Gordon Hall – Motor Mouth


Gordon Hall was a late developer. After squandering most of his working life doing boring things he eventually discovered his true calling, as a writer, after retirement.

A petrolhead since the age of six, he grew up in a “Chevrolet” family at a time when you were either pro-GM, pro-Ford or didn’t like cars. The motoring bug led to his spending most weekends, during his twenties, on club- and provincial rallies, hillclimbs, gymkhanas, service crew activities or marshalling. His only writing at that time was as rally scribe for a motor club newsletter. The fun continued until runaway costs, fanned by the swing to special stage rallying, ended such foolishness.

Until he started writing full-time his primary experience of the motor game was as a customer and cash-strapped DIY fixer, although he did spend a few years as a salesman at franchised dealers and later as general go-to guy at a State garage.

A spin-off from writing is that he has met lots of interesting people, seen more of South Africa, driven awesome cars on beautiful roads, flown many red-eye flights, tried some weird foods and slept in dozens of hotels. He also served three stints on the SA Car of the Year jury.

These days he lives quietly in ‘Maritzburg with his wife Penny, a niece and two cats. Their front yard is usually filled with cars ranging from plain to princely; much to the delight of local school kids who peer through the fence to discuss each shiny new arrival loudly and enthusiastically.

You can follow his most recent drives on the home page of his website: www.scarletpumpkin.com

Long warranties: Help or hindrance?

Forewarned is forearmed

Motor Man Angry woman  ed145 oct14

“An unexpected garage bill could be frightening”. Pic: Supplied

Long, up to five year, warranties provide peace of mind because consumers know that most mechanical failures will be rectified free of charge during the expected useful lifetime of the vehicle.

Unfortunately they also serve as claymores; two-handed, double-edged Highland battle swords, with which cars’ agents hold customers to ransom. For the specified time or distance customers are obliged to make use of appointed dealerships for all servicing and repair work. That includes mandatory use of their workshops and parts departments for replacement of all wear-and-tear items not covered by warranty – at the dealer’s chosen prices. Failing to comply means losing further warranty protection.

A reader unloaded her woes recently; her sporty little imported two-door needed its clutch repaired at only 39 446 km. Daily 2 ½-hour Johannesburg traffic jams had a lot to do with the early failure, but the bill almost stopped her heart. Overhauling the clutch, including replacement of the dual-mass flywheel that conveniently failed at the same time, came to just over R39 000. She subsequently negotiated this down to R33 000 but it still hurt.

An independent brake and clutch specialist quoted R15 000 for the same job. The difference was that his labour rates were much lower and while he would have used identical parts from the same factories, they wouldn’t bear the motor manufacturer’s stamp. An AA consultant advised her that she was entitled to use an outside workshop for replacement of consumable items, but the agent insisted that the warranty would be nullified if she went that route, so she gave in. The claymore rules.

Who would expect a flywheel to fail that early and why is it considered “consumable”? It seems that dual-mass flywheels, installed to make cars run more smoothly, are not only expensive but have an expected lifespan of about 80 000 km; or as little as 3- to 4 000 km if overheated or abused. In a few Johannesburg traffic jams for instance. Fact of life: luxury costs money and on low-volume imported cars, usually more.

Lesson one: Asking around for accurate and up to date information on spares and servicing costs, especially after the inital contract has expired, could save much anguish later. Note: I said accurate and up to date. Uncle Archibald, who heard a scary rumour five years ago, is not.

Lesson two: Find out exactly what your service plan or maintenance contract covers so you can be forewarned and forearmed. You may be able to use a clause to your advantage one day. The person wielding the claymore has might on his or her side.