If you hang around these parts long enough, if you don’t want to leave Autocar for a job that allows you to buy a Porsche, eventually they give you an unfathomable job title and a column. It’s the accepted magazine way.
And if they do that, you’ll want to keep notes, ideas, things to write about in an upcoming issue. Because although you’ll always have more nonsense about autonomous vehicles to fall back on, having one new idea for column a week frequently doesn’t – for me, anyway – come when the deadline approaches. And sometimes chief sub-editor Tim Dickson isn’t around to tell me what to write about.
So I keep a page of notes on my phone, one-line ideas I write down when they occur to me, some of which make the cut and appear here. Some of them, however, don’t. Perhaps they’re too short, or too obscure, or perhaps I have no idea what I meant when I wrote them down at 3am.
Why my notes wanted me to check the visitor numbers at Stonehenge, for example, I now have no idea. Nor why there is a line that says ‘1901 Baker electric speed machine’.
I do know why there’s one that reads ‘Honda Civic Type R heights’. Do you remember the old bread vanlike Civic Type R? I used to think it felt tall and upright, but it looks quite low and sporty these days. Perhaps cars, I figured, have become taller. Guess what? Quite a few have. It’s not worth 570 words, though, is it?
Nor is a comment I once read beneath a Guardian article that read, simply, ‘Ban the car’. I could spin that out, but below-the-line comments are nothing more than graffiti. To assume that its author had a valid point would be like hypothesising about the intellectual value of scratching ‘MUFC’ on a loo door in a service station on the M6. Still, at least it’s not in my notes any more.
Neither is the word ‘Kulnura’. It’s a private race/test track in Australia. Apparently, it’s very good. Perhaps, if you’re in Australia and wealthy, you should go there. Done.
Ever heard of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle? It’s the US Army’s replacement for the Humvee. The army commissioned three companies to come up with prototypes for a replacement and chose one of them – from Oshkosh – to be put into production. What happens to the losing designs, I wondered? The short answer is: nothing.
‘The M25 has failed.’ This much I think we all know, but this one needs more than a page at the back of the mag. “London needs a new orbital motorway, with fewer exits,” I thought, not unreasonably. “Call it the M30.” It’ll never happen. Nor will replacing the overground rail network with autonomous vehicle routes, nor building an all-new national airport somewhere between the M1 and M40, precisely where no politician would ever allow it.
But I might come back to these, as well as HS2, because they are weighty issues. How ‘horse for sale’ adverts are just like car classifieds and why I might think a car’s ride is fine but a photographer shooting from its boot does not are not weighty. Either way, outstanding issues dealt with, my notes are clearer, which isn’t a bad way into the new year. Happy new year. Normal service will resume next week.