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Dan

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  1. Drove past today, petrol station and shop still open, dealership closed :mellow:

    TBH I stopped taking my Esprit there when their "9xx engine specialist" set the carbs so rich it felt soggy... I re-set them with my simple tools to get better performance and no headache when parking up in the garage... I know I'm no spanner monkey but even I could see it was too rich, I've balanced the carbs enough times to know good from just OK.

    On the positive side, it was the first place that I managed to get into an Elise with the roof on whilst sober. The previous three times required the inherent fluidity of a hangover :wacko:

  2. Hello, my name's Dan and I'm here to get better... for some time now I've had an unhealthy fixation with British Leyland products, and have been regularly reading www.aronline.co.uk... You know, perhaps the Maestro wasn't that bad after all, coming as it did as a spiritual successor to the Princess and Ambassador... :scared:

    Ahem. Back to the plot. A recent blog post from Chris Sawyer, recalling his time as Communications Director for Lotus Cars USA is enlightening...

    Through long-term friendships with Lotus personnel, many stretching back over 20 years, and my time as the Communications Director of Lotus Cars USA Inc. (LCU) – a position that was the main focus of my employment at a Detroit-based PR agency, I received regular reports about the goings on in Hethel during the Proton-Lotus courtship and early years of the marriage. Here are a few of the highlights:

    • Romano Artioli reportedly paid General Motors $40 million for Lotus, but Lotus Engineering received $40 million in engineering contracts from the nearly bankrupt automaker to take Lotus off its hands.
    • Artioli deftly played Daewoo against Proton in an attempt to get the highest possible sale price for Lotus. The amount he ultimately received from Proton for an 80% holding was many times the asset value of a company that was technically bankrupt.
    • Daewoo didn’t want Atlanta, Gerogia-based Lotus Cars USA, so Artioli sold it to LCU CEO James G. Selwa for a rumored £1.00 to seal the deal. (It may have been more.) Daewoo had no use for a US sales arm as it was in the process of creating its own ground-up sales and distribution organization. Selwa, seeing a prime opportunity, jumped at the deal.
    • Proton, which talked of selling its cars in the US, didn’t have a sales organization in-country, and bought LCU back from Selwa for many times what he paid once the company had bought Lotus.
    • Had it acted on pleas from its British management, Honda might have bought Lotus outright. The company was impressed with the work done on a British-built variant of the Civic and was interested in expanding its sports car reach in light of its involvement in F1. Honda’s management in Japan never responded to the British managers’ pleas.
    • Proton’s late CEO Yahaya Ahmad reportedly flipped an Esprit on the Lotus test track after the signing ceremony, earning himself the nickname “Flipper” at LCU.
    • Malaysian dignitaries and company executives were stunned to discover that the paperwork turning Lotus over to Proton did not include Team Lotus. One witness described the scene: “Some were ashen-faced, others red as beets.” Some Malaysians also expected to own Classic Team Lotus as part of the deal – so much for due diligence.
    • Proton brought a number of its Mitsubishi Colt-based hatchbacks to the celebration and these were run on the Lotus test track. Reportedly, most of the cars’ front wheel bearings gave up after three laps.
    • Lotus race car drive Doc Bundy was able to get the Elise an appearance on Baywatch. The plot had a rich businessman helped/rescued by Pam Anderson. As a token of his thanks, the businessman would give her an Elise. With no commitment from the UK to sell the Elise Stateside, the idea floated off to sea.
    • During the initial development of the Elise GT (a Ferrari Dino-like closed coupe version of the Elise), Lotus was looking for an engine other than the KV6 to power the car in order to make US sales easier. Through personal contacts, I helped source the 250bhp Ford SVT Contour (Mondeo) 2.5-litre V6 and five-speed transaxle. Incoming CEO Chris Knight cancelled the project as being too expensive and too dissimilar to the standard Elise.
    • The M250 took the Elise GT’s place and was to be powered by a Lotus-modified Renault V6 with 250bhp. Initial development costs for the M250 were pegged at £60 million, far greater than the $7 million needed to take the Elise S1 from an idea and into production. Group Lotus made just £65 million that year.
    • Over the course of a month, four Senior Engineers at Lotus whittled the cost of the M250 below £20 million, with more to come. However, bickering with Renault over payment for modifications to its V6 engine (Lotus was to receive the engine for free in return for engineering the tweaks) killed the deal.
    • At various times, LCU was to receive the K-Series Elise, a KV6-powered Elise or a Lotus-badged and bodied version of the Vauxhall VX220 with a GM turbo motor. Management dithering meant none ever made it past the talking stage.
    • Lotus Engineer and Director Roger Becker became so frustrated with the roadblocks preventing production of a Federal Elise that he investigated a number of alternatives.
    • One option reportedly involved building Dodge Neon SRT-powered drag car kits to be sold through So-Cal Speed Shops. This would establish Elise production in the US and pave the way for a US-built Elise built in partnership with a third party. This would reduce Lotus’ exposure at a time when it was considering pulling out of the US market.
    • Concurrently, Lotus bought MARCO Engineering in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (It’s now known as Lotus Engineering, Inc.) In addition to its work testing and developing engines for the American car companies, Harley-Davidson, and small engine manufacturers, MARCO had enough extra room to build the Elise in CKD form. Worries that the United Auto Workers would want to represent the Lotus workers, as well as more dithering from Hethel, killed this idea.
    • Later on, Becker used his personal relationship with top Toyota managers to procure the 2ZZ-GE inline four. The agreement did not include the Denso engine control unit, which would have cost Lotus more than it could afford.
    • In order to save the project, Becker had new LCU CEO Arnie Johnson buy a Toyota Celica GT and ship it back to Hethel. A new Lotus-designed ECU – which eliminated the torque spike Denso and Toyota said could not be controlled by the engine electronics – was produced in two weeks. The engine was placed in an old Elise S1 test hack for presentation to the same Lotus management who had not been consulted about buying the Toyota. Unsurprisingly, the programme was soon approved after that.

    These are just some of the things I saw and heard while trying to keep Lotus relevant to a jaded press community, which was tired of trying to find something else other than the over 20 year-old Esprit to write, and working against the near-constant threat that Lotus would leave the American market.

    Despite all of the maddening decisions, or lack thereof, made during this time, I can say Tony Rudd had it right when he called his autobiography It Was Fun! However, if I ever write a book about my time at LCU, I may use the title suggested by Andrew Walmsley, a former Director at Lotus: Casualties of a Previous Summer. Somehow, that seems more appropriate…

    Copied&pasted from here.

  3. Frankly I wish them both well in the upcoming year, but I will keep my support with my "local" Team, based just round the corner, rather than a renamed French team.

    Granted they're not on your doorstep, Tony, but the team owned by Renault have been based in Oxfordshire for many years... weren't they Team Benetton before that?

    I visited the Renault F1 site in about 2005 on a jolly; nothing French about it bar the parent company signing the cheques and giving them engines. No onions, no bicycles, no charming Gallic toilets, no Gauloises, no contemptuous shrugs of the shoulders... Just lots of blokes called Fred and Jim bashing together cars in a glorified shed in an old quarry. I think an early Europa had as much in common with Renault as any cars coming out of Renault F1 ;)

  4. What have been described here are various risk scenarios. All of them are "very low" risk, and most are miniscule. By legislating against miniscule risk taking, the authorities are attempting to achieve to a zero risk. "But if it saves one life...." No....zero risk means not doing anything at all ever.

    [snip]

    So what we really need to do is be a bit more realistic, honest and consistent about what level of carnage we are willing to risk. Then expect a bit of self responsibility from everybody not to be a complete twat instead of trying to invent a new rule for every situation where someone might get hurt. Obviously there will have to be a new offence called something like "dangerous living" to put a reign on the complete twats - but at least the rest of us shouldn't then have to put up with quite so much tosh being put about on the back of Health and Safety. "But if it saves just one life....." No....!!!

    I look forward to the backlash against Elfin Safety... the Darwinian approach: "If it only kills one idiot, it will have been worthwhile" gets my vote :ice:

    Imagine, no more coffee cups with "caution - contents may be hot", or bags of peanuts with "Warning: contains nuts", or cheese labelled prominently with "Contains milk" or all the rest of the myriad patronising signage and labelling that has sprung up in the last decade :clap:

  5. I'm one of those "what's all the fuss?" types because there's always been a Land Rover around. I've ticked the 'no' box to fitting winter tyres because I simply choose a more fitting vehicle. So perhaps I should have ticked the 'yes' box for that vehicle...?

    For instance on Saturday morning, I took one look at the snow and clear skies, and walked past the car and up to the shed and wound up a Land Rover. Chose the one permanently fitted with M&S tyres ("These are not ordinary tyres, these are..." erm, no, M&S as in mud & snow) and made my way at a steady pace, with plenty plenty distance between me and the vehicle in front, slowing down on narrow roads to pass oncoming traffic as I expected problems with slippery verges as we moved over, etc. Had to cadence brake a couple of times but nothing brown trousers - I'd tested the braking on an empty stretch to calibrate the look of the road with traction as it's 9-10 months since driving in icy conditions - and managed to get to Waitrose before the free mince pies had all vanished :) As is so often the way, not having the Land Rover plastered in chequer plate made absolutely no difference to whether it got through or not :rolleyes:

    I guess I had suitable tyres, 4wd, and a suitable attitude. Of course it would only have required one muppet in the wrong place and I would have been able to make no progress once the road had been blocked. There were many of the "Oh my god we're all going to die" :scared: crowd out doing 20mph on open, salted, dry roads and I wonder if they are better suited to simply staying at home. Takes a lot of willpower not to want to zoom past them at the first opportunity, easy to become over-confident for the conditions out of frustration. Arguably they would be more confident drivers with better tyres and more experience of slippery conditions but would they in practice drive any differently due to the infrequency of such weather here?

    Once the cold spell has passed - tomorrow or Wednesday by current forecast - I'll be back in the car because it's more comfortable, the heater works better, etc. But in a month's time, or whenever the next cold spell hits, back into the cold, clattery box on wheels I will go.

    Also, how does the issue of winter tyres work with company cars in those countries where their use is mandatory? Most trucks and vans will live at a depot where such things can be attended to, but company cars must be a right pain. Is it simply cheaper for companies to pay for changes of tyres based upon season rather than wear? i.e. do all staff get the "It's October, get your tyres changed" email, and then another in April?

    One of the problems in encouraging winter tyre use in the UK will be the cost. People change cars so frequently that it does not make sense to buy a set of spare wheels and tyres - even less popular sizes/styles as Mike points out - if they're only going to see a couple or three winters with the vehicle. Have a look next time you walk through a car park at the mis-matched and generally cheapo tyres on anything more than 2 years old and you'll see that people loathe spending good money on one set, never mind a spare set that probably won't fit the next car when it comes. It doesn't seem to have dawned on them that the only thing that stops them falling off the road is the £15.99 no-name tyres they were so pleased to find.

    I suspect many of us here choose tyres based upon performance (as in test data, dry/wet use, stopping distances, etc.) even for our mundane vehicles, possibly steered by aesthetics, but generally with no real consideration of cost, in the same way that we choose fuel (and indeed petrol stations) when we fill up. We are not representative motorists!

  6. Jamie - I remember them well but don't have the Esprit one that you're looking for.

    I was a student at the time; we had the Times delivered to the halls of residence. I cut these out of the Saturday glossy magazine (IIRC) and stuck them to my wall. That would have been between Sept 1991 and June 1992. I also had this sales brochure on the wall:

    red_esprit_brochure.JPG

    I'm pretty sure it had no bearing on subsequent purchases, though... :unsure::D

  7. Trevor - I went to the first event they organised, a couple of years ago, to mark the anniversary of Jim Clark's death. It was an excellent event, thoroughly enjoyable and informative. My write up about it is here.

    Unfortunately the last two events have coincided with 'must do' work events, so I have had to miss them.

    I've just had the email reminder today for this event and am considering it. Bit of diary juggling and a sticky caliper to sort out between now and then. I don't like to be the sort of Lotus person who turns up without a Lotus just because there's a bit of drizzle, or it's broken, or whatever :)

  8. Yeah, there's two bottlenecks on the downhill side of the square that can get a bit nasty, so always stay uphill of the action.

    The biggest mishap we've had with the tar barrels was the fire station burning down one year :stuart: . Fortunately it was the old fire station and not the active one, but a shame to lose a nice old building.

  9. Not saying it cant be learnt to good effect by good drivers Graham... just that its not likely to make the sort of drivers that forget which pedal to press any safer than they are now.

    Spot on Mike. I've actually been trying left foot braking in my current auto, as Ian says it's hard to be proportionate at first. I've driven a large number of go karts and left foot braking is instinctive there. Similarly instinctive on my fork lift truck.

    My point isn't that I refuse to learn new techniques, but that the solution doesn't match the problem. I don't think it's that drivers fail to adapt to using their feet, it's this "ploughing through the bus queue" scenario where I think it's overall driver competence and not vehicle or driving style that is to blame. Hence I think he's tip-toeing around the issue.

  10. Honest John, who provides motoring advice in the Telegraph has an ongoing campaign to educate all drivers of cars with automatic gearboxes to brake with the left, accelerate with the right. His logic is that "all these accidents" suffered by drivers in automatic cars "losing control" would be averted.

    The typical scenario he is tackling appears to be a low-speed manoeuvre close to a potential collision hazard. His argument is that by left-foot braking, you can control the lunge associated with a prod of the accelerator. I can agree with this, although I feel that if you drive the car sympathetically you learn to anticipate the transition from crawl to drive with a typical auto box.

    His argument is that such low-speed accidents are caused by right-foot confusion between brake and accelerator. He maintains that the hapless driver jabs the accelerator, thinking it is the brake, and when the car continues to lunge forwards/backwards, they simply press the "brake" harder and away it goes. The fundamental problem with this logic is that there is no difference between the brake and accelerator pedal layouts on automatic or manual cars, so why would the driver ever mix them up, and hence why should they use their feet for different pedals just because they happen to be sat in an automatic? And what of the confusion as they move between autos and manuals?

    I think the saving grace in a manual is that if you did this at parking type speeds then you'd just stall it - clutch and throttle control would be all over the place - in theory you'd hit the brake as clutch if you were hitting the accelerator as brake. An automatic removes the ability to recover control by stalling, usually. So could the problem be not so much the type of car, but the type of driver?

    I suspect it comes down to the demographic of the drivers who suffer from this "car ploughs through crowded forecourt", "car parks in neighbour's front room", etc. scenario. Is there something there that he's afraid to touch on? Maybe, just maybe, they're all generally past their prime, and whilst it's a difficult decision to make, perhaps they should no longer be driving...?

    I find it entertaining to read his letters page in Telegraph Motoring on a Saturday; invariably a "but why do you think left foot braking is better" letter is posted - to Honest John's credit - but his reasons are getting more and more obscure. Apparently it saves vital metres in an emergency stop from high speed. Apparently racing drivers do it instinctively. Apparently... Apparently... :lol:

    Does anyone else think he's painting himself into a corner, or conversely that he's one lone voice of reason in a world gone right-foot mad?

  11. We'll probably go and watch the burning tar barrel races again:

    289710150_aabda8bc39.jpg

    dmsimgs%2F832dd592-747c-4992-aa09-8c68ddd445a7.jpg

    Originally, each pub in the town would sponsor a barrel, and the winners would be the first team to get their barrel from one side of the town to the other. There are no crowd barriers, the crowd just parts as if by magic as the runners pass by. There are no disclaimer forms to sign.

    Many people go simply because they know that one day it'll be closed down due to "health & safety", and want to show support for being allowed to take risks and make their own judgement as to what's safe and what's a thrill.

  12. Lapsed for many years. Went solo at RAF Dishforth in 1992 IIRC, mostly winching with a few aerotows for the occasional treat. Ran the student club for Leeds Uni for a year. We had a K2 and I managed to secure funding and buy a K7 that Clevelands GC were looking to shift. Posh at the time! Flew in the T21 a few times, plus a Blanik, K13, and I have a feeling there was an Acro there too. Liked the K13 and K21 best. We weren't even allowed to push the Discus round the airfield, though.

    I think the club atmosphere can make or break the experience. Sadly, this means committee people have a great bearing on your enjoyment. Some clubs are hampered by minimal resources; Dartmoor GC was my local for a while after Uni but after a few visits I concluded it was haphazard, too many Big Chiefs, and the airfield was poor - a bog in a cloud most of the time! That was when I lapsed...

    Had a week long holiday at the Long Mynd in 2003, my second one at the site. I really enjoyed it but couldn't justify the every-other-weekend commitment it would have required to get solo again and build up reasonable experience. Just not enough time to do everything! The Long Mynd was a very good civilian club in my estimation.

  13. The most interesting I saw was a dark blue 246 Dino (looked like a real one to me) which turned out to be a (first generation) Lotus Europa with a body kit. Some interesting dimensions facts and overlays in the windscreen info which showed it was a route for the owner into his favourite Ferrari but with a bigger cabin and driving space - I never would have guessed that a Europa was that much bigger inside than a Dino!

    Sorry no pics......................I know.......

    Oh, you mean this one?

    flyer_dino.jpg

    Have a look here. Took me ages to hunt it out but I knew I had it bookmarked somewhere :coffee:

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