Rear wheel drive can be dangerous

Posted on May 19th, 2007 in Handling,Opinion,Suspension by Julian Edgar

108569_7mg.jpgI think this (apparently uniquely Australian) idea that big family cars need to be rear wheel drive is simply rubbish. You hear it all the time – rear wheel drive is best for towing, rear wheel drive is best for handling, rear wheel drive is somehow hugely superior over front wheel drive. Well, apparently it is for the macho Australian male, anyway.

From the day I first bought a car I have never been a believer in the philosophy; in the time since I’ve owned rear wheel drive, four wheel drive and front wheel drive cars – and I have remained unconvinced. In fact, if anything, I think I am leaning heavily in the direction that rear wheel drive, without traction control (or better still, stability control) is potentially bloody dangerous.

Today is a perfect example. I’d bought a big workbench on eBay – and this morning I had to go pick it up. The thing is enormous – much too big to fit on my normal 6 x 4 trailer. So I organised the hire of a car carrying trailer. When the alarm went off at 5.45 am (pick-up was set for 8 am) I awoke, listened for a moment, and then my heart sank.

It was raining.

I needed to go down the narrow, tortuous road from the mountain on which I live, pick up the huge trailer, then drive straight back up the mountain, descending the other side on an even tighter, narrower road. All in Frank the EF Falcon, a car which even without a trailer hooked on the back, power oversteers around these wet and slippery corners even when you’re trying to drive gently. Perhaps it’s the tyres – and the rears are certainly down in tread although still quite legal – or perhaps it’s the sheer torque and throttle response of the 5-speed manual Falc. But either way, it’s a car that in the wet needs to be treated with an incredibly judicious right foot. Even when you’re not towing a huge trailer with a 300kg workbench strapped to it.

AutoSpeed changes…

Posted on May 5th, 2007 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

Back in November 2006 we foreshadowed some major changes to AutoSpeed.

We said that there’d be more DIY hands-on tech. There’d be more stories on the background engineering of cars and their technology. We said we’d be driving more cars – both new and used – and we’d be doing less stories on modified cars high on bling and nothing else. We said we’d be modifying a mainstream and cheap project car – an EF Falcon six cylinder – and we’d be adding instant reader voting for each story. Finally, we said we’d be re-presenting previously run stories, primarily because the vast majority of current readers had never seen them (and in return, we were extending current subscriber periods to take into account the reduced new content).

And, with one exception, we’ve done all of that. We’ve run more hands-on stuff; we’ve run heaps of background stories on car engineering; we’ve covered the Falcon modifications including brakes, extractors, exhaust, cam, engine management, air intake – and now we’re doing the suspension. All nitty gritty, real world stuff, photographed in huge detail.

And the exception? We’ve driven less cars than I wanted to.

The announcement of change was greeted with near universal acclaim by you, our readers. And those changes have been very successful at bringing new readers to AutoSpeed – compared with October last year, last month our visits were up by 16 per cent and our page views increased by a whopping 31 per cent.