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Blogs : February 2005

28 Feb 2005

Eastbourne Express

By KEVIN DAVIS

The second car to be launched under the joint collaboration between Honda and Rover (the first was the Triumph Acclaim), the 200 Series was the first small Rover to offer an upmarket alternative to the likes of the Ford Escort and Vauxhall Astra. Based on the Honda Ballade, the 200 Series was, basically, a Japanese tourist with a bowler hat on. Launched in 1984, and initially only available with Honda’s 1342cc triple valve engine, it was available in four trim levels, the top-of-the-range being the Vanden Plas, resplendent with full leather seats and all round electric windows. Allegro Vanden Plas owners’ had never had it so good.

The 200 Series was warmly welcomed by journalists, despite shortcomings such as a jiggly ride, the lack of power steering, and its rather ‘interesting’ wet weather grip. Rover had a winner on their hands and they simply couldn’t build enough to meet demand; there was an actual waiting list for a Rover! Nevertheless, it was a rather dowdy car and was lacking in any real excitement.

So, in 1985, the 200 Series was made available with the 1600cc S-Series engine, first seen in the Maestro/Montego, and along with it came a new version; the 216 Vitesse, with uprated suspension, spoilers, SD1 Vitesse style seats and alloy wheels. In this installation, the S-Series engine was fitted with fuel injection (as was the 1600c Vanden Plas EFi) and a specially developed close ratio gearbox ensured swift gear changes, though it was only 2/10ths of a second quicker to 60 than the VP (9.4). A mild facelift in 1986 saw improvements to the ride and a restyled rear end.

The 200 Series was warmly welcomed
by journalists, despite shortcomings
such as a jiggly ride, the lack of
power steering, and its rather
‘interesting’ wet weather grip.

Naturally, with a moniker like Vitesse, comparisons to the 3500 Vitesse were inevitable and quite simply, it didn’t quite meet the sporting agenda in any area. And with class leading hot hatches like the Ford Escort XR3i and VW Golf GTi looking and going the part, the Rover looked like a Grandad in Nike trainers and a baseball cap. And that’s just the kind of customer who bought a 216 Vitesse.

Still, the 200 Series was an impressive success for Rover, mainly because of the Japanese link, which was seen as a positive aspect by customers, and the Vitesse was a marketing success, but the build quality was poor. The 200 Series brochures harped on about ‘protecting your investment,’ but cars as young as five years old started to rust from the inside out. Allegedly, poor quality steel from Russia was to blame.

Finding a nice Rover 200 Mk1 now will be nigh on impossible, the only decent one I’ve seen in the last few years was the last 216 Vitesse at the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon, which was recently sold. That there is virtually no interest in these cars now is a shame, because the 200 Series marked a turning point for Rover in making the brand available to the masses.

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25 Feb 2005

MGR in Germany

By MARCUS BECKER

AFTER not seeing any news about the upcoming all-new rover 45 in 2006/2007, there has at last been some Rover-related activity in the German press…

During the past few weeks, German buyers were confronted by a number of horrible adverts for the Rover Streetwise. In some magazines there was a picture in landscpae format which has to be turned around, simply to be read. I don’t think anybody bothered because it just looked cheap. Some Eighties style heavy on garish green and red, so frightening, that it does nothing but entice you to turn the page at once.

I wonder why they don’t offer this superb leather interior in all models in Germany to underline the idea of ‘Britishness’ and style, too, including that wonderful claim: “Rover – My Space”. Well, maybe it’ll happen…. I hope so.

Jürgen Voss, who is now in charge of MGR Germany, revealed his dream in a recent intervie: MG and Rover will the last genuine British car manufacturers by 2015. That sounds great. Further on he spoke of the new CityRover with its all-new 1.5-litre diesel engine and all new filter-technology coming in June to Italy and to Germany in 2006. He talked about hybrid technology for the new Rover 65 and how important it is to place this car in some niche and not to become a conventional four- or five-door saloon.

The new Rover 75 has to be state of the art and there is a chance for a Rover 75 coupe in China as well.

Neither Rover nor MG will lose it’s identity under SAIC. One thing is absolutely clear to him: He has no doubt about MG’s future. With or without support form China MG will remain the “Last Rebel”. Let’s hope that it won’t be a rebel without a cause. One thing is for sure. Mr. Voss did his homework. He knows what’s necessary to succeed.

Let’s hope they aren’t just empty promises.

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23 Feb 2005

Fallen idol

By KEVIN DAVIS

THE original Austin Metro, launched in 1980, marked a turning point for the then BL. The car was a success and well over a million customers saw beyond its deficiencies, such as its old power units and bus-like driving position. Fundamentally, the car was right, as with previous BL designs based on the Issigonis formula, it was compact, yet offered immense interior space, was easy to drive, it was practical and economical, and, it was British.

Some Ten years later, the Metro was relaunched as the Rover Metro, gaining a new nose and tail, a redesigned interior with seats originally designed for the Rover 800, a new Hydragas suspension system and, above all else, two new K-Series engines. Journalists were doing cartwheels at the arrival of the new Rover Metro such was its transformation – from dowdy to rowdy in one fell swoop. A real Metromorphosis!

Quite simply, it trounced the opposition; Peugeot 205s, Fiestas, Novas, none of them could match the all round ability and ‘big car’ feel of the new Rover. Job done. The Metro received another facelift in 1995 to bring it into line with the new grilled face of other Rover models, and a new name – 100 Series, (the name it should have been given at the 1990 relaunch) finally made it part of the Rover family.

By this time, though, the competition had caught up, and the 100 Series found itself struggling against new cars like the restyled Ford Fiesta, which was everything the Rover Metro was in 1990. The final blow came in 1996 when Euro NCAP crash tested a 100 – the results were shocking. Much publicity was made of the 100’s weaknesses and customers turned their backs in droves and in 1997, the Rover 100 quietly bowed out.

Journalists were doing cartwheels
at the arrival of the new Rover
Metro, such was its transformation
– from dowdy to rowdy in one fell swoop.

The Metro was once the sparkle in the eye of the motoring press and today, cars that were somewhat lacking in comparison to the old Metro like the Peugeot 205 are now held in high esteem, whilst the Metro/100 languishes in the ‘cars to avoid’ section at the back of the car price guides.

Odd that, because everything that made the 1990 Metro a success is still there today though, the class leading space, the award winning engines, the ‘big car’ feel, and in GTi form you have a stylish and, to my mind, still good looking and rewarding hot hatch. Just don’t have a crash in the thing!

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22 Feb 2005

Why don’t more people buy this?

By KEITH ADAMS

JUST spent an invigorating weekend behind the wheel of wonderful ZT 260 V8, and have to say that it really is a testament to the engineers and enthusiasts at Longbridge, who managed to transform it from a harebrained idea to production reality.

In a nutshell, it is a fun, communicative, exhillarating, and rapid saloon – with real Q-car appeal. Most other road users are blissfully unaware of the fact they are sharing road space with Phil Mitchell on wheels, a car with menace and violence lurking under the skin, and it is only after they hear it roaring away that they realise it is powered by something rather special. You can read all about it in the upcoming road test, but needless to say, it plenty of that cliched commodity, known as ‘grin factor’.

We love the ZT 260 V8 – and I hope that MG Rover really manage to sell more than the handful they have done so far…

Okay, it may only do 180 miles on a tankful of petrol (when driven enthusiastically), but you can’t begrudge it for that when it sounds so good. Here we have a good old fashioned hot-rod. Enjoy it while you can.

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Feedback:

Why don’t people buy this car?
Well you gave one reason – the horrendous fuel consumption.
Another, is the even more alarming depreciation….

ANON

The first is a lack of faith with the brand. So many scare stories are tainting the brand, that people feel they don’t want to take a chance spending a lot of money on a car when the brand may not be around to support them in a couple of years time. With a lack of faith, comes horrendous depreciation. Bit like a share price I suppose. Confidence in a company restores the share price, and a lack of confidence reduces it.

The second is the “anti-halo” effect. The 25 and 45, although restyled, are seen by most as out of date, and this is probably having an impact on the 75/ ZT. Having said that, the ZS is a serious bit of kit, especially in 2.5 V6 form, and with the recent mods, looks awesome. Can’t wait to see it in the 2005 Touring Cars. Too much emphasis and expectation is placed on a car’s design having to change within a certain length of time, and if this doesn’t happen then it is said to be out of date. Only when you drive the car and see the “under-the-skin” changes, do you appreciate that modifications aren’t all about moving the number plate. I can’t help thinking that the 25 and 45 redesign was done to show the public that they had done something and had made some changes to try and keep up with the times, even if they were superficial and unnecessary. ZS aside, I feel the previous MGR models looked better than the current versions.

Using the V8 as a pace car for F1 or any other motor sport would do the brand no end of good. Maybe even a detuned version wearing a cheeky little Vitesse badge would do the same for the 75….. It would still let the ZT rule the roost, but give the 75 and the Rover name a bit of a boost at the same time. Anyone got a spare 3.5 V8 lying around anywhere…??

DYLAN JONES

Problem 1 – I couldnt afford £34k.

So then I was offered the exact car I wanted, but for £23k. I could afford 23k but still gave it a lot of thought.

Problem 2 – the competition for that price.

As I could see, there were a number of cars which could have fitted the bill

Problem 3 – Fuel Consumption. This really isn’t a problem when you compare it other performance car in the price bracket. Fuel consumption doesn’t come into it, as an Evo is even worse than the MG, and it only runs on special fuel (super unleaded). The RX8 is another guzzler, only the Jaguar X-Type 3.0 Sport fared slightly better.

Problem 4 – Insurance. Again, a non starter as all the machines listed were within £100 of each other for insurance.

So what was the problem then? What was putting me off? It wasnt purchase price, fuel consumption or insurance. It wasn’t performance, and the 260 is as fast as any in tis price range, and goes about it in a nicer, more brutal way. The packaging of the car was the best of the bunch – even better than the Jag and it was by far the best looking car of them all.

The one thing that almost put me off, and I think that puts all buyers off is this: The MG ZT 260 V8 is an unknown quantity. It is a dark horse lurking in the shadows. It is not widely seen on the roads. It is not advertised. It is not rallied or raced and its not really written about (outside of enthusiast circles). Secondly the badge. Will MG be around as long as Jag, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Vauxhall, Ford? I hope so – and was willing to take the risk.

How many other people though – would take the risk with £34 grand?

JOHN HUNTON


21 Feb 2005

Durable cars

By CLAIRE SMITH

I REMEMBER reading Charles Ware’s ‘Durable Car Ownership’ about twenty years ago that argued that a Morris Minor would prove to be a much cheaper and ‘greener’ alternative to a modern car and gave examples of cycles of work that may be necessary to maintain a typical car in good serviceable condition. Mr Ware’s interest in all this was that several years before he had started one of, if not the first Morris Minor centres and so he had an interest in promoting the Moggy..

I didn’t pay that much attention to the book as I didn’t like Minors and much preferred the Austin A40 Farina I owned but did feel that it was a lot more difficult to run an A40 on an everyday basis due to the lack of specialists and relatively poor spares supply.

…a Morris Minor would prove to be
a much cheaper and ‘greener’
alternative to a modern car.

I now own a Morris Minor (I know, I know!) and appreciate the incredible spares situation. I have bought mechanical and body parts off the shelf-something I do not think would be possible for the majority of modern cars.

I also own a Mark 3 VW Golf turbo diesel that is my main car and in the 5 weeks that I have owned it have driven 1800 miles. It is a bit of a plodder, doesn‘t go that quickly, doesn‘t handle incredibly either. Its one outstanding feature is its utter solidity and feeling of quality, this from a car that supposedly marked the decline of the Golf after the wonderful Mark 1 and 2 models. The car has power steering and one airbag but manual door mirrors, no sunroof, no air-con, no electric mirrors. In short, it’s a bit basic but who wants lots of gadgets on an elderly car?! Surely the Golf is the ultimate durable car due to these qualities, particularly its enduring appeal.

However, I realise that most regulars to this site will be booing and hissing at the prospect of a dull, teutonic German car be lauded, so do bear with me, I am going somewhere with this. This made me think of possible BL or Austin Rover cars that could fit the durable tag. First requirement is fairly rust-resistant bodywork, second is that it is held in people’s affections (and therefore supported from a value and spares point of view), that it is not so old that it has all but disappeared from our roads and lastly that it is ultimately fairly well engineered.

The only car I could think of is the R8 Rover 200. What do you think?

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18 Feb 2005

Rover Pathfinder?

By MIKE GOY

OVER the past 12 months, there has been plenty of discussion on this web site about the Rover name and the company’s brand values. These days, MGR can concentrate all their efforts on mainstream vehicles; any off-road kudos went with Land Rover to Ford.

Mainstream vehicles? Hang on a minute; aren’t the CityRover, 25 and 45 either inadequate, overpriced, or desperately in need of replacement? Well yes, but a ray of light shines at the top of the range. The Rover 75 strikes a fair balance between the Fifties Auntie, the Sixties P5/P6, and a modern vehicle. It does not rely on Honda designed parts and showcases Rover’s excellent design end development skills.

Critics, Clarkson aside, cannot badmouth the excellent ride, all round performance and neat styling.

Why don’t they call it Pathfinder,
resurrecting the post-war
Riley nomenclature?

Inexplicably, Mr Pischestrieder chose the 1998 launch to rubbish the company; as a result it has been slow selling and, together with the entire Rover range, condemned to a lifetime of customer suspicion. Which surely makes launching a new vehicle potentially difficult – especially one into a different (for MGR) market sector?

Maybe, but it is to the company’s eternal credit that since being dumped by BMW in 2000 – it has continued to develop products on a tiny budget, even pulling a rabbit out of the hat with the rear wheel drive Rover V8. We can argue about brand positioning and lack of promotion but they have done a fabulous job under the circumstances. By comparison, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus spend countless Euros and Yen on midlife model updates. The fact that Rover continue to offer a strong product with a tiny fraction of their competitors’ resources shows real ingenuity.

Off-road vehicles are another matter. With Land Rover firmly – if rather expensively – in Ford’s possession, what name will MGR use for future models made in cooperation with their new Asian partners? I am sure such a joint venture product will mean MGR engineers get a chance to have significant engine/chassis/interior is design input. I am also sure they will have learned from the CityRover experience of taking another company’s product and, without meaningful change, trying to pass it off as one of their own.

So, a name. Why don’t they call it Pathfinder, resurrecting the post-war Riley nomenclature? They got away with CityRover as a replacement for Mini and Metro, but I can see litigation on the horizon if they try a similar trick (TerrainRover?) with a 4×4. After all, BMW would not be at all happy with MGR’s new product cramping their ‘soft-roader’ style, whilst Ford must be anxious to protect their £2 billion Land Rover investment.

Now if they were to produce a well designed, well engineered and competitively priced Discovery clone, it could be game, set and match MGR…

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17 Feb 2005

RD/X60: Mystery wrapped in an enigma

By KEITH ADAMS

TOOK a closer look at the RD/X60 ‘concept’ pictures today, and it has to be said, there are one or two aspects that simply don’t add up.

OK, it’s an enhanced picture of a clay model (clay model so late in the development phase? *gulp*), but there are one or two rather crude Photoshopperies on it which really have to cast into doubt the picture’s validity. As can be seen from the above picture, the rear lights and badge are obviously a copy/paste job (and quite crude ones at that), and in no way look genuine – so does that mean there were no rear clusters at all on the model?

Once you come to this conclusion, you’re looking at what it someone’s interpretation of what they saw…

There is no doubt this picture was taken within the vaults of MGR design studio, but by whom? The background has to be genuine, because no one would go to the lengths of mocking-up a ‘Fire Escape’ and staircase.

What I suspect we have is a controlled leak – perhaps one which came into the possession of The Sun, AutoExpress and Autocar (simultaneously, remember) as a means of publicising the fact that Rover really is working on something new, without making an official statement, as the car is still a couple of years off.

Also it’s interesting to note the interior schemes for the 75’s interior facelift are clearly on view (right) – just at the time Sun journalist Ken Gibson gets a sneak peak via his drive of the magnificent coupe concept version.

And if it’s a controlled leak (and I’m only speculating here), then there is no reason why MGR would reveal the genuine RD/X60 concept – allowing this picture to throw journalists and commentators off the scent. After all, our trusted source seems to think Autocar’s renderings from August were pretty close to what he understood the final design would look like.

What we must never lose sight of is there are some extremely canny folk buried in Longbridge, and it seems pretty inconceivable to me that they would allow someone into the inner sanctums of the design studio and loose off a picture of a clay model. I remember my time from Gaydon – it was almost impossible to get within a mile of the styling studio unless you have a very good reason to be there.

So, are the canny tacticians from Longbridge playing a curved ball to the press by drip feeding us questionable information? I wouldn’t bet against it.

I think, in reality, we probably know as much about the RD/X60 now as we did before the photograph emerged…

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Feedback:

it was a thoughtI had, that this pic was played to the press by Rover on purpose. I am thinking along the line that the RD60 is further than the clay-model stage. I would bet that the project is much further advanced – especially as we know it is undergoing noise control testing. But isn’t this a very (I mean VERY) cheap and also quite efficient way to:

a) tell everyone “we’re still there”
b) show and test some future design possibilities.

Basically this car looks good and people on the mg-rover.org forum responded well to it. Even I (usually not a big fan of contemporary car design) think that this could evolve into a nice looking car.

Which I don’t think of the renderings from last summer.

ALEXANDER BOUCKE


16 Feb 2005

Blogging is changing the world!

By KEITH ADAMS

HEARD a good story on Radio 4 this evening on the way home from work. It seems that blogging is becoming known across the world as being an important media phenonemon.

It seems that the blogging world has claimed its first high-profile victim, as an apparently off-the-cuff remark from the former CNN boss, Eason Jorndon at a news conference was attended by a journalist (who wasn’t there on journalistic business) who then reported it as part of his website blog. The blog contents entered general circulation, and were blown up to such an extent that Jordon ended up resigning in order to maintain CNN’s credibility.

Not sure we’re carrying that level of gravitas here at austin-rover.co.uk, but it is heartening to know that free-speech via the blog (short for ‘web log’, by the way, in case you didn’t know) is alive and well. In fact, it makes you realise just how much the Internet has changed the face of media in the few short years it has entered the ‘mainstream’.

It will be interesting to see how this develops, because as long as it is free to publish on the Internet, people will find their own voice…

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15 Feb 2005

RD/X60: what do we think?

By KEITH ADAMS

SO we’ve been treated to a more upto date RD/X60 concept, thanks to scoops in The Sun, Autocar and AutoExpress.

What can we say – this design is certainly a departure from the existing TCV-like concepts, which have been doing the rounds since 2002 – and without doubt, it’s contemporary in a way the TCV no longer is. But is it what the company needs? In a word, yes. This car is absolutely vital to MG Rover’s future in Europe, and it is only right that a progressive hatchback design has ‘leaked’ out of Longbridge, because it is exactly the kind of car you and I will want to be buying when it goes on sale in early 2007.

Looking at the picture we have (and the updated Photoshop version in tomorrow’s AutoExpress magazine), it seems to strike exactly the right note, eschewing all semblance of ‘retro’, which has served to hold the 75 back, or give it a timeless appeal, depending on your point of view. It is probably a little early to reflect on the styling of the car, which is hardly representative on what is obviously a clay model, but there are promsing signs of modernity. We know it won’t be a clonker, because Peter Stevens simply won’t allow that to happen. Let’s hope visibility isn’t as poor as those gun-slit windows and fat pillars hint at.

Engineering-wise it should be on the money, assuming it retains some of the 75’s know-how in the chassis department and uses the upcoming K2-Series engines (please, please, please make sure it doesn’t have an appetite for head gaskets the current on has) petrol engines and common-rail L2-Series diesel engines.

We know it won’t be a munter, because Peter
Stevens simply won’t allow that to happen.

2007 is a long time to wait, but production engineering and final testing cannot be rushed – if it is, we’d be looking at a repeat of so many BMC>Rover launches in the past, where early adopters end up doing final testing for the company. Mind you, everyone within MG Rover is acutely aware of past mistakes, and it is highly unlikely we’ll see this car before it is completely ready.

AutoExpress’ excellent (and pro-Rover) staffer, Craig Cheetham, has hinted at internal sources talking about a lead-into-production time of 12 months. That would see the Rover R4 and MG ZS (or whatever they are going to be called) enter production in the early months of 2006. Interesting, because Craig wouldn’t write that if he wasn’t sure of his facts – but we have to ask the question:

Can MG Rover get the tooling into Longbridge, run comprehensive testing, homologate and every other pre-production process in 12 short months?
Even if the RD/X60 were completely finished and ready to roll in every department, that would be a tall order. And if you look at MG Rover’s research and development spends over the past couple of years (e.g., £15m 2002-2003), major development has yet to take place. OK, TWR undertook a lot in the early days, and MG Rover could well be outsourcing some work to Pininfarina, a 12-month lead time simply doesn’t add up.

In reality, two years would be about right if everyone responsible sweats blood and works 18-hour days… which, of course, they will, once SAIC has signed all the paperwork.

Good luck to MGR and let’s hope we see the RD/X60 emerge into the limelight late next year – just make sure it’s 100 per cent right when it goes on sale…

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14 Feb 2005

What did he do?

By KEITH ADAMS

SIR ALEC ISSIGONIS was without doubt, one of Britain’s finest engineers (let’s not get into debate here about how ‘British’ he actually was – because you can be ‘British’ without having actually been born here) – and with a portfolio which included the Mini, 1100 and Morris Minor, only a fool would argue with this assertion. In fact, the only question is whether he is the greatest of them all.

There was a time when he was not part of the BMC>Rover Empire. After Len Lord (later Lord Lambury) took over the running of the merged combines of Morris and Austin (BMC), Issigonis moved out, fearing Lord’s intentions. He moved to Alvis, where he took on a project to design that company’s new flagship car. Having been impressed with Alex Moulton’s rubber suspension system, Alec pressed for the use of this system on his new car. And very promising it was, too.

However, in 1956, and in the middle of this car’s development, financial problems blighted Alvis, and shook Alec’s confidence in the company. At the same time Len Lord made an approach to him, inviting him back Cowley to work for BMC on special projects. Alec took up the invitation, and was soon back in the fold, and built up a team around him, which would eventually lead to the creation of the brilliant Mini, 1100, 1800 and Maxi front wheel drive family of cars.

Issigonis moved to Alvis, where he took on
a project to design that company’s new
flagship car. Having been impressed with
Alex Moulton’s rubber suspension system,
Alec pressed for the use of this system
on his new car. Very promising it was.

Possessing an amazingly fertile mind, Alec had turned around BMC’s product line, producing a range of cars featuring front wheel drive, disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, and rubber-based interconnected suspension. Only Volkswagen’s turn around from producing air-cooled Beetles to the front wheel drive Golf-based range has been has been as similarly radical.

All this does beg the question: what did he do at Alvis?

So keen was Alvis to expunge all evidence of the existance of Issigonis’ work, that it ensured all of his drawings were destroyed. Everything was scattered to the four winds, and even the prototype car he had completed was driven to the scrapyard. It seems, the work has been lost forever…

However, there is no such thing as ‘forever’ in this world – so there must be some remains of this project somewhere…

We would certainly like to find anything of this – because the car would be an interesting reminder of what Issigonis would have liked to build outside of the family car world. It goes without saying if you know anything of this project – or anyone involved with it, we would love to hear from you.

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11 Feb 2005

Eats, shoots and leaves

By KEITH ADAMS

JUST finished reading a rather amusing book called, ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’, which extolls the virtues of correct punctuation and sentence structure. A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of reading such a book, but now I’m doing a bit of writing in work’s time too, I thought it might prove enlightening.

I must admit, if anyone needed to improve their grammar, it was most definitely me. Unfamiliar with the difference between ‘it’s’ and ‘its’, my command of such grammatical nuances left something to be desired. Along came Declan Berridge, and after editing many of my works and explaining the error of my ways in a most constructive way, I feel I’m beginning to grasp many of the rules underpinning the written version of our great language.

‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’, certainly made me realise just how far I had come in the last couple of years, and I really felt myself identifying with the author. Especially when it came to an underlying intolerance of badly constructed sentences. On one level, because I was that person abusing my elipses and committing grave crimes of tautology – but on another, because I now find myself inwardly groaning at some of the poorly-written copy I sometimes find myself editing at work (oh, how times have changed)…

A strange world, then.

Having said that, the written word and its presentation is changing at an alarming rate right now. Much of that is down to the Internet, and the rapid deployment of self-published works (such as this website) – it is quite unlikely you’ll find articles presented on websites, which have been through the beady eyes of a good Editor (we are here – sometimes), and as such we’re more likely to make allowances; or more likely, accept the incorrect as correct.

More than that – we’re all writing a damned sight more than we used to be. e-mail is now used by 80 per cent of people in office-based jobs, and that means, 80 per cent of us are writing, on at least, a daily basis. It is interesting to note since I left full-time education, some fifteen years ago, many of the grammatical rules I held dear have either been changed or abolished. And in most cases that is down to the needs of desktop publishing…

We do like to maintain a high standard here at austin-rover.co.uk, but in the un-edited world of instant online publishing, mistakes can creep out. So, please, please, please – if you see any errors make sure you email me… I’ll be very glad to hear from you. You – the reader – are our eyes and ears.

Oh – and why was that book called, ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’?

Look under ‘Panda’ in one online dictionary – and under the section ‘diet’, it says: ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’.

Now try that again without the comma.

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10 Feb 2005

Hare and the tortoise

By KEITH ADAMS

TOYING with a story idea for the website, and am wondering if I’m actually mad or not. Basically, it goes something like this: we get two cars – one fast, the other slow – and run from coast to coast, seeing which is faster. Would the extra speed of the fast car make up for the additional fuel stops it’s going to have to make?

It’s an interesting idea – and the route would actually be pretty arduous. A 300-mile jaunt from Portmeirion in Gwynd, north west Wales to Lowestoft in Suffolk – the most easterly point on the UK mainland. A mixture of single carriageway roads and dual carriageways, traversing some of the Midlands’ most heavily congested roads – a real test for anyone. Unlike the famous Land’s End-John O’Groats run, there are no really long stretches of motorway to enjoy, so in theory a faster car would be at a big advantage, thanks to improved overtaking potential in mixed traffic.

Suggested cars could be an MG ZT V8 against a CDT version – the former having a 300-mile fuel range (on a good day), but a 30-70 acceleration time of 6-seconds; the latter having a 570 mile range, but taking a more relaxed 12-seconds for the same acceleration run.

Would the V8 pull out enough of a lead between fuel stops?

I suspect the answer would be ‘no’, and the tortoise of the race would probably prevail, thanks to Britain’s clogged up roads – but I bet the V8 driver would arrive at Lowestoft with a bigger grin on his face, even if he’s spent more money and effort getting there.

So – would anyone care to wager a bet to see which car wins?

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9 Feb 2005

Torque debate rumbles on

By RICH SMITH

The torque produced by an engine at a particular speed is a direct measure of that engine’s ‘willingness’ to keep running at that speed, or even to accelerate, when under load (e.g., as the car it is in is accelerated) – the more torque the engine is producing, the more likely it is to be willing to speed the car up – but this effect is blunted more in higher gears (an example is a car climbing a steep hill and it slows and needs a lower gear to continue, as the torque available isn’t enough for the car to keep its speed in the higher gear [like using a short lever to try to loosen a tight wheel nut], but it then accelerates pretty well in the lower gear [like using a longer lever to loosen the same tight wheel nut]).

The engine (‘engine 1’) that produces lots of torque at low revs will feel more ‘driveable’ than an engine (‘engine 2’) that produces the same amount of torque at higher revs, assuming we are talking about the same car in both cases – ‘engine 1’ will be better able to ‘slog’ or even accelerate in the higher gears than ‘engine 2’, and ‘engine 1’ will accelerate better in the higher gears so it can be ‘lazier’ to drive as less gear changes are needed for the same acceleration and hillclimbing ability as given by ‘engine 2’, nor does ‘engine 1’ need to be revved as much as ‘engine 2’ for the same acceleration/hillclimbing ability (more torque = more possible acceleration, don’t forget, so if more torque is available lower down the rev range then so is more possible acceleration available at the same lower engine revs) and it is this ‘driveability’ you can sense on your ‘bum dynometer’.


By MICHAEL WYNN-WILLIAMS

Power is hitting a nail with a big piece of metal; torque is putting a handle on it.

Power is one man hauling a car with a single piece of rope; torque is one man hauling it with a pulley.

Power is sprinting 100 metres; torque is doing it on a bicycle. Power is war; torque is democracy.

Power is telling the wife to shut up; torque is buying her a box of toffees.

Power is expensive; torque is cheap.


By TREVOR MAPLESTONE

Someone on TV once said: “Po


wer is the size of the muscle, and torque is the length of the spanner.”

By ALEXANDER BOUCKE

The torque ouput of the engine roughly equates the force the wheels get to the ground at the moment – via the gearbox. And force to the ground means more acceleration – so more torque means more acceleration.

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8 Feb 2005

Power, torque and other physics…

By ALEXANDER BOUCKE

THE latest blog entry about torque did sadly confuse some physical terms and I do feel the need to set this right. The main problem is the general confusion between power on one side and torque or force on the other side.

The most important physical quantity when we want to move a car is called work. Everybody of us knows this, since we do work in a physical sense when we lift a weight to a certain height, the work done is weight-force times lifted height. So if we lift one pound 10 feet high, the work done equates to 10 lb/ft. As you see work is measured in the same units as torque, but describes something totally different. The same applies for rotational movements, only that the work done here is the product from torque needed and the angle we turned something, (e.g. when tightning a screw).

So where does the power come into play? The definition of power is work per time. Translating this to the example from the latest Blog entry using the steering:

Assume your car has a fixed maximum wheel lock angle, fixed wheel/tyre size and front end weight. Now you change anything from steering rack to steering wheel as you like – power steering is forbidden! No matter what you do, when turning it from lock to lock always the same amount of work is done. The point is: If you turn it from lock to lock in the same time (e.g. in 5 sec), you ALWAYS have to put in the same power! It is only the force you need to put on the rim of the wheel or the torque you apply to the steering column that changes. If you do lock to lock in a longer time, then the power needed is less (e.g. half if you do it in 10 sec). But the work (in physical sense) you did do is the same!

So when driving a car along with a constant speed the work done consists (simplified) of the sum of air-drag forces and frictional forces times the distance covered. To put this in formulae:

drag : Fd = 0.5 * cd * Ad * r * v^2
friction: Ff = g * m * cf

cd the drag coefficient,
Ad the frontal area of the car in square m (2-2.5 for a car),
r the density of air (about 1.18kg/cubic m)
v the vehicles speed in m/s (= 0.444*mph)
g the gravitational accelleration (9.81 m/s^2)
m the cars mass in kg
cf the friction coefficent (typically about 0.015).

The result is the force needed to move the car at a constant speed measured in Newton (N).

As the power is work W per time t and we drive with a constant speed v over a distance d, we can set up the following simple equation:

W/t = (Fd + Ff) * d / t = (Fd + Ff) * v

So the power needed to drive the car at the speed v is given above (in Watts, multiply with 0.00136 to get PS).

So to drive a Maestro along at 100mph we need to have power of 65PS at the wheels, which is probably a bit more then a 1.3 (67PS engine output) can deliver to the wheels as there is some resistance inside the drive train to be considered.

There has also some confusing explanation given on how power and torque is developed inside an engine. The torque measurements given by the manufacturers are measured as engine output on a dynamometer. Here the maximum power the engine can deliver for every rpm is measured. Since power equates to work per time and we are watching a rotational movement (of the crank shaft) here, the work equates to torque times rotation angle and so we get the relation between power P and torque M as P = M * w, where w is the angular speed of the crankshaft. w can be measured in rpm where w = 0.1047 n applies if n is the engine speed in rpm.

So a Rover 216 GSi developing max 138Nm torque at 5200rpm has a maximum power output of 138 Nm * 0.1047 * 5200 rpm = 75,147kW = 102.2PS at 5200rpm.

The stroke and bore of the engine have so far not appeared here. But this will change now…

To develop this power internally a force is applied on the piston during the expansion stroke. This force is the product of the pistons top area and the pressure of the gas sitting in the combustion chamber. If we assume that the force or pressure is equally spread over the time of the downward movement, there is again a simple formula that describes the power an engine deliveres depending on the pressure of the combustion:

Pi = (A * p * s) / t

We do see here the force (A*p) multiplied with the stroke s to give the work done on a stroke divided by a certain time t to get the power. The time a single cylinder uses to do this is 1/2 round or 30/n seconds, where n is the rpm again. But we have more then one cylinder and a four stroke engine each cylinder does only ignite every second round. So for the complete engine we get t = 30 * 2 / (n * z) where z is the number of cylinders. So for the internal power a 4-stroke engine deliveres we get:

Pi = p * (A * s * z) * n / 60 = p * V * n / 60

where V is the engines displacement measured in cubic metres (=1000 litres). I am not sure, but I think this timely leveraged pressure p is also called bmep. It is a measure for an engines efficiency as we will see. As an engine also has internal friction losses the relation between the measured power output P and the internal power development Pi can be given by P = ci * Pi, where ci is the internal friction coefficient, usually between 0.8 and 0.95.

We can readjust that formula so that we can calculate p from a given set of engine data:

p = 60 * P / (ci * n * V)

or if we remember the relation between torque M and power P:

p = 60 * M * 0.1047 * n / (ci * n * V) = 6.282 * M / (ci * V).

The larger the value p, the more efficient is an engine in delivering the power. As p is related to the pressure of the combustion gases, it is obvious that some things have a strong influence on p:- supercharging (can double p) – higher compression – efficiency to get gases in and out of the cylinder (breathing)

The latest point is where engines differ in concept: long stroke engines tend to breathe better at low rpm, given a narrow bore making a small valve area neccessary. On the same engine size a larger bore with shorter stroke will typically breathe better at high rpm. But the following examples will show that this is not always the case.

The K-series is the most efficient engine at it’s maximum torque point. The torque is changing across the rev range, because the efficiency of the engine is changing and with this the value of ci*p. E.g. the Maxi has a very marked drop from it’s most efficient point (max torque at 2600) to the max. power at 4800 rpm.

The 2.0 O-series is a less long-stroke engine then the one in the Rover 216 (stroke/bore ratio), but it has a larger volume, leading to higher torque when assumed to be similar efficient. So there are 3 ways to gain power: increase the efficiency, increase the volume and finally get more revs…

Currently a naturally aspirated engine can get up to 114Nm torque per litre, in an ideal case where this torque is constant over the full rev-range this will lead to a power of 16.3PS per litre per 1000rpm, e.g. 163PS for a 2litre running at 5000 rpm. This is basically independent of the stroke/bore ratio of the engine. Depending on the amount of turbo-charging a production turbo will typically get 140-150 NM torque per litre engine size (data for petrol engines, Diesel are slightly more efficient).

On a side note in the same way the winning explanation for torque is a little weak: Power is the thing the bloke getting your punch will feel, as power is the weigh put behind your punch times the speed of your punch…

But now I am getting too serious….

I hope this is sort of understandable and will give some insight.

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Feedback:

…and if we can condense that into two sentences, then we have a good example. Sometimes the full scientific explanation is the only way forwards, but in this case, it goes nowhere near explaining in layman’s terms what torque actually is. I put out the challenge last week, to de-mystify torque, and so far, Mike Duff’s ‘punch’ analogy, is the only one that’s got close.

So, the challenge is this – produce a two sentence sum-up of torque that the layman can understand, and you win a Vanguards 1:43 scale MG ZT model… I might even throw in a copy of a ‘Land Rover across America’ DVD. I can’t say any fairer than that.

KEITH ADAMS


7 Feb 2005

Talking the torque…

By MICHAEL WYNN-WILLIAMS

POWER and torque are easily confused because they both affect the ability of a car to move itself. Power is a measure of how well the engine converts fuel into movement, or chemical energy into kinetic. The problem for us is that torque takes this power and mixes it with the additional mechanical advantage of a lever. The mechanical component of torque allows a weedy engine to at least get the vehicle moving, but only power brings speed.

We could say that power is muscle, and in an internal combustion engine this comes from igniting the fuel-air mixture. Power, therefore, is the push the hot, expanding gases give to the piston, although it is easier to measure it further down the line such as at the flywheel or even at the wheels. You could measure it in pounds of force, but by tradition we use the archaic comparison with the power of a horse. There is only one way to increase power and that is to burn more fuel. It is not a simple matter of throwing more fuel in, running a car with the choke only results in unburnt fuel, you also have to increase the amount of air. Air is at its most dense on a cold, dry day at a low altitude, so the worst place to hold a race is on a mountain top in the tropics. Turbo chargers push more air into an engine but in the process heat it up which then lowers the air density, inter-coolers then being used to cool the air back down to reinstate the density.

Ultimately, though, the best way to burn more fuel is with more revs. It goes without saying that 2000rpm burns twice as much fuel as 1000rpm, and though some of the power increase will be lost through inefficiencies, the power will inevitably climb. Soichiro Honda knew that more revs gives you more bangs and therefore more power, and this is why Honda engines rev so highly. You can see how the power rises with revs on a power curve, though usually only the peak power is quoted.

Torque brings in the mechanical dimension and it is part of the physical design of the engine. Here we are taking the pushing power of the piston and applying it to a kind of lever. The simplest lever is a pole placed on a fulcrum about which it rotates, you push one end down for the other to go up. If you imagine that you want to lift a heavy object the easiest way is with a lever, and the longer the end you are pushing down the easier it is to lift the object at the other end. We measure it by the downward force on the lever multiplied by the distance from the fulcrum. Traditionally the downward force is in pounds and the distance in feet, giving us pounds-feet. Torque is the same thing, but instead of a fulcrum around which the lever rotates the lever is now attached directly to a shaft, so now pushing the lever down rotates the shaft clockwise. This is all a crankshaft is, the crank being the lever that rotates a driveshaft. If we turn it by hand our hands are travelling through a circle and the longer the crank the easier it gets. However, we should keep in mind that with a very long crank our hands must move through a greater diameter of circle, so for the same rpm our hand must move faster. A longer lever is also prone to flex more.

If we increase the load we do not really notice much of a difference to our effort because the extra load is spread out through the long movement of the crank. It sounds like we are getting something for nothing, as if we can cheat by using torque to increase power, but naturally life is not so kind. With our long lever we are moving our hands through a large distance to move the heavy load a short one. However, if we want to significantly increase the speed with which we move it we find that because our hands are moving through a large distance we have to massively increase the speed with which we make that movement. Of course, we can use a lever half the length so that our hands move through a shorter distance but now we have lost some of the advantage of that long lever. Indeed, we now need more power. Just compare a large steering wheel with a small one, the small one yields quicker steering responses but requires more effort.

So what does this mean for a car engine? In this case the piston is only moving in a vertical plane, not rotating as our hands can do. The only way to have a long crank is to have a piston that goes up and down a long way, this being achieved with a small piston moving in a long, slim cylinder. Therefore, if you want an engine with lots of torque you need a small bore and a long stroke. This is because in order to maintain the same amount of compression you need to change the bore in the opposite way to the stroke, as one gets bigger the other has to get smaller and vice versa. Diesel engines need a higher compression overall, so they enjoy more stroke than a petrol engine with the same cylinder bore and this gives them more leverage. This leverage means a torquier engine, it can move heavy loads relatively easily and it is less affected by increases in the load. The downside is that these long cranks and cylinders are more prone to flexing so there is a lower limit on how high they can be revved and tend to vibrate more at high speed.

This give us a straight choice between torque and power, or load hauling and speed. Truck engines can haul impressive loads at a 1500 rpm, barely above idle for most petrol engines, but would struggle to achieve 3000 rpm. No surprise then that trucks can have up to 16 gears and a very busy clutch to keep them in that narrow rpm range for different speeds. On the other hand, small petrol engines can propel cars to high speeds by having a shorter stroke for acceleration. In theory you can install a Honda engine in a truck, but with no torque you would have to engage the clutch at maximum power, a heady 9000 rpm or so. Sounds crazy, but it is well known that high revving racing car engines have such poor torque they are absurdly easy to stall when moving off. This is why big cars are best with slow revving, torquey engines so that you don’t have to keep running up and down the gearbox, thrashing the engine.

Our confusion is deepened by the manner in which power changes affect torque, but this has to happen when power makes up half of the torque equation. As power rises so will the torque, but since the length of the crank is constant the mechanical advantage will not change. We can therefore expect torque to rise with the revs, but not to the same degree as the power. For a really torquey engine with a big mechanical advantage in comparison to its power the torque curve will look almost flat.

I have never driven an MG Maestro but it is
pretty clear that basic engine design puts
the emphasis on torque with a long stroke.

Torque and power also act together in a very subtle way. Because the piston is pushing on the crank only from a vertical direction we do not get constant torque throughout the rotation. When the piston is highest and the crank is vertical we get no torque at all because although the crank is the same length the distance between the force and the driveshaft is zero. This would be like trying to turn the steering wheel by pushing on it directly from above; better to push down from the side. Indeed, the side is the point of maximum torque, when the crank is horizontal and the piston is halfway down its power stroke. This is the point when the engineer hopes to time the biggest push from the expanding, burning fuel. Sadly, as the piston speeds up the timing of the combustion needs to start earlier in order to catch up, though these days most of this adjustment is made automatically. We also need to change the timing of the incoming fuel and outgoing exhaust, something that has only recently become possible with variable valve timing. Whatever the new fangled fuel system, if it helps to improve the timing of the combustion so that the biggest push comes in the right place then torque will also be improved without having to redesign the crankshaft.

I have never driven an MG Maestro but it is pretty clear that the basic engine design puts the emphasis on torque with a long stroke. This would explain its strong hauling power, here resulting in good acceleration, but with a lower red line on the rev counter and an increase in engine vibration at the limit. The pistons in the Citroen have a shorter, punchier movement but not quite enough power to overcome the lack of torque caused by the shorter stroke. However, the higher rev limit should result in a higher top speed, and it will probably accelerate faster than the Maestro at the higher speeds when more power is produced. Since these speeds will be beyond the usual speed limits, in the “real world” the Maestro is the faster car. Although the torque-power trade off will never diminish, engines are now so powerful that they can largely overcome the influence of torque at lower speeds. It is only at very high speeds that the difference is really apparent, so in the real world you will just have to put up with being chased by Clio diesels.

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4 Feb 2005

Now we’re torqueing…

By KEITH ADAMS

WELL, I now finally understand what torque is! Thanks to everyone who sent in their suggestions (see blogs, 1st Feb), I think I’ve finally got my head around it. If anything, torque, it would seem, is more important than absolute power, especially in day to day driving… It seems a shame its significance has not been fully grasped by marketeers, but I guess it’s just not that glamorous a subject…

Anyway, the winning suggestion – and the one that seems to encapsulate the principle of torque well when applying it to cars was sent in by Mike Duff… and he said this:

“The easiest way to visualise the difference between torque and power is to imagine punching somebody you really don’t like very much. Power is the speed of your punch – torque is the amount of weight you put behind it.”

Seems fair to me, and I think this should now be the standard scientific explanation for the equation.

He did also mention foot-long bars, but we can forgive him for that, because at least he did so in an amusing way. “I always imagine torque in literal terms – a foot-long pole attached to a hub with the requisite number of pounds placed on it. Meaning, on my somewhat shaky maths, the 177 lb-ft peak torque of my very fine SEAT Toledo turbo diesel equates to having a 12 stone bloke standing there – while the 500 lb ft of a Dodge SRT-10 would be a clinically obese 35 stone American.”

Good stuff, eh…

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3 Feb 2005

The decade taste forgot…

By KEITH ADAMS

CAN any of our Jaguar-loving readers help with this one? As you can see, we have a Panther Westwinds Jaguar XJ conversion dating from the mid-Eighties. The paint job is a masterclass in pure white nouveau riche, as is the interior carpet.

The owner, Thomas Davies, who lives in the USA has this to say: “I am researaching a 1985 Jaguar/Daimler designed by Panther w/Harrods. I live in the United States, California to be exact. I purchased this car a number of years ago from a Jaguar dealer in Maryland. This vehicle sat on her showroom floor all the while she owned it. It has sat undercover all the time I have owned it. We run it now and then to keep thing running. I am looking for some history about this car.”

He added: “I looked at your photos on your web site and the inside of the car looks exactly like mine. I even have the exact same crystal decanters and 4 crystal glasses. However, this car doesn’t appear to have ever been green, and it is listed as 1985. What do you know if anything about this car.”

So, can anyone help?

If you know more, let Thomas know via email: rangi@netptc.net

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2 Feb 2005

5000 miles on…

By KEITH ADAMS

I’VE NOW been a Rover 75 owner for five months and 5000 miles, and I reckon it’s about time to take stock. After a year or so behind the wheel of the fine-handling 200bhp rocket, also known as a Rover Vitesse Sport Coupe, adapting to life in the slow lane in my 75CDT has been something of a culture shock.

Once, we had acceleration, now we have a gradual build up of momentum…

Once, we had roll-free cornering and feelsome steering, now we have lean and an anaesthetized wheel…

Once, we had head turning looks, now we merge into the background…

By the sound of it, you all must think I hate my 75. In a way, it is how I felt at the beginning of the partnership – it didn’t feel special in any way, and although the interior and exterior designs are both outstandingly good, the lack of leather and a gadget count, meant a real sense of loss in the gee-wow department. Initial feelings centred around the lack of noise on the motorway, and an average fuel consumption of 47mpg. I justified my continued life with the 75 purely on cost grounds… after all, I was saving a packet driving this thing, and if I went on any long journey, it was a guaranteed stress reducer.

However, as a self-confessed petrolhead, these were not the kind of things I wanted to tell other people (or myself): ‘Yes, I know the car’s a bore, but it is cheap to run, don’t you know…’

After a year or so behind the wheel of the
fine-handling 200bhp rocket, also known as
a Rover Vitesse Sport Coupé, adapting to
life in the slow lane in my 75CDT has been
something of a culture shock.

As time progressed, the 75 went on to worm its way into my affections, though, and although it’s never going to float my boat like a ZT 260 V8, it is a car of depth, and one which could be described as being a cerebral choice.

For one – the chassis is astoundingly capable. Initial feelings are of a car possessing a soft ride, too much body roll, and the ability to squeal its tyres when flicked into sharp, low speed corners at unsuitable speed. Slightly numb steering, and an over-large wheel do little to alleviate that feeling of unwieldiness. But give it time and adapt your driving accordingly, and the overall package soon impresses.

For one, it has the most benign way of letting you know it is reaching its limits – it doesn’t understeer and scrub off speed as you would expect, but the rear moves out to neutralize any impending slide. The first time I encountered this – on a damp thrash up the B660 – I thought the tail was going to snap, and prepared to countersteer, but instead, the rear moved just enough to assist in the process of getting round the corner without alarming me at all. Very impressive.

It was a very interesting experience, and one which opened my eyes to just how sophisticated the suspension set-up is in this car.

So, you don’t hustle the car through corners, you simply feed it through, and once mastered, you can cover ground extrememly quickly without ever feeling rushed. Combine this fiendishly clever suspension set-up with a low-revving and extremely well-insulated diesel engine and low overall levels of wind and road noise, and you end up with a car, which can lull the least relaxed passenger into a real sense of security. In short, it can go quickly without ever feeling stressed.

A car, then, which might not grab one by the balls on a quick road test, but given time and understanding, makes for a very effective way of covering ground quickly and unobtrusively. In a nutshell, you can take the 75 up the roughest A-road, and you can guarantee that whenever you look down at the speedometer, you’ll be going 20mph more than you thought you were…

Not exciting, but effective – and for that reason alone, the 75 has earned its stripes in our household…

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Feedback:

HAVING now made a similar transition from 800 Coupe to 75 Diesel 10 months and 17000 miles ago, I can concur with almost everything you say. OK my Coupe was the V6 Sterling however, Moto-Build spruced up the suspension, exhaust ,induction and braking making it almost as potent as the Vitesse but a darned sight less stressed and with a superb soundtrack.

I would agree that the 75 is a car that sneaks up on you, before you know it it’s charms have seduced you and you’re hooked. But they can be improved….

My car is a 2.0 CDT Club, a set of 17″ wheels eliminated almost all understeer in real world driving and the Pi Lowering springs combined with the standard dampers improved its stance and made it roll a bit less without sacrificing ride quality. Finally, the X-Power ECU upgrade vastly improve the mid-range response and acceleration without compromising economy.

Total cost of the “improved” 75? about £1400 all in for wheels, tyres, ECU, springs and labour. Well worth the effort in my opinion.

TIM BURGESS


1 Feb 2005

Torque of the town…

By KEITH ADAMS

TAKE a Maestro or Montego Turbo – put it alongside a Citroen BX 16V and race them from the lights. The result should be pretty easy to predict, really. The Citroen has 160bhp at its disposal, and a rev limit of 7300rpm – the kind of crank speeds that O-Series engines can only dream of unless seriously modified. This compares to 152bhp of the Maestro and Montego. Also, the British pair has longer gearing, and a higher kerb weight.

So, as I say – an easy outcome. The Citroen romps home ahead.

Yes?

No…

Where the Citroen takes 7.4 seconds to reach 60mph, the Maestro has long since gone, reaching the oft-used landmark a half a second earlier. So why would that be, when in theory, the revvy Citroen with its Mi16 (XUJ9) engine holds all the aces.

The answer lies in something called torque, of which the Citroen has a less than sparkling 133lb/ft against 169lb/ft of the British contingency. But what exactly is torque, and why is it my bum dynometer tells me a car has good torque characteristics without fully understanding what it is.

I do know it’s that less than glamorous commodity that turbo diesel owners tend to bore us all about in pub arguments, using it to explain why their cars are so great at overtaking without changind down a gear or two. Great. But ask any of these guys just what torque is, they soon clam up, avoiding eye contact in the same was as you did your teacher at nursery school when they were chosing the next person to see the nit nurse…

So here’s a challenge to austin-rover.co.uk readers – the person that comes up with the best real world explanation of torque, in language I can understand, and without mentioning bars ome metre long will not only earn my undying respect, but will also win a nice free Vanguards model of the MG ZT in a rather fetching shade of Trophy Blue.

Yup, that’s right – the explanation I most like, and most readily understand will gte published here, and will also win a FREE model for its author. So, come on tech heads… enlighten me.

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Feedback:

Try and undo a wheelnut on a car with a short ratchet (say 12″ long), and then do the same with a 3 foot length lever. You can put the same force from your arms/weight into the lever to try and turn the nut (which may need say 80 pounds of weight applied to the lever to move) but the 3 foot lever gives you 3 times the mechanical advantage over the nut as the 12″ lever. This means you only need to “push” 26 (and two thirds) pounds of weight on the end of the long lever to provide 80 pounds/foot of turning force on the nut. One thing you have to remember, you have to move the 3 foot lever further though – as you don’t get the reduced “effort” for free.

It gets a whole lot more complicated when you’re talking about engines, but similar rules “sort of” apply.

BRIAN GUNN

I have to say its one of the things that I always got confused about also. The best description I’ve ever heard (and been able to understand) is quite simply :

TORQUE is low engine speed pulling power
HORSEPOWER is high engine speen pulling power

Basically amounts to the same thing but at different engine speeds.

JOHN HUNTON

Power is the amount of water you can carry up a hill in a bucket, torque is how fast you go up a hill.

Lots of power is lots of water but will take all day, add some torque and you can fly up the hill (i.e., if you had a 1hp engine developing 10lb/ft, the engine will move 1 bucket of water 10 ft up the hill in 1 minute. 1hp engine developing 20lb/ft the bucket will move 20ft up the hill in 1 minute.

So back to the two cars
BX 160bhp and 133 lb/ft = 0.83
MG 152bhp and 169lb/ft, = 1.11
Therefore the MG is 0.28 more powerful than the BX. Which is why it can go quicker.

PIERS TWEEDIE

To put it very simply: The power delivery of an engine is torque times revs…

So the ideal engine has a flat torque curve with the same amount of torque for all revs leading to a linear rise in power as the engine revs raise. So here’s the solution why the Maestro is head on: For most of the time it simply has more power then the Citroen…

ALEXANDER BOUCKE

Torque is basically an equivalent word for “Force”, only we use it to describe a rotating force. In terms of an engine it’s the basic measurement of how hard (not fast) the engine can push and once that’s been delivered to the wheels, punch you in the back. the “Torque curve” is basically a graph of “if the engine is doing X RPM, it can push me back into the seat Y”. Which, if you work it all the way back through the drive train of the car (Wheel>Transmission>Crankshaft>Pistons>Exploding mixture) is a measure of how big an explosion you’re getting at any given instant. It’s describing the efficiency of the engine at making hydrocarbons and air go “BANG” at any given RPM (assuming we’re holding the throttle wide-open), as that’s what affects it: various engine designs are better at some RPMs than others.

Or, to use an analogy, it’s describing how hard you can push the pedals on your pushbike. Torque is how hard you can push the pedals, Power is how fast you can keep pushing them that hard.

The Maestro has low-down torque because it’s got a turbo on it. For reasons I’m sure you’re well aware of, this means bigger bangs. until the engine gets to high RPM and it finds it can’t suck in or, or blow out, as much gas as it wants, meaning the top end of the torque curve has fallen off. so it can push the pedals hard, but it runs out of breath.

The BX, being naturally aspirated, never makes bangs as big as the Maestro can make (lower peak torque) but what it can do, is continue to make big bangs when the engine is spinning faster, as the four-valve heads allow it to get more air in and out of it. It can’t push the pedals as hard as the
maestro, but it can keep pushing the pedals quite hard at high speed. The advantage to this is that this ability to keep it up at high revs allows you to run shorter gear ratios, which gains you back at the wheels some of what you’ve lost at the crankshaft- the downside being that the driver has to do more gear changes.

RICHARD TYSOE

Torque is generally associated with the stroke of an engine, that is the diameter swept by the big end journals on the crank around the main crank bearings. In general revvy engines will tend to have wide bores and short strokes, so greatly reducing the amount of torque versus power they produce – great for getting off the line, but not so good for in gear acceleration.

The longer stroke is good for performance as it makes it easier for the piston to push the inertia of the flywheel around. Go to your front door and open it with the handle. Now close it and try opening it by pushing about an inch from the hinge – much more difficult. Essentially in a car with a very short stroke, the engine is trying to push the car along “an inch from the hinge”, whereas a longer stroke allows the piston to act further along the door if you like, so allowing more of the power to be used in propelling the car forward.

A long stroke doesn’t tend to allow for a revvy engine, as it takes more time for the piston to complete one sweep round the crank. Imagine a gerbil in a wheel, connected to a 600kVA generator to supply electricity. This generator will need a certian amount of power input to overcome starting inertia. If you connect a six inch diameter wheel to the shaft, then the poor gerbil will expire trying to move this thing – it will not have enough torque. If you then provide it with a sixty foot wheel, the (new) gerbil will be producing the same mechanical force at its legs (one brake-gerbilpower), but the much larger diameter wheel will allow it to move the generator albeit very slowly. The principle is similar for a car’s engine / flywheel, with the gerbil as the engine and the flywheel as the generator. The engine finds it easier to turn the flywheel, and so move the car if the stroke is larger (larger wheel for the gerbil), hence it makes the application of power easier.

DAVE HENDERSON

Posted in: AROnline Blogs
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

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