Thursday, June 30, 2022


Over my 30 year career as an automotive public relations executive I’ve met a LOT of media people all over the world – some memorable, others not so much. I have been very fortunate to form great friendships with quite a lot – and our relationships have spanned many years.


One such is my very good friend from Detroit, Michigan – Paul Eisenstein, whom I would happily describe as a renaissance man. He started out as a photographer, a skill he would build on, creating beautiful and artful images. However, he’s also a keen kayaker, and spends a lot of time in the outdoors in northern Michigan – that is when he’s not flying around the USA or the world covering the automotive beat for The Detroit Bureau.


Paul started in the 1970s in broadcast mediums of television and radio, then moved into print journalism, via a contract with National Public Radio (NPR). However, when NPR said they wanted him to cover other subjects, but definitely not the automotive sector, he quit.


He had by this time earned fame as a straight shooter, with an abundance of both hard line and sympathetic car reviews, as well as interviews with the big-time suits in Detroit, and Europe.


He decided to start THE DETROIT BUREAU in 1979 and it has become one of his strongest passions. As publisher and editor he leads a great team covering a wide variety of subjects and new technologies. As an automotive website it is right up there in the top echelon, and he has smoothly transitioned from covering conventional cars to all the new kids on the block, like EVs.


I’m delighted to welcome Paul to DRIVING & LIFE as our newest contributor. I value his opinions - and his skill as a writer complements his ‘eye for a story’. He is also very adept in picking apart PR bullshit.


I have accompanied Paul on many media events when I was PR Director for Bentley Motors North America. He was invited because of the reach and coverage of The Detroit Bureau, but also because I truly enjoy his company.

We connect on the same wavelength in our personal rapport, and have shared some great experiences during new Bentley launches and meeting up at places like Pebble Beach Concours, etc.

Bentley Chairman, Adrian Hallmark (centre)

One of our most interesting events was when Paul, and another good friend, Howard Walker (L), joined Bentley's Chairman, Adrian Hallmark, in Venice to launch the Continental Flying Spur saloon.


Probably the most fun, was when Bentley Motors decided, in 2005, to celebrate an event in Bentley’s colourful history, called The Blue Train Race.

I was able to invite Paul, and then Editor of Road & Track magazine, Thom Bryant (who sadly passed away in 2020) to join a small group of journalists and Bentley management in Cannes.

We would be retracing the route of a famous race in 1930, undertaken by the then Chairman of Bentley Motors, Woolf Barnato. 

Barnato wagered he could beat France’s famous ‘Le Train Bleu’ by driving his ‘company car’ (an 8 litre Bentley Mulliner saloon - bottom) from Cannes all the way to his Club in London before the train reached its terminus in Calais.

He did, and he won the wager. Rather than re-tell the story of the Blue Train Celebration run, here’s a link to the Post.


What made the celebration run even more special is that both the historic Bentleys connected to the original race were brought along to run with modern Bentleys, allowing our guests to sample the 1930 cars, alongside a number of 2005 Bentley Arnage sedans. Both the historic Bentleys are owned by US entrepreneur and Bentley enthusiast Bruce McCaw of Seattle.

Clockwise from top left - Paul (always working) and Thom Bryant; Historic Bentley owner Bruce McCaw, Bentley's Richard Charlesworth and Paul; Richard and Paul in a Bentley Blower; Starting from Cannes at dawn.

So welcome Paul. What have you got for us?



Sunday, June 26, 2022


Ferrari has signed contracts with Gold Coast company NEXT LEVEL RACING to acquire a number of racing simulators for use in Maranello to train its eSports race drivers.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc

The simulators cost AUD$30,000 to build, and while that may seem chump change for Ferrari, given its multi-million dollar racing budget, it’s a huge boost for the small Australian company, says founder Hes Ghah.


Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate (Photo: Heidi Sheehan)

NEXT LEVEL RACING invited Gold Coast Mayor, Tom Tate, to take a spin in a simulator and afterwards he was energised, excited and exhausted. He said: “If this is how drivers make their money, then they really earn it.

Next level Racing founder, Hes Ghah, racing with Tom Tate (Photo: Heidi Sheehan)

Hes Ghah says he is keen to sell the simulators around the world, and already a number of teams have shown keen interest in the product.

Hes says Ferrari's recognition of the quality of the NEXT LEVEL RACING simulators is a great boost for his small company in terms of global recognition, and providing building blocks for future products.

The popularity of SIM racing  is not restricted to racing teams because they are also important as entertainment activities and even for regular drivers to hone their skills.



Saturday, June 25, 2022

A DIRTY-CLEAN EV TALE - by John Crawford

Many of the world’s big thinkers are on a similar wavelength when it comes to the false claims that EVs are ‘clean’.

A recent meeting of global energy consultants announced that whilst ever grid supplies were generated by fossil fuels, then BEVs are certainly NOT the answer to reducing emissions produced by personal mobility.


This position has also been repeated by Toyota’s Chief Technology Officer, Masahiko Maeda, when defending Toyota’s decision to embrace multiple types of motive power for its products. Some Toyota shareholders have told the auto giant that it isn’t moving fast enough on releasing BEVs.


In turn Maeda-san reiterated the company’s strategy of offering a variety of powertrains to suit a variety of markets. He said that the overall global position is neither stable, nor represents any sort of maturity in proposals to clean up vehicle emissions.


Toyota offers ICE, Hybrid, BEV and Fuel Cell options.

Yes, it’s hedging its bets on how the future will play out, but I believe Toyota is right to claim that Hybrid technology is definitely a greener alternative as the automotive world transitions toward an ‘electric era’.


However, in between the mass of articles arguing over the push to EVs I did spot one ray of hope.

The experts I listen to are saying that Hybrid/BEV batteries have a roughly 100,000km life, before they need to be replaced.

But from a number of parts of the world comes news of many companies harnessing ‘used’ batteries’ capabilities to store energy from wind and solar generators.


Recycling ‘dead’ car batteries is both a costly and carbon-intense situation, and the world has not seen a big enough shift by industry to move into battery recycling, or re-purposing, in any great numbers. However, if whatever remains of use in a ‘used’ battery can be harnessed and utlilised then there is some light at the end of the EV tunnel.


And again, Toyota is moving to the forefront of sensible recycling.


Old EV batteries can be repurposed as a renewable energy source for homes and businesses. Even if they have a reduced storage capacity, they can be reused to store wind and solar energy, according to Innovative News Network. This can extend their life cycle by another seven to 10 years.


A good example of this is Toyota's initiative to sustainably power Yellowstone Park. The car company equipped the landmark with solar panels powered by batteries that once belonged in Toyota Hybrids, replacing diesel generators.

Even General Motors is getting in on the act, using ‘old’ Chevy Volt batteries for re-powering.

This has similar ramifications for the nuclear industry, and I would love to see imaginative, innovative and enterprising solutions being developed on a large scale for re-purposing spent nuclear fuel rods.


Two companies, one in the UK and one in Germany, are actively working on using spent fuel rods in powering small nuclear activities – rather than storing them in drums and burying them in concrete bunkers underground.

Combined with latest technology (small modular nuclear generators) this re-purposing of spent fuel rods could show the way to a more acceptable use of nuclear power generation, which would put a lid on criticism of embracing nuclear energy to provide clean, sustainable and reliable grid electricity.


However, both the first and second parts of this Post cannot succeed without visionaries in global governments actively encouraging innovation to face the challenges ahead for vehicle emissions and the generation of clean nuclear-sourced electricity. Industry cannot alone drive the thinking and regulatory changes needed to overcome the huge challenge ahead.


The new Australian government needs to get on with creating practical opportunities and options. Nuclear is the way forward.

This is not something that can be put off, governments need to be braver and pay more attention to finding solutions, than placating the Greens and the inner city elites.


Thursday, June 16, 2022

DO TESLAS RUN ON RAILS? by John Crawford

No, they drive on the same highways and byways that you and I do, and they are dangerous. According to an article in the New York Times: Tesla vehicles running its Autopilot software have been involved in 273 reported crashes over roughly the past year, according to regulators, far more than previously known, and providing concrete evidence regarding the real-world performance of its futuristic features.

The numbers, which were published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the first time Wednesday, show that Tesla vehicles made up nearly 70 percent of the 392 crashes involving advanced driver-assistance systems reported since last July, and a majority of the fatalities and serious injuries — some of which date back further than a year.

This points me to the people who have been involved in these accidents. However, first I must ask: “Is Tesla at fault?”

My unequivocal answer is ‘No’ and ‘Yes’. First, if the idiots who were involved in these incidents think that it’s cool, smart, or fun, then that really says all you need to say about THEM.

The fact that Tesla has developed and advertises that it offers a semi-autonomous driving feature doesn’t necessarily mean you must use it. After all, we know it’s very immature technology, and can’t be trusted. Even offering the option is irresponsible.

Autonomous operation of a vehicle demands (not, needs) a high degree of roadway infrastructure to ensure the vehicles can actually drive safely, without a driver. This infrastructure, generally speaking, simply doesn’t exist in a large enough degree to be depended on. So, if that’s the case, why use it at all?

Second, why in all that’s sensible has the NHTSA even allowed semi or full autonomous driving WITHOUT the infrastructure these vehicles need, to operate safely, efficiently or effectively?

I’m afraid this is yet another case of – “We’ve invented something. We’re not sure if it’s useful or needed, but here it is.”

This is the immediate signal to the idiots that, even though it has not been proven to be: (a) useful, (b) trouble-free, or, (c) of any actual benefit – “I simply must use it, so I can ensure my friends know I am up with the latest tech, and I’m c-o-o-l!”

I truly believe that autonomous vehicles (no matter how much we may admire the technological achievement) are simply of no actual use at all. They don’t solve a problem; they cost a bomb to support (all taxpayer dollars), and, people are dying, because they are stupid enough to use them.

The car manufacturers are not blame-free either. They think they MUST get on the bandwagon, or their sales will suffer. Only Mercedes-Benz and BMW have produced any truly ethical explanations of how unreliable the feature is, and that it should not be depended on.

However, I believe that the statistics quoted in the NYT, so far, will not be the end of it. There are so many idiots out there dying to use the latest tech, the numbers will keep rising.

There's more research needed, including educating pedestrians that there may be an EV creeping up behind them, with an idiot at the wheel who fails to warn them! Yep, they're that stupid!

Don’t get me wrong, I admire the pursuit of new technology, but please, let’s have the cost/benefit ratio explained more honestly, and let’s NOT licence its use until we have a cogent explanation to the idiots of the world what the ramifications are of jumping on this silly bandwagon with square wheels.

In the final analysis I have to ask the question: "Who needs a self-driving vehicle? Really? Who?



Thursday, June 9, 2022


As the luxury echelon of carmakers race to match Tesla, and launch their own EV experiences there are winners, losers, and, what is it?


The BMW iX3 EV I have just returned to its regular keeper is one of the latter. Overall, I’m left with a rather underwhelming opinion of this SUV EV, but when you do the analysis there could be more pros than cons in BMW’s newest EV.

On a positive note, the conversion from ICE architecture to embrace a big, heavy battery pack and still retain some semblance of efficiency in terms of power to weight ratio, and balanced handling appears to be really well resolved.

This BMW can still lay claim to being one of the 'Ultimate Driving Machines'.

As carmakers sprint to launch EVs, many are simply basing their EVs on current ICE models, and the marriage of the new powertrain demands, with the ICE equivalent, often fails to impress. The car I’m thinking about here is the Porsche Cayenne. The battery pack is at the rear, and on the road the car feels tail-heavy (which it is), and heavy in its responses – in fact compared to the fabulous driving experience I enjoyed in the Taycan Turbo S, the Cayenne running on volts is a Porsche that feels overweight and unimpressive to drive.


BMW has scored well here, because although I’m pretty sure the original X3 was never configured to accept a battery pack, the ix3 EV engineers have managed to squeeze the battery pack under the floor, giving a very stable, well-balanced EV you may have thought was designed for the job from the ground up.

It’s only a single motor vehicle, so there’s competitors with better on-paper performance, but quite frankly with an SUV I don’t think 0-100 is really the primary consideration. Let’s just say the performance is more than adequate. The reasons for buying SUVs have moved with the times.

The iX3 EV's main screen is confusing as hell, which means the longer you take to identify the information you need, suggests you have lost concentration on driving. Quite simply, the area I've arrowed is the ONLY section you need to check to ascertain if you'll arrive as planned, or run out of volts.

We find it’s rare that today’s SUVs go off road, or that they’re brilliant at pulling out stumps. They’re mostly chosen by the lady of the house, to do the shopping, school and soccer runs, so it’s really interior configurations which are most important.

Having said all that I really do fail to see the sense in the $40 grand difference between ICE and EV versions of the BMW X3. I’d pocket the difference, and put it toward a really contemporary EV which is just as competent, and at $74K – it's the Kia EV6.

However, I know, I know – this doesn’t take into account the badge snobs!

Actually, at this stage in the maturity cycle of EVs I wouldn’t buy an EV at all. If I wanted to upgrade from my very economical Kia Cerato, I’d shell out for an Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce and really enjoy my ride!

No range anxiety, and fun, fun, fun every time you climb behind the wheel!


Sunday, June 5, 2022


There’s a plethora of great automotive books available out there about cars, carmakers, designs, designers, veteran, vintage, racing and sports cars. You know, you remember - books.


Not the kind you read on Kindle, but large format with big photos, large type, easy to read and absorb, and often tomes with a twist – of circumstance, opportunity or history.


Here’s a great all-Australian book written and produced by a good friend of mine, Paul Beranger, a designer who served for many years with GM, Toyota and Gary Millard’s independent studio.


It’s called ‘Crayon to CAD’ and if you’re at all interested in the evolution of indigenous car design in Australia, you should buy this book – it’s a treasure.

But now I’ve discovered what you could consider an obscure publication, but believe me, in the pantheon of pre-WW2 carrosserie this one, from France, is important.

In the past ten years there has been a large number of absorbing, well researched books, especially focussing on French coachbuilders. Marcel Pourtout, Carrossier is one of the latest, and arguably the most interesting.

The creations of the Paris-based coachbuilder are legendary: the Darl’mat 2.0L Peugeot sports cars; the disappearing hardtops called “Eclipse” crafted on a variety  of makes and models; the stunning Delage D8-120 Aero of 1938, the small but beautiful confections on the Lancia Belna and Augusta chassis, and coachwork on four Talbot Lago Grand Sport chassis.

Much to its credit, long after the death of coachbuilding luxury cars, Pourtout Carrossier also created commercial bodies (as well as local jobs) well into the 1990s.

The respected British author/historian, Jon Pressnell has completed a remarkable book on Marcel Pourtout, published in English by Dalton Watson

This is a story about a family business, and a remarkable family at that. Marcel Pourtout and his wife Henriette had ten children (and was given a medal for her efforts), many worked for the family business and kept it going through thick and thin. 

Both Pourtout and his Carrossier were long-lived; Marcel passed away at the age of 85 in 1979, and the Pourtout firm finally folded in 1995.

And even after that the family kept and cared for the thousands of records and documents the tiny firm had accumulated over the years. In large part this was due to the efforts of the current curator of the family collection, Kevin Pourtout, one of  Marcel's 94 great grandchildren.

There are two sides to Marcel Pourtout deserving of mention: Born in 1894 to a humble family, Marcel was 20 years old when WWI began and he served with honour and heroism, being recognized on three occasions with the Croix de Guerre. (“War Cross”). His bravery was no fluke. In later years, he was elected three times as mayor of Rueil-Malmaison, and also became President of the Conseil Général de Seine-et-Oise.

While Marcel Pourtout was a good businessman and knew his craft well, he was not, apparently, a designer, draftsman, or artist - nor did he claim to be.

However, the enterprising Marcel established a very successful business, relying on the skills of artisan craftsmen, who could competently work various metals into a bewildering variety of shapes, with the finest details and finishes.

Life at Pourtout changed the day in 1933 when a neighbour and dentist named Georges Paulin visited Marcel with a way to construct a retractable steel hardtop.

Combined with the support of a successful car dealer by the name of Émile Darl’mat (1892 – 1970), Pourtout Carrosserie blossomed. With Paulin's natural skills and imagination, the world opened up for Carrosserie Pourtout - capable of delivering stylish creations. 


While the text is focused on the 1930s, Pressnell rightly tells the tragic story of the war years; Pourtout’s firm was in the heart of industrial Paris, and like thousands of others he took his family south to avoid the Germans. But he was forced to return and to continue to at least try to produce ambulances and repair German war vehicles for use by the Resistance.

It was a rough time, but Marcel and his family lived through it. Not so lucky was Paulin, who, along with two fellow designers, were shot by the Germans as Resistance members, and the loss of Paulin made the post war transition for Pourtout very difficult.

In fact, the story of Paulin’s demise was sad indeed.

Born 1902 in a Jewish working class section of Paris, Paulin trained as a dentist, but he was also a pioneer of aerodynamic car design and innovative coachbuilding, with the most notable one being the world’s first retractable hardtop system, which he dubbed 'Eclipse'


In 1934, a Peugeot 401D Coupé transformable Eclipse, with coachwork by Carrosserie Pourtout, designed by Paulin, on a chassis provided by prominent Peugeot dealer Darl'mat, became the world's first coupé-convertible.


In 1935 Peugeot purchased Paulin's patent, and the Peugeot 402 Eclipse, with Paulin's roof design and system, became the world's first factory production, power retractable, hardtop convertible car.

1934 Partout-Peugeot 401 (left) and 1935 Peugeot 402 (right)

Paulin and Pourtout both fought in WW2. Georges Paulin began working with British Intelligence to fight the Nazis. Betrayed by French Vichy elements, he was arrested in 1941, sentenced to death and executed in March 1942. An escape plan had been arranged by the British, but Paulin declined to use it, and sacrificed himself in order to protect his team.

He was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille de la Résistance by the French government.

These two talented Frenchmen had significant impact on car design in the post WW2 era.

One in particular that is close to my heart, is the Bentley Continental chassis which was fitted with a Paulin-designed body for Greek tycoon André Embiricos in 1938.

This car was a one-off, but served as inspiration for the 1952 Continental, and it was also entered in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, three times, once finishing as high as 6th.

The book highlights the influence both Italian and French body builders wielded in the post-war era, when the growing number of successful businessmen demanded independent designs built on their chassis of choice. However, if you Google the names Pourtout and Paulin you will be surprised how many creations came from this French design-tour-de-force.


Friday, June 3, 2022


Throughout my long career around cars I’ve been blessed with friendships with some of the auto publishing world’s best photographers – all with their own speciality.

Some were great action snappers, other outstanding at doing interiors, and others who were brilliant in a studio, when they were able to spend as much time as they needed to get positioning and lighting exactly to their liking.

It's been a privilege to know and work with them.

There really are too many to mention because I may leave some off the list, but there’s one studio photographer who has been responsible for some fabulous portfolios – and that’s an American called Michael Furman.


In April 2002 shortly after we launched the Bentley Arnage T, Michael called me and said that he admired the strong presence of the car, and could I spare a car for a week or so, and he would send me a small selection for Bentley’s use. We trucked a beautiful blue Arnage T to Philadelphia and waited for the results.


They were, as I expected, spectacular.

His careful and thoughtful lighting design managed to harness not just the strong presence of the car, but also the subtleties of its panels and paintwork. Michael’s experience and artistry in the area of light and shadow were beautifully exploited by this master craftsman.

Michael has been asked to photograph some truly famous cars for collectors, endowing their provenance with added glamour and imagination.

I’ve just seen one of Michael’s wonderful frames of a car designed by the skilled French carrosserie, Marcel Pourtot, and his artisans. The design of the Pourtout Delage D8-120 Aero is by the equally-famous Georges Paulin.

This photograph prompted me to research more about this famous Frenchman and the many beautiful, flowing designs which emanated from his base in Paris.

So much so I will dedicate my next story to Pourtout and Paulin – believe me, these were two great French contributors to the exotic history of the art of the carrosserie, but also they were brave Frenchman in time of war and both highly decorated.