Tuesday, 30 November 2010

An electric car of the year winner? Leaf it out.

I wish I’d put money on the Nissan Leaf taking the European Car of the Year prize. Somehow the Nissan always looked like a strong contender simply because its technology is fashionable.

Nissan Leaf

Interestingly, if you look at the voting grid the Leaf was not universally liked with some jurors awarding it either one or no points. In particular the Spanish and most of the Italian panellists seemed unimpressed by battery power.

Sometimes the voting has shown distinct nationalistic bias. This year, however, it wasn’t much in evidence. That said the Dacia Duster was the favourite of the Romanian juror (and also of one of the Belgians).

How would I have voted? Probably the Alfa Romeo Giulietta in first place, it just looks more interesting than the typical Focus, Golf or Astra. The Nissan is interesting but not CotY material.

Friday, 19 November 2010

A few photos from the NEC

A crowded NEC isn't the best place for photography so I didn't take many pictures. Here is a selection:

I had never seen a Citroen Bijou before so it was nice to see one; the best thing about car shows is the opportunity to see things you've never seen before. The Bijou was a Slough-built Citroen, based on the 2CV with a glassfibre body. Despite the 'lightweight' body it weighed more than the steel-bodied 2CV. Power, if you can call it that, came from a 425cc flat twin. You didn't know Citroen built cars in Britain? You do now.

This 1930s Ford V8 was very stylish. I think it was a 1934 car with just one or two owners from new. Power would have been 75bhp from a 3.6-litre, sidevalve V8.

Keeping with the transatlantic theme, this Buick was VAST and very brown. You can imagine it packed full of a typical American family and all their holiday (sorry, vacation) luggage.

The emblems on the brushed metal wheel trims were rather neat.

As was the ornate 'Estate Wagon' script, and you get an idea of the fake wood on the body.

More fake wood at the back.

An American Icon, the fins of a 1959 Cadillac convertible.

Finally; something British, although with a Japanese twist: a cutaway Rover 200. It is a little odd to see cars that I can remember being launched now appearing as classics. However, in its time this 200 was well regarded and looked very classy. It also shows that you don't need to own something expensive and impractical to participate in the classic car scene.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Dream come true

There is a theory that you should never meet your heroes. It is not a view I share, especially not since meeting one of my four-wheeled heroes at the weekend.

It was a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB, in silver on alloy wheels; one of only six alloy-bodied, right-hand drive cars built. My ride came about through the Sporting Bears Motor Club, which raises funds for charities by selling off 'Dream Rides' at the Classic Motor Show.

First impression of the Ferrari: it is small; not so much short but low and narrow, especially compared to the Ferrari 599 that was nearby. Inside there is plenty of room; mainly because the gearbox is behind you and there is no massive central console, in fact there is nothing but the essentials. A simple, crackle-finish dashboard with dials for everything you need to monitor; big, well-spaced pedals and a left-food rest; and the gear lever and steering wheel looked well placed.

It might not look impressive inside but it is surprisingly comfortable with decent seats (non-reclining buckets, as I recall) and firm but well controlled ride. It went well too, and sounded great as the red line approached (about 6,500-7,000 I think). But if you're just cruising it is quite civilised. It also seems nicely balanced. Jerry, the owner wasn't hanging the tail out or anything dramatic like that but you could feel how the car could be steered with the throttle. I was also impressed at how, when we returned to the NEC, happy the car was to sit at tickover for several minutes. The water temperature rose a little but other than that there were no signs of temparament.

Add to that a glorious view down the bonnet, with the front wings curving up and a cinemascope windscreen to frame the scene. Although I noticed that there were dints on the passneger-side wing, looks like someone rested their elbows there and left an impression in the aluminium.

The 275 was everything I hoped for, a glorious experience for the eyes and ears. I still grin when I think about it.

Oh and I've added a few more Ferrari 275 GTB photos, because I can.