Opinion : It’s going to be tough, but we’ll get through


As the lights go out (or at least down) on the UK car industry, and many of us look to be spending a lot more time at home in the coming weeks and months, it’s probably about now that many, many of us are worried about how this Coronavirus situation is going to play out. One thing I do know is that, as far as AROnline is concerned, to help us (and me) get through what’s coming, rather than obsess about the present, I’m going to think about the good stuff that’s waiting for us in the future, while getting nostalgic about the past.

So, the accompanying news story will probably be the last item reporting on the situation as it is now for some time. It’s worth noting that while Europe and the USA are facing a once-in-a-century financial and social crisis, the green shoots of recovery are almost hoving into view in China. Considering that news of the first reported case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) only emerged in Wuhan on 31 December 2019, there should be some hope to be taken from that. That means that maybe, just maybe, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s assertion that we can at least start to ‘turn the tide’ in 12 weeks might be something we can hope for.

Moving on from this, let’s spare a thought for all those key workers out there who are going to keep the country’s wheels turning in the coming weeks. The health care workers, the shop staff, the delivery drivers, those keeping the power on and the water running, and those wonderful volunteers looking after society’s weak and vulnerable are now the UK’s most important people. I really hope that, in time, their salaries will be adjusted upwards to reflect their importance for society.

What AROnline will be doing, going forwards

Well, let’s face it – most of you come here to read about the UK car industry, past and present. As there’s little present to talk about (until JLR starts pumping out ventilators for the NHS, of course), let’s focus on the past for some lovely escapism. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be revisiting some of the best development stories, grab some new interviews with important people related to our story, and run some lovely nostalgia-related pictures that will help you re-live the best – and worst – of times.

So, expect more images of old car dealers, car parks and filling stations from the wonderful Sainsbury Archive and video memories from YouTube. There’s nothing nicer for car geeks like me than to see pictures of how life used to be in most mundane places – car parks full of saloons, hatchbacks and estates instead of thousands of faux-SUV crossovers.

So, stay aboard, stay safe, think about your neighbours and friends, and keep in touch. For the time being I’ve moved up to Cumbria from my usual base near Peterborough, and am managing to work from home. Many, many thousands aren’t so lucky and are out there on the front line. So, please – keep in touch, as the odd check-in now and then goes a very, very long way. Trust me, we’ll get through this together…

Talk to me


Keith Adams


  1. “Moving on from this, let’s spare a thought for all those key workers out there that are going to keep the wheels of country turning in the coming weeks. ”

    Curiously, this is the frst time I have seen “delivery drivers” mentioned as “key worlers”. Previously – as with ‘affordable homes’ (a stupid phrase, in place of ‘cheap’ or ‘basic; every home is affordable if you have the money), etc – it was always state employees (police, anyone in the NHS, teachers in state education, etc) who were “key worlers”. Yet every item in every shop or home has to be DELIVERED. And I did a lot of it over the years – including loo rolls to Wormwood Scrubs. I hope the inmates are not having to cut up the Sun.

    The reduction in both manufacturing and movement in general is doing wonders for ‘the climate’; reduced pollution, reduced pollutant output from factories – must be pleasing Saint Greta.

    On the car side, pehaps it will mean people buying only what they need – rather than what they want. No bad thing.

    • The keyworker scheme has been abused. The point of closing schools was to slow the spread of the virus. Fair enough. Alas that has been undermined by the government setting up the keyworker scheme, which has been so widely defined, some schools will still have hundreds of students.

      Worse, the government now expects them to cover holidays and probably weekends. Which means students and staff will spend longer in school, potentially spreading the virus.

      If they are really keyworkers and I have my doubts about some on the list, creating a transmission chain between them all, is the height of stupidity.

      Kids of NHS staff are most likely to get the virus, from their parents. They will take that into schools, pass it to the kids of other key workers, who can then pass it to their parents. The government’s ill thought out policy has ensured that all keyworkers are roped together.

      Frankly I beginning to question why we are bothering with social distancing. We are getting massive economic damage but aren’t taking it seriously enough to affect the outbreak. Might as well go back to business as normal and take the consequences, if we aren’t going to do it properly.

      • Bartelbe’s post is not a helpful one in the circumstances . It is all very well to snipe at the government policy, but only if a viable alternative can be suggested . I note with some despair, but no surprise, that Bartelbe’s lengthy post contains not a single suggestion . Key workers are just that : those who maintain the communal services which we all need and some of us use. That includes, in particular, the distribution of essential supplies including most importantly food . If they had to stay at home to look after children the effect would be significant for all of us

        The maintenance of morale in a crisis is highly important : Bartelbe’s contribution has been to spread alarm and despondency. Stop it !!

        • I do hate it when this site (and others) become politicised. On internet forums there is no ‘smile and nod and let the moment pass’ when someone says something you disagree with. It stays there for all to see, and the temptation to argue with it is too great and too easy.

          For what it’s worth, I sympathise with Bartelbe’s argument. This social distancing doesn’t appear to have a point to it when thousands of children are still mixing and people of all ages still go to the supermarket and takeaways, not to mention the public transport network. All it’s doing is trashing the economy while delaying the inevitable sweep of the virus. And let’s not mention the hundreds of thousands of indirect deaths which will be caused by the recession, depression, stress etc.

          That said, feel free to delete my comment and anything else about this virus as I’d be delighted if thie site stuck to escapism!

        • It was recognised at an early stage that food delivery drivers were ‘key workers.’ What some overlook is that the food products have to be in place for them to deliver!

      • bartelbe, would you care to elaborate which of the occupations onn the ‘key worker’ list you object to?

  2. Normally on a Saturday, I’d be having a bet, watching my horses, then off for some alcoholic refreshment and the jukebox at the local pub. All these pleasures have been stopped, and also living in Cumbria on a beautiful day like this, it would be tempting to have a ride out to Keswick and have a meal, again stopped due to coronavirus. However, it’s not like Italy, which is on total lockdown, and you’re still free to go for a walk and sit in the garden.

  3. Yes unprecedented times, the like of which I’ve never known in my 64 years. I do recall the 3 day week and power cuts in the 70s but at least then,you were not in fear of dying. Shutting all the pubs, shops and car factories down is a huge worry and inconvenience but apparently necessary!

    As Keith says “We’ll get through this” hopefully sooner rather than later but don’t quote me on that. At least aronline will give us a diversion and cheer us up. Good luck everyone and take care…

    • Quite ;like the Sainsburys photo from the seventies with the Mini Cliubman and the Marina Super, it’s like being in 1977 again. Note as well the Mini Clubman estate in the background, and I can just about make out a Chrysler Avenger next to the Marina.
      However, back then in Whitehaven, supermarkets with their own car parks were well over a decade away. Typically people would put their parking disc on and wander off to Liptons, which was on a newly pedestrianised street, or use the considerable number of greengrocers, bakers, butchers and corner shops to buy what they needed.

  4. On a brighter note (or is it?), this will hopefully be an opportunity for me to put finger to keyboard and provide Keith with some anniversary related articles. At the moment I have little work to do for at least three months because the profession I’m in is effectively in lock-down.

    Therefore I need to do something productive rather than moan about the loss of events to attend over the coming months and also help keep my physical social contact to a minimum.

    On the subject of old car dealers, if anyone has any old photos or information about the former Rover, Land Rover and Wolseley dealer Steels of Cirencester, who were based in Dyer Street up until the early 1970s, I’d love to see this. My late grandparents bought a brand new Rover P5B 3.5 Litre Coupe from them in March 1970 and even though we sadly no longer have the car, and don’t know whether it still exists, it would be nice to learn something about the dealership who supplied it. I think the Rover was originally supplied to Steels of Cheltenham and then delivered to their Cirencester showroom when my grandparents placed the order. It would be the last car they owned, so I still plenty of fond memories of it.

    In addition, images and information about the Rover dealership Harris Motors of Wells and also Creech Motors of Evercreech, who were both involved in the sale of my MG Maestro in late 1989 and early 1992 respectively.

  5. Speaking of old car dealers, a former Austin Rover dealer in Workington survives in a fashion. The showroom lives on as an Indian restaurant, but with the wording above the door in formal writing from the sixties MUNGO GRAHAM- MOTOR DEALERS, and the fllling station next door has been converted into a car wash. Also in Kendal there is an elderly looking garage near the town centre, just off the A6, that still refers to itself as a Motor Engineer. Nice to see some of these memories from the past surviving now.

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