Dr. Iain Corness

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.

Thursday, 23 April 2015 13:15

What did we learn from the Bahraini GP?

Well, we learned that Rosberg can get rattled, Vettel does not reign supreme in the red car pit and Kimi Raikkonen can still produce the goods (when he wants to).

For those who were hoping to see Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) challenged, then they were disappointed. Topping the sheets in all three Qualifying sessions and being totally in charge for the race (and don’t for one moment think that Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari could have produced an upset at the end), Rapper Hamilton is currently the best.

So where was Nico Rosberg in the other Mercedes, who still is trying to convince senior management that he is the golden haired boy? Nico is looking less and less like a challenger and more and more like someone out of his depth. Not even runner-up material, he can be forced into errors and then gets increasingly more desperate. His third place was as good as he was going to get. (And here’s a prediction - Mercedes does not renew Rosberg’s contract at the end of the year, but gives the seat to Nico Hulkenberg. It makes sense - Hulkenberg is quick, he is German and they don’t even need to change the name on the dressing room door!)

So to the Ferrari resurgence. Sebastian Vettel (formerly known as “The Finger”) looked good sitting on the grid in second place, but from then on his race deteriorated, ending up 5th and unable to pass the Williams of Valtteri Bottas. “I was probably pushing very hard and did some mistakes. I think all in all, not a perfect race.” A masterpiece of understatement.

Kimi Raikkonen’s second Ferrari was the one who brought the fight to Mercedes and pushed his way into second at the flag. With rumors around that Kimi will be dropped at the end of the year, who would you put in as a replacement? I expect the grumpy Finn to be still wearing red in 2016.

The Williams team had a mixed day. Bottas was the quicker in Qualifying and drove a mature race to finish fourth and in front of The Finger who had no answer to the Finn’s pace and clever blocking techniques, always leaving the Ferrari on the wrong side with the marbles. The second Williams of Felipe Massa baulked at the start and he had to begin from Pit lane and was coming up through the slower cars until the inevitable happened - a clout from Maldonado (“Lotus”). Massa was lucky to finish 10th. By the way, there is no truth in the rumor that Maldonado’s race suit is padded with $100 bills.

Sixth place went to everyone’s favorite driver Aussie Daniel Ricciardo who had a totally uneventful race until the final corner when his Renault engine blew in synchronization with the fireworks marking the end of the race. Will Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz pull the plug on F1 as he has threatened to? Actually I think he could. Red Bull is no longer the world-wide sponsor of different sports, and Monster Energy is becoming just as well known as Red Bull. Now would be the time to pull out, rather than let Monster overtake. The Renault problem may be a smokescreen to hide the real intention?

The final unlapped runner was Romain Grosjean “Lotus” in seventh, and the rest were nowhere, though I must mention McLaren Honda, with Button’s car withdrawn before the start and Alonso 11th. How the mighty have fallen. Is someone at Honda committing Hara-Kiri? Will Ron Dennis explode? Will McLaren buy a couple of old Mercedes engines and become competitive again?

The next GP is Spain on May 10.

Thursday, 23 April 2015 13:15

Porsche 918 clocks 350 km/h in Australia

New Zealander Craig Baird, an ex-Porsche Cup winner, drove the 918 hybrid hypercar to a speed-limited top indicated speed of 350km/h on the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory.

Last week, in an attempt to slow the Googlers, I asked you to please identify this car. It was an Isotto Fraschini!

So to this week. What is this car? Clue: early 1930’s.

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.

This week’s Quiz Car.This week’s Quiz Car.

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