Ford Capri

Going to a classic show in a dull car? Good luck finding it again

Toyota has made its Avensis Tourer very good at blending in - but our motors man reckons he has the answer
SOMETIMES the best places to go looking for cars aren’t the bustling shows taking place at stately homes most weekends – it’s the makeshift car parks next to them.
I was at one last Sunday and in the vast field given over to cars brought along by visitors I spotted a Jaguar XK150, a Ford Capri 3000XL, a Citroen CX GTI and a particularly well restored Hillman Super Minx. All of which were, lovely, of course, but the car I really wanted to see was a silver, 18-reg Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D Tourer. Largely because it’s the car I’d been lent for the weekend, and I needed to get home again.
Anyone who’s been to a big car show in something that isn’t a Triumph TR4 will have encountered this problem. After crawling through the grounds of a palatial country pile you’re directed into a nondescript field, where some volunteers – who always seem to be children drafted in from a local Scout group – beckon you into neatly organised rows of cars that aren’t terribly interesting. Normally, if you park up somewhere you’ll make a mental note of where you are – but because I’m a car nut with a short attention span my mind immediately zooms to what’s on the other side of the show entry gate, and I forget.
Which is great right up to the moment you emerge seven hours later and have to find your mid-sized family hatchback in a vast, nondescript field filled from front to back with mid-sized family hatchbacks.
If you’re lucky you might have remembered that you parked two rows away from a bloke in a Ferrari and that you can use his slightly dusty-looking F430 as a sort of homing beacon, but normally there’s a horrible moment when you realise you might never see your car again. I once spent two hours wandering around the peripheries of Goodwood trying to find a borrowed Skoda Fabia, which has six vast car parks given over to people who all seem to drive Skoda Fabias.
You might even end up doing the thing I do, which is to grab your car’s keyfob and point it in just about every direction imaginable, hoping that somewhere in the distance you might see the reassuring flash of indicators of a car that’s unlocking itself. It makes you look like someone who’s pulling shapes at an early ‘90s rave night, but it does on the odd occasion reunite you with your wheels.
I reckon the solution is for cars to be equipped with distress flares that can be activated remotely from the keyfob – especially for ones as visually anonymous as the current Avensis D-4D Tourer. As long as the car show isn’t held in a multi-storey car park this would work a treat, and you’d only have to look up to see in an instant where you’ve parked.
Or just turn up in something interesting, of course. I bet the bloke in the XK150 doesn’t have this problem…
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Driving top-down? You can have too much of a good thing

Too much sports car fun can damage your health, as our motoring man has discovered

WINE, Italian cuisine and Queen’s Greatest Hits. As I know from painful experience with all three – which normally involves indigestion or annoyed neighbours banging on walls – you definitely can have too much of a good thing.

Unfortunately, I can now add enjoying a sports car, top down, in the spring sunshine to that list. It is, I reckon, exactly the sort of hedonistic petrolhead hoot that makes all those hours spent queuing in city centre traffic jams all worthwhile; the giddy thrill of going exploring in search of a country pub in something that puts the wind in your hair and a big smile on your face. It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it in a 1930s MG T-type, a Lotus Seven from the mid-Sixties or a brand-new BMW Z4, because even though their technology is wildly different, the results are always broadly the same.

This is exactly the sort of bright-eyed optimism I ventured out with over a glorious Bank Holiday last weekend in my own small sports car, my trusty (if slightly faded-looking) Mazda MX-5. For a 28-year-old roadster it still works a treat, happily hitting the high notes with its rev counter, time and time again, but unfortunately it seems there’s one component that just isn’t as well engineered for the task as all of Mazda’s double wishbone suspension and twin overhead cam engine trickery. Me, to be exact.

What I’d forgotten was that in blazing sunshine and 24-degree heat that human skin just isn’t as good at coping with hour after hour of top-down fun. I naively ventured out for a two-hour drive to see some old racing cars going sideways at the Donington Historic Festival, spent the day looking at Ford Capris and Jaguar D-types, and spent another two hours driving home again.

Driving with the roof down for hours at a time is deceptive, because the breeze blowing onto your face masks the fact that you’re slowly simmering like a barbecue sausage. It was only when I returned home eight long hours later that I realised my complexion looked like a curious blend of an Oompa Lumpa and a freshly grown tomato. No amount of after sun was going to remedy this one overnight!

So if you are lucky enough to have a two-seater convertible at your disposal, do make sure that you keep a bottle of sun tan lotion to hand so you can keep on applying it throughout the day (and not just first thing in the morning, which was my schoolboy error).

Play it sensibly and you might just be able to enjoy all three days with the top down, as opposed to spending two of them trapped indoors, nursing colossal sunburn.
Although it did give me a chance to crack open a bottle of wine and stick Queen on again, of course…