Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The return of Alvis

From Fourwheelsteer: Motoring Writer

Even though Alvis ceased car production in 1967 there are plans to revive the name and bring back one of the company’s pre-war models. Red Triangle, the company formed by ex-Alvis employees to look after spares and servicing for the marque, plans to build a limited run of 4.3-litre cars.

Production of the 4.3-litre model was halted in 1940 as the company (and nation) had higher priorities that required attention. However, there were plans to build more examples of the model.

The cars will be built using the original drawings and the latest CAD/CAM technology. Although the engine will be essentially the same 4.3-litre straight six the plan is to use modern materials, engine management and fuel injection to cut emissions and increase power. Other than that the car should retain the feel and character of the 1930s design.

Maybe this is a new direction for low-volume manufacturers; instead of focussing on high-speeds how about providing decent performance with the tactility and involvement you get from an old car?

Sunday, 13 June 2010

I just wanted to say…

Got a few things on my mind. Excuse the slightly stream-of-consciousness nature of this blog post but I wanted to get my thoughts on ‘paper’ while they were fresh.

Great in theory:
As part of getting my ‘bike licence I need to do the theory and hazard perception part of the driving test. It seemed a bit daunting but having had a look at the DSA interactive DVD on the subject I’m much more confident. Most of the things expected should come naturally to an experienced driver but it hasn’t done any harm to refresh those skills. One of the reasons for learning to ride a motorcycle was to improve my driving; it is nice that I can already see the benefit.

Choose your bike:
Still on the subject of motorcycles; the Get On website suggested I might like to take its interactive mini quiz to see what sort of motorcycle would be best for me. It asked some odd questions, such as how I have my hair cut and what sort of tent I’d use to go camping (suffice it to say that fourwheelsteer does not go camping). The first time I used it the application crashed, second time it came up with ‘adventure sports’ which appear to be bikes on stilts. That didn’t seem right at all so, third time lucky, I tried again and it came up with sports tourers – which look much more promising. What I think I want is a bike with outstanding steering, strong brakes, a decent ride, slick gearbox and a powerful, interesting, nice sounding engine. Although, to be fair, even a humble 125 ‘bike feels amazing if you’re used to cars.

On the road:
Not that cars can’t be good too; I took the Honda over to Luton for the Festival of Transport. Eschewing the obvious route I made my way via places beginning with B; Banbury, Brackley and Buckingham (we’ll ignore Milton Keynes).It was nice to let the car stretch its legs, including a romp up Sun Rising Hill and – on the way home – giving chase to a bright green Ford Focus RS. I don’t think the Ford was taking it easy as it set off out of a village with an audible chirrup from its tyres and I had to work quite hard to keep it in sight. Still, it is nice to know that my old and slightly scruffy Prelude can still move quickly when circumstances allow.

Grinding gears:
One thing that could be improved in the Prelude is the gearbox. It is pretty good but I couldn’t help thinking that with the close-ratio six-speed gearbox from the S2000 it would be even better. For that matter, what price a fast, beautiful, poised, rear-wheel drive Honda coupĂ©?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Another motorcycle adventure

It was hard to believe but two months passed between completing my CBT and my first ‘proper’ motorbike riding lesson on Friday.

I was a little nervous about climbing back into the saddle but it turns out that riding a motorcycle is a lot like riding a bike (you never forget how). In fact I felt more comfortable and confident than ever.

Even so, it was a relief to begin within the safety of the riding school’s compound practicing some of the exercises that crop up on the motorcycle test. The strangest of these is wheeling the bike backwards from one ‘garage’, defined by four cones, to another parallel space a few feet away. Other exercises included a slalom and figure of eight, both done at low speed – challenging but the key seems to be to look at where you want to go.

On the road I had to work hard to keep up as I was on a little 125 while the instructor and other pupil were on 500cc ‘bikes. Having previously thought Honda’s CG125 to be a bit of a slug it was gratifying to discover that it can move at a decent pace if you are prepared to wind the throttle right open.

Sadly there was no opportunity for jaunts through the country, the rest of the lesson concentrated on a succession of urban junctions. There is a lot to remember, for the novice anyway, in terms of observation, position, signalling, gear selection and cancelling the signal afterwards – no self-cancelling indicators on a motorbike.

But it was all good fun and it looks like there are only a few areas that need work before I can take my test. The next lesson will be in four weeks time.