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Some of this week's Letters to AutoSpeed

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In the article "15yo ADR-ing - Part One" , you refer to the outside mirrors as concave. I suspect that they are actually convex.

George Barrett

Hmm, things would look pretty funny if the factory mirrors were concave... Thanks for that – article now corrected.

Pick a Badge

I’m turning 18 in a few months and I have AUD$7,000 to spend on a car. I rounded it off to 2 cars - the KE TX3 Ford Laser hatchback and the Mazda BFMR 323. I like the Ford’s looks but I like the Mazda’s standard features. Which of these two cars would you prefer and what do I need to consider when buying a 15 year old car?

John Lee

If you haven’t already, check out our feature on the BFMR/TX3 twins Buying Used - Mazda BFMR 323/Ford KE Laser 4WD Turbo.

We recently looked into purchasing a TX3 4WD turbo and were wary of signs of trouble with the turbo, gearbox and airbag suspension. These fully-equipped TX3/323s are available with plenty of fruit, but be aware that they can be relatively expensive to fix. The supply of good second-hand engines is also starting to dry up.

After 15 years of use, our best advice would be to assess each car you look at on its own merit – regardless whether it’s the Ford, Mazda, 4WD or 2WD. The overall condition of the car should be your deciding factor.

Pursuing a Pontiac

I would like to enquire about Issue #215 – the article Top Down Trans Am. It shows in a photo the car with right hand drive - I would like to know if this car available in Australia and if I can contact the owner. I am interested in buying one like it.

Tariq Alghalayini

The car on test was imported and offered for sale by Melbourne’s Sports and Luxury Cars.  (+61 3 9753 5799 Sports and Luxury Cars are always bringing in imports and performing the necessary compliance.

More Fuel Feelings - #1

Regarding Fuel Feelings #4 (Response). As an Economics and Finance student the author should know that elasticity of demand only relates to delta (or small) changes in price. What Julian suggests is a significant increase in price, enough to change people's attitudes.

I say get rid of annual registration fees and increase fuel prices, a user pays system proportional to the number of kms driven and the efficiency of the vehicle.

In reply to Fuel Feelings #2, when I was studying I used to drive an early ‘80s 1.5 litre Mazda 323. It was well maintained and used to get fantastic fuel economy. Nowadays a similar car could be had for well under AUD$2k - within the reach of virtually any motorist. In Europe a car of similar size would be considered a family car, but for some odd reason this is not the case here in Australia. Maybe our cheap fuel prices at work?

Jamie Ericson

More Fuel Feelings - #2

Re: More on fuel price increases.

Another trouble with owning vehicle with a small turbo engine versus a large capacity NA engine is insurance costs. Insurance companies tend not to be able to tell the difference between a Kei-class econobox and a Skyline GT-R. The advantages of your lightweight, fuel-efficient small turbo car can easily be offset by high insurance premiums.

In principle I'm not a fan of further regulation of motoring, but perhaps the government could mandate insurance premiums based on more realistic criteria than simply whether or not the vehicle has a turbo. Maybe some sort of premium based on power/weight, or fuel consumption.

Nick West

More Fuel Feelings - #3

In response to Jimmy's letter about the economics of fuel consumption... Response

Consumer's preferences for fuel consumption are only price inelastic in the short-run when certain factors of production (such as the car you drive) are fixed. In the long-run all factors become variable and the price elasticity of fuel falls significantly.

Or, in other words, consumers won't buy fuel-efficient cars overnight - but after paying significantly more money for fuel for a couple of years, it will happen.

There is historical evidence of this occurring: look at the oil price shock during the 1970s and the popularity of 'smaller' cars during that time. Ford even stopped offering a V8 option on their best selling car!!

Dan Boman

Cutting Edge Engine

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Whatever happened to SAAB's Variable Compression engine? Surely this is one of the most significant developments in the history of the internal combustion engine and is presumably still being developed? Any news would be of great interest.

Roger Froud

Check out Saab's Variable Compression Engine and Changing the Squeeze. There’s some good stuff for you there, but we’ve had no further word on its progress toward mass production.

Well Done!

I just wanted to let you know how impressed I am with the compilation of information you present here [on AutoSpeed] . I have spent the last two weeks researching the purchase of an SLK 320 and other than how "cute" it is, others have nothing to say. Way to go! Please keep up the good work.

Jaime S. Cifuentes

Non-Conventional NX

G'day. I own a Nissan NX and would, of course, like more power! Apart from the usual SR20DET engine swap, would it be possible (at less than AUD$10k) to drop a FWD VQ30DE engine from a local Maxima?

I really would like an engine conversion that does not require forced induction, as I'd like to keep the car as reliable and responsive as possible. Any other possible swaps?

Winston N

Wow – we’re not sure on the VQ V6 but, heck, what an idea! Maybe some readers can help with some info.

Keep in mind the Japanese market SR20VE NEO VVL. This engine uses variable valve timing and lift to reach 140kW at 7000 rpm and 196Nm at 6000 rpm. We’d suggest this engine – if you can find one.

There are also the hot 1.6 litre versions of the SR – a rare N1 race version (with a red valve cover) puts out 147kW and a milder version (with a silver valve cover) makes 129kW. But be aware that these 1.6s need to rev past 7000 to give their best.

Can’t See the Forest...

I've read about all the awards the Forester XT has won and was wondering when you will be doing a road test yourself? If I have missed it could you please forward the link?

Michael Spalding

Our latest test of the Forester was back in January 2003 – see New Car Test - Forester X. We have not received any test vehicles from Subaru Australia since our test of the Impreza STi later that year - read that test and draw your own conclusions on the subsequent lack of press cars!

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