New set of wheels

Front view in the car park at home

I’ve got a new set of wheels after not having my own car for two and a half years ever since I gave my BMW 320d back. It’s a 2001 BMW 735i Sport (E38), one lady owner, and it’s lovely. I’ve always wanted an E38 and what with them getting a bit long in the tooth with the introduction of two new 7 series ranges since they stopped making the in 2001 I thought it important to scratch this particular itch before they became unfeasible to own as daily drives.

It’s nine years old (last of line 2001 model) and has 139,000 miles on the clock. It’s in good working order with nothing fundamentally wrong with it, however, due to its age and mileage there are a few things that it needs doing to it, including (but not limited to):

  • It need an inspection service as part of its normal service cycle.
  • The steering judders under heavy braking. This apparently means that the bushes need replacing.
  • The LCD screen on the dashboard is pixelated (about half the pixels don’t work). This is apparently due to a perished ribbon cable and so I’ve ordered a replacement kit off eBay.
  • The boot mat is dirty and horrible and needs replacing.
  • A couple of bits of body trim on the passenger side are either missing or damaged and so need to be replaced.
  • The satellite navigation system needs a software and maps data update (its map data is from 2001). Again this is apparently easily and cheaply achievable using a CD kit from this guy.

It also requires a few minor personal customisations:

  • Debadging.
  • Replacement leather gear selector.
  • Chrome rings for dashboard.
  • Chrome grills replacements.
  • It needs an AUX port for iPhone connection, if the stereo will support it.

At some point down the line I also intend to replace the speaker system and satellite navigation system, but they are large projects requiring a reasonable amount of money so they will have to wait for a while.

There’s a wealth of E38 geeks on the Internet who have become E38 oracles over the years so I won’t be short of help and information as and when I need it. It’s been some years since I owned a car that I can treat as a “project” car, i.e. not a car that to do anything do would invalidate the warranty. The last car I had like this was my old blue Sierra, ever since then I’ve had new cars or cars that were still within their warranty period.

A few pictures (more to come once it’s had a full spit and polish, it’s a little dirty at the moment as the previous owner was still using it up until the day we bought it):

Side view as shown on Autotrader

Interior as shown on Autotrader


Public to decide Manchester C-charge future

BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Public to decide C-charge future – I received the public consultation documents regarding this a couple of weeks ago and, rather than dismiss them out of hand, I actually sat down and carefully read through them with an open mind, suspecting that one day I might be asked to vote on the issue. The pack had a comments form, which invited residents to anonymously submit their opinions on the proposals.

The proposals themselves are actually very reasonable. The planned improvements in public transport are widespread and comprehensive and I can see that they would be very effective. In an ideal world it would be difficult to argue against raising the money to pay for them from a congestion charge, especially since the proposed congestion charges are extremely reasonable, both in their cost and their application, when compared to the ludicrous and punitive charges levied against those who dare to have business in the centre of London on a weekday. It is, however, not an ideal world.

Unfortunately for the proponents of the proposed charging scheme and those who have planned how to spend its potential financial yield, we live in a country whose government has deliberately and consistently raped and pillaged both the car driving and public transport using public for over eleven years now. Every year the cost of both forms of transport has increased well beyond the rate of inflation and service and performance in both regards has consistently and dramatically decreased. The traveling public is constantly promised improvements in return for price increases and such improvements are rarely, if ever, delivered.

It is regretful, therefore, that no matter how good the proposals for improving public transport in Manchester are, I simply cannot advocate or support the introduction of a congestion charge to pay for them. I need to see the rewards for this scheme first, because too many times I feel I have been stiffed by being made to pay for promised improvements up front and then being let down. I’m quite willing to pay for improvements to public transport, but this time I need to see the goods before I’m going to get my wallet out. I insist on paying in arrears, this time, not in advance, because whenever I pay in advance the government just takes my money and runs, shouting vague promises and throwing hastily written IOUs over its shoulder as it trousers my cash. Enough is enough.


I know nothing about these complicated machines!

I didn’t write this, but I think that it’s a splendid analogy, so I’m going to rip it off and post it here. It relates to the assumption on the part of many people that because someone works with computers that they’ll be happy to field personal technical support requests at the behest of their friends and family in their spare time. The question posed is do you think that the following actions would be acceptable, and if not, can you explain how it would be different if you replaced the mechanic with a person who works in IT and the car with a computer?

  1. Call your friend who is a mechanic at home, at dinner time.
  2. Tell him your car is not running right or won’t even start.
  3. Tell him you saw a neon sign while driving that said your car wasn’t running right, so you pulled in and let these strangers install Fuel Helper, Pot hole blocker, Wheel assistants, a special radio station and an engine watcher, all of which you now “need”.
  4. Ask them if they mind talking you through figuring out why the car won’t run properly. Laugh really loud and say “I know nothing about these complicated machines!”, because they love to hear that.
  5. Tell him you have no tools.
  6. When he asks you to open the bonnet and have a look, ask him “Where is the bonnet?” Optional: Tell them your cousin tried doing “something” to fix it, but you don’t know what it was and the problem is worse now.
  7. While looking at the engine, read them the very long serial numbers of the parts. Because mechanics have them all memorised for all cars.
  8. Always keep asking if you should turn things “left or right?”.
  9. Ask them if they see the part near the other part. Because they can see through the phone.
  10. Ask then if the problem has anything to do with the new garage door you installed.
  11. After they patiently talk you through checking for “fuel and fire”, and it still doesn’t work, ask them if they can drive thirty minutes to your home on their day off and come fix it. Whine about how much you need your car.
  12. Have them do all this for just a cup of tea and a thank you.
  13. Pretend to understand when they say not to believe neon signs saying your car isn’t running right. Just smile when they say you need to regularly schedule maintenance on your car, and to use only well known mechanics.
  14. Repeat the whole process every 60-90 days. Call from your family member’s house because you tried to fix theirs and you’ve messed up their cars now. Tell your friends too, have them call to have their car problems fixed as well.

Top Gear’s Hammond crashes jet car

I know I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I’ve not had a chance up until now to comment on Hammond’s crash. This is terrible, terrible news, primarily because such an affable chap has encountered such serious misfortune, but also because it doesn’t bode very well for Top Gear one of the last few if not the last remaining television programmes that sticks two fingers up at political correctness and hippy handwringing. The Health and Safety fascists have been desperately looking for reasons to sanction Top Gear for ages, and this will give them more than enough excuse. If Hammond dies, then it will be the end of Top Gear for good, despite the fact that it’s one of the BBC’s most popular shows.

The show’s popularity speaks volumes about the general public and what they think about all this politically correct handwringing hippy nonsense that goes on these days. Every day we’re told by these sycophants which longstanding words are no longer acceptable and what we can and cannot do lest we offend some minority, somewhere. We also have loony organisations such as Transport 2000 basically telling us that we’ll all be better off if we regress by a century or two in terms of transport and that programmes like Top Gear are “irresponsible” and that it’s not what people want to see. Yet Top Gear, a programme that makes a point of NOT adhering to these liberal dictats, and that especially hates idiots like Transport 1700 (sic), is one of the most popular programmes on the BBC. Go figure.

It’s this sort of thing that makes it so good (from Wikipedia):

During the November 13, 2005 episode a news segment featuring BMW’s MINI Concept from the Tokyo Motor Show showcased what Richard Hammond quoted as a “quintessentially British” integrated tea set. Clarkson responded by mocking that they should build a car that is “quintessentially German.” He suggested turn signals that displayed Hitler salutes, “a sat-nav that only goes to Poland” in reference to the Nazi invasion of Poland that started WWII, “und ein fanbelt that will last a thousand years,” a reference to Adolf Hitler’s propaganda slogan of “the thousand-year Reich”.

If we can’t poke fun at the Germans, who can we poke fun at? Come on, lighten up.


Transport Common Sense

BBC NEWS | England | 5.5bn transport plan unveiled [related talking point] – this of course includes the much needed £2bn road improvement package targetted at five major routes up and down the country, including the M6 from Birmingham to Manchester. While this is a splendid idea and a jolly good slap in the face for the government and that idiot Alistair Darling who’ve had to cave in after 5 years of persecuting motorists, no amount of money thrown at the roads is going to work on its own. It needs to be coupled with:

  • Massive improvements in the rail network: This is an obvious one, but seems to have somehow eluded the logic of most politicians over the past 20 years. The railways need to become cheaper, faster and more reliable. Only once this has happened will people start to get out of their cars, simply taxing motorists to death will not work, ever.
  • A driving re-training programme: Much of the danger and congestion on the roads today is caused by dangerous and ignorant drivers who consider the highway code and traffic laws to be a set a quaint suggestions that only learners have to obey in order to pass their tests. Speeding, about which the police and the government are obsessed, only plays a comparatively small part. The highway code needs to be brought up to date (as it still lives in the 50s and has no concept of things like three lane roundabouts) and then once that’s done it needs to be made law, and enforced rigorously. I reckon 40% of drivers would then be considered unroadworthy and could have their licenses revoked. Name one other scheme that would cut traffic levels by 40% in one go.
  • Teleworking: I know that I am privileged for having been able to work from home over the past two years. I understand the concerns of company management over staff working from home, not everyone is as disciplined as me and of course there will be people who take the piss and skive off. However, these are obviously the people that you don’t allow to work from home. But that doesn’t mean that nobody can, it’s just a case of carefully picking the staff to afford the privilege to.
  • A change in working practises: However, radical corporate attitude change doesn’t stop with teleworking. This obsession with “nine to five” has to go. There should be no such thing as “rush hour”, especially not in our 24 hour soceity. The problem with the roads is that they’re not overburdened per se, it’s that they’re overburdened twice a day for a few hours. Employees should be allowed far greated flexi-time, and indeed if I could change the world I’d create three “commuter shifts”, forcing a third of the workforce to work from 7.00am to 3.00pm, another third to work from 9.00am to 5.00pm as normal and the final third to work from 11.00am to 7.00pm. This would spread the rush hour demand over a much longer period, easing congestion at “peak times”. It seems perfectly simple to me.

It doesn’t stop with roads. It doesn’t even stop with rail. It stops with common sense.


Make them drive dodgems

BBC News | UK | Plans to charge drivers for jams [Talking Point] – The title is misleading, it should read “Plans to charge drivers per mile on all roads”. Now, I’m an open minded person (most of the time), and I can see how this *might* work. But there are many many issues which are going to make it fail. They propose to scrap the road fund licence, good, but they only plan to cut fuel duty “by between 2p and 12p”. Now, ignoring my general cynicism, that’s more likely to be 2p rather than 12p isn’t it, which means that the overall cost of motoring for everyone is going to go up. Again.

Easing congestion is obviously a good agenda, but the congestion is only there because people have no choice but to be there. There are STILL no viable alternatives (and please, don’t start on about trains, I’ve already covered that), I’ve said this hundreds and hundreds of times, and so have the rest of the damned country, and yet the government just won’t do anything about it. Why? Because they know that if they improve rail services, their revenue from taxes on motoring will plummet.

In addition, just how many drivers do you think are going to accept a nasty black box fixed to their dashboard by the government? That’s right. None. The big brother rammifications of this are tremendous, and from a government that spends all its time simpering over civil liberties, this smacks of hypocrisy. There is no way on earth I am going to let the government know where my car (and therefore probably myself) is at any given time, no way. I’m also not going to let anyone mount an ugly box on the dashboard of a potentially expensive car, that’s something they’ll have to think harder about. A box in the boot, maybe, but that still doesn’t solve the big brother aspects.

Think again, Tony. You’re on the right track, but you need to go away and come up with another idea. With this one, you might aswell give us all dodgems to drive.

I also had to laugh at this one idiot in the talking point, who’s one of those irritating ex-pats who jumped ship and jeer at the UK from their oh-so-much-better home on the continent. He says

I already pay my road tax in Germany – should I pay again in Britain? In which case all UK cars would soon find themselves being charged in the rest of Europe!

Clearly he’s never seen a European road toll booth in his life, which is astonishing considering he lives there. UK motorists do pay road taxes in any EU country they find themselves in, while European drivers come over here and get it all for free, bar perhaps the fuel cost, but even then it’s possible to fill up your juggernaut at Calais and drive to Edinburgh and back without having to even go near a petrol station. What an idiot.