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Nostalgia Express: The Plaxton Viewmaster

Almost five years ago, I posted about one of the buses that tool me to and fro of high school every day in the early 1990s. Its registration number was KJD58p and it had a pretty eventful life, reputedly ending its life as a spare parts donor for one of the open-top Daimler Fleetline sightseeing fleets in North America.

Inevitably, the vast majority of service buses meet their end on the scrapheap. There’s several tonnes of steel in a typical bus, so scrap value remains fairly once service life is over. As a result, most of the buses that I remember from school over twenty years ago have long been turned into Chinese refrigerators. A few weeks ago, though, I found myself climbing up the steps and embarking on a journey to the past.

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Woodall Nicholson Kirklees: The fat end of the wedge

Have you ever beheld a piece of obsolete technology and thought that time ought to have been kinder to it? Perhaps when you slide your favourite, home-recorded Minidisc into your still-functioning deck, or when you pass a once magnificent Sony WEGA CRT television as it sits, screen down, outside somebody’s house – it’s sheer weight having thwarted that inevitable final journey to the dump.

Some technologies and styles meet their natural end, but others seem to follow a far steeper trajectory into premature obscurity. ADO71 – the design more famously known as the British Leyland Princess – was one. It’s a car that adhered to no prior design rules, and wouldn’t inspire any real imitators, either. It was a complete evolutionary dead-end. Personally, I reckon Harris Mann’s wedge-shaped masterpiece was horribly underrated, and this point was rammed home violently when I encountered this fantastic stretched example at the recent Ipswich to Felixstowe classic car run.

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Felixstowe to Ipswich run 2018: Jolly good show

So, it’s Saturday night in the UK, and while families nationwide wallow in the festival of charged socio-political fireworks that is the Eurovision Song Contest, I thought I’d post what I meant to last night – before I spilled most of a can of cider over my laptop. 24hrs and a session in the airing cupboard later, we’re back in business.

The event was the annual Ipswich to Felixstowe run, which is open to any vehicle registered more than thirty years ago – this cut-off rolls so I’ll be able to take part in 2027 in the Rover. There’s always an impressive array of machines in attendance, including a bunch of historic buses, bikes, military vehicles and two Stanley Steamers. Unfortunately, the crowds thronged heavily enough to obscure most of the cars, most of the time.  I got lucky occasionally, though, so here’s a selection of the stand-outs. … Continue Reading

The Carchive: The Colt (Mitsubishi) Tredia

I’ve looked into the psychology behind the hoarding that has lead to The Carchive being created. If it was information I sought, there are infinite alternative sources I could have turned to. The Internet, for one – books, for another. I turn to the latter whenever I seek a fresh perspective on things: In many cases I have several books that cover the same subject, but with sufficiently different approaches that prevent me from sending any of them to the charity shop.

Brochures are another story, though. They tell the story as told from the perspective of the showroom, baiting the hook, casting the line and hoping to reel buyers in. In many cases, they outlive the cars that they’re trying to sell, and this is where collecting the brochures comes in. You see, there’s something inside me that yearns to keep history no at no further than arm’s reach. It’s probably a window into my own insecurity that I feel most comfortable surrounded by the cosy familiarity of recent history. Like hearing a favourite old song or revisiting the same holiday destinations year on year.

Anyway. This week it’s time to look at the virtually extinct Colt Tredia. Welcome back to The Carchive

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One make car shows: Dope or wack?

I went to a car show the other day. There were around three hundred cars there, of all different ages, makes, models, colours and conditions. Admittedly, some of the exhibits didn’t really interest me – in fact most of them were just the kind of thing you can expect to see in any given 21st century traffic jam. There were gems among the humdrum, though – some strange ‘who on earth would drive that’ spec choices, a couple of rare imports the like of which I hadn’t seen for ages, and more than one car that I thought I was alone in appreciating.

It was free to get in, too, and would have been inexpensive to display my own car if I wanted to – £1.50 for the first hour, 50p for every subsequent half hour, and free of charge after 18:00. Photo access was pretty much unlimited, too – cars far outnumbered the crowd, so shots were all car and no leg and arse. Yes, I rate suburban parking lots among the very finest car shows you can attend – a colossal variety of cars, all presented in the condition that they’re driven every day.

Rarely am I disappointed by a parking lot, because my expectations are pretty grounded. Organised car shows, though, can be another story.

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Closed-road motorsport in Britain? Game On!

Despite the presence of Ford’s near-legendary Boreham skunkworks – where the fire-breathing RS200 rally car was developed – my part of the UK has never really had much of a claim to motorsport. There are no designated racetracks – though some would suggest that that roads around Basildon qualify – yet thanks to a long-awaited change in legislation, my home county has just hosted England’s first closed-road stage rally.

Even better was the fact that one of the rally stages was held less than a mile from my house, but best of all, it happened to follow the very route that I championed as my very favourite road for a rewarding, impassioned drive. This was not an event I had any intention of missing and, since it was held on my birthday, I had every excuse to attend.

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Missed opportunities: The Mercedes A-Cross

Car manufacturers are positively tripping over themselves to board the SUV bandwagon—even Aston Martin and Rolls Royce are joining the market, having singularly failed to beat it. Inevitably, the popularity of terrain-conquering behemoths has led to the spawning of miniaturised, urbanised sub-species, which inherit the looks of their parents, if not all their ability.

These are now absolutely everywhere, with the Ford Fiesta Active as the latest example of a family hatchback to don a pair of Wellington boots and some robust outerwear to create the impression of enthusiasm for the great outdoors. What is strange, though, is that Mercedes—a brand that loves to squeeze into a niche when it gets a chance—should have passed over the chance to launch its own high-altitude hatchback spun from the 2005 A-class.

I give you the Mercedes A-Cross, a car that could have been a front-runner in the fashionable, brand-conscious, tiny adventure-car market.

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The Carchive: The 1977 Toyota Celica

The surfaces of the day have been dusted and the floor of time has been vacuumed – but what’s lurking under the ornamental rug of history? Lets lift up a corner and peek into the dusty darkness to see what horrors crawl out. Welcome back to The Carchive.

Oh, the Toyota Celica. Beloved of spoilt high-school teenagers and adventurous yet economy-minded drivers of a certain age, Toyota’s family coupe now lives firmly in the past, having being permanently sidelined in 2006. Today, though, we’re taking a trip back to 1977 to take a look at the Celica’s second generation.

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The Carchive: The 1967 Humber Sceptre

It’s Tuesday evening where I am, some way beyond our usual appointment with the musty pages of motoring past, so let’s get straight down to business.

The Rootes Group is late and relatively unlamented, given its fascinating history and the diverse range of products it churned out. Its constituent brands included Hillman, Singer and Sunbeam, more about which we’ll see in a future Carchive instalment. Jewel of the crown, though, was Humber. It sat at the top of the Rootes tree, and was its most luxurious nameplate – the VIP-approved Humber Super Snipe among its poshest products. Today, though, we’re looking at the Sceptre – the final model to bear the Humber name. Welcome back to The Carchive.

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The Carchive: The 1975 Mercedes 280 SE

It’s nearly midnight on a Friday in the UK, and high time to let the watery moonlight of curiosity illuminate the creased pages of the past, as we once more peer at the forgotten relics of a time long since gone.

Last week we spent a bit of time with the late ’70s Honda Accord, a car that built on the Civic’s principles and turned the brand into a real global heavyweight. This time around we’re sticking with the same decade, but moving to a marque that couldn’t really have been better established if it wanted to.

This is Mercedes, as it did things back in 1975. Welcome back to The Carchive.

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