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Vol. XI No.4 -April 1 -April 30, 2012

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Update by Saichon Paewsoongnern
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

What did we learn from the Chinese Grand Prix?

Well, we learned that Nico Rosberg in winning his first race does have it in him, can withstand the pressures, physical and mental and drive to give Mercedes-Benz their first win for decades.  Congratulations are due.

We also found that the race was somewhat like the old Snakes and Ladders game, go so far up the ladder and then be swallowed by a snake and go backwards.  Since this factor in the racing was caused by tyres which last less than 10 laps, I call this “Rubber Roulette”.  This resulted in some teams opting for a two stop strategy and others a three stopper.

Back to Mercedes and their hopes of a 1-2 which were shattered when one wheel on Michael Schumacher’s car was not correctly tightened on the hub.  Probably has been shot at dawn on the Monday.  However, the pressures that the pit crews are under are enormous.  Change all four wheels under five seconds, and see of you don’t sweat a little.  Team principal Ross Brawn said, “It’s just a tragedy that we had the problem with Michael because he would have been in great shape too.  We have started a new adventure, I have been lucky to have a lot of special days and this is certainly a special one.”

McLaren had a win almost in their grasp, with Jenson Button, Mr. Smooth, gliding his way to the front, only to have a wheel problem in the pits delay him by several seconds, enough to allow Rosberg to run away and leave Button with second only.  Hamilton in the other McLaren drove a heady race and was involved in much wheel to wheel action, all very clean, and his third place was well deserved.

In fourth was Mark Webber (Red Bull) after sneaking past team mate Sebastian Vettel in the last few laps.  Webber did his usual atrocious start (can’t someone take him out to a vacant parking lot and let him practice a lot) and then tried to get his pilot’s license renewed with an enormous ‘wheelie’ after sliding off on one corner.  He described the GP as, “It was an interesting race, enjoyed most of it.  It was different strategies playing against each other - utter chaos.”  And it was chaos from the spectator point of view - one minute your favorite driver was third and the next he was 13th.

Vettel did not have the happiest of races finally coming home fifth, and he has found that it is more difficult when you are not driving the dominant car, such as Red Bull was last year.

Grosjean in the “Lotus” survived a complete Grand Prix and finished sixth, after team mate Raikkonen’s tyres just gave up working and he slipped from fourth to 14th over the final laps.

Seventh was Bruno Senna in the Williams, just beating his team mate Maldonado and the top 10 was rounded out by Alonso (Ferrari) and Kobayashi in the Sauber.  And Alonso’s Ferrari stablemate Massa?  Thirteenth, I am afraid and once more out of the points.  I do not believe Ferrari will put up with this all year, and a DCM is on the cards (Don’t Come Monday).

Plenty of close running all the way down through the ranks, though the DRS did not seem to have the effect is supposed to.

Bahrain GP this weekend, let us hope the threatened violence does not eventuate.

Carroll Shelby does it again

Wheel-standing Shelby 1000.

The same iconic chap who shoe-horned V8’s into AC sports cars to produce the wonderful Cobra series and the Shelby Mustang of the late 60’s, has now done it all again, with 1000 horsepower V8’s in the new Mustangs.

At the New York International Auto Show, 50 years after the company made its debut, Shelby American, Inc., a division of Carroll Shelby International, unveiled the world's most powerful series of muscle cars.  Named the Shelby 1000, the street-legal car is the high performance dream of founder Carroll Shelby.  The Shelby American team enhanced the power, braking and handling of the 2012 Ford Shelby GT500 to create a hyper-performance muscle car available in both street and competition versions.

“We launched Shelby American with the Cobra at the 1962 New York Auto Show,” said Carroll Shelby.  “The 289 Cobra was considered pretty radical at the time.  For our return 50 years later, I wanted something just as incredible that will show how far we've come and where we're headed for the next 50 years.”

Having just achieved 800 horsepower with the famed Shelby GT500 Super Snake, he believed that they could enhance Ford's well-engineered car even more.

Shelby himself was actively involved in every aspect of the Shelby 1000's development, from the design to the testing and ultimately his final approval.

The Shelby1000 will be offered in both street and Shelby 1000 S/C “off-road” track versions. The street legal, pump gas version dyno's out at approximately 950 BHP, while the track oriented version is rated at over 1,100 BHP.

Shelby's enhancements didn't stop at the engine.  “This car is the total package,” noted Gary Patterson, vice president of operations.  “It was conceived as the ultimate Shelby and honed during substantial testing.  It’s the most powerful Shelby based on a Ford Mustang that has ever been built at Shelby American.”

The brakes include 6 pistons in front and 4 pistons out back.  The driveshaft is a stronger unit while the suspension includes new struts, sway bars and bushings.  The hood, rear panel and splitter are functional pieces for performance.

The result is a Shelby with subtle, yet substantial changes.  From the interior touches to the hood, wheels and aerodynamic styling, the car is stripped to its bare essence.  In keeping with its 50th anniversary theme, a limited production of 100 Shelby 1000s will be built.  Each will be numbered and documented for the Shelby registry.

Shelby American is now accepting orders for the limited edition Shelby 1000.  Those interested in reserving a car should contact the Shelby American Sales team at

And the price - and this is in the USA, the Shelby 1000 starts at $149,995 and the track S/C version starts at $154,995, but that is not including the base GT500.  A completed Shelby 1000 is then expected to be approximately $200,000 (six million THB), but that is in the US.  I would hazard a guess at 18 million THB landed here in LHD form.

The wash-up after the Bangkok International Motor Show

The 2012 motor show will be heralded as the ‘best ever’ with 1.9 million people attending and 57,058 orders for new cars taken at the show.  That is actually quite astounding when you think about it.

Of course with the floods of 2011, sales of new vehicles were down for the last three months of the year, and this will have spurred on sales for the first quarter of 2012.  Figures are now available from the exhibitors, and the top sales day (8,537 units) was the final day of the show, April 8, with people realizing this was their last chance to pick up some of the bargain extras being offered for show purchases.

Easily top seller was Toyota with 12,694 orders, almost double the next best which was Honda at 7,539.

Third place went to Mitsubishi at 6,406 units, and I am sure many of those were the new Mirage eco-car, whilst Nissan was pushed down to fourth at 5,479 orders.

Isuzu sold very well in fifth at 5,007, well clear of Mazda at 4,117 and Chevrolet at 4,045 and Ford at 4,008.  Isuzu, with only pick-ups and their SUV is a surprisingly good result over Chevrolet and Ford with their complete ranges of cars.  Suzuki with 3,140 orders shows that eco-cars suit the current budgets 

Chevrolet Trailblazer.

Large drop to BMW (1,439) in 10th place and Mercedes-Benz (1,271), closely followed by Hyundai at 945.  This does not surprise me at all as the Hyundai people are doing well all over the world.

After Hyundai, the sales figures for the rest of the manufacturers just fell away, with next best being VW at 181, outselling Volvo (173) and then a big drop to Lexus (118), Peugeot (109), MINI (105) and then SSanyong at 100.

Amongst the surprises was the fact that Mitsuoka (16) outsold Jaguar (12).

Others who did well (relatively) looking at their prices were Porsche (10), Lotus (5) and Lamborghini (4).  Finally, Bentley did sell one example, but Rolls-Royce went home with the four cars they brought.


The main message from the figures was that whilst Toyota is still top dog, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Hyundai were the big movers.

Unbeatable bargains

The Motor Show in Bangkok showed just what incredible bargains there are in the automotive sector at present. The government’s pushing of the ‘eco-car’ category has made it such that some very inexpensive new cars can be bought for around 400,000 THB, and if this is your first car, you can knock another 100,000 THB off the sticker price as well with the government’s rebate program.

Newcomers to the category are the Mitsubishi Mirage and the Suzuki Swift which will compete against each other as well as against the Nissan March and the Honda Brio (now that Honda has resumed production after the factory was flooded).

Suzuki executives said they initially expected about 2,000 orders at the show, but after the Swift was launched, more than 4,000 orders have already been placed, and motor show sales were higher than expected.

Suzuki Swift eco-car.

The Mitsubishi Mirage is built on the Mitsubishi Global Small platform and features a high tensile steel body that is lighter and more rigid than regular steel. The engine is a four valves three cylinder unit with the 1.2 liter engine developing 78 bhp. It comes with a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) and has Mitsubishi is claiming a fuel economy of 22 kilometers per liter.

With all the other offerings in this category, Mitsubishi offered free insurance and a cash rebate of 10,000 THB for the first 9,000 Mirage customers. The Mirage range runs from 388,000 to 546,000 THB.

The Suzuki Swift eco-car variant appears to have caught the imagination of the public. Now built in Thailand to comply with the eco-car requirements, it is a down market version of the imported 1.5 liter Swift. This new version has a 1.2 liter, 4 cylinder 12 valve engine with a claimed output of 91 bhp. The Swift also comes with a CVT and is priced from 469,000 to 559,000 THB.

Praphat Choeychom, senior vice president at Nissan Motor (Thailand), said the small-car segment was very competitive; however, Nissan’s March has had a great year. “Nissan was the first company to introduce the eco-car and we were highly successful. This year we also have a special model in the lineup and expect the same level of success,” he said.

Honda had six months to forget with the flooding of the Ayutthaya factory, but now up and running, the stylish little Honda Brio could garner a good foothold in the eco-car category.

Nitto 3K Retro series begins May 5 and 6 at Bira

The Retro Series for 2012 looks to be even more competitive as drivers can see that the Retro Series represents the most fun for the money, and remains one of the most affordable classes in racing.

Basically the cars have to be manufactured before 1985, and the classes are then divided on engine types (naturally aspirated or Turbo/supercharged). The older styles of car feature less complicated engineering, making it possible for ‘home mechanics’ to prepare and maintain their racing cars. Most of the cars also comply with road registration, so expensive trailers are not the norm, as most drivers simply drive to the circuit.

There are many makes involved in the series, right from Porsche 944s, through to BMW E30’s, hordes of Toyota Corolla DX and many other Toyota types, a couple of Mk1 Ford Escorts and more.

Our Securitas Retro Escort Team which came third last year in the championships has had an upgraded engine for the 2012 season and is now being made race-ready. It was taken to the B-Quik workshop to have the wheel alignment set on racing specifications, and they certainly were “quick”. Thank you K. Mai and your technicians.

F-Type breaks cover - officially

Jaguar F-Type.

A few months ago I published some news of the Jaguar concept car, the C-X16, and expressed the opinion that I hoped it might make production. Now the news is out that Jaguar will be building this car, and is to be called the F-Type.
This makes a very logical progression with post-war Jaguar sports cars beginning with the C-Type, then the D-Type followed by the wildly popular E-Type. This new car, which is to be released in 2013, also has styling similarities which makes it a worthy successor to the E.
Adrian Hallmark, Global Brand Director of Jaguar confirmed at the New York Auto Show that the F-Type will be in production, and yes, based on the stunning C-X16.
The F-Type will join Jaguar’s existing range - the XF sedan and Sportbrake, XJ sedan and XK coupe/convertible.
Full specifications are not confirmed, but it is claimed that the new car will have a top speed approaching 300 km/h and have a zero to 100 km/h under five seconds, making it a definite supercar.
Jaguar released their own camouflaged spy photos with the “F” design, though it does look rather like the Fendi handbag livery!

Car Engineering and physical laws

I was always taught that physics was an exact science. What goes up must come down, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, similar magnetic poles repel, pressure is equally distributed in a closed vessel, the speed of light is absolute, e=mc2 and all that kind of stuff. Well, it’s not. If you ever want to disprove physics as a science, then buy a car. They do not obey physical laws.

I have always considered car electrics to be a black art. Take the battery, for example, and I am sure you have all experienced the following. You have a perfectly good battery which is just over 12 months old. In your mind that’s almost brand new. In fact, you can even remember how much you paid for it, so it must be very new. And then one morning it won’t turn the engine over. It worked perfectly yesterday, and now it won’t, or doesn’t want to.

You push start the car and run it for half an hour, as you suppose you must have left the headlights on, or something equally as explicable. Turn it off, and hey presto! It’s as dead as a dodo.

If you are really into masochism, you then borrow your mate’s battery charger and leave it on all night. Triumphantly you remove the cables and jump in. It doesn’t work. Perfectly good one day, completely cactus the next. Explain that one, Mr. Einstein.

I haven’t finished with electrics yet. There’s the great little device called “the coil”. This electrical marvel delivers high voltage to the spark plugs and does a sterling job until one day, it just doesn’t deliver. No warning. It just stops working and is then quite useless forever. You cannot resurrect it, coax it back into life or anything. Its only use is as a missile to throw at soi dogs.

Another bit of engineering that defies physical laws lies in the universal joints in the propeller shaft. A kind of metal X with case-hardened caps filled with rollers. Despite all the greasing in the world, these things would always seize up, and you had to pull it all apart.

The Owners Manual made it look easy. (Those were the days when the manufacturer actually allowed you to touch the car. These days your warranty would become null and void and you would probably be subjected to some kind of exquisite electro-torture. Tomorrow you will be shot if you open the bonnet.) But back to the manual, plus pix of some chap in a dust coat. “Tap the yoke lightly and the bearing will appear” was what the good book said. Not one solitary word as what to do when the bearings didn’t appear - and they never did.

No, the tapping physical law does not exist. You have to get the biggest cold chisel you can and split the casing, and by the time you have thoroughly butchered it, then the bearing will appear - in bits. “Tap the yoke lightly” indeed! Physics be damned!

Some thoughts from the Motor Show

I began writing this part of the Automania column whilst in the Novotel in the Impact Arena where the Bangkok International Motor Show is held these days. This is the only one of the many “motor shows” that I do not miss each year, being the only internationally certified and ratified motor show in Thailand.

This year saw many of the luxury marques back in the show. Principal amongst these was Rolls-Royce who had reserved several acres of space for four of their premium offerings. Bumped into Thipvibha (Tippy) Guna-Tilaka who was handling their marketing communications and who happily opened the gate in the protective fence around the multi-million baht Rolls-Royces (after all, these are not vehicles for the hoi-polloi, are they). Many years ago, I remember being told by the owner of a Bentley that parking it in town was the equivalent of “casting pearls before the swine!” Oh, if only I had that sort of money, but even saving assiduously I have left my run a little late to get the necessary 29 million baht together for the drop-head coupe…

M’Lord’s Rolls awaits.

There were Lamborghini everywhere, especially in the display areas with sound systems capable of blowing your ears off, and earnest young gentlemen polishing said Lambo’s within an inch of their lives, with the latest wonder polish made from genetically modified North African dromedary droppings.

At the other end of the scale was the new eco-car from Mitsubishi, called the Mirage. A compact little unit in much the same genre as the Nissan March. Nissan has enjoyed 12 months of almost having the eco-car marketplace to itself, but no more. Like all ‘cheapies’ you get what you pay for (no disappearing bonnet figurines such as one gets with the R-R in your garage), but I am sure the little Mirage will get into lots of other garages. And they come in a rainbow of colors and at B. 380-546 will go out the door like hot cakes.

Mitsubishi Mirage.

On the Nissan stand they also had the new Almera, another fresh offering competing against the Toyota Vios category, but is also in the eco-car category and will be another Nissan to do well, I am sure.

Nissan Almera.

If there was a color at the motor show this year, it was white. Every manufacturer featured a white model (except R-R, where they were all a respectful sombre shade, and Lambo, which seemed to have bought a job lot of orange paint for their cars).
Of course, while white was the ‘in’ color, there were a few startling examples in red, notable being an AMG Mercedes-Benz and a Ford Ranger pick-up, completely ‘in your face’!

In your face red Ranger.

The General, with a fanfare of trumpets, revealed their new Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV. A Colorado with a rear section and two occasional seats behind to make it a true seven-seater. However, the occupants of the extra seats should have short legs and well-padded behinds, because seats were not, as far as I could see. Whilst GM, I am sure, will claim there is no overlapping of models, the comparison between the Trailblazer and the Captiva must be made. To me, the looks of the Captiva are much more pleasant, and the jump seats look better too. The public will vote on this at the sales desk. GM also showed a couple of ‘teaser’ models of the Sonic which was released in Los Angeles earlier this year. Aveo-sized, it will be an Aveo replacement.
Ford featured the new Territory SUV, complete with corporate grille. This vehicle is made in Australia, reversing the trend for cars to be built here and exported to Down-Under. An important vehicle for the Australian motor industry, and it will be interesting to see how it stacks up here compared to the Trailblazer/Fortuner/MU7/Pajero Sport SUVs.
One manufacturer to watch is Hyundai, producing an alternative to the Toyota Camry and very well thought of overseas. The Elantra on show had been voted the North American Car of the Year, and Hyundai has been doing very well in the customer satisfaction stakes. You will see many more on the roads this year.

Elegant Elantra.

MINI (BMW like us to use all caps, as opposed to the original Alec Issigonis ‘Mini’) displayed the new MINI Roadster. People with weak stomachs should not get too close to this car. Hideous is the only word for it. And as far as the four door version is concerned, it is neither small nor cute, and despite its gaudy stickers looks similar to a London taxi.

Do not remove the cover if you have a weak stomach.

I have said this before, but Ssanyong sshould sshoot their sstylist. Many models on the stand, and reluctantly I will say that the Korando SUV is not as nauseating as the Actyon. The ‘Bentley’ style grille is pleasant.
Mitsuoka were brave enough to again display their Jaguar 3.4 copy called the Viewt. But if you think that’s bad, take a look at the Orochi. It even makes the MINI Roadster look half decent.

OMG Orochi.

Worth it even if it is just to wonder at the Mitsuoka! More on the show next week.

A small piece from Ron Lister in Chiang Mai

“I must confess to feeling somewhat nostalgic when I saw the photo of the delightful old Kombi in the most recent edition.
Yes, there's many good Beetles and Kombis here in Chiang Mai; some quite visible and others hidden away.

'Nostalgic' because a 1957 Kombi was my first vehicle, Australia 1969.
I had been working part time delivering cool drinks to help pay for uni fees and the vehicle given to me was a Kombi. After driving it for a few months I got to like it and saw the potential it had to offer.

Not a 'trendy' vehicle for a young man to have in the late 60s (yet it really was!) and all my friends laughed. But it had an ice chest, table and bench seats which converted to a bed. I sat in there and typed assignments for exams.

1970 I was appointed to a rural school in South Australia and took the Kombi. It would transport an entire Aussie Rules football team of 20 school kids from venue to venue.

It ran out of petrol near a farm once and was actually topped up with kerosene! No worries.
Then in 1971 I was transferred to Central Oz, just south of Uluru, to work at an Aboriginal community. The loyal Kombi handled those rough and dusty road beautifully, as long as it was loaded. I actually took it to remote water-holes so my students could swim. They told me that 'Mr Mac couldn't take his Series 2 Landrover here'. The clearance and having a wheel at each corner really helped get it into tight spots. The, for that time, large 15 inch wheels and tough suspension dealt with the merciless corrugations.

That Kombi just went on and on. The only thing I had to be careful with was the air filter. My model had the engine vents low down, which tended to suck dust into the engine compartment. Later models had those vents raised.

The big minus was that it was so underpowered with its 1200 cc engine and high gearing that a head wind would necessitate driving many miles in 3rd. A side wind would force one to drive with the steering wheel at about 30 degrees off center; somewhat like sailing!

Then in 1974 I was transferred again. A dear Aboriginal Elder loved my Kombi. I had taken him hunting in it many times. He wanted to buy it. Because old Charlie had been so kind and helpful to me, both professionally and spiritually, I weakened and sold it to him.

I later learned that Charlie got it bogged in a dry creek some months later and burnt out the clutch trying to extricate it. Rather than hunt around Alice Springs for a spare clutch, then have it fitted by non mechanics, old Charlie used the Kombi as his home for the next few years. Whenever he had to relocate because of a death or ceremonies he would have it towed to the new location.

Charlie was not only a Tribal Elder and ceremonial leader, he was also a Christian and a Church Elder. I visited the community one Sunday and he was sitting in the Kombi, parked under a gum tree, preparing his sermon.

The dear old fella eventually passed away in that Kombi. Because of that and the traditional beliefs, the inside of the Kombi had to be burnt to chase Charlie's spirit away to another location. So the old Kombi is resting in peace, as is Charlie, out near the Northern Territory, Western Oz and South Oz border area.”
Thank you Ron Lister for that delightful tale of an old Kombi.



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