Driving Emotion

Posted on July 20th, 2003 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

Score 10/10 for my local roads and 3/10 for the Nissan 350Z…

Be nice to me for a moment. Humour me, put up with my ramblings. I want to tell you where I live. Well, not the geographical address, but the roads that lead there.

I live in the Gold Coast hinterland of Australia, at a place called Mount Tamborine. There are four – maybe five – roads that travel to the top of the mountain, to the volcanic plateau 500 metres above sea level. One road is called ‘The Goat Track’. It is so narrow that only one-way traffic is permitted along part of its length; right in the middle of nowhere is a set of traffic lights, allowing traffic to safely negotiate the single car-width section of hairpins along its winding blacktop.

Another of the roads that leads through green farmland to the Mountain is from the outer Gold Coast suburb of Oxenford. It is the road that I mainly take, and I’ll come back to it in a moment. There’s also another route, somewhat romantically called Henri Roberts Drive. I don’t know who Henri was, but he sounds like he may have been a French explorer, so explaining my romanticism re travel, hope, the finding of new worlds, etc. Then there’s the road from a town on the inland side of the mountain. The hamlet is confusingly also called Tamborine – but dubbed Tamborine Village to differentiate it from Tamborine Mountain – and that road is a simply awesome sequence of tight and twisting, off-camber and no-guard-rail bends that stretches for kilometres.

The roads up the mountain are steep; so steep in fact that the company that did some of the development on the Mazda MX5 SP (the uniquely Australian turbo model of that wonderful car) used Henri Roberts Drive for testing the cooling performance of the standard radiator. On any of the roads, trucks grind up in ultra-low gear; the gradients are signposted at 12 and 13 and 14 per cent.

Driving Emotion

Posted on July 6th, 2003 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

On a recent trip to Melbourne I had interesting conversations with Terry Wilson of AVO, APS’s Peter Luxon and David Innal (yes, the latter of twin turbo four wheel drive Falcon fame), and Simon Gischus of Nizpro.

Without a doubt these men are fiercely competitive – in a small market they each want to be seen not just as pre-eminent but also the first choice of people modifying their cars. They know each other – if not personally then certainly by reputation – and you could expect them to have significantly differing views on not only the ways of achieving performance outcomes, but what those outcomes for a performance road car should be.

But on that last point you’d be wrong. For each of these men stated the same thing repeatedly, perhaps best summarised by “It’s not the peak power that counts, it’s the breadth of the torque curve.”

The reason that this came up in conversation is that each of these companies has recently purchased a BA Falcon Turbo and each is well down the path of developing performance parts for the car. And significantly, each man loves the new Falcon. Simon Gischus suggested he was thinking of buying another for family car duties. Peter Luxon said that the Falcon was the first Australian car that he would ever consider driving as one of his own cars. Terry Wilson complained about the build quality (kinked pressure regulator hose, missing dome light cover, window that falls down with a loud bang as he drives along – and we could all hear the front suspension clunk) but thought the car was a very good package.

To gain universal praise from such a disparate trio of modifiers is amazing.

Driving Emotion

Posted on June 22nd, 2003 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

Got to drive an N1 R34 V-Spec II GT-R Skyline the other day. Yes, that’s the hottest factory version of one of the hottest factory cars ever released. Anywhere.

And with the drive scheduled for the next day, did I have trouble sleeping the night before? Nope. In fact, it filled me with – literally – about as much excitement as I would have had when facing the prospect of driving any car that’s new to me. Like a Hyundai Getz, for example.

Trouble is, you see, my experience of Nissan Skyline GT-Rs has been sufficiently negative that I don’t regard them as anywhere near as good a car as – apparently – millions of others do. Of course, I have actually owned one – something the vast majority of those millions haven’t. I bought an Australian-delivered R32 GT-R back when it was near brand new, having been a believer in the fiction that I had read about them. You know, best-handling car ever, unbelievably good four-wheel drive system, fastest six cylinder you can buy – fables like that.

What I subsequently learned was that the car had a stupid amount of power oversteer and was only really quick when launched hard. Oh yes, and it was wearing to drive, had seats that gave chronic back-ache, attracted all the wrong sorts of attention, had steering terribly prone to tramlining – you get the picture. I fixed the handling with an adjustable torque split controller but it was never a car I particularly liked.

Too much hype, not enough reality.