Blogs : July 2007

30 July

Happiness is Maestro shaped?


AT long last, the website has a new project car – yes, thanks to the generosity of a reader, Simon Weakley, we now have in our possession a proto-built MG Maestro Turbo. Developed in Canley in 1988, our Maestro features a raft of modified MG Montego Turbo parts under the hood to make it work… and my goodness, it works pretty well.

Okay, our prototype is a little rough and ready in places under the bonnet, but considering that it was built receiving no funding whatsoever, and without the approval of upper management, it’s a miracle that this car was built at all. Even more so that it managed to suvive all this time – racking up just over 40,000 miles in the process. The documentation’s all there, too – and I’m hoping to get some more information about this car after talking to a few ‘tame’ ex-Canley bods who were there at the time.

In many ways, this is the car that Austin Rover should have launched in 1985 alongside the blown Montego – had Harold Musgrove not been so against the idea. It has the subtlest of body alterations (a neat roof spoiler and wheelarch spats), and therefore does not advertise its potential at all. In Moonraker Blue, with contrasting grey interior (with red seatbelts and carpets), it certainly looks smart – and qualifies as a street-sleeper.

On the road, it went well, and was surprisingly quick – and in terms of chassis and steering feel, it’s far too civilised for its own good. We’ll see how it fares in its MoT test, which should be happening in a couple of days or so. An update and pictures to follow…

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26 July

Hybrid hypocrisy


EVER played the game “Mini-Punch”? For the uninitiated, this is a great way to pass the time on a journey of any length. The rules are simple: every time you see a Mini (or MINI), you yell “MINI PUNCH!” and smack the person next to you on the nearest available limb.

Predictably, on a recent trip to London, I got a very sore arm indeed.

It’s a good thing, however, that the rules haven’t been extended to include Toyotas, or I may well have been hospitalised. Quite apart from the yuppie-favourite R50s and R56s, a surprisingly large proportion of Big Smoke real estate was occupied by Toyota hybrids, in both Prius and posh Lexus flavours. It took me a while to work out why, but I finally cottoned on – it’s because they’re exempt from the dreaded C-Charge.

Now, the Prius isn’t exactly as green as the eco-conscious chat-show regulars would have us believe. Most tests achieve a combined mpg of between 40 and 45mpg, which is impressive for such a bulky car… until you recognise that my mother, bless her, never fails to get 43mpg or more from her 1.6 petrol Golf, and that Jeremy Clarkson once drove an Audi A8 TDI from London to Edinburgh and back on a single tank of diesel. But you can, at least, see why Ken has fallen for the eco-babble. Big car, small fuel consumption – everyone’s a winner.

Less explicable, though, is why Lexus’ range of hybrids is exempt. What they’ve done, basically, is to take cars with performance already on the ample side of sufficient, and to add electric motors for a bit of extra oomph. Except for libel laws, this would be known as “cheating”. The RX and LS hybrids have urban mpg figures in the low twenties, yet because they’ve got a Kenwood food blender attached to the drive-train, they’re considered green enough to swan around central London all day long.

Take the new LS600h as an example. Lexus make the claim,oft-repeated in the motoring press, that it has “performance comparable to a 12-cylinder petrol engine, yet with the fuel economy and emissions of a six-cylinder car.” This is pure marketing bullshit. Claimed urban mpg is less than twenty, and considering Toyota’s somewhat optimistic assessment of the Prius’ economy, that figure should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt. Laughably, even Lexus’ own LS460 has higher claimed motorway mpg than the LS600h: yet the latter is ‘green’, while the former is not. Furthermore, both Lexuses (Lexi?) begin to look distinctly dunce-like in comparison to the aforementioned Audi A8 TDI, which offers nearly double the motorway mpg of the 600h – 39.8 vs. 22.

Indeed, the only real advantage the ‘green’ Lexus has over the ‘smog-brown’ Audi is performance. Because of the torque of the electric motors, the 600h can storm to 60 in five seconds dead, while the A8 takes a second longer. Basically, Ken is rewarding you for driving a performance car.

Now, I should be happy about this: after all, I’m as much of a fan of fast cars as any other twenty-something car enthusiast. I’d gladly have an SD1 Vitesse, and drive it in so lead-footed a manner that we’d have to invade Kuwait just to keep me in jungle-juice.

But here’s the thing: I wouldn’t be hypocritical enough to claim I was saving the planet whilst doing so.

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23 July

Peterborough or bust


I LOVE going to the annual BMC/BL Spares Day, and it seems like many of you do too. Perhaps because it’s the largest show devoted to the cars we know and love – and what other show would you find a Ferrari 308GTB owner told to park in the general area, while letting in an Applejack Allegro straight into the show area?

For that alone, it’s worth a trip – and yet again, will be making an appearance there, with a stand full of delights for you to pore over. Well, I say that – we’ve only just organised the stand, and are now feverishly appealing to all of our readers for cars to display on there. For more information, take a look on the Peterborough page – but don’t be put off if your car isn’t on the list, because we’d still like to hear from you. Especially if it’s interesting, or has ‘history’.

The same goes if your car’s not at all out of the ordinary – this is the kind of show that celebrates the kerbside motors that most people would pass without a second look, so if your motor’s just an ordinary BMC>MG, it could still well be the centrepiece of our stand.

So, drop us an email via the Peterborough page, and let us know why your car should be on our stand!

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20 July

A nice surprise


ONE of this site’s correspondents has been in touch offering us a really rather nice car… something I’ve hankered after for quite some time. I must admit that I do get offered a number of cars at very reasonable rates – and that is why right now, my current ownership tally is heading into double figures out of a total (during a 20 year driving career) of about 120 cars…

This one I couldn’t resist – and that’s why, hopefully, I’ll be heading north later this week to pick up my new AR piece of heritage.

If anyone successfully guesses what it is by email, there’s a copy of the BMIHT Rover SD1 DVD-Video waiting for them.

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19 July

All done


The SAAB’s fixed… yayy! Driving it again soon made me realise that things must have been deteriorating for a while, as the boost in power seems remarkable behind the wheel again. However, there was a hole in the main exhaust down pipe, which I’ve replaced with an Abbott Racing item, and there’s now a manual boost controller, which rather foolishly I’ve set to maximum.

But, well, it’s just nice to have the old girl on the road again – and I can get back on with my life…

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18 July

Separated at birth?


I’M not sure if you have mentioned this before, but the front of the Volvo 480 seems very very similar to the Rover SD1. I thought it might be worth a mention if it has not been already.

Good work with the excellent website, you couldn’t have chosen a more intriguing subject matter.

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RICHARD is slightly off beam – it’s not the SD1 that the Volvo 480 is related to. It is, in effect. a TR7 Estate!

Although there may be a touch of SD1 DNA in there – David Bache once told me that he’d been involved in the 480 design as a consultant, after he’d had his last row with Harold Musgrove…


17 July

An enjoyable aside


Just spent the evening watching the Codename Bullet DVD-Video as produced by John Clancy, and have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the slightly homspun nature of some of the production. Within that 5-inch silver disc of joy is what could possibly be called the definitive story of the TR7 – well, at least until David Knowles’ book on the subject gets published next year.

Listening to Harris Mann being interviewed was fascinating – not least because a familiar (for me, with all my dealings with Roy Axe) theme. When asked why the TR7 didn’t appear with a targa top as he intended, Harris’ reply was succinct: “because the engineers couldn’t do it”.

I’ve heard that time and time again with Roy Axe – regarding some very fascinating Rover-era products, and it is unedifying to hear that this was happening during the 1970s, too. Roy’s thoery is that the engineers were so busy putting out fires in the existing product lines that they couldn’t spare the time or resources to work on future projects. That is why we didn’t get the R6X, and many others… and it seems that’s why we didn’t get a targa-topped TR7.

If you were an engineer at BL or Rover, and would like to put across your side of the story, we’d love to hear from you – because right now, the designers have put forward a rather convincing case for their defence.

To buy a copy of Codename Bullet, click HERE

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16 July

It gets worse


So, the SAAB’s not going to be fixed for a few more days yet… With the manifold off, we find that there are actually two bolts that sheared – and there’s very little space in which to drill them out. Oh well… The bill’s getting bigger in my head – and my holiday plans are getting less ambitious.

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13 July

Spoke too soon


FRIDAY the thirteenth did its worse to me because I spoke too soon… With the new gasket in my hand, and a replacement exhaust downpipe, I was confident that I’d have my SAAB running sweetly in very little time…

…but that was before the manifold nut snapped when we tried to remove it. And with so little space to play with in the engine bay, and an air con pump in the way, I decided it was time to retreat until another week.

The good news is that I suppose it means I’m commuting in a Vauxhall Royale Coupe for a wee while. That should be fun…

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12 July

It’s not fair…


A FEW short weeks to my holiday, and the usually refined SAAB on my fleet decided to make a very loud ticking noise and lose power under any kind of load. Bugger. Paranoia sets in, and I start thinking the worse…

Lowering the window as I pull into the car park at work does nothing to dispel my gloom… the once thoroughbred 300bhp monster was sounding like a badly maintained 1981 Fiesta 1.1. Ah well. Just in time for the holiday, and it’s 3000-mile return trip to Tuscany via Bavaria.

Then a closer look had me breathe a huge sigh of relief. The manifold gasket had gone – leaving me with a much smaller bill than I’d already totted up for the cylinder head rebuild that my fevered mind had already resigned itself to. Isn’t running an old car a stimulating thing… from despair to hope in the time it took to spot one failed gasket…

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11 July

Your first time…


I’m sure you all remember your first! Car, that is, what were you thinking of? Oh, yes, of course. Well, I’m talking about cars this time, so when you’re ready to join in, perhaps you could face the front and pay attention at the back there? Thank you.

Where was I…?

Age 17 and my first car was a Wolseley. (the ‘1500’ model, like the Riley One-Point-Five, but only one carburettor, as I found out later). Now I know half of you will be saying ‘a what?’, and the other half will know I am talking a touch of class here. Thick two-tone! green paint, heavy chrome, real wood… the list goes on. Any way, one of the things that I remember clearly, (apart from the price, £40 from the guy up the road, mum said it was too much), is the starting the engine and getting moving procedure.

Let us assume it is a cold, wet morning, touch of lingering frost, you’ve been there. (Of course, nothing ever goes wrong when it’s nice!). Maybe if I itemise things, it will become clear that it certainly bears no resemblance to today, where you press a button on your way to the car, get in and the chip under the bonnet does the rest.

1. Try key. Will not go in. (Minor expletive deleted!). It must have been colder than you thought last night! Return to house, get hot (not boiling) water, pour over lock and key (ouch), drizzle the remainder carefully just above windscreen to remove last traces of frost, crossing fingers that it won’t crack the screen.

2. Try key. Goes in, and after a bit of jiggling about, it turns. Not bad, less than 5 minutes, and I’m in the car! Sit carefully, leather seat sans heating, decidedly chilly round the nether regions.

3. Key in ignition, pull out Choke all the way, down clutch, here we go. Not! Two small faint lights had come on; pressing the ‘Start’ button (yes, a separate operation) puts them off again, accompanied by click from under bonnet and brief whirr of cold engine turning over approximately half a revolution. (Medium expletive deleted!!)

4. Rummage around under seats, produce The Starting Handle. Pre-pre flight check confirms ignition still on, choke set, handbrake on and out of gear. Proceed to front of car.

5. Insert handle, ensure thumb is not round it, (if it kicks, the result could be one broken thumb, and it probably will still not be started), turn over clockwise about two turns, feel for compression, and pull firmly upwards. Get up, (Major expletive deleted!!!); repeat No. 5 to point just before you fell over. Wry smile at satisfactory sound of engine running.

6. Move swiftly back into car, and slowly ease choke in before it does just that! Revs drop to sensible level, neighbour’s head retreats from bedroom window after seeing my expression. Oil (yes, a proper gauge) and blood pressure begin to return to normal running levels. Ammeter needle begins to drop. Warning lights out. Good going, still less than 10 minutes since leaving house.

7. Pre-flight checks… Pull ‘Fan’ switch two clicks, (fast), move levers to ‘Hot’ and ‘Screen’. (Heater is optional extra, fortunately specified by original owner. Press unmatched home fitted toggle switch to initiate clearing of rear window by home fitted rear screen heater. Not a factory optional extra, but rather a good idea to have one. Pull ‘Wiper’ switch one click. Two speeds available, slow and a bit quicker than that. Smeared screen! Press button to wash screen. (Factory fitted!) This is a novel idea, it is vacuum operated! The water (I have added a suitable anti-freeze, for obvious reasons), is held in a big sealed glass jar, and 1 second of button push then gives about 1 second of spray. Maximum spray time is nearly 10 seconds, after you release the button! Clean, clear, warm(er). Just need some music to set the mood. Switch on radio. Wait. Wait some more. Wait even longer – after about a minute, sound starts to issue from the speaker (singular) under the dashboard. It’s mounted near the valve (aka vacuum tube) amplifier, which is connected to the control unit in the dashboard by a heavy cable. Push button tuning, very modern and a beautiful tone. And it matches the car and the era perfectly; it will get there in its own good time.

8. 15 minutes from leaving the house, we are ready to make the 10 minute drive to work!

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I REALLY enjoyed Susan James’ description of starting procedures on her Wolseley 1500, way back when. It was very evocative – I still remember that flood of warm gratitude whenever an old banger actually started, you could forgive amost anything as long as the beast actually ran! Folk these days are spoilt rotten, they really are. Those were the days when batteries were guaranteed for a year – and you could guarantee that they’d flake out on day 366 – that must have taken some very precise engineering to achieve, when you think about it. You still saw lots of people using starting handles in the late 50s and early 60s, or push-starting – worked OK as long as you selected third – anything lower usually just caused you to skid to a halt.

Winters were definitely colder then – no doubt about global warming. The horrendous winter of 1963, that saw us iced up solid for about four months, was our family introduction to Mini motoring. Not only door locks froze, but sometimes even handbrakes locked up, and de-icing windows was a bore, with that early low-powered fug-stirrer heater. But the Mini was superb on the slippery glaciers that passed for roads. Many people were converted to front wheel drive during this time.


WELL, Susan has hit it on the head with this one. Okay, my ‘first time’ was a generation or two later with a rather tired Renault 12, but the feeling was still the same. Even now, having just taken the plunge and paid the deposit on a gorgeous 75 CDT Tourer (baby on the way, need sensible car etc.) there is nothing like the feeling of having to work with your car, using cunning and faith to get it started, and even more faith to keep it running.

Perhaps that explains the popularity of ‘banger-rallies’ like the Plymouth-Dakar. In these days of ECUs, multiplex wiring and computer aided design, some of us still feel the need to go ‘back to basics’, driving to work, or even to Africa, on a wing and a prayer.


10 July

Classic car snobs


TODAY we made the effort to go to the Morris Minor OC National rally at Kelmarsh Hall…

I say ‘made the effort’ as generally we don’t really do car shows as such, as much as I like my old Cars/Bikes/Trucks I am not really into the ‘cucumber sandwich/Deckchair show scene’. It was really just a trip to see what bits we could pick up for our moggy… As it was a nice Day and as we hadn’t used it for sometime we thought we would go in the SD1…

Upon arriving at the Rally, The Ticket lady very kindly asked us if we like to put our car in the ‘visiting classics’ section….as the Mrs was answering, the MMOC man on the gate, in a loud booming voice declared that the SD1 was certainly not a classic and certainly shoudn’t be put in this section and should be parked in the general parking area…

I really wasn’t Bothered, but the women selling the tickets said surely it should be and the MMOC man relented and backed down allowing us to park there…

This is something that generally pisses me off about the classic car scene and owners clubs… Some people can be incredibly narrow minded and bigoted about their paticular make/model of Car etc but really can’t appreciate anything else… Where as much as I like my old ‘BL Tat’ I appreciate pretty much anything… (Variety is the spice of life and all that….)

I Now wished I turned up in one of my VWs (Noooo… It’s German…)

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I MUST write to agree with John Dobedoe’s article.

I am a member of the Rover SD1 Club Scottish Section, we show all over Scotland throughout the summer months, and have attended the Wheels of Yesteryear event near Edinburgh for many years.

We were dismayed and very annoyed to be told that after attending and supporting this event for so long that suddenenly only pre-1980 cars are allowed, therefore leaving only two of the club’s cars eligible for entry. This is the type of stupidity that seems to reign throughout the classic car scene if it’s left to people with a narrow vision of classics.

In my view a classic can be something which has just been built in some cases such MG ZT 260/Rover 75 V8 or a Buggati Veyron for example – would they have turned that owners club away? Classics should not be judged by age alone but historic relevance, such as when did you ever or last see one, indeed most people visit events to see cars there familes owned or they owned in the past.

Anyway every cloud has a silver lining so to speak, this event has been cancelled due to flooding over the last few days…


I AM in total agreement with John Dobedoe re the attitude of certain members of the “Classic” Car fraternity. I have encountered this attitude on more than one occasion myself over the years. However, I thought that in recent years it had become less prevailant. How wrong can you be.

During my time as Area rep for the DSG in the late 1980s and early 1990s I was told by more than one show organiser that our cars (Vauxhall Droop Snoot Firenzas, Sporthatches & HS/HSR Chevettes) were not eligible because they were less than 20-years old. Rarity and interest to the public seemed to matter not a jot. I recall that, like the ‘gentleman’ that John encountered these were generally men of a certain age who thought that the lever arm shock absorber was the pinnacle of automotive development.

I wonder how this person would have viewed anyone turning up in, say, a Datsun 240Z?

In these times when anti-car sentiment, particularly towards older vehicles, seems to have a stranglehold on so many in power, surely to God we should be banding together to protect our interests, not splitting in to warring factions. Unfortunately, as long as individuals like this persist in their narrow-minded attitudes what chance do we have against the combined forces of eco-facism?


INTERESTING comments on classic car snobbery. This even extended to the modern MG cars, for which many misguided ‘puritan’ classic MG owners said that the Zeds weren’t proper MG’s. There were many that baulked at the fact that the ‘M’ cars had MG stuck to them too. They considered MGs to be two-seater only sports cars. However, what many fail to remember is that MG’s started life as modified Morris cars – hence the initials for Morris Garages. In my mind, those tuned versions of the original saloons are the TRUE spirit of what MG is about no matter what the age of the car.

In response to the SD1 – How can anyone say it is NOT a classic? It may not have been the very first executive hatchback, but it did bring the configuration to the attention of the masses. It has, in my mind a beautiful contemporary design. It didn’t try to do a Bertone and go all futuristic on us with weird angles and lines, it simply looked great – and as far as the Vitesse V8 goes, I needn’t say any more on top of that.


9 July

That AR6

By ‘ERNST BLOFELT’, forum member

BL TECHNOLOGY’S ECV3 got us all champing at the bit in 1982 when it was revealed, but nobody at that time surely believed that the company had serious plans to make a compact, lightweight, high-performing, aluminium-bodied economy car.

Which is why AR6 is probably the greatest lost opportunity in BMC>MG’s history. Its looks might jar today but the thing would have blown apart the small car market back in the late Eighties. Hell, it would still be something special in the Noughties – imagine the excitement if the MINI had been so conceived.

Honda’s Kawamoto might have decried Rover’s conservative approach when it came to developing the XX and R8, but surely this car, had it been developed with the Japanese company, would have been the absolute realisation of all our hopes for the Rover Honda alliance – British design creativity and Japanese quality.

I wonder if Rover ever floated the idea of developing the car with Honda? If not, it should have done, rather than axeing the project in favour of the re-engineered Metro.

The AR6 would surely have trounced the opposition,
re-energised the Austin marque, and paved the way
for the British maker’s dominance of the small car
market in the same way that ADO16 dominated the
sales chart in the 1960s.

As I understand it, the car was intended to be badged as an Austin, with the Mini ceasing production at the AR6’s launch. That would have been somewhat appropriate: the world’s most advanced Sixties small car giving way to the the world’s most advanced Eighties small car. The AR6 would surely have trounced the opposition, re-energised the Austin marque, and paved the way for the British maker’s dominance of the small car market in the same way that ADO16 dominated the sales chart in the Sixties.

Pity it didn’t have Hydragas suspension, which would have been the only way to seriously improve the concept.

Perhaps the £150 million of taxpayers’ money that was spent off-loading Rover onto BAe should have been spent on the AR6. Or then again maybe the car’s bold construction should have been developed for a larger, more profitable car, like the 800, R8, or 600.

Whatever, if this car had been built it would still be the de facto small car choice today, the company would not have had to endure the furore over the R100’s crash performance in 1997, and Rover would probably still be with us today.

All Rover ever needed was the one car to tear up the market – the global success that the MINI has received came too late to save the company that engineered it – but the AR6 had all the hallmarks of a car that would have piddled all over its competitors from a lofty height. Had it been built nobody today would reminisce about 205s, or Golfs, Fiestas, or the bloomin’ Fiat Uno: we’d all be celebrating Austin as what it had always been – the maker of the world’s best small cars.

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6 July

Give it some gear


AS commutes to work go, I suppose, mine isn’t the worst. Fifty miles of A429 spear their way through Gloucestershire and make significant inroads on Warwickshire, with a smattering of curves thoughtfully inserted to awaken the inattentive, and a jus of tumbling hills which, on a clear day, provide a stunning panorama.

Villages with names like Stow-on-the-Wold and Moreton-in-Marsh betray the road’s ancient origins, and seem to be the subject of a gentleman’s agreement of some sort: in exchange for careful observance of the 30mph limits, keen drivers can go bonkers once they’re through, aided and abetted by an almost complete absence of Scameras. Despite the best efforts of both councils to spoil the party with potholes so deep that I’ve seen someone emerging from one with a pickaxe and an Australian accent, the experienced helmsman can hustle down there at a fair old lick… in theory.

In practice, the road is a corridor between the M4 and M40, meaning that every corner hides another Norbert Dressentangle monster. And even the eighteen-wheelers are brought down to a crawling 40mph by The Widest Nissan Almera In The World. All too often, I’ll power into a bend, clip the apex, dodge the pothole, and exit triumphantly, to find the road ahead blocked by a fourteen mile road-train, headed by Albert and Ethel and their tartan rug on the parcel shelf.

Now, this isn’t yet another rant about what I believe to be a secret World’s Slowest Driver competition. Indeed, in a badly misfiring 820i, which regulars will know is my current steed, I often come away with the trophy. I’m more interested in what happens in the only moments of blessed relief in fifty miles – two half-mile long hills with overtaking lanes.

You triumphantly blast past the first car, then the
second. The World’s Widest Nissan Almera is in
sight! And then a Passat Diesel pulls out in
front of you…

Things must be prepared carefully. You allow distance to build between yourself and the car in front as you descend into the valley and drop into fourth. As the perigee approaches, you snick into third and floor it, carrying speed, revs and power just as you hit the overtaking lane. You triumphantly blast past the first car, then the second. The World’s Widest Nissan Almera is in sight! And then a Passat Diesel pulls out in front of you. He hasn’t followed the steps above: the decision to overtake has been a mere whim to him. In fact, he’s still in sixth. What should he care, with his turbodiesely globs of torque? But because the hill is so steep, and he’s not really concentrating, he spends so much time going past the car in front that, by the time its your turn, there’s four inches of overtaking lane left and you have to pull in behind Albert again.

Finally, then, we’ve reached the crux of this morning’s musings. Why have people stopped changing gear? Have their kickdowns broken, or are they simply all too lazy? Since when did it become acceptable to spend half an hour on the wrong side of the road making an overtaking manoeuvre, just to avoid going past 2500 rpm? I was followed to work this morning by a Volvo S80, and as I powered up the hills in third, he fell away time and again. Now, I refuse to believe that he had fewer horses than my ailing T-series, so it must have been a conscious refusal to drop a cog. Doesn’t he know that he’s now being criticised by the driver of a Rover 800, for crying out loud? Has the man no shame?

A message to the people of Britain, and those of the A429 in particular: For God’s sake, get busy with the lever next to the handbrake once in a while. It’ll have benefits which will far outweigh the .001mpg it might cost you. You will help ease congestion, you will get to work more quickly, and you will lower my blood pressure. Finally, something strange and unexpected might start to happen.

You might start to enjoy driving again.

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5 July

Another new nail… CHPD strikes again


YESTERDAY morning, I got out of bed, and realised that there are only two cars at my house… that makes me seem a little bit too normal for my liking. However, working on Practical Classics has its advantages, not least access to some very interesting old cars.

Some time back, Editor Matt Wright bought this beauty and ever since getting it fixed hasn’t really had chance to use it much. So in I step – asking him if he’d like to sell. Luckily for me, he said yes, and that means my brush with normality is well and truly over. I blogged about it over on the other channel, so you can read all about my flirtation with silliness there.

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4 July

The great 1-Series controversy


I’VE thought for quite a while that the design of the 1-Series was familiar, so I thought i’d Roverise it to demonstrate my point…

The similarities are there… or is it a coincidence? We’ll never know…

Find out more and have your say by clicking HERE

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3 July

Asking too much wedge?


DOES anybody remember the good old days when you had look in the local paper, telephone the seller, go to his or her house, view the car, drive the car, look at the paperwork and then haggle over the price?

I regularly scan the classified magazines for Princesses and there are rarely any for sale. The odd one crops up from a private seller now and again but I’ve yet to see a classic car specialist dealer have one on sale in recent years. Most end up on eBay, but I wonder whether it’s the right place to sell a Wedge? There’s been a good choice of Princesses on there over the last few weeks; low mileage, excellent condition and nice colours, but none of them have managed to reach their reserve price.

Within Princess circles pristine Wedges sell for over £1200, and a rare 1975 Wolseley version recently sold for £2700! Surely, if you’ve bothered to tap in ‘Austin Princess’ into the ebay search bar then you must at least have more than a passing interest. I believe the best way to sell a Wedge is to advertise it privately. Research has shown that good condition Wedges listed on eBay usually only get bids up to around 50 per cent of their reserve price, yet those privately advertised usually sell for their asking price.

eBay is good, but it seems the more discerning Princess purchaser looks elsewhere. But if you’re looking for someone who’s breaking an Ambassador for spares, then eBay is right up your street.

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2 July

What’s wrong with Jaguar, Part 94


Selling XJ40s for more money could have left us with this far earlier, argues Ian Nicholls.

WHY is Jaguar in a financial mess? It is a question discussed by pundits. Well here is my input as the owner of a 1993 XJ40 for a mere seven months.

There are two commonly agreed reasons. The strength of sterling makes it difficult to sell British cars in the USA and the fact that despite being lambasted as being as dangerous to the planet as all out thermo nuclear war, there is an insatiable demand for 4X4s as an alternatives to the traditional luxury car. Unfortunately Jaguar cannot make such a vehicle as its partner in Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, Land Rover, already caters for this market. Indeed demand for Land Rover’s products is at record levels despite the strength of sterling.

I would argue that there is a more historical reason for Jaguars problems, and that it has become a prisoner of its own history. I argue that in order to establish the Jaguar brand post 1945, William Lyons undercut the opposition on price, which was not a major problem when development costs were still low, and the XK engine was capable of meeting all the companies needs.

The Jaguar E-type and the series 1 XJ saloons are all perfect examples of this, they were by far the best in their class at launch and were considerably cheaper than the opposition. But rivals such as BMW and Mercedes were able to get away with charging higher prices and it did not seem to harm them. Indeed they had more profit to re-invest in improving their models. Increasing development costs led a cash strapped Jaguar into a merger with BMC in 1966 and in turn became part of British Leyland in 1968. Although the independent Jaguar had always been profitable, its best financial year was 1966 when it recorded a profit of £1.66m

Jaguar has become a prisoner of its own history…

By the early 1970s in those pre-energy crisis days the Jaguar XJ saloon had a 2½ year waiting list and yet Jaguar still only produced 30,000 cars a year from its Browns Lane plant. Geoffrey Robinson wanted to increase production to around 50,000, Browns Lane’s maximum capacity but before he could the first energy crisis struck and demand for large engined cars slumped.

As the 1970s wore on Jaguar became infected with the problems of its British Leyland stablemates and by 1980, it reputation was at rock bottom. John Egan is credited with saving Jaguar, and when he joined the company in 1980, the brand effectively had to re-establish itself. Although Egan was able to persuade the workforce to exercise diligence in assembling the cars, the likes of BMW and Mercedes had moved ahead with the technology used to build vehicles, because they had higher profit margins and greater volume.

Although privatized in 1984, Jaguar simply did not make enough profit to stay independent for long. And one of the causes of this was the poor build quality of the long awaited XJ40 saloon, launched in 1986. When Ford took over Jaguar it could not believe how antiquated the production facilities were. The next Jaguar model was the X300, which cost Ford £200m to develop; £110m of it was spent improving the Browns Lane factory.

The new improved production line began operating in August 1993 producing the final XJ40s before switching to the X300 in 1994. My own 4.0S XJ40 appears to be from that post August 1993 production run, the build quality is far better than some of the terrible rust-buckets I have seen!

So what is the point of my rambling? Basically I am arguing that Jaguar failed to make enough profit when the going was good, which meant they couldn’t invest in new technology to improve build quality, which meant they stagnated whilst the opposition moved ahead. And trying to win new customers is now proving difficult.

Posted in: AROnline Blogs
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

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