In this week's automotive adventures, Steve muses the pleasures of Google Hangouts, explains why he's set up an office in the back of a VW campervan and makes a shock admission about the Morris Marina.


When not engaged in keyboard-bashing (for which there’s still a comforting demand) I seem to be spending these lockdown days entirely on car and Autocar activities. A highlight of each weekday morning is the regular 10am video meeting for 17 of us editorial and production types, via Google Hangouts. We’ve become good at them, probably because, despite the media modernisation you hear about, Autocar is sustained by procedures and protocols honed over 125 years. There’s plenty to do, but we know how to do it.

The best thing is knowing it’s all worthwhile. The groundswell of support we’ve received from you, our loyal readers, telling us how glad you are that we keep turning the handle, is a major motivator. Having said that, we’ve heard too much lately about subscription delivery problems, caused by the delivery supply chain. We apologise profusely for this and are making sure that any hold-ups aren’t down to us. However, we crave your indulgence if you’re affected; let us know and we’ll try to help.


Into my inbox falls some noise from a fleet management firm about how people are using their locked-down cars as phone booths and workspaces – just as I’ve started doing the same. I’ve parked our Volkswagen California in the front garden, raised its roof and started using it for work – perfect for sunny days. It’s very different from working on the dining room table and still in touch with the household wi-fi. Volkswagen has been factory-building campervans for 50 years, and the welcoming ambience of the California still surprises me. That goes for most car interiors; it’s one reason we put up with traffic jams in good times.


The news is full of air-quality surveys, and the best of them sound credible to me. One in The Guardian plausibly suggests that city NOx pollution has been a “key contributor” to Covid-19 deaths by weakening the lungs of already-susceptible people. Another in The Times finds the latest electric cars have less than half the carbon footprint of fossil-fuelled models even if you include battery production and disposal. Such killer info leads zealots to ban things, but I reckon the most practical course for us would be to have an electric car everyone uses. I’d pick a Renault Zoe: easy to use, proven, small, available and fun. The growing band of people who’ve done this will tell you the second car soon becomes the first. Then it hardly matters if there’s a Caterham or Corvette in the garage for special occasions.