Home' Horizons : Horizons Jun Jul 14 Contents 36 Horizons June / July 2014
truly believed - in the face of an
overwhelming lack of evidence -
that his Energy Polariser, a tiny box
filled with crystals and magnets held
in an epoxy resin, would improve
the performance, fuel efficiency and
handling of the cars he was building
for the Holden Dealer Team back in
the late 1980s.
Brock said the crystals harnessed
“Orgone Energy”, which was widely
seen as more of a pseudoscience
than an actual one. When testing by
Holden’s engineers in Detroit and
Australia failed to find any benefit
from the Polariser, the company
insisted Brock remove it from his
special-edition Commodores, but
he refused to build them without it.
The result was an acrimonious split
between HDT and its favourite son.
Alex Forrest, RAC Manager
Vehicles and Fuels says the biggest
surprise was it came from someone
with so much pre-existing credibility.
“[The idea] came from one of
Australia’s greatest drivers, who
was near the peak of his powers.
I was at an impressionable age and
I was willing to believe in it, because
someone as great as him, how could
he be wrong?” he says.
Despite the negative publicity,
the Polariser didn’t damage Brock’s
relationship with the public for long,
and, in 2011, a commemorative VL
Retro Plus Pack Commodore was
launched by HDT Special Vehicles,
complete with Energy Polarisers,
built by Peter’s wife, Bev Brock.
HDT Special Vehicles didn’t believe
the cars would be genuine without
them, which just goes to show that
some people will even pay for a car
fail, if it’s famous enough.
Plenty of people have also shelled
out money for modern cars fitted
with seemingly clever features, such
as the hands-free automatic tailgate.
A wonderful idea in theory - as so
many failed inventions are - the
automatic tailgate is designed to
bring joy to your day when you’re
approaching your car with your
arms fully laden with shopping and
your brow wrinkled with “how am
I going to open this” confusion.
There’s no need to get the key out
of your pocket, just approach the
rear of the vehicle, make a kicking
motion underneath the boot, and
hey presto, the lid will unlock and
the tailgate will rise, majestically,
allowing you to dump your load
This is how it works in theory.
What actually happens is that you
find yourself in a crowded car park,
being stared at by wide-eyed fellow
motorists as you perform what looks
like a particularly unimaginative tai
chi routine behind your car. Then in
your frustration, you inevitably get
carried away with your boot-kick and
smash your shin into the underside
of your car, causing you to hop
around on one foot like a boot-
scooter who only knows one move,
possibly dropping your shopping
and turning all your eggs into a non-
“Even when it does work, it opens
painfully slowly, which isn’t a lot of
fun in the pouring rain,” Mr Forrest
Yes, there must be occasions
where these systems do work, and
car owners look around the car park
with a sense of smug superiority, but
the fact is the designers had to work
so hard to exclude the possibility
of false positives - your boot flying
open because a dog ran under the
car, a can-can dancer went past or
you drove over a particularly vicious
pothole - that actually detecting a
desperately waving human leg is
not a simple task.
Read my lips
It’s a similar story with voice-
command technology built into
cars. The idea is sound; using
spoken instructions instead of fiddly
buttons means you can keep your
eyes on the road and hands on
the wheel, but in practice these
systems are notoriously infuriating.
All too often your simple request will
be misunderstood and you’ll find
yourself repeating it, enunciating
carefully and loudly like a Sesame
Street presenter, only to get
systems do work seamlessly, and
Weird but wonderful
Citroen is a car company known for doing things a little
differently, but occasionally it comes up with an idea
of pure genius, like the hydroneumatic suspension
system it first fitted to the DS 19, back in 1955.
This system automatically adjusted the height of the
car to keep it level, and meant that the car would
remain driveable, even with a flat tyre. Or four flat
tyres, in fact, as was famously proven by the chauffeur
for French President Charles De Gaulle (below).
On August 22, 1962, assassins attacked his motorcade,
firing 140 bullets, killing two of his bodyguards and
puncturing all four of his
Fortunately his chauffeur
was able to keep driving and
escape, a case of this unique
car saving lives in a way that
no other vehicle could have.
An extreme case, to be fair,
but still impressive.
Hands-free automatic tailgates are a good
idea but don’t always work in practice.
8/05/14 1:24 PM
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