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Some of this week's Letters to AutoSpeed!

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Glass Not a Liquid #1

Re Making Things, Part 6. I hate to play the pedant, but while there are good arguments for calling glass a liquid it's usually treated as an "amorphous solid", and the whole antique glass thing is bunk. Wikipedia is hardly the foremost source of information on the subject, or any subject for that matter, but it does have a good synopsis of the matter (pardon the pun).

Ashley Rogers

Glass Not a Liquid #2

No doubt you will get a few of these... glass is a liquid is a hoax/myth.

Shaun Miller

Thanks – the article has been changed.

Fatigue Strength

As a Materials Engineer, I like Making Things, Part 6 - just a note on cold forming a heat treated spring - your anti-sway bar. It should be stress relieved after forming to prevent further plastic deformation in service and improve fatigue - 0.5 to 1 hour at 260-270 deg C (1 hour/inch) is a good starting point. Valve springs are made this way, by cold forming a hardened and tempered steel wire, shot peening and stress relieving. The wire has to be free of "seams" from manufacture to ensure fatigue strength.

Dennis Clarke

Hilly Hybrids

The My Commute article was very useful for somebody such as myself who is seriously considering a hybrid vehicle. An opportunity may have been missed by not logging the fuel consumption up and down the steep hill close to home. I live in a very hilly part of Wellington; it is here where regenerative braking on the way downhill might be a great energy saver for when I need to drive back up. This may be a particularly useful environment for hybrid cars, it would be fascinating to see how well this worked.

Robert Lawrence
New Zealand

People unfamiliar with hybrids tend to over estimate the capacity of the HV battery pack. Think of the HV battery pack being able to provide full power for (say) 30 seconds and you get a realistic idea of the typical used capacity, as dictated by the control systems as well as the battery capacity itself. Consider also that you get back out of the battery only about half the energy you’ve put in. Therefore, if there are consecutive hills close to one another, the regen braking will help on the next hill. But if the trip involves a long, steep downhill run and then 20 minutes later the climb back up the hill, the regen’s affect is quite diluted. Down the hill described in the story, the Insight gets about 2 litres/100km; uphill it gets about 8 litres/100km.

Big Test+

To AutoSpeed – Great Article Ideas Department. I noticed that Julian did a review on the 'CarChip’ in Silicon Chip, a neat tool for using the sensors you already paid for to do data logging. 

I currently do club level motor sport in a WRX.  Earlier this year I bought an AIM "MyChron" lap timer (ref  While this have been a very valuable tool in going faster (and destroying tyres, brakes etc) it gets you to the next stage of getting better at not just the whole lap but down to a specific part of a lap. Enter GPS based performance measuring tools.

Would it be possible for you guys to do review of some of these measuring devices? Race logic (ref does the V-Box and Driftbox, and Race Technology (ref does the DL1 Data Logger, to name just a couple. These devices do a lot by themselves but coupled with a data feed from the OBDII port (converted to CAN bus) would make a very serious beast.

Other car magazine use these tools during their reviews but tend to stop at the "The V-box is in a 'Shiny Blue' case" so as not to tax the intelligence of the reader. I would like to take a punt that the average AutoSpeed reader is prepared to actually learn something useful and then use practical cost-effective ideas.  This sort of combination is just the thing to allow measurements of a lot of the other car related modifications you have suggested, might even be as useful as a Magnehelic differential pressure gauge!

So how about a review then, get a couple different cars, a few drivers with a range of abilities (you could even get your own "tame racing driver" aka Top Gear).  Just think you could "work" by driving flat out around a race track; marvellous.

Simon Briggs

Given the amount of resources it would tie up (ie read: other articles that would not be done) we don’t think it is worthwhile reviewing expensive race track data logging systems.

Here’s Evan Again – full and un-edited...

I can't believe this. Julian Edgar has once again pissed my right off. I agree with you about one thing, Julian, the car we drive IS our choice. Pretty much the rest of Driving Emotion however, I disagree on.

Firstly, the government and fuel companies are party to blame for high fuel bills. It was, after all, only earlier this year that everyone was saying fuel prices will be $2 a litre by Christmas because oil was running out. Umm...then why have prices come down again? It's not as bad as the scaremongers have said, and it took a good year for everyone to realise this and arc up about it, which has brought prices down a bit. Meanwhile, both oil companies and the government alike have made bucketloads, and are going to walk away without a mark against them. They also found that we will still buy fuel, even at high prices. There's some thought for the future.

My second point is, as far as I've seen, there are only two groups of people that complain about fuel bills. One being the owners of large 4WD's (and I'd like to point out that even of this group, I think it's the minority that complain), and the second are those who drive small, and "economical" cars. Talk about wankers. Bullshit? You drive an economical car don't you Julian? I rest my case. You have criticised performance car enthusiasts as well, both lovers of V8's and Japanese cars alike. However, how many owners of the modified performance cars you've covered have complained about the economy of their cars? I can bet very few. Having said that, if this is completely the wrong time for big V8's, how come HSV have just had record sales? A company that has an exclusively V8 line up, selling more cars in October than any other month in their history of business? It's not only HSV, FPV too are selling extremely well, and even outsold HSV a few months prior to the VE release. Yeah, I can see you're point, the market for performance cars has all but gone.

"Excellent: your money; your choice. No, seriously, no sarcasm intended. But don’t complain when fuel prices rise"

You're the only one complaining here. When fuel prices first rose, everyone shat. "How will I ever be able to afford that?", "I won’t be able to run my car!" However there has only been a very marginal increase in use of public transport, and people have realised that, once again, it's not as bad as everyone first thought. Sure, the price is up, and that sucks, but fuel used be 20c a litre. How then, can we possibly afford fuel now? It's now a whole dollar more than that! Oh wait, the economy has also grown, people are earning more anyway, it's a natural progression.

"In Australia we have incredibly cheap fuel. Yes, even now."

Bullshit. Sure, Europe has higher fuel prices, but they also all drive around in $100,000 BMW's and Merc's like we drive around in $40,000 Falcons and Commodores. You'll find, if you weren't wearing blinkers of your own, that a lot, and I mean a lot, of Asian countries have fuel prices equivalent to a lot less than 30c a litre Australian. Even America has cheaper fuel than we do.

This is the part that really, really pissed me off, "By all means, if you want to and can afford the weekly dollars outlay and the exposure to risk, buy and drive a thirsty car. But don’t complain about high fuel prices."

So, according to that statement, if you drive a large car, or an uneconomical car, for whatever reason, you have NO RIGHT to complain about fuel prices. However, if you drive the opposite, say, a Prius, you have every right to? And in your case, do so way too much. Think about it, that's exactly what you're saying. Yeah, everyone loves articles about ways to improve economy. Having said that, even if fuel was 70c a litre, or 50c a litre, or 20c a litre, we'd still be interested.


I just bought a VY SS. Big 5.7L V8, 1700 odd kilograms and big, expensive tyres. It also has worse fuel economy than the more powerful, and heavier VE (which is still lighter than the Falcon, and in V8 form, gets better economy. Strange you always use the Commodore as the example, even though it's not the worst one out there). Why would I take such a "risk"? What reason could I possibly want so much power when I can still only go 110 km/h? Two reasons. 1; I can go faster than 110 km/h, on the drag strip and on the circuit, and although I haven't been to a circuit, I've been making good use of the drag strip, along with an increasingly large amount of enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike, and 2; It's exactly what I wanted, and it makes me happy. I pity you Julian, because even though you have great economy form your Prius, you're still obviously not happy. Sucks to be you.

Evan Smith

Fuel Economy Choices

I must say that I agree totally with your article about fuel economy and the choices that we make (see Driving Emotion). I should also add that you have to be willing to be flexible in the choices that you make if you want to have high performance while minimising your exposure.

Until recently I owned a 2002 Subaru WRX STi. The a had blistering performance when driven hard but weight, drivertrain and the doughy bottom end meant that even normal city driving resulted in real world economy of 14-16 l/100km and 10-12 l/100km on the open road. I replaced it with a car that cost around the same amount and yet is far faster and easier to drive. On top of that it gets 11-12 l/100km in town and 7 l/100km on the open road! The car? A 1998 3.2L BMW M3. This vehicle has really opened my eyes to how a car should really drive and how an engine should be tuned.

By abandoning one-eyed brand snobbery I managed to find my ideal balance between performance .and running costs.

Richard Laxton

Thirsty Depreciation

Re: Julian Edgar’s Driving Emotion this week on the cost of large engined cars, you forgot to mention the higher depreciation costs of uneconomical cars when fuel prices go up. So not only does it cost more to run but it will be worth less as well. On the plus side, if you are only after a weekend or fun car, these can make quite a bargain, and since you only drive them irregularly fuel price spikes are far less crippling than they could be.

Ross Roberts
United Kingdom

Heads in the Sand

Driving Emotion - This is an excellent article. It is true us Aussies really do have our heads in the sand. Only one locally manufactured car has a 4 cylinder engine, all the rest are sixes and eights. All petrol, not one diesel. Mitsubishi whinges about its 380 sales volumes and Holden introduces the VE with no diesel so it flops (comparatively). Meanwhile VW have doubled their sales volumes - Why? Because buyers are snapping up diesels across their entire range. Over half all Golfs sold are diesel. But Holden, Ford and Mitsubishi know better. Yeah right!

As the article says - it’s your choice. Be an idiot. Go and buy a V8 Holden, just do not whinge when petrol goes up as it will.

One small dissenting voice on the quality of an otherwise excellent article – oil-based fuels and a healthy planet are finite resources. People should consider this when exercising the freedom to choose and consider other people and generations to come. In all probability there will be a liquid fuels crisis in the next few years and our climate is already in crisis. Nobody should buy a car that gets less than real world 10 litres per 100km.

Rod Campbell-Ross

Nodding in Agreement

Re: Driving Emotion. I've always enjoyed reading your stuff and found myself nodding in agreement - this is one of the best articles I've ever read in the motor press. You're the first one to have the guts to say what's been staring us in the face for years.  What's more, this is one of the reasons why AutoSpeed will be leading the way for years while the other dinosaur mags try to catch up. Bloody marvellous! (And yes, I had some of the most motoring fun in Morris Minors - at 50 mpg in old!)

Stephen Birbeck

Right On!

Regarding Driving Emotion. RIGHT F&^%ING ON!!!!! It is about time someone told it how it is. If I choose to drive my car in an enthusiastic manner, I have no one to blame but myself. If I choose to catch the bus, or the train to work, or I choose to walk to shops, then I am making my own decisions to offset the cost of my fuel use when I do drive. It's a shame so many others, be they motoring enthusiasts or just plain every day drivers, don't realise the same. It is good to see motoring journalism being so damn honest - keep it up.


Biased Scores?

I recently read VE Commodore Berlina. It was a fantastic read that told me everything I would want to know from a road test of a new vehicle. However I noticed that the article's score was only 3.84. I gave it a 5. Is it possible that in this Commodore/Falcon loving country of ours your article scored lowly because it criticised the Commodore? It would be a shame if you decide to drop such excellent and informative articles because the locals don't like you criticising their favourite cars. However, I have hope in your journalistic integrity that you'll continue to bring unbiased information to your readers.

Tom Cammarano


We’re sure that over time the scores will average out to give a fair reader appraisal.

VE Not Alone With ESP

The author of the article on the VE Berlina was wrong in saying that the biggest advantage it has over the rest of the competition is the standard stability control system. This is to remind him that the Aurion also has it as standard.


Thanks – article corrected.

Peltier Intercooler

About your Peltier intercooler water spray (see Peltier Intercooler Water Spray), instead of using heatsinks I found that a small computer water cooling system works quite well at removing heat from the Peltier. I ran a Thermaltake Aquarius II on the hot side of an 80W Peltier, I poured some water on to the cold side and it froze to the Peltier in a few seconds. I haven’t tried cooling a container of water but I think if you used a larger Peltier (maybe 100watts or bigger) and a water cooling system on the hot side you would cool a container of water a lot quicker.

New Zealand

Brake Trick

New Brakes for the Falcon, Part 1 is spot on. I have done literally thousands of similar brake replacement jobs. One fault though with the narrative. When pushing the caliper piston back with the G clamp, the bleed nipple at the caliper should be cracked open and the fluid drained to a bottle through a tight-fitting hose on the bleed nipple. This prevents loose particles from the back of the piston being forced back up the fluid line and accumulating in the end of the master cylinder. These accumulated particles at the end of the master cylinder will get caught under, and cause premature wear to, the seals in the master cylinder.

Russ Bathurst

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