Technician’s Update : ‘GARLIC BREAD?’

The age old argument about modern cars and methods comes in for a sideways look. Mike Humble is your ringmaster.

There’s a great great fondness for the Marina these days but, back in 1980, they were beyond a joke. It isn’t that long ago either in the grand scheme of things

There I was happily doing some housecleaning and tidy up on the Facebook Group page. As I was hoovering the tinsel fragments away, deleting some erroneous posts and brushing the last of the crisps out from under the settee, I noted a post that was gathering some comments.

The author of the post highlighted how technical cars have become and complained about the cost of stop-start-suitable car batteries – which made me wonder a moment. One person mentioned about how he would only ever run a banger while another vented his spleen about the worrying amount of electronics in modern tin.

Why fear change?

It’s been said before that the only thing constant in life is change, and the motor trade certainly makes that ring true. When I first entered the trade back in 1988 with a large Ford dealer, the wind of technological change was blowing hard. At one end of the scale we were replacing points and condensers in 957cc Fiestas while, at the other end, you had the Granada with its electronic ALD4 automatic gearbox.

World-weary fitters would chunter about how this modern kit would only end in tears. The Sierra 1.8-litre CVH (R2A) engine, with its hydraulic roller tappets, heated inlet manifold and programmed ignition, was almost seen as a second coming of Christ!

However, just like Peter Kay’s late father’s refusal to taste anything new or out of the ordinary, all this negativity is a generation thing. My own late father’s background saw many years in the REME workshops before joining civvy street. Even though I was just a pup, I can remember him pooh-poohing the Lucas -programmed electronic ignition system that the Montego ushered in as stuff and nonsense.

The stuff of nonsense

Looking at present day cars, a lot of what was originally brought in as cost-cutting or time-saving features has since been improved and reversed. Timing belts are now reverting back to chains while hydraulically operated clutches and cable gear selection are very much the current norm – just like a 1969 Maxi albeit without the ‘bran tub’ shift-change quality.

With the exception of bargain bucket cars like a Dacia Sandero, there really isn’t much place in the market for a stripped out bog basic car – even then the under-bonnet trickery and electronics still apply. A-ha I hear you cry – but garages don’t even strip things down any more. Thank God for that, imagine the labour charges for removing the gearbox from your Rover 75, stripping it out and replacing that weak synchro?

The cost would be so prohibitive that breakers yards up down the land would be packed full of them. Remove and replace along with menu servicing makes motoring cheaper. Though it may dumb down the role of the mechanic seemingly – it makes life a lot easier.

The future’s modern – get used to it!

Take Stop-Start on your average modern motor. You’d better get used to it as its here to stay as long as round bits of alloy pound up and down inside a cylinder for engine propulsion. Anyway, there’s nothing new about that idea – I had an 1800 Vectra that would cut out when stationary once the engine was warmed through.

Okay, okay, it was a knackered camshaft sensor, but I swear it saved me a few bob on petrol as a result. Joking aside, though, a lot of the tech within the bowels of a new car can often be a priceless. The OnStar feature as fitted to most new current Vauxhalls opens a channel of communication in the event of an accident if the airbags are deployed – but here’s where its gets clever.

An operator asks if the driver and/or passengers are okay, if no verbal response is forthcoming your exact location is pinpointed via the GPS link and the emergency services are sent to your co-ordinates.

The car’s the (on)star

You see? This is serious life-changing and life-saving technology – and, when seen in action, becomes truly, deeply impressive stuff – no gimmick. But modern cars, features are taking away a driver’s right to make decisions for himself you may say.

Well, let’s look at radar or adaptive cruise control or the rather nifty City-Brake feature that Honda has rolled out across its range. Sometimes this technology also removes the risk of the driver making a wrong and sometimes fatal decision – I call it swings and roundabouts.

Modern metal brimming with gadgets and technology like the Vauxhall Insignia, for example, tends to meet with universal apathy. However, in 25 years time, people will bill and coo at the sight of one these on the King’s highway – I almost guarantee it!

I can’t, of course, make or convince you to like or admire bang up-to date-modern motoring, but I can leave you with a fact that’s difficult to argue against. The cars of today are the same cars we or our siblings will be admiring in 20 or 30 years or more from now. Who would have thought that folk would go all misty-eyed over the deletion of the Austin brand in 1987? Fast forward 30 years into 2017, and it seems like only yesterday doesn’t it, eh?

You get my drift?

Mike Humble


  1. Mike – the logic is inescapable for the most part. What gets to us ‘old boys’ is what I call the ‘official rip-off factor’ that is built into all this technology. A couple of examples of what I mean:
    1) I take the Fiat Ducato IH Motorhome to an auto electrics company for a ‘domestic end’ electrical problem. Whilst it’s there they diagnose a faulty throttle pedal sensor – although they don’t do mechanical bits. I take it to the Fiat Main Dealer and they give me a quote for the sensor plus fitting – plus £147 diagnostic fee. But, I say, it’s already been diagnosed! Yes, they say, but not by us. I then take it to my local village garage (who are unfailingly brilliant) and they say, no problem – we’ll get one and fit it BUT it may not work and might need the main dealer to program it in. Do you see how frustrating this is compared with our admittedly rose tinted view of history? There used to be a cable between the pedal and the carb. When it broke – I replaced it! (for a few bob).
    2) We had a MiniCooper Clubman diesel (about which I waxed lyrical on these pages – especially the usefulness of the fifth little door being on the driver’s side despite all those who never owned one thinking it was the wrong side).
    Anyway, We put it into the Mini main dealer for injector seals. It came back 20% down on power. The dealer said they would diagnose the problem – and they did – in all about half a dozen times. They suggested a filter (fitted) but no joy. They suggested and fitted umpteen things including a new Turbo – all to no avail. Another garage had it for nearly a year and fitted a few more things – to no avail. Finally the ECU was suspected and sent off for repair – but the company could not do it because BMW had not released the schematics for that model. However, they did manage to fry the ECU completely whilst testing it. So we offered this £4 grand (according to Buy My Car) to the BMW technicians for a grand and they all refused it! So we got £1200 quid on E Bay having first told the new owner the entire history. The whole episode cost us around 6k!
    Now, our point is NONE of the above could have happened to a 20’s, 30’s, 40”s, 50”s , 60’s, or 70’s car! That is why us ‘old boys’ disbelieve your world of progress!

    • Your last paragraph rings a bell–I had an Astra Diesel fitted with the Isuzu engine (?). It went in for new heater plugs which ripped the head threads when being removed, head off re thread and re fit. Not capable of anything better than 50mph when it came back. 9 months of heaven knows what with the original, another and mail dealer garage and no one could diagnose nor fix the problem. In the end I am afraid it was traded in loosing considerable cash. DVLA check site revealed it was very soon scrapped!
      Progress eh!

  2. There are also the technologies that came and went, and came back again – they were poo-poohed at the time because they were either a fad, or that they were simply underdeveloped and underwhelming… prime example is the digital instrument cluster, and its close relative the “talking” trip computer a la early Austin Maestro. Of course they were fashionable in “Knight Rider”-inspired mid ’80s before falling out of favour. I remember Vauxhall had to make the digital instrument pack a “delete option” on the Senator and Carlton GSi (and eventually dropped it completely) for this very reason.

    Today of course many cars routinely have a digital instrument pod, or even a TFT display in place of analogue dials (like on the Range Rover or the Jaguar XJ), and we have voice guidance on our sat-navs, Bluetooth phone connections, and it’s now fully accepted. This is of course a classic example of “technology convergence” – we’ve got used to this stuff on our smartphones and tablets , and it then spread into our cars, coupled to a younger generation of drivers who accept this as a natural progression.

  3. Stop start devices are nothing new . They were available , believe it or not, on more expensive Morris and Wolseley models in the late 1930s. The engine stopped after the car had been stationary for say 5 seconds, and were restarted when the clutch pedal was next pressed.

    • Another British invention then, way ahead of its time. My 1982 vintage B2 Audi 80GL had a manual stop-start system whereby the driver pressed a button on the end of the wiper stalk to cut the engine which would restart when depressing the clutch pedal, in the same way as those Morris and Wolseley models. I believe Volkswagen had a similar set up in their Formel E models around the same time too.

  4. In a way I agree, but the problem is if you are going to make cars so complex they are difficult to fix, you best make them reliable, otherwise no-one with sense will touch them. My family has two Japanese cars, bit bland, a bit lacking in refinement, but they fly through the MOT every year with virtually no work.

    The other major problem is using new technology to ripoff customers. I know how much the electronic components in some of these failed parts cost, pennies. So it is outrageous that car companies charge hundreds of pounds to replace whole components, when it could be fixed for far less.

    Oh and there are examples of technologies that aren’t needed or simply don’t work. DPF on diesel exhausts simply didn’t work and were an expensive disaster for many owners. Dual mass flywheels are pointless and make cars uneconomic to fix.

    • “the problem is if you are going to make cars so complex they are difficult to fix, you best make them reliable”

      To me, this is what went pear shaped for the French after some brilliant models in the 1990s.

      The mk2 Laguna was a gorgeous car, but people who’ve owned them tell me they are a heartbreak. The Father in Law had a 407, he said he got around the tyre sensors constantly returning false readings by routing the wiring and placing them into a pressurised box under the boot.

  5. Diagnosing faults nowadays seems to consist of throwing expensive parts at the car until it works. Nobody seems to have any idea of basics, and common sense has gone out of the window. Car makers and their electronics whiz-kids never seem to think about real-world conditions. For instance, there are a lot of plugs and sockets in modern car looms and these can suffer some corrosion and thus generate resistance in the line. So an electronic box flags up a fault because some expected voltage is not present. The mechanics then say to the poor old owner “yer doofit is knackered, you need a new one” This costs £500 then, when fitted, the fault is still there, and so it goes on.

    I take my Jaguar to an independent Jaguar garage that uses the diagnostics but also has that key thing you need nowadays when interpreting them – memory of previous similar or identical faults and what the cause was. A common fault on mu car is the air suspension compressor starts to lose efficiency, but there is no actual fault code for this, but there is a code to indicate the reservoir pressure is taking too long to attain. This, or course can be leakage. However, it most commonly is caused by the pump piston seal getting worn out. It is this kind of memory bank that is needed when looking at modern cars, as the complexity is now enormous.

    No wonder cars are scrapped well before they need to be !!

    • Basically what happened to my Accord coupe when it started intermittently cutting out.

      Mechanic threw all sorts of expensive replacement parts at it, took it for a brief test drive, declared it fixed, I would take it home – cuts out.

      Decided to cut my losses and put it up for sale – it then would not start when someone came to look at it. Replaced it with a Celica, when someone suggested that the main relay may just need resoldered.

      5 minutes later and it was back to life, took it a run to warm it up – no cutouts. Sadly the MOT was up and it was already replaced, so had to go. If I had known and tried that first I might still have that wonderful big coupe.

  6. It’s Ying and Yang really. Take multiplex wiring for instance. It was done to reduce weight, less volume of wiring loom to package, simplify assembly. and allow inter connectivity between different ECUs. On one hand it has complicated simple DIY jobs that we all used to do like fitting a towbar or an aftermarket radio (you now need a laptop with the right software to do these things on some makes), but at the same time it’s brought a lot of benefits in terms of giving Everyman the gadgets and functionality that a lot of us take for granted. Besides, once you get your head around CANBUS, LINBUS and all the rest of it, it allows for easier fault diagnosis, the abiilty to tweak and tune and even add “optional extras” to your car with a click of a mouse! So it’s not all bad news.

  7. Safety equipment is one huge advance. Even the cheapest car now will have four airbags, front and rear seatbelts, seatbelt tensioners and head restraints on the seats. Then there are features like anti lock brakes, stability controls, curtain airbags and fuel shut off systems that make driving even safer. Surely no one would go back to an era when none of this existed, even as late as 40 years ago, when wearing seatbelts( then the only safety equipment in a car and mostly in the front seats) was optional, and fatality and serious injury rates were vastly higher.

  8. Garlic bread – its the future I’ve tasted it!!!

    Cars are now computers and it will be the electronic platform that determines the end of life of a car in the way that rust did when I was younger.

    From a personal perspective it means little as I am a mechanical idiot and know that so all repairs are done by trusted professionals and have no idea how to repair most things.

    What is interesting is that things that were once seen as luxuries or concepts are now the norm to the extent that I wouldn’t buy a car without climate control anymore!

  9. Once upon a time I was forever tinkering with my worn out Cortinas, or Minis and the like. Have not serviced a car myself for at least 15 years now. And, truth be told, I don’t miss it.

    Strange to me though, that given all these driver aids and comforts so many of us insist on keeping ‘control’ with a manual clutch and gearbox!

    BTW and talking of new technology I was sat behind a Renault Zoe at some lights yesterday. It didn’t half get away smartly – clearly startled the BMW driver next to it!

    • Having owned 2 automatics I have seen the light, so much easier for commuting in stop start traffic on a hilly route. But plenty of people I speak to say they hate them, they don’t feel in total control – especially on hills!

      Used car shopping recently, there are a lot of used ‘premium’ cars (C classes and the likes) on the market. Baffled as to why so many were specced with manual boxes.
      Saw a model I quite liked, good price for a nearly new biggish car, but they are as rare as hens teeth in automatic spec.

      Give it 10-20 years, when an ‘automatic’ car will mean something else entirely!
      Driving manually will mean operating the steering yourself!

      • Although they are more generously specced out of the box than they used to be, Mercedes (and BMW and Audi for that matter) lure the punters in with a lowish headline price for the base model, only for them to discover that most of the things that Mercs are “supposed” to have (like an autobox) are expensive options. I remember 20-odd years ago the base model 190E came in at a tempting £15k, until you discovered it had no radio, no eleccy windows, metallic paint;practically nothing at all. Yet £15k in those days would buy you a top of the range Mondeo or Cavalier. The business model has changed little since then.

        That’s where all those manual C-classes come from I suspect.

        If you really want a German premium car (like so many do these days), it’s far better sense to buy a one or two year old one on which someone else has forked out for the extras and taken the depreciation hit on….

        • “The business model has changed little since then”.

          I would disagree. Mercedes’ business model has changed massively in the last 20-25 years! They have gone from a relatively small volume luxury brand to a high volume brand positioned a little way above Ford and VW.

          The 190E (sold from 82-93) was made from very high quality materials, and was a lot more durable than the disposable Sierras and Mk2 Cavaliers of that era. The extra money was spent on materials and engineering, not on fripperies.

          A current base model C-class is much better equipped, but the gap in quality/durability between it and a Mondeo or Insignia is much smaller.

          Mercedes is now a volume seller (which is not necessarily a bad thing) and the C-class is regularly in the UK sales top 10. You could never have said that about the 190 or any other Merc from 20+ years ago.

          • That’s all true, but do you think that’s because the mainstream makes have caught up in terms of quality (or perceived quality), or that Mercedes have been cheapened?? Like you I tend to think its the latter – to me the “golden age” of Mercs was the likes of the W123/W124 E-Class, or the W126/W140 S-Class. Those cars really did have that immortal feeling that todays Mercs don’t. It all went downhill from thereon.

            Audi went the opposite way in my opinion, back in the 1980s they were a sort of “almost-premium-but-not-quite”, and although the quality was high for the day, it was comparable with VW, no better. Today I rate their interiors far better than todays Mercs which have too many cheap and flimsy bits of bling in them. And rather overstyled as well…

          • Merc has cheapened its products, no question. The merger with Chrysler, the shocking rust on cars from the late 90s and early 2000s, the dreadful quality on the early M-class built in Alabama. All combined to destroy Merc’s reputation for quality.

            I quite liked Merc’s approach to options back in the old days. Yes it meant that the price could rocket up if you went crazy with the extras, but it also meant that every car was bespoke. You could have the precise combination of extras that you wanted, without paying for stuff you didn’t want or need. If you wanted air conditioning and the big engine but didn’t want leather seats or a headroom-robbing sunroof – no problem, Merc would build that exact spec for you.

          • I agree, Mercedes from the eighties were bombproof and, since they were a niche product and the top of the German car industry, the company made sure their cars were built to last and didn’t go wrong. I think only a Volvo of this era lasted as long as a Mercedes.
            Problem nowadays, while Mercedes seem to have beaten a decline in reliability that occured in the early noughties, is they seem themselves as a volume manufacturer like Volksawgen Audi and their cars don’t seem special enough. Also people expecting their Mercedes to be German might find their car being made in Hungary or South Africa.

      • Automatics used to have a reputation for giving poor fuel economy & were expensive to fix if they went wrong.

        Also they had an image that the were mostly bought by people who did a lot of long distance driving or else were too clueless to learn to use an manual box.

  10. Tell me about it! Only this week I have a 60 plate VW Golf for sale that the remote central locking wont work on the key [so if you wish to lock you pop off handle end cover and manually lock using key]. After taking to VW for reprogramming they now say it needs a Body Computer[to work the locking] which trade is £312 plus another £70 to programme the keys. Total bill some £400 plus VAT. We find it more and more, punters trading in cars with these sort of problems and replacing with a new car rather than repairing and incurring more and more expensive and time consuming complex problems that sometimes are not cost effective or even solvable.

    • Timbo I know what you mean! We had an Astra which only came with one key, albeit a working remote one. Got a non-remote replacement made fairly cheaply and without too much trouble, only to find that while both would start the car, neither would fit the driver’s door lock, which had been changed at some point. I spoke with an auto locksmith about fixing and reprogramming it and forget what the cost was, but cheap it was not.

      So when viewing used cars make sure all the keys are there and each one works in each lock!

      A far cry from the days when you could open and start an Austin 1100 with a miniature penknife blade!

    • But… but… everyone says VWs are reliable!

      How can this be the case then!

      How can the motoring media, funded by advertising from VW group, be constantly wrong about the greatness and reliability of VW products?

      And the punters who consume these opinions from the motoring media, how could they be told untruths, there is a VW advert beside a 5 star VW review, if they weren’t good they wouldn’t be marketing them as such surely? Surely?

      • Given that VW is one of the biggest car companies in the world, the law of averages says that there’s going to be a problem car occasionally.

        Even Toyota make the odd ‘Friday Car’, but our belief system has been programmed to assume anything with “Made In Japan” or “Made In Germany” written on it will never break down.

        It’s no different to the old belief that anything “Made In Italy” will dissolve into a pile of rust, or you won’t be killed by crashing in anything “Made In Sweden”.

        • Thanks Kevin, my post was a little tongue in cheek 🙂

          I’ve heard some horror stories from VW owners, and as you say Toyota aren’t immune – my Celica wasn’t quite as high quality as I expected.

          My Italian Alfa had no rust (more than can be said for early 2000s Mercedes!) and I’m planning on not being killed in the Saab to try that theory 🙂

          But as you say it is all marketing and belief in the car buying public, which was what I was trying (with poor sarcasm) to get at.

  11. I forgot to mention the Fiat Ducato Motorhome blowing a rear tail lamp bulb and when we replaced it from the on vehicle spares kit (being in France at the time) it sent the whole lighting system bananas! I had to take the new bulb out and put the blown one back in for the rest of the holiday and until we got home. My local garage diagnosed that the BUZ? unit wasn’t accepting the new bulb because it didn’t like the way the tow bar was wired in – so they disconnected the tow bar and the new bulb works fine. (The tow bar had been fitted 3 years and 20,000 miles ago!)
    They want £147 to re-wire the tow bar in.
    Try telling this to my octogenarian friends with their vintage Riley’s – they laugh – but they think it’s a joke – they can’t actually believe it!
    Another one. We lost the ‘red’ key to the Alfa 916 V6 Spyder. The Alfa Main Dealer said that they could supply a new key but a ‘something unit’ (can’t remember what it was now), both the doors and the boot locks, the ignition switch and something under the bonnet would all have to be replaced. Cost – around £2000. They calmly informed us this was the only way to get over the problem of a lost ‘red’ key.
    Tenacious Annie did her research and found a bono fido company that came to our home, reprogrammed whatever it was and sold us a new red key that did everything it was supposed to – for less than £150.
    It was so much simpler to go to your friendly Motor Factor and ask for an FS 345 – and for a few bob you had a nice shiny new key for your A35,
    I know, I know – that old adage about ‘keep it simple Simon’ will never return.
    Someone explain to the young’ens what an A35 was!

    • Ah yes the red key.

      I bought a “fixer upper” 916 GTV 2.0TS as a bit of a project years ago, very cheap with no MOT but only came with a single key. It was worth more than the car was worth to get a red key from the dealers, I just did without and hoped I never needed it.
      The fuse box looked like it had been on fire or melted at some point, the wipers had a mind of their own (which could be resolved by literally kicking the under dash fusebox) and the lights were “fixed” by hard wiring them.
      Ran it a while until it needed a lot more jobs doing, sold it on “as is” still red keyless.

      Interestingly, 916 GTVs/Spiders seem to be appreciating in value these days.

      • The old Italian electrics issue that Jeremy Clarkson was so keen to mention about his GTV ownership, as well as the poor build quality and keeping on top of the rust( although this problem was beaten by the end of the eighties). If you overlooked the electrics, slack build quality and rust, then otherwise Italian cars were good, with strong engines and good driving characteristics. I even recall a Fiat Strada from 1980 that I was a passenger in a few times that while the interior squeaked, rust bubbles were appearing at six months old and the fittings were fragile, it was otherwise a decent car to drive with good performance and economy from its 1.4 litre engine.

        • Well one of my Uncles has two Alfas – a late 80s spyder and a 33 – both were a pile of rubbish nothing worked as it should of and they were rusting away!
          My other Uncle however had a Tipo and had nothing go wrong – it was still piling the miles on when he got rid of when he moved abroad and there was not an inch of rust on it.

          • One of the selling points of the Tipo was full chassis galvanisation to keep the rust away.

  12. You’ve mentioned the ‘C’ word now! And although I don’t normally let the man’s name pass my lips, I will in the context of Alfa! How can anyone beelieve a word that is said on a program where James May ‘faked’ complete clutch failure on a GTV because it was in the script – written by ‘C’ – and then when the car returned to the ‘studio area’ (this was on the TG Alfa Day at a stately home) – a BBC overall’d guy got in it and drove off perfectly!
    Enough already – I’m not saying another word about it.
    Only partially agree about all this ‘electrics and Alfa’ stuff. I had a 2ltr GTV for several years and around 50,000 miles with not one single electrical problem. The thing couldn’t rust – it was either galvanised or composite (such as the entire bonnet). Even the 156 Sportwagon that been chipped to within an inch of its life (and cost me around 9k in one year) never had an electrical problem and certainly didn’t rust! The 916 V6 Spyder threw a wobbly after re-commissioning (after a two year lay-up) but we just ignored it whilst all the lights flashed and the alarm went off continuously the first day. The second day it cured itself! I’ve found over the years a lot of cars are self-healing if you just ignore them.
    So in essence, after owning three Alfas I personally have not had an electrics problem and I just wonder if, because Alfa’s are clearly female, Italian, beautiful, spirited, fast and sexy – whether some of you have been a bit lapse on the old discipline – letting the young lady know who is boss is so important – although, I hasten to add (before the ‘politically correct’ start with the abuse) – it is a true partnership. All you have to do is drive them – and the love will just flow like …….well, you know.
    But back to Mike’s original point and mine. To clarify my view – the technology is good – it is the human ability to make money out of us suckers who use it – by ripping us off – that grinds my gears. I’ve just been told that some companies are including replacement injectors into the ‘must be programmed by main dealer’ syndrome.
    The example of a Renault contacting the emergency services for you after an accident is brilliant. No problem with that stuff. I’m not a complete technophobe you know!

    • I owned a 916 GTV 2.0TS. The fusebox looked like it had been on fire at some point, until I sourced a replacement the lights needed re-wired and the wipers had a mind of their own – one day I literally had to kick the under dash fusebox to stop them going.

      It also ate suspension bushes, the exhaust sat very low – the centre section seemed to need replacing early due to being knocked – both probably due to our poor quality and speedhump riddled roads. The clutch cylinder was going – the pedal would stick to the floor and need to be pulled back up by the toe of my shoe – which led to some very gentle clutch usage.

      But otherwise (and assuming the timing belt is replaced at 30k!) it was an absolute hoot to drive, the engine never failed to start, and despite having a few scratches it did not have a spot of rust. The only car I’ve ever owned that properly turned heads.

  13. Jeremy Clarkson somehow has an unhealthy fetish for rubbishing cars that are either too mass market for him or cost less than £ 100,000. We all know his endless and tedious rubbishing of British Leyland and Rover that was often pathetic and not grounded in truth. Also his dislike of Toyota is even more bizarre, surely a car company that makes very reliable and durable cars is to be praised and cars like the Supra and MR2 were anything but boring.

      • True, but at the end of the day what Clarkson says and does has made him a millionaire. It sells magazines, books and draws the TV viewers in. The Toyota Corolla was still the world’s best selling car for all the vitriol that Jeremy threw at it. It only confirms that for us mere mortals for whom a car is a metal box on wheels for getting from A to B; Top Gear and its ilk are really irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

        • Shows like Top Gear and The Grand Tour are irrelevant in terms of “help me choose a vanilla family car”, but they still convey the fun of motoring, the adventure of driving across beautiful landscapes (even if they have a massive support crew behind them), and the thrill of doing big speeds on amazing European roads.

          When Uber and Waymo cars rule the road, and Ferrari and Lamborghini no longer make road cars, you’ll miss the silliness of Top Gear.

    • He’s a multi-millionaire who has driven just about every modern supercar ever made. I can forgive him for not getting excited about mass-market cars. Does he care about the small differences between a Focus or a Golf or an Astra? They’re all good cars.

      As for Toyota, I thought Clarkson said that the Lexus LFA was the best car he’d ever driven? And he was pretty impressed with the “unkillable” Hilux pickup as well.

  14. I’m afraid that’s the trouble with our modern society – we gage everyone by their wealth. When CAR magazine started in the early 60’s it was born of relative poverty and fostered some of the greatest motoring writers of our times – LJK Setright, Doug Blain (who now owns the only vintage and classic car magazine NOT full of adverts), Ian Frazer, Mel Nichols, George Bishop and not forgetting the wonderful Steady Barker. Some are no longer with us but they new more about cars than C will ever know if he lives to a hundred. Your right though, none of them were or are as ‘rich’ as C – if that’s what really matters! Personally, I’d rather read the excellent and intelligent stuff in my old CAR magazines than listen to inane drivel spurred on by the need to be outrageous and rude. CAR was notorious for being honest, blunt and not bowing to the manufacturers – they blazoned a trail that changed the face of car magazines in the UK – yet they did it with respect and they did it as a team and it all had relevance to what we drove.
    Pretending to drive across deserts and actually blowing up cars and faking whole situations is just so – irelavent?

    • TG and its ilk have been responsible for establishing narratives (sometimes true-ish, other times totally false) – they have become like the way tabloid newspapers manipulate politics. You know how it goes:
      Toyotas are boring
      Dacias are for poor people
      Caravans are the work of Satan
      Premium German cars are driven by c**k’s
      Anything made by British Leyland was c**p
      Anything that does over 150mph is brilliant
      It may all be tongue in cheek, but once a narrative or an underlying theme takes hold in the mind of the public, it is difficult to shift. As the old saying goes, if you listen to bulls**t long enough you’ll believe it.

      • But yet when they review a premium German car they proclaim it as the best car… in the world.

        They couldn’t get enough of the M2, yet it didn’t put in a particularly good time.

        Yes these may be halo models, but someone looking for their next company car will have watched that and then put an order in for a 218i (which sadly now means a completely different car to an R8 – a code which itself also now means something completely different… ).

        • … and that person will get a nice light RWD coupe with 130mph performance and cheap company car tax 🙂

          To be honest, I’m not sure anyone watches Top Gear (or The Grand Tour) expecting some kind of consumer advice show.

      • Destroying Morris Marinas is classed as cool as we all know how awful they were and no one with a brain would like one. Funny that, the car was one of the best selling cars of the seventies, sold over a million in its nine year life, and became a popular cheap car in the eighties as it was generally reliable and easy to maintain. Mind you, I can understand Clarkson’s dislike of the Allegro, it was awful to look at and awful to drive.

        • Absolutely, I think the consensus is that the Marina was never more than adequate even with a lot of good luck and a following wind. But to diss it is to miss the point – its job was to rival all the other crummy and technologically conservative family hacks that were around at the time. And as you say people forget it was a million seller – in fact in the post BMC/BL era only the Metro beat it in sales terms. People forget that.

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