Monday, 28 April 2008

Black and White

Had the wheels powder coated black last week, now just needed to figure out what to do about the centres; keep them silver or paint them black?

PS Another photo here

Deck Part Deux

After another weekend of toil, I've finally finished the joists (simple once I'd figured out the best way to do it), fixed fascia boards (which will probably be stained later) and have started laying the decking (in between showers of rain).

The latter task is taking a while, I estimate I will have used near 600 screws once it is complete.


Friday, 18 April 2008

Want to Buy.....

….a winter hack while the SORN’d Cayman takes a rest from the salt, rain, ice, dark and general sh*teness of winter motoring in the UK. In its stead, I plan to run another car from November to March/April, something cheap to buy and run, practical, but still offering a decent level of reliability and performance.

By ‘Cheap’ I mean less than £3k, and ‘cheap to run’ means can be fixed with parts from GSF by a local garage, and is capable of achieving 30mpg or more on a decent run. By ‘Practical’ I mean it should be a hatch or estate (so I can bung children and bikes in), which offers decent comfort and has working a/c to help demist in winter rain.

And by ‘decent performance’ I mean enough grunt for ‘A’ road overtaking.

And nothing later than March ’01 because I already contribute enough road tax to our miserable and ineffective government’s coffers thanks.

Plus points will be awarded for greasy road friendly 4wheel drive, stability control, Xenon headlights, and the possibility of finding a cheap spare set of wheels with winter tyres.

My current short (but ever expanding) list in possible order of preference contains:

- Volkswagon Golf Mk3 VR6/2.0 16v
- Subaru Impreza GX estate (the 2.0 n/a one with bug eyes)
- MG ZS 180 (the Civic bodied V6 one)
- Audi A4 1.8T Quattro (hmm, maybe I should push this up the list)
- BMW (E36) 325i (but difficult to find one that hasn’t been ‘improved’ by some chav)
- Saab 9-3 turbo (although I don’t understand the ever-changing turbo range line-up)
- Ford Mondeo ST200 (not the very first series)

Regretfully rejected for cost reasons are:
- Civic Type R (the flying iron one)
- Audi A2tdi 90 (I know, it misses some of the points above, but I like ‘em)
- Fiat Panda 100hp (still £7k for an early one)
- Audi A8

Regretfully rejected for other arbitrary reasons are:
- Subaru Legacy (just too much like some Toyota minicab)
- Vauxhall Vectra V6 (God no, and do they still put the brake pedal 3” above the gas to prevent the hard of thinking pressing both at once?)
- BMW 5/7 series barges (barges)
- Mercedes 190e 2.3/2.5l 16v (I’d love it way too much)

So, if anyone in Blogland has any suggestions I’d be up for it.


Old Banger

The sun was shining when I left the house, and the car’s temperature gauge showed 8 degrees, so I was hoping for dry grippy tarmac for the run north.

On leaving the A27 I spotted an old 50’s sports racer in the mirrors–– cream with black race roundels. It was C type Jag-ish at the back with a cut-away Aston DB3S style front; and just a low aero-screen to protect the driver.

The speed rose as I climbed over the downs; the old racer showing it wanted to keep pace as we passed slower traffic. Its driver was taking it easy on the corners, but was more than able to keep pace on the straights, in fact on one full noise overtake up on the weald he clearly demonstrated his old banger had the legs of the Cayman, at least up to the screaming top of my 3rd gear…..

I pulled away again through more fast sweepers and was heading down into a valley when I looked up to see the surrounding fields still full of frost.. Under braking for the 2nd gear left hander at the bottom of the hill, the Cayman wriggled and the ABS cut in – at which point I did feel very lucky I wasn’t in some ancient 911 heading straight towards the scene of the accident with the front wheels locked.

Shortly after I stopped, waiting a few moments for the old car to catch up, and then pulled in pulled in behind for a closer look; exchanging waves as we did. It was obviously Jag powered, and had an aged patina, but the ‘Q’ plate it was running on jarred somewhat.
After that we caught traffic, passed another accident, and he turned off with another wave just after Petworth.

Nice way to start the week.


Facebook Etiquette

So what’s the ‘U’ thing to do when some cutie you’re sure you’ve never ever met (at least definitely not when you were sober) wants to be your Facebook buddie?
There’s not a “You look cute, and I’m damned if I know you, but hey, lets be friends anyway” option I can see.

Oh wait; “Cute”…

I guess I know the answer to this one….

World Car

The booted Focus Hertz gave me on the last trip is comedically awful, basic US spec, which excludes remote locking, T/C and, I suspect, ABS…*

The thing wallows above 65mph, spins its inside wheel at every junction, and it's only saving grace is that the bright blue paint makes it easy to spot in a car-park. Amazing to think that this is the same vehicle as the brilliant chassised Euro spec car.


*Proven by a smokey stop in the hotel's car park.

Hate Something, Change Something

Here’s a thing: I wrote this weeks ago, decided I was being a bit harsh and parked it. Then I decided perhaps I wasn’t being so harsh so here we are:

So after a false start, the Civic was finally delivered a few weeks ago and has immediately been pressed into service as family taxi, due for a life of hundreds of suburban middle-class family-life type trips.

First impressions were that the ‘revolutionary’ Euro Civic design isn’t as revolutionary as it seemed to be at launch two years ago, and that it really isn’t far removed from other current mainstream hatches. Ok, front light/trim strip is striking, and the multi-level dash is unusual, and the way it sweeps around either side of the wheel does put the varied minor controls close to hand, even if you have to make sure it doesn’t kneecap you on entry. The start button also works better than you might think: put key in, turn one click, push button (handily close to the key) and away you go. The wheel, unusually for an entry level spec. mid-size hatch, adjusts for reach and rake. And its just as well it does; the flip side to putting the fuel tank under the front seats to give the spacious rear compartment a usefully low, flat floor is that the driver’s seat is higher than you really want.

Although there does seem to be a modern trend of adjusting one’s seat height to the top most position available (judging by the number of folks you see around with their scalps pressed against the roof lining) I’m more of a sit-on-the-floor-wheel-in your-chest-like-in-the-DTM sort of bloke. I'm sure Ralph the Shoemaker isn't going to have to sit on the fuel tank of his Merc.....

The Civic is another modern that suffers from an intrusive ‘A’ pillar, and moving the seat around doesn’t make much difference to the view out, so you develop a head wobble at junctions to allow you to spot on-coming 40-tonne artics that would otherwise spoil your day. The rear view is also problematic; a combination of large C pillars, a split rear screen and rear head restraints reduce visibility to that of an early KdF-Wagen. Oh well; retro-fit beepers are available.

A longer cross country run to a children’s activity zoo presented an opportunity to get acquainted with the chassis. In 16” wheeled SE form, it’s on a par with peers – competent, but not much more. The ride, however, is mercifully compliant in comparison with peers equipped with ‘Sport’ suspension, and body roll is not going to produce sea sickness in the children.

And yet the overall Civic driving experience is overwhelmingly dominated by two features, one excellent, the other excruciatingly what-were-they-thinking-of? bad.

The Good
Sing it Like you Hate it - that damn motor is tremendous. For a 4-pot diesel, its also very quiet – from cold there’s no clatter like two Navies banging in an iron spike with their spades, and at any kind of speed the whisper of turbulence around the A pillar has a far higher decibel count than the engine. The thrum-free power deliver is also much more linear that the VAG oil burners I’ve experienced; torque builds steadily from 800rpm through to 3000 rpm, without that nothing-nothing-WHAM! big bloody thump its so difficult to drive around in the VAG cars. At less than 400 miles, its still very tight, so I’d expect to see the 44mpg improve as it loosens, and the slight reluctance to run a much less than 40mph in 5th also improve.

Sometimes its good to hate something.

The Very Bad
Like I hate this. It was Honda’s stated aim that the ’06 Civic was to reduce the average age of their buyers from the 70’s. Funky non-fogey friendly design appears to have achieved that objective, so why on earth does the steering has so much assistance that a withered 90 year old spinster could happily turn it with her little finger?

And not only that, but so feel-free is the thing in use that the family’s Logitech PS2 wheel (ok, it has 'Force Feedback') gives you a better idea of what’s happening at the front wheels. So you drive around trying not to constantly overcorrect, holding the anesthetised wheel between finger tips, and forcing yourself not to lean on the rim for the remotest of support in corners, lest you spear off into the verge.

I know that even the Type R version suffers a little of the inevitable electric-assisted numbness, and that the diesel lump will add to the nose weight, but never has my experience of any car been so dominated by such a misguided dynamic feature. So much so that I really do think Honda needs to get a dealer retro-fit fix out.

Anyone listening in over there in Datchet?

PS Be very careful searching for 'Camel' on ebay images......

Nail Therapy

I had last week off work. After the past month or so at the office I decided I really had to bang something hard with a hammer, so rather than assualt one of the local coffin dodgers I bought £500 of timber and have started to build a deck.

Highly satisfying.....