Currently reading: Cropley on Cars - Design Q, DVLA and counting Porsches to get to sleep
Cropley's collected thoughts from another week in the world of motoring


Picture this: you’ve bought a car you enjoy but don’t like looking at. Your choices would normally be to sell it or live with its visual inadequacies, but businessman John Lee recently chose a third option for his much-loved 2004 Maserati 4200 Spyder: to improve its looks. He searched the net and found, by huge coincidence, a group called Design Q, not only based in his hometown of Redditch but also with Maserati connections of its own. He commissioned them to give his car a new face. 

Design Q’s founders, Howard Guy and Gary Doy, are known in these pages for the Jensen SV8 they created at the end of the 1990s. The project failed, but the design was good enough to catapult the pair to success, and they’ve been flat out since designing aircraft interiors, superyachts and secret car concepts. Occasionally they take on bespoke projects like this one, which is why, a few days ago, I stood in a huge Birmingham airport hangar viewing what is now a very 2015-looking ’04 Maser with new-look bumpers, side skirts, diffuser, rear deck, tail-lights and subtle black-outs all over, a six-month transformation. “I’m delighted,” said John Lee, seeing it for the first time. “It’s even better than I hoped.” Thus a discerning customer is satisfied and an 11-year-old Maser gets a new tilt at stardom. 


More DVLA efficiency. When I visited the agency’s Swansea HQ recently to trade my tattered paper licence for a plastic one, staff warned of a three-week delay. The postman brought my new card three days later.


Couldn’t sleep, which reminded me of a conversation I’d had a 
few months ago with car-nut friends about automotive alternatives to counting sheep. One friend recommended listing Porsche model numbers (901, 904, 908, 911, 912…), but I didn’t know enough of those to make it last. Another suggested Detroit V8 capacities in cubic inches (260, 273, 283, 289, 302, 340, 351…), but I know from previous experience that you run out of puff at 500. Last 
night I found a new way: recalling the overblown names of early US automatics (Powerglide, Hydramatic, Cruise-o-matic, Powerflite, Torqueflite, Turboglide, Dynaflow and more). It worked. I slipped into a simple world of Yank tanks, every one with chest-high tailfins.


A nice Chargemaster bloke called Matt visited us in Gloucestershire today to assess the suitability of the wiring in our 1880s house for an electric car charging point. Before fitment, the company likes to know your electricals are okay, to avoid overloads that might spur an unwanted visit from the fire brigade. I was worried on two scores, that we might not get the go-ahead and that our house wiring might be generally shot. All fine, said Matt. Felt as if I’d passed an important exam.

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I’ve just finished reading Sir John Egan’s absorbing book, Saving Jaguar, which describes the all-action decade, 1980 
to 1990, during which, as Jaguar’s CEO, the author freed his iconic company from the dead hand of British Leyland, battled the anti-progress tendencies of union bosses, revitalised car output and productivity and floated his company on the stock exchange. As things turned out, his work also readied Jaguar for a “reluctant” 1990 sale to Ford, before it was subsequently sold on to Tata in 2008.

It’s no surprise that the book paints Egan’s achievements in a rosy light, but as a reporter who was on the spot at the time, I found it truthful. I especially enjoyed the freewheeling way Egan got stuck into people he didn’t like. He writes with a rare ease and clarity, too. As the Steering Committee will attest, I couldn’t put this book down.     

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