Car Names: Magnificent and Boring

I’ve been thinking a lot about names recently, specifically car names. Most car manufacturers use names to distinguish between the various models of cars they produce. However, some carmakers are so exclusive that they just assume that you know their cars. Manufacturers such as Bentley and Rolls Royce. These two carmakers do no tell you what model their cars are, so if you are a non-car-freak, then you wouldn’t have a clue if it’s a Bentayga, Ghost or Silver Shadow. I love this.

Then you get carmakers who give their cars silly names, for instance, the Opel/Vauxhall Adam. Seriously? Adam? Where’s Eve? There are also those companies in China that blatantly copy popular carmaker’s models like the Range Rover Evoque. In China, there is a car called the ‘Land Wind’ which looks exactly like an Evoque. And there is an X5 which isn’t an X5, but which is an X5. BMW even sued the company over their non-X5 X5 and lost, because the court said that the ‘CEO’ (non-X5 X5) doesn’t look at all like an X5. (It does.)

But back to the topic at hand. Names are important. It will have to stand the test of time, and many have. Toyota and Nissan have accomplished this with the Supra and GT-R badges and Ford has done even better with their Mustang. Dodge has their Charger, Chevy has its Corvette and Lada has its Niva. (The last one is just for sh*ts and giggles.)

Some of the most unimaginative names are probably from the Germans. Yes it is all in the name of efficiency and such, but it’s really boring. 1-Series, 2-Series, 3-Series, A-Class, B-Class, C-Class, A1, A2, A3. It’s so boring. And in their sport models they just add M, AMG and RS respectively. It the same with Jaguar and Volvo with the XF, XJ, E-Type, XC90, V60 and S90.

Now, I have to say that my favourite car name is probably the Atom from Ariel. It is awesome! Imagine sitting in a British pub and you and your mates are talking about the cars you drive. “Yeah, I drive a Vauxhall Maloo GTS” and “I drive an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde” (another awesome name) and then you come along and say, “I drive an Atom”. A freaking Atom! How cool would that be?!

Now, if I ever had a car company of my own and I was in charge of naming the models, I would go the same way as the Germans. Regardless of what the company’s name is, the models will be correspondent to amount of cylinders the engine ha, i.e. 4, 6, 8, etc. Then, depending on aspiration, it would receive a T/TT (turbo/twin-turbo) or an S (supercharged).

The normal, everyday model would probably be the (company name) 4T or 4TD and the big supercar being the 12TT.

So yes, even though I went on about how boring some car manufacturers’ models are, I would also go that way.

(Yes, I am boring. My favourite colour I grey, for Pete’s sake!)

 

 

Technology, Isn’t it Grand?

For the past few days, I have been playing Watch Dogs 2. It is by far better than the first issue of the game. I have played both and the second one has many, many, many more options than the first had. Watch Dogs’ story was awful in the sense that it was about a very boring person (Aiden Pierce) and his niece’s death. He wanted to take down a company called Blume and a ctOS operating system that enabled the city of Chicago to be a ‘Smart City’. This enabled Aiden to manipulate various aspects of the city to his advantage, etc. I never finished it because it was too dull. And the driving engine was awful. Cars seemed like they were not allowed to leave the ground and they could only drive in four directions, i.e. forwards, backwards and only left and only right – nothing in between.

Now, without getting into too much depth about the game, I can say that Watch Dogs 2 is a lot better .You have more things to play with, such as two remote control (RC) vehicles in the form of a small, two-wheeled RC car that can do physical hacks (which is useful) and a RC drone that can fly around and hack other stuff. The only problem I have so far with the game is that you cannot complete all the missions with just the RC vehicles. I was breaking into the game-world’s version of Google and had gotten to the objective with the RC car, but it didn’t activate since the character wasn’t there. I was a bit annoyed because I avoided all the security and droids and everything. Then when I moved the character in, all the guards saw him and I had to use the tazer on them.

Anyway, this game has got me thinking. In it you take down big corporations and organisations and so forth exposing them for who and what they really are. But you can also hack many things. Things like phones, grenades, cars, etc. and this is what got me thinking. In our own world, technology is becoming more and more integrated with each other. In Smart Homes, the fridge can talk to your local server which then sends you a text saying that the milk is finished or that your eggs are a bit smelly. The Home is also connected to your security system with all the cameras and sensors and stuff, as well as to your car. And if you have an electric car, the battery power in your car can be used to keep your lights on when the power goes out, but let’s face it – if you have enough money for a Smart Home then you wouldn’t live in a power-outage prone area.

Then we get to the military. Many, if not all, of the equipment and weapons these days in modern armies have a chip or two in them. This means that if hostile forces acquire the weapon, it can be remotely aborted or sabotaged making it useless. We have ‘smart grenades’ that can be fired from a computer-controlled M32 grenade launcher that can change direction in mid-air. The same goes for ‘smart bullets’. Fired from a M99 sniper rifle, it can make subtle adjustments in its telemetry due to wind resistance or the Earth’s rotation to assure the shooter of a hit. (Personally, I believe that it takes the skill out of the entire exercise.)

All of these things can be hacked, probably. And if they can be hacked, then there is a huge risk in creating them. But we humans only greedily think about being better than everyone else and so these smart weapons will be produced as it is all about having the edge, whether it is on the battlefield or in suburbia.

Now, if you ask me on which side I would be in the inevitable upcoming war on technology, then I would still say technology. Technology has the power to save this planet. Technology can stop Global Warming, it can fix the ozone layer, it can stop the pollution in Beijing and it can save the Internal Combustion Engine from extinction. It can do all of those things, but only if we let it. At the moment we are too concerned with what our neighbours are plotting than what we can do to make life on our side of the fence better.

 

© 2017 Michael de Kock

Car Enthusiast Extraordinaire (not)

The Death of Another Legend

In 2016, many famous people died. Among them were David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds. But it was not just famous people who died. Famous engines also suffered the same fate. FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) is being forced to discontinue their Hellcat series and thus the prices have gone up. But the engine I want to talk about is the noble 5.9L V12 from Aston Martin. 5.9L NOT 6.0L. 5935cc, yes I’m looking at you Aston Martin.

This engine is very old, as in grandfatherly terms in the motor industry. This engine came from when Ford owned Aston Martin. It is essentially two Ford V6 engines meshed together which doesn’t sound all that exciting, but it is. This engine has been in every new Aston model – the DB9, DBS, Vantage, Vanquish and from this year, the Vanquish S. Unfortunately, the Vanquish S will be the last Aston model to feature this awesome piece of automotive art. It will have 444KW (600bhp) going to the rear, so it will probably be very slidey, but will be pretty as always.

So yes, here we have the death of another legend. I believe that the likes of Lamborghini and so are going to follow the same route. Ferrari already decided to. Well, actually they are being forced to, as they were fined in 2016 for polluting too much. The engine in the F12 and GTC4Lusso is most likely going to be phased out in favour of the 3.9L in the 488, or it will get a hybrid drivetrain. Either way, I believe – as I mentioned in a previous blog – that we are nearing the end of the big engine era. I have a feeling that the Aventador’s L539 is the last big-engined V12 that they will produce.

This is a sad prospect. The only happy thought that I can take out of this is that the older cars do not seize to exist when a new car comes out. Now, does anyone know how to make a few million in order to buy a manual DBS?

 

© 2017 Michael De Kock

I love cars.

Instagram @carmichael65

Tricked

London, May 21, 2014

A man walked along the Thames from the Bridge towards the Eye, on his way to supper at the Sherlock Holmes Pub. As he was walking and thinking, he saw a street magician performing illusions to nobody in particular.

The man stopped a few meters away and watched as the magician made a card disappear from his hand. The lady and her son, who was standing there, gave the magician some money, but whilst she put the money in the hat which the magician had placed on the ground, the magician pocketed the lady’s watch. The man saw that and was impressed. He walked over to the street magician and said:

“Impressive. Alright, if you can show me a magic trick without scamming me or stealing from me, I will give you one hundred pounds. However, if you fail to impress me – all you will get is a pence and a shout to the Bobby over there.” He pointed to the constable on patrol.

“Alright old man, I’ll take you up on your offer”, said the magician.

He got out a deck of cards and shuffled them.

“Pick a card, look at it, memorise it and put it back into the deck, but don’t tell me what it is.”

The man picked a card. The King of Diamonds. He gently put it back in the deck. The magician shuffled some more and did the trick. He pulled out a card and asked:

“Is this your card?”

“No”, the man replied.

The magician looked confused at the card – a two of Spades.

The man smiled and turned to gesture towards the Bobby to inspect the magician, but as he was doing so, the magician grabbed his arm.

“Again.”

“Alright. Double or a night in prison”, said the man.

The magician shuffled the deck again and told the man to pick a card. The Ace of Hearts. He put the card back in the deck.

“Is this your card?” asked the magician with less enthusiasm than the previous time.

“No”, replied the man.

It was the seven of Clubs.

The magician was very confused now. He had done the trick over and over hundreds of times and each time he got it right.

“Once more, then I have to go. But if you get it right, I will give you 500 Pounds for the effort”, said the man.

The magician remained quiet as he shuffled the deck for the last time. The man again picked a card. The Ten of Clubs. The magician showed the man a card. Six of Hearts.

“Well, it seems that you have lost your magical touch with all the stealing and scamming. Maybe you should focus more on the practice than the reward.”

The magician’s face had gone white. He didn’t know what to say. Maybe he had lost his ability to actually entertain.

“I thought the first lesson in performing magic was misdirection?” said the man.

With that, the man turned around and started walking away. The magician was very, very confused. He didn’t understand what the man had meant. Then he looked down at his deck and saw that four cards were the wrong way around. The King of Diamonds, the Ace of Hearts, the ten of Clubs and a fourth card wrapped in five hundred Pound notes.

The magician unwrapped it and started smiling. He put the money in his wallet and the Joker back in the deck.

The End

Giulia on Stilettos

So recently, Alfa Romeo released the Giulia, a sporty four-door sedan to do battle with the likes of the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4. What is incredible is that all the Giulias will be rear-wheel-drive (RWD) and will come optional with all-wheel-drive (AWD) for the European market. The point is, it is refreshing that Alfa Romeo did not go with the normal front-wheel-drive (FWD) layout and AWD for sporty versions layout that most manufacturers use these days. Even Ford has resorted to AWD in its Focus RS.

Another good thing is that not only does the sporty Quadrofoglio Verde version (my personal favourite) comes with a carbon driveshaft (the bit that goes from the engine to the drive-wheels that makes the car go), but the normal versions as well – even the Diesel!

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Now, one car will not be able to bring Alfa back to the top of the ‘Passionate-Cars’ category. Like Jaguar has done recently with the F-Pace (silly name), Alfa Romeo unveiled the new Stelvio  (shown below), a take on the smaller SUV segment. Its styling is heavily influenced by the Giulia and to me looks like a Giulia on stilettos. But I like it. It’s just as pretty as its smaller sister and I imagine that it will have the same 2.9L Bi-Turbo V6 producing as much power as a BMW E60 M5. Imagine that – 375KW in a car the size of the F-Pace (if the F-Pace had the monstrous 5.0L Supercharged V8 from the XFR or Range Rover Supercharged, which would be awesome). Yes, most other SUVs get more than that, like the X5M and X6M, Mercedes and all its different versions of the used-to-be ML – even Land Rover itself. But, do you get that power from anything as pretty as the Stelvio or the Giulia? No, no, you do not. I mean, look at those hood vents! I really hope they make it to the production car.

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I always liked Alfa Romeo. I thought of it as the Ferrari for normal people who can’t afford a Ferrari. Then Top Gear praised Alfa Romeo and I liked it even more. The 147 GTA was one of the best cars on Gran Turismo 4. Heck, I think I still have a 300KW version on one of my PS2 saves. The 156 is just as pretty, especially later models – and then there is the 159, which I am actually looking at to buy as a first car (Yes, I know about all the various problems).

So yes, the Stelvio. No one knows how it will drive yet, or if it will be able to go off-road, but damn, is it pretty! Even if it only stays in the city like some kind of soccer-mom car *cough* Range Rover *cough*, I am just glad that it is a thing that exists.

The Ultimate Fake Car to End All Fake Cars

So this morning, as I was going through my newsfeed on Facebook (which consists mostly of cars and movie sites), I saw an interesting thing on Top Gear – a new ‘movie-maker’ car that can be transformed into any car on screen. It’s called the Blackbird and it can adapt to become almost any car. The wheelbase can extend for when you are going from a Prius to a S600 Maybach or Zonda Cinque. The suspension is completely adjustable, as is the electric motors powering it. This means that the motors can be programmed to accelerate like the car it is imitating. All that needs to be done to make the car ‘authentic’ is to fit the proper wheels of the imitated make or model. The reason this car was made is because it can be difficult to get the real cars for chase scenes in movies as they are very expensive. This way the cars can simply be edited in.

Even though this is a fantastic piece of technology, it makes me as a petrolhead quite sad. Movies are pretty much the only place to see your favourite cars do awesome things, such as the Need for Speed movie where three (fake) Koenigsegg Ageras racing along a highway, a race where a P1, Veyron SS, Spano, S7 and Sesto Elemento (all fake) crashes and one awesome looking Mustang (also fake) gets mouldered by a truck. Or take any of the Fast & Furious movies, or Spectre with the DB10 or CX-75! Yes, many of the cars are fake and made of plywood, but that is what makes them so awesome, because someone actually bothered to build them!

Now, with this ‘car’, we can watch a Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4 SuperVeloce on screen looking freaking beautiful, but deep in our brittle little, petrol-powered hearts we will know that it is just an imitation.

Little Aston + Big Heart = Lots of Fun

The Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is the last Vantage before it is replaced by the new DB11 lookalike in 2017. The car has 420KW and 620NM of torque. However, for the 2017 model year, this car can be specified to have either a 7-speed automated manual (paddles) or a 7-speed manual. However, this is no ordinary manual. This is a ‘dogleg’ manual. What this means is that the gears you mostly use are in an H pattern with gear 1 sitting on its own. The reasoning behind this was in the past, racing drivers would use gear 2 and up more than gear 1, which was really only used to get the car going. But with the introduction of 6-speed manuals, the ‘dogleg’ fell out of fashion as it was illogical to have two ‘doglegs’ in one box. But now, Aston has a 7-speed which makes the ‘dogleg’ relevant again. This also means that the V12 Vantage S is the only V12-engined, manual car for sale… in the world. (Clarkson reference)

Now, I have always liked the ‘baby’ Aston. It was cheaper than the bigger brothers such as the DB9, DBS and Vanquish, but I could never decide if I’d like them. Well, one evening quite a long time ago, I went to a mall in Pretoria. In the mall a grey DBS and a blue V8 Vantage Volante were on display. Naturally I did a happy dance and a giggle and got into the nearest one – which was the DBS. I love that car. Since it appeared in Casino Royale it made my top five ‘To Own One Day’ list of cars (even though it only had about five seconds of screen time). I fell in love with the interior, the long dashboard that extends all the way to the windshield, the plain yet elegant steering wheel, the paddles. Oh, I loved those few moments that I sat in it. One of my favourite things about Astons is their doors. They open at an angle. It’s really cool. Anyway, I moved on to the V8 Volante. In my mind, it would be a cheaper, scaled down version of the bigger DB9. I was wrong with regard to the ‘cheap’ sense. It is essentially a smaller DB9. It has the same dashboard, same steering wheel and same feel as the bigger Astons. Plus this V8 had a gearstick!

I started to like the ‘baby’ Aston quite a lot. Especially the V12. One of Jeremy Clarkson’s best car reviews was when he drove the V12 Vantage. Minimal dialogue, maximum passion. He said that he had a feeling that he was driving the last of the greats. The biggest engine in the smallest Aston. Luckily however, he was wrong – for the most part anyway, because Ferrari still puts massive V12s in their cars. Heck! The new GTC4 Lusso still has the big 6.3L naturally aspirated V12.

But back to the Aston. I watched the Motor Trend’s review of the new V12 Vantage where Jason Cammisa drove the car on a dry lake-bed. All I could think the whole video long was “listen to that noise!” That video also reiterates the fact that dirty sports cars and super cars are some of the prettiest things ever made. If you take a black Lamborghini Gallardo and drive it in a bit of sand or along a dry lake, it becomes a piece of art above the piece of art it already is. It’s magnificent!

The thing is – I think Jeremy Clarkson’s prediction is relevant for today, not ten years ago. This is most likely the last car of Aston’s smaller range which will have the big engine. The next Vantage will probably have AMG’s 4.0L V8 Bi-Turbo. This makes me sad. Big engines in super- and hyper-cars are almost a thing of the past, with the exception of the LaFerrari, Chiron and everything America can come up with. Then we are left with stuff like VW’s X1 prototype with the teeny little diesel engine and Teslas. Not that I’m complaining about Teslas, as they just unveiled the Model S P100D, which will be the quickest production saloon ever. But as they are electric, they don’t have a nice noise like, say AMG’s M156 or Aston’s AM28 (which is 5.9L, not 6.0L).

But, oh well, as technology continues to progress, so will the automobile. Who knows, maybe we’ll all be driving crappy electric hatchbacks with V8 noises coming out of the speakers one of these days…