Currently reading: Cropley on cars - Ford boss shows he's a true car lover; my new wheels
Ford Europe boss Jim Farley shows why he's a real car lover, new Fiat 500 is welcomed onto my family fleet, Land Rover's Arthur Goddard is a true inspiration

MONDAY - It’s pretty special when one of the car industry’s top men turns out to be as keen a car nut as any of us.

The rigours of business tend to blunt the enthusiasm of the industry’s biggest men, but when Ford’s European president and CEO, Jim Farley, came to our London HQ, his credentials soon came to the fore.

Farley agreed to be interviewed in the less than salubrious setting of our photo archive and (as well as talking business) gave us lots of insights into his credentials as a car lover.

“I didn’t have money,” he explained, “so I took vacation jobs. One of them was in an engine remanufacturing plant, a long way from home. I bought a ’65 Mustang junker, lived in it while I re-did the engine, cashed in my return airfare to buy fuel and drove back to Michigan – with no licence or insurance. Not even a spare tyre. Didn’t tell my parents, of course. What I loved most about that car was washing it, and driving it slowly. I’ll never forget the feeling of freedom.”

TUESDAY - Loose the fireworks and ring the bells: the Steering Committee has a new car. After model deliberations that have stretched on one axis from Range Rover Evoque to BMW i3, and on the other from Hyundai i10 to Volkswagen Up, we are about to swap a seven-year-old Fiat 500 diesel for… another Fiat 500, this time a 105bhp Twinair.

I was concerned at first about the choice of Fiat’s unique two-pot engine (although charming, a Twinair needs ‘understanding’) but as well as packing 23% more power, the latest version is smoother and its throttle response is more intuitive.

Although our new 500 is a run-out model (you save £3500), its suspension has been updated several times in seven years. And within 100 yards, you’re aware of a big reduction in nose weight. However, the best justification for buying another Fiat comes from the owner herself: “It makes me feel happy.”

WEDNESDAY - After a recent story about British Motor Heritage – the Oxfordshire company that makes new MG B and Mini bodyshells – a neighbour hastened to show me his superb, rebodied 1964 MG B, which he’s certain will now last another half century.

However, while writing about BMH, I realise I failed completely to credit the vital efforts of ‘Mr MG B’ David Bishop and his associate, Neil Morrick, who – as present BMH proprietor John Yea made clear when we met – was the main driver both in the company’s formation and its ‘repatriation’ from BMW. Without this pair, BMH could never have worked.

THURSDAY - To a pre-Goodwood ‘heritage’ dinner staged for hacks in a Surrey pub by Land Rover where we met 95-year-old Arthur Goddard, one of the marque’s all-time heroes. At 24, Goddard was plucked from the company’s stretched engineering team to be chief engineer on the original Landie, launched in 1948. Despite his years and a pretty decent dose of jetlag, Goddard dealt remarkably well with an hour-long interview, during which the audience was transfixed.

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The US army Jeep, known to have influenced Land Rover, was useful for two key things above all, we learned. First, it showed that Land Rover should do whatever it could to avoid early-onset rust. Second, it became the body-strength standard to which Land Rover worked.

Given that the British 4x4’s outer panels were to be formed in relatively soft aluminium (supplies of steel were very restricted), Goddard and Co decided to make their box-section chassis as rigid as the total Jeep structure. It worked. Early Landies may have had glitches but no one ever complained about their chassis strength. 

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Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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nivison 21 September 2015

Pleased you went with a..

petrol engine this time. I have been roundly attacked on the forums here for my diesel opinions. But as a former resident of Ca. I stick by them and as I have done elsewhere will pass on this snippet from my previous (local) Government, at

"Long-term exposure to particles in diesel exhaust poses the highest cancer risk of any toxic air contaminant evaluated by OEHHA. ARB estimates that about 70 percent of the cancer risk that the average Californian faces from breathing toxic air pollutants stems from diesel exhaust particles. The microscopic particles making up diesel exhaust particulate matter are less than one-fifth the thickness of a human hair. They are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs, where they can contribute to respiratory disease."

Motor vehicles are almost all polluting but you have to choose one poison and I for one think you picked the right one this time.

Enjoy !