Monthly Archives: November 2009

Let’s Scrap!

Junkers ready to be cans

I think its high time we talked about the scrappage scheme.

Personally I think it’s a great idea, I have said before that new cars are so much better than old ones in almost every way. It gives the car industry a big shot in the arm as car sales for July 2009 rose by some 3%. All those old wrecks with ageing braking systems 100000 mile, soggy suspension and pedestrian unfriendly zones are heading for the crusher to become cans, photocopiers and the like. Once a car is doomed to the scheme, it can never legally be used on the road again, unlike some insurance write-offs that I have seen pootling about, once the paper is signed thats it.
I have an ancient Civic that id love to chop in to my local dealer and drive away in something new, so being brave and doing some creative maths to see if I could actually afford the monthly payments I duly went to my local dealership. I looked at a very nice Jazz, it’s the darling of the over 60’s but it’s not the cars fault! It’s a great car, zippy and packed with technology but this entry is not a car review, Ill do that later. Anyway, I make interesting noises and start matching carpet to paint and over comes Mr Salesman with a smile and a spring in his step. We go through a few features on the Jazz and talk about test drives and insurance and all other technical car selling stuff, I ask him about finance, out comes the Honda branded calculator and a few punched keys later we have a figure, which my maths say I can stretch to (if I sell a few stories or get a paid regular column, come on editors! all this talent is going to waste!)

And here lies the problem that I think will face most people who the scrappage scheme should really help. The reason I drive a 1994 Civic is because thats all I can afford right now. The reason people drive 1995 Escorts is not because they want too, it’s all they could afford. When something breaks its cheap to replace and Halfords have most of the bits in stock. These people, MY people can’t afford a new or nearly new car for whatever reason, mostly because they trip up at the finance stage either because of their low-income, crappy credit rating because they had to choose food over paying the credit card one month back in 1989. My credit fail was probably a combination of these and other factors, as soon as the big no-no flashed on the screen, Mr Salesman couldnt get me out of the showroom fast enough and back into my rusty Civic.

So us normal everyday people will continue to drive around in ancient cars until it fails the MOT for the final time and we are forced to find another to replace it. But here is the problem. All the cars we used to be able to get hold of for a couple of hundred quid are now all saving the planet as recycled tin cans, their former owners whizzing about in a nice shiny new car safe in the knowledge that they have done their bit. And good luck to them! Heck I would if i could, but I am part of the proletariat and must continue to strive for my toehold on the ladder.
Like I said earlier I still think the scheme is a good thing, but could be improved on. Its my cynical view that the scheme was put in place to show the government actually doing something, reacting to the ‘crisis’ (I have my own thoughts on the financial ‘crisis’ that we were ‘gripped’ by, I think it’s all industrial-strength crapola, dished out to make the rich richer but thats not for here…) The taxes and income recouped by the treasury will re fill the coffers nicely. An improvement could be a government backed purchase scheme, still scrapping the old cars but financially helping the rest of the populus that just can’t make it happen.

There is another criticism I have heard people discuss, and this seems to be circulating a lot on some of the ‘classic’ owners clubs. People are up in arms saying that Mk2 Jags, Sunbeams, Healys and the like will be chopped in and chopped up in favor of a nice new Vauxhall Zafira. Now this I think is stupid thinking, a classic car enthusiast is not going to watch his pride and joy get smashed to bits in favor of a clever Vauxhall. There is an interesting thread on the ZXOC, an owners club that caters to 1980s performance Nissans, Silvia, Bluebird Turbos and the like and the guys there are purple with rage over a 1.6 Bluebird that is due to be scrapped but is in superb condition and I can sympathise, but to the normal everyday man in the street a Nissan Bluebird is either a Minicab or a Banger racer, and no more worth saving than an old Nova, but then mention that to the Nova owners club and they will go bananas. Its unlikely that enthusiasts will scrap their cars, and will probably do their very best to save any they come across.

It’s impossible to please everyone all the time, and only some of the people some of the time but it would be nice to change the people who get the break once in a while. Maybe when the election comes things might change…

Wait, the Tories look like winning? oh Bugger…

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Electric Dreams from Tokyo

Harajuku

I have just returned from Tokyo, for the second time in two years very nice to once again see  the land of the rising sun. Obviously I had an excellent time, its hard not to have fun in Japan whatever you are into. Cars and motoring play a large part of my interest so I was keen to see how things have moved on since my last adventure there.
Visiting any foreign shore throws up differences in their  motoring habbits. For example, when I was in Germany, playing on the Nurburgring, the German marques outnumbered the rest two to one, lowly Golfs stealing the limelight as they overtook just about everything! Japan is no different. There are a wide diversity of cars that you will never see unless you visit the country, from mundane stuff like small trucks zipping around the narrow streets of the suburbs, to the crazily priced Toyota Century, that looks like it was designed in 1980 but sports a V12 engine and a 12,000,000 Yen price tag (yes, thats twelve million yen…) Toyota Century

12000000 yenFrom what I saw in the Toyota showroom it seems Hybrid engines really are the future, big 3 litre v6 both in front wheel and rear wheel drive transmission sporting an electric motor in its gearbox. I am not sure on the performance of this arrangement but the way its pitched and the majority way of thinking about motoring it Japan this really doesnt matter.

From my observations, the Japanese driver doesnt want to be bothered too much about 0-100km speed, he isnt too fussed about cornering ability or redline noise (which is odd from a country that gave us the Honda B series and Toyota 4AGE engine) No, the average Japanese motorist wants a gentle soothing ride, his emissions low,  his engine economical and his cogs swapped for him. He wants a decent cup holder rather than a snappy gearbox. From the outside it’s nice to watch, on an average day at Shibuya crossing, cars, vans and trucks glide quietly on super smooth tarmac almost as if they were already fully electrically powered.

RWD Hybrid
It’s all very nice, but the question kept nagging me, ‘what happens when it all goes horribly wrong?’ When the computer goes wobbly or the electric motor refuses to switch over to petrol? Who is going to fix it? Not your home mechanic, indeed it’s almost impossible to do any real home repairs on modern cars these days, even changing a headlamp bulb involves removing half the front of the car, something most people would rather leave to the dealers. Then it struck me, these are Japanese cars that are as reliable as a sunrise, added to the fact that the Japanese tend to change their cars every week due to stupidly expensive testing, like our MOT on steroids, they dont really have to worry that much as warranties cover most of the really pricey bits.

We get all of their cast offs, the Skylines and Chasers that are just too expensive to fix, which is great for us now, and probably for a few years to come but soon there will come a time they will dry up and the only hot import you will get from Japan is a Toyota thats half milk-float. Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. The rebellious spirit is still very much alive, take a stroll along Harajuku bridge any given Sunday and see cosplayers in all sorts of strange clothes, a little further on guys dressed in 1950’s leather and sporting huge, gravity defying quiffs dance to Rock and Roll. Wait there longer and you will see the odd Mustang burble by. Let it get a bit darker and then the modifieds come out, Skylines, Soarers, Hachi-Roku, Mercedes and Civics making an ominous growling from under their bonnets, mingled with the roar of customised motorbikes straight out of an Akira anime, and the ragged edge of Japanese sub culture pokes a finger at that most polite of societies.

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