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Good Oil: Dyson to develop electric car
Vacuum pioneer and batteries
Vacuum cleaner salesman Sir James Dyson is about to begin test-building a battery-powered electric vehicle.
Not content with doing the hoovering, Sir James told media his company has “developed a breakthrough in battery technology”, helped somewhat by Dyson buying a solid-state battery manufacturer called Sakti3 last year.
On the back of this, the British Government has announced British taxpayers will be helping foot the bill of a partially-government-funded electric car project. The vehicle — no details are available — will be developed at Dyson’s Wiltshire headquarters and will create more than 500 new jobs.
Dyson is a certified world-famous clever-clogs, having developed his bagless vacuum cleaner, which gained prominence as an improbably trendy home appliance by looking decidedly unlike a normal vacuum cleaner.
His dust-sucker featured clever in-house engineering and worked on the principle of “cyclonic separation”. He spearheaded more revolutionary inventions such as the Airblade bladeless cooling fan and a modified hand-drier, which pushes water around your hands after washing them in restrooms in the same way the old-style blowers used to, only more dynamically.
With Dyson as a sort of stiff-collared British take on Tesla founder Elon Musk, The Good Oil suggests it’d be great fun seeing two slightly mad James Bond-esque overlords doing battle on an international scale with competing electric car designs.
The odd hypersportscar aside, now that sensible car companies such as Volvo, BMW and Audi have embraced electric vehicle technology, there is nothing truly off-the-wall happening in hybrid vehicle development.
If Dyson was able to inject the same leftfield thinking into hybrid or plug-in car manufacturing as it did with something as humble as the ordinary household vacuum cleaner, we could see some very interesting cars; not least a furious Musk vowing to destroy upstart Limeys with a 700kW uber Tesla. Or similar.
Caterham 7 gets Lego Ideas vote
In recent years those brickmeister generals at Lego have cast a variety of classic cars in blocky plastic, such as the Volkswagen Kombi, original Mini, Land Rover Defender and DeLorean DMC-12.
Now they’ve turned their attention to one of the most stripped-down two-seater sportscars of all time — the quintessentially British Caterham 7.
As with previous car-shaped releases, the Caterham design went through a lengthy review process at the Danish toy giant before being green-lit as good to go. The company’s Lego Ideas system requires plans to receive votes by Lego obsessives in order to make it from concept to production — a Kickstarter-style arrangement which is essentially a clever way of ensuring the resulting model actually has a market before they bother ordering the extra boxes.
The Caterham design was constructed by Carl Greatrix. Rather than a standby character from an Asterix comic, Greatrix is a well-known Lego sculptor and builder. Lego Ideas team member Mike McCoy told media: “Carl is known in the Lego community for his photo-realistic models of cars, trains and aircraft. He has perfectly captured the classic British sportscar in bricks.”
The kit will go into production later this year, so be sure to ready some shelf space between that Volkswagen Beetle and the “Ecto 1” Cadillac from Ghostbusters.
Cannonball Run reboot
While The Good Oil shakes its collective head in disgust at some Hollywood reboot projects, news that 1980s-era high-speed car-chase farce The Cannonball Run is potentially getting a 21st century makeover made us sit up and take note.
No, we’re not expecting great things. We doubt the script will be up to much beyond a few saucy double entrendres and perhaps a handful of nods to other motor movie franchises. The plot will also probably feature more holes than a Fiat Uno in a waterlogged field and just as much structure. However, a Cannonball Run reboot might have a few good things going for it.
The original film gathered together an eclectic mix of Hollywood stars and lesser lights for a cross-country road-movie romp. The Good Oil picks Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Bill Hader and Danny McBride will somehow be involved.
Why? Primarily due to the scriptwriter attached to the project: Ethan Cohen. Cohen wrote the surprisingly enjoyable Tropic Thunder and Madagascar 2, along with the less well-received Get Hard (which he also directed). But Cohen honed his scriptwriting chops on Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill and 2006 sleeper comedy Idiocracy. So he definitely possesses a funny bone.
The other noteworthy ensemble casting from the original movie (and its 1984 and 1989 sequels) was, of course, the cars.
The cross-continent road race at the centre of the movie — based on a real illegal road race called the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Dash, which was held a handful of times in the 1970s and ran between Connecticut and California — gave rise to the opportunity to feature all manner of contemporary cars on celluloid.
Burt Reynolds’ character J.J. McClure and sidekick Captain Chaos (Dom DeLuise) drove a Dodge ambulance. Other car were much more exotic: a Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari 308 GTS (driven in the first film by Dean Martin and Sammy Davis jnr dressed as Catholic priests), Lotus Esprit, Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and even the rocket-powered Subaru hatchback of Jackie Chan and Michael Hui all leant a degree of performance car cred to the onscreen craziness.
So think of the potential line-up of cars in a 2017-era Cannonball Run. Yes, we’ve seen it all before in the horsepower-heavy Fast and Furious movies. But in keeping with the farcical nature of the 80s throwback, it would be great to see some less-than-obvious entries.
In fact, the only thing that’ll spoil the show is if a single manufacturer acquires brand rights to the entire project — no one is going to pay to watch Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bieber race across the US Midwest in a pair of Kia Optimas.
KW Maximum power of Caterham Superlight 620R
UNITS Of 370kW-plus Caterham RS Levante V8 built
Original launch year of Lotus 7-based Caterham 7
Some track-only editions of Caterham 7 are this weight