Currently reading: Cropley on cars - Fascinated by McLaren, and disappointed by politicians
The McLaren 570S is impressive and fascinating; politicians are disappointing in their absence in a tough time; paying tribute to Henry Royce

MONDAY - Call me cheap, but if I were choosing a McLaren with money no object, I’d go for the new ‘affordable’ 570S.

My motivation wouldn’t just be the five-star verdict, or even that this is plainly the best-value McLaren going. I’m fascinated by this young company’s steep trajectory of improvement. The 570S strikes me (to borrow F1 jargon) as Woking’s most complete package yet.

Another achievement, obvious when I joined CEO Mike Flewitt at a Pure McLaren track day at Silverstone, is that a formerly austere company has become warm, welcoming and sociable. Success in the fast car business is today based on selling great days, not just great cars, and McLaren is now a master at this.

TUESDAY AM - To the International Automotive Summit in central London, staged by Britain’s car manufacturers’ club, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. It occupied a mere half a day, probably because the organisers reckoned the VW scandal would overtake everything, although it didn’t.

Truly shameful was the non-appearance of anything resembling a politician, probably for the same reason. At other times, our legislators claim to love the British car industry and would quite like you to think they did all the hard work. Fair-weather friendships? They wrote the book.

TUESDAY PM - Fascinating dinner in Northants with members of the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation, a body dedicated to the memory of an engineer so eminent that when he died, The Daily Telegraph dubbed him “one of the best-known people in Britain”. Royce described himself as a mechanic, but his dedication to engineering quality was total, as cars bearing his name still show.

I’ve a feeling Royce would be proud of the way his legacy is maintained. With its associate, the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club, the foundation keeps records of all Royces going back to the early 1900s. It has a wonderful collection of artefacts – from blueprints to whole cars – and deploys funds to aid the cause of engineering via lectures, scholarships and school visits. It’s a vigorous organisation, but it needs new blood, a fact it asks me to bring to your attention. To join a wonderful car-based enterprise with a laudable mission, visit

WEDNESDAY - Took a day trip to the Geely (formerly Volvo) design studio in Barcelona, to hear about the new TX5 London taxi, penned there because Geely owns London Taxi Co. A tale I liked, recounted by design boss Peter Horbury, concerns Geely’s owner and president, Li Shufu. President Li understands the power of famous brands, and when shopping years ago for an iconic British brand he found two available. “I bought the taxi company,” he says, “because Rolls-Royce was a little pricey…” 

THURSDAY - To Volvo’s HQ in Gothenburg to hear plans for plug-in versions of every model plus a Tesla-chasing electric saloon for 2019. What appealed was Volvo’s independent outlook, restored against expectations by its Chinese owners. The Volvo culture seems oddly close to that of Mitsubishi, explained to me last week. The companies are different in most ways except that they share a non-conformist outlook, a streak of independence and a love of plug-ins. I’ve a feeling we should be looking to companies such as these for boldness, rather than the constrained premium brands or sluggardly mainstreamers.

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And another thing...

My recent whinge about Toyota calling its hybrid Auris “the hybrid you don’t have to plug in” has been kicked into touch by reader Mike Spencer, who points out that many hybrid-minded city dwellers don’t have drives on which to park cars and charge them. This Auris is right for them.

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Norma Smellons 25 October 2015


Cropley wrote:

Truly shameful was the non-appearance of anything resembling a politician

"Shameful" may well have been your alleging falsehoods of Sajid Javid, as per the blog of 15th October. Best we don't mention the fawning over Vince "let's ban all car engines" Cable, either. But hey, each to their own - I'm sure Vince's mum likes him, too.

beechie 25 October 2015


I can do without the hackneyed clever-dickery and inverted snobbery of referring to 'Royces'.

It's an unoriginal, uncalled-for and ungentlemanly insult to the memory of the blameless Charles Rolls, whose life was so tragically cut short.