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D r i v i n g t h e first e v e r R a n g e R over

H o n d a ’s C R - Z - an i m p o ss i b l e d r eam?

P l u s t h e l atest m o t o r i n g n ews, r e v i e w s , a n d o p i nion

On d ay s l i ke t h e s e

ISSUE ONE AUGUST 2010

Britain’s best driving roads in Mazda’s iconic MX-5

w w w. l i f e o n c a r s . b l o g s p o t . c o m


In this issue 3 Coming soon

Not the A-Team movie, but a selection of motors making their way to British showrooms in the near future. Head here if you want to know what you could be driving this time next year

DECIDING what to do to mark the first anniversary of Life On Cars was easy. Lots of readers of both the column in The Champion and the online blog suggested a car magazine as a full throttle way to celebrate, so that’s what you’re reading right now. There’s a birthday feel right through this issue, with both Mazda’s fun MX-5 and the indomitable Range Rover both celebrating bashes this year. Both have become iconic cars in their own right so it’s only right they’re invited along to the party! Honda are hoping their first small coupe in more than a decade, the CR-Z, becomes a future classic,

and Life On Cars is among the UK magazines lucky enough to land a test drive in the hottest hybrid of the moment. Whether you’ve been keeping up with car news online, in The Champion or on the airwaves with Dune FM, it’s been an absolute blast over the last year or so, with plenty of memorable moments in everything from the Fiat 500 to a fire-breathing Cobra sports car. This magazine’s my way of saying thanks to everyone who’s supported Life On Cars. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed making it.

Created by EDITOR David Simister PHOTOGRAPHER Cornelia Kaufmann DESIGNER David Simister

www.lifeoncars.blogspot.com E-MAIL david.simister@hotmail.co.uk

ADDITIONAL PHOTOGARPHY: Infiniti and Skoda, Page 3; Ford, page 5; Page 9, Morgan by Martyn Snape; Land Rover, Pages 12 and 13; Ferrari GB, page 14; Volkswagen UK, page 15; David Simister, page 16.

Read Life On Cars each Wednesday in The Champion newspaper, on the web at www.lifeoncars.blogspot.com and on the radio on the Live From Studio One show on Dune 107.9fm

4 Fire up the...

...best cars from the first year of Life On Cars! Motoring writer David Simister has been behind the wheel of some of 2010’s most important cars, including Honda’s brand new CR-Z hybrid sports coupe

6 Mazda MX-5 at 20

Twenty years, two seats, 150 miles of the best driving roads in North Wales and one example of the world’s best selling roadster. Quite a combination, really

8 Picture perfect

The past year has provided some great motoring moments. Share some of the best of them with our photo diary of some unforgettable car capers in everything from the Mini to the Morgan 4/4

10 Back to school

Why learn to drive all over again when you’ve already got a licence? It could save your life when it comes to avoiding an accident, the providers of two road safety courses reckons

11 Mini magic

You probably wouldn’t choose a 23-year-old Mini with a patchy record as your companion over 200 miles of Cumbria’s hardest roads. Here’s what might happen if you did, though

12 40 years on top

It’s not often you get to drive the very first production Range Rover ever made, but Life On Cars got to do just that as part of the model’s 40th anniversary this year

14 Best of the blog

Aston Martin’s city car, Mods and Rockers, the taboo of stereos costing more than your motor - they’ve all been given a grilling in the Life On Cars column in The Champion. Here’s some of the highlights

16 The fleet

Life On Cars doesn’t just mess around in other people’s motors - he owns them too! For the first time ever, a guide to the clapped-out cars in David Simister’s garage

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© Life On Cars 2010

Life On Cars


Coming soon

The cars you could be driving next year

To Infiniti and beyond

Spo rty Skoda duo on way Sporty

HUNTING for a hot hatch with a difference? Worry not, because Skoda may have just the motor for you in its newly-launched Fabia vRS. The Czech car company has just unveiled its second generation of the sporty supermini, which it reckons offers both tremendous value and the option of a speedy estate for keen drivers looking for an involving drive. “Overall, the vRS offers fantastic value for money, particularly when compared to the competition,” said a Skoda spokesman. “ Where else can you find a 180bhp engine with DSG, paddles, LED lights and loads of standard kit for £15,700 for the hatch

and £16,495 for the estate version?” Unlike the previous Fabia vRS the new arrival ditches diesel in favour of getting its power from a revvy petrol engine, and unlike rival hot hatches from Renault, Peugeot and Volkswagen - also comes

as an estate for those wanting space as well as pace. Thanks to its 180bhp powerplant acceleration from 0-62mph takes just 7.3 secs, with a top speed of 139mph (140mph for the estate). The sporty duo are due in the UK later this year.

A CAR company new to the UK is hoping luxury car lovers will go to Infiniti and beyond with their latest model, which it announced prices for this month. The Infiniti M37, a Japanese take on the likes of BMW's 5-Series, Audi's A6 and Jaguar's XF, will cost from £35,150 when it goes on sale in British showrooms for the first time later this summer, but for that you get a silky V6 engine sending 316bhp to the rear wheels, a safety feature designed to spot vehicles in your blind spot and the knowledge that almost no one else in the company car park will have the same car as you. Infiniti, a Nissan-owned company operating in a similar way as Lexus does under Toyota's wing, was only launched in Europe two years ago but has proven a sales hit both in Asia and America, where their saloons, coupes and off-roaders have been sale since the 1990s. The petrol-powered M37 will be followed by a diesel-driven M30d, arriving in October, and a hybrid M35h next spring.

For the latest car news check out the Life On Cars blog at: lifeoncars.blogspot.com

Life On Cars

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Fire up the... ...Smart ForTwo

The road test verdict on the motors that matter

it's hard to think of a car under £20,000 that offers you just the two seats, and I've often wondered who is actually buying Mercedes' most miniscule motor when I see it sneaking up on the nation's parking spaces. The tiny City Coupe, now named the ForTwo, is still the staple of the Smart brand after the sporty Roadster and the larger ForFour were dropped, and having driven it's not hard to see why it's still proving a hit with anyone looking for a quirky take on the small car.

It's a fun thing to be at the helm of, but I still wouldn't buy one, because Toyota's IQ has moved the game on by offering the same sort of thing for the same sort of price, but with the huge bonus of back seats. It's still smart to buy a Smart, but for now it's smarter still to buy the tiny Toyota.

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Life On Cars

new hybrid is a ...Honda CR-Z Hot coupe hit for Honda

HONDA'S latest hybrid might get you seeing red when you're hurtling it around your nearest city centre, but it's for all the right reasons. The dials on the CR-Z, the Japanese firm's first truly tiny coupe in more than a decade, have a fantastic feature which allows them to glow blue, green and red depending on how economically you're driving it, which works both ways. You CAN go green if you're on a bid to beat the taxman by using the power of prudence, but I find it's much more fun to get glowing red by driving furiously.

It's an invitation to sample two extremes of driving and quite possibly a first in motoring; a hybrid car someone interested in driving might actually want to buy. Obviously, Honda are hyping up the ‘H' word as much as possible, but not nearly as much as the really rather obvious links to the sporty little CR-X of the ‘80s and ‘90s, which the new model clearly mimics. So it's an eco activist which chooses to wear running shoes instead of sandals. YNormally getting just 122bhp from a car costing £20,000 would have me worried, but Honda's

blend of petrol and electricity will impress even the most heavy-footed drivers, while appeasing the eco-minded ones. The fact it still manages to make a fantastic noise is a handy bonus. If you've got lots of kids and dogs the CR-Z is simply too small, but for fun while keeping your conscience in check the little Honda's nailed it. I'm not sure whether Honda has realised the impossible dream its adverts are always going on about with the CR-Z, but they have made a hybrid to hanker after in the process.


Gallic charmer impresses with style and open top refinement

Every manufacturer and his dog offers you a cabriolet with a clever folding metal top these days but there’s a good reason why the French companies have the market (if not the roof) sewn up; they do these cars better than anyone else. Great news if you’re looking to buy the latest Megane CC but difficult for anyone road testing it, because it’s almost identical to its closest rival. Both the Megane CC, now in its second generation, and the 308 CC are hugely comfortable – particularly in the back, where most CCs aren’t – and effortlessly refined with their tops up or

...Renault Megane CC

down. They both also cost around £26,000 and while neither of them offer a spectacular sporty drive they handle reassuringly enough while making sure absolutely everyone is cruising comfortably. I’m sure that if I spend hours trawling through the

statistics there’d be some minute detail that makes one technically better than the other but in the image-driven world of cabriolets there’s only one thing that matters – looks. The quirky charm of the Megane, or the flowing curves of its softer rival? Your call.

You really can’t place a fag paper between either of these cars, because both do what they do excellently (and better than either Ford’s Focus CC or Volkswagen’s Eos for that matter). While both these cars have the substance, in this market it’s all about style.

...Ford Ka

The second generation of the city car hit has lots in common with the Fiat 500, but don’t be fooled. It’s much better than that IT might come as a shock but this city slicker and Fiat’s 500 are twins separated at birth. The two were co-designed by Fiat and Ford but despite the Ka’s cameo in the last James Bond film it’s been the iconic Italian which has grabbed headlines so far. The Ka may not have the crowd-pulling looks of the 500 but it’s still a

pretty car. It’s also a better machine than its radical ancestor, which proved so successful it lasted 12 long years in production. Anyone used to the old Ka’s go-kart steering isn’t going to be dissapointed with this new version, even if the ride’s still a bit bouncy. Ford say they have tweaked the suspension to make it more sporty than

the 500, and anyone who hustles this through a tight roundabout is going to love its fun handling and all round ease of driving. It’s just a shame that this Ka is always going to live in the shadow of the radical original, but that’s more a reflection of how bold the original was when it came along in

1996 than any failing of this one. It might not be a car to change the world, but the new Ka is better than the old one in every way, and it’s a small car that celebrates smallness. If you’ve driven a Fiat 500 and been at all dissapointed, you might want to give one of these city slickers a try. Life On Cars

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Birthday bash

YOU might not know it yet, but there’s a reason why they call the limestone cliffs that linger over Llandudno the Great Orme. The official website of the café complex sitting at the top of this stunning piece of seaside geology recommends that you reach it either by a Victorian tramway or Britain’s longest cable car ride, but both, I reckon, sell the place short. If you want to enjoy the journey then you’ve got to head for the twists of turns of the access road instead. That’s what makes it great, and there’s no better way to enjoy it than in an opentop sports car. St Tudno’s Drive is like a stretch of tarmac that’s been stolen from a mountain pass in the Alps by people who love driving and then draped over a British backdrop for our own enjoyment, so exciting are the series of crests and hairpins which catapult you from sea level to an eatery almost 700 feet above. It’s places like these that make motoring exciting, and the whole of North Wales is awash with them. Don’t think my trip to one of the most captivating corners of the British Isles was just for fun, though; I was here for a birthday bash, because it’s 20 years since the first examples of Mazda’s MX-5 started arriving on our shores. Time flies when you’re having fun. You have to remember what small roadsters were like in 1990 to appreciate the original MX-5’s impact - apart from the front

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Life On Cars

It’s 20 years since the world’s best selling roadster arrived on Britain’s roads. David Simister takes it to the best roads in North Wales to mark the Mazda MX-5’s anniversary


wheel drive Lotus Elan, there weren’t any - and after years of no sports cars at all drivers were suddenly treated to an soft-top, rear wheel drive roadster which reminded us of decades ago when everybody drove around in MGBs, Triumphs and Austin-Healeys. It might have been a shameless copy of the original Lotus Elan, but nobody cared because they loved it. Two decades later and almost every car company now offers its own sports car, but even though the latest 2.0i Sport Tech version is a little flabbier than the lithe original it’s still an absolute delight to drive. It’s something it actually seemed keen to show off on the way up the Horseshoe Pass, an inviting road heading between Ruthin and Llangollen. By combining its flick-of-the-wrist gear change with inspiringly precise steering, it just goes where you want it to. If anything I reckon it’s actually better than Britain’s own old sports cars, because unlike them the MX-5 actually works and means you can spend your weekends in the

countryside, rather than the garage. Just make sure you share the driving with whoever you take along for the ride, otherwise they’ll forget it’s a driver’s car and start going on about the interior being too cramped, the boot too small and the ride too firm. It’s also got the same problem most convertibles have when it comes to roof-up visibility, but I reckon the Mazda’s folding fabric roof is easier and faster than the metal most of its rivals come with. You can have metal origami as an optional extra, if you insist, but while you get added security it’s slower to shelter you and it weighs the little lightweight roadster

down. While it does have just the two seats it’ll still do everything you’d expect a £20,145 car to do, and although I wasn’t expecting it in something so singlemindedly sporty it was great to have toys like cruise control, a CD autochanger and a Bluetooth system at my fingertips. But you’ll forget all of them on a cross-country blast, because even when it’s not its birthday the Mazda’s partying, and you’re always invited. That’s the feeling I got when I spotted a group of MX-5 owners out on their own adventures in one of Snowdonia’s more remote valleys, because they all smiled the smile you get when you’ve got a sports

car at your disposal. Even though they owned MX-5’s from the model’s early days they all agreed on that what they own is so much more than a way of getting to work and back. It’s a go-kart with a CD player. There are roomier, comfier cars out there but if you drive simply because you enjoy it you can’t go far wrong with an MX-5, particularly if you’re the sort of person who deliberately takes the long route just so they can go over the Llanberis Pass on the way. It might be 20 years old, but the Mazda MX-5 isn’t as good as the British sports cars of yesteryear. It’s much better than that.

Life On Cars

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View from

Since its inception Life On Cars has seen some spectacular cars. Here are just a few favourite moments from a year in motoring...

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Life On Cars


the wheel

Clockwise, from top left: banger racing, racing the Settle to Carlisle Railway in a Peugeot 207CC; one of many breakdowns in the Life On Cars Mini; driving magic in the Morgan 4/4, Mini Cooper lights up the night in Blackpool, and classics galore, including the Jaguar XJ-S and Ferrari 275 GTB at the Classic Motorshow at the NEC in Birmingham. Quite a year, really...

Life On Cars

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Back to schoo

THIRD gear is my new best friend, I've learned out on the roads of West Lancashire. This is one of the handy tips I've picked up by taking part in Drive On, a series of car and motorcycle courses aimed at helping to cut the region's accident rate by giving residents the chance to sharpen their skills. Lancashire County Council, the programme's providers, say it will help you improve the way you drive, but what I wanted to know is whether it works. That's how I found myself heading through Halsall at exactly 30mph - no more, no less - with talented instructor Mike Hesp keeping a careful eye on exactly what I was doing, which was using fourth rather than third on the clearer bits of road. Even though it seemed second nature to me, it got me a stern “requires attention” in Mike's books. It's amazing how much worse your driving can be compared to what you believe it is, no matter how many years of crash-free commuting you can claim. “The aim is to give individual drivers the opportunity to address their own particular driving concerns and be able to address these effectively, safely and to build confidence,” a spokesperson for Lancashire County

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On Cars

David Simister tries to sharpen his driving skills using courses on offer to drivers in the north west

Council said during the launch of the course. “At the end of the course drivers should have received appropriate training and information to help them deal with their own particular concerns.” The course, which costs £65, takes place over two hours with an approved driving instructor at your side, but for a change there's not an L-plate in sight, and the lessons are largely dictated by what you want to learn.Does it work? Only if you take what the instructors say into your own drive home,

but if I found car parks painful and motorways miserable, I'd rather take advantage of their tips than get it wrong the hard way. Another group determined to bring Life On Cars up to speed on driving skills is RoADAR Merseyside, an organisation determined to make motorists in Merseyside and Lancashire a little less likely to become an insurance statistic. The group is open to drivers of all ages and abilities, and is currently looking for younger drivers - often the ones most

likely to be involved in accidents - to join up. “Advanced Driving or Riding will make you a more confident, safer, smoother and accurate driver or rider; it will reduce fuel consumption leading to fewer C02 emissions, and can also reduce insurance premiums. Passing the RoSPA test can also lead on to a BTec qualification in driving,” said Colin Knight, chairman of RoADAR Merseyside. “We aim to prove that our free training can make Advanced driving a cool and exhilarating thing to do, and at the same time encourage safe driving and riding for life.”

For more information about Drive On contact Lancashire County Council's road safety group on 0800 328 1635 or visit the group's website at www.lancashire.gov.uk/ roadsafety. For more information about RoADAR Merseyside visit the group's website www.roadarmerseyside.org or contact Colin Knight by calling 07753 280465.


JAMES May needs worry no more about the dubious title of Captain Slow, because I’ve nicked it. The Southport and Ormskirk District Mini Owners’ Club have granted me the slightly suspicious honour because I’ve just completed their annual jaunt over some of Britain’s steepest mountain passes and managed to hold up a mass of souped-up Minis because I was driving so slowly in mine. Yet the fact I completed it all, I reckon, is incredible. This is the very same

Mini that just weeks ago let me down in spectacular fashion by deciding it’d had enough of being a car and wanted to become a Reliant Robin instead, and tried to shed one of its wheels at 40mph. You can probably understand that even though it’d taken many hours of someone else’s painstaking work just to get it up to the 2010 Lakes Tour, based on the shores of Ullswater in the Lake District, I was still taking it a tad cautiously. As a drive it’s the sort of thing you’d think twice

about taking any car on, but would you entrust a 200 mile drive over some of the country’s most challenging mountain passes to a car with a one litre engine, an automatic gearbox, drum brakes and a ropey reliability record? It’s a real car killer of a drive, as the occasional Mini from one of the many other clubs taking part proved as we spied them sulking at the side of the country lanes. From the twists and turns of the mountain pass out to Alston to the one-in-three cliff faces of the Hardknott Pass, it was a hellishly difficult thing to do. Then there was the agonising moment when the temperature gauge shot up, the car slowed to crawling pace and steam starting swirling out from

beneath the bonnet. As it would if you’re trying to take a Mini 1000 Automatic up the Hardknott Pass. It looked, sounded and smelt awful, but once we’d let it cool down and given it a taste of mountain spring water, it started going again. And just kept going. The car almost everyone had doubted just kept on going, soldering on over everything the Lakes could throw at it. On a day mostly marked out by dark clouds and constant drizzle, it was a burst of sunshine, and just to prove it wasn’t a one-off it followed the 200 miles of climbing by getting me home as well. It might have been slower than everything else there but it was motoring magic. You should try it sometime.

A Mini adventure

Except the bit where you boil a 27 year old Mini’s engine on a mountain pass

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A BRITISH bruiser beloved of footballers and farmers alike is celebrating a birthday bash later this month. Whether you think it's a cherished classic or a symbol of global warming you can't deny the Range Rover's impact on motoring both here in the UK and abroad, and this month its makers are keen to help the luxury off-roader celebrate its fortieth anniversary.

“Land Rover has a unique history of product innovation, but the Range Rover probably remains the most historically significant vehicle we have ever launched. It is one of the most important vehicles in the history of motoring,” said Phil Popham, managing director of Land Rover, which still makes the model today at its factory in Solihull, in the West Midlands. “The Range Rover is re-

ally four vehicles in one. It's a seven-days-a-week luxury motor car; a leisure vehicle that will range far and wide on the highways and noways of the world; a high performance car for long distance travel; and a working cross-country vehicle. From princes to politicians, from rock gods to rock climbers, from footballers to farmers, the Range Rover has always appealed to a wide range of customers.”

Today's Range Rover and its slightly smaller brother, the Range Rover Sport - is a far cry from the original version of 1970. which had two doors, a spartan interior and wind-up windows but for four decades the model has proven popular with royalty and rock stars at one end and farmers and the police at the other. Life begins at 40...

40 years at the top

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What is it like to drive the very first Range Rover? David Simister finds out MAYBE it's being in my twenties or having some journalistic sense of derring-do, but I'm honestly not scared of crashing a new car. Whether it's a supermini for six grand or a swish saloon for sixty, there's always a sense of that if you prang it - and luckily, I never have they can always make another one. But being entrusted with a priceless piece of Britain's motoring heritage? Terrifying, to be honest. It's not often you get given the chance to drive the very first production Range Rover ever made, which has been quietly taken out of the retirement to celebrate its 40th anniversary. It's a great way of finding out just how much the most famous 4x4xfar, and mo-

toring has a whole, have come on since 1970. At least I'm in familiar surroundings; my dad owns one in exactly the same Tuscan Blue shade as this one. The first thing you notice is the sound those big doors - and unlike modern Range Rovers, there are only two make. Modern cars all have the same, slightly dull thud, but the bank vault metallic clink you get here is from a bygone era. It's the sound of the Sixties, but like The Beatles, it still sounds great. But the best bit is the burble the Rover V8 under the bonnet makes when you start it up, which even today is still the soundtrack of an entire generation of British cars. It's just a shame

that it's drowned out by the whining transmission, which really will give you a headache if you go much about forty. Compared with almost any modern motor you have to admit it's absolutely terrible; it's noisy, it rolls and lurches through the corners, it's not actually terribly well equipped for a luxury car, realistically you're going to struggle to get past fifty, and it drinks like a fish. It's a creaking British Leyland relic, but I love to bits. Even with petrol touching ÂŁ1.20 a litre it just about makes sense - it's tax exempt, for starters but it's not only blessed with timeless styling, unstoppable off-road ability and an elegance you just don't get from most new cars.Just make sure you don't crash it.

The new arrival

This is the first look at a brand new type of Range Rover, which is hoped will push the luxury 4X4 towards a greener future. Based on the concept LRX from 2007, the newest model is set to be built at the firm’s Halewood factory on Merseyside, and go on sale early next year.

The Evoque - set to be the smallest of the company's line up and badged as a Range Rover - looks fantastic, but the news that the firm are going to offer a 2WD version makes me sad.

Every Land Rover since the original Series One of 1948 has had 4WD, because it's something that shows that even their softest models mean business on the rough stuff. But will a front-wheeldrive hatchback with the iconic badge still be a proper Land Rover? The jury's out...

Life On Cars

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let loose

Outspoken words and motoring opinion from a year of the Life On Cars blog

Farrari: The supercar fake made in Taiwan

JUST last weekend I was offered a glimpse into a strange and exciting new world; one of someone who wasn't into their cars! I know this because my friend - who, at the tender age of 23, is facing a midlife crisis - has decided she's got to start saving up for the ultimate Italian sports car. Yes, she wants to ditch her ageing Vauxhall Corsa for a Farrari. A what, sorry? I thought it was Ferrari, with an 'e', that petrolheads the globe over get all misty-eyed over, but apparently no more. Lexus proved years ago that you can make a far-eastern motor that closely mimics a Mercedes - and still sell - so the idea of a cheap, knock-off Ferrari doesn't seem so far-fetched either. Like Guccy watches and Nikey trainers, all Farraris

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On Cars

would be made not by skilled Italian craftsman, but by small children in Taiwanese workshops, and then sold for £14.99. Compared to the £143,000 needed for the California, the real Ferrari's entry-level model, it's a bit of a bargain. All Farraris would get plenty of power from their evocative twostroke scooter engines, but then they'd need it to see off tough competition like the Porch 911 and the Lamburgini Murky Lager. Luckily Farrari's fine racing heritage gives it a great pedigree and a following like no other. It might not be in F1, mind, but where better to showcase your sporting credentials than in the village cricket championship? It's just a shame some of the models wearing

that evocative prancing bull badge aren't quite up to scratch. The newest model, the 458 Ital, is clearly a minicab repainted in Italian Racing Red, while their entrylevel roadster doesn't even have wheels. As car firms go, I don't think Farrari's a bad one. Its cars might be a little lacking in some of the more important aspects such as working - but five minutes of illustrious and imaginary heritage can't be wrong. Once I'd finished my pint, I got back to the rather more pressing issue of cars that actually exist, and asked my co-drinker if she had anything else in mind. "Definitely," she said sagely. "A Kia Sedona would be lovely"...

Ten cars for ten grand

THE old pub game of the dream ten car garage is far too easy with unlimited funds.

Limit your lot to just the price of a new Ford Fiesta and I’d go with this lot:

1) Austin Mini 2) Ford Transit 3) Mazda MX-5 MK1 4) Jaguar XJ6 S3 (pictured above) 5)Fiat Coupe 6)Rover P6 7) Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagon 8)Range Rover Classic 9)Fiat Cinquecento 10) BMW 635 CSi


Eh up lad, VW have made a new electric car

HATS off to Volkswagen this week for coming up with something no manufacturer has ever managed before; a car aimed at Lancashire and Yorkshire! How else would you explain a hatchback clearly named after a chirpy chunk of dialect used mainly in these parts of the world? Personally, I thought the people behind the Lupo and Scirocco might have gone for something vaguely exotic, but instead it's called its latest city star the E-Up. No, really. Luckily, it's only an electrically powered concept car doing the rounds at the Frankfurt Motor

Show, taking place this week, so chances are it'll get vetted by Volkswagen's Northern Dialects Department long before it hits the showrooms. Yet it still got the proud Northern bloke in me thinking; what if there was a car just for us? Any Volkswagen Eh Up we don't hyphenate our greetings Up North would have to abandon satnavs for starters. Most of us went to Scout meetings and therefore know how to read a map, so a giant Ordnance Survey scrolled across the entire windscreen will do nicely instead. Spec levels would be

set out according to precise patches of the North, with Red Rose and White Rose editions only ever sold on either side of the Lancashire/Yorkshire border. VW would also have to ditch the iconic GTI badge for the performance version, with a new YI moniker instead to boost sales in the North East. Naturally the stereo would only be able to play trendy indie bands, although chances are it could stop working and

split up altogether after several years, to give owners a feeling of regional reassurance. Eh Ups would also be a bit blunter to drive than their rivals - they say what they mean - but in their defence they're honest, friendly and know a good real ale when they come across one. The E-Up's fun looks and clever propulsion system are bound to make it a sales success, but I'd rather have an Eh Up instead.

A stereo fit only for MC Hammer

MUSICAL maestro Thomas Beecham reckoned you should try everything once except incest and folk dancing, but I'd like to add a motoring mishap to his list. The classical composer's mantra, brought kicking and screaming into 2010, really ought to read: try everything once except incest, folk dancing, and buying any car stereo that's worth more than the car itself. The only problem is that - like all rules - I'm

running the risk of breaking it, because My ÂŁ100 Car has a truly shocking stereo, being one of those tape/radio jobs from twenty years ago which only seems to pick up stations I hate listening to. It's fine to fit an MP3 system to the Mini because the car's worth enough, but even the cheapest CD player I can find for the ancient Renault 5 costs more than half the car itself. I could do absolutely nothing and carry on

listening to the radio, but it only picks up that frequency you normally find in minicabs at 2am and it's not driving music, but music to drive you mad. All I wanted was to listen to Texas on the way into work! In the end I strayed into Currys and bought a batch of cassette tapes to end my misery, but even there the staff gave me a bemused look, as if I'd wandered in from the 1990s via an MC Hammer video in an embarrassed attempt to track down

some ye olde technology. Just to rub it in the car depicted on the side of the tapes is a Jaguar XJ220, which would have been on your bedroom wall, circa 1992. I'm getting desperate, but I can't break the car stereo taboo. If I do, I'd be forced to consider incest and folk dancing as well.

Read more motoring rants from David Simister on the blog online at lifeoncars.blogspot.com

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Three reasons why the RAC loves me 1995 Renault 5:

“Its ancient engine pulls you out of junctions not only quickly, and very quietly too for such a cheap car, while absolutely everything still works on it. I can also boast that my £100 steed was designed by the same chap who did the Lamborghini Diablo. How many M-registered Ford Fiestas can you say that about? For the price of Britain's most expensive rail ticket you could have bought a whole fleet of these.” January, 2010

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The clapped out classics in the Life On Cars garage and why David Simister loves them

1983 Mini Mayfair:

“Going for a spin in the Mini is like going for a pint with an old mate; they might well have fobbed you off or left you with the bar tab before, but you don't care because you haven't seen them in ages!

1972 MGB GT:

“Is it a conked out old classic or a bit of a bargain for one a sports car icon from the Sixties? Only time will tell with a car that I’ve bought as a project, despite not having any knowledge of mechanics at all. With a little help I can reckon I can get it going. Why buy an MX-5 when you can have the real deal?” July, 2010

I might drive lots of different cars and many of them are fantastic, but in my eyes they'll never beat my Mini because it's MY Mini. A car that's literally corroded around me.” April, 2010

Life On Cars Magazine, August 2010  
Life On Cars Magazine, August 2010  

A celebration of a year of all things cars with Champion and GR8Life motoring correspondent David Simister.

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