Call it whatever you want: What if Mitsubishi is trolling us?

(Photo by Oskar Speruda)

This is the famous Polish Mitsubishi Eclipse called “Szarak” (“szarak” means “a hare”, the word comes from “szary” which means “grey”) modified by a talented rally racer Aleksander Ilczuk. You are also invited to visit his site).

At the Geneva International Motor Show Mitsubishi has shown the Eclipse Cross. It’s a SUV. It has an “Eclipse” badge, which is important for automotive culture, also because of “The Fast and the Furious”. So, “They must be kidding us!” are the most polite words that can appear in petrolheads’ comments.

The automotive culture demands that every brand should respect its sport heritage. Mitsubishi makes fun of it instead! While “Fate of the Furious” was making its way to the screen, we were seeing the “Twilight of the Furious” in Geneva.

Well, almost..,

Almost, because the model name is “Eclipse Cross”, which means that Mitsubishi has left a chance to build a car that will be called just “Eclipse.” Two-word names often work like that:

  • Range Rover Sport – was a supplement to Range Rover. Before Evoque has appeared, the RR i RRS formed a line of two conceptually related cars (technically RRS was based on Discovery).
    Since the Evoque is offered, Range Rover is a subbrand, growing with the introduction of Velar.
  • However, Land Rover has also a typical model line- Discovery i Discovery Sport- technically different, meant for different customers but built with a common thought…
  • … Mitsubishi itself also offers such pair of cars- Pajero and Pajero Sport, …
  • … moreover the ASX is called the “Outlander Sport” in the United States.
  • The Jeep Grand Cherokee coexists with the Cherokee. In the beginning, the Grand Cherokee ZJ and Cherokee XJ had common styling cues . The word “Grand”…
  • … is also used in the minivan world to distinguish the long wheelbase model (Grand Voyager, Grand Espace).
  • The Volkswagens with the “Cross” badge, like Cross Polo, are also an interesting case. In fact, they are just versions, but the company seems to want us to treat them as special models. Even by using the “Cross Polo” word order instead of “Polo Cross”.
  • Ok, sometimes the two-word name is used just for the successor like with Fiat Grande Punto, Punto Evo and Suzuki SX4 S-Cross.

So, if there are two words in the name, and it’s nothing like the “Monte Carlo” (proper name) or “Rapid Spaceback” (body type), we can expect that some related vehicle will exist. It means that the Eclipse Cross may … be something like a teaser for the Eclipse coupé.
Of course- no automotive company would design a SUV only to tease with the sports car freaks. But a deliberate choice of the controversial name for the car, that was anyway needed, is something to believe in. There was an idea to create something between ASX (Outlander Sport) and Outlander, somebody designed a Pontiac-Aztek-like model, but someone else created an ingenious marketing plan. Before Mitsubishi joins the Japanese sports car attack that is led by Toyota’s trio (GT86, the new Supra and the MR2’s successor) and Honda/Acura NSX which can have a “little brother” soon, Eclipse Cross will be hated, but the voices “we want a true Eclipse!” wil rise. And when the true Eclipse appears, it will be more awaited than before the introduction of Mitsubishi Aztek.

Errr, excuse me, Eclipse Cross.

(C) by Andrzej Szczodrak



I don’t regret the Giulia Sportswagon, I have a better idea

Photo: Alfa Romeo

Many people regret the fact, that Alfa Romeo won’t make the Giulia Sportwagon. Some say that the poor estate has lost the battle to Stelvio and that it’s a pity. Why? Because station wagons have more sporty potential than SUVs, thank to the lower stance.

It’s true in terms of physics. However, automotive culture isn’t all about car physics. The automotive culture is influenced by everything- technical features, design, market position, historical aspects like famous owners of some car or motorbike, its appearances in books or movies and obviously racing record. Taking all those things into account, we can imagine a SUV as a fighter (like all those cross-country rally racers). And, despite mighty vehicles like Audi RS2 and RS6, Volvo 850R Station Wagon and so on, most of us see estate cars as those which may help us only in two fights. First enemy is the need to take all the contents of our house when we go on holidays. And the second one is our reluctance to reach our commuting destination.

So, is there any hope for those who want something more sporty than SUVs? Yes, there is. Using SUVs as everyday cars, is a fashion trend. And fashions change over time.

To predict, what will be the next fashion trend, you could look at automotive journalists’ social media profiles. From time to time they share pictures created by independent designers.  Sometimes they approve the idea, sometimes they don’t. And there are also cases, when they react with a cry of delight.

Those cases are often related with two words. The first one is “shooting” and the second is “brake” or “break”. Together they form a name of car body style that is said to have been a choice of active people when there were no SUVs. “Brake” was the British word for a choach and “shooting” means that such cars were used for hunting. The term “shooting brake” was used for three- or five-door “boxy-yet-sporty” cars, usually made by coachbuilders. As the terms “estate” and “station wagon” emerged, meaning of “shooting brake” narrowed to “three-door car with estate-like trunk”.

This is, probably, exactly the body style that we need. We are always in hurry, so we like sports cars. We want to be active, so the trunk is important. And, as our families tend to consist of a couple with one or no children and a cat or dog, we really don’t need the second pair of doors so much.

So, well, it may be a conspiracy theory, but some automotive journalists, may, consciously or not, be involved in market research conducted in order to set a new trend.

Today there is only one production model which can be called “a shooting brake”. It’s a Ferrari GTC4 Lusso. However, when we say “Ferrari”, we have just one small step to Alfa Romeo.

Really: who could be a better choice to start the “shooting-brakes-for-everyday-people” movement?

The way is simple: Giulia Sprint (a traditional coupé), then the Giulia Shooting Brake, and then … the madness that will drive us to a duel between Fiat Tipo Shooting Brake and a Škoda Rapid Shooting Brake.

by Andrzej Szczodrak



Motoendemics are the coolest thing in motoring

2008_Volkswagen_City_Golf

VW City Golf, Photo by Bull-Doser

Motoendemics are the coolest thing in motoring

Cars and motorbikes are something natural. So natural, that they seem to have replaced horses not only as means of transport but also as pets. As Walter Rohrl said “You can’t treat a car like a human being – a car needs love”.  Moreover, even if environmentalists would like to send us, gearheads for a psychiatric treatment, car and motorbike culture REALLY BEHAVES like nature.
Let’s remind ourselves that there are animals and plants that have one special place in the world. Koala, for example, lives only in Australia. Species like that are called endemic. Some cars, some motorbikes and even some forms of motorsport are also endemic, as their nature is the result of their environment. Only the US people could fall in love with racing on oval track. Only Japanese could invent kei cars. Only in Mexico and Brazil the original Volkswagen Beetle and its siblings could have been produced so long. Only in Brazil flex-fuel vehicles could have become so popular. Everybody knows that some people are fueled by ethylnene alcohol, but Brazilians use the precious liquid (alone or mixed with gasoline) to drive their vehicles. Why? Because they produce ethanol from sugarcane. A good example of motoendemic – the flex-fuel vehicles are ingrained in their habitat.
There are also some more Volkswagen curiosities, like the City Golf produced in Brazil and sold in Canada. The vehicle, like all the cars meant for US and Canadian market, had side-marker lights. A feature which is also motoendemic.
Volkswagen Gol (not Golf), which is produced in Brazil and sold in some countries of south and central America, may appear in dealerships next to the CrossFox. Yeah! They had supermini crossover before Europe got Peugeot 2008, Citroën C4 Cactus or Renault Captur!
Trabant and Polonez Caro that were outdated from the start, make the people in East Germany, Poland and some other places in central Europe feel the automotive versions of Ostalgie: Trabant-nostalgia, Polonez-nostalgia, Fiat 126p-nostalgia etc.
Fiat 126p is still popular in Poland as a race car. Just take a look at this event:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmOCKZWvDZo

and this girl’s Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/petrolhead.girl/.

There are also some endemic things in the Motorcycle world. Only Italy with its love for scooters could have been such a good place for the idea of Mazdago to be reborn as Piaggio Ape. Events that resemble The Tourist Trophy are held in some more places in Great Britain, but the Isle of Man with its curvy roads and no-speed-limit-outside-towns culture is the greatest habitat for the greatest race.
Even the neutral Switzerland is very interesting as a place of work of the biggest eccentrics in the automotive world- Frank M. Rinderknecht from Rinspeed and Franco Sbarro. You may laugh at Rinspeed’s designs, yet the philosophy behind 2001’s concept Rone is very simmilar to what Ariel Atom and KTM X-Bow stand for.
And if you still aren’t convinced, that car spotters could hunt for rare motoendemics like Opel/Chevrolet Corsa B Wagon the same way as they hunt for supercars, then just look at a map of Italy and see where Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Paganis are manufactured. Ok, supercars are designed everywhere. From Great Britain (McLaren, Noble), through Sweden (Koenigsegg), Denmark (Zenvo), Poland (Arrinera) to Croatia (Rimac) and Lebanon (Lykan).

So, as the most important representatives of this segment are produced almost in the same place, maybe the supercars are also endemic somehow?

(C) by Andrzej Szczodrak



This means war!

SAM-HMMWV

Photo: Eurocopter

There were hopes, that autonomous vehicles would coexist with drivers. However, some days ago the Audible company (subsidiary of Amazon) opened the gate and the flames highlighted the “Lasciate ogni speranza” statement:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHzzSao6ypE.

What does it mean? It means we are at culture war. What has to be stressed, is the fact that a culture war requires rejecting physical violence. If somebody uses such measures, he or she admits losing the war.
Sneer is the ultimate weapon. We need at least as much wits, as Jeremy Clarkson pitted against John Prescott. And if the high society of the IT industry stops Clarkson from speaking out for human driving (as he works for Amazon), we need to have new leaders.
The fight has to be bloodless, yet ruthless, as we are as different from these people as conservatives are different from liberals. We have to show the autonomous vehicle endorsers as screen-sucking zombies who treat “1984” as a handbook, or they will stigmatize us as potential murderers.

(C) by Andrzej Szczodrak



Okay then, so what should Netflix do?


In the wake of the event that led the BBC to fire Jeremy Clarkson, Netflix tried to sign him and his two co-hosts , Richard Hammond and James May, who quit alongside Clarkson’s firing, but it lost the competition to Amazon. Now, although Netflix has a license for BBC’s Top Gear, some motoring enthusiasts may expect the company to create a show with Tiff Needell and Vicki Butler-Henderson from the cancelled Fifth Gear. Such a decision could be great for people who are really interested in cars and motorbikes.

But would a company like Netflix prepare a show aimed at motoring geeks? I’m afraid not. People watch Tiff Needell’s reviews to learn how good a car is but they switch to Clarkson to feel how cool would they be in the car. And in television we have a place where feelings are more important than knowledge.

Competition between the BBC and Amazon Prime will bring us emotions. Most of those emotions are associated with the question: can a motoring show can go any further than “Top Gear” made by the Great Trio and Andy Wilman. Can it?

Well, why not? But it may involve going one step further than having fun in the best new cars. Maybe we should explore automotive and motorcycle oddities in a more active way than the Fast N’ Loud: Demolition Theater.

Perhaps we could make presenters go to Russia and try to record their own Russian dashcam movie. It would also be nice to find a garage-made vehicle with the most controversial design. Tip: check out the Golba Violcar-S.
Okay, let’s go back to the best cars for a moment. Just to meet the TaxTheRich100 team.

But again: you don’t need extremely expensive vechicles. This Polish stunt driver stands on his head while riding a scooter:

And this reminds us that Sébastien Loeb started his sports career as a gymnast. How hard is it for gymnasts to learn motorcycle stunts? This question can make a nice movie.
As we talk about stunt driving, let’s try to reproduce Giorgi Tevzadze’s movies with professionals in simulated road traffic. It’s the only way to measure proportions between talent and madness in Georgi’s way of driving.

Oh, in some countries everyday traffic is like performing a stunt. Take a look at Indian roads:

And if such oddities are not enough, let’s collect some movies with the weirdest car or motorbike repairs and modifications. There are more people like this drifter-to-be who showed his welded differential:

http://www.wiocha.pl/317809,Chcial-sie-nauczyc-driftu

Unfortunately, many of these people don’t manage to make their vehicles utterly useless. Well, okay, my wish doesn’t concern bōsōzoku people, who do crazy, yet interesting things.

Italian film directors Gualtiero Jacopetti and Paolo Cavara made a documentary entitled Mondo Cane, showing odd human behaviour from all over the world. So, the motoring show based on a similar idea could be named “Moto Cane”.

Thanks to Clarkson, his colleagues and his followers, we have seen so much spectacular action with cars and motorbikes in TV. But again: can we go a step further? We Cane.

(C) by Andrzej Szczodrak



What “The Grand Tour” needs is The Wild Racing Champion

formula

The idea of The Stig is genius but it has one, almost unnoticeable, flaw.

The Stig is a tame racing driver (TM?).

Wait for a moment … tame?! Oh, come on. Just tell me, how being a tame can make a masked driver different from all the contemporary sportsmen.

The “Where Did It All Go Wrong Mr Best?” stories became rarer and rarer. Especially, do you know a driver who would be called “a modern James Hunt”?

Surroundings of racing also changed a lot. It’s forbidden to advertise cigarettes. It’s very difficult to advertise alcohol. Okay, smoking is unhealthy and you really should not drive under influence. But nobody forces you to buy and use things just because they are advertised. Rallies in the Group B era were full of tobacco and alcohol logos. Nowadays, health is promoted or actually … do you think that drinking some vermouth from time to time harms you more than using energy drinks on regular basis?

Moreover, rally and racing drivers are requested or even required to participate in FIA campaigns for road safety. While it’s really ok to convince people that they should hold the steering wheel properly and fasten their seatbelts, we also see the fastest drivers on Earth advocating current speed limits. While, in fact, they should advise road authorities on how to find the balance between speed and safety.

So, I would like “The Grand Tour” to use a character, who is going to be found in Argentinian jungle (because of his origin, he may be a little agressive towards his colleagues). The character can be named “Wild Racing Champion”. I use the word “racing” on purpose. Some years ago, it was more popular among drivers, to participate both in track races and rallies. So, the abbreviation “WRC” means, that our character doesn’t mind driving on gravel much more often than The Stig, while the word “racing” is a sign, that he is also a blast on the track.

Well, he can maintain traction as if he used a special glue, despite having gluten, glucose and cholesterol in his blood. Referencing the B Group era, full of alcohol and cigarette advertisement, he wears a racing suit with statements like “I love Coffee and Cigarettes” written on it. Asked to answer why, he will say, that the statement actually refers to Jim Jarmusch’s movie.

Yes, the Wild Racing Champion is able to speak. His PR Manager left his job after being compared to Oedipus the King. To put it simply, the poor PR manager has been called “a motherf…”.

After revealing that, I must finish my description of the Wild Racing Champion, as I have been bitten by some racer.

Now, I am going to a local karting track, hoping that the racer was radioactive.

(C) by Andrzej Szczodrak

 



Whatever may happen to an enthusiast designed vehicle?

Ford Bronco B6G-6

Ford Bronco B6G-6

A car is something that happens to you after you bought a car idea. And, of course, it is the same with motorcycles.

I you buy music, you may have heard some of it before. But owning a vehicle is a something like a relationship. You fall in love with an angel and then you live with flesh and bone. Okay, the flesh and bone may sometimes be even more exciting than an angel.
However, before you can truly judge your vehicle’s reliablity and ride quality, you buy it because you like an idea. An idea of hot-hatch looking like an UFO or a station wagon going faster than most sporty-looking cars.
Theoretically speaking, the car industry should get as close as possible to letting people imagine a vehicle and have it built.
Well, in modern car era two cases are widely known. Ben Pon, who drew a sketch of Volkswagen Type 2 on 23 april 1947 and Bob Hall, who, in late 1970s, proposed a roadster that became Miata.
If you wish that some company would build the car you dream about, you can achieve it by … inventing a time machine. The early years of an automobile were more open to your fantasies. You would just go to a coachbuilder and decide.
Now the automotive heaven is open for those who order cars like Rolls Royces and Bentleys.
But how about a group of not so well-off people wishing that some car would happen? Off-road coupé may be a good idea (All hail Mega Track!). So you may have contributed to the thing called the Rally Fighter. I would also love it, if it was created by a misfit who left some car company. Instead, the Rally Fighter is the first community designed car that is actually built. Great idea!
However, the company is called Local Motors, and we are also eager to see some Global Motors being inspired by a sole enthusiast or a community. And we get back to Ben Pon or Bob Hall, because we still wait for the “Bring back El Camino” story to have its happy end. Automotive journalists put pressure on carmakers, so that companies would listen to enthusiasts. So we greet the vision of 2020 Ford Bronco.
Although nowadays you can participate in a contest and have your favourite food company use your recipe, it’s still not so simple with cars. Companies grow bigger and bigger and they become more and more distant from us. Millenials, who like to be prosumers, don’t get a car culture movement they would identify with. A story of baby boomers who fell in love with pony cars should repeat itself.
Lets hope something interesting, like the forum-designed Bronco, really happens.
Otherwise millenials will stick to another social vehicle.
A bus.

(C) by Andrzej Szczodrak



Information technology could be driver’s friend. Get the CNAC

We are being attacked by news about autonomous vehicles. When Google people show extremely dull way of thinking, we can be afraid, that the end of driving as we know it is near.

So, is the IT an enemy?

Not necessarily. While in English-speaking countries the term “computer science” is used, Germans, Polish people and some other nations have another words for it. “Informatik” or “informatyka” is a science concentrated on information processing (no matter if a computer is used).
“Automatik” is a practice of developing machines that perform predetermined (often programmed) sequences of jobs.
And that is the point: it is not information processing itself, that is going to destroy our fun of driving, it is the overuse of automation that will.
11th of April was Jeremy Clarkson’s birthday. We wait what will he do next, because he is a great entertainer, but … not only.
What we should remember, is his fight against John Prescott’s work. Jeremy Clarkson was, and is still able to be a great ombudsman of all gearheads. We may need him and his followers more than ever.
It may already be too late now, that the fight for proper IT usage in motoring is almost lost.

Notwithstanding, let’s try to name the idea that we should support

Information technology could make the world a beautiful place for people who love to drive.
Let’s take speed limits for example. Obeying them doesn’t really mean we have to advocate them. They are something like democracy according to Winston Churchill: “Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”.

Unconditional speed limit is an wrong way for ensuring road safety. Yet the mankind haven’t developed anything much better … yet.

We should get back to a notion called “safe speed”. In Poland, the term is promoted by rally and racing driver Sobiesław Zasada. Three-time European Rally Championship winner wrote a book entitled “Safe speed”, highlighting that a safe speed is dependent on the road conditions, car’s features (brakes, damping etc.) and driver’s abilities. While unconditional speed limit is static, the safe speed constantly changes.
But let’s imagine we have something that I would call CNAC- Connected Non-Autonomous Car. I name it like that, as such vehicle could help many people to discover their knack of driving.
Instead of automatically obeying an unconditional speed limit it … informs you about safe speed. Even if you are passing a school it shows something about 20 mph (32 kph) when the children start or finish their lessons, about 30 mph when most of them are occupied in school, and, yeah!, more on Sundays. Of course it’s just heuristic, and you aren’t in any way forced to maintain top safe speed. However, as the CNAC’s driver you are thoroughly informed about conditions that should influence your speed, gear selection and other decisions. Thank to GPS data the CNAC could even help you to choose safest trajectory in turns (yes, it is important also in everyday driving).
In an optimistic scenario, cars and motorbikes using such software could encourage more driver-friendly and rider-friendly law like more liberal speed limits. What is more important now, they can save us from the ban of human driven vehicles. The ban may be imposed due to the development of autonomous machines. Google’s autonomous Priuses, that are built to fit in current road traffic, are not an argument for such law. The decision, Elon Musk is talking about, may be taken because of machines that communicate with each other (and/or central server) to choose the right moment turning and the right speed. If there is no interface between them and human-driven vehicles, the latter will be banned.

The CNAC would not be something really new.

In fact it is just an enhancement of this framework or Car-to-X systems like AMULETT promoted by BMW. More solutions like that could fit very well in the Connected Drive framework.
Yes, as a journalist I should not favor any automotive company. I love Mercedes for the fact, that a kid from not-so-wealthy Poland can write to their Stuttgart headquarters and get a folder for her or his favorite three pointed star model. I have experienced this, and I will always remember. On the other hand, one of the cars I own is a BMW.
Now, there are those Mercedes concepts like F 015 Luxury and Future Truck 2025. It is hard not to see: they think that the future belongs to autonomous vehicles.
Let’s hope it is not. BMW as a Mercedes rival, and a company that has always promoted driving pleasure can and should concentrate on the other way.
No matter which company explores it, let’s hope the rest will follow.

(C) by Andrzej Szczodrak



Information technology could be driver’s friend. Get the CNAC

We are being attacked by news about autonomous vehicles. When Google people show extremely dull way of thinking, we can be afraid, that the end of driving as we know it is near.

So, is the IT an enemy?

Not necessarily. While in English-speaking countries the term “computer science” is used, Germans, Polish people and some other nations have another words for it. “Informatik” or “informatyka” is a science concentrated on information processing (no matter if a computer is used).
“Automatik” is a practice of developing machines that perform predetermined (often programmed) sequences of jobs.
And that is the point: it is not information processing itself, that is going to destroy our fun of driving, it is the overuse of automation that will.
11th of April was Jeremy Clarkson’s birthday. We wait what will he do next, because he is a great entertainer, but … not only.
What we should remember, is his fight against John Prescott’s work. Jeremy Clarkson was, and is still able to be a great ombudsman of all gearheads. We may need him and his followers more than ever.
It may already be too late now, that the fight for proper IT usage in motoring is almost lost.

Notwithstanding, let’s try to name the idea that we should support

Information technology could make the world a beautiful place for people who love to drive.
Let’s take speed limits for example. Obeying them doesn’t really mean we have to advocate them. They are something like democracy according to Winston Churchill: “Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”.

Unconditional speed limit is a wrong way for ensuring road safety. Yet the mankind haven’t developed anything much better … yet.

We should get back to a notion called “safe speed”. In Poland, the term is promoted by rally and racing driver Sobiesław Zasada. Three-time European Rally Championship winner wrote a book entitled “Safe speed”, highlighting that a safe speed is dependent on the road conditions, car’s features (brakes, damping etc.) and driver’s abilities. While unconditional speed limit is static, the safe speed constantly changes.
But let’s imagine we have something that I would call CNAC- Connected Non-Autonomous Car. I name it like that, as such vehicle could help many people to discover their knack of driving.
Instead of automatically obeying an unconditional speed limit it … informs you about safe speed. Even if you are passing a school it shows something about 20 mph (32 kph) when the children start or finish their lessons, about 30 mph when most of them are occupied in school, and, yeah!, more on Sundays. Of course it’s just heuristic, and you aren’t in any way forced to maintain top safe speed. However, as the CNAC’s driver you are thoroughly informed about conditions that should influence your speed, gear selection and other decisions. Thank to GPS data the CNAC could even help you to choose safest trajectory in turns (yes, it is important also in everyday driving).
In an optimistic scenario, cars and motorbikes using such software could encourage more driver-friendly and rider-friendly law like more liberal speed limits. What is more important now, they can save us from the ban of human driven vehicles. The ban may be imposed due to the development of autonomous machines. Google’s autonomous Priuses, that are built to fit in current road traffic, are not an argument for such law. The decision, Elon Musk is talking about, may be taken because of machines that communicate with each other (and/or central server) to choose the right moment turning and the right speed. If there is no interface between them and human-driven vehicles, the latter will be banned.

The CNAC would not be something really new.

In fact it is just an enhancement of this framework or Car-to-X systems like AMULETT promoted by BMW. More solutions like that could fit very well in the Connected Drive framework.
Yes, as a journalist I should not favor any automotive company. I love Mercedes for the fact, that a kid from not-so-wealthy Poland can write to their Stuttgart headquarters and get a folder for her or his favorite three pointed star model. I have experienced this, and I will always remember. On the other hand, one of the cars I own is a BMW.
Now, there are those Mercedes concepts like F 015 Luxury and Future Truck 2025. It is hard not to see: they think that the future belongs to autonomous vehicles.
Let’s hope it is not. BMW as a Mercedes rival, and a company that has always promoted driving pleasure can and should concentrate on the other way.
No matter which company explores it, let’s hope the rest will follow.

(C) by Andrzej Szczodrak