The journey of a classic car from its first version to present day: MGB

Lancaster-image.jpg

In 1962, MG rolled out its modern replacement for the MGA sports car. Initially offered as a roadster only, the MGB was powered by BMC’s excellent B-Series engine, had an all-new monocoque body and featured gorgeous, Italianate styling by Syd Enever. Although it featured plenty of componentry from the BMC parts bin, it was very much a sports car in its own right – and would become an instant and substantial success straight out of the box.

  Around the world in classics

lancaster.jpg

The majority of cars built around the world hail from just a few manufacturing power houses. The USA, Japan and Europe churn out more cars than the rest of the world put together – but if you dig deeper, you’ll find some interesting cars that come from some very interesting countries you might not readily associate with car manufacturing. Here are seven of the best...

History's most infamous vehicles

History's most infamous vehicles

World’s worst cars: cyberspace is plagued with lists like this. The typical ‘Top 10’ features a selection of the same old cars – Austin Allegro, Matra Rancho or the Ford Edsel.

Well, here’s a twist – seven infamous cars that are actually great classics today. And why they deserve a place in the automotive hall of fame, after all.

How to spot a gem when buying a classic car

Lancaster-howtospotagem.jpg

Hints, tips and pointers that’ll help you buy a brilliant classic car

Buying a classic car should be one of the most exciting purchases of your life. These cars are treats for most people - a significant investment of money, time and emotion. Yet the reality is that many people find it a process fraught with danger and risk.

Will you end up buying a dud? A car with a fake history, botched accident repairs or one that’s beset with rust and problems galore? 

Follow our simple six-step guide to provide more reassurance when you come to buying a classic car.

Could you be a Classic Car Dealer?

Could-you-be-a-Classic-Car-Dealer--2.jpg

See yourself as a bit of a wheeler dealer? Or are you thinking about buying and selling your first classic? Take the quiz to see if you've got what it takes!

Plus, a chance to WIN London Classic Car Show tickets. 

Gene Hunt: what would he have driven in the 1990s

IMAGE4.png

Gene Hunt is the larger-than-life TV cop starring in the BBC hit series Ashes To Ashes and whose catchphrase “Fire up the Quattro!” introduced millions of viewers to the delights of an original Audi Quattro.

It was a 1980s classic - a brutal road car borne out of Audi’s rally programme and fitted Hunt’s character role perfectly. The red 1983 coupe was sold on eBay in 2014 for £15,100.

But what would happen if Hunt, played by actor Philip Glenister, was playing bad-boy detective in the 1990s? He drove a Ford Cortina in prequel Life On Mars, set in the 1970s. Which got us thinking…

Edd China's Classic Car Health Check

Pre 1960 classics are no longer required to pass an MoT test and pretty soon, it looks likely that all historic vehicles will become MoT exempt. Even without an MoT, your car must be roadworthy by law and doing your own classic car health check at home is well within the capability of most owners. Even before MoT exemption is introduced, giving your classic an MoT in the driveway in readiness for the real deal can save you time and money so Skill Shack and Heritage Classic Car Insurance have teamed up with Edd China to bring you Edd China’s Classic Car Health Check!
 
 Sign up today and be the first to watch these exclusive videos, we’ll let you know as soon as each video in the series is released. If that’s not enough, you’ll also be entered into a prize draw to WIN a pair of tickets to Goodwood Revival, plus our first 250 sign-ups will receive a FREE 6 month subscription to Skill Shack!

Which Classic Car Are You?

Ever wondered which classic car you are? Well, wonder no more!
Find out whether you’re an E-Type or more of a Range Rover Classic – just answer a few short questions in our classic car quiz and you’ll be matched with the car that suits your personality. 
Take the quiz, share with friends and you’ll get the chance to win tickets to the Classic Motor Show, 10-12 November 2017!

How Not To Fix A Mini Mayfair

Words: Calum Brown
Pictures: A Kindly AA Man


Calum escapes back to Edinburgh to spend some time with his 1992 Mini Mayfair. Then wishes he hadn't bothered. 

Hate is a word usually reserved for low-fat foods and Windows 8.  However, my Mini Mayfair ‘Audrey’ appears to truly hate me - it despises me on even a molecular level. For the best part of 18 months I’ve ensured that the little red bull has been kept safe and warm in an underground storage facility, free from the rain and the dangers of the outside world. I’ve even travelled north at great expense to continue work on getting it back onto the road and provided it with 24 hour watch under a security camera. Yet, it’s like greeting a disgruntled, knife-wielding juvenile upon arriving at the facility in Edinburgh. I genuinely suffer anxiety upon clocking its headlamps poking out from its parking space, as Audrey’s demonic puppydog face scans the car park - searching for me in a sinister manner, picturing the many ways in which to kill me off.

Since last updating the team back in February 2016, the Mini from hell has only started up and moved once - and even then it soiled itself and promptly poured every fluid imaginable, some of it green, all over the ground. It’s punishing me for something, albeit I’m not sure what. Tired of Audrey’s irrational behaviour, I felt it was time to delve in and inject some logic into the engine bay and interior.

‘Time for some tough love, you unspeakable lunatic’.

There was blood everywhere. My arm was cut open; the tools released from my grip into a dank, coiled, pool of black oil and my red stuff. The bonnet had come down on me, without warning. After much swearing and some bandages, I set back to work. All I wanted to do was drain the oil, and yet I looked like something out of Casualty.

Now unable to open the bonnet, as the release clip had jammed, I decided to check under the floorpans to judge the level of crustiness. My magnet wouldn’t stick to anything. The sills appeared to be constructed from 100% filler, which explained the strange handling characteristics when I bought her. Then, scraping away some rust on the boot floor my screwdriver plunged straight into what felt like an air lock. The rear of the car was rampant with the tin worm.

Having failed to change the oil, jammed the bonnet release, cut myself open and then depressed myself at the lack of metal holding my Mini together, I then felt that attacking the interior would offer some sort of success. Instead, I was met with a variety of spiders - some the size of my head, I swear - and enough mold to create a new Austin-Rover cheese.

The heater had clearly been leaking while the car was in storage, resulting in my red carpets resembling a 1950s b-movie horror beast from the depths. There was more horror to be found when I then moved onto the brakes, which were solid - almost like cement holding each wheel in place. It felt wrong to start laying into the minilites with a sledgehammer, but it was the first taste of victory since starting this epic work 3 hours earlier.

After breaking open the bonnet catch and successfully draining the oil and radiator, having then topped up with fresh fluids, I removed the old battery and connected up a new one. There was ignition light! The fuel was slightly old, fearing a stale fuel supply, but the urge to start her was too much to bear. Unbelievably, Audrey spluttered into life. Except, the victory was short lived - in my excitement, I had forgotten to check if the vehicle was in gear - and the Mini jumped back, clattering off the wall. Then the engine cut out and I couldn’t get it going again. Then the rear bumper fell off completely.

If I weren’t so determined to get her on the road again, she would be bean cans by now. The saga continues... 

Why You Want: The Ford Sierra XR4i

Gillian Carmoodie is sent out to experience the coolest Sierra of them all. Forget the Cosworth, it's the XR4i that you really want!

With just a single glance at a Ford Sierra XR4i, I was turbo-charged straight back to the 1980s. In the same year I was born, this striking 3-door hot hatchback was sold to its first owner who, like the era they’d bought the car in, likely didn’t care much for the idea of subtle.  With bodywork tailored by aerodynamic design, a lusty 2.8 litre V6 Cologne engine under the bonnet and bright stripes down the side combined with that ever so prominent rear bi-plane spoiler, I’m certain the XR4i would’ve attracted a good deal of attention wherever it went back in the day. 

Fast-forward thirty-two years and now I’m all grown-up and sat within the XR4i’s generously equipped interior. I try to scribble some notes on how the various components have faired over time but all I can think is ‘I just want to drive the damn thing!' 

I’m impressed.  I feel as if I’ve aged more in the last three decades than the Sierra has. The exterior is wonderfully loud and proud and the interior still feels remarkably modern.  I’m particularly taken with the flashes of red around the gauges and steering wheel whilst also being fascinated by the central dashboard display as it gives me all sorts of information about the car. 

Now it’s time to take this rebellious motor back to the dealership.  Instantly I can feel the XR4i’s sporty credentials I’ve been reading about as the Sierra delivers an impressive burst of initial acceleration followed by a slick delivery of power as I work my up and through the 5-speed gearbox.  As I corner this way and that, the XR4i’s handling feels responsive and tight, cornering with as much attitude as her controversial styling suggests. All the while I keep catching sight of that large spoiler out of the back window and I realise I’m grinning as I drive along.  The Sierra XR4i is bloody good fun!

On our way back into town, a set of lights up ahead turn red and the XR4i and I come to a halt where I’m promptly asked through the open driver’s window if I might give the passing male pedestrian my telephone number.  I laugh and tell him it’s not my car!  He’s not the first person to have noticed me in the few miles I’ve been out with this special motor. The XR4i has gleaned more thumbs-up and friendly toots of approval than any other car I’ve driven.

Reluctantly I have to hand the ‘two-miles a minute’ XR4i back into the dealership whilst being all too aware that in less than 10 miles it’s completely and utterly won me over. I suddenly feel pangs of jealously towards the generation who could buy this car new at the age I find myself at now. I simply can’t think of a modern car that is simultaneously as unashamed in its styling as it is a bloody good drive.   

Inside Donald Campbell's Personal Garage

Donald Campbell took the public imagination by storm with his powerful, beautiful and world-record breaking vehicles - both on land and water, remaining to this day as the only person ever to break both the land and water speed record in the same year (1964.) Here we take a look at Donald's personal garage - just what cars scratched the speed king's itch for on-road excitement? 

Words and Research: Gillian Carmoodie
Pictures: Thanks to Chris Lowe, Practical Classics and Classic Car Weekly.


This article was first published in Classic Car Weekly on January 4th, 2017. Fifty years to the day since Campbell's fatal accident. 

Donald Campbell (right) with his right-hand man Leo Villa (left), alongside Bluebird K7. 

Donald Campbell (right) with his right-hand man Leo Villa (left), alongside Bluebird K7. 

Famous for having scooped numerous speed records for Britain on both land and water during the 1950s and 1960s, Donald Campbell's life came to a tragic yet heroic end on 4 January 1967 while attempting to break the water speed record on Coniston Water in his Bluebird K7 speedboat. He was aged just 45.

As a patriotic supporter of British industry and connoisseur of fine motorcars, Donald opted for an enviable selection of homegrown classics as personal transport – often finished in similar shades of blue to that which he favoured for his Bluebird record vehicles and boats. Here’s our pick of those he drove... well, at least the ones that weren’t gas turbine-powered.

1. 1965 Jaguar E-Type

Picture taken from 1988 film 'Across The Lake', where Donald Campbell is portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins. 

Picture taken from 1988 film 'Across The Lake', where Donald Campbell is portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins. 

Of all of Campbell’s personal machines, Donald’s Jaguar E-type Series I in Opalescent Silver Blue is the car with which he is most closely associated.

Bought in May 1966 from HR Owen, Donald was photographed beside the Serpentine in Hyde Park as he handed the keys to his wife Tonia Bern-Campbell. Registered GLM 37C, the 4.2-litre E-type was often seen driving through the village of Coniston, with Donald waving and tooting to locals on his way to Bluebird K7’s workshop. The E-type was the last car Donald drove and it remained parked alongside Pier Cottage after Donald’s fatal accident on Lake Coniston 50 years ago.

Removed on 6 January 1967, the Jaguar was sold about a week later along with the registration of DC7. In the intervening decades, the E-type has been treated to panel work, a full respray and an engine rebuild while retaining the non-standard wooden gearknob fitted by Donald. 

2. 1964 Radford Mini

In the 1960s, it was fashionable to have a Mini Cooper customised by Radford to create a more opulent and exclusive version (actor and comedian Peter Sellers is pictured with one, above).

When Donald Campbell treated his wife Tonia to a 1964 1275 S, it had benefitted from the Radford treatment. Among the extras was a full leather interior, electric windows and a record player. The Radford also had a radio with roof-mounted aerial and a grille with recessed spotlights, in line with the company’s Mini de Ville Grande Luxe specifications. Although it is unclear if Donald ever drove the Mini himself, it was photographed on Campbell’s driveway at his home of Priors Ford in Leatherhead as it sat beside a full-scale prototype of the land speed record car Bluebird Mach 1.1, designed to reach speeds of up to 840mph. Bluebird may have been significantly faster, but the Mini probably handled much better. 


3. 1937 Bentley 4.5-litre (DXU 2)

Donald Campbell became the third owner of this stunning 4.5-litre Bentley after buying it on 3 February 1949. Sporting Standard Steel Park Ward coachwork, the car was originally black but had been painted silver prior to Donald’s purchase.

Famously photographed in a publicity shot alongside Bluebird K7 in the French port of Aixs- Le-Bains by Lake Bourget, Donald Campbell’s XK150 SE fixed-head coupé was as stylish as the settings it often found itself in. 

On the sale receipt he gave his address as the Reigate Hill Hotel in Surrey. It is believed he was living there while Bluebird K4, a speedboat previously owned by his father Sir Malcolm, underwent alterations prior to Donald’s first attempt at the water speed record.

He had a St Christopher badge fitted to the dashboard, as well as aircraft seatbelts, both of which are still in the car. Donald owned the Bentley for little less than a year, selling it in December 1949. The 4.5-Litre was bought by the Lakeland Motor Museum in 1989 and fully restored, including a respray in Bluebird Blue and the fitting of a radiator mascot in the shape of a swift. 

4. Jaguar XK150  (DC 7)

Built in June 1958, this 3.4-litre XK150 was finished in Pastel Blue and came with numerous special factory options including Koni shock absorbers, Pirelli Cinturato tyres, a high compression cylinder head, D-type camshaft and overdrive, while the luxurious interior was finished with grey upholstery with safety belts and a Derrington steering wheel.

Registered to Donald by Henlys of London, the XK150 was used as a daily driver and looked after by Donald’s long-term mechanic Leo Villa. Rumour has it that Donald also used the XK150’s engine in a speedboat.

The XK150 remained in Campbell ownership until mid-1963; it is now privately owned, with its most recent public appearance being 2016's NEC Classic Motor Show in November. 


5. Land Rover Series I (JNJ 375)

LandRover_Campbell.jpg

As Donald strove for his speed records, he was supported by various Land Rovers that worked tirelessly to keep his attempts going.

They pulled stranded speed record vehicles free when they became stuck in soft terrain and were also employed winching Bluebird K7 out of the water at Coniston Water.

Perhaps one of his slowest ever vehicles, Donald’s Series I was likely chosen thanks to its sheer dependability but was never tasked with record-related work. Bought on 29 January 1960, JNJ 375 was petrol-engined and had an 86in wheelbase.

Unusually for one of Donald’s cars, it is believed this Land Rover retained its original green paintwork while under Donald’s ownership. This is despite his superstition that the colour green was unlucky.

Beneath the now blue paintwork, the panels of the Series I are made of Birmabright, the same corrosion-resistant alloy that made up much of Bluebird K7’s bodywork. 

Donald's Other Road Cars

Donald also owned, at various times an AC Ace, Aston Martins DB2/4, DB MkIII and DB4 GT, Jaguars XK120 and MkI and a Morris Minor Traveller, used as a general purpose runaround.

His first-generation 1955 Jensen Interceptor had a brief drive-on part in 1962’s motoring-orientated The Fast Lady movie, starring Stanley Baxter, Leslie Phillips and Julie Christie. Despite his preference for true blue Brits, he also acquired one of the zeniths of 1950s sports cars, a Mercedes- Benz 300 SL ‘Gullwing’. 

You can find excerpts from BBC's 'Across The Lake' in this Marillion music video, the song of which is about Campbell's final record run. 

 

 

 

 

Triple Test: Communist Cars

You may mock and jump on the soviet car-bashing bandwagon, but so-called older ‘communist cars’ have a bucket load of charm to offer for relatively little money. CCFS sent Calum Brown, Gillian Carmoodie and Sam Skelton out to defend their favourite.  Prepare yourselves…

Words and Video: Calum Brown, Sam Skelton and Gillian Carmoodie
Pictures: Gillian Carmoodie

 

It’s not everyday that you find yourself presented with three cars to cause so much argument. One is a Lada Samara, of which Calum claims ‘strikes the perfect balance between Soviet dependability and retro goodness’, the second is a Yugo 45 that has stolen Sam Skelton’s heart and the third is a Fiat 126 ‘Brown’, a car from Italy that Gillian Carmoodie insists is true to the communist spirit.

It’s long been a point of argument in the CCFS office, so when Morris Leslie Auction’s found one of each vehicle on their forecourt it was only right that we sent our three contributors out to put this argument to bed. We can only but apologise to Morris Leslie and Keith Murray for the squabbling.
 

Calum - The Lada Samara

It’s easy to open your ill-informed mouth and dispense with Lada jokes like Skelton does opinionated wind, but don’t heed to the moronic remarks he casts over my preferred Lada.  Although far from perfect, with ‘brakes’ capable of‘stopping’ the car and an interior that appears to have been crafted from prickly plastic trimmings straight off Katie Hopkin’s face – it offers everything you would expect from a soviet workhorse.  Unlike Sam’s varicose-vein-blue Yugo 45, the Samara is a genuine workhorse, and unlike Gillian’s Fiat 126, you can use the Lada in modern day life without soiling your underwear.

Tough, no-nonsense and devoid of any decadent electronics to go wrong during Donald Trump’s upcoming nuclear winter, the Samara easily ticks all the soviet boxes.

Is it a pleasure to be in the company of the Samara? In a strange way, it is.  Despite suffering a few shortcomings – the car’s basic charm wins the day. While the Fiat and Yugo violate several UN human rights with legroom issues alongside an intense smell of petrolchemicals, the Lada is the only car here that you would dare undertake a long journey or an errand with. You can see the Samara driving up a snowy mountain while towing several fallen trees and simultaneously being attacked by a bear, before driving across a frozen lake towards a solitary wood cabin carrying a year’s supply of fish. I can’t see the Fiat managing a speed bump, let alone an incline.  

I won’t deny that I like the other two cars here – but the Lada remains the only one to really feel like a soviet vehicle. It’s tough wearing, it’s bomb proof and it’s red. It’s also the fastest, the tightest on the bends and strikes a chord between retro 1990s looks with a soviet flair. It’s a fantastic vehicle – and the outright winner from our trio.

Sam - The Yugo 45

Calum has clearly got it wrong. The Samara is not the best communist car out of our trio – because my little Yugo is.  Granted, Lada’s first homespun family car is larger and certainly more powerful, but the Yugo retains that semi-Italianite feel of a small Fiat. It’s endearing – not as fun perhaps as a 126, but it makes you smile. I wasn’t a fan of the petrochemical smells from the cabin, but once I’d confirmed it was the plastics and not a fuel leak I grew more comfortable with it. And it might only have 45bhp, but it pulls cleanly without leaving a cloud of death behind it.

It’s fun to punt along – not the smoothest-riding nor the most confident in the bends but when you’re talking about a car that leaves you grinning from ear-to-ear none of those aspects matter.  I can see the point of Carmoodie’s 126 ‘Brown’ – it’s charming and cute and has the best special edition name ever. But it’s too small to use as an everyday car – and when communism is about giving to each according to his need, you have to question the market at which it could be targeted. Its lack of flexibility as a vehicle marks it down. As does the fact that Italy wasn’t a communist country in the 1970s – while the Fiat workforce was broadly socialist, it doesn’t actually make the 126 ‘Brown’ a communist car.

How Gillian can expect it to win a communist car challenge is beyond me. And as for the Lada, while it’s far from the worst I’ve ever driven, in this company the Italian and the semi-Italian outflank it. The Lada is roomy, but it also feels the flimsiest of our trio and the most likely to break. Strangely, it also feels too powerful for its own chassis, and stopping from anything above walking pace is truly terrifying. Frankly, the Lada comes a very distant third.

So – the Fiat is disqualified and the Lada is rubbish. The Yugo is therefore the winner and the only one that I want – and secretly, I do rather want it. But not as much as I want to see Brown explain convincingly as to why he’d pick that Lada.  
 

Gillian - The Fiat 126 'Brown'

I’m not going to attack like the boys – instead, provide a much more logical approach to championing the little Fiat 126. Firstly, while it may not set the road alight with rip-snorting performance, it feels like a little road rocket no matter the pace. 35mph is quite fast enough with it’s tiny cabin, but straight from the off the enjoyment factor is present.

It’s quirky, too – as I found when trying to use it. Despite the tiny size, some of the Fiat was a big mystery. ‘How do I even start it up?’ was my main thought as Calum and Sam cranked their soviet beasts into life. Keith Murray from the auction house had to jump in the passenger side to show me what to do – as it turns out, the starter rests under the handbrake.

The ride was somewhat noisy and bumpy – but it didn’t put me off. It was something of a hoot – even if I opted to take it easy when cornering, as it didn’t feel like it would take much to topple over. Yes, it may be underpowered in comparison to the larger two offerings but unlike the gruff Lada or rigid Yugo, the Fiat is sheer good fun and full of enthusiasm. Taking on every challenge with determined gusto – and isn’t that the communist spirit?

I can’t ignore that the Fiat isn’t really from a communist country, but it captures the spirit of Soviet willpower and fortitude without the haircurling stench of petrolchemicals from the Yugo and the scary attributes and image problem of the Lada. I know Calum and Sam will disagree, but feel you will not only understand, but agree with me wholeheartedly.

For me, the Fiat wins.

Verdict

Seeing as our team clearly can’t reach a viable conclusion, CCFS are left to pick up the pieces and regulate the result.

Looking at the ramblings of our trio, we can tell you that the Fiat is not a regular communist car. We can also tell you that Sam’s Yugo may appear the cleanest, but the square offering from Yugoslavia remains slower and less practical than the Lada. But the Lada is not winning that easily.

We have to look at it in a new way – what is Communism? In essence, it’s where the community owns all property and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs. Therefore – which car would the population be happiest to use?

We’ll leave that open to your opinion. 

Crap Cars Take on Brooklands

Defending his Rover 115SD, Calum challenges Murray Scullion and Richard Kilpatrick to a Brooklands time trial. It doesn't go well for team Metro... 

Words: Calum Brown
Photos: Gillian Carmoodie

Calum Brown, Murray Scullion and Richard Kilpatrick pose with their vehicles alongside Paul Stewart - who kindly let them onto the track. 

Calum Brown, Murray Scullion and Richard Kilpatrick pose with their vehicles alongside Paul Stewart - who kindly let them onto the track. 

Some aspects go hand in hand, such as a Rover 800 and the overpowering aroma of Old Spice and fax machine toner, or Channel 5’s ‘The Cars That Made Britain Great’ and the urge to lob a brick through the telly, hunt down Phil Tuffnell, make him eat his stupid, stupid words alongside force-feeding him a ceramic mug. Some things, however, do not - such as children and automatic weapons, Donald Trump and politics or, in this case, a Metro and steep hills.

After defending my recent purchase of a ‘diesel powered wheelbarrow’ from the CCW hyenas, I dared Murray Scullion to a challenge after one cutting comment too far - expecting him to look at the floor sheepishly and for the print team to back off. However, to my surprise, he accepted. And then came the kick in the knackers, the challenge was to take place on Brooklands’ notorious test hill, courtesy of Paul Stewart. I was in for a beating - how in the world could a 1.5 diesel Rover 115SD top a Mazda MX5, even if it was Murray's ropey one held together purely with hope? 

To try and mask the Metro’s frankly lethargic acceleration, a truly terrible car was needed to complete the trio - so I contacted Richard Kilpatrick, who held the CCW’s Ford Puma keys that week - and he agreed to join in. CCW's Ford Puma is a truly hateful car - like driving that little bit of material between the chocolates and the lid on a box of Cadbury's Milk Tray. You can find out how we got on with it in our 'Puma enjoys a mudbath and crashing into a ditch' article from October 2016 - and our opinion of it hasn't changed. 

Nevertheless, the date was set for the Metro’s first challenge - taking on a Murray’s MX-5 and Ford’s runt, under Richard's control. This was going to be interesting - like watching Daniel Craig and Bradley Cooper take on Alan Carr. 

The noise from the Rover diesel sounded like an abused Transit Van.

The noise from the Rover diesel sounded like an abused Transit Van.

Shoe-horned into the cacophony of traffic that is the M25 car park, after five gruelling hours dwarfed by trucks and pushed around by disgruntled commuters, team Metro bounced into the Brooklands courtyard, greeted by Murray and Paul. Then the Puma arrived, slicing Brooklands’ net value clean in half with it's gauping face and pathetic stance. And that's rich coming from a facelifted-Metro owner. 

With the paperwork signed to disclaim that if we crashed and died it was our own senseless fault, we lined up for the start in, what was described as, ‘the worst cars ever to grace Brooklands’. That noise is Sir Malcolm Campbell spinning in his grave at 5000rpm.

After having witnessed Murray’s MX-5 depart in a plume of tyre smoke and roar up the hill on a crest of admiration from those watching, I approached the starting point with extreme trepidation. Chances are, my little blue tractor was going to stop two thirds of the way up and roll back down, probably on fire and upside down - like Benny Hill on steroids.

Paul instructed me to get ready and I prepared my biting point, resting the cars eager flatulence on the handbrake. Then the handbrake snapped completely, leaving me to jut forward and up the hill in a panic as the engine revved so hard I automatically changed into 2nd gear, which killed my momentum stone dead. My time was woeful - 16.20 seconds. However, in doing so I found that you could get impressive wheelspin from the Rover. And it even looked as though it happened on purpose. 

You can see some snaps from the challenge below by clicking on the carousel: 

For the second run I tried to be savvier, but instead left the marshals laughing hysterically. While the MX-5 and Puma held some style taking on the climb, the Metro offered all the elegance of a drunken clown running across a ploughed field. However, I discovered we had sliced 3 full seconds off our time - courtesy of a surprising burst of extra torque on the redline.
 Then, for our final run, things went badly. My clutch was cooked, the biting point shallower than Katie Hopkins - this 3rd attempt could kill it completely. And it did. The smell was enough to curl your nose hairs, but I had set my best time of the day - 13.09 seconds. I was still the slowest, however - by a vast margin.

 Yet, it’s not all about the winning, as quoted by most of history’s runners-up. At the end of the day, the little Rover 115 made it to Brooklands and back, completing three runs of the car-killing gradient, on only £15 worth of diesel. I’ll call that a win for the face-lifted Metro. Also, it’s not a Ford Puma. 

You can find the full report in the 09 November 2016 issue of Classic Car Weekly - currently on sale throughout the NEC Classic Car Show. 

Classic Cars For Satire: Why Donald Trump is an Austin Allegro

In many ways it seems harsh to compare Donald Trump to the Austin Allegro, as the Allegro hasn’t really done anything wrong, but there are some striking similarities between British Leyland’s unloved misfire and the new President of the United States of America.

Words: James Barnett
Pictures courtesy of The Mirror/CCFS

Gurning-Trump-Allegro.png

Don’t take this the wrong way  – there is plenty about the Austin Allegro to love and we all root for the quintessential underdog – but – like an incontinent, aged Pug with no control over its bladder, there are enough leakages from the colander-esque underside to start a rival Wikileaks campaign. And it’s the dog-like comparisons where we kick off.

The Allegro looks like a gurning Labrador that has suffered from the vet’s finger having explored a route it shouldn’t go, whereas Trump in ‘smug mode’ wears the same look as an Afghan hound omits having ‘enjoyed’ a rough checking of its temperature.

No matter what the Allegro’s enthusiasts claim, the pudding-shaped Austin can often be wildly unpredictable and engage in a weapons-based tantrum until it gets its own way - something, at least according to the American Press, we can look forward to watching during 2017’s Congress meetings.

However, it’s not all comparison. The British Leyland colour schemes (brown, orange and beige) would leave Donald Trump white-faced, despite already being the same colour as a spacehopper.

Just like an Allegro – Donald Trump also violently changes direction, whether political or physical, upon being presented with an obstacle. Furthermore – much like the panels on an Allegro – Mr Trump has a number of monumental gaps in his political ideals, big enough to allow his beloved immigrants through.

But is it fair – is it fair I ask you – to be quite so harsh on this BL car – reviled by many and loved by… Calum (and members of the Quartic club)?

No – in the same way that it’s probably unfair that we are comparing the president of the free world to an incontinent, gurning, bumbling dog suffering a rectal exam. The Allegro was rather forward thinking, what with it’s hydragas suspension and cruising ability - whereas The Donald has displayed a view through public speaking and in-depth interviews cementing that his political correctness lies firmly in the 1970s - when the Allegro was being made.

Countless debauched things have been said about the Allegro – various slanders have been quoted about Donald Trump too, but one thing we can all agree to be true; some of us love to hate and some of us hate to love an easy target in the media.

While both largely unloved, the Allegro has raised through the rankings to become one of Britain’s best sleeper classics, America’s new ‘leader’ could well prove to be a rational, level-headed success in which history shall eventually accept with a dollop of appreciation. We shall find out after Trump’s first nuclear winter. 

Brooklands – Britain’s Most Haunted Race Track?

Is the Brooklands Racetrack Britain's most haunted? 

Words: James Barnett

With Halloween rapidly approaching and with Calum’s most recent escapade in his Rover Metro 115SD on the infamous “Test Hill” down at Brooklands’ racetrack in Weybridge (landing with CCFS on the 13th of November), we wanted to follow-up with a little automotive history and an intriguing ghost story.

Paul Stewart from Brooklands Museum kindly shared a lot of information with us about the track in its heyday and since, however, given the time of year - the story that stuck with us was the one about Percy Lambert – a British racing legend from the early part of the twentieth century.

Percy Lambert was best known for achieving a land speed record of 103.84mph with his 4.5 litre side-valve Talbot in February 1913– the first time anyone had driven over 100 miles in an hour.

What made this most remarkable at the time was that other vehicles that had attempted the same record (and failed) were reportedly far bigger 9.1 - 15 litre racing cars.

Percy was due to get married later that year and therefore promised his fiancée that he would give up racing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, due to Peugeot beating his original record, a few months later he decided to get behind the wheel again to make another attempt – sadly dying in an accident caused by a burst tyre on Brooklands race course. Spiralling through the air and landing with force, in a car with no protection, well beyond stopping speed, Percy passed away as he was rushed to hospital.

Tragic given that a mere 2 weeks before he was to marry and give up racing…

The incredible thing is – Percy actually managed to average over 110mph for the first 20 laps on the day of his death – which meant, had things not ended in disaster and his untimely demise, he would have beaten his original land speed record.

Percy is buried at Brompton Cemetery in London in a streamlined coffin – curiously morbid given that it was built to resemble the car he died in…! His epitaph reads:

“A modest friend, a fine gentleman and a thorough sportsman. The first man to cover 100 miles in one hour. Killed by accident at Brooklands Motor Racing Track whilst attempting further records. October 21st, 1913.”

There have been numerous sightings of a ghost in full racing kit – leather coat, cap and goggles, pacing the track and strolling into a large hangar – known as “The Vatican” – where Percy used to store his Talbot race car.

Other sightings claim to have seen him racing his car along the now disused race track, sometimes accompanied by the roar of an engine.

Whilst Percy Lambert is by far Brooklands’ most famous ghostly visage there have been reports of others – many of which are reportedly far grislier to behold!

Here are just a few of them:

·       A young local boy reportedly needed medical treatment following a run-in with a man staggering around with a semi-dismembered head hanging off. It’s believed that the man could be Captain Toop – who crashed in a Peugeot in 1924.

·       Ghosts of airmen and ground crew who worked at Brooklands during World War 2 (when it was converted to accommodate the RAF and disguise the track so that the German pilots had no landmark to identify their location) have been encountered.

·       Reports in the early hours of the morning of hearing cars roaring along the racetrack and the sounds of crashes – including splintering wood.

·       Doors around the site opening and closing by themselves.

Whether the sightings of the ghosts and ghostly goings on are real or figments of an over-active imagination – it does make for interesting reading and for discussions.

Do you have a spookily good motoring story to tell for Halloween? Have you had an experience or encounter down at Brooklands that you would like to share?

We want to hear from you!

Brooklands Circuit has a number of tunnels running under the track - of which CCFS will have access to soon... 

Brooklands Circuit has a number of tunnels running under the track - of which CCFS will have access to soon... 

Andrew Roberts - Suffering From the Benz

Contributor Andrew Roberts decided to sell his humdrum Volvo and splash out on an old Mercedes-Benz. Sensible? No, not really... 

Since I last wrote about my fleet, my Volvo 760GLE passed its MoT, needing only a set of new tyres. As an everyday car that was comfortable, generally reliable, and very capacious it had certainly served its purpose but, after a year of ownership, I was wondering if I really needed it.

Most of my non-classic work involves commuting to London by train, and my stepchildren are now grown up, so a large estate is not as advantageous as it once was. The Volvo was one of those cars that was bought for a purpose  which no longer exists, leaving me with a large and fairly thirsty vehicle that is not exactly the last word in charisma. So, what I really needed was something sensible – something small, cheap and economical.

I still miss my old Mercedes-Benz S-class of the W126 persuasion that I sold in 2013, and once the 760 had been despatched to a fellow classic car enthusiast in the New Forest, I acquired, for a very reasonable sum (£1300) a 1989 Mercedes- Benz 300SE. The vendor, Anwarul Haque, was clearly very sad to see it go but, as he has other vehicles to worry about, including a rather magnificent Honda Legend Coupé, I did not feel overly guilty.

Interior is restrained yet opulent. The steering wheel is known to go straight.

Interior is restrained yet opulent. The steering wheel is known to go straight.

A few minor idiosyncrasies were pointed out to me – the central locking functions only on the front passenger door and opening the sunroof can cause major disruptions to the headlining – but this is rather a lot of motor car for not a lot of money.

And so it was time to return from North London to the badlands of Peterborough, in the company of my intrepid co-driver Nick Larkin. We both agreed that this M-B lent distinction to the roads even if its parking brake mechanism takes a little acclimatising  and the car’s sheer width can seem quite disconcerting in town. But on the A1(M), the 300SE was in its element, speeding past other cars with verve and aplomb.

There was even a cruise control, a device that Mr Larkin and myself vowed not to use until we had the car’s full measure and were no longer confused by the combined indicator/wiper/
headlamp flash stalk.

I can report that the heater is magnificent – and who could resist ivory coloured leather trim? Then, it was time for the last leg of the journey, a trip to my new home in Oxfordshire and here the 300SE proved utterly adept at tackling rural B-road bends and totally unsuited to picturesque market town high streets.

 The charming settlement of Sonning proved a particularly interesting experience when enjoining a narrow road filled with very expensive (although none with the elegance of the W126) and very bulky parked Hedge Fund wagons. 

We then approached a mist shrouded bridge that looked even narrower – ideal for negotiating in the dark with a large, wide and heavy 25-year-old car.

That engine bay is certainly packed full... 

That engine bay is certainly packed full... 

But we finally made it to terra firma (actually just outside Reading) and with only £30 spent on fuel – although this was really due to Anwarul kindly providing half a tank of precious petrol.

In short, I do like the 300SE and after New Year, I plan to treat it to a paint refurbishment. It will not be used for London commuting but I do envisage a future for it as a classic for longer journeys.

As for my VDP Princess 4-Litre R, this is due for MoT (it has been treated to some new front dampers and a brake refurbishment) but that will be the extent of my fleet.

The BMC car speaks to my ‘cultural leanings’, such as they are, but it is good to have a machine of a more recent vintage (and one fitted with a decent heater) for bouts of winter motoring.

Two such fine cars is plenty and, after 12 years of writing about classics, my new motto is the Orwellian ‘less is more’.

How to Spend £200 on Shortbread - Use a Mercedes-Benz

Calum is sent packing back to his homeland, with the instruction to acquire a Scottish delicacy for CCW editor Keith Adams. And not to break CCW's big Merc barge while getting there. 

Words: Calum Brown
Pictures: Colin Brown

I was originally apprehensive about taking the S280 to Scotland, due to its temperamental behaviour with Murray Scullion and David Simister on the continent, but this was an exceptional assignment.

Editor Keith Adams required the very finest shortbread, for reasons never quite explained, which can be found on Tennant Street in Edinburgh. Being from that neck of the woods, I couldn’t let him settle for anything less. And, as usual, all my cars were broken.

So, with all the Mercedes’ maladies listed to me – the lack of kickdown, the intoxicating stench of petrol, the Skynet-style immobiliser that seemed to be self-aware – I set off for the motherland with a sixth of a tank of Peterborough’s finest petrol.

Naturally, this didn’t get me very far, about 30 miles to be exact. So with the threat of an immobiliser likely to leave me blocking off a petrol station while awaiting the AA, I gingerly pulled in to brim the mammoth tank and ensure my arrival in Lothian.

I would be lying if I said, after £80 came and went, I didn’t check underneath to see if petrol was pouring out the bottom. As it turned out, the tank was ridiculously huge.

Then I cried a little while coughing up 90 quid to the wide-eyed cashier. Despite the Merc’s already daunting reputation, the distance north was lapped up in serene comfort. The cruise control worked, the CD player operated without issue and turning on the air conditioning and sliding the double glazed windows into place easily masked the  weird grinding noises from the rear axle. I was expecting a monumental breakdown of epic proportions, but instead the journey up to Edinburgh was uneventful.

The only issue was Murray’s choice in music. I’m not sure exactly who The Schytts are, but I never want to listen to them again. The real fun began arriving at my parents for the night, as the Range Rover-bashing farm track loomed. Yet, with impressive ground clearance higher than Keith Richards in his heyday and a ride more comfortable than Fred Goodwin’s retirement fund, it dispatched the rutted track with considerable ease.

Parking up alongside the family Land Rovers in an S-class led to confused looks from my parents. They probably wondered why a lowlevel Swiss banker or a dishevelled drug dealer had arrived - or worse still, an automotive journalist from Modern Classics. And, in a completely new experience, I had  turned up without a trail of oil and fire in my wake too.

I set off early the next day to track down the perfect shortbread, venturing deep into Edinburgh with the fuel-guzzling, 17ft long colossus enjoying every minute. The engine seemed to relish every blip of the  slab-sized throttle and, after finding the best culinary treats Scotland had to offer and placing them in a boot larger than my first flat, I deliberately got lost just to flounce around in the German first-class lounge on wheels.

I spent so much time slicing through Lothian’s back roads, that I received a phone call around 11pm asking me to pick my mother and her friend up from a night out. What better car to do that with than an S-class? I arrived to a scene straight out of Absolutely Fabulous. My mother was half cut, while her friend, Debbie McLarty, had somehow managed to bring her very large dog along. Country life, and all that.

After dropping Debbie off, myself and the Patsy Stone Tribute Act set off for home with murmurs of ‘Why are there so many corners? I feel sick.’ Needless to say, the comfort prevented any vomiting action. 

Departing home for Peterborough on Sunday morning, the voyage down south was effortless. I arrived seven hours later without so much as a backache or technical problem. Proof then that, if you treat the Panzer limousine with respect, it’ll see you through.

I can see why the allure of a £500 S280 was too much for Murray to ignore. With no issues to report, the Mercedes did a stirling job and the shortbread handover went without a hitch. However, I did live in constant fear of the immobiliser. And hearing Murray’s CD again.

People at the very top, leaders of international conglomerates and the world’s richest countries, have travelled by S-class. And now, I can say that I have too. Albeit it, at the cost of three tanks of fuel over 800 miles - well over £200. You’ll now find me selling my internal organs on the black market in order to gain some money back.

On another note, Keith, you still owe me for your shortbread...