Published in early April, contents includes legendary gentleman racer and journalist, Denis Jenkinson’s remarkably prophetic 1964 essay on the future of motoring and car design, John Simister’s meetings with three of Italy’s design legends, a fascinating account of Donald Campbell’s first foray into land-speed record breaking, Douglas Blain reporting on the 1972 Targa Florio, Mathew Vale’s controversial critique of BMC’s longstroke engines, Richard Bremner on the car industry’s obsession with ‘retromobiles’, Richard Williams recalling eccentric jazzman and racing driver Buddy Featherstonhough, Colin Goodwin’s wry memories of working on a Ferrari production line, Mark Williams writing about Road Movies, Neil Lyndon waxing lyrical on Volvo’s P1800 and so much more.


Half a century after they were written, renowned motoring journalist Denis Jenkinson’s thoughts on the future of car design, its causes and consequences, now appear entirely prescient – and not necessarily in a good way

IT ALL STARTED WHEN I BORROWED A MINI-COOPER S, THE latest and hottest version of BMC’s remarkable little front-wheeldrive box-like vehicle, which I just cannot bring myself to refer to as a motorcar. For the ordinary Mini I have no use at all. I cannot stand the look of the thing: the driving position is like that of a fair-ground dodgem car; it is uncomfortable and noisy; and above everything else it just does not go – at least not by my standards.

Various tuned versions from people like Downton, Nerus and Speedwell have proved that the last complaint can be rectified, and those used in races have more than proved their point, but all with which I have come into contact have had shortcomings such as astronomical rpm and no torque, unbelievable noise, a vast Weber carburettor by your left hand, and an air of ‘racing car’ about them.

They have been terrific fun and exhilarating in a wild sort of way, but I could never take them seriously as usable transport. However, with the introduction of the Cooper-S version of the Mini the great BMC factory produced a practical and saleable proposition, with its 1100cc engine and 70bhp, and all the finish and quality of an ordinary car. So, once again, the last of my complaints was taken away. The others remained, but the way the Cooper-S got about the place, and the ease with which it went up to 85-90mph caused it to grow on me – so much so in fact that, given the occasion to do a brief 50-mile journey on crowded roads, I chose the Cooper-S in place of my 110mph GT car or my 100mph sports car.

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The past two decades have dished up more than a backward glance at motoring’s glorious past and, as Richard Bremner confirms, from a most unlikely source, the world’s major manufacturers

‘YOU CAN’T REPEAT THE PAST,’ SAYS NICK TO JAY GATSBY IN Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. ‘Why of course you can,’ Gatsby replies, and attempts to prove it by showering Daisy, his idealised lost love, with gifts, parties and the purchase of a fabulous house just across the water from hers, as he chases their former idyll with increasing desperation.

It’s doubtful that anyone has yearned for any mere ‘object’ as deeply or extravagantly as Gatsby did Daisy, but that doesn’t stop the makers of clothes, houses, furniture, domestic appliances, wallpapers and motorcars also tempting you with the ghosts of bygone eras. Remakes, reissues, re-interpretations have all appeared in these worlds, along with pompous ‘homages’. Retro-look cars, as they were known for quite a while, have and are allowing quite a number of models to enjoy an afterlife, if in altered states. Among the most obvious, and common, are the Mini and the Fiat 500, both of which continue to be substantial sellers. There are also the VW Beetle, Fiat’s throwback 124 Spider and its Abarth 124 cousin, the Ford Mustang and most recently the pretty Alpine A110, which reprises the 1960s rear-engined Renault sports coupé of the very same name. Inevitably some of these re-runs have been more convincing and successful than others. But at least we’ve had the pleasure of choice.

A few decades ago there were only four ways for the enthusiastic motorist to enjoy a whiff of the past. You could buy a (very) old car, you could buy a Morgan, a kit-car, or an alleged replica. I don’t much enjoy the random light violence dealt out by the Morgan’s ride, but if you fancy a fat slice of pre-WW2 authenticity, this roadster is a good way to get it. And the more distant the era from which it emerged, the more compelling the Morgan Plus 4 becomes. Kit-cars? Most are highly likely to send you wild – with frustration – amid a potent mix of glass-fibre resin, poor instructions and even worse engineering. If you do get to the end, you’ll more than likely have a car whose mechanical confection bears no relation, physically or philosophically, to the car that you’re cheap-skating onto your drive.

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Ferrari’s 288 GTO scored many ‘firsts’: their first turbocharged road car; the first built largely from composites; first to be homologated for Group B racing. And on his first visit to Maranello, an eager young Gavin Green became the very first to drive one home to the UK

IT STILL LOOKS SO FAMILIAR. THOSE BIG ELECTRIC GATES ON the Via Abetone. The Ristorante Cavallino opposite, lunch-time haunt of Formula 1 drivers and Ferrari management alike. The old twostorey terracotta-coloured factory frontage with its distinctive arch and Ferrari script. All just as I remembered when I first came here in 1985, a young journalist on his first pilgrimage to motoring’s Mecca.

The factory then was much smaller, its products less finely honed and the business decidedly less professional. Ferrari was still a cottage industry. There was no Ferrari Store opposite the front gates, selling shiny goods to the label-conscious. In fact, there was no merchandise at all. Now, sadly, Ferrari is as much a global luxury brand as a sports car maker. Now they sell image more than driving excitement, and much else has changed. Vast new glass and aluminium structures house achingly modern production facilities (although the V12 engines, pleasingly, are still assembled by hand).

In the ’80s, Ferrari invitees were the lucky few. Now busloads of Chinese and American tourists ply the factory’s tree-lined streets,
named after past Ferrari F1 drivers. A ‘visit to Ferrari’ is ticked off like a trip to the Colosseum. But in the Apennine hills just north of Ferrari’s headquarters outside Modena, new Ferraris are still tested, and in this factory motoring legends are still made.

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Published early January, the contents include an account of driving a Daimler 30-40 from London to Spain – in 1906!, the fascinating if chequered history of glassfibre cars, Nuvolari’s most extraordinary grand prix races, one woman’s 35 year love affair with her Morris Traveler, Douglas Blain’s affectionate obituary for the Lamborghini Miura, John Simister in praise of the much-underrated Hillman Imp, the legendary engineer-racer Bill Milliken and his assault on Pikes Peak in a Bugatti, Steve Cropley on the last gasp of Citroen’s 2CV and three owners love affair with la petite escargot, Richard Bremner on the Argyll – a lesser known Scottish supercar, Colin Goodwin’s attempt to cross the Channel in an aquatic Ford Fiesta and so much more…


Owen Llewellyn, one of the first Britons to work as a motoring journalist, wrote with dry wit and genuine enthusiasm for what, at the turn of the 20th century, were still regarded as horseless carriages. Rudimentary they may have been, but nothing deterred this intrepid Edwardian from travelling vast distances abroad, as these early stages of a lengthy continental adventure in the winter of 1907 highlight

THE ROAD TO SPAIN IS DOWN PICCADILLY, THROUGH St James’s Park, and over Westminster Bridge. That is to say, if you start from the Automobile Club motor-house, as we did.

But another time, and with a less powerful car than our 30-40 Daimler, there should be other and less spectacular routes. And the reason is this. There were (and still are) four of us, all men of more or less large proportions. By the mercy of Providence, two of our wives who were to have taken the place of one of us, Jarge to wit, relinquished the idea. To understand the full meaning of this sentence it should be read backwards, and to get at the full meaning of what our wives escaped they had only to look at the car as we emerged out of the club motor-cellar, fully loaded.

For the benefit of those who may be tempted to follow our example, let me take this opportunity to catalogue our chief accoutrements:

Four kit-bags
Two spare Dunlop covers (studded)
Four spare Dunlop tubes
One spare pump (water)
Two spare chains
One spare coil
Two spare sets of accumulators
Two sets Parsons’ chains
Twelve feet copper piping, and
A never-to-be-forgotten jack.

Added to which were innumerable spare plugs, wires, bolts, nuts, butterflies, washers, tools, levers, spanners and such like, most of which were only carried in order to intimidate the car into not requiring them, and to help fill the tonneau. Also a joy for ever came in the shape of six Parsons’ sparklet inflators, which allowed us the freedom from the tyre-pump during the whole journey. Consequently, two tons would not have been in the same street with what we totalled up.

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In the aftermath of WW2, says Mathew Vale, the motoring world woke up to the seemingly endless possibilities of magical new shape-shifting and corrosion-proof bodywork

BACK IN THE EARLY ‘80S WHEN I RAN A TEN-YEAR-OLD Triumph Spitfire (a proper one – a Mk3 – none of your ‘modern’ BL rubbish) I’d gaze wistfully and treacherously at a mate’s Lotus Elan, and wonder why my gently decaying bodywork couldn’t have been made from this age-resistant plastic. The Spitfire wasn’t that bad, but every MoT test revealed that more of the floor had decided to ‘reduce itself to produce’, which gifted Ray the Welder with another pricey session.

Year-on-year more metal was inserted to replace the powdery mess that genuine Triumph steel had turned into, and every year Ray would insert a little more. Eventually it was retired to my parents’ barn in Somerset. Today, of course, it would be worth a fortune, but then it was just another old knacker I couldn’t bring myself to scrap.

Eventually, after another new floor weld, I turned the Spit into a deposit on my first house. But the main thing it gave me, apart from a lot of great journeys down memory lane, was an abiding interest in glass fibre. In fact, my father worked in the industry and I also did time during school holidays in various industrial glass-fibre plants – my main claims to fame being helping to fashion Austin Allegro sill extensions, the canopy at London Bridge station, and seats on the London Underground. But best of all, I’m now happily burdened with a brace of restoration-needy Lotus Elan Plus 2s.

So what is this stuff – glass fibre? Those two short words describe a post-War innovation that spawned myriad UK-based automotive companies, some small and short-lived, others still plugging away today. A product of the accelerated scientific advances of WW2, glass-fibre-reinforced-plastic (GRP) combined two technologies – artificial oil-based polyester resins and spun glass. During the war it mainly benefited the aircraft industry where its low weight, relative tensile strength and tolerance of a wide temperature range was much valued. But, come peace time, all that glass-fibre know-how built up in the UK and USA needed new outlets, which mostly meant wider aeronautical applications, surfboards, boats and, by the late ’40s, the car industry.

After the war, with the UK economy in tatters, most new car production was directed overseas to generate much-needed hard currency; and everything was in short supply. Such harsh conditions fed into a market for refurbishing obsolete modes of transport and getting them back on the road. Even though the main issue with old crocks was their rotten bodywork, before the advent of GRP there was little demand for proprietary replacement bodies, as owners made their own or commissioned wood and/or metal one-offs.


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Peter Wright, ex-BRM, ex-Lotus, recalls a friend and colleague whose impact on automotive and aviation engineering, to say nothing of motor racing, was both original and far-reaching

HOW CREDIBLE IS THIS? A STRANGER WALKS INTO YOUR office and without so much as a by-your-leave, stamps his talents, his skills and his friendship on the rest of your life. Well, let me introduce William F Milliken Jr who made just such an entrance at Team Lotus in 1982. An engineer, racer and adventurer, Bill remained a hugely valued companion and touchstone until his death in 2012, aged 101. He taught me most of what I know about vehicle dynamics, and all that I know about closing deals, the two of us getting into many a scrape along the way, mostly involving weird machines, and very often laughing until we cried.

From early on Bill was fascinated ‘…by the hero’s mode of action: taking a chance and, like Ulysses, pushing on regardless’. His century-long life was shaped by just such an ethic. It guided him through a 20th century crowded with adventure and achievement in both aviation and the automobile. And one of the most colourful and heroic of his ‘modes of action’ was a racing assault, 70 years ago in 1947, on the 14,110ft summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado in 1947, driving his highly modified T35A Bugatti.

It was a life-affirming blast that gives us, today, a sense of his personal and technical approaches to the challenges he willed himself
to take on. What’s more, it was an adventure we can all share, and which we draw on here, inspired by his lively and superbly illustrated autobiography, Equations of Motion, Adventure, Risk and Innovation (Bentley Publishers), which I heartily recommend.

Bill was born in Old Town, Maine, in 1911, to a father who surveyed new railroad routes through the Rockies and across Mexico and Alaska, and a mother who was an accomplished musician. His early upbringing was influenced by cousin Eddie who took him from a series of ‘push’ Indy cars to a more sophisticated Excelsior motorcycle engined construction. A parallel interest in aircraft saw that engine attached to a propeller-powered ski-mobile in which he’d navigate his local snow-covered streets. More than 20 different and extraordinary such machines filled Bill’s life between the ages of 10 and 18, after which he branched out into full-blown aircraft design, producing his Milliken M1 – designed, built, flown and crashed by the time he was 22 – for an all-up cost of $300. The restored M1 resides today in the Owls Head Transportation Museum, Near Owls Head, Maine.

After discovering the discipline of stability and control the hard way, Bill decided to make it his life’s work, and prior to enrolling at MIT, won a scholarship to the Boeing School of Aeronautics where he learned to fly properly. Early employment after MIT involved development of the flight characteristics of the Vought Corsair, the US Navy’s ultimate piston-engined fighter, but by the time WW2 broke out, Bill had gravitated west again to Boeing, which was developing the world’s first pressurised aircraft, the Boeing 307 Stratoliner.

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Few of us stick with a single car as a daily driver for decade after decade. But Mikki Rain is one such stoic, and in the process reckons she’s become as one with her vehicle of choice – a very choice Morris Minor 1000 Traveller

CAR OWNERSHIP AMONG OUR STUDENT GROUP IN THE ‘70S was generally the province of the boys – and heavily dependent on what was available, and available cheaply. Hello Zephyrs, Consuls and Zodiacs, or a Ford Pop or Austin 7 for those squeezed by even tighter budgets. And, sadly if inevitably, some of the beefier machines ended their careers at Matchams Park Demolition Derby on the edge of the New Forest.

The smart one we kept for best was a Humber Super Snipe Estate which gulped fuel at a rate of about 10mpg, so requiring a whipround before we all piled in and headed off on a drive. Indeed, that was the era when you did simply go for ‘a drive’ and there were still such creatures as ‘Sunday drivers’. I remember our monster, packed with friends, children and large hairy dog, regularly heading for the Purbeck Hills or a beach, which was enormous fun. And it was shortly after this idyllic period that I progressed to independent mobility and, unlike today when it is something of an event to even see one, I fixed on the cheap and ordinary, indeed ubiquitous, Morris Minor.

They were everywhere, in all their forms: saloons, convertibles, pick-ups, Travellers, Post Office vans and, amazingly, even police cars. Back in those college days, the British Motor Corporation had only just ended production having released about 1.3 million onto the roads. Their distinctive farting exhaust note when decelerating, a unique and endearing feature, was a familiar sound right across Britain. The joke was ‘nought to 60… eventually’, then add a following wind and a downhill gradient. But speed wasn’t an issue for me – simplicity and practicality were much further up the priority list. So, yes, this was the car for me.

I owned two saloons prior to the Traveller, both a mere step away from the scrapper. One met its demise following a damning MoT verdict which reported, ‘Extensively corroded throughout’. The other became the local joy-riding vehicle of choice for some unsavoury characters who racked up a trail of traffic violations, prompting a visit from the local constabulary under the misapprehension that such reprehensible behaviour was down to me. As if.

But in 1981, no longer a student, and living in London on a meagre wage as an art-slave in an embryonic publishing company that rose phoenix-like out of the ashes of Oz magazine, I could afford to upgrade. With a budget of £500 I was in the market for a better quality vehicle and thought a Traveller would be just the ticket – a more practical shape into which, at a squeeze, you could fit a bike or chest of draws.

Then, while visiting my father in Poole, I spotted a small ad in the Echo for a 1971 teal blue example with just ‘two careful lady owners’. When I phoned up, the ‘lady’ asked me to come round the next morning, but, impatient for a sneaky preview, I visited the vendor’s address that afternoon thinking she’d be out. Instead, there were husband and wife struggling to push the car up their steep drive.

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Issue No 1 - Winter 2017

Published early October, contents include a rare, highly revealing interview with the late and usually taciturn Enzo Ferrari, Richard Williams’ account of re-tracing the tyre-tracks of the epic 1956 Mille Miglia, Joe Moran’s story of how Britain got its roads, Steve Cropley’s account of delivering the first Lamborghini Jalpa from Modena to Britain in 1983, Douglas Blain’s memories of the late, great automotive designer Tom Tjaarda, Miranda Seymour on Hélène Delangle, the ‘Bugatti Queen’, L.J.K. Setright ruminating on the industry’s scapegoats and idols, Gavin Green’s account of crossing Australia in a Mini, Peter Wright’s fascinating memories of working at BRM and Lotus, Richard Hough recalling Fangio’s drive of his life at the Nürburgring and much, much more…

Make sure you see the fascinating and exciting new film, Ferrari: the Race To Immortality which adds further resonance to Enzo's legend and features much, previously unseen race footage!

Watch the trailer now

The Pride and Passion of Enzo Ferrari

This defining interview from 1977, the Old Man’s 80th year, reveals not so much about the cars or the races, but more the thinking, the ascetic impulses, the trials of life and the curious appeal of death. By Keith Botsford

Enzo Ferrari is a big man. Big, fleshy nose. Big, loose mouth. Big, solid body. A man who bears as close a resemblance to most car makers and the rest of motor racing’s constructors as an aging lion does to a 24-hour mayfly. Next, the realisation that he’s a profoundly lonely, solitary, disabused and thoughtful figure to whom death is perhaps the most meaningful event in life. Indeed, it feels eerily likely that this life, which began in 1898 in Modena, is well nigh run.

And one death, besides his own, has been its dominant theme: that of his beloved son Dino, dead now these 25 years. It was for Dino’s birth that Ferrari gave up his career as a racing driver; it was with his death that he became a virtual recluse. Apart from written replies to questionnaires and the annual press conference, in which he deals with routine questions as if he were Socrates being consulted in the agora, he remains stubbornly private. Television has never captured him and few indeed are those who have had access to his inner thoughts. And he who could now be feted throughout the world almost never leaves his home, his office at Maranello a few miles down the road from Modena, or his testing circuit a short drive further on.

I spent two-and-a-half hours with him in his office – that spare, bare, barrack of a room, with its empty desk, glass sculpture of the hallmark prancing horse and illuminated portrait of Dino – and another two hours over a modest lunch across the road: pasta, roast veal and succulent Italian fruit washed down with a local rosé. Throughout our conversations, I was struck most by: first, his eloquence, his devotion to clarity of expression and self-examination; second, the candour of his self-revelations; and finally as I watched an extraordinary mind at work, its breadth of vision, broad terms of reference, and ultimate {i}quality, a quality that really only dawns on you fully as you depart and think back over the hours you’ve spent together. It’s the clarity, I guess, that marvellous calm and control, that is so inspiring. You come away knowing why headstrong, brave and brilliant men have so often given their all for this man. You understand what his presence has brought to motor sport, and what his dignity and purity of thought have done for the road car.

‘I am a man who has lived an adventure’

Most of my life, I have concealed myself. It is a mistake to look for my life. Most people think I am hard, but that is because I do not want people to know me. I consider myself weak and so I put on a kind of mask. I put it on to hide.

I didn’t study much as a child, so my cultural patrimony is a small one. At most I have acquired a small erudition, but I don’t think it is to be confused with culture. I am careful to have those around who do have the culture.

...continued in Issue One

The Champion's Greatest Drive

Richard Hough recalls a sunny afternoon at the Nürburgring when an aging Juan Manuel Fangio performed undreamt of miracles.

For four straight years, from 1954 to 1957, and competing for three different teams, Juan Manuel Fangio ruled as Formula 1 World Champion, a stretch of years that remained unequalled until Michael Schumacher’s exploits in the 21st century. Much has been written about this small, sturdy, self-contained Argentine driver, and there have been many theories to explain his astonishing supremacy behind the wheel. His reactions were razor-sharp, his timing and sense of balance as beautifully finessed as those of a circus trapeze artist or high-wire walker. But, above all, he had boundless stamina, courage and determination, qualities that were perfectly expressed in 1957 – his final full year as a grand prix driver – when he claimed his fifth world crown (his first was in 1951).

By then, of course, a new generation of young drivers, most of them British, were hot on his heels, all determined to wrest the laurels from ‘the old man’. Fangio faced up to the challenge from these youngsters with equanimity. He had fought them many times already, and defeated them on almost every circuit in Europe. Now it was time to defeat them again. And yet, in 1957, in what had been an undeniably spectacular racing career, Fangio had to reach ever deeper to hold off such talents as Collins, Moss and Hawthorn from Britain, Behra from France and the Italian, Castellotti.

This is the story of one such triumph, one of his last but probably his greatest race, an outcome that no one believed possible, in which he surpassed even himself in his Maserati on the treacherous 14-mile Nürburgring circuit through the Eifel mountains. His victory marked the triumph of courage and experience over the handicaps of age, driving a slower machine than those of his closest rivals’, and a pit stop for tyres and fuel that lost him nearly a full minute (and which other teams did not need to make).

There had been murmurs among those in the know that Fangio was past it, that age was at last beginning to tell, and that a man of 46 – whatever his capabilities – could not continue to hold off the brilliant new generation from Britain, Italy, Germany and America. ‘Poppa’ Fangio’s days were surely numbered. He might be World Champion, but like an aging, battered boxer, he was due to go down for the count. Look at what had happened at the British Grand Prix at Aintree only a few weeks earlier. He hadn’t even got onto the front row of the grid, and youngsters like Brooks, Moss and Musso had led him with ease.

If this sort of talk reached Juan Manuel Fangio’s ears, he didn’t show it. But then, he was never a driver to show his feelings or express his thoughts, in public or in private. No one will ever know whether, before the start of the 1957 German Grand Prix, the World Champion had already decided to retire at the end of the season but had nonetheless determined to go out fighting, and as the unsurpassed master of his art.


...continued in Issue One

Jalpa Hallelujah

After a sometimes frightening 1000-mile day-and-night drive across Europe, ex-CAR magazine editor Steve Cropley delivers the first Lamborghini Jalpa to Britain.

The day had begun well; it was ending otherwise. I’d arrived at Sant’ Agata on the dot of 8.30am, as advised. Hoping to get my hands on one of the first two right-hand-drive Lamborghini Jalpas to be built, screw on the plate, fill it with fuel – and drive back to Britain. The matter was urgent; we had rather a lot of empty pages – and a cover slot – to fill.

Ubaldo Sgarzi made it clear, when he arrived an hour later, that there would be paperwork to deal with in Bologna (50 miles away) and paperwork to follow that in Modena (25 miles in the other direction). Departure time was estimated at 3pm.

If you’ve dealt with Italian makers of fast cars in the past, you’re probably used to delays. On the other hand, you do know that things that are promised to happen, eventually will happen. In the company of John Winfield, Birmingham-based buyer of the other RHD Jalpa scheduled to leave the factory that day, I spent the morning wandering about the place, watching the artisans assemble the vastly complex array of tubes into Countach-S chassis, surveying the beginnings of a real, live Jalpa assembly line, peeping behind sheet steel curtains and the latest LMA off-roader prototype – and enthusing about the fact that this roomy factory in northern Italy has become nothing less that the world headquarters of low volume car manufacture. Indeed it is so. Maserati’s cars are either made in too great a number or are too outmoded to be regarded with the same awe as Lamborghini’s; Ferrari’s (though still brilliant) are manufactured these days, not hand-built. As traditional crafters of cars, Aston are the only long-lived rival to Lamborghini although their designs seem rather more brutish, less scientific than the Bull’s machinery, even if they’re still as fast as the fastest.

At lunch, as we ate macaroni in the works canteen, Ingegnere Giulio Alfieri, chief designer as well as works boss, told us how the workforce had expanded to 215 people and would grow some more before the LMA ‘jeep’ was in full-noise production in 1985. After that, he told us, Lamborghini would build ‘another car’. A man who drinks mineral water with his lunch, he refused to be drawn on its specification.

Things started to go downhill when we learned that the Modenese customs people couldn’t even see us until 3.30pm. In the event, we didn’t leave the works until then, and when we did, it was to begin a chase in and out of the trucks behind sales director Ubaldo Sgarzi’s assistant, Enzo, in his Fiat Panda. At last, at 4pm, we drew up behind a shipping agent’s on the Modena ring road, right next to a bar called Emilio’s from which the customs man is rumoured to conduct business.

I had been told soon after lunch, that my silver car, destined to be the demonstrator for Britain’s Lamborghini concessionaires, Portman Garages of London W1, would have to be limited to 4000rpm, with bursts of 5000rpm permitted now and again – that compared with an occasional redline of a run-in Jalpa (they pronounce it ‘Halpa’ at the factory) of 7500rpm. The cars need at least 1000 miles on them before you can see full noise, even for a burst. This one had precisely 240 miles up. So at that rate, with a 900-mile trip ahead, I’d not be able to open the car up before northern France, just about the spot where the Lille/Calais autoroute crosses the River Somme.

...continued in Issue One


Richard Bremner laments the decline of scrapyards and relives the pleasures of plundering other drivers’ motoring grief

A FEW MONTHS AGO, I WAS SCRABBLING AROUND THE interior of a condemned Citroën AX, wielding a screwdriver and socket set. It was somewhat demanding, physically. The AX’s seats, no longer tethered to the fl oor, had been pushed into its rear half, the entire car was listing, and simply getting into it was a challenge because an equally immobile Peugeot 306 was languishing inconveniently close by. The temperature inside was rising because it was high summer and the Citroën’s windows were shut fi rm, their winders buried somewhere, lost in its wasted interior. Even so this was a happy experience because it was a rare chance to indulge in a spot of hands-on scrapyard scavenging. Rare, because so few scrapyards allow their customers in, doubtless for EU-dictated health and safety, eco-regulation and pilferage reasons.

Most people have little appetite for such activity, of course, but there are others, I know, who enjoy this grubby-fingered pursuit. I’m not entirely sure why, even in my own case, but a huge part of the appeal is the fascination of discovery, of unearthing what a scrapyard  has to offer and wondering why the car in question is in there. I might be looking at a yard filled with much the same everyday cars that you’ll find in a supermarket car park, except that they’re now dead, semi-ruined and destined for the crusher. And the sight of these selfsame cars stored, unwheeled and forlorn, in a breaker’s yard suddenly makes them a whole lot more interesting than they would be intact. It must be the same thought process that makes an unrestored and battered car more intriguing than a pristine original. I first experienced the appeal of scrap when I was seven. We lived near Cranleigh, in Surrey, where there were plenty of picturesque country walks, but my favourite (though not my dad’s) took us past the dump, basically a pit in the woods that anyone could tip an old car into if they could get it there. I remember seeing a neighbour’s Austin A40 pick-up dragged away one day (it was sagging in the middle, so its time had probably come) then finding it in the pit a few weeks later.

Hands-on experience came in the late 1970s when I was a habitué of Hunters of Wembley, a scrapyard that’s still there. I liked to take my time wandering past the stacked rows of cars, checking their mileages and the inevitable rust that had earned them an MoT failure and a trip to this knacker’s yard. Models of virtually any make were vulnerable to a felling by rust, but by far the most common were Austin-Morris 1100/1300s and Ford Cortinas and Escorts. That’s partly because they were Britain’s most popular motors, but also because they were highly susceptible to corrosion, the Austin-Morris machines (and their snootier wood-furnished Wolseley, Riley and Vanden Plas brothers), killed by cratered sills, crunchy rear subframe mountings and quite often the collapse of the subframe itself. Ford sills dissolved, too, but more serious was corrosion around the MacPherson strut top-mounts.

Whole industries developed around the structural failings of these cars, and others. Who remembers the ‘Ford Owners – Don’t Let This Happen To You!’ ad for welding repairs often found in Exchange and Mart, accompanied by a drawing of struts bursting explosively through the inner wings? Or endless box ads offering to repair 1100/1300 sills, flitches, sub-frame mounts and more?

...continued in Issue One



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