Blog: You are what you smell

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

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WHAT’S the first thing you notice when you get into a car for the very first time? Is it the colour of the trim, the style of the dashboard? Nope, I guarantee the first thing that hits you whenever you get inside a car is the smell…

I hear it a lot from classic car enthusiasts – and notice it myself time and time again. Be it the smell of vinyl and plastic combined with petrochemical grade velour you get in a lightly used Princess, or the leathery smell of old camera cases in a Jaguar XJ6 Series One, every car seems to have an interior odour as unique as its exterior style.

Whether this is by luck or judgement is anyone’s guess in historical terms – I know that there is little out there that can compare to the smell of a warm XJ-S’s interior on a summer’s day – the connolly leather coupled with the BL-grade plastics makes for a heady aroma. The smell seems to encapsulate all we love about BL with an added dash of class – call it ‘BL-Plus’ for the management class. And, let’s face it, that’s what an XJ-S was when it was launched back in 1975.

The ‘new Rover’ aroma may not have been overly
pleasant at first whiff, but it grew on you –
and along with the door close sound engineered
to emulate the slamming of a freezer door, it
gave the car a real character all of its own.

Today’s cars are an altogether more anodyne lot – but it’s still there if you look for it. Rovers since about 1989 (the R8 seems to mark the point it began) seem to have shed the petrochemical BL smell in favour of something a lot more rubbery. Not sure if it is an improvement or not, but at least the distictive odour of ‘new Rover’ seemed to last longer into each car’s life – into middle-age in most cases… So maybe that was the plan – ‘Longbridge Rubber’ was the scent of 1989, but if you were lucky you’d still smell it in 1999.

The ‘new Rover’ aroma may not have been overly pleasant at first whiff, but it grew on you – and along with the door closing sound, engineered to emulate the slamming of a freezer door, it gave the car a real character all of its own.

Nowadays it seems to be slipping away from MG Rover – the smell, which permeated all non-leather Rovers now seems to be limited to the 25 and 45. The CityRover and 75 have their own – unique – smells…

So what Rover engineers at Longbridge now need to do is formulate a new scent, bottle it, and ensure it is rolled out across the range.

The 75 V8 has a nice whiff to it… wood and leather with a hint of hot tyre rubber is a winner in my eyes… and is probably one of the reasons it wormed its way into my affections so easily. Aston Martin’s aroma is pretty intoxicating stuff too… and not a hint of ‘Blue Oval Plastic’ is to be found anywhere near an Aston’s interior (unlike the Eighties and Nineties Astons, which at times smelled, as well as looked like the Ford Scorpio). If someone at Gaydon (Aston’s home now) could bottle the some ‘Eau de DB9′ for a friend a Longbridge, MG Rover might win a few more sales.

After all, if a 25 smelled as good as a DB9 (instead of smelling like hot rubber and cheap plastic), you’d immediately have a positive impression of the car…

Follow your nose, I say.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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