Wednesday, 15 January 2014

A Mini Cooper D review

It has been a while eh? So lets get cracking with my first review!

Please note that I am in no way a journalist, in fact this is the first time I've ever sat and thought about a review for a car before, there may be more to come and there may not.

This is a car I am very fond of, ever since I was a child I have had an affinity towards the mini marque that I can trace back to watching the Ministox at Cowdenbeath Racewall on saturday nights with my father. From then on I have loved them both old and new models, and to this day I smile a little when I pass an older model.
That all being said this review is not of the classic/old shaped Mini, but rather the new BMW produced model, The car in question is the 2006 Mini cooper D, which is as it's name would suggest the diesel offering of the car. Lets get the ball rolling with some specification, shall we?
Power plant: 1.6L DV6 diesel I4
This poky little diesel is surprisingly spritely given the reputation diesels have for being slow and cumbersome, yes it does not rev as quickly as a petrol equivalent, but it makes up for this with a sheer willingness to just pull. From around 1500 revs the torque comes on strong and pulls right through to 4000 with all of its 240 Nm might. The peak power of the car is around 110 mph, which is put to the road via a set of 175/65R15 run flat tyres. The carrying capacity is 156L (pretty damn good for a small car I think) or 5.6 cubic feet. In fact the most surprising thing about this little car i just how much room there actually is inside, its like the bloody Tardis.
I'm not going to discuss weight and wheel base because for the average driver like you and me the things are pretty irrelevant.

Now to actually driving the car! This car is a delight to drive, everything feels in touch, the steering is sharp, the throttle is responsive, at least as responsive as the average road going diesel can be, and the brakes are strong which can catch you off guard, but it is better to be over than under braked isn't it? The gear selection is very good, with a very positive  "click" into place, all aided buy a very slick and easy on the knee clutch. The car is very comfortable to drive, the seating position has a very good degree of flexibility in hight as well as how far back and the angle of the back of the seat, the base of the seat has no bolsters so if you have come from a car with highly bolstered seats you may feel a little unsupported, but the comfort of a wide seat makes up for this nicely. The seat backs however have bolsters, not particularly big ones but they offer a good deal of support for all but the most enthusiastic driving. What is For day to day running about with the odd corner taken that little bit too quickly they are ideal. Don't even get me started on parking this little beauty, the tiny turning circle makes makes parallel and reverse parking so stupendously easy.

The size and location of the speedometer is quite handy, but it is secondary to the numeric read out of the speed on the rev counter.

The steering wheel is a fairly plain affair with good ergonomics and the standard rake adjustment that we have come to expect in every car on the road, there are no other functionality bonuses to the wheel other than it allows you to point the car where you want to go.
A note about the seating though, many drivers, myself included like to rest their arm on the window sill or door card while driving for long periods of time like on motor ways for example, I personally found that with the seat down as low as it goes (where I can comfortably drive the car in regards to vision, leg stretch and foot angle) that I was to low to comfortably rest my arm on the window and to high to rest in on the door handle/door card.

All buttons and switches needed to operate lights, windows and locks are all situated in the centre console (apart from headlights, window wipers and indicators) and there are switches for interior lighting for the driver, passenger and rear interior lights and mood lighting are on the ceiling.

A feature of the car I particularly enjoy is the sound system, which is the standard offering, or to be more precise the ability to connect a phone or ipod via 3.5mm jack, (the white cable seen above) its a great feature in my opinion, and saves you from the monotony of the narrow scope of music played by British radio stations .

Over all this is a very nice car to drive if you take it for what it is, it is a nice day to day car that is pretty damn cheap to run, that while not a flame spitting high powered sports car is still fun to drive. If I had the money to run a high powered weekend warrior and a cheap daily, then this would be the cheap daily.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Women in the motoring scene.

So today I’m going to talk about women in motoring, a sticky subject and I make that remark with no perverted overtones, I will be talking about oily women, but oil of the 10w40 variety rather than baby.
When women and cars are mentioned in the same sentence what comes to mind first?  A female mechanic? Or is it Poor standard of maintenance, small “shopping trolley” cars or even the image of a model with her tits out and legs akimbo, sprawled across the bonnet of a heavily modified car? Sadly it seems as though the first scenario is rarely if ever thought of, and to me that’s quite sad don’t you agree? It’s an image that is not at all helped by many modified car magazines such as Fast Car.
Car magazines aside I feel that men’s attitude towards women in motoring is 99.9% of the issue, the “we can do it better because we have testosterone” When in reality the only real advantage we have is more strength and slightly better space conception, in other words we are better at looking at a nut and bolt and judging if they will fit, but not that much better. As I said I feel that the biggest cause for the attitude of us men towards women in motoring, we seem to see them as little more than eye candy, not in just magazines but think about any bigger motoring event, the BTCC for example, they all have grid girls, now tell me why we need this?

 Do we REALLY need a woman clad in spandex or tiny little shorts holding a board with the drivers name next to the car?  How many of these models do you think actually care about the event? I'm sure a number of them do don’t get me wrong, but the majority are hired from agencies and see it as just another job, I am in no way holding their job against them, if that is how they want to pay the bills that is their right, I am merely saying that they are unnecessary and are there just to add a bit more “glamour” to the event.

I find myself again coming back to the subject of forums and internet message boards, where people are anonymous and often offensive to others, and sadly a lot of the time women cop a fair amount of sexist, for lack of a better term bullshit just for being a woman who dares to have an interest in cars. I have seen women leave sites because of comments towards them and that is just in an introduction thread. The following is a quote from a mechanic and female member of the MCM forum who is always incredibly helpful and whose posts are always filled with fact and insight.

       “But yeah, one thing I've found with forums and other chicks is, when we sign up we either say we're a chick or don't say anything. I don’t really go around announcing I'm a chick just because it doesn't really matter in the end if you're a chick or a guy. A lot of the chicks that sign up to the forum don't last very long, because they find some of the guys here to be full on. Its like OMG YOUR A CHICK>>>> MARRY ME>>>>> BE MY FRIEND COS I NEED A CHICK THATS INTO CARS.. etc, it can scare them off as you can imagine.
In the industry as well you hardly see chicks full into mechanics. When I was at TAFE (Alex – For my non-Australian readers TAFE is basically technical college) there was one other chick but I think she left not long into her first year, and there was a couple of others on different days to me but they were there. It’s something you don't see all the time so when you do see a chick it’s like, seriously I'm not alone
If you're looking for chicks on a forum for cars, you'll be looking for a while since the percentage is low and half the time (unless they broadcast in their sig or something like that) they like myself, don't go around telling everyone they're a chick. I'm all for chicks that are into cars, even more so mechanic chicks, cos we need more of them, but you can push people into things and it’s an industry (even for the non-mechanical people) that is very male dominated and its one of those things that you have to put up with. Guys don't like being emasculated by a chick who knows more than them, they also don't like it when chicks have a better car than them. No matter what you do, you will never win. I just take it as it is and if a guy feels sad about me being a chick and a mechanic, that’s his own problem.”
You can find the full thread here

The fact of the matter is this, we need to step back and take a long hard look at ourselves, individuals can do anything and to say that one is better than the other because of what falls between their thighs is ridiculous. It seems sad that in 2013 I am having to write this, women have equal rights and equal pay, so why don’t we give them equal respect in what is a heavily male dominated field, I think we are just scared, not of change but of being shown up because of the traditional gender roles no longer applying. 

Friday, 12 April 2013

My take on car clubs and styling.

In my opinion car clubs are a great idea, they play host to both the relative new comers to the car scene such as myself and the grizzled veterans who have built up many projects, and as such are a great source of information on issues specific to a certain platform or marque. I myself am a member of the MG ZR owners club ( whose founders split away from a bigger and fairly venomous site and club ( Which raises my real issue with car club sites is that they can often become quiet harsh and uninviting places due to members feeling that there is a set way to style and modify that particular car, and if you style or modify it in any other way you become chastised and open to abuse in extreme cases for daring to style a vehicle you own in the way that you want (examples being insane tyre stretch on the mk1 golf or small rims on the EK9 civic and smoothed bodywork and insanely low suspension drops that are very popular in the 'euro' tuning scene). By in large the friendliest site I have visited is the Mighty car mods forum. which has a very large and diverse group of car owners and builds (although it does have a very heavy 'jdm' influence)

Which brings me to the subject of styling of cars, something which should be personal and done to your own tastes and not for the approval of someone else or a 'scene' as it where, which leads to a "if your car isn't like this then it doesn't look good" attitude. This makes people not want to do things differently to the norm, and because of this you end up with a show stand of cars that all look exactly the same. It seems as though it is an all-out battle to see who can get their car the lowest, get the best tyre stretch or fit the widest wheels with the highest negative offset as possible under the car regardless of how this will affect the handling of the car. While this can be nice to look at, and I have seen some "stanced" cars that I have liked, but having sat behind cars styled like this on the motorway and seen the sparks fly it’s not a styling movement I can get behind. This admittedly is a relatively nice progression from the "fast and the furious" days of styling where it was all huge chrome wheels and garish paint and body kits, but at least these posed no danger to other road users. I put it to you simply that if you do anything to a car purely to satisfy others and find approval from a group of enthusiasts then you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

There is more that I want to write but I am unsure of how to put it into words, and when I asked around a bit Mr sheep informed me of his tiny penis, like seriously tiny and the ladies laughed at him for it.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Huzzah! A new post!

Well, as I said in my intro post, I'm lazy, very very lazy. I will not be posting the full tale of the road hog on the loch, as it was not that exciting, but I will tie it in roughly to this post about something similar, lane discipline.

Lane discipline is something I regard to be rather important, stay in your own lane, you don't hit on coming traffic and you don't die. However should you stray from your own lane you may hit on coming traffic, or traffic to the side of you on a motorway or roundabout for example, and you could cause an accident, and cost someone their life. To me lane discipline is more than just holding your lane, it is how you move lane as well, just shifting your self over on the motor way with no indication and little observation is poor lane discipline, and it is dangerous, what happens if there is another car there, or worse a biker.  Mirror THEN signal THEN manoeuvre if it is safe to do so, just like you learn on your very first driving lesson, not mirror signal manoeuvre all in the one motion.

In regards to roundabouts, I find it quite annoying when going round one, that someone would think it is a good idea to go through multiple lanes cutting off other drivers, that is not to say that "straight lining" a roundabout is not acceptable when there is absolutely no one around, it is a judgement call as far as I see it.

The other piece of selfish road use that really needs to stop. the hogging of the middle of narrower country roads, I understand moving out if there is nothing coming on straight bits of road, but when approaching a corner there is nothing that scares me more than seeing an X5 or Toureg screaming towards me and forcing me to have to take evasive action, this is what happened at Loch Lomond a middle aged man in a Volkswagen Toureg was in the middle of the road and forced me to come to a very abrupt stop as well and put myself partly in the shrubbery while he drove along no where near the bushes on his side of the road.

All I am saying, well trying to say at least, is that drivers need to be far less selfish behind the wheel, and far more observant both of these in my humble opinion will save lives.

Monday, 27 August 2012

A change of title!

Well since as far as drivers in the UK go I'm not THAT young since you can learn 17 and I'm 20 so now I give you a driving adventure!

I have my MOT on Wednesday so I'll write about that that afternoon and I also have a blog to write about last weeks adventure as well as the tale of a road hogging fanny.

ta for now!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Glasgow to Barr

This time last week I was about to set off on what is by far one of my favourite drives, down what is said to be one of Scotland's most sketchy roads the A77. I have seen more cars in bushes and upturned in fields on the 69 mile stretch of it I drive than any other road I enjoy. When you roll on down it it doesn't really seem all that bad when you join from the M77 at Ayr, but as you get further down it starts to get twisty, tighter with multiple blind crests and corners, that's when you start to see when it can come all unglued, but any way I digress, this is meant to be about the trip its self!
We (my self and my lovely girlfriend) go down there every now and again to visit her parents (and cats and dog, they're pretty rad too) and stay the night and come back up the next day which is nice, its a nice part of the country about 4 miles form the coast. The drive its self takes about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on traffic/weather conditions (obviously you don't want to drive to hard in the pouring rain), along a pretty nice and scenic yet admittedly sketchy road once you're off the motorway. This would have been yet another nice drive down had it not been for the rather heavy rain and pretty high level of surface water, that lead to a couple of moments, under steer brought on by aquaplaning is not something I particularly enjoy, the first incident was on a roundabout, that was interesting, I wanted the second exit and the car wanted the first. While trying to keep the revs at about mid range, simply so I could get back up to 70 and continue on my journey, obviously due to the high level of surface water, that I never compensated for, the tyres broke free and started spinning and then steering was not something I had available any more, causing me to leave my lane into the one next to mine, thankfully there where no cars to my side, but bricks where shat all the same.

 I cant quite figure out why I love this drive as much as I do, it may have something to do with it being the first "long" drive I embarked upon by my self, or that its a road that makes you actually drive rather than pointing the car and holding the speedometer at 70, the combination of long sweeping fast corners, long straights and tight turns make for a fun drive that I look forward to every time I get to do it.
At the moment I have no real drives planned, just what ever comes up, not including my commute as its pretty dull, Though I will be heading up to Loch Lomond in a couple of weeks, and the real question there is do I take the crow road, or do I not? Anyhoo cheers for giving this a read of you did, so long, until my next post!

Monday, 23 July 2012

I short-ish introduction

Well good people of the internet, hello I am Alex and I like to drive my car and this will be a blog about my adventures along the way.

Now some details about myself! I am a young male driver, at the time of writing this I'm 20 years old and have been held a drivers licence for a little over a year, and have been on the road myself a little under a year. I like to think of myself as a courteous driver, I give cyclists about a car widths space when passing and about a car length  following distance if I cannot pass them with enough room, I never tailgate, I hate anyone who does it to me pretty much automatically, and therefore could never bring myself to do it to anyone else. My car is a 2003 mk1 MG ZR 105 (1.4L) and I love it to bits, even if it does have fairly poor acceleration it still gets me up to speed fast enough for the motor way and it pulls well enough at junctions so I'm pretty happy with that.
As I mentioned before hand this blog will document the ups and downs of my day to day driving, well most likely week to week driving because I'm a lazy fucker (this also seems the time to point out that I favour quite strong language, it's who I am). As well as driving tales and most likely rants too, I will toss in any amusing info in my day to day life, or any hobbies I already enjoy, or pick up along the way.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts and hope you treat my amateur blogging kindly. 

Ta for now!