Archive for July, 2011

The SUV Conundrum

Posted: July 30, 2011 in Cars
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Okay, we’re going to get a little interactive here. Hands up if you own one of the following; Ford Territory, Subaru Tribeca, BMW X3 – X6, Toyota RAV4 or Kluger, Nissan X-Trail, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorrento or Tucson, Mitsubishi Outlander, Holden Captiva, Mercedes M-Class, Volkswagen Tiguan, Honda CR-V or any other so-called SUV.

Right, got them up, good, now keep them up if you can tell me why. Seriously, what made you buy one of these over a regular station wagon? For the life of me I can’t figure it out and I deal with pretty much every one of the aforementioned vehicles on a daily basis. Where, you might ask? In the scrub? No. Out on a mountain trail? Again, no. In fact I deal with them on the daily school run. This makes the mystery of these vehicles run ever deeper.

In the commercials for these cars we see families leaving the city behind and heading into the bush. We see them climbing mountain roads and heading into regions that even Sir Ranulph Fiennes would balk at, towing a boat! They are the ultimate answer to a question that nobody has ever asked.

When the first SUV, or Sports Utility Vehicle, lobbed onto our shores, motoring journalists across the nation didn’t even know how to refer to them. The first term used was Soft Off-Roader and referred to the Toyota RAV4. Off-roader? Most of these things would have trouble climbing a leafy driveway. So that one was scrubbed and we borrowed the term SUV from the Americans.

When I think about the term SUV in its entirety I can’t even work out how that one fits. Let’s break it up. S stands for Sports. When I think of Sports and how it relates to vehicles I think Lotus Elise/Exige, I think Porsche 911, I think touring cars and Formula One. In other words I think lightweight track cars that make the driver and car connect in a way that ensures driving nirvana. I sure as hell don’t think of a near two-tonne lumbering barge that even when you really give it the beans has trouble getting to one hundred km/h inside double figures.

U stands for utility. Once you tick the option for the extra row of seats, (and yes, I’ll admit that having seven seats can be handy), the luggage capacity for one of these is reduced to the size of a hand-bag. So unless you’re carrying the average super-models lunch you’re going to run into problems trying to fit the shopping in, let alone heading out to Bunnings to pick up supplies for that little DIY project. Utility in Australia means just that. The Holden Ute, the Ford Ute, Toyota HiLux and others. They’re one-tonners and they get the job done. How many tradies do you see on-site with their Captivas waiting in the wings?

V stands for Vehicle, and when you get right down to it that’s what you’re buying. Forget everything else. At best they’re a niche market that’s gone mainstream. I would conservatively suggest that 85% of these vehicles are driven by women and I sometimes watch and wonder what they are thinking when they’re struggling to get into a Shopping Centre car park or trying to perform a three-point turn. I’m not suggesting that male drivers could do these manoeuvres any better, I’m just trying to point out they’re a big car and big cars are harder to park than smaller cars. It’s just common sense.

A friend recently bought a Ford Territory and I posed the question to him. Why? The best he could come up with was that it has a high-driving position. Personally, I hate a high driving position for a number of reasons. One, you’re high, and that means you’re further removed from the road and therefore less likely to be able to feel what the car is doing. Two, you’re high, this means that your centre of gravity is too. This is why back in the early days of these vehicles had a nasty tendency to fall over when navigating a slight bend. When it all comes down to it the only reason to buy a vehicle with a high driving position is so you can see over all the other idiots that have bought these stupid vehicles.

In Europe, sales figures of SUV’s have plummeted as the public have drifted back to station wagons. They have realised that there is no distinct benefit to buying one. You get no extra room, no extra features and a worse driving experience. Because these vehicles also have a token 4WD option you get a massive amount of weight which in turn pushes your fuel costs up until even people like me, with massive V8’s, are laughing at you as you fill your tank for the third time that week.

For example, as some of you may have read, last year I drove from Melbourne to Surfers Paradise in my V8. This was a trip that my father in law did in a Hyundai Sportage V6 not so long ago. The results: I managed 5000 kms at a combined average fuel use of 10.4l / 100 km. The Hyundai managed just 12.5l / 100 km. It was basically the same trip except I had more in town running which should have made my figures a whole lot worse.

Then you get that special idiot who’s bought one of these who comes out with the standard, “I like having the option of going off-road.” Yeah, really, how’s that working out for you Sparky? Let’s face facts, the closest any of these will go to being off-road is parking on someone’s nature strip, and even that will be a struggle. They are a compromise, they are supposed to drive like a car on the road and perform like a Range Rover when they’re off it. What we end up with is something that can’t do either. A real off-road driver buys a LandCruiser or a Range Rover which is fantastic in the scrub but handles like a boat on the road, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. No compromise and no excuses, they are what they are, dedicated off-road machines.

The SUV is a category of vehicle that should never have existed. There was no need for them then and no need for them now. The sales figures though suggest otherwise and prove that the idiots are indeed breeding. I urge you all, if you’re considering buying one of these mutants, take a wagon for a drive before making your final decision. You will thank me for it later.

This articles was first published in the May 2010 issue of The King’s Tribune.

Cars and the Souls of Nations

Posted: July 27, 2011 in Cars

As a self confessed car enthusiast I try to get my hands on all sorts of car based literature, the better to keep up with recent vehicular releases. As such, amongst other publications, I always buy the Friday Herald-Sun for its Cars Guide. I like the Cars Guide editor, Paul Gover. I’ve never actually met the man, but he writes from his motorist soul and usually makes a great deal of sense. I don’t agree with everything he’s written but I’m sure that doesn’t bother him in the slightest.

One of our recent disagreements came up about six months ago, when Nissan chose to unleash the brand new GT-R on our roads. The Nissan GT-R has always been a favourite of mine, but it has been missing from the local showrooms since around 1992, when it was known worldwide as the Skyline. For years after World War 2 when Japan’s industries were getting back up and running, Japan’s various car brands only really built quirky little fuel efficient cars. Eventually, they tried their hand at building supercars and to do this copied the obvious source, Ferrari. Their versions were solidly built, reliable and the performance was almost there, but something was missing and they were relegated to being what they were: cheap knock-offs.

The Skyline GT-R changed all that. This was Nissan saying to the world “we don’t need to copy you or anyone else and we are quite capable of making our own supercars thank you”. The GT-R brought performance motoring to the masses, with supercar qualities at a reasonable price. The new generation of GT-R continues this tradition. It has better performance than a Lamborghini Gallardo but, at around $160 000, is a third of the price. It has also controversially broken the 7:30 minute lap around the famous Nurburgring circuit in Germany, usually the domain of much more expensive Porsche 911’s.

The source of my disagreement with Mr Gover is this. He claimed that the GT-R did nothing to excite him. The problem is, the car, being so technologically advanced, made normal driving boring. Everyday road use is so far below its capabilities you may as well be driving a Camry for the feel you garner from it at regular highway speeds.

I haven’t driven this car and unless the lottery gods smile upon me I probably never will, but Gover’s sentiments are being echoed by all motoring journalists around the world. The GT-R does not come alive until you are on a racetrack taking it to the very limit of physics and very probably approaching quantum. In essence, he wrote that for everyday driving the car has a wooden feel and it has no soul.

To fully explain my point of view, and what I mean by a vehicle having soul, I’ll have to go back a little further. All cars have a national identity and to prove it I’ll throw a few brands and their performance cars at you.

It is hard to think of Italy without thinking of the prancing Ferrari stallion at Maranello. Ferrari build cars full of fiery red blooded passion, which will kill you if you even think of taking liberties. This sentiment is copied down the road at Lamborghini even if it is now run by Germans.

When you think of Great Britain, you think whinging poms, bad food and worse weather but, you also think of James Bond which inevitably leads you to Aston Martins and Jaguars. And, nothing says British like a Rolls-Royce. I know that Rolls-Royce is now built in Germany, an Egyptian consortium owns Aston Martin and Indian car giant Tata owns Jaguar but the soul of Britain has been retained.

Speaking of Germany, just try and tell me their cars don’t remind you of the people, the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, the BMW M5 and Audi’s RS4 in particular. They are taciturn, stern cars but when you let them out of the box they are out for a good time. The French on the other hand, have better things to do than build cars; imbibing wine and cheese while making love but, when they take a break from these things they build quirky, fashionable cars that fit the people like a glove, I’m thinking mainly Renault and Citroen here.

America’s national motoring identity is without a doubt the Ford Mustang. It is big, brash and has trouble thinking laterally (read cornering), but, Americans introduced the world to muscle cars. They tend to be simple creatures with basic chassis, brakes and interiors but they have huge engines and I am a fan, not so much of the people but definitely their vehicles.

We Australians should be proud of our performance vehicles, while not as complex as the British they are more advanced then the Americans; particularly when it comes to lateral thinking (again read cornering), and, I’d like to think representative of the people that live here.

This brings me back to Japan. Japan is the enigma of the motoring world. Looking at their brands does nothing to help matters. Suzuki builds fun little cars for young people, Honda builds cars for pensioners (don’t try and deny it Honda the evidence is there), while Toyota builds cars for people who aren’t paying attention. The other Japanese brands Mitsubishi, Subaru and of course Nissan basically try and build all things to all people. Nissan are perhaps the most confusing of the bunch. They build the Micra which, despite a funky outer appearance, is as dull as wallpaper paste, all the way to the all-conquering GT-R and the source of my disagreement with Mr Gover.

You see, I think the GT-R and other Japanese cars do have soul. When I think of Japan I think of an industrious people, efficiency and cutting edge technology. When I think of cars like the GT-R, Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru WRX I think the same thing. The GT-R is an amazing technological achievement, which has electronically controlled active everything. There is almost more computer power in this car than at NASA. For example, it assesses the position of the car 100 times a second and makes adjustments to the suspension and power output automatically while never bothering to ask the driver what her or she thinks about it. While this gives it performance second to almost none, I have no doubt, at 60 km/h, it dulls the driving experience somewhat.

My argument though, is why can’t technology and efficiency be the Japanese answer to the passion you get from Ferrari, the old boys network of Britain and the strict German uncle who occasionally, lets his hair down and heads out to see Kraftwerk. I realise that buying a car like the GT-R and trying to drive it to work every day may not be that much fun but, that one day, when the racetrack is open to the public and you release the GT-R’s full potential, I promise all will be forgiven.

This article first appeared in the March 2010 issue of The King’s Tribune.

Love The Beast

Posted: July 21, 2011 in Cars
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All Australians know Eric Bana as a Hollywood darling come from the streets of Tullamarine in Victoria. What most probably don’t know is that Bana has a hobby. As often as he can Eric pilots his Porsche 911 GT3 in the Australian GT3 Championship. Eric also still owns the first car he ever purchased, a Ford XB Falcon coupe, nicknamed ‘The Beast’.

This lays the framework for Love The Beast. I realise that this film has been out for a while now but due to its limited cinema release, and the difficulty of finding a rental shop that stocks it, I only saw it recently. This review will also serve as companion to the next series of articles I will write.

Love The Beast is a documentary based on two of the great loves in Bana’s life, racing and his Falcon. It documents the build-up to Bana’s participation in the 2007 Targa Tasmania and the preparation that the Falcon must undergo to become a fully fledged racing car.

Interspersed with this are interviews that Bana conducts with Jay Leno, Dr Phil McGraw and my personal hero, Jeremy Clarkson. The interviews are all related to a person’s relationship with their vehicles of choice. Dr. Phil’s specific brand of psychobabble is quite revealing, while Leno and Clarkson speak from the heart as motoring enthusiasts. For those that don’t know Jay Leno owns quite possibly the world’s largest collections of vehicles and we get to have a quick walkthrough of his premises, consisting of about four large sheds and we get to hear Clarkson refer to Bana’s car as ‘crap’.

The film covers Bana’s history with the Targa Tasmania. He first competed in this event in 1997, which was the first time his Falcon became a racing car. Armed with no knowledge and limited practical experience Bana and four friends run ‘The Beast’ in Targa and finish third in their class. At the end of the event Bana swore that he would continue to compete in this event. However, working commitments mean, that ten years later, 2007 is his first real opportunity.

So, with his four friends from the 1997 event and his mum and dad, Bana’s participation in the 2007 event is filmed. Other guest appearances include long time Targa participants as well as Bathurst 1000 and Targa legend, Jim Richards. Although the Herald-Sun, and other news outlets, reported the outcome of Bana’s race I won’t repeat it here on the outside chance that you, dear reader, didn’t catch it.

What struck me most about this film isn’t the cars, although that is what the film is about, but, the people involved. The way that cars bring people together is captured so elegantly and seamlessly that you don’t realise it at the time of watching. This is a film about family and friendship as much as metal and one of the standout movies that I have recently seen.

Do you want a star rating? Do you want me to try and objectively qualify the quality of this film? Well, I’m not gonna play that game. The film was exceptional as I have mentioned but it wasn’t perfect. It inspired me to the point that I now really want to buy an old car and fix it up with my own sons. The way the film was laid out and presented was good and the building of tension, even though I knew the outcome, had me riveted. The best I can do is to say that I would recommend it to everyone, especially non-car people, so that they may understand what it means to have a special connection with a piece of metal. Just like Bana and his ‘Beast’.

This article first appeared in the March 2010 issue of The King’s Tribune.

God Shmod

Posted: July 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

You know those people, (usually celebrities), that you’ve never met but still hold in high regard. For my money, Bruce Willis is one. Bruce is the epitome of cool. It seems that he would be as comfortable having a beer in the dingiest of pubs as he would walking the red carpet of a Hollywood blockbuster premiere. I have never seen or read an interview that left me thinking he was a bit of a tool. The way he handled his and Demi’s divorce and her subsequent marriage to Ashton Kutcher left me in awe; safe to say that I had a bit of a man crush.

Reading Jane’s article today I was reminded of an interview I read with Patricia Heaton. (Don’t ask me why it reminded me of the interview with Patricia Heaton, my brain works in mysterious ways.) I always had a thing for Patricia Heaton when she was on Raymond. Mature age dame that always looked the business. I have read other interviews with her and knew that she had had plastic surgery, just enough to cure some wrinkles and other slight imperfections. I’m not a fan of plastic surgery unless it’s used to fix things like dog attacks, car accidents and machete wounds but, hey, each to their own. Whatever, I still liked Patricia Heaton.

So, I was reading this interview where she was talking about her new show, The Middle with The Janitor from Scrubs, and she started talking about her plastic surgery again. Okay, I’m still in. She then dropped the ‘G’ bomb and I’m glazing over. She didn’t just mention God like our black ‘homies’ do. You know, “I’d like to thank God for giving me more talent than you”. No, she was into ‘it’, talking about spreading the word of God to everyone and everything. I no longer liked Patricia Heaton.

There are other actors I have lost respect for because of religion, Jason Lee for instance. He may have been a pro-skater, played Brodie in Mallrats and named his kid Pilot Inspektor but Lee has fallen into the clutches of Scientology, along with bum brothers Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Scientology, to me, is the worst of the worst of religions that even comes with a built-in GST. How holy you are depends on how your bank balance looks.

Religion has been tackled more than once by the Tribune but I just can’t stay away, and neither, it seems, can religion. Can we make this clear? Man has always created his own Gods. They were first used to describe the workings of the Universe, eg. Ra, in his flaming chariot moves across the sky during the day to explain the Sun. Sometime in the past, about 400 BC, God cancelled his/her outsourcing policy and took back control of everything, at least that’s the way we who have been brought up in the Judeo-Christian system were led to believe. Maybe Telstra and Optus could have a look at this; although I don’t know how well it’s worked out for God.

Religion has been used to explain to people why their beloved ones died early, “They’ve been taken to a better place.” Why heaven would be so much better than being with their family and loved ones has never been sufficiently explained to me but there we are. It has essentially been used to explain every mystery in the universe until recently.

Why is it that we are now able to witness the birth of new stars and the death of old ones yet never have we come across anything which proves that God exists? Surely by now even the old boy would be thinking, “They may just need a sign.” We now live in an age where unless you can hold it, touch it and taste it it’s just not real. Most religious types will now, at this point, trot out the old faith argument and that you just gotta have it.

I’m sorry, I don’t have it. If I did want to believe that a fictional character from a book controlled the universe and everything I’d probably go with Terry Pratchett’s Rincewind. The universe seems just like the sort of mess that only he and his librarian mate could come up with. We are still told, however, that God has a plan. Good on him/her, maybe though, if he/she wanted the plan to come to fruition, he/she should let someone in on it.

Now, back to Patricia Heaton for a second; I couldn’t help but wonder what God would think of Patricia’s journeys under the medical knife. Surely if you believed that deeply in God wouldn’t you be prepared to let yourself age gradually and gracefully, a la Helen Mirren? Wouldn’t plastic surgery be an affront to God’s handiwork when he/she created you? Or do these people justify it with some crackpot phrase like, God gave us plastic surgery so it’s a sin not to use it?

Ahhhh, no. See, man created plastic surgery to fix all the things that ‘God’s plan’ had done to people. (See aforementioned dog attacks and so on.) Man then saw the potential in creating insecurity in people so that they could use plastic surgery to make themselves more betterer.

What I keep asking myself is why the hell religion has hung around for so long? Is it that ingrained in our psyche that we have to believe or feel guilty if we don’t? Why do we have to go to a place on Sunday to feel closer to him/her? Why can’t God just fade away like other horrible fads, you know, men’s skinny jeans, fluorescent colour clothing, leg warmers and ugg boots…….ummm……wait.

This article first appeared in the February 2010 issue of The King’s Tribune.

Petrol Power Is Here To Stay

Posted: July 14, 2011 in Cars

It’s the reflections issue. I’ve only written three pieces for this ol’ magazine, so in reality the only thing I can reflect on is how the hell I’ve put on so much weight in the last six months. I’m tipping excessive food intake and no exercise. So, rather than reflect, I’m revolting and writing a whole brand new piece.

The Tokyo Motor Show was on just recently. Apparently, the majority of brands decided that, instead of going to Tokyo, they would just eschew the whole event, drink beer in Germany and then present their new vehicles and concepts at Frankfurt. Can’t say I blame them really.

This left the organisers of the Tokyo event with a rather large conundrum; not least because even the Japanese brands had followed the lead of their European and American cousins and buggered off to Oktoberfest as well. After much grovelling and begging, the Japanese brands decided to send their new range of electric vehicles.

This got me thinking about the future of motoring, not only in this country, but in the rest of the world as well.

The electric vehicles on display were all of the plug-in variety, even the hybrids. Mitsubishi are probably the most advanced in the field of plug-in electric car with their iMiev. I’ll admit that the iMiev car is pretty handy, around the city. Its range is still tiny (approx 250 km) compared to petrol and hybrids and Mitsubishi themselves have admitted that without proper infrastructure eg. recharge points, at car parks and other locations the iMiev remains a pipe dream for most Australians. Requests to the Australian Federal and State Governments for commitments relating to recharge points have thus far fallen on deaf ears.

I can see the government’s point though. If the whole of Australia goes for electric motoring how are they going to make any money out of it? At present the Government earns about 60 cents a litre from the sale of petrol. This means that every time I fill my 70 litre petrol tank I am giving the Government $42.00 for them to supposedly spend on road work and infrastructure development. Apart from the GST applied to the purchase of electricity to recharge the car; they’re not going to make any money from electric cars.

The technology involved in the internal combustion engine is old and, I would estimate, about 50 years out of date. General Motors have had a car that runs on water since the early 70’s and the idea of an electric car has been around now since….well, since the birth of electricity probably. But these ideas have never advanced any further than they are now. Why is that?

Putting my conspiracy hat on I would suggest that there is a major link between the car companies and the oil companies. To suggest otherwise would be naïve. Therefore I can’t see any major advances in electric technology until the oil runs out. Even hybrids, filthy hybrids, are just a temporary solution so that the use of oil power continues.

Why don’t I like hybrids I hear you ask? There has been a study recently that shows a Toyota Prius owned over three years, including all the mining of raw materials and producing the bits in factories, has the same global impact as owning a Land Rover Discovery 3, which is only a small step down from setting off a nuclear bomb for warmth. Hybrids mainly use NiMh batteries that are good for about three years before needing to be replaced, and where we dump the old batteries is problematic. In a collision there is the chance that the batteries will split and dump their acidic insides all over the place. But worst of all, why do all hybrids look like a normal car that has been pre-collided? Does the style of a vehicle even matter to the average person anymore? Show me a good looking hybrid and I’ll give you a decent wad of hard earned.

I like the idea of electric cars, but we haven’t nailed it yet. At this point in time I’m putting my star behind hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe. Although extracting it for use in electricity generation is a little time consuming, approximately 4 kg of liquid hydrogen will provide a vehicle with enough power to do 400 + km. Hydrogen, when burnt in fuel cells, gives off water vapour and that’s all. No horrible burnt hydrocarbons to stink up the place. The refuelling infrastructure would be similar to what we are using now and best of all, for the Government could tax it like they tax petrol. So why is everyone sitting on their hands? Why aren’t we producing Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars by the millions?

Oh yeah. Oil. Texas tea. Black gold. There is still bucket loads of it waiting to be liberated from its underground prison. There is still money to be made. Make no mistake, this stuff will be pumped from the ground until there is no more. When we get to the end of our supply there will no doubt be a massive global war to control what is left. A war to end all wars. There will probably be millions and millions, perhaps billions, of people killed.

Oh well, at least I’ll have the roads to myself.

This article first appeared in the December 2009 issue of the The King’s Tribune.

The Great Satan

Posted: July 14, 2011 in Cars

I should be dead. (pause for effect 1…2…3)

Okay, so a short time ago I had reason to travel, in my car, at a speed that was above the acceptable level. I was late for a plane. Well, not really, I was late to pick up beloved at an agreed upon time so that we could go to the airport and get on the plane. Although I had plenty of time to make the plane I really was running out of it to pick up beloved.

Without saying the exact speed I was travelling it was a damn sight faster than the posted 100 km/h limit that is imposed upon us by idiots. As I was travelling I noticed something strange happening to my vehicle. The vehicle felt lower and more planted on the road, probably due to there being more air flowing over the car and those little aerodynamic pieces, eg. Diffuser, front spoiler; coming into effect more strongly. The steering also felt lighter and more responsive, a direct effect of the aforementioned aerodynamic pieces.

Something was happening to me as well. My brain had detected the feeling of elation that I was going through and dumped some adrenaline into my system. The net effect being that my nostrils flattened and opened to let in my air, my eyes widened to let in more light and my reflexes sharpened due to the adrenaline itself. A thought occurred to me at this time. If my car performs better at this speed and I drive better because I’m more focused and alert than why are our speed limits so damn low?

Now, I’m not going to advocate that our speed limits should be raised across the board. As Phoebe the Whippet’s recent misadventure shows, there is good reason why speed in suburban streets is limited.

Our country, however, is massive. On a recent road trip to the Gold Coast I found out how massive it really is. Although I enjoyed the drive immensely, one day I shall do an article about it, there was a nagging thought in the back of my mind that 100 and 110 km/h is just stupidly low for travelling this fine land.

To clarify my initial point. The TAC advertising department, to be forever referred to by me as The Great Satan, are constantly telling us via every type of media known to man that speed kills. Or does it? I decided that I would go to the TAC website and check the statistics. How many collisions are actually caused by speed? I clicked on the speed statistic and found that they don’t actually publish the cause of collisions but they do have the following quote from Prof. A J McLean, “Travelling at 10 km/h over the speed limit in a 100 km/h area doubles your risk of having a collision.”

Now I’m scared. Doubles my risk, DOUBLES MY RISK!! To qualify this statement the question has to be asked. What was my original chance of being involved in a collision in the first place? 1 in 100, 1 in 1000 or 1 in 1000000000? Digging deeper into the website I couldn’t find it. The Great Satan tells us that speed is a contributing factor in all collisions. Of course it is morons, otherwise the cars wouldn’t be moving and the collision would never have taken place.

The worst advertisement The Great Satan has ever come up with is the one where the lady is crossing the road and gets hit by the car. Then she turns to the camera and says, “If the car was travelling 5 km/h slower I’d only have a bruised hip.” Yes, that may be true but, if the car were going 5 km/h faster it would have missed you completely. The problem with this commercial is that the speed of the car is irrelevant. What is relevant is that some stupid pedestrian decided to step onto the road without looking and gets cleaned up. Why doesn’t she turn to the camera and say something like this, “I apologise for walking in front of your car and giving you nightmares for the rest of your life.” None of these commercials ever consider the impact of stupid people on the motorist.

So why is speed targeted by everyone? Because it can be taxed. Speed cameras are the collection agency. To make it clear I’m not against speed cameras; I am however against the way they are used. Speed cameras should be deployed at identified black spots, painted fluorescent orange and have big shiny signs that tell the motorist they’re there. Why? Then people will slow down at the intersection and the problem ceases to exist. No more collisions, no more problems. They should not be placed on straight pieces of road where the speed limit drops for two hundred meters and then goes back up. In other words it should all be about safety and not revenue.

The Great Satan and the idiots at Victoria Government love to get out and about spouting how great it is that there advertising and tax policy has led to an overall drop in the road toll over the last ten years. I disagree completely. There was news today that the new Holden Ute has just received five stars in the latest ANCAP safety rating. Ten years ago the Holden Ute would have exploded if you mentioned the word ANCAP within its hearing. A Mercedes-Benz C-Class was a two star car ten years ago. Now they are considering bringing in a six star system just to cover Mercedes and other European brands. Could it be that people are now surviving collisions that would have killed them ten years ago?

Ten years ago the humble airbag was barely even considered except in high end luxury models. Renault now has an airbag which protects your knees. Vehicle safety has increased at a phenomenal rate and I suggest that this has had a larger bearing on the road toll than any number of speed cameras and Great Satan’s commercials. Speed is not the biggest cause of collisions. That title rests with fatigued drivers, bad roads, unsafe vehicles and Toyota drivers. The rest of us are just running late for a plane.

This article first appeared in the November 2009 issue of The King’s Tribune.

It will no doubt become apparent with every one of these that I write, that I am what Shannon’s Insurance Company refers to as a motoring enthusiast.

My car is not just a means of transportation, I actually enjoy driving it; there are few other things that will captivate me like driving does. Even in peak hour traffic, I can sit back and admire the gentle thumping noise my V8 makes as it idles away merrily. I find the idea of driving along an unknown road full of twists and bends, slight rises and dips and corners that are both off and on cambered, intoxicating. It is challenging and exciting and can leave you breathless at the end.

There is nothing quite like a quick blast up a mountain road full of undulations and tight bends. A series of hairpins that makes the pulse quicken and your hairs stand on end. Blast away towards a corner, brake hard, and start to turn in, search for the apex, point the car at it and back on the throttle. It is such a simple thing but it makes me happier than winning lotto (false analogy – never won lotto but you get the idea).

Victoria is blessed with great roads to drive on, the road to Zumsteins camping ground from Halls Gap is one, and the Alpine region is full of back roads to die for. It is just a pity that the nanny state doesn’t let us enjoy them for what they are, road crafting masterpieces.

To find the best driving road in Australia one must leave our little southern state and head north to mid New South Wales. There you will find an inconspicuous little hill called Mount Panorama. I recommend everyone at least do one lap of this track before they die. Even at the limited 60 km/h you get a rollercoaster of a ride up and down the mountain. The moment you go over the top of Skyline into the Dipper will make you wonder how they do this at speeds up to 300 km/h. In fact, if you don’t leave the place with a newfound respect for those that drive this track than you are an ignoramus, bereft of all senses and probably don’t deserve to live.

However, I digress.

To highlight the village idiot of all that is motoring is a difficult task. There are too many candidates, people with hats, people with stupid bumper stickers and Toyota drivers, just to name a few. In this article I will point to the most obvious one, The Victorian Government.

The Victorian Government makes other idiots seem banal in comparison. They continue to treat motorists as mobile piggy banks, while forcing them to suffer inferior infrastructure and horrible conditions. Recently they made an announcement which ran my blood cold and my head threatened to not only explode with rage but also take the next six months off lying on a deserted beach. The announcement not only fulfilled their undying quest for idiocy but was also incredibly presumptuous. However, given the lack of public outrage about the issue their presumption may have been well utilised. I am talking about the common enemy to the car and motorists everywhere: Buses.

Buses may have been a good idea in the 1920’s or 30’s when cars were expensive and only the rich drove them, so a way was needed to get the proletariat from here to there quickly and inexpensively. That problem doesn’t exist now. Cars are relatively cheap and easy to procure. Buses now simply clog the roads and pump the air full of cancerous causing pollution. The announcement as it related to buses was simple: more priority to be given to them.

Now, you might argue this is a good thing. More people will ride on buses and therefore the roads will be clearer for people like me who enjoy driving. Ah ha nice sentiment, but I have two questions: One, to paraphrase Jeremy Clarkson slightly, why do poor people and others who don’t care enough to buy a car deserve higher priority than me? Two: when was the last time you thought to yourself, ‘I know I’ll take the bus’? That’s right, never. No one in their right mind ever chooses the bus over any other form of transport.

Therefore, no one will use the highly prioritised bus, which simply means there will be more empty buses clogging the road and giving us all disease.

The presumption thing is simple as well. How much more priority can buses actually be given? They already have the right to stop and pull out when they want throwing other road users into panic. I guess the next step is to fit them with cow catchers and tank tracks letting them force their way through and over cars.

Therefore the new announcement does nothing. It won’t fix the traffic issues; it will only buy votes from other idiots while the authors of this abomination walk away to plan their next idiocy.

I just wait for the day when our glorious editors are elected to the top job. I shall become their loyal transport person. Trains will be put under the ground and lines expanded. Trams will be placed above the road and lines expanded, and buses; there is a nice warm place in hell waiting for them.

Last month I wrote several disparaging comments about Toyotas and Toyota drivers. I take nothing of this back. I would, instead, like to add the following:

There are two types of Toyota I would buy and drive under certain circumstances.

1. If I was a tradie and needed a ute, Toyota HiLux 3.0 Turbo Diesel 4 x 4.

2. If I was travelling outback, and not just picking up the kids from school, a Toyota LandCruiser V8 Sahara or turbo diesel would do the trick.

This article first appeared in the October 2009 issue of The King’s Tribune.