The organisers behind Crew25 tell Michael Lear how they plan to attract a new generation of competitors into grassroots rallying
The organisers behind Crew25 tell Michael Lear how they plan to attract a new generation of competitors into grassroots rallying
Automotive's Elliott Hughes explores what the future holds for petrolheads as the age of the EV dawns.
Tributes to the rally champion, who died late last year
Does Kia's new compact crossover have what it takes to compete in an increasingly crowded market sector?
Kia's commercial director on the new XCeed and the future of Kia in the UK
The garage was tucked away at the end of a steep side road that snaked between two anonymous, dull buildings. Despite the lovely countryside that surrounded it, the small town itself looked like a lifeless, post-industrial group of old houses cobbled together without too much care; never in a million years would anyone have suspected that about a million pounds’ worth of vintage cars were stashed behind one of the doors.
I caught sight of an incredibly beautiful car, parked with care in a corner of the large room; a late-60s Alfa Romeo GT Junior, black and shiny with round, clear headlights. I asked Nino to tell me its story, as I was sure such a beautiful object could only have an interesting story behind it. I was right; there was.
He’d bought the car in 1965 as a young man with a passion for everything fast; it had been his first car, and I think few will argue your first car is hard to forget. If you are, indeed, a car enthusiast who has just put together enough money to buy yourself a stunning, state- of-the-art Alfa, it’s pretty much impossible to forget. But life got in the way of things, as it often does: marriage and the arrival of children meant a new, more practical vehicle had to be bought, and money was tight once more, so there was no option but for the Alfa to be sold. He, however, never forgot it, and vowed that one day he would find it and buy it again.
Twenty-five years later, he did just that, managing to run a search on the license plate number through a police officer friend who had access to the database. Success! The car was found, only a couple of miles away, belonging to an old lady who had been the registered owner for almost ten years. He immediately called her to make an of- fer and, fingers crossed, buy the car back from her, bringing it back to its home. But yet another obstacle got in the way: the lady wouldn’t let go of the car, no matter how much he offered. It was, she said, the only thing she had left that belonged to her beloved brother, who apparently had spent years cruising around in it and had later died of an illness. She told him she would keep it in the garage and never sell it, and that he should put it out of his mind.
He wasn’t going to give up so fast. His beloved first car left to rust in a garage without ever see- ing the road again? He could never let that happen. For two weeks straight, he kept phoning the old lady at the same time each day, each time proposing a higher sum until he reached a point where he offered whatever amount of cash she wanted, even three times the actual value of the car, just as long as he could have it back. The lady’s patience wore out progressively, until one day she picked up the phone, showered him with a string of colourful Italian insults and told him she would call him back herself if she ever changed her mind about selling the car. He put down the phone and thought maybe now it really was time to give up; he thought she would never call him again and that the car was now lost forever.
But miracles do happen, and only a couple of days later, a phone call arrived. For reasons he still doesn’t really know, the woman finally convinced herself to sell the car back to its original owner; it was not in a good state after years of sitting in a damp garage, but he was willing to spend any amount of money to get it back into shape. After a few repairs the Alfa, by then roughly thirty years old, looked brand new, and became the most cherished possession in my great-uncle’s collection. He still takes it out for a drive from time to time, for old times’ sake; after all these years, it’s basically a member of the family.
The centrepiece of the collection, however, was a bright yellow Ferrari 348; almost thirty years old, but well-kept, it looked like brand new. Sitting close to the ground in the middle of the room, it was illuminated by a rare beam of sunlight that filtered through the dirty glass windows, darkened with years of exhaust gases and oil stains. I’d been staring at it with my mouth open for about two minutes when my great-uncle Nino, lucky owner of the thing, suggested “Wanna go for a drive?”
At the age of 16, I’d never been in a Ferrari -or anywhere near one- before; one more thing off my bucket list, I thought. A blast through the countryside, driven around by an ex-aspiring racing driver and proud track-day enthusiast, sounded like a good way to spend an afternoon. I waved goodbye to my mother (only two seats, of course) and stared down the road ahead, looking to see what came next; the acceleration pressed me against the back of the seat, unable to peel my neck forward for a couple of seconds. After the first couple of corners, my favourite thing happened: it started to rain. Not full-blown rain, mind you; a light drizzle, but just enough to make things interesting down on the tarmac.
“This” the driver said, “is the last car Ferrari produced directly under the direction of the Old Man”; the Old Man being, of course, none other than Enzo Ferrari himself, affectionately called il Vecchio among the motorsport community. “A racecar for the road” he continued, clichéd but not inaccurate, going on to explain the minuscule details of the car’s inner workings that made it such a special creation. I listened, mesmerized, trying to remember as much as I could to impress my mates from the karting club when I went back to Warwick in January. (It worked. They were pretty much green with envy.)
We came back half an hour later, the battery suddenly giving up just after the car had made it to the end of the uphill driveway; all good things must come to an end, I suppose, but don’t worry, my great-uncle said, he was gonna get it replaced soon anyway. It’ll be ready by this summer when you come back, he added with a smile; told me he took it up to Monza to spend a whole day at the track every year. I looked at him while he was talking and I caught a glimpse of the fearless, young driver who scraped together money from odd jobs to sustain what was already more than a hobby.
There were a dozen more cars in the garage; a little Seicento he had built himself nearly from scratch, a Land Rover with its engine taken apart on a table for repairs, a seemingly harmless Fiat Tipo where only a badge on the back (“sedicivalvole”, Italian for 16 valves) gave away the presence of an engine that shares its DNA with the Lancia Delta’s. Each with its own character, each with its own background story; I spent the rest of the afternoon listening to my great-uncle telling tales of holidays and races and road trips and flat tires, until it was time for me and my mother to catch the bus back home. Before leaving, I told him I would be back for the summer, ready for another trip in the Ferrari; he smiled and said the new battery would definitely be ready by then.
The McLaren 675LT Spider is a limited track-focused car that was built for pure enthusiasts who really appreciate and enjoy driving. Many of these cars are hidden in collections and are treated as ‘garage queens’ but some get properly exercised.
“I have driven many cars on the track, but I cannot compare anything to the 675LT, but because of the balance and the stability it has on the track,” says Mohammed Al-Hasni, a successful Omani businessman. “It makes you feel confident and you can push it further and further.”
Al-Hasni bought his 675LT after seeing it at the Geneva motor show. “I immediately fell in love with it. I sat in the car and felt like it was built for me, so I went for it. It was unique, and McLaren just did an amazing job with this car," he says.
The McLaren costs Al-Hasni approximately £20,000 per year to run. The 675LT Spider is not his only car but he daily drives it sometimes on normal roads. “The car drives amazing on the road. It has a quick steering reaction, its fast, and I just love it. It is just a little noisy as it is a track-focused car,” he says.
“I have driven the McLaren 720S, 570s, and the 540s. They are good cars, but none of them are track-focused. They are very different to the 675LT and you just can’t compare them on track,” he added.
Al-Hasni enjoys lowering the roof when the weather is good, and loves the noise the car makes – “the pops and bangs are just fantastic," he says. Al-Hasni’s favorite memories with the 675LT are driving on the track at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, and the usual drives on twisty mountain roads in Jabal Akdhar in Oman.
“I think McLaren are doing a really good job in a very short period of time. I think they are just great and I would definitely buy another one. They might have small issues with their cars since they’re a new manufacturer, but all manufacturers have defects with their cars and I would still buy another McLaren. The experience I am getting from McLaren is making it special because they organize many drives and track days,” said Al-Hasni. “The manufacturer does that, and I don’t think many manufacturers do it the way McLaren does.”
Rockingham Motor Speedway has been sold - but at what cost?
Pricing: From £7.99 for 1 litre spray bottles
Car cleaning products vary in terms of ability in what they’re meant to do. Power Maxed, created five years ago, is probably better known for its Power Maxed Racing team in the British Touring Car Championship, which sets out 'to be different and compete and out do most of the big players in the field’.
Since using Power Maxed broad range of cleaning products, I’ve become more thorough in my car cleaning, as the results speak for themselves after the clean. To start I found a pre-wash product sprayed directly onto the wet bodywork loosens the dirt and removes bugs and grime. Their Traffic film remover, tar off, blizzard snow foam & car jet wash & wax have various forms of application, but all do a direct job of preparing the bodywork, lifting off the worst of the dirt, before being rinsed off for the main bodywork shampoo.
Not everyone applies pre-wash, but it does contribute to a better clean. The very least people can do is use just one form of wash shampoo, and Power Maxed ‘Shampoo & Ultra Wax’ is better than most products offering both shampoo and wax combinations in one solution. The product contains Carnauba wax, and afterwards the paintwork leaves a a glossy, just waxed shine appearance. The foam boosters make the most of bubbling up those suds and the product is easier to spread over an area before it’s time to dunk the sponge. It’s a sign of a good product if those suds remain on the bodywork to attack the dirt after the sponge/mit has been applied.
Finally on test for this brand was their range of in car cleaning products. The upholstery cleaner is by far one of the best I’ve come across. The deep cleansing formula removes stains, odours from cloth upholstery, needing very little elbow grease, while working just as brilliantly to remove dirt in the half leather seats that were on test. While on the subject of leather, often a forgotten part of car cleaning and protection, the brand’s ‘Leather protector’, should be used afterwards, polishing and restoring leather to prevent cracking whilst rejuvenating old-looking leather. It even smells good afterwards too.
In conclusion, Power Maxed products are competitively priced, and very good at what they do. However you won’t yet see them on the shelves at most motor-factor stores. They are appearing to break through a competitive sector with big names such as Auto Glym and Turtle wax dominating customer’s eye-lines in shops. For now, you can purchase their products directly at their website, and they have a pop-up trailer selling their products at all current BTCC races in the UK. The company has also developed cleaning products for motorbikes and caravans, as well as fuel and oil fix additives and sprays and lubricants.
Car crime is surging once again across the UK, with both old and new cars particularly exposed. Thieves are just as aware of the ever increasing desirability of the classic car market, and target old cars which still have relaxed security. Meanwhile there has been a surge in modern car crime, as thieves have adapted to using clever technology to ‘hack’, stealing modern keyless cars without any damage to gain entry to vehicles.
I test the security locks in terms of Thatcham approved status to distinguish the advantages and disadvantages of both the Disklok and Stoplock Pro Elite. Both can only be successfully broken with the aid of loud power tools for several minutes. There are cheaper alternatives in the market, but beware, the cheaper security locks simply don’t put up enough of a fight when they are attacked.
The ‘Disklok’, is the original champion in both visual deterrents and steering wheel security. The device still covers the entire wheel, and comes in three sizes to fit modern wheels with air bags. When attacked, the steering lock spins, and thieves have no way to control the steering or drive the vehicle. The product is favoured so much, the insurer funded research centre body ‘Thatcham’ have given it a Cat 3 approved status - which will reduce insurance premiums. The downside of the Disklok, is the sheer weight and cumbersome design, which takes up useful space in the vehicle cabin, particularly awkward if regularly full with passengers. Removing and refitting after every journey would become tedious, but then if that’s what it takes to deter thieves and keep your pride and joy with you, then it’s a routine worth getting used to.
The Stoplock ‘Pro Elite’ is the toughest steering lock from the company. Again the ‘Original Stoplock’ design has been with us for a number of years, however the similar styled ‘Pro Elite’ is far more superior at preventing theft. Providing a universal fit, featuring twin locking forks and a deeper bend to allow for size tolerance. As well as being a visual deterrent, the stronger compound materials make this one of the toughest steering locks on the market. The addition of a Thatcham Cat 3 approved status means that this steering lock is just as difficult for thieves to bypass. Add that to the fact it costs half the price of a Disklok and is much easier to store, the ‘Pro Elite’ is the most recommended thief deterrent steering lock on the market. If you needed any further persuasion, the device won security tester’s ‘Sold Secure Gold Award’ in 2018.