Tomcar goes into administration

Australian niche manufacturer, Tomcar, files for voluntary administration

Rezoom has been following Australian car manufacturer, Tomcar, for some time now. Its innovative approach to manufacturing and design has been heralded by many, from the CSIRO and its Kick-Start funding program to AusIndustry and its Innovation awards.

It’s been a heady ride, and for many an exceptionally safe one, given the global statistics on deaths and injuries caused by quad bikes and side-by-sides. The Tomcar was (and hopefully, still will be) the answer for a secure and cost effective vehicle to traverse farmland, mine sites and many other unforgiving types of terrain. They were even about to produce an all-electric version.

Sadly though the company has announced it is filing for voluntary administration, driven by ever increasing manufacturing costs, and worse still, by a group of hostile investors hell bent on taking over the company. The legal bills alone were prohibitive.

“We have had to close our doors because of a group of hostile investors tried to take over the company from us, while ever increasing manufacturing costs have put untold strain on the cash flow of the business,” CEO David Brim said to Manufacturers Monthly recently.

“We recently had an overseas investor about to come on board but at the last minute they backed out, leaving us with escalating legal fees and product costs, which simply pushed us over the edge.

“We want to thank everyone who supported our dream over the years and helped us along the way. It has been an incredible journey. We’ve tried our very best, but we couldn’t quite get there.”

It was a great try, and with luck, some common sense and a decent investor can help to turn it around.

 

 

 

Porsche Cayman S

porsche cayman s still nice and clean

Best Driver’s car? Try a Porsche Cayman S

“That’s your car there sir,” said the salesman at the dealership.

“Really?” replied my friend (and soon to be owner of a 2006 Guards Red Porsche Cayman S) in an astonished tone, because it looked like new, not eleven years old with 67k on the clock.

“But it’s not orange,” he whispered to me.

“Yeah that’s what I thought. Sunburnt orange, that’s how it looked in the photo,” I retorted.

Buying a car, sight unseen, is not recommended, but when there are so few options available, even less if you want a manual, then I guess you need to move quickly. That said, in red and beautifully prepared by the dealership, my friend’s new car looked spectacular.

Rocking up to the Porsche centre in Brisbane to check out his new wheels for the first time was still an unnerving experience. For him that is. Not so much for me. It wasn’t my hard earned flying out of the window after all. I was more interested in watching him actually climb into the thing. You see he is almost six feet five and the car is barely 1300mm tall. Funnily enough the thought had not actually occurred to him that he might not fit.

porsche cayman s sunset drive

But fit he did, and with plenty of head room to spare.

“Now, before you head off, I’d just like to introduce a few things to you, some of the Porsche idiosyncrasies. What sort of engine does it have?”

I almost stuck my hand up, much like a primary school kid trying to gain the attention of his teacher.

“A flat 6 horizontally opposed boxer,” he said, ignoring my impassioned puppy-like appeals to please him, before continuing, “meaning oil is continuously lubricating all of the cylinders and valves. Unlike a straight or V6 in which the oil sits at the bottom of the cylinder. So while this helps reduce wear, oil can leak through the seals if the car is left idle for a while. So don’t be afraid if you see a puff of smoke when turning the ignition. It happens.”

“But can’t it also suggest premature cylinder bore wear?” I eagerly yapped.

“Yes, it could, ” he said, almost dismissively, “but normally this is evident on cars that are rarely used. So drive it, it likes it. And drive it hard.”

We shared a look, a look that said we liked the cut of his jib and that we were enjoying the symphony now playing in our ears.

He showed us the neat little cubby holes and storage pods, how the lights worked and how to get the most out of the after-market in-dash screen. But you’d think spending the best part of sixteen grand on options would include an engine chip or maybe some shiny exhaust pipes. Not so, for the previous, and obviously discerning, owner had other ideas. His focus had been on areas that Cayman buyers had most to moan about – the look of the wheels, the slipperiness of the seats and the size of the steering wheel that was obtrusive enough to catch your knee when depressing the clutch. He’d wisely plumped for black 19 inch rims, uprated sports seats and a smaller, thinner, leather bound tiller that harked back to the ’70’s but only in the best possible way. And the car is instantly the better for all of them.

 

porsche cayman s upgraded wheel

After listening to a new Panamera’s throaty bauble whilst waiting for the paperwork to be signed, I was somewhat disappointed by the rather normal sounding tick over of the flat 6 once we were handed the keys and told to go forth. It didn’t appear any more impressive than say a Toyota GT or a Scooby BRZ. But once on the highway and above the 3000 line then that all changes. Not only are you grinning from to ear to ear because of the normally aspirated shunt from every gear, even in sixth, but the noise grows incessantly right up to the red line and is, for me, as good as the bellow of a V8.

For the driver, everything is exactly where you’d want it – the gear lever is perfectly positioned and weighted, all controls are within easy reach and there are no annoying electronic gadgetry. There are no flappy paddles, no seat belt warning dings and no supposed driver safety aids that in my opinion distract you from the more important task of actually driving safely. And,  in this car, fast. Porsche do provide a digital speedometer in the centre of the dials ahead of you however, and it’s the only one you glance down to. The analogue dial on the left gives you an approximation of speed, which in this country would be a dice with license death if that is the one you use regularly.

porsche cayman s rear view

 

I expected to be slightly intimidated but it’s a far easier car to drive than I thought. Though you sit very low, there is ample vision front and rear, and the mirrors and rear quarter windows nullify any blind spots. Weaving through traffic is a breeze but I catch myself lingering over the view of the rear wings curving sumptuously behind me and force myself to focus on the equally curvaceous vista ahead.

The cacophony coming from the tyres on any surface is unchecked and every single bump, every crease, hole or patchwork is telegraphed directly to your behind, so it’s no wonder that after the first three to four hours your bum does start to ache.

But then this is no Grand Tourer. This is a proper little sports car. Once you are away from dual lane monotony and on to the twisty, compressed roads that emanate from one side of the Pacific Highway, up into the hinterland of the Great Dividing Range, you are quickly reminded of this.

My word this is when its true personality bursts to the fore, like a supposedly tamed lion that eventually gets its own back over the whip wielding bastard behind a chair. These roads are what this thing was made for. Initially the side bolsters of the new seats, particularly around the shoulders, had felt a bit too hemmed in, but once pointing down a twisty piece of bitumen their intent becomes clear, particularly for the driver.

porsche cayman s cooling down after a quick sprint

 

It has been raining and it is beginning to spit once more, but there is no hint of it through the wheel,  zero loss of traction, whether the surface is smooth, gravelly, or a patchwork of both. All four wheels are as planted as the stanchions of the Harbour Bridge. The mid-engine layout and low centre of gravity provides balance and poise, and the tail out shenanigans of 911’s of yore are banished along with any sense of fear. The only danger the driver needs to be cognisant of are the humps over small bridges that will easily catch the underside of the front bumper, particularly under hard braking. A well timed foot off to release an inch or two of suspension is necessary, and it allows my passenger to unclench his buttocks and relax from the thoughts of dealing with thousands of dollars of cosmetic repair bills, if only for a second. Then you are back on it, right foot squishing the carpet before lifting off, rhythmically blipping on down changes, and snicking up through the gearbox as the rev limiter nears the 7,000 mark. Or at least you think it is, because you are not really looking at the dials, you are going by feel and sound, and morphing as one with the car. Jeez, I could stay on these roads all year stopping only for the odd wee and a drop of fluid.

It is quite simply the best driver’s car I have driven. Perhaps not the fastest, the souped up M5 a couple of years ago takes that ribbon, but it’s agility, poise and ease of use, on a daily basis, means it tops my list. And this for an eleven year old car. Sure the platform can probably handle more power and I understand why Porsche don’t shoe-horn more into it – it would beat a 911 otherwise, and they can’t have that. So is it worth the $52 odd grand that my very best friend (wink) paid for it?

Absolutely.

porsche cayman s voluptuous moi?

 

So what should he look out for, other than meat heads like me who will pester him continually to take us to the nearest track?

The biggest issue with early Boxsters and Caymans was the IMS – intermediate shaft bearing – failure. It could be the result of sub-standard parts or that the car was not used enough. Either way oil can drain from the bearing which leads to corrosion and this gunk is then taken up by the bearing when you next start the car up. Porsche replaced the part in later models and it is less of an issue. My feeling is that considering this car is over a decade old, the issue has probably been sorted, or it’s not going to be a problem. Not yet anyway.

All the scoops and air intakes need regular cleaning to ensure leaves and other road muck does not get sucked in. Finally the remote locking function has been known to fail, so it’s a $500 replacement.

When used regularly, the car will sing for you for as long as you care to maintain it. Just a service every 12,000 kms, or once a year, and you’re laughing.

Finally, if you are on the hunt for one, avoid those with very low mileage. For me, those owners don’t deserve one if they don’t want to drive it, and they will be the models that cause most pain.

porsche cayman s taking a breather

Car Facts:

3.4 litre, normally aspirated, horizontally opposed flat 6

Mid-engine layout

Rear wheel drive

291 bhp (217kW), 340 Nm Torque

0-100: 5.4 secs

Price when new (2006): $148,500

Asking price (2017): $59,990 (bought for $52,000)

Odometer: 67,140 kms

porsche cayman s 2006

Porsche Boxster 987

A Porsche Boxster over a Honda S2000? Who’d have thought

This post was supposed to be about the Honda S2000, a good-looking two-seater that I thought would be easily within reach now that the better examples are some 8 to 10 years old. Well put together with Honda’s track record for reliability still intact, it certainly appealed to my sensibilities. It wasn’t as good as Merc’s SLK nor Porsche’s Boxster, but then it wasn’t as expensive, about half the price in the case of the Porsche.

Originally priced around AUD$73k, Red Book suggests an S2000 from 2008 should be between $20-28k. So I was somewhat surprised to find only two 2008 examples offered for sale at an eye watering $49k and $54k respectively. Not only was this twice what I was expecting, but I could get hold of a similar mileage Boxster for less. Either I am missing something and this is a car to keep, or there are some pretty greedy sellers out there. Supply and demand I guess. Nonetheless, bugger the Honda, I’ll go for the Porsche thank you.

Yes, I know all the car mags suggest that you buy a Porsche Boxster only because you can’t afford a 911, and no doubt that is true. The benefit, however, of the Boxster’s flat six mid-engine layout means there’s no surprises for the driver when you push it that bit too far, or when you take your foot off the pedal mid-corner. Something most 911 drivers will know about, and at my age, one less risk.

The 987, available from 2005-2012, was more powerful than the first model, with increased capacity to 2.7 litres and 176 kW in the standard car. The S had to wait a couple of years before its power plant increased to 3.4 litres, pumping out a very useful 216 kW.  In 2009, Porsche upgraded it again, beefing up the engine to 2.9 litres, and 3.5 litres in the S. This meant the 0-100 dash could now be reached in a mere 5.9 seconds in the standard manual, whilst the S dispatched it in only 5.3 seconds.

Interestingly, 2009 was the year that electronic gear changes finally broke the back of the 6 speed manual with the introduction of the new PDK transmission. A far better system than Porsche’s old Tiptronic option, the 7 speed double clutch box eclipsed its stick shift rival to 100 km/h by a fraction of a second only, but it was enough for most buyers to begin to ditch the manual. As you’d expect, power increased too, up to 188 kW for the standard car, and 228 kW for the S.

Courtesy of en.tugbit.com
Courtesy of en.tugbit.com

So, are you buying a villain or a hero? Well, by most accounts, the Boxster has proven exceptionally reliable. Data out of the UK suggest that MOT passes, their equivalent to the Aussie pink slip, stand at 82% for early 2005 examples and a brilliant 91% for cars built in 2010.

It seems that you are also better off looking for a higher mileage options. Boxsters prefer to be used regularly, otherwise can suffer oil leaks, failed batteries and corroded brakes. On the outside, they are very well-built as you’d expect but if you notice any blemishes, take it as a sign it has not been looked after and it will most probably run more than just skin deep.

Ensure that the car has been maintained by a qualified Porsche technician, as they do require a reasonable level of expertise. So factor this in to your considerations, both for the future and over its history. It’s more expensive but likely worth it.

Porsche Boxster S
Courtesy of freefoto.com

So let’s take a look around.

First up the roof.  It should work smoothly, but broken push rods can be a common problem. They are not too pricey to replace, certainly not if you go for an after-market option, but it’s a pain nonetheless. If you see any water damage around the base inside the car, be aware that a leak may have reached the ECU, and this will not be cheap if it needs replacing. Whilst you are at it, ensure all the lights and indicators are working too, as they seem to be the most common vehicle check failures.

Check the cooling vents and ducts at the front of the car as they often get overlooked and can collect a lot of gunk. If not checked and cleaned out regularly, the airways can get blocked and you’re left staring at a bill to replace the radiator.

The transmission is generally very reliable, but you’ll know there is a problem if the gear change and clutch is stiff in the manual, or you hear a humming or clicking sound coming from the rear in the auto models.

Porsche Boxsters do seem to chew up its coil springs though, so listen out for any suspension knocks and check that the car looks nice and level.

More expensive issues can be an RMS (Rear Main Seal) failure – an oil leak from the gearbox which, in itself, isn’t too much of an issue but it requires the box to be removed in order to repair it. A potentially more damaging issue is an IMS (Intermediate Shaft) bearing failure which can kill the engine if left unchecked. Luckily, this seems to be more of a Cayman issue, with only a few early 987’s affected. Subsequently, Porsche remedied the problem in 2006 by moving the bearing inside the crank case and this has proven a far stronger set up.

So what do owners consider the costliest aspect of enjoying this car?

Maintenance by a qualified Porsche technician, the cost of decent tyres and ancillaries such as the water pump bearings or an IMS upgrade.

Most forums suggest that, if maintained regularly, a Boxster is a very friendly daily drive. If you budget AUD$2000 – 3000 per year for maintenance you should be enjoying open top driving for a long time to come.

More Information & Forums:

Revolution Porsche in the UK goes in to more detail should you need it.

Cost of Ownership of a Boxster S

Porsche_Boxster_987_Facelift

Range Rover Evoque SD4

range rover evoque

A little something for the weekend, Madam

It would not be hard to fathom that I like Land Rovers. I own one and weep constantly at the bills that arrive whenever the word “service” enters the fray. They are both excellent and extravagant, particularly if you live in a city and rarely take it into the rough stuff.

But I have never bought into the baby Range Rover, the Range Rover Evoque. I’m not sure why? It looks unique enough, it has been well put together and, as James May discovered, even the two-wheel drive version can handle some pretty slippery slopes. But it’s a car for the DINK’s of Paddington, hipster types who quaff wheat grass and order soy decaf mocca frappacinos, and spend as much time on their hair as some of us do in the garage. Hardly any of the cars will see a muddy lane, let alone a remote track visited only by an indigenous elder. So it’s surprising to note that Orson, my friend and current owner of this Evoque SD4 Pure Tech, has two children, no dress sense, unless you regard black t-shirts fashionable, lives in the Hills district and has no hair at all.

Why would an apparently sane – no scratch that, he does have a penchant for pinball machines, 1970’s US muscle cars and Japanese people movers – a slightly insane then, successful, driven young father choose to spend $70,000 on a car that does nothing for his image? Answer: His wife liked it.

IMG_6293

Up close and personal, I can see why. Its lines are eye-catching, particularly dressed in pearlescent white with black roof. Its 18 inch wheels fill the arches aggressively and it does have that chic touch about it, that posh image that only a Range Rover can portray. People will invite you to their club for the weekend, organise pony trials with your daughter and make you the golf club captain. You don’t get the same reaction if you tell someone you’ve a Toyota, a Volkswagen, even a BMW. No, only a Rangey can do that.

But is it? Is it really a Rangey?

IMG_6297

Well yes, in many ways it is. It is very comfortable. It has five seats, all be it quite small ones. It can drive almost anywhere, and it is expensive. Even more so if you buy it new. After 3 years of trouble-free motoring however, this 27,600 kilometre example will save you almost $20,000 off list price, just about enough to get that horse-box your youngest will be needing.

For a car that weighs 30kg short of 1700, its punchy little 2.2 litre turbo diesel engine, the smallest in the diesel range, produces a reasonable 110kW (nearly 150 bhp) and gets you up to licence loss territory quicker than you think. Thanks in part to the weight saving properties of its aluminium bonnet and roof, its composite plastic tailgate, and its 6 speed auto box that becomes more responsive still when you use the paddle shifts behind the steering wheel.

Out on the mean streets of the Hills, I find I’m taking corners sharply and speed humps with aplomb. It is certainly a nippy little thing, but the engine note could be a bit more, what’s the word? Manly?

Switch on the sound system, and Orson’s choice of head nodding hip hop accost your ears like a low flying jet plane coming into land, and in the dark, the mood lighting adds a touch of bling to the atmosphere.

DSC01688

The plastic fascia looks good but to touch it feels a tad low rent, akin to the disappointment of thinking you’ve bought leather shoes only to find out they are made of PVC. At this price a bit of Alcantara wouldn’t go amiss. The rest of the Tech options are nice to play with though, as is the All-Terrain system, a system I am used to in my Discovery. Though I may scoff at its off-road pedigree, it does have class leading ground clearance and with its decent approach and departure angles, this thing will probably follow my Disco with ease.

IMG_6296-1

So what’s wrong with them? Well after first appearing in 2011, there was a spate of software glitches and the odd one had poor build quality. But in the main, they have been well received by buyers. Orson tells me he has not had any issues with his, he’s not even had to replace the tyres.

So would I buy one? Errrm …. Probably not. But then I have four kids.

So who would? Well that bit is obvious. It was not voted 2012 Women’s Overall World Car of The Year and Women’s Top World Luxury Car of the Year for nothing. Your wife will.

Orson’s Evoque is available for sale on CarSales by clicking the following link:

http://www.carsales.com.au/private/details/Land-Rover-Range-Rover-Evoque-2012/SSE-AD-3684470

 

Range Rover Evoque

Tomcar

Safe, fun and I want one

Is driving for fun all about speed? In many cases it is for me, but by no means all. Take four-wheel driving, I’d be nuts if I thought I could tackle a steep slope by just putting the pedal to the metal. Granted in some cases it is warranted, but driving off-road is just as much fun at low speed, marveling at the ability of the vehicle you are in, and let’s face it, it generally is the vehicle these days and not the driver, amazed that you can chug through thick gloopy mud, waist high water or wafting over soft sand dunes, all at sub 40 km/h.

David-Brim-Co-Founder-CEO-Tomcar-Australia
David Brim, co-founder and CEO of Tomcar Australia

Australia is one of the best places to go off-road simply because there is so much of it. So it got me thinking about cheaper alternatives than potentially damaging the only vehicle the family has. Should I consider a bike say, which is great for me, but useless for any one else in the clan keen for a bit of an adrenalin rush. What about a quad bike? They look great fun and it’s possible I could take at least one other with me.

But then the dangers were starkly pointed out to me. In the States 700 people are killed on one of these things every year. In Australia, there have been 62 quad bike related deaths on Australian farms since 2010, with a total of 15 quad related deaths reported in 2014 alone, along with an additional 86 non‐fatal quad related injury events. According to Dr. Tony Lower from Sydney University’s Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety, rollovers account for 75% of on-farm deaths. 18% of quad bike fatalities involve children under 16 and with over 300,000 ATVs in current use across Australia, you can see how big the issue can get. Most are associated with agricultural use but increasingly it is for recreation.

So not wanting to be one of those statistics, I considered the much more safer looking side-by-sides. Essentially these look much like a quad (or ATV) but come equipped with a roll-bar and a passenger sits next to you, hence the name. They have tough looking suspension set ups and appear the obvious choice. But yet again, they have issues with roll-overs, and perhaps due to the perceived extra safety, drivers are a little too blasé. They are just as narrow as an ATV and are top heavy, so could very well be an accident waiting to happen.

Is there another choice out there? Well for a little more money than a side-by-side, there is the Tomcar. It’s wider, with a lower centre of gravity making it a safer option with less chance of a roll over. It is made of high quality components and designed to withstand even the toughest work out. And it’s built right here in Australia, Victoria to be precise. Bingo.

Tomcar TM5

In fact, it’s a fantastic story. The original Tomcar was, and still is, built in Israel and was designed for military use. They needed to be tough and easily repaired in the field and the concept took off. Though designed for off-road use, Tomcars are rear wheel driven, precisely for the reason I mention above – they have less expensive and fiddly components to fix.

David Brim, CEO of Tomcar Australia, originally from the UK, saw the potential a few years back and negotiated a license to manufacture the cars here in Australia.

Why Australia? I ask on a recent call, recognising David’s London accent? “My mum is from Australia, and though I was brought up in the UK, we always promised to return.”

I’ve seen a few second-hand Tomcars for sale in Canada, but none here. How so? “The original company is Israeli and they still manufacture over there for the Defence industry. The second-hand Tomcars you’ve found are ex-military vehicles made in Israel. Tomcar Australia manufactures here for the Australian, New Zealand and Philippines markets.”

“We’ve sold 200 so far in Australia. They are built to order and, if necessary, can be put together in as little as a week. But ordinarily, from initial order, owners can expect to pick up their vehicle in 4-5 weeks.”

“One of the reasons there is not a second-hand market here is that Tomcar’s are designed to be cheap to fix. For instance, the front tyre rod is designed to snap under pressure, before a far more expensive problem occurs. They cost $45 a piece so many customers drive around with a spare or two, and just replace it if needed. We also offer a service called Tomcar Reloaded. Owners can bring their car back and for $15k we will strip it down and rebuild it, so essentially they receive a new car back. It is very modular with no expensive components.”

Who are buying them? Mostly guys like me, looking for some cheap, safe fun?

“Agriculture is our biggest market,” David continues, “with 5% recreational, another 5% emergency services, the rest is for defence.”

How does the press regarding the dangers of ATV’s affect you?

“It’s terrible the stories you hear. Obviously the industry won’t tell you how dangerous they are, and those who have had one for years will say they are fine, but then you hear of a farmer who has ridden an ATV for 15 years gets killed. Yamaha and others now make side-by-sides these days, but certainly many of our customers have bought a Tomcar instead of an ATV quad bike because of the safety factor.”

You offer 2 engines, a 1 litre petrol and 1.4 diesel variant, which is the most popular?

“Its pretty much 50/50. Both have a 26 litre fuel tank, with an optional extra tank if needed. Some customers will go through a tank a day, others will take them a week, depending on the usage.”

Can you drive a Tomcar on the road? “No they can’t be registered as yet. So only for off-road, private trail use.”

I see some are racing them, how has that been going? “Yes, racing is becoming a growing side of our business. In fact we are planning on a Race series for later this year so watch this space.”

You can get hold of a Tomcar from around $25k for the TM-2 model. The larger TM-4 model is out later this year and will fit a nuclear family. There is also a ute offering called the TM-5 which is a great option for those needing to shift stuff about, and I am tempted. Not sure the wife will let me strap down four kids though.

For more information visit Tomcar’s website: www.tomcar.com.au