To all the cars we’ve loved before…

27 02 2011

During a drive back from Cambridge a few days ago I had an idea.

There seemed to be a disproportionate amount of broken down cars strewn along the A14, leading me to do that mental ‘there but for the grace of Bosch go I’ thing in the hope that it’d prevent me from joining them. Not all of these were the usual 15 year old econoboxes either – a new Jaguar XF seemed to have succumbed to an attack of the vapours in solidarity with its cheaper four wheeled brethren. This situation connected with the knowledge that I had a fresh copy of Octane magazine sitting at home waiting to be read, and left me with the sense of a gap when it comes to life experiences with everyday cars.

It’s easy to find beautifully penned missives about the latest metal on the market, coming from the perspective of a factory fresh loan for the week. We’re also well catered for when it comes to the classics, with plenty of lovingly detailed roadtrips in prime examples of top-flight auction candidates. What about the rest of us though? Where’s our voice? Who speaks out for the bangers, the stopgaps, and the ‘cherished but crap’ cohort?

What if we were to collaborate on a blog that trod the middle ground? I’m thinking in terms of a series of contributions that treat our beloved old nails with the reverence usually reserved for heavenly chariots made of unobtanium and unicorn hooves.  The best they could normally hope for is a point by point lowdown buried twelve pages deep in the dusty archives of a consumer site, and I think they deserve better. What about a few hundred words at a time talking about how it felt to live with a car that, by most measures, most people wouldn’t look twice at? That old Citroen might have been a nail, but it was your nail and you cared for it even though it didn’t show you any loyalty in return.

Stories of real cars in the real world, told lovingly by real people? How about it?


Labouring in overdrive

13 02 2011

This post is going to be about Top Gear, just to warn you in advance. If you’re one of the many people offended by anything the lads have said recently then don’t expect more ammo from my direction; you’ll have to scour the headlines for something else to upset you… preferably something you had no prior knowledge of, and therefore emotional investment in. That’ll let you get good and angry with no consequences, you’ll like that.

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Pub Wisdom

26 06 2010

I’d like to talk about suspension.


Ok, so everyone still here has some interest in engineering, good. I suspect the people who just ran for it might well end up as the subject of this post. We’ll see.

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Green grow the rushes…. oh…

27 04 2010

I usually stay clear of environmental discussions because I tend to find evangelism irritating. I’ve come to the conclusion that even though the environment and environmentalists differ because the environment is frequently attractive, exciting and smells earthy by nature, you still wouldn’t really want to get either on your hands. Keeping some distance is best.

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‘Music hath charms to soothe a savage boost..’

27 01 2010

One of the old chestnuts of motoring journalism is the ‘best driving song’ debate, which usually ends up being a hoary old rock ‘classic’ from an album that probably has a skull and/or a rose on the cover. I always avoid this discussion, partly because I find it impossible to pick a favourite song from the realms of recorded music, but also because I’m more interested in types of driving music and the effect they have.

I’m a multi-instrumentalist,  and have always believed that musicians should have very diverse musical tastes in order to avoid falling into predictable ruts. You don’t have to necessarily like everything, but just be prepared to listen and see what you can learn. Consequently I have a large and varied collection of music and so I’m able to switch between hugely differing soundtracks on my daily commute. The typical process involves grabbing the autochanger caddy and then spending 15 minutes umm-ing and ahh-ing over the CD racks until I have six discs ready to go. These will typically fall into compatible genres unless I’m trying out new albums, so are a perfect basis for an experiment.

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The delicate sound of inefficiency.

30 11 2009

I realised yesterday that my car doesn’t sound particularly great.

That’s not to say it doesn’t sound good, because it does – it’s not particularly characterful but it does have a rough edged rumbly charm, coupled with a pleasant turbocharged descant when you give it the beans. It’s just that you wouldn’t be able to pick it blindfolded from a lineup, which is perhaps to be expected with the proliferation of shared platform engineering from which this particular car sprang. It’s basically a functional four-pot with a party trick, and that’s fine.  This set me thinking about the truly great engine sounds from history, and it occurred to me that they were all flawed in a very specific way.

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Bashing the boondocks

15 09 2009

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with off-road vehicles.

Mud plugging monsters such as the Unimog, the Viking and anything by Oshkosh are cool because they’re so brutal and single minded, but the more road going variety seem to be conspicuously out-of-place – more so as they adopt a widening range of shiny trinkets. There’s one vehicle that until recently seemed to buck this trend, and that’s the humble Land Rover Defender. It may be ugly and extremely spartan inside but it has character and grit and that’s something I always appreciate.

As as result I was extremely happy to be given the chance to take one of these beasties off road at All Terrain Services‘ training centre in Rutland. This is a custom made facility sharing land with a golf club in this tiny county to the east of Leicestershire, catering for fun stuff as well as more serious driver training. Even the approach along a very broken driveway suggests that one is not in for a gentle ride – something the assorted golfists would doubtless find amusing, although their choice of apparel always led me to question their sense of humour anyway, but I digress.

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