I pulled up to the house about seven or eight,
And I yelled to the cabby, âYo mucker, smell you later!â
Looked at my kingdom, I was there at last
To sit on my throne as the prince of Bel Fast.
This is from the famous Irish sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Fast. Itâs set during the Troubles, about an Irish lad growing up in Bogside, a predominantly Catholic part of Derry City, being touted by gang elements. After getting into trouble playing football outside his school, his mother decides to send him to his uncle and aunt in a wealthy Protestant enclave in north Belfast. It was bittersweet, but entertaining nonetheless, and was later remade by the Americans as a vehicle for Will Smith.
The Irish came up with the best television series over the years. There was, of course, the RUC detective who was partial to OatïŹeldâs toffee, and drove around in a gold Vauxhall Victor, solving crimes on both sides of the divide, OâJack (later remade by the Americans as a vehicle for Telly Savalas). South of the border, in Ăire, the film industry was best known for the political romantic comedy, Taoiseachâs Pet, where a journalism student goes undercover in the highest ofïŹce in the land, initially to get a scoop, but winds up falling in love (later remade by the Americans as a vehicle for Doris Day and Clark Gable).
Apparently this is a reader survey but I agree with Antony: how on earth can a car that is not even produced, the Yamaha Motiv, wind up in the top 10? There are 100 in the full listâin other words, there are many more likely candidates of cars that readers have, well, seen and heard about. How strange that something previewed once at last year’s Tokyo Show can make it. On Twitter, Autocar deputy digital editor Lewis Kingston tells me, ‘We’ve run a few big stories on it before’.
While I don’t know the methodology, I still find the odds of the Yamaha getting there very, very slim.
Incidentally, the Austin Metro didn’t make it.
I have to admit I get a bit bored of those crying foul now that MG will launch an SUV, one which seems to have some parallels with the Ssangyong Korando C (left).
They say that MG should have made sports cars as part of its revival, and that the brand should not adorn a bunch of Chinese-made saloons and an upcoming SUV.
Letâs look at a few hard facts.
MG did make a sports car when NAC, and later SAIC, took over. It was the British TF design. And they sold fewer than 100 cars per year in the 2007â11 period, despite it being the cheapest roadster on the market in China. It wasnât just Chinese buyers who ignored them: the TF was the first model revived at Longbridge, with very keen pricing, and hardly any Britons touched them, either.
So if you were a business and you were confronted with decent sales of your saloon cars and dismal sales of your sports car (after building a whole new factory for them), where do you place your efforts?
You give the people what they want.
Whatâs surprising is that this is hardly unprecedented in MG history. There have been MG saloons for a good part of its existence, but right now, there are parallels with the 1980s. Then, the MGB had died in 1980, and Austin Rover decided it would launch a range of sporting saloons based on the humble Metro, Maestro and Montego. Thatâs no different to todayâs MG range of the 3, 5 and 6âthereâs even a 7, based on the old MG ZT.
And globally, but more importantly, in MGâs domestic and key export markets, SUVs are selling strongly.
Again: you give the people what they want.
I was one of the very few people who wrote that I believed the Porsche Cayenne would be a huge hit at the turn of the century, and that the Porsche brand could survive such an extension. I was right.
MGâs brand can easily be extended, given that it has had a less focused history than Porsche. At two points during its British ownership, it sold estates, for goodnessâ sakeâonce in New Zealand, with the Montego-based MG 2Â·0 SL, and toward the end of the Phoenix Four era, with the MG ZT-T.
A good deal of estate buyers now eye up SUVs, and that is simply a trend that SAIC is following.
A sports car may follow in time. There will be a fastback based on the Auris-like MG 5, and not a moment too soon. A âproperâ sports car could come if the rest of the range does well. SAIC isnât run by mugs, and they know the heritage of the MG brand.
MG sister brand Roewe has been voted the best in service and customer satisfaction among car dealerships, beating even the foreign-branded competition in China, while the Roewe 350 topped its class for customer satisfaction, according to the China Quality Association. The MG 3 came second in its segment.
Weâre talking about the most competitive car market on earth, and the Chinese equivalent (as far as I can make out) of the J. D. Power survey.
Those accolades are things that BMC, BL, Austin Rover, Rover Group and MG Rover could only dream about, especially through the 1970s.
Iâd rather people give SAIC the acclaim it deserves for giving MG a decent go where the British and the Germans had failedâand for putting money where its mouth is.
Monica Z, the bio-pic about the late Swedish jazz singer starring Edda Magnason, is now out on Blu-ray and DVD, as of earlier this week.
I learned about the movie not through my Swedish contactsâthey were messaging me only when the film was in the cinemasâbut when Edda appeared at AllsĂ„ng pĂ„ Skansen in 2013 singing ‘GrĂ¶na smĂ„ Ă€pplen’ with a Monica Zetterlund hairstyle and 1960s dress. It didn’t take long to do a bit of surfing after discovering this:
Purists (like me) will say she’s not quite as good as Monica but of the covers, this is still really good. I listened to the soundtrack ad nauseam on Myspace (really) but if I return to Scandinavia in 2014, I might pick up the DVD in person.
Just to make this post more complete, and for all lovers of Swedish jazz, here’s my favourite Monica number, as performed by Edda. I had only seen this on the full AllsĂ„ng telecast prior. (You need to have a break in the midst of a political campaign.)
Wifi on the waterfront is now a normal part of Wellington lifeâbut in 2009 some felt it was a gimmick.
When I proposed free wifi as a campaign policy in 2009, it was seen as gimmicky by some. I wasnât a serious candidate, some thought. But those ideas that have demand, such as wifi, have a way of becoming mainstream. The gimmicky tag is lost.
Just as it was lost with the microwave oven, the compact disc, or the cellular phone.
Not that the wifi idea was anything that new. Nor was it that original. It was simply a logical thing to propose for anyone who had done a spot of travelling (perhaps I did more than my rivals that time?), and had seen the potential of having the internet on tap to those using mobile devices. (The irony of this is, of course, I was not a regular user of mobile devices, at least not till they got to the technology that I expected of them.) If by providing such infrastructure, others could benefit, then was there anything to lose?
Former Wellington mayor Mark Blumsky had a target to make our city the first capital in the world to be half-wired, that is, to have half its population on the internet. In the 1990s, when people were still wondering what on earth the internet was, that seemed an unnecessary goal. But leadership demands that one stays ahead of the curve, otherwise what point is there? If people wanted leaders to be reactive, then they may as well vote same-again politicians.
Iâm still pushing for extending wifi, especially in the places where library funding cuts have hurt resources for Wellingtonians. During a recent visit to the Johnsonville library, where staff could not discuss the impact of the cuts, I at least solicited the librariansâ belief that their places of work were used by all sectors of the community. Every age, every culture. And this library was particularly buzzing, as a community library should be.
Itâs going to take rebuilding our business sectorâwhich forms a good part of the only published mayoral campaign manifesto to dateâto at least get our economy moving and our ratesâ base less dependent on citizens. But on the library issues, extending wifi into certain suburbs can help, especially those hardest hit by the cuts. Provide an uncapped service for those accessing certain educational sites, for instanceâitâs technically not that hard to distinguish those from merely social ones.
Weâve seen how the waterfront system is used through the year, and how it helps people connect. But as with the original system, it sends a signal to others, including those wanting to invest in our city, that Wellington is open to high-value, high-tech businesses. Why should our suburbs not receive the same âopen for businessâ invitation?
Collaboration, after all, helps fuel the human mind, toward new ideas and innovations.
On that note, too, other things can be open. The 2010 campaign saw my support for open source. Itâs still there, since I work with both commercial and open-source platforms myself. Iâve seen first-hand, through a mash-up competition I helped on a few years back (I mentored one of the winners), how providing open data gets creative juices flowing.
So why not, in line with all of the above, make our bus and train data open to the public? Presently, Metlink wonât be releasing its real-time information (RTI) to the public, but if it did, potentially, an innovative Wellington company can use these data for live maps, for instance. Find out more information than the RTI that’s being delivered at bus stops. It is called public transport, after all, so why not public data? The most obvious app is a live map of buses that works much like the computer graphics in an Americaâs Cup raceâonce gimmicky, now also mainstream. In fact, itâs demanded by broadcasters. The New Zealand innovation of high-resolution, three-dimensional TV weather maps is now de rigueur around the world, too.
If I can think of something like that, imagine what our really creative, lateral thinkers can come up with.
While some city data are open, we should continue this trend, especially when it comes to data that innovations can stem from. At the risk of sounding trite, ‘It’s limited only by your imagination.’
And what if such technology became so highly demanded that another exporter, another high-growth firm, was created right here in Wellington?
The potential economic impact of âgimmicksâ is very serious indeed.
The tipping-point has been reached: on some of my photos, fake Instagram account likers outnumber human beings. In terms of comments, spam outnumbers real ones. Of my last ten likers, nine were fake accounts. And we know that when some sites get to this point, they begin dying.
Yet it’s frightfully easy to spot the fake accounts. Many have the same description, or a mixed combination of various sentences (e.g. âBacon trailblazer. Friendly pop culture ninja. Unapologetic gamer. Beer enthusiastâ). Many have the same photographsâboth profile and content.
The problem has gone on for weeks, even months, but on the social networks now is the hashtag #Instaspamâsomething Facebook’s thousand million-dollar purchase might come to be known by, if the company doesn’t get a handle on fake accounts.
A few of the ones I reported a fortnight ago still have active accounts, so I wonder if anyone there cares.
Yet, if folks like us can spot a fake account a mile away, how come the real expertsâthe boffins whose Nginx servers are being dragged down by thisâhaven’t been able to target them?
But this is Facebook, I remind myself: a company that stopped caring years ago.
I remember the good old days when I received replies from Facebook staff, from basic issues to trade mark disputes. Those days are long gone, and Instagram is now part of the big machine.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been losing feature after feature on Facebook, with links that can no longer be clicked on, tags that can no longer be done with a person’s first name alone, and other little glitches. But we know that Facebook is broken, and even bug reports are now considered spam.
It’s in direct contrast to Tumblr, which reached 100,000,000 users over the last week. The company is still in the habit of replying to emails and while some of those are copy-and-paste ones, at least you know something is being looked at. Since a lot of fake Instagram accounts have fake Tumblogs tied to them, I’ve reported my fair shareâand received either an automated response or a personal one from Tumblr.
It makes you wonder if Tumblr staff use their service and understand the user experienceâall of its recent changes actually work and are bug-free, and are improvements on the serviceâwhile Instagram is now in the Facebook culture of “too big to care”.
And that’s the distinction between understanding your public and being locked up in your ivory tower, dealing with only the issues at hand.
If I deal with a company, I’d like to know that the leaders have a good grasp of their communities, as well as the world at large. If it’s just about them and their boards, then it’s a cinch that things aren’t healthy thereâand, sometimes, a clue to dropping share prices.
Even at the city or state level, that engagement is vitalâwhich brings me to this interview with California Lieutenant-Governor Gavin Newsom.
It’s been fascinating reading Gavin’s views in this interview, where he mirrors some of my thoughts about bottom-up governance and citizen engagement (you know, the stuff I talked about in my 2010 campaign). Sometimes, if you elect politicians, you get politics as usual. Put in someone who has had real business experienceâGavin has 17 businessesâand you might start getting ideas for real change.
Stop engaging, as Facebook and Instagram have, and we may be looking at another Vox: a site which, in the late 2000s, also let spam get out of hand. Splogs were being set up in an automated fashion, left, right and centre. Legitimate bloggers, as I was on that site, were locked out. Eventually, Six Apart, which owned Vox, shut the place downâdespite a healthy community of real bloggers. But even toward the end, things were looking less and less viable. Instagram could well have jumped the sharkâand if the issue isn’t fixed, it could be to Facebook what Myspace was to the Murdoch Press.
The last few times Autocade reached a milestone, I blogged about it, and since this one is a bit of a Duesy, it deserves to be recorded.
The car cyclopĂŠdia has reached 2,000 models, with the Opel Kadett D getting us there.
It also passed 2Âœ million page views during DecemberâI noticed it was about to cross 2 million back in March 2012. Not huge numbers if you break it down per day, but for something that was meant to be a hobby site, it’s not too bad. I also notice that it gets cited in Wikipedia from time to time.
The history has been noted here before, especially when I first started it in 2008. It was meant to be an editable wiki, but, sadly, in 2011, the bots became too uncontrollable, and I made the decision to lock down the registration process. A small handful of peopleâI count four, including myselfâhave contributed to the site with content and programming, among them Keith Adams of AROnline and Peter Jobes. A fourth contributor, whose name I have forgotten, provided some early info on Indian cars.
It’s still a bit light on American cars, mostly due to the issues of converting from cubic inches. Some of my references aren’t that accurate on this for the same reason, and I want to make sure that everything’s correct before it’s published. Most US sites just record cubic capacity in litres when metric measures are given, and we need to be more accurate. But we will get there.
Of course, over the years, we have recorded some oddball cars. So, as I did for its fourth birthday, here is a selection. My thanks to Keith and Pete, and to all our readers.
And since I blog less these daysâFacebook (including the fan page), Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and the rest seem to take more of my attentionâI imagine this is my last entry for 2012. Have a wonderful 2013, everyone!
Rambler by Renault:after Renault bought IKAâs operations in Argentina in the mid-1970s, it inherited a design based on the Rambler American.
Ford by Chrysler:Simca took over Fordâs operations in France in the 1950s, and the model it inherited, the Vedette, stayed in production long enough in Brazil for Chrysler to put its own badges on it when it bought Simca out.
Chrysler Esplanada.1967â9 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan. F/R, 2505 cmÂł (V8 OHV). As with Regente, rebadged when Chrysler took over Simca Brasil. Power reduced to 130 PS; comments for Regente apply here, with the principal outward difference being Esplanadaâs higher trim level. Slightly more powerful engine.
Chrysler by Volkswagen:this one is perhaps better known. Chrysler found itself in such a mess by the end of the 1970s that it sold its Brazilian operations to Volkswagen, which eventually rebadged the local edition of the Hillman Avenger.
Volkswagen 1500/Volkswagen 1500M.1982â91 (prod. 262,668 all versions). 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon. F/R, 1498, 1798 cmÂł (4 cyl. OHV). Facelifted version of Dodge 1500, itself an Argentine version of the Hillman Avenger. Had a good history as a Dodge in the 1970s, and sold on that goodwill as well as robustness; but largely seen as an economy model for VW in the 1980s. Five-speed gearbox from 1988, with air conditioning on more models.
Volkswagen by Ford:as part of the Autolatina JV in Brazil, Volkswagen and Ford rebadged each otherâs models. A similar experiment was happening in Australia between Ford and Nissan, and Toyota and Holden, around this time.
Ford Versailles (B2).1991â6 (prod. unknown). 2- and 4-door sedan, 3- and 5-door wagon. F/F, 1781, 1984 cmÂł (4 cyl. OHC).Volkswagen Santana (B2) with redone front and rear ends, and addition of two-door sedan and three-door wagon. Part of the Autolatina tie-up in South America between Ford and VW, replacing Corcel-based Del Rey. No different to Volkswagens in that market, with same engines. Wagons called Royale, but five-door only added in 1995. Fairly refined by early 1980sâ standards but ageing by time of launch, though better than Del Rey.
While weâre looking at South America, the Aero-Willys probably deserves a mention. Autocade doesnât have the Ford-badged versions there yet, but it will in due course. Thanks also to acquisitions, Ford wound up with Willys in Brazil, and built a Brooks Stevens-penned design till it was replaced by its own Maverick in the 1970s. Here is that car, with an old platform, but more modern (compared to the 1950sâ version) styling.
Aero Willys 2600 (213).1963â8 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan. F/R, 2638 cmÂł (6 cyl. OHV). Rebodied Aero, considered one of the first all-Brazilian cars, originally shown at the Paris Salon the year before. US platform as before, and modern styling by Brooks Stevens, but this shape was unique to Brazil. Engine now with 110 hp. Rear end altered in 1965, and spun off upmarket Itamaraty model in 1966.
I’m not the biggest fan of the Nissan Bluebird, but a milestone happened earlier this month that a lot of the motoring press seems to have missed: the demise of this 53-year-old nameplate.
Starting in 1959, Bluebird has been a mainstay of the Nissan line-up, and even when the traditional Bluebird line finished in its home country in 2001, Nissan kept the name going with the Bluebird Sylphy, a car based around the Pulsar.
This month, with the third-generation Sylphy launching in Japan, after its release in China and Thailand, the Bluebird name disappearedâwhich had been expected, if you examine the evolution of Japanese (and many American) model names. Celica Camry gave way to Camry; Corona Premio gave way to Premio; Chevelle Malibu gave way to Malibu.
So as a tribute to the Bluebird, here are all the ones that are on Autocade. Diehard Nissan fans, of course, know that the lineage continues in a wayâthe Altima line is directly derived from the Bluebird’s, and is its spiritual successor.
Nissan Bluebird/YLN 705B (410/411). 1963â7 (prod. n/a). 2- and 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon. F/R, 988, 1189, 1299 cmÂł (4 cyl. OHV), 1595 cmÂł (4 cyl. OHC). If the 310 saw export success, then the 410 broke those records convincingly. Pininfarina styling was more globally appealing, especially in the US, and, at home, Bluebird overtook its arch-rival, the Toyopet Corona (T40), in sales. Lighter than predecessor, monocoque construction, longer wheelbase, shorter front and rear overhangs. Carryover engines initially. SS sport sedan in 1964, similar to Deluxe but with two 38 mm Hitachi side-draught carburettors, taking power to 65 hp, and four-speed gearbox. Two-door models in 1964; facelift later that year. In 1965, 411 series, with minor cosmetic changes. SSS (twin SU carbs, 90 hp, 1Â·6 from Fairlady) from 1965, starting a Bluebird tradition that would last till the lineâs demise. Further minor changes in 1966. Range included a Fancy Deluxe model, supposedly targeted at women. Built in Taiwan by Yue Loong as YLN 705B.
Nissan Bluebird (EQ7200). 2000â5 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan. F/F, 1998 cmÂł (4 cyl. DOHC). Chinese version of U13 Bluebird but with formal front and rear ends, lengthening car considerably. Built by both Dongfeng Motor Co. (æ±éąš or äžéŁ) and Yulon Motor (YLN, èŁé). Usual Nissan virtues of a good engine and reliability; less inspiring to drive as model geared toward comfort. Updated to EQ7200-II in 2001, EQ7200-III in 2003 and EQ7200-IV in 2004. Last model to wear the Bluebird name without the Sylphy tag. Electric hybrid version (dubbed HEV) without Nissan or Bluebird names, still being trialled as of 2009.