Thursday, April 28, 2016


Soon after disembarking Singapore Airlines' A380 at Heathrow we will mount up in one of the Czech Republic's finest, the Skoda Octavia hatch .....

Then it's off to the South Downs,

the beauty of the Cotswolds,

and the wilds (?) of Cheshire.
Finishing with a few days at the beach in Abersoch, Wales.

After that it's off down the Danube to Budapest,

and then finally back to the daily grind on the Gold Coast. Yes, I'm a lucky duck, and I know it!


This last month I've been raving about how much driving fun I have had in the Mazda MX5, the BMW m330i and the Porsche 911 Carrera S.

But, how about if you want your fun in a complete package, with brilliant performance, ride and handling, some creature comforts and useful, but not intrusive technology - and you don't want to mortgage the house to buy it?

In my book there is only one answer. And, for AUD$29,990 here it is:

The Toyota 86! End of story!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Okay, here's the business end of the Porsche 911 Carrera S for 2016, codenamed 991.2.

Setting off for a spin in the country, there's rainbow above us.
Looks promising.

First, let me say that the simple and authentic sports car experience in the Madza MX5 completely won me over.

Then I fell in love with the BMW m330i for its smoothness and driving delight.

However, that sound you hear is me crying, because I had to return the Porsche 911 Carrera S.

At home at high speed, or just tootling round town, the twin-turbo flat six delivers whatever you ask from it.

At least I'm told there's an engine back there!

This is truly upmarket sports car driving, and if it sounds like I'm gushing, you're right.

I LOVE this car. It may have taken me 40 years to drive another Porsche, but this one was worth the wait. I literally got a tingle of pleasure all the while I was behind the wheel, and I really loved the 'programmed throttle-blip' when you're downshifting manually. Nice touch.

In the semi-alpine region we live in, known as the Gold Coast Hinterland, we enjoy a great selection of mountain roads, with tight switchbacks, long flowing curves and some beautiful long straights, where the 911 Carrera S really sings.

In the cockpit I was immediately dazzled by the quiet sophistication and elegance of the Porsche Design interior treatment.

The new 7 inch touchscreen and associated controls are superbly intuitive and well laid out - thus, easy to use. These were definately 'stolen moments'.

Sure, the backseats maybe accommodate those mysterious 'legless midgets' we automotive writers refer to; but if you shuffled the front seats forward, you may get some shorter adults back there - for a short trip to a Gelati Messina bar.

As far as 'luggage' is concerned, then just plan for a dirty weekend, carrying a fresh pair of knickers, and a wet pack. There's a 'bin' up front that may hold about 300 litres of 'stuff', but don't count on carrying for a six week Grand Tour!

Mind you, these are not critiscms - just realistic reporting on the facts. You'll be having so much fun behind the wheel, you won't care. This is AUD$259,000 well-invested.

I'm told that this car is a 'mid-life facelift' and there's a new Type 992 coming in 2018, and it's brand new. I'd be more than happy to have someone's cast-off 991.2, thanks!


Fresh from having my bum in the seat of a new Porsche 924, I then left Stuttgart to attend the 1976 Monaco Formula One Grand Prix.

Thanks to the rude, and anti-French behavior of MODERN MOTOR’S European editor, I was denied a complete set of Press credentials (despite being the Editor), and instead I was issued with a pass which allowed me to walk around the circuit, and spend some time in the Paddock during Saturday practice. For the race I was given a free seat in a Stand!

I managed to uncover a number of neat vantage spots frequented by the Monagesque locals, who had an aversion to paying 100 French Francs just to walk through the gate.

Never mind the cost of a seat in the open air stands!

The Monaco GP was, and still is, a big event for the city-state, and has never had a problem attracting patrons – even if they have to hang off trees, or watch from underneath an overpass!

However, the Press Officer’s secretary had taken pity on me and suggested that if I presented myself at the Paddock exit to the track at the end of the final practice session, she would organize something for me.

By two minutes past four I was strapped into the passenger’s seat of the Porsche 911 Pace Car, and enjoyed two very swift laps of the circuit, driven by the Chef du Course. Unforgettable!

Trouble is, it took forty years before enjoying my next Porsche driving experience. But, it was worth the wait!


Forty years ago this month I was visiting my friend Lothar Behr, the CEO of Recaro GmbH, in Kirckheim unter Teck, near Stuttgart.
Lothar Behr with Recaro workers
Over dinner at his home we discussed new cars, and he told me Recaro had one of the first Porsche 924s; loaned by Porsche, so that Recaro could investigate making a special seat for the new model.

As the car was not yet available in Australia I prevailed upon him to let me drive it so, as Editor of MODERN MOTOR magazine, I could write my driving impressions, send them back Australia via a Telex message, which would be published in Australia the following week – thereby beating my competitor, WHEELS magazine to the punch.

Gasthof Löwen
Lothar brought the car round to the small Gasthof I was staying at, in the tiny village of Owen (Teck). 

Remember this was forty years ago, so I am not surprised to find that the region had grown somewhat.

Owen (Teck) 2012

My homely and comfortable accommodation, Gasthof Löwen was right by the railway station, and I was struck by the ambience in the village, with a proliferation of red geraniums in window boxes.
Owen (Teck) bahnhof
Red Porsche with red geraniums

Being my first ever trip outside of Australia I soon understood how the harshness of the northen winters made the annual display of flowers a welcome celebration of Spring and Summer.

Even though the environs of Owen Teck were less populated than they are today, for any sort of fast driving, I took to the hills around Neidlingen, to join the A8 autobahn at Hohenstadt, and back to Recaro. 

Back in 1976 once you left Route 465 at Gutenberg, the regional route (L1212), was a primitive rural connecting road, but the curvy, ascending and descending road clearly showed that Porsche’s rear transaxle layout for the 924 provided exceptional handling, with impeccable balance.

I think it's fair to say that the 924 was universally damned by Porsche Purists for not being a 'real' Porsche, however I must say I very much enjoyed driving it. Its balance was superb, and although the steering was a bit numb around town, it was fine when driving quickly.

The 924, originally known as Project 425 began as a joint Volkswagen-Porsche program. It was built in Audi's Neckarsulm plant. The front-engined, water-cooled model was intended to be VW’s pinnacle sports car, and for Porsche it was an entry level car, which was cheap to produce thanks to the VW-Audi EA831 2.0L engine and Audi-supplied 4-speed transmission.

Designed by Porsche’s styling genius, Dutchman Harm Lagay, the 924 became too expensive for VW, because of various modifications and developments which Porsche initiated, in order for the car to have some credibility as a Stuttgart Stormer.

It was launched in 1975 at a press event in the French Camargue region, and between intro and its cessation in 1988, it sold around 150,000 models, with various different names, 924 Turbo, 924 Carrera GT and 924S.

The commercial success of the Porsche 924 was a financial lifesaver for Porsche, and by the early 90s was significantly  instrumental in making Porsche profitable.

My next Porsche experience was to be one I will never forget.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Harald Krueger, Chairman BMW AG
“Future mobility will connect every area of people’s lives,” BMW Chairman Harald Krueger told his audience at the Vision Next 100 news conference back in March.

“And that’s where we see new opportunities for premium mobility. For a better quality of life, the BMW Group is going to turn data into intelligence. Soon, our cars will be digital chauffeurs and personal companions. They will anticipate what we want to do and make our lives easier for us.”

What? My BMW will drive me?

Read the full story in GoAuto News Premium!

Friday, April 15, 2016


After writing about Sergio Marchionne’s decision to cultivate massive debt to fund a new range FIAT and Chrysler models, it’s worth looking at the situation FIAT is in, in its home market – and Europe generally.

This is a company in trouble!

Take a look at FIAT’s current homegrown model lineup.

The passenger car range, with the exception of the baby 500

FIAT Panda
FIAT Linea

The Panda, Agea, Linea and Tipo are all derived from the aged (notice I didn’t say ‘ageing’) FIAT Stilo platform, first launched in 2001.

FIAT Fremont
The FIAT Fremont SUV is based on the Dodge Journey, and the FIAT 500 Cross X is based on the Jeep Renegade, as is the company’s first utility vehicle – the Toro.

FIAT 500 Cross X

 Although Marchionne cleverly brought FIAT back to profitability, the financial success he achieved in 2006 is proving difficult to maintain. Borrowing platforms from Chrysler-Jeep has been a brilliant decision and has provided new revenue streams from segments the company never previously participated in. However, the bedrock FIAT car range is OLD, OLD, OLD.

Chrysler 200
In the USA, Marchionne has dumped the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart platforms.
Dodge Dart

The Dart was the basis for the new Alfa Romeo Guilia, and he is hoping he can form a joint venture with another carmaker to create new models to replace the 200 and Dart!
Ringing every ounce of value from the 300,
it's even been badged as the Lancia Thema!

(It's also worth remembering that the very successful Chrysler 300 is based on a Mercedes-Benz platform that is at least two generations old!)

So far his attempts to create a joint venture have led nowhere, including his not-so-subtle suggestion that FCA and GM form a joint venture (rapidly rebuffed). This comes on top of Mitsubishi Motors announcing it will not produce a follow-up to the Lancer, unless it is spawned from a JV!

You can imagine the terror on the faces of motor company board members around the world, as they realize that their independence is vulnerable, unless they create workable joint ventures. The cost of developing new cars is becoming overwhelming.

FIAT 124 (nee Mazda MX5)
I think Marchionne definitely did something smart in joining up with Mazda to produce the FIAT 124. That was really clever. So, maybe Mazda might help him create a new line of FIAT passenger cars – on the cheap!