Say farewell to 2020 with a smile – Motoring Heroes Past and Present.

Firstly, I must say that I feel a little bit guilty. I’ve not spent anywhere near as much time on the site as I would have liked. Work has been hectic and there was a last minute push to finish off the DVD project I have been working on – if you are unaware of this CLICK HERE. Anyway… on with the show as they say!

Car reviews have been a bit light this year, owing to the current pandemic and even though I have desperately tried to avoid politics, religion or other stuff of that ilk on this little corner of the inter-web, Covid-19 has changed the world. In fact, I shall go so far to say that once the panic and true horror passes us by, those of us still standing proud and tall will be stronger and better for it. Don’t forget either to do your thing by staying safe and being responsible – regardless of you being an adult or a youngster.

My thoughts also extend to the British motor industry too. Its been a horrific year for them, the supply chain and the dealers. I hope you, like me, will continue to support them now and in the future. Who owns who is irrelevant – its the fact that stuff continues to be built here that matters most. Let us also hope that Brexit has a positive effect on automotive related issues in the UK – regardless of your political bent.

Despite content being a bit scant – for reasons explained above. Interaction on the site has been pleasingly good with more and more comments coming through. Please keep commenting – its not just for my benefit, I really don’t have that much of an ego to stroke – its purely down to the fact that I / we love to hear and learn from you lot too. Keep up the interaction and of course should you be bored enough to want to contribute something too, then have a go at it and get in touch either through the autobritannia facebook page or e-mail: autobritannia@gmail.com – chop chop then?

He knows what goes on here but nonetheless, I would like to thank Mr Barrie Wills for his input on the site. Thinking about it, its rather funny as Barrie’s moon first strayed into my orbit rather like watching an episode of SPACE-1999 in the form of a troublesome pain in the @rse on facebook. At first I thought he was a hoax profile and I wondered why a confused elder statesman stalwart of motor cars would be sodding around on a computer at his age. Thankfully for you and me he turned out to be genuine bloke that we both have seemingly now have a trusted friendship.

Winner of the “Good All Round Egg” award of 1925 – Mr Barrie Wills.

His ramblings and thoughts are always good to hear and to read. I’m pleased as punch that you enjoy the topics too – long may he remain a friend and contribute – cheers Barrie.

Anyway… rant over!

Just for a smile or two and a dash of self indulgence, I thought I would round off the year by looking backwards over the last forty years at some of the past legends. Regardless if you agree or disagree – remember kids, don’t take it serious, its only my opinion after all but I do try to explain. Feel free to tell me what you think by commenting below.

So, may each and every one of you enjoy the rest of the festivities and have a comfortable, safe, warm and snug new year – thanks for dropping by.

Happy new year

Mike Humble Horsham Sussex – Dec 2020

******

Hero of 1980 – Ford Escort Mk3

when it came to selling mediocrity by the bucket load no-one quite pulled it off like Ford

By the late 1970’s the Escort Mk2 was looking decidedly old and antiquated. Despite the car still selling in terrific numbers, the Escort along with all of the mainstream rivals that included the Avenger and Marina, were all so far past their selling dates you could almost detect a smell.

Despite it being modern and way beyond all rivals in terms of technology in 1980. The Escort was at its best, in terms of ability, rather average – in some areas bloody dreadful too. Made no difference – it was a global sales smash.

Following much secrecy and a mind-blowing development budget, the Escort Mk3 arrived in 1980. Boasting a lavish technical specification that included the all new CVH overhead cam engine and all-round independent suspension with rear double-wishbones, the Escort continued where the old Mk2 had left off – by being a runaway success.

Despite looking incredible on paper the ride comfort was almost as poor as a child’s pedal powered Kettler go-kart and engine refinement when driven hard emulated a cross between a screaming toddler and a Mitre saw. But it made no difference… when it came to selling mediocrity by the bucket load no-one quite pulled it off like Ford in the 1980’s.

Cheap to buy, cheap to run and laughably simple to put back together again when it conked out – the Escort deserved to succeed on the aforementioned grounds alone. The pundits must have agreed as it won the European Car of the Year award for 1981.

Hero of 1990 – Vauxhall Lotus-Carlton

“A car born of an era when volume manufacturers went mental and took a gamble, sadly something we will will never witness again – so savour those memories kids”

Ahh the good old Carlton – in terms of middle management fleet appeal, the Carlton was always the bridesmaid but never the bride. Despite the Carlton being roomy and having not only class leading aerodynamics and a rather impressive interior build quality, the first choice of management cars seemed always to be in Fords favour and not Vauxhall.

I’ve been lucky enough to drive this actual car a couple of times now – she’s been owned owned from new by Vauxhall Motors. There’s an old saying that goes: never meet your hero – well I did and the Lotus Carlton didn’t disappoint… not one sodding bit!

Here layeth the problem. Vauxhall were and dare I say it still are, seen as a maker of affordable decent grafting cars and nowt much more. Once you crossed the line into luxury or premium levels, the shine of a griffin badge soon dulled off a bit. Fleet managers would always favour a Granada purely on cost alone but BMW, Audi and Mercedes held court when it came to truly aspirational barges.

The Carlton was seen as a bit twee, a bit bank managery – a bit too safe or boring perhaps? the sort of car an affluent old Uncle would buy, a car about as exciting as double geography on a Wednesday afternoon. Then something incredible happened Vauxhall and Lotus got drunk at a party and nine months later the Lotus Carlton was born.

Earth shattering 170+mph performance, ridiculous price tag and even a media campaign to stop its production – good God! Fast forward thirty years and mint conditioned examples swap hands for… wait for it… over £100,000 yep that’s right. A car born of an era when volume manufacturers went mental and took a gamble, sadly something we will will never witness again – so savour those memories kids.

Sadly after 320 right hand drive and 630 left hookers were built, the recession bit hard and GM lost their bottle with sales never reaching the intended number planned of 1100. After 950 incredible and dare I say it beautiful Lotus Carltons being produced, it was killed off in 1992.

Hero of 2000 – Volvo V70

“the V70 was just as capable of dragging a stolen Fiesta out of someone’s front garden pond as they were covering ground at over two miles a minute in a high speed motorway pursuit – Police Constabularies simply loved them”

OK I know, its not British (apart from its designer) but what more can one possibly say about a Volvo estate car? Not a great deal to be fair, but the V70 does strike a chord on my heartstrings for a very good reason. If you are a fan of Swedish steel you will know that during the 1990’s both Scandinavian manufacturers fell into the hands of American owners. SAAB went to General Motors and Volvo went to Ford as part of their doomed P.A.G (Premium Automotive Group) division.

Capable of taking pretty much anything you threw at them, dropped onto it or crashed into, the V70 was last old-school Volvo. One hell of a car that was a convincing demonstration of substance over style always being the best way to go in Sweden.

For me, what I like about the V70 is the fact that it was wholly designed and engineered as a pure Volvo product from the ground upwards. The car was signed off and ready for production literally hours before Ford signed the deal with Volvo and all future new models sharing platforms and powertrains with other Ford products. The last of their time they were pure unadulterated, undiluted twenty four carat Volvo, solid as a brick that looked like a brick that upon its deletion in 2016 marked the end of the real Volvo’s.

The V70 was just as capable of dragging a stolen Fiesta out of someone’s front garden pond as they were covering ground at over two miles a minute in a high speed motorway pursuit – Police constabularies simply loved them. Solidity and reliability was key and Volvo simply knew what they were doing when it came to dependable transport. I personally knew of one chap who was a flower trader in London that commuted from the midlands daily telling me about why he might be getting rid of his V70.

I’ve had enough now, the clutch has gone he said one day in sadness. The odometer was showing just under 300,000 miles – he genuinely thought he was hard done by. I never saw him again until about two years later and I asked him what he was driving… oh – I had the clutch done… I’ve still got it.

Nuff Sed?

Hero of 2010 – Jaguar XJ

“Captains of industry no longer wear Hush Puppies, Trilby’s or Camel coats, its an open necked shirt with no tie world nowadays – young money if you like. Traditional Jaguar buyers couldn’t see past the new direction and the BMW or Mercedes driving youngers weren’t prepared to try one – a damn shame, they missed out there”

To this day even a year after it was deleted from the range, if you look closely enough, you might just spot the black armband I still wear for the Jaguar XJ. Even though I can almost hear Barrie Wills cries of disgust as he reads this, I don’t care one bit – I still hold a place in my heart for the one-time Jaguar flagship – the XJ.

One of my all time favourite cars, even if it failed to keep the legendary status of the older XJ models. Perhaps to bold for traditional Jaguar customers and not convincing enough for the young money to move away from ze Germans.

Funny though…. when it was launched I shook my eyes and rubbed my head. Was Ian Callum (its designer) off his head on Parma Violets? as this bore little resemblance to any XJ of old. It wasn’t the fact of its bold styling, in my opinion tis still a fine looking motor car, more the fact it was unlike anything else to grace the leaper badge. Jaguar bravely went for a more modern thinking customer but I wasn’t totally convinced.

That was until I stumbled into putting my thoughts and opinions into writing. The legend who is Lindsay Dipple – Jaguar‘s fiery yet marvellous press fleet manager arranged a week behind the wheel of one a few years ago and I was hooked. The XJ has a lovely interior that’s pure modern opulence but not overly done and a level of comfort that almost makes going to bed an aching chore.

Subtle glowing mood lighting that surrounds the facia air vents, plenty of leather and chrome, an incredible sound system and in the case of the 550bhp supercharged XJ-R – a real Jekyll and Hyde character. The rumbling 5.0 litre V8 cruises with aplomb* and the ability to turn your nostrils inside out such is the banshee wailing performance with the merest twitch of your right ankle.

Sadly, the XJ failed to really sell well owing to folk not understanding it. When some of us think of XJ they think of Arthur Daley, someone a bit flawed, a bit past it and fly-by-night. Captains of industry no longer wear Hush Puppies, Trilby’s or Camel coats, its an open necked shirt with no tie world nowadays – young money if you like. Traditional Jaguar buyers couldn’t see past the new direction and the BMW or Mercedes driving youngers weren’t prepared to try one – shame… they missed out there.

In my opinion the last XJ was one of the best kept secrets and most underrated cars of the last twenty years, one my all time favourite cars.

*Use of the word aplomb by kind courtesy of K Jones esq

Hero of 2020 – Vauxhall Corsa

“Vauxhall and Opel engineers have been allowed where possible to put their own mark on the PSA based cars the whole range excluding Astra and Insignia – the joint working is bringing in results and its more than just badge engineering”

Its been a good year for Vauxhall. The all new Corsa spent a total of four months at the top of the UK sales charts. Until Decembers figures are officially announced the Corsa is only just behind the Ford Fiesta. This is no mean feat, especially during lockdown where marketing on TV has been fairly low owing to expenditure.

Not only a good looking car but impressive too in terms of build quality and overall talent. Its abilities and refreshed dealer network has meant the car has been consistently in the top ten of 2020 and four months at number one – well done Vauxhall.

The recent dealer re-shuffle that’s seen a lot of the dead wood and poorer reputation dealers (Vauxhall have previously suffered here) thrown in the skip meaning the sales network is leaner and more customer focussed than before. I know on good authority that dealers have been working harder than ever to follow up leads, encourage footfall and do their job properly during these times – which has clearly payed dividends.

But the Corsa is a cracking little car too. Sportier models are in the pipeline (badly needed) and it has a nice feeling of robustness and interior solidity that the model its based on – the Peugeot 208, doesn’t have. Vauxhall and Opel engineers have been allowed where possible to put their mark on the PSA based cars the whole range excluding Astra and Insignia – the joint working is bringing in results and its more than just badge engineering.

Its rather good to drive and in the right colour looks exceptionally smart and youthful. Lets hope the sales impetus and engineering prowess of Opel and PSA can continue to produce good value cars with a notable impressive build quality.

One comment

  1. Oh how I adore you’re sarcasm and sideways look at the motoring world. I noted the fuss you’re Marina article made on SM. How people hate the truth.

    I for one should know, I ran two and both were total sh!te

    Appy new year to all involved on autobritannia

    Gordon Winterburn (aged 66 1/2)

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