Tag Archives: nurburgring

Who wants a new car anyway?

Mini One DI have been driving my Mini for about 18 months now and I have come to a few conclusions. The first is that BMW make a very good car and the second is that I don’t want a new one. A bit of a contradiction? Maybe, but my reasons are firmly fixed in my personality, let me explain a bit further. Continue reading


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A trip to the Nurburgring, and virginity lost

Error code 10 on a Vauxhall Insignia is a hard one to pin down. A quick google doesn’t turn up much and a bit of off tangent clicking can get you into all sorts of dark corners of the internet (bookmarks updated) although I am sure that there are a few of you reading this from the Vauxhall community either yelling at your screens or emailing me the answer. Continue reading


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You can’t fuel me!

I have said in the past that owning a car and then moaning about putting fuel into it to make it work is proof enough of the stupidity of some people. Its like buying a cat to keep you company and then being astonished that it needs feeding and taking to the vets once in a while. Since the dawn of time (well since I started driving) people have been moaning about the price of petrol. I remember when we all went nuts as it hit 50p a litre (yes I AM that old) and again when we all fainted as it tipped then infamous £1.00. Now its heading for £1.50 and I think all of us will just keel over and die. Continue reading

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Stig quits, Clarkson hurt and TopGear Damaged!


Ah the Stig, cornerstone of Top Gear

Now that summer is over and we have all had too much sun, spent too much money and only have the damp short days up to Christmas to look forward too. What a miserable way to start this entry. Doom, gloom and sadness.

Jeremy Clarkson

Our Jeremy, hero to all

Well perk up readers! If you want to laugh then look no further than our own self appointed guru of cars, Mr Jeremy Clarkson! How I laughed when I read how the ultra secretive, key stone of Top Gear, beloved by all, Stig had finally been unmasked! Just in case you don’t know who it is, I wont spoil it for you. Just get on Google and have a poke around. You wont be that surprised because most Petrolheads had their suspicions anyway, and most of them were right.

So what of the fallout? Clarkson spat dummies, threw toys and gave interviews on minority TV stations* (Show 17 fast forward to 27:10 to skip the Belly vs Morris dancing…) saying how hurt he was, how he and the Stig had drinks together, only to find out that crazy Stiggy had been writing a book. Greed is bad said our  Ferrari driving star to camera in the piece, before heading off into the night back to his tiny house.

If you like Top Gear, you will be horrified to know that Clarkson feels that its been ‘damaged’ by this, and he has been doing nothing for the past three weeks except thinking “what on earth to do.“ Well I can see his problem. Good old TG haven’t had a decent fresh idea in the past 3 series, Stig was fun and all that, but did we really care if he didn’t know anything about ducks? Or that his nipples were shaped like the Nurburgring?

If you were over seven years old and actually enjoyed cars and driving, you probably couldn’t care less who he was or what shape his nipples are. As long as he got that supercar around the track as well as he could, and as fast as he could it didn’t matter. An hour long show held together by a minutes worth of  track time by a bloke in a Simpson helmet listening to Morse Code while and old bloke tries to do funny commentary? Really? Is everything else filler then?

I used to love Top Gear, some of the films that were made were very good. The Vietnamese trip springs immediately to mind. Even if it was all scripted, the fact that you saw the country as a place and not a war was a brilliant bit of TV. But now it seems that its being hosted by people more at home on Saturday morning TV for kids, Timmy Mallett would be a refreshing change.

James? The Stig?

Even James May, my favourite presenter has fallen foul of this insane thought that the show is ruined because we all know Stig’s name. May has suggested that one of the shows next stunts should be “driving to the Stigs house and nailing his head to the table.”

Really James? Well I hate violence in all its forms but when it comes to stuff like this there is only one solution. GOOGLE FIGHT! As you can see from the results, Stig kicks May’s arse all the way back to Top Gear Towers.
The show is weak because of the content around the minute or so of track time. The car is what we all want to see, not the driver. Yes he is very talented, we all applaud that, and root for him to smash the times on the board. The reason we love the Stiggy bits is that we see a car we will never afford driven to the limit. Even if we COULD afford any of the cars he drives there is no way we would be brave enough or talented enough to drive it to that extreme.

So what’s going to happen to old Top Gear? The diehards will still watch it endlessly on Dave, the first episode will have them glued to see what Clarkson’ three weeks of  intense creativity have come up with. Don’t forget, he has done this little stunt on TV before with his old mate Schuey. Stig took his helmet off to reveal that it was Schuey all the time right? What? Wasn’t it? Oh and the death of Black Stig, what would we do? TG should really look hard at itself then switch over to watch Tiff and Vicky Butler Henderson for a bit. Tiff can drive the doors off most things and who wouldn’t want to be Vicky’s seatbelt? Turn off the Saturday morning cartoons and turn on some cars!

Oh! I just had a thought! We don’t know who Stigs African or American cousin is! And what about Mrs Stig? Surely she could have his job now he has been sacked?

Stig and Mrs Stig on Holiday

* Credit to my colleague Darren Moss of Moss on Motoring for pointing this clip out to me.

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Restoration, a stupid idea

A good mate of mine has just bought himself a new toy. He parted with quite a few of his hard earned pounds for something to have some fun in, a tweeked Peugeot 106 Rallye. It has a tuned engine, a weird differential and suspension that makes it go on three wheels at every corner. Surprisingly he has had it for a fortnight and has traveled less than 50 miles in it.

Now this is how you work on cars...

You see, as soon as he got the thing home, before the engine could stop its ticking cooldown after the, let’s be honest, enjoyable-with-spirit drive from its former owner, he had the spanners out and was taking the thing to bits. A phone call later and another friend arrives with an angle grinder and more spanners and set about pulling whatever he could out of it. This includes seats, trim, carpets, and even the rear wiper. Brackets, bolts and bits of the wiring loom that are no longer needed succumb to the grinder and manical eye of the new bloke, until we are left with a box with two seats and an engine that is capable of pulling it all along at a speed that would make most sane people faint. This car is so empty and light that it has to be kept tied to the house on windy days.

Why do all of this to a perfectly good, functional car, that’s already a light, nimble, sporty model as good as Peugeot could make it? Apart from the obvious power to weight gains, this car becomes his. There will never be another like it, and the car will be used to its full potential which suits my friend very well as driving on the edge round tracks is what he loves best. Curious about this, I asked ‘What if you crash it?’ Theres quite a lot of cash tied up in this, and I realise  its relative, but money is money! ‘Meh’ he shrugged his shoulders ‘Then we fix it’

Emptier than a hermits address book

All of this got me thinking. There is a guy who also has a little Peugeot that he has as a project, and again its being stripped and fiddled with but this time its being done to such a standard that makes OCD look normal. Every nut and bolt is polished or painted. Custom made, bloody expensive wiring looms make everything neat, the paintwork is perfect on all surfaces, including the engine bay. The whole thing somewhere stopped being a car, and become a very expensive work of art. The guy is obviously getting a huge amount of pleasure from this but I wonder how long lived that pleasure will be? Car restorers are similar people. Here are a bunch of guys that trawl autojumbles and Ebay to find the exact toolkit to finish their 1961 Mini Cooper, that has been restored exactly how it was when it rolled off of the production line. I’m not sure about these types of people. For one, this perfect Pug will be great until it rains, or someone bumps it in a carpark or a seagull craps on it.

These things can be avoided if he chooses never to take it out and keep it under a sheet in the garage like those dreadfully boring blokes who buy Ferrari’s do, and whats the point of that? What about that restored Mini? Dull I’m afraid, whats the point of spending a years salary to make something the same as everything else that came out of that factory? If you go to a classic car show, you will see rows and rows of the same restored marque but your eye will be caught by the loony that decided to make a monster truck out of a Mk2 Jag. My old VW is great, It has dings, dents and scratches but It has one thing a sterile ‘perfect’ show car doesn’t have and thats character.

If my mate bins the car at a track, I bet that if the damage isnt life threatening to the car, he would beat it out with a hammer and then spend the next two years telling everyone the story of how the power caught him out on that nasty hairpin at some track somewhere in Europe, and then, probably with a beer or coffee in hand, they will crowd around it and offer opinion and ridicule in bucketloads, probably from the bloke with the grinder.

Telling someone your showcar once got pooped on by a seabird is just dull, wear your dents with pride.


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Welcome back to Motoring!

Some of the more awake of my readers will have noticed that this is the first blog entry for quite some time. I thought of writing a long and deep explanation and grovelly apology, but wisely thought the better of it. Instead ill bring you right up to date whats been going on since December, and where we are now.

Rusty, clapped out cars have been fact of life for all of us, me especially (you will remember with hilarity the speed at which Honda threw me out of their showroom last year) So with the close of 2009 bringing the MOT on the Civic to stark reality I had to decide what to do. Patch the rust? Hope to God the bushes hold up, or MOT man has a bout of blindness? Spend more on it? Or scrap it and spend the repair money on something with more ticket? I see the sagely nods of you who have been faced with a similar situation. Well the decision was put off as a good friend of mine happened to have the exact same car for sale, but a few years older, that had an extra 5 months of MOT on it and was practically giving it away. The women out there are now saying “But that’s just putting the problem off for 5 months…” and yes you are right but I am a bloke and of course I don’t think like that.

Money changes hands and I am in possesion of a new Civic, much like the old one but even rustier as I found out when I pulled the sideskirts off to search for a creaking noise. Quickly putting them back on I felt more confident as I couldn’t see the rot. A bit of tax and we are off! Yes! motoring heaven!

Well no, not really. The car is in need of several mechanical repairs, having clicky CV joints is a bit like playing russian

Now, THATS what I call RUST!

Remember, rust is lighter than Carbon Fibre

roulette every corner, you never know when its going to pop and you are going to walk home. Then there was the cambelt… the car shows 175,000 miles and there is no record of it being changed. This is like playing Russian roulette with two guns, you get to walk and the engine gets mangled if it fails.
All this paints a gloomy picture. No fun corners, no whiffs of lift off oversteer, no nothing. Only the fear that the car will explode like a clowns, right in the middle of the high street. Then the rear wheelbearing started to fail…

So why the hell did I not throw money at it and fix it? The answer comes from the wife (!?) She says that if I can make it last, we can save some cash for something ‘newer’ and ‘nicer’ and (worryingly) ‘family’ (Subaru Forester is an estate car I told her…) So she duly does some hours, delivers some babies and earns the money, while I flick through Autotrader and fail to make money from any of my writing.

At this point it has to be said that you really shouldn’t ask one of your best mates, who happens to be a huge petrolhead, to come over and ‘Help me find something’ because all you end up doing is looking at one silver Astra, then spend the rest of the night drinking coffee and looking at track cars on pistonheads.com. (was great fun though!)
We are now about 6 weeks or so away from having the money, and I have sort of settled on a Suzuki Wagon R, I like its Japaneseness, its small and its cheap to run. It ticks the boxes of low mileage, newish and reasonably practical. Comfortable too and space enough for kids and stuff for the beach so we are on a winner! I am a little worried about its total lack or performance, and even more so the reports that it tends to understeer rather than go round bends, but hey a bit of suspension work and a degree or so of camber will fix that! Then for no reason whatsoever, I find myself on the VW Polo forum.

I have always loved Volkswagens, one of my first cars was an old 1968 Beetle, a 6 volter with a massive 1200cc aircooled engine that made you choose between lights and wipers if it rained at night. But it had something that I have not found in any other car. Character. But character is no substitute for power and excitement, the Mk1 Golf had that covered, but was way out of reach of my meager teenage funds. Flicking idly through the forums ‘for sale’ section I stumble across what at first looks like a Mk1 Golf in white, but turns out to be a Mk2 Polo, I am about to move on, when I notice that its had some subtle modifications carried out by the owner. Out goes the Polo’s engine and in goes a fully rebuilt unit from a Mk3 Golf, then its head is ported and polished, has a nice twin choke Weber bolted on, the cam is reprofiled and an adjustable vernier pulley added. Flywheel is lightened and the bottom end is balanced. All this ups the power from 50hp to a 90hp and adds a nice big dollop of torque (the car weighs about 700kg) Underneath the wheels are kept on the road with some nice Eibach springs and adjustable dampers.
All of this makes a subtle and nippy little car that’s totally wrong for me as it’s not new, has a hard ride, won’t fit the kids very well and is pretty crap on fuel.

Of course I bought it straight away.

I have now had it for about two weeks and have drained most of Kuwait of its oil reserves, its absolutely brilliant to drive and I’m finding excuses to go buy milk on an hourly basis. Being an old Volkswagen it smells bad inside, but has the advantage of being reliable and well-built (unlike the new ones) It’s terrible on fuel, if pushed I get 35mpg, which means a very gentle trip to the Nurburgring or I will be filling up every 6 feet.

The moral? If you are fed up, for god sake buy something fun! Regular blogging has now resumed, its great to be back, I feel a rant coming on.

For those interested, here are some specifications of my new Polo:

Engine: Fully rebuilt 1391cc ABD, balanced bottom end, CR raised, ported and polished head, Kent Cams cam, 2G inlet, Weber DMTL carburettor, K&N rudebox, Facet fuel pump, 8P gearbox

Suspension: Koni Adjustable Dampers, Eibach 40mm springs, supersport lowering top caps.

Brakes: VWII calipers, 239 Brembo MAX disks, Pagid TQ pads.

You wouldn’t belive it to look at it eh?

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The Air Facts


Years ago, accessories for cars were limited to what you could bolt or stick on.

Some of the more memorable and comical ones have disappeared, who can forget that rubber stick that used to hang down from the back of every Ford Cortina to stop static electrical shocks everytime you touched anything vaguely metallic. Removing the vinyl seats and nylon trousers would have been more effective, my Dad tells me that it also cured travel sickness too, but I think that was a ruse to stop me throwing up all over his Beige Estate. What about those blue or green plastic stick on sunstrips, remember them? There was never a more informed time on who was driving the car (Gaz) and who his current girl was (Shaz, Mand, Tray, Sheil etc…)

Car accessories are huge business and always will be, as innovative marketing men come up with new and better ways to part us from our hard earned cash, and we will be more than happy to part with it too as some of the population have more love for their cars than they do people (I have to admit I am teetering on that group ) If its yours and you have had to pay for it, your car becomes very personal to you and you want to do the best for it, and make it your own. Some go to extremes and add comedy bodykits, spoilers and huge stereo’s to their poor car in the view to becoming unique and a one off, but they end up looking like everyone else. The middle lot will do it subtlety, maybe just a set of alloys and a de badge but there once again it fades to obscurity. But at least they have tried, the very worst lot is the people who see their cars as tools and don’t care a jot what colour it is. So with all the glue on, bolt on, tie on and weld on items in your local shop how on earth can they possibly get more cash out of your pocket?

The answer is simple. Years ago, F1, rally, touring cars and the like were in some ways showcases for ordinary cars. If you went and watched touring cars back in the 60’s and 70’s you could see cars rubbing the paint of eachother as they hurled round Paddock Bend, the same cars that you could walk in to any showroom and buy. Rally was better, you could grab yourself a nice RS Escort that you had just watched pelting round a forest in Wales and drive it round your housing estate in Doncaster. It would have a more powerful engine and suspension lifted from the rally car. F1 was said to develop technologies that would be bred in to the car you bought at the showroom. But we are all grown up now and don’t belive a word of it, and besides the cars on the Touring car and Rally circuits are light years from what we can get our hands on these days. But F1 can still sell us stuff.

The Nissan GTR R35 is an amazing thing. Hand built and matched engines and gearboxes, sloshing over in computers, four wheel this and active steer that, oh and its got Nitrogen in its tyres, just like a race car! (or a jumbo jet) Now there is probably a very good reason to put Nitrogen in the tyres of a race car, holding pressure under extreme variations of heat is one, being inert and therefore not a fire risk is another. If you buy a GTR and use it to go to the shops everyday, which is totally your choice and the car will happily do it, it’s a Nissan after all. The risk of a tyre fire or low pressures causing you to spin off at that nasty corner in Sainsbury’s car park is quite small. But the GTR was born to be used on the track, it’s well known that the GPS inside it disables the electronic nanny that restricts this that and the other when it detects its on a track, and all hell breaks loose.


However (Yep, here it comes) There are companies out there that will happily fill the tyres of whatever you decide to drive on their ramps with Nitrogen, and be very happy to charge you for it. So there you are, your 1986 Mk2 Fiesta, tyres filled with Nitro, ready to take on the cut and thrust of the M25, safe in the knowledge that the pressures wont change, and they won’t ignite. The clever lot you are will no doubt be shouting at the screen now, and saying ‘Yeah! but the bloody local garage has charged us 20p to use the airline for years, and besides one 20p is never enough because it always cuts out just as you reach the last wheel! so what?’ I can accept a charge of 20 (or 40!) pence to cover the costs of maintaining and running costs of the airline, and even better (so a little O level science and a bit of Googleing tells me) the air thats squeezed into the tyres from the humble bicycle pump, through the Halfords foot pump, up to the lofty heights of the forecourt airline is 70% nitrogen. Indeed, the air you are breathing now is 70% Nitrogen, the stuff in my Civics tyres are 70% Nitrogen and i squirted that in all by myself for nothing.

Now I am not arguing that Nitrogen filled tyres are a bad or good thing, Ill show you some quotes for and against at the end of the blog, but what irritates me is that some tyre companies (I won’t name names, but you know who you are) Will charge  for it and people will pay through the nose for it because of marketing, not because it will make the car run better. Still, it makes for a good debate over a few pints, personally I think that filling your tyres with Helium would be a better idea, it’s inert and would make your wheels lighter than air.

Here’s a quote from the Kwik-fit website

“Filling your tyres with nitrogen may seem odd but that’s exactly what motor sport and aviation professionals have been doing for years. Nitrogen is completely safe. And by using it in a mixture with oxygen to inflate your tyres the theory is that it’s possible to negate the issue of slow deflation, which is caused by oxygen slowly infusing through the tyre wall from the atmosphere.

Having a tyre that does not deflate means you will improve fuel consumption and will probably improve safety standards too. It’s not yet standard practice but Nitrogen could well be here to stay as a result.”

Here is a link to the other side of the argument: TyreSave.co.uk

Makes you think eh?

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