Going for a Drive

The author regrets an increasing antipathy towards a pleasure that was very much a part of his earlier life experience and remained so until recently. There are, however, grounds for hope and optimism.

(c) boundless.co.uk

I have been driving for over forty years. In that time, the automotive landscape has changed in ways that were simply unimaginable when, as the proud owner of a newly minted driving licence, I took to the road in my first car, a second-hand VW Beetle.

Owning a car gave you freedom to go wherever you wanted, discovering and exploring places that were largely inaccessible otherwise. Having a car became central to my social life and leisure activities involving friends and family. One staple of this was the Sunday ritual of going for a drive.

My sister, her boyfriend (now husband) and I would regularly head off together in his or my car to wherever took our fancy. The pleasure in doing this was as much about the journey as the destination, which was often randomly selected and quite incidental. As relatively new drivers, we were still honing our skills and enjoying the novelty of driving, while chatting happily and listening to music on the radio/cassette player.

Together, we explored Ireland’s east coast to the north and south of Dublin where we lived, and even ventured into Northern Ireland, a strange, unfamiliar and troubled place at the time. I well remember the frisson of excitement mixed with anxiety we felt crossing the border, largely invisible but for the British Army checkpoints that would randomly appear. (The Irish government did not, at least overtly, police a border that the country’s constitution did not recognise.)

We visited places like Warrenpoint, a very pleasant coastal town overlooked by the Mourne Mountains in Co. Down. We eventually got as far as Belfast, a handsome Victorian city which struck me as quite alien to the Ireland I knew, feeling more British than Irish.

Going for a drive remained a staple of my leisure activities after I moved to Belfast, then on to London. Here, freed of the responsibility for transporting family members around, I bought my first convertible, a second-hand MG Midget 1500. It was eight years old and hid the usual horrors under its gleaming white bodywork, freshly prepared for sale to an enthusiastic but gullible buyer. I loved it! Its diminutive size made it feel ridiculously fast, even at 30mph. Moreover, I now had the new and unfamiliar territory of the Home Counties to explore.

The Midget engendered in me a passion for open-top cars that continues to this day. Later, I was lucky enough to enjoy the privilege of being part of a ‘user-chooser’ perk company car schemes in my City employment, so an E30 generation BMW 320i convertible, followed by a 325i equivalent, were my cars of choice in the early and mid-1990’s.

Inevitably, however, life’s responsibilities intervened: home ownership, settling down with my partner and the typical routine domestic duties took up more of our time. We still enjoyed going for a drive, but things were beginning to change. Living in central London, it often took more than an hour’s slog through heavy and slow-moving traffic before we could enjoy the freedom of the open road.

We persisted, however. One of our most spontaneous and memorable Sunday outings was on a beautiful late summer day. We both woke very early, feeling energetic and keen to get out of the city. We found ourselves in Portsmouth at around 9am, and driving around the peaceful and pleasant Isle of Wight less than an hour later after a short ferry ride. I still remember the beautiful sunset we saw from our return ferry.

The growing demands of work and other commitments meant that such al fresco trips were becoming increasingly infrequent. The ever more congested road network in the South-East made such trips less and less pleasant. The 325i was replaced with a much more practical Land-Rover Discovery.

Retiring to East Anglia reignited our passion for going for a drive. The rural roads here are, by London standards, mercifully free of heavy traffic congestion. A Mercedes SLK, Mazda MX-5, Audi TT and two Porsche Boxsters have sated our open-top addiction over the past two decades. However, another concern began increasingly to preoccupy us in recent years, that of Climate Change.

We now consciously try to limit our car usage to journeys we cannot practically make by other means. There’s a good, if expensive, bus service to and from Norwich, our nearest city, just eighteen miles away. All our shopping is done via the Internet or locally on foot (which stops you buying stuff you don’t need, knowing you will have to carry it home!) Consequently, we do no more than a combined 4k miles a year, which I think is laudable for a couple living in a rural area.

Where does this leave going for a drive? Well, I still enjoy an occasional blast in the Boxster on the wide, open A-Roads around here on a sunny morning, top down, with my iPod playing my favourite tunes, which often has me grinning like an idiot. However, in the back of my mind, there is a nagging sense of unease about my apparently cavalier disregard for an existential threat that faces us all.

This brings us back to where I started, contemplating the changes to the automotive landscape that I think were unimaginable, or at least were imagined very differently forty years ago. We might have expected now to be driving around in highly sophisticated futuristic vehicles, possibly amphibious or even capable of flight, such as have been imagined in numerous science-fiction movies set in the near future. Great distances would be covered quickly and effortlessly using virtual motorways in the sky. Instead, driving has largely been reduced to a tedious chore on these crowded islands and private car ownership is regarded by an increasing number of people as selfish and anti-social.

Modern cars, for many well-intentioned reasons, are disempowering their drivers and disconnecting them from the sensual experience of driving. Lane-guidance and anti-collision systems are wresting control from drivers. Fully autonomous vehicles are likely to be a practical reality within a decade, notwithstanding some widely publicised accidents involving such vehicles recently.

Even where such systems are not in play, the modern car is a hermetically sealed air-conditioned isolation chamber that tries to insulate its driver and passengers to the greatest extent possible from the outside world. This includes the sensations of driving, which have been supplanted by increasingly sophisticated and intrusive infotainment systems. It’s all a very long way removed from my MG Midget, which was so noisy as to make the fitment of even a radio pointless.

While there are still many young people who are car enthusiasts, the majority of millennials seem increasingly to regard private cars as a necessary (or even unnecessary) evil. They have no real experience of the sensual pleasure of driving and either shun cars altogether or regard them merely as personal transport appliances. The concept of going for a drive must now seem rather quaint and idiosyncratic to them, which is, I think, a great pity.

The Covid-19 pandemic that has dominated our lives for the past year has restricted our freedom and movements to a degree that was previously unimaginable. Home working, Zoom meetings and internet shopping has considerably reduced commuting and what car insurance companies rather quaintly term driving for social, domestic and pleasure purposes.

There have been some incidental benefits in terms of (temporarily) improved air quality in cities, but Covid-19 has been a potentially deadly threat and a compelling reason to stay close to home. Recently however, there has been heartening news of Covid-19 vaccines that appear to be highly effective. Hopefully, these will enable our lives to return to normal in the months ahead.

I am by temperament an optimist and believe that, if we could bring that same concerted global scientific effort to addressing the existential threat of Global Warming, we will find solutions there also. There will be no single magic bullet but a combination of solutions involving renewable and nuclear energy, carbon capture technology and so on.

The move towards EV’s will accelerate and, even though I am usually a late adopter of new technology, I have little doubt that our next new car will be electrically powered, and will hopefully have autonomous capabilities for routine journeys where driving would be a chore rather than a pleasure. I remain hopeful of being able again to go for a drive in such a vehicle purely for pleasure and without any feelings of guilt.

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

36 thoughts on “Going for a Drive”

  1. I have loved driving and motorcycle riding all of my adult life. I quit riding motorcycles ten years ago, after riding for 30 years . I still drive all over the place, this summer we dove to the Oregon coast, in June. Pismo Beach and Lake Tahoe twice. Even made it to Big Bear Lake before the snow fell. Everything was done in conformance to the latest restrictions. Things have tightened up a bit again, but I look forward to the open road next year. I find that I no longer enjoy just driving aimlessly. I like to find a reason, an antique fair, swap meet or car show. Looking for little book stores or visiting various historical sites. In California we have suffered from terrible wildfires in the last few years and I make it a point to avoid driving near those areas. Next year I hope to start exploring and rediscovering all the back roads that I rode as a youth on my motorcycle. Best Wishes for a better New Year to all. Let’s hang in there and stay healthy.

  2. much thanks Daniel, for your generous and thoughtful meditation
    on driving. I’m glad you’ve had such a variety of cars and driving
    experiences. they do seem suddenly almost a thing of the past.
    my daughter still enjoys driving but her son, my 29 year old grandson,
    manages very well in Melbourne without car or licence. my son and his wife,
    who use solar power for home and business, will soon swap their beloved
    VW Multivan (Gti engine) for a Nissan Leaf.
    I’m still addicted to driving but have finally, at 74, become more mature
    about it, though not as socially responsible as you. parting with my 205Gti
    was probably the marker there. in this country town we live in I’m sure the
    person who most enjoys their driving is the owner of a vintage car restoration
    business, sometimes seen hustling around in his topless Austin Seven Chummy.
    I’d now settle for slow driving in an old Super 7 with electric power…

    1. Hi Lorender. Thank you for your kind words and great to hear you still have a love for driving at (an obviously youthful) 74. I very much like the idea of a EV roadster, but I’m fond of my comfort, so will take mine in Boxster form, please!

  3. Very well put and I agree with you, but I still take my Sunday drive without compunction. For the last 30-odd years I have lived in Los Angeles, where we have a somewhat deserved reputation as people who will gladly buckle up to motor over to the icebox for a snack. I’ve spent years taking public transport to work, walking to the grocery store, and generally using shanks mare enough that neighbors might wonder whether I am working off a DUI. I bank all this so I can spend it on top-down drives on Mulholland or Topanga or PCH in my Z-3, which, while not as thirsty as an Escalade is no Prius. I’ve put about 2500 miles a year on it, most of them have made me smile, none of them I regret.

    Just discovered your blog and will very much enjoy reading more!

  4. Good morning Jose and Tom, and thanks for sharing your driving memories with us. I’ve been lucky enough to have driven the US west coast on a few occasions, from L.A. all the way up to Washington state. You have some of the best roads and most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen, and it breaks my heart to see the devastation caused by the wildfires. I can only wish you better fortune for the future, and many more happy driving experiences.

    Tom, welcome to DTW. Great to have you joining us!

    1. Good morning Daniel and thank you yet again for a beautifully written evocation of what driving, as opposed to mere transportation, is (was? – no, is) all about. Be sure to always keep something topless in which to indulge the pleasure and, as it ages, do so without guilt. As the FBHVC survey has recently established, historic vehicles account for less than 0.2% of the total UK miles driven but are the centre of a movement worth over £7.2 billion to the UK economy.
      You will also be keeping the little grey cells exercised and avoiding becoming de-skilled (as mentioned the other day in a different post). Which is why although I enjoy driving my wife’s Panda, I enjoy even more my Vitesse (convertible) and my Javelin – and occasionally, just to prove I can still cope with central accelerator pedal, crash box and rod brakes, my 1930 Jowett 7hp. But only on quiet back roads…

  5. Wonderfully put, Daniel and some excellent responses too, thanks everyone.

    Today’s driving just seems to irritate ; angry cyclists, belligerent runners, scowling horse riders, gormless pedestrians. As to driving standards, these have fallen considerably. Everyone seems so aggressive, all rushed, dangerous. Yet there is still nothing comparable to getting in the car, tunes on (or not) and heading off, even if just to the shops. I’d prefer a continental jaunt (or the PCH) but as that’s not to happen anytime soon, the long way round to and from work will do nicely.

    1. Good morning John and Andrew. Glad you enjoyed my ramblings and good to hear that people still enjoying driving for pleasure, despite all the constraints on us these days. There’s no definitive ‘best car’ for it either. That’s very much a matter of personal preference, as well as ‘horses for courses.

      Like every aspect of life, driving is enriched by the courtesy and kindness we show each other. I hope I would be described as a ‘good’ driver, not because my technical skills are in any way exceptional, but because I try to be considerate and cheerfully acknowledge it when others show me consideration on the road.

  6. Wonderful memories, Daniel, thank you! I too miss the visceral enjoyment of driving older cars where the drive itself was fun and required more skill than today’s electronic-everything. I hope there will always be a place in our lives for the kinds of journeys you describe so beautifully.

    1. Thank you vwmeister. I thought you might enjoy my reminiscences, being very much part of them!

  7. I learned to identify different cars at about the same time I learned to speak and walk. At the age of about ten I started to assist older brothers of my friends when they worked on their Fiat 660s or BMW 700s – that was when I also found out that I preferred to work on motorcycles because of the better accessibility and the absence of most rust problems.
    In all I liked cars so much that I chose a profession in the industry which I enjoyed a lot.
    Meanwhile I am no more interested in modern cars, mostly because I don’t like the way of driving those try to enforce on me. I am currently seriously considering to buy a Seventies Alfa just because I prefer its electronics-free character and the way it drives over any modern contemporary car.

    I also discovered CAR magazine for me in the mid-Eighties. I stopped reading it at around 2008 when they had their “Green supplement” and had completely lost their direction. The same goes for most other car magazines, the only one I still read every now and then is Austrian ‘Auto Revue’ because it’s the only newspaper I know that dares to criticise the current developments (it also is the only one stating realistic ranges for electric vehicles).

  8. Thanks Daniel, we’ve been driving a similar length of time and like you I find there is little joy left in being on the road at least in the daily to and fro utility travel for work and shopping.

    We are lucky enough to have an MX5 which is a far far more capable car than anything I was trying to hustle along back in the day but it’s ever harder to find the combination of quiet derestricted roads that come anywhere near stretching it. The wind in the hair is nice though, however little remains.

    Our other car is a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV which comes somewhere close to greenliness (but 2 tonnes kerbweight, 4wd, large roadprint do count against it). There is some challenge and interest in the driving experience – can the journey be completed on battery power alone, how to maintain speed with minimum of acceleration and braking so not all hope is lost.

    I’ll have to rise to Andrew’s comment on the angry cyclist, I have ridden more than I’ve driven this year – Covid dividend if there is such a thing.

    Recently I’ve been literally pushed off my bike (counts as assault apparently but doesn’t qualify for police action beyond the most basic enquiries), sandwiched to the kerb by an artic and watched numerous drivers pass me in the face of oncoming traffic – this can lead to a level of stress for the rider and it is easy to see how this manifests as anger.

    No argument with Andrew or this community both of which give me much pleasure, just a little insight into the lot of the cyclist on today’s roads.

  9. I suspect my experience is rather different from the rest of the DTW readership. Although I was interested in the design and engineering of cars from a young age and religiously read CAR Magazine each month from 1985, I never had any great desire to drive a car!

    I never learned to drive in my late teens, as I couldn’t afford a car then and I didn’t think my parents were going to buy me one. The years went by, I procrastinated and I told myself that I’d get around to learning one day. It built up into more and more of a big deal in my mind. Not being able to drive became almost a badge of honour, a point of differentiation. At least that was what I told myself.

    Anyway over several years the bus “service” I relied upon for my work commute was pared back further and further until there seemed a real possibility it might disappear all together. Three years ago I finally plucked up the courage to get in touch with a driving instructor and had lessons.

    By now I was in my mid-forties and it’s fair to say I didn’t find learning to drive easy. I bought my first car (a second-hand 1.0 Ecoboost 3dr Ford Fiesta) and after many lessons and lots of private practise I finally conquered my demons and passed my driving test!

    I’ve been driving solo for two years now, so in the eyes of the law am no longer classified as a new driver. I enjoy the intellectual challenge of trying to drive well, as well as enjoying finally being able to do it of course! I particularly enjoyed the permitted “driving to a place of exercise” on empty roads during the first UK lockdown, although it was also a bit like Mad Max, with quite a lot of lawlessness on display from other drivers.

    Of course one irony in this story is that thanks to the pandemic I’ve been working from home for the past nine months and have had no office commute. It’s typical of me to be late to the party and to be enjoying driving an internal combustion engine car with a manual transmission just as they become obsolete. I need to decide whether to selfishly have one last roll of that dice when I buy my next car or to go electric.

    1. Hi John. Well done for learning to drive in your 40’s. I think it’s more difficult to learn new physical/motor skills as we age. That said, my partner learnt to drive in his late 30’s and, because he was long out of his teenage ‘invincible’ phase when learning, he was immediately a cautious and attentive driver, and has never had an accident that was his fault in thirty years.

      It seems almost a rite of passage for young male drivers to prang their first car as a result of overconfidence and inexperience. I know I did! (In my defence, it was only a ‘fender bender’ and 50:50 fault.)

    2. Hello John,

      I found your comment interesting – I’m far more interested in cars as objects and the automotive industry as a social system, than driving. That said, I don’t mind driving, but would never be tempted to drive just for the sake of it.

      Well done on learning to drive – especially bothering to get a manual licence. I’ve always found it ironic that the joy and feeling of freedom I got with my licence lasted for approximately one year – right up to the point that I was allowed to begin drinking. One of the unexpected joys of giving up alcohol has been an increase in the freedom it has given me to go out when I want.

      Incidentally, I came across a company called ‘Electric Classic Cars’ which converts combustion vehicles (my energy supplier is running a competition to win one). I quite fancy a Beetle with warp-speed acceleration.

      https://www.electricclassiccars.co.uk/

      Thank you for the article, Daniel – it’s clearly promoted a lot of pleasant reflection.

  10. Thank you for this well written and thought provoking article Daniel. Among other things, it triggered a recollection of a recent conversation with a good friend of mine who verbalised the “nagging sense of unease” that you describe, and which I share, regarding car use and ownership for pleasure.

    The environmental calculations regarding different forms of personal transport are far more complex and difficult than they at first may seem; arguably intractably so, from the perspective of an individual consumer. On the face of it, cars like your Boxster or my old Rover are powered by unnecessarily large, inefficient and polluting internal combustion engines. However, if I recall correctly, your vehicle was also purchased second-hand, thus obviating the need for the huge amount of energy and resources involved in the production and transport of a new car. If that car is electric or hybrid you can add a large quantity of highly toxic and difficult to process rare earth metals to those resources and that’s before we consider the defining question of how the energy that goes into those vehicles is generated in the first place; a factor that, in the worst case scenario, turns electrical vehicles into a particularly expensive form of pollution transfer. The potential human rights tragedies that may lie behind recovery and reprocessing of electrical power packs in third world countries may have no effect in CO2 terms but is also an entirely valid factor in the moral calculus of such decisions.

    The rather bleak paragraph above is in no way intended as a diatribe against electric vehicles, merely as commentary that the ‘easy’ or ‘obvious’ choices in such matters may not be easy or obvious at all when one looks closer. In practice, the behaviour and pattern of usage you and your partner have adopted, strikes me as a rational and responsible answer to the questions posed by car ownership: In environmental terms, walking and using public transport will always be difficult to beat.

    In the long run, I do think individual car ownership will largely be replaced by smartphone apps that summon self-driven (undoubtedly electric) cars to our door. As to whether there will then be any room left for driving yourself around in a classic, who knows? I hope so.

    1. Chris you are spot on.

      What is overlooked in the current EV v ICE debate is the key issue: it is consumption that drives climate change and devours resources at an unsustainable rate. This is as applicable to portion size as it is to lease rates on a new car.

      The key change we need to make as a society is to value the things that we already have and eliminate waste.

      The extractive industries are hugely polluting and incur very high costs for the environment, but they are driven, ultimately, by consumer demand. The environmental impact of a Porsche Boxster driving 4,000 or 8,000 miles a year is quite marginal, compared to the fossil fuels burned during its creation.

      I currently live in London, and older, more polluting cars are going to be taxed off the roads in order to improve air quality. This is laudable, but I worry that is does nothing to change our rampant consumerism and the associated throwaway culture. Your smug idiot in a brand new Tesla may pay little tax to use it, but the planet needs to cope with the 40+ tonnes of CO2 equivalent emitted in the process of building the thing in California and shipping it to the UK. A well maintained 20 year old BMW, on the other hand, is causing little additional harm, yet it is being targeted.

      I drive a ‘gas guzzler’ that meets the forthcoming clean air requirement but is very thirsty in urban environments. Like Daniel, I try to avoid unnecessary journeys, so today it will remain parked outside my house. Today, it is a zero emissions vehicle.

    2. I agree with you Chris. The chap who commutes 50,000 kilometers a year in a Tesla is bragging about how much he saves the planet. I can shut that guy up pretty easily by saying I walk to work, I walk to the shops and are therefore not in need of any greenwashing. The real believers, the ones who would wear a shirt saying ‘the future is electric’ still try to convince me to buy an electric scooter to go to work instead. Sigh.

      Personally I have nothing against electric cars, but don’t like them either. There are few things I enjoy more than starting my car, which I only do a couple of times every month. I always have the door open or the window down to hear the inline 6 come to life. At this point I have to point out I only drive around 5,000 kilometers every year, almost all of which is done to visit friends or family. The shortest trip is 100 kilometers one way, the longest around 200 kilometers or so. I want to enjoy my car for as long as possible and never drive short distances.

      I like things that have a long life, whether it’s cars, furniture, stereo equipment or whatever. I buy quality stuff and stick to it. I don’t like things that have many features that have no value to me. A smart watch does nothing my phone can do just as well. It will be useless after a couple of years. I have to manually wind my timepiece and it will most likely outlive my presence here on earth. Not that anyone will want it after I’m gone of course.

      Back to the original subject of Daniel’s post. I hardly ever taken a Sunday’s drive just to drive and explore. I live in the Netherlands and we have the most expensive petrol prices in Europe, that might have something to do with it. When I got my first car, a 1989 BMW 318i Touring back in 1998, I drove it to the Paesens-Moddergat. Reason was that I’ve never been there and back in the Days there was a radioshow that was called ‘The gezamenlijke zenders Paezens en Moddergat’ Which would translate to ‘The combined (radio)transmitters Paezens and Moddergat. Apart from the fact that Paesens was spelled differently this was truly a nice radioshow. It was presented by Wim Bloemendaal. The radioshow was about music from all parts of the world, all genres and from different times, usually connected through a central theme. Wim Bloemendaal is an interesting character, apart from music he has a huge knowledge on cars, model cars, bicycles and trains as well. It seemed like a natural destination at the time and the funny thing is as I write this, my brother is staying there for a couple of days.

      To anyone who has made it this far into my rambling: I salute you and wishing you a nice Sunday

  11. Thank you, Dave, Rick and Chris for your thoughtful and well articulated contributions.

    With regard to other road users, including cyclists, pedestrians and horses, all of which I encounter frequently in our rural backwater, I regard treating them with courtesy and due respect for their safety as an important driving skill in itself, and one which is often rewarded with a smile or friendly wave. It’s a shame when the relationship becomes mutually antagonistic, is often seems to be the case in urban areas.

    Chris, you are correct that the Boxster was purchased second-hand. If I keep it for, say, ten years and cover 20k to 25k miles over that time, then it will not be a profligate use of resources.

    More generally, my partner and I are very conscious to avoid the throwaway culture that afflicts much Western society. We are not interested ‘fashion’ of any sort: our furniture is mainly antique and will last us a lifetime. We pay up for high quality new products, but expect to get a long service life from them. Nothing serviceable is discarded merely for something different or new.

    I don’t claim that our philosophy is in any way a magic bullet to solve the excessive consumption of the Earth’s resources and its consequence, Global Warming, but I do believe it makes a positive difference.

    Right, that’s enough polishing my halo for today!

  12. Jacomo, I guess we were writing our comments simultaneously, and I couldn’t agree more with yours: it is excessive, unnecessary consumption that is the real enemy and it is a tragedy that ‘economic growth’ is fetishised as the primary measure of wellbeing, when it patently is not.

    Poverty certainly makes people miserable, but wealth and possessions, beyond what one needs to live happily and in comfort, does not make people happier. That said, I’ve no intention of straying beyond this point into politics, because DTW is not the place for that discussion.

    1. Whilst respecting the apolitical nature of this site, I cannot resist chiming in once more to agree with your commentary about the misuse of economic growth as the primary measurement of well-being. It continues to astonish me how prevalent this tendency is, not being confined just to politics but even dominating some practical philosophical discussion. A tenth of a percent on GDP says nothing about a child’s access to parks, books or art. Choice of metric is just as important as the measurement itself.

      Having said that, I will now get in my V6 Rover and go for a drive…

    1. Hi John. It’s a it of a mystery why it keeps happening to you. I’ll try to investigate. Anyway, I’ve approved it above, so now I’ll go and read it!

    2. Hi John, I genuinely have no idea why this is happening, so all I can do is apologise. I am in the habit of checking the spam list on a daily basis – where I happed to discover your comment looking a bit out of place amid the crypto currency sellers, drug dealers and adult-content purveyors. Anytime this happens, either put a notification up in the comments or email me directly through the contact form. Same goes for anyone else experiencing similar issues.

      Best, e

    3. Many thanks both. My hunch is it might be when I comment from my phone over 4G rather than my home wi-fi. I’ve no idea why…

    4. Ah, you might be onto something there, John. I noticed that both comments came from completely different IP numbers. The second one (which posted correctly) also included reference to your Gravatar account. Whatever you did then, keep doing it!

  13. Very nicely written.

    My automotive life also began with a VW 1200 – but it was not second-hand, rather third or fourth. It accompanied me for a good year as I learned to drive. In the end, an Austrian farmer got it in exchange for a bottle of home-brewed Booze.

    In the spring of 1990, my wife bought an Alfa Romeo Spider with which we made many beautiful journeys. We enjoyed it very much, driving topdown through the countryside and surrounding countries. We have many good memories and do not regret a single trip.

    These days we don’t do rides for fun anymore. (Especially this year – the destinations are all closed.)

    Every now and then our two classic cars have to be moved. But it’s not much fun any more, or less and less. This is not because of the two old cars.
    The other road users have also taken the fun out of it. Traffic has become very aggressive now, whether it’s a rolling steel cabinet or a pedal-powered two-wheeler. Almost everywhere characterless behaviour – and ones character doesn’t change when one change vehicle category. The behaviour may be similar in other countries. However, when travelling in other European countries, I have noticed that driving is never as aggressive as here in Germoney.
    And besides, the streets in the area we are living now are totally boring – no comparison with when we used to live in Munich.

    1. Hi Fred. Thanks for your recollections and sorry to hear your present driving environment is a bit limiting. We are lucky to live in a quiet and relatively sparsely populated part of England. I haven’t driven to or through London for over a decade and doubt I will again. It’s far too busy and congested, and one gets out of practice negotiating the cut and thrust of city driving.

  14. Thank you for a really interesting article Daniel.
    I was chatting to a friend recently about driving for pleasure and we agreed that it was something we both still did from time to time. He in his MX5 and me in the Mercedes. In fact one day recently I drove to Bristol and back to swap Christmas presents with our son – a round trip of around 300 miles. Traffic was pretty light, even on the M25, although Smart Motorway works – really? – on the M4 and a maximum speed of 50mph slowed us down. I really enjoyed the trip.

    Turning to climate change , globalisation and the like I read an article recently entitled “Want less”. I think that reflects what we all need to do.

    1. Hi Mike. You’re right: “Want Less” succinctly describes what we all need to do, and could do with little sacrifice, to make a positive difference.

  15. Hello Daniel, thanks for such an articulate piece on a polarising subject.

    I really wish that somewhere a government would engage the problem of climate change from the points of view of mobility and consumption.

    It has become fashionable to vilify those who drive. In rural France, the ability to drive is a necessity, life lived as a pedestrian limits ones horizons to those that can be found on-line.

    I would argue that the selfie-selfish, the serial tourists have done the climate little good. The click to purchase who never pay the true price of whatever it may be, oblivious to the fact that their tat is transported by sea in the most polluting manner possible are also to be held to account as well as those who drive when alternatives exist.

    It is unrealistic to deprive people of the right of freedom to travel, but I argue that it is not right to question my right to drive. I choose to shun Amazon. But I appreciate the right of others to shop as they see fit. I have changed the way I consume to aid my local economy where possible. I drive less to enjoy my driving more.

    I choose to drive an old Alfa Romeo. This is a ridiculous choice, given that the longevity of old Italian cars used in Northern climes is akin to that of a sugar lump in an espresso. But it is my choice.

    I would propose that we should reason our lives. Want less, but not go without.

    I would happily accept an « assisted » choice, whereby we all had the same choices to make regarding our mobility. A kind of points system perhaps, whereby continued excessive fossil fuel use by driving eats into the distance we could travel in an aircraft to somewhere exotic. This would tar us all with the same brush, more so if our shopping habits were factored in to the calculations.

    This of course, would impact those who hold power through their wealth, ensuring that our governments will never devise a fair system.

    Far easier to regulate and diminish horizons for the masses.

    1. Well, the situation is that we in the first world (above all in Europe) are so rich that we (can) afford morality in duplicate.
      The view of the environment is done through ideological glasses, and distorts the view.
      At the same time, we have the situation that those who shout the loudest get the most hearing, even if the shouters have one of the above-mentioned glasses on.

      I will give you an example from our everyday life:

      We have three cars, three old cars. The youngest one is from the year 2000. Since 1990, when we bought our Spider, we haven’t had to use any resources to build a new car.
      The Alfasud Sprint from 1978 consumes about 5,8-7 litres per 100 km. The Lancia Y also needs less than 6 litres. Only the Spider gets up to 7-8 litres. Consumption figures that one of our neighbours with his Lexus SUV Hybrid can only dream of.

      So, Monday to Thursday we drive about 20 km to the golf course (no, we don’t play golf, we go for a walk, hit a ball and then try to find it again). In addition, we drive about 10 to 20 km a week to the supermarket to avoid the “schlepping”. That makes about 180 km in a week.

      That’s what our neighbour drives to and from work in two days. Not only does he drive more kilometres (per day, per week, per month), he has already bought three new vehicles in the last 9 years (these had to be manufactured; resources, you remember).
      His excuse could be that he is in work and commutes to work. We are retiered. (But why he lives 50 km from his workplace will probably always be his secret.) He can afford these trips because he benefits from subsidies and tax advantages paid for by the rest of society, but that’s another topic.
      Idiot as we are, we had our office for the last 20 years within walking distance.

      So, his wife had a VW Touran. Mainly to drive the two girls to kindergarten and school (yes, I know, kids can’t walk 2 km to school, all far too dangerous, no idea how we survived that) and to go on holiday with the family and friends of the kids.
      Now she has an electric Golf – resources, you remember. (Of course she doesn’t have a charging station in the house, charging is done about 1 km away at a charger that is free of charge – that is of course not free of costs, the costs are paid by everyone else in society).
      The e-Golf is “emission-free”, at least in our area – as long as the electricity is not generated from coal. And even better, the Touran no longer emits its exhaust gases in our area, but now in Poland, the Balkans or Africa. Hypocritical NIMBYs.

      In terms of ecological footprint and total emissions, this family relates to us like a bulldozer to a child’s shoe.

      Well, now guess who in the public perception is the environmental angel and who is the absolute evil devil?

      (Last year in summer when I was driving the Alfasud in our village I had the experience that someone on a bicycle shouted at me from the cycle path ‘I should get out of here with my old stinker’ -he used much more rude words, I don’t want to put them on this website. Another reason, why it is not fun anymore to go for a ride just for fun, too much Hypocrites crossing the way.)

    2. Hi Rob and thank you for your kind words. In your comment, you touch on some really fundamental issues, including the use of fiscal policy to encourage responsible consumption (I would regard travel by whatever means as a form of consumption.)

      The fundamental basis of any form of workable taxation is that it should be (perceived to be) fair, easy to collect and difficult to evade. The fairness question can be fiendishly difficult to resolve satisfactorily. For example, should those who live in remote rural areas be penalised because they have to travel much further than city dwellers to access services? A tax on fuel seems easy to collect and difficult to evade, but probably fails the fairness test.

      That said, the low level of taxation on aviation fuel and its consequence, absurdly cheap air travel, clearly is encouraging undesirable behaviour. Airlines get away with this because of their political clout and the difficulty of individual countries regulating and taxing what is, by definition a trans-national business.

      Similarly, the failure effectively to tax companies like Amazon fairly is progressively wiping out ‘bricks and mortar’ competitors. As long as countries are willing to undercut each other’s corporation tax rates to attract such companies and the employment they bring, then this problem will persist.

      In any event, it is a complex subject, and an intractable problem that we are unlikely to solve here. I am, however, gratified to read how widely, at least amongst DTW’s readership, the problem of excessive consumption is understood, and the measures individals are taking to moderate their consumption.

  16. “How’s the development of the driver assistance systems going? I bet our vans are practically autonomous, now.”

    “Er, yeah, it’s fine”.

    1. Who’d have thought it! Autonomous accidents with even less chance of successful human interference than a 737 Max 8.

      So who is it that needs this? More pertinently, who is promoting it, who controls it and who extracts the profits out of it?

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