Please join me for an enthusiasts’ day out in which we make a small tour of some of my favourite establishments.
Editor Mark Tisshaw has given me a free hand to go where I want in what I want. This is going to be a day escaping from all talk of connectivity, fast charging and autonomy and from testing bland and dull-to-drive Korean and Volkswagen Group SUVs and crossovers, all of which have snuck into my professional life uninvited.
I’ve chosen something very much the opposite of a Volkswagen T-Cross: a brand new Chevrolet Camaro, supplied by Ian Allan Motors down the road in Virginia Water. Ian Allan is the only official GM dealer in the UK and is the establishment that lent us a Corvette in which I had a very pleasant day driving from Brooklands to Brighton earlier this year. The Camaro has the same engine as the ’Vette. So let’s fire up the 6.2-litre V8 and select D for our first port of call.
In the past two years both of my local garages have shut. They weren’t dealerships – that wouldn’t have been a great loss – but traditional garages staffed by mechanics who really knew what they were doing. The sort of place that would remove a broken-off stud in a cylinder head in exchange for a pint.
But it’s not all disaster, because just a bit farther away from home, still in Hampton and still within walking distance, is Broad Lane Garage. It is one of the coolest garages I’ve ever seen. Its small yard always contains something interesting, like a ’50s Buick, a beach buggy or, as it does today, a family tree of VW vans. There are two split windows, a bay window and several T4s. I’m having a cup of tea with Mike Scotney who, along with his sister Jane, runs the garage that their father founded with a partner in 1960.
Scotney doesn’t just cater for the enthusiast, he is one himself. In reception there’s a flathead Ford V8 bare block, a more complete version of which is in Scotney’s own toy. “I’ve got a Model T roadster with a ’37 flathead V8 in it,” he explains. “I take it down to Pendine Sands for the hot-rod races. I tow it behind my 1949 Chevrolet Station Wagon. It’s known as a Tinnie and is the cheaper version of the famous ‘woodie’ wagon, which is what I’d really like to own.”