TUESDAY - It’s time for our Ferrari FF to meet its new owner. At least 10 of us have enjoyed its aura, not to mention the 650bhp V12 that puts towering performance under your right foot. Happily, the FF’s long nose and exposed alloy wheels (whose shapely spokes curve seductively outward) have remained unblemished in 5500 miles.
When test cars are worth £200k, there’s always an element of relief in handing them back. What I’ll remember most fondly about this one is its surprisingly practical nature, mixed with the strength of its Maranello-forged character. No one else makes cars like this.
WEDNESDAY - Fascinating chat with Peter Guest, director of the new Bentley Bentayga project, about his four action-packed years in charge.
Guest and Autocar have shared history: in 2002, we set out, with generous help from then-booming TWR, to build a full-size concept car as a way of understanding car design. Guest did the difficult stuff because, then as now, he was one of those rare engineers who can organise things, too.
With designer Neil Simpson, we created a three-seat concept called 3PV (for Three Person Vehicle) and exhibited it in front of 300 UK industry leaders. It went down a storm and we were extravagantly praised. But if it hadn’t been for Simpson and Guest, it wouldn’t have been born.
THURSDAY - Since he died just over a week ago, I’ve been ruminating on the contribution to our car society made by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, founder and keeper of the National Motor Museum for more than 60 years. I never knew him well, although I did ride shotgun a couple of times on the motoring event he loved most, the London to Brighton Run for pre-1905 cars.
Like his father, Montagu wrote books and was a tireless motoring lobbyist, but his key contribution, I believe, was to show what a force for good car museums can be.
Clearly, they’re fun for visitors, but they also enhance the reputations of car makers by venerating their achievements. To know how much motoring heritage matters, consider the situations of those who hardly have any.
FRIDAY - Random thought: what would a low-volume SUV by Zenos or Westfield look like? Fell to pondering this while my nose was in a book about the history of British sports roadsters.
Fifty years ago, our major companies bred a family of simple roadsters (MG, Triumph) whereupon radical thinkers in lower-volume companies (Lotus, TVR) made much better cars using bolder parameters and avant-garde design. Now SUVs are the rage, I’m wondering if there’s anything radical a little company could do with an SUV. The Ariel Nomad is a step in that direction. Could there be others?
SATURDAY/SUNDAY - Spent the driving part of my weekend in a Honda Civic Tourer, heading to and from Carfest South, the charity event fronted by Chris Evans at Jody Scheckter’s place, Laverstoke Park, in Hampshire.
I found the Civic an effortless, enjoyable car whose creamy diesel strikes a seemingly impossible compromise between strong torque and remarkable fuel economy.
Carfest was made enjoyable by the cheery Honda folk the Steering Committee and I were able to hang out with. It also provided a fascinating chance to clock Chris Evans up close.
Have to say I’ve got serious doubts whether his One Show/Radio 2 demeanour will cut it with a Top Gear audience used to the trio of troublemakers who have just vacated the TG space. It’ll be very different, that’s for sure. Wish we didn’t have to wait eight months to get the answers.
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