Six wheeled fantasy?
The motoring world is going ga-ga again over six wheels.
An Italian group called Covini Engineering has partnered with PMI SpA to
finally unveil the production version of the six-wheeled Covini C6W Supercar
at the Racing Professional Motor Show in Bologna.
Now this concept is far from new and has been around
since JC was in short pants and played for Bethlehem United, despite what
the press releases from Covini Engineering would have you believe.
According to Covini the six-wheeled Covini C6W is powered
by a 4.2-liter Audi-sourced V8 delivering its 440 bhp and 346 lb-ft torque
driving through a six-speed manual gearbox.
Covini says it was “inspired by the Tyrell P34 Formula
One car of the seventies. The Tyrell was not the only F1 development to
include the possibility of four front wheels and it was only a rule change
that prevented the world’s most watched sporting event from spawning a whole
new set of engineering solutions.”
According to Covini, the rationale for four front-wheels
was first detailed in a landmark Ford concept car shown at the World Fair in
1963. This was not the first by a long chalk. The earliest six-wheeler dates
to 1903 when Albert P. Broomell of York, Pennsylvania, a manufacturer of
steam heating equipment, first designed his Pullman. Broomell figured a
two-cylinder engine would be enough to push his car around through a center
axle, freeing both the front and rear axles for steering duties. Something
Honda took on many years later, with their four wheel steering but without
the central axle. While it probably had an incredibly tight steering radius,
the fact that it was underpowered and overweight was apparent from
Broomell’s subsequent reconfiguration of the car with a four-cylinder engine
and sans one axle. Broomell later found success with his more conventional
four-wheeled Pullman, built from 1905-1917.
Charles T. Pratt of Frankfort, New York, also produced a
six-wheeled car. Like Reeves, he was also an industrialist, the owner of the
Pratt Chuck Works. His six-wheeler was set up to use both the forward and
center axles for steering and the aft axle for propulsion, powered by an
unidentified 75 hp engine. Its wheelbase - presumably measured between front
and rear axles - was 168 inches.
Pratt told the press of the day that he only built it for
his own use, but he did patent his invention (842,245 - Running Gear for
Automobiles) in January 1907 and followed up with a second patent (888,737 -
Automobile Running-Gear) in May 1908.
Now if six wheels was better, how about eight? The
Octoauto actually used eight wheels - four steering up front, four out back
- and was based on a 1910 Overland. Unable to attract customers in 1911,
they removed one of the steering axles from the Overland to create the
Sextoauto, and followed that with another six-wheeled automobile based on a
Stutz chassis. The Sextoauto, with a $5,000 price tag (about $115,000
today), did not sell either.
The high price tag of these six wheelers has continued
through to today with an Italian automotive web site suggesting a price in
the vicinity of around US $400,000 for the 300 km/h rear-wheel-drive C6W.
Again according to Covini, the numerous benefits of four
front wheels includes significantly better braking, cornering and “feel”.
That’s too high a price I believe and I expect the Covini to go the way of
the Sextauto too.
All go on the Eastern Seaboard
General Motors is certainly active these days. A new press
line for GM Thailand has been installed to support its production, especially
for a new, world-class truck, which is going to be first produced and launched
by GM Thailand for the world market. The new generation truck will be GM’s
flagship model in the truck segment.
With a total investment of THB 327 million (US $10.9
million), the new press line includes four press machines, six robots (imported
specially from Japan) and two conveyors, which operate at 7.7 SPM
(panels-per-minute) and will produce 2,300,000 panels per year.
GM is confident that the new press line will build its
best-in-class products and pave the way for General Motors to be the leader in
the vehicle construction business.
Last week I asked which racing driver, known for his speed
and ultimate skills, drove the following cars: Bianchi, Chiribiri, Bugatti, Alfa
Romeo, Maserati, MG, Auto Union, Cisitalia and Ferrari. He recorded more than 50
victories. Who was he? It was the legendary Mantuan Nuvolari.
So to this week. Which famous GP driver struck a bird at
Indianapolis suffering head injuries which left him partially paralyzed?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email email@example.com.
New seven-seater Tesla coming
New Tesla S
Tesla has a Model S which promises power and torque and
seating for seven. Most electric and hybrid vehicles struggle with the weight
penalty and positioning of their batteries. General Motors’ new Volt electric
car seats only four people. Nissan’s Leaf sacrifices rear headroom,
incorporating part of the battery under the back passenger seat, and seats five.
However, Tesla, which has been well in front of the other
electric car manufacturers, states that by combining compact laptop derived
batteries with some lateral thinking, its coming Model S manages to pack more
kilometers and several more people (seven) into a body only 500 millimeters
longer than that of the Volt or the Leaf.
Until the S rolls out in 2012, Tesla still has just the
two-seater Roadster the company says accelerates from 0-100 kilometers/hr in 3.7
seconds - faster than a Porsche 911 and most Ferraris.
This next model, the eagerly awaited Model S, already has two
prototypes running. It won a Spark design award recently for the innovations
planned but still not unveiled to the public with five forward-facing adults and
two rear-facing child seats, and a 45 minute fast charging option.
The new Tesla S style comes from Franz von Holzhausen
(ex-Mazda), who says his electric cars will be ‘‘beautiful, sexy and fun to
drive’’ and the lines he has created for the Model S are completely different
from the current generation of electric hybrids. ‘‘People don’t want to
sacrifice anything, including style, to own an efficient car,’’ von Holzhausen
Despite this forward thinking, Tesla posted a US$34.9 million
loss but revenue is up and Musk cites a ‘‘growth in Roadster orders’’, possibly
as a result of the overhaul von Holzhausen and his team gave the three-year-old
One should also take Tesla very seriously. Remember that
recently I reported that Toyota has entered a partnership to build an electric
version of the RAV 4, while Panasonic has invested US$30 million in the company.
Some ‘rare’ cars on the Eastern
The first is the Ginetta G32 spotted by regular Autotrivia
winner Kevin Maguire.
The second pic came from Jules Lee and is the only Toyota /
Lotus MR2 Turbo in Thailand. It was parked outside Jules’ Sportarama bar in
Jomtien and is for sale for 700,000 baht. It belongs to Alan who built the New
Inn in Soi Kow Talo and now owns the Windmill Travel Lodge Resort in
350 horsepower pick-up
I was given the opportunity the other day to experience a
racing pick-up at the local Bira Circuit, and it was certainly a different
experience. This vehicle was the MazdaCity-Parker backed vehicle driven by
Aussie Mike Freeman, so it would then qualify for the title of a “You beaut ute”,
being the popular term for pick-ups in Australia.
Whilst it looked fairly standard from the outside, with no
huge flares or sitting only 3 cm from the ground, when the wheels were removed,
the first of many changes were revealed, with larger than standard discs and
large callipers to match. The engine bay was filled with the turbo-charged
engine and air intake system. The cabin was full of a very comprehensive roll
cage, with side intrusion bars to protect the driver in the case of an accident,
something which happens regularly in that class of racing!
The engine is a lot more powerful than the standard Mazda,
with 350 bhp and prodigious torque. That is enough to tow City Hall down North
Road to the beach! In fact, the torque ‘push’ was one of the outstanding
impressions after the laps of Bira. It should also be remembered that
“horsepower numbers” sell vehicles, but “torque figures” win races.
So the “You beaut ute” could accelerate like a dingo with a
firecracker tied to his tail, but the next impression was even more outstanding
- the brakes! The brakes on this Mazda were the next best thing to a brick wall.
Unbelievably good. Pulling up in a dead straight line without locking or
But there has to be an Achilles heel. Nothing is that
perfect. For the Mazda it was understeer (that’s when you go through the fence
forwards - oversteer is when you go through the fence backwards, Veronica). And
not just understeer, this was terminal understeer!
The end result of all this was a style of driving which was
simply on and off, no feathering the throttle, full on or full off and scrabble
round the corner. Savage, but fun. Thanks Mike Freeman for an interesting
The passing of an era (and
remembering an ERA)
and Ceril Heycock
Reader Mike Day alerted me to the fact that Ceril Heycock,
the first wife of Prince Bira (of ERA fame and remembered in the Bira circuit
just outside Pattaya) passed away last week aged 94. One of the last ties with
the heady days of the 1930s.