Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

There’s always bl**dy one!

I tend to have my cameras in various states of readiness while wandering around, but even that doesn’t always work.

Nor is it an option with any sort of compact – usually lacking anything resembling a viewfinder, they turn on their battery draining rear screens the minute they’re turned on, so can’t be kept on and ready for a grab shot.

I usually don’t power anything up until I’m far from home, why waste battery charge if a shot is unlikely.

But I should know better – having already missed TWO Lamborghini Diablos (probably the same one twice) while strolling along Tollcross road.

This time, something made me turn round and I spotter a flash of Ferrari red in the line of traffic.

Lined up the shot… then realised the day had not ‘started’ and the camera wasn’t ready to go.

Frantic switch flick, reframe, and fire.

But it still almost got away, and the camera was still half asleep and the autofocus said ‘Go’ even though the pic was far from focussed.

This might have needed TWO passes through an image sharpening routine to change fuzz into recognisable shapes, but at least I got a pic this time, unlike the previous Diablo fails. To get an idea of just how bad this pic was before processing, just compare the rear light on the right-hand side of the Ferrari with that on the left.

According to my spies, it’s a Ferrari 599 6.0 V12 F1 GTB Fiorano 2-door with a sequential transmission first registered in April 2008 (they also suggest it was black).

It was the brand’s two-seat flagship, replacing the 575M Maranello in 2006 as a 2007 model, and replaced for the 2013 model year by the F12berlinetta. It could be had with a traditional 6-speed manual transmission, or Ferrari’s 6-speed sequential called “F1 SuperFast”.

By the numbers: 620 PS (456 kW; 612 hp) @ 7600 rpm and 608 Nm (448 lb ft) @ 5600 rpm.

Which Ferrari said gave:

0-100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.2 seconds
0-200 km/h (124 mph) in 11.0 seconds
Top speed: over 330 km/h (205 mph)

Note that at the time of its introduction, this V12 was one of the few engines which produced more than 100 hp per litre without using any form of forced-induction such as supercharging or turbocharging.

Tollcross Ferrari

Tollcross Ferrari

While the rear features match other pics I have of this model, I haven’t been able to dig up a match for the extended centre section as seen below the rear number plate. Most simply have a black area between the exhausts. This variation may be a UK tweak to provide a rear fog light (visible below the plate) as required by our law. Most pics online are US cars.


December 17, 2017 Posted by | photography, Transport | , | Leave a comment

UK response to snow

And here we see a gritter in the wild, assuming its normal position the moment it sees some snow or ice:



Not my pic (obviously), but I was amused to see someone get really hot under the collar when it was noted that we generally don’t handle cold weather, snow, ice, and transport very well in this country, and seem to respond in a fashion similar to startled rabbits caught in headlight beams, as if we had never seen snow on our roads before.

I suggest this is not the local authorities’ fault, the usually have the resources in place, but is down to the public, more ready to mock the response than muck in and help.

Thanks to the web, I’ve followed a number of Russian bloggers, and we live at similar latitudes to them (so similar weather), but they seem to be able to publish pics and videos of people dealing with the problem, getting on with things, and not having a laugh.

On the other hand, maybe I just liked that pic!

December 11, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Is AGM 4 related to

Poking around the collection of unused pics I notice AGM 4 on this BMW X4 Xdrive20D SE Auto.

Not much one can really say about something as common as this, almost all SUVs look like little more than a 2-box brick to me (some more than others), although the previously noted Maserati Levante does at least manage to break that mould a little, being one of the few that manages to avoid having a front end that looks like a small garden wall. Sadly, a description I cannot exclude BMW’s offering from in this class.

I wonder if AGM 4, as seen below, is related to J9 AGM, as seen yesterday?

BMW X4 Xdrive20D SE Auto [AGM 4]

BMW X4 Xdrive20D SE Auto

December 2, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , | Leave a comment

You could have blown me down with a Levante

While I’m no longer in any sort of buying market, decades of interest mean I can’t stop looking, so I tend to think I’m reasonably aware of all the cars on the market, even if I’ll never get inside any of them again.

Maserati has quietly re-established itself, and climbed back into the 500+ horses bracket (and not that expensive, if still basic compared to others). It seems to have caught on in China, especially amongst the ladies – and that’s a big market to land nowadays. And they get you into classic Italian high power transport, without the hysteria and horrendous cost of ownership a Ferrari comes with.

Maserati may have suffered in its former life, but now… now it’s owned by a large parent (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, NV) that can give it the money and support it always wanted.

It doesn’t feel that long since I had to refer to the official web site, and recall only vague mentions of an SUV (although content can be country specific).

So when I thought I had just walked past another hulking SUV (yes, you are right, I and NOT a fan of 2-box bricks), something felt ‘wrong’ and I had to turn around.


A Maserati grille, and a 2-box brick that looked almost sleek – somebody HAS managed to make an SUV front end that does not look more like a small garden wall than the front of a car. I thought there was only one, now there two.

I had to do a very quick survey of online reviews, and it seems the Levante (they found ANOTHER wind to name one of their cars after) gets a pretty good rating on most counts, with few negatives – except one that might have been expected.

I rather like that the biggest complaint about a car from Maserati is that it has a rock hard suspension.

Maserati Levante

Maserati Levante

December 1, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Problem neighbour keeps leaving his jaguar in my drive

My neighbour may not be short of a bob or two, but he’s not very bright.

A fast-talking salesman sold him a cheap jaguar, and he refuses to believe anyone who tells him he was conned. Even the bites and scratches have failed to convince him.

He can’t remember which driveway is his either, and keeps leaving his ‘jaguar’ in mine. Like all cats, it likes to sit on the warm bonnet, and just looks at me as if I was stupid when I ask it to move.

I used to be able to get its attention by sending small children to ‘pet the nice pussycat’ – but I can’t find any now.

Leopard Rolls

Leopard Rolls

November 30, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Seldom seen Challenger

Not seen every day, but a shortcut through the streets of the Barras, and you can tell which street from the pics, was rewarded with the sight of this 2012 Black Dodge Challenger, looking suitably mean and moody in the fast failing evening light.

I love the way the manufacturers brought these cars into the 21st century, and made the work not only on the strip, but on the road, by designing European chassis to make them go around corners, as well as in fast straight lines.

Dodge Challenger

Dodge Challenger

It may be ‘old news’ now (from back in April), but this car has become a real ‘Demon’.

The 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon: 840 horses, does 0-60 in 2.3 seconds, and hits the quarter-mile in 9.65 at more than 140 mph.

A little tamer, this example is no less desirable (to me at least).

Dodge Challenger

Dodge Challenger

As someone interested only in the engineering and development, I’m glad to be around to see fossil-fuelled cars take on electric vehicles on the strip, with each able to take honours (using production cars, I might add).

It’s sad to read about bullies (polite description) from BOTH camps who want to settle matters ‘Behind the workshop’ when their car loses, or accuse the other of cheating in some way.

Life’s too short not to just say “Nice” when you trip over one of these, or a ‘Ludicrous mode’ Model S, or the new Tesla Roadster, not yet tested of course, but a little faster even than the Demon above, with the promise of 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds, 0-100 mph in 4.2, and the quarter-mile expected to arrive in 8.8 seconds, plus a top speed of more than 250 mph.

Looking at those numbers, it’s hard to believe some sad motoring hacks once told us the end of fossil fuels was going to be the end of car fun.

Thankfully, they were fools, and even 10-20 years ago electric/battery vehicle customisers were using the old tech of the day to replace petrol engines in various classic muscle and sports cars with electric conversion that left their donor cars in their dust, and black lines on the road.

Crude? Yes. Effective? YES!

Thankfully, modern batteries and some really clever control circuits have made it all much more civilised.

Dodge Challenger

Dodge Challenger

I love them all – from a Model S whispering its way down the strip to beat most challengers (sorry, not meant as a pun).

To an Aventador that sounds as if it’s doing 150 mph while it’s just trickling along at walking pace in traffic.


Nice coincidence.

A few days after I made this post, I came across a picture gallery showing the Evolution of the Dodge Challenger (1970-2018) completer with some interesting tech details from under the Demon.

I’m afraid the good people at WordPress haven’t worked out a way to embed an imgur gallery (yet?), so you will just have to click on the link below and view it at source (almost 50 pics):


November 29, 2017 Posted by | photography, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Anatomy of a low low light night shot

It’s not secret that I like low-light and night shots, and this carried over from my film camera days.

While I was usually not too pleased with the results – everything came out yellow thanks to the near universal adoption of low-pressure sodium street lighting – I did seem to be able to get results, and was often surprised by others who I thought were decent photographers who claimed they just couldn’t get it to work for them.

I beat the yellow lighting by shooting black & white, which had the fun side effect of often not looking like a night shot, and surprised a few people when they learned what looked like a slightly odd daytime pic had actually been shot at something like 3 am. Then, I was also tied to tripods or supports. Today, I work mainly hand-held, don’t use a tripod, or a support (can’t carry them casually anyway), and avoid flash if at all possible.

Folk don’t know how lucky they are now, as their phones carry cameras that will take pics at night (without flash) in places where there is half-decent lighting.

Real cameras do even better, but still need sensible users. Despite buttons and settings marked ‘Night Shot’ they often don’t deliver if it REALLY is night, and there’s no nearby lighting.

I was reminded of this as I tried to grab a ‘casual’ pic recently, while walking home.

The first attempt was a joke, and there was so little light (no working street lights nearby) – my little pocket camera just laughed (no pic).

So, disable the flash suppression – well, the flash certainly fired, but the result speaks for itself, and the expression ‘Taking a pic of a black cat in a black room with the lights off’ came to mind. This pic.

Bicycle Try 1

Bicycle Try 1

I have an ‘Auto Adjust’ pic correction option in my software. This almost never fails to impress me with the adjustments it makes, and there are often cases where I cannot manually reproduce whatever it does with some pics, regardless of which individual tools I use.

But it barely changed this one.

Bicycle Try 2

Bicycle Try 2

I tried an alternative, which allowed me manual control of the automation to tweak the effect, and this managed to do a little better, but this was the limit for a ‘simple’ pocket camera.

Bicycle Try 2A

Bicycle Try 2A

I was going to have to go back if I wanted this shot, and take the ‘Big Guns’.

The first shot was really just meant as a trial, with no street lights shining on this corner, and me too lazy to release the highest ISO setting in the camera, I didn’t expect much. In fact, I was caught by surprise as the shot would have come out reasonably… had I not moved too soon, before the shutter closed. My bad, not the camera or the way I have it set. I just didn’t wait. I thought it was going to hold the shutter open a lot longer than it did. (No second shot, this was only an exposure test – to compare against the previous examples above).

Bicycle Try 3

Bicycle Try 3

I normally avoid flash, unless absolutely necessary, so the last shot in this set allowed it to fire.

Bicycle Try 4

Bicycle Try 4

Even I’m impressed, as it’s only a tiny pop-up.

Probably the main advantage it brings is to kill the dreadful yellow of the old LP sodium streets lights still living here.


I ended up delaying this post for a few days, in anticipation of the arrival of a fast lens (f1.8 – all I can afford) and a final comparison.

While the ‘new’ lens was just on the camera and I had not had a chance to test or calibrate it (the body settings are still tweaked for the slow zoom lens, and a surprising change in the weather (it got WARMER after raining lightly through most of the afternoon/evening) meant I was plagued with condensation on the relatively cold camera body and lens surfaces, all but ruining tests I had been trying to make.

That said, the comparison was amusing – while this corner was so dark, the zoom lens exposure was almost 2 seconds for Try 3 (no wonder it blurred, even with vibration reduction doing its best), the fast lens took the same shot in 1/6 second.

Bicycle Try 5

Bicycle Try 5 (Yes someone sat it up since I was last there)

Bear in mind that this was a straight hand-held shot in a corner so dark the autofocus couldn’t see anything to focus on, and manual focus was not going to happen, I couldn’t see enough detail in the viewfinder. Fortunately, I could fire-up an autofocus illuminator.

Slightly puzzled by the WHOLE scene being notably out of focus though, as focus confirmation was signalled (shutter is locked if AF fails anyway). Might have been down to condensation, which the weird wet weather I had been walking through all day had hit inside the camera body, and affected this function. While a wide aperture lens does have a narrow depth-of-field, NOTHING in this view is actually in focus.

Update 2

This post got delayed AGAIN!

The f1.8 lens turned out to be horrible for my purposes, and after a day (and night) spent with it, it was found to produce poorer results than any of my cleverer lenses with slower f-numbers, but vibration reduction (and able to zoom).

I wanted one last shot of this scene, but in daylight.

I almost missed it, as it gets dark so early, but as can be seen, the shop in the background is open this time.

Bicycle Try 6

Bicycle Try 6

This shot just confirmed that a fixed lens without vibration reduction just doesn’t cut it, not even in daylight.

And the wide aperture – meaning narrow depth of field – is just a liability. I generally need MORE, not less.

They may be great in sunlight, or in a studio, or with a tripod, or under a flash, but for street use?


(It’s history.)

November 29, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Mildly reassuring car crash story from Aberdeen

Crashed car

I’ve seen a number of ‘car crash’ stories (and I use the term merely for convenience, rather than get tangled up in an attempt to attach a more accurate description) in the media recently, referring to drivers who have driven into areas of roadworks which should have been clearly marked off to prevent unintended access.

They caused me concern as most seemed to conclude with the driver being prosecuted and found guilty of some offence, and fined, maybe even given some points as a bonus.

While I cannot comment on those stories as I was not privy to the full details of any those cases, just the media’s take, they did concern me as they related to a place I had been in, thankfully only once, and many many years ago – and with no damage or injury arising.

But I always wondered what would have happened if the police had been on hands, as they often are in that area.

In my case I’d been leaving Aberdeen by the usual dual carriageway due south, grim dark night with light snowfall (not enough to lie, just interfere with vision), and had the apprentice as a passenger. A route followed so many times it was virtually an autopilot run.

There’s no lighting on that road, so headlights are a must (and I had upgraded custom items fitted).

Both of us thought the road was quiet, and after driving for a while became uneasy at not seeing a single other vehicle for some minutes.

I stopped for a better look even though we were crawling along by that time.

I was glad I had stopped, as it was obvious we were in the middle of abandoned (due to the weather) roadworks.

I backed out of this, and when we got back to the start found that there were no warning signs, and that the cones which should have closed this section of road off were lying at the side of the road, meaning there was no indication to drivers arriving there.

Fortunately, nothing happened as there were no holes in the road, but I always wonder what would have happened to me (ie the driver) if it had, and I had been deemed to have ignored the signs – which I didn’t, since there were none there.

But who would believe that in court?

Even if I did have a witness in the car as to the state of the cones and signs?

See also Car crashes into ditch after workers fail to close road

Not that far away from my story – wonder if it was the same workers?

Maybe I wouldn’t have ended up in court after all.

November 27, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Batmobile at Riverside

Ruined (for me at least) by its later blockbuster film appearances, a replica 1966 Batman TV series Batmobile has gone on temporary exhibition at Riverside, Glasgow’s museum of transport (27th Nov – 22nd Dec 2017).

Yes. I’m afraid I did say ‘replica’ (and not that convincing for me – maybe not finished yet).

Riverside’s own web site says:

1966 Batmobile at Riverside Museum

For excited children (and adults) everywhere, come along to see the Adam West Batmobile in the flesh. Keep an eye out for our related programme of activities.

Via 1966 Batmobile at Riverside Museum

But the BBC’s clip shows it’s not “the Adam West Batmobile in the flesh”.

Batmobile at the Riverside Museum

While my ‘car eye’ firmly set on the futuristic concept cars that began to appear during the 1950s, and the real Batmobile is based on the 1955 Lincoln Futura from that period, the Hollywood film cars are just too outrageous and impractical to even allow a momentary ‘suspension of disbelief’ to make them likeable.

Worse still, as a few enthusiasts have discovered, they are not even ‘Fit for Purpose’ as cars, let alone as a super efficient crime fighting tool. Their size and visibility rendering them almost undrivable on the road, unless at a snail’s pace, or maybe with very good collision insurance.

The only late versions that worked for me were those seen in the animated series, where such things are not important.

Back to the real one, and care needs to be taken when referring to it, as there was the Barris original, but also three (maybe more depending on who you ask) as filming for TV needed versions for special effects and stunts, as well as a drivable option – but I’m not going to risk getting it wrong, so read the various claims/histories, and decide what’s what for yourself.

Lots of detail here: The 1966 BATMOBILE

The Batmobile was created for the TV series by George Barris (one of the original famous car customisers, after he bought the Futura for $1. He would later sell his Batmobile at auction for $4.2 million ($4.6 million with taxes etc) in 2013, but then died in 2015.

George Barris, Creator of the Batmobile, Dies at 89

TV Batmobile

TV Batmobile



November 25, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council, Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG) passenger ferry built and launched on the Clyde

I have to confess to a miserable failure, having spent too much time looking at the detail behind the first hybrid ferries launched and operated on the west of Scotland to follow up on their story.

Built for Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) at Ferguson Shipbuilders, Port Glasgow, the hybrid ferries MV Hallaig and MV Lochinvar were announced back in 2012, and I gave the early details here The hybrid ferries of CalMac are real

However, after their completion and entry into operation, I forgot about them (since I no longer ‘float’ around the Clyde) until I received a message to the effect that there had been some sort of problem with their batteries, and that they had failed to operate as expected.

Since I don’t like to rely purely on hearsay or a single unsubstantiated source, I never got around to finishing that story as I (then at least) couldn’t find any news reports or accounts of the problem.

Maybe somebody knows better, and will point me/us at proper details (or I might have another look).

But, this is really about the arrival of another new (here at least) technology for our ferries, unveiled at Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited’s Port Glasgow shipyard.

MV Glen Sannox

MV Glen Sannox can accommodate up to 1,000 passengers, is 102 m (335 ft) long and can carry 127 cars or 16 lorries. It can operate on marine gas oil (MGO) as well as liquefied natural gas (LNG), and is the first of two such ferries being built as part of a £97 million Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) contract. The second LNG ferry (as yet unnamed), is still under construction at the yard, and is planned for the Tarbert/Lochmaddy/Uig route.

Intended for the Ardrossan/Brodick route, the new ferry is set to begin operating in winter 2018/19, and will contribute to meeting emission  reduction targets set by the Government.

This sees the return of the name Glen Sannox to an active vessel, having been seen on a car and passenger ferry serving Clyde routes between 1957 and 1989.

Via UK’s first liquefied natural gas ferry launched on Clyde

Glen Sannox Port Glasgow

Glen Sannox Port Glasgow

Thomas Nugent’s catches are often rewarding, and it seems a shame not to offer credit for the research done regarding this particular (sole surviving) Clyde shipyard:

A series of photos of the construction of MV Glen Sannox, taken from the same spot over a period of eight months.

Shipbuilding is still thriving in Port Glasgow, 237 years after Thomas McGill opened the first yard in the town in 1780.

Ferguson Marine shipyard is the last shipyard on the Lower Clyde and is also the last yard in the UK capable of building merchant ships. Shipbuilding started on this site at Castle Road, off the A8, in 1791.

Things could have been very different; the yard entered administration in 2014, 70 staff were made redundant and it appeared that the town’s proud shipbuilding history had come to an end. However, East Kilbride based Clyde Blowers Capital, owned by Jim McColl OBE, purchased the yard and have invested millions of pounds in an on-going modernisation project that will see the yard enter a new era and seek out new markets.

The building on the left is the new shipyard new office complex. The ship under construction, now known as “Glen Sannox”, is a 102m long LNG (liquefied natural gas) powered car and passenger ferry for Caledonian Macbrayne. Part of her sister ship “Hull 802” can be seen on the right.

See the rest of his pics at: Building a ship in Port Glasgow :: Shared Description

LNG and a Scottish loch

There is, perhaps, a slight irony in the arrival of these ferries, as Loch Striven on the west of Scotland was once used to hold giant gas tankers, which lay dormant for some 14 years:

Nestor and Gastor were two refrigerated LNG (liquefied natural gas) carriers completed during 1976 and 1977, intended to transport LNG from Algeria or Nigeria. The discovery of North Sea oil/gas in 1969, followed by the start of production on 1975, effectively rendered the tankers redundant, and they were laid up in the loch the with only a skeleton crew on board, They remained there until 1991, when Shell purchased them to transport LNG from Nigeria. Prior to undertaking the sea journey to France, the tankers were taken to the pier at Inverkip Power Station, where engineers reactivated the vessels and restored them to safe operation for the trip.

In the 11th November 2011 edition of the Dunoon Observer in the 20 YEARS AGO column an item,”Ghosts leaving” appeared:- “The twin ‘ghost ships’ of Loch Striven – giant gas tankers, the Castor (stet) and Nestor – were to be recommissioned after lying dormant in the Loch for 14 years. After a refurbishment by Shell UK, the Bermudan registered ships were to be used to transport liquefied natural gas between new gas fields off Nigeria and Europe and the USA. The 274 metre-long vessels were to be re-named the LNG Lagos and LNG Port Harcourt.”

Via our Loch Striven page

November 24, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shiny Bentley is shiny

It’s a while since I dipped into my nice car and registration collection, so…

I was running through Glasgow when I grabbed this one, and didn’t realise quite how nice the finish on its black paint was.

In fact, I was in so much of a hurry I didn’t even notice the hulking SUV in front also had a cherished registration – oh well, 1 HXH will have to do.

2015 Bentley Continental 4.0 V8 GTS Convertible

2015 Bentley Continental 4.0 V8 GTS Auto Convertible

I have to be honest and say that after looking at some shots of the 2018 Rolls Royce, find that while that marque may rightly lay claim to the ‘Best car in the World’, the separation of the pair has left Bentley with the more pleasing car to the eye.


While I see few Rollers in the metal these days (my neighbours also seem to have deserted that marque and mostly prefer to go with Bentley these days), I still have to caution anyone who finds them unattractive on the basis of pics only (because of their relative rarity) NOT to rely on that evidence.

I still find the Rolls Royce to be one car that, for me at least, is not flattered by even the best photography.

I can’t put my finger on the reason, but when seen in the wild, the car itself looks just fine (if not quite as attractive as a Bentley), and quite different from the impression given in photographs.

That said, the 2018 models I mentioned above have actually managed to lessen that effect, so maybe the clue would be to look at the detailed body changes, which must be responsible for the improvement in pic appearance,

November 15, 2017 Posted by | photography, Transport | , | Leave a comment

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