The latest from Eric's blog
Fresh posts, best read in a comfortable chair with a wee dram of scotch close at hand.
I agree with Jeremy Clarkson. He was in the North of Scotland last week. “Absolutely eyes-on-stalks beautiful. I drove along the coast road north of Ullapool, and never have I gone so slowly. Sometimes the views were so spectacular, I coasted to a halt and never even noticed. The sky was the colour of a Norwegian model’s eyes. Tendrils of cloud spilt over snow-capped mountains before being whipped into nothing by the wind.”
Alfred Edgar Frederick Higgs could always tell a good story. A motoring writer in the 1930s he affected a pseudonym, Barré Lyndon after the eponymous hero of William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1844 The Luck of Barry Lyndon. Maybe Barry was not imposing enough so he changed y to e acute and fitted Thackeray’s plot about breaking into the aristocracy in books Combat (1933) and Circuit Dust (1934). They brought MG into motoring aristocracy by slightly embellishing the myths and legends of motor racing, elevating it beyond anything so prosaic as a car. Circuit Dust savoured MG success in the 1934 Mille Miglia with a respectful caption and a picture of the team’s reception by Signor Mussolini. Now there is a new account of MG in MG Classics for the digital age, out today.
Rolls-Royce has been planning another venture into luxury yachts. Last time it got into a deal with Riva, bought by its then-owner Vickers for £9.1 million but it didn’t survive the 1998 change in proprietorship. Then last November Rolls-Royce announced the 62metre Crystal Blue with hybrid propulsion using LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) and battery power. This is planned to have a composite or aluminium hull and Rolls-Royce’s hybrid LNG/battery SAVe-CUBE system. This has twin 16V4000 MTU M65-N generator sets working in parallel with a battery bank providing 1MWh of genset-free power in port. Two light-weight carbon Azipull thrusters provide a maximum service speed of 20 knots.
Before the time of Michael Schumacher whose car is at the Design Museum until April 18. and just as the 1990 classic car price boom was waning I gave a Ferrari Testarossa a mixed review. It was exciting enough but suffered I thought from a higher centre of gravity compared with other Ferraris. Its engine was big and wide, making it difficult to accommodate low down in the frame. By the last decade of the 20th century there was no need for cars with top speeds getting on for 200mph to feel “difficult” or slightly dangerous. You could get just as much speed and acceleration from the likes of a Honda NSX without any need of macho airs or acting like a grand prix driver of the 1950s.
Guessing where cars are heading has preoccupied generations. Every motor show I remember had concept cars. Some of General Motors’ predictions from the 1938 Buick Y-Job to the 1951 Le Sabre were more than flights of fancy. HG Wells predicted aircraft, tanks and texting yet he was hazy about cars. He imagined motorways like railways connecting cities, decanting people on to bicycles in town. Some 30 years ago Prometheus sent me driverless on test tracks to show that ingredients for autonomous controls were already here. Now the Royal College of Art’s Intelligent Mobility Design Centre and the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design is presenting Driverless Futures, Utopia or Dystopia? At the London Transport Museum
Car launches were the staff of motoring correspondents’ lives. Still are. They had moments such as with the Peugeot 605. Co-driving with the late and much missed Michael Scarlett (below), technical editor of Autocar - we trusted each other with our lives – we raced across the Egyptian desert. It was blisteringly hot. The entire cavalcade of 4-valve 3 litre cars had an identical top speed of 146mph but mischievous Michael would turn off the air conditioning, releasing a few precious horsepower enabling us to pull ahead. Seemed innocent at the time although maybe not what you would confess to in a serious newspaper motoring column.
Our latest releases and new editions of classic works.
Out of print for twenty years, the 2017 edition of Jim Clark: Tribute to a Champion is newly revised and expanded and completely redesigned in colour throughout. This classic of motor racing celebrates the life and achievements of Jim Clark (1936-1968).
Newly revised and expanded, this complete history of Vauxhall includes great Edwardian sports cars like the 1911 Prince Henry and the 1920s 30-98 up to the 2007 VXR8. Over 170 individual models are fully illustrated, with a 200-word description plus a full technical specification.
Covers the MGs of 1922-1939 with a detailed history of MG’s foundation by Cecil Kimber and WR Morris, through its struggles in the aftermath of the first world war to its triumphs before the outbreak of the second. Forty-seven distinctive examples of MG are detailed, illustrated and described along with comprehensive specifications.
The definitive Jaguar resource. Includes concept cars, one-offs, race reporting, design methodology and specifications for every landmark Jaguar made: racing Jaguars and road cars such as the Mark 2 saloons and the one-off XJ13, failures and successes right up to the XF and XJ
The Complete Bentley is the only single volume with an accurate comprehensive model-by-model guide with details, specifications and pictures of every Bentley made. It starts with the notable rotary aero engine of World War I and describes all the collectors’ classics, including a fully-illustrated chronology of the company and its racing since 1919.