I leave Autocar’s offices fairly late, so I don’t get stuck in the typical company car traffic jam. After dark, with the traffic running freely, seems to be an ideal time for automotive oddities to come creeping out.
In the last few days I’ve seen some quite unusual and thought-provoking cars, one of the bonuses of not fighting along in the rush hour.
A couple of nights ago I encountered a shiny Austin A30, complete with period suitcase rack and a long whip aerial topped with a tiny union jack. The pony-tailed character inside drove the A30 with a massive, slightly reckless, verve.
When we got to the A3 at Robin Hood’s Gate, he executed one of the bravest/most foolhardy maneuvers I’ve ever seen, somehow managing to overtake a truck as the A3 squeezed down to two lanes. I was sure he wouldn’t emerge from behind it with just a wheezing 30bhp on tap, but he timed it to perfection and shot off, up Roehampton Hill.
The following night I was following a much more carefully-driven Austin, an L-plate Montego Countryman 2.0 diesel. The elderly driver had clearly looked after his car and, as I sauntered by, I found myself fascinated by such a well-preserved BL-era product. It still looks quite crisp and modern, with its facelift plastic bumpers. Indeed, the Montego wagon got a Design Council Award when it was launched in 1985.
This morning I saw another rarity scuttling by. A beige, A-plate, Alfasud. It was striking just how small it was and I couldn’t help be reminded that everybody I knew who had one (a friend at college - now a designer at Aston Martin - had three) just loved the car and most will tell you it’s never really been replaced.
The snap taken here in a Tesco car park is of an early Honda CR-X. I spent a minute or two looking at it, amazed by how tiny it is in a modern context.
Perhaps the Autocar forum crowd can add to these vignettes and relate a few thoughts about those fast-disappearing oddities that give us something to ponder as we’re idling along the road. One thing, though. No tales of supercars and classics…