For hour after hour we chased across the wilderness. Through engine bark and radio banter, there was excitement and happiness to be heard. We’d stop and swap, before our crazy convoy would careen west once more, a diverse caravan of cracking cars ploughing a furrow across this sceptred isle. In a warm inn, we quenched our thirst and sated our hunger as the passion for our favourite cars of the year was shared and debated around the table. And tomorrow, heads cleared and hearts racing, we would do it all again.
Well, that didn’t happen. Clearly in terms of global Covid-related upheavals, the cancellation of Autocar’s Christmas lunch is not going to place us high on anyone’s pity list. But what actually passed for one of our favourite events of the year truly was indisputably pitiful: a ragtag bunch of hacks squinting into their screens while wearing a contemptible assortment of Christmas jumpers, Santa hats and scraps of redundant tinsel.
We drank not flagons of foaming ale but mugs of tea from chipped cups. For roast goose and sizzling spuds there were sandwiches and packets of crisps. Sartorially we were a disgrace, worthy of no further mention other than Matt Prior, who at least had the dignity and presence of mind to wear antlers.
As ever, we were saved by the cars we brought. Or didn’t bring. Some we had not driven for months, yet despite the passage of time their memories remained as strong as ever, the selection as catholic as we have come to expect. There are, it seems, some things not even Covid can stuff up.
From the stoically traditional (my Land Rover Defender) to the thoroughly modern (Steve Cropley’s Volkswagen ID 3), past the fabulously wacky (Prior’s Donkervoort) and just plain unhinged (Richard Lane’s Ruf CTR), they came from all corners of the automotive spectrum. We had a classic beauty (Matt Saunders’ Ferrari Roma), a rule-bending sensation (James Disdale’s Toyota GR Yaris) and in Simon Davis’s Boxster GTS the almost obligatory Peter Perfect Porsche, the car that can do no wrong.
And so without further ado – or mince pies, brandy butter, crackers or anything else you might associate with the seasonal festivities – let us commence, our contenders appearing in the order in which their keepers appeared on my screen during our two-hour Zoom call. And you don’t get more Christmassy than that.
Matt Saunders, didn't bring a Ferrari Roma
I drove it back in August, just as we emerged from lockdown #1. It seemed to me like this was Ferrari getting back to something a little bit more sensible and classic, a return to a kind of car it used to do really well but appears to have forgotten about in the past 10 years or so.
The Roma reminded me of the 550 Maranello we drove last year to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our Britain’s Best Driver’s Car contest. The concept is quite different – one a two-seat V12, the other a 2+2 V8 – but a mix of usability and performance is common to both. And I like the way it balances a full measure of Ferrari excitement factor with a positioning that is a little more affordable and sensible. The result is a car you can imagine using for all sorts of reasons.