The Good Oil: Starlight a dim glimmer of past

Studebaker. Photo / Supplied
Studebaker. Photo / Supplied

The annals of automotive history are filled with nameplates that were not quite able to survive the business' boom and bust nature, especially in the United States.
One of the most successful orphaned carmakers was Studebaker, remembered fondly for such design gems as the bullet- nosed, post-World War II Starlight (pictured) and the trendsetting fibreglass-bodied Avanti.

Sadly, Studebaker officially ceased producing automobiles in 1966, although a small portion of its legacy lives on in the form of the ex- Kaiser AM General.
But, if a Colorado business has its way, the Studebaker name will once again appear on vehicles sold in the US. But there's a but.

The range of so-called Studebakers include Hyosung motorcycles and scooters from South Korea with Studebaker scripting on their fuel tanks. As for the cars, there's not a single shred of Studebaker DNA in any of them, say the disappointed Studebaker fans who have seen them.

We are the world

Joseph Price, 61, left a bank in Okeechobee, Florida, empty- handed despite having passed the teller a note demanding a "sack full of cash". However, he didn't have a sack with him and the teller said she didn't have one, either. He was arrested after leaving the bank.

Police in London stepped up their search for the man who tried to rob a bank but escaped empty- handed. He had demanded more than 1 million from a teller and then, intending to hand over the bag he had brought for the money, absent-mindedly handed over his gun. Realising his mistake, he dashed out the door.

Fizzled factory

The problems for Mitsubishi and its Dutch factory, NedCar, began with then partner Daimler-Chrysler's Smart ForFour. At the end of ForFour production, there was no vehicle in the pipeline that could be built to put the factory's 180,000 cars-per-year capacity to use.

Now that the European economy is nearing implosion, Mitsubishi is pulling its Colt and Outlander models and selling the Born plant.

It began life in the 1960s, building both the DAF 44 and 55, and was partly underwritten by Holland's government to provide jobs. Volvo bought DAF and kept the plant busy with the 66 and 343 through the 1980s. Mitsubishi and the Dutch Government joined Volvo as joint stakeholders in the plant in 1991, to keep it humming at capacity. Ten years later, Mitsubishi bought out the plant.

Now production of the Outlander and Colt will move to Thailand.

Bridge swap

Engineers in Nevada knew that replacing a highway bridge would disrupt traffic. So they built the new bridge alongside the old, saving commuters about $15 million in time and fuel costs. Engineers from across the US watched the old bridge being demolished and the new one being slid into place, using hydraulic jacks and Teflon-coated metal beams - lubricated with dishwashing detergent.

Touchscreen techs' new idea given the thumbs down

A group of German researchers is developing a new touchscreen steering wheel.

The wheel itself is a sheet of acrylic rimmed with infrared LEDs. A single infrared camera picks up reflections on the acrylic when touched, allowing a range of gestures to operate everything from the stereo to climate control. The technology will allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road and off the various distractions in the cabin.

But industry watchers say adding yet another screen to a vehicle and forcing drivers to learn a set of gestures for something as simple as turning up the volume or adjusting the air temperature is bound only to cause confusion. Besides, they say, the costs to develop and maintain a touchscreen steering wheel are beyond most carmakers.

Turbocharged trio

Peter Nefischer, head of engine development for BMW, says he is working on three-cylinder engines for use across the company's vehicles. The powerplants would likely be different from the one found in the BMW i8 and wouldn't be with an electric motor.

Instead, engineers would turn to turbocharging to maintain accept able power levels. Nefischer says engineers have gone as far as possible with engine technology, and the next step is smaller, more powerful variants. We can expect to see a three-cylinder 3 Series in some markets in two years.

K9's growl tested

Kia has taken its K9 sedan to Sweden for winter testing. The luxury rear-drive model sits on the chassis of the Hyundai Genesis but boasts design cues inspired by the Kia GT Concept. Odds are the K9 will be powered by a choice of V6 and V8 engines mated to an eight- speed gearbox. Rumour has it Kia is also working on a new 10-speed unit. The K9 is expected to be unveiled in the US later this year.

Classics on the block as Saab goes bust

Saab Cars North America has gone broke, and the 11 cars in its heritage collection are to be auctioned.

US classic car website Hemmings says the vehicles include the rare 1956 Type 94 Sonett Super Sport (pictured), a 1967 fastback with 40,800km on its triple-carb three-cylinder engine, and the 1960 96 that won the Royal Automobile Club Rally, with Erik Carlsson behind the wheel.

- NZ Herald

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