That honour undoubtedly rests with Just Cars. The price of oil was soaring, the world was heading into recession, THEN we broke the story of BT (Blowtorch) Ferguson's monumental statesmanship at the Jeddah OPEC meeting. Now the world knew that Australia was serious. The way he had positioned himself on the seventh row of the group photograph made it clear. Drop the price or else.
Within two days of our report hitting the newsagents of Australia the price started coming down. As I write it is down 25% from its peak. The word is that Time Magazine will jump on the bandwagon and make BT it's "person of 2008", maybe even the third millenium. But there's more. Secreted in BT's ministries in Canberra we have scientists beavering away at a new plan to reduce Australia's dependence on the Arabian oil moguls. Chip oil. It's widely known that Australia has more fish and chip shops than any country in the world (except the UK and they have North Sea oil, so they don't count. They also never change their chip oil so they're irrelevant anyway).
Now I've got to tell you that this research started in 1900. Early diesel engines made by Rudolf Diesel and the Otto Company actually ran on pure peanut oil. It was only after they got sick of shelling peanuts that they switched over to crude oil.
More recently of course, farmers have been growing crops specifically for fuel use. The fact that this would lead to major famine and death in the poorer countries of the world seemed to escape its proponents.
But in BT's Energy Ministry (chip oil sub-branch) they are working hard at reclaiming the stuff that normally goes to waste. So what's the process? Well you filter it first (to remove the flathead bones etc). You then toss in a bit of lye and a dash of white spirit and warm it up a bit. And that's pretty much it, you have RCO. Recycled Chip Oil.
Viscosity is a bit of a problem. It's thicker than diesel. So you either mix it 50/50 with pump diesel or you need to have a separate tank for the RCO. The idea is that you start your car on normal diesel, use heat from the engine to warm up the RCO and then switch over after 10km or so.
BT's best boffins are finding a few problems however. Some rubber compounds rot rather quickly (like in the fuel pump), and the odour can be a problem. Basically your exhaust smells like a Greek barbecue on Australia Day. The big problem is that BT's mate, Swan the Moneyman, wants to charge you duty like he does on stuff from the servo. Word has it that the Treasury is thinking of sending out inspectors with specially trained sniffer dogs to check for duty dodgers.
The good news for regular "Editors Choice" readers is that this month's car is guaranteed never to have run on RCO.
It is a diesel though, a Mercedes C250D Turbo. Sold as a special order by an Authorized Brisbane Mercedes dealer in 1997, this is a car with an excellent service history and is in exceptional condition for its age.
The 141,000 kms it has covered mean it is barely run-in when talking of diesel engines. The turbo means it has that little extra pep to make driving a pleasure. On top of that you could reasonably expect to get a mileage of 6-7 litres per 100km (think 35-40 mpg in the old money).
The W 202 run of C Class Mercedes were introduced in 1993 and really lifted the ride and comfort quality of the Mercedes "compact" range. There is very little to criticise about how this car looks or drives.
The white coachwork and tan interior trim are very good and the engine bay looks tidy and free of oil leaks. There is the normal diesel engine clatter on start up but this becomes hardly noticeable once underway. The 5- speed auto gearbox matches the engine well. Even if caught at low revs there is enough torque to nicely pull out of any routine driving situation.
The car has full ABS brakes that work very well with a moderately light feel to the brake pedal. The ride is a touch firmer than an E Class but there is ample room for 5 people to undertake an interstate trip in comfort and in safety, and on a single tank of fuel. And no, there's no smell of chip oil in this one!