25 June 2006

james may

All in the acceleration

Torygraph motoring scribbler and TV Top Gear co-presenter, James May, in cracking 0-60 form with his thesis that it's not top speed but acceleration, braking and cornering  that really matter.

Some lovely imagery and phrasing from James:

"Acceleration is what makes cars exciting ... example, the original Saab 99 Turbo, which had a 0-60mph time of 8.9 seconds.

Plenty of other cars of the time could have posted a shorter one, but as anyone who drove the Saab will know, few would have provided quite the same sensation. The reason is that in actual fact the Saab accelerated faster than most things.

Acceleration is the rate of change of velocity, and this is something that is rarely consistent in cars. Two different cars might reach 60mph in the same time, but whereas one might increase its velocity in a fairly linear fashion, another - the Saab, for example - might not.

From rest the Saab would be pretty tardy but then, as its early and rather crude turbocharger kicked in, it would put on a sudden, enormous and mercifully brief spurt. In that twinkling moment its true acceleration was sky-high, and that's what made your eyeballs go wonky and stripped the gearbox splines."

Doncha love the wonky eyeballs and stripped gearbox spline bit?

Doesn't end there: James remembers another example,

"A Fiesta RS1800 I used to drive ... It's 0-60mph time was, I think, 7.9 seconds, which was quite respectable. In reality, though, it was much better than that because, like the Saab, it became temporarily possessed at one point in its rev range.

Because we were a car magazine and we measured these things properly with very expensive equipment, I knew that at that point its acceleration, expressed correctly in metres per second squared, was the equal of some supercars in terms of the intestinal surge it produced. So the Fiesta gave me a bigger kick than many cars with lower 0-60mph times, and hence was more amusing on the Hammersmith gyratory system."

See, that's why Mr May is at the peak of his powers with his name up in lights, and I'm down here sorting pool playthings and debating whether to give the bulging tum *15* minutes of sun before rolling over for 25 mins on back and shoulders, or vice versa. Plus, where to put the sangria carafe to keep its chill ... decisions decisions.

"Gyratory system"! What's so difficult about that? Exactly what I should have come up with for that silly banter in the Review over the Madison/High School 'gyratory system'.

Remember? That silly woman whingeing about decreasing visibility but at the same time coming clean about her own sloppy driving habits, and that berk who espoused the Teutonic roadway system for no very clear reason.

Also, weren't there all manner of oddballs suddenly putting pen to paper to emphasise their ignorance of GySysts and how they couldn't possibly work on Bainbridge?

God, I miss the place.

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