Steve loved his Duster so much that he’s taken it off of Dacia’s hands
A worthy (and familiar) successor to the Berlingo has been appointed in the garage
Our ancient Citroën Berlingo has a new owner. It departs after 19 years of faithful service (apart from the two broken front springs and some electrical glitches) for a better life. I can’t say that I’m feeling brilliant about this, but I would be feeling worse were it not for the fact that its new owner is a fellow hack and Berlingo fancier, James Walshe, who will revere it, spruce it and put it to better use than I’ve recently done.
Why sell? After all, as the Steering Committee pointed out, it isn’t valuable and it has cost almost nothing to own. The harsh truth is that it’s departing our four-car domestic lineup to make space for the 71-plate Dacia Duster that I’ve been driving for the past 11,000 miles and now can’t face sending back.
As I’ve said before, the Duster (much like the Berlingo) has traits and capabilities way beyond its cost. Better still, it’s an image-free choice: I have a weakness for cars with zero knob appeal. Selling the Citroën still feels like the worst ‘car thing’ that I’ve done for ages, but experience says I will get over it.
Prime Ministerial follies are in full swing, and I’m enjoying them – or would be if I were confident there were enough talent on offer. It’s a foolish car hack who says anything political, but what the hell: I see this change as a chance to fine-tune the UK’s automotive electrification plans so that they align exactly with whatever the EU is planning.
Please don’t take this with some kind of proBrexit or anti-Brexit stance: it’s simply a call for pragmatism. Britain’s car makers export 80% of their cars, and two-thirds of those go to Europe. Why not deliver our biggest and best customers exactly what they want? The UK’s car industry is in dire straits and needs all possible help from the political class – who practically fell over one another to claim responsibility for its success three or four years ago. Payback time, chaps.
To the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu to take part in a gentle celebration marking its official opening half-a-century ago. A meeting of the great and good from the classic car community was addressed by Lord Ralph Montagu (whose father Edward started the whole thing just after the war). The scene was idyllic: a marquee surrounded by shady trees and lush lawns, women in floaty dresses and blokes in panama hats, sandwiches and bubbly under a perfect sky. A gathering of 1970s cars on the main arena looked (as Lord Montagu pointed out) much as the Beaulieu car park would have done back in the day.
Beaulieu is very respectful of its history, but it’s also a thoroughly modern place now, with a rich array of cars (don’t miss the amazing land-speed-record-breakers) and an extraordinary collection of motoring ephemera, the best I’ve ever seen. Just wandering its gardens on the banks of the Beaulieu River is worth the price of admission.
The arrival of our Alpine A110 keeps reminding me about the importance of shoe-choice to driving pleasure. The perfect location of the A110’s pedals – a big bonus in a French car – together with their smooth accuracy when used in anger reminds me that clog-like trainers with tractor-tread soles don’t suit a proper car. They destroy the experience. So I’ve started carrying a pair of thin-soled shoes in the car’s front boot, swapping them with what I’m wearing before a journey starts. These, amused friends have rushed to point out, are about all that will fit into that tiny storage space.
And another thing…
A generous reader, Philip Stead, has sent a beautiful brochure featuring my first Autocar long-termer, the 1992 Mercedes-Benz 500SE. It seems Andrew Frankel told him how much I loved that car (K188 BRP, where are you?), so he thought I’d enjoy it. True, that car did look a lot like a whale, but it was lovely to be in. As I wrote endlessly…