This week, Steve reflects on what he's learned from lockdown, finally spills the beans on the worst car he's ever driven and ponders the up-and-down history of Jaguar.
This week has been bookended by lockdown lessons. The first came when I nipped across to the Lambourn Downs to meet photographer Max Edleston so he could create the Bentley Bentayga pix you’ll find in this week's issue. We met about lunchtime, by which time the pervading mist had dispersed in favour of beguiling sunshine.
The job took an easy two hours, but what made it special (apart from meeting a cheerful colleague) was that I picked all the best roads to go there and back – out via Faringdon and Wantage, back through Lambourn and Shrivenham. No rushing, beyond the odd impetuous attack on a few well-loved corners, and maximum appreciation of the scenery. Arrived home elated at having made the best of something that might have been routine.
Now we’re seeing signs of an end to lockdown, it feels safe to talk about unsafe subjects such as the worst car I’ve ever driven. In recent days, three friends have independently pressed me for an answer to this vital question.
My memory takes me rapidly back to a mid-1980s four-car test we labelled ‘The Untouchables’, featuring a Zastava, a Polonez, a Lada and a Reliant Robin. The first three were depressingly poor Fiat copies of an Eastern Bloc persuasion; the fourth a spectacularly awful all-British confection with one less wheel than it needed.
The Reliant was the worst by a generous margin, so bad in crosswinds that my colleagues and I drew straws to see who’d drive it across the Severn Bridge in a stiff breeze. And I remember another colleague cornering for the camera and rolling so far onto two wheels that all present were afforded a fi ne view of the puny exhaust running along its undersides.
Comparatively speaking, we live in an age (as the cliché goes) where there are no bad cars. But I always bridle when people assume this means cars are all the same: they emphatically are not. What is true, however, is that compared with those days, today’s cars are far more reluctant to kill you.