Which cars are for today’s ophthalmologists, vets and professors of Medieval law?
About three decades ago certain makers sold cars for easily identifiable groups in society. Saabs were for well-paid university lecturers. Citroen could appeal to the Francophile and arty middle-class man. Lancia sold to intellectuals and business men who probably saw their work as a vocation. Humber appealed to bank managers of the bigger branches. But today, these brands are gone or unrecognisable Continue reading “Social Signifiers”
The upper-middle class coupé is almost extinct. We trace its demise.
Large upper-middle class coupés only made commercial sense if they could be produced to appeal to both domestic and US audiences. Mercedes-Benz, BMW and the Japanese manufacturers alone seemed to understand this, ensuring they could export their offerings to the sector’s natural habitat. Success in automotive terms had traditionally been predicated on success in America and for that, a luxury coupé was highly desirable. Continue reading “Coupé de Grâce”
For the purposes of this piece I will henceforth refer to the Doughnut as the Donut. I choose an American English spelling because I really do hope that this most futile of driving manoeuvres was not invented in the UK. I don’t relish the shame of inventing the Donut being shouldered by America, I just don’t want it to be shouldered by my country. Historically it seems unlikely, since it is not easy to perform in a Ford Anglia, but much easier in a Chevrolet that your Dad has ticked the big V8 option on. The name, of course, is imprecise. An Edible Donut is a Torus, a three dimensional shape. The shape defined by the Driving Donut occupies only two dimensions and is, more or less, circular – just a big zero.
A sermon about why car museums are to be avoided if you like old cars.
Every car museum I have visited in the last 2.25 decades has been a disappointment. Cars are inherently space-consuming selfish monsters and even when they are caught, killed and pinned to plinths this quality does not diminish. They need plenty of room, alive or dead.
My father was an old-school Freudian in his outlook. He wouldn’t miss a chance to make an association, and my obsession with cars was fertile ground. He pronounced that many cars were just phallic compensation symbols and I, in what I thought was a witty response, said that a phallus was just a compensation for not having a decent car – it sounded better when I was sixteen. Cars and Sex, Sex and Cars, they’re an old pairing, but I’ve never been entirely convinced.
Once upon a time a trip to France from the UK was special. Not only did the cars look different but, at night, the roads came alive with lamps that were, uniquely, amber coloured. I admit that I enjoyed this. It gave French cars the same ‘interesting’ look that Jean-Luc Godard’s tinted glasses gave him. French cars were more intellectual.
The past few years have been difficult for manufacturers trying to sell new cars in Europe. But, even if people can’t afford them, one thing car makers take for granted is that everyone likes a new car. How many new cars have you sat in as the first driver? I’ve sat in a lot, not because I’d bought most of them, but because I once delivered them as a job. But when the car is yours it’s something else, that very special moment you’ve been waiting weeks, months or, sometimes, years for.
My French teacher at grammar school, Mr Roberts, had a small collection of Austin 7s from the 1920s, which he alternated using as transport to work. I think that he considered me a bit of a prat (history might have vindicated him on some levels, certainly) and, sensing this, I reciprocated with contempt for his collection of little, old and, at the time, very cheap cars. In hindsight, I might have had a more rewarding time discussing the niceties of the Ulster, Ruby, etc with him and he might have decided that I had some redeeming features. I deeply regret my glib teenage contempt, though it was entirely my loss. He was right, I was wrong.
I am a cry from beyond the pale. I have spent all my driving years reining in my hooligan element and, for much of the time, it has been my personal circumstances, rather than my self-control, that have prevented me from totally inappropriate purchases.
The first Audi RS6 Avant really fulfilled a long-held fantasy for a big, very fast, estate car, marrying the hooner with the homely. Lately, the AMG C63 Estate has taken my fancy, and I now see that they have produced a more powerful version, addressing the problem of the standard model’s woefully inadequate 451 bhp.
Seeing a Jaguar XJ hearse on the Westway a few weeks ago, made me realise that modern design does not adapt well to the production of a dignified funeral wagon. Consider Coleman Milne’s latest offerings based on Mercedes and Ford base vehicles. Try getting out of those back doors with your top hat in place.
Archie Vicar represents a different generation; people who came of age in an uncertain period where a World War followed a World Recession. Few of these men (and we cannot deny that they were all men) set their youthful sights on Motoring Journalism as a profession. They came into it through circuitous routes, bringing with them, for good and for bad, a worldliness that is, perhaps, missing today, where a childhood spent poring over EVO magazine, followed by a spell at journalism school, leads directly to employment on a national magazine. Where is the wisdom; where is the experience of a wider world? Continue reading “Archie Vicar”