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Forg's Dark Corner

16th October 2001

By Matt Cremer

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OK, put up your hands everyone who's sick of bullshit!

Really?

Is that all?

I would've expected a bigger show of hands than that ... maybe I'm the only one?

I suppose I should elaborate on the professed sickness above; it's a bit all-encompassing isn't it? I mean, some types of bullshit I seriously enjoy - for example, many of the products of the cinema industry (dissing of the Holy Trilogy will be not be tolerated, although I'd prefer we didn't talk about that daytime soapie called The Fast And The Furious). What I suppose I'm talking about is the sort of erroneous crap that somebody comes up with when wishing to sell something ... and it's made worse when a whole bunch of people believe it.

An example: grey import car performance data. Doesn't anyone else see that stuff as seriously dodgy? And I mean both power figures and performance figures ...

If it's an import car, and it has fifteen extra kilowatts (say, a 10 per cent power increase, for the sake of being generous) at 14000rpm, then suddenly all the import mags are getting ? mile times 5 seconds faster than the local equivalent. Then suddenly everyone's quoting those performance times and those power figures as gospel (when in reality it's just car-company marketing blurb from Japan reprinted into the magazines), and the flow-on from that is everyone complaining about the crappy versions we get here and why aren't they as fast as the Japanese versions.

And yet on the road (OK, admittedly I haven't regularly seen two cars lining-up that're identical except for the colour of their compliance plate and Japanese-model power-figure claims), these supremely fast import versions don't seem to be going any harder than the local versions. Which is even more damning of the power figures and performance figures being quoted in the magazines; sure, it could be a result of the engine cutting-back ignition curves due to the dishwater they sell us with "petrol" on the label, but if that's the case then what the hell is the point of publishing those performance and power figures in the first place? Are they supposed to be a joke? Or is it more likely that if you quote better performance and power figures (blissfully ignoring the real world) then it sounds so much better and you sell more mags to sweaty young boys getting all excited over the numbers?

OK, maybe I'm being too fussy. Maybe I like to have black and white information when in reality there's a whole range of greys in between, as well as a rainbow's pantload of colours.

But if someone's going to publish numbers as fact, surely there has to be some onus on them to back up those numbers? Or, rather, if they're going to publish numbers that seem a bit seedy, then surely people have to stop believing them ...

I mean, I seem to recall a major motoring magazine claiming 6.2 seconds 0-100 for the MY01 Impreza WRX, and using that as a comparison with the Liberty B4 to show how the B4 is a little bit slower [Bias Warning: Liberty Turbo circuits activated, drool removal nanobots set to "high alert"]. And yet, if you read older numbers for the faster MY99 & MY00 WRX's, or even talk to people who've owned or driven both, then you really have to wonder if such low 6s 0-100 times are real. And if they were obtained realistically, then was some investigation performed into why that particular test car was going so bloody quickly when all the others around are that much slower? I like Subarus (and that may be a major understatement), but the marketing department haven't always been entirely honest with boost levels in press cars in the past ...

And how about claims for aftermarket bolt-on bits that are allegedly going to increase the speed of your ride without affecting warranty, fuel consumption or the colour of your girlfriend's underwear?

[I don't know where that underwear comment came from, I'm sorry, I'll get back on track (but last night's episode of Charmed was a repeat of the one where Alyssa Milano was "on heat" due to ... no, sorry, must stop being so distracted). Ahem.]

But you know the claims I'm talking about. Big shiny aftermarket mufflers freeing up 30hp from 1.6 litre engines. Aftermarket reprogrammed off-the-shelf chips in late-model naturally aspirated cars giving 15 per cent power increases. Swirly things in air-intake systems giving 15 per cent fuel economy increases. I could go on forever, but what I don't get is why we bother with the engine at all; ditch that heavy lump of metal, bolt in all these power-adding gadgets, and have a lighter car that doesn't use any fuel!

The silly thing is that people buy into all this stuff. I suppose they don't know any better. So they fit the dodgy stuff to their car - in some cases the placebo effect working so well that they actually believe they've had an improvement in performance in some way.

Too many just grab onto any information as though it were indisputable truth, and it takes a strong grasp (or the power of the Force) to pry them from it. They even enter into little wars of words with other people over how much better Car A is than Car B due to the arguable performance figures they read once upon a time (and the aforementioned "other people" have probably taken other equally-unreliable figures as their baseline).

But then maybe, once again, I'm overreacting to all this stuff. Maybe I'm just a pedant. People pronouncing specific as "pacific" annoys me, I keep kicking myself for misspelling 'effect' as 'affect', and the next time someone mispronounces the letter 'h' as 'haitch' I may get violent.

And don't get me started on RX7 Series 7 and 8 designations ...

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