Thursday, 15 October 2009

Good things

Here are a few things I’ve seen in the last week that have cheered me up.

First is this concept by Daihatsu.


Called ‘basket’ it is designed, if I recall the press release correctly, for family trips to the vegetable patch. It is such an odd design brief and I feel I should hate it but it is so quirky I’m quite taken with the idea. Although production seems unlikely maybe Daihatsu has designs on the market vacated by the Mini Moke and Citroen Mehari.

Then I saw a retro-styled Honda electric car.


The EV-N is an electric city car with solar panels on the roof and a strong resemblance to the 1960s Honda N360. It has a similar ‘cute’ appeal to the Fiat 500 and MINI and it looks as though it would make a good rival to Toyota’s iQ. Sadly, it seems there are no plans to put it into production. On the other hand I can’t help thinking that it would be even better with a small, high-revving engine in place of the battery drivetrain.

Finally, it isn’t just small cars that appeal.


McLaren’s new supercar didn’t appeal to me when I first saw it, however I was asked to do a news story on the MP4-12C. Familiarising myself with the 12C’s details left me feeling rather more positive towards the new British supercar. Obviously McLaren’s web site would talk-up its latest offering but just looking at some of the components is a reminder that good engineering can be beautiful. I particularly like the carbon tub with its smooth curves.

The Honda and Daihatsu will be on display at the Tokyo Motor Show. The McLaren can bee seen at

Monday, 5 October 2009

Arrivals and departures

O.K. Sorry for the lack of updates but things have been pretty busy here. If I'm not at work I'm either writing or at the gym. It is all good but leaves the poor old blog a bit neglected. Since my last update covered part of my search for a new car it seemed logical to resume by saying that I have found one. A 1998 Honda Prelude VTi, a rare manual example. Despite my general enthusiasm for automatic transmissions I think the synchromesh gearbox is the one to have if you're going to buy a Prelude. Given the rumours of problematic auto-boxes the DIY-transmission certainly seems like a safer bet.

So far I am delighted with it. Some minor details feel a little penny pinched compared with my old 1989 Preludes. Things like the lack of seat memory and unlined coin tray suggest that the accountants took their pound of flesh. Somehow fake wood on the centre console is poor compensation for what has been lost. At least the double wishbone suspension and four-wheel steering escaped the axe - a large part of the pleasure of driving the Prelude is down to the way it handles and steers. Unfortunately I can't make a direct comparison with my old Preludes but not only is there an improvement in grip and responsiveness but also the ride is much more comfortable.

Other noticeable improvements over the old Prelude include more performance and surprising smoothness from the V-tec engine. Especially gratifying is the smoother transition between the two cam profiles - the 1992 Prelude I drove, which gave me my first taste of Honda's variable valve timing and lift technology, suffered a noticeable step between the two stages. Despite the improved performance fuel economy seems no worse than my old, automatic Prelude and a 60-litre fuel tank gives more than adequate range - at the expense of a big bill if you have to refill and almost empty tank.


Getting the Prelude meant saying goodbye to my Citroen BX14. Sold to a BX enthusiast I'm happy that it has gone to a good home. I must admit I never bonded with 'Pierre' in the way that I did with the BX I had before, Claude. Funny how both French cars gained nicknames but neither my current Honda nor any of the others received that honour.