A week in the diary of the Autocar editor-in-chief.
Perfect evening for driving, and BMW had gathered some of its fine classic collection at a gastro pub on the road to Henley, about 25 miles from London, for a few of us to drive. The best car was the capable pre-war 328, nowadays valued north of £600,000, but the car that really floated my boat was a lovely original E30 BMW M3, the 2.3-litre four-pot model that helped begin a tradition for super-fast saloons. This particular car had a special significance because (a) I drove it in period, and (b) it was famously ‘hidden’ for several years from BMW’s bean-counters (who wanted it sold) by a certain BMW press chief. He brought it out again when the regime changed and his act of rebellion is now widely admired.
The special pleasure of this event was seeing just how well the cars had survived the aging process, not just from a durability point of view but by staying so relevant to today’s driving. The terrific M3 steering I remembered was still excellent and the engine (although not quite as strong as I remembered) was still sportily willing. I felt ridiculously happy for the conscientious engineers I met for the first time 30 years ago, who, as it turned out, weren’t just building good cars for the moment, but forever.
Last week I saw an Aston registered ‘1 GRE’ because (according to an early owner) ‘igre’ was the Egyptian word for ‘fast’? Well, we’ve heard from a genuine, 24-carat Egyptian, who says the word translates as ‘run’, usually used in a ‘run fast’ sense. I choose to interpret that as ‘sprint’, which makes it very satisfactory indeed for a racing DB4 GT.
In Essex, enjoying more of the concours season as one of the judges of a small collection of pre-war sports cars at the Warren concours. It’s always nerve-wracking, because the decisions are just so subjective. Who can really say one man’s Brooklands Austin Seven is better than another man’s Vauxhall 30/98 special?
Still, the entrants seemed to enjoy talking about their cars and took our decisions in good part. One nice touch was the ‘Montagu Minute’, when drivers were invited to rev their engines for 60 seconds in honour of the late peer and pioneer of motor museums.