The Best DIY Tools and Techniques

Posted on March 31st, 2009 in diesel,Driving Emotion,Economy,Mufflers,Opinion,pedal power,testing by Julian Edgar

This week in AutoSpeed we start a new series that I’ve immodestly called the ‘Ultimate DIY Automotive Modification Kit’.

It’s not the sort of material that you’d find anywhere else but at AutoSpeed – and, perhaps for that reason, longstanding readers will have seen much of the content before.

What the series does is integrate the testing and modification techniques that over the years I’ve discovered  to work for all cars.

Yes, all cars.

The Hidden Story of Reader Ratings

Posted on March 26th, 2009 in AutoSpeed,Driving Emotion,Opinion by Julian Edgar

At the end of all AutoSpeed articles is a reader rating system – you can give any article a score from 1 (bad) to 5 (excellent). As you’d expect, AutoSpeed publisher Web Publications has internal data analysis and display of these reader ratings – now totalling literally hundreds of thousands of scores.

By importing the data into a spreadsheet, I can rank all our articles in terms of numbers of ratings, averaged ratings for individual articles, and so on. I can also see changes over time in the average reader ratings for specific articles.

The other day a reader proposed that, if an article suggests to people ideas they don’t want to hear, they are more likely to give it a low score. So in other words, instead of rating articles on the basis of the quality of journalism, expression, innovative ideas (etc) that are presented, they just rate it on the basis of whether or not they agree with it.

350kW and 0-100 km/h in 4.6 seconds

Posted on March 24th, 2009 in AutoSpeed,Driving Emotion,Intercooling,Power by Julian Edgar

Today I was lucky enough to drive an interesting car.

A 2003 model AMG Mercedes Benz E55, it comes standard with a supercharged 5.4 litre, 3-valves-per-cylinder V8 boosted by a Lysholm compressor spinning at up to 23,000 rpm and pushing air through a water/air intercooler.

Lies, damned lies and statistics!

Posted on March 19th, 2009 in AutoSpeed,Driving Emotion,Opinion by Julian Edgar

From here:

Although sometimes attributed to Mark Twain – because it appears in his posthumously-published Autobiography (1924) – this should more properly be ascribed to Disraeli, as indeed Twain took trouble to do: his exact words being, ‘The remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”.’

And there are no greater ‘damned lies’ than readership or circulation figures for magazines and other publications. To give you an idea, often when a print magazine quotes ‘readership’, they triple or even quadruple their actual sales figures. Why? Because they assume each copy is read by three or four people!

In the same way – or even, come to think of, much worse ways – web sites quote all sorts of figures for their readership.

AutoSpeed’s figures are logged by Google. I can look at our daily figures, weekly figures, annual figures – or even figures for the content, section by section. Further, through internal Web Publications data, I can view readership numbers, article by article. Finally, I can also see the number of reader ratings for each article, and what those ratings are.

Changing the way you think about electric vehicles

Posted on March 17th, 2009 in Automotive News,Driving Emotion,Economy,Electric vehicles,Global Warming,Opinion by Julian Edgar

Today’s AutoSpeed article on electric vehicles is, as the box in the article states, based on a seminar given by Dr Andrew Simpson.

Dr Simpson produced the paper that we used as the foundation for the Assessing the Alternatives article we ran about a year ago – it’s amongst the very best of articles you’ll find in deciding which fuels vehicles should be using.

Andrew Simpson has just returned to Australia from four years in the US, where he worked at the US Government National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado, and then was a Senior R&D engineer at Tesla Motors.

I found his seminar quite riveting: it changed my views on a host of subjects relating to electric cars.

Buying for parts alone?

Posted on March 12th, 2009 in Driving Emotion,pedal power,Suspension by Julian Edgar

Back here I covered how, when I first started to design my Air 150 recumbent trike , I spent a lot of time looking for the lightest possible springs.

I tried rubber springs (in torsion, shear and compression), carbon fibre, elastomers and others.

My initial desire was to use torsion bars, preferably made from spring steel. However, I gave up on doing this for a number of reasons – weight, stress level in the steel (best addressed by using multiple leaves, Volkswagen Beetle style), and the difficulty in fastening the ends of the bar without introducing even higher stresses.

And the Firestone air-springs I chose to use in the final design are still my pick for springs in ultra light-weight vehicles.

But the other day I came across a product that might have changed the situation. It’s a type of skateboard that uses two wheels, mounted in line. The two halves of the board can pivot relative to one another around a longitudinal axis, and the two wheels can rotate, castor style.

Driving the World’s First Car

Posted on March 10th, 2009 in classics,Driving Emotion by Julian Edgar

The other day I was reading a very interesting book. ‘Behind the Wheel’ is a social history of motoring (as opposed to a history of cars). It was first published in 1977 and was authored by Maurice Michael and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. Here is one section I found fascinating:

Imagine the modern motorist’s reactions to being placed in the driving seat of, say, an 1898 Benz.

”It’s very comfortable sitting up here and the visibility is splendid, but there isn’t any instrument panel. Where do I find the starter switch?”

”There is no starter switch; the electric starter has not yet been invented.”

”I suppose we start by hand, then. Where’s the starting handle?”

“There’s no starting handle either. You simply turn the engine over by pulling on the rim of the flywheel, and hope for better luck than the famous Mr. Koosen who wrote that he had done so ‘… until darkness overtook me. The only result was a pair of worn-out gloves.’ Oh and do retard the ignition first with that push-pull knob behind your legs. There isn’t any crankcase, and if the engine should back-fire you don’t want to catch your hand in the flywheel. Where is the engine, did you say? It’s underneath your seat.”

Use a variety of approaches in suspension design

Posted on March 5th, 2009 in Suspension,testing,tools by Julian Edgar

Suspension design is great fun, and very challenging.

I am not talking about ‘design’ as in picking which upgrade kit to buy for your car, but much more fundamental aspects like developing a whole new suspension – anti-dive percentage, camber change, longitudinal and lateral virtual swing arm lengths… stuff like that.

I haven’t done it for a car but I have applied exactly the same concepts to human powered vehicles.

When I designed the double wishbone front end for my first recumbent trike, I struggled with setting the ground rules. Like the:

• Position of front upper wishbone mount
• Position of rear upper wishbone mount
• Position of front lower wishbone mount
• Position of rear lower wishbone mount
• Position of upper ball-joint
• Position of lower ball-joint

With each location defined in three planes, that’s 18 variables. Add to that wheel offset and diameter, and inner and outer steering tie rod positions, and you’re looking at 26 or more accurate dimensions needed before you can even start.

Big bolts…

Posted on March 3rd, 2009 in Driving Emotion,Materials,Opinion,pedal power by Julian Edgar

In my hand right now I am holding a bolt.

More specifically, it’s an Allen-key bolt (sometimes called a ‘cap screw’) that’s 30mm long and 10mm in diameter. It uses a metric thread.

It’s a high tensile bolt, which means – in plain terms – that it’s bloody strong.

I’ve just stepped over to the digital scales – it weighs 28 grams.

Now the reason that the bolt was sitting on my desk is that a moment or two ago I took it out of my pocket. And the reason it was in my pocket is that I’ve just stepped in from my home workshop, after finishing for the evening.

I’ve been building ‘Chalky’, my recumbent, full suspension touring bike that I hope to be one of the best human-powered touring machines in the world. Best for me, anyway.