At the end of last year I wrote a feature about Ford’s hitherto secret ‘future trends’ design studio, which is hidden inside a modern office block in London’s trendy Soho district.
As someone who grew up over 200 miles from the capital, I can understand why most people get bored with London’s dominance of politics, economics and media. However, what you can’t argue with is the fact that London still leads the way in all manner of trends, especially in terms of consumer behaviour.
Brit designer David Woodhouse, who runs Ford’s London studio, told me that he believes London is home to the world’s most innovative and cutting-edge ideas. For me, Chelsea’s King’s Road, and the immediate area, is still the prime place for anybody interested in car culture and future automotive trends.
Spend a couple of hours over any weekend, and you’ll be treated to the ultimate automotive catwalk. There’s nowhere else that provides such a contrast of automotive culture. On the first weekend that the new McLaren MP4-12C was released, I watched two, slightly terrified, OAP drivers testing driving the car down the King’s Road. Last weekend, a quiet Easter Sunday, I watched a Lamborghini driver idling blipping his engine along, followed by an MP4 and a Ferrari FF. Sometimes the King’s Road is a bit like Goodwood’s Festival of Speed, but with better shopping.
You’ll also be treated to a raft of classics - a Quattroporte III and a ‘67 Mangusta were recent highlights - and see developing trends, such as the sudden influx of 11-plate Land Rover Defenders being used as inner-city transport.
And it’s just such contrasts that make this place such a treat for the auto-ologist. I snapped these two remarkable pictures within a few hundred feet of Sloane Square:
The Audi Q7 and original Fiat 500 probably represent the extremes of size in production car terms.
The Clubman and Discovery 4 show just what happened to the British industry’s idea of a ‘family load lugger’. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Nissan’s Paddington design studio - home of the highly successful and innovative Qashqai and Juke - is just a couple of miles up the road.
More car makers should follow Nissan’s lead and open mini design studios in the UK’s capital. There’s no better place for auto-inspiration.