk to the baby than the risk from the medication taken by Mum.

Antenatal care is a very specialized branch of medicine and I do recommend you should ask your obstetrician for advice. You may not be a rat - but you don’t want to be a guinea pig either!

The official figures have been released regarding the Bangkok International Motor Show.

Number of Visitors: 1.7 million which is close to last year’s record. Most visitors were in average working ages and interested in mid-size passenger cars, family cars and pick up trucks with prices starting from 700,000 baht and above.

Total cars sold: 37,027 units

Top five auto makers with highest sales amount were;

1. Toyota: 6,144 units

2. Honda: 5,069 units

3. Mazda: 4,584 units

4. Isuzu: 4,485 units

5. Nissan: 4,042 units

These figures are interesting, as historically Toyota has always been streets ahead of the others, but this year Honda, Mazda, Isuzu and Nissan are much closer in total sales. A very good result for Isuzu which does not have passenger cars to boost its number, compared to Honda, Mazda and Nissan.

Bangkok International Motor Show.Bangkok International Motor Show.

Thursday, 23 April 2015 13:17

“New” technology is really “old”

French automotive supplier Valeo is providing details on their upcoming electric supercharger technology.

Set to make its debut in the Audi SQ7, Valeo’s system consists of an electric supercharger which according to the company can reduce fuel consumption by 7 percent to 20 percent and it also eliminates most of the lag as the power will be available at a lower rpm.

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