Archive for May, 2010

Five alive. And no, Tiff’s not doing what you think.

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Fifth Gear is back on June 3rd. Just got home from a week’s filming with Tiff, who genuinely talks non stop. It isn’t helped when you are sitting next to him in a car for 3 days (10+ hours each day) and he’s swigging cans of energy potion non stop. First we did a trial together in Yorkshire, then we set off on an ambitious electric car roadtrip in the Mitsubishi iMiev. It may look like a tooth, but the skinny iMiev was a pretty good little soldier, proving that driving on 100% voltage doesn’t feel as alien as you might think. Is it the future? Wait and see what we think when the episode appears in mid June.

966 miles since 1974

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

This week has had a small low and a massive high:


I found an immaculate 1982 Audi Coupe GT 5S for sale in Wales. Wanted it badly and was planning to hitch a lift with a mate’s microlite and get over there to buy it. Unfortunately the day after I enquired it sold, for 60% less than the £1200 asking price. Bollock porridge.


Never mind, it could be worse. Besides, if I’d got my wallet out and fired up the non Quattro, it would have meant flogging the Mercedes estate – which could be a foolish act. 24 hours later I got a text from a local woman who had been left two mk1 Ford Escorts in her uncle’s will. One is a 2-door under a tarp on her drive. It’s been there 5 years and I’ve been sniffing around it for 4.5 years. She asked if I wanted to see the other car. “It’s hardly been used”

She wasn’t wrong. After unseizing all the garage locks, we pulled the doors open to reveal a 4-door 1974 Mk1 Escort 1300 XL draped in old curtains. Tugging the curtains off was like that moment at the end of Pulp Fiction when they open the suitcase. A light shone straight into my retinas and made the jaw somewhat slack.

Sat before me was a car smothered in protective oil, with plastic seat covers still on the seats. Bright blue and not a scratch, dent or patch of ferrous oxide in sight. We opened the leather fob to find the keys and carefully sat behind the wheel. I was in a brand new Ford Escort. It has 966 miles on the clock. It was never really used.

I have purposely not taken any photos because we will be doing a full photoshoot on this spectacular piece of mothballing for a future mag feature. I’ve seen 29,000 and 30-odd thousand milers before, but this is an entirely new ball park. In fact, it’s a ballpark from Life On Mars. I’m still in disbelief that a car could be pampered and squirreled away for so long. It’s all thanks to Cheryl’s uncle, who had a huge appetite for Mk1s. The 2-door under a tarp was his daily runner, while this 900 mile XL was his weekend weapon. I’m guessing he didn’t go far at the weekends.

Ironically, I had been jogging past the garage on one of my routes for the past year or so. It just goes to show that there are STILL hoarded gems lurking out there in the hundreds of garages and lock-ups across Britain. And I wouldn’t want it any other way…

Nice day for a… random brick attack

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

A lazy sun drenched Sunday on 25th April 6.20pm ended with a bang. Me, my wife and our seven month old daughter were driving in my long-term test car – a pearl white Nissan Cube – from a friends’ place in North Curry, Somerset, heading towards Thornfalcon. It’s a back road so narrow, but not narrow enough to slow down when something like a black Skoda pick-up comes the other way.

When said black Skoda is but 20-metres away from passing us, an arm appeared out the driver’s window and lobbed a stone/brick straight at my windscreen. They were a good shot as it hit exactly where my eyes were staring out. The screen shattered and rendered visibility almost nil. Luckily we had only been cruising at about 30mph otherwise it could have ended very differently. The screen had stayed intact so we didn’t have to pick shards from our eyebrows, but it was still a huge shock. It it weren’t for the fact we had to get Kitty-Mae home for bath/bed @ 6.30pm at my parent’s place, I would have stayed out searching for the thimble dicks who committed this act.

I recall the Skoda being R-reg, probably resprayed and it had a distinctive green painted front grille. Two occupants (not that you can fit any more in a pick-up). It’s been reported to the Police but, as of 10th May, I’ve heard nothing.

Should I gather the boys up and sniff out the scum and tickle ’em with bats? Maybe. It’s times like this when you realise some people really are messed up. More than anything I’m brassed off that the delivery mileage Cube got hurt. Nissan are presently trying to source a new windscreen. No bodywork was damaged thankfully, but it made my late night drive down to Plymouth for a Fifth Gear film day a little difficult. There was about 2″ square of clear glass to stare out of for a 70 miles journey. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it was either that or take the train. As much as I like sitting down and watching scenery stream past over a can of warm 1664, I don’t fancy paying £104 for the privilege.

Hello new gov. ‘Ere, about that rolling 25-year old car tax policy…

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

The Conservatives are back. I’m not going to drone about my political orientation, or whether Gordon should have stayed – however it has been interesting to see an old model XJ Jag coming and going from Downing Street. Rumour has it they kept the two generations old armoured  (X308?) models and opted to refurbish them rather than shell out £400k for new models. Or is it because aluminium XJs don’t take kindly to grenades or bullets?

David Cam was seen in a previous gen alloy-cat yesterday, but maybe they hadn’t bothered beefing that up. It seems like there’s a dusty collection of terror-resistant Jags being used in random rotation. You’d think they would stick to their own steed, like truckers. Truckers don’t want to smell another trucker’s stilton stenching Reeboks or guff infused seat fabric. Same goes for politicians, right?

One Twitterer pointed out that Cameron’s XJ looked like it’d seen some repaint work on one door.

Today, however, it looks like the new XJs have finally been drafted in. Thank goodness. According to Pistonheads ( the cars were delayed being signed off by the Met, although you can’t help wondering if they saved the new metal for the new powers that be.

More importantly, with the Cons back and Labour out the door, will we see a return of the rolling 25-year old classic car tax exemption scheme. A fine idea indeed, and one that was swiftly halted in 1997. If your car was built in February 1973 then you have to pay full tax, but if your car was built in December 1972 then your windscreen disc is gratis.

Just before writing this I noticed that a disciple has already put finger to keyboard and asked the Cons whether a 1985 (or previous) car will get free tax:

It’s funny to look back at articles like this Independent piece, actively encouraging people to take advantage of the tax relief and buy an old motor.