Outside the Oval is outside the Square



The Ford Falcon Art Car is ready to take its place as a signature art installation at Ford’s Outside the Oval, the fund raising brainchild of senior Ford clay modeler Peter Watson, who has been working on the project four months during which time he has photographed 380 employees at Ford’s Broadmeadows plant.

“I wanted to show the faces behind the Falcon and I thought it would be a fitting celebration piece to all the personnel who literally bolt the car together on the production line,” he said.

Outside the Oval gallery exhibition, which will be held at the 1000 Pound Bend Gallery in Melbourne’s CBD and many of the artworks will be for sale, with a portion of the proceeds supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Ford is also using the event for the first public unveiling of the 2014 Falcon XR8 sedan.

image114796_a“Apart from the unveiling of the Falcon XR8, we thought it would be great to document in a visual form, employees across the company and also show our commitment to JDRF,” Peter added.

The actual Falcon sedan was built from two ‘body-in-whites’ from the company’s You Yangs proving ground, near Geelong. When staff at the proving ground heard about the event, they were quickly allocated the units to the design centre at Broadmeadows instead of  scrapped them.

“I love the idea of recycling materials for artistic purposes and when Outside the Oval finishes the car will be used at other Ford events as an example of a great showcase of design and the enthusiasm we have at Ford,” he said.

Outside The Oval will showcase more than 30 artworks created by the Ford design team including sculpture, 2D paintings and digital art that have been created from a range of materials including ceramic, foam, acrylic on canvas and clay. One artist has even created a full-size clay model of an in-line four-cylinder engine from a Model T.

Outside The Oval will be open to the public between 10am and 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, 4-5 October 4 and entry is free. More info @ www.outsidetheoval.com



American investor and former movie director James Glickenhaus’ awesome car collection has just been graced by the addition of one of the rarest and most legendary automobiles in existence, the Ferrari Modulo concept.

The concept was penned by Pininfarina designer Paolo Martin using the chassis of a donor Ferrari 512 S racecar and it was first shown to the public at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show. 

A functioning, driveable car, it has since been kept and maintained by Pininfarina.

It’s not clear how much Glickenhaus paid for the car but we do know he plans to make it road legal, just like he did with another concept, the Ferrari Dino Competizione of 1967.

Making the Modulo road legal won’t be easy but Glickenhaus is in no rush. Most of the conversion work will take place in Europe and the car isn’t due to join the rest of the Glickenhaus collection in New York until sometime next year.


He plans to show it at Italy’s Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este before shipping it to the USA. 

James has very close ties with Pininfarina, which was responsible for his stunning Ferrari P4/5 by Pininfarina coach built supercar that was based on the Ferrari Enzo.

But now he’s decided to form his own car company, Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus (SCG) and is working on a car dubbed the 003, which he not only plans to sell but also race.

Interestingly, the Ferrari Modulo concept has previously been tied with SCG’s 003. The forward-sliding roof design—the Modulo doesn’t have conventional doors—was previously reported to have inspired part of the design of the 003. We’ll know for sure once the 003 makes its debut at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show next March.


Are intelligent, rather than electric cars a quicker way to a green future



What technologies will have the most impact on making cars greener and transportation more sustainable and provide that impact fastest? Suppose that the key isn’t plug-in electric cars, but in fact connecting cars to each other and to the infrastructure around them making traffic flow vastly more efficiently?

That’s the controversial thesis put forward by John DeCicco in a recent post on the University of Michigan’s sustainability blog, perplexingly titled Of Carts and Horses, Cars and Smarts.

X11CH-VT181He also made the same argument, in a rather more measured way, in an analysis published last year by the Society of Automotive Engineers. DeCicco, now a research professor at the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute, was previously a senior fellow at the Environmental Defense Fund, so his views should carry some weight. He contends that green-car advocates should support connected cars that are increasingly intelligent, leading toward partly and fully automated driving.

“Those concerned about climate and other environmental impacts should redirect their enthusiasm to accelerating the adoption of connected and automated transportation systems.

“A careful look at the many considerations involved suggests that environmentally led efforts to jump start the market for electric cars amount to putting the cart before the horse.”

googleDeCicco notes that the auto industry itself is vastly more captivated by automating increasing parts of the driving function than by vehicle electrification with the notable exception of Nissan, General Motors, and Tesla. It’s also worth noting that one of the main protagonists of connected and automated transport systems is the tax pirate Google.

“Intelligent cars would simply replace the intelligence lost when the car, a mute, unaware, mechanical device–replaced the horse a century ago.

“Remember the stories you may have heard from aged relatives about how their dad could rely on the horse to know its way home even if he fell asleep at the reins?”

Perhaps the most important point is that consumers will perceive value and be willing to pay for it in cars that can park themselves, drive themselves, and offer limited ‘autopilot’ and so forth.

Thus far, it’s not clear that the mass market will pay significantly more to buy electric cars in volume, in part because their lower running costs are not particularly apparent at the time of purchase.

We’re not convinced that DeCicco is right when he says that advocates and industry may have to choose one or the other, automation or electrification. However, advocates of sustainable transportation and greener vehicles should consider the benefits of automation and how it may play into a future where vehicles are much smarter than today, as well as more electrified.


Is Chinese tyre quality an oxymoron?


US magazine Modern Tire Dealer seems to have stirred up a wasps nest on the other side of the Pacific with its suggestion that tyres made in China are inferior to other brands on sales in America.

Apparently, opinions ranging in tone from loving to hateful following a blog written by the magazine’s editor Bob Ulrich, who referenced a Consumer Reports (CR) article that was less than complimentary about Chinese tires.

The consumer magazine had tested Chinese brands for the first time. There were three in all, and they finished last in the 20-tyre test project. Respondents weighed in on the results and Ulrich’s view of the article. Many believe quality is a concern, whilst others said that as with most products, some are good, some are bad. Regardless, they all seemed to agree that the issue was worth discussing.

Ulrich thinks the CR article paints too broad a brush when it comes to referencing Chinese tyres. One of the respondents supports the CR article 100%. You can read the blog CR claims too many Chinese tires lack quality, and the comments that follow it. Then leave one of your own. (There is a link to the CR article as well.)

There are also entertaining responses to the blog’s teaser, “Chinese tires lack quality — true or false?” Read those, too, and let us know what you think about the issue. Your viewpoint (even from Down Under) matters so feel free to bring politics, prejudices and insight into the discussion!


Isuzu MU-X and D-MAX teams take class wins at 2014 Safari



Five out of five is a good score in any game, but particularly when it means the whole team has crossed the finish line after the gruelling 2014 Australasian Safari cross-country rally. Sydney-based Isuzu Motorsports has taken out three class wins in the seven-day event, which covered more than 3000km of the Western Australian outback.

WA’s Adrian Di Lallo and co-driver Rodger ‘Roj’ Pedersen were the best placed of the three official Isuzu Motorsports entries, their production-class Isuzu MU-X wagon in fifth outright and first in class in their home state event.


Aside from the strong results posted by the official Isuzu Motorsports entrants, the two other Isuzu crews being helped by the Garland/Suzuki team have also came home well. The Thai-entered D-MAX crewed by Vorapot Bunchuaylua and Chupong Chaiwan came home in sixth and first in class, whilst the Isuzu MU-X being campaigned by Safari stalwart Reg Owen and co-driver Russell Cairns finished second in the same class and 13th outright.

Thailand’s Olan Sornsirirat and Veerachai Thorangkoon – the third team in the official ‘Isuzu trio’ – were second in class behind Di Lallo and Pedersen, and seventh outright in their D-MAX ute. Team leaders Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki came in 17th and took a class win, despite missing two full days repairing their Dakar-spec Isuzu D-MAX (and being handed extra time penalties for failing to finish those days). Their car was halted by an electrical fault 37km into Day Three while running in fourth place.

Aside from the strong results posted by the official Isuzu Motorsports entrants, the two other Isuzu crews being helped by the Garland/Suzuki team have also come home well.

The Thai-entered D-MAX crewed by Vorapot Bunchuaylua and Chupong Chaiwan came home in sixth and first in class, while the Isuzu MU-X being campaigned by Safari stalwart Reg Owen and co-driver Russell Cairns finished second in the same class and 13th outright.

Competitors tackled three stages on the final day, taking them from Exmouth to Carnarvon, around 900km north of the West Australian capital of Perth. The final stage, the 156.69km ‘Murchison Mega Finale’, and a lengthy transport stage before it, took competitors from Carnarvon to Kalbarri.

Isuzu Motorsports is a performance parts company owned by Garland and his long-time co-driver, Harry Suzuki. They also have support from Isuzu operations in Japan, Thailand and Australia, and from Toyo Tires, Royal Purple Oils and Disc Brakes Australia.

BMW launch fully integrated carport charging station


BMW has launched its second home charging station in its portfolio for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The BMW i Wallbox Pro is said to offer a faster charging rate than the BMW i Wallbox Pure and even more user-friendly operation, plus innovative options for vehicle charging with home-generated electricity and smart home integration.

In sharp contrast to some of its more sleek design vehicles, this clunky looking ‘carport’ that is available as an original BMW accessory, is capable of delivering a high-voltage battery an 80% charge in less than three hours.

Design-wise there’s not much you can do with a heap of solar panels and their supports, but BMW’s PR department makes a valiant effort using phrases such as high-quality plastic housing, anthracite special-effect finish, black detailing and BMW i blue, etc.

The Wallbox is operated using a colour touch screen display that shows how much charge has been delivered to the vehicle along with details of previous charging cycles. LED fibre-optic side strips that are visible from a considerable distance, show the charge status and a proximity sensor activates the unit when motion is detected.

An integrated load management system delivers the maximum available current when charging and prevents overloading by reducing the charging rate as necessary during peaks in household power consumption.

BMW say that the Wallbox is unique among home charging stations in the extent to which home-generated electricity can be integrated in the charging process. The unit detects the availability of solar power and immediately uses it for charging. If no home-generated energy is available, power from the grid is used instead.

This story originated out of Germany and was accompanied by a statement from the local BMW office that no adaptions have been made to cater for the Australian market and may not be representative of local models or specifications. Not surprise there then!



From mobile phones to electric cars


Mobile phone manufacturer Foxconn is planning to take advantage of strong Chinese government support for electric cars by moving into vehicle manufacture. Previously, a supplier to Apple, Microsoft, Sony, and Amazon, etc., the Taiwan-based company is reported to be building an $800m factory in China’s Shanxi province.

Foxconn, whose controversial labour practises have attracted worldwide attention, announced in June that it would build an electric car that would sell for less than $15,000. The company has some experience in the automotive industry, manufacturing a 25.6-kilowatt-hour, lithium-ion battery pack for the BAIC E150 EV, a Chinese electric car.

The country’s central government has been trying to encourage the adoption of low-emission ‘new energy vehicles’ including battery-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel-cell cars, in a bid to curtail rampant air pollution and decrease oil imports.

On top of existing subsidies, the government has approved even more incentives for certain electric cars, mostly from local manufacturers. Both BMW and Tesla believe that China will become the largest market for their electric cars.  Tesla is working on a network of charging stations and has discussed plans to build cars in China in a bid to avoid steep import duties.


Boxer Engine: Novel technology or a dying fad?

subaru-unitIn an era where even the once mighty V configuration seems to be giving way to the next generation of in-line fuel savers, many are wondering what this spells for the boxer engine, writes Engine Builder magazine’s Sterling Shriber. Going by many names, such as opposed, boxer, and flat, the engine configuration, famous to such cars as the Porsche 911, has had a storied run throughout the decades.

The hallmark of the opposed engine is the fact that the it has two cylinder banks and each piston, directly horizontally opposed from another cylinder, does not share a crank pin with the opposing piston. The latter characteristic is essential to the engine being considered opposed; often times people confuse the boxer engine with the 180 degree V engine family, which is similar, yet attaches both pistons to the same crank pin.

Gaining the name ‘boxer’ from the appearance of two boxers going at each other from the synchronously reciprocating motions of the pistons, the opposed engine was first patented in 1896 by Karl Benz. Almost as old as the automobile itself, the opposed engine design has certainly had its run throughout the decades. Perhaps one of the earliest and most prolific uses was on the VW air-cooled flat four, which became the staple of the Volkswagen Type 1(Beetle) and remained in production for almost 70 years before being discontinued. However, its appearance in road cars began to wane in the mid 90s.

Porsche has also been using flat engines, particularly on the 911 and succeeding model variants. For a time, some of the most prolific boxer engines were also air cooled, though this is no longer the case. Porsche shipped the last air cooled 911 (badged as the 993) in 1998, and the air-cooled Beetle ceased with the introduction of the New Beetle in 1997.

1984-ferrari-testarossa-photo-601587-s-520x318Beyond Porsche, Subaru has also made extensive use of boxer engines, with the Impreza being a well-known example. Ferrari experimented with the flat engine design to power the Ferrari Testarossa in the 1980s with a flat twelve.

Boxer engines derive several performance advantages inherent to their design, since the centre of gravity on an opposed engine is much lower to the ground compared to an in-line or V design. This allows for better lateral acceleration and the handling benefits are enormous. Better turning/cornering capability, decreased roll, and better grip of the roadway all come natural to the flat engine over its alternatives, due to its lower profile.

VierzylB03The boxer engine also has a leg up in terms of balance. Due to the pistons being directly opposed to each other, firing motions can cancel entirely. Consequently, the flat four is ideally balanced over the in-line four, due to the fact that second order vibrations can cancel. The in-line four is seen as imbalanced; hence the need for balancers and dampening mounts. Boxer engines also generally have better cooling system functionality after start-up. Thanks to the horizontal nature of its profile, oil and coolant remains more evenly dispersed throughout, rather than sinking down as happens in in-line or V designs. Lower profile also makes power transmission more even, as the engine is on a plane closer to the rest of the drive train.

Despite all the opposed engine’s benefits in terms of performance, however, it does have a few marked disadvantages, which have largely precluded its rise over the decades. The flat configuration always catches flak for the fact that the wide profile makes the engine significantly harder to work on.

With each cylinder head right up against the side of the engine bay, a simple task like swapping out spark plugs can become a protracted and arduous process. In addition to irking those who work on these cars, it also increases maintenance cost for the average owner when it does come time to have the car in the shop.

R68-opposed-cylindersBut the added costs of a boxer engine don’t stop there. Two cylinder heads generally require more parts and components and in many cases, double the number of head components, valve-train components and cooling jackets. The added cost builds up, making the boxer engine much more expensive to produce.

Obviously weight considerations also come into play though they don’t present a huge obstacle. The additional size imparted by its wide profile has seen the boxer constrained to mid-engine designs.

Some people will tell you that the boxer engine is the best thing to ever happen to motoring, whilst others will contend it isn’t worth spitting on. Regardless of which of these two groups is right, one can’t help but notice that the engine has always been more of a niche technology. Where does this leave the engine’s fate in today’s automotive world, where things are changing so rapidly? Probably not anywhere different than it’s always been. Sure, no new manufacturers are adopting the configuration, but those who currently make them remain committed to the design.

Subaru recently unveiled a new line of smaller, more fuel efficient boxers, designed to meet the challenge of a world where fuel economy and efficiency mean everything to so many. Porsche also isn’t abandoning its flat six tradition. In fact, the German manufacturer recently announced that it was investing in a brand new line of flat engines, including both four and six cylinder mills.

The folks in Stuttgart are even rumoured to be working on a flat eight to grace one of their upcoming models. And BMW, of course, remains committed to its line of opposed engines employed in its motorcycles. So expect the flat engine to soldier on, much like it has for decades. It might not be the next big thing anytime soon, but it’ll be around for some time yet.








McLaren looks for more sales in Asia with market ‘exclusive’ 625C



McLaren is all set to hit the Asian market with a new 625C specifically built to meet perceived ‘local market preferences’ said to include comfort and easier accessibility. One would have thought that to be standard worldwide, anyway, other changes include a revised ProActive chassis control setup, new suspension hardware, revised driving dynamics, improved ride quality involving new dampers and a softer rear spring. Does this mean that in other parts of the world these features are inferior?

Powered by the same 3.8ltr twin-turbo engine, but rated at 616 horsepower like the original 12C, the ‘Asian’ 625C’s performance is still reads 3.1 seconds to 100ks, 8.8 seconds to 200kph and a top speed of 330kph.

According to McLaren, the C in the name stands for ‘club,’ which translates to “a more accessible and less extreme model in terms of character.”

 McLaren has already has plenty of sales in Asia, with the market accounting for 20% of its volume in 2013, a figure expected to grow to more than 33% this year. 

 All of which begs the question: Why all the changes? Hong Kong will be the first market to get the 625C, in both coupe and convertible form at launch.

ContiSportContact 5 wins UK tyre award

evoContinental’s ContiSportContact 5 tyre has taken top spot in this year’s summer tyre test by a UK monthly publication. The evo summer tyre test is said to celebrate the best of the best in the summer tyre market highlighting tyres with exceptional performance, quality, safety, desirability and value.

In the test, the Continental ContiSportContact 5 was pitted against eight competitor summer tyres in size 225/45R17 and according to the magazine, there was never any doubt about this year’s winner.

“With four wins it was a simply brilliant performance across the board. Whenever I got in the car with the Continentals on, it proved a joy to drive, combining feedback with fantastic grip to give supreme confidence.”

Among the factors leading to award was a shorter braking distances in all weather conditions, excellent road grip and safety when cornering and reduced fuel consumption.