Archive | December, 2013

The Legend That Is The UR-Quattro

The original. The legend that is the Audi Quattro; the version in the image dating from 1989 and your editor got a crack at it. I came, I saw and I asked if I could take it out and was quietly stunned when the answer was yes. The Ur-Quattro was arguably the first production car to bring permanent four wheel drive and a turbocharger fully to the attention of the car buying public thanks to its rally successes.

Over two decades have passed since this car was in its heyday and it is frankly amazing just how far the motor industry has come. Opening the door was like going back into history in an automotive time machine. Now I know how Howard Carter felt when he opened Tutankhamun’s tomb.

‘Where is all the seat adjustment’, I wondered, ‘What happened to the climate control?’ That’s how much we’ve been spoiled. This venerable motor even had that ‘wet dog’ smell unique to old cars.

Nevertheless, at the turn of a key, the engine sprang immediately into life. I actually laughed out loud when I found that I needed a thigh of steel to depress the clutch. Selecting a notchy first gear I inched forward and, thankfully without stalling, accelerated and was immediately reminded again how much things have changed.

We have gone soft. We have been cosseted in luxury and supported by many driver aids. Getting back to basics like this was a reminder of how it felt to be solely in charge of a large chunk of flying metal powered by a five-cylinder 2.2L turbo motor with just three pedals and a steering wheel for support. When new, this car would have produced over 200bhp, although time and many thousands of miles has taken its toll.

Nevertheless, the old dog still had plenty of life in it as I approached my first junction and found to my consternation that brakes had obviously been an afterthought. After that exciting interlude, I drove with due diligence and it was an awesome experience. I could feel and sometimes hear all the moving parts going about their business and felt fully connected to the road.

The steering was communicative and surprisingly accurate and in corners the car remained settled thanks to the legendary four-wheel drive. This was proper driving rather than the remote experiences we have now. Even the seat creaked. I drove this iconic car for a half hour and realised that we have lost as much as we’ve gained in motoring. I savoured every moment and, do you know, at the end of my drive I was quite fired up.

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Lose Pounds To Save Pounds

Nobody does mother-in-law jokes anymore. That sort of thing definitely belongs to the era of Bernard Manning and is far too un-pc for modern sensibilities. Seriously though, have you got a mother-in-law? If so, do you occasionally give her lifts in your car? Well, the time has come to jettison her from your motor. Remembering to stop first, clearly.

You’ll have read often enough about the costs of motoring. Insurance, road tax, increased VAT and ridiculous fuel prices have all conspired to relieve you of money faster than ever before. Motorists are waking up to the fact that small cars mean economy and light-weight cars deliver even better figures. Obviously we’ve always known this and yet, for a while in recent years, cars became bigger and more lardy. Now it’s time to think weight-watchers and dump that surplus avoirdupois.

Saving weight really does improve economy. All the old ideas still apply. If you don’t go far, don’t fill the tank with extra weight. Do not carry unnecessary tools or dead bodies in the boot and so on; but what’s the new thinking, I hear you ask.

Well, the best way to save money is to stop driving altogether. If we all did it motoring costs would tumble quickly. The downside of this idea is that none of us would be driving and therefore would not reap any benefit from lower prices. Yet it does pose the question that, if revenue dropped sufficiently as our government believes will happen in the next few years, will the costs of motoring drop? It would be nice to think so but there seems to be little evidence of this.

An example would be the pricing policy of some petrol stations. Their opinion seems to be that if income drops then prices need to go up to compensate. This is of course muddle-headed thinking as any supermarket could tell them. We are governed not only by taxes but also greed.

A smaller lighter car with small tyres is the way forward. What it lacks in power it will make up for with fun. Driving and cornering in a car the size of a hockey puck is a blast, even if it lacks the comforts of a big cruiser. If you only drive locally then you could try shedding even more weight by losing the heavy spare wheel and carrying a repair kit instead, that way you can do without the jack and sundry other bits as well. If that’s a step to far, consider a space-saver wheel instead.

When building cars the late, great Colin Chapman recommended “adding lightness”. Give your car the once over and see where weight savings can be made. Think about it – do you really need those back seats? Oh, and stop giving lifts to pesky relatives!

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The Future of Sports Cars

“The pursuit of high performance is over, Grasshopper. Accept that the seeds of our destiny are nurtured by the roots of our past. The truth lies at your local Mazda dealer.” These being the wise words of Master Po – (look it up if you are a non-believer).

The facts are these: Our roads are full to the brim with traffic and regulated beyond imagining by many laws. The cost of motoring is such that most drivers are seeking new answers to be able to stay on the roads at all. If you cannot afford a powerful sports car it doesn’t matter so much but even if you can, in the UK at least, you won’t be able to use much of that performance in any meaningful way.

It didn’t use to be like this. There was a time when driving was a simple pleasure and boy-racers everywhere strove to get their 0-60 time below a pedestrian ten seconds. In short, cars weren’t especially fast and yet motoring was fun. Owning a useable sports car (and discounting the fragile supercars of the time) meant driving a Triumph Spitfire or an MGB and savouring the open road. No doubt those good chaps at Mazda at some point noticed the demise of the small affordable roadster and came up with the wonderful MX5. In various iterations this great car has been with us since 1989 and yet it has never been bettered in its class.

With sales approaching one million, Mazda have re-worked the car and the latest version is the best yet, although some say it has become a bit soft as it nods towards modern requirements. There it is in the picture. As before it’s the usual front engine, rear-wheel drive layout and the oily bits remain pretty much the same. There’s a 1.8L developing 124bhp, ideal for cruising, or a more powerful 2.0L with 158bhp – which is more than enough in a small, light car – for those whose right foot gets twitchy at the sight of a snaking black-top. The MX5 does have some new additions, though, the most important being a new pedestrian protection system of the pop-up bonnet type. All this and approaching 40mpg as well – as long as you are not too heavy footed.

In an interesting new development Mazda has gone and got itself engaged to that Italian floozy, Alfa Romeo. It seems that Alfa want to sell a version of the next generation MX5 but dress it in in one of their floaty frocks. Hairdressers should rejoice. Italian styling with Japanese reliability – it has just got to be a winner.

So, the MX5 – not especially quick then, but today it doesn’t really matter, does it? This car is about good old down-to-earth driving pleasure. In these days of self-driving Euro-boxes that’s got to worth something to any driver with blood in their veins; and it should cost less than £25k for a new one depending on the model. Driving enjoyment in 21st Century Britain.

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The Fleeting Pleasure Of Driving

A third of drivers simply don’t enjoy driving anymore, according to the latest survey. It seems that the main reason given – according to fifty-one percent of those surveyed – for not enjoying driving on our roads was the cost of fuel.

This was closely followed by congestion which blighted the lives of forty-one percent. Others felt that they were no longer excited by driving (which could be as a result of all the technology added to cars making them safer but, for the most part, dull)or simply did not have enough leisure time, (25.9%).

Still, there is a brighter side. Overall thirty-nine percent of those who responded still consider driving and riding for fun as their hobby and one third of respondents still like to go out for a spin.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents think that, compared with other road users, they are good drivers, with just over forty-five per cent responding that they are very good. How very honest. We always though that everybody believed it was other people who always drove badly.

Yet more facts were revealed. Seventy-eight percent would usually drive when out with their partner yet half of respondents don’t always feel relaxed when their partner is in the passenger seat. There are several comments that could be made here but in the interests of fairness, Motor Blogger will keep quiet.

It seems that other road users are the problem with over sixty per cent of respondents stating that it’s the behaviour of other drivers on the road that makes them feel the most nervous. This was followed by bad weather conditions and driving near to heavy goods vehicles.

It’s all very gloomy but remember this. Sometimes, once in a while, we all find a piece of open road and can for a while at least recover some of the joys of motoring. The best of our countryside is still the best in the world so the next time someone says ‘let’s go for a drive’, just do it. You’ll feel better.

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Cars vs. Nature

Looking out of the window at my car I have noticed how dirty it is. I only washed it the other day. Or to be more precise a bloke at the supermarket washed it, but all it needs is to be stuck behind a lorry on a dirty, wet road and all that good work is undone.

For most people cleaning the motor is a necessary chore if for no other reason than to help retain value. Some people really like doing it and some are even obsessive about it, but everybody, once the job is done, likes to stand back and admire their handiwork. There are few things more pleasing than a nice clean car.

The trouble is – it’s a never-ending task because car bodywork is constantly under attack. Scratches and minor dents are an ongoing concern and the car owner neglects them at their peril. A deep scratch could go down through the paint and the primer and reach bare metal. Give our British weather half a chance and find out how corrosion begins. There are plenty of suitable products on the market that make these little jobs straightforward or, if it’s too much, there’s an army of mobile specialists willing to come to the house.

Our feathered friends are another menace. Everybody like birds and birdsong but few people can tolerate great dollops of dung on the paintwork. Sometimes it is easy to believe that a full grown albatross with a fondness for curry must have flown overhead, such is the mess. It isn’t just unsightly, it is also acidic. It eats into the paint. Look at any city centre statue for the evidence. Clean off that guano as soon as possible – there are products and wipes available. Remember also that birds eat seeds which could make the mess abrasive, so wipe with care. I know you think you’re doing them a favour with the bird-feeders but all you are really doing is providing ammunition.

There’s nothing like a pleasant drive out during the summer. The roads are clear, the sun is shining and, sadly, many bugs are flying straight into the front of your car: their aim, as they give themselves up to a tonne of rushing metal, is to damage your paintwork in revenge. As a matter of course we clean them of the windscreen but we tend to leave them stuck to the front of the vehicle until the next wash. The result is that, just like the avian doo-doo, their remains are acidic and cause damage to paint. The answer is to carry a bug remover spray and get the worst off until the car can be properly washed.

In that brief period that we amusingly call Summer, it is good to remember that the golden orb fades paint, as anyone with a red motor can attest. A good polish – as opposed to wax – can revive paintwork or in desperate cases there are stronger preparations that can freshen the bodywork and bring the colour back up.

Because of the sun some drivers like to park under trees to make the most of shade. This is not necessarily a good idea. If you remember, birds live in trees. Also, trees emit sap. In ancient times our ancestors used tree sap as glue; imagine then what it does to car paint. Just wiping it will simply spread it out over a bigger area. If it is allowed to dry a proprietary product will be needed. Mineral salts will dissolve it.

Now, as Winter flexes her icy fingers and gets into your bones, the cleaning and repairing car bodywork is just as essential and remember – any work will more than likely clean off your faithfully applied wax which means that car cleaning time has come around again. Such is the circle of life.

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Experiencing A Supercar

Over the past few years the doubters have been hinting at the demise of the supercar. Fortunately the very best manufacturers are having none of that and continue to produce performance vehicles at the cutting edge.

It is still entirely possible to sample the delights of sporting motoring and be the better for it. There remains a burgeoning market in the finest automotive masterpieces for the discerning driver and there are none better suited for the task of providing those great cars than the UK‘s official supercar hire and experience company.

There can surely be no bigger thrill than climbing into the luxury interior of an Aston Martin, a Lamborghini or even a Bentley and after pressing the button marked ‘Start’ savouring the aural magic of V8 or V10 engines in a high state of tune. Driving a supercar is a visceral thrill that the dedicated driver can feel inside. The acceleration presses the body back in the seat and changes the way the driver feels. In short, there’s nothing quite like it and it is not even necessary to buy such a car to find out.

Everyone can benefit from supercar hire. Supercar Experiences are specialists in renting performance and luxury vehicles. This has got to be the right choice for visiting business people who need a prestigious car and who can be confident that their chosen automobile will be where they want it, when they want it; backed up by support and breakdown cover.

Another plus point is that supercar hire means that access to these special motors is not just the domain of the rich and famous. By hiring for a day, a week, a month anyone with the means to do so can savour the driving experience.

Sometimes though a low-slung sports car isn’t the answer so it will come as good news to find out that it is also possible to enjoy a more practical set of wheels and go for, say, a Range Rover Sport let. Vehicles like this are ideal for holidays or European driving when there’s a need to transport family and luggage without loosing the joy that the enthusiastic driver feels every time he gets behind the wheel.

So despite all the rules and regulations it is still possible to savour the delights and skills of performance driving knowing that the support of experts in the field, like Supercar Experiences are with you all the way. It’s right there at a click of a mouse.

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