First foray back to The Smoke from my home in Gloucestershire, and I happened to be standing on a Marylebone kerbside when some lucky bloke drove by in a latest-spec Fiat Panda 4x4, painted in that special burnt orange that I believe should be the default hue for every one. Not having driven one for a while made me realise how much I miss the Panda, which is now in its 40th year, even though there have only been three editions.
Years ago, I had a lovable red Panda TwinAir as my daily driver, and I remember sitting in my airliner seat on those unlamented day-return trips we journalists used to do to Germany or France, knowing that I would hear the throb of that dopey little engine again in an hour, and all would be right with the world.
No one seems to know what Fiat plans for ‘the Panda space’, as marketers would doubtless put it, but that Marylebone moment set me fondly remembering the TwinAir launch, when engineer Paolo Martinelli marched on stage carrying an engine block as if it were a briefcase, and realising that this is one car I want to last a long time yet.
What a relief to spend a couple of hours with TVR’s three enthusiast principals – chairman Les Edgar, COO John Chasey and new CEO Jim Berriman – after a fairly long and at times ominous silence. As you’ll have read in the news section, the trio are reconstituting the company, having discovered that starting from nothing in the automotive industry is tougher than even they had ever imagined. However, the positives are many: their expertise is now far greater (helped by Berriman’s automotive track record), their plan is cannier, their Griffith prototype is still convincing, their supporter body remains intact and their dream is undimmed. My tenner still says they will succeed.
Peugeot design boss Gilles Vidal, interviewed this week, is well known for making wise observations, but his interesting justification of “heritage models” – which he admits his firm is thinking about – broke new ground for me. I’ve always thought the likes of the Mini and Fiat 500 are created simply to feed buyers’ nostalgia, but Vidal believes there’s more to it than that.
He reckons they’re a great way of “associating positivity with the future” and are thus entirely at odds with what you see in science-fiction movies and games, so often “entertaining but terrible”.
It’s food for thought, which generates another question: which car in Peugeot’s back catalogue would justify a “retro-futuristic” treatment?