volks wagen


I was rather depressed to read in the November edition of Vintage Roadcar that Volkswagen’s emissions cheating was not even that original.  Apparently in the late 1990’s a number of truck manufacturers were fined $1bn for doing the same thing, namely using software to change the way their engines ran whilst undergoing emissions tests.

Even more depressing was the fact that in 1974 Volkswagen paid the US authorities $120,000 to settle claims that they had fitted a mechanical “defeat device” to many of their cars that would sense when the engine reached a certain temperature and would then thwart the mandated pollution control systems.

It is hard to believe the engineers responsible for the current scandal were aware of the alleged misdemeanours of their forebears but it does perhaps show that a culture of disregard for the strictures of emissions laws is nothing new to Volkswagen.

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The excellent Porsche 919 Hybrids that triumphed at Le Mans this year. Will they be back next year?

Leaving aside the likely impact of Dieselgate on Wolfsburg and the wider German economy,  the crisis rocking VW Group is likely to have a significant impact on their motorsport programmes and aspirations.  Will the money still be there to fund Audi, Bentley and Porsche works teams? Particularly the hugely expensive Le Mans hybrid racers?  If the Audi Le Mans programme was designed to show the excellence of that company’s diesel and hybrid engineering technology, how can it possibly continue when it and its parent have been exposed as using the excellence of their engineering to cheat the public and the regulators?  And if Porsche and Audi pull out of WEC racing will other manufacturers do likewise?
Just before Dieselgate broke there was speculation in the motorsport press that VW were about to buy into Red Bull.  The deal would have made sense. Red Bull have fallen out with Renault and Mercedes will not supply them with engines. The thought of only being able to run obsolescent Ferrari engines next year was understandably unappealing. A deal with VW would have allowed Red Bull access to VW Group’s proven hybrid technology  – rebranding as Red Bull Audi would have been a small price to pay.  Such a deal is now surely dead in the water. There will be no money to spare at VW Group for a luxury like a Formula 1 team.  And without such a deal will we see Red Bull and Toro Rosso on next year’s grid? I think there is a real risk that we will not.

VW Group’s admission that they deliberately and fraudulently installed software in c11 million of their diesel cars to fool emissions testers is startling. We are now sadly used to big business issuing mea culpa statements due to the activities of rogue employees (banks and the fixing of LIBOR rates) , refusals to admit defects in their products (Toyota) or plain negligence (BP in the Gulf of Mexico) but never before have we seen one of the biggest companies in the world admit (but only after being caught) to defrauding their customers and the regulators.

The legal impact on VW will be disastrous. The key issue will be less the fraud in terms of co2 emissions and fuel economy (many do not care about the former and have long believed the latter to be manipulated) but rather it is the issue of NOX emissions that may kill VW.  This is primarily because NOX emissions are believed to be responsible for many fatalities worldwide. As such, fines in the U.S. alone will amount to billions. A number of possibly quite senior people will go to prison. I strongly suspect VW will only survive if the German government intervenes and even then I expect we will see the company broken up.

Whilst it is possible to shed tears for the innocent workers of VW Group surely there can be no sympathy at all for a company that deliberately pursued a fraud that it knew would contribute to the deaths of thousands?

The last time I competed at the Brighton Speed Trials was in 2012 when the event was marred by the tragic death of motorcycle sidecar passenger Charlotte Tagg. The Green local authority siezed on that as an excuse to try and ban the Speed Trials from being held in the future (see previous posts). However they had not reckoned on the passionate support the event has and a campaign organised by the Brighton and Hove Motor Club led to the Speed Trials returning in 2014. Unfortunately I was unable to attend that year but was pleased to be able to get an entry for this year.

It was good to bring the Beast back to Madeira Drive. As miraculously always seems to be the case the sun shone and several thousand spectators turned up to watch what is one of the oldest motorsport events in the world.

Nadine Geary’s immensely powerful Brock Daytona Cobra Coupe. Nadine is a former owner of the Beast – which she always made go rather faster than me!

Whilst not one for the purists I rather liked Richard McCann’s Jaguar XKE / E Type series 2 with its series 1 headlights and flared wheel arches

For years John Scanlon has enetered the Speed Trials in a variety of seemingly inappropriate Bentley saloons. This year he entered his Bentley Arnage Black Label. These are fantastic cars – the last of the real Bentleys (before they became Volkswagons). Crewe built they look stunning and have the final iteration of the venerable 6.75 litre Rolls Royce V8 – this time built by Cosworth and fitted with twin turbochargers. They are rare and ludicrously cheap and if I had a barn I would fill it with good examples.

Tesla brought along a P85 which performed well but perhaps not as quickly as they thought it would.

This year Stuart Gilbert beat me to the fastest MG crown (though sadly the Benn Trophy that used to be awarded for fastest MG has been discontinued) in his ferociously quick 5.3L V8 MGB GT

Fastest Time of the Day went to crowd favourite Jim Tiller in his heavily modified 7.3L Allard J2. Jim has been modifying and competing in his Allard at the Speed Trials for nearly 50 years. This was only his second victory – the first coming in 2004.

Mexican company Vuhl entered one of their new cars for what was the first competitive outing for the brand. I suspect the car is better suited to events with corners than drag strips!

Its hard to imagine that Jim Tiller’s Allard once looked like this J2X. The smart Cooper Jaguar T33 next to it went on to win the first race at the Goodwood Revival the following weekend.

Robert Oram has been competing in his E Type at the Speed trials for many years. This year he also entered and drove the Ferrari F40 behind. A nice way to spend a day!

An unusual entry was Alan Collett’s rare ISO Rivolta GT. Like an Italian Gordon Keeble or Bristol it combines European running gear with a big US V8.

Third fastest car on the day was John Church’s standard looking Audi 80 Quattro. It was anything but being blisteringly fast. Note the portable engine cooling fan – no point wasting power and increasing weight with permanent mechanical or electric fans!

The General Lim rat rod Plymouth

Carole Torkington prepares the SBD OMS CF08 for its final run. She came within fractions of a second of beating Jim Tiller’s Allard and becoming only the second woman (after Patsy Burt in 1968) to win the event.

As per usual the event attracted an eclectic mix of vehicles.  And whilst I improved my time on previous years, running with list 1A road tyres made a class victory all but impossible.  I was, however, gratified to beat a Ferrari F40 in two of the three timed runs.

The video below shows Pierre Lequeux in his Austin Healey Sprite starting his timed run. The car has been wonderfully restored and competed at Brighton in the 60s.

My first visit to Bombay for nearly 20 years was always going to surprise me. Much has changed since I was last there. International brands are more prevalent, poverty is less overt and wealth is more ostentatious.  Such is the pace of change in this vast metropolis (one suburb, Anderi, has a population equivalent to that of Greater London) that in twenty years I expect it will look little different to the cities of Southern Europe.

What appeared to me to be the most striking change was in Bombay’s road transport. Twenty years ago you were likely to see only three types of car on the city’s roads.  Hindustan Motors Ambasadors dominated the government market and were favoured by those with big families and a traditional mindset.  Fiat Padminis dominated the taxi trade.  The more aspirational consumer favoured the little Maruti hatch back.

In today’s Bombay I saw only one Ambi in three days.  Most of the Marutis had vanished too. Only a few battered Padminis hung on in the taxi trade but they were clearly fighting a losing battle with newer uglier Suzukis. Bombay’s streets are now thronged with Renaults, Suzukis, Skodas, VWs, Audis and lots of Mercedes.  

Skoda, Suzuki, Hyundai .. this Bombay street scene could be anywhere

The once ubiquitous auto rickshaws are now restricted to the suburbs.

The vanishing Bombay Auto Rickshaw

 I passed Aston Martin and Porsche showrooms and saw Land Rover, Jaguar and BMW heavily advertised. There is a Lamborghini showroom and no doubt, somewhere, Ferrari are plying their trade too.  Sadly comparatively few Indian brand cars were apparent. As in China, it seems that if you are aspirational you want to drive a foreign brand car even if it is built locally.

Ubiquitous Suzuki Taxi – so much less classy than a Padmini

 

Bombay’s impressive 3.5 mile long Sea Link, connecting Bandra to Worli. One stretch of road in Bombay where you can stretch a car’s legs!

A rare car in Bombay, Perseus Bandrawalla’s immaculate BMW 330. The car previously belonged to cricketing ledgend Sachin Tendulkar

The Dacia Duster is built in numerous locations around the world, including in India at Madras. It is sold in India as the Renault Duster and, unlike its Dacia sister, is aimed at an aspirational rather than budget market. In Renault form for the India market it comes with full leather seats, aircon and lots of other “luxury” kit as standard. They should sell similar specified cars in Europe!

Whilst in Bombay I saw very few of the much maligned Tata Nano, but I did get to ride in two. Whilst not great to look at they are remarkably spacious , easily taking four adults in a level of comfort surprising for such a small car. The Nano’s 624cc two cylinder engine sounded harsh under load but proved more than adequate for city driving. The Nano supplied to our (Tata owned) hotel as a courtesy car had leather seats , aircon and other bells and whistles. It was a great little car and I I think it would sell well to cool urban dwellers in Europe, particularly if produced (as promised in the future) in electric form.

Some interesting new iron (aluminium, carbon fibre …) at the FoS this year. Highlights below.

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The new Ford Mustang – finally available in right hand drive. Aggressive retro styling looks good – shame about the awful colour

 

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More “motor show” colours on the McLaren stand. Am I the only one who prefers the simple look of the MP4-12c nose to that on the new 650S nose? Must be as apparently there was so little continuing demand for the old car once the 650S was launched that they have now stopped making it.

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The Jaguar F Type Project 7 is an important car for Jaguar. Based on the slightly more extreme concept shown at last year’s FoS , the Project 7 is actually a production car – indeed the fastest production Jaguar ever. Its V8 is tuned up to 575 bhp – 25 more than the R Coupe. It also has bespoke aero, and trick suspension and diff with standard carbon ceramic brakes. The screen has a greater rake than the standard convertible and it has an D Type imitating faring behind the drivers role hoop. Inside it looks fairly standard and weather protection consists of a rather impractical clip on hood like the recent Boxster speedster. Its a striking car and they hope to sell 250, and only 60 in right hand drive. But what’s it for? Too comfortable and therefore heavy for a racer (and the rollover protection looks too scant) yet too uncomfortable for every day use. Is it therefore just for collectors and occasional track days?

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This stunning Jaguar SUV concept is far more likely to make JLR lots of money. Aimed at rivalling the Audi Q4, BMW X3 and especially the Porsche Macan it should perform well and in a different segment to current Land Rover products. I would certainly buy one. The bad news is that we are unlikely to see one for sale until 2018, with a hot version not to follow until 2019.

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VW ran their diminutive XL electric car up the hill. It looks like the future for urban transport but is very very small and very very expensive.

 

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The new Renault Twingo Sport looks like great fun. Based on the same platform as the new Smart 4-2 it has a rear mounted 1L turbocharged engine. Hot versions later this year should have 140 bhp making the car a mini 911!

There is always a fine selection of Le Mans sports cars at Goodwood ranging from those from the earliest days of racing to the very latest winning machines.

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Andy Wallace is reunited with his 1988 Le mans winning Jaguar XJR – 9

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This year’s Le man winning Audi e-Tron. Havings stumbled in the early rounds of this year’s World Sports Car championship they managed to win the race that really mattered. Sound familiar Peugeot?

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1970 Ferrari 512, just like in the film Le Mans..

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Mercedes high speed transporter carrying the fabulous Uhlenhaut Coupe (see previous posts from Stuttgart)

 

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This year’s Le Mans Toyota hybrid

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Gorgeous Jaguar D Type Le Mans winners – 55, 56, 57. This Ecurie Ecosse car won in 1957 and provided the design inspiration for the Project 7 Jaguar

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Vast V12 Sunbeam racer from 1920 and even bigger 1911 Fiat

Due to restrictions on testing (!) there were no contemporary Formula One cars tackling the hill at Goodwood this year. That did not stop some of the teams bringing cars for static display or bringing cars from previous seasons for their drivers and test drivers to run up the hill. Even then runs were restricted to demonstration performances with plenty of doughnuts and burnouts and very little speed. We had to look to the historic guys for real pace.

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Jenson Button in the McLaren MP4-26 he drove in 2012.

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Max Smith Hilliard in his 1972 Surtees TS9B. Seconds later he stuffed it into the bales at Molecombe corner. He was unhurt and at least he was trying!

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Legendary Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi driving the McLaren M23 with which he won McLaren’s first world title in 1974.

One of the best things about the Festival of speed is the close access to the drivers available for fans.

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British GP winner Johhny Herbert sharing a laugh at the Williams pit

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John Surtees was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his world championship with a class of cars and bikes associated with his career in action on the hill all weekend.

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An immaculately turned out Paddy Hopkirk reunited with his Monte winning Mini Cooper

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Twelve time World Motor Bike Trials champion Dougie Lampkin in action

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Felipe Massa reflecting on his good fortune to no longer be at Ferrari

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I had a good chat with Andy Wallace about Le Mans in 1988. The XJR made 250 mph down the pre chicane Mulsanne Straight. At night he could see so little as the lights were mounted so low that he had to pick out his braking points by calculating distances from land marks as they flashed by. To this day the XJR is the fastest car to have driven at Le mans. Andy has no desire to ever drive that fast again – he said it was something you could only do when young, fearless and lacking in imagination.

A large part of the show was given over to German Car Clubs many of whom displayed some lovely cars in imaginative displays. In addition the dealers were out in force, especially at the top end. Prices were steep but the quality of most cars reflected that. Though an OK triumph Dolomite Sprint for £25,000 hardly seemed like value for money.

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Mk1 VW Scirocco – great little cars, my Mum had a red one in the early eighties.

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East German border guard’s Trabant. Look closely and you will see the guard dog doesn’t think much of it!

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Very colourful Citroen GSA. I learnt to drive in a rather less colourful one of these. Very comfortable – unless the hydraulics failed. Then it was fatal.

 

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This is the Zagato version of the Lancia Flaminia , the Touring of Milan version of which I saw at Brooklands in February. The Zagato version is even better looking, is rarer and much more expensive. this dealer had two and I saw two others for sale elsewhere at the show.

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Contemporary to the Lancia is this very similar looking Aston Martin DB, also by Zagato. This car is a recreation and was for sale for 110,000 Euros.

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You can keep your Blower Bentleys, this is my dream pre war classic, a Low Chassis Invicta. Better looking, faster and cheaper too (though still over £500,000).

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1937 Horch 853 Spezialroadster

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If you wanted to you could buy Chairman Mao’s Mercedes 600 Pullman

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Turin coachbuilder OSI produced the smart Ford Taunus based OSI Ford Coupe for only a year (1967 – 68) but it has a strong following in Germany. Compared to the ugly Taunus you can see why!

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At all German shows you will find lots of companies ready and willing to build you a better than new 911 or Pagoda. This company allows you to choose era and body style as well as some great retro colours.

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