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Some of this week's Letters to AutoSpeed

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Cool Comment

Re “Cool Fuel” in Response on September, 12th (Response...

I think if you have a cooler for fuel coming into the fuel rail, or even for the tank, it would not make as much difference as cooler intake air. Having said this, vapour lock is not fun - so make sure it’s not too hot!

Ian Armstrong

Re Slow Bikes #8

Re Driving Emotion 12 Sep, 2004 by Julian Edgar

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An interesting article - particularly as I grew up and learned to drive in the Adelaide Hills. I have also spent time as a professional riding instructor.

The successful application of motorcycle potential to real-world speed is not a simple exercise - and those who believe otherwise are often those who come to grief. Having said that, a successful practitioner is - in my opinion - more than likely going to out-perform an equivalently skilled and equipped car driver over a point-to-point course. I would think, from Julian's writing, that he is a highly experienced driver who actually understands words like 'understeer' and 'braking forces' and can actually apply/utilise them (rather than mouth them sagaciously in conversation). Whether he likes it or not, his capabilities - in a range of equipment over a period of formal association with vehicle assessment activities - has probably placed him squarely into the upper-echelon of road drivers, skills wise.

Most motorcyclists, unfortunately, cannot claim to be similarly skilled; often relying on the somewhat phenomenal capabilities of relatively inexpensive machines. This opinion is reinforced by twin key statistics regarding motorcycle accidents - firstly: over 70% being single vehicle accidents caused by 'rider error' and secondly: the incidence of accidents climbs sharply after three years without formal training.

Growing up in the Adelaide Hills and driving modified Falcon V8s I have quite confidently exercised the right foot across some real world 'courses' to the detriment of two and four- wheeled 'competitors'. Later experiences in my wife's M-modified BMW E34 5 series introduced me to some exceptional handling and control capabilities in a Euro engineered vehicle which seriously shamed competing road-users from WRX-pilots to R33 wannabes - and yes, a number of bikes as well. Meanwhile my daily ride (Honda Firestorm - a 'sports-tourer' classed bike) regularly keeps me clear of four-wheeled traffic on runs to the coast down the in-famous Clyde Mountain. I, meanwhile, am far outstripped by the "specialists" who do this run once or twice a month, year round.

So, skills aside, what is the major drawback to bike performance in real world conditions? The answer of course is braking - with tiny contact patches and relatively small swept area, bikes are almost universally out-braked by cars. When this is coupled with less than adequate skills the result is a squirt-brake-squirt-brake riding style where only the acceleration of the machine keeps it ahead of a 'competing' car driver. A more skilled rider (as with drivers) becomes smoother and carries progressively higher corner speed. When the skills rise commensurately with bike capabilities I believe that a car driver is going to have to extend her/his self further to her/his vehicles limits than the equivalently skilled and equipped rider.

Your other observation - Julian - that you weren't confident in assessing the age/capability of the bike/s you commented about is also significant as - to the un- or poorly initiated there may be little difference between a late 1980s and a current bike (styling wise). There are, however, enormous differences in handling due in large part to the reductions in weight that have been achieved in the interim. Suspension and chassis compliance have been improved - often significantly - as has overall power but it is the reduction in weight from the 220 - 260kg range to the 160-180kg range that differentiates the real world potential of these machines.

Cars like the Liberty RS, various Lexi (Lexuses?) and so on, are reasonably well-balanced and assured; historical motorcycling behemoths tortured their tyres and exhausted their riders as they wrestled them along Australian roads. Further potential for injury. Even now, I push myself harder in a car than on my bike (except when I feel particularly foolhardy) with the (often erroneous and usually subconscious) assurance that I am more "protected" in a car. On the bike there is you, and then there are the road, trees, rocks and various other unfriendly and unyielding items of scenery should a mistake result in a less than beneficent outcome.

This tempers real world ardour in all but the most determined, confident or stupid riders. Still, I remain convinced that a motorcyclist will generally outpace a car (point to point) on real roads if similarly skilled and equipped with similar level equipment although I agree that this would not necessarily be a result of higher cornering speed. The facts appear to be, however, that you are much more likely to encounter poorly skilled riders relying on high-potential machinery than you are to come across riders who can actually utilise this potential (these guys being off in the distance...).

As a final aside, when conducting motorcycle training courses where riders 'elect' what group they are part of (fast, medium, slow), it is my experience that the majority of training 'accidents' befall the self-styled 'fast' riders as they regularly exceed their actual capabilities.

Stuart Eling

Re Slow Bikes #9

Re Driving Emotion...

I've been riding for quite a few years and used a bike as my main transport device for several years. Motorcycle Online had adiscussion recently about the same topic and it was interesting to read all the comments and explanations given as to which is quicker - a bike or a car around a corner.

I think at the end of the day when you look at which is quicker, I would suggest it is more the rider than the machine. Most riders don't use the full potential of their bikes. At the risk of being flamed, in my personal experience, it is harder to ride than drive fast around a corner.  When you have the bike over and knee down, all you need is a small spill of diesel or crap patch-up job to really upset your day.

On a suitable track with expert pilots, I think the bike would have the advantage, but on our second rate roads with average Joe riding and driving, I think the advantage would be a lot smaller, if at all. Bike rider ability and confidence plays a big part in how fast you go. I would love to see a comparo between some quick bikes and cars on some tracks.

Jason Martin

Re Slow Bikes #10

Regarding your piece on the slowness of motorbikes around corners (Driving Emotion). I have ridden big fast modern bikes in Tasmania and New Zealand for years now. It has to be said that on the rare occasions you come across a well driven competent car you haven't a chance on a bike in the corners.  However, the bike usually makes it up easily out of the corner thanks to its pure power to weight advantage.

Although chassis, suspension and tyres have improved immensely, bikes are still difficult things to ride well. It is ever so easy to think you are quick because of the acceleration available between the bends. However, to corner fast you have to look way up the road, maintaining a constant distance to the vanishing point, understand counter-steering and above all be smooth and relaxed. And when done right you can be deceptively quick - the  good riders look slow.

Now, herein lies the difference between bikes and cars. Because a bike leans through a corner, all forces the rider feels act vertically through the body, and all that means is that the faster you corner the more your bum is pressed into the seat. In a car the forces are lateral and bits of your body are flung from side to side with increasing violence as speed increases. So I think it is much easier to be consistently faster on a bike because the cornering forces acting on you are much more comfortable.

And in answer to your question as to whether you have encountered only slow bike riders, you may well have, but I would still think in a good car you would be faster than a good rider. There are a lot of riders I suspect who have never learnt to corner. For most it isn't intuitively obvious - you need to be shown counter-steering for a start, and told to look way up the road if you don't already (something that doesn't do your car driving any harm either).

Anyway, the real point is that cars and bikes are wonderful things and you can't have too many of them.

Robert Hookway

Short Life Discs?

Subject – On-site disc machining article dated September 16th, 2004 (On-Site Disc Machining).

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Your disc machine article, while interesting, avoided the major problem with machining discs - namely all the external disc hardening has been removed.

For 10 years, I've been travelling to Auckland from Wellington weekly. You meet most of the cab drivers and it is possible to build up an expert knowledge of the real faults and longevity of EA Falcons/Fairmonts, which run up to 400,000km before being turned over.

The drivers are universal in their opinion that if discs are machined, then 6-9 months later you are up for a brand new set of discs, as the remaining disc has simply worn away. I have resolutely avoided ever having discs machined (you have to specify it in writing to all brake places.) And I have never ever replaced disks. Sure, with new pads an initial caution is desirable while pads wear to match the existing disk, but once done, it is fine. (Lexus SC400 with 250,000km on the clock)

I would be interested in long term reports of discs after they have been machined, as I have personally been aware of many people in Wellington who allowed (by lack of knowledge) to have discs machined, and then a reasonable time later, a new set of discs really stung them....

What say you?

Roger De Salis
New Zealand

You raise a very interesting topic. We haven’t had problems with machined discs in the past but, then, we tend not to hold onto cars for too long... Do any readers have experiences to share?

Fiat Conversion

I’m currently looking at doing a Nissan CA18DET conversion into my beloved Fiat 124. Although the Fiat engines rev and sound great, I want the power and everyday driveability of some fuel injected turbo’d power...

I've researched nearly everything I believe I need to and, being a structures engineer, avid car builder (and handy with a welder), I decided to take on this project myself... I've found that the CA18DET is roughly the same physical size as the Fiat 1800 minus power steering, AC, etc. It also looks like I’ve found a shorter gearbox than the super-long Silvia ‘boxes to fit in to the car.

Other than me waffling on, my question is this... I haven’t checked out a Subie EJ20T but am very intrigued by them. Are these engines very long? Longer than, say, an Nissan SR motor? I've noticed in parts catalogues that these engines are readily available - are they out of Rexies or older Suby wagons or something? Also, what sort of setup could you use for just a real wheel drive gearbox? I know that being horizontally opposed I should be worried more about the width - are they a tightly packed unit? Any info on these engines you can give me would be fantastic....


The Subaru EJ20 turbo engine is very strong. The engine is very short but, as you indicated, it is very wide. Unless the engine bay of a vehicle is designed to accept a horizontally-opposed engine we can’t see it going in. EJ20Ts are fitted to local Liberty RS sedans and wagons and WRXs and, like the CA18DET, are available through importers.

CA18DET conversion sounds effective, neat and relatively affordable.

Porsches for Everyone #1

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Please amend your article Porsche's 911 - Part Two

The paragraph in question:

“At last, in late 1992, the 964-type 911 Turbo was upgraded to the 3.6 litre engine capacity used throughout the rest of the range. This move upped the ante to a huge 521Nm and 265kW – together with a (new) retail price tag that equates to approximately AUD$1 per kilowatt... It also came with 18 inch modular wheel as seen on the earlier Turbo S. Curiously, boost pressure was not electronically controlled as in other mass produced turbo cars of the era.

Should be amended to AUD$1 per watt, otherwise I would have a couple of these parked in my garage right now!!!!

Brett Richards

Porsches for Everyone #2

Love your work, I frantically check AutoSpeed every single morning before work to see what new articles are available!

One small query though...In your article Porsche's 911 Part Two, you state that "This move upped the ante to a huge 521Nm and 265kW – together with a (new) retail price tag that equates to approximately AUD$1 per kilowatt..."

If that’s true, then that’s a cheap Porsche!! At $265 each I'll take 10.

Joe Saraceni

Porsches for Everyone #3

In Part 2 of your Porsche 911 article (Porsche's 911 Part Two) you state that...

“At last, in late 1992, the 964-type 911 Turbo was upgraded to the 3.6 litre engine capacity used throughout the rest of the range. This move upped the ante to a huge 521Nm and 265kW – together with a (new) retail price tag that equates to approximately AUD$1 per kilowatt...”

I was wondering... I have a spare AUD$300, where can I get one of these cars? I might even spend the AUD$35 on upgrades ;) I thought I’d point it out, though I’m sure you've had plenty of feedback on this one already.

Marty Plsek

Oops - that was meant to be AUD$1k per kilowatt... Article now fixed!

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