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Switchable ESP

A lot of European cars are being made with non-switchable ESP these days; it would be great if you guys could develop some sort of ESP override electronic gadget, I'm sure you would sell it a lot!

Rodrigo Passos

We have covered a way of switching off traction control while still leaving ESP active (an approach we consider to be better than switching off ESP entirely) – series starts at Modifying Electronic Car Handling Systems, Part 1. We have also covered a system that allows user-adjustment of the action of stability control – see Electronic Stability Control - Part Three

Writing Like Teenagers

I just wanted to comment on a couple of your articles. I usually read car reviews from different sites within Australia. But I must say that some of the reviews I have read from today are extremely disappointing.

I quite regularly came across negative points raised on certain vehicles but then praised on the same points later on during the article. It's almost like two different teenagers were given an article to write and then thrown together and published.

I'd also like to make a comment about the review on the VE SSV. A point was made over the size of the vehicle in that it was far too big. A fair comment to make. But then making the comment that this size is more ideal for a lower spec Commodore but not the sports model i.e. SSV. Some colleagues and I were reading this and couldn’t believe that an auto journalist/web site would think that Holden should alter the SS by changing sheet metal/dimensions etc to reduce the size. It's almost laughable basically suggesting that the SS be a completely different vehicle.

I think a website with as much exposure as yours should seriously think about the way it presents itself.

Matt Chandler

Where are the examples in road tests of negative points that are later praised? If it occurs regularly, you must be able to find lots of examples. Re the size of the Commodore as a sporting machine: you miss the point. No doubt Toyota could do a sporting version of the Tarago, but would that make for a good sporting car? Yet its size is fine for carrying large families...

More on Oval Chain Rings 1

Regarding oval chain rings on bikes, Shimano offered these in the early '90s under the 'Biopace' tag but they were soon discredited.  I understand that they got the major axis of the ellipse in the wrong orientation (by 90 degrees) so that the effective gear ratio increased rather than decreased during the 'dead spots' of the pedalling cycle (TDC and BDC), exacerbating the loss of momentum at these positions and producing a jerky pedalling action.  The 'Eggrings' made by Highpath Engineering which Julian has bought are, I understand, correctly manufactured to give a higher effective gear ratio during the power stroke when the pedals are close to horizontal.

Ben Garside
United Kingdom

More on Oval Chain Rings 2

Just a response from me regarding the oval chain rings which others seem to be confused about. The main reason why they are no longer used on racing cycles in that the oval shape made shifting gears on the big rings slow and cumbersome. You really need to use a special front dérailleur to shift the gears properly and then even then it didn't work too well. (The proper dérailleur moved diagonally instead of just straight out.) Also there was the issue of the chain dropping off if you down-shifted at the incorrect moment, and excessive chain wear. These are the reasons why they are no longer used.

Kai Fuller (a bike mechanic)

More on Oval Chain Rings 3

I read with interest your total conversion to elliptical cogs (see Driving Emotion). These have been around for many years - my first mountain bike bought in 1988 had Shimano Biopace cogs, with a lovely elliptical shape. If you go to and have a surf around the technical section you can see that elliptical cogs are beginning to move into the pro ranks. But there are still many doubters and naysayers. And if the UCI is true to form they will probably ban them!

Me, I never found them to be any big advantage or disadvantage. I have always been able to keep the legs turning in circles and never noticed any particular flat spot in the pedal cycle. When I replaced the worn out Biopace with a normal cog, I barely noticed. I have ridden supposedly bouncy dual suspension bikes and not had issues with pedal bounce. So maybe if you can keep pressure on the pedals all the time (gotta love those clip in pedals!) and turn a high cadence, the ellipses aren’t noticeably different. But if you turn a low cadence, like struggling to the top of a hill in a recumbent, they are absolute magic!

So I have to ask have you tried even lower gearing? Even if you are barely moving, if the legs are going around it’s always easier.

Donal Storey

In-Car PC Power Supply

In relation to your article titled "Setting Up an In-Car PC" Issue 306 (10th Nov 2004) you said "Power supplies for PCs that work off 12V (ie car battery voltages) are also available. But they’re not cheap – try something like ten times the price of a normal mains power supply! So while it sounds a bit like working backwards, the cheapest way of getting an in-car PC power supply is to use an inverter to boost the car battery voltage up to mains voltage before connecting it to the PC power supply – which then drops it back down to the right DC voltages. Suitable inverters are available from about AUD$150."

A couple of years ago I setup a 12volt PC using standard desktop hardware. The power supply I used was bought new and was a power module from the inside of a laptop. These modules will take 12 volts and create all the correct voltages for the motherboard and the drives. The module is small (about the size of an Ipod Nano). No fan required. Efficient (ran a 586 motherboard and hard drive with just under 1 amp of current from a 12 volt battery, so 12 watts.) Cheap ($25 plus shipping.) Also has outputs to signal low battery voltage to allow the PC to shutdown or hibernate.


Ride Quality 1

Regarding "Going the wrong way in the ride/handling compromise" (see Driving Emotion.) Quote: ''Go for a drive or ride in a mid-Eighties Mercedes Benz 300E, or a 1960s Jaguar or Citroen or Austin 1800. Put your fingers in your ears to get rid of the noise that is always so much higher than current cars and marvel at the ride quality, a ride that allows long distance, fatigue-free kilometres. If you haven’t previously done so, you’ll be very surprised."

It's funny that you asked this question of your readers as I was talking about this with a good friend recently at the "end of a long night". Having previously owned 3 of the 4 cars on the list (no Citroen and the Jaguar was ‘80’s) I couldn’t agree more, indeed I would also like to add my old Rover 3500 (P6B) and Peugeot 505, and to a lesser extent original shape SAAB 900 and Peugeot 406.

I would like to add a couple of more reasons to this appalling lack of understanding to driver/passenger comfort, in addition to tyre fashion.

1. Engineers used to tune seat springing to match the car's springs. A lot of older cars have now had their seats collapse, but when you get a good one the difference is obvious. Seats are now built better and are more supportive over longer distances, however, those same engineers are trying to give a feeling of sportiness, which demands that they remove some of the isolation that was previously desirable. The seat of the pants feeling is great when you are out for a hard drive; otherwise it is just tiresome.

2. BMW. Yep, I will come out and say it, it seems to me that every one is trying to build car that fits the BMW niche. Dynamically exciting high quality executive vehicle, a highly profitable niche, naturally. Don’t get me wrong, they make fine vehicles, the E39 is one of the best cars I have ever driven, however, they make only one type of vehicle in various degrees. Previously, you had a choice, now if a manufacture offers a softer alternative they are persecuted in the press for it. The ultimate irony is when BMW produced the Rover 75, its niche was a “gentleman’s” vehicle, they were panned as delivering something that wasn’t exciting enough dynamically. Yet I was passenger in a Rover 75 Club on a 1000 km journey and I actually thought it performed far beyond the capabilities of 95% of other modern cars, for that use. Would I want to lap Phillip Island in it? Not on your life, I have a dedicated race car for that – it has 350 pound front springs and 600 pound rears, plus $4000 in shock absorbers and that is the exact point, it is designed for the job.

At the end of the day it comes down to horses for courses. If you are in the bush, a 4WD is the best tool; early morning mountain fang in patchy damp - use a performance AWD; ultimate comfort cruising over broken roads at our (low) highway speeds – choose the Jaguar XJ6; driving at 200 kph on the autobahn where infallible reactions are mandatory – THEN the BMW is the best bet.

Blair Coull

Ride Quality 2

Couldn't agree more with you 'Driving Emotion' of 10.03.2007. I have been thinking the same for a very long time. I had an old P6 Rover many years ago and marvelled at the soft  smooth ride over bumps and dips yet how much faster I could go round corners than my friends’ newer cars in casual on-road races....!

Your quote: 'the circular sequence of car testers constantly wanting better handling cars, car company engineers responding, and  then sufficient time passing that everyone has forgotten what good riding cars are really like'. This is exactly what has happened; most drivers have never been in anything other than a Hyundai or Toyota, so don’t know a car that rides well so think that these new cars must be as good as can be.

The same goes for engine performance, most new cars have great on-paper specs  = lots of kilowatts and gear ratios etc.., but in real world driving feel less than special.  My 30 year old 3 litre 6 cylinder has 'stats' that are well below current designs, and ultimately it goes about as well as a 2 litre 4 cylinder, but to 'drive every day' it gets off the line better than most new Commodore 6 cylinders, goes up hills without fuss or gear changes and overtakes easily on the open road.  Around town driving I never have to go over 1500 rpm to keep in front of traffic.

My 'new' daily driver,  is more than 3.5 litres; and is smooth and quiet and has 'on paper' 50% more torque.  However it always revs to 3500 rpm to accelerate from rest and keep with the traffic, and in normal driving shunts back a gear for hills and overtaking - not very relaxing but irritating.

Like you said, new cars are quieter (and ultimately better than?) old cars, but some of the lessons of the past need to be re-learned

Craig Dunn

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