Opinion

Mini prices have changed a lot in ten years – but this Champion column hasn’t

A LOT can happen in ten years.

Think back to what was happening back in September 2009. Gordon Brown was running the country, Dizzee Rascal was at number one and people were starting to get panicky about swine flu. Oh, and a motoring column popped up in The Champion for the first time, written by someone whose chief transport to our Lord Street offices was a rust-ridden Mini.

I re-read that first column the other day – which covers the tried ‘n’ tested petrolhead game of having a ten-car garage, but a budget of just £10,000 to fill it with – and it surprised just how much some of them have moved on in price. There’s no way, for instance, that you’d be able to pick up a Jaguar XJ6 Series III (even a really ropey one) for under a grand now; these days, you’d be looking at its Nineties equivalent, the X300, and you’d be better be prepared to tackle some rotten sills and tired electrics while you’re at it. The days of Fiat Coupés being readily available for buttons are gone too, and as much as there are still cheap Alfa 156 Sportwagons out there you’ll have a job finding one. Even the Renault 5 that I ran for a few months during this column’s early days has gone up in price – argue all you like about whether it’s a classic car yet, but simple market economics dictates that with the few people wanting one being greater than the number now on sale, you’ll struggle to get one for under a grand now.

But the one that’s more surprising to look back on than any other is the Mini I regularly needed Triple Plus Members’ Club Platinum Premium levels of breakdown cover for – I thought I’d done well selling that admittedly tired Mayfair for £800, but these days that wouldn’t even get you a non-running project. It would’ve been a bizarre thing to think back in 2009, but nowadays the cheapest route into Mini ownership is by picking up one of its flashier, BMW-engineered Noughties successors.

For all the talk of bloated Countryman models and pizza dish-sized speedometers I reckon it’s now a lot of car for the money, and the interesting thing is how big a part the 2001-on model played in the Mini’s 60th anniversary celebrations. I went to the International Mini Meeting in Bristol a few weeks ago and the newer models were absolutely everywhere, and the hostility that I remember from the Mini die-hards of only a few years ago seems to have subdued. It’s worth remembering too that the original Mini’s landmark 5.3m production run is set to be beaten by the BMW-engineered model at some point next year, so it’s not as though the nation hasn’t taken the new car firmly into its bosom.

You’d need the best £3-4k to pick up a decent classic Mini these days but play it smart and you can have a BMW-generation Cooper, with an MoT, for well under £750. I suspect it’d rather better at getting me to work in the mornings, too…

300mph in a road car should inspire a new generation of car nuts

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THERE are – surprise, surprise – very few individual cars that I’d pick as my specialist subject on Mastermind. Perhaps I could do a round on the places where Minis rot, seeing as my first car had all of them, or urban myths about the Austin Allegro. But that’s about it.

Unless, of course, John Humphrys were to quiz me on the McLaren F1, as I seem to have had most of its headline-grabbing facts hardwired into my brain from an early age. I can just imagine the studio lights being dimmed in preparation for the audience being bored rigid by a staccato succession of stats and trivia being fired back at John’s questions.

Deep breath. “232mph, revised to 241mph after another run with its rev limiter removed. Nought to sixty in 3.2 seconds. Nope, only the engine bay is lined with gold. Actually, its twin pannier lockers had more luggage space than a Ford Fiesta. Peter Stevens – who also styled the Jaguar XJR-15 and did the facelift for the Lotus Esprit. Nope, technically the BMW V12 was slightly overweight. But Gordon Murray didn’t mind too much, because it developed 627bhp, making it the fastest naturally aspirated engine ev…”

At this point I can imagine Mastermind being taken off the air as poor John keels over with sheer boredom, perhaps replaced by that old BBC test card of the girl posing next to the creepy-looking clown. I jest, but that gives you an idea of just how much an impression the McLaren F1 left on me in my earliest days at petrolhead school. It was, on account of it being a four-wheeled Concorde for the Nineties, one of those supercars that genuinely left a generation of car nuts in awe.

Which is exactly what I’m hoping Bugatti’s Chiron can now pull off. In much the same way that the F1’s biggest bit of pub trivia – being the fastest thing ever to need annual visits to an MoT testing station – was revised upwards by 9mph after a second high speed run in 1998, so the Chiron’s top speed of 261mph has been revisited after a gentle run this week with the electronic limiter removed. To 304mph, to be exact.

Normally I’m a bit dismissive of today’s supercars for being vapid Instagram fodder, normally driven around London on Middle Eastern numberplates by people too loaded to care about the parking fines, but when a roadgoing production car breaks the 300mph record for the first time, people tend to sit up and take note. I love the little bit extra, too – Le Mans winner and Bugatti test driver could have edged it to 300.00001mph, called it quits and then edged the Chiron back to reality, but he added an extra 4mph on for good measure. In much the same way Ferrari made headlines with its 201mph F40.

Why does any of this matter when there’s an average 50mph speed limit on the Tarleton bypass? Because it inspires people. There are engineers working at McLaren – and lots of other carmakers, and engineering firms – because they grew up with the F1 on their bedroom walls.

No one other than Bugatti’s top drivers are ever going to max a Chiron, but simply knowing that you can is going to inspire brilliant minds to bolt together something even better.

VW and Tesla – a match made in heaven?

ELON MUSK must be ecstatic. Having already conquered the world with Paypal, taken on NASA at the space exploration game and threatened to revolutionise mass transport with the brilliantly-named The Boring Company, he’s now got a new suitor. The world’s second biggest car company, no less.

That’s right, word on the street is that Volkswagen is interested in buying a stake in Tesla. Admittedly, Volkswagen hasn’t successfully shot one of its own cars into space but it has pulled off a few other tricks of its own – after selling 21 million Beetles and popularising the hot hatchback it’s gone on to snap up Audi, Porsche, SEAT, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini, along with superbike specialist Ducati and truck builder MAN. They’re behind only Toyota in the car-building stakes, and still on an upward trajectory. What’s more, they’re on the cusp of launching their own sub-brand, called ID, which focuses on zero emissions vehicles.

But owning Tesla – or at least, a bit of it – seems like an entirely smart move. Not only does it give VW access to all of the Californian start-up’s battery tech, which for years has been ahead of everyone else in the electric car game, but it also gives it access to all those Tesla-branded smart chargers you see at motorway service stations. The other day I called into Fleet Services on the M3 and saw a line of six of them sitting unused while Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi Outlander owners were practically trading blows over the Ecotricity ones nearby, but if VW and Audi owners were able to use Tesla ones too in a few years’ time, it’d make more sense for everyone.

But I’d like to think the suits at VW are interested in what I think is something even more remarkable that’s potentially on the table; the creation of a brand’s street cred out of nowhere. Think about how long it’s taken Toyota to win over a generation of cynical Brits with Lexus, and yet in half the time there are now car mags urging you to go electric and buy a Model 3 over a 320d. The internet’s even invented its own term for someone prepared to defend Elon Musk’s offerings, even in the face of outright hostility from the rest of the motoring world – the Tesla Fanboy. That such a term – and the people behind it – exists at all just shows you how much currency the cars created by someone I’m still convinced is a real-life Bond villain have with today’s buyers.

Yet here’s the weird thing – Tesla, for all its trick gullwing doors, ability to defeat McLarens in drag races and to make cars that can drive themselves, is still struggling to make long-term profits. It’s moved the motoring game and brought us some very cool cars at the expense of….well, at the expense. So, in other words, it’s where Aston Martin was 30 years ago.

What it needs is the equivalent of the DB7 – a brilliant car that transforms the company, bankrolled by someone else. VW and Tesla, then, are a match made in heaven. Your move, Elon…

There’s only one problem with solar panels on a Hyundai Sonata – and it isn’t the solar panels

INITIALLY it sounds like one of those inventions you can’t believe hadn’t been thought up earlier, like the rotary washing line or wind-resistant umbrellas – but there are few issues with Hyundai’s new solar-assisted hybrid car.

Don’t get me wrong, as the new Sonata Hybrid is still a decidedly clever bit of kit. Beneath its bonnet you’ll find a two-litre, direct injection petrol engine, which is teamed up to an electric motor to do all the crawling through traffic in a zero emissions way that’ll please the Polar bears. So far, so-so, but it’s the flotilla of solar panels on the roof that are its party piece, charging up the battery while you’re at work.

Solar panels are, of course nothing new – my parents have practically covered the roof of their house with them, as have plenty of folk up and down the land in this era of Government-backed eco-friendly energy incentives. They aren’t even especially new in the motoring world either, as Nissan have for years offered one as an optional extra on the LEAF, which allows you to keep things like the stereo in action without draining its batteries. Hyundai’s real smart thinking here is that it scrounges off the sun to charge up its batteries directly, meaning that on a bright day the big shiny thing in the sky can charge anywhere between 30 and 60 per cent of the hybrid’s batteries up over six hours. Net result? You don’t spend as much at the pumps, and Greta Thunberg won’t be asking you to commute by horse instead.

I reckon Hyundai could even go the whole hog and apply it to an all-electric car rather than a hybrid; it’s already common practice on plenty of zero emissions models to give them a quick charge that tops the batteries up to around 80 per cent of their full capacity, so the idea of having some solar panels that take care of the remainder, using a free, renewable energy source seems like a smart solution. All of it, using today’s tech, is definitely doable.

Or at least it would be if it weren’t for the Sonata Hybrid’s biggest problem – it’s not going on sale here. I’d love to crack a joke at this point about our cold, miserable summers and overcast afternoons in Aughton scuppering its chances but I can’t, because it’s not going on sale in the south of Spain, where it’s permanently 30 degrees, or in the northernmost reaches of Scandinavia – home of the midnight sun – either. That’s got nothing to do with it being a solar-assisted hybrid car and everything to do with it being a Hyundai Sonata.

So, in other words, a BMW-sized saloon with a Hyundai badge – even Hyundai knows that’s a tricky sell, which is why it dropped the Sonata from its range in 2010, with the Mondeo-rivalling i40 doing a rather more commendable job of filling the gap instead. The new Sonata will go on sale in Korea, and in America, but Hyundai, quite sensibly, concluded that given the choice we Brits would still go for an Audi A4 or Jaguar XE instead.

But the story doesn’t end there – the Sonata won’t be joining us, but the clever tech almost certainly will, because it’s looking to roll it out on other models too. 

An i800 people carrier with the entire expanse of its vast roof decked out in solar panels? Sounds like a better plan than a rotary washing line, I reckon.

Why the Mercedes A-Class is a bit too clever for its own good

“IT LOOKS like you’re writing a column for The Champion. Can I help?”

Anyone even vaguely familiar with Clippy, the relentlessly cheery – and endlessly irritating – virtual assistant for Microsoft Word will know how I feel this week. Every time you tried even the simplest task, like opening your latest missive with “Dear”, would instantly be met with a bombardment of questions about exactly how you’d like to write a letter.

Thankfully Clippy was quickly marched into Bill Gates’ office and promptly issued with his P45 many years ago, but I’m beginning to wonder whether he’s since managed to get another job – this time, residing in the infotainment system of the latest Mercedes A-Class. I’ve just spent several hundred miles in the company of a mid-range A180d, but it felt more like a shift rather than a drive. When all of its considerable amount of in-car tech is up and running it might as well be a work station on wheels – perhaps with a photocopier and a water cooler in the corner – than a car.

Its pièce de résistance is a double-screen, interactive display that starts behind the steering wheel and runs right across to the centre of the dashboard and controls every function imaginable in the A-Class, from the cruise control to how much bass you’d like on the tunes being played through its Bluetooth connection. It is very cleverly engineered and I’m sure that if I spent about a month going through every sub-menu fiddling with the settings it would be fine-tuned to match every minute facet of my personality, but because I hadn’t – and because it was doing its best to try and guess them – it did make me wonder why Mercedes had given the important gig of running the A-Class to poor old Clippy.

Leaving a car park, for instance, does not require a feed from four car-mounted cameras to be instantly fired up – not when I have mirrors, windows and a moveable neck that can already do all of that. Nor do I want, when I’m squeezing through a tight gap, a collision warning system to chime in at the precise moment that I’m concentrating. It’s also not terribly intuitive to use – it’s controlled via the steering wheel, a touch screen and a sensor pad on the centre console, the latter of which is mounted right next to the cupholders. Which means you end up accidentally exiting the satnav when you grab your cup of coffee. It even has a wrist support to stop you getting repetitive strain injury. I’m used to these doing an eight-hour stint in an office, but in a car?

All of which meant I ended up doing what most Microsoft Word users did about 20 years ago – switching off Clippy altogether – and driving around with as much of the in-car tech as possible shut down. As soon as I did that I actually enjoyed the A-Class for what it really is – it’s beautifully built, decent to drive, a lot nicer to look at than the previous model and, in A180d form at least, equipped with a turbodiesel that delivers plenty of mid-range thump on motorways and dual carriageways.

I reckon it’s the best A-Class so far, once you let the engineering – rather than the tech – do the talking. Brilliant, I’ve made it to the end of this week’s column without Clippy chiming in!

“It looks like you’re signing off for another week. Can I hel…”

The solution to struggling high streets? More car shows

SORRY, Arriva and Stagecoach, but you’re just going to have to re-route Southport’s busiest bus routes. The heart of Birkdale village works so much better when it’s full of old Morgans and MGs.

That’s the conclusion I came away with after stopping off last Saturday for the Birkdale Village Summer Fayre – it had a fairly sizeable car display, which in itself is nothing unusual, but I’ve got to applaud the powers-that-be for being bold enough to shut off the bit of Liverpool Road right by the station to make it happen.

I’ve been to plenty of shows over the years where it’s the centre of a town or village itself that becomes the venue, as opposed to a nearby playing field or pub car park, and I know it takes a special sort of perseverance to make it happen. There’s a great show in Prestatyn which has been cordoning off key bits of prime North Wales shopping territory for its Bank Holiday show, and I know that closer to home the Ormskirk MotorFest has made the trick of shutting off the town’s one-way system its schtick.

In every instance the result’s the same; the place is jam-packed with people shuffling through for a closer look. People, who I’m delighted to report, also seemed to be cheerily assembled around the tables outside every restaurant, pub and café within a half-mile radius. I’m sure there’ll be a meeting of Birkdale’s various movers and shakers in the next few days and something vaguely official to confirm it, but I’d be amazed if all those families who duly hopped off Merseyrail’s finest for a closer look didn’t treat the village to one of its busiest trading days this year.

It’s good from a petrolhead perspective too; if you’re reading this there’s a sporting chance you’ll already know exactly what a 1949 Riley RMA looks like, but for me the real highlight was hearing all the assorted ooohs and ahhhs from folk who don’t. Same goes for the 1960 MGA parked up on the other side of Liverpool Road. If you’re a small child who’s been brought up on nothing but Kia Cee’ds then I can’t think of better-looking example of what proper cars, with delicate curves, chrome bumpers and rumbling exhaust notes, look and sound like.

I’d also like to share with you, in the interests of fair and balanced reporting, some of the views of the many people who enjoyed the 60 cars on show…but I can’t because I was too busy ogling the 1974 Lamborghini Espada that one of the exhibitors had brought along.

Any village centre that has an Espada – which is considerably cooler than any Countach or Diablo – in it has got to be worth visiting, so I reckon in the interests of supporting local businesses it should be made a permanent fixture. Apologies, bus users, you’ll just have to put up with being re-routed…

Come on Boris, let’s educate younger drivers

I’M NOT SURE how I feel about the bloke who used to be the motoring correspondent for GQ – and someone who posted a semi-respectable time as a Top Gear star in a reasonably priced car – being given the keys to an entire country.

Boris Johnson is the new Prime Minister. And I suggest he starts – well, starts once he’s got the small matter of working out whether we’ll be leaving the EU sorted – by sorting out this nonsense about young drivers heading out at night, once and for all.

You might have noticed a slew of headlines in the national newspapers the other day suggesting that, as part of plans to bring in a new graduated driving licence, that newer drivers could face a ban from getting behind the wheel once it goes dark. But once I’d pored through the details of the Department for Transport’s new Road Safety Statement (I know, I should get out more) I couldn’t actually find any details of this rather draconian-sounding plan.

What I did discover were findings from a study suggesting that there was insufficient evidence that 20mph speed limits in urban areas – that’s you, highways people at Sefton Council and Lancashire County Council – had led to a significant change in collisions and casualties. It also noted that the number of annual road fatalities on British roads had barely changed since 2010, despite the volume of traffic increasing by eight per cent.

But what did pique my interest was the Government’s target to increase the number of drivers who’d ventured out after sunset before taking their test from 82.5 per cent to more than 90 per cent; it’s got similar plans for would-be-motorists practising their ability to drive independently, and those getting experience of tricky country roads, which have the highest accident rates.

Let’s go hell for leather, Boris. I reckon the chap who did doughnuts – of the tyre-shredding, not confectionary-based, variety – in a Ginetta in the interests of plugging Brexit will agree emphatically with the idea of up ‘n’ coming motorists being given lessons in what it’s like to rescue an ageing Proton from catastrophic understeer on a greasy country road. Youngsters should be taught just how irritating it is to have an Audi Q3 four inches off their rear bumper on a busy motorway, and how to respond safely; it might stop them becoming the culprit themselves a few years later.

In fact, I’d go even further than that. I’d take them to a private test track and let them feel an ABS system strut its stuff in an emergency stop, before taking them to the pitside café, treating them to four gin and tonics and letting them see for themselves exactly how being hammered knackers your reaction times.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax is all the proof you need that banning stuff doesn’t work – and I reckon taking the same approach with driving and enjoying cars will have exactly the same result. But treating new drivers like adults and showing them how cars react in different situations, might actually encourage them to enjoy them properly…and safely.

Over to you, Boris.

Ford Fiesta – still brilliant in a high-tech Britain

THE future can hang on a minute.

I know that we’re supposed to boldly sailing – on a solar-powered catamaran, presumably – into a brave new world of lab-grown, meat-free burgers delivered by drones, but right now there’s still a McDonalds on every busy road and a JD Wetherspoon in virtually every town centre. Your whole life can be conducted on Android and yet sales of vinyl records are up year-on-year. Perhaps most pertinently, for all the talk that electric cars and automation are the future, last time I looked the decidedly analogue Ford Fiesta was still Britain’s best-selling new car.

At the moment all the muttering is about how the humble supermini is about to embrace zero-emissions motoring. Renault’s Zoe has been chipping away at this bit of the market for a while (don’t worry, the Clio’s still very much available), but Vauxhall is being brave and launching its Corsa in all-electric form first, and it’s a similar story for Peugeot’s latest 208.

But while there is a plug-in hybrid Fiesta on the way the current range depends on a blend of rather more familiar petrol and turbodiesel engines, and it feels all the better for it. It’s as bit like Liam Gallagher – yes, it’s the same old act, and yet only last weekend it was good enough to headline Glastonbury.

I know because last weekend I spent 700 miles thumping up and down the British road network in a Zetec-spec EcoBoost – and couldn’t, with the exception of three very minor moans, couldn’t knock it. With the current Fiesta, introduced 18 months ago, it feels like you sit on the seats rather than in them, it still lacks mid-range thump in one-litre form, and on the motorway the ride’s a bit more fidgety than I’d ideally like, but that’s about it. In other respect Ford’s taken what it had with the 2009-era Fiesta, revisited absolutely everything, and quietly made it better rather than reinventing the wheel.

So while the turbocharged three cylinder engine still revels in a few revs to get results, it managed to average a fairly hefty fifty to the gallon – and I wasn’t on any sort of eco run. On the motorways it was long-legged enough to make light work of a voyage to Scotland and back – and when it wasn’t it could still entertain me on the B-roads, offering just enough feedback through its chunky, three-spoke steering wheel. Even the little things won me over; plenty of superminis integrate their stereo systems into a touchscreen system these days but the Fiesta gives you old-fashioned buttons beneath it as well, so you could flick between Joy Division and The Cure without losing the sat nav.

I suspect the reason the Ford Fiesta, even when every other new car is a crossover, electric car or plug-in hybrid, is still Britain’s biggest seller is because it’s ruddy good at what it does. The Suzuki Swift might match it when comes to generating grins, VW’s Polo has a more premium feel and the Fiat 500 is a lot more charming, but it’s tricky to think of a better all-rounder.

Why everyone loved the slowest car at Goodwood this year

SO THE brake dust has settled and the tyre marks on the tarmac have finally been swept up. The Goodwood Festival of Speed – arguably now the nation’s biggest event for seeing exciting new cars – is over for another year.

Anyone who ventured the 270 miles south (I’ve long thought that the Duke of Richmond should set up a northern spin-off, but that’s another story) would have seen the new Land Rover Defender, albeit as a heavily disguised test mule, ahead of its official launch. They also got a sneak preview of the new Lotus supercar, the Evija, and a chance to check out Ford’s latest ST hot hatch.

But the highlight is getting see all sorts of shiny supercars, single seaters and race and rally stars going “up the hill” – as in being driven to within an inch of their lives up a road snaking its way through the grounds of Goodwood House. A 20-year-old record was smashed by Volkswagen, which pummelled its all-electric ID.R racer along the course in a staggering 39.9 seconds. I’m not sure what the slowest time up the hill at this year’s event was – but I’ve a sneaking suspicion it might have been me.

I know this because even though the batch of cars getting ready to thunder past the Goodwood crowds wasn’t even within sniffing distance of the ID.R’s vital stats, they were still pretty well endowed when it came to outright oomph; entries included the Ferrari GTC-4 Lusso, Lamborghini’s Huracán and McLaren’s 570S Spider. Meanwhile, some very brave people at Citroën asked if I’d like to have a crack. In a 2CV.

Sportingly, they’d given me the fastest version on offer – a 1989 2CV6, which has a 602cc two-cylinder engine rather than the earlier 425cc version – but that still meant I had just 29bhp to play with and a 0-60mph time of 29.8 seconds. Ever watched For Your Eyes Only and wondered how Roger Moore managed to get away from a brace of Peugeot-driving baddies in one? He didn’t – the cars they used in the film had been fitted with engines from the GS, whereas the car I’d been entrusted with hadn’t.

But that didn’t matter a jot once the brand-new supercars had screeched off into the distance, racking up times the French big-seller could only dream of, because everyone loved the 2CV. Crowds unmoved by yet another Ferrari cheered and waved when they saw it leaning and lurching through the corners, its skinny tyres doing their best to squeeze every last mile an hour out of the car. A few minutes later it’d chalked up yet another fan. It’s the first time I’ve really driven a 2CV for any meaningful length of time, and I loved its packaging, its characterful two-cylinder clatter, its light but beautifully communicative steering and, best of all, how it keeps motoring to the bare minimum and puts 110 per cent into the few things it does have.

Never have I been so delighted to have finished last – but if it’s smiles-per-pound we’re judging this year’s Festival of Speed on, I reckon I’ve found the standout winner.

Why a V8 Aston Martin deserves to be James Bond’s next co-star

HE OTHER week Prince Charles dropped in to see Daniel Craig to see how work on the new James Bond film is shaping up. Which is probably a good thing, because I’d like to think he also had a quiet word with the film’s producers and asked them nicely to hurry up with making it.

But with the world’s cameras firmly trained on the Prince of Wales’ visit it almost felt as though a crucial new detail from the film, confirmed by the official James Bond Twitter account, seemed weirdly overlooked. I’d been expecting the Aston Martin DB5 – having already shown up in Skyfall and Spectre – to make a comeback, but what I hadn’t been counting on was one of my favourite film cars of all time, the Aston Martin V8 from The Living Daylights to rock up as well.  

But some fan footage taken during the filming confirmed possibly the best bit of movie-related news I’ve heard all year. Until now, the 1987 Aston has spent most of its time sat in museums looking a bit unloved, but look on YouTube and there’s a short clip of sweeping along a rather stunning-looking Norwegian road, being chased by a cameraman in a helicopter. I’m not entirely sure how the film’s makers are going to explain it, seeing as Bond fans will know that a car with the same registration was blown up on a Czechoslovakian hillside fairly early on into The Living Daylights, but I’m glad that it’s back.

More importantly, I’m hoping that Aston’s glad, too. For years the DB-generation Astons have been the real stars of its heritage operations, so much so that it’s started making some of its biggest hits again for (very rich) car nuts. Last year it announced a run of DB5s virtually identical to the one Sean Connery turned into a household name in Goldfinger – complete with primitive 1960s navigation system, fake guns and revolving numberplate – and now it’s resurrected the DB4 GT Zagato, a super-rare 1950s model reclothed in a sleeker, Italian designed skin to aid aerodynamics.

But the Astons I – and a lot of other people of my age, who are now in the position to buy old cars – grew up with were the much later V8s, and I bet I’m not the only thirtysomething for whom Tim Dalton’s much grittier take on saving the world was James Bond. I would love to see Aston Martin giving its V8s – particularly the Vantage, with its colour-coded, blanked-off radiator grille and 400bhp on tap – the same treatment as its DB models of the 1960s, and for a limited run of re-created models to head back to the showrooms. I’ll never be able to afford one, of course, but in a world of plug-in hybrids and me-too crossovers there’s definitely room for a car like it.

Until then I’ll carry on waiting for the next James Bond film – which is already about six months late, no matter how brilliant it is. Perhaps another member of the Royal Family can have a quiet word with them…