T: 01462 48 00 48

Get a quote

Author Archives: alistair

Guy Martin’s World War 1 Tank

The motor cycle racing legend and TV presenter Guy Martin, working with North One Television, has made a one off special documentary to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Cambrai and the first use of tanks in modern warfare.

Guy has been involved in the construction of a replica Mark IV World War One tank. He wants to ensure that the British engineering brilliance, which created the world’s first battle tank, is remembered along with the brave men who served and paid the ultimate price in the line of duty.

With only four months to complete the most ambitious build he had ever attempted Guy Martin engaged the services of Chasestead Limited and JCB for the engineering, the tank its self being assembled in the Norfolk Tank Museum.

Guy Martin worked on the manufacture of the complex track components at Chasestead Limited in Letchworth. He used the equipment usually involved in the manufacture of prototype vehicle chassis for companies such as Aston Martin and Jaguar. Using Chasesteads’ 800 tonne press he pressed the tank tracks which were then laser cut on a state of the art five axis laser. In total Chasestead Limited manufactured over 360 components for this vehicle, from gun mounts to periscopes. Some components were rapid prototyped using technology that the original manufactures could only dream of in 1917.

During the programme, Guy will provide a fascinating insight into the history of tanks that will include a visit to the Cambrai battlefield where he meets one of the only seven original Mark IV tanks still in existence. He will also join the Royal Tank Regiment on manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain and learn what it’s like to work in a modern Challenger 2 Tank.

This documentary will be shown again on 9th December at 7.00 PM on Channel 4



Draining the Bermuda Triangle

Using state-of-the-art instruments to map the sea floor of this notorious area of the Atlantic Ocean, scientists hope to discover why it has claimed so many lives and so many ships. What strange geological features will be revealed and will they shed light on any of the many mysterious occurrences?

See here: Draining the Bermuda Triangle

Nissan creates cutting edge titanium trike for three-time Paralympic gold medallist David Stone MBE

  • Nissan, in partnership with the English Institute of Sport (EIS), designed and built a trike for ParalympicsGB’s David Stone MBE
  • New  18 percent lighter titanium trike, pioneered by the Nissan Innovation Team at Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE)
  • Nissan has also helped with other sporting projects, including assistance with wheelchair rollers, wheelchair rim grip and glove developments

LONDON – Nissan, as proud partner of British Paralympic Association (BPA), has used its automotive expertise to support some of the British athletes heading to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. In partnership with the English Institute of Sport (EIS) and British Cycling, the Nissan Innovation Team based at the Nissan Technical Center Europe (NTCE) has used its engineering and innovation prowess to develop a new trike for three-time Paralympic gold medallist David Stone MBE.

The Nissan Innovation Team began the project in 2014, following many of the same procedures involved in designing a car. Following a full 3D laser scan of David’s existing trike by Nissan Design Europe, a process usually reserved for styling clay models, the team established his new trike could be made lighter than his existing steel / carbon hybrid and his riding position lowered to significantly improve his speed and stability.

The team chose to design the new trike using Titanium Grade9, achieving weight savings of 18 percent. Their approach followed the same basic material and design philosophy that was applied to the lightweight titanium exhaust system on the Nissan GT-R NISMO. In the same way a Nissan GT-R driver would notice the reduced weight and improved acceleration, David will notice his new trike can now accelerate faster off the start line and out of slow corners.

Utilising titanium over steel also allowed Nissan to stiffen up the frame, which is key for transferring the power between rider and road. To measure the stiffness of David’s current trike, highly specialised modal analysis was conducted by Nissan engineers, where sensors were placed across the frame to measure its resonance. The Nissan GT-R NISMO was also tested and developed using the same method.

Nissan also discovered that David’s original trike was built up of a standard bike frame bonded to a heavy steel trike conversion kit, meaning it was over engineered and heavy. Using the 3D scanning tools the Nissan Innovation Team were able to develop a fully integrated trike design, incorporating a dual wheel drive system. This allows both wheels to be powered yet independently free wheeled, similar to the rear differential on a car.

Throughout the process Nissan also adopted various other techniques such as ‘coast down testing’ of the trike on a track – similar to that used to calculate the aerodynamic efficiency of cars – and allowed David to have access to their environmental chamber where he prepared in high temperature conditions as part of his training programme.

Alec Patterson, R&D Project Manager, who led the team of innovation experts at Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE) explained: “Nissan initially discussed with the EIS the ways we could utilise our engineering development expertise for the benefit of Rio 2016 – bound Paralympic athletes. The David Stone trike project was chosen as it offered potential for significant improvement and could directly benefit from our in-depth experience of vehicle design and manufacture.

David Stone commented: “It’s been an extremely exciting couple of years working with Alec and the Nissan Innovation Team in Cranfield. I never imagined that I would have access to a team of engineering experts who would be able to create something so bespoke for me. I’m looking forward to riding the new trike in Rio and hopefully making everyone back in Britain proud.”

Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of the British Paralympic Association commented: “We’ve been delighted about working with Nissan on our road to Rio 2016, and have been excited about the innovative approach they have brought to the partnership. Having access to the expertise and knowledge within the Nissan Innovation Team to benefit some of our athletes is something truly special that they have and hopefully it will help assist the ParalympicsGB team in having a successful Games in Rio”.

In addition to the trike project, Nissan has also provided consultancy to the EIS on various other aspects of how the British Paralympic team’s equipment could be optimised ahead of Rio. This has included support on identifying a new type of wheelchair roller for athletes warming up ahead of races, feedback on materials for wheelchair athlete’s gloves and input on the best types of testing methods for grip testing wheelchair tyres in various weather conditions.

Nissan also offered support to ParalmypicsGB T54 sprint competitor, Richard Chiassaro, by providing him with a new wheelchair after his was vandalised in December 2015.

Notes to Editors

To find out how Nissan have supported athletes in the build up to Rio 2016 visit: https://www.nissan.co.uk/experience-nissan/partnerships/nissan-team-gb-and-paralympicsgb.html

The Nissan trike project is one of a number of other Nissan Rio related activities for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, including Nissan’s gold LEAF giveaway as launched by Sir Chris Hoy, Nissan’s Ultimate Sports Day, the Nissan Olympic fleet announcement, Usain Bolt vs Fire campaign.

About Nissan in the UK

  • Nissan Sunderland Plant produces the Nissan Qashqai, Note and Juke and the 100% electric Nissan LEAF
  • Production of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles began in 2012
  • Total plant volume since 1986 stands at more than seven million units with 80 per cent of production exported to 100 markets worldwide
  • Total investment made and announced since then is over £3.5 billion
  • 500,237 units were produced at Sunderland plant in 2014
  • In 2014, one in three cars built in the UK was a Nissan
  • Sunderland Plant currently employs more than 6,700 people
  • Nissan’s European Design Centre is located in Paddington, London and employs around 65 people
  • Nissan’s European Technical Centre is based in Cranfield, Bedfordshire and employs around 1,000 people
  • Nissan’s sales and marketing headquarters in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire employs around 190 people

About Nissan in Europe
Nissan has one of the most comprehensive European presences of any overseas manufacturer, employing more than 17,000 staff across locally-based design, research & development, manufacturing, logistics and sales & marketing operations. Last year Nissan plants in the UK, Spain and Russia produced more than 635,000 vehicles including award-winning crossovers, commercial vehicles and the Nissan LEAF, the world’s most popular electric vehicle. Pursuing a goal of zero emissions and zero fatalities on the road, Nissan recently announced its Intelligent Mobility vision. Designed to guide Nissan’s product and technology pipeline, this 360 degree approach to the future of mobility will anchor critical company decisions around how cars are powered, how cars are driven, and how cars integrate into society. Nissan is positioned to become the most desirable Asian brand in Europe.

Chassis and Design

The DB11 uses a completely new bonded aluminium platform. Lighter and stronger, it allows for wider door apertures and increased occupant space for the rear seats. The car is still a 2+2 and yes, there is more room in the back, but its not much. With a 1770kg dry weight the DB11 is actually only 15kg lighter than the DB9 it replaces.

Changes to the suspension setup are significant. At the front, you’ve got fully independent double wishbones, coil springs and three stage adaptive dampers. The rear is multi-link with adaptive dampers.

Those dampers can be controlled via a single button on the steering wheel and switched between GT, sport and sport+ mode. We spent time with Aston Martin handling setup guru Matt Becker prior to the DB11’s unveiling and he hinted at wanting to create a car with a broad dynamic character.

Aston claims this has been put into practise with the DB11, with the three stage adaptive damping varying significantly between each setting. The steering itself is a 13:1 electric power assisted speed-dependant tack and pinion setup which is 2.4 turns lock to lock.

The DB11 features both front and rear LED lights with the design drawing on that of the Vulcan and One-77 hyper car. Updated daytime running lights also feature, as does a single cut out for each light at the front in the huge single piece clamshell bonnet.

There are two significant new aerodynamic features introduced wit the DB11. The first is the “Curlicue” you see sat directly behind the two front wheels, First introduced on the Vulcan, it takes high pressure turbulent air from the wheel arch and sends it down the side of the vehicle as vortices, smoothing out airflow over the DB11.

Google in talks with OEMs, suppliers to build self-driving cars

Internet giant Google Inc. has started talks with most of the world’s top automakers and assembled a team of global suppliers to speed its push to bring self-driving cars to market, Chris Urmson, the head of the project, said today at the Automotive News World Congress.

The suppliers named by Google included Bosch, which supplies power electronics and long-range radar to Google; ZF Lenksysteme, which supplies a new steering gear; LG Electronics, which supplies the batteries, Continental and Roush.

Urmson confirmed that Roush, the Michigan-based engineering and specialty manufacturing company, built the podlike two-seater that Google plans to start testing on public roads this year. Crain’s Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive News, reported that relationship last May.

Google did not ask a large automaker to build this car, Urmson said during a discussion, but intends to do so in the future when it seeks to commercialize its technology.

“At some point, we’re going to be looking to find partners to build complete vehicles, and bring the technology to market,” Urmson said.

Asked when that might be, he replied: “when it’s safe and ready.”

He declined to name the companies or share details of their discussions. Reuters reported earlier that the manufacturers contacted by Google include General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG.

Google plans to deploy a test fleet of Roush-built prototypes in 2015. On closed courses, Urmson said, the cars will be able to operate without a steering wheel, brakes or accelerator — and drive themselves without a human passenger. Due to California regulations, controls will be added and a test driver will be behind the wheel when the car travels on public roads.

Urmson’s expectation that the first fully autonomous vehicles will be production-ready within five years mirrors the view expressed a day earlier by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk.

Musk, who spoke Tuesday at the Automotive News World Congress, said he expects the lack of clear federal regulations covering self-driving cars could delay their introduction until 2022 or 2023.

Google listed its partners during today’s presentation.

Regulatory hurdles?

Urmson, however, said his Google colleagues “don’t see any particular regulatory hurdles.”

Google has been briefing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the chief U.S. auto regulator, “from early on in our program,” Urmson said. “The worst thing we could do is surprise them.”

Urmson said Google is developing and refining self-driving systems and components with such auto parts suppliers as Continental AG, Robert Bosch, ZF and LG Electronics. Google’s prototype cars use microprocessors made by Nvidia Corp, a Silicon Valley chipmaker that also supplies Mercedes-Benz and other automakers.

Two of those partners — Continental and Bosch — have developed their driverless cars as part of their effort to design software and hardware for collision avoidance. Samir Salman, CEO of Continental’s North American unit, told Automotive News that his company will help design the Google fleet’s brakes, tires, body controllers and interior electronics.

“We’ve been working with them for awhile,” Salman said. “Now we’ll concentrate on [helping Google] to build the prototypes. That’s our focus.”

Welcome to the new Jaguar XE


This evening at a glittering ceremony in London, with the help of a helicopter and some musical theatre, Jaguar officially revealed its BMW 3-Series fighter. People of the Internet, please be upstanding for the brand new ‘XE’, the most important car Jaguar has launched in a very long time.

It’s the company’s new much-vaunted small sports saloon, and will wade into the deep waters against the Beemer, Audi A4 and Mercedes C Class. Serious competition indeed, and much more than just a scaled-down XF.

The basics are thus: you’re looking at five seats, a big boot and a range of engines and trims that’ll spin your head.

It’ll sit on what Jaguar calls an aluminium intensive architecture, with hollow-cast aluminium for the suspension to keep everything light and stiff. The front suspension design is related to the F-Type’s double-wishbone setup, while the rear gets an independent multi-link arrangement.

Engines are all new, dubbed ‘Ingenium’ by JLR, the first of which sees a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel that manages 75mpg and slips under 100g/km of CO2, alongside a 2.0-litre petrol unit. They’re both a whopping 80kg lighter than JLR’s existing four-pots, too.

As we’ve told you before, this four-cylinder engine with its aluminium block is modular, alterable in 500cc increments up or down with the ability to incorporate hybrid elements.

Then there’s the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 pinched from the F-Type, developing 335bhp in the XE ‘S’, with a 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph.

There’s fully-electric steering, and ‘All Surface Progress Control’; traction control that maintains your momentum no matter the surface, to ensure unruffled progress.

The interior adds to this ambience too, with a recognisably Jaguar design, but with a new eight-inch high-definition multimedia touchscreen in the centre console, a welcome replacement for the tired system in the current JLR lineup. As expected, it allows all manner of connectivity, from apps, mobile wifi, voice control, and a sync for your smartphone. There’s also an optional head-up display and modern graphics.

And get this: you can even start the XE from your mobile, as well as set air-con and other functions remotely, which is handy for those winter mornings.

The car will be built in two brand new factories in Jaguar’s heartland: one in Solihull to build the car, and one in Wolverhampton to build the engines.

And the starting price for Jaguar’s new entry-level model? £27,000 when it goes on sale after next month’s Paris Motor Show.

Have a scan through the pics: has this new Jag XE got the smarts to beat the Germans?

Luxury carmaker Bentley set for record sales in 2014

Luxury carmaker Bentley has said it is on course for record sales in 2014 after a 23% increase in deliveries in the first half of the year.

Bentley delivered 5,254 cars in the first six months of 2014, up from 4,279 cars in the first half of 2013.

The firm’s new Flying Spur drove up sales by 61% in China, which saw more than a fifth of Bentley’s deliveries.

Bentley’s sales echoed rival Rolls-Royce, which saw a 33% boost in sales in the half year to June.

“There is no question that some markets will remain tough, but we are confident of a good 2014,” said Bentley board member for sales Kevin Rose.

The Americas region, which includes North and South America and the Caribbean, remained as Bentley’s largest market, with 1,388 cars delivered. China followed, then Europe and the Middle East.

A Flying Spur typically sells for around £150,000, while a GT V8 sells for about £130,000.

Bentley is a subsidiary of Volkswagen, which also owns the Porshe and Audi brands.

Gordon Murray and Yamaha reveal new Motiv city car (2016)


This futuristic Smart For Two lookalike is in fact the Gordon Murray Design Motiv – and no, the latter part of that name isn’t a typo.

Built in conjunction with Yamaha, the Motiv uses elements of F1, motorcycle and extra-automotive technology to try and cut down on the environmental impact building – and running – a car creates.

What’s so revolutionary about the Gordon Murray Motiv?

Mainly, it’s the two-seater’s production process, coined ‘iStream’ by the 240mph McLaren F1’s designer Gordon Murray. In development for 15 years, the idea could cut the size of a regular car production plant by up to 80%, according to manufacturer predictions.

In principle, iStream dispenses with the production line assembly of cars used since Henry Ford’s Model T, instead building cars in a more methodical pre-packaged style. Wiring looms and control units are fixed to pre-painted panels, which are then bonded together in an F1-like sandwich structure, reducing weight but actually enhancing stiffness and safety. It’s also faster than welding together cars with robots, as per the template of mass-production in 2013, and creates less waste material.

It’s car not just a basic shopping trolley though. The Motiv’s all-independent suspension and electric powertrain are claimed to give ‘new levels of ride and handling’ performance, as well as suiting the car’s need to be nippy and eco-friendly, given its urban brief.

What’s the spec of the Motiv?

In electric guise, the rear-drive Motiv develops a peak of 34bhp, and a huge 660lb ft – continuous torque is 485lb ft. The 730kg Motiv hits 62mph in around 15sec, and tops out at over 65mph. The real-world range is claimed to be 100 miles.

What’s Yamaha’s role in all this?

The Japanese outfit is the first engineering firm to take the plunge with Murray’s iStream concept and attempt to implement it into a full-scale production reality.

Yamaha has yet to sign off on the cost-effectiveness of rewriting the car design and production rule-book, but if the Motiv gets the green light, electric and conventional petrol-powered versions could be hitting a city street near you as early as 2016. It’s likely to be priced at around £10,000 to compete with Smart’s new For Two and the new rear-drive Renault Twingo.

Nissan celebrates car and van fleet growth in first six months of 2013


  • Fleets bought 29,487 cars from Jan to June, a rise of 4,102 units on 2012
  • Nissan fleet car market share now at a record 5.4%
  • Nissan LCV fleet market share grows 151% to 4,445 units, a 4.8% market share

Nissan has reported a very strong fleet performance in the first six months of 2013 with combined car and van sales up by 20% to 33,932 compared with the same period in 2012 (28,329).

Fleets bought 29,487 Nissan cars from January to June 2013, a rise of 4,102 year on year, which represents a record 5.4% market share. Nissan became the sixth largest fleet car brand in the UK and sold the equivalent number of cars as Toyota and Honda combined.

The star performer was Juke which rose 49% to 7,469 units (from 5,023 in 2012) while combined Qashqai sales rose to 16,561, a rise of 2,325 over 2012. Both LEAF and NV200 minibus also experienced sales growth.

Nissan’s LCV performance was just as impressive with 4,445 vans bought by fleets in the first six months of 2013, a 51% rise over the same period in 2012 from 2,944.

Nissan’s LCV market share rose from 3.6% to 4.8% helped by strong NV200 sales growth to 2,336 units, a 114% increase over 2012. The Primastar, Cabstar, NV400 and Navara pick up also reported sales growth in this period.

“Our fleet sales growth is a sign of the investment we have been making in all aspects of our business over the past two years,” said Barry Beeston, Nissan GB’s corporate sales director.

“With the current launch of the all-new NOTE into the B-sector and the further investment in our dealer network we hope to see continued fleet growth during the remainder of 2013,” he added.

Car figures in more detail

  • Juke fleet sales grew by 49% in the first six months of 2013 to 7,469 units from 5,023.
  • Qashqai fleet sales rose from 11,289 to 13,152 accounting for a 45% market share of the total sector. Qashqai +2 sales also rose from 2,947 to 3,409.
  • LEAF sales grew to 278 and 346 NV200 minibuses were sold, a rise of 217% or 237units.

Van figures in more detail

  • NV200 sales more than doubled to 2,336, a 53% share of its sector
  • Primastar experienced a resurgence with a 47% increase in sales to 380 units
  • Navara volumes remain consistent at 1,351 sales, a rise of 6% and a 30% share of the sector
  • 221 Cabstars were sold, a 34% year on year rise, while NV400 sales rose 5% to 157 units

Detroit Motor Show 2012: Ford Fusion/Mondeo

Ford takes the wraps off what will become the next generation Mondeo at the Detroit Motor Show.

Hark, is that a phone ringing? That’ll be Uli Bez, Aston Martin’s chief executive, with a complaint about the uncanny resemblance to an Aston evident in the grille design for Ford’s new Mondeo/Fusion, which goes on sale this year in America and April 2013 in the UK and is being shown at the Detroit Motor Show.

“I don’t see it myself,” said Ford designer, Chris Hamilton, in the manner of Richmal Crompton’s William Brown denying knowledge of a missing catapult. “But it’s nice to be compared with a car that costs 10 times as much.”

This is, of course, the apogee of Ford boss, Alan Mulally’s “One Ford” approach, although the sharp eyed will have noticed that while the Fusion is a four-door saloon, the Mondeo, when we see at the Paris Motor Show this autumn will be a five-door hatchback.

This floorpan will underpin a subsequent estate model as well as the replacement for the Galaxy MPV and S-Max.

All-new multi-link rear suspension, electronically powered steering, more cabin space, a much improved ride and better noise insulation are some of the claims made for this new model, which will sell about a million a year round the globe in 10 different guises. Petrol and diesel models in 1.6- and 2.0-litre displacements are promised, with a hybrid model and possibly a 4×4 as well. Ford is even testing its latest 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost engine in the Mondeo, but that could be a downsizing step too far.

The One Ford strategy appears to be working for Ford, although there is a danger that model development starts to dash for the bottom rather than a climb to the top as engineers compromise Ford’s legendary ride and handling for mushy American ride quality as they did with the first US version of the Focus model. Unsurprisingly, Ford engineers strongly refute this idea.