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Bricking it: model makers in race to finish Lego T2 camper

Lego T2 camper

These days, Lego versions of real cars are like Nurburgring lap records – there seems to be a new one every week. But that doesn’t mean we’ll ever stop greeting announcements of new creations with child-like excitement.

Experienced modelmakers Rene Hoffmeister (great name) and Pascal Lenhard had just six weeks to create a life-size Volkswagen T2 camper, with the clock ticking ahead of the f.re.e trade fair in Munich.

In our heads, the pair had a Lego clock hanging on the wall, with the Countdown music on a constant loop, but this might be stretching the realms of reality.

Lego VW camper

I’ve got 20,000 problems but a brick ain’t one

Unfortunately for the block-building duo, Denmark’s most famous brick company hasn’t produced a step-by-step guide to creating a full-size T2 camper, so with the help of 3D images, the pair formulated a construction plan of their own.

From that, they were able to calculate the precise number of bricks required, along with the rigidity of the side walls and windows. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans?

It soon became apparent that the pair were missing one or two transparent bricks for the T2 windows. And when we say ‘one or two’, we mean 20,000. That’s right, twenty thousand…

Lego T2 camper windscreen

You can’t just nip to the toy shop when you’re 20,000 bricks short. As a result, the T2 project was in danger of missing its Munich deadline. There was a kink in the timeline.

“Essentially, we would have needed a nine-day week,” said Hoffmeister. “However, as they don’t exist, the only option was night shifts.”

As the images highlight, Hoffmeister and Lenhard did manage to complete the T2 in time for the f.re.e trade fair, with the finished Lego camper measuring over five metres in length and standing two metres tall. This height extends by a metre with the Westfalia pop-up roof popped up.

Lego camper interior

The interior features everything from a floor-mounted heater to a transistor radio, along with toothbrushes, toothpaste and spare batteries. There are plenty of seats, although we think some non-Lego cushions might be required if you fancy getting comfortable.

It’s a very, very cool creation, and according to Volkswagen, it’s probably the world’s biggest camper built using Lego bricks. It’s also the reason why your son or daughter may have struggled to find any transparent bricks.

Highways England DOES listen when we moan about roadworks

motorway improvements 2019 Highways England

Highways England has announced it’s changing the way upgrades to major motorways are managed. This in response to the North West of England that’s all but unified against the plight of roadworks and poor highway management and maintenance.

It’s not nationwide, but the North West is primed for a significant upgrade in roadworks management to help reduce the impact on drivers. The project to add extra lanes and better technology to the M6 between Warrington and Wigan, as well as the M56 near Manchester Airport, has been delayed while ongoing upgrades are completed. The former has been staggered, to start between 2020 and 2025 while the latter will come in Spring 2020 after the ongoing M62 upgrade is completed.

Future projects will aim for the following improvements; Fewer overnight diversions, projects to be finished quicker, increased speed limits in temporary limit zones and a consistent three-lane flow to be maintained while work is carried out. Contraflows will be used to keep traffic flow moving both ways while allowing more workspace and a quicker rate of completion on closed lanes.

motorway improvements 2019

“We’ve listened to what people have been telling us about roadworks and have decided to reschedule two major schemes, benefitting drivers who use our roads to get to work and businesses who deliver goods across the region,” said Mike Bull, Highways England’s smart motorways programme manager for the North West.

“We’re committed to the upgrades; we are simply changing the timetable for projects on the M56 and M6.

“We’re also reviewing how we carry out major upgrades so that we can minimise disruption as much as possible and maintain connections for drivers using the road network.”

We very much hope that similar mind is paid to the efficiency of works carried out and the effect it has on passing traffic elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Hopefully, all goes well so that we may yet see a more streamlined highway maintenance process and a road network, one day, not partially comprised of speed limits and never-ending roadworks. 

BCA and TfL to host auction of ULEZ-compliant vehicles

BCA ULEZ compliant auction

A month ahead of the launch of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), BCA will host a special ULEZ sale at Blackbushe.

The auction, which is organised in partnership with Transport for London (TfL), will take place on 12 March 2019.

Only cars that can enter the ULEZ without charge will be eligible for the auction, with BCA promising a range of more than 200 Euro 6 compliant or electric cars and vans. The clock is ticking if you intend to drive into the ULEZ after its inception on 8 April 2019.

The world’s first ULEZ will operate 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. It replaces the T-Charge and is expected to affect up to 60,000 vehicles a day. Which is why cars exempt from paying the £12.50 charge are likely to be in demand.

“This unique event in partnership with Transport for London (TfL) aims to provide LCV operators with the vehicles they need to manage the changes from the introduction of the ULEZ zone. The sale will feature a wide variety of vehicles to meet a diverse range of requirements,” said Jon Gilbert, development director for commercial vehicles at BCA.

“BCA’s scale in delivering the largest LCV remarketing programme in the country provides an excellent platform for TfL to spread the message regarding ULEZ. Research shows that nearly a third of all operators entering the zone are either not aware of its implementation or unprepared for the launch. We are delighted that TfL will be on-site to advise operators about the changes.” 

‘Committed to tackling’ air pollution

Ultra Low Emissions Zone ULEZ London 2019

Alex Williams, Transport for London’s director of city planning, added: “Air pollution is a public health crisis and we are committed to tackling it. It is great to see that BCA [is] helping businesses to prepare for the arrival of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) by selling and encouraging upgrades to Euro 6 or electric vehicles in advance of the start date of 8 April 2019.

“We are working hard with the business community to support their ULEZ preparations and many businesses are already making the move to comply with ULEZ. We have directly contacted more than 3,000 micro businesses to advise them of their options and are working with London’s business groups to reach thousands more. We are also finalising a £23m van scrappage scheme, which will help micro businesses replace their polluting vans with new cleaner ones.” 

At its inception, the ULEZ will cover the same area as the current Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ). It’s a relatively small patch, but the ULEZ will get bigger in  October 2021, when the North and South Circular roads will serve as new boundaries.

Further information

2019 new car buyers favour hybrid electric over diesel

diesel hybrid electric

Research into what new cars buyers would go for next, ahead of the 19-registration plate change, has revealed that more drivers would buy alternative fuel cars (AFVs) than diesels.

A total of 18 percent of those surveyed said they would plump for good old-fashioned oil-burners. That compares with an impressive 27 per cent of respondents who said they’d go for alternative fuel vehicles (electric and hybrid).

Does this mean that electric cars are finally finishing off diesels? Not quite… Just five percent of respondents said they’d go for a fully electric car, with 22 percent saying they’d plump for a hybrid.

plug-in and self-charging hybrids

That’s not to say alternative fuel vehicles aren’t rising in popularity. January 2019 saw a 26.3 percent increase in sales, compared with diesel’s drop of 20.3 percent.

Overall, as things stand, petrol still wins out. A total of 55 percent of respondents said they’d plump for a petrol-powered car over diesel, hybrid or electric cars if they were to go out now looking to buy.

The research comes from GoCompare. Speaking from the perspective of an insurance comparison website, the question of insuring an electric car is an interesting one. Whether insurers are liable to replace leased batteries, wires being trip hazards and whether an insurer covers EVs at all, are all factors to consider.

diesel emissions efficiency

“As the government continues to place tighter restrictions on petrol and diesel cars and the infrastructure for fuelling stations improves, we’ll start to see many more alternative fuel vehicles on the road,” said Matt Oliver, car insurance expert at GoCompare.

“At the moment, alternative fuel cars are pricier to buy than their petrol or diesel counterparts but, as demand increases, and more cars are made, prices will fall.”

Toast more toxic than roadside air, research finds

burnt toast toxic emissions

New research by the University of Texas suggests that the smoke from your burning toast is a lot more toxic than traffic fumes.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that air should contain no more than 25 micrograms per cubic metre of fine particulates. When you burn your toast, you’re exposing yourself to as much as 4,000 micrograms per cubic metre… This, according to academic journal Atmosphere.

Golden brown toast, the ideal level of toasting according to experts, still sees particulate levels skyrocket to between 300 and 400 micrograms per cubic metre.

For comparison, recent studies have suggested that there are 250 micrograms per cubic metre of air in London tube stations. That’s 20 times higher than what the WHO would consider acceptable. Atmospheric conditions cultivated during the burning of toast are more like 150 times the WHO limit… On the street, you can expect around 13.7 micrograms per cubic metre.

We’re not about to publish a guide on how to cook your toast – that would be a bit beyond our envelope of expertise. It seems common sense, however, to suggest you might want to open a window while making toast, or cooking in general.

burnt toast toxic emissions

Indeed, there are a number of pollutants that lower air quality indoors. Woodburners and fireplaces are obvious dangers, as are air fresheners, aerosols, gas cookers, spray cleaners. We’ve covered the dangers of candle-burning beyond the obvious fire risk before. All sully the air that we breathe.

It does lend an intriguing perspective on the hotly debated topic of urban pollution and air quality. Is it a bit rich to scrutinise motor manufacturers so meticulously for emissions and urban air quality? Especially when we could be causing much more harm at home or indoors.

Given that, according to researcher Marina Vance, “in most of the developed world, people spend about 90 percent of their time in indoor environments,” it’s worth pondering. Food for thought…

Hot new 2019 Ford Focus ST: 10 things you need to know

New Ford Focus ST

Ford says its new Ford Focus ST ‘blends track day performance, B-road fun and everyday usability, without compromise’. It’s packing some serious tech previously the preserve of supercars.

If all of that holds true, and that tech is there for the better, it should be a class-leading hot hatch. We break down the new 280hp Focus ST’s highlights with 10 fast facts.

It has a Mustang engine

New Ford Focus ST

No, that doesn’t mean the 400 horsepower-plus Coyote V8 sits atop the front wheels. The 280 horsepower ecoboost four-cylinder is actually from the ‘lesser’ Mustang, but the commonality (and the kudos) is there. Displacing 2.3-litres, it also packs 420Nm of pulling power.

There is a diesel

New Ford Focus ST

Praise be! There is a diesel and it’s a corker. How does 190 horsepower, and 400Nm of torque sound? That pulling power is available from as little as 2,000rpm, too. That’s all fine but what you really want to know is how frugal it is… Unfortunately, there aren’t any mpg figures yet but expect over 50mpg at least.

Its brakes are four times better

New Ford Focus ST

Yes, you read that right. Four-times improved rate of brake fade. That’s quite the improvement and music to the ears of any enthusiasts wanting to point their fast Ford at a track day. How did they manage it? Rigorous testing procedures first used to verify hardware for the 650hp Ford GT supercar. Yes, the very same Ford GT you can’t buy because you’re not on the list, even if you do have the requisite £500,000 in the kitty. Rarified breeding for the new fast Focus, then…

It’s quicker than an RS from 10 years ago

New Ford Focus ST

The 2.5-litre 300 horsepower Focus RS warbler of 2009 had a claimed 0-62mph time of 5.9 seconds. Without quoting an exact time, Ford reckons the new ST is good for 62 in ‘under six seconds’. The new ST is only 20 horsepower and 20Nm of torque shy of the old RS, but can still hang with it.

It has a Ferrari-style e-diff

New Ford Focus ST

Ford seems very proud of the fact that the new ST is packing its first eLSD for a front-wheel-drive car. Electronic limited-slip differentials have been around for a while, first appearing on the road in Ferrari’s F430. Now, 15 years on from that car’s debut, you can get the same technology on a mid-level Ford hot hatch. The system uses hydraulically-activated clutches to divert as much as 100 percent of the engine’s power to the wheel with the most grip, and takes instruction from the car’s arsenal of sensors.

It has four driving modes

New Ford Focus ST

This is key to Ford’s claim that the new Focus ST is a jack of all trades and a master of most. Wet, normal, sport and track do what they say on the tin. The latter is only available with the optional performance pack. It adds weight to the steering for a more satisfying action, increases braking response, tightens up the adaptive dampers (CCD) and, activates the anti-lag…

It has anti-lag

New Ford Focus ST

That’s right, the new Ford Focus ST has anti-lag. No, not quite like the Focus rally car of the late 90s and early 2000s but very similar to the system used on the Ford GT. The system keeps the throttle in even when you left off, to keep the turbo spinning and ready for your next request for power. Whether it’ll sit spitting flames on a limiter pre-launch is another question. The GT has something of a limiter bounce on launch, albeit without the rally-style fireworks… We can’t wait to try it out.

The diesel is more powerful than the original Focus ST

New Ford Focus

The original Focus ST is now 17 years old, which is why it’s perhaps unsurprising that the very latest diesel ST has more muscle. The ST170 had… you guessed it… 170 horsepower. The new oil-burning ST lite has 190. What’s actually more impressive is that the new diesel car has over twice the torque, with that 400Nm playing 195 in the first-generation car.

It’s got a twin-scroll turbo

New Ford ST

Okay, we’re getting a bit nerdy with it now. The thing is, the last generation ST was fairly unremarkable. This new car is exciting precisely because of some of this up-spec tech that Ford has given it. Adaptive dampers, changeable drive modes, an electronic diff, anti-lag; all stuff that’s ordinarily the preserve of supercars, as are twin-scroll turbos. First made famous on the Porsche 959 and later on, the 911 Turbo, they dramatically reduce lag. In the case of the old porkers, they used to say it gets rid of it. Ford isn’t making any such lofty claims, merely saying that ‘engine response is enhanced’.

It’s on sale in summer 2019

New Ford ST

For our final fast fact, it’s what you really want to know: when can you have one? Best get on the phone to your Ford dealer now, because it lands in the summer. We have tentative high hopes for this one: it sounds like it could be just the machine to fill that Focus RS-shaped hole in our lives.

Nissan concept camper uses old Leaf EV batteries to go ‘off-grid’

Nissan X Opus concept camperCampers and caravanners, want to escape from it all, but don’t want to give up on luxuries such as light, heat, cookers and gadgets? Then this new concept camper from Nissan is for you – as it uses recycled Leaf EV batteries to offer up to a week’s worth of off-grid electricity.

Called the Nissan X Opus concept camper, it debuts this week at the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show at Birmingham’s NEC. Developed in collaboration with folding camper company Opus, the new concept aims to show another smart application for electric car batteries once they’re no longer juicy enough for on-road use.

Nissan X Opus concept camper

The concept comprises an Air Opus foldable camper, into which is built a Nissan Energy Roam portable and weatherproof power pack. This uses lithium-ion cells from first-generation Nissan electric vehicles. It can store 700Wh and has a power output of 1kW.

Nissan says that’s enough power to support off-grid living for seven days; it includes both 230v and 12v outputs. It’s located in a compartment at the front of the Air Opus camper, and is removable – so it can be recharged from a standard household socket; this takes just an hour, says Nissan.

There’s a 400W solar panel too, which can fully recharge it in two to four hours. 

Nissan X Opus concept camper

The Nissan X Opus concept is packed with tech gadgetry. It includes a microwave, fridge, LED lighting, three-pin plug socket, USB sockets for charging smartphones, 4G mobile Wi-Fi hotspot and even a digital projector with pull-up screen for streaming movies. There’s a two-burner gas hob and a little washbasin, too.

“At the moment,” said Opus MD Jonathan Harrison, “to go off-grid for any lengthy period, you either turn to a fossil fuel generator – which isn’t good for air quality or a peaceful camping ambience – or you compromise on the power you can use with existing battery solutions.

“This new concept, integrating Nissan Energy Roam, is answering real customer needs.”

Nissan X Opus concept camper

As for the clever folding camper, Air pole technology turns it from fold-flat into fully-formed in 90 seconds. This reveals a seating and dining area, and sleeping accommodation for up to six people.

The Air Opus camper range starts from £15,995, and are built in the UK. Nissan hasn’t yet revealed a price of the Roam portable power pack but has confirmed it will launch in European markets later in 2019.

Volkswagen Woodstock Light Bus Recreation

Legendary 1969 Woodstock Summer of Love VW bus brought back to life

Volkswagen Woodstock Light Bus Recreation

Volkswagen of America has unveiled an incredible recreation of the ‘Light’ bus, made famous by the 1969 Woodstock Art and Music Fair.

Following a three-year project, and the use of crowd-funding, the completed Type 2 bus will get a first public outing at this weekend’s Orange Country Transporter Organization Winter Meet in Long Beach, California.

Volkswagen Woodstock Light Bus RecreationWhat makes the Light bus recreation more impressive, is that the same artist who painted the original has been involved with the new version.

Dr. Bob Hieronimus was responsible for painting the 1963 VW Microbus ahead of the legendary Woodstock event, having been commissioned to do so by the Volkswagen’s owner.

The artwork by Dr. Hieronimus would be captured in print by the Associated Press at the 1969 festival, becoming one of the lasting symbols of the Summer of Love. The original VW even made it to the inside cover of the official Woodstock album.

Volkswagen Woodstock Light Bus RecreationHieronimus worked with Canadian documentarian John Wesley Chisholm, with the aim of finding the original van before this year’s 50th anniversary of the festival.

Despite their efforts, the first Light bus had seemingly taken a psychedelic trip too far, with a six month search proving fruitless. Instead, the pair worked on producing an accurate representation of how the VW would have looked back in 1969.

A successful Kickstarter appeal lead them to an identical 1963 Standard Microbus, meaning the replica would be as close to the Woodstock Volkswagen as possible.

Volkswagen Woodstock Light Bus RecreationOnce found, it took Dr. Hieronimus and a team of five additional artists some six weeks to bring the Light bus back to life. With the staggering array of symbols all painted by hand, this was a painstaking process for all the team involved.

Volkswagen of America became aware of the project, and offered support during the search for the Microbus, and as part of the restoration process.

Other Volkswagen enthusiasts also jumped at the chance to lend a hand, seeing the importance of bringing back the most memorable air-cooled VW creations to life again.

Volkswagen Woodstock Light Bus RecreationIt sounds like the peace and love have been encapsulated in the new Light bus, with a genuine community effort to share a piece of the history. Chisholm notes that the Microbus is “a living room on wheels” and that it exists to “transport you and your family, however you define family, wherever you want to go.”

Dr. Hieronimus believes that the Light bus “is really about being one people on one planet”, and that the amazing artwork shows “a story—many stories—and the stories all point to unification, working together and a higher consciousness, which is what Light really is all about.”

Volkswagen Woodstock Light Bus RecreationInterested fans will be able to see the new Light bus from 6am to 2pm on Saturday, February 16th at Long Beach Veteran’s Memorial Stadium.

If that is just too short notice, don’t panic. The VW bus will be taking a trip across America, leading up to the very special 50th anniversary of Woodstock.

Chrysler Camera Car

Iconic Hollywood cars to parade through LA

Chrysler Camera CarWe love L.A.!

This President’s Day (February 18, 2019), the Petersen Automotive Museum will parade some of history’s most famous cars throughout the streets of Los Angeles, celebrating the city’s storied love affair with both the movies and the automobile.

The event is being thrown as part of the museum’s 25th anniversary celebration. “The Petersen would not be what it is today without the steadfast support of the Los Angeles community,” said Petersen Automotive Museum Executive Director Terry L. Karges. “For 25 years, we have strived as an organization to captivate the hearts of Angelenos, igniting within them a passion for the automobile. Because Hollywood is such an important aspect of our community, the parade will serve as a fun tribute to the industry on which Los Angeles was built upon.”

As an added bonus, museum visitors who buy a ticket from now until 6 p.m. Saturday, February 16 will automatically be entered to win a ride in a Petersen vehicle during the parade.

PAM Parade Map Feb 18 2019

The tour kicks off at 10 a.m. in Playa Vista and will be led by President Eisenhower’s Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton, which was used many dignitaries including the Apollo 11 astronauts after their historic return to earth.

The route cruises by landmarks like the Santa Monica Pier, Rodeo Drive and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, providing multiple opportunities to photograph the cars in Insta-worthy locations.

There will be a 20-minute stop at Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice, where Angelenos can get up close and personal with such star cars as a 1922 DuPont Model G Speedster, the VW Microbus from “Little Miss Sunshine,” an incredible 1951 Chrysler camera car owned by billionaire movie mogul Howard Hughes, Green Hornet’s 1966 Chrysler Imperial “Black Beauty,” the 2002 Jaguar XKR from “Die Another Day,” and many others.

Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton

The cars will return to the Petersen around 1 p.m. for display on the third floor of the museum parking garage.

Publishing magnate Robert E. Petersen opened the museum in 1994. Over the years, it has grown into a important center of history that celebrates the culture, industry, and artistry of the automobile.

More automotive news from Motoring Research:

UK drivers will save 25 minutes during the half term commute

half term break commute savings

As the kids disappear for the February half term break, Buyacar is reporting that commuters will save as much as 25 minutes on their morning journey to work. Think of all that extra time in bed… 

Over half of the UK’s commuters will gain five minutes or more as the roads are free from school buses and school-run parents. Overall, UK commuters can expect to save a cumulative 1,365 years of driving time over the course of the week.

Getting on for 22 million of us take a daily drive to work and over half of us will feel the benefits of the schools being closed for the week. This based on a poll of 500 drivers that revealed that 53 percent of drivers notice a significant improvement in journey times during the school holidays.

A five-minute improvement was quoted by 12 percent of respondents, while 14 percent said that it was more like 10 minutes quicker. Around half of those surveyed said they were likely to save more than 20 minutes on their morning commute.

half term break commute savings

“It may seem hard to believe at first that British drivers save more than a thousand years in total over the course of just one week, but with nearly 22 million car commuters on the roads daily it soon adds up,” said Austin Collins, managing director of BuyaCar.co.uk.

“The saving for the country as a whole is spectacular but even for individual travellers a 25-minute reduction or more in journey times over the course of the half term break spells a reduction in stress and maybe even an extra five minutes or so in bed.”

We’re looking forward to a lie-in, Austin.