Bag a classic this weekend

Hope you enjoyed meeting Charles Ware and his Morris Minor Centre in the magazine column this week (Autocar, 18 March, p80). Ware would prefer that we all think of car ownership in decades, rather than the short-term approach that the modern car industry lives by. Now, I know you may not fancy a Moggy, but there are plenty of other classics out there which are every bit as interesting and easy to look after. Provided you are not fighting a rear guard action against rust, older cars are a pleasure to own. Mostly because the bits that go wrong you can usually sort out with a spanner and a screwdriver rather than a laptop.

20 March 2009
Half-price heroes

Goodwood: the other motor show

How many of us can put our hands on our hearts and say they’re really going to miss the British motor show? To the car industry and motoring journalists alike, motor shows are crucial trade fairs, where wares are peddled, exclusives granted, backs scratched and we all come together to catch up with the latest news and gossip. But what have they to offer the paying punter? The chance to see in the flesh, but motionless and inaudible, a load of cars that have already been trailered extensively in magazines such as Autocar, newspapers and on the web.

20 March 2009
Anything goes

Subaru's tale of woe

A couple of years ago a Subaru insider told me that the Boxer diesel would never make a profit for the company, because sales in Europe could never payback the investment. I double-checked this at a drive event last year and factory reps confirmed it. No wonder Subaru’s fortunes are so contrasting on both sides of the Atlantic at the moment.

20 March 2009
Confidential

Who killed the British motor show?

The car industry meltdown gave the excuse, but even without it the British motor show was already looking seriously vulnerable prior to the <a href="http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle/AllCars/238832/">news of its cancellation</a> for next year. Throughout the ExCel years the big problem has been numbers. Not of punters; both the 2006 and 2008 attracted their stated target of visitors. Rather, the problem has been a paucity of manufacturers, with a depressingly long list of major makers opting to do something else with their promotional budgets.

20 March 2009
Anything goes

Dumb and dumber

Enduring the Post Office queue the other day I got some unexpected live entertainment when a chap attempted to post a letter without an address on it. He thought simply putting DVLA on the envelope was enough. No stamp. No postcode. Just those four letters. When he left, the post mistress told me more. He’d been sacked months earlier for failing to make the grade as a paper boy.

19 March 2009
Anything goes

Torotrak gears up

Have you heard of a company called Torotrak? Probably not. They make a very clever gearbox called an infinitely variable transmission system – basically a form of zero-shift a little bit like the gearboxes they use in F1. Trouble is, although Torotrak has been around for nearly a decade, not one single car manufacturer has been bold enough to invest in its gearbox (although Jaguar is working with it on a mechanical hybrid system).

19 March 2009
Anything goes

'Allo 'allo 'allo Insignia

For reasons that should be apparent on this website, I had to travel up to Vauxhall’s UK centre of operations in Luton recently. It was my first time visiting Griffin House, and as I stood in reception, I was joined by a couple of out-of-uniform police officers. Were they CID, I wondered? Was Vauxhall being investigated for dubious accounting during these troubled economic times? Erm, no. The much less juicy truth is that these bobbies were going into a training course on the merits of the new Insignia Sports Tourer.

19 March 2009
Tester’s notes

Panamera: the view from the back seat

I’m currently at Stuttgart airport on the way back from a detailed technical briefing on the Porsche Panamera. As luck would have it, it wasn’t just about seeing the car broken down to its component pieces (although that was fascinating).

18 March 2009
Confidential

Jaguar XJ to topple S-class?

Jaguar will be keen to reclaim some of the XJ’s heyday back in the late 90s, when the car sold nearly 10,000 XJs a year in the UK alone. That was when the new AJ-V8 engines had just spruced up the reskinned X300 version of the XJ40. The XJ has since lost that lustre, despite its advanced aluminium chassis. That’s largely because of the relentless popularity of the Mercedes S-class, now the default choice for self-made businessmen or company directors.

18 March 2009
Confidential

Along for the ride

We’re fully aware that we bang on about it a fair amount in the mag, but ride quality is one of the most difficult aspects of a car’s dynamics to get right. It’s also pretty tricky to assess. Which is why we use a number of specific ‘ride roads’.&nbsp; We’ve got a few favourites pretty close to the office, and use a particularly challenging road on our test route up to Mira.

18 March 2009
Tester’s notes

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