Author: David Simister

Editor at Classic Car Weekly and Motoring Correspondent at The Champion newspaper. Addicted to car shows. Loves driving great cars - and buying rusty ones.

The Roma is that rare thing – a truly beautiful Ferrari

I DON’T know if the chaps at Ferrari Styling Centre are allowed to have the radio on at work – but I suspect if they do, it’s probably permanently tuned into Planet Rock.

Every offering in Maranello’s current range is full of the sort of shouty styling that you’d expect from someone exposed to Guns ‘N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin and Foo Fighters eight hours a day – oh, and perhaps the occasional bit of Pink Floyd on lunch breaks. The F8 Tributo is a truly jaw-dropping supercar, but it is very, very loud and in-yer-face. Which, I suppose, is exactly what you’d want a mid-engined Ferrari to be.

But imagine if, just for one day, someone snuck in, switched the frequency to Smooth FM instead and then glued the tuning knob firmly into position. The resulting car would still have that gem of a turbocharged V8, of course, but the bodywork would be penned by people who’d been listening to Bryan Ferry, the Carpenters and Fleetwood Mac instead. That’d be lovely, right?

Well, that’s what I’d like to imagine happened in the run-up to the new Roma, which is everything the equally new F8 Tributo and SP90 Stradale aren’t.

Obviously, Ferrari has come up with its own, rather waffle-ish explanation for the understated looks – they are, and I quote Maranello’s own press release, “a contemporary reinterpretation of the carefree lifestyle of 1950s and ‘60s Rome, from which the car takes its evocative name”. Ahem. It then goes on to explain, for people who speak petrolhead rather than marketing, that it’s taken inspiration from the 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso and 250 GT 2+2 of the early Sixties. In other words, Ferrari’s looked at some of its older stuff, realised it’s much prettier than what it’s offering at the moment, and decided it’d like to bring some of the old magic back.

Good. I know I described the F8 as “proper bedroom wall stuff” in The Champion about six months ago – but I’m in my thirties and don’t blu-tack posters of supercars on my bedroom wall anymore (and I’m not entirely sure what my wife would say if I did). Nope, the Roma reminds me instead of the last new Ferrari I truly lusted after – the utterly wonderful, and equally understated 456 GT. No ground-snorting nose, no massive vents and absolutely no look-at-me rear spoilers – just lovely, beautifully proportioned curves cloaking an enormous engine, a leather-lined cabin and a steering wheel with a Prancing Horse badge on it.

Obviously, it’s worth mentioning that the Roma has a 611bhp version of the V8 that’s won the Engine of the Year award three times on the trot. You might be interested, too, in that its eight-speed double clutch gearbox is six kg lighter than the seven-speed one in the old Ferrari California, and that it has a dynamic control system that controls yaw angle by hydraulically adjusting brake pressure at the callipers.

Or – if you’re like me – you could just leave all the stats to children who want to win at Top Trumps by having the F8 Tributo in the pack. Just appreciate that Ferrari have finally come up with something that reminds you of the Daytona and the 456 GT – a front-engined GT that looks gorgeous and goes like stink.

From now on, Planet Rock is banned at Ferrari Styling Centre. I’m sure the chaps will learn to love Smooth FM…

Old tyres – surprisingly legal, but potentially lethal

APOLOGIES if I’m about to put you right off your tea – but I’d like to start this week by talking dodgy dinners.

Every so often links to terrible viral websites pop up in my Facebook page (“You won’t BELIEVE this amazing make-up trick Kylie Jenner uses”, “What this teacher told her class will change your life FOREVER”, that sort of thing), and occasionally one of them purports to show what fast food, if left unopened for 30 years, looks like.

It’s something to do with all the moisture being removed from the not-so-tasty grub at the point of manufacture – making it drier than holidaying in Death Valley with a dehydrated Jack Dee, and thus inhospitable to mould – but the result is always that burgers and fries made when Maggie Thatcher was Prime Minister look like they could have been cooked ten minutes ago. It looks weirdly appetising. But would you eat it? Of course you wouldn’t.

I was reminded of this the other day when I went car shopping – and ended up coming home with a 1992 Volkswagen Polo. I reckon that with just one owner on the logbook, 47,000 miles under its belt and 11 months on the MoT certificate still to go it was £800 well spent, and its eager little 1.3-litre engine still sounded like it had plenty of life left in it when it thrummed into life.

But it was a different story for the four little bits connecting Wolfsburg’s engineering to the A59 – the tyres, which really were the automotive equivalent of that decent-looking but dangerously healthy dinner. All four of them had legal amounts of tread left on them, and a pleasing lack of worrying cracks, marks of lumps on the sidewalls, but the first helping of snap understeer on a wet bend at 20mph told a very different story.

Award yourself an extra helping of petrolhead points if you’ve already sussed this one – the tyres may well have been well treaded enough to have been given an MoT inspector’s nod of approval just a few weeks earlier, but they were so ancient that they may as well have been made from copies of The Domesday Book. What that means is that the rubber had hardened after being exposed to years of ultraviolet sunlight, and deteriorated after being subjected to year after year of damp, road muck and temperature changes, to the point that they were near enough useless as means of keeping a car planted in a corner. In fact, the date markings on the tyres revealed that one of them had been on the car from new – that’s 28 years without ever being changed.

So the first job I did after snapping the car up was taking the car into a Southport tyre shop to give it a fresh set of boots, and it now handles and stops a lot better as a result. It’ll make it safer too – not only am I less likely to plough the little Polo into a hedge on any more wet bends, but it’ll bring its stopping distance in an emergency down, too.

I know tyres are boring and grey, but they are your car’s only link to the asphalt underneath. If they’re more than five or six years old, get ‘em changed.

Otherwise you might as well eat 30-year-old fast food – it’ll be about as safe!

Peugeot meets Fiat – it could all end in tears

IN THE future, I remember a top motor mogul once saying, there will be just two car companies. Or, to be exact, two car companies, and Morgan still fighting its way through a ten-year backlog of orders for the Plus 4.

How things have changed. Morgan’s infamous ten-year waiting list is now – thanks at least partly to the help of Sir John Harvey Jones – more like six months, and it’s owned by a group of Italian investors, making rather more cutting-edge models like the new Plus 6. If all that can happen in a decade or two to a tiny company making 1930s throwbacks in the Malvern Hills, then it must be a tiny tremor compared to the earthquakes happening elsewhere in the car industry.

The latest one you might have read about is PSA, the French conglomerate that for decades has run Peugeot and Citroen, and owners of Vauxhall for the last two years, agreeing to a merger with Fiat, which itself has already merged with Chrysler. To me at least, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher.

Suppose you’re in the market for a five-door hatchback of the Golf/Focus ilk in a few years’ time. This new mega-conglomerate will, in theory, be able to sell you a Vauxhall Astra, a Peugeot 308, a Citroen C4 Cactus, a Fiat Bravo, an Alfa Romeo Giulietta and possibly some sort of small Chrysler. All of which will either have to be sufficiently different to stand out – and less profitable as a result – or so closely related that they’ll all end up with birth defects and Haemophilia. If interbreeding doesn’t work for dogs or royal families, I doubt it’ll work on family hatchbacks either.

VW’s managed it because the three basic spinoffs of its Golf – Skoda’s Octavia, SEAT’s Leon and Audi’s A3 – are all very different cars that appeal to three different sets of people. I spent 400 miles with a diesel Octavia SE Estate last weekend and it was superb, comfortably chomping through the motorway network in a quiet no-nonsense manner, but I know that however accomplished it is, it’ll never steal a single sale from Audi A3 devotees or from Golf GTI hedonists.

To pull off the same trick with six or seven big companies already competing for the same middle ground’s going to be very tricky indeed. Get it right and I don’t think the chaps at Ellesmere Port would mind building a Peugeot GTi or a small Alfa alongside their Astras, but get it wrong and it’ll be the Austin/Wolseley/MG/Morris/Vanden Plas 1100 all over again.

One brilliant car, in other words, but made by a messy mix of companies that’ll all eventually end in tears. Meanwhile, at Morgan…

You wouldn’t settle for an old motor – so why should rail commuters?

LUCKY YOU. You did well at school, landed a decent job, worked your way up to managing a small team of talented colleagues…and you can finally afford BMW’s new 1-Series.

It’s an exciting prospect. The 1-Series might have traded in its party trick – being the only rear-driven kid in a class of me-too hatchbacks letting the front wheels do all the work – but it’s better packaged, better built and very nearly to nice to punt down a sweeping B-road as the old one. It’s also, at £279 a month on personal contract hire for a 118i Sport, tantalisingly within reach.

But imagine if, having stuck down your deposit, the sharp-suited man from the BMW showroom dropped off an Austin Maestro instead. Yes, the five-door hatch that took the fight to Ford’s Escort and Vauxhall’s second-generation Astra, and endorsed 35 years ago by a youthful-looking Noel Edmonds in some rather excitable TV ads. You’d be pretty peeved, right?

“Ahhh, awfully sorry sir”, the chap from BMW might say. “Your new 1-Series isn’t quite ready yet. It’ll be ready early next year, we can assure you, but we wanted to make sure you can still get to work in the mornings. Yes, we know it went out of production 25 years ago, but it’s still a five-door, front-wheel-drive hatchback, and it’s great on fuel.”

“But it’s a Maestro, for heaven’s sake,” you protest loudly. “It’s nothing like a 1-Series….and more to the point, I’m paying £279 a month for it!”

The response is polite, but firm. “It’s all we’ve got, sir.”  

“Haven’t you got a MINI Cooper – you make those as well, right? What about an old 3-Series? I used to have a secondhand 335d, and I loved it. Couldn’t you get me one of those instead?”

“I’m sorry, sir. All of our other BMWs and MINI Coopers have been reserved for people in London and the South East. You live in the North of England. All we have for people in the North…are Maestros.”

It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that this would never, ever happen at your nearest BMW showroom…but something not entirely dissimilar is happening to a lot of people who, for whatever reason, choose to commute by train rather than at the helm of a new 1-Series. They’ve been promised new trains to replace the frankly rubbish ex-British Rail Pacers on their regular journeys into work – and now they’ve been told they have to put up with them until at least early 2020, and probably longer.

In much the same way that I actually rather like the Maestro but would understand entirely that you wouldn’t want to trade in your Golf GTD or Audi A1 for one, the Pacer deserves recognition for propping up rural communities a generation ago, and a genteel retirement on a heritage railway line somewhere. But to continue inflicting them on people who think an iPhone 6 is old hat is just mean. Especially when they’re paying for something newer and better.

As much as I love old British Leyland engineering it winds me up immensely every time I see one of these noisy, shaky, cramped and non-wheelchair-friendly excuses for a train creaking into a station in front of a crowd of depressed-looking commuters.

This, or a 1-Series? It’s a no-brainer. In fact, given the choice, I’d take the Maestro over a Pacer too…

Forget Morris – let’s bring back Rover

SUPPOSE, given the world’s top engineers, a highly sophisticated 3D printer and Britain’s nicest bank manager, you could bring back any car you wanted from the dead. What would it be?

I’m not talking about taking the chic and cachet of a Sixties bestseller and then draping something that looks vaguely similar over a modern-day hatchback (take a bow, MINI and Fiat 500). Nor am I suggesting you revive a revered old name from twenty-or-so years ago, and then slap it hamfistedly along the rump of some apologetic, me-too Nissan Juke-alike (take a bow, Ford Puma). Nope, I’m talking about an actual old car design, put back into production – because it’s all the rage at the moment.

So far we’ve had the Jaguar XKSS, the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato, the Porsche 911 Turbo and the supercharged ‘Blower’ Bentley that won a string of Le Mans victories back in the 1920s. Alvis are at it too and – if you value Q-branch gadgets over a car you can legally use on Britain’s roads – earlier this year Aston Martin was offering Goldfinger-spec DB5s, complete with ejector seats and revolving number plates.

But I’m a bit baffled by a Chinese company’s decision to bring back the, erm, the Morris J-type van. Even at most classic car shows you have to look pretty hard to find one, and unless you remember growing up in a world best endorsed The Rank Foundation’s Look At Life films then it’s unlikely this curious 1950s workhorse is going to press any nostalgia buttons, either.

I’m honestly struggling to think who’s going to want one, especially when the reinvented version, the JE, is set to be crafted out of McLaren-esque carbonfibre and powered by electricity. My best guess is that it’s going to appeal to artisan street vendors, happy to flog you a Frappuccino in a reusable cup at five pounds a pop – but we already have the Citroën H-van for that.

If we’re going to use all of our smartarse 3D printing technology to bring back long-dead vehicles, why don’t we actually use them to bring cars that people like your mum and dad – as opposed to 1950s greengrocers – actually remember driving? I would love to see a continuation Capri but I suspect Ford’s already had that idea, and would charge accordingly for it. Nope, I’m thinking of cars whose makers have long gone too – that’d be much more fun.

A brand-new Hillman Imp with Tesla-esque batteries (and performance) hidden behind its rear wheels? I’d be up for that. What about a revived Rover P5? Sign me up, and the same goes for anyone happy to bring back the Triumph TR6, Sunbeam Rapier or Riley Elf. Rich car nuts who can afford to chuck a million quid at a continuation D-type have had it their own way for too long. If the technology exists – and I’m sure we can all chip in for some lawyers to get past all the copyright wrangles – let’s have some more down-to-earth automotive revivals on our hands.

In fact, forget the J-type. Who’s up for bringing back the Morris Minor?

Alfa Romeo Spider – the unexpectedly reliable wedding car choice

THERE’S a dusty corner in the deep vaults of the Simister anecdotal archives that no longer needs to be quietly reshuffled. The time that I caused a rush-hour traffic jam by conking out in a city centre bus stop – in a bright red E-type, naturally – is still firmly in the top spot as the most stressful bit of motoring I’ve ever done.

The moment I called on a Ford Cortina’s brakes on a particularly steep hill somewhere near Sheffield, only to find it didn’t really have any, comes a close second, but I was ready to demote that too the other day. Not only was I about to make my debut as a wedding car driver, but the blushing bride in question was none other than my younger sister.

I was delighted to be entrusted with such an important task, of course, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me for having visions of gliding helplessly onto the hard shoulder and having no choice but to wait for a van with orange flashing lights to show up, or having to tackle a puncture with an infuriated-looking bride glancing at her watch, wondering how late really is classed as fashionable. Certainly, when I got hitched three years ago I made sure it was someone else’s Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow doing the all-important duties, just to avoid the potential headaches.

But I actually enjoyed the drive far more than I had any right to, and that’s partly because the wedding wheels in question were just about the last thing I’d been expecting – an Alfa Romeo Spider. While that meant the big journey was limited to just two people, it meant the bride and I could focus on the really important things on the way to her big day.

Like how well the Spider suits being offered in black with tan leather – you’d expect red to be the colour of choice for a small, Italian sports car, but with Britain’s Alfisti it was definitely black that proved the most popular colour. I’m sure my about-to-be-wed passenger appreciated too how the centre console was canted towards the driver to give it a much sportier feel, and how all the words on the dials had been left in Italian – olio, benzina, and so on – just to make the drive to the wedding venue feel just that little bit more exciting. She definitely would have appreciated the two-litre Twin Spark engine too, although I suspect the 3.2-litre V6 might have been a bit handier for getting there on time.

But as my younger sister and her now husband embark on what I’m sure will be years of happily married life together, there is one question I’m sure they’ll be pondering – why doesn’t Alfa have a Spider in its range today? The Italians are really missing a trick, particularly as it’d be easy to base it on the Fiat 124 Spider.

I’m happy to confirm that the Spider made it on time, the wedding went without a hitch, and Alfa’s finest chalked up yet another fan. Definitely preferable to a Cortina with knackered brakes, anyway…

Don’t kill off the city car – they’re too much fun

NOT LONG ago I was lucky enough to be granted an audience with the chap who designed the original Mazda MX-5 – you know, the one with the pop-up headlights. Only, as it turns out, he never actually wanted it to have them because they added weight.

You’d like Tom Matano. He’s a proper petrolhead who hates cars, in his own words, “designed by committees and market researchers”, and has a soft spot for the Mini. He also reckons that ditching rev-happy, twin cam petrol engines for on-trend electric motors won’t do the world’s biggest-selling sports car a jot of harm – but only if the delicate handling isn’t ruined in the process.

Yet the one slightly depressing nugget of motoring wisdom that he shared with me is why all the other carmakers have stopped copying the MX-5’s formula for small, simple, open-top sports cars – it’s because the numbers no longer add up. There is no modern day MGF because it wouldn’t be worth someone making it.

This exactly what we’ve already seen with a couple of other endangered automotive species. The Vauxhall Insignia and Ford Mondeo are just about keeping the family saloon on life support, the Renault Espace-sized MPV has been all but obliterated by its smaller rivals and crossovers, and the small, two-door coupe is dead. The MINI Coupe and the Honda CR-Z offered a glimmer of hope for the latter, but both neither sold brilliantly here, and have long since disappeared from the showrooms.

But now there could be an even more serious casualty – the small city car, and it’s emissions regulations that are to blame. Because they’re worked out on the average CO2 a carmaker’s entire range puts out, it’s much easier and cheaper to lower the amount of nasty gases coming out of a gas-guzzling larger model, and more palatable to convert them into plug-in hybrid of electric-only models. As a result, it’s less profitable to make the smallest models – which is why the Vauxhall Viva, Ford Ka and Peugeot 108 are probably looking a tad worried by now.

Which is a real shame, I reckon, because it’s usually a carmaker’s titchiest offerings that are the most involving and least pretentious. Given the choice between a Ferrari 488 Pista and a Citroen C1 and told to go out and spend a wet October morning on any of West Lancashire’s narrow, bumpy roads, I’d pick the tiny French hatchback every time because you can use all of its power and grip, all of the time. It’s the same with the Volkswagen Up, Ford Ka and all of the other small cars in this sort of price bracket – the emphasis is on simple, lightweight tech and small petrol engines, and they’re always somehow more satisfying than their heavy, hybrid hatchback bigger brothers.

As I see it there are only two solutions. Either the EU thinks up a different way of laying out its emissions regulations, or the only carmaker that can be relied upon to come up with brilliant small cars, time and time again, comes up with a tiny hatchback so stunning that everyone feels compelled to copy it. The sort of ground-breaking car that sticks its fingers up at the management committees and market researchers, and gets a thumbs up from Tom Matano instead.

I sincerely hope someone at Fiat reads The Champion

VW’s smart delivery system? I’d give it the boot

TWO umbrellas, a book about MGs that I still haven’t got around to reading and – for work purposes, because I never know when I might need them – a couple of copies of Classic Car Weekly. That’s about as exciting as the contents of my car’s boot get.

But even they might have to be evicted if a bold new idea to revolutionise online deliveries takes off. For months they’ve been happy to slide around, bouncing off shopping bags and probably knocking a mile or two off what my Toyota does to the gallon, but they’ll have to go, and all because I can’t trust you. Not you specifically, of course – I’m sure you’re fine. I mean other members of the wider population, especially ones who I haven’t met. But VW expects you to trust them with whatever’s in your boot.

Europe’s biggest carmaker has been using Berliners as guinea pigs for its new We Deliver scheme – and says they loved it so much that it’s now looking to roll it out elsewhere, including here in the UK. The idea’s a simple one – if you’re going to be at work all day and you’re expecting a delivery, you can use your car’s boot as the delivery address. The delivery man can then find your car, use an app to open the boot, stick the parcel inside, and then hop back in his van. Brilliant!

Sorry to go all Dragons’ Den on you, but it’s fraught with problems. What if you’ve got something more valuable than two umbrellas and a book about MGs in the boot, and how do you prove it if an unscrupulous delivery man – perhaps one who’s getting rained on and wants to learn all there is to know about the MG Midget – helps himself to your stuff? There are genuinely people out there who get kicks out of nicking other people’s parcels, too. Will they, if everyone’s valuables are locked away in car boots, begin to attack parked cars? There’s also the small problem of cars having this nasty habit of moving from place to place – and why would I leave my car at home when I need it to get to work?

What’s more, I reckon it’s a bit of a halfway house anyway; with Britain going full tilt towards autonomous cars, I don’t think it’ll be too long before I can simply dispatch my self-driving Golf or Astra off to the depot on its own, where it can go collect my Amazon deliveries for me.

It’s a genuine problem, created by our insatiable appetite for cheap things that we can order online with next day delivery, but I don’t think turning all our cars into four-wheeled postboxes is the answer.

Personally, I much prefer the idea of having things I want delivered not via an internet-dispatched delivery man, but being made readily available in a set of buildings, situated in a nearby town or city centre, that are open throughout the week.

Call me old-fashioned, but that might catch on…

The new 4×4 hoping to out-Land Rover the Defender

THE NEW Defender is a proper Land Rover. Or is it?

Apologies if this sounds almost exactly like the opening to last week’s Life On Cars column, but it turns out that barely a week after it was announced that some blokes who met up in their local pub have announced their own equally no-frills off-roader. In fact, they’re so proud of their beverage-based flash of inspiration that they’ve actually named their new offering after it. I kid you not.

The Grenadier – the car, not the London watering hole famed for its whiskies and real ale – is apparently going to go on sale in 2021, so it’ll be at least a year behind the new Defender, but the chaps behind it are promising all sorts of Land Rover-ish things that farmers familiar with the old model will doubtless appreciate. Where the new Defender is going for more car-like monocoque construction for the first time, the Grenadier is sticking with an old-fashioned ladder frame chassis, which is simpler and easier to adapt to different bodystyles. It’ll have beam axles, permanent four-wheel-drive and a boxy, no-nonsense exterior. Sound familiar? Then there are the engines, which are being sourced from BMW in much the same way a certain other specialist in mud-pluggers used to do. Nor will there be any plug-in hybrids or zero emissions electric models – apparently, the car’s pale ale-swigging purveyors thought about it, but decided no-nonsense turbodiesels and petrols would do just fine, thanks.

Only said blokes, while they really did come up with the idea in the pub, aren’t overenthusiastic CAMRA members with a better grasp of Doom Bar than doomed British car designs. These chaps are not like all those tiny British sports car companies who attempt to take on Porsche with a budget of £12.50; nope, they all happen to work for a petrochemical company called Ineos, which is investing a not inconsiderable £600 million in the project. It also employs 22,000 people, and reckons it’ll take on about 500 more making the new off-roader. Three blokes nailing bits together in a shed this isn’t – and it’s pulled off a PR coup by announcing, just days after the Slovakian-built Defender was unveiled, that the Grenadier will be built right here, in Blighty (South Wales, since you’re asking).

But it’ll only out-Defender the Defender if it can get one crucial bit right; the price. Land Rover’s new offering starts at £45k in short-wheelbase 90 form, so the unapologetically unsophisticated Grenadier will have to start at a fraction of that to win over all those farmers, squaddies and forestry workers. That, I reckon, is the opening salvo in the most intriguing motoring battle in years.

All this from a couple of car nuts in a pub. Cheers!

The new Land Rover Defender still needs to pass the Ifor Williams test

IT’S A Kia Soul. It’s a Skoda Yeti. It’s a bloated pastiche of a British icon. And what the heck is that weird block in the rear window, anyway?

Actually, I quite like the new Land Rover Defender. I got the chance to have a proper look around it at last weekend’s Goodwood Revival, just a few days after its big debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show (although why a show dedicated to 1960s classic cars is being used to promote brand new off-roaders is another question entirely), and first impressions are… that it’s massive. The helpful folk at Solihull had stuck an old Series I next to it, and it was well and truly dwarfed by the new arrival.

But once you come to terms with its sheer stature and start looking at the little details, the more it looks and feels like a proper Landie. There’s a rather uncomfortable looking middle seat between the driver and front passenger – just like there was in my dad’s old One Ten – and where other purveyors of mud-pluggers treat the bodywork with garnishings of chrome-effect trim, the Defender’s got chunky swathes of unromantic plastic. Which is exactly what you want when you’re brushing past hedges on rutted farm tracks.

With the notable exception of the front windscreen, which I still think is a little too steeply raked, at first glance the new arrival does pull off what everyone thought was impossible; replacing an off-roader that’s been in production since 1983 with something that looks simultaneously modern and traditional. Obviously, it’s only fair to reserve final judgement until everyone starts driving it (preferably up a few muddy inclines), but I think we’ll only really know if the new Defender works once it’s out of the car shows and away from the flattering press shots of showroom-fresh examples being driven up mountains and across deserts.

Specifically, it needs to work when it’s shorn of its rear bodywork and fitted with an Ifor Williams aluminium canopy. Drive over the border into North Wales, go to somewhere like Denbigh or Llanrwst, and you’ll see Land Rovers in their purest form, invariably hauling sheep back and forth. There isn’t an alloy wheel, LED light or trendy paint job in sight here – spot a Defender here and it’ll almost always be painted in a drab, non-metallic shade that’s splattered with muck, kitted out on steel wheels and fitted with a canopy that’s covered in scratches. That’s how a Land Rover should look.

The new Defender has pulled off looking brilliant with an aplomb that’s managed to surprise just about everyone. But if it can pull off looking down-at-heel too, only then will we know if it’s replaced an icon. Best get busy if you work for Ifor Williams…