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19th April 1998

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Wheels

  • Now it's Beetle juice
  • When Jinasena took off in his Magpie

  • Now it's Beetle juice

    Volkswagen's new front-drive Beetle won't supplant history's most prolific car in the record books. The original air-cooled, rear-engined Bug's 21.5 million total is still being added to at the rate of 300 a day from a factory in Mexico, and will be for some time to come.

    The new model doesn't have to try that hard. Evolved from the enthusiastically received Concept 1 first seen at the 1994 Detroit Motor Show, its mission is to exploit the latent nostalgia that clearly exists for the Ferdinand Porsche-designed "people's car" while establishing a premium niche for itself.

    Climb into the new Beetle and the immediate impression is one of space. The deep, MPV-like dashboard pushes the windscreen far forward of the front seat passengers, and head room is exceptional despite the lofty driving position. The well-shaped seats are as amply endowed with support and adjustment as any rival. The airy feeling is second to none in this size of car.

    Neither are the car's sloping extremities problematic; all-round visibility is fine and the car feels compact and manoeuverable at low speeds. The nose ends where you think it should.

    At higher speeds the Beetle behaves pretty much like the Golf, which means it's a capable and mature-handling car but a little underwhelming in terms of pure driver appeal. It steers faithfully, although a little more feel would be welcome, and like the Golf the weighting is a little light for some tastes. Nonetheless, few will find it anything but reassuring.

    Passive safety is well up to the mark in the new car, with front and side airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners and a crash-optimised structure that comfortably fulfils international safety requirements.

    If this Beetle bumbles along nicely, there's another one coming to really set the roads alight. As we speak, VW boss Ferdinand Piech is having fun with a special Beetle. In his garage lurks a version with the 150bhp 1.8T engine from the Golf GTi - and rumour has it that it packs more than the regular 1.8T punch. But then he is the boss.

    Auto Car


    When Jinasena took off in his Magpie

    The famous Mahagastota "Hill Climb" was on yesterday.

    In the colonial days when the British dominated every sport the story of Jinasena was legendary.

    To talk of Mahagastota is to talk of Sri Lanka's Lion of Motor Sports - T.S Jinasena He became a founder member of the CMSC in 1934. The British Members soon realised that Jinasena was as good as any one of them. The only difference being his colour.

    On that historic day at Mahagastota - April 9 1939 - T.S.J entered a special car he had built himself.It was a combination of two cars, creating a vehicle with a super charged engine. The engine was taken from a wrecked car - The Lea Francis - the chassis and gearbox, from a M.G Magna. He called it the 'Magpie' because he painted it black and white. On this day, he set an all time record knocking .76 seconds off Roger Davies' best time. (Uptil then the Champion, driving a Reilly specially made and designed in England. He also held the best time record for the Wakefield Trophy).

    After this memorable event, the prize giving was held at the Grand Hotel N'Eliya. At the presentation, the Wakefield Trophy (donated by Castrol) was presented to T.S. Jinasena by Lady Caldecott ( wife of the Governor of Ceylon) but Roger Davies who came second, was not there to receive his prize. He could not face it, "A white being beaten by a Sri Lanka Lion". Jinasena brought a spirit of nationalism to the Motor Sports arena.

    This was no doubt a "Golden Moment" in the history of Motor Sports in this country. It is a part of our heritage which we must cherish.

    When the Sri Lanka Association of Motor Sports was founded in 1975 T.S. Jinasena was elected its first President.

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