Tuesday, 29 July 2008


I took SS2.0 along to collect his big brother from cricket practice the other evening. We had taken his bat (size 1) and a ball along to play with while we were waiting for the older boys to finish.

The truth of it is that SS2.0 is showing signs of having more talent than his dad ever did.I especially enjoyed the moment of stunned silence from the practising adult crickets as SS2.0(aged 4 ¾) picked up a stray ball and hurled it accurately 30 yards in return - “Oi Gary, ‘e’s got a better arm than you!”.

Its his party trick, honed by hours of pebble chucking on the beach.


Thursday, 24 July 2008

Gay and non-Gay

So, my mate Little Nomad, young SS3.5(aged 10) and I were driving into Le Mans for the Classic 24hr race. Its a huge petrolhead festival and the roads were crammed with classics and enthusiast's car of all types, many with passengers. Alas we already felt like spectators, as due to the unfortunate skill/ friction co-efficient failings of Mr Nomad ( whoops... ) we had been reduced to taking the trip on the family Honda.

I don't quite remember who started it, but we fell into a light hearted conversation about the image issues of blokes in sports cars, specifically 2 seater cabriolets.

Over the next two days we developed 'rules' which I thought I'd share. BTW I was very surprised how nuanced young SS3.5's contributions were!

Cabriolets: The Rules:

Two blokes in a Ferrari 328 Gts: Gay
Two blokes in a Ferrari Daytona Spider: non-Gay*

Two blokes in a Ferrari 360 Berlinetta: Gay
Two blokes in a Ferrari 599 Berlinetta: non-Gay

Two blokes in a Mid-engined Ferrari: Gay
Two blokes in a Front engine Ferrari: non-Gay

Two blokes in a F40: Non- gay
Two blokes in a F50: Gay

Arnie Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris in a Mazda MX5: Gay
Two gay blokes in a 1930 4½ Litre Bentley Le Mans Rep: non-Gay

* with a pastel linen suit exception


Please Note: The CarlistBlog is a non-homophobic Blog. In fact, some of my best friends are gay (probably). For further information on this cultural touch-point please read U and non-U and the SS7 humour dictionary

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

New motor..

I picked up the new wheels the other day.

I was a bit irritated as I’d told the dealer I was going to be there at 9am, but when I did arrive the thing wasn’t complete. So I had to wait while the final set up was finished, which was annoying.

Anyway, once ready it looked great, sitting in the brief sunshine, deep Seal grey paint gleaming and carbon trim looking very tech. Once on road, it became clear this was a very different ride from the last one. Its much more track-orientated; the ride is hard and you can literally feel every slight ridge or ripple in the road through the stiffer chassis. It’s a fair bit faster than the old one, especially on the straight and level where I’m running about 20% faster. The turn-in is also good and you can feel the benefits of the weight loss over the more touring spec. models. The gears (none of this auto-box nonsense here) are quick and slick, the change levers falling easily to hand.

So far the only fly in the ointment is the brakes, there’s a distinct vibration coming up from the front brakes somewhere, I need to get some miles on to see if it will settle down before going back to the dealer.


Taking a bath

From a contact 'in the trade': a year old Porsche C4S cabriolet with a list price of £90,000 and less than 2,000 miles was bid to £62k last week.

The original buyer has lost nearly £30,000, or £20 for each mile travelled.

PS Now advised that the bid is only £55k........

Taking Abarth

I spotted these tucked away at the last Goodwood Breakfast; the new Fiat 500 Abarth.

Its good to see Fiat stop sodding about with the Abarth ‘brand’ (how I am beginning to detest this term, speaking as it does so often of the distortion of reality to fit some 25 year old marketeer’s short term sales objective), but once they had seen how successful BMW are with the MINI Coopers it really was a no-brainer.


Compromised Position

I took SS3.5 to see the F1 cars testing at Silverstone last month.

I'd arranged a '24hr' test drive for the day; a Carrera C4S Cabriolet.

My first drive-down-the-road impressions were of the obvious weight of the thing felt through the controls and the bump crushing ride, but 30seconds of electric roof lowering later and we were cruising north towards the M40 in the sunshine, while SS3.5 fiddled with the SatNav and stereo controls. I’m not sure what Porsche’s ergonomics experts think, but being 10 years old clearly helps with the more complex system interfaces.

‘Our’ car had a delete badge option, and it took me a while to be convinced the full 350bhp were present and correct. I guess that’s the effect of 1600kgs on 3.8 of Stuttgart’s finest litres. But what it lacked in grunt it made up for in noise - the baritone howl from the engine at 7000rpm was glorious and the lack of a soundproofed metal roof meant you really were in the front row of the auditorium. However it only took the first bit of good old English tarmac to reveal that chopping the roof off had noticeably reduced the strength of the body shell - the tremors could be easily felt through the wheel as well as the seat.

At least on the motorway the site of a fast moving Carrera in rear view mirrors was persuasive, so we made good progress up the M40 and along the dual carriageway A43 towards Silverstone, enjoying the acoustics of a quick 3rd gear blast after each roundabout. A further compromise became quickly apparent on the motorway; the (very effective) wind blocker sits immediately behind the front seats but makes the rears unusable. So that’s 2 seats only then (much like a Boxster…)...

We could hear the sound of screaming race engines long before parking up, and headed towards the nearest section of track from the parking area. It was the turn in point for Bridge corner and the first cars past were Hamilton, then Raikkonen, flying through the right hander without a lift, the aero grip available manifest even to a casual trackside spectator. In fact its now a flat corner in any old F1 car (at least in the dry) as the preceding high speed Abbey curve I remember from old is now a slow fiddly chicane called Farm.

The next 4 hours we spent walking around the section of circuit open to us from Club to Luffield, watching the different lines the drivers used. Apart from Bridge and the fast section on the far side of the circuit, the corners are mostly slow, so dragster-like acceleration out of one is followed by the staccato rip of downchanges, then a slow apex before dragging off to the next. It can’t be a great drive in a F1 car; it wasn’t that brilliant on my old 968CS either.

The Ferraris and McLarens were visually faster that the others but we also saw Williams, Force India, Red Bull, BMW and Torro Rosso - pretty much the whole field then!

It’s clearly an opportunity to see the F1 heroes without the expense and hassle of the GP so was a real family affair. SS3.5 and I weren’t the only father and son combo bunking off a day’s work/school, but unlike some I’d draw the line at bringing the wife and baby.

The noise of the current cars is like a physical force, that threatens long-term damage to tender ears – and leaves old ones temporarily ringing. But it is curiously non-mechanical, somewhere between the shriek of an electric motor and the scream of a fast jet’s engine. SS3.5 reported the ear 'fenders I’d got for him (pukka Peltor, Screwfix:£9.95) worked well, while I relied on some old ear plugs left over from my biking days. He also spent some time behind the view finder of his video camera at each viewing spot so we have a recording of the day for posterity.

And the pride of old age was upheld when I whupped the over-confident youngster on the giant slot car circuit, setting FTD in the process!

We left at around 4 in the afternoon. At first it was roof up for the dualed trunk-road sections, revealing another downside of the soft top; wind and road noise at speed is considerably increased even at sensible UK motorway speeds. Then it was roof back down for the last section, heading home across the south downs in the late afternoon mid-summer sun, a stretch and which included a section of one the last great driving roads in the South. And there our fat, flexible friend really did its thang, blasting past slower traffic in third with a switch of throttle and a blare of exhaust.

We did nip out with SS2.0 in the back when we got home; he fitted in the rear seat behind SS3.5 without problems; and would probably do so for another 2 or 3 years. In fact SS2.0 thought it was "awesome", but he's 4.....

Next day it rained. The run up the A3 back to Guildford was uneventful, a shiney, tightening, on-slip showed the car would understeer before the ASC gathered it all up again.

So, very nice, but just not my bag I’m afraid. As a sports-coupe, the Cab’s compromises, weight, noise and lack of strength, move it too far from Porsche’s sweet spot and squarely into the Mercedes’ SL’s. And it was really difficult to see any value over a £40k Boxster 'S'.

Talking of price; I asked the list price of ‘our’ C4S cabriolet. The answer? Eighty four big ones; or 2x Boxster S's or 1x GT3. At that price it made no sense at all; maybe a £25k 996 cab for weekend cruising would find a place in the SS7 garage but not as a Daily Driver; its a Porsche for Californians.

But a quick look around the showroom and read of the launch material of the '09 cars, and it seems a white 997/2 coupe, with the ‘little’ 325bhp 3.6l engine, small wheels and PASM/S_C would be interesting; and my salesman friend’s going to call me when he gets one in….


Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Box Box Box!

The last time we took ‘KNoB’ out on the road (its MOT test earlier in the year), the passenger side electric window stopped working. Needless to say this was in a down position, and has hampered use of the car ever since.

Suspecting the motor, I checked out new prices (“It must be some cheap generic Bosch part, right?”) to find it was a whopping £160- even from GSF.

A week or so later I had a go at stripping down the 924’s door and window. Things came apart pretty easily thanks to good quality 70’s plastic and screws, and within an hour I’d fiddled the old motor out of the door, along with the glass, the mechanism, and a boot’s worth of screws, clips, fixings and door trim, including the flimsy (and falling apart) anti-drip skin. Sure enough the motor looked sad, neglected and seized.

Ebay came to the rescue, a bloke not far from me was breaking a 924 and would sell the correct side’s motor for £30. Much more like it. After another 10 days of two and fro I picked it up, the friendly seller even demonstrated it worked on his Ford Ka battery!

Two weeks later (spot a pattern?) I had a go a re-assembling it. As I rather suspected it needed a knack and four hands, so although I thought I’d got the knack sorted, I was a pair of hands short. Annoyingly I’d put some clamps aside that would have been just the ticket, but didn’t bring them up from home.

So last night (two weeks later…..) I finally managed a couple more hours garage time. With the help of a couple of clamps purchased last week from Homebase, I pieced together the window winder mechanism and all the door trim. The good news is that the glass now goes up and down by elastrickery, the bad news is the door doesn't unlock. This would be because I knocked the locking button down putting the trim back on, and now it must all be removed again to fix it. Bah! But at least I'm cutting the time needed down on each repetition, and soon will be the speediest 924 door stripper in the Northern hemisphere.

That's a point. I wonder if McLaren F1 need a speedy door trim fitter, as well as a Director of Common Sense? I can hear myself on the radio; "Guys, its still p*ssing down and the Boy Wonder’s tyres are worn to the canvass, better bring him in. I'll do the doors while you're at it", or "Guys, everyone else is pitting under safety car, shouldn't we be bringing TBW in for tyres, fuel and a quick check of the armrest?" and "Louis baby, the red light’s on, don’t forget to stop at the end of the pitlane - and I've put a Snickers in the door bin ".


PS sure enough, last night I had the door trim off, the locking t*t unjammed and the trim replace in the time it takes for Max Mosley to read the front page of the News of the World and phone his lawyer

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Sith Lord in Search of an Author

A couple of weeks ago, Mrs SS7 and I undertook one of our regular trips to the Chichester Festival Theatre. The production was and adaptation of Pirandello's "Six Characters in search of an Author" and starred Ian McDiarmid amongst others.

There followed one of the most intriguing and fascinating theatrical experiences of my life. I'm not going to attempt a plot summary (this is why wikipedia was invented) but it was one of those expereinces that leaves you wondering for days afterwards.

The critics loved it too; The Telegraph said

"Like Goold's Macbeth, which went on to triumph in the West End and on Broadway, I suspect this brilliantly inventive show has a long dramatic life ahead of it."

Go see it.


Increased Congestion?

Last February, Tony Blair wrote to me (and 1.7m other folks) explaining that action on congestion was necessary as

"Congestion is predicted to increase by 25% by 2015. This is being driven by economic prosperity. There are 6 million more vehicles on the road now than in 1997, and predictions are that this trend will continue."

Meanwhile, the
Department For Transport published figures stating that traffic for the first quarter of 2008 had fallen 2% based on the same period last year in response to large increases in the price of fuel.........

Somehow I can't see the price of fuel coming down significantly, has this altered the Govt's planning assumptions around road charging I wonder?