Fight the power ... steer­ing

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - TIMBLAIR blairt@dai­lytele­

GOV­ERN­MENTS and coun­cils around Aus­tralia have tried all kinds of tricks to re­duce ur­ban traf­fic: pedes­trian malls, in­creased park­ing fines, mono­rails, you name it.

These tac­tics mostly just push traf­fic some­where else, thereby shift­ing the prob­lem in­stead of fix­ing it. But let’s play a lit­tle game of Trans­port Dic­ta­tor and con­sider what might hap­pen if we acted on a re­cent col­umn from Brian Sewell, art critic at Lon­don’s Evening Stan­dard.

‘‘ Power steer­ing is the curse that en­ables lit­tle women to drive large cars,’’ he writes. ‘‘ With­out it, Lon­don would never have needed a con­ges­tion charge.’’

Ig­nore Sewell’s un­for­giv­able sex­ism and imag­ine how Aus­tralia would be trans­formed by a sim­ple power steer­ing ban. For a start, there’d be no more fleets of SUVs drop­ping off kids at schools. Only the brawni­est of fel­lows could pi­lot any­thing like a Kia Sorento that didn’t have as­sisted steer­ing.

Smaller cars, too, be­come un­wieldy with­out power as­sist. It wouldn’t be much fun drag­ging a cur­rent front-driver through town were it not for boosted steer­ing.

Traf­fic con­ges­tion would be ended im­me­di­ately. Mod­ern soft folk can’t cope with phys­i­cal ef­fort and might even pre­fer to walk. An­other pos­si­ble ben­e­fit: the Aus­tralian car in­dus­try would be rein­vig­o­rated by the need to pro­duce light­weight, eas­ily ma­noeu­vred cars.

There you have it. So many prob­lems solved at once. You’re wel­come, Aus­tralia.


A TRACK day looms with some of Aus­tralia’s fastest V8 Su­per­car driv­ers. If ever you get the chance to be belted into one of these ma­chines and be cat­a­pulted around a cir­cuit by some­one who is gifted at driv­ing them, al­ways say yes.

These events have changed a lit­tle over the years. In the late 1980s, Dick John­son hosted a press day at Vic­to­ria’s Sandown cir­cuit where he demon­strated the awe­some car con­trol needed to tame a turbo Ford Sierra. No in­sur­ance forms were signed. No race suit was re­quired. We sim­ply put on a bor­rowed hel­met and got in to the pas­sen­ger seat.

Dick wasn’t play­ing around, ei­ther. My own lap aboard the 600hp Sierra was barely out­side the then-lap record, and fea­tured just one au­di­ble com­ment from the Bathurst-win­ning Queens­lan­der. ‘‘ Once it hits 5000rpm, all hell breaks loose,’’ he said, at which point he was proved en­tirely cor­rect.

To­day’s track days are more mind­ful of in­sur­ance and li­a­bil­ity and in­volve sub­stan­tial pa­per­work. All hell, how­ever, con­tin­ues to break loose.

Pedes­trian propo­si­tion: Lack of power steer­ing might pro­pel peo­ple out of cars, end­ing the school-run traf­fic jam

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