Monthly Archives: January 2010

Being Popular.

The Trabant, as cool as it gets.

Did you know its been almost a year since we started on this journey into motoring?

A quick look at the stats tell me that readership is growing and people searching for porn still find this blog because of some clever meta tagging (thats a computer geek thing that makes what you type into Google find this column, neat eh? Who says sex doesn’t sell anymore!) Popularity is important. I write this stuff for a number of reasons but one of the main ones is to see peoples reactions to what I write. If the blog is crap and boring then no one will read it and  the hate mail dries up.

So what makes you popular? Being different I think is one of the main reasons, people look at you and are interested because of the different spin on life or laugh at you because you are doing something out of the ordinary. Popularity then has to be fresh and new, but user friendly and acceptable.  The Detroit motor show threw up some very interesting new designs including a hyper cool electric three-wheeler called the ZAP Alias that if painted matt black would not be out of place in the Batcave, but will it be popular? I doubt it. It will generate interest at the show and loads of people will take pictures of it and discuss it over a plastic cup of beer, but would they buy one? No, they head for Toyota and buy a Prius. Middle ground needs to be found and the Prius is a good example of that. It’s quirky enough with its Star Trek dashboard and weird, hybrid engine that can silently sneak up on pedestrians in urban situations, to be interesting; and because it claims to be green, give you high MPG (It doesn’t really, its 48MPG average is the same as a Golf TDi, but the Golf is £5,000 cheaper much cooler and faster) and celebrities drive it, its popular. But would you buy one? Drive one? Be seen in one? Didn’t think so.

Soon it is new car time for me and as I am still waiting for the editor to call me and offer that lucrative column, I am forced to buying another 10 year old ‘a bit past it’ car. The popular choices are uninspiring and have galactic milages on them with several owners, and all of them are dull. A while ago I was looking at Audi, Honda and Alfas, now as poverty tightens its grip I am looking smaller. I am looking at a Suzuki Wagon R.

Mk 1 Wagon R

Ok Ok settle down, stop the hoots of laughter and the old man jokes and listen to my reasoning. This is a very overlooked car, and the joker at the back who just said ‘I wonder why?’ can bugger off. Here is a quirky and interesting little car that just oozes Japanese charm. Its a tiny MPV thing with a tiny 1000cc cam chain driven  engine that redlines at 8000rpm (even tinier in Japan!) and is classed as a ‘Kei’ (click here to see an earlier post on this) its bought and driven by old people who only go to the shops for cat meat and service it at dealerships. Consequently they are cheap, well maintained, cost nothing to run and in very good condition.

Wagon R with added hot sauce!

With a little imagination they can be made to look and behave like a mini hooligan. I doubt if I will increase my popularity or street cred (whatever that is) as I drive my little Suzuki, and know it will never go round the ‘Ring, and I am not cool and hip, but you know what? I don’t care because I will be different, and as you will see in future posts, it will bring some fun and discourse to this funky little column, and who knows? we might just make the little guy popular AND acceptable!

I have found a nice selection of custom kei cars if you are interested, click here



Filed under Motoring

Snow. The white menace…

Snow, the most deadliest of all weather

Snow, the silent demon

Water is life. Over 70% of our planet is covered in it and if starved of it for a few days you will drop dead. Water is fun! You can swim in it, float on it, ride jetskis on it and best of all if you mix it with some sand and sunshine it makes girls take off all their clothes and wear bikinis.

But in its solid form or even worse its crystalised, fluffy floaty form, its another story. Ice and snow have magical and evil powers, they conspire to remove all the bread and milk from the shops, make grim faced policemen come on the news and tell us there is ‘chaos’ and order us all to stay in bed. Ice and snow remove your wheels and replace them with castors and then cut your brake lines. We are all afraid of it, we all hate it. Unless you are under 16 and its an excuse for the adults to panic and you to get a free day off school.

All of this makes me so damn angry.

What the hell is wrong with people? Why on earth, as soon as there is a little bit of a change from the norm, a little bit of interesting weather, do you all panic and hide under the duvet? The ‘best’ excuse I have heard is “We are not used to driving in the snow because it doesn’t happen very often” This of course to anyone with common sense its just plain stupid. If the conditions are rare, isn’t it better to experience them when you can? learn how to adapt your driving when the road and the car will feel different? Become more aware of the limitations of grip and safe distances?

I phoned a driving instructor, a decent and sensible chap, and asked him if advice for snow driving was available. “Sure” he said “Just call and I will be happy to advise, or we can book a lesson if you want and I can show you how best to do it” It seems that we view instructors as a way to pass the driving test so we can all ‘drive’, because of course, as soon as we pass we are all experts! And as the years roll by our expertise gets better and better…right? We wouldn’t need a trained professional to advise us or sharpen our skills, because we are all brilliant! Right? WRONG!

It snows. All of Britain stops, or crashes into eachother, or breaks down, or gets stuck because they didn’t have the brains to maintain their car, carry a blanket or a shovel, or the common sense to change the way they drive or even check their tyres are ok and not looking like Kojak. Driving is a skill that is unique because it constantly changes. You can drive the same bit of tarmac every day for a year and nothing out of the ordinary will happen. You get in the car, you move leavers, push pedals and turn things and the car moves. Same day in and day out, right up until the tyre blows, or a child runs out or a cyclist wobbles out in front or even worse, it snows, rains, hails or is foggy.

I have found the real reason for Mr Grim Faced Policeman/Council Worker/AA Bloke coming on the TV and telling us all to stay at home, its because he knows just how rubbish the average motorist is at dealing with something out of the ordinary, because there are not enough people in Britain who actually LOVE TO DRIVE and LOVE THEIR CARS. Its THESE people you see adapting and enjoying their drive. These people see it as a challenge to their skill, and get on and do it. They won’t need to be charging about like a Finnish rally driver, but they will be calm, confident and ready to take on whatever is thrown at them. It THESE types, people who go for a drive for the sheer hell of it, people who take a detour if it means a good ‘B’ road rather than a dull motorway, people who turn off the damn radio to hear that roar from 3rd to 4th as they negotiate that neat right hander. Drivers (and there are a few left, I know names!) will check their cars, maintain them, monitor tyre pressures, fluid levels and such stuff so if they are caught out in changing conditions, they are confident the car can deal with it and they adapt their driving to it. There are too many people that see the car as a thing to fill with stuff and take the kids to school with. They treat the car and the skill of driving like doing laundry, the worst that can happen is a wet floor if the washer fails or pink Y fronts if you screw it up.  When it goes wrong in a car you can kill yourself or someone else.

Moving away from cars just for a second, lets talk about ‘Frozen Britain’ as they announced it on the news. I wasn’t alive in 1963, but I’m told that the winter there was pretty nasty, and indeed prior to that there have been some pretty snowy times for the UK. Back then there was no mobile phone, no Internet, no ASDA or Iceland home delivery, we all had Austin A40’s or motorbikes and sidecars, no one had even heard of a Land Cruiser. Land Rovers and Jeeps were for the rosy cheeked farmer and military; articulated trucks had to have a drivers mate to help brake the trailer on the tricky bits. People got to work ok, maybe they had to get up a bit earlier or take a bit more care but  the world turned and we just got on with it. So how on earth did we, a nation the survived the Blitz, turn into a bunch of namby pamby bed wetting losers that are the joke of the world? A little snow and Britain stops, seems like all the terrorists need to do is wait for winter then they will have the UK on its knees. Everyone knows you can’t stop a Toyota pickup.

One final thought. None of the above will make any difference, because of all these people mooching about taking their kids back and forward to school and shopping, Global Warming will really kick in and in a few years we will all look forward to December as it will be a bit cooler than the 40 degree summers the are predicting!

That’s it, rant over. Please be careful out there, I hate seeing cars damaged.


Filed under Motoring