A Weekend in Berlin with Harman Kardon

If the human race is going to comfortably survive on this fragile planet for longer than the next century, there’s one crucial thing we need to do. We need to sex up ‘environmentally friendly’. We need to wipe the compost off it, polish it until it glimmers in the light, give it curves and contours, make it sound crisp and then race it at such a speed that its dreadlocks are ripped off by sheer velocity. These were my thoughts this weekend, as I bombed around the Tempelhof FIA Formula E racetrack in a fully electric BMW i8 courtesy of Harman Kardon. Profound, I know. Harman Kardon is smart. It’s smart because with its range of audio products and in-car solutions it’s having its cake and eating it. Sophisticated designs meet lightweight, energy-efficient materials. Twice the sonic performance meets half the energy consumption, which is particularly beneficial for the hybrid and electric cars of the future as it can increase battery life and range. And where better to showcase such forward-thinking technology than the Berlin leg of the FIA Formula E – the electric equivalent of the Grand Prix. As…
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The Austin that drove a Buddhist Monk to his Death

Is there nothing more macabre than googling Buddhist Immolation. Granted it’s not always the best way to start the day, and Christ knows what I’ll be spammed with now, but I wanted to know more about the Austin Westminster, the car that transported Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk Thích Quang Duc to Saigon in June of 1963. Duc was chagrined with South Vietnamese Diem regime’s pro-catholic policies and discriminatory Buddhist laws, so he sat in the middle of the road, encircled by about 300 other Buddhist monks, had his mate poor petrol over him, said a couple of words and then struck a match. Very sad. This car is now fully restored and now resides along the Perfume River at the Thien Mu pagoda in Hue. If you want to read up on this car then you should check out this article on Hooniverse by Robby DeGraff. A couple of things I found interesting. Duc was driven from Hue to then Saigon which is about a 20 hour road trip. Imagine how torturous that drive must have been for everyone involved, knowing what was coming. I also read in the late A.A Gill’s book, Previous Convictions, that there is a…
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The Arsenale – The Ultimate Toy Catalogue for Aspiring James Bonds

“Little Nelly got a hot reception. Four big shots made improper advances toward her, but she defended her honour with great success.” Bond, You Only Live Twice. I un-pouched TheArsenale from it’s bubble wrap cocoon. It had some weight, coated in black tactile alcantara. As I flipped through the pages, notes of linseed oil, maybe a dusting of teak hit my register. I stopped on a page about a DS designed UFO. I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with the thought of being abducted by a Citroen. But then, how narcissistic to think anyone would want to abduct little old me. I could only imagine the sweet sigh of disappointment when presented to the king bee on the alien mothership. Not handsome enough of a specimen for the super galactic keep-net. Plaintively he would wave me off with his long green fingers. Dismissively, I’d be disgorged and thrown back to the Oxmoor estate where I’d spend the rest of days telling tales to the locals of The Lord Protector how I was ‘taken’ …  by a Citroen. Sorry what the fuck was I talking about? Ah yes, The Arsenale. The almanac on independently designed…
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The Things we Find on the Side of the Road – Scrapbook

This old building can be find right outside of the village where my Folks live; Easton, Cambridgeshire. I run past it a whole bunch and I’m always fascinated by the indefinable vibes I get. The ugly sensations of abandonment. Oddly a guy came round to the house the other day and I showed him the photos and he knew the guy that owns the car. It’s been there donkeys. The building is completely done in. Late 19th Century, with all it’s roof tiles poached. When I was young I used to dream about running away to this building. This particular morning the fog was heavy, I think it supplements it’s eerie yet peaceful qualities. For me this building is like Shel Silverstein’s, The Giving Tree. It’s been with me all my life and always offers me something new each time I return.  
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A Guide to Bond Cars – Bond in Motion

‘I believe I said to bring it back in one piece, not bring back one piece‘. Q, Spectre. Bond in Motion has over 100 individual original items on display from all 24 James Bond Films from concept drawings, storyboards, scripts, model miniatures and full size vehicles from cars, boats, bikes and gyrocopters. Here are some geeky facts and photos from inside the exhibition. ASTON MARTIN DB5  Replaced the Bentley IV in Goldfinger. With 7.6mm front-wing machine guns, rear bulletproof, oil slick dispenser, front and rear hydraulic ramming bumpers and of course, passenger ejector seat. Aston Martin provided two cars for film use. One ‘road car’ one ‘effects car’. In 1997, the Effects Car was stolen from an airport hangar in Florida where it was stored. No one has seen the car since it was stolen and after an exhaustive search it is now generally accepted that the Effects Car may be lost forever. The Road Car is sitting on my driveway. (Only messing). The road car’s owner, Harry Yeaggy currently displays the car in his private Ohio car museum. ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM III 337 Goldfinger’s car, with the chemical symbol for gold on the…
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On the run from Avalanches with the Kia Cee’d

“He’s coming right at us.” – Steve McCroskey, Airplane. A recent week in Cyprus offered many hurdles for the Kia Cee’d. The meandering slopes heading up the New Forest hills, running serpentine to Mount Olympus, had numerous hazards. Amusingly, we even found the embers of a small rocky avalanche stretching lazily across one side, perhaps serendipitously at the foot of an avalanche road sign. (see below). Aesthetically I dig the sloped headlights that wrap themselves up the front fenders. The grill is somewhat of a halfway house, neither cutesy or masculine, with an oblong mesh motif that is ornamented with silver trim and punctuated with a thinner, longer grill strip bridging the fog lights. Inside, the boot took two large-size carry-ons without compromise and the centre consul successfully housed our coffee and water. The infotainment system was easy to use, albeit hardly on the vanguard of futuristic design. Which is a microcosm of what the motor is all about. It will do what it’s asked perfectly well and with little complaint. Nothing fancy, nothing over-delivered. It negotiated the turns efficiently enough, although the Missus found it was left wanting on tight…
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The Magic Inside the Toyota C-HR

“Wolfgang will be along in a minute,” said Carole, “We call him Golden Ears.” We were in the hospitality area of the Palacio del Negralejo, a country palace built on the banks of the Jarama River, twenty minutes from the Madrid airport. I was feasting on the buffet like a raccoon in a dumpster. My appetite heightened by the recent culling of complimentary snacks on BA flights. It was a 9am flight but I was still chagrined not to receive my free gin and tonic and over-salted potato crisps. I had been dispatched to Madrid not only to test drive the new Toyota C-HR, but more importantly, minutely inspect the integrated JBL sound system within. Wolfgang Zieglmeier (aka golden ears) the senior acoustic systems engineer for Harman (owners of JBL) carried the look of a technical genius. Tall and wiry, his mop of grey locks thrown back in a stereotypical mad scientist fashion. Inside the Toyota C-HR Wolfgang ran us through the demo. There’s no missing the 8″ asymmetrical centre console design that illuminates upon ignition. Wolfgang slaps on Bad by Michael Jackson. Immediately I feel the thrumming of the sub woofer by my thigh, mysteriously…
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The Screaming Rich Kids of Monaco

Bond: How do you take it? Xena Onatop: Straight up, with a twist. – Goldeneye. ‘God damn it.’ ‘Whats wrong baby?‘ It’s 7.30am, outside it sounds like a massacre, high shrieks screams and whistles. ‘There’s a god damn nursery outside.’ There’s a couple of things you need to know before booking into the Hotel Capitole in Monaco. 1. The safe is so god damn safe you can’t get in it. 2. You need a god damn phd in blinds to open the fuckers. 3. It’s facing a nursery. ‘Oh,‘ my Annie says, ‘you talking about the screaming rich kids of Monaco?’ I will say this about the hotel, we asked for Soya milk. The waitress said they didn’t have any but went out across the street, bought some soya milk and even heated it up. That’s service. After Brekkie, Annie gets on a call, work related. I take my camera and head down to the Monte Carlo Casino. (Bond location, ticked). You can go up the stairs and even get 3 steps into the lobby of the casino before getting told to hit the bricks by security. No citizens are allowed in the casino,…
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Le Mans winning Porsche 919 Hybrid let loose in London

‘No, no, he didn’t slam you, he didn’t bump you, he didn’t nudge you… he *rubbed* you. And rubbin, son, is racin‘.’ – Harry Hogge, Days of Thunder  Admittedly, my concentration during the presentation at the Porsche Centre West London on the A4 in Chiswick, had been mildly strained trying to lance olives with a plastic tapered cocktail stick. Consequently I missed the part where professional racing driver Mark Webber told the crowd that he’d be taking the Le Mans-winning 919 Hybrid LMP1 across the streets of Westminster tomorrow morning. Of course I wasn’t just invited to devour a record amount of olives and drink chilled Peroni, but to see both the 919, the new Panamera 4 E-Hybrid and have a chat with the Le Mans winning driver himself, Mark Webber, on how the technology translates between the two vehicles. At the start of the interview Mark points casually, in a typically Aussie laissez faire way, to a seat next to him which I take. Brimming with garlic and a four beer-buzz I go straight for the jugular. “So Mark, what are your thoughts on the 1971 Le Mans film starring Steve McQueen?” Marks brow furrowed, noticeably…
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The Rhyming Review of the NEW Volvo V90 Cross Country

[MacLeod attempts to throttle Kurgan in a church] ‘Holy *ground*, Highlander! Remember what Ramirez taught you.’ Kurgan, Highlander.  There’s nothing perfunctory about the Volvo V90 Cross Country. Sleek Enrik Green in his Carosuo jacket and Tiger of Sweden Shoes, delivers the news. ‘It will beat sand, beat snow, beat dirt,’ like an undisputed heavyweight, delivering hurt to all terrains. Volvo want to call this the all-rounder. The Freddie Flintoff of the road, at home on the highway or forest track. ‘Wanna get in this thing?’ Asks the PR girl, ‘I’ll give it a whirl’ I dart back. I get slack from Pete the Suisse Car Journalist, he’s pissed. He calls me Lifestyle. ‘Why does lifestyle get to go first?’ He hisses.   I’m on a promise from the missus to control my not so tiny temper so I dismiss him with a; ‘Cool it Pete, we can’t fight here, not on holy ground.’ ‘Whatever you say lifestyle.’ I smile wryly. Though Pete’s built. No doubt if things got unruly, he’d make short work punching daylight through me. TECH STUFF The front 33 vertical chrome rib grill has been raised by 60 mil and inside is a…
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