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?)

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.

Three wheels and a helluva lot of fun

Posted on July 31st, 2007 in Aerodynamics,Economy,Handling,Opinion,Power,Suspension by Julian Edgar

As I write I’m getting over a cold. I am well enough to be mobile but not well enough to work. Well, that’s what I tell myself anyway.  

As many of you will know, I am becoming more and more interested in lightweight vehicles. One of my cars is a Honda Insight – amongst the lightest of all production cars on the road – and I find the downsides of its design usually quite minor. (If I need to carry more than two people, I take Frank the Falcon.)  

Now the Honda might be light, but it still has four wheels when surely three would be enough. Using a tadpole configuration (two front wheels and one rear) would also allow the car to be nicely streamlined, something that would be helped by a front mount engine and front wheel drive. That way, the classic teardrop shape for low aero drag would be much easier to implement.  

The starting point for such a car would be a FWD half-cut, say a Mira or Suzuki 660cc 3 cylinder turbo. Use the complete driveline, subframe, steering and front suspension and brakes, add on a tube frame chassis and then run the single rear wheel and suspension from a motorbike.  

Power to move

Posted on March 24th, 2007 in Opinion,Power by Julian Edgar

108228_2mg.jpgThe other day when I had Frank the EF Falcon on the ChipTorque dyno, I did something pretty interesting. But first, some background.

I’ve installed in the Falcon the trip computer that’s normally fitted to higher trim models. It displays all the usual trip computer stuff – average fuel economy, average speed, and so on. It also displays instantaneous fuel consumption.

From watching this display a lot, I know that at an indicated 110 km/h on a level freeway (actually 105 km/h when a speedo correction is applied), the instantaneous fuel consumption figure fluctuates between 7 and 8 litres/100 km. (Unfortunately, the instantaneous display doesn’t have any decimal places.) Over a long distance in these conditions, the average is 7.5 litres/100 – so that instantaneous number makes sense.

On the dyno it was easy to dial up an indicated 110 km/h and then increase the load until the instantaneous consumption figure was fluctuating between 7-8 kilometres/100. Then it was just a case of reading off the dyno screen how much power was being absorbed at the wheels. The answer was 13kW.

So, in the Falcon, it takes 13kW to propel the car along level ground at an actual speed of 105 km/h.