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.

The behemoth called Toyota

Posted on August 1st, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

The other day I was reading about DaimlerChrysler’s recent concept car, the F 500 MIND. Amongst a plethora of interesting new technologies – including drive-by-wire steering, an instrument panel that can be configured to shows various displays, infrared night vision and a system that projects sound at individuals within the cabin, were some details on the driveline.

“During the F 500 project, the engineers at DaimlerChrysler developed the first hybrid engine for a research vehicle,” says the press release. “Under the hood, a 4-liter, V8 diesel engine with 184 kW and an electric motor with 50 kW provide a dynamic driving performance. Thanks to the skilful combination of the combustion engine and the electric motor — experts speak of a ‘P2 configuration’ — the individual torques are added together. As a result, drivers can take full advantage of an extremely powerful surge of acceleration when they pass another vehicle.”