The Martha Stewart of motoring, every month
TVR PREPARES FOR FIBREGLASSNOST
The car industry was lightly rocked last week with news that musky sports car maker TVR has been bought by Russian billionaire Nikolai Smolenski, who is 12. Smolenski, or "Smelly" as some classmates call him, is said to be very excited about his new car company having saved up his pocket money for three weeks in order to buy it. Those close to the wealthy pre-teen have been quick to refute suggestions that TVR will become a rich boy's plaything, and have also denied an accusation, written on the back of a geography exercise book by Alexei Shevchenko, that Smolenski is a "gaylord". "Mr Smolenski is very commited to the future of TVR," said some bloke in a furry hat. "Already he been designing some new cars for the company when he should have been doing his maths homework".
Friends of the wedged-up young scamp say Smolenski's dedication to TVR will be encouraged by his father, Alexander. "Nikolai has been told that this cannot be like his BMX bike or his X-Box or that petro-chemical processing plant in Rybinsk," said a source close to the family. "He cannot simply play with it for a month, then get bored and shove it into the cupboard under the stairs".
However, TVR fans are already expressing concerns about the almost-pubescent squillionaire's long term prospects. "It's all well and good him being keen now," said one factory insider. "He can show us all the plans for flying cars and coupes with laser cannons coming out of the bonnet he wants, but before long he'll find something else to occupy him and we'll be left in the cold. Probably in about 18 months when he discovers girls and discos".
CORRECTION: In an earlier edition of Sniff Petrol we ran the following quote: "For years my people lived under a brutal dictatorship, living on a diet of potatoes and salt. We are delighted with this potent symbol of the newfound liberation of Russia" which we attributed to a member of Smolenski's Russian entourage. We now accept that this was actually said by a TVR assembly worker.
Nikolai Smolenski going out to play, yesterday
GET SET FOR NEW MINI RETRO FEST
Hot on the kitten heels of the new Mini Cabriolet, BMW is poised to capitalise on the success of its cloyingly retro small car by launching a 21st century version of the never-popular Mini Clubman. Spies say engineers are already hard at work on re-designing the existing car's body to provide the flat, boxy front end for which the Clubman was rightly unloved. "Our new version will share many of the best features of the original," claimed a man inside BMW. "For example, improved space around the rather too tightly packaged engine, worse aerodynamics and… Hnnngg".
However, sources within the Mini team say the unconvincing Clubman could be a mere entrée for another, more dramatic evolution - a modern Mini Metro. "Everyone knows the Mini eventually spawned the Metro so that's what we'll be doing," said a man we spoke to. "Even though it's pointless and silly." Engineering moles deep within some soil under the Mini development centre say that, such is BMW's desire to accurately mimic the creation of the original Metro, it has organised a rota to decide which members of the project team are on strike at any one time and slashed the budget to a quarter of what it would normally be for a model such as this with a view to eventually asking for some more cash from Margaret Thatcher. Rumours are already rife that, just as the new Mini focussed on the sporty Cooper variants, so the new derivative will initially arrive only in racy MG Metro trim. However, some insiders say this plan may yet be de-railed: "We've hit a snag," said one senior manager. "You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find red seatbelts these days".
In the more immediate future, sources at BMW's Cowley factory say that designers are preparing a unique special edition aimed at the car's core market - vacuous blond girls who work in PR. "The Mini has been a huge success amongst the kind of bright eyed thicko women whose flirtatious phone manner belies their utter inability to do anything remotely constructive except drink endless cups of low fat aspirational coffee, go for long lunches and wear stupid pointy shoes," said one Mini marketing source. "We've carefully designed this model so cater for their needs, which is why it will come with a pair of those stupid, slightly wrap around pink tinted sunglasses, some sort of flimsy cloth handbag that cost £250 and a big pile of Pret a Manger vouchers". The special edition Mini Cooper Emma will be launched as soon as one of these women returns your phone call as promised. So basically never.
How the new Mini Clubman might look, yesterday
TRANSPORT INTEGRATION EYEBROW DISASTER
The Government's transport policy was in turmoil this week following news that Minister for Transport Alistair Darling has become stuck to David Begg's eyebrows. The incident happened when Begg, formerly the government's transport advisor, dropped by Mr Darling's office to show him some pictures of a new sort of bus. "During the meeting Mr Begg dropped a pamphlet about trams on the floor," said one senior DfT insider. "In their excitement to pick it up, Mr Begg and the Minister bent down at exactly the same time and their eyebrows came into contact, becoming firmly attached rather like velcro".
"This is not surprising," noted Dr Enchilada Bloodyhell, Director of Eyebrow Studies at St Hubbins College, Oxford. "Both Mr Begg and Mr Darling have extremely thick, luxuriant brows and even light contact between them can lead to an instant meshing of the fibres, not unlike the popular child's toy Fuzzy Felt". Inadvertent Eyebrow Attachment Syndrome is a well documented problem, according to Dr Bloodyhell's research. "During early Oasis gigs, Noel and Liam Gallagher would often become stuck to each other by the face," he claimed. "And of course this is not the first time politicians have been involved either. During the 1980s Dennis Healey had to be kept at least five yards away from Mrs Thatcher's Chief Press Secretary Bernard Ingham unless at least one of them was wearing a fencing mask".
Government sources say there is no official policy or procedure for dealing with a senior minister's sudden attachment to another man's eyebrows though they concede that it will be very difficult for Mr Darling to conduct his departmental business with another beetle browed fun vacuum affixed to his forehead. "I think we may have to buy some heavy duty tweezers," said one insider. "This really wasn't what we had in mind when we talked of an integrated transport solution".
How the eyebrow error might look,
DEAD ANIMAL SURVEY STRANGENESS
A few months ago the RSPB asked motorists to record the number of dead insects on their cars' number plates and report their findings to a team of scientists who could then plot insect populations across the UK. Now another, less convincing scientist has launched his own rather more substantial road kill plea. Professor Ken Freeply of Nigel Havers College, Kettering wants as many drivers as possible to volunteer for his new study, which will involve counting the number of ocelots stuck to the front of your car. "At the moment we have simply no idea how many ocelots there are in this country," Professor Freeply explained. "Using motorists to track ocelot kills we can start to build up at least a rudimentary picture. I would urge all drivers to take a moment at the end of long journey to count the number of dead ocelots that have got stuck to their number plate or perhaps became plastered inside the wheelarches. For truly accurate data logging I would even ask that people check for additional ocelots jammed in air intakes or parts of ocelots that have became wedged inside the engine". However, although this survey is primarily concerned with ocelots, Professor Freeply is equally keen for drivers to record any other animals whose British population is currently unknown. "Whilst counting the ocelots on your car," he urged. "I would ask that volunteers also make note of any pandas, wolves, marmosets, different types of ocelots, ring tailed lemurs, more ocelots and sloths that have become stuck to the number plate".
Professor Freeply later denied that, since the ocelot is a native of Central and South America and has never been indigenous to the UK, his survey was "rubbish".
yester... etc etc
PRESS PACK "TOO GLOSSY"
The world of motorism journaling was in turmoil this week with the news that the press pack for a forthcoming model was just "too glossy".
"We're used to press packs for brand new cars being so glossy that you can't looks directly at them in strong light," admitted one leading journalist. "And if the paper is so thick and creamy it's like handling a solid block of evaporated milk then that's all well and good. But this is something else. The paper is just so glossy that it's physically impossible to pick it up, never mind actually thumb past all the tedious bollocks about redefining the art of quality to get to the bit where it tells you how big the engine is".
Insiders at the unnamed company behind the overly slick error admit that handling the press pack is like trying to "read an eel" but insist that the sheer overblown expense of its construction will make it a landmark piece of promotional literature.
"Oh good," said a spokesman for eBay.
the day before yesterday
BUTTON BACK TO WILLIAMS
BMW-Williams staff are said to be "extremely pleased" after news broke this week that Jenson Button will return to the team for the 2005 F1 season. "When it was confirmed that Montoya was leaving we knew we needed a replacement of equal quality," confirmed one insider. "And we are confident that Louise Griffiths is at least as fit as Connie".
A Williams spokesman confirmed that everyone at the factory was very impressed with the progress Button has made since he last drove for the team back in 2000. "We've been keeping a close eye on Jenson and you'd have to say that since he was last here he really has managed to hang on to a right hottie," he said. "Having a saucy girl hanging about the pit garage is very important. It gives the engineers something to look at during the boring bits of the race when they're not changing tyres and stuff".
However, with Button filling the Montoya role of bringing his tasty misses to every race, sources close to Mark Webber say the Australian driver is less happy that he will be required to fill Ralf Schumacher's boots. "For some reason Frank has asked Mark to dress more neatly," said one friend. "And he keeps sending him CDs of high energy disco music".
There were no such concerns for Jenson though and the youthful British ace is said to be "delighted" at the prospect of joining a team whose racing car seems to be less good than the one he currently drives.
Another sort of button back
SCHUMACHER TO REFUEL FOR "REST OF SEASON"
Ferrari's strategic dominance of the 2004 World Championship looks set to continue with the surprising news that during the upcoming Hungarian Grand Prix Michael Schumacher will be fuelled "for the rest of the season".
"It seems like the logical thing to do," said a source close to vaguely bearded strategy master Ross Brawn. "After trying four stops and then two
stops at Silverstone, we thought why not go one step further and have no
stops at all? When Michael pits for the second time in Hungary we're going to pump shit loads of fuel into the car and then we can pack all the rigs away for winter".
Meanwhile, Rubens Barrichello has revealed his own tactics for the rest of the season; "For the remaining races I'm totally focussed on qualifying about fourth".
How that stop might look on telly
© 2004. Sniff Petrol every month. Next issue 3 September
Written by Sniff Petrol, with thanks to JM, JB, Martin Spain & Andy Masson for the Ferrari idea, and Poo