When the throttle jams…

Posted on August 30th, 2007 in Opinion,Safety by Julian Edgar

skidmarks.jpgHaving the throttle jam fully open is a pretty exciting idea. And an even more exciting reality.

I’ve had the throttle jam fully open twice in my driving career.  Once it was in city traffic, in second gear.  I’d just had the throttle body-to-plenum rubber hose off, and when I’d replaced it I hadn’t orientated the hose clamps the right way around.  The result was that when the throttle lever moved past the clamp screw it couldn’t get back: instant sustained Wide Open Throttle. 

After thinking “Shit!” I turned off the ignition key and then swapped lanes to the curb.

What makes a car a pleasure

Posted on August 27th, 2007 in Handling,Opinion,Suspension by Julian Edgar

evo-lancer.jpgThe email was short and simple: Julian – From all your driving experience can you describe which (one) characteristic makes driving a pleasure?

I assume that the writer means which one characteristic of the car – and that’s a bloody good question.  

Long-time Reader? Read this!

Posted on August 25th, 2007 in Driving Emotion,Opinion by Julian Edgar

All that I’ll say here has already been covered in AutoSpeed, but here it is again – this time with the facility to allow you to directly comment.

AutoSpeed is changing. The publication that we were 8 years ago, 5 years ago, even two years ago is not what we are today. Rather than being stuck in a time warp, we are responding to changes in society, changes in car technology and changes in the philosophy of staff members.

We started the latest raft of changes back in November last year – less chequebook hero feature cars, more background on car engineering, a hands-on project car (Frank the famous Falcon!) and more reader feedback.

Now we’ve dropped my Driving Emotion column in favour of this blog, a change that incidentally has boosted overall published content.

And reader contributions to the blog are just the beginning – expect to see in the near future the facility to comment on every single article. When the comments facility is up and running, we’ll drop the current Response reader feedback column. A weekly ‘letters to the editor’ forum is now outdated and with the facility to comment and give feedback on everything published, we see no need to retain it.

And the editorial content is further changing.

Where modified cars should be going…

Posted on August 24th, 2007 in Driving Emotion,Economy,Handling,Opinion,Power,Technologies,Turbocharging by Julian Edgar

The other day a reader wrote in, saying how he was disappointed with AutoSpeed. Amongst other things, he said that there were plenty more powerful modified cars around than those we are featuring – all we had to do was attend some dyno days and go to the drags.

That we are no longer particularly interested in featuring typical straight-line drag cars, and typical horsepower dyno hero cars, hadn’t occurred to him.

I told him in my reply that AutoSpeed was (and is) changing in editorial direction; if he liked the Australian magazine Street Machine (he’d said in a previous email he did) I thought it very unlikely that he would like AutoSpeed, both now and in the future. Therefore, it would seem best that he stop reading AutoSpeed, rather than just go on being frustrated with us.

[Incidentally, this idea that if you don’t like us, don’t read us, seems to offend people. But to me it makes perfect sense: what’s the alternative – I encourage those readers to persevere, even though I know they won’t like what is coming up? To me that seems completely hypocritical.]

Anyway, I was reflecting on the reader’s comments, especially in the implication that more power is good – and even more power is therefore better. As I’ve stated previously, I think that many modified cars in Australia are heading in completely the wrong direction – they’re huge, hugely heavy, and hugely powerful. But rather than put this so negatively, let’s look at the issue more proactively. What makes for a good modified car? (And so, one that we’d be delighted to feature?)

The Bicycling Technology Bible – or is it?

Posted on August 21st, 2007 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

cover-small.jpgThe blurb at the top of this blog describes one of my interests as human powered vehicles.  

Human powered vehicles are – and aren’t – a longstanding interest.


Well, in the same way I am interested in ultra-light and home built aircraft – but have never turned that interest into a reality – so for a very long time I have been interested in machines powered by pedals.  But having now started to build my own human-powered machines, I soon realised that I know nothing about cycling technology. I don’t know my Rohloff from my Schlumpf, so to speak. 

So I figured I’d better do some reading… 

The sanctity of double lines

Posted on August 17th, 2007 in Opinion,Safety by Julian Edgar

doublelinessm.jpgOver the years that I’ve been driving, my respect for various road rules has, I have to say, varied.

I’ve always respected drink driving laws – in fact, after driving a car once after having had just a few drinks (and so being well under the limit), I noted how my prowess had faltered and resolved to never drive again with any alcohol concentration at all.

But I’ve never had the same belief in speed limits – they’re simply too arbitrary, especially in their ignoring of car competence, the road quality and driving conditions.

And as for laws regarding car modification, I must say that I often have little respect for these.

But there’s one road law that I’ve always had the utmost belief in – the sanctity of the white line in the middle of the road.

Oldie but a goodie – but be quick!

Posted on August 15th, 2007 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

Back in this blog post I wrote about a number of old books.

One was ‘Automobile Brakes and Brake Testing’, published originally in 1938. It is, I said, “The best book I have read on brakes – how they work, how to test them, principles of braking”.

I have the second edition, which was published in 1958.

The book won’t tell you how to fit new disc pads to your Ford’s brakes, but it’s a superb book on the fundamentals of braking.

Timeless in fact.

And the reason I am mentioning it here? If you’re quick, it can be yours also – see eBay.

Local car makers accelerating towards their demise

Posted on August 14th, 2007 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

holden-manufacturing.jpgSo now Ford in Australia is to close its Falcon/Territory engine plant and locally assemble the European-designed Focus.

The Ford engine plant termination follows Mitsubishi closing its engine plant a few years ago and Nissan shutting its Australian car manufacturing operation in 1992. Going back even further, we had (amongst others) Toyota, Renault and British Leyland products built locally. But no more.

Monstrous proposal aimed at the politically weak

Posted on August 10th, 2007 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

So it’s now being suggested that those who illegally street race should have their cars confiscated and crushed. Yes, you read that right: cars destroyed. This is, apparently, what happens in California and those police are now advising their Australian counterparts that this is a good approach to take.

“This is what makes them stop – when you destroy their cars,” Corporal Heiss [of the Rialto police department] told The Daily Telegraph.

“They spend up to $US30,000 making modifications on their vehicles and that loss is overwhelming for them – they are not going to do it again.

“These young kids are scraping their money together to put into their main asset and some of them break down when they see their car being crushed.”

That such a monstrous behaviour is even being discussed shows the utter demonisation of those who lack political power in our society.

There are three fundamental shortcomings of such an approach.

The first is that it is grossly inequitable. In effect, the fine for street racing could be $2000 – or $200,000. The person racing in cruddy old Commodore scores the two grand fine, while the Porsche pedaller pays one hundred times as much. In no other area of law breaking is the penalty set on the basis of the value of the user’s possessions.

Secondly, since when in our society have we destroyed assets when those assets have been involved in illegal behaviour? No not confiscated the assets but destroyed them. So the white collar criminal who has defrauded a bank via a computer in their family home is then forced to watch as their house is bulldozed? The fact that he might have a wife and kids living there is ignored – in just the same way that the street racer’s other uses of his car are ignored?

Thirdly, the intrinsic value of the vehicle is apparently seen as zero. What if someone driving a rare and valuable old muscle car gives it a big squirt away from a set of traffic lights? The car is taken and crushed, irrespective of its significance? Again, let’s apply the idea to some other items of historic importance. The paintings by old masters are destroyed if they’re found to have been involved in some form of fraudulent behaviour?

You need only apply the idea of crushing street racers’ cars to any other area of lawbreaking in our society to realise how utterly inappropriate such a sanction is.

Laws and incentives for clean emissions and low fuel consumption

Posted on August 10th, 2007 in Economy,Engine Management,Hybrid Power,Opinion,Power,Technologies by Julian Edgar

bosch-d.jpgArguably the biggest driver of car engine technology over the last 40 years has been exhaust emissions legislation.

The original Californian Clean Air legislation introduced in 1967 hastened the advent of electronic fuel injection (the pictured Bosch D-type system has just celebrated its 40th anniversary – and only 5 years after introduction, it was being used by 18 car manufacturers) and the march of clean emissions progress has barely slowed since.

These days, of course, the shift in focus has been from oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide to CO2 outputs.

But what actually are the standards causing so many engineers to pull out their hair? The laws rumoured to have lead to the foreshadowed demise of Ford’s Australian engine factory (more on Australian car manufacturing in an upcoming blog post) and which are making it so difficult to sell diesels in the US over the next few years? You’d think that getting a handle on all the laws would be damn’ near impossible – but that’s not so.