The Race Retro show at Stoneleigh Park near Coventry is the only car show devoted to classic car motorsport.  Whilst not a massive show it provides a temporary home to an eclectic mix of car displays, clubs, race promoters, dealers, automobilia vendors and race preparation engineers.  There is no other show in Europe that hosts such a good selection of those catering to the sporting classic car owner.

Chevron cars were the featured marque at Race Retro. Founded by Englishman Derek Bennett in 1965, the company struggled after his death in a hang gliding accident in 1978. Chevron were particularly renowned for their sports racing cars. This is a B16 Cosworth and carries the name of famous Swiss racing driver, Jo Siffert, – although I can find no record of him having driven a Chevron sportscar competitively.

This Lola T70 is a modern “continuation” replica of the cars of the same name that were moderately successful in taking on the Ferraris and Porsche 917’s the late 60s and early 70s. They are built by the current incarnation of Chevron Racing Cars using original drawings and tools.

This huge aero engine Fiat racer looks like it was built just after the First World War. In fact it was only recently completed but does use an original period engine. The attention to detail is staggering. Particularly impressive is the wholly artificial patina. Look at the aged brass and weathered wood..

The doctors bag and trunk on the back are suitably period – although you’d need to be tough to go touring in such a car!

This looks like a Repco Brabham BT 24 of the type Sir Jack Brabham used to win the world championship in 1967. In fact, again, it is a “continuation” replica but certainly looks the part. As a proper continuation car it should be illegible for most F1 events – and at a fraction of the cost of the real thing.

Proper Oldsmobile Repco V8 powers the car.

On the Motor Sport Magazine stand there was a recently restored prewar car. The new paintwork had been “distressed” in an attempt to give the car some patina. it looked obviously fake. The owner would have been better off leaving the car shiny.

Retromobile Paris is arguably the most prestigious classic car show in Europe and is a must see for classic car enthusiasts. With cheap air fares and the show’s close proximity to Orly Airport, a day trip for old car loving Brits is relatively easy.

The show is held at the vast Paris Expo exhibition centre near Porte De Versailles on the Paris inner ring road. Whilst certainly a big show, as it is all in one hall, it felt no bigger than the NEC Classic Car Show, and felt smaller than the big German shows at Stuttgart and Essen. I arrived an hour after the show opened at 11 and was done by 5pm. You would certainly struggle to see either of the two German shows in the same time.

This year Retromobile celebrated its 40th year with an excellent mix of automobilia and autojumble sellers, high-end car dealers, club exhibitors, museums and manufacturers. In common with the German shows, local manufacturers used the event to showcase their heritage collections as well as some of their new cars. PSA put on an excellent show of Peugots and Citroens, and foreign manufacturers represented included Daimler-Benz, Skoda and Porsche. Again, like the German shows the exhibiting car dealers were very high end indeed, with several displaying inventories worth in excess of £10 million. Not something you see at the NEC classic car show!

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Traders, dealers and cars as far as the eye can see

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Lovely pair of Panhard racers. The nearest is a 1954 X86 “Dolomites” which took part in the Tour De france and various rallies that year.

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Not something you see at most classic car shows! The French Tank Museum displayed this fully operational German WW2 King Tiger tank.

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Another view of the mighty leviathan. Designed in large part by Ferdinand Porsche, its a part of Porsche’s back catalogue that does not get a mention at their impressive museum in Stuttgart (see previous post on the Porsche Museum, Stuttgart)

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The Matra Club de France displayed a good selection of pristine cars, including this mint 530. Beyond is a Bagheera – novel at the time for its three abreast seating – long before McLaren copied the idea in their F1.

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Renault Heritage displayed a selection of Renault 16’s to celebrate the revolutionary model’s 50th anniversary. This is an as new TX. Journalists were able to book passenger rides in a fleet of R16’s around the local area.

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Not to be outdone by the Regie, PSA Heritage and affiliated clubs brought a large number of Citroen and Peugeot classics to the show. There was a particularly fine display of Citroen DS models to celebrate that model’s 50th anniversary. This is a rare and expensive convertible.

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Also celebrating its anniversary was the Alpine mark. Renault displayed a number of these fine sports cars including this early Brazilian racer.

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The Schlumpf Collection (or as its now known, La Cite de l’Automobile a Mulhouse) sent their “Three Kings” – three stunning Bugatti Royales. This is the Coupe Napoleon. The Schlumpf collection houses hundreds of gorgeous classics and scores of Bugattis. Its well worth a visit.

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Peugeot displayed a number of cars from their heritage collection at Sochaux, including this 401 drop head. The Musee de l’Aventure Peugeot is another great French auto museum. A visit can be combined with a tour of the factory where you can watch brand new 208’s rolling off the production line.

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This beautiful 1930s Peugeot 402 drop head shows what attractive and revolutionary cars Peugeot made before the war.

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The neat lines of this 1976 Citroen GS show the clear family resemblance to the more up market DS. I had my first driving lessons in my Dad’s GS which was precisely this shade of blue. A very comfortable but complex car!

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Typical selection of cars with one of the high end dealers. Targa Florio Ferrari, Porsche 908, Maserati 300..

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Beautiful Delahaye

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This smart gullwing Panhard sports racer was for sale. It would make a very different entry for the Le Mans Classic.

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Skoda also took the opportunity to showcase their heritage. This is a Skoda racer from the 1950s.

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This is a 1936 Skoda Popular Sport Monte Carlo coupe. No prizes for guessing how it got its name.

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Daimler Benz showed their new cars next to the old. This is the new AMG GT – like a scaled down non gullwing SLS. Its good looking but as cramped as an F Type. Porsche won’t be worrying too much about the competition.

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1955 Lancia Florida Pinin Farina Berlina. A beautiful car but no doubt with the structural rigidity of blancmange.

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If you were a well heeled French patriot there was a good supply of fabulous 50’s sports racers for sale including this Gordini.

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1942 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Bertone. You would have thought Alfa would have had other priorities in 1942..

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No French car show would be complete without at least one Facel Vega, the 1960’s car of the stars.

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Not bad for a used car lot. Bugattis as far as the eye can see.

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Well patinated Bugatti Type 35B. The vintage sports car.. If only I had a spare few million..

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This German dealer was selling no less than four Gullwing Mercs.

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Also for sale for a cool £1.5m, a Ferrari 288 GTO

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A British dealer was selling this interesting 1898 Panhard et Lavassor 8HP. Stated to be the oldest race car in existence, it took part in the 1898 Paris – Amsterdam – Paris race, one of the great city to city Gordon Bennett races that predated circuit racing.

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A strong collection of pre war coach built cars included this ungainly 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Zagato Aprile.

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What were Daimler Benz thinking? The Maybach was a truly ugly car bought by people with limited taste. This Maybach 62 Landaulet is vulgarity personified.

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The interior looks like a Dubai hotel suite. The bottle of Nevada Cava says it all..

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Nicely patinated (i.e. decrepit) 1935 Tatra 77A. Yours for a cool £375k!

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Pegaso of Spain made some wonderful cars in the 1950s and a fine selection were on show at Retromobile. This Z102 Coupe was bodied by Saoutchik.

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This Pegaso Z102 was bodied by Touring Superleggera of Milan.

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Pegaso Z102 Drop Head

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Back on the Renault stand, Alpine showed this concept car that has been digitised for use in the latest version of the Grand Tourismo computer game. The reception has been so positive it is rumoured that it is possible the car may enter production.

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Imaginative aero solution. No need for wings here!

The annual Brooklands driving tests brought a good collection of Vintage Sports Car Club cars to the old circuit last weekend.

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Morgan three wheelers lining up for one of the driving tests

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A cycle car (GN?) taking part in a fiendish test. The driver needs to drive at a constant distance around the Christmas tree (to which he attached by a line). On the line is a rubber duck. Get too close and the duck touches the ground and you are penalised. Drive too far from the tree and you will pull it over. This driver did the latter! Note terrified bear tucked behind nearside headlamp.

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An immaculate M Type MG Midget navigates the cones by the old pits with the clubhouse beyond.

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This gorgeous Grand Prix Vauxhall TT racer was on display in the old balloon shed. A reminder of days before Vauxhall became a mere franchise for GM rep mobiles.

Apart from clashing with the Autosport show in Birmingham, this new London show looks promising. It is been many years since there has been a large classic car show in London. Given that the core of the high end classic car market lies in London and the South-East of England, this absence has always struck me as strange.

The new show was held at Excel in London’s Docklands. This is a great venue, easy to get to and with good facilities. As this year’s show was relatively compact it had to share Excel with the Cruise Show and the London Boat Show. I attended on a Friday afternoon and Excel was already busy. I imagine it would have been extremely busy over the weekend.

Whilst the show was much smaller than the NEC Classic Car Show, what it lacked in quantity it made up for with quality. There were no club stands but the organisers showed innovation in how cars were displayed and a large number of very high-end dealers were present. I was able to buy an afternoon only ticket at a much reduced price. This provided plenty of time to see the show. Certainly this year a full day ticket would not have been necessary.

From what I hear, due to heavy ticket discounting,  the show almost certainly made a loss this year . However it was very busy so hopefully it will return again in the future.

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Motor Sport Magazine put on an impressive display at the Show, pairing historic race cars driven by members of their “Hall of Fame” with covers from the magazine showing the cars in period. Here we see Jackie Stewart’s 1973 championship winning Tyrell and Jim Clark’s 1963 championship winning Lotus 25.

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The Motor Sport Magazine pairing here is Mike Hawthorn’s 1958 championship winning Ferrari and one of the clever but flawed V16 BRMs.

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An unusual feature of the event was a central boulevard where every few hours some of the cars on display were run. Whilst an interesting idea, viewing was limited, the exhaust fumes noxious and there was little scope for really demonstrating the cars’ potential. Here a Lamborghini Miura makes a very sedate pass.

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One section of the hall was reserved for Le Mans cars. I never get tired of the sweeping curves of the Jaguar XJR9. This car finished 4th in 1988, the year a similar car won for the Coventry mark.

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A rare Vauxhall Firenze Droop Snoot. Ugly as sin when compared to the contemporary Ford Escort RS2000.

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The £90k MGB. Yes really. Produced by Frontline Developments with a Mazda engine and modern running gear, the car is capable of a sub 4 second 0 to 60 time. But why would you bother? If you want a classic looking car buy a concourse MGB for £30k. If you want a fast car, for that price you could buy a Jaguar F Type R.

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A stunning BMW CSL Bat Mobile.

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There were two other special displays at the Show. The first was a selection of Cars That Changed the World curated by James May. The queues for that display were so long all afternoon that I gave it a miss. The second, probably far more interesting display, was of cars that inspired or were designed by Adrian Newey. Here we see three of the best – Mansell’s active suspension 1992 Championship winning Williams FW14, Mika Hakkinen’s 1998 championship winning McLaren MP4-13 and one of Vettel’s championship winning Red Bull’s.

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Newey’s first F1 car, the Leyton House CG901

This year the Autosport Show at the NEC in Birmingham clashed with the new London Classic Car Show.  Apparently some very favourable trade prices lured to London many of those from the classic car industry who had previously attended the Autosport Show.  Certainly the Autosport Show this year seemed very much more focused on modern cars. In addition the historic racing fraternity were noticeable by their absence. Maybe they intend to focus their efforts on the Retrosport Show next month?

Despite such absences the Autosport Show was still a great day out, particularly as I was lucky enough to be able to attend on one of the less busy trade days. Highlights are below.

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Noble showed two of their striking M600 super cars. Great pace and handling but the M600’s £200k price tag makes it more expensive than its more prestigious rivals.

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Gorgeous paint scheme shows off the carbon fibre bodywork of an M600 at its best.

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Works BTCC MG Metro Turbo from 1984. Great cars and real giant killers, I nearly bought one 7 years ago. I didn’t as at the time there was nothing you could do with one. Now there are several race series in which they can participate and I expect they have more than tripled in value.

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The new Lamborghini Huracan is less flamboyant than Lambos of old but still has aggressive super car looks.

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There was a section for track and road icons at the ‘Show which included one of the earliest Ferrari supercars, created to sell to collectors rather than for motorsport, the F40.

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When introduced in 1987 the F40’s 471hp and 0 – 60 time of c 4seconds were stunning. As was its price tag – equivalent to c£700k now. Of course a £50k Lotus Exige is now faster to 60 and with 510hp my £65k Jaguar XKR is more powerful. Compensation for a current F40 owner is the fact that if they chose to sell their car now they could pocket well over £2m – despite the F40 being relatively common with over 1300 being built.

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One of the highlights of the show is always the reveals and announcements made by racing teams. This year was no exception. Last year’s BTCC driver’s championship winning team, West Surrey Racing, announced a new lead driver in Andy Priaulx. Priaulx is a former British Hillclimb Champion, three time World Touring Car Champion and one time European Touring Car Champion. His best showing in two seasons in the BTCC was 5th so he will have something to prove.

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Priaulx and WSR owner / manager Dick Bennetts revealed the new 2015 BMW 125 they will use next season, resplendent in the livery of the team’s new sponsor, IHG Rewards Club. Whilst a privateer team WSR receive much support from BMW.

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Ariel revealed their new Nomad off road vehicle. Capable of 0 -60 in only 3.4 seconds and weighing only 670KG it promises to be a riot. On sale this coming summer it is expected to cost in the region of £30k.

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A notable feature of the show is the annual display of the previous year’s F1 cars. Here is a close up of the nose of Lotus’ last car. Most teams have the same ugly “prong” nose, only Lotus have “prongs” of different length. Presumably there are sound engineering reasons for the asymmetry – not that it did them much good last season..

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As a boy I loved the Ford Escort RS2000 – the car of choice for Bodie and Doyle in TV crime fighting series “The Professionals”. This immaculate example reminds us that the RS2000 was not just a pretty face but was, like its famous predecessors, a great rally tool as well.

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A new feature this year was the opportunity to take passenger rides in a Ginetta G40 around a tight indoor course.

Whilst the weather was little better than it was at last year’s wash out, this year many more classic car owners made the journey to the birthplace of British motorsport for the first major classic car event of 2015.

Porsches, Model T Ford hot rods and Riley 1.5 on the start finish straight at the 2015 Brooklands New Year's Day meeting

Porsches, Model T Ford hot rods and Riley 1.5 on the start finish straight at the 2015 Brooklands New Year’s Day meeting

I took along my MG YB, out for its first run since the Mini Tour Britannia last May. It performed faultlessly although it’s less than inspiring reward on arrival was to be parked on some muddy waste ground between the Bus Museum and the old circuit banking. Apart from the somewhat variable quality of the parking spaces available, the other disappointment was the lack of catering provision which meant waiting 15 minutes, even for a cup of tea. But these logistical problems highlighted what a popular event Brooklands Museum now have on their hands. They must have made a lot of money, which is excellent news as every penny of profit will go towards their work to preserve Britain’s first motor racing circuit and aircraft factory, and the machines that raced or were built there.

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This immaculate Lea Francis is a rare car. Lea Francis were a high end car manufacturer based in Britain’s Detroit, Coventry. Like so many other motor companies, they started making bicycles at the end of the 19th Century before moving on to motorcylces and eventually cars in the 1920s. Known for hand building exquisite well engineered cars, their products also had a reputation for being expensive and exclusive. This Lea Francis is a 2.5L Sports. Only 77 were built between 1950 and 1953 when Lea Francis ceased car production. The low build volume is explained by the fact that whilst the 2.5L Sport possessed good performance, it was slower than its contemporary, the Jaguar XK120, which was also substantially cheaper.

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Oozing quirky Gallic charm, the Panhard PL17 was a development of the revolutionary Dyna Z1 launched in 1953. Like a modern day McLaren or Alfa 4C, the Z1 was built without a chassis, the front and rear subframes bolting on to a central tub. Rather than being carbon fibre, the Z1 tub was all aluminium – equally revolutionary in its day. The rest of the structure of the car, including its aerodynamically efficient bodywork, was also aluminium. This resulted in a car that was much lighter than its peers with consequent performance and fuel economy advantages. Years before “ground effect” in F1 Panhard made sure the underside of the Z1 was as flat and smooth as possible to further enhance efficiency and performance. Powered by an 850cc flat twin engine the car was remarkably fast (95mph) and fuel efficient (50mpg claimed). Sadly, by the time this PL17 was built (in about 1961) Panhard had changed to steel construction to reduce production costs and therefore sale price.

A new feature this year was the open day held by the Brooklands Motor Company whose works occupy the old Members Restaurant at the top of the Test Hill. This historic building had been decaying until BMC acquired and restored it. Where well-heeled BARC members once took tea, BMC now fettles and restores AC cars.

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Aston Martin DB3 and 5 with a Facel Vega on a lift and assorted dismantled AC’s in the old dining room of the Members Restaurant – now Brookland Motor Company’s smart works.

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Mille Miglia AC Ace at Brooklands Motor Company

Below are some of the more interesting cars that caught my eye.

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This Daimler Ferret scout car was built in Coventry in 1953. It served in the British Army for the next 40 years spending time in Jordan, the UK, and West Germany and seeing action in Aden, Northern Ireland and Kuwait and Iraq in the First Gulf War. Powered by a 4.25L Rolls Royce engine, top speed is only 56mph but as a driver you would be protected against small arms fire. And you’d have a machine gun – or two..

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This immaculate 1992 Rover 800 Vitesse is a rare survivor of the Honda / Rover cars that resurrected the brand when it was owned by British Aerospace. These Rovers successfully combined Japanese reliability with British design flare into a pretty compelling package.

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The Chevrolet Corvair was America’s answer to the Porsche 911. Rear engined and air cooled it was sporty and handsome. Unfortunately, due to cost cutting its rear swing axle rendered it liable to often fatal understeer. This was highlighted (amongst other industry faults) by crusading lawyer Ralph Nader in his classic 1965 book “Unsafe at Any Speed”. Rather than address the car’s design shortcomings the initial response of GM to Nader’s book was to try and smear his name. Nader was systematically harassed, his phone bugged, he was threatened and there were even attempts to entrap him with call girls! GM eventually had to apologise to Nader and pay him substantial damages. They also redesigned the suspension of the Corvair to make it safer but by then it was too late. It wasn’t Nader’s reputation that was destroyed by the furore but the Corvair’s.

Last summer I drove a Tesla for an hour. The sudden, smooth acceleration was a revelation. It dispatched nought to 60 in about five seconds but it’s nought to 30 time was the quickest I’ve ever experienced in a the car. Apparently it was quicker to 30mph than a Ferrari Enzo. It certainly felt it.  The new four-wheel-drive Tesla can apparently reach 60 in about three seconds, similar to a Bugatti Veyron for a 10th of the price! I can’t wait to try one.

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Tesla – good looking and fast

 

Whilst the Nissan Leaf was nowhere near as quick as a Tesla it still felt very nippy up to 40mph. In urban driving the Leaf’s acceleration is probably more than adequate, certainly more than enough to embarrass a warm hatchback.

When I picked up the car it had been fully recharged and showed a maximum range of 78 miles. To drive it home to Surrey the quickest route was via the M25, a Journey of about 30 miles. I drove the car like I would any other. As such I did not have it in eco-mode and I had the climate control, wipers and headlights on. By the time I reached home the range remaining showed only 22 miles. I was not that worried as I intended to charge the car overnight but I was surprised at how quickly the battery had depleted.

The following day I found the car had not not charged at all. I thought I had made a mistake in fixing the charging cable, although everything had seemed correct at the time.  As I only had a short journey to do that day I didn’t bother trying to charge it further. However my short journey, with wipers, climate control and headlights, again drained the battery faster than I anticipated. The last couple of miles home were rather fraught as the car was showing zero mileage left on the remaining battery charge. Range anxiety became a reality.

When I tried to charge the car again that evening I found it would not take a charge. It would start charging for a short period and then would cut out. The next day I rang Nissan to see if they could help. They thought it could be a problem with the charging cable or potentially the car. They told me to ring Nissan Assist who would arrange for the RAC to come and look at the problem. The RAC, however, said they were not able to look at any problems with electric cars as they were not qualified to do so. All they could do was recover the car back to me Nissan. This they did so after only two days my test drive was over.

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So what have I learnt about electric cars?

Firstly, home charging with a three point domestic supply is not practical. You really need a fast charger and to get that in the UK you have to do battle with the incompetent British Gas if you intend to buy a Renault or Nissan. You also need offstreet parking.

Secondly, the range of current electric cars (except the Tesla) is simply not enough even for average suburban or urban driving. This is especially true when driving in winter. Even the range of a Tesla is hardly sufficient for winter driving of any more than 150 miles.

Thirdly, unlike a petrol or diesel car, if your electric car has a problem, no one will be able to fix it at the roadside. The best you will be able to hope for is being recovered to the manufacturer’s nearest garage.

On the positive side I enjoyed the smoothness, rapid power delivery, silence, lack of vibration and zero emissions of the electric motors. Once you have driven an electric car anything with a combustion engine feels like driving an antique. Electric cars are undoubtedly the future, just not yet.

I have , in the past, wondered what was the point of hybrid cars. I can now see the point. Electric cars are just not yet able to provide the worry free motoring that the public require. Maybe in the future people will look at hybrid cars as nothing more than a complex and expensive step towards electric cars, but for the time being they seem to offer the correct balance between usability and efficiency. I hope to try some hybrids soon.

Notwithstanding the debacle with Renault and their Zoe I was still determined to try an electric car on a long-term test. I saw that Nissan were promoting seven-day tests for their Leaf electric car. My nearest participating dealer was Nissan West London at Park Royal. I made arrangements to pick up a car on a Friday afternoon so my seven-day test would cover both driving at the weekends and also potentially a longer commute into London.  Nissan did not insist on my house being fitted with a fast charger and said the Leaf would be fine being recharged overnight from a three-point domestic supply. So, so far, so good.

My initial impressions of the Leaf were mixed. Externally it is very ugly, particularly its ungainly rear end. In fact it is so ugly it makes a Prius look like a 50s Ferrari. I’m not sure I could drive a Leaf every day without losing a great deal of self-respect.

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Nissan Leaf – goggle eyed monstrosity

 

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Nissan Leaf – bulbous rear end particularly unattractive

 

Why should electric and hybrid cars be generally so ugly? Is it because manufacturers expect them to be driven by people who view them just as a means of of transport? Who care more about making a bold environmental statement than they do about driving something that hurts the eyes? Or are they supposed to be “cute ” like the execrable Nissan Figaro and Fiat 500 and therefore appeal to women drivers?  Do manufacturers assume women care more about the environment then men and are therefore more natural customers of such cars?  BMW have shown with their sublime I8 that an environmentally compelling car does not have to look bland.

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Stunning BMW I8 demonstrates how to design the rear of an electric hybrid car

 

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The front of the I8 is equally stunning. A 6 month old one sells for a 45% premium. A 6 month old Leaf sells for an equivalent discount.

 

Inside the Leaf is a much better car. It’s spacious and there’s plenty of room in the back for a grown adult, unlike in the back of the Tesla where anyone over 5 foot eight would struggle to be comfortable. The quality of the interior is also pretty good, but this is a £30,000 car (without the current Government grant of £5000) and so it should be. I found the satnav system to be very good though the absence of a DAB radio as standard seems stingy. In addition, in common with some other electric cars such as that Tesla, the seats are uncomfortable over anything but the shortest journey. The controls, however,  are clear and intuitive and I had no trouble in driving the car after only a quick briefing.

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Clear and futuristic instruments on the Leaf and intuitive and well thought out. However, for electric cars I fear the message shown is all together too familiar.

 

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Nissan Leaf – good quality and spacious interior marred by uncomfortable seats.

 

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Nissan Leaf – excellent satnav but no DAB radio

 

My daily drive is a Jaguar XKR. Designed to cover long distances in comfort and at great speed, it is perhaps not so well suited to short suburban journeys to the station and shops. In fact despite a top speed of 175mph I was surprised to find that in the last year I have averaged less than 30mph. If I stripped out longer journeys of over 100 miles I imagine my average speed would decline still further. In addition, whilst not an avid environmentalist, even I am embarrassed by my average fuel consumption over the year of less than 17mpg.

Suitably ashamed of my environmental foot print I am considering buying a second car for use as my daily driver which would allow me to reserve the Jaguar for more long-distance travel. Whilst I could have look at a frugal diesel hatchback of some description, the thought of an electric car caught my imagination. As such, when I was contacted by a journalist working for the Honest John column of the Daily Telegraph to see if I would like to run a Renault Zoe electric car on a long-term test, I jumped at the chance.

Arrangements were made with Renault to deliver a Zoe but first they insisted I had a domestic fast charger being installed at my house. Apparently the Zoe charges so slowly from the mains using a three pin plug that Renault required each car taking part in the test to have access to a domestic fast charger. This is where my troubles began.

Renault and Nissan have contracted British Gas to install home fast chargers. Ironically seeing they are sister companies, the chargers are different for each company. I tried ringing British Gas to agree a date for them to install a charger but it proved almost impossible to get a date within a six week window. Renault interceded on my behalf and gave me a special number to ring to get an accelerated installation. I eventually agreed a date with British Gas and then waited in all day for them to turn up. They failed to do so and when I complained they could offer no excuses as to why they had missed the appointment. This happened twice and in the end, rather than waste any more time, I pulled out at the test. As such I’m afraid I cannot tell you whether the Renault Zoe is any good or not. What I can tell you is that British Gas are not up to the job of installing domestic chargers for Renault or Nissan. I can also tell you that presumably it is not very satisfactory to charge a Renault Zoe from a domestic supply. So if you are intending to buy a Renault Zoe, make sure that you have a home fast charger installed before your car is delivered.

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The Renault Zoe is a nice looking little car. Here is one doing something I could not manage due to the incompetence of British Gas

 

Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on his second World Championship following his convincing win at Abu Dhabi earlier today. Whilst its a shame Rosberg dropped out of contention with mechanical difficulties, it was a relief that the Championship went to the driver with the most wins and that it was not decided by the ridiculous double points system in place for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hammertime! Well done Lewis, Britain's first two time World Champion since Jackie Stewart

Hammertime! Well done Lewis, Britain’s first two time World Champion since Jackie Stewart

Other innovations were more successful. The new hybrid engines are absolutely fascinating and have proved more reliable than anyone would have predicted. I personally do not mind the different noise – I think it sounds like the future.

Despite Mercedes Benz’s crushing dominance it was still a thrilling season. The resurrection of Williams was great to see for all British fans as was the humbling of Vettel at the hands of his Australian team mate. Ricciardo has had a fantastic season, his third in the drivers championship being well deserved. His lack of pretention and easy going nature have already endeared him to the fans. We can expect great things of him next season.  In addition, thanks to the aerodynamic skills of Adrian Newey, Red Bull managed to stay in touch with the Mercedes powered teams, notwithstanding their Renault engines. A remarkable achievement for the team. How will they cope with less of his time next year?

Ricciardo had a great season- a future World Champion?

Ricciardo had a great season- a future World Champion?

Massa has also had a good season. He must be delighted Ferrari let him go. Ferrari’s season has been terrible – an embarrassment to the team who reap the most financial reward from the current system of team financing.  The departure of Montezemolo after so many years is the end of an era.  Rumours abound that Ross Brawn may go back to Ferrari. Might that and Vettel’s arrival be enough to help them out of the hole they are currently in?  McLaren, the second oldest team on the grid, have also had a season to forget.  Ron Dennis has a new Honda engine next season – will it be good enough? Engine aside they have not been competitive with the other Mercedes customer teams, Williams and Force India, both of whom have outperformed the Woking outfit.  Bar a miraculous Honda engine, Alonso is likely to face a tough test on his return to the team.

The administration of the Caterham and Marussia teams was a sad symptom of the increasing cost of F1. The new hybrid engines and the inequity of the current Concorde Agreement between F1’s commercial rights owner and some of the teams led directly to the reduced grid seen in the last few races of the season. Things do not look good for Sauber, Force India of Lotus either. Lotus’ season has been particularly terrible and it seems nothing much can save them apart from a return of Flavio Briatore or some other deep pocket.

After many years of no serious injuries in F1 we were rocked by Jules Bianchi’s terrible accident at Suzuka. Hopefully he and Michael Schumacher, injured in a freak skiing accident earlier in the year, will make a full recovery.

jules