The Good Oil: A big deal in a small package

Suzuki's Cappucino kei car. Photo / Supplied
Suzuki's Cappucino kei car. Photo / Supplied

It has never exactly been a secret that the Good Oil is a fan of Kei cars - those tiny little Japanese cars with 660cc engines that have to fit into a 1.48m wide by 3.4m long footprint - especially the 'sporty' attempts from the 1990s.

One of our particular favourites was the Suzuki Cappuccino, despite its ridiculous name. Looking like the runt of the litter from an unholy union between a Mazda MX-5 and a Dodge Viper, the Cappuccino was a rear-wheel drive convertible that featured a removable roof and roll bar and was powered by a mighty 657cc three-cylinder engine.

It was produced from 1991 until 1997 and a few are still visible on local roads, but now it seems there is a rumour doing the rounds that Suzuki is considering reviving its little RWD hero for a launch in 2016!

Several versions of the rumour are floating around, one of which suggests that Suzuki would use one of its existing Kei platforms for the new Cappuccino, meaning it would either be based on something FWD and exceptionally unexciting like the Alto or, if Suzuki stuck to the RWD layout, then it would have to sit on a Kei "truck" platform.

Meaning the utterly ancient, live rear axle Jimny platform ...

However, there is a second version of the rumour that offers a glimmer of hope: that Suzuki will team up with another manufacturer in order to share costs. The best part of this rumour is the news that Suzuki has recently announced a partnership with Caterham to supply the British sports car company with three-cylinder turbo engines for its iconic Seven.

A new Suzuki Cappuccino based on a shortened Caterham Seven platform with a screaming turbo 660cc three-cylinder engine? Yes please ...

You can lick the classics

Stamps celebrating some of Britain's automotive icons. Photo / Supplied
Stamps celebrating some of Britain's automotive icons. Photo / Supplied

Are you a massive car-nerd? Do you also collect stamps?

In that case, apart from getting out more and seeing what else life has to offer, you will no doubt be very excited to learn of the UK's Royal Mail latest stamp release celebrating classic British cars.

Launched to mark Aston Martin's centenary and the 150th birthday of Sir Henry Royce, the British Auto Legends collection comprises ten stamps split into two sets.

The Thoroughbred set features the 1961 Jaguar E-Type, 1965 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, 1963 Aston Martin DB5, 1968 Morgan Plus 8, 1976 Lotus Esprit and 1962 MGB, while the
Workhorse set includes a Morris Minor mail van, an Austin FX4 black cab, a Ford Anglia 105E police car and a Land Rover Defender 110.

The Royal Mail commissioned veteran car photographer Andrew Mann to capture the images used for the stamps and, like all special designs issued by the Royal Mail, the final designs were approved by the Queen.

The sets are available now at www.royalmail.com

Subaru goes to the dogs

Dog in a Subaru Photo / Supplied
Dog in a Subaru Photo / Supplied

Crash testing vehicles to evaluate their ability to keep humans safe in the event of an accident is nothing new, but so far dogs have been left out in the cold when it comes to
developing vehicle safety. Which is kind of understandable, because let's face it dogs don't actually buy cars.

But now Subaru has kicked off the issue of pet safety in cars by funding initial crash testing for dogs by the US non-profit Centre for Pet Safety.

Three crash test dummy dogs representing an 11.3kg terrier, a 20.4kg border collie and a 34kg golden retriever were used to test a variety of devices commonly used to restrain dogs in the event of a crash.

Rather alarmingly, none of the tethers tested held the dogs in place during a crash, with the organisation reporting a 100 per cent failure rate with furry missiles flying everywhere.

Dave Sullivan, the marketing, launch and strategy manager at Subaru of America, said, ''We'd like to see something developed over time, but it's not really our job. We're trying to do our best to raise awareness of the issue.''

Security glitch strikes Tesla

Tesla Model S Photo / Supplied
Tesla Model S Photo / Supplied

While the Tesla Model S may have proven itself to be the safest car in the world with its recent crash test results, it does appear to have a massive weak spot in another area its online security.

According to a recent article by George Reese, executive director of cloud management at Dell, the weak spot is the security of the car's API (application programming interface)
authentication, that allows Tesla owners to access their cars via an application on their smartphones.

The problem is the Tesla REST API, which is accessed via a web-based portal by the owner's smartphone to perform a variety of tasks turn on the air conditioning, operate the sunroof, honk the horn, open the charging port, etc and check the status of the car. The Tesla-registered email and password of the car owner is used to access the API through the web portal, which creates a ''token'' that lasts for three months. During that three months owners can access the API via the token without having to log in each time.

Unfortunately, it seems the tokens are stored on a website database that is easy to hack, Reese explains, and if a hacker gains access, they then have ''free access to all of that site's cars for up to three months with no ability for the owners to do anything about it.''

While there is no way for the hacker to do anything worse than open the sunroof or honk the horn a lot, the most disturbing aspect is the ability to track the car without the
owner knowing it.

We are the world

*Two farm workers in Suffolk, Britain, were surprised enough when they found a ''hungry and dehydrated'' macaw in the wheat field they were harvesting, but that was nothing compared to the shock they got when it took hold of the steering wheel of their combine
harvester and happily drove it for 20 minutes. ''It's odd enough to find a bird like that just hopping around a field in England but to stumble across a bird that can steer a combine harvester is crazy,'' said Georgie Wells, wife of one of the workers. ''It was amazing.''

*And another story about our fine feathered friends. Can birds understand speed limits? That is what two Canadian scientists are claiming after noticing that birds on a 50km/h stretch of road took off later than birds on a 100km/h stretch of road, regardless of the
oncoming vehicle's actual speed.

Newscientist.com reports that the researchers' conclusions are based on cars as a sort of predator.

Birds know where the predators are, and as higher speeds generally make for more anger, the birds quickly learn what places are more dangerous.

Number Crunching

150 CUBIC CENTIMETRES The original maximum capacity of a Kei car engine in 1949, with a maximum of 100cc for a two-stroke engine.

660 CUBIC CENTIMETRES The current maximum capacity for a Kei car engine, two or four stroke.

47 KILOWATTS The maximum power of a Kei car engine. Most manufacturers ''claimed'' this figure ...

725 KILOGRAMS The weight of the Suzuki Cappuccino, meaning that 47kW could still push it along at a very decent rate.

- NZ Herald

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