Friday, July 29, 2016


Today has been spent trawling through boxes of unfiled images.

During my time as Editor of MODERN MOTOR magazine in Australia I drove very few truly exotic cars on home soil, because all the cars were imported for wealthy owners, and they wanted them as soon as they were unloaded!

There was a 1974 BMW CS 3.0; a 1976 Porsche 928; a 1977 Alfa Romeo Montreal and probably my favourite of all, a 1977 Ferrari 308GTB.

The new owner was a friend-of-a-friend, and was prevailed upon to loan us his car for two hours, immediately after the licence plates were fitted!

There was no opportunity to blow the cobwebs out of the exhaust pipes, as the owner nervously waited in my office whilst the photographer and I dashed out of town and back in under two hours.

The photographer was used to shooting static images for cookbooks and food magazines, which is why the action shot is out of focus.

I could only find three black and white images, the rest are lost in old filing cabinets somewhere. It was still a memorable drive, and one that kindled the fire of respect and admiration for the Maranello marque.


Over my years as a PR Director in the car biz, I've met my fair share of celebrities , mostly because I had something they wanted when they travelled Down Under - a free loan car, usually for an indeterminate period!

Among the people we loaned cars to were the Two Ronnies, English cricket captain Geoff Boycott, Race driver David Hobbs, Michael Parkinson, and many others over 14 years. We always managed a sort of 'quid pro quo' from the celebs, but just getting to know them was worth it!

Probably the most fun was Spike Milligan, the craziest member of the British comedy trio, The Goons.
The Goons
Spike Milligan, Peter Sellars, Harry Secombe

Spike's mother lived in a small hamlet about two hours drive north of Sydney, called Woy Woy. When he came to Australia we often loaned him a car to pay her a visit.

On one memorable trip he told us that even though the Rover sedan we had offered him was very posh, he wanted a convertible! Unfortunately, at the time we couldn't rustle up a convertible, but my PA Joan came up with an inspired solution.

Joan's personal car was a Mini Moke, to which she had fitted a pair of rear seats. Spike was over the moon, but when we took the elevator to the basement garage, Spike revealed that his Mum and her neighbour had come down in the train to meet him - and he would be driving them back to Woy Woy in the 'convertible'!

I wished I'd had a camera, as Spike drove off with the two elderly women perched on the rear seats, with the roof down, and no seat belts. It must have been a blustery ride back to Spike's mum's house!

He wrote me a very funny thank you note following his return to the UK, which is a valued memento.

And, on a previous visit we did have a photo opportunity in my office.

He was a genuinely funny guy, a true gentleman, and yes, crazy as a loon (no, Goon)!

NOTE: Spike was born in Ahmednagar, India in 1918, and died in the UK in 2002. One of his most famous quotes was:
"A sure cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree."

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Back in 1971 I managed a ski lodge in the Australian snowfields,  south of Sydney. It was a quaint old lodge built in the mid 1960s, called Rudis.

I considered myself destined for a life in the snow, given my fondness for skiing, but little did I realise that a ski lodge manager spends most of his time managing the disasters at the Lodge, from clogged plumbing, and broken doors, to drunken, unruly football hooligans on a skiing weekend. So there was no time for schussing down the slopes.

In addition to 'managing' the lodge, the recent pre-season renovations were not finished, so yours truly was building foreman; as well as helping to prepare and serve meals to guests, prior to the new chef starting; and 'road testing' cleaning contractors. It certainly wasn't a life filled with the joy of skiing!

The old lodge has undergone a transformation, and these days looks like a posh hotel, but some things never change.

Back in the 70s, if you needed a vehicle that could traverse frozen gravel tracks, ice-covered roads and regular highways, the only vehicle to own in the snowfields (apart from very agricultural Land Rovers or Jeeps) was a Subaru wagon, with fulltime 4WD. It also had creature comforts, like wind-up windows and an effective heater!

They were a design disaster, but very, very efficient at tackling a variety of snow-covered terrain. Not much  has changed. The Subaru wagons are still the go-to transport in wintry conditions.

Today Subaru has built a solid reputation with its all-wheel-drive specification across its range of Impreza and Liberty (Legacy in the USA) models.

In addition the AWD powertrain has been an important component in the success of the WRX rally cars.

Now, Subaru has extended the WRX platform to the Levorg wagon, premiered in Geneva in 2015. It's a very sensible move, because the WRX is now sold just as a sedan; so if you want more practicality and the verve of the performance range - then the Levorg GT and GTS is just the ticket.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


In the luxury end of the car business there are many instances where the heart rules the head, when it comes to the purchase decision.

In my experience, the reverse is also true, and probably never more transparent than buyers of Mercedes-Benz and Jaguars.

The S-Class Mercedes-Benz is undoubtedly Benz’s ‘halo car’, and carries  a tradition of outstanding engineering, and a heritage of being the car chosen by those at the top of the tree. For that reason it carries a hefty pricetag.

There are many buyers who lust after the prestige and the kudos that comes with the three-pointed star, but alas, the S-Class is economically out of reach.

Traditionally, those buyers end up with a smaller, less-expensive model, and so we have the worldwide success of the C-class. They lust after the badge, and are happy to resolve their dilemma with a C-class.

When it comes to Jaguar, the heart often rules the head. Witness the appearance of the Jaguar X-type.
Many people, including Jaguar executives, now admit it was a mistake to introduce the car, as many believed it detracted from the marque’s luxury image.
 Strangely, it was quite a successful car in its own rite. The styling team led by the late Geoff Lawson, took the humble Ford Mondeo platform and grafted a body (or as it’s called in the design business – a ‘top hat’), which perfectly reproduced an economy-size Jaguar XJ.
The lines and the perspective of the larger XJ sedan, were perfectly captured by the X-type, and for that reason it allowed buyers who lusted after ‘The Leaper’ to have a Jaguar XJ look-alike in their driveway.

Interestingly, I think we’ll see the same thing happen when the Jaguar XE begins production in greater volume. Jaguar’s Chief Designer Ian Callum has crafted a unique and beautiful body for Jaguar’s XJ flagship.

However, he and his design team have also created ‘the perfect smaller Jaguar' in the XE sedan; and I suggest that we will see a veritable explosion of sales, when the XE is more widely seen on roads around the world.

Rather than the car competing with its obvious rivals, BMW 3-Series and C-Class; the XE will appeal to the soul of potential Jaguar buyers well outside its natural market sector. Such is the strong residual affection for the Jaguar marque.

You could call it ‘Badge Envy’ – but I think many people fall in love with the idea of a luxe sedan in their garage and whether it’s the heart or the head ruling the purchase decision, basking in the glow of the badge can produce very healthy sales at the lower end of the range.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


Just the right motor to show off to his mates. Just the right motor to flash around the streets of West London, and just the right motor to carry off the haul from a bank robbery!

Fast; the cat's whiskers for looks; and stylish too.

Arthur Daley, or 'Arfur' to his mates (and George Cole to his fellow thespians) would cut just the right figure if 'e was poncin' 'round London in the Jaguar XE Sport. Sadly George died in August last year.

This is the spec that really makes the XE a standout in the mid-size sporting sedan sector.

The 3.0L supercharged V6 endows the XE Sport with all the performance you're ever likely to need to make this a great-handling, top notch touring car. It allows enjoyable exploitation of the outstanding chassis dynamics.

Squeeze the throttle - the V6 unleashes a growl, settles the rear down on its haunches, and takes off like a Cheetah.

One test drive and you'll be popping back to the showroom to choose a color and sign the order form.

I was pretty impressed with the first XE I drove, powered by a 2.5L turbocharged four cylinder; but the XE Sport is everything I wanted the Jaguar XE to be. Athletic, agile and composed at speed.

It turns in just like a Jaguar should, and despite the lightweight aluminium-based structure, the ride is carefully damped to deal with mid-corner ripples and dips, without shaking your fillings loose.

The subtle rear spoiler looks cosmetic, but whatever, when you're pushing hard the XE Sport retains just the right balance.

I'm not sure what JLR has up its sleeve in the high performance engine department. It's new Ingenium engine range will initially replace the 2.0L turbo petrol and diesel engines; and the V8 of course is Jaguar's own creation.

But, the supercharged 60 degree V6 has its origins in the old Ford Duratec V6 and I'm wondering if the future product plans call for it to be replaced by a more modern, and efficient Jaguar-designed powerplant.

Mind you, thanks to supercharging, any shortcomings this engine may have are well and truly disguised as it screams off down the road.

Jaguar F-Pace
The XE and the just-released F-Pace SUV are two models vital for Jaguar's exponential growth in sales.

Early indications are that F-Pace, and the XE Sport will race out of the showrooms in America, because there is a lot of pre-registered pent-up demand.

Jaguar designer Ian Callum and F-Pace
(Photo: The Australian)

The Jaguar design and engineering team have certainly delivered on Tata Group's faith in its costly acquisition, and as I reported previously, JLR is actually paying healthy dividends to its Indian parent. Who'd have thought that ten years ago!

Note: The late George Cole (Arthur Daley) and Dennis Waterman (Terry) starred together in a highly popular British TV series called "Minder". Arthur was a lovable rogue, typical in West London, and was an 'opportunistic entrepreneur' who often sold stuff on the cheap which 'fell off the back of a truck'; and Terry was his 'Minder', protecting Arthur from other rogues, trying to muscle in on Arthur's activities.

Arthur's choice of car was a yellow Daimler (Jaguar) Sovereign Series 3 4.2L.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


Actually, supercar doesn’t even begin to describe the vehicle which Red Bull tech genius Adrian Newey, and Aston Martin designer Marek Reichman, have created.

It’s way beyond ‘super’ – in fact the concept stretches every automotive design and engineering boundary you can imagine.

Essentially it is a drop-dead gorgeous ‘body’, sitting on an aerodynamically-perfect ‘platform’.

It would appear that both men designed their own specialty, then married them together to form one of the most spectacular road/racing car combinations we’ve ever seen.

Mind you, it’s just a concept at the moment. The car you see in these photos is not yet road-going – but neither is it too far from reality.

It will be powered by a ‘brand-new’ (?) 5.3L naturally aspirated V12, with a whole new take on gearboxes, conceived by Newey. The V12 will rev to 11,000 rpm according to Newey!

According to Team 001 (Newey & Reichman) it will have an ‘active’ suspension, because the downloads generated by Newey’s ‘platform’ are so great that if you used regular springs to counter the downforce, the low speed ride would be far too stiff, not just for comfort, but also handling.

If you think that’s daylight you can see when looking at the photos from various angles, you’re right.

The body/tub will accommodate two people, and according to my good friend Marek, it will even fit two guys the same size as him!

This is an ambitious project, but an exciting one. It’s the first time I can remember being breathless with anticipation at the final outcome. I was thrilled to get behind the wheel of a Bugatti Veyron, but the AM RB 001 is something else again.

I can’t wait to see how the concept is refined and ‘smoothed’ into a road car. Deliveries may begin in 2018, and according to Marek, the order book for the 99 versions is filling fast. Even that’s gobsmacking, because the price is suggested around £2m-£3 million!

Well done guys! This is one of the most exciting vehicle concepts I’ve seen in years.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


In 2015 at a business meeting in Milano FIAT CHRYSLER GROUP confirmed it would invest 5 billion Euros in the Alfa Romeo brand to rebuild its identity, and usher in a new era for the marque - including a range of new models.

CEO Sergio Marchionne committed to lifting the almost obscure division into the premium luxury/sporting sector and lavish it with engineering integrity and an independent position, alongside Maserati.

No more carryover FIAT platforms, and an intense effort to ensure future Alfa Romeo cars reinforced the badge's historic identity as true sporting machines.

First car to debut under this new regime has been the Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan, which has been critically acclaimed as a true Alfa Romeo in spirit and in driving 'feel' by Europe's automotive media.

Stelvio concept
Somewhere along the way Marchionne has promised an SUV, called the Stelvio, no doubt modelled on the recent Maserati Levante.

However, probably the biggest news broke Down Under this week. FIAT CHRYSLER AUSTRALIA has announced a new investment plan to establish standalone Alfa Romeo dealerships in the major Australian capital cities.

Alfa Romeo, Winter Haven, Florida

Now, Australia is but a poofteenth of the global car market. In a population of just 24 million people; and an annual market of just 1.2 million cars, the news about Alfa Romeo's newly independent dealerships definitively underscores Marchionne's plan to invest big money to give Alfa Romeo back its old identity.