Magpie mind James Higham is running posts on vintage posters. This one sums up my week in and around Cap d'Antibes, Cannes and Mougins. I drive home today and tomorrow, so blogging will be non-existent.
Nothing to do with civil liberties, I know, but this article makes me smile for a petrol-headed reason. The car belonged to my great uncle and I knew it as a child. The article doesn't explain WHY the car was so cheap when he bought it. As he told the story in my presence years ago, it was donated to the Army for war use, but its fuel consumption precluded practical use. So as not to offend the Astor family, it was converted to a truck by cutting off that rear compartment in which I later slumbered. My great uncle bought in in that state, reasoning (as all around him scoffed at his idiocy) that "No-one will have scrapped part of Lady Astor's car."
Sure enough, after years of searching, the rear end showed up in a garage somewhere and he bought it equally cheaply. Reuniting the separated parts magically increased the car's worth (in the real estate business, that's called 'marriage value') and he then made money renting her out to TV and film companies. Those included (as mentioned in the article) the makers of my then favourite show, "The Avengers."
My great uncle was my grandfather's partner in building the company that - as a reward for their war service - an ungrateful nation stole from them in 1946. Their business became part of British Road Services (the trucking equivalent of British Rail) which was eventually privatised as the National Freight Consortium. After merging with Exel, it was ultimately acquired (ironically) by another state enterprise - Deutsche Post and is now part of its subsidiary DHL. It has all come a long way from a company founded on a small loan by my great grandfather (a publican) to his sons. Were it not for a ridiculous and now discredited (everywhere except in Guardianland) political theory, who knows where it might have taken my family?
My grandad and his brothers used that small loan to buy their first of several Sentinel steam trucks. My grandfather's first of many convictions for speeding involved breaking a 5mph limit in front of Chester Castle in just such a road-going locomotive. He was arrested by a policeman on a bicycle. I remember him telling me the story and regret that I forgot to ask him if the stoker was fined too on such occasions. The example of a Sentinel in the picture once belonged to my great uncle and I remember my grandfather regarding him as hopelessly sentimental for having it painted in the confiscated company's old colours. My grandad was not a man for regrets and had little patience with nostalgics.
My great uncle's son was the chap who took the teenaged me out for a ride in his Dino and therefore triggered the long chain of events that led to me buying my Ferrari. We are meeting up in the North at the end of this month for me to return that favour of 40 or so years ago by taking him for a ride.
So much for my happy, if possibly imprecise, memories. I assure those readers who are (inexplicably) not petrol or steam-heads, that normal service will now be resumed.
Continuing my theme of distentangling honest-to-Stalin Leftism from good old-fashioned British Puritanism, I was looking for an image to illustrate something Mrs P. and I noticed yesterday. Out on the town in Shanghai, we saw many motorcyclists riding (legally) without helmets and smoking en route.
Oddly enough, I couldn't find a suitable photo, but I did find these.
Let the debate between outraged statists and on-the-back-foot libertarians begin.
This is a wonderful time for the optimist. New ministers set out their stalls in a positive light, saying the things we want to hear and - possibly - setting us up for disappointment.
One reason I may never return to Britain is that it is such a miserable place to drive. It is under provided with roads and bedevilled by speed cameras. The latter are a tax not a safety measure. They cause more accidents than they prevent, because they distract motorists from the job in hand. The speed limits were set in the days of the Morris Minor and take no account of the fact that a modern car can stop in the same distance from a higher speed than such a car could from 30mph.
In short, the British authorities' attitude to motoring is both puritanical and grasping.
I am no boy racer. I am a guy in my 50s with a clean licence and (touch wood) a good safety record. When the Maserati Corse team tried to teach me how to drive hard on a track, they couldn't overcome the safety reflexes instilled by 30+ years of staying alive behind the wheel. All I want is to have reasonable discretion in the use of my car on terms that I take responsibility for any mistakes I may make.
The test of the new Minister's seriousness is this; will he resist the special pleading of the puritanical single issue fanatic who will whine at him to "think of the children?" Or will he accept that accidents happen, people are best taking responsibility for themselves and that no-one wants children (or anyone else) to die?
Your blogger can't retire from work just yet. He has a new version of an old, unrealised ambition. Always believing that, at 2 metres tall, he could not drive a modern Ferrari, he was resigned. Today, on the company's stand at the Geneva Motor Show, he discovered he need not be. One day, perhaps, he can hope to drive something that might even be more exciting than Vittoria.
To his even greater surprise, he also found himself admiring an eco-drive car at the show. However, in the prototype Ferrari version of a hybrid, you have the choice either to save fuel by recycling power stored from your braking, or (temptingly) to unleash it to boost your acceleration! That's your blogger's kind of green.
The last two pictures are not of his new inamorata, however. They are close ups of an even more expensive rival (in which, emphatically, he could not fit his generous frame). In fact, he gave onlookers a few amusing moments with his attempts to do so. Still, it was a beautiful sight. Any guesses as to what it is?
And finally, a little extra treat for admirers of the automotive art. En
route to our present resting place in Crans Montana, my friend who
organised access to all this magic today took us to see his own
magnificent car. Just listen to that beautiful noise...
As a lover of Poland who lived there for 11 years, I know something about this story. I used to have a right-hand drive car in Warsaw. I drove it from England in 1992 and used it for 8 of the 11 years I lived there. I drove my family all over the country safely and pleasurably. The car was foreign-registered and insured throughout. She left the country frequently enough for that not to be an issue, but I always thought it ridiculous that it was not possible to register her locally.
Poland has an appalling record on road safety. The fatality rate is four times that of Britain and double that of Germany. The worst death toll is on the weekend of the All Saints holiday, when Poles visit the graves of their dead to keep a candle-light vigil. This is a social, as well as a religious, event that involves much sitting on gravestones drinking vodka. If a given family has dead relatives in more than one city, it also involves a motorised dash from one graveyard to the other in the depths of the Polish Winter. All too frequently, that ends in tears.
Poor roads, poorly-maintained cars, lots of winter snow and ice and an aggressive driving culture account for the rest of the accidents. I have often remarked to Polish friends that they must be very good Catholics indeed as they drive as if in a hurry to the afterlife. Right-hand drive cars are certainly not a factor in many accidents. Poland's auto-routes and urban free-ways (sensibly, in my view) permit overtaking on both sides. So I was safer than the other drivers for more than half the time as (guess what) I usually chose the side to overtake on which I had better visibility. When not on such a road, my driving position was only a problem to me, as I had fewer opportunities to overtake. Perhaps the Polish judges can't imagine not overtaking, regardless of safety? Probably so, as in my experience the standard of driving among Polish lawyers was no higher.
Britain, of course, has no problem with thousands of migrant-labourer Poles driving their left-hand drive cars around our islands. So much for fairness. As between nations, reciprocity is surely the least one can hope for. Though I am not holding my breath for Muslim countries to take as liberal an approach to the building of Christian churches as, say, Switzerland to the building of mosques.
Like most legal restrictions, this is small-minded busy-bodying dressed up as concern for public safety. Having watched Poland enact hundreds of legal reforms to prepare for EU accession (the only time in my life I saw the EU do any good), I am sad to note that it has already (as I predicted to my Polish friends a decade ago) begun to approach EU law as the French do; cynically and selectively.
I was invited to the UK launch of the Maserati GranCabrio, the convertible version of the GranTurismo, the car I am lucky enough to drive. Recently launched at Frankfurt, the one extant example is now on a world tour in advance of the the model going on sale next April. It is, quite simply stunning - an object of intense desire. I would go so far as to say Modena never produced a more beautiful car. Sadly, I will never own one.
The main problem persuading Mrs P. to allow me to buy Vittoria was her 260 litres of luggage space. When we go on our Summer holidays, Mrs P. easily needs all that and I must settle for a small grab bag behind me. The GranCabrio is a full four seater but the space for the retracted soft top consumes 90 litres of the GranTurismo's luggage space. It has barely capacity for overnight luggage for two, let alone a fortnight's luggage for four. This is a design fault. "Claudia", my AMG Mercedes convertible lost no boot space to the soft-top when it was raised. Once the bags were safely at our holiday hotel the roof could be lowered. I cannot imagine why the undoubted design geniuses at Pininfarina did not copy that.
Still, the GranCabrio is an awesome car and immensely beautiful. I hope it sells well so that the world can be enriched by its undoubted charms. I will smile every time I see one, even it it's not for me. Here is a short video of the world's one copy being unveiled at the Belfry last night.
Jeremy Clarkson is a hate figure of the Left. Read the linked article to find out why. Here's a short sample to give you a flavour;
It was, I think, the most enjoyable drive of my life: to be in a car that good, with its V10 bark echoing off the limestone and a bit of Steely Dan on the stereo, doing about a million with a man who truly knows what he’s doing at the wheel. This is what those of a Guardian disposition don’t understand: that a car can be a tool but it can also be so much more. It can be a heart-starter, it can be a drug, it can be a piece of art, it can stir your soul and it can get you from Marbella to Ronda before the bar closes.
Truth is, Jeremy is more fully alive than a whole London borough of the miserable little self-satisfied soulless zombies. And he can write better too.
Come on, ladies and gentlemen, please click on the link above and infuriate the Guardianistas who are posting such exasperated comments as;
Top Gear is not fit to grace any list that has the likes of the office, the west wing and arrested development on it.
The Wire is catching up fast on Top Gear with one day of polling still to go, so if you want to see Jezza ending the show with the poll results and the words "...and on that bombshell..." you need to get over there and vote. Urging on family, friends and work colleagues, not to mention posting a link to the poll on your blog (and in comments to every blog you frequent) would do no harm either.