Kintyre

It was probably rash for Land Rover to take a full page of The Daily Telegraph claiming you could drive across Kintyre. I knew Kintyre. In 1940 I watched Donald Smith of Drumalea set off, with Home Guard* armband and rifle, to scan sea and sky for Germans. We had family in Campbeltown. My favourite uncle Johnstone Milloy; his sisters Flora, Jessie and Minnie were teachers who, it seemed, had educated generations. My step-grandmother Martha came from Drum-something-else near Machrihanish where I watched Spitfires, and Liberators from America.

So I knew the dotted line in Land Rover’s ad was a boggy hillside and challenged it. I took one of the new V8 Land Rovers on it and got bogged down. Land Rover was cross, said I hadn’t been driving it properly so sent top cross-country driver Roger Crathorne, a Range Rover development engineer, to show me how. They sent a Range Rover, with a winch and flew me to Machrihanish. A Land Rover Product Strategist, brought along the same V8 Land Rover with the same tyres I had used. A wet peat bog was passed by outflanking it. A ridge that had looked impassable because there was a ditch the other side proved no great difficulty. The secret was to tackle it obliquely so that there was always one wheel on hard standing.

The Forestry plantation, however, was impenetrable. Ditches dug to drain the hillside were too much. We could have used ladders to bridge gaps, but that, we decided would impugn the spirit of the advertisement. We tried the hill from the middle, reaching Lussa Loch by the forestry road but that was no use either. Only something tracked was ever going to negotiate the sage and peat above Putechan. The Range Rover’s winch pulled us out.

With ground-anchors, helpers and time it would have been possible, but that would have been as relevant as putting the Land Rover on the back of a tractor or lifting it across by helicopter. It turned out that somebody from the advertising agency had been told that anywhere you could walk, you could drive a Land Rover. The advertisement was duly withdrawn. It was 1980. Roger Crathorne is now retiring but not before contributing a treasured foreword to The Land Rover File, 65th Anniversary Edition






*Donald’s armband still said LDV (Local Defence Volunteers) as I recall. I was only six.

Veteran Cars

Veteran cars. Nice in their way but would you buy one? Bonhams’ catalogue the other day had Lord Llangattock’s elegant 1902 Panhard Levassor at an estimated £550,000 to £650,000. You need a lot of cash-in-hand to shell out so much for something to drive on the London to Brighton. Don’t misunderstand me; I like the London-Brighton. I did it in 1992 and fared better than Prince Michael that year - but only just. He failed to finish but the Benz I borrowed from Stuttgart got a finisher's plaque, passing the pylons at Brighton with five minutes to spare. I was cold and wet but the experience helped understand a little why people do it. I had a minder and an entourage of back-up so it was easy enough, yet the driving needed concentration. Doing 12½ mph could be scary. Uphill was painfully slow. Downhill alarmingly fast.
Somewhere near Cuckfield I was unable to shift down to get engine braking. The transmission brake was never very good and it seemed to get in the way of the gearchange lever, so we were suddenly quite out of control. At breakneck (literally) speed we passed a bunch of policemen and cheering bystanders who little realised I was hurtling to disaster in a double-fronted shop. Happily Herr Benz's steering and stability was up to the job, so we teetered across mini roundabouts and went on our way, but it was an anxious moment. Braking was indifferent in the dry, precarious in the wet, and almost non-existent when hot. An accident on a Veteran with no seat belt, no crush zone, no airbag and a long way down if you fall out was not to be countenanced.
The right pedal on the Benz was the brake, the middle one a combination of gearchange lever and transmission brake, the left one did something obscure I never discovered. A handbrake of sorts acted directly on the rear tyres and my minder pointedly told me it was a parking brake only. You changed gear by preselecting 1 2 or 3 (there is also a reverse - this was one of the first cars ever to have one), then engage it by a lever on the vertical control column. Steering was by tiller - logical in an era when only horses or boats were ever steered. A pointer shows which way you are about to proceed and final drive to the back axle is by chain.
The ride turned out surprisingly smooth with two lots of front springs, a small transverse leaf and two fore and aft elliptics. The single cylinder engine could be retarded to teuf-teuf astonishingly slowly and I stalled it only once. It produced great pulling power at idling speed almost from rest, like a steam engine. A tidy flap at the back provided access to engine and lubrication points, which had to be attended regularly. Cooling is by gilled-tube radiator, notably good that boiled a couple of times on long climbs. With no fan and certainly no rush of cooling air, it was a wonder it didn't more often. The fuel is pure refined spirit - pioneer motorists bought it at chemist's shops.
The charm of a Veteran, which so thrilled pioneers of 110 years ago, is that it represents such a triumph over being stationary. It scarcely matters how well it goes - the clever thing is that it goes at all. If I had a spare half million – I just might.
Top: Ruth and Eric at the start, Hyde Park, early morning. 2) Joanna started the Run in the Benz. 3) Charlotte rides towards Brighton. 4) Joanna inside a wolf fur in the backup Benz - it was a cold day. 5) Anne, Charlotte, Jane and Joanna at the start.

Land Rover

I wish I had thought of LXV for the 65th anniversary edition of our Land Rover File. Land Rover thought of it first, for a 65th anniversary special edition Defender. If you haven’t driven a Defender for a long time you will be astonished how refined they are now. Short of elbow room maybe, but with the 2.2 diesel and not the old Ford Transit 2.4, along with an improved NVH package introduced in 2011, they are quite acceptably quiet. Drove one at Packington Estate, testing ground for the original 1948 Land Rovers, where they had 130 heritage Land Rovers with which to compare it. Certainly it’s nothing like the rest of the modern range with automatic electronic gizmos, hill descent control and air suspension. Yet it is perfectly civilized, with 6-speed manual transmission and a decent turn of speed. Nought to 60 in 14.5sec and 90mph isn’t bad and the LVX has 16in Sawtooth alloy wheels and Santorini Black paintwork with Corris Grey roof, grille, headlight surrounds and facia. There are leather seats, upright but perfectly comfortable and practical, with LXV embossed headrests and orange contrast stitching, extending to the steering wheel and centre cubby compartment. Even the ride is quite smooth; maybe something short of serene, but nothing like the spine-jarring turbulence once associated with Defenders. There is a union flag on the back. Be prepared for a surprise at the price. It now starts at £28,765. They hadn’t thought of variable-vane turbochargers and high pressure fuel injection on Land Rovers in 1948, but there is a lot in the LXV with which Wilks family members, present for the celebrations, were perfectly familiar. Shown a copy of the new Land Rover 65th anniversary book, Stephen Wilks, president of the Land Rover Series One Club pointed to the family Anglesey beach picture on page 15 and said gleefully, “That’s me, aged 7.” Land Rover milestones. Packington.

Weep for a Wolseley

When a serious commentator like Martin Buckley contemplates a Wolseley Six Eighty you are obliged to help. We were a Wolseley family, and while I wouldn’t put the 6/80 among his allegedly rubbish cars, it did have shortcomings. Valves. Wolseley’s obsession with shaft-driven overhead camshafts stemmed from copying Hispano Suiza aero engines during the First World War. It continued as Nuffield Morris Engines in the 1930s, so when a post-Second World War Wolseley was contemplated ohc seemed just the thing. There were two. The 4/50 and the 6/80, essentially Minor monocoque masterworks, developed under Alec Issigonis into cars not so much badge engineered, as family resembled. Torsion bar sprung, with decent ride and handling the 6-cylinder was 7in longer, had bigger brakes and fatter tyres. The middle bit with the doors and boot was pure Morris Oxford with not much room in the back.
Alas, the valves. The 2214.8cc produced 72bhp @ 4,700rpm and you could do over 80mph, but to an 18 year old a 0-60 of about 21sec probably seemed lacklustre, and 6/80s didn’t have a rev counter. Taggart’s service manager grew weary of warranty claims and mentioned, unkindly I thought, to father that the trouble was over-revving. In fact the valves and guides were made from poor materials and overheating was endemic. 6/80s had no temperature gauge. By 1952 the cylinder head and cooling system were redesigned, starting with engine number 20,301. I have no idea if ours was before or after, but it certainly burned a lot of valves. Owners nowadays use Stellite. Father replaced it with an Armstrong Siddeley. So, blemished rather than rubbished for Classic & Sports Car readers. I liked the 6/80, steering column gearshift notwithstanding. Ours was metallic green (top at Dunure, Ayrshire). I was into photographing cars even then – I thought you had to if you wanted to be a motoring writer. Mother had the Wolseley tricked out with trendy tartan seat covers over the fine leather seats; they were as good as new when it was sold.
Pity it didn’t have rack and pinion, like the Minor. They didn’t think R&P would work in a big car and it had low-geared Bishop cam steering. Four and three quarter turns lock to lock meant a lot of wheel-twirling when you were in a hurry. Nice wood facia. Mother liked that. Two big SUs and although there was 57 per cent of the weight on the front I don't remember too much understeer. Didn't really know what understeer was. Got the 6/80 stuck in a sand dune at Troon late one night. Girl involved. I was 18.

Duncan Hamilton


Duncan Hamilton was not so much economical with the truth as reckless with it. Jaguar historians don’t believe his story of how he and Tony Rolt won Le Mans in 1953. It is always a shame to let the facts stand in the way of a good story, but it seems the infraction that caused all the trouble was during Thursday practice not, as Hamilton tells it, the day before the race.

The ever-trustworthy Andrew Whyte noted that Lofty England “doesn’t go along with Hamilton’s version … of the incident,” and published a photograph showing that there were indeed two Number 18s in front of the pits during practice, - no big deal but against the rules. Sir William Lyons had to pay a fine for the infringement.

Norman Dewis, the Jaguar test driver told biographer Paul Skilleter how Lyons summoned Jaguar public relations executive Bob Berry in the small hours after Thursday practice, to compose an apology to the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. Lofty spent Friday sorting things out. So whatever prompted Hamilton and Rolt to “go on a bender” the night before the race, it wasn’t the threat of disqualification, which had been lifted.

Nevertheless Hamilton’s version prompted a review of the reissued book, which I have included in the new ebook Eric Dymock on Cars 1991, available to purchase on Amazon at an introductory £1.27.


The Sunday Times 20 January 1991

Racer who lived in the fast lane


DUNCAN HAMILTON is not so much economical with the truth as reckless with it. In an introduction to Touch Wood, his father’s reissued autobiography, Adrian Hamilton cheerfully acknowledges that when first published in 1960, “it just didn’t matter if in places it might be less than nitpickingly accurate — it captured the flavour of a bygone age in which sporting achievement alone was never enough without fun along the way”.

Duncan Hamilton’s idea of fun might not have been everybody else’s even in 1960. Boisterous to the point of delinquency on his own admission during service in the Fleet Air Arm, his high-spirited, perilous career continued after the war in motor racing.


He drove Talbots, ERAs and HWMs with great vigour and his victory at Le Mans in 1953 became the stuff of legend. Partnered by Major A P R Rolt* in the official Jaguar team, his car was disqualified the night before the race on a technicality and, in Hamilton’s own words, they “went on a bender”.

Reinstated the next morning, their only cure for a substantial hangover was the “hair of the dog”. They not only survived one of the world’s most arduous motor races, but won at a record speed, nearly 10mph faster than the winning Mercedes- Benz the year before and for the first time more than 100mph.

On a more practical note, the AA’s books on guiding motorists around Britain have set their own high standards. The latest series, Britain on Country Roads, includes one that helps drivers avoid main roads and encourages them to explore places bypassed by motorways and trunk routes. It describes 96 mini-tours of 50 to 90 miles, illustrating places of interest, and includes careful route directions. The maps are clear and the quality of production is exemplary.

*Anthony Peter Roylance "Tony" Rolt, MC and Bar (1918 – 2008) was more than a motor racing hero. Awarded the MC as a Lieutenant in the Rifle Corps in the defence of Calais, he was taken prisoner and after a number of escape attempts was sent to Colditz, where he planned to escape by glider. Hamilton’s book gained collectors’ status, the AA books have not. Some second-hand bookshops refuse to stock them; they take up so much space. So many were sold and then languished, mostly unread, on bookshelves throughout the land to accumulate on house clearances

Blackout blunder


Blaming the rise in road deaths on the blackout could be wrong. The notion that road accidents killed more people than the Luftwaffe in 1941 was challenged by research suggesting it was down to fewer traffic police and withdrawal of safety propaganda. Unlit streets and cars with hooded headlights (like those on this 1940 Ford Anglia) coincided with 9,169 fatalities on British roads in the second year of war.

Yet in work done for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), historian A D Harvey pointed out that the casualty rate slowed in 1942 and 1943, when the black-out was still in force. His study claimed it was the result of more policing, and better safety publicity.

When records began in 1926, 4,886 were killed on British roads. It got worse in the 1930s, with over 7,000 deaths a year before the introduction of The Highway Code. Even this failed to stem the destruction and the Minister of Transport, Leslie Hore-Belisha, imposed the 30mph speed limit. He set up pedestrian crossings (Belisha Beacons), and brought in the driving test. Fatal casualties reached 7,343 in 1934, before his Road Traffic Acts checked the rise.

In 1938 there were still 6,648 fatal accidents, but after the street lights were switched off in September 1939, the toll rose to 8,272. The Birmingham Post blamed drivers' exasperation at the absence of road direction signs, painted over or taken down to confuse invaders. The Manchester Guardian's explanation was, ‘the psychological effect of living dangerously in war-time’.

Jaguar advertising in The Autocar of 5 March 1943 relied on promises of better times to come.
Among other explanations was the inexperience of service drivers, yet military vehicles did not show up as culprits. Most of the accidents involved private drivers still at the wheel despite the privations of petrol rationing. Pedestrians suffered worst in the early months, although by 1941 seem to have been keeping out of the way, or wearing light-coloured clothing as suggested by Air Raid Precations (ARP).

The Jaguar factory was given over to manufacture and servicing of Whitley twin-engined bombers.
The Home Office thought, 'War-dangers have caused road-dangers to be taken lightly,' and called a conference in 1941. It was attended by the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Home Security, eight chief constables, an assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, the War Office provost marshal, and representatives of the Admiralty and the Air Ministry. The Home Secretary and the chief constables decided that the biggest problem was diminished police supervision. Young policemen had been called up. Those left were busy enforcing black-out regulations and taking part in civil defence.

'The Police War Reserve has not the same interest as the regular police,' according to the chief constable of Manchester. There was a failure to prepare the reservists for traffic policing, and road safety publicity campaigns, developed in the 1930s were run down. The chief constable of Lancashire said, 'Instructions to school children, which had largely fallen off, were worth continuing'.

Mark V Bentley of 1939-1940 with headlamp mask. Wings and bumpers were painted white to beat the blackout. Policing became stricter and safety publicity revived. Deaths came down in 1942 to 6,926, and in 1943 to 5,796. The trend continued to a low point of 4,513 in 1948 then, with increased traffic, got worse again. In 1966 7,985 died. Improvements came slowly. By 2008 the figure was down to 2,538, in 2009 2,222 and 2010 1,857.

Hore-Belisha's Highway Code stemmed fatal the tide in 1934.

Wolseley Fourteen


I grew up with a Wolseley 14 like this. It was very smart in grey and blue. Most parents’ cars were black. Ours looked splendid. The little Wolseley badge on the radiator lit up, or at least it did for a time. Dad didn’t replace the festoon bulb when it failed as most of them did. This 14/56 cost £265 when it was new and we kept it throughout the war, so the chrome bumper was painted white to show up in the blackout. I wonder the chrome didn’t show up better, but white paint was the rule. In 1944 or so, when the blackout was relaxed, I scraped the paint off with a penny. It took ages but I was so keen, as a ten year old, for the car to look its best that I scraped till my hands were sore. I still like cars to look their best. The headlamps had wartime black hoods in case German bombers spotted father coming home after dark. Even the yellow Trafficators (the signal arms that popped out and lit up to show he was turning into the front gate) were painted over. You’d have thought Heinkel pilots would have more to do at 10,000 feet than spot Trafficators, but there you are. I stripped the paint off them as well. Father eventually snapped a Trafficator off on the gatepost.

I can still see the Wolseley’s art-deco facia, like a mantelpiece clock, with a speedometer needle that jiggled through 30 degrees whenever the car moved. Father didn’t drive very fast so it didn’t much matter. You got into the boot through the back of the rear seat, which I did sometimes when the car was moving and pretended I was in a boat. Father got a special “supplementary” petrol ration because he used the Wolseley for war work so I got dropped off at school. The Wolseley, VD6829 replaced a Vauxhall Light Six, a Twelve I would guess, HS8635. I thought the Wolseley much smarter although I was badly put out to find Norma Marshall’s father’s Morris, only a 10 as I recall, had much the same Pressed Steel bodywork even down to the curvy lines on the side. A blatant copy, I concluded, of our upper-crust Wolseley. At ten I hadn’t heard of badge engineering. Mr Martin, the plumber next door, always had Rovers with real wood facia and a freewheel which, even then, I could see was more up-market. Not that I was class conscious…

Winning Jaguars


I met Peter Lindner in 1962. As part of its sponsorship of a six-hour saloon car race at Brands Hatch, The Motor arranged to test the winning cars afterwards and Lindner had driven one of the leading Jaguars. That’s me in the lower picture (below), in a white shirt, talking to him and co-driver Peter Nöcker as we prepared to take the cars away. Lindner was already a successful racing driver. I was a new member of the road test staff yet I recall him as genial and understanding, not a bit aloof or patronising, even handing over his precious Jaguar to a callow journalist.

I see from Octane magazine that an immensely painstaking restoration of Lindner’s Low Drag Lightweight E-type has been accomplished. This was the car he crashed fatally at Montlhéry in 1964 and it has been rebuilt from the original wreckage, Classic Motor Cars in Bridgnorth taking 5000 hours bending every bit straight again. A magnificent tribute worthy of the gentle German.

Roger Bell, Charles Bulmer and I took the cars to the MIRA test track for performance testing that included hours on the banked track, measuring their steady-speed fuel consumption. That was the dreary bit. Driving them on the circuit let you feel what a car prepared for racing was like. Driving them back and parking outside my small bachelor pad in South Kensington was thrilling. Taking them out at night on to a still incomplete M4 might explain why we didn’t get any Jaguars to test after the following year’s race.

TEXT:

The Motor Six Hours THE MOTOR October 17 1962
This select load consists of the Lindner/Nocker Jaguar and the class winning MG. and Mini-Cooper. The transporter (for getting the cars to the M.I.R.A. test track) was used purely for convenience all the cars tested were subsequently driven on the road.
TESTING the WINNERS
Five of the fastest cars were tested by “The Motor” shortly after the race • They were the two leoding Jaguars and the class winning Sunbeam Rapier, MG 1101 and Mini-Cooper. • David Piper’s inipressions of the other class winner—the Lancia Flaminia — appear on page 474
THE only people barely moved h the drama on the day following the Six Hours Race were members of The Motor Road Test staff. They found themselves with not one but two 3.8 Jaguars to test, since it now appeals likely that the issue will he decided in favour of one of them. The two Jaguars (the blue Equipe Endeavour-entered 3.8, No 1 in the race, and given as winner on race day driven by Mike Parkes and Jimmy Blumer, and No. 4. the green Peter Lindner/Peter Nocker 3.8. placed second overall) differed in their preparation. The British car is starker and seemed to have undergone the six-hour ordeal more successfully than the German one. Weight reduction is noticeably more ruthless, all the trim, headlining, carpets, sound-damping, and even draught-excluding material having been removed. The wooden facia on the passenger’s side has been taken away and replaced with a stiff board. The result, with a dual, unsilenced exhaust is not unexpectedly a very noisy car. There is very little difference in the noise level outside or in, occupants having not only the yowl from the exhaust, but the screech of wind passing outside the body and also through it by holes in the bulkhead and the gaps round the doors. Winding mechanism has been discarded in three Perspex side windows (the driver can wind his glass one down and watch the mechanism, there being no trim panel( and Perspex is used also for the rear window.
Power as well as noise is supplied in great lumps by the 3.8-litre engine with two 2-in. S.U. carburetters instead of the two 1¾-in. units fitted as standard. Air cleaners are banished, but the engine, apart from being air-flowed internally and balanced, is completely standard, Stock inlet and exhaust systems are maintained together with the optional “ blue top” high compression cylinder head.
Other obvious modifications under the bonnet are an improved oil breather system at the front of the two cam boxes, a large crankcase oil filler with a snap-action cap, removal of the heater installation, and the substitution of a lightweight battery. There are additional oil breathers for the gearbox, and the car is distinguished at the rear by an enormous fuel filler cap supplying three tanks, and by two small breathers for the rear axle.
The Endeavour Jaguar used 7.00-15 Dunlop racing tyres which had their 50-odd-lb. pressure educed to 40 for our use on the road. The racing tyres, high-geared steering (2.9 turns lock to lock) and the Jaguar competition seats combine to give this saloon a completely different character, The handling is improved out of all recognition and the car can be guided with precision whether complete adhesion between the tyres and the road has been maintained or not. The throttle pedal is used to commit the car to a line and keep it there, although inevitably, the result is a rather extravagant consumption of
tyre, a great deal of which seems to adhere to the road.
THE LINDNER JAGUAR
The Lindner car is a little less stark; the cloth headlining, complete wood facia and door trim (non-standard and rather sketchy) by comparison giving an impression almost of opulence. The interior heater had not even been taken out. Most of the modifications undertaken on the Endeavour ear had also been applied to the German one, but important differences lay in standard 1¾ in. S.U. carburetters, 6.50-15 tyres and the use of a normal heavy battery. A well-made cool air duct has been run from the left hand horn grille over the top of the engine to the intake side, and an oil cooler fitted.
Registered in Weisbaden. West Germany, where its owner sells Jaguars, the Lindncr car has left-hand drive, which must be a handicap on racing circuits where most corners are right handed. Steering and handling were vastly improved, like those of the Endeavour Jaguar, but noise seemed little subdued by leaving some of the trim in place.
Both cars have overdrive, and both had new pads fitted to the disc brakes immediately after the race as a safety precaution. The seat harness in the Endeavour car looks immensely strong, the shoulder straps anchoring behind the back seat.
Performance of both cars was affected by clutches which had suffered somewhat during the race. Racing starts with either were impossible although they performed satisfactorily during the other testing and when the cars were used in all their grandeur on the road. Both could he used in traffic but were much more at ease on fast roads, far from disturbable public and policemen with ready ears for a racing exhaust. But they could be (and were) used on the road and only the Endeavour car showed signs of distress during the 30 m.p.h. constant-speed fuel consumption tests.
Proof that both cars remain close to each other’s (and standard) specifications can he obtained by reference to the data panel. This shows how closely matched their performances are with the balance fractionally in favour of the Endeavour entry, which finished four laps ahead. While substantially ‘same-as-you-can-buy.’ these are nonetheless exciting racers.
[caption] Firm suspension of the leading Parkes/Blumer 3.8 counters body roll at Southbank bend. Racing tyres at high pressures also helped to give the car a harsh ride on the road. Below: Lindner (in car) briefs The Motor. Nocker is on the right.
Endeavour Jaguar, 27½ cwt. Standard 3.8, 30 cwt.

Saab 9000

Saab is in a bit of trouble again. Can’t seem to pay its way. Yet it is one make of car for which drivers feel affection. It forged relationships with journalists through events that involved lots of driving. In 1985 Ray Hutton, then editor of Autocar and I did more than 1000 miles in a few days. Best of luck Saab. It deserves better. Saabscene was Saab GB’s magazine in 1985

One of the few disadvantages attached being a relatively small manufacturer is that new car launches are few and far A between. As is common knowledge, the, Saab 9000 is the company’s first all new model for 17 years.
The larger manufacturers have not only infinitely greater financial resources but also the ability to draw together a larger demonstration fleet. For this reason, Saab has to make the most of every opportunity to present its developments to the press in the most attractive and imaginative manner possible. It has done this to remarkably good effect.
Leningrad, Baja California, Prague and most recently, the North Cape are four of the fascinating destinations chosen by Saab Scania to demonstrate Saab’s durability, roadholding or innovative design to the world’s press. But it’s not just a question of choosing an exciting location for a launch; a comprehensive itinerary to provide the journalists with a thorough examination of the car is essential.
We reproduce here, by courtesy of Fast Lane, Eric Dymock’s impressions of the 9000 Turbo 16 en route to the North Cape. [Saabscene]
Saab’s 9000, due in the UK in October, proved to be the ideal transport for Eric Dymock’s foray north of the Arctic Circle. Fast Lane
Spain or the Seychelles are all very well, but you can’t expect people to be surprised any more. These days everybody’s been to Spain or the Seychelles, but say you’ve been fishing in the Arctic and see what happens. No need to waitfor a gap in the conversation. Just say, “Look here, I’ve just been fishing in the Arctic.”
You can’t beat it. Spain and the Seychelles become boring. You don’t even need to brandish holiday snaps. In fact better forget about holiday snaps because the place is about as photogenic as the Falkland Islands unless you actually like brown (earth), white (snow) and grey (sea and sky).
It is also not much use holding up a picture and saying you shot this at lam. Everybody knows about the midnight sun. Much better to tell about having dinner with Erik Carlsson one night and finding it broad daylight outside. “Ah well,” says Erik, “we’ll just have to keep drinking till it gets dark.”
Which is about September.
Erik Carlsson of course can mean only one car — Saab. And it was to show how good the Saab 9000 is for long, fast, tough drives that they hit on going to the ends of the earth. It is about the latitude of Alaska and Siberia, and well north of the Arctic Circle, making Iceland look almost tropical. It is fortunately milder than Alaska and Siberia on account of the Gulf Stream which one would have thought had lost most of its warmth by there but apparently not.
Further north you cannot go, in Europe at any rate, without falling over the edge. North Cape is a sheer 307 metres into if not quite the abyss that used to so worry ancient man, at least into the Arctic Ocean which must be about as inhospitable, Gulf Stream or no Gulf Stream.
We flew on a scheduled airline to Helsinki then by private charter to Rovaniemi, smack on the Arctic Circle. From there we set off in Saab 9000s across into the northern part of Norway and up to North Cape, some 350 miles further towards the Pole as a very frostbitten crow would fly, or about 550 miles the pretty way.
I must say I expected dirt roads, I suppose something like a gigantic Kielder Special stage, but for the most part the surf aces were quite splendid. They were tarmac, except where the ravages of winter were being repaired, and virtually free of traffic. You had to watch out for the occasional elk; one traffic injury in six in Scandinavia is caused by wandering animals and when they are elk-sized you have to take them seriously.
As we forged north through drenching rain, mild summer sunshine, high snow banks, and chill Arctic night, the forests thinned out. It was like going beyond the snow-line part-way up Everest. (This is a bit of artistic licence: I’ve never been part-way up Everest). Actually the trees get smaller before they disappear altogether, more like scraggy stunted broomsticks about two feet tall.
Up on North Cape itself it is scaly bare rock and except for the snow looks rather like the surface of the moon. I haven’t been on the moon either; it is what I imagine it would look like. Neil Armstrong driving the lunar rover would hardly have come as a surprise.
There are some cars that exactly fit the job in hand. I remember years ago Joe Lowrey, a distinguished Technical Editor of Motor, said of the Panhard 24CT that if he lived at one end of the Ml and had to commute to the other he could think of no better car. It had good aerodynamics, high gearing, and a very economical 848cc flat twin engine. He also said he could think of no other circumstances whatsoever in which he would like to drive or own one.

The Lunar Rover must be a bit like that: fine on the moon but not much use anywhere else. Now the Saab, for this journey was sensationally good. It is one of these cars which, when the going gets a bit rough and tumble, or the surfaces deteriorate, or the weather
closes in, or the going gets slippery you feel, “Never mind. This thing won’t let you down. It’s not going to stop out here miles from anywhere. It’ll cope with anything and it won’t need any special skill to get out of trouble. And my goodness, isn’t it FAST.”
Driving very quickly indeed over these empty roads in Europe’s last great wilderness the turbo never got much of a chance to slow down, so the huge reservoir of power at the top end of the rev range was always in use; great long surges of speed in fourth and fifth taking you up to the maximum of over 22Okph (137mph) with great swiftness. How very satisfactory to find a car so ideally suited to the grand tour; I can think of almost nothing that could do this sort of job better, a true road car with 61 per cent of the weight in the front. It is beautifully stable, with little body roll and that wheel-at-each-corner feel that suggests a car developed by a driver such as Erik Carlsson, rather than one churned out by the cost accountants. You lope along and come to an. unmade stretch, slackening speed only a little, confident in the knowledge that the good ground clearance and the clean underside together with the big wheels and supple springing will all cope. Saab must have learned a lot about making strong cars when Erik was rallying them.
So like Joe Lowrey’s Panhard, the Saab does have one wholly ideal role. And conversely while there is hardly anything about it which is dislikeable, there are some aspects at which the market will look askance. Like most of its forebears for example, it is not a car designed with much of an eye to haute couture. The Swedes are far too practical for that. It has been designed, as you might expect like an aircraft, strictly for practicality, giving aerodynamics their place in the scheme of things but rejecting extreme solutions that get in the way of really important considerations such as seeing out. The 9000 does away with the feeling you get in the 90 or 900 of looking out through a letter- box slot.
However the result is a rather anonymous shape, which lacks the striking dignity of the new Mercedes-Benz 200-300 or the feline grace of the Jaguar. How often one has to compare any car in this class with these two bench-marks of automotive excellence. The Saab does look good from some angles, but by and large it does not appear distinguished.
Saab is fond of pointing out that it is a large car by the American Environmental Protection Agency’s standards of measurement. Subjectively it feels spacious enough in the front although the back seat cushion falls a bit short of a size suitable for lounging. Perhaps it helps the measurement from back cushion to front seat-back to have it like that.
The sweep of the broad, flat facia panel, curving into the central console is less successful aesthetically than the superb arrangement of the 900 with its splendid aircraft-style instruments grouped carefully according to function. That surely was one of the best-designed layouts ever. The 9000 has rather a lot of black with nothing to fill the space; if they didn’t surrender to the stylists outside it is surprising to find they have done
so inside. They have also given in to idiot American owners who became tired of instructing parking attendants in the mysteries of the Saab ignition key which locked the car in reverse. This highly effective thief deterrent has now been abandoned in favour of a conventional steering column lock which can be unpicked by any competent thief in about thirty seconds.
It is hardly relevant to discuss how close or how distant a relative of the Lancia Thema and the Fiat and Alfa Romeo Type Fours the Saab 9000 is. It is distinctively hallmarked as a Saab which is what was intended even though the differences of opinion between the engineers on what constituted a Saab and what Lancia turned out wider than anyone thought when the co-operative venture was conceived in the mid-Seventies.
Long-haul fast driving with the turbo boost well up much of the time is thirsty work for a 16-valve 2-litre. Just as well that the intercooler is reducing the temperature of the ingoing charge, really. Besides getting more oxygen in you can’t help feeling it must help prevent the whole lot melting down into one glowing incandescent mass.
Fuel consumption for nine cars over 550 miles averaged out at 22.3mpg, one pussyfooter getting 31.0 and a couple of hooligans around 17 and I refuse to be drawn on their identity. [This was Ray Hutton and me]
Taking fish from the Arctic can hardly be described as exciting sport, most of the cod etc seeming only too pleased to come up into the comparative warmth even if their eyes bulged a bit when you took the hooks out. Fighting denizens of the deep kept clear of the small group of hacks dangling their lines from the twin-hulled diesel Saab had thoughtfully arranged to take us to the northernmost tip of the Continent.
You can’t help thinking that what with no frozen lakes in June, real trees that grow real leaves, no elks and hardly a trace of snow, Britain is, as any meteorologist worth his isobars will tell you, comparatively mild.

Lotus 7

Every driver has motoring milestones. First drive on a public road. Passing the driving test. First 100 miles an hour. First drive in a great classic. First cars owned.
I might do a series. First drive on a public road was aged 13 in the family Wolseley ESM667. Passed the driving test first time; couldn’t face brothers if I hadn’t. We were a driving family. Passed in father’s Austin 16, HOJ 972.

My first 100 miles an hour was in a 2½ Litre Riley, LLF1, in Glencoe. First fast classic sports car; Frank Dundas’s Plus 4 TR Morgan PSM508. I could not believe the cornering. First ownership was Austin A30, GES945. First MG JCS648; red MGA almost always open even in Scottish weather. First Austin-Healey Sprite Cherry Red BXS467; second Old English White DGM777. I haven’t looked up these numbers. I remember them.
The Sprite on a nice day at Turnberry
Motoring milestones. Good idea for a series. First drive on a banked track, 1962 at MIRA - last one the Mercedes-Benz vertical turn on the test track at Stuttgart. Press release came in the other day saying Team Lotus Enterprise has purchased Caterham Cars. The people behind Team Lotus Formula 1 are to develop the brand. Caterhams were Lotus 7s, designed by Colin Chapman in the 1950s as kit cars. The design was sold to Graham Nearn in 1973 when Chapman got too busy with other things.
My first drive of a Lotus 7 was a motoring milestone. It was 1963, it belonged to Barry Watkyn, with whom I worked at The Motor; lived in Sevenoaks or somewhere. What a revelation. Here was a bare stripped-down racing car you could take on the road. It had lights and muguards and a sketchy hood, but it had the steering, handling and roadholding of a track car. You were close to the ground; it was cold, draughty and uncomfortable. It had that gritty, coarse feel of a racing car, you felt every ripple, bump and camber change through the steering, yet it reached levels of precision, sensitivity, grip and traction I never felt before. When you moved it moved. It was light and darted from corner to corner. There was little inertia pulling you this way or that. Barry’s Seven had a Cosworth engine of no great power, yet it didn’t matter. It showed what a car designed by an engineer-artist could achieve. It set a benchmark.
Barry Watkyn (left) and Roger Bell from The Motor at Goodwood in 1963.
The Lotus 7 remains a point of reference. It’s an ideal balance of power and intuitive handling. It is also one of the most-raced cars in the world and was the inspiration behind the Caterham-Lola SP/300R race and track day car. To celebrate its new ownership, Caterham Cars will build a limited run of Team Lotus Special Edition Sevens.

There will be 25 Team Lotus upgrade packages, applied to any variant up to the 263bhp, 150mph Superlight R500. Another 25 will be made for export. For an extra £3,000 the Sevens will be in Lotus green and yellow, and come with bespoke Team Lotus extras, including an invitation to the F1 factory in Hingham, Norfolk.
Cockpit plaques carry signatures of Team Lotus F1 drivers, Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen and owners will get a Seven history book signed by chief designer, Mike Gascoyne. Caterham managing director, Ansar Ali, said: “Caterham Cars is starting an exciting and important chapter, so it’s fitting that we celebrate taking Colin Chapman’s ‘less is more’ philosophy global. Owners of Special Edition Sevens will have not only a fabulous British sports car, but a genuine piece of automotive history.”
The new custodians of Colin Chapman’s concept say they will remain true to the rascally late genius’s philosophy of lightweight, minimalist sports cars. The current range starts with the Caterham Classic at £13,650.
More information on http://www.caterham.co.uk or +44 (0)1883 333 700
My memorable motoring moment? Collecting my teenage daughters from school in a McLaren F1.


The A30 on a snowy road near Tinto, Lanarkshire.