• QUAIL MOTORCYCLE GATHERING: BEST OF THE BEST!

    Cool temperatures fail to lower motorcycle fever at the Quail and keep Jim Palam from delivering this photo report.

    Low temperatures, brisk winds and overcast skies did nothing to dampen the spirits of over 3,000 visitors to the 2017 Quail Motorcycle Gathering on May 6 at the beautiful Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel, CA.

    Gordon McCall, motorsports director for the Quail Lodge, was once again the perfect ringleader for this 9th Annual gathering. It featured over 300 rare and historic bikes, as well as a generous sampling of custom and modified rides from some of the rising stars in the motorcycle enthusiast’s expanding universe. GEICO Motorcycles presented the event.

    Jim Palam, our man (and Triumph rider) on the West Coast was up and out early to capture the action. The show was so good that he forgot to eat his complimentary gourmet lunch – but he did take a big bite of The Gathering’s tasty essence – yours now to enjoy.

    Taking the Design and Style Award was Simon Waterfall’s super-clean and serious ‘75 Moto Guzzi 850T, Top, rebadged as Supernaturale. Designed and built by Hugo Eccler of Untitled Motorcycles of San Francisco (pictured) the bike features a custom aluminum tank, advanced electronics and fingertip controls. Its overall brushed satin finish will intentionally age gracefully, developing an individualized patina from the way the rider handles the bike.

    What do you do if you have a beautiful old Triumph race tank? If you’re Californian Bryan Thompson you build the quintessential ‘58 Triumph Tiger from ground up, around the tank. So good is this build that this Black Beauty has been racking up a bounty of awards – including First Place in the Quail’s Custom/Modified category. Well-done Bryan!

    Chris Carter has become almost as famous as the spectacular motorcycles in his amazing All Things Two Wheels collection. So thanks Chris for bringing your gorgeous ‘14 Jefferson Board Track Racer to The Gathering. It took 2nd Place in the American category.

    Considered one of the most innovative motorcycles ever created, only 10 hand-crafted Britten V1000 superbikes were ever built. This Britten, #10, resides in the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum, just a few blocks from my home. It belongs to the museum’s owner Virgil Elings and he proudly displayed it at The Gathering. Virgil’s son Jeff rode it up onto the winner’s ramp to accept the Significance in Racing Award.

    I met Richard Mitchell as he was rolling this meticulously customized BSA A65 Thunderbolt up to the Entrant’s Window late Friday afternoon. When Richard is not designing for Tesla, his passion is motorcycles. His beautiful creation went on to win 2nd Place in the Custom/Modified category.

    Ole #38 didn’t look like much when from a distance when I spotted owner Gary Landeen trying to kick-start her for a bevy of patient judges. On what was surely his last kick she fired up – and like the menacing roar of a Coliseum lion she fired up the crowd as well! This bike is the legendary Ed “Iron Man” Kretz’s Pre-War Big Base Indian Scout FDB 381 that competed successfully on a national level from 1941 through 1967. What a thrill to see and hear #38 roar at The Gathering!

    Two For The Road! If you’re a Motorhead you find beauty in design, function and performance. So forgive me if my heart beats a little faster when I take in the sexy symmetry of John Stein’s ‘70 Twin Motor BSA drag bike – bared for all to see in the Competition On Road Class.

    The 750 Sport was essentially a racier version of Ducati’s first big V-Twin, the 750GT. Its Goldenrod Yellow and black paint scheme and lean, aggressive styling made this Italian beauty really stand out from the crowd. Robert Jordon owns this stunning and pristine example.

    Wake Me Up Before You Goggo! The Hans Glas GMBH Company of Germany produced the Goggo Motorscooter in the 1950s. They were dependable and offered better performance than their Italian counterparts. They were however a bit pricier and few ever made it to the States. Harley and Deb Welch brought this nifty ‘55 Goggo 150 to The Gathering.

    And now for something different: The ‘76 Hercules W2000. Powered by an air-cooled, single-rotor Sachs-designed Wankel engine, it was manufactured in Germany. Innovative for sure, but criticized for its high cost, insufficient ground clearance and low performance. And of course, now, in high-demand by collectors! Congratulations to Stephan Haddad for the bike’s 2nd Place win in the Other European category.

    Words & photos by Jim Palam, http://www.jimpalam.com/

    The post QUAIL MOTORCYCLE GATHERING: BEST OF THE BEST! appeared first on .

    Continue Reading…

  • Electric car charging rip-off?

    By No tags Permalink

    Ministers are preparing to tackle overpriced electric car charging over fears that it can cost as much to run a green vehicle as a diesel car.

    Reforms set to be introduced next year will make roadside pricing for electricity – which can reach £7.50 for a half-hour charge – more consistent, so motorists are not put off buying environmentally friendly cars.

    The new rules will give drivers easier access to public charge points and set common standards for pricing.

    Ministers are preparing to tackle overpriced electric car charging over fears that it can cost as much to run a green vehicle as a diesel car

    The environmental audit committee said that ministers would fall short of a target of ensuring that 9 per cent of new cars and vans were classed as ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020.

    Its report predicted that without reform, green vehicles would at most account for only 7 per cent of the car and van market by 2020.

    Motoring journalist and spokesman for the FairFuelUK campaign, Quentin Willson, told The Times: ‘We have seen some rapid chargers cost almost £7.50 for a half-hour charge. That strikes me as far too expensive and can almost bring costs up to a comparable level of running a diesel car.

    Continue Reading…

  • Signs of Confusion?

    The British have always been great travellers with some of the world’s most famous explorers hailing from our shores: Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and Captain James Cook to name but a few who faced incredible dangers in uncharted territories with constant threats from disaster, disease, wild animals and hostile locals. It seems that Brits have been successful in reaching every corner of the globe (assuming that globes actually have corners!) but there is one peril that these heroic globetrotters did not have to face but one that lies in wait for any unwary modern-day British traveller brave enough to venture from these sheltered isles. That danger arises from the apparent inability of the British to understand other countries’ road signs.

    Of course any traveller needs to understand a little of the local lingo even if such knowledge is limited to STOP, LEFT and RIGHT but it seems that most confusion arises with the signs containing pictures or symbols. Although there have been moves towards standardisation of road signs for many years (a protocol to which the UK did not sign-up), there remains much national diversity and there are even some signs which have different meanings in different countries. This failure to understand, and consequently not to follow, the instructions given by these signs has been cited as one of main causes of accidents abroad and this fact has been recognised by overseas car-hire companies who are now imposing additional insurance requirements on British drivers who they regard as being a bad risk. This may slightly dent the pride of our usually well-respected motorists but insurance companies report that the countries from which the most accident claims originate are: Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Australia. The latter, being an English speaking country, may be surprising and many visitors from the UK expect driving here to be just like at home, with the possible exception of a few signs showing Skippy bouncing across the road, and are not prepared for some of the unusual road signs. The Australian sign for “The Road Ahead Will Change” is a classic example of a sign where the image seems to bear no resemblance to the message it is purporting to convey. It seems that you really need to think Australian to fully understand the logic. Some of the Icelandic signs are also highly symbolic rather than pictorial so need to be carefully studied.

    Both in the UK and overseas, there are also signs which are unlikely to have any relevance to the average motorist such as the prohibition of vehicles carrying explosives but the whole business of understanding other countries’ road signs is a matter which should be taken very seriously and some, such as those advising which roads are “priority routes”, inform drivers as to who has the right of way and abiding by this is almost as important as driving on the correct side of the road.

    The most important thing is to recognise which signs are concerned with road safety and which are simply providing information about local facilities. In France for example a sign simply showing the letter é over a silhouette of a village church simply indicates the location of a stop-over village (Village Étape) and a single letter t indicates the toll booth location for season ticket holders. It may be some consolation to know that French drivers’ knowledge of some of these minor signs is not much better than that of UK drivers.

    It should always be remembered that UK road signs are probably just as confusing to overseas visitors and we can only wonder what a Renault-driving Frenchman would do when confronted with a sign saying “FORD”.

    So, whatever country is to be visited, some time should be taken to become familiar with that country’s road signs and, if it has been some time since a driving test was passed, it would do no harm at all to also study the latest UK road signs as their numbers also steadily rise. The realisation that most of the important overseas road signs are intuitive comes as something of a relief to those with limited language skills and the few which are symbolic rather than pictorial can easily be learnt. Driving in a safe and considerate manner should be no more difficult overseas than at home and will win the respect and appreciation of local motorists. It also enables such trips to be fully enjoyed, carrying on the British tradition of travel and exploration. Take a look at the coop’s infographic:

    Road signs

    Continue Reading…

  • Dash Cams to Improve Road Safety

    A small camera on your dashboard can cut your insurance and help you prove that a crash wasn’t your fault, as well as helping you prosecute the fraudulent and dangerous drivers.

    Dash cameras are not as popular in Western Europe as they are in Russia. In fact, the majority of the famous Chelyabinsk meteorite videos in 2013 were filmed with dash cameras.

    Nonetheless, there are more benefits to dash cameras than filming strange occurrences on the road. While young drivers get a black box to track their driving and lower their insurance costs, the really smart drivers, on the other hand, get dashboard cameras.

    With a growing concern for insurance fraud and uninsured drivers on the road, people are becoming more careful when it comes to the actions of other road users. The number of drivers running away from accidents is increasing, leaving you with a crashed car and not only nobody to blame, but your no-claims bonus and low insurance premiums in tatters.

    So what’s a dashboard camera?

    It is a small video recorder, which clips to the front window of a car or a van. These cameras vary in their specs, but primarily they function in the same way that any CCTV camera does, by recording and storing data.

    While there are a host of cheap and simple dashboard cameras available on the market, companies like In Car Connections, sell advanced dashboard cameras that react to motion and sudden breaking.

    Road Safety

    While dash cams can be an expense, it is surely a worthy investment. Dash cameras record everything on the road, so if you get hit by a dangerous driver, there is no need to extensively argue to prove the true cause of the crash and pay the associated court fees. In addition, dash cameras can help other road users. While a lot of accidents go unreported, and numerous dangerous drivers escape fines, your video footage can help innocent drivers to find whoever injured them or damaged their vehicles.

    Moreover, a lot of accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists are captured by dashboard cameras. While cyclists involved in road accidents may not be quick-thinking enough make a note of a car’s registration, you can surely help them out, by providing them with information or even the footage of their accident.



    Prevent insurance fraud

    Getting involved in a pedestrian accident is probably one of the worst fears of any driver. However, not all of those accidents are the fault of the driver. There are people crazy enough to run out into traffic to get hit by a driver in order to receive compensation.

    Thankfully, having a dash camera will help to prove your innocence. Whether it is a pedestrian, or another driver trying to make a spurious whiplash claim.


    Travel Safely Abroad

    Important safety questions always arise when you are abroad. Not only surrounding local drivers potentially taking advantage of you on the road, but you may also have difficulties reporting accidents whilst you are abroad.

    Thus, having a dash board camera can definitely improve your road safety abroad. So install a dash cam now and fight dodgy insurance claims. Your footage will help you to fight your corner against road traffic accidents and crash fraudsters, and help to lower your monthly insurance instalments. Improve your road safety, and help others improve theirs!

    Continue Reading…

  • BMW’s F1 ‘rocket fuel’ and aromatic hydrocarbons

    The story of BMW’s turbo ‘rocket fuel’ has long since passed into Formula 1 legend, but there’s a longer and deeper story here, involving the German war effort, some organic chemistry, and the history of oil refining techniques. But let’s begin with the legend, and the breakthrough which enabled the Brabham-BMW of Nelson Piquet to win the 1983 Drivers’ Championship:

    [BMW motorsport technical director, Paul] Rosche telephoned a contact at chemicals giant BASF and asked if a different fuel formulation might do the trick. After a little research, a fuel mix was unearthed that had been developed for Luftwaffe fighters during World War II, when Germany had been short of lead. Rosche asked for a 200-litre drum of the fuel for testing and, when it arrived, he took it straight to the dyno.

    “Suddenly the detonation was gone. We could increase the boost pressure, and the power, without problems. The maximum boost pressure we saw on the dyno was 5.6 bar absolute, at which the engine was developing more than 1400 horsepower. It was maybe 1420 or 1450 horsepower, we really don’t know because we couldn’t measure it — our dyno only went up to 1400.” (‘Generating the Power’, MotorsportMagazine, January 2001, p37).

    An aromatic hydrocarbon called toluene is commonly held to have been the magic compound in this fuel brew, but erstwhile Brabham chief mechanic Charlie Whiting goes further:

    “There were some interesting ingredients in it, and toluene has been mentioned. But it would have had far more exciting things in it, I think, than toluene. I suspect – well, I know – that it was something the BMW engineers had dug out of the cupboard from the Second World War. Almost literally rocket fuel,” (‘Poacher Turned Gamekeeper’, MotorsportMagazine, December 2013, p74).

    Before we delve into the chemistry of fuels, let’s establish some context here. The current F1 turbo engine regulations require detonation-resistant fuels with a high calorific value per unit mass. Detonation resistance enables one to increase the compression ratio, and thereby increase the work done on each piston-stroke, while the limits on total fuel mass and fuel mass-flow rate require fuel with a high energy content per unit mass.

    In contrast, in the 1980s the regulations required detonation-resistant fuels with a high calorific value per unit volume. From 1984, the amount of fuel permitted was limited, but the limitation was defined in terms of fuel volume rather than mass, hence fuel with a high mass-density became advantageous. By this time, the teams had already followed BMW’s lead and settled upon fuels with a high proportion of aromatic hydrocarbons.

    To understand the significance of this, we need to start with the fact that there are four types of hydrocarbon:

    (i) Paraffins (sometimes called alkanes)
    (ii) Naphthenes (sometimes called cycloalkanes)
    (iii) Aromatics (sometimes called arenes)
    (iv) Olefins (sometimes called alkenes)

    Methane, ethane and propane. Each larger disk represents a carbon atom; each white disk represents a hydrogen atom; and each black disk represents a covalent bond.

    Each hydrocarbon molecule contains hydrogen and carbon atoms, bound together by covalent bonds. The hydrocarbon types differ from each other by the number of bonds between adjacent atoms, and by the overall topology by which the atoms are connected together. So let’s briefly digress to consider the nature of covalent bonding.

    The electrons in an atom are stacked in so-called ‘shells’, each of which can contain a maximum number of members. The first shell can contain only two electrons, while the second can contain eight. If the outermost electron shell possessed by an atom is incomplete, then the atom will be disposed to interact or bond with other atoms.

    A neutral hydrogen atom has one electron, so its one and only shell needs one further electron to complete it. A neutral carbon atom has six electrons, two of which fill the lowermost shell, leaving only four in the next shell. Hence, another four electrons are required to complete the second shell of the carbon atom.

    In covalent bonding, an electron from one atom is shared with an adjacent atom, and the adjacent atom reciprocates by sharing one of its electrons. This sharing of electron pairs enables groups of atoms to complete their electron shells, and thereby reside in a more stable configuration. In particular, a carbon atom, lacking four electrons in its outermost shell, has a propensity to covalently bind with four other neighbours, while a hydrogen atom has a propensity to bind with just one neighbour. By this means, chains of hydrocarbons are built.

    Methane, for example, (see diagram above) consists of a single carbon atom, bound to four hydrogen atoms. The four shared electrons from the hydrogen atoms complete the outermost shell around the carbon atom, and each hydrogen atom has its one and only shell completed by virtue of sharing one of the carbon atom’s electrons.

    If there is a single covalent bond between each pair of carbon atoms, then the hydrocarbon is said to be saturated. In contrast, if there are more than one covalent bond between a pair carbon atoms, the molecule is said to be unsaturated.

    Saturated ethane in a state of unconcealed glee compared to the glum unsaturated ethylene, and the vexatious triple-bonded acetylene, (this and the above taken image from ‘BP – Our Industry’, 1958, p69).

    Now, to return to our classification scheme, paraffins are non-cyclic saturated chains, (there is a sub-type called iso-paraffins in which the chain contains branching points); naphthenes are cyclic saturated chains; aromatics are cyclic (semi-)unsaturated chains; and olefins are non-cyclic unsaturated chains, (with a sub-type of iso-olefins in which the chains have branching points).

    Aromatic compounds possess a higher carbon-to-hydrogen ratio than paraffinic compounds, and because the carbon atom is of greater mass than a hydrogen atom, this entails that aromatic compounds permit a greater mass density. This characteristic was perfect for the turbo engine regulations in the 1980s, and toluene was the most popular aromatic hydrocarbon which combined detonation-resistance and high mass density.

    To put toluene into context, we need to begin with the best-known aromatic hydrocarbon, benzene. This is a hexagonal ring of six carbon atoms, each one of which is bound to a single hydrogen atom. Toluene is a variant of this configuration in which one of those hydrogen atoms is replaced by a methyl group. The latter is one of the primary building blocks of hydrocarbon chemistry, a single carbon atom bound to three hydrogen atoms. The carbon atom in a methyl group naturally binds to another carbon atom, in this case one of the carbon atoms in the hexagonal ring. Hence toluene is also called methyl-benzene.

    Closely related to toluene is xylene, another variant of benzene, but one in which two of the hydrogen atoms are replaced by methyl groups. (Hence xylene is also called dimethyl-benzene). If the two methyl groups are bound to adjacent carbon atoms in the ring, the compound is dubbed o-xylene; if the docking sites of the two methyl groups are separated from each other by two steps, then the result is dubbed m-xylene; and if the docking sites are on opposite sides of the ring, the compound is called p-xylene.

    Most teams seem to have settled on the use of toluene and xylene. By mid-season 1987, for example, Honda “reached an 84% level of toluene,” (Ian Bamsey, McLaren Honda Turbo – A Technical Appraisal, p32).

    With respect to the Cosworth turbo used by Benetton in 1987, Pat Symonds recalls that “the problem was the engine had been developed around BP fuel, and we had a Mobil contract. Fuels then weren’t petrol, they were a chemical mix of benzene, toluene and xylene. We kept detonating pistons, and it wasn’t until mid-season that we got it right,” (Lunch with Pat Symonds, MotorsportMagazine, September 2012). In fact, Pat attests that the Cosworth fuel was an equal mix of benzene, toluene and xylene, (private communication).

    At Ferrari, AGIP later recalled that their toluene and xylene based fuel reached density values of up to 0.85, in some contrast with the paraffinic fuels of the subsequent normally-aspirated era, with density values of 0.71 or 0.73. “Given the ignition delays of heavy products, we had to add more volatile components that would facilitate that ignition,” (Luciano Nicastro, Head of R&D at AGIP Petroli, ‘Ferrari Formula 1 Annual 1990’, Enrico Benzing, p185).

    Renault, in contrast, claim to have used mesitylene, as Elf’s Jean-Claude Fayard explains:

    “We found a new family of hydrocarbons which…contained a strong proportion of mesitylene [trimethyl-benzene] and they had a boiling point of 150C, but with a combustion capability even higher than that of toluene,” (Alpine and Renault, Roy Smith, p142).

    Mesitylene is a variant of benzene in which three methyl groups are docked at equal intervals around the hexagonal carbon ring, (naturally, mesitylene is also called trimethyl-benzene).

    Now, the fact that Paul Rosche grabbed a barrel of aviation fuel used by the Luftwaffe is significant because German WWII aviation fuel differed substantially from that used by the allies. Faced with limited access to crude oil, and a poorly developed refining industry, the Germans developed war-time aviation fuels with a high aromatic content.

    Courtesy of the alkylation process, the original version of which was developed by BP in 1936, the allies could synthesise iso-octane from a reaction involving shorter-chain paraffins, such as iso-butane, and olefins such as butene or iso-butene. By definition, iso-octane has an octane rating of 100, defining the standard for detonation-resistance. Using 100-octane fuel synthesised by the alkylation process, the British were able to defeat the Luftwaffe in the 1940 Battle of Britain.

    In contrast, German aviation fuel was largely obtained from coal by applying hydrogenation processes. With limited capacity to produce paraffinic components, the initial B-4 grade of aviation fuel used by the Germans had an octane range of only 87-89, a level which itself was only obtained with the addition of the anti-detonation agent, Lead Tetra-Ethyl. A superior C-3 specification of aviation fuel was subsequently produced, with an octane rating of 95-97, but only by substantially increasing the proportion of aromatic hydrocarbons:

    “The B-4 grade…contained normally 10 to 15 percent volume aromatics, 45 percent volume naphthenes, and the remainder paraffins…The C-3 grade was a mixture of 10 to 15 percent volume of synthetic isoparaffins (alkylates and isooctanes)…[and] not more than 45 percent volume aromatics,” (US Navy, Technical Report No. 145-45. Manufacture of Aviation Gasoline in Germany, Composition and Specifications).

    The Germans, however, also included some interesting additives:

    “The Bf 109E-8’s DB601N engine used the GM-1 nitrous oxide injection system…Injected into the supercharger inlet, the gas provided additional oxygen for combustion at high altitude and acted as an anti-detonant, cooling the air-fuel mixture,” (‘The Decisive Duel: Spitfire vs 109’, David Isby).

    “Additional power came from water-methanol and nitrous-oxide injection,” (‘To Command the Sky: The Battle for Air Superiority over Germany, 1942-44‘, Stephen L.McFarland and Wesley Phillips, p58).

    At which point, one might recall Charlie Whiting’s suggestion that the 1983 BMW fuel brew “had far more exciting things in it” than toluene. This, despite regulations which explicitly stated that fuel should be 97% hydrocarbons, and should not contain “alcohols, nitrocompounds or other power boosting additives.” Still, there’s breaking the rules, and then there’s getting caught breaking the rules. Perhaps BMW were a little naughty in 1983, before settling down with an 80% toluene brew.

    The current turbo regulations, however, require a much lower aromatic content, stipulating the following maxima:

    Aromatics wt% 40
    Olefins wt% 17
    Total di-olefins wt% 1.0
    Total styrene and alkyl derivatives wt% 1.0

    Which entails, in a curious twist, that the current maximum aromatic content almost matches that of the C-3 aviation fuel developed in war-time Germany…

    .

dd