Tuesday August 9th, 2011 21:19 Cool, and Controversial, Car Upgrades You Can Make

Aftermarket car upgrades are becoming more and more commonplace, fueled by their growing popularity in pop culture, such as in the ‘Fast and the Furious’ movies and in an array of television programs. Some upgrades are quite straightforward, designed purely for increasing a vehicle’s horsepower output, or for modifying a vehicle’s appearance, etc. Others, however, are not quite so black-and-white. Several upgrade options vary in legalities by locations; other potential modifications are fun to play around with but shouldn’t be used on populated roadways. Below, we’ll go over several very cool, but somewhat controversial, aftermarket upgrades you can make to a car, so you can see if any appeal to you (so maybe you’ll decide to install them yourself).

HID Headlights
BMW introduced HIDs as an option in its 7 Series line in the early 1990s, but HID headlights didn’t really explode in popularity until car enthusiasts began installing aftermarket versions in their vehicles. HIDs have an interesting history. Originally, there were a number of complaints lodged against their use, mostly because drivers in oncoming traffic complained that the lights were blinding on the road and too distracting to drive when facing them. However, as more intricate modifications came into place and proper aiming was set, HIDs became less of a distraction, though their legality does differ from place to place. These lights are substantially brighter and longer lasting than more common halogen headlights, and HIDs can even be customized to copy your color preference if you so desire. If you decide to use them, just make sure you target their beams lower than you would with standard halogens, to make sure that they don’t blind drivers sharing the road with you.

Police Lighting and Sound Add-ons
Impersonating a police officer is a crime in most locales, so installing police lights and sirens and then pretending you’re an officer isn’t the best idea. But a popular upgrade in recent years has been the inclusion of novelty police add-ons on regular cars. Though they can’t be utilized on main roadways, when trying to play tricks on friends in your driveway, they can be a fun diversion. There are plenty of novelty police light and sound products to choose from, including strobes mounted on the roof, authentic-sounding police sirens, and even spotlight add-ons. So long as you watch yourself, these realistic-looking add-ons can be a lot of fun to play around with.

Train Horns
Just because you hear a train horn blast nowadays doesn’t mean that you’re actually close to a train. Many drivers are modifying their vehicles to include train horn add-ons. These parts attempt to produce the authentic sound and loudness associated with actual trains. They’ve only grown in popularity through the proliferation of videos across the web, particularly on YouTube, of drivers blasting their train horns when in parking lots or nearby to pedestrians, scaring their pants off, so to say. Though you should never use a train horn on a road with other vehicles (the sound drowns out all other noise and can be dangerously distracting), if you’re looking to play a few harmless pranks from the front seat of your car, trains horns may be the way to go.

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Monday August 8th, 2011 14:06 Ford Set to Unveil Five New Models at Frankfurt Motor Show

The 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show is shaping up nicely if you are a Ford enthusiast, as the Blue Oval are readying plans to launch an impressive five new models at the show. Visitors to the Ford stand at the motor show will also be able to see some of these new models in action, as the famous car manufacturer’s stand includes a 2,800m2 track.

Amongst the new models on display in Frankfurt will be an all-new design concept car that will showcase Ford’s future styling direction. Although this concept car will not hit the road until 2014, it will apparently reveal the company’s latest family-look. According to a Ford spokesperson, this concept car is “seventy to eighty percent confirmed for production” and displaying it at the Frankfurt Motor Show will afford the company an “opportunity to take customer feedback on board before finalising the design.”

In addition to the concept car, Ford will be showcasing two new performance versions of the popular Focus and Fiesta models in Frankfurt. The Focus ST is fitted with a new fuel efficient 2.0-litre direct injection engine, and is capable of producing around 247bhp. This should enable it to reach a top speed of around 155mph, while also allowing it to reach 62mph from a standing start in under six seconds.

The Focus ST will be joined at the Frankfurt Motor Show by the Fiesta ST, the B-MAX and the Ford Ranger pick-up. The new Fiesta model will feature a 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine capable of producing around 200bhp.

The Frankfurt Motor Show runs from the 13th of September until the 25th of September, and is open to the public from the 15th.

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Monday August 8th, 2011 13:20 Maserati GranTurismo S Automatic gets Sports Pack Upgrade

Maserati has announced that its most popular model in the UK – the GranTurismo S Automatic – is to receive a new Sport pack upgrade. The Italian car manufacturer believes that the introduction of the Sport pack will enable the S Automatic to deliver an even greater performance oriented experience.

Although the upgraded S Automatic gets its power from the same 434bhp 4.7-litre V8 engine as the standard S Automatic, its newly added MC Auto Shift software will allow drivers to change gears quicker than previously possible and will give the car a more alert feel. The new Sport pack also includes a revised exhaust system. Because its bypass valves are kept fully open when in Sport mode, the car has a richer sound than before.

The introduction of the Sport pack hasn’t affected the S Automatic’s performance statistics, as, just like the regular model, it has a top speed of 183mph and goes from 0-62mph in just five seconds.

In terms of aesthetic updates, the S Automatic has been subjected to a number of changes to help make it look even sportier. The car will include body coloured side skirts and front winglets, as well as a black grille that bears the distinctive Maserati Trident Logo. In addition to these styling changes, the car features Grigio Mercury Neptune-design alloy wheels, black look headlights, black mesh side grilles, an integrated rear boot lid spoiler and oval exhaust pipes.

Priced at £3,840 the Sport pack brings the price of a fully equipped GranTurismo S Automatic up to £92,480, and comes with 3 years/unlimited mileage warranty.

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Friday August 5th, 2011 14:29 MINI Unveil the Special Edition MINI Soho

Earlier this year, MINI revealed that they would be naming all their limited editions after various London boroughs, districts or landmarks. This week saw the launch of their latest limited edition – the MINI Soho. The iconic car manufacturer announced that there would be two versions of the MINI Soho – one based on the Hatchback and the other based on the Convertible.

The MINI Soho will be available as both a Cooper and a Cooper D, so customers will be given the choice of either a 1.6-litre petrol or diesel engine. People attracted to the Cooper D version who just happen to live in the London area will be interested to hear that it is exempt from the London Congestion Charge. This is because the car’s CO2 emissions come in at 99g/km.

As is always the case with limited editions, it is the cosmetic touches that make all the difference. With the limited edition MINI Soho’s exterior, these alterations come in the shape of a White Silver finish and 17-inch Black Star Bullet alloy wheels. Also unique to the Soho is the car’s monochrome exterior. The Soho’s interior is decked out with Piano Black trim, black headlining and a leather steering wheel.

The MINI Soho is on sale now, and it will be available until next March. Prices for the limited edition MINI Soho start at £16,765 for the MINI Cooper Soho Hatch, £18,045 for the MINI Cooper D Soho Hatch, £19,060 for the MINI Cooper Soho Convertible, and £20,135 for the MINI Cooper D Soho Convertible.

In: Car news, New modelsNo Comments

Wednesday August 3rd, 2011 15:40 Is compressed natural gas the future of greener motoring?

Compressed Natural Gas

Compressed natural gas (CNG) has many advantages over conventional fuels like petrol and few of the disadvantages. In fact, one of the low emission cars that has been designed to run on CNG, the Honda Civic GX, has been awarded the accolade of “Greenest Car” by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, for an amazing eight years in a row, beating hybrid cars and all-electric vehicles in the process.

But CNG isn’t perfect. It does produce some greenhouse gases – it’s just that they’re significantly less than with petrol. It is also far safer than other fuel options in the event of a fuels spillage.

Also, CNG can be mixed with biogas from landfill sites or with wastewater, making the fuel greener still as the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere is not increased.

CNG is made by compressing natural gas (mainly methane) to less than 1% of the volume it occupies at standard atmospheric pressure. It is then stored and distributed in hard cylindrical containers at a pressure of 2900–3600 psi.

And this is its greatest single drawback; the storage facilities needed in cars take up a lot more space than petrol due to the need for the safe storage whilst under compression. So it may be a while before CNG is widely used in family cars, for example, due to storage constraints as things stand.

But it can be used in all normal internal combustion-engined cars that have been converted to CNG.

The fuel contains no lead or benzene so there is no lead-fouling of the spark plugs, and maintenance costs are far lower.

CNG fuel systems are also sealed, so there is no spillage of fuel or losses due to evaporation.

But the main advantage is that CNG is simply cleaner and better for the environment.
CNG emits significantly less in pollutants such as carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and particulate matter.

Image provided by Darin R McClure. Thanks a lot!

, , In: General, Green CarsNo Comments

Tuesday August 2nd, 2011 16:15 Vital Motoring Tips for Premier League Footballers

OK, you’re a footballer who’s just been snapped up by one of the top Premier League clubs – what’s the first thing you do? Go straight to the nearest nightspot to strut your stuff with a potential supermodel? Of course not. Head to a press conference to pretend you’d always dreamed of signing for this particular club? No, that can wait till later.

There’s only one thing to do, and that’s to head to the nearest car dealership and buy a blinged-up 4×4. You might think that flashy suits and sparkling jewellery are the defining items for a top footballer, but these are only peripherals. It’s the car that makes the boldest statements of all, so make sure you choose the right one.

It needs to be able to drive on any terrain ranging from bumpy shingle beaches to Glastonbury-esque mudbaths. Of course, you’ll only be driving it along super-smooth roads but that’s not the point. If the car isn’t capable of climbing the north face of the Eiger without you spilling your champagne, then it’s not worth having.

You’ll also need the fully blacked-out windows option as well. As you speed away from the training ground at 11am every morning, having done a full day’s work, you won’t want the hassle of the general public recognising you. It’s hard to believe that some of them actually ask for autographs while you’re sitting in the car, so you can avoid this unpleasantness by making sure they can’t actually see you.

And whatever you do, don’t settle for having a number-plate that Joe Public could also conceivably have had. You simply have to choose a personalised one. Don’t worry about the cost of this, though, because you’re now earning £100,000 per week, so if you’re a little skint by the end of the week there will be another small fortune already winging its way into your bank account.

It’s also worth remembering that you’re not like other, more ordinary, people now, so you don’t have to live by their rules anymore. From now on, for example, you can park wherever you like. The fine for illegal parking is only a few quid, so you can afford to do as you please. The same goes for speeding, so feel free to drive as fast as you like.
If you end up getting banned, you can simply pay someone else to drive you around in the future. After all, you’re special. You can kick a pig’s bladder around a field better than anyone else.

David Rice is a UK-based writer who doesn’t drive a great big 4×4 with tinted windows. He’s considering the purchase of a second-hand Renault Espace with masking tape on the windows, though. He prefers to search for car leasing deals rather than buy cars outright.

In: GeneralNo Comments