This week, Steve jets to Bicester Heritage for his first car-based outing of the season, reflects on Fiat's relationship with the Vatican and offers a sorry tale from Edinburgh.
To Bicester Heritage for our first car-based outing of the season, a preview for a new members’ club called Scramblers, which will comprise a brand-new series of themed monthly gatherings outside the exceptionally convenient on-site Wriggly Monkey brewery. I must say that, as a confirmed enthusiast of this beautiful former 1920s RAF base, now reconstituted as a car lovers’ headquarters, I’ve been gagging for them to launch a way of ‘belonging’ for ages.
The plan feeds off the success (before Covid) of Bicester’s regular Scramble meetings and will be supported by a busy website. And – get this – membership is free, at least for the time being. All you have to do is register at joinus.wearescramblers.com for the deal of the century. Themes will include Le Mans stuff and hot hatches, and other kinds of benefi ts to members are promised. Sounds like a great ride.
If you seek verification of the adage that when Fiat sneezes, Italy catches a cold, look no further than the fact that the Stellantis top brass – chairman John Elkann, CEO Carlos Tavares and Fiat boss Olivier François – were recently offered an audience with Pope Francis, apparently to get his approval of the new electric Fiat 500.
It reminded me of an occurrence years ago at Ferrari’s test track, Fiorano, where I went to test a new Mondial. We were messing about, driving and photographing, when a whole platoon of Ferrari flunkies arrived and shooed us away. Then a shiny red Fiat Uno Turbo appeared, driven very slowly by test hotshoe Dario Benuzzi. In the rear was the local bishop, wearing one of those special four-cornered hats. In the front passenger’s seat sat a very old man by the name of Enzo Ferrari. Apparently it was a tradition: Mr Ferrari signed off all new Fiats. Maybe the cleric was a potential buyer. Anyway, the Uno did two stately laps, turned off the track and then was gone.
Here’s a sorry tale from Edinburgh. In March, reader Alan Bathgate wrote delightedly to tell me about his new eclectic pair of cars, a Smart EQ Forfour and a Mercedes-Benz SL 500. He figured that using his electric wheels in the city gave him licence to run a meaty V8 outside it. Things haven’t worked out well, though. The Smart’s range is limited and it turns out that the Scottish capital is bereft of charging points. Enquiries with local and national politicians have netted the depressing reply that improving things is “not a priority”. Thus the SL goes into the city more than it should be and the Smart has been sold. “I tried to embrace change but have failed,” says Alan, who wonders how many more are like him. Meanwhile, the government’s 2030 ICE car cut-off bolts towards us like an express train…