Dr. Iain Corness

Thursday, 14 August 2014 13:45

The most powerful muscle car in the world

Are you ready for the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat?  A Dodge Challenger with a 6.2 liter V8 producing 527 kW and 881 Nm of torque.

Unfortunately Chrysler does not build the Hellcat in right-hand-drive, so workshops that can convert American performance cars for the local market are looking at a niche market that could be very profitable.

Dodge provides Hellcat owners with red and black keys to the car, and only the red key can unlock the full power of the V8.

Dodge HellcatDodge Hellcat

The car also comes with a valet mode that reduces power levels, blocks access to first gear and locks on the stability control using a four-digit pin code.

Dodge America says the ultimate Challenger can cover the 0-400 meter dash in 11.2 seconds, or 10.8 seconds when fitted with sticky street-legal drag tyres - enough to put it in genuine supercar territory with cars such as the Porsche 911 Turbo S and Nissan GT-R.

Will we see one here?  Of course we will!  There’s plenty of money in the car import business.  Just be careful it doesn’t catch fire on the way to Isaan!

Volvo has certainly turned the corner.  Global sales of 36,438 cars, up 8.3 percent versus July last year, China sales up 47,8 percent and this is Volvo Cars’ thirteenth consecutive month of growth.  Year-to-date sales of 265,451 cars, an increase of 9.3 percent versus 2013.

Thursday, 14 August 2014 13:42

Lagonda panders to the Pimps at the Pumps

Aston Martin has decided to resurrect the 100 year-old Lagonda name with a luxury car that will take the pride of place at the top of the luxury car-maker’s order book.  The only problem is, you’ll have to live in the Middle East to enjoy it.

Thursday, 14 August 2014 13:41

Driverless cars getting closer

Question for the locals: When a driverless car has an accident in Thailand, does the passenger flee the scene?

In the UK, the green light has been given for driverless cars to take to UK roads from January 2015.

UK cities can now bid for a share of a £10 million competition to host a driverless cars trial.  The government is calling on cities to join together with businesses and research organizations to put forward proposals to become a test location.

Up to three cities will be selected to host the trials from next year (2015) - and each project is expected to last between 18 and 36 months and start in January 2015.

Ministers have also launched a review to look at current road regulations to establish how the UK can remain at the forefront of driverless car technology and ensure there is an appropriate regimen for testing driverless cars in the UK.

Two areas of driverless technology will be covered in the review: cars with a qualified driver who can take over control of the driverless car and fully autonomous vehicles where there is no driver.

Speaking at vehicle engineering consultancy, test and research facility, MIRA, where he tested a driverless car with the Science Minister Greg Clark, Business Secretary Vince Cable said, “The excellence of our scientists and engineers has established the UK as a pioneer in the development of driverless vehicles through pilot projects.  Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than 6 months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society.  Through the government’s industrial strategy we are backing the automotive sector as it goes from strength to strength.  We are providing the right environment to give businesses the confidence to invest and create high skilled jobs.”

Transport Minister Claire Perry said, “Driverless cars have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network - they could improve safety, reduce congestion and lower emissions, particularly CO2.  We are determined to ensure driverless cars can fulfill this potential which is why we are actively reviewing regulatory obstacles to create the right framework for trialing these vehicles on British roads.”

Science Minister Greg Clark said, “Britain is brilliantly placed to lead the world in driverless technology.  It combines our strengths in cars, satellites, big data and urban design; with huge potential benefits for future jobs and for the consumer.”

Iain Gray CEO of the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, said, “This competition for funding has the potential to establish the UK as the global hub for the development and testing of driverless vehicles in real-world urban environments, helping to deepen our understanding of the impact on road users and wider society.  The ability to test driverless cars at scale, when married to the UK’s unique strengths in transport technologies and urban planning, will also attract further investment, helping to establish new design and manufacturing supply chains, driving forward UK economic growth.”

The driverless cars competition is being funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Transport, in partnership with the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board. Successful projects must be business-led and need to demonstrate close collaboration with partners such as technology developers, supply chain companies and manufacturers.

MIRA’s Chief Commercial and Technical Officer Dr Geoff Davis said, “We welcome the announcement made by the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable today at our site in encouraging further advancements and UK engineering excellence.  Our 10 years of experience developing driverless car solutions with successful applications in defensse and security as well as cooperative systems in road transport applications means we are already working on a number of projects that explore the potential of connected and cooperative driverless cars.

The deadline for applications for the driverless cars competition is noon on 1 October 2014. The driverless cars trial will last between 18 and 36 months and will begin in January 2015.  For more information or to apply for the competition please visit the Technology Strategy Board’s website.  To apply for the competition you must first register with the TSB by phoning 0300 321 4357 or visiting www.innovateuk,org.  Regulatory areas the review will look at include the need for vehicles to comply with construction and safety regulations, traffic laws and relevant aspects of the Highway Code.  The review will also look at licensing, liability and insurance and driverless regulations being put in place in other countries. The results of the review will be published at the end of 2014.

Thursday, 14 August 2014 13:36

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that a car was built during the war years and was a battery powered device.  It could go for 100 km between recharges, so it was practical as well.  I wanted the year and the name of this car. It was Paul Arzens’s “L’Oeuf Electrique,” or “Electric Egg,” during WWII.

So to this week.  What car derived its name from the national manufacturer of war weapons?

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

Thursday, 14 August 2014 09:34

“Sugar” - have you got it already?

“Sugar Diabetes” is a serious ailment, which can arise for many reasons, and can affect many systems in the human body.  Diabetes, often just called “sugar” by many people, is diagnosed and monitored mainly through a simple blood test - the Blood Glucose level (AKA Blood Sugar level).

Glucose is a type of sugar found in fruits and many other foods (this includes lactose and fructose).  It is the main source of energy used by the body.  Most of the carbohydrates that people eat (like cakes) are also turned into glucose, which can be used for energy or stored in the liver and kidneys as glycogen.

To stop the sugar levels just increasing daily, a balance is achieved through a hormone called Insulin which helps the body use and control the amount of glucose in the blood.  Insulin is produced in areas of the pancreas called ‘islets’ and released into the blood when the level of glucose in the blood rises.  In simple terms, people who do not produce enough insulin develop Diabetes.  People can also develop diabetes if they do not respond normally to the insulin their bodies produce.  This occurs most commonly when a person is overweight, and since obesity is on the rise, so are various types of Diabetes.

Normally, blood glucose levels increase slightly after a person eats a meal.  This increase causes the pancreas to release insulin so that blood glucose levels do not get too high.  Blood glucose levels that remain high over time can cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels, which explains why good glucose control is important.

There are many ways to carry out blood glucose tests, including Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS).  This is a measurement of blood glucose after fasting for 12 to 14 hours.  For an accurate fasting blood sugar test, do not eat or drink for 12 to 14 hours before the blood sample is taken, however, water should be freely taken, as otherwise hemoconcentration occurs to give a falsely high reading.  This is often the first test done to detect diabetes, and explains why fasting blood tests are usually done when having a medical check-up.

The other common test is called the Random Blood Sugar (RBS).  A random blood sugar measurement may also be called a casual blood glucose test.  This is a measurement of blood glucose that is taken regardless of when the person last ate a meal.  Sometimes several random measurements are taken throughout a day.  Random testing is useful because glucose levels in healthy people do not vary widely throughout the day, so wild swings may indicate a metabolic problem.

Glucose Tolerance Testing can also be done, usually to confirm a condition known as Gestational Diabetes, which can occur during pregnancy. An oral glucose tolerance test is simply a series of blood glucose measurements taken after a person drinks a liquid containing a specific amount of glucose; however, this test is not used to diagnose diabetes.

To monitor the treatment of diabetes, there are another couple of tests which can be carried out.  The commonest is Glycated Hemoglobin, otherwise referred to as HbA1c.  This test actually is an indicator of the average glucose concentration over the life of the red blood cells (which is taken as over the previous three months).

Another is the Serum C-Peptide which is used to investigate low blood sugar levels, done by measuring the C-Peptide which is produced by the Beta cells in the pancreas.

“Normal” levels may vary from lab to lab, but generally the range taken for FBS is that the level should be less than 110 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

Diagnosis of diabetes needs a fasting blood glucose level higher than 125 mg/dL on two separate days.

A fasting glucose level below 40 mg/dL in women or below 50 mg/dL in men that is accompanied by symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) may indicate an insulinoma, a tumor that produces abnormally high amounts of insulin.  Lower than expected glucose levels can also indicate Addison’s disease, an underactive thyroid gland or pituitary gland, liver disease (such as cirrhosis), malnutrition, or a problem that prevents the intestines from absorbing the nutrients in food.

Having had some back to back Grands Prix, it is almost strange not to be sitting in front of the big screen at Jameson’s on Sunday night; however, there still is motor racing at the local Bira International circuit, with the promoter being called the S1R group.  This meeting is the 4th in their championship series, and they have been running qualifying on Friday and races on Saturday and Sunday, which is gilding the lilly a bit for what is really a ‘picnic’ race meeting.

Last weekend we took the TBX Escort to Kaeng Krachan, so hopefully it will still be race ready for the S1R meeting.  That’s the plan anyway.

Bira Circuit grid.Bira Circuit grid.

We should have our sponsor’s AA Insurances hospitality tent operating at lunchtime on the Sunday, just round from the hairpin at the end of the straight.  You have to get there by coming in the pit entrance, which is 50 meters before the main entrance on Highway 36.  You go through the tunnel and then turn hard right and go up the hill.  The tent is a red gazebo style.  Plenty of cold drinks and shade.  Just say the magic words TBX Retro Escort.

The number of problems experienced by new-vehicle owners has increased from the previous year, as automakers continued to be challenged when introducing sophisticated technologies in new vehicles, according to the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Initial Quality Study SM (IQS) released in July.

The study, now in its 28th year, examines problems experienced by vehicle owners during the first 90 days of ownership. Initial quality is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.

Quality winnerQuality winner

The study finds that overall initial quality averages 116 PP100, a 3 percent increase in problems from 113 PP100 in 2013.  This year’s increase in problems follows a similar increase found in the J.D. Power U.S. 2014 Vehicle Dependability study released in February, which measures problems experienced after three years of ownership.

The study identifies two primary causes of the increased problem levels in 2014.  First, newly launched vehicles (those that are completely new to the market or have undergone major redesigns) continue to be more problematic than carryover vehicles (those that did not undergo any significant changes).  On average, newly launched vehicles experience 128 PP100, compared with 113 PP100 for carryover vehicles.  The increase in problems among all-new vehicles is found mainly in the areas of voice recognition, Bluetooth pairing and audio systems.

“Automakers are trying to give consumers the new features and technology they want without introducing additional quality problems into their vehicles,” said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power.  “However, almost all automakers are struggling to do this flawlessly with some consumers indicating that the technology is hard to understand, difficult to use, or simply does not always work as designed.”

Some regions experienced increases in problem types associated with harsh weather.  Consumers in the South and West regions of the country (USA) report the same level of problems as in 2013 (114 PP100).  In contrast, consumers in the Northeast and Midwest regions report 117 PP100 in 2014, compared with 112 PP100 in 2013.  Most of this increase is found in the heating/ventilation/air conditioning, exterior and engine/transmission categories, three areas in which harsh weather conditions have an adverse effect on vehicles.

“Automakers test vehicles in extreme conditions to ensure they function properly,” said Sargent.  “However, it is impossible to completely negate the effects of severe weather.  Heating and ventilation systems have more work to do, engines and transmissions aren’t as smooth when cold, and exterior moldings and paint all take some punishment.  Consumers generally understand this but still report problems when their vehicle does not wholly live up to their expectations.”

The study also finds that the fewer problems owners experience with their vehicle, the greater their loyalty to the brand.  Combined data from previous years’ IQS results and the Power Information Network® (PIN) from J.D. Power show that 57 percent of owners who reported no problems stayed with the same brand when they purchased their next new vehicle.  Brand loyalty slips to 53 percent among owners who reported just a single problem and to only 48 percent among owners who reported two or more problems.

“Even problems experienced in the first 90 days correlate strongly with ultimate repurchase behavior,” said Sargent. “These early problems can set the tone for the entire ownership period and still have an effect years later when consumers replace their vehicle.”

For a second consecutive year, Porsche ranks highest in initial quality among all nameplates, with a score of 74 PP100, (Porsche 911, Porsche Boxster and Porsche Panamera).  Following Porsche in the rankings are Jaguar (87 PP100), Lexus (92 PP100) and Hyundai (94 PP100).

The 2014 U.S. Initial Quality Study was based on responses from more than 86,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2014 model year vehicles surveyed after 90 days of ownership.  The study is based on a 233 question battery designed to provide manufacturers with information to facilitate the identification of problems and drive product improvement.  The study was fielded between February and May 2014.

Thursday, 07 August 2014 13:31

BMW all-electric i3 picks up a gong as well

The 2014 World Car Awards were presented at the New York Auto Show and BMW’s all-electric i3 won the World Green Car award and also the World Car Design of the Year.

Despite its awards, the entire BMW I series (i3 and i8) has styling which one either loves or hates (memories of the Chris Bangle bottom on the 7 Series a few years ago)!

“The design ... can be polarizing to people,” head of EV Operations and Strategy for BMW North America Jacob Harb said in an interview at the auto show.  “But there are two reasons it looks the way it does: It’s made for electric driving in a city, and it’s meant to bring new customers into the brand.”

Quirky BMW i3Quirky BMW i3

“The concept was designed in the beginning to be a megacity vehicle.  It seats four people but is small enough to zip through tight traffic and roads, which explains its proportions,” said Ludwig Willisch, President and CEO of BMW North America.

BMW designers could surely have made a car that fit that mandate without looking so unusual, or converted an existing model to run on electricity, but that wasn’t the mission.  The i3 is made to appeal to a new set of customers, Willisch said.

“What we know from research is that people that drive a car like that want to make a statement, they want to show that they choose a different way of mobility.  It’s not the ordinary steel car with an exhaust pipe.”

Jacob Harb presented the “polarizing” design as a good thing.  “The whole point of a new model is conquest and to bring new people into the brand.  With i, we know we’re doing that.”

The World Car Awards explained the decision to give the design trophy to BMW: Unlike other BMW cars, the i3 has a boxy shape, which suggests roominess and efficiency.  But it still retains BMW’s typical dynamism thanks to the larger diameter wheels and the very short overhangs both on front and rear.  Besides that, the i3 expresses the sub-brand’s own character with using unique design features, including the black bonnet and the side window graphics that goes through the rear pillar.  The interior is more surprising and attractive.  It marks radical leap of car interior design, and it spreads a calm yet rich feeling as a modern living room.  (And if you believe that you had better stop reading and take a bowl of soup down to the faeries at the bottom of your garden.)

World Car Awards winners are selected by a jury of 69 automotive journalists, based on recommendations from panels of experts in each category.

Thursday, 07 August 2014 13:27

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked why the Aero Minx of the 1930’s had taller windscreens as special orders, and who ordered this, and why?  The answer was the Constabulary in the UK, and the higher windscreen was to accommodate the policemen’s hats!

So to this week.  Here’s a nice little car for you.  This car was built during the war years and is a battery powered device.  It could go for 100 km between recharges, so it was practical as well.  I want the year and the name of 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 .

Quiz carQuiz car

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