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.

… Continue Reading

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.

… Continue Reading

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.

… Continue Reading

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.

… Continue Reading

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.

… Continue Reading

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.

… Continue Reading

The Carchive: 1978 Honda Accord

There was a time, long before PCP deals put everybody behind the wheel of a fashion-friendly SUV, when people just wanted solid, economical, trouble-free transportation. We took a look at this era last week with the Fiat 126 of 1981, and we’re sticking to the same theme this time around. This time we’re looking at the 1978 Honda Accord. Admittedly a much bigger car than the Fiat, but barely any more pretentious.

So lets recline in the armchair of curiosity and let history sweep us up in its warm, comforting arms. Welcome back to The Carchive.

… Continue Reading

The Carchive: The Fiat 126

The snow has finally thawed, so we can finally don the wellington boots of curiosity, squelch across the muddy lawn of time and look inside the shed of obscurity in search of something intriguing. Welcome back to The Carchive.

Last time, we blew the dust off the Citroen ID 19 and noticed that its French maker offers nothing of its kind today. Today we’re taking a look at the Fiat 126—a car whose maker offers nothing of its kind today.

… Continue Reading

Diecast Delights: Real diecast delights.

As a child of the ‘eighties, my diecast collection was made up of whatever was available in local shops. I was typically drawn to Matchbox models, they tended to be better resolved, more detailed and, somehow meatier than Corgis of the same size. For whatever reason, I rarely came across a Hotwheels – perhaps it was a geographical thing and only the big cities got them. 1:64 (or thereabouts) was the norm for me, the kind of toy I could buy with a few weeks’ pocket money. 1:43 or beyond was a rare treat, the kind of thing I would only get if was a very good boy indeed.

The most memorable of any scale, though, were cars with built-in features. An opening body panel or two was always nice – quite a few Matchbox and Majorette models had two opening doors and a functional hatchback, and opening bonnets were relatively commonplace. There were some, too, that used complicated mechanisms for the purpose of entertainment. I have a Matchbox Range Rover somewhere whose oversize roof beacon spins with the rotation of its wheels, and I later attained a 1:36 Bedford CF Ambulance with a more elaborate version of the same mechanism.

It was only the other day, with a random find in a charity shop, that I realised just what I had missed out on by being born so late.

… Continue Reading

Now is the winter of our incompetence

The last days of February, and those we’ve seen of March so far, have brought a rare instance of actual weather to the UK. Courtesy of the much-celebrated #BeastFromTheEast, the right-hand coast was the first to receive snow, with the rest of the country being lavishly supplied in the following days. Although Canadians would probably rate the onslaught as ‘a light dusting,’ it’s brought our country to its knees in every way you can possibly imagine.

Public transport ground to a halt pretty quickly. Overhead rail catenery systems were troubled by snow, tumbling temperatures caused faults with points and rolling stock, and flights were cancelled from regional and national airports alike. And the roads? Well, the blocked motorways were inevitable, but it’s the sheer cluelessness of motorists on passable routes that’s rather more troubling.

… Continue Reading