Sunday, 7 August 2011

Biking update: Big Bike Lesson

It has been too long since my last motorbike lesson, a couple of months or so. But I am determined to get my bike licence this year so I need to get a move on.

It was to be my first lesson on a big bike, a 500cc Suzuki twin. Compared with my little Honda it felt huge and heavy; in particular the clutch called for a strong grip although it was beautifully progressive. Even so, it is going to take some getting used to the bike for low-speed manoeuvres.

On the road, however, the Suzuki was fine. The most noticeable thing was how effortless the performance felt compared to my little 125. My little CBR likes to be kept above 7,000rpm but the Suzuki was content to run at half that. The clutch could be ignored almost completely – except for stopping and starting – and the gearbox was so sweet; just a little twitch of the toe to go up or down.

The good news from the lesson was that a couple of thousand miles on the road don’t seem to have led to too many bad habits. In fact my observation and positioning on the road seem to be pretty good. The next step is to get some practice for the Module 1 part of the test. My next lesson is already arranged.

And, as an aside, I was a little concerned about how I’d feel climbing back on to my bike after riding something more potent. It did feel as though I was riding a child’s bike but other than size and lack of power it still feels as beautiful to ride as ever. Of all the vehicles I’ve owned to date my Honda CBR 125R is one of the very best.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Web sites we like: The Getaway Driver


Searching the internet for classic car hire companies (as you do) I came across the site for The Getaway Driver, a company that does classic car hire and overnight breaks.

To me it looks like a well-designed site, the front page is classy and it is easy to navigate. Combined with sections named Getaway Cars, Escape Routes and Hideouts (for vehicles, rout plans and accommodation) it looks slick and stylish.

I like the concept of being able to spend anything from a day upwards on a driving holiday especially if you can organise the car and hotel in one go. A few years ago I did my own, budget version with a hired MGB and based from home – it was great fun and it is an experience I’d love to repeat but with a more upmarket car and maybe an overnight break somewhere.

You can also do a day with an ex-police driver or join one of the driving tours.

Of course I have to make it clear that I’ve not used this company and I have no connection with them, I just like the web site. Check it out here.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Picture of the day: A pair of E-types

The Jaguar E-type is not short of photogenic details, the tail lamps on the Series 1 were particularly lovely. I also love the way the rain drops have gathered on the curves of this car, which belongs to the Jaguar Heritage Trust. If I were trying again I'd attempt to get the tail lamp more horizontal in the frame.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Busy Times

Quite a lot has been happening over the last couple of weeks.

Last weekend I was looking at cars with a view to buying one. Runner up in the process was a magnificent 1996 Lexus LS400. Painted very dark green with the slightly tacky option of gold badges the LS was in many ways superb. Smooth, quiet, comfortable you can see how Lexus came from nowhere to become a genuine contender alongside Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes. For me, however, there was a sense that something with more driver involvement would be better. That said, I may go after another LS400 next time I buy a car. As for what I’ve chosen this time, you’ll have to wait and see.

This week I was able to catch up on my quota of new cars for the year. It also allowed me to drive not one but three cars I’ve admired since my childhood. Simply remembering what was what could take a while so bear with me.

Yesterday I finally got round to changing the oil in my bike. Having done oil changes on cars there didn’t seem to be anything to fear by doing the same on the bike. Clearance to remove the drain bolt with my drip tray in place was lacking until I removed the lower side body panel. There is nothing quite like taking your bike apart to appreciate how well it was put together. In particular I was impressed by the design of the captive nuts that should never work loose. Even more impressively, everything went back together as easily as it had come apart and there is now fresh oil inside the engine, good for another couple of thousand miles of riding.

Finally, today I’m off to see some drag racing at Santa Pod. It has been a while since my last taste of quarter mile action and I’m looking forward to it. Pictures will follow, no doubt.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Spotted: Modified Alfa Romeo 145

From Fourwheelsteer: Motoring Writer

What do you do if you’ve got an Alfa 145, some alloy wheels, a tin of gold paint and some Abarth badges? Apparently you apply the alloys, paint and badges to the car and the result can be seen above.

Strangely it doesn’t look as shocking in the photo as it did in the metal. You don’t see many Alfa 145s and the shape has worn petty well. In fact it probably fits into the modern landscape of tall hatchbacks better than it did when the model was introduced.

What puzzled me was replacing the Alfa Romeo badges with Abarth badges. I’ve never understood putting badges on a car to pretend it is something it isn’t.

Friday, 29 April 2011

New bike on the block


Having decided that the Honda CBR 125R was the bike for me I summoned all my courage (and cash) and did the deal. With over 1,000 miles riding behind me I am confident it was the correct decision.

Getting to know the bike has been great fun. For one thing it seems to have greater reserves of cornering power than I have skill or bravery to go looking for its limits. That’s in the dry, anyway, and I’ve so far avoided any seriously wet weather. It also depends on the tyres being correctly inflated – I had a nasty shock at the end of a long journey where the pressure dropped by about 10psi. Nothing bad happened but it was enough to seriously impair my confidence.

That incident happened on the return leg of an epic trip to Manchester. Travelling by a very scenic route the outward journey took five hours and the (slightly) more direct return trip lasted four. It wasn’t the fastest or most comfortable way to do the journey but it did have a sense of adventure. It also proved that the saddle and riding position were perfectly comfortable for hours at a time.

Just one thing stops the CBR from being perfect; the gearbox contains some rather odd ratios. First and second seem very low, with an uncomfortable jump to third. Third, fourth and fifth are about perfect but sixth is way too high. The slightest gradient or headwind will see speed slipping away, and on a small-engined bike that’s something you can ill afford.

It seems like an odd choice, a sporty 125cc bike is unlikely to be pressed into regular long-distance service. Even on my epic adventure I think I only used sixth once or twice, although as the engine has loosened up the high gear has become slightly more useful. Even so, the bike would be even better with slightly lower overall gearing with even closer ratios.

The engine thrives on revs. Having got to know it you wouldn’t describe it as peaky but there is a clear increase in power above 7,000rpm and then it pulls all the way round to the 11,000rpm redline. The delivery doesn’t even seem to tail off when you hit the red paint although my mechanical sympathy kicks in before the rev limiter. As I’ve already mentioned, the engine definitely pulls more strongly at 1,500 miles than it did at 500 and I wonder how much more power could be liberated from this motor if the law didn’t stipulate a maximum power limit for learner riders.

Of course the quest for more power is easily satisfied once I get my full licence by moving to a bigger bike. I’m looking forward to the day when I can make that move but I know I will always remember this little Honda with great affection.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Trying bikes

Recently I arranged test rides of a couple of motor bikes with a view to buying one. My main purpose was to try a Honda CBR 125R but also provided the opportunity to acquire some experience of the Yamaha YBR125.

The Yamaha felt very familiar; the upright riding position and comfortable, squashy seat are very similar to the Honda CG125. Modern injection and engine management meant no messing about with chokes and a fuss-free power delivery. The presence of a tachometer made it easy to judge how much power to use in slow riding. It wasn’t terribly exciting but would make a nice little workhorse of a bike.

The Honda CBR was more like a racehorse, with its sporty riding position and appearance. True there isn’t much performance since, like all learner legal bikes, it is limited to 15bhp but it has a feeling of delicacy and precision. All the controls have a lightness and positivity of operation, particularly the featherweight clutch and disk brakes. The handling and ride are about the best I have encountered (in my limited experience). My only complaint was that the riding position felt less comfortable than I expected; putting too much pressure on the hands.

After some deliberation I decided that the Honda was the one to go for. The YBR would be a fine commuter bike but the CBR is nicer to ride. To my mind motorbikes are as much about balance and control – which the Honda has in spades – as power and speed. Furthermore; if I’m using the bike every day then I want the best machine I can buy.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Bike update: bigger is better

Making decent progress in working towards my motorcycle licence and learning to ride. Mastering the tricks of clutch control takes some time; the muscles controlling the fingers need to master the sensitivity necessary for low-speed control. At the same time you have to remember the observations on which a motorcyclist’s life depends.

Still, if it was easy there would be no sense of achievement when you get it right.

The importance of good clutch control was stressed before I had my first taste of a big bike. Injudicious use of throttle and clutch could, I was warned, see a bigger bike off the road. That said, treated with due respect, the 500cc Suzuki felt in some respects easier to control.

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension

Consider, for example, the question of mass. A Honda CG125 weighs about 80kg; which isn’t much and the bike could be lighter than the rider. The Suzuki GS500E which I rode was more like 180kg (apparently, I’ve not checked these figures), which puts the combined centre of gravity of rider and cycle lower. The GS might be more than twice the weight of the CG but the engine is four times the size with (roughly four times the power). The Suzuki also has two cylinders to the Honda’s one which seems to make for a smoother power delivery. Finally, there is a tachometer which makes it easier to learn whether you are using enough revs.

About the only downside was a slightly heavier clutch but the weight did nothing to impede feel of the biting point. I like to tink it didn’t take me long to get the hang of slow riding and practicing starting, stopping and steering within the confines of the tarmac pad at the biking school.

Hopefully my next lesson will include some road work on the big bike and it shouldn’t be too long before I can think about taking my test.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Bike Choice

I’m looking for a motorbike at the moment. With a CBT under my belt the law says I can ride a bike with an engine of 125cc and (I think) 15bhp but no more. The plan is to use the bike as often as possible to build up road experience as preparation for the Part 2 of the driving test.

There is plenty of choice, even on a limited budget, in terms of the style of motorcycles available. I’m not really a fan of cruiser or off-road style bikes. The feet-forward riding position of the former feels uncomfortable and the latter type feels too tall. Every time I swing my leg over an off-road bike it feels as though my feet barely touch the ground. That effectively leaves my choice as one between commuter-style bikes and the scaled-down sports bikes.

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Commuter bikes are machines like Honda’s CG125 (above). As bikes go the CG is probably as basic as they get; one cylinder, no fairing, manual choke, simple instruments and a “sit up and beg” riding position. It also has a reputation for durability and being easy to look after – the basic design has been around for a couple of decades at least. There is always a demand for CG125s – not ideal when you’re buying but handy when it comes to sell. On the debit side, I find the ride bouncy, the engine less than smooth, I really wish a rev counter was fitted and I’m not overly keen on the riding position.

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Sports bikes like the Honda CBR 125R have what feels like a much nicer riding position. The handlebars are narrower and angled in a way that (I think) more closely fits the hands natural grip. Having looked at a CBR today I know that it also comes with a tachometer and temperature gauge to supplement the speedometer and fuel gauges. Subjectively, the CBR also seems better finished. Against those factors must be balanced the knowledge that the fairing will impede maintenance to a degree. Also, any damage to those plastic panels may render the bike a write-off. What I don’t know is how the bike feels to ride, but I hope I can arrange a test ride on one to see whether I like it.

The final decision, I suspect, will be a matter of head or heart. Head says get the CG125; it is a sound, basic bike that might not be very exciting but does the job. Heart says the CBR will be more fun. I’m not sure how this will work out.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

News Roundup 25 February 2011

Last week it was all about the Geneva Motor Show with a heavy green tint. This week, to restore some balance, it is time to celebrate the fast, powerful and (more or less) British.

First came the news of a rejuvenated AC. In the tradition of the small sports car manufacturer AC seems to alternate between periods of great activity and times of total obscurity. Cars like the ME and the modern Ace have been released with a fanfare and then nothing much happens for a decade or so. Now AC is in the news again with a new “Cobra”.

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Not that it is called Cobra, or built in Thames Ditton (or Texas or Brooklands) and it doesn’t even have a Ford V8. The substitution of a Chevrolet V8 from the Corvette is in a way appropriate. Back in the mists of time the Cobra was originally intended to have the Chevrolet motor but General Motors would not play ball. Whether purists will accept a German made, Chevrolet powered AC remains to be seen.

Although everyone seems to want the look of the 7 litre Cobra - with the wide, curvaceous wheelarches – I prefer the less bulbous look of the earlier 260/289 small block cars. Maybe the range of classic AC cars to be produced at Brooklands will revive the more subtle shape.

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Compared with the big, brash AC to the new Morgan shows just how varied the British sports car can be. The new Three Wheeler represents the Malvern Link company returning to its roots. It is a light, low, simple, three wheel design with a V-twin engine exposed to the elements at the very front, a cabin that looks snug and not much else. The only thing I don’t like is the use of a car gearbox (from Mazda). It is probably a very good gearbox but I think a motorcycle gearbox would be even nicer to use – but it wouldn’t have a reverse gear which would probably be a serious drawback. Anyway, something as low, light and exposed as the Morgan should be enormous fun. I hope, one day, I can find out for myself.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

News Roundup 18 February 2011

Unless you actively avoid motoring news stories you will probably have noticed that the Geneva Motor Show is nearly upon us. Electric and hybrid vehicles seem to be the big news with just about every manufacturer getting in on the act.

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Land Rover seems determined to confuse 4x4-hating environmentalists. The Range_e is a plug-in hybrid turbodiesel with official CO2 emissions of 89g/km – that’s better than a VW Polo Bluemotion. On a full charge there is supposed to be sufficient capacity for 20 miles. Land Rover describes the Range_e as a development vehicle but it must point to a future production model.

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Some manufacturers have had hybrid SUVs for a while, Porsche has a hybrid Cayenne and has announced a hybrid Panamera. The 159g/km CO2 figure isn’t as impressive as Land Rover’s but still represents an improvement over the standard car (218g/km for a V6 auto Panamera). The most intriguing concept of Porsche’s hybrids is the ‘Sailing’ feature, another word for coasting that switches the engine off when it is not required at speeds up to 103mph.

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A more light-hearted take on the electric vehicle comes from Swiss company Rinspeed. The BamBoo looks like a latter-day Citroen Mehari and comes with a computer display on the front. Some of its features sound wilfully odd, like the inflatable roof and rear seats. The use of bamboo fibres in the cloth of the seats is a nice touch and I like the use of braided plastics for the glovebox lid – it seems like a creative and original use of materials.

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If Rinspeed is frivolous Toyota has always treated hybrids seriously. The Japanese giant will showcase its various electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell technologies. There is a Prius+ which is a seven-seat version of the company’s famous hybrid; a Yaris hybrid concept that previews a production model; and the EV, an electric version of the Toyota iQ.


Coincidentally, I’ve had my own taste of hybrid motoring this week. It was time for my car to have its cam-belt replaced, a main dealer only job, and I was offered a loan car. This turned out to be a Honda Insight. It was very smooth, refined and easy to drive with very light controls. But it also felt heavy, although it isn’t, partly because it isn’t particularly quick and also because of the way it feels on twisting roads. For the type of person who buys an Insight a fun driving experience probably isn’t high on the list of priorities. The limited rear visibility, which makes reverse parking a chore, will probably annoy more people – parking sensors should be standard. My greatest annoyance was the eco driving prompt which ‘rewards’ economical driving by making leaves appear on digital plants in the instrument cluster. Now I may not be an expert on plants but I thought it was carbon dioxide that made them grow.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Follow-up to MOT: Citroen CX

The garage that looks after my car is a Citroen specialist. While my car was there they also had a 1970s Citroen CX. It looked a lot like the car pictured, right down to the model, registration year and colour.

From Fourwheelsteer: Motoring Writer

It has been a while since I last saw a CX and I had forgotten just how stunning it is. Somehow it manages to be both of its time and futuristic. Only in the 1970s could you get away with so many different shades of brown both outside and inside. But look at that interior, the sculpted curves of that dashboard still look great and owe nothing to outdated traditions of woodworking and the carriage trade.

From Fourwheelsteer: Motoring Writer

Even better, the CX comes from an age when cars could be different under the skin. Where else would you find springs of nitrogen connected to the suspension by high-pressure hydraulics that provides self levelling and height adjustment? Where else would you find brakes operated from the same high pressure system with a pedal responsive to pressure rather than movement? How about high-geared power steering with speed-dependent assistance and powered self-centring?

The CX might not be as iconic as the DS or 2CV but it still deserves to be celebrated.

Prelude update

It has been an eventful week what with one thing and another.

For some time I’ve known that one or two of the bulbs illuminating the instruments have blown. Getting to the bulbs looked challenging enough to delay the job as long as possible. Last week my hand was forced as the final bulb went out.

Driving with the speed and other information only intermittently available when street lighting permitted was a little un-nerving. Driving through an unfamiliar area, full of speed cameras is no fun at the best of times but I was even more cautious than normal.

Back home and in daylight I investigated the location of the bulbs. As is often the case with jobs inside the car – as opposed to under the bonnet – what promised to be easy turned out not to be. On the Prelude there are two screws that secure the bezel around the instrument panel. However, it turns out that this cannot be removed without taking of the steering column shrouding. Eventually I found the parts in question and, with the help of my friendly local Honda dealer, ordered replacements. As the parts weren’t in stock I spent most of the week driving round with the dashboard in pieces.

Now everything is back together, with new bulbs installed. I had forgotten how clear and crisp the Honda’s instruments are at night. Age may be catching up with the Prelude but it is nice to see one area rejuvenated.

The other thing to come up this week was the MOT; I was reasonably confident of a pass but you never know what might be lurking unseen. It would be nice to say that the Prelude passed with a clean bill of health but there was an advisory note about play in the rear suspension and the garage warned that the exhaust isn’t in the best shape. Still, all things considered it isn’t too bad for a car in its 13th year.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

In praise of the DVLA and the Post Office

If you have one of the photocard-type driving licences you will have to renew it every ten years. Recently I had to update my photograph as I no longer resemble the fresh-faced fellow pictured. You can supply your own photograph and do it by post or you can go to a main Post Office and do it there.

I chose the second option and have to say that I was impressed by the helpful service from the staff at the main Warwick office. I was told to expect my licence back in fifteen days. Depending on how you interpret that it could mean two or three weeks (if you assume 15 working days). So imagine my surprise when, having been for my photo on the Monday, the new licence arrived in Friday’s post.

The DVLA attracts a lot of criticism for losing post, long delays and a general level of un-helpfulness. The Post Office is famed for queues and not being somewhere you want to go (to be fair there was a monster queue forming as I left the branch). It is nice, however, to be able to report positive experiences of both organisations.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

News Roundup 28 January 2011

BMW to replace six-cylinder engines with turbocharged fours?

For me BMW is synonymous with six-cylinder engines and, in particular, the inline six. As engine layouts go it has much to commend it in terms of refinement. No V6 can match it for balance – the term used to describe the way an engines internal vibrations do (or do not) cancel each other out. Against that is the difficulty of installing what can be a long engine with adequate space for the crash protection required these days. However BMW has kept faith with its six-cylinder engines when just about everyone else has switched to V6s.

From Fourwheelsteer: Motoring Writer
A classic BMW inline six as fitted to the M635CSi

So it was saddening to read BMW’s announcement of a new, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine. It has 242bhp and 258lb.ft - more than the company’s ‘smaller’ six-cylinder engines. The new power unit is said to be smaller and lighter than the sixes too, which makes sense. It also makes sense within the context of engine downsizing that is going on across the industry for better mpg and lower CO2 emissions. BMW has already replaced the some V8s with turbocharged straight sixes. On the official mpg and CO2 tests the new engine is bound to be superior, it just seems unlikely that it will sound as good.

Incidentally, it seems that BMW’s model designations no longer enjoy the close relationship with engine size that they once did. For the six-cylinder petrol models (excluding the X versions) the designations and engine capacity are listed below:

BMW 325i – 2,996cc – 218bhp

BMW 335i – 2,979cc – 306bhp

BMW 523i – 2,996cc – 204bhp

BMW 528i – 2,996cc – 258bhp

BMW 535i – 2,979cc – 306bhp

BMW 740i – 2,979cc – 326bhp

Z4 23i – 2,497cc – 204bhp

Z4 30i – 2,996cc – 258bhp

Z4 35i – 2,979cc – 306bhp

Why, for example, is there a 3.0-litre engine in the 325i and a 2.5-litre in the Z4 23i?

Car of the Week: Volkswagen XL1 Super Economy Vehicle

From Fourwheelsteer: Motoring Writer
Volkswagen XP1

Launching an economy car in the Middle East is probably a sign of the German sense of humour but Volkswagen chose the Qatar Motor Show to unveil the 313mpg XL1 concept.

It is VW’s third generation economy vehicle and uses an 800cc turbodiesel engine combined with electric motor and 7-speed DSG transmission. It is also attractively streamlined, low, mid-engined and possibly more elegant than anything the company has built in over 20 years.

I think real world economy – as opposed to the artificial combined drive cycle – would be better with an ordinary turbodiesel engine and manual gearbox. Slightly more power and performance would be useful too; the XP1 has around 75bhp split 50:25 between diesel and electric motors. A 0-62mph time of 11.9 seconds is adequate but nothing special (although 30-60mph or 60-90mph times would be useful to know). It also feels like cheating to limit the top speed to 99mph – if the aerodynamics are that good it would be instructive to see how fast you can go on 75bhp.

I could see myself driving something like the XP1 – not something I can say about most concept cars.

Friday, 21 January 2011

News Roundup 21 January 2011

Possibly the biggest car news story of the week, if not the most important, was the announcement of the Ferrari FF. Whether in a deliberate or coincidental nod history it is a luxury, high-performance, four-seat hatchback with four-wheel drive – not unlike the Jensen FF from 1966.

From Fourwheelsteer: Motoring Writer

Ferrari says its FF stands for Ferrari Four (four seats and four-wheel drive) so Ferrari FF is actually a tautology. Whatever the name Ferrari claims the all-wheel drive system does not compromise the car’s ‘ideal’ 47:53 front-rear weight distribution. It also refers to the car having a transaxle. As I understand it; that means there must be one drive shaft from the engine in the front to the gearbox at the back and another drive shaft running from the gearbox to the front differential. No-one else has commented on this, it will be interesting to see what the FF looks like under the skin. Hopefully all the car’s secrets will be revealed when it is officially unveiled in Geneva this March.

If you are in the market for Ferrari’s latest offering then the Aston Martin Cygnet probably qualifies as affordable town transport. The compact, Toyota-based Aston costs just over £30,000 and production is due to start in April.

From Fourwheelsteer: Motoring Writer

Final news story to catch my eye was the report that discussions are taking place about exempting the oldest historic vehicles from the requirement to pass an annual MOT test. Justification for the move is given that the vehicles in question cover such small mileages and are usually well maintained so the safety impact would be minimal. Of course owners would be expected to maintain their vehicles in roadworthy condition – just as every motorist must.

Car of the Week – Subaru and Toyota RWD Sports Coupé

This week Subaru announced that it would show its Rear-wheel drive sports coupé platform at the Geneva Motor Show in the spring. As you might expect few facts have been revealed ahead of the official unveiling. The only thing we know for certain is that it will use a Subaru trademark flat-four engine.

Actually that’s not quite true; there is a Toyota version - the FT-86 – which has been seen at a couple of motor shows. Apparently the FT is about the same size as a BMW 1-series coupé and has room for four. It is also supposed to be light and power could be anything from 150-350bhp.

From Fourwheelsteer: Motoring Writer

If Toyota and Subaru can get the dynamics right, get details right – like the steering, gear change and pedal feel right – and price it affordably and it could be as big a success as the MX5 was for Mazda.

Friday, 14 January 2011

News Roundup 14 January 2011

Welcome to 2011 and a new idea for the blog; a news roundup. If I can do it weekly then great but hopefully it will be a regular and frequent source of updates. So, here goes…

Uninsured drivers are a menace on the roads so any measure to crack down on them should be welcomed. However, government initiatives should always be welcomed cautiously. For some time there has been talk of enforcing continuous vehicle insurance and it looks like it will pass into law in the next few months. The idea is that the DVLA and Motor Insurers’ Bureau will work together to identify cars that appear to be uninsured. The registered keeper will be informed of the situation and could face fines or even have the vehicle seized and crushed. Where a SORN declaration has been made there would be no requirement to have insurance.

The problem is that serial uninsured drivers probably don’t bother registering cars in their own name or at their own address. And even if they did, would they pay any attention to a fine delivered by post? I can’t help thinking that the best way to deal with uninsured drivers is to have more police patrols with ANPR stopping uninsured vehicles and, where the driver does not have valid insurance, taking the car on the spot and making the driver and passengers walk home. More “Police: Stop” type programmes on television showing this might get the message across more effectively. Above all, the guiding principle for the government (any government) is that effectively enforcing the legislation you’ve got is better than writing new laws.

Date for the diary

From Fourwheelsteer: Motoring Writer

A couple of years ago I want to the Historic Motor Sport Show at the showground in Stonleigh, Warwickshire, as it wasn’t far from home. Full of interesting machinery and people it seemed like an event that deserved to prosper. Now, in the guise of ‘Race Retro’, the event does indeed appear to be doing well and this year’s event takes place on 25th-27th February. Why should you care? For one thing the 1950s Moto Guzzi, 500cc V8 motorcycle will make its UK debut – not just as a static exhibit but it will be fired up so visitors can hear it running. Also running on a special rally stage will be a variety of cars including a Lancia Delta Integrale, Vauxhall Chevette HS and Mercedes 190E Cosworth.

New Car of the Week

From Fourwheelsteer: Motoring Writer

Land Rover Defender X-Tech. I have a soft spot for Land Rovers and the silver and black X-Tech Defender limited edition looks almost too cool. If only it were available with a petrol/LPG V8…

Disappointment of the Week

From Fourwheelsteer: Motoring Writer

When I saw that Skoda had produced a Fabia to mark 100 years of the Monte Carlo Rally I thought it might be a special version of the sporting vRS. Maybe an even hotter vRS, or just given a green and white body/interior like Skoda’s rally cars. Instead the Fabia Monte Carlo is based on the SE and comes with some fairly ordinary engines. I’m sure it is a perfectly fine car and that some clever person with a spreadsheet has calculated that this model will sell better than a limited edition performance variant. But when Skoda has been heavily promoting the performance Fabia you’d think a rally-themed model was just the thing to give it some serious credibility.