START STOP TECH AND CHEV V8 AIRCRAFT
Ik now I’m preaching to t he choir a bit here, but geez I love old cars. Now, obv iously, part of t hat is t he big nosta lgia trip we a ll ta ke just by opening t he garage doors, but another part of it for me is t hat I can trust old cars. I k now t hat if an oldie has spark, f uel and compression, it’s prett y much obliged to run. But not so the malevolent, treacherous new bastard.
Not t hat I rely on any particular old car to get me from A to B on a reg ular basis, a lt hough I am still capable of doing cra z y stuf f like driv ing a 30-year-old LandCruiser to the tip of Cape York. But you k now what? Twelve-thousand kays and t wo months later and my admiration for cars that don’t need computers continues to grow.
Any way, the other thing that bothers me these days is the way technolog y is being manipulated to perform tasks it was never rea lly designed for. Stop-sta rt tech in new cars where the engine stops when you arrive at a red light is one example. In t he old days, a car t hat sta lled at t he lights needed another turn on t he idlespeed screw. Now it’s a selling point. And suddenly, t he starter-motor is now starting t he car 50 times in a peak-hour commute versus the once it used to. Yes, I k now batteries and starter-motors have been embiggened to cope wit h t his, but rea lly?
Fact is, I’ve a lready met engineering t y pes who reckon t hat stop-sta rt is k illing engines. They tell me that in some makes and models the turbo starts boosting long before the oil pressure has had a chance to build up, meaning that the turbo bearings are copping a hammering. At least one car-maker has had to re-design its turbocharger units to cope. Three times. I’d have diced stop-start and saved myself a whole bunch of grief.
But what about t he f uel sav ings, you ask? Frank ly, stop-sta rt was only introduced to gain a better of f icia l number in independent fuel-economy testing; the tests t hat result in t hose litt le ef f iciency st ickers on t he windscreens of brand-new cars. In t he rea l world, t he sav ings are less impressive and would a lmost certainly be out weighed by the extra mass and expense of the bigger batter y and starter motor. But since t he testing has the car sitting idle for a percentage of the time, switching the motor off can gain the manufacturer a few precious tenth sofa litre to be reflected on that mandatory sticker.
Another one that causes me to wonder is the current trend in off-road ers to do away with the transfer-case and the low-ratio gear sit once provided. To ensure the end result can still climb out of a river, t he car-makers are now using eight, nine and even 10-speed auto gearboxes with super-low first gears. But even those are no substitute for a transfer-case’ s low-low ratio, so the next engineering short-cut has been to keep the engine on boost by – wait for it – slipping t he torque converter in the tranny, allowing the car to crawl a long and up and over the obstacle.
Now, this is fine if you’ re only going to drive over one rock or log per hour. However, that’s not been my experience of off-roading, and I reckon somewhere like the high country or on the sandy inland tracks of Fraser Island, t hat torque converter is going to be slipping a lot of the time. Which, inevitably, means the production of heat. And lots of it. And as anybody who knows auto trannies will tell you, heat is the enemy. In fact, it roots auto trannies good and proper.
I’m not suggesting we go back to points and carburettors( really, I’m not) but I would like to see an end to technology being used as as top-gap fix for poor design in the first place. Anybody else feel this way?