A bit of music from the lamented Radio Blog Club

Le Français

Toujours, je suis désolé pour mes amis( et amies) français(es), mais il est difficile pour moi d'écire en français. Peut-être un jour...
S.V.P. regardez ce LIEN

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Desolé - Sorry - not my fault.

Sorry about the dismal layout in my last post; this is something to do with the impossible HTML which somehow has become completely scrambled on this blog. One of my regular visitors, CM, has complained about the over-sized text: this appeared when I installed AdSense, I do not know why of course!

Just looking at HTML makes my heart sink, whilst any attempt to correct it just makes it even worse. I have a little HTML code saved which I extracted from a decent-looking post, it worked Then but of course does not work now.

À bientôt

Rock 'n' Rollers: Suspense Again

The Roller Mount as installed. Picture: J.J.Hildreth

Silentblocs™ and rubber are, as I remarked earlier in this little series, an effective solution to many production and geometrical problems. And they are cheap. Rubber can be extremely effective as a suspension medium as in the original Mini, but in other places it is not quite so good.

One of rubber’s properties is hysteresis, but in our optimised suspension we would like to see unrestricted movement so that the road wheels, springs and dampers can all work effectively together without winding and unwinding pieces of rubber.

This brings me to the famous connection between the upper wishbones and the front spring. I have already drawn your attention to the rather nasty goings-on that must occur when the suspension is working. It was of course the works that originally attacked this problem. They used a roller (actually a lower suspension pin) mounted in a simple steel fixture that was bolted to the upper wishbone. There is plenty of pre-load in the Fulvia’s set-up so the spring is always in contact with the roller and with the freedom of movement (i.e. without the interference of the rubber) the suspension works much more effectively.

I never liked the rubber installation, and had been studying the transverse spring installation on a FIAT 130TC as a possible solution. It was at that time that I read somewhere that the works used a roller arrangement, but I was unable to find a picture of it. At the very next Surrey meeting of the Lancia Motor Club, I mentioned the idea to Doug Ellis (who owns a magnificent SI 1.3S) and we discussed the likely improvements that might result. The following month Doug turned up as usual and placed in my hands an exquisite piece of machining: a superbly finished aluminium mount fitted with a Nylatron roller running on a stainless steel pin. “Something you were talking about” he said. Neither Doug’s nor my car were running at the time so it was Justin (he has the Kugelfischer car I have written about here) who was the guinea pig. He reported a distinct improvement in handling, notably turn-in.

Unfortunately, the Nylatron roller soon wore out, the load from the spring being too much. Doug of course came up with the solution: a pair of ball races together with hardened steel pads that bolt to the spring. The system has been totally reliable: I have covered over 40,000 miles on mine and I still have the original ball races fitted. Doug wrote up the story in Viva Lancia (the LMC magazine not the web site) in 2006.

Justin has made drawings of the units, which I reproduce here. I have to say that I should think that they would be expensive to make. The Factory version would be much cheaper to fabricate – there is a photograph in Carlo Stella’s Zagato book for those who would prefer to take this route. A nice feature of the works design is that with rallying in mind, the mounts were designed to provide two height settings.

À bientôt

Champagne for the Brain?

So runs the slogan for this very long-established (about 250 years) English weekly. Despite the price, I used to buy it regularly when working in London and it made Fridays, naturally always a favourite day, extra special.

The "Speccie" covers a wide range of subjects and there is humour too, some of it amazingly politically incorrect - another reason for my endorsement.

From the current issue, I have selected Jeremy Clarke's Low Life column which I hope you will find amusing, I did.

Taki's High Life is usually excellent, but I think that he was a bit below par this time.

À bientôt

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Aircraft Time Again

I know I have a small readership that likes to see the odd aircraft feature I include in this slightly unlikely location, so here's the next item in this occasional series.

I have so far neglected the less glamorous aircraft, but many did do sterling work and deserve a mention. The subject this time is the Bristol Beaufighter. Described as a "heavy fighter" the "Beau" as it was popularly known was developed very quickly from the previous Bristol Beaufort. This rapid gestation was valuable at the time: the Beau first flew in 1939. Despite being powered by two Bristol Hercules radial engines of 1600hp each it could manage only 335mph maximum speed, so it was presumably rather inefficient aerodynamically. [edit: very inefficient!] Equipped with four Hispano 20mm cannon it packed a real punch. Some examples were fitted instead with a total of six .303 machine guns for pure fighter service, whilst others carried torpedoes or rockets as may be seen in the film.

Not one of the "stars" of the time, nevertheless the film I include here shows that they could still present an impressive spectacle.

À bientôt

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Monte Carlo or Bust! (Who'd be a Gendarme?)

Further to my piece last week about the Rallye Monte Carlo, I have been sent a clip by an English friend, which clearly demonstrates:

1. Sebastien Loeb drives bloody fast

2. Being a Gendarme is very dangerous

Enjoy it!

À bientôt

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Run Your Car on Water! (It says here)

Yes folks! A dream come true: run your car on water.

No, I don't believe it either and I was just too damned lazy to read all the blurb.

However one line I enjoyed was:

DID YOU KNOW: Pound for pound HHO GAS IS 3 TIMES MORE POTENT THAN GASOLINE!!! HHO is a fast growing trend for boosting performance and MPG.

This line appears on the site promoting this scheme, which appears to be based on electrolysis of water. "HHO" is what they call the "gas" (mixture of gases) that is generated from the electrolysis: H2O of course, and if my memory has not yet deserted me, a highly explosive mixture. You could amuse yourself if physics or mathematics is your thing and calculate the volume of a pound (454 grammes) of gas that is two-thirds hydrogen.

Well, take a look for yourself and if it isn't bullshit let me know. If it isn't, I shan't need my Lucas mechanical fuel-injection system any more!

À bientôt

Improve Your French!

I have made a new on-line acquaintance via the "Ma Clope" blog. His nom de plume is Jarod Bendson and he has just launched his own blog: Du blog dans les épinards.

I am assured by someone who is well qualified to say that he writes excellent French and with great humour, so if you have a little more than "un peu de français" pay him a visit. Even I with my disgraceful French can appreciate the humour! I have added a link to my list.

À bientôt

More Suspense

Further to my recent discussion of the Fulvia's suspension, I now propose to suggest a few modifications that might be of interest to those of you who are not too concerned with originality and wish to improve the handling and road holding of a car that is already (when in good order) superb in these regards..

I start by reminding my readers that every production car is a compromise between various conflicting parameters: performance, handling, road-holding, comfort, price, running costs, luggage capacity etc. If you modify your car you will shift the compromise: this is usually the aim of course, but make sure that you do not create something that you will grow to hate!

My previous article described the general arrangement and construction of the Fulvia's suspension; in common with many production cars there is a fair amount of rubber about. Rubber as I remarked is something that gets in the way of precision handling (of course I am not alluding to tyres here although they are certainly intimately associated with this subject).

It is relatively easy to get rid of the rubber at the back: simply replace the Silentblocs with bushes of superior material. On my own car I have used Nylatron, a lubricant-impregnated nylon material. Each bush runs on a specially made stainless steel tube which is clamped between the spring hangers. It is necessary of course to ream the bush to size after it has been pressed into the "eye" of the spring. This is all straightforward for SIIs but SIs have a different arrangement at the front ends of the rear springs. I used Nylatron again with success but a certain amount of fettling was necessary to get it to work properly.

At the front, I again used Nylatron. here for the upper wishbone retained the original steel bushes but replaced the rubber housings, the steel shims and the original thin nylon bushes with a Nylatron part. It the making of these it was found that considerable precision was required to ensure an accurate fit. Sadly I do not have pictures of these, so I hope at least that the description is helpful. And you can always ask a question - use the "comments" facility at the bottom of this piece. Also I can point you towards someone who can make these parts 5he still has the sketches he made when doing mine).

For the lower wishbone bushes again I used Nylatron; with SII cars again this is simple with a solid bush running on a tube with small distance pieces to prevent the wishbone moving longitudinally. For S1s again, one would have to replace the original parts with Nylatron replicas.

Next, the anti-roll bars. It is most important to remember that tyre technology has improved enormously since the Fulvia's era; more grip = more roll, obvious if you think about it.

On discovering years ago that the 2000 sedan had a thicker front bar, I immediately sourced on and fitted it. The original bar is 16mm thick, whilst the 2000 one (Sedans only!) is 18mm, which makes it about 60% stiffer. I expected increased understeer but found instead that there was no difference in this regard and that turn-in was improved. As I made gradual improvements I started to sense (the Fulvia is always very communicative) that the rear of the car was rolling excessively. Unfortunately all Fulvias and Flavias that have rear bars have the same 14mm thick component so I had one made. It is 16mm thick so again around 60% stiffer than the original; it was a great improvement. Being a simple shape unlike the front bar, it was cheap. The firm who made it used EN16T steel and because of the relatively small size it was cold-bent thus obviating expensive heat treatment.

One really nice thing about these thicker bars is that they are a nice tight fit into the original bushes! In fact, I believe that it is now possible to buy polyurethane anti-roll bar bushes for Fulvias, which would result in further improvement, though I doubt that they are available for the larger bars I have described here.

Once again, I apologise for the lack of pictures this time. Next time I shall be having a look at the dreaded rubber that connects the upper wishbone to the spring and also I shall add a few words about the springs themselves. And I will have a picture or two.

À bientôt

French Anti-Smoking V: An Apology

No doubt a typical "Ma Clope" supporter if the "antis" are to be believed
Source: Here

Following yesterday's post, it seems that I owe the following Deputés an apology:

MM. André GERIN, Jean-Jacques CANDELIER, Jacques DESALLANGRE, Pierre GOSNAT, Maxime GREMETZ, Daniel PAUL ET Michel VAXÈS

Why? Because on 9th January they applied for a change in the law and so were 19 days ahead of the proposal I mentioned in my last post. Their position is that they feel that the various anti-smoking laws have, with the latest legislation gone too far.

My friends on "Ma Clope Ma Bataille" await developments with hope and interest.

A bientôt

Source: Here

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Fumeurs (et Fumeuses) en France - Part IV

The French bar owners might escape Domesday... Source here

I have mentioned the Blog "Ma Clope Ma Bataille" before: the people there certainly keep au fait with what's going on.

Today, there is great news and a little hope for us fumeurs. There is a proposal before the Asemblée Nationale for a change to the law: they want the hotels, bars and restaurants to have the option to declare themselves "smoking" or "non-smoking" establishments along the lines practised in Spain, Belgium and Germany. Hurrah!

A bientôt

Friday, January 25, 2008

Night Magic

You drive along here to get to SS1 & 2!
Picture source: Here

An interesting first-time experience for me yesterday evening. Living in France has a number of advantages, not the least being that here in Haute-Savoie I am just a couple of hours’ drive from the first special stages of the Monte Carlo Rally.

No photos this time I am afraid, as the stages were run in the dark, high up (1000m – 3300ft) near pretty St Jean en Royan in the area known as Vercors. It was very cold, but a couple of cups of vin chaud and a crusty sandwich with classic Savoyarde Diot (a sausage) had a most satisfactory effect.

The wonderful Combe Laval looking towards St Jean en Royan
Picture source: here

It is absolutely stunning to see the world’s best (Loeb, Sordo, Hirvonen, Latvala etc.) lights blazing, come blasting through at speeds that beggar belief, on narrow, bumpy roads. I cannot imagine how they do it: I just accept that they are the best! I suppose it is no surprise that although Dani Sordo won the first stage from Loeb (by 3.9 seconds) after the short second stage, only 17km, Loeb had converted his second place into a 12.8 second lead over his team mate...

What was especially nice was to reflect on the fact that this amazing show is entirely free and even better, this year there were only a few hundred metres to walk to see the first special stage, then a drive of about three kilometres and a couple of hundred metres’ walk to see the second.

Wonderful value and recommended.

À bientôt

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

An Anecdote and a Bit of Auto-Porn

A "Lightweight" E-type Jaguar Picture source: Here

This piece was prompted by Fleur, a visitor to my "Chatbox" - this may be found on the right of the page; just the thing for a quick comment or question.

Fleur's message brought to mind a story I read some years ago in one of the English classic car magazines. The article in question was an interview with a chap who had worked at Jaguar in the early 1960s and he told a splendid tale which despite the vagaries of my memory I retain to this day.

Jaguar launched the E-type model in 1961 to an astounded world: 150 mph (240kmh) performance at less than £2000 at the time. It made many headlines. It was an exciting time to be young and rich: George Harrison of the Beatles was presented with one for his 21st birthday in 1964. No speed limits, the term "carbon footprint" (yawn) had not been invented. With the Mini just two years old and catching on, and this new super-sports car Britain's car industry was riding high.

Whilst Jaguar had retired from works participation in racing at the end of 1956, it was decided that perhaps the E-type could be competitive and so Jaguar chief Sir William Lyons authorised some development to be done. The first was the "Low-Drag" coupé developed by aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer who was behind the famous D-type as well as the E-type. Whilst very fast it was not stable, being apt to want to take off; subsequently all the "Lightweights" as the factory-developed racers came to be known, were open cars with hardtops fitted.

Now it is obviously essential when considering any kind of racing programme to have good knowledge of the competition. The competition at that time came from Italy in the form at first of the formidable and successful 250GT short wheelbase model introduced originally in 1958. I think that the 250SWB is wonderful and indeed had I something like £1 million+to spare I rather think that I would be going to the shops in one.

Ferrari 250 SWB. Picture source Here

In 1963 Ferrari introduced the GTO, now the most valuable of the classic Ferraris:

Ferrari 250GTO. Picture source Here

So Jaguar at the planning stage imagined it would be facing the 250 SWB "Berlinetta", but by the time the Lightweight E-types had been built, the GTOs had started to appear - and they were very successful.

Enzo Ferrari has been described as an "impressario" and if one reads about him and his public utterances it is difficult to disagree: "Because I, Ferrari say so"! Ferrari famously once remarked that "Aerodynamics are for those who cannot build engines." He was proud of his various V-12s and rightly so. Nevertheless, many were sceptical about Ferrari's power claims and Jaguar were naturally very keen to find out how many horsepower Ferrari's 3-litre V-12 really produced.

So the situation in 1962 was on the one hand, Jaguar with their famous six-cylinder 3.8 litre XK engine originally designed in the 1940s and on the other, Ferrari's 3-litre V-12 which was developed from Gioacchino Colombo's original 1.5-litre V-12 also designed in the 1940s.

3.8 Jaguar engine in competition guise Picture source here

Ferrari 250 GTO 3-litre V-12. Picture source Here

At this time, Jaguar had a well known dealer: John Coombs at Guildford in Surrey. Coombs was famous for special preparation of Jagaurs and his modified Mk II saloons had quite a following. Well, Coombs was keen to race and had acquired a Ferrari 250 GT SWB for this purpose. Jaguar at Coventry managed to "twist his arm" into lending them the car "for evaluation". So the car was sent up to Jaguar's works at Coventry. So keen were Jaguar to find out if old man Ferrari was bluffing when he claimed 300HP for his competition 3-litre V-12s, that they promptly removed the engine and installed it onto their dynamometer. I have no information on this point but I imagine that they were a little crestfallen when they measured 297HP from the engine!

The irony of this is that in common with other makers at the time Jaguar were frightful liars regarding horsepower from their production engines. As an example, 265HP were claimed for the 3.8 litre E-type. This is patently absurd and these days the general advice is to deduct about 20% from any claimed Jaguar horsepower for cars made in the 1960s. This is not to say that the XK engine is not a good engine: it is in fact a very good though 'old-fashioned"engine with its very long stroke. And the E-type is a very fast car, it cannot be denied. It is said that Jaguar extracted close to 300HP from the Lucas fuel-injected D-type engine - and the XK engine always made pretty good torque. By the early '60s they were probably getting close to 320HP and it is interesting to add that these days, outputs as high as 340HP are claimed by specialists.

It is a pity that old Ferraris are so rare and valuable: it would be interesting to find out just how much power could be extracted from the 3-litre V-12 with the benefit of modern gas-flow theory and so on that has helped raise the outputs from the Jaguar XK engines.

Well in conclusion I should like to return to Jaguar's experimental department at Brown's Lane Coventry back in 1962. Having established that Enzo Ferrari's power claims were in no way outrageous, it was necessary to reinstall the engine into the 250GT and of course return the car to John Coombs. The mechanics had carefully placed all the nuts and bolts into labelled boxes, but this unfortunately meant nothing to the cleaners who came in at the weekend and so they dumped the whole lot into the rubbish bins. Panic - John Coombs would not see the joke!

The problem was that metric nuts and bolts were rare at that time in England and some fast thinking had to be done. It was humble Morris Motors who largely came to the rescue. They were producing four-cylinder side-valve engines for generator sets for the armed forces. These engines had to meet NATO specifications and so had metric threads. Morris were able to supply many but not all, of the necessary bolts. And the rest? Well the story has it that the remainder were made from scratch in Jaguar's tool room!

I wonder if Coombs ever found out?

À bientôt

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

French Smoking Update (Part III)

Well then all you fumeurs et fumeuses (not your Fulvias I hope) what have I got?

First, if you smoke and are in Paris next weekend there is to be a sit-in at the Hotel de Ville - i.e. the town hall on Sunday: for that real French experience it is necessary to take part in a manifestation.

Meanwhile on "Ma Clope Ma Bataille" battle has truly been joined between the smokers and the non-smokers. I am afraid that many of the "nons" have behaved really rather badly, some even wishing horrible diseases and short lives to their opponents. It is curious that this vituperative anger - at least as far as I can tell, my French being what it is - has not been reciprocated by the smokers who have remained generally good-humoured, witty and sometimes almost poetic. Don't just take my word for it (I do smoke after all) if you have the French, have a look.

For me whose understanding of traditional French culture is derived mostly from a little reading in England, the vigorous debate is reminiscent of a tradition of earnest left-bank political arguments in the 1960s- a flavour of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre (both fervent smokers of course).

Finally the "blogeuse" who owns "Ma Clope etc." added the video below to express her feelings.

À bientôt

Suspense - or Suspenders

I have received a response to my appeal “What would you do?” suggesting that I should write something about Fulvia suspension.

OK here I go: it works really well.

Seriously, I am grateful for the comment and as usual, propose to cover a few areas with my normal approach: i.e. with a view to modification. First though, an overview bearing in mind that I am discussing a 45 (in reality a 61) year-old design.

Using what used to be called “cart springs” in “pop” car magazines that wished to be derisive, it is truly amazing just how good the Fulvia’s suspension is and how well it works: not only is there a great deal of sheer grip but the ride quality is really excellent, especially for such a small car. How was it achieved?

Good question. From the point of view of the front it is not difficult to provide the answer: wishbones, in particular, long stiff wishbones: unequal-length, non-parallel wishbones at that. It is no accident that F1 cars use wishbones since this is in many ways the best method of keeping the relationship between the two wheels reasonably consistent through all the variations imposed by driving on a real road and of course, steering. The principal disadvantages are mainly seen from the point of view of the cost accountants and conceptual designers: wishbones are greedy for space, they have to be supported inside at four points, they limit steering lock and are costly and complex to make. For Lancia in the great days, such considerations were strictly secondary to the goal of making a car that had engineering integrity and was a pleasure to drive. I should add I suppose that thanks to the great advances in Computer Aided Design, damper design and materials technology, the ubiquitous “Macpherson” strut is now really a very satisfactory solution although I still insist that for ultimate “feel” the wishbone is the best approach as the Fulvia clearly demonstrates.

How not to arrange wishbones! Look at the LH front wheel's attitude. Parallel, equal-length wishbones on a R-Type MG. Picture source: here

For the rear, it is a little harder to establish the reasons for its success, however a simple beam axle has the advantage of keeping the wheels consistently aligned and vertical albeit at the cost of increased unsprung weight. The Panhard rod prevents sideways movement and the long springs provide good ride. Probably the rear suspension would be even better with a lightweight axle (and hubs!) and with the Panhard rod replaced with a Watts linkage or “Woblink”.

There are considerable differences between the Series 1 and Series II cars, and these account for the improved feel and communication experienced by the driver in the former cars. Differences at the rear are minor and need not concern us here, but the front is a different matter. I remarked above about the cost of wishbone suspension: the Series I cars must have been very costly to make. Looking at the inner end of the top wishbone there is a beautifully machined hollow tubular support which is a close fit into the wishbone “eyes”. Nylon bushes enclosed in a thin rubber outer are located in the aluminium towers that carry the suspension loads and connect the subframe to the car body. Inside these bushes are precision-machined steel bushes into which the tube fits. Finally the whole thing is clamped and the steel bushes move inside the nylon. Correct clamping is regulated by means of ground hard shims. Arrangements at the bottom are similar but with individual arrangements for the front and rear of the lower wishbone. Properly maintained, the system is very long lasting since of course it was properly conceived and manufactured.

The Series II system is much simpler. All the precision aspects are no longer there: there is merely a set of Silentblocs and a long bolt at the top, and Silentblocs on each side at the bottom again clamped with bolts.

What is astounding is that despite this compromise with the cost accountants, the SII Fulvias still handle very well indeed; all that is lost is some of the “feel” and delicacy that one experiences with a good SI.

The one, to me, unpleasant compromise at the front in all series, is the means of coupling the upper wishbone to the transverse leaf spring: the famous rubber. Consider how the suspension operates: as the wheel rises the upper wishbone moves towards the horizontal. At the same time (since they are joined) the spring is gradually straightened, so of course it effectively “lengthens” in positional terms. Of course as the wheel falls the process is reversed. This all means that the rubber is subjected to considerable shear loads and thus offers substantial resistance to suspension movement.

Additionally, given the tendency for the front spring to move axially (i.e. the outer ends move fore or aft) the rubber often receives an additional twist. This accounts for the bizarre forms sometimes encountered in these rubbers. Rubber, except for in a real Mini, is rarely good anywhere in a suspension system – except for cars designed for comfort - but as Colin Chapman famously remarked, “An ounce of rubber is worth a ton of theory”.

Next time I will look at some modifications.

À bientôt

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Merlin Fights Back

Quite recently I featured in several articles, the wonderful Napier Sabre engine and also the Hawker Tempest aircraft to which it was fitted. I note from statistics that these articles were quite popular and so, knowing as I do that many classic car enthusiasts have an interest in historic aircraft I have decided to add now and then, additional features on the subject.

The Rolls-Royce Merlin engine was an extraordinary success: its use in the Spitfire, Hurricane, Mosquito, Lancaster and in the superb P-51 Mustang is very well known. At 27 litres, it was of relatively small capacity for an aero-engine of its epoch, but the aircraft which used it were feared and respected.

Here is a short piece of film with some very nice sounds - and shots - showing Mosquitos and Spitfires flying together. Enjoy it.

À bientôt

What would you do?

All of you who visit this blog searching for Fulvia information are not too badly served; I concede that lately there have not been so many Fulvia-specific articles and I further concede that quite a few have no relevance even to motoring. Well I warned that this would happen a very long time ago!

The fact is that the number of topics concerning Fulvias is limited; regular visits to will soon show you that the same subjects come up time and time again - as of course they are bound to do as individuals encounter the eternal problems that inevitably arise. I should add that Huib at Viva-Lancia is providing a first-class service: Lancia owners are fortunate!

So to add to the many thousands of words (well over 15000 I would guess) I have written here about our favourite car I now need some inspiration. The only way I can get this (apart from encountering something I have not come across in 26 years of Fulvias) is via your comments, which are conspicuous by their absence. As I have written before, blogs need commentary.

Meanwhile, consider this "off-topic" post (not for me though) - it has 22 comments, admittedly only from three people including yours truly, but this kind of thing keeps my blog alive, something I want to do.

So for the time being, do not be surprised to find further miscellanea hereabouts!

À bientôt

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Are Electric Cars Boring? - Not this One!

Picture source: here

As my regular readers will know, I have never made any kind of statement about my "green" credentials for two reasons: first I do not feel inclined to and second, because I do not have any! However, this does not mean I am in favour of filthy coal-burning power stations or for that matter, beer cans and half-eaten kebabs dumped on the footpath. A little more thought and perhaps a little less greed, laziness and selfishness would work wonders I am certain.

I have to say that seeing a Toyota Prius in the "flesh" for the first time made me want to reach for the sick-bag (in fact much of the rest of Toyota's range has this effect on me); I am sure that many who feel like me may be subconsciously put off "green" vehicles by such monstrosities.

Fortunately, as the picture at the top shows it really doesn't have to be like this. The car is a Tesla from the USA; the makers claim a 0-60 (0-100kmh) time of four seconds and further claim that the cost of the power works out at two cents per mile, equivalent to 135mpg. Range is 220 miles.

Based in Silicon Valley, the company was established in 2003 and currently has 200 employees; as of August last year, 550 cars had been reserved and the company has raised $105million in capital. More information about Tesla may be found here.

At present the car is available only in the USA although ironically, final assembly is carried out by Lotus in Norfolk who were also involved in some of the design aspects.

I think that this is an exciting project and hope that the impending economic slowdown in the US does not have too much of a negative effect on this brave venture.

Here is a link to the company's website.

À bientôt

Friday, January 18, 2008

F1: The best-laid plans of mice and men...

Test drivers have shorter sideburns!
Gary Paffett, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Pedro de la Rosa, January 2007
Image source:

It was that famous crook, Harold Wilson, British prime minister ,who coined the phrase "A week is a long time in politics". No doubt this is true, but equally so is the fact that a year is long time in F1. The above picture should be a reminder, but this article from a year ago, with of course the invaluable benefit of hindsight, is hilarious.

À bientôt

Isn't it Great When Things just DON'T Work?*

*Thanks VW

People have laughed at me when I have finally lost it with some piece of rubbish that is supposed to work but doesn't; they think that my reaction is illogical or even childish. I have mentioned this sort of thing hereabouts before: the printer that never worked (I jumped up and down on it); the second printer that worked for three months (I threw it across the room - it disintegrated beautifully) the new VCR that refused to play videotapes that played everywhere else (a 4lb club hammer dealt with that one most satisfyingly) the later VCRs that had the same problem (down the rubbish chute with a satisfying crash at the bottom).

Surely some of you when working on a car have felt the strongest desire to put a hammer through the windscreen? No? OK watch the video - no not me, just another bloke who has obviously "had it"! Thanks to CM who found this gem.

Edit: I found a YouTube response to the video:

À bientôt

The OTHER Keynote Speech

Yes, friends, Fulvias in France is nothing if not fair and balanced (despite the occasional rant) so as the other day, Steve Jobs had his moment here now it's the turn of his opponent.

This year marked Bill Gates's last keynote speech and thanks to the excellent Techrepublic site and of course YouTube, I am able to present this video which is a little bit of fun. Enjoy it.

À bientôt

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More Apple

Yesterday Steve Jobs CEO gave this much-anticipated 90-minute "keynote" speech about Apple's latest developments.

Anticipating that unlike those who queued up from the small hours to see it, many would prefer not to see the entire thing, someone has cleverly compressed the whole thing to show the salient points in 60 seconds: here it is:

À bientôt

More Political Correctness/Incorrectness

Not about tobacco this time, although I expect I shall return to that topic (there is a café owner on hunger strike here in France).

This time it is the interfering EU (European Union): they want F1 to be "greener". Now the fact that modern cars are so fuel-efficient compared with their predecessors is related to the fantastic progress made in developments by FI and also other categories of the sport (rallying for example). And if the designers are exploring new technologies such as energy recovery and so on then I say this is an excellent thing and if the EU wants a "greener" world then they should concentrate their attention on the likes of China and India, but saying "boo to a goose" has never been the EU's long suit has it?

Here is an extract from an article on

The European Parliament has called on the FIA and Formula One teams to make the sport more environmentally friendly, as part of a move to change public attitudes to green technology.

In a report supported by the European Parliament about a competitive automotive regulatory framework, called CARS 21, the call is made for several changes in the automotive industry in relation to reducing CO2 emissions.

However, it also made a separate note discussing the impact that motorsport could have on helping increase the popularity of green technologies.

A statement detailing the findings of the report, which was adopted with 607 votes in favour, 76 against and 14 abstentions, made it clear that it wanted moves made to make F1 'greener'.

The statement said: "MEPs recognise the role motor sport can play in changing attitudes and customer behaviour towards environmentally friendly technology.

"The House therefore asks the FIA and others involved in Formula One to change their rules accordingly, so that environmentally friendly technologies like bio-fuels, four-cylinder engines or hybrid can be more easily applied."

Four-cylinder engines? They must be joking: this is F1, supposedly the pinnacle of motor engineering; call me an old fart and reactionary if you like, but a four-cylinder engine is not a good engineering nor æsthetic solution for the "ultimate" in motor engineering (I often used to wish that Lancia had made the 1600 Fulvia as a compact, high-revving V6!).

But it's all window dressing isn't it? I realise it is symbolic and intended as an example, since the total energy consumed by racing cars and their manufacture is of course tiny - miniscule. However, what about all the air-freight and road transport involved? I doubt if the EU is planning anything soon that might have an impact on Airbus!


I see that The FIA has "welcomed the EU statement": again from here is an extract of what Max Mosley had to say:

In a statement issued on Wednesday, he said: "It is immensely satisfying that the European Parliament recognises the role motor sport can play in the advancement of green technologies and supports the work undertaken by the FIA in its policy campaigning to make motoring more sustainable in the future.

"With the support of the motor manufacturers competing in Formula One and, with the engineering expertise unique to the sport, we hope that new technical regulations will encourage a transfer of energy efficient technologies into the domestic car market for the wider benefit of society."

Nothing new in the second paragraph, as there has always been spin-off: "Racing improves the breed" we used to say.

Otherwise it's all just spin of another sort in my view!

À bientôt

Tuesday, January 15, 2008



Typical! I just made a post about AdSense (valves) and now you will see that the space is blank! This is a result of a misunderstanding. The ads will be back soon.

A bientôt

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Valves: It's Worth Watching Those Ads!

I don't know if any of you have tried clicking any of the links that appear in my "Adsense" box. As the host I am not permitted to click on them, but I did notice one and copied over the web address.

And I found this:

The company is called Sinus; the firm produces about a million valves per annum, and based on what they say, of very high quality.

The valves appear to be made from Nimonic 80A, Nimonic being one of the Wiggins-developed "super alloys" that were invented for gas turbine blades.

As may be seen in the picture above, the company offers special coatings, for example the gold-coloured titanium nitride; other super hard-wearing coatings such as zirconium nitride are available and in the "ultimate" range, a specially-developed oil-retaining surface finish. Stellite-coated faces are also offered.

On the company's website, apart from details about the products, there is a short film showing some interesting aspects of production - well worth a look.

À bientôt

It seems that I spoke too soon

Apologies to any English activists who might have read my piece entitled "French Smoking Ban II".

I unreservedly apologise, having read this.

À bientôt

Saturday, January 12, 2008

"Sensors Indicate Captain..."

At last! Some car stuff eh?

Well no-one has actually complained about my non-Fulvia posts, and despite my steadily increasing readership, it has all been really rather quiet, I do appreciate your comments and of course comments are essential to keep the Blog world alive.

Anyway, this all concerns my pre-Christmas series about knock.

Whilst naturally, I concentrated on ignition matters (I would be interested to hear from anyone who has bought the Meca system) there is another side to the knock question. This of course concerns fuelling: lean mixture when things are critical, again point of maximum torque, high ambient temperatures full throttle under heavy load e.g. in a hill-climb, can be disastrous and lead if not actually to detonation, certainly burned pistons and exhaust valves are more than likely.

Now for those of you with standard cars in good condition, there is unlikely to be anything to worry about, but start developing and all hell can be let loose. Improved gas flow - which includes improved exhaust manifolds - modified camshafts and so on are all ultimately intended to improve volumetric efficiency and as I pointed out, this means an effectively higher compression ratio which requires changes to the advance curve, but also means more air which in turn means that more fuel is required for optimum performance.

The carburettor is an amazing invention being technically quite simple yet it is able to demonstrate considerable flexibility - in simple terms, more "suck" = more fuel. However this is not the approach for a perfectly developed engine. The fuelling, just like the ignition curve (and they relate to each other) should be optimised.

And this is where I refer to the picture at the top of the page. This is the JAW wide-band oxygen sensor: fuelling is assessed the modern way: by measuring the proportion of oxygen in the exhaust gases; this proportion is referred to as "Lambda" - hence the Lambda sensors found on many modern cars. This sensor is available as a kit and is very cheap.

Here is the link to the company's website; it is in English and I am sure that you will find it interesting.

Let me know what you think eh?

À bientôt

Friday, January 11, 2008

French Anti-Smoking Law II (et pour les Français)

I have no knowledge of how the English are coping with this sort of nanny-state legislation. Here in France there appears to be some grass roots resentment and like Ireland where 35000 have lost their jobs since the ban - with one pub closing every week - already café and bar owners are reporting loss of business.

The "antis" told us that following the ban, these places would be full of families and non-smokers enjoying at last wonderful café life. It seems that this is not the case.

I have been directed to a wonderful French blog "Ma clope ma bataille" (literally "my fag, my battle").

There is now of course a link here.

Next up, the promised piece about fuelling... this time not with tobacco!

À bientôt

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Smokin' Serge & Brigitte Bardot

Here's a rather strange video from 1967 with Serge Gainsbourg and a stunning Brigitte Bardot performing "Bonnie & Clyde".

Sadly it must be pointed out that BB was never likely to challenge say, Janis Joplin or Maria Callas in the vocal department, but there were visual compensations...

À bientôt

A Damned Good Read

As many of you no doubt know, I am an English expatriate, living in rural France; I have been here for nearly three years and enjoy it very much, even if my French is very, very slow to develop.

CM of Jour après Jour has drawn my attention to a super blog called Antipodes which is produced by another English (and French!) -speaking expatriate, this time from Australia. William Skyvington, the blog's author writes exquisitely on an amazing range of topics; his style ranges from ironic to most touching. He comes over as a sensitive, very knowledgeable individual, with an excellent talent for taking a fresh look at the world's beauties and follies.

I was especially moved by this wonderful piece - how I wish I could write like that!

Highly recommended.

À bientôt

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Little Gothic Gem

I first saw this video about 28 years ago and its impact has remained with me. I was delighted to find that some benefactor had a copy and had uploaded it to YouTube. No doubt many of you are familiar with the "art" of pop videos, but I truly believe that this one is something special.

It helps of course that I liked the work of the artiste, Lene Lovich, with her blend of horror-movie chic and eastern European mystique.

A good song and a great video interpretation. Enjoy it as I am sure that you will.

À bientôt

Sod the Law!


New Internet Speed test

Music and Radio Blog Club

Radio Blog Club, a good friend for a while appears to be in some legislative difficulty...

However, in tribute to its brave effort, I shall leave the existing track on this page (which amazingly still works)

Sadly my Playlist no longer works (hence its removal) thanks to the absurd "Hadopi" legislation in France. Apologies to all.