Gad­gets and stuff for ve­hi­cles Just how use­ful/nec­es­sary are they?

New Zealand Classic Car - - Price On -

Dur­ing the on­go­ing search for an­other set of wheels, I got to think­ing about up­grad­ing the Ze­phyr con­vert­ible to mod­ern specs. First up was the in­board com­puter. Ini­tial at­tempts had me sim­ply place the hard drive and mon­i­tor screen on the back seat, fac­ing for­wards. There were sev­eral prob­lems with this, not the least of which was that, when I tried to view it via the rear-view mir­ror, the screen read back to front. With no safety belts re­quired, there was noth­ing to hold the com­puter in place dur­ing sud­den brak­ing, thus my ‘in­board’ com­puter was sud­denly in dan­ger of be­com­ing an ‘over­board’ ex­am­ple! And the only ‘pro­grams’ I was able to down­load into it were old tapes of pre­vi­ous Ze­phyr con­ven­tions that I had at­tended, which were not much help with day-to-day run­ning. Hav­ing said that, I re­mem­ber one North Is­land con­ven­tion in the mid 1980s, when, at one point, we were all on route from Ro­torua back to the con­ven­tion base in Taupo, and one of the cars got a flat tyre. Be­lieve it or not, that car had no jack­ing points, and the only way to ef­fect a tyre change was for sev­eral of us to lift up the rear of the car while the owner quickly re­moved the wheel and fit­ted the spare! I can re­call ex­actly how heavy it was, but ed­i­to­rial pol­icy pre­vents me from us­ing that sort of lan­guage here, though I can say that one of the words was ‘heavy’, pre­ceded by an ad­jec­tive.

An­other up­grade op­tion was in­stalling an airbag, but the nice old lady next door was re­luc­tant to go cruis­ing in the con­vert­ible with the roof down, es­pe­cially in win­ter!

Ef­fec­tively use­less

So, I flagged the elec­tri­cal up­grade to the Ze­phyr and re­turned to the search for some­thing half­way de­cent in a mod­ern ve­hi­cle, and one that had not spent the past six years bounc­ing around over the gen­er­ally still-stuffed Christchurch roads (but hey, the coun­cil can still spend thou­sands of dol­lars on sculp­tures!). While we’re still on ‘com­put­ers’, the other thing that both­ers me about them is that they are only as ac­cu­rate as the in­for­ma­tion in­putted into them, and, if that in­for­ma­tion is wrong, they are ef­fec­tively use­less. I have pre­vi­ously men­tioned that, as fast as man­u­fac­tur­ers de­velop ‘tam­per-proof’ odome­ter sys­tems, some­one else de­vel­ops a way of tam­per­ing with them. BMW pre­vi­ously de­vel­oped a sys­tem whereby sev­eral de­vices around the car recorded the odome­ter read­ing, so that, in the event that some­one tam­pered with the one on the speedo, the other record­ing de­vices would re­veal that the mileage was ‘dodgy’. How­ever, as you would ex­pect, some bright spark de­vel­oped a pro­gram that (via a lap­top) asked the car where all its record­ing de­vices were, and then al­tered the mileage on all of them. Of course, this tam­per­ing would take place be­fore the ve­hi­cle was pre­sented for ‘bor­der in­spec­tion’ and the fancy lit­tle sticker for the wind­screen to in­di­cate to prospec­tive buy­ers that the speedo read­ing was ‘re­li­able’. Yeah, right!

Buyer be­ware

Which leaves me with the in­evitable ques­tion — if the (for ex­am­ple) Ja­panese stan­dards are so strin­gent that Ja­pan’s cars be­come un­eco­nomic and/or un­safe at around the five-year mark, why is that so with such low-mileage ve­hi­cles? Here in New Zealand, cars of a sim­i­lar age, which are pur­port­edly New Zealand new, have of­ten cov­ered be­tween 150,000 and 200,000km or more, and yet they are still able to be driven!

A prob­lem that arose af­ter the tsunami in Ja­pan was that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of the cars were af­fected by ra­di­a­tion and couldn’t be ex­ported. No prob­lem! The so­lu­tion was to move them to an­other part of Ja­pan that was not af­fected by the ra­di­a­tion and re-reg­is­ter them there, thus avoid­ing the ra­di­a­tion bor­der test­ing here in New Zealand and in Ja­pan!

Re­mem­ber the Wahine? The Union Steamship Com­pany’s ad­ver­tis­ing at the time claimed, “We take you there and bring you back”. All the ve­hi­cles re­cov­ered from the wreck­age had their own­er­ship pa­pers (reg­is­tra­tion cer­tifi­cates) stamped “Ex Wahine”. Again, no prob­lem for the dodgy re­tail­ers. They sim­ply ap­plied for a du­pli­cate set of pa­pers, which was is­sued with­out the Ex Wahine stamp! The same thing hap­pened af­ter the In­ver­cargill floods.

Just the other week, I read that crafty truck­ers were avoid­ing us­ing the diesel ad­di­tive re­quired for cleaner-burn­ing emis­sions from said trucks, and were fit­ting a small de­vice that fooled the truck into think­ing that the ad­di­tive had been added! Which begs an­other ques­tion — if an elec­tri­cal de­vice can fool the truck’s en­gine­m­an­age­ment sys­tem, why is the ac­tual ad­di­tive needed at all?

Re­duced ACC levies

As an aside, the Fed­er­a­tion of Mo­tor­ing Clubs (FOMC) has re­cently taken up an idea I floated many years ago via this col­umn, which was to change the ‘40 years and older’ cat­e­gory of ve­hi­cles to 30 years and older, mean­ing that, once a ve­hi­cle be­comes 30 years old, it be­comes el­i­gi­ble for vastly re­duced Ac­ci­dent Com­pen­sa­tion Cor­po­ra­tion (ACC) levies. The FOMC is look­ing to get it changed to ‘over 25 years’, which will be re­ally great if it pulls it off, but the ACC needs our levies to make up short­falls when its in­vest­ments in the share mar­ket go belly up, as they have done in the past. Not quite sure how that could be ap­plied to weed out the clapped-out cars of that age, but per­haps mem­ber­ship of a rec­og­nized car club could be one of the cri­te­ria or lim­ited mileage, as is re­quired by some of the in­sur­ance com­pa­nies? In any event, I hope the FOMC has more sup­port than I got dur­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of un­leaded petrol in the mid 1990s — fewer than 2500 sig­na­tures na­tion­wide from af­fected car clubs. But with for­mer Labour trans­port min­is­ter Harry Duyn­hoven now at the helm of the FOMC, I’m ex­pect­ing big ad­vances for clas­sic car and mo­tor­cy­cle own­ers — af­ter all, Harry owns a fleet of them him­self!

But back to mileage is­sues — on sec­ond thoughts, mileage is not re­ally an ac­cu­rate in­di­ca­tion of ac­tual dis­tance cov­ered, as many own­ers of diesel-fu­elled ve­hi­cles sim­ply un­plug their odome­ters for much of their trip­ping around. The bad news is that the New Zealand Trans­port Agency (NZTA) has re­cently started look­ing at diesel ve­hi­cles that pre­vi­ously recorded lots of kilo­me­tres but for which records sud­denly show lim­ited or no in­crease in mileage — be­cause they’ve been laid up in the garage, per­haps. Bad luck on that score, as it is a bit like in­come tax. The NZTA can say that it es­ti­mates you must have cov­ered X-amount of dis­tance and send you a road­user-charges bill for the es­ti­mated amount! Try dodg­ing your way out of that.

Level sur­face

Get­ting back to gad­gets for a mo­ment, any­one re­mem­ber the old Mor­ris cars of the 1930s to 1940s that had the Smiths Jack­ing Sys­tem on each of the four wheels? This al­lowed you to jack up each wheel, or the en­tire car, while you swapped the wheels around. The only prob­lem was that you had to have the ve­hi­cle on a per­fectly level sur­face, lest it move for­wards and thus jam the jacks in the ex­tended po­si­tion — as hap­pened to me once. Of course, had I both­ered to turn the page in the driver’s hand­book, I’d have noted the warn­ing! Smiths Jack­ing Sys­tems also pro­vided the power hood mech­a­nism for the MKI Ze­phyr con­vert­ibles.

In the mean­time, I am rapidly learn­ing Ja­panese so I can read the ser­vice records for some of the im­ports I am cur­rently look­ing at, as I’ve found the Billy T James ‘How to speak Ja­panese’ ex­cerpt from one of his mem­o­rable shows just doesn’t quite cut it when try­ing to read those Ja­panese driver-in­struc­tion books — not to men­tion the dash-mounted TV mon­i­tors!

Drive or ride safe!

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