Most goods hold their value a whole lot better than cars…

Posted on December 19th, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

It seems to be a recurring
theme in my life. I get besotted with a product – normally one much more
expensive than I can afford at the time – and I hanker after it year after year.

And, eventually, I often
end up buying it.

Many, many years ago it was
a Canon Typestar 5 mini word processor – I saw one being used by a lecturer when
I was a student teacher and I decided on the spot that I just had to have one.
The fact that I ended up buying the Brother equivalent was of no consequence.

A similar situation
happened with a Bose Wave Radio – I saw one at a hi-fi show demo and decided
that one day I would own one. It took about ten years but in the end I did buy
it – and, like the other products that have entered this subconscious hedonistic
buyers’ paradise, it has been a purchase made without longstanding regret. After
all, I’ve had just the same thoughts about other consumer goods that have often
ended up (finally) entering my life.

Of course, being realistic,
the Cessna Citation hasn’t yet appeared on my (imaginary) personal runway, and
the Zodiac inflatable with the 4-stroke Honda outboard is still resident in the
shop and not my garage.

Which reader emails to run in AutoSpeed…

Posted on December 5th, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

In recent months there’s
been a change in our editorial policy of running letters from readers.

Over the last couple of
years we’ve tended to select just enough to fill about 1000 words. But after
thinking about it, we’ve now decided to run as many as possible.

That has two advantages:
you – the reader – are much more likely to have your right of reply – or right
of comment – published to the same audience who can access the other articles.
And secondly, by looking at the number of letters that we publish on different
topics, it’s clearer which articles are getting the greatest response. So if we
make a mistake, and one reader notices it, we’ll publish the one email. But if
four readers pick it out and write to us about it, we’ll publish all four

Reader democracy in action,
if you like.

But while we may have the
very best of intentions in publishing as many reader emails as possible,
there’re still plenty that are simply impossible to put on-line. Take one that
we received just today. With obvious omissions of detail, here it is:

Subtle shifts in paradigms can result in long-term sea changes…

Posted on November 21st, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

It’s not very many years ago that we all used to laugh at Sixties ‘Yank Tanks’. Enormous vehicles, vastly overweight, with simple suspensions and huge V8 engines to locomote their bloated forms. 

Those that scoff and scorn the idea of modifications

Posted on November 7th, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

It might be rather naïve but it comes as a real shock when you discover that there exist people who apparently believe that cars should be left exactly as the manufacturer made them and that any modification is likely to be a retrograde step.

Having been immersed in car modification and other technical circles for a very long time, I’d literally forgotten that there are people like this around.

Electronic knowledge is now a must-have in car modification

Posted on October 24th, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

One of the things I am conscious of in the articles that I write for AutoSpeed is that their thrust is more and more towards automotive electronics.

The articles vary from pretty simple – as I write this I have just completed a story on a do-it-yourself factory appearance alarm flasher – to complex, with the wiring-up of the traction control disabler which we covered in a series (starts at Modifying Electronic Car Handling Systems, Part 1) being an example of the latter.

I’ve always been interested in electronics and while I am not very skilled in the area, I can often come up with the concept of what I’d like an electronics project to achieve – and then other people can design it for me. But I do have enough knowledge to solder together simple kits, wire-up relays, and so on.

What concerns me is that for those that don’t have these basic electronics skills, much automotive modification being covered in AutoSpeed will be lacking in relevance. Well, that’s not quite true – our article readership stats show clearly there’s a helluva lot of people worldwide who are very interested in applying electronic modification ideas to cars.

But equally, our emails show that many people have difficulty in wiring these circuits up!

It was after I nearly ran over an old woman that I thought I’d better make the modification.

Posted on October 10th, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

It was after I nearly ran over an old woman that I thought I’d better make the modification.

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I’d like to see the price of fuel increase

Posted on September 26th, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

Australia is much too cheap. In fact, it wouldn’t worry me unduly if it doubled in price tomorrow.

I’ve always been puzzled why as a society we place such a poor premium on the value of fuel. Not only is it so low-cost that much use is frivolous (and that’s fine: I get lots of enjoyment from driving), but pricing it cheaply also sends the wrong messages to car manufacturers and consumers.

In fact, the major pressure on car manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency isn’t coming from fuel consumption per se, but from emissions legislation – the easiest way of reducing emissions is to burn less fuel. Consumers? Well, from where I stand, they don’t seem to care about fuel consumption at all.

Here in Australia the market for SUVs is booming; by and large these cars use more fuel than the equivalent conventional car. Cars are also getting heavier at an incredible rate and to provide adequate performance, manufacturers are fitting more and more powerful engines – which, typically, use a lot of fuel.

I am aware of the reduction in fuel consumption that’s been achieved over the years by most manufacturers (for example, compare the government fuel figures for a 1990 Holden Commodore versus the current model) but to offset this, just look at cars like the Holden Adventra – it achieves what can only be described as appalling fuel consumption.

Why are motorbikes so slow around corners?

Posted on September 12th, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

Over the years I have become increasingly confused. Why do motorcyclists think that their bikes are so fast? Sure, I know that they’re fast in a straight line – I have been to the street drags often enough to see the quickest factory stock standard bikes running in the Tens and Elevens over the standing quarter. That’s mind-bogglingly fast. But it’s not straightline performance that I am referring to. It’s real-world, on-road performance. Over the sort of country road that has tight corners, bumps, surfaces that vary, dips and humps.

On those roads, it seems to me that bikes are pathetically slow.

While I am happy writing provocative material, in this case it’s not my intention to create a flamewar of the sort that you often see between bike riders and car drivers in discussion groups and forums. Instead, it’s a genuine confusion.

I remember perhaps 12 years ago when I was pedalling my then newly bought Subaru Liberty RS down the old Adelaide Hills main road. The dual lane road was sinuous and tight – an ideal road for driving fast. Or, I thought, riding quickly. I was in the fast (ie righthand) lane and ahead of me was a bike. He must have thought he was quick, because although the slow lane was at times empty, he resolutely stuck to the right. Despite the fact that he was impeding my progress.

This went on for several kilometres as I – doing what I would have done with any vehicle hogging the fast lane – drew closer. Finally, he pulled over and I went sprinting past. Further down the hill the speed limit slowed and since by then the fun part of the road was over, I dropped back to a more conservative pace. The bike had been left hundreds of metres behind but took this opportunity to catch up. In fact the rider drew alongside me, turned his head and waved his fist.

The cheap imports are a win/win for fun

Posted on August 29th, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

The other day I was in an automotive toyshop. There were cars with turbos, cars with superchargers, luxury cars, poverty-pack cars. I walked around, completely entranced. I spent perhaps half an hour there – but I could have spent hours. And if lots of test drives were available, perhaps a week. Now this is nothing unusual – most of us have had similar feelings in places selling cars. But what made this yard fascinating is that the pricing on the day I was there peaked at AUD$3,500.

Yep, not one car cost more than three-and-a-half grand.

The yard was full of grey market Japanese imports that were all more than 15 years old. In < ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Australia, the ’15 year rule’ makes it much easier to get privately imported cars complied and registered. Often, in fact, just new seatbelts, non-concave exterior mirrors and door intrusion bars need to be fitted. In some cases, not even all of these.

And since in Japan these old cars are worth very little – the importer suggested that one car had cost him 12 cents – even when freight and import charges are taken into account, the local cost of the car is chickenfeed.

So what sort of cars could be found? My favourite was the Toyota Crown Royal wagon. Equipped with the 1G-GZE supercharged 2-litre six-cylinder, this car was once the height of Japanese family luxury. What with climate control, cruise, velour, fridges, a curtained sunroof, 4-speed auto, alloys – and a heap of other things I didn’t have time to identify – this was one nice package. Now I know what you’re saying – a Toyota Crown Wagon? WTF? But its very weirdness was fascinating. I already have a supercharged Japanese grey market import blown Crown, but imagine a wagon….

Sometimes, the dyno is the worse place to do testing

Posted on August 15th, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

Car modification goes in cycles, in trends of popularity and enthusiasm. Sometimes stupid ideas are abandoned; other times they’re fervently embraced.

When I first started writing about car modification – it would have been back in about 1987 or 1988 – almost no workshops had dynos. Back then, performance claims were largely the stuff of description. You know, this exhaust will give your car just fantastic power, mate.

Pradoxically, some of the first companies to use dynos to ‘prove’ power gains were the very same companies that had no power gains to prove. But they knew that with so few dynos around, and with knowledge of how to fudge dyno figures commensurately low, their advertised dyno improvements would have credibility.

For a while at least.

But now every serious workshop has a chassis dyno. Mods which give no power gains are still being widely sold (polished throttle bodies, restrictive aftermarket cold-air intakes, exhaust systems with no engine management changes) but for the inquisitive, finding the efficacy of the mods is only a few dyno runs away. One dyno run at the place selling the goods and another at an independent workshop.