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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Left hand drive opens you to a world of motoring gems

IT was on the rain-lashed lanes of the Ribble Valley that I had a bit of a motoring epiphany the other day.

Normally, the schlep along the A59 from Harrogate, through the Pennines and over the border into the Red Rose County isn’t exactly the most insurmountable of motoring challenges, even on a drizzly Tuesday afternoon when the grey skies make you feel like you’re driving through an old Joy Division record. This particular trip, however, was different.

For the first time ever I’ve been out on British roads in a left-hand-drive car. Not only have the good people of Clitheroe and Skipton survived, but it’s opened me up to a whole new world of automotive opportunity!

Up until now, I’ve always been just a little bit apprehensive about left-hookers. For starters, if a car company simply can’t be bothered to move the steering wheel to the right hand side, it indicates they’re not all that confidently we Brits would have wanted it anyway.

Take, for instance, all those Cadillacs and Corvettes which are relaunched here every couple of years, and always rack up sales figures you can count using your fingers. Surely, if the Americans were that confident in the cars, they’d offer it to us with right hand drive? The other thing is that while I’m happy at the wheel of everything from a Smart ForTwo to a Jeep Grand Cherokee, the idea of being sat on the wrong side of the road, in real world conditions, scared me a bit.

After trying out a left-hand-drive Suzuki on a test track a couple of years back and finding the experience strangely alienating, I really wasn’t sure I’d want to try it out on real British roads. It turns out, however, that the perfect treatment for my mild phobia of left-hand-drive proved to be a dash across the Pennines in a Chevrolet Corvette.

Not only is it more of a four-wheeled-event than a car, thanks largely to its easygoing V8 and cartoonish styling, but being on the wrong side of the cockpit wasn’t as nerve-racking as some armchair critics might have you suggest.

Embracing cars with left-hand-drive opens you up to potential ownership of everything from the original Renault Twingo to the Ferrari F40. It means the BMW E30 M3 and the Lancia Delta Integrale are not fiendishly inaccessible. Perhaps, most pertinently, it means the car the Mazda MX-5 should have been – the beautiful Fiat Barchetta – could be on your driveway for less than two grand.

If you can drive a car, you can definitely drive a leftie. It really isn’t as hard as it might look.

1 comment:

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