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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

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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

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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’

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Why Volkswagen is investing in a car-free future

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IT’S potentially the biggest shake-up in motoring since Henry Ford set up shop. Yet its instigators would rather you didn’t buy the cars it’ll create.

MOIA might sound like a Radio 2 newsreader or one quarter of Irish folk band Clannad but it’s actually the Volkswagen Group’s latest company, putting it alongside Audi, Bentley, Porsche and Skoda. Except that MOIA isn’t a car company. It’s – and you’ll have to imagine me waggling my fingers as I say it – a “mobility services company”.

Brilliant, I initially thought. Europe’s biggest carmaker has decided to help The Champion’s more mature readers by using knowhow from the Golf and Passat to reinvent the mobility scooter. No longer will looking cool while wobbling about 8mph be the preserve of pensioners travelling in those tiny three-wheelers styled to look like Harley Davidsons – I can just imagine a Golf GTI-inspired mobility scooter with a golf ball gearknob, subtle go-faster stripes and clever traction control.

But I was wrong. Apparently MOIA is aimed not at the over-65s, not even at Ford and Vauxhall, but at Google, Apple and – more imminently – Uber. The whole concept of how we get around is changing, and Volkswagen is determined to be all German about it and lay its towel down before anyone else does.

Unless you’ve been in a cave for the past year you’ll already know that Google has managed to find enough time away from making search engine cartoons to create a car. Only a few months ago Ford acknowledged Apple is now one of its big rivals. And just about every cabbie from Liverpool to Louisiana is feeling a tad cross with Uber muscling in on their turf.

At the moment MOIA is all about car-sharing and ride-hailing apps but don’t be surprised to see it dipping into Volkswagen’s vast parts bin to rustle up a car or two of its own. Nor should you raise an eyebrow when Toyota, Renault and everyone else follow suit. When cars are banned from the big cities, it’ll be whoever wins the mobility-sharing race that rules the roost.

There will be a time in a distant future when moving about in Liverpool involves hailing a ride with some likeminded mates in a vehicle none of you own – but I don’t know if it’ll be VW, Apple, Google or Uber supplying it.

As long as it isn’t a mobility scooter styled like a Harley Davidson I won’t mind too much.

What one German car mag’s said about the new Volkswagen Tiguan will shock you

tiguanIF ANYONE knows a thing or two about art it’s the French. They gave us impressionist paintings, Les Misérables and Daft Punk.

Extend that to cars and it’s immediately apparent they know a thing or two about great design too. In 1971 someone in a turtleneck sweater stuck the original Range Rover in The Louvre and declared it a piece of exemplary industrial design. The rest of the world immediately agreed. The idea of great car designs being art earned a new currency overnight – although it makes you wonder why they hadn’t already done it with the Citroën DS.

Great car designs make wonderful works of art – you only have to look at an E-type or a Citroën SM to realise why. Yet it’s hard to imagine anyone sticking the latest bit of award-winning automotive design in Paris’ hotspot in quizzical-looking arty types.

The new Volkswagen Tiguan has been hailed – admittedly by the Germans – as a brilliant bit of design. The only thing is I’m struggling to understand why.

According to Volkswagen it ‘radiates power and authority’, but I’m still not sure what excited German mag Auto Zeitung so much that it beat 14 other new cars to be honoured as 2016’s most exciting bit of automotive design. Surely the new Morgan EV3 or the Alfa Romeo Giulia or the Ford GT were a bit more interesting?

Apparently not. What excites Germans is the use of a how the Tigun uses VW’s Modular Transverse Matrix – I know you want to yawn, but bear with me – and manages to give it ‘an unmistaken SUV profile’. In other words, they’re impressed by how the bits you know and love from the Volkswagen Golf can be made to look almost exactly like a Nissan Qashqai or a Ford Kuga.

The Tiguan does look a bit smarter than the old one and I’m sure it’s fantastic at towing a caravan along the M58 while getting a silent fifty to the gallon, but is it really the year’s most interesting bit of motoring design? When there’s a new Honda NSX around the corner? When are there all sorts of interesting developments in fuel cell cars and autonomous driving on the horizon?

I’m not convinced. Maybe I’m not German enough…