Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Top ten: Life On Cars motoring moments of 2014

IT’S NOT often you get to compare a Ferrari F355 with a Peugeot 306 diesel snapped up for less than the price of a shirt.

Yet both managed the same trick – leaving a big impression on me in a year packed with great motoring moments.The tricky bit hasn’t been picking out the highlights, but working out which ones to leave out. Here are the ten I remember most fondly:

Discovering driving heaven is an MG TD…
 …or a 1954 MG TD Midget MkII, if we’re being precise about the draughty, exposed two-seater I drove on that bitterly cold day back in February for a Classic Car Weekly road test.
I remember spending most of that morning with a runny nose, numb fingers and shivering limbs but I was stunned by how sublime the steering and handling was this 60-year-old car.
It was not only more enjoyable to drive than my own old MG, a 1972 MGB GT, but it made me smile more than a Ferrari F355 did. That’s how big an impression it left on me.

Doing a lap of Fiat's rooftop test track (even if it was only on foot)
 The banking on top of the former Lingotto factory in Turin isn’t just where Fiat used to shake down its newly-built cars; anyone who knows their car films will instantly recognise it from the chase sequence in The Italian Job.
Normally, it’s off-limits to the public, but because I ended up staying in a hotel on the same complex I had the huge privilege of being allowed to go up and have a wander around this wonderful slice of automotive folklore.
Even if I didn’t have a Mini Cooper S to pound around the circuit, being able to walk around Fiat’s rooftop test track was an experience I’ll never forget.

Winning a national award for Life On Cars
Being named as one of the winners in the inaugural UK Blog Awards was a huge honour, and helped Life On Cars get – as I remember telling The Champion back in April – “national recognition as being one of the best motoring blogs out there”.
In true Life On Cars style, though, a motoring misadventure meant I never actually made it to the glittering awards ceremony in St Pancras. Classic Car Weekly had me exploring Rutland on the same day for its annual spring tour – highlights of which included pushing a broken-down Austin Montego out of harm’s way at Rutland Water!

Discovering what would happen if Carlsberg did classic car shows
Regular readers will already know I’m a car show junkie – at the last count, I’d gone to more than 50 in 2014, ranging from cosy charity events like the Lydiate Classic Car Show to European giants like Techno Classica Essen.
So you’d think my favourite would be the sun-kissed Auto Retro Barcelona or watching 20 D-types going head to head at the Goodwood Revival, right? Erm, not quite; it was the Lakes Charity Classic Car Show, which has about 200 cars and is held in a field just outside Grasmere.
There wasn’t a D-type or a celeb in sight but it had everything I look for in a show in spades; a great mix of cars, a stunning location, sensible prices and – best of all – a friendly atmosphere. Count me in for the 2015 show!

Applying the word ‘stagulent’ to just about everything
Spending quite a few occasions in 2014 driving a borrowed Triumph Stag inspired me to come up with the idea of stagulence – applying the slightly kitsch, retro qualities of this V8-hauled convertible and applying them to other objects.
So far reruns of The Persuaders!, Directors Bitter, Joanna Lumley and the entire town of Harrogate are among the things I’ve managed to describe as stagulent. Which is a shame, because I’ve always quite liked the Triumph in question.

Watching the car that started it all (briefly) resurface
I began 2014 by pondering what had actually happened to the old Life On Cars Mini. Sure enough, it reappeared a couple of months later on eBay – in worse condition than I’d originally sold it back in 2010.
Despite being flooded with nostalgic thoughts and suggestions from chums that I should buy it back, I resisted the urge to throw in a bid and let it go. Hopefully its new owner will be able to restore with the sort of money I didn’t have when I ran around in it!

Driving to the Nürburgring in my own car
This is a petrolhead pilgrimage everyone who really loves cars should do at least once, and I even though I was a bit apprehensive I even did the compulsory blast around The Green Hell in my MX-5 at the end (and no, I didn’t buy one of those sad stickers to put on my car afterwards).
Despite suffering a fairly dramatic air conditioning leak on the way – and being forced to mend it with a condom of all things – CCW colleague Murray Scullion and I had a great weekend on our assignment at the AvD Oldtimer Grand Prix. If you’re going to venture over to the continent for a show in your own car, I’d seriously consider this one.

Being in two places at the Ormskirk MotorFest at once
It was a tricky call – while I knew the job in hand was photographing the classics parading around Ormskirk for the annual MotorFest, I’d also got an invite to do a lap in the MGB. How, I’d spent the entire morning wondering, was I going to do both?
In the end, I finishing snapping my first set of cars, set the camera up, handed it to my girlfriend, and ran for it. I made it through the thousands of spectators in the nick of time, and managed to fire up the ‘B with seconds to spare before my designated slot.
It was worth it for this shot. Good times!

Rediscovering bargain basement motoring
2014 hadn’t begun on a great note when it comes to Life On Cars workhorses – looming transmission trouble had led me to sell the old Rover 214SEi and its Ford Mondeo replacement was destroyed when an errant BMW ran into the back of it.
This Peugeot 306 was the belated hero of the year, not only acting as a £750 stopgap for my girlfriend’s mother before she bought another car, but then being passed onto me as an everyday chugger for just £150.
It hasn’t been perfect but – as the first Life On Cars diesel car – I’m enjoying regularly getting upwards of 50 to the gallon. Like the £100 Renault 5 I ran years ago, I’m forgiving the 306’s imperfections because I love its bargain basement Frenchness.

Putting my foot down – in a Ferrari
I ended 2013 – having driven my first Aston Martin – wondering whether I’d get to pop my Ferrari cherry this year.
Sure enough, Classic Car Weekly needed someone to test a Ferrari F355, so my hand shot up quicker than the car itself can get to sixty! Truth be told, I barely got to scratch beneath the surface on real world roads, but on this few occasions when I really got to nail it this mid-engined supercar really was as good as everyone said it should be.
It really was utterly, utterly wonderful. New Year’s resolution for 2015 – get a go in a TVR Griffith. Here’s hoping!

Life On Cars wishes both of its readers a happy New Year

1 comment:

  1. That's really amazing i love this i need some more images .
    you can share some more detail about this car.
    this post is really outstanding thanks for share .

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