The word ‘Sold’ said it all. It was on every embarkation document, laid carefully on the top of each car’s dashboard.
New model Land Rover Discoverys, Range Rovers, Evoques, and Jaguar F-Types, F-Paces, XEs and XFs: they all proclaimed it. A good thing, too. You wouldn’t want to travel for 10 days and 2352 nautical miles from Bristol’s Royal Portbury Dock to Livorno, on the northwest coast of Italy, without a home to go to.
Last year British-built cars had no shortage of places to lay their hat. More than 1.35 million were shipped worldwide from the UK – a record figure. More than half of those were exported to Europe. In terms of sales, Nissan led the way with the Qashqai; the JLR group also performed well.
And here, on one day in the middle of March this year, were more of JLR’s finest, waiting in Bristol to be driven aboard the car carrier Grande Napoli, their door shuts protected by blocks of foam and their bodies by large sheets of tough paper. Inside, their steering wheels and seats were swaddled in still more of the stuff, their floors in plastic and – this is attention to detail – their door panels protected by moulded plastic that fitted like a second skin.
Turning my gaze back to the outside of one Discovery, I wondered why the end caps from the door handles were missing. A contretemps with a stevedore, perhaps?
“No,” says Andy Bates, the operations manager. “They have been removed, along with other vulnerable items, and put in the car for safe-keeping.”
What about the sticker on some cars showing a suspension coil?
“That’s to remind the technicians at the other end that the suspension is tied down for the crossing,” he says.