Four Wheels

Apr 2010
Girls are evil

I have a nemesis…

I drove to work today in “little car” – our small hot-hatch. I drove the back roads to work and enjoyed myself immensely. Nothing desperately illegal, just enthusiastic driving.

Most of the way I had a little dark blue Ford Fiesta keeping perfect distance from me. When I overtook, it did. When I took the racing line, it did. When I clipped the apex, it did. When I dipped down onto the A14, it did. When I made a sprint past a lorry, it did. When I came back up the slip road, it did.

The lights turned red ahead of us. There are three lanes – two to turn left and one to go right. Lane 1 is taken. I stop on the line in lane 2. The Fiesta stops on the line in lane three.

I glance to the right and the driver who’s been playing road games with me is a beautiful lass in her early twenties, who smiles and gives me a thank you nod.

I nod back, and look back towards the lights.

A few moments later, she briefly beeps her horn. I look towards her. She smiles at me and winks. Then accelerates past the light as it turns green, cuts across, and goes left down ‘my’ lane.

They’re evil, I tell you…

Obviously, this is a work of fiction. I’d never do anything like that…

BMW New Series (1962 – 1976)

[ creative commons picture from flickr user dave_7 ]
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This time you’re getting no hints since this makes the Land Rover one look complicated… :)

Jeep CJ-2A (1945-1949)

[ creative commons picture from flickr user MrBigDog2k ]
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Next up, lets take a look at 60 years of Alfa Romeos. We’re looking at the inverted tear drop shape of the grille and the position of the headlights…

Alfa Romeo 1900 (1950–1959)

[ creative commons picture from flickr user HenryFigueroa ]
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As a kid I always loved the faces that Peugeot gave their cars, with the eyes that changed mood depending on how you saw them. Sometimes they were friendly, sometimes malevolent, and sometimes sleepy. No doubt entertaining small English boys wasn’t top of the list of must-haves that the designers considered, but it has led to an interesting family face to observe…

Peugeot 204 (1965-1976)

[ creative commons picture from flickr user mazdamiata ]
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When my brother first suggested Land Rover for this, I thought it was a bit of a cheat – after all, the thing hasn’t changed in 60 years. But then… isn’t that the point…?

The first version of the Land Rover was designed to replace an ageing Jeep that Rover’s chief designer Maurice Wilks used on his farm in Wales. It was a utilitarian affair designed to use parts that were already lying around the Rover factory. The doors could be removed or halved in height, the roof could come off and the windscreen could be collapsed down…

Land Rover Series I (1948-1958)

[ creative commons picture from flickr user Ian Fuller]
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Lets get the off on the right foot, shall we? You can’t buy a new Porsche 911. No, you can’t. The car currently sold as the ’911′ is actually the Porsche 997. This is a round-up of the 911 family tree for my Family Face series…

911 Classic (1964–1975)

[ creative commons picture from flickr user aresauburn]
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Another interesting progression is the step from one version of the same range to the next. The VW Golf shows an almost natural evolution in its appearance. Darwin would be proud…

The Mark 1 Golf is one of those truly iconic cars for people my age. The GTI was on the scene just as I was starting to realise that it wasn’t just the supercars that were worth drooling over.

[ All images taken from the Wikipedia VW Golf article ]

Mark I (1974-1984)

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Jul 2009
Family face – Volvo

My grandfather was famous for his inability to identify shapes – he was banned from holding a gun during the war because he couldn’t tell the difference between our planes and the German ones. He was delighted by my (incredibly geeky) ability to identify the manufacturer of oncoming cars by the shapes of their grill.

It’s interesting (no, really) to compare the front of certain marques over time…

First up, is 40 years of Volvo…

Volvo 140 series (1966–1974)

[ creative commons picture from flickr user Schockwellenreiter ]
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Traditionally, car manufacturers lie about their fuel economy. Kindof. They tune their cars so that they perform better in the economy tests rather than better in real world situations. This means that no-one ever manages to get the economy claimed.

Except that we run a Skoda Octavia which gets 33.5mpg compared to the 34mpg that it should get. And our little Toyota Corolla gets between 38mpg(for me) and 41mpg(for GB) compared to the 38mpg that it should get.

Now, remember that GB is a relatively slow driver, who takes her time, changes gear at (too) low revs and is generally a rather nice person. And I’m not. I tend to attack the road rather vindictively and carry lots of speed through junctions so that my insane fuel sapping acceleration is as limited as possible.

So… can I please have my Skoda Octavia vRS diesel now? 0-60 just as quickly as my tank, but faster round the twisty bits and (allegedly) capable of 49mpg?

The government has decided to ‘help’ the car industry by giving a £2000 discount on new cars if you scrap a car that’s more than 10 years old.

The discount will be funded 50/50 by the government and the industry.

Before you party too much, lets take a look at the figures…

You know that £2000 50/50? Well, car manufacturers are amongst the only industry to have put their list prices up this year. A Ford Focus convertible (for example) is a £1000 more expensive than last year. That £1000 that will now be discounted in this scheme.

You know the carbon that this will save? Well, lets assume you drive a ten year old Jeep Cherokee 3.7l Automatic – you know, a good low emissions car. That chugs through 333g of carbon/km. Replacing it with a new car will generate 10-20000lb of carbon. I’ll do the maths for you… you could do 17,000miles on the carbon generated just by the production of your new car.

Assume you replaced your Jeep with a Prius. That Prius is still generating 103g/km… So with the fuel your Prius has burnt on those 17,000 miles, you could do another 6,000 miles in the Jeep.

You’re looking at over 25,000 miles before the Prius’ even coming close…

So, we’re supporting a crap industry who are ‘discounting’ money they’ve already added while the world is in recession. We’re pumping out carbon for no gain. We’re destroying our future classic cars by crushing good quality cars that have yet to start appreciating back up past the £2000 mark.

I’m really rather disappointed.

I put in a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the 13 miles of speed averaging cameras that monitor the road between Cambridge and Huntingdon.

Like all such cameras they are front facing, so they can’t catch motorbikes and they have to deal with the glare of headlights. This doesn’t seem much like a ‘safety’ measure to me. If you want to encourage safe driving, surely you would want to have an effect at night, when the roads are more dangerous? You’d also want to keep an eye on those soft and squidgy fast moving types on motorbikes, wouldn’t you? If all you were interested in was making some money, wouldn’t you aim the cameras at the front of the cars where you can take photos of the drivers of cars?

So, I asked for information on how many cars, bike and lorries were given fines every months, broken down by time of day. My expectation was that there would be no bikes at all and that cars and lorries wouldn’t be caught at night.

The response came back today.

Cambridgeshire Police have refused the request on the grounds of law and health and safety…

“For camera enforcement to be truly effective there must be the perception that the chances of being recorded are high at all times”.

“The disclosure of specific data on camera sites would make camera deployment less effective, which would impact on the safety of road users at large”

So, in short, they have refused to tell me about the effectiveness of speed cameras on reducing speeding because they don’t work well enough for the data not to make people think they are crap.

Well done boys…

Apr 2009
Welcome to Sodium

Every second a new blog is started1. This is the blog for this second…

Anything from this point onwards has been brought over from a different site. Unfortunately comments haven’t come over with them, so the sparkling wit my words generate isn’t here. Unless commenters are as bored as I was when I started the transfer.

For the record “Sodium Lights The Horizon” means nothing. It was a random phrase that came from a random conversation. It seems strangely lyrical but google returned zero hits on the phrase. Simple as that…

1 – I may have made that up. But you believed it, didn’t you…?