Vauxhall

A Triumph TR4 or a year of parking tickets? I know which I’d take

Being stretched for time is no excuse for poor parking

IT MIGHT not buy you a house any more but £24,500 still bags you a lot these days. A mid-range BMW 1-Series, for instance, or a Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport with most of the options chucked in.

Classic car nuts like me would probably end up with a Triumph TR4 or Jaguar Mk2 for that sort of money. Or you can follow Carly Mackie’s lead and blow the lot on roughly a year’s worth of parking for the car you already have. That’s something in the region of £65 a day for a car that’s not even moving.

The punishment administered a court up in Dundee this week is widely being described as Britain’s biggest ever parking penalty – but it does (in Scotland at least) scotch the myth that parking tickets issued by private companies on private land are legally unenforceable. All it’ll take is one court case of a similar nature either here in England or over in Wales to make the precedent Britain-wide, and I don’t think any of us want to test it out.

Yet I think this is no bad thing. Too many people on the internet have been perpetuating the idea you should refuse to pay these private penalties under any circumstances, but I’d much rather take the precedent of a court ruling over some self-appointed internet legal eagle and – while it’s unfortunate for Ms Mackie – this does at least clear things up. It also highlights how bad the situation in most town centres has ended up if people are prepared to run this parking gauntlet.

On a busy day Southport and Ormskirk are particularly tricky to find spaces in and I’ll inevitably end up circulating like an automotive vulture, waiting to swoop down the instant someone’s Fiesta backs out and frees up a space. Skelmersdale does rather better, with its swish multi-storey at the Concourse – but it’s a shame the spaces were designed for an age when everyone drove Austin 1100, not BMW X5s.

But there is a solution both to the parking precedent and to another news story that’s been doing the rounds this week. Apparently a third of us are so fat and lazy these days that we’re costing the NHS a billion quid a year, largely because we can no longer be bothered to stroll to the corner shop.

So let’s walk more. I’ve spent years parking on the fringes of Southport on my shopping trips, saving a couple of quid in parking and doubtless extending my life slightly at the same time. If you’re a mum with three prams to push around or someone with a wheelchair or crutches then go ahead and use the town centre, but for the sake of a few minutes I’d much rather enjoy some exercise. Bit rainy? Use an umbrella. Lots of shopping to carry? That’s what bags are for.

I know this new-fangled walking thing is going to take a while to catch on, but just think of all the money you’ll be saving. Enough to buy a Triumph TR4 within a year, if the latest precedent is anything to go by.

Advertisements

The yellow car convoy says a lot about our motoring freedom

david-encourages-you-to-exercise-your-motoring-rights-by-driving-one-of-these-to-a-nearby-beauty-spot

FIRST they came – to badly misquote Martin Niemöller – for the owners of yellow Vauxhall Corsas.

But car lovers across the country did speak out, by effectively telling aggrieved residents of the Cotswold village of Bilbury to get stuffed. You might have read about Peter Maddox, the 84-year-old man whose brightly hued supermini was vandalised by people who objected to it being parked in the picturesque village.

So owners of yellow cars from across the UK are responding by organising an entire convoy to pay the villagers a visit later this spring. As long as it’s all above board – and the organisers are in talks with the local council to make sure it is – I completely support it.

This from someone who hates the Vauxhall Corsa. But I hate curtain-twitching, NIMBY-ist busybodies who resent car enthusiasts lawfully enjoying their hobby even more.

If someone doesn’t like a yellow Corsa I respect their right to poke fun at it, but to scratch someone’s pride and joy, smash its windows in and scrawl the word ‘MOVE’ on it is completely beyond the pale. It’s as though someone watched the hit film Hot Fuzz, where resentful locals forcefully kill or remove anything or anyone that ruins their chances of winning the Best Village award, and thought it was a documentary.

It’s the same with people who write to the council because they object to their neighbour having a partially restored Triumph Spitfire on their driveway or those who take racetracks to court for being a bit noisy, even when the circuit was there long before their house was. Objecting so strongly to someone’s choice of car – and what they do with it, as long as it’s legal – is absurd.

I’d hate to think people who read about Peter’s car and thought ‘Oh, good’ aren’t emboldened by it, because they’ll move on to green Chrysler PT Cruisers and lowered Audi A3s next. Then it’ll be those Toyota MR2s that have been body-kitted to look like Ferrari F355s, followed by people who drive Range Rover Sports and BMW X5s with oversized alloys. Owners of Nissan Jukes, even in completely standard form, should be looking worried by this point.

Then they’ll come for the owners of MGB GTs with slightly flaky paintwork. Only they won’t, because car fans are letting them know now that it’s a ridiculous idea. I may not agree with your yellow Vauxhall Corsa, but I’ll defend to the death your right to drive it.

Originally published in The Champion newspaper on 15 February, 2017

Buying Vauxhall? Please don’t screw it up, Monsieur Peugeot

the-vauxhall-astra-is-the-current-european-car-of-the-year

THE TV news is full of doom ‘n’ gloom. The internet is creaking under the weight of patriotic complaint, and pundits everywhere reckon it’s all going to end in tears.

Nope, it’s not one of Donald Trump’s speeches, but the conclusion it’s all too easy to draw about what’s happening with Vauxhall at the moment. The Government is apparently keeping a close eye on talks some people from PSA – that’s Peugeot to you and me – are having with General Motors about whether it should flog off its European operations. In other words Opel over in Germany, and Vauxhall here in the UK.

There are two things to bear in mind straight away. Firstly, Vauxhall is as British as the Queen sat on a Range Rover’s lowered tailgate sipping Tetley – in other words, as British as a person of German descent drinking an Indian-owned beverage on an Indian-funded car. Vauxhall might still proudly manufacture its cars in the UK but anyone gasping in horror at the thought of it being taken over by a foreign firm should stick their Union Flags and Winston Churchill books back in their boxes. Last year I drove a Vauxhall T-type made way back in 1929, and even that had General Motors bits in it. Being foreign-owned, as Jaguar Land Rover can testify, is by no means a bad thing.

But that doesn’t make Peugeot the right parent. It’s stuck by Citroen for more than 40 years but the last British firm it snapped up – Chrysler Europe, which through lots of boring corporate takeovers had the rights to Sunbeam, Humber and all sorts of other wonderful names – vanished without trace. It also has form for closing down UK factories, calling quits on Ryton when it moved Peugeot 207 production to Slovakia.

I’d love to be proven wrong but I can’t help think Peugeot taking over Vauxhall is a bit like Manchester United being allowed to buy Liverpool FC – why would it be in the interests of one to allow one of its biggest rivals to thrive? Someone in France might have come up with some brilliant plan where the two brands compliment one another, in much the same way Peugeot already does with Citroen, but I have my doubts.

All this at a time when Vauxhall is making some genuinely good cars too; I understand entirely why Astra’s the current European Car of the Year, and the latest Insignia looks very promising. I might even forgive them the Mokka, because by and large it’s a decent range of cars that Brits rightly love.

If you are thinking of buying, Monsieur Peugeot, please don’t screw it up.

These are the ten cars that made my 2016, and why

IT’S been a whirlwind year of motoring adventures. Over the past 12 months I’ve driven 88 different cars and been to 34 classic shows, but a couple have left particularly big impressions, and for very different reasons.

These are the automotive memories that’ll stick out more than most…

 

Porsche 928

img_8168

Where: Southport, Merseyside

Confession time. I’ve had my fair share of Ferraris, Astons, Jaguars and TVRs, but until 2016 I’d never driven any kind of Porsche. No 911s, no Boxsters, nothing. But what a car to start with. Wonderful looks that have barely aged in four decades, a thumping great V8 soundtrack, plenty of straight line shove and handling to die for.

 

Vauxhall 6hp

595a0576-ps

Where: Luton, Bedfordshire

How can a car that only does 18mph be so tricky – and a bit frightening – to drive?  This 112-year-old is one of the stars of Vauxhall’s heritage collection, and for one morning its custodians were brave enough to let me have a go. The steering’s by tillar, none of the pedals do what you expect them to do and it has just two gears – but boy is it rewarding when you finally get it right.

 

Wolseley Hornet Crayford ‘Heinz 57’

_smc1511

Where: Swanley, Kent

Regular readers will already know I love Minis. I’ve owned two and over the years sampled many a Cooper, van, Moke and just about every other derivative besides, but this just about tops the lot. It’s one of only 50 convertible versions of the Wolseley Hornet created by Crayford as prizes to give away to the winners of a Heinz competition back in 1966. It’s Half a century on it’s still bloody brilliant to drive.

 

Ferrari Testarossa

_scp4435

Where: North York Moors, somewhere near Whitby

It’s one of my favourite Ferraris and it was in the North York Moors – home to some of the best roads you’ll find anywhere in the UK. You might think the Miami Vice poser might not be the best car for this sort of territory, but the Testarossa handled more deftly than any of the armchair critics would have you believe. It didn’t disappoint.

 

 

Ford Mustang

img_4904

Where: Birkenhead, Merseyside

It’s a blisteringly hot summer afternoon, you have a bright red Ford Mustang convertible at your disposal – oh, and it has a V8 for good measure. It didn’t matter a jot that the summer afternoon in question was in Birkenhead rather than Beverley Hills. Everybody loved the ‘stang, including the guy grinning behind the wheel.

 

 

Volkswagen Up!

img_1026

Where: Stelvio Pass, Italy

I have longstanding affection for the Up!, honed after many weekends using a company-owned one on Classic Car Weekly adventures. What turned out to be jolly good fun on the Cat and Fiddle road in the Peak District translates into equally smile-inducing motoring on the Stelvio Pass in the Italian Alps. It might have only had 60bhp at its disposal but its size and agility made it a perfect partner, embarrassing plenty of quicker cars up there. Hire car motoring at its best.

 

Messerschmitt KR200

_scp4425

Where: Scarisbrick, Lancashire

Until 2016 I’d never driven a bubble car – and then I got to drive three in one day! The BMW Isetta and Trojan 200 were huge fun but for ultimate kicks the Messerschmitt KR200 is in a different league. Super-sharp, yoke-operated steering, a tiny engine that thrived on revs and a centrally-mounted driving position made this a drive quite unlike any other. Utterly exhilerating.

 

 

TVR Chimaera

img_7655

Where: The Golden Mile, Blackpool

Over three wonderful days I fell just a little bit in love with a TVR Chimaera I borrowed. It was very, very good on the roads criss-crossing the Trough of Bowland (keep an eye for the forthcoming feature in Modern Classics magazine) but the real highlight was cruising into Blackpool at the height of the Illuminations. It was a huge privilege to bring this piece of the resort’s motoring heritage home for the night.

 

MGB GT

img_6178

Where: Glencoe, Scottish Highlands

Not just any MGB GT, but my MGB GT, and it was finally on the spectacular journey I’ve always wanted to do with it. Wonderful roads, spectacular scenery – and it actually got there AND BACK without breaking down!

 

Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow

595a6737-ps

Where: Southport, Merseyside

I wasn’t even behind the wheel – that job I left to Bryan Glazer, the car’s owner – but this was the most important journey of my motoring life. On 29 July a blushing bride hopped out of it – and she’s now my wife. Then I got to do a champagne-fuelled lap of my hometown of Southport in it. It was the motoring moment that left the biggest impression on me. Well it had to be, didn’t it?

Additional photography courtesy of Richard Gunn and Classic Car Weekly

How Vauxhall helped me win my favourite car game

The VXR8 is hugely powerful - but in the real world there are better performance buysAS GAMES for car nuts go Real Life Top Trumps is definitely one of the better ones.

It’s one anyone can play, as long as you’ve got at least one similarly inclined mate willing to take you on. All you need do is pick an automotive superlative of your choice, go through all the cars you’ve collectively ever driven and whoever nails the biggest (or smallest) number in their bucket list wins. Whether it’s the fastest, the priciest, or the quickest to 60mph, whoever can blag or buy a car with the most impressive stat wins. It doesn’t even need to be the stuff of supercars either; it’d be equally fun trying to one-up one another with who can get the lowest MPG.

The on-off round of Real Life Top Trumps I’ve been playing with a pal over the last few years involves seeing who can get a go in the most powerful car. Regular readers will remember I smiled like a schoolboy given his whoopee cushion when someone was brave enough to let me have a go in the 542bhp Jaguar XKR-S. I was confident victory was mine – right up until about a fortnight, when said mate went on a track day and landed a few laps in a 550bhp Lamborghini Gallardo. It’s exactly the sort of experience you can buy someone as a birthday present, so don’t think quick thrills in really powerful cars are the preserve of Premier League footballers and the sort of drug dealers you’d find on Miami Vice.

But now I’ve managed to pull back into the Real Life Top Trumps lead, and it’s all thanks to the cheapest new car you can buy with upwards of 500bhp.

Bet you didn’t expect said car to be a Vauxhall. The VXR8 GTS mates a 6.2-litre V8 with a supercharger to rustle up 585bhp – making it more powerful and cheaper than either the BMW M5 or a Jaguar XJR. It’ll also, seeing as we’re talking stats to impress your mates down the pub with, get to 60mph in 4.2 seconds before growling loudly all the way to 155mph.

Mash your right foot to the floor and there’s a whine from the supercharger as this preposterously ample family saloon gets lugged towards the horizon so quickly it feels like it’s been tied to one end of an enormous elastic band. For a split second its sheer get-up-and-go is intoxicating – and then you have to rein it in instantly for fear of propelling yourself into the nearest village at three-figure speeds.

It’s got the same one-track charm as the old VXR8 – only everything happens so much more urgently. If you want a go-faster Vauxhall then the clever money’s really got to be on the Insignia VXR, which might not have anything like the power but thanks to its slicker tech, smaller size and four-wheel-drive is by far the better ground coverer.

The VXR8 is the one I’d take for winning Real Life Top Trumps – but it’s the Insignia VXR that really wins you over.