Rare Auto Makers of the UK: (part 3C)

Caterham

The story of Caterham is the story of Lotus. Founded in 1973 as a car company, Caterham was originally top seller of the Lotus series 7. Series 1 Lotus Seven began production in 1957. The car is a great “club-style” racer which produces speed via it’s light weight more than it’s powerful engine. Lotus went on to create a Series 2 (1960), Series 3 (1968) and Series 4 (1970) versions of their seven, before discontinuing production in 1973.

That’s when Caterham stepped in and bought the rights to continue manufacturing the Seven. They continue to make their Caterham 7, a direct evolution of the Series 3 Lotus Seven designed by Colin Chapman. More recently Caterha did start making the Caterham 21, (based on the Lotus Elise) and  the SP/300.R, a track only car co-developed with Lola.

The seven reduces weight by chucking every creature comfort and safety feature they can. Its not a practical modern transportation vehicle, without air-conditioning, airbags, traction/stability control, ABS, satellite navigation or cruise control. Lovers of this car would argue that this car exists as a celebration of the pure driving experience. If you have driven one, please let us know.

David Brown

David Brown believes the car is created for the soul. The well known businessman and car enthusiast put his first car forward in 2014 a year after they founded in in Coventry. In 2017 they moved their headquarters to their brand new manufacturing facilities in Silverstone Park in April 2017.

Their first car was the Speedback GT, which does not have any relationship to the Aston Martin version of the car. Their second car was the Mini Remastered in 2018, which is pretty closely related to the Mini Coup.

Using 5.0-litre Jaguar AJ-V8 engine as a powerplant the fastback gets 565 lb⋅ft of torque. It’s inspired by 960s racing grand tourers and British jet aircraft of the same era.

The Mini Remastered powerplant is the basic Mini engine delivering up to 83 bhp. They basically strip a brand new mini “donor” car and redesign the body by all-new steel body shell is bespoke-made by British Motor Heritage, which is then coach built and refined by David Brown Automotive–painstakingly creating something that looks just like it did before they touched it. They also make some improvements to the interior adding a air conditioning, electric start/stop button, remote central locking, full LED lighting and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple® CarPlay®, satellite navigation3G4GBluetooth® and DAB connectivity, and electric power assist steering. Just in case you weren’t paying enough for your mini.

MG

MG not only makes smaller sports cars they would appear to hold the record for the smallest Web Address. mg.co.uk, really? It’s taking economy a bit seriously. MG belongs to to Chinese corporation, SAIC Auto Group, via their merger with Nanjing Automobile Group, who originally acquired MG. SAIC now manufactures all cars in its plant in China, continuing all MG lines although they’ve continued to modernize the design a bit.

As a British Car Company with its own Marque, M.G. Car Co. Ltd, only existed from 1930 to 1972, though it was founded by Cecil Kimber sometime around 1924. How is a car company founded 6 years before it incorporates? Cecil Worked for William Morris of Morris Garages a retail sales and service garage in Oxford. Cecil was a sales manager for Morris who came up with the idea of building a line of sports cars and put MG Super Sports on the front plate. William Morris kept the project under his own name until he sold it to his own company, which merged with Austin to become BMC (British Motor Company), which absorbed Leyland Motor Company becoming BLMC. It got passed around as BLMC bought Rover, at one point being MG Rover Group before Nanjing bought them and later merged with SAIC. Dizzy yet? Us too!

Fun Fact: No one can decide when they started making MGs. We picked 1924 because that’s when they registered their trademark, but full disclosure, they were already putting the MG plate on cars before then. It’s important you know these things in case someone bets you they have an MG built in 1923 and you say, “Impossible!” It’s totally possible.

If you think the company rebranding is hard to follow the MG model line itself is more of a pretzel still. What began as a new sporting body on a Morris Oxford chassis, became a purpose designed vehicle in 1928 (the M type), which spawned a T-Series of Midgets, and later Y-type Saloons (Sedans), and a host of race cars of course. There are some major models that lasted quite a while, like the MGB, but there are many more short runs of re-badged cars like the MG Midget in 1961, really a restyled Austin-Healey Sprite.

There is not room in this post to cover the litany of models, some of which were only popular in certain countries, but what’s amazing is the level of design consistency. No matter who makes them or owned them at the time, an MG always looks like a relative it’s cousins.

Morgan

Founded in 1910, by Henry Frederic Stanley Morgan, Morgan Motor Company is a English motor car manufacturer currently owned by Italian investment group Investindustrial. Based in Worcestershire, Morgan employs approximately 220 people, who hand make 850 cars per year.

All Morgan cars are made of wood, frame and exterior, and have always been made of wood. H.F.S. Morgan quit the Great Western Railway in 1904 to open a garage, develop independent front suspension, and design a cool-looking three wheel round about car. The company began making four wheel cars in 1935 and phased out three-wheelers in 1952. HMS helmed the company until his death in 1959.

Interesting facts: The Morgan became the only car ever to appear in a shop window at Harrods for sale at 63 pounds sterling. They had racing success with three wheels in in 1913 winning the Cyclecar Grand Prix at Amiens in France. Racing success drove sales until  E. B. Ware’s rolled his racer at Brooklands in 1924, which lead to three wheeled cars being banned from racing.

The company produced roadsters, coupes and super-sports. All were original looking and worth staring at if you get a chance.

You can check them out for yourself at their museum and see examples of every model they’ve made. If you’d like to order one, be prepared to wait on the list between 6 months and 10 years.

Noble

Chief designer and founder, Lee Noble, started Noble as a make of express sports cars in 1999. He was also the manager until 2009 and though he sold his part of the company in 2006. Based in Leicester, England, bodyworks and chassis are manufactured in South Africa (Port Elizabeth), and assembled in the Noble plant.

M400

The company makes low quantities of their lines, including the M12 GTO, M12 GTO-3, M12 GTO-3R and Noble M400. In 2009 Noble released a Hypercar, the M600, capable of 650 bhp via a 4.4-litre V8 Volvo, twin-turbocharged engine, with a Graziano 6 speed manual gearbox.

If you’re American and want to buy a GTO-3Rs or M400, only about 200 were imported, combined. You can get your hands on one from 1G Racing out of Ohio under the name Rossion Q1. The 3R and M400 are essentially the same car with minor differences in engines and suspensions. Essentially the M400 is the track variant which was the reason 1G bought the exclusive rights to American Distribution in 2007.

TVR

Created in 1947 by English engineers Trevor Wilkinson and Jack Pickard, TVR makes lightweight sports cars with powerful engines, offering a diverse range of coupés and convertibles.

At one point, TVR was the third-largest specialized sports car manufacturer in the world at present the American market is the focus of their efforts to grow.

In December 2006, the company was divided into several small firms. Which makes sense when you consider how much this company has changed over a series of eras–based often on the vision of the new owner. Trevor Wilkinson was born in Blackpool, May 14th, 1923, and left school at 14 to start an engineering apprenticeship at a local garage. His general engineering and car sup-up shop, named Trevcar took off when partner Jack Pickard joined the company in 1947. The new TVR Engineering focused on cars and thrived, eventually making their own one-offs called TVR One, Two, and Three between 1949 and 1953.

Trevor left TVR in 1962 and eventually died in 2008. Between 63 and 65 the company almost died–literally announcing they wouldn’t make any more cars. They weren’t able to pay Ford for powertrains anymore is the biggest reason. In 1965 Martin Lilley took over the vision of TVR, which was now famous for their racers and for unreliability in their street cars (engines too big for the brakes and chassis design.

The Lilly era brought the Vixen series one model. He moved production from Hoo Hill to Bristol Avenue and hired model Helen Jones to pose nude on the TVR stand at the British International Motor Show at Earls Court in 1970. It was hugely controversial, so they did it again in 1971.

TVR No. 2

In the 1980s, under the ownership of Peter Wheeler took over, grew engine capacity from 3.5 to 5 liters, and re-introduced the traditional design elements from the M-series. This finally worked to bring the company from financial disaster to the black. The company finally designed their own engine, the AJP8, a V-8 engine named after consultants Al Melling, John Ravenscroft and Peter Wheeler. The engine was modified to a straight-six before being widely used in their models, because it was cheaper to make and maintain than the eight.

In July 2004, Russian Nikolay Smolensky bought the company. His leadership saw the near death of the brand and his attempts to make it profitable lead to laying off so many workers that car owners paraded their cars through London, creating the single biggest one-marque convoy November 26, 2006, Dubbed “London Thunder.”

The company was restructured auctioned back to Smolensky and is now owned by a group of investors including the Government of Wales. They’ve been developing a new car design since June of 2015, the TVR Griffith, whose production might save the company. The company was owed more than £8.23 million from debtors, and has net assets slightly exceeding £2.1 million, but must pay off £2 million loan from the Welsh government and a £3 million loan from financial firm Fiduciam.

Westfield

Westfield is an English make of cars founded in the beginning of the 82. They currently offer both factory built and kit versions of several two-seater, open top sportscars based on the Lotus 7. You read that right, Collin Chapman’s Lotus Seven strikes again.

Caterham Cars bought the rights from Lotus, but Chris Smith from Westfield went into direct competition with his own kit. Did Caterham threaten to sue? YES. Westfield settled out of court and then improved the design of their cars. While the surface appearance of the cars remains similar you’ll know a Westfield by it’s fiberglass body, which is ironically more like the original lotus.

Westfield Sport

When Chris Smith became the director of Westfield he didn’t dream of creating a factory built car, but the car continues to sell well and maintains a great reputation for craftsmanship. The model range of Westfield is not often replenished by new cars, BUT see special facts section below to know why Westfield is probably going to be around for awhile.

Special Notes: Total Kit Car, Westfield produces about 450 SEi and XTR chassis per year.
Top Gear, a Westfield XTR2 set a faster lap time than the reigning record holder of that series, the Pagani Zonda.
June 2009 Westfield became the first Niche Vehicle Manufacturer to be awarded European Small Series Production Status.

Tesla and Mercedes Reliability

You can always rely on Tesla and Mercedes Benz right? Wrong. Despite an increase in their technical ability these are two cars which sit at the bottom of the Auto Reliability Report.

It gets worse though. The report investigates in excess of 300,000 cars and compares how they perform.

To be fair, the list is not comprehensive to all cars. They’re attempting to compare Apples to Apples, so they only include car models that were introduced within the past three years. (Any car brand which has had a major redesign can only have the redesigned car or cars investigated.) So basically this isn’t attempting to compare the reliability of new Tesla to a 1969 Ford Pinto or something. We’re talking about reliability issues when compared to other new model cars.

There appears to be problems with high technology – the digital controls are a headache for some people to understand. Exactly why some fairly inconspicuous things such as door handles keep being redesigned seems to be another mystery. In other words, designers and engineers still struggle with what the public will consider user friendly.

The study of making something intuitive is called UXUI and it’s been a chronic struggle in all technology reliant fields for many years.

So with all excuses, er, valid reasons, and caveats now listed, here are the findings.

The Tesla Model Y has the unfortunate honor of being one of the 10 least reliable cars, which includes how the paint reacts to stimulus, the climate system and so on. Yet many people still want to buy a Tesla.

There have been complaints of various scratches on the paintwork, creaking doors and even rattling heard while driving. These aren’t major issues, but they will be annoying for any owner. Certainly, it’s not what you may expect from a luxury car.

The noise problem specifically, may be a symptom of another common complaint– “panel gaps.” A panel gap happens during the car’s construction. The car’s various panels, such as the roof, each of the doors, the hood and so on can only have so much room between it and the next panel or it will result in weird noises when driving. There is a special instrument which measures how much panel gap there is.

RepairPal marks the Mercedes Benz as average, which although makes it a typical car isn’t what you expect from a Merc. They cost an average repair cost of $908 per year which is, it turns out, the average cost of repairing a car. One might expect to pay more to fix a luxury car, but to have less frequent cause to repair them. Only 13% of all repairs are severe but that’s generally the case with all repairs from all makers studied.

Again, this is a new car, not one you bought off a teenager who modified it for street racing or something.

The cost of ownership is related to reliability – how likely it is to break down – and how much it costs when it does. To put a spin on the problems with Mercedes, at least people aren’t experiencing out of the ordinary repair bills. It’s the normal repair bills which are the problem.

In tests the BMW performs better than the Merc. According to the Reliability Index, the Mercedes Benz is rated about the same as a Jeep, which sounds all right, until you realize that a Jeep isn’t a luxury brand, so it could be argued that paying more for prestige didn’t also buy you a better vehicle. Based on these numbers you’re better off buying a Jeep and saving up the rest for repairs.

So, if the prestige is what you care about, you are still okay. So that means Mercedes Benz neither overdelivers nor underdelivers.

Not everyone agrees with this assessment – after all the Mercedes E-class was the 2021 Car of the Year including quality of the ride. The ride quality is to do with how well the car deals with road surface looks, rather than the aesthetic nature of the dashboard or how comfortable the car seat looks. So, we aren’t being very fair if we indicate that Merc buyers are only going for prestige. Quality is in the eye of the car buyer and your decision could be based on your own list of criteria.

Our only challenge is the perception many buyers have, that luxury cars are “better quality,” which may or may not be true if you’re viewing it through the lens of the repair bill.

The Difficulties With Rural Roads.

The Department of Transport’s statistics do not look good: 50% of all deaths happen on rural roads. Despite only 25% of all driving being on rural roads. Some of the reasons behind this is that rural roads tend to be narrower, so you are more likely to be run off the road. It also means you are more likely to find a truck or van heading the other way a bit more of a challenge.

Road Conditions

There’s often no center line and no traffic signs. There are inadequate preparations for snow and less likely to be a barrier for a railroad. There are more ditches, streams and so on. Even worse, the road is more likely to be flooded. There are also blind bends and blind dips. Even looking at the scenery can cause distraction.

According to the US Department of Transport, half of all non-highway roads are rated as between “fair and poor” and 13% rated as “poor,” which appears to be the lowest classification.

Obstructions

You are also more likely to encounter speeding or drunk drivers who assume the road to be empty. Then there’s agricultural machinery. Or cyclists. A tree too close to the road can be dangerous. There are problems like cows, sheep on the road.

Texas has the most rural deaths per capita whereas South Carolina ranks as the highest number of deaths as a percentage.

Fixing Infrastructure

It could take decades to fix if it ever gets done, there is more than $200 billion missing in funding. Roads need to be widened, you need rails, lighting and so on.

Bridges may be a greater threat to life than just rural roads. 8% may not be fit for purpose or “structurally deficient” and not suitable for trucks or farm equipment. Over the past few years farmers have increased the amount of farming equipment but the quandary remains how to transport this equipment.

It’s not just farm equipment and trucks, it’s been a prevalent problem for school and college buses. The only solution seems to be smaller buses but again, the price of operation is the key.

So, what can these drivers do?

Either risk their lives or go totally out of their way. If they do travel out of their way it is inefficient and costly.

When the bridge is closed the road itself becomes less useful, so people who live on that road find the road isn’t repaired as often. So, the only solution is to have local residents pay for the bridge or have no transport network at all. If they can’t pay that may cause difficulty in itself with their neighbors.

Even when a bridge is rated fair it could still be prone to some deterioration given a few years, whether it is the suspension part of the bridge or the deck or roadway part of the bridge.

Traffic Patterns

Just because a road is rural doesn’t mean it won’t have pique traffic times. Speeds are higher on rural roads which can disguise the true number of cars that pass a given stretch of road. When a couple new housing developments go into a large area road use can double at certain intersections.

The high crash rates in certain black spots is cause for concern and sometimes the only answer is to build another road but again this requires more money.

The connections between places are key, but the smaller roads are vital for some people too, even if it is a lesser proportion of society. Rural roads can be beautiful and connecting people who choose to live outside the hustle of city life to their jobs, schools, shopping and emergency services is worth doing. But we may have forgotten the old adage, anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Individualized Car Designs.

OP-ED by the UK Desk

Ever notice how every car is special, at least according to how its marketed, they are after all mass-produced. So, it’s no wonder that many people desire to make their cars distinct, individualized in any number of ways.

Making your Car Uniquely You: The Basics…

Starting with the common add-ons. Many people add chrome wheels, spoilers and the like. We’ve covered that in other posts. It’s not hard to find an SUV someone has “ruggedized” with spare tires on the back, roof racks, and extra gas cans.

More Extreme…

Some people cover their cars with strange material, whether it’s fur or AstroTurf or wallpaper or whatever.

Some innovators go for a known aesthetic, like steampunk. They use brass pipes and things to add a vintage style to a modernish car.

Other customizers strap something to the car’s roof, like a rubber duck or a hat.

Some go so far as to transform their car into a high-heeled shoes or a permanently grounded UFO or giving them the shade and texture of a gecko lizard. While these cars are uncommon there’s no difficulty finding them in a large city.

Others have jetpack boosters coming out of the rear or have the trunk region being turned into a Wendy House. It seems as if they make their imagination run riot.

The History of Extremely Custom Cars…

But there have always been strange designs. Hardly anyone nowadays has heard of the Special, also known as a Streamliner, named after Norman Timbs. Apart from its sleek streamlined shape what stands out is its strong plum color and the fact that it has no door, no trunk or even hood. A “streamliner” is a vehicle (more likely a railway engine than a car) which has been engineered in such a way to reduce air resistance.

Norman Timbs was a racecar engineer who worked on cars for the Indy 500. Though you might think of it as a concept car and possibly one with a market, only a test vehicle was ever made. Disastrously, it was all but destroyed in a fire in 2018 but fortunately the frame was saved. From these small pieces they managed to recreate the whole car creating a wonderful museum piece.

The Ferrari Modulo

1970 Ferrari Modula

Although many cars in the 1970s took their influence from jet planes, the Ferrari Modulo goes one step beyond and takes its design through the contemporary idea of spacecraft. It was first seen at the Geneva Motor Show in 1970. Adding to the extra-terrestrial appearance are the wheels which are slightly hidden. It could be a bit of a worry to see on a dark night, especially in middle America.

Pinnifarnia designed it, who are well known for designing coaches as well as more regular vehicles. Based in Turin, this design business works in Maserati and General Motors as well as Korean names of Hyandai and Daewoo. They even make other luxury items such as private jets and yachts.

Pinnifarnia’s work is worth going into a bit more. Its first HQ was in Turin in 1920, creating at first the chassis for Cadillacs and Rolls Royce. The biggest success the company made is arguably the Cisitalia 202 Coupé featured as did in the Museum of Modern Art.

Are these vehicles designed to be driven or should they be just treated as works of art? Whatever, they bring some color and joy into people’s lives. Possibly a bit of madness too.

By the time we’re talking about Professional Custom Designers like Pinnifarnia we’re into another class of customizer—one catering to those rich enough to order a truly custom vehicle. The most famous of this class of customizer are the custom Harley makers like Orange County Choppers, Jessie James and the like. They justify their own post…coming soon…

Car Theft & Prevention

From the UK Desk

There are so many awful car crimes out there. The Ford Pickup, especially the 2006 version, was the most stolen car in the US. The car in second place with this dubious honor was the Chevrolet pickup. This may surprise drivers of the pickup as it is not the most comfortable pickup in the world.

The state which has the most theft of vehicles is Colorado with 524 thefts out of 100,000 inhabitants or 0.5%. Overall, in the US a theft of a motor vehicle occurs about every 41 seconds.

If you steal a car from someone by force, usually violence, it is known as carjacking. Carjacking occurs to all sorts of cars; even armored ones.

The British Journal of Criminology in 2003 called the crime of carjacking “under-researched”. In order to rectify that they commissioned a study-it was all to do with the value of the vehicle in the underworld or in the open market.

Ways Cars are Jacked:

Sometimes carjacking is planned but at other times the thieves have no idea what they plan to do with the car or its parts, it’s just opportunistic.

The first action may be bumping into the car and taking the vehicle when the driver leaves the driving seat to exchange details.

Alternatively, it could be faking a car accident and stealing the potential first aider’s car. It may also be pretending that there is something wrong with the victim’s car and taking it when they are distracted–anything that gets your attention. Finally, there are those who block the gate to the victim’s property.

As well as locking the doors, either manually or through an electric lock, it’s advisable to ensure that all windows and the sunroof are closed. The number plates are at risk from theft so make sure the screws are tamper proof. The wheel nuts also need to be secured as they are often stolen.

Steeling Part of Your Car:

It’s a good idea to make sure that items like roof-racks and tailgate racks are secured. Make sure there’s a car alarm and a steering wheel lock. Most would-be thieves will see a steering wheel lock and immediately go elsewhere. But be sure that the steering wheel lock fits the specific type of steering wheel – not all of them are the same.

Rim locks and tire locks secure wheels – whether a car, ATV or even lawnmower. It’s possible to get wheels made of a soft PVC to prevent the wheel from scratching. If you worry about having the engine stolen, and there are such people, you should invest in a hood lock.

Theft of Items from Your Vehicle

There’s a problem too with cell phones, coins, wallets and credit cards – make sure they are well hidden. 39% of all thefts although 39%, followed by 19% with exterior fittings.

There are various discussions on what the car’s most prestigious part is. It could be the catalytic converter or maybe a satnav. A suction pad on the glass may give the idea that there is a hidden satnav in a vehicle.

If you want to use a smartphone app or a remote to open the car you should keep away from the kill switch. When fitting one of these devices it is best to hire a professional, but they are easy to remove when you require the car.

Truck Racing

From the UK Desk

Truck racing began in Atlanta in 1979. Unfortunately, the speed of the trucks are limited at 160 mph and no truck can weigh greater than 5500 Kg. Before the race the trucks need to be rolled into position. It tries to be a non-contact sport but the odd crash is not uncommon.

The first truck race was on dirt and the truck was not adapted. This has now changed; in the UK there is a special division – Division 1 – where all the trucks, including the braking and suspension, have been especially adapted.

In 1982 a top speed of 132 mph was at the Texas World Speedway. After 1986 the tag axle was removed, getting rid of 2000 pounds. The Bandit Big Rig Series began in 2017. It included the Hickory Motor Prize. Points were awarded in the qualifying rounds and included heat races, shootout races, challenge races and ultimately the final.

The FIA European Truck Racing Championship or ETRC includes events which have been running for thirty years. The championship, which attracts families, according to their website, usually has around 400,000 spectators or so.

The trucks are not supposed to emit black smoke and this will get them banned from the event if it happens twice in a row. The two categories are Chrome and Titan, the Chrome division plays for the Goodyear Cup. There are drivers and team categories too.

Each Competition takes place over two days. A day generally includes half an hour of practise followed by qualifying events and finally the championship race. The winner is the one allocated the most points.

Baja Trucks

A different type of truck racing involves trophy trucks or Baja trucks/trick trucks. Instead of the usual circuits this is off-road racing using high powered engines. The trucks are considered street legal but have been especially designed. There are minimal rules for each truck’s production.

When it began the trucks varied in design so drastically that no truck was the same. Over time a group of engineering firms got involved. The downside of this was that the trucks began to lose their individuality.

It’s weird but for a long period the trucks were two-wheel drive, but they now incorporate an all-wheel drive feature. Ford and Chevrolet engines are commonly most used. An air restrictor is required if the truck uses a turbo engine.

In order to maneuver against the terrain of the desert the minimum weight has to be 1,600 Kg. The gearboxes used have a choice of either being three speed or six speed.

Pickup Racing

Pickup truck racing has modified trucks which are more drivable in racing terms than most trucks but still aren’t as aerodynamic as the usual racing cars.

The NASCAR Truck Series began in 1995 and the electrical equipment and aerodynamics involved have evolved over time.

Whatever type of truck racing you decide to attend you are guaranteed a special event, which despite the size of the vehicle, still has some of the best racing drivers out there. 

Types of Junctions (Intersections)

From the UK Desk

There are many ways to have a junction and one of the most confusing is probably the box junction. They were designed to prevent the road being blocked yet many drivers find them hard to negotiate. Many people “find themselves” disobeying the rules by accident.

Box Junctions

A box junction is marked by criss-cross lines (or alternately a giant X) in a box. You can only enter the box if the specific exit you are heading for is clear or you have an intention to make a turn, but you have to wait for the traffic in the opposite lane (oncoming) to stop.

About the same time as speed cameras became popular (with city governments, not with commuters) box junctions also became monitored by enforcement cameras. As a result they became labelled as “money box junctions.”

Items such as level crossing and the areas around ambulance stations and fire stations also use box junctions to suggest that drivers should avoid staying in these areas too long.

The introduction of the box junction was in 1967 in London, though it can now be seen throughout the world, including the US.

Three-way Junctions

A three-way junction may be a road with three arms, also known as a Y junction or intersection. A T junction may be described as a minor road joining up with a larger road.

When these types of roads aren’t being controlled by traffic lights you need to look at “right of way” rules. It seems more logical for traffic entering the main road to wait, but that oten isn’t the case.

A six-way junction usually has two roads crossing at right angles and the additional road crossing diagonally between them (if you are on the diagonal road, it looks as if the two roads are intersecting you in two V shapes).

The Reason for Roundabouts

Roundabouts are nearly universally hated by Americans and Embraced by Brits. UK roads come in two varieties.

A) Saxon Roads which developed during early tribal periods where some animal, likely a cow, wandered from place to place as it saw fit. Then because the grass and brush was pushed aside humans turned it into a trail, which later became a single lane road, eventually getting paved. These roads are very practical for getting from place to place, and tend to go around hills and cross rivers at the best place to ford.

B) Romans Roads by contrast, go straight North/South, or East/West. The seldom move around a hill they simply go over them or tunnel through them. The don’t twist or meander. The advantage here is that cities can be laid out in grid patterns, making it easier to find places you want to go. Most of the Roman roads between cities have been turned into highways.

In the UK, this left many junctions of three, four, five, or even six roads converging at all sorts of angles. A roundabout allows for all these roads to enter where they happen to intersect the junction and traffic can merge briefly, then exit on whatever road fits the need.

A secondary benefit of traffic circles is that traffic is told to yield, not stop, making them very efficient.

In the US, there are some odd junctions, often with monikers such as “Five Corners,” that could do with a roundabout. That’s of course not where the government decides to put them. Someone, usually in the traffic department at state or local level, falls in love with traffic circles and decides to use them at busy four-way stop junctions, rather than a traffic light. The result is that instead of having to pull your vehicle forward one car length at a time—dozens of times in a row—traffic can use yield and maintain a steady flow. Sounds good except that about 10% of the time they put stop signs up instead of yield at the roundabout. Even when they use yield signs American drivers are so unaccustomed to roundabouts that they get confused and cause delays.

Strange Intersections

There are a number of strange intersections in the world such as the Downtown Loop, also known as the Alphabet Loop, Kansas which consists of eight different highways joining together in 23 exits. All the letters of the alphabet are used except I, O and Z.

Swindon’s Magic Roundabout

As well as roads like Broadway, Oak Street and the romantic Grand Avenue there is a road which acts as a loop road.

Created by the UK’s British Transport Road Research Laboratory the most confusing road junction is Swindon’s magic roundabout. The instructions for use are deceptively simple; the traffic in the inner roundabout moves counter-clockwise and the traffic in the outer roundabouts move in a clockwise direction.

Because of the initial confusion to motorists the roundabout needed a pilot stage. Here a police officer was placed in the middle of each mini-roundabout, strange as it may seem.

Other strange junctions include the seagull junction which has a variety of other names such as the Turbo-T junction. They allow free flowing traffic both for the lane that enters the main road and for the road that leaves. These are called “turn lanes”.

A piece of research from 2019 stated that a seagull junction isn’t that safe if the road separates into four lanes and as such the risk of crashing is heightened. It’s almost best to be wary of any unfamiliar junction in any case.

The most important thing when taking a junction is getting to your intended destination, so good luck with that!

Garage Care

From the U.K. Desk

Looking after the car is all very well, but consider the garage.

Not all garages are outbuildings, there are also garages which take up the whole of the ground floor with apartments on top, called garage apartments or garage loft apartments. To save you from going outside there’s a special covered walkway; a breezeway, designed for walking between the two structures. Generally speaking, it is unheated.

Garage Doors

Then there’s the main door of the garage. If it’s too loud when opened, it could do with some lubrication. Some doors have rusted up so much you can’t open or close them. Wooden garage doors are prone to becoming warped and then incapable of opening. Or the garage door opener is broken or lost.

One reason for a garage door sticking is that the tracks haven’t been cleaned for some time – a long scrub should fix that. If sticking still occurs, some kind of lubricant is needed.

Garage door repair is best left to professionals. The spring that helps compensate for the door weight can kick out with enough force to break your arm.

How we Hurt Ourselves in a Garage

It’s not exactly the safest place in the world and many things can go wrong. There are so many opportunities for slipping and falling in a garage especially if you leave equipment lying around or leave cables dangling. You should always lock tools up after use.

Many people tend to use the garage as a general outbuilding which might contain such items as rat poison, pesticides and antifreeze. It’s not a good idea to leave these items on the floor nor should they be stored in empty bottles or similar, just keep them in the original container.

Large items such as ladders could even fall onto the car if you’re not careful.

Carports

Car ports have been mentioned before, it is simply a shelter which provides open access across one or more walls. The quickness of exiting and entering is a main selling point as there is no need to pull up garage doors. A few elaborate ones have cantilever style roofs which float across the cars. You no longer have the large storage space of a garage. This doesn’t mean they don’t need maintenance. The support columns and the concrete should be inspected for damage and the roof, like all roof, will dry out and begin to leak if not maintained.

Other Uses for a Garage

This is the curious thing about garages: 60% of people don’t even use them to store cars. There is a tendency to store utility equipment in them too, such as washing machines. But it seems a waste to just use it to store these items when you could turn it into a games room or a man cave or whatever you like.

Adding a New Garage

Timber framed garages have an advantage over concrete ones in a conservation zone. They are also quick to assemble with no fuss, which must be the best selling point if you have to any kind of home construction.

Depending on its actual usage – Does it have a spare bed? Does it have a first floor? – the planning permission becomes more complicated. If you are storing a car and it’s all on one floor, no problems. You’ll need to check local codes but expect to have to install a metal post in the concrete if there are utilities or HVAC installed in the garage. Also you’ll need proper ventilation against a build up of carbon monoxide.

Conversions

Then there are those people who convert a garage to living space may encounter difficulties with load bearing walls and connecting the electricity with the rest of the house. But any self-build or self-conversion may run into difficulty. It gives you a break from thinking about maintaining the car in any case.

Car Explosions – Fact & Fiction

Op-Ed from Editors (Wimsett & Bunch)

I think my mom watched too many episodes of chips in the 80’s. She’s pretty sure that if you hit a curb at 25 MPH the car will flip into the air, roll three times and land on its top, only to explode instantly. Try as I might, nothing seems to change her beliefs around cars and explosions. (The following post contains references to some of the ways in which journalists have reported car explosions, which have mislead the public into believing they’re driving about in a bomb.)

The Truth

When a car explodes, something is definitely wrong. It’s reassuring that a car can’t simply blow up, something needs to happen first.

Cars do catch fire, in fact, they’re quite flammable and they burn quickly. But an explosion tends to be a slow process which always starts with a fire. Even when the flames hit the gas tank it doesn’t always explode. As long as you attempt to remove yourself from the car as quickly as possible before calling 911 you should be fine.

But they can explode, right?

Okay, so cars are rarely explosive, but it does happen, only not like it happens in movies. A car hit by bullets for instance wouldn’t necessarily explode.

When the battery blows up it looks like the car explodes. An oil leak can cause fires, as can faulty wiring in items like car stereos. It’s important that a mechanic deals with all of these as well as making sure any seals are secure. Shoddy work is more likely to lead to a fire.

The problem is that journalists aren’t explosive experts or mechanics, they don’t always come up with the real reason a car explodes.

This explains reports in the media of items like car fresheners causing explosions, when in fact only the front window was blown out (which may have had more to do with the heat). Whatever the real cause a blown-out window is not an “explosion.”

Can a car explode by hitting a lamp post? Reports seem to suggest so, but it may well have had more to do with the gas leak.

A car may also explode if it should crash through a house and hit the natural gas line. Sometimes explosions are a complete mystery, or at least according to the reporter.

Obviously, cars can be exploded.

Some cars are the victims of controlled explosions if they are in the wrong place or believed to have something explosive in it.

It is possible to trigger an explosion by attempting to unlock a door by laser if there is an acetylene tank in the car. Fortunately, not many people carry acetylene tanks in their car.

So, what does it take for a car to explode on it’s own?

A build-up of pressure inside a gas cylinder leads to a gas explosion. It may shatter nearby windows.

Sometimes the car explodes from the gas in gas stations. But the flames around petrol do not always lead to an explosion. The fumes from gas are more explosive than the liquid gas, however the pressure needs to reach a certain point.

It’s more dangerous when an electric car catches fire. So, it’s especially important to keep away from these types of fires.

On screen Explosions

It should come as no surprise that when a car explodes on-screen things aren’t always as they seem. Sometimes it’s only a plastic shell with nothing inside it. Or it may be swapped for a much older model just before the explosion.

Alternatively, a car could look pristine outside but suffer from some kind of damage inside (water damage, no seating and so on).

There are some explosions which aren’t explosions at all – it’s pure CGI (computer generated imagery), allowing the car to look as photogenic as possible despite exploding into bits.

This goes to show that what films well in the movies isn’t really like real life, but at least in this instance it should put our minds at ease.

80’s Cars vs Todays Cars

From the UK desk

In the 80s a number of station wagon were introduced and before the introduction of Coupes and Sedans. The number of strikes in the 80s meant it was a tough time for car factories.

A car which had the power of the Acura is unknown these days. In the late 80s they were considered pretty cool with 118 hp.

The Audi Quattro was truly iconic with five turbocharged cylinders. These hatchbacks took the world rallies by storm. Sadly, not many of them made their way across to the US; most of the cars were rather neutral in comparison. Despite some strong contenders’ acceleration wasn’t as good as today’s vehicles.

Vehicle that did make it across the pond include the Pontiac Firebird and the Ford Mustang GT. The price however has fallen down in recent years due to lack of parts. Who’d have thought red convertibles would go out of style, but everything has its period of glory.

As Chrysler merged with Maserati the Chrysler TC was born. The Chrysler company has created a number of improved vehicles since. They did have a 5-year warranty, including maintenance. In 1987 Chrysler purchased another big player: AMC.

Look at the Dodge Daytona with its dipping headlights. Again, the lack of horsepower let it down.

Although these cars may not yet be known as classic, they show their age.

You could adapt these cars to get a better horsepower but then you’d lose something of the essential flavor of these vehicles.