Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Was it just me irritated by the end of the Top Gear South America Special?

It was all going very enjoyably. Some humour some tension. Jeremy getting past the other car while edge of the road was slipping away was truly nail-biting. The way they were given condoms, vaseline, Tampax and Viagra at the start which were then all eventually used for various non-sexual purposes was downright clever. Then, unfortunately, two minutes from the end, it happened.

The three cars were lined up abreast, ready to tackle a dangerous steep slope in preparation fo rthe big drop down to the coast. The camera is switched on Jeremy with a perfect view of Richard getting out of his car and walking over to Jeremy for a completely pointless bit of reassurance. Then, Richard's Toyota slowly creeps forward, builds up a bit of speed and another camera perfectly captures the rolling over and destruction of said car.

Very contrived.

I can only come up with two possible reasons for doing this.

1. They wanted to demonstrate just how dangerous the slope actually was. They couldn't use the Range Rover because that had to "win" and nobody would believe that James would not put his handbrake on and leave his car in reverse gear with some chocks in front of the wheels if parked at the top of a dangerous slope.

2. Either Richard or Health & Safety or Insurance decided that it was too dangerous to do in an open vehicle. Even with it's roll-cage, a stray limb or dodgy seatbelt meant that a roll would result in somewhere between serious injury and serious death.

With either scenario, a TV producer would suggest a little "comedy" moment with Richard forgetting about the handbrake. Eh Voila - a naff ending.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Could 2010 be the best Formula 1 Season Ever?

Probably not but now Schuey has signed up and the British GP has been settled it should be pretty good.

Schuey back together with Ross Brawn, one of the best and most successful partnerships ever and based on the 2009 championship team has got be a mouth-watering prospect for success. Then you've got McLaren with the British boys up against them. Red Bull won't have been idle and there's a whole raft of new teams including Lotus to provide some cannon-fodder or get stuck into the mix.

I'm not sure Michael should have come out of retirement though. There is a lot to be said for the Jackie Stewart/Terry Wogan philosophy of quit-while-you're-ahead. I sort of hope Michael has more success so that his career is not ended as an also-ran but then again, I want the British boys (most likely Lewis if you see my earlier post) to dominate the Championships for years to come.

I spilled some latte in my Jaguar last week.

I was just thinking what a middle-class accident that was.

Then I remembered I was coming back from McDonalds at the time.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Last Chance to Check out the 4-Car Website

Looks like the Channel 4 Car Website is now going the same way as the Car Forum and Driven. It has been declared uneconomically viable and will finish on December 31st. They blame lack of advertising revenue. It is a shame because I have found most of the news articles, at least, interesting and informative. Some of the videos and other articles did feel a bit like they were trying to be like Top Gear but they weren't over the top.

The forum closed about a year ago and although I'd stopped actively contributing to it (mainly due to a few idiots who moved in) it was nice to know it was there and I would still dip in from time to time. It's hard to believe that it must have been about 2002 or 2003 that I joined the forum in a bid to get Channel 4 to do something about the serious dumbing down of Driven. At the time, the producers were using similar arguments as today stating that they had to keep the show fresh to bring in advertising revenue. Unfortunately, their idea of fresh was to stick large pretend nappies onto Japanese cars and drive them at each other in a Sumo ring. Very infantile and very un-entertaining.

Top Gear have since proved that you can be absolutely stupid and extremely entertaining at the same time and long may that continue. I do, however, still want a sensible source of car news reviews and the like as well - remember William Woollard and Chris Goffey? That is why I liked Fifth Gear who did flirt with silliness for a while but always came back to good old-fashioned car reporting. It looks like that has now also gone to Car-Programme Heaven - maybe we need another series of Pulling Power?

Friday, 11 December 2009

I've just had a letter off Jeremy Clarkson...

...OK, it CLAIMS to be from him. It's actually from the subscriptions people at Top Gear Magazine. It's done in an amusing way about how if I don't subscribe then I'm a dolphin-loving greenie. This seems very similar to a letter he sent me twelve months ago and mentions a letter I'm already supposed to have received from Michael Harvey offering me a free Bugatti Veyron poster. I didn't get that letter and would have been surprised if I had given that Michael Harvey ceased being TG Mag Editor about six months ago.

Any road up, this letter tells me that Jeremy is angry because I haven't renewed my subscription yet even though there is actually three months left to run on it. That's too early! Based on last year, I fully expect to get letters from Richard and James overthe next two months further extolling me the pleasures and benefits of renewal. They can rest assured and save the BBC some stamps safe in the knowledge that I am going to renew - much nearer the expiry date. I will also not be taking advantage of their amazing offers of discounts because I always use Tesco Clubcard vouchers to pay for my subscriptions. It may seem miserly, but given that the cost is exactly one-quarter of the full price, I am more than happy to be called a stinge-bag.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Who would buy a Jaguar X-Type?

With the announcement that Jaguar were to stop building the X-Type, there will have been much celebration within the offices of Top Gear Magazine. They seem to have an irrational hatred of the car but is it right that it should be pilloried so?

Well I bought one. Back in 2005 when lots of people thought it was a re-badged Mondeo but I knew that it was different - it had a 2.5 litre V6 engine and four-wheel drive and a picture of a big cat on the radiator grille.

I knew that by buying new I was going to take a huge hit on depreciation, but just like the only other car I’ve bought new – a 1991 Rover 214GSi in pearlescent cherry red (I know – the folly of youth eh?) – I have plans to keep this car until it falls apart and dies of old age. Mind you, if you believe the new car section at the back of the Magazine, us X-Type owners aren’t a happy bunch because our cars are already failing and falling apart – but that is more of a perception due to do with the comments in the Magazine not being updated since the Jag did particularly badly in its first user survey – since then it has had some good, respectable years. I’ve had a few niggles with mine which were all quickly resolved but certainly no problems compared to its predecessor, a 1999 Mercedes, but that’s another story for another day.

I think that the X-Type received a lot of criticism for two contradictory reasons:

i) Jaguars are boring cars with a non-changing look and staid gentlemen’s club interiors and
ii) Jaguar shouldn’t be going into new un-Jaguaresque areas such as diesel engines or estate cars or, worst of all, horror of horrors, having tow-bars.

Well, let’s take first things first, I happen to like the look of the old big Jags, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of Arthur Daley (have you been watching the repeats on ITV4? – very good and you get to see a lot of cars of that period – like Morris Marinas) It’s also nice to stand out from the crowd a bit – when I first bought the car, the poor X-Type sales meant that my racing green estate example was the only one around. The perception of the car amongst non-car-enthusiasts is also very high. I caught a repeat of a popular motoring magazine show that wasn’t Top Gear (other motoring magazine shows are available) on Dave a few weeks back. A survey they performed rated the X-Type as considerably more prestigious than the equivalent products from Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Lexus and VW.

And, taking second things second, the diesel Jags have proved very popular although a diesel is not for me. I need an estate to transport my children, and more significantly, all of the paraphernalia that comes with them. The tow-bar not being compulsory meant that I didn’t tick that particular option.

Anyway, with them being discontinued and discounted, they should be available at bargain prices now with rarity and assumed prestige helping maintain interest in the model for years to come. Even Mr.Clarkson has admitted he likes the All-Wheel-Drive Estate.

So would I buy one? Well no, I’ve already got one, silly! But if I didn’t, then I would. As a driving enthusiast I’d have to go for the 3.0 litre – as a normal person, one of the cheaper, more economical front-wheel drives would do. So, time to get the Auto-Trader out (other car-selling magazines are available)

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The new Bentley Mulsanne goes on sale next Summer.

Unfortunately, it will cost about a quarter of a million pounds and it looks like the existing Arnage but with an uglified front...

For that sort of money, if you like ugly cars, you could get 15 Fiat Multiplas or 34 Perodua Kenaris.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Mrs. Thatch Wasn't a Complete Nutter After All!

As anyone who knows me will testify, I believe Mrs.T to be the Devil Incarnate - guilty of many varied crimes against humanity. The most serious being leading us into a War that could have been prevented by letting the Argies know we were actually intereseted in the Falklands after all. This was at a time in 1982 when her economic policies were not working and her Government was actually quite unpopular so she needed something to distract the general public and make everyone feel good about her. Yes, I know Tony Blair also led us into a pointless and unnecessary war - I haven't a clue why, but he did it with the knowledge that it may well make him very unpopular - and it did!

On a more motoringy front, Mrs.T was pivotal in the demise of British Leyland deciding to sell it off at a bargain price to her chum Roland Smith, or, more precisely, BAe, the Company he led. There were certain "protections" and "guarantees" in place such as BAe had to be committed to BL for at least five years and, sure enough, as soon as five years had passed, BAe disposed of it to BMW for a very nice profit thank you very much. BMW were not geared up to deal with a then mass-market car manufacturer and subsequently had to dispose of it themselves and the rest is history.

All of this made me very worried by Saint Jeremy Clarkson's column in the latest issue of Top Gear Magazine. I'll not reproduce what he wrote because it's not my place and I'd probably get sued by someone anyway but the gist of what interested me is that Mrs.T was a seemingly lone voice at the start of her tenure in speaking up for lean-burn engines rather than catalytic converters as a way of cleaning up exhaust gases. This would have dramatically reduced the amount of carbon dioxide emitted but nobody apart from Chemistry Grad Mrs.T was too worried about CO2 then. I must admit that I do remember Ford and a few other companies dropped/postponed development of lean-burn around that time because World Governments were not interested.

I have an awful lot of time for Jeremy's views, despite him being further to the right than Tory Central, he does put over his views in an intelligent and amusing way so if he's right on this one, and I've no reason to doubt it, then Mrs.T did actually speak some sense once and nobody was prepared to listen.

Maybe because she came over as a complete nutter.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Jenson Button will not be World Champion in 2010

After a dire history of being in the wrong car in the wrong season, he's finally had some luck. He was teamed up with Ross Brawn and proved many people, myself included, wrong showing that he is actually a very good driver.
He made some very unfortunate decisions in the early-noughties with contract disputes and team moves between Williams and Benetton/Renault and BAR/Honda - each time leaving him in mostly uncompetitive cars and unable to achieve that all-important maiden GP win.

Now he's made another career-changing decision - he had two choices:
1. staying with Ross Brawn, the technical genius behind Benetton in the mid-nineties and Ferrari a decade later not to mention Brawn GP this year.
2. joining Lewis Hamilton at the now more in-form McLaren for more money and an all-British set-up.

He has, of course, gone for option 2 and probably not for the money. The only problem there is - he is not as good a driver as Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton's natural talent has led him to achive what he has at such an early age - Button was young when he started in Formula 1 but was regularly outpaced and out-scored by his team-mates.
Don't forget, also, that Hamilton is also extremely well ensconced within the McLaren team and knows the cars and the personnel inside out, and they know him. If McLaren have a good enough product to win the 2010 Championship, they will win it with Hamilton ably supported by Button - not the other way around.

If Jensen had stayed with Brawn (or Mercedes GP as they are now - including the backing and money that goes with that name) then it was quite realistic for Ross Brawn to pull off another piece of technical wizardry and have back-to-back winning drives.

Jensen's only hope for a 2010 Championship was to stay where he was. I don't mind being proved wrong though.