Saturday, October 31, 2009
No wonder that modern seats have become much more heavy, probably many hundreds of percentages heavier than seats in the old times. A modern seat can easily weight 30, 40 or 50 kg, or even more, compared to 5 or 15 kg in the past.
But would we want to go back? Probably not, as today we sit much longer in these cars and our back is glad for optimal support. Maybe there's a way to get a bit more from both worlds, some of the lightweight racing seats available in super cars are good examples.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
A few of these movies are very well known, for example "Le Mans" (my favorite, never before and after have more car scenes with less dialogues been wrapped in a cinema movie), "The Italian Job" (I have the original version and the remake on the list, but the original beats the remake 5:1, just watch the opening scene with the Lamborhini Miura in the Alps), of course "Bullit" (watch the famous pursuit scene with the Ford Mustang) and "Grand Prix" (many really fascinating formula one scenes).
But there are also a couple of movies rarely shown, such as "Rendezvous". The idea behind Rendezvous was to drive through Paris in about 12 minutes (as the camera hooked onto the car couldn't capture more without changing the film), regardless of speed limits, other cars or people walking over the street. Another very rare movie is "La Passione". Chris Rea made this movie about Graf Berghe von Trips and his racing career (you'll love the shark nose Ferrari formula 1 car that they built to make this movie) and it's so rare I haven't even been able to find a copy myself. But I am sure I will love it.
But if I have to pick the best of the best, "Le Mans" is my choice. And, I will comment on memorable TV series another time.
One comment for TVR fans, both the remake of the Italian Job and Sword Fish feature a TVR Tuscan Speed 6.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
What made the car special was the fact that you basically could unfold it (see second picture). For a 70ies sportscar the BB was quite heavy with more than 1'500 kg. And it felt like this. Best driving speed was in the range between 130 and 200 km/h and on the highway. This was clearly not a car built for the race track of the alps. The seating position was quite okay and even the visibility was quite good for a mid engine car. The engine of course was spectacular and so was the noise it produced, especially the carburetor versions 365 GT4 BB and 512 BB. Fuel consumption was impressive and you knew very soon why the petrol tank was so large. I loved the sound and the look of the car, but didn't fully enjoy the driving. That's why I sold it and swapped it against a 246 GT which clearly was a much more engaging car to drive. But the design of the 512 BB was really spot on, thanks to Pininfarina.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
It took them 11 years to develop it and the first cars only get shipped in a year or so.
While the car looks impressive (although the design almost looks like a retro modern car) and there's certainly a lot of technology and engineering going into this car, I really wonder whether we have waited for this.
Some of my readers may remember my post on the Connaught D-Type GT V10. Yes, you see Tim Bishop, the Chief Engineer at the steering wheel on the picture here. Well, the team around Tim developed something that I would reckon is more creative at probably a small fraction of the project cost of the Lexus LF-A. There are similarities though. Both cars have a V10 in the front, though the engine in the Connaught is much more in the center of the car, basically between the driver and the co-driver. Both try to to build a lightweight car. The Connaught is 850 kg while the Lexus weighs 1'450 kg. While the performance of the Connaught may be a bit less impressive due to the smaller engine and "only" 300 HP, they achieved to actually seat four people and still have a boot. And what is most intriguing for me, the Connaught has a built-in hybrid module (kind of a KERS) while Lexus, the mother of the hybrid technology, doesn't. Last, but not least, the sticker price for the Connaught is 100'000 GBP, while the price tag for the Lexus LF-A is supposed to be more than 3 times of this.
So, this brings me back to the point, that most of today's supercars and this includes the Lexus LF-A lack creativity and are just evolutions of concepts from the 80ies and 90ies.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Well, if you take one more step back, you will actually find out, that similar cars did exist in the past. I only pictured two of them, the first and second Audi 100 Avant and the Tatra 613. Do they look familiar to you?
Now, there's one problem. These cars were all not very successful, to not say they were a failure. No wonder, that for example Audi decided to build a proper station wagon as a repacement fo the pictured Avant. So, BMW might well face a problem. At least for me, it's very unclear why I should buy the 5 GT instead of the better looking coming BMW 5 Series Touring. But, let the market proof whether I am right or wrong.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Online Pure Plays
Focusing on sportscars they do a good job in organizing a community, a car ad market and good editorial content around typical british sportscars and some others.
German speaking online car magazine focusing on mainly new and common cars.
Mainly an online car market for classic and modern sportscar. Some editorial content (“Magazine”) such as car of the week and driving reports.
Content and specifically picture rich website focusing on international classic car events, but centering around Ferraris and Maseratis.
Car Club websites
Many around, some quite good, some quite boring. Here’s a good example with lots of information:
Brand/car type dedicated online resources
There are many specialized sites out there gathering and distributing information on one specific car or car brand. Here’s an excellent example focusing on the Lotus Eleven:
Here’s another showing all the known TVR Granturas:
Online discussion forums
Some of the online forums are extremely well maintained and really helpful when you run into issues with your classic car, i.e. the one focusing on Mercedes SL R107:
Online print magazine offsprings
Octane is a print magazine. The site gives some of the content of the magazine and of course a car sales market place. No link between offline and online subscription. Compared to other car magazine sites quite a bit of content. Nicely presented but not as good as the print magazine.
One example of a print magazine with online channel. Quite a bit of content (mostly re-use from the print magazine).
Many out there, sometimes quite difficult to find, when you don’t know where to start looking for it. Here’s an excellent example
A blog focusing on Australian sportscars mainly. Lots of good photos and background information on Bollwells and other rare (Australian) cars. Well done, John!
I probably have only scratched the surface with all of this. But I still feel I haven’t found a really well done online classic car site. I would be interested in other people’s insights!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
And last but not least, if you would design a car with a head-up display in mind the whole dashboard could be structured and modelled very differently. So, here again, is a great chance to come up with something new and different. Go for it!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
What is interesting is that the article points out that one reason that people think they can manage talking on the phone or writing SMS while driving is the fact that operating a car today is so easy and can be so boring. This comes back to what is a regular topic on my blog. Modern cars do so many things on their own that the driver isn't involved anymore into the real driving. The only thing you do in a modern car is steering and pushing break and throttle pedals. Maybe you switch on the indicator now and then but that's it. You don't need to switch on lights or wipers. You don't need to monitor water temperature or oil pressure. You don't need to switch gears or use a clutch pedal. And you don't even need to think whether the next curve actually can be mastered at the speed you are doing because there's a speed limit and that's low enough. And so on. You get the point. And all the driving assistance systems that get added to the cars now make it worse. Soon the only thing you do in a car is deciding when you want to start it. It couldn't be more boring. No wonder people start to use their mobile phone. And modern mobile phones are full-function computers....
So, maybe one of the reaons why there are less accidents caused by classic and vintage cars is that drivers actually focus on what they do, driving the car.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
But, myself, I still love to shift manually and that's why my 1987 Mercedes 300 SL has a manual gearbox. And with this it's a rarity as roughly 90% of all the 300 SLs were delivered with an automatic gearbox and offically the manual version wasn't even imported into Switzerland. Selecting the manual gearbox in the 80ies made sense though. The hand shifted 300 SL was not only quicker it was also more fuel efficient (8-15% depending on the driving cycle). Also the automatic gearbox only had four gears while the manual gearbox had five. Since then a lot of progress has been made. Modern automatic transmissions and even more the now fashionable double-clutch-gearboxes beat the average driver with a manual gearbox both in terms of acceleration 0-100 km/h and fuel efficiency. So there's no reason to pick a manual gearbox today, you would say. Well, wrong. In my eyes there are at least three reasons to still go for manual. Firstly, only the manual gearbox makes you really feel involved into the driving and the process of switching gears. Clutching and de-clutching and double-clutching, this all makes you experience what's happening between the engine and the wheels. Secondly, it's about being in control. Most (if not all) of these new gearboxes will only do what you ask it to do, if it makes sense for the "system". So you can't change to fifth gear for example if the speed is to low or the gearbox will automatically change gears even if you are in manual mode, if the driving conditions make the control unit think that the gear should be changed. So, you don't really have full control. It's like if you were walking into a Davidoff-shop, order a box of cigars and when you want to pay your wallet tells you that you can't have the money because smoking is bad for your health (which is true, but you get the point, don't you?). The third reason for not selecting the DSG or automatic box is the extra weight and the extra money that comes or goes with it.
So, I made my case. But you may have noticed the "*" in the title. Yes, there are situations where I prefer automatic gear boxes and my everyday car has one too. But if it's about fun, involvement and control I prefer the manual one. Except I probably would take the Ferrari Scuderia with the F1 gearbox as on the track it is so much easier to drive. But I am only on a track so often, which means for most of the other cars I am going to buy in the future a manual gearbox is going to be it, or not?
Friday, October 16, 2009
It weighs roughly 850 kg and is powered by the Mazda 3 MPS engine with 265 HP. This should guarantee good performance and fun on the road. The price is supposed to be similar than the Lotus Exige, so below 90'000 USD. We'll give it a warm welcome despite the somewhat suboptimal design. And I am sure we can still do better, what about 800 kg and 300 HP? This should be possible, even with a small KERS module on board to add torque and lower fuel consumption. Try harder!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
In 1951 the Dyna Veritas had 32 HP, was 116 km/h fast and had to be fed with 7.4 liter per 100 km. The DKW Monza of 1958 was faster with 135 km/h, accelerated in 21.9 s from 0-100 km/h and could be driven with 10 liters per 100 km. Only 20 years later the Porsche Turbo 3.3 took 5.4 s to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h, reached 261 km/h, but took 23 liters from the gas station for every 100 km driven. And another 20 years later the BMW M5 was pretty much as fast as the Porsche 20 years earlier, but could seat 5 people and "only" drank 14.8 liters per 100 km. And in 1994 AMS tested the awesome McLaren F1 with 3.4 s for 0-100 km/, 370 km/h top speed and 18.6 liters fuel consumption for 100 km. People say the internet will replace magazines, newspapers and books. I believe there's a good argument having compilations like these six books in print.
For people interested, it's on amazon.de.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Now one additional thought: look at the formula one cars or other race cars. Do they have tires with similar dimensions as modern cars? No, they haven't. From a ratio width/height they actually look much more like the tires from the 512 BB, designed 25-30 years ago. Interesting, isn't it?
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Visibility is one of them. You barely can see out of a modern car these days, it seems. You even need park distance control systems to not damage your car. And it's much easier to damage your bumpers because they are painted and there's nothing to really protect THEM. Usability also got worse due to all the stuff they put into modern cars. But that's probably fair, giving all the convenience you get with it. But one more thing I think got worse - gear change precision. Many modern cars use complex mechanics to connect the transmission with the gear change lever while some cars we had in the past actually had the transmission between the seats and the lever directly operated the transmission. Look at the Alfa-Romeo Giulia or the Fastback Spider. I rarely have enjoyed so much precision changing gears. And now compare it with modern front wheel drive cars, especially when they are a bit more worn. What a difference. I am sure there are many many more things that actually haven't been improved over times. And yes, that's why some of us love to drive old cars ....
Sunday, October 11, 2009
The specification of the 1600 S reads:
Engine: Renault (R16), 1565 ccm, with 138 hp SAE (103 kW) gross (125 PS DIN (93 kW)) power output
Chassis: Steel backbone with fiberglass body panels
Dimensions and Weight
Weight: 620 kg
Length: 4.04 m
Alpines were very successful in all kinds of events, including hillclimbs and slaloms, but also on the track. But most rememberable of course was their track record in rallyies. Rear wheel drive and an engine mounted in the back meant good traction and the low weight made it almost unbeatable in winter conditions.
Mine was an original Group 3 car with all the right bits and pieces. I probably shouldn't have sold it after all.
And, if you have read my blogpost on the Mazda MX5 Superlight, well, the Alpine A110 is what I would call a true lightweight car.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The engine pictured here usually powers the Ferrari 308 GTB /GTS. It's an 8 cylinder engine with multiple carburetors. Yes, actually, it's quite nice to look at, but in all honesty, I prefer to have the engine in a car and listen to the sound it produces.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
(a) In dry conditions even at low temperatures summer tyres outperform winter tyres (i.e. breaking, acceleration), despite the softer compound of the winter tyres.
(b) in wet conditions there's a temperature threshold at around 7 to 10 degrees celsius where winter tyres become superior to summer tyres.
c) if it's snowing or frozen then winter tyres always win
So, that would tell me that if I never drive under wet or snow conditions I could stick with the summer tyres. As you can't predict the weather this is not really an option. But for all my cars that I only drive in dry and salt free conditions I can drive them during summer and winter without needing winter tyres. If anybody has something to add to this assessment, please don't hesitate as I am eager to learn.
Monday, October 5, 2009
I can well remember the trips I did with it, chasing Alfa-Romeo Spiders, and being quicker thanks to the very efficient convertible top mechanism, giving me an edge when it started to rain.
When it appeared it was basically the only car of its kind, but later Fiat and other makes copied the concept. It was clearly a success, with roughly 900'000 cars built it is clearly more than the fashion of a summer. Mazda did a very good job in keeping the car updated, I especially like the latest versions while I wasn't too keen on the ones between the MK1 and the current cars.
The MX-5/Miata has all it takes to become a classic and it only takes another 10 years until the first examples turn into the "oldtimer" age. Today it's a "youngtimer" and it's a "classic" I could well imagine giving my son one of these as a present when he turns 18. I wonder whether my "own" MX-5 has survived ....
(more information for example on wikipedia)
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Over 100 years of car manufacturing the commonality between different cars has greatly increased. While some cars had the throttle pedal in the middle in the past, some on the right, today you can take it for granted that the throttle pedal sits on the right, the brake pedal in the middle and the clutch pedal, if there's one, on the left. That's good, as it makes traffic a lot safer. Few people also may remember that Peugeots had the indicator switch on the right side of the steering wheel (LHD car) in the 70ies (and 80ies?) while most other cars had it on the left side. The knob to turn on the lights usually is on the left side of the steering wheel (LHD) for most cars and heating and air control sits in the center console. And the handbrake sits in the middle of the car in the center console usually. At least that was the case in the 80ies and 90ies. There were some exceptions of course, as for example the Porsche had the ignition key on the left side of the steering wheel (LHD) and Saab had it in the center console behind the gear lever. Mercedes didn't use a "handbrake" but rather a foot operated version. But mostly you wouldn't have to read a manual to operate somebody else's car. Now, lately things have changed. Electronic handbrakes, starter buttons and controls in the steering wheel have reduced commonality between different car makes in my eyes. Some of these differences do not affect safety, but some do. It's a step into the wrong direction. Usability has something to do with learning transfer. The smaller the difference to what people are used to the better the usability.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
I actually owned two NSX, a black and a red one, both built 1991. The black wasn't as good as I had hoped, but this was more because of the specific vehicle than the car as such. The second one proved to be very good, but finally I sold it because better and more beautiful cars came along. But I still consider this car as one of the best 90ies compromises between convenience and performance.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Well, at least for myself, driving different cars is more than just fulfilling different needs. Cars do have a personality of some sort. A Mercedes SL breathes German perfection, an English roadster like a TVR transports British tradition and is admirable just because it's not perfect at all. And so on. Different cars for different moods and different experiences. That's what it's all about. Modern cars can be quite versatile but they have to be a compromise and will never be able to give the final experience. The engine from the RS6 may be the one from the Gallardo, but the car still feels like an Audi and misses all the Italian extra points.
By the way, the two pictures were created with BeFunky.com, quite an entertaining site to convert pictures to canvas or comicbook like illustrations. Try it yourself!