Dr. Iain Corness

Thursday, 24 April 2014 11:00

Get yer TaTa’s out!

The Indian manufacturer Tata is known for making cheap cars - including the Nano, the cheapest car in production today.  However, some help from Land Rover will bring a premium modern feeling to Tata’s upcoming SUV.

Thursday, 24 April 2014 10:58

Automania Quiz

Last week I asked what important motoring aid exploded and killed a policeman in 1869?  It was the first traffic light which was gas powered, but exploded after a leak and killed the local Bobby.

So to this week.  What car’s road holding was so bad that owners used to put bricks on the passenger side to even up the weight distribution.  Clue: think three.

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, 23 April 2014 17:37

Pink Floyd and Dire Straits at the Mantra

Hands up all the British rockers out there!  OK, I was exaggerating a little when I mentioned Pink Floyd and Dire Straits, they’re not live, but the Mantra is the venue for the British Rock N Roll Hall of Fame music, as presented by the UK All Stars with band leader Barry Upton.

You will have to excuse the Dusit Thani Pattaya’s new Executive Chef Alistair Carter - he gets quite excited about multicolored crabs!  Especially on Fridays!

The Benihana Japanese Steakhouse in the Royal Garden Plaza is very close to its 20th birthday, but the Benihana restaurant chain itself is celebrating its 50th birthday.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 16:26

Hello!.. Hello! Echo!... Echo?

In medicine’s grab bag of diagnostic procedures, there is one called an “Echo”.  This is short for Echocardiogram and is one of the procedures that can yield much information on the workings of the heart, with pictures produced by Ultrasound.

This type of ultrasound test uses high-pitched sound waves to produce the image of the heart.  The sound waves are sent through a device called a transducer and are reflected off the various structures of the heart.  These echoes are converted into moving pictures of the heart that can be viewed on a monitor similar to a TV screen.

The difference between an X-Ray and an Echo is that the X-Ray is a static picture, whilst the Echo shows dynamic ‘action’ images of the functioning heart.  The former is similar to taking a photograph of your car engine, while the Echo is the same as measuring your car engine’s workings on a rolling road dynamometer.

The echocardiogram is used to evaluate how well the heart chambers fill with blood and pump blood to the rest of the body.  It can also be used to estimate the amount of blood pumped out of the left ventricle with each heartbeat (called the ejection fraction).  It helps evaluate heart size and heart valve function.  Echocardiography can help identify areas of poor blood flow in the heart, areas of heart muscle that are not contracting normally, previous injury to the heart muscle caused by impaired blood flow, or evidence of congestive heart failure, especially in people with chest pain or a possible heart attack.  In addition, an Echo can identify some heart defects that may have been present since birth.

There are several different types of echocardiograms, including the Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE).  This is the standard, most commonly used method of echocardiography.  Views of the heart are obtained by moving the transducer to different locations on the chest or abdomen wall.  This is a totally painless procedure.

Another is the Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE).  In this case, the transducer is passed down the esophagus instead of being moved over the outside of the chest wall.  A TEE may show clearer pictures of the heart, because the transducer is located closer to the heart and because the lungs and bones of the chest wall do not interfere with the sound waves produced by the transducer.  A TEE requires a sedative and anesthetic applied to the throat to ease discomfort.

The main reasons for carrying out an Echocardiogram are to evaluate abnormal heart sounds (murmurs or clicks), a possibly enlarged heart, unexplained chest pains, shortness of breath, or irregular heartbeats.  It can also diagnose or monitor a heart valve problem or evaluate the function of an artificial heart valve, detect blood clots and tumors inside the heart, measure the size of the heart’s chambers, evaluate heart defects present since birth (congenital heart defects), evaluate how well the heart is functioning after a heart attack, and to determine whether the person is at increased risk of developing heart failure.  It can also show some specific causes of heart failure, detect an abnormal amount of fluid surrounding the heart (pericardial effusion) or a thickening of the lining (pericardium) around the heart.

Does it hurt?  No, Echocardiography is a painless procedure.  You will not be able to hear the sound waves, since they are exceptionally high pitched above the range of human hearing.  The gel may feel a bit cold and slippery when rubbed on your chest.  The transducer head is also pressed firmly against your chest, but this is not uncomfortable.

There are no known risks associated with transthoracic echocardiography.  You are not exposed to X-rays, radiation, or any electrical current during this test.  However, there are some risks associated with transesophageal echocardiography, including the possibility of a tear of the esophagus, bleeding, and discomfort of the mouth and throat, though these are rare.

Unfortunately, Echocardiography may not be accurate in between 10 to 18 percent of people because of technical difficulties.  These are found in people who are overweight, women who have large breasts, or people with lung disease.  Just another reason for watching your weight!

Thursday, 17 April 2014 17:57

Chinese GP this weekend

The Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai this weekend, and also in Pattaya the end of the dreaded Songkran festival.  This national ‘sport’ kills around 600 participants each year.  Songkran that is, not the Grand Prix.

Thursday, 17 April 2014 17:56

Nissan Almera

A few weeks ago I tested the new Nissan Teana, and was very impressed with the vehicle.  This week, Khun Ju of Pattaya Automobile Co. (on Sukhumvit Road, about 50 meters past the Ambassador City and on the same side) offered the Nissan Almera, seeking my opinion on the Teana’s smaller brother.

Mind you, Nissan has an unrivalled propensity for finding nonsensical names.  Remember the Nissan Cedric of 40 years ago?  Or the recent Nissan Tiida?  Or even the current Juke and Sylphy?  Just where do they get these names?  A quick search turned up the fact that “Almera” is of Arabic origins and means Princess.  Hardly an attractive name, but is it an attractive car?

Nissan AlmeraNissan Almera

This Nissan Almera is derived from the Nissan March eco-car, which was released a couple of years back.  The Almera is also considered an eco-car, and is thus restricted to the 1.2 litre engine from the March.  (In Malaysia the Almera has a 1.5 litre engine, not being restricted by the Thai specifications.)

Direct competitors in the B segment to the Almera in the marketplace include the Toyota Vios and the Honda City.

The first impression one gets of the Almera is one of size.  It is not a small car and is generally larger than its rivals in the B segment.

Almera: 4425 mm (L) x 1695 mm (W) x 1500 mm (H), wheelbase: 2600 mm

VIOS: 4410 mm (L) x 1700 mm (W) x 1475 mm (H), wheelbase: 2550 mm

City: 4415 mm (L) x 1695 mm (W) x 1480 mm (H), wheelbase: 2600 mm

The exterior styling is a matter of personal taste.  The front is quite pleasant with its Lexus-like grille, but I cannot connect with the “ironed” slab sided rear panels.  Doors are of good size and entrance and exit are easy.  The steering wheel is also adjustable in height, and it was possible to get a good driving position.  The seats were also comfortable.

Not only does it look full-size from outside the car, once settled in, the interior is very large and the five seats are not at all squeezy.  From the inside, it does not feel like a small car in any way.  Even with the driver’s seat racked way back, there was ample room for the rear seat passenger’s legs.

One of the first items to learn to accept is the Idle-Stop system.  This ingenious electro-trickery turns the engine off when sitting stopped at traffic lights, resulting in improved fuel consumption figures.  But then lift your foot from the brake pedal and the engine re-starts and away you go.  Initially when stopped and finding a large bus each side of me and another hovering over the rear bumper bar made me pray that it would restart, but after the first few times I began to accept that it would work, and prayer was not necessary.

With only a 1.2 litre 79 BHP engine the Almera is no drag-racer, but the engine is not at all fussy and is adequate both in city driving and open road, returning around 20 km per litre of gasoline.  With a 40 litre tank this works out as a distance of 800 km per tank.

The CVT transmission is exceptionally smooth and never seems to get confused as some automatic transmissions can do, and the gear changes are seamless.

The steering is light at parking speeds but gets progressively firmer as the speed increases.  It is very easy for a woman to park the Almera.

It is very quiet in operation, and comfortable, has a cavernous boot and ideal for the weekly supermarket expedition.

There are six models, with the base S (manual) at B. 433,000.

E (manual) B. 464,000

E (CVT) B. 498,000

EL (CVT) B. 532,000

V (CVT) B. 572,000

VL (CVT) B. 608,000

Dislikes: Not too many, particularly when you look at the price.  Even the top of the line model as tested is only B. 608,000 and has ABS, EBD and BA.  However, I would like a central console with arm rest, and the top models should have daytime running lights.  There are only two airbags, and considering the amount of electronics already in the Almera, side curtain airbags should not be too difficult to incorporate at the design stage.

Features I did like included the very simple to operate air-conditioning as opposed to drop-down menus.  The GPS was clear, though it was a trifle annoying having to “agree” to the terms of reference every time before setting off.  However, it is one of those developments it is hard to imagine being without.

Looking at the B segment, the Almera is by far the cheapest and is certainly worth your investigating.  It does have the smallest engine and is exceptionally economical.  On the other side of the coin, it is the least powerful amongst its rivals, but to be honest, do you need Formula 1 acceleration in Pattaya’s congested streets.  As long as you can outrun the busses, what more is needed, and especially looking at the purchase cost which ranges from B. 433,000 base model to 608,000 top of the line.

The best advertisement is always word of mouth and I found one owner in my office.  His was a top of the line Almera and he had owned it for 12 months, and was effusive with praise.  He found, as I did, that it was a very pleasant and comfortable motor car.  His only recommendation was to lower the tyre pressures by a few psi to enhance the comfort, and again I would agree, but only by around 2-3 psi for safety reasons.

Test car supplied by Pattaya Automobile Co., a new Nissan dealership with all the infrastructure required for sales and service.

Address: 222 Moo 2, Sukhumvit Road, Tambol Najomthien, phone 038 255-800.

The figures have been released from the organizers of the motor show, with the top 10 not holding any surprises.  Toyota, as usual, sold more than anyone else, and in fact 25 percent of all sales went to Toyota, almost twice that of Honda, the next in line.  Here are the sales figures:

Toyota 9,514

Honda 5,617

Isuzu 4,602

Mazda 3,482

Mitsubishi 3,093

Nissan 2,723

Ford 2,572

Mercedes-Benz 2,060

Chevrolet 1,716

BMW 1,383

However, of even more interest were the figures from the more expensive end of the marketplace:

Jaguar 14

Porsche 13

Rolls-Royce 10

Aston Martin 7

Bentley 3

I must say I find 10 RR’s surprising, particularly against only three Bentleys, a much more superior car in my books.  From all these, I will have an Aston Martin DB9 and play James Bond’s all day.  No mention in these statistics of MG, as they were not taking any orders, their presence being purely to test the market.

James Bond, I presume!James Bond, I presume!

Thursday, 17 April 2014 17:51

Super 1 Racing Bira this weekend

The Super 1 Racing group is promoting its second meeting at Bira this weekend.  It seems a mixed bag of categories, but there will be the usual groups of sedans and pick-ups I am sure.  We will be taking the Retro Escort with its newly rebuilt shock absorbers fitted overnight, so we will use the meeting to tune the chassis.

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