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FEBRUARY 19, 2012

ME AND MY CAR Ramona Depares interviews Marco Cremona

Mercedes-Benz new B-Class

TEST DRIVES The new Opel Corsa “Colours” and the Hyundai i40Wagon

2 The Sunday Times MOTORING

FEBRUARY 19, 2012


Love is in the car MATTHEW NAUDI


ast Tuesday was St Valentine’s Day, the day earmarked to celebrate that uncontrollable and unpredictable emotion we call love which we all acknowledge manifests itself between anything that breathes. However, we seem to ignore the fact that there is a gene predominantly present in the male species that triggers romantic and emotional feelings not towards living creatures, but to that jalopy or other in the garage. It is a fact that there are men out there who ‘love’ their car more than their partner, and can easily spend more time caressing, fussing and talking about it rather than about their partner. An Englishman with that common name of Edward Smith is the king of the car-worshippers race who made headlines in the UK a few years back after he unashamedly admitted to having had sex with 1,000 cars and to having had ‘romantic’ feelings towards vehicles.

Smith was quoted as saying that “there have been certain cars that attracted me and I would wait until night time, creep up to them and just hug and kiss them”. And as perverse as that may sound, a recent survey carried out in the UK also showed that British motorists spend “twice as much time maintaining their cars as they do their relationships”. In fact nearly five million UK drivers (12.6 per cent of the driving population) spend up to two hours per week maintaining their cars, while half that number (6.3 per cent) admit to spending the same amount of time maintaining their relationships with loved ones. The research also found that nearly half of British male drivers value their cars above other personal possessions, while 14 per cent of those polled said they had their first kiss in a car. When it comes to women, one in nine spend one to two hours a week maintaining their car. Even famous rock group Queen had released a song titled I’m in love with my car, with the lyrics insinuating sensual feelings towards “such a clean machine”.

These statistics are also true for Malta. I know people who would endlessly chatter about their car, with a passion I will never really understand. My passion is not for the object itself but for the influence this four-wheeled invention has had on society since its conception in the 18th century. I can never quite understand those people who live and dream of cars. I also cannot come to terms with people who appreciate a sports car more than a blonde behind the wheel.

The beauty in the car lies not only in its design and outward appearance, but in the mobility and versatility it has given us. However, putting aside pollution for a moment, I cannot possibly imagine a world without cars. In Malta we have more cars than we have mobile phones, with a total of 311,947 licensed motor vehicles on our roads. Please, like your car; but if it’s love you’re after, look elsewhere... even though cars don’t give you hell for looking at other cars!

FEBRUARY 19, 2012

The Sunday Times MOTORING 3


Mrieħel Bypass

“Never drive too slowly if road conditions are good and the traffic stream wishes to go faster, and never drive faster than the law allows”



he fact that traffic lights are working well in Mdina Road at the Aqueduct Junction is cause for Transport Malta to be congratulated and encouraged to do far, far more. Perhaps the hazardous junction into and out of Mrieħel Industrial Estate from Mrieħel Bypass should at last (waiting since 2006) be made ‘Turn Left’ only. In the same way, now that the timing of the nearby traffic lights has been seen to, is it not time that the junction of Kennedy Drive with the Coast Road be made ‘Turn Left’ only as well? It may alleviate the dreadful traffic build-up where Naxxar traffic finds it hard to join the coast road opposite the salt pans. We recently managed to check the accuracy of the Mini’s speedometer against the super flashing speed lights on the St Paul’s bypass. Sadly, a couple of days later, we failed to get a proper reading with the X/19 Fiat as the lights were already in rebellious mood. This was a great idea even if it was the precursor to people being booked a couple of hundred metres further on for disregarding any speed infringement. Transport Malta also had to veto, quite correctly, the mayor of Mellieħa, who wanted to make part of the main shopping street one way downhill. We sympathise with him for venting this desire during a public meeting. However, if offroad parking had been acceded to when suggested to the council in 1996, this chronic mess would never have been allowed to take over the council’s work. When the bypass is reopened, private cars can bypass the town by turning left at the bottom of the hill, following across the boathouse road until they can climb through Santa Maria Estate to miss the worst of the town. Mellieħa has a large retired population and in summer thousands of Maltese rent out accommodation. Many people do not have the physical strength to climb up the steep hill that encompasses the main shopping street, purchases in hand. Sad but true. The answer, unpalatable as it is, must be to reconsider the maximum size of both delivery trucks and public transport vehicles that perforce use Mellieħa’s principle shopping street. This is most certainly not a town for giant bendy buses, or even the larger Chinese imports.

Learner drivers Am I the only driver being constantly held back on all the major single-lane roads I use by slow moving learner drivers? Without being unduly selfish and speaking from experience, as my last six months within the ADT were spent as a volunteer driving examiner, I would suggest that major roads are totally out of bounds to inexperienced learner drivers unless the driving

to go faster, and most certainly never drive faster than the law allows. Instructors must remember that within days of passing the driving exam novice drivers may be on European roads at speeds never contemplated locally. For an instructor, teaching should mean how to drive cars for life and not simply to pass the practical driving test.

Protective barriers

This sign is a danger to traffic and liable to fall if very windy. Its outer edge can be no closer than 500 mm to the edge of the pavement or carriageway. St Paul’s Bay council have been requested to legalise its position twice. instructors are prepared to teach their students how to handle the car to maintain their place within the traffic stream without causing everyone else to slow down. The two-second-distance rule is vital, the use of fifth or

sixth gear is vital, and the students’ ability to drive safely within the parameters of our speed-restricted roads is vital. Never drive too slowly if road conditions are good and the traffic stream wishes

I was recenlty asked by friends to use the Naxxar/ San Ġwann road at night and to note the state of the protective barriers and kerbs. Frankly, as the mudcoloured barriers and kerbs were the same colour as the road in the old Mini’s headlamps, at times when being dazzled we could see neither. The regulations state that protective barriers should be painted in black and white diagonals and should have reflectors mounted on them. It would also be a good idea to paint the kerbs white and keep them and the barriers reasonably clean.

Dear Editor In an article in The Sunday Times Motoring (January 22), entitled ‘Car Torque Rules are there for all’, the author, Hugh Arnett, raises an interesting point about the maximum speed of vehicles allowed through traffic lights and pelican crossings. However, his assertion that traffic regulations are not clear regarding this issue and that 60km/h is a “stupidly” high speed for traffic approaching a pelican crossing is both incorrect and misleading for readers. It may interest Mr Arnett to know that specific design standards for pedestrian crossings have been legally binding under Maltese law since 2003. Maltese law requires that any person designing or building a road or carrying out maintenance or other work thereon shall comply with the ‘Design and Construction Standards for Road Works’. The UK’s Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) contains the relevant standards to be used by highway and traffic engineers for the design of roads, bridges, junctions and crossings. The DMRB was, in fact, adapted to national technical standards under the auspices of the same German professor being referred to in the article. The design of pedestrian crossings is extensively covered by Local Transport Note 2/95, published by the UK Department for Transport. This technical guidance prescribes the use of different pedestrian crossing types for different road conditions based on traffic speed, traffic volume, number of pedestrians and road geometry, among others. As a strict rule, a zebra crossing should not be installed on roads where the 85th percentile speed of approaching traffic is less than 56km/h, whereas signal-controlled crossings should not be installed where the 85th percentile speed of approaching traffic is higher than 80km/h. In this respect, use of signal-controlled crossings on roads that have posted speed limits of 60km/h, such as Valletta Road, Mosta, is in full conformity with the DMRB and Maltese law. We would be more than pleased to provide Mr Arnett with a copy of Local Transport Note 2/95, so that he may become better informed on the subject, thus avoiding the promulgation of incorrect data to the public. VICTOR BATTISTINO Senior manager, Customer Care and Media, Corporate Services Directorate.

4 The Sunday Times MOTORING

FEBRUARY 19, 2012




10.3 seconds.

ECONOMY 34mpg.




Still looks great MATT KIMBERLEY


he XC90 is 10 years old this year and, despite not having changed all that much, it looks none the worse for the time gone by. It is Volvo’s most successful model, responsible for £3.8 billion (€4.58 billion) of revenue worldwide in its most successful year in production. For 2012 it has been freshened up ahead of a completely new replacement scheduled for 2014, so what better way to test it than to take it for a very long drive. Active types – sailors and the like – are more likely to own a Volvo than any other brand of car, according to Volvo’s own research. Over the years, sales figures have indirectly pared the XC90 range down to just one engine. More were offered for some years but the vast majority of people never looked past the D5 diesel so these days that’s all you can have. Nobody seems to mind.

The latest version is smooth, quiet and refined, although since this one is as new to the world as a tiny lamb in spring, its full performance and efficiency will take a while to show. With so few miles under its belt it’s quite obviously a bit tight. What’s most impressive about the XC90 is the almost complete lack of wind noise. For such a big car with hardly inconspicuous frontal dimensions, it is a real surprise how quietly it cuts through the air. But all things considered the car is really very comfortable for cruising. Even on German motorways where the speed limit is just a recommendation, anything up to 90 mph feels almost perfectly relaxed. Only almost, though, because parts of the XC90 are showing their age. The six-speed automatic gearbox simply doesn’t have a tall enough top gear, and 70 mph equates to well over 2,000 rpm. It always feels like there should be an extra gear or two. The handbrake is another bugbear. You press a lever with your

foot to engage it, and then pull a separate one with your hand to release it. But when you do the latter, the loud thunk as the foot-operated lever flings back to its original position is pretty unnecessary. The practicality on offer is more impressive. The seven seats and

extremely flexible configuration mean that the seating arrangements can be set up just how you most need them to be. A split tailgate provides a perch for sitting, and the buttons on the dashboard are all big, chunky and robust so you can use them even with thick gloves on. The SE Lux model I drove had a very handy feature for driving on the continent, which alters the direction of the headlights to suit driving on the right. It sums up

2.4-litre turbodiesel producing 197 bhp and 310 lb.ft.

TRANSMISSION Six-speed automatic gearbox driving all four wheels.

how well the XC90 has been thought out and developed over time. On detours through London and Ingolstadt, the XC90’s relatively slow-reacting steering is obvious, but that only encourages the kind of slower, more relaxed driving that suits family life. It is in no way sporty, though. It is not as obviously stylised, as extrovert or perhaps as fashionable as some of the other options out there, but it definitely makes some of its rivals look more than a little overpriced. The engine is generally bulletproof after so long in existence, and I cannot think of any location or situation where the XC90 would look out of place. It has a kind of understated, inoffensive class that tends to inspire respect and appreciation, rather than automatically getting people’s backs up as so many large 4x4s do. The XC90 showed what it is all about. It’s not as flashy as some, but it still looks great and it copes with all aspects of life at least as well as anything else on the road.

FEBRUARY 19, 2012

The Sunday Times MOTORING 5

FIRST DRIVE BMW 320d Sport saloon

Still the ultimate driving machine IAIN DOOLEY


f BMW is feeling the pressure regarding the launch of its latest 3Series saloon, it is doing a good job of hiding it. When you make a car that forms one fifth of your total sales profile it is important to get it right. Fortunately the German firm has had plenty of practice, as past generations of the car have been well received by the media and buying public. The previous model was not perfect, though. Rear seat occupants could have done with more leg room and the performance-oriented M Sport models were probably a little too extreme for some as the ride was on the harsh side of firm. In its new ‘F30’ guise, this latest 3Series saloon addresses such shortcomings and goes further regarding engine performance and economy. Many cars will end up in the hands of company car drivers, making any fuel economy and emissions gains key to its future sales success. First up, this 3-Series adopts many of the styling cues of its big brother, the 5- Series. The 3-Series is not only different on the outside, it is also bigger on the inside. Longer in length and wheelbase, it is the latter that allows rear seat occupants to stretch out.

Overall, the car’s cabin is plenty big enough fore and aft, with the drivercentric fascia easy to use as everything is close to hand. At the rear BMW has squeezed more space out of the boot, plus there’s a throughload option further enhancing its practicality. BMW is taking a bold decision to separate the overtly sporting and luxury equipment lines. The familiar value-based ES and SE models remain, and now Sport and M Sport models have been joined by Modern and Luxury variants offering distinctly more luxurious trim materials to signal BMW’s desire to lure Volvo, Lexus and Jaguar drivers out of their plush cabins. For many fans of the 3-Series it is the way the car drives that will be the main reason for its appeal. In this area BMW’s ability to keep a lid on any weight gains has helped agility and economy. Furthermore, advances in the engine department have seen power and efficiency gains across the board, while alongside the standard fit six-speed manual gearbox there’s a new eight-speed auto unit available for all engines. The all-turbocharged line-up runs from an entry-level 316i to a beefy 335i, with the all-important diesel units expected to represent a considerable proportion of sales. In 320d guise, power output is a healthy 184

bhp, while economy is a claimed 61.4 mpg. Factor in a tax-friendly 120g/km CO2 rating and it is not hard to see this variant as a staple on company car user chooser lists. In SE trim you’ll want for little in terms of equipment and on-road ability. However, kick it up a notch to Sport trim and the added cosmetic and comfort items of kit should make the ownership experience that bit more enjoyable.

“If you want to have some fun it will deliver a near-flawless performance” Sport trim gives you the chance to experience BMW’s range of M Sport performance options such as adaptive suspension. Previous M Sport cars were only really for hardcore fans, but now the proposition is more forgiving. This translates into a surprisingly supple ride over poorly surfaced roads yet body roll is kept to a minimum so you can attack corners with confidence and vigour. Combine this experience with the elastic nature of the 320d’s power delivery and you’ve got yourself an incredibly potent machine. It will sit at

motorway speeds all day long without complaint, but when you want to have some fun it will deliver a nearflawless performance with none of the compromises of the old car. And if you’re not into wringing every last drop of performance from your new 3-Series, there is the 320d Efficient Dynamics to consider. This is BMW’s eco-champion boasting 109g/km CO2 and 68.9 mpg in manual transmission trim. There is a little less bhp (163 not 184) but refinement and equipment levels have not been sacrificed in the name of tax-beating economy. Even this car can be had with BMW’s eight-speed auto gearbox. BMW’s generosity extends to a host of new kit for all cars, be it standard fit or optional. The car’s iDrive controller and colour screen fall into the former category for all cars along with fleet-friendly Bluetooth handsfree, while a traffic-aware sat-nav system, reversing camera, the M Sport performance add-ons and a variety of trim and upholstery options come under the latter. Now in its sixth generation, BMW’s 3-Series saloon has steadily evolved into a car with a wider remit to please, ensuring a broader customer base and a healthy future in the sales charts. It is still okay to say it is the ultimate driving machine. Evolution dictates that it just means something different in the 21st century.



7.5 seconds

ECONOMY 61.4mpg




2.0-litre diesel unit developing 184 bhp.

TRANSMISSION Six-speed manual transmission as standard, driving the rear wheels.

6 The Sunday Times MOTORING

FEBRUARY 19, 2012


Heralding a new era in the compact class


he Mercedes-Benz new B-Class was launched last Friday at the Mercedes-Benz showroom in Lija. Substantially more agile and efficient, the new B-Class is as comfortable and spacious as ever. The vehicle’s lower height and more upright seat position provide for a first impression that hints at the compact sports tourer’s dynamic credentials. With a new four-cylinder petrol engine featuring direct injection and turbocharging, a new diesel engine, a new dual clutch transmission, a new manual transmission and new assistance systems, the front-wheel-drive car also rings in a new technological era for compact cars from Mercedes-Benz. The new B-Class is a typical Mercedes sports tourer, offering plenty of space combined with impressive dynamic performance

as a hatchback saloon. The characteristic lines of the exterior design indicate both of these attributes: front and rear sport a widthemphasising design, with a wide, prominent grille and headlamps extending along the sides at the front while the rear end features a wide rear window, two-piece tail lights with horizontally offset meander and a large tailgate with low loading sill. The new vehicle concept underscores the dynamic aspirations of the new B-Class. The most striking aspect is the reduced height: at 1,557 mm, the new model crouches almost 50 mm lower on the road than its predecessor. The seat height in relation to the road has also been reduced by 86 mm in order to facilitate boarding, while maintaining a clear overview of the vehicle’s contours.

High-quality materials and finely structured surfaces, stylish details, precision workmanship and a new spaciousness – the interior of the B-Class defines a whole new benchmark in the compact segment. The B-Class features new petrol and diesel engines as well as new manual and automatic transmissions. All transmissions and engines have been developed in-house. Common features of the new drive systems are the use of state-of-the-art technologies for maximum efficiency, very smooth running, high tractive power right from low revs, sustainability in terms of impending emissions standards and low weight. The new four-cylinder petrol engines mark the launch of a completely new engine series. The combustion process is based on the thirdgeneration Mercedes-Benz direct injection

system which was introduced last year with the Bluedirect V6 and V8 engines. The new B-Class is initially available with a displacement of 1.6 litres, as the B 180 rated at 122 bhp and the B 200 with an output of 156 bhp. Their maximum torque of 200 and 250 Nm respectively is available from an engine speed of 1,250 rpm. The B 180 CDI generates 109 bhp of power, while the B 200 CDI has an output of 136 bhp. The new six-speed manual transmission designed along similarly compact lines as a three-shaft transmission is a close relative of the DCT. Very easy gear shifting, low shift forces, low internal friction and a low weight are among its most important characteristics. For further information visit; or

Cannabis ‘doubles risk of crash’ JANE KIRBY


moking cannabis within three hours of driving could almost double the risk of a serious crash, research suggests. A review of nine studies found that drivers were more likely to be involved in a collision with another car after smoking the class B drug. Figures show there are around a million users of cannabis in the UK aged 16 to 24 and around two million in the 16 to 59 age group. Research published in the British Medical Journal found cannabis use led to a “near doubling of risk of a driver being involved in a collision resulting in serious injury or death”. The researchers, from Dalhousie University in Canada, said, however, that the impact of cannabis consumption “on the risk of minor crashes remains unclear”. Previous studies suggested cannabis impairs a person’s mental abilities and the ‘motor tasks’ needed for safe driving, increasing the risk of a crash. “The results also accord with recent data for collisions that point to the increasing presence of drugs other than alcohol, especially cannabis and depressants of the central nervous system, in injured and fatally injured drivers.” PA

FEBRUARY 19, 2012

The Sunday Times MOTORING 7

FIRST DRIVE Peugeot 3008 2.0 HDi Hybrid4 104g

A bold step in diesel hybrids IAIN DOOLEY



he concept of a hybrid vehicle is no longer new. We have Toyota to thank for the broad acceptance of cars that run on electric as well as petrol power. However, it’s the choice of engine that has put some people off. Petrol power is fine if the fuel is cheap. This goes someway to explaining why Toyota – and Honda – hybrids have been so successful in North America. Sadly our ‘special relationship’ has yet to extend to convincing our cousins across the water that diesel is better. And that is why diesel hybrids have been absent from the price lists; the American market is the biggest and the most influential. That is about to change, however, with the introduction of Peugeot’s 3008 Hybrid4. Based on a standard 3008, Peugeot has connected an electric powertrain to the car’s rear wheels. In an instant you’ve got an all-wheel drive family crossover vehicle, but you’ve also

TOP SPEED 118mph

0-100km 8.5 seconds

ECONOMY 70.5mpg


104g/km when on 17-inch wheels. 99g/km CO₂ when on 16-inch wheels.

ENGINE 2.0-litre diesel unit developing 163 bhp. Electric motor develops 37 bhp.

TRANSMISSION Six-speed automated manual transmission as standard, driving the front wheels. Electric motor drives rear wheels.

“In an instant you’ve got an all-wheel drive family crossover vehicle” got a car that can travel for a mile or so on electric power alone. In the right conditions it will also pull away from rest in electric mode, reducing the amount of fuel you use and boosting throttle response. So how does it all work? In simple terms the 3008 Hybrid4 packs a conventional four-cylinder diesel motor under its bonnet. In this case its Peugeot’s higher output 163 bhp unit. At the back is the aforementioned electric motor arrangement. This motor can deliver up to the equivalent of 37 bhp. The battery pack is automatically charged without the need to plug it in somewhere like with a conventional electric vehicle. The regenerative process happens when you’re off the throttle, and is most obvious from the stronger than usual engine braking – around town it’s noticeable that you need to use the brakes less when coasting to a stop. The two power units’ connection with the real world is by Peugeot’s clutchless manual gearbox. This will be a familiar unit to Peugeot fans and, while it does have its quirks, with the addition of electric power the automated gear changes feel smoother than in a conventional car. Out on the road the 3008 Hybrid4 behaves almost like a regular 3008. The immediate tell-tale sign is when you turn the key, as not much happens in the noise department. With the default start-up mode electric, it is possible to pull away with just the distant whine of the electric motor. If the car detects more power is required, the diesel

engine fires into life. From then on it’s just like driving a diesel-powered 3008 that is until you stop as that’s when the engine stops. Move off and, if there’s enough battery charge, you’ll power away in electric mode and start the automatic power-juggling cycle again.

If there’s one thing the hybrid variant does share with its conventional 3008 cousin, it is a rotary controller allowing you to change transmission modes. To counter the need for a genuinely costly all-wheel drive system, Peugeot adopted a traction control system dubbed Grip Control. The Hybrid4 model goes a step further; you can switch between all electric (EV), power, auto and 4x4 modes. Of course, ‘forcing’ the car into EV mode will only last for as long as there’s sufficient charge in the battery, which means driving gently to achieve the ‘couple of miles’ goal. The flipside is the power mode, which unleashes everything the 3008 has for maximum acceleration and performance, while the 4x4 mode

engages the rear axle for added traction on slippery grass and muddy tracks. Predictably, leaving the car in the auto mode seems to work well during general driving duties. The technical competence demonstrated by the 3008 Hybrid4 is but one element of its appeal. Peugeot readily admits that its focus is on company car drivers as, with the base specification car outputting 99g/km CO2, the tax benefits will be attractive. Also, there’s the ability offset the full cost of the car against company profits in the first year of ownership. Not bad for a five-seat, 200 bhp high-rise hatchback with the same kit as a regular 3008 plus Peugeot’s recently improved build quality and premium cabin ambience. Sure, the hybrid model won’t suit everyone’s needs, but it’s a bold first step in the realm of diesel-electric hybrids and shows plenty of promise.

8 The Sunday Times MOTORING

FEBRUARY 19, 2012

FEBRUARY 19, 2012


The Sunday Times MOTORING 9


Mini Highgate announced A

Back to its original glory When classic car enthusiast Brian Farrugia set eyes upon an MGB that had been stranded in a barn for two decades, it was love at first sight. He tells RAMONA DEPARES how 12 months of restoration work brought the sought-after model back to its original condition.


s the eldest son of one of the first panel beaters in Gozo, you could say that Brian Farrugia had no choice. While other boys grew up playing with model Matchbox cars, Farrugia used to hang out at his father’s garage, surrounded by a variety of vehicles. Today, the smell of the thinner in the car spray mixtures takes him back to his childhood days. “To make matters worse, my first house was a threeroomed apartment with an inter-connecting garage, so it was practically impossible for me to get away from cars. I was constantly bombarded by cars, to the point that I didn’t know which were my father’s and which were the clients,” he said with a smile. The first car he remembers tinkering with was a blue and chrome Silvercross “buggie”. Eventually this was upgraded to a red pedal model by Ferrari, which was a gift from his grandfather. But he had yet to do any real restoration work. Aged 14, the breakthrough happened. “I wanted my parents to get me a computer, which was quite expensive then. My father promised me that if I earned some of the money he would top up the remainder. At the time he was restoring an old Ford Prefect and I suddenly found myself taking on the role of official ‘sander’. I doubt my work was any good but hey, it was a start. And I got my computer.” A couple of years later Farrugia bought a Triumph 1360 for the princely sum of Lm92 (worth €214 today) and decided to have a go at restoring it. Although he had been warned that the car needed “some work” before it could go back on the road, Farrugia figured it would just be a matter of unscrewing this and replacing that. However, further inspection of the Triumph revealed some interesting details. “The back seat was smaller than it should have been. After showing it to my dad he told me it was an original convertible that was definitely worth saving and restoring. And so I spent the summer toiling on it.” Suddenly, what started off as a job to pay for his computer developed into a passion. A short time later Farrugia bought a VW Beetle 1302. The car cost a mere couple of hundred old Maltese liri. Three months later, also thanks to his father’s input, it was as good as new. Fast forward to 2000 and Farrugia was living in Hamburg, Germany. With cars still very much on his mind, all the cars he ever wanted to own were available in Germany, and at reasonable prices. While searching online, he found a Jaguar XJS for sale at an incredible price and decided that the 100 km train journey from Hamburg to view it was worth the effort. “The lady who owned the Jaguar drove me to a barn where she had been storing the car for a couple of years. Sitting there I found the Jaguar XJS, a Mercedes Ponton, a Mercedes 380SL, two Spitfires, six Fiat 500, a model T Ford, a Chevy Impala and Christine.” Christine was an MGB. Farrugia said that the name-giving ritual is quite common among vintage car lovers and that, once you find the right car and you “christen” her, then she is yours forever. “When I first saw her she was lying on four piles of bricks and yet I decided she was to be part of the deal. I took the XJS for a test drive, went back to the barn and promptly informed the owner that I wanted to take the MG instead. “Her reply was far from encouraging; apparently the car had been stored in the barn for the past couple of decades and she had no idea if it would even start”.

Brian Farrugia and 'Christine' the classic MGB.

This didn’t deter Farrugia one bit. He promptly signed the transfer and got the MGB towed to Hamburg. He got the car inspected by a British sports car mechanic and finally got Christine running for a mere 300 German Deutsche Marks (worth €153 today) and proceeded to use the car for about 10 years until he brought it back to Malta. “When I first got Christine she had been stored away for 18 years, so there was the usual rust problem, a worn-out soft top, a couple of chewed cables, a rotten radiator and an old water pump. “In reality there was no serious damage. Obviously the paint needed retouching and a good polish but other than that, it was in surprisingly decent condition.” But upon returning to Malta, Farrugia – egged on by his father – decided that he wanted to carry out a more thorough restoration job. The next six months were spent hunting for all the “missing bits and bobs” needed to make this restoration unique. As soon as he was satisfied, restoration work started in earnest. The job was to take a full year. “The process practically involved a complete rebuild. We started by removing the body parts one by one and sanding them to bare metal. I don’t like sand-blasting and the glass pearl basting or soda blasting was too new to the market. “After that we removed the tub from the chassis and sanded the chassis. Luckily, it needed no repairs at all. My father and I then prepared the chassis for spraying and filled all the cavities with a rust proofing compound. Where we found no access points we ended up having to drill and reseal once the job was done,” Farrugia said.

“The whole restoration cost €2,000 and some 400 labour hours. Farrugia estimates the car is worth €15,000, but in reality ‘she’ is priceless” After that it was time to take care of the many little rust patches. Some panels had to be replaced, so new ones were moulded and all imperfections filed away. “My father is a puritan so we decided to use the old lead and file method. This means you hammer the bumps almost to perfection and then you fill in the remaining imperfections with lead. Finally you get a metal file and file the lead down to get a smooth and perfect surface. With this method you are really putting metal on metal and no compound materials

such as “stokk” – as we know it in Malta – is used. It is a tedious job but a very rewarding one as well.” After the two managed to get the car back in shape, it was time to take a good look at the 1800cc engine. Valves, pistons and gaskets were replaced. The engine was repainted. Once it was running, Farrugia mounted it onto the chassis and to the gearbox and eventually the tub was lowered in its place. The car was then prepared for painting and a couple of coats later, Christine was sparkling black again.

The whole restoration cost €2,000 and some 400 labour hours. Farrugia estimates the car to be worth €15,000, but in reality, for him, it is priceless and Christine is definitely not for sale. “Next I have six different projects in line for the next couple of years. I am working on a Morris Traveller, an Esquire van, a Ford Prefect, a Mercedes 220D and... this week I also got my second Suzuki LJ80 and a 1970 Ural old Russian motorbike with a sidecar.” Things are set to look busy at the Farrugia garage.

nother special edition Mini has been released, following the Baker Street and Bayswater limited runs announced last month. The convertible Highgate continues the theme of naming the cars after fashionable areas of London. It comes in a metallic brown – ‘iced chocolate’ – colour with a roof and matching bonnet stripes in ‘silvertouched truffle’, another sort of brown. It can be had in white or black as well, but iced chocolate is unique to the Highgate. Also unique are the 17-inch ‘double cross turned’ alloy wheels, the design of which is apparently inspired by the Union Jack. More brown awaits inside, with ‘dark truffle’ leather seats, although they do have blue piping. Mini’s ‘chili pack’ is standard, bringing climate control, a multi-function steering wheel, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and, for the style conscious, multi-coloured interior lighting. Brushed alloy detailing features on the dashboard and the chrome line packages have been added inside and out. A finishing touch comes in the shape of ‘Highgate’ lettering on the side indicator surrounds, door sills and seat tags. Further options can be added at the wouldbe owner’s behest. Four engine options are being offered with the Highgate, borrowed from the regular Cooper, Cooper S, Cooper D and Cooper SD. (PA)

10 The Sunday Times MOTORING

FEBRUARY 19, 2012


McLaren drivers’ new approach IAN PARKES


ewis Hamilton and Jenson Button adopted a different approach to their winter regime in a bid to become Formula One world champion again. For Hamilton, it was a case of becoming mentally leaner after the very public issues that blighted him on and off track last season. For Button, approaching his 13th season in the sport, the 32year-old has suddenly cottoned on to employing specialist nutritional advice to give him that extra edge. Hamilton certainly appeared liberated on his first day back in the spotlight since the end of last season as McLaren unveiled their new challenger for the coming campaign, the MP4-27. The genuine article was on show at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, a far cry from the tormented soul that suffered over the closing stages of last season. Numerous on-track incidents and accidents were compounded when he split from long-term girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger, professing at the final race weekend in Brazil he still loved her.

Just over two months on and the 27-year-old has now wrestled with the demons in his mind following a winter in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Speaking to Press Association Sport, Hamilton said: “I feel fresh. I had a really good winter. The

team gave me a good bit of time off after such a long season, and obviously we went through a lot. “But it was just a fantastic winter where I got to spend time with friends and family and was able to wind down and let loose.Then I got into quite an intense training

regime, sitting down in between times where I analysed the year and certain things in my personal life which weren’t as good as they could be. “I went about correcting those things, and today I just feel very fresh in my mind and very free of

any of the burdens I had on me last year.” Button admitted that on a mental level “nothing had changed” as he was “pretty happy at the end of last year”. Instead, to gain the slender advantage this year, Button will turn to a great British staple – a cooked breakfast. In tandem with Befit Monaco, an exclusive specialist training and dietary centre for elite performers, Button said: “We’ve been working on nutrition and things like that. “It sounds crazy, but when you are at the top of any sport you’ve got to look for anything, to run through different things. “It can keep you positive and in the right frame of mind for the time you need it within the car, and also out of it. “You’d think it’s easy, not to have fat and things like that, but that doesn’t work for certain people. “So a full English is not a bad thing for me actually. Steak and eggs is the best thing for me for breakfast. “It’s all going really well. I’m enjoying it. It’s been a lot of fun.”



escribed as the world’s most glamorous supercar rally, the winter edition of the Dodgeball rally is being held on March 1, seeing billionaires and eccentrics racing expensive toys across Europe. Speaking to The Sunday Times Motoring, Johnny Dodge, the man behind the rally, said that the name for the rally was a spin on his surname, the iconic ‘Cannon Ball Run’ and diehard adventurer Erwin G. ‘Cannonball’ Baker, who had set 143 American distance records, including a 53½ hour coast-tocoast solo drive averaging over 50 mph in 1933. The rally is held twice a year in summer and winter and leaves Mayfair in London with the first stop in Paris for dinner and some fun on a closed runway, onto the Magny Cours racetrack where the exclusive unveiling of the Furtive eGT, one of the world’s most powerful electric cars, will be held. The day comes to an end with a night stop in Burgundy.

The following morning the drivers will go on a private tour around the small workshops of Loiseau, makers of the world’s most expensive watches. The final leg of the rally is a straight shot to an ice table in Verbier, in the Swiss mountains. The rally is open to an exclusive group of 30 lucky and rich participants and is limited to 15 cars. This will allow participants to meet each other and to fully enjoy the seven-star services they swear by. However, not any car is allowed in. “It’s all about the wow factor,” Dodge said. Among the most exotic cars to be entered were a goldplated Bugatti Veyron, a chrome Mercedes McLaren SLRs, and a unique Lamborghini Performante driven by Spencer Matthews from hit British TV show Made in Chelsea. No Maltese has ever entered the rally, but Dodge assured me he was always looking for new entrants from around the world to join in the fun.

FEBRUARY 19, 2012

The Sunday Times MOTORING 11

ON TEST Opel Corsa Colour Edition

Adding colour to life

VERDICT COMFORT Handled bumps in the road well with sports suspension.

PERFORMANCE Needed a more powerful engine to match sporty looks.

COOL Very cool with contrasting wheels and roof.

QUALITY Well built cabin felt more expensive than it is.


0-100km 14.9 seconds.

ECONOMY 3.5 l/100 km.



ENGINE 1.2l 16v.

POWER 85bhp.





fter pulling up at the Opel showroom on a gloomy day last week, the three-door Opel Corsa shone out at me with its Casablanca white and contrasting black paint job, powder-coated alloy wheels and black roof that really distinguished it from the rest in the showroom. After walking around the car a few times, I was drawn towards it from all angles. From the front, looking straight on, the car sits slightly lower due to its sports suspension which offers a firm, sporty ride. Fog lights with chrome accents pop out of the bumpers and catch your vision. At its rear, I was met by smoked lights and a chrome exhaust. Every bit of the car accentuated its sportiness. The car is equipped with a 1.2litre, 16v engine, outputting 85 bhp. It is only available as a threedoor for the special edition model. I would have thought Opel would have given their colour edition a slightly bigger engine with more power to suit its sporty looks. Sitting in the driver’s seat, I was thrilled. The cabin was very bright as the car I was driving was fitted with the optional

panoramic sunroof. Shame I got to use it on a rainy day. Sporty, semi-bucket seats hugged me while I drove which kept me seated in the right position. The leather steering wheel felt well weighted and thick. When I got stuck in traffic I was able to look around the cabin in more detail. The air vents were the same colour as the exterior paint, adding a splash of colour to the cabin. Alloy pedals threw some more sportiness to the foot well.

along most of Malta’s roads. Every time I hit a bump I thought it would rattle my spine, but I was pleasantly surprised. The car absorbed the bumps very well and I was amazed at its road holding. Don’t get me wrong, you will feel the bumps, but the car handled them very smoothly. If you were planning on parking this car without damaging the lovely alloys, I would highly recommend digging a little deeper in to the pocket and opting for rear

“Every time I hit a bump I thought it would rattle my spine, but I was pleasantly surprised” I really liked the gear change indicator when driving. This little piece of technology shows drivers when it is best to change up or down a gear. Another thing that intrigued me was the indicator stalk. It can be flicked up or down and the indicator will blink a few times to alert you when you intend to overtake. But then when you actually use it, the indicator remains on till you complete the turn. I was a little sceptical about driving the Corsa with its sports suspension and 17-inch alloys

parking sensors, which unfortunately are not standard. In today’s world of ever increasing fuel prices, the look and drive of a car are not the only winning factors. Drivers are more aware of emissions and engine economy. The Corsa’s impressive 94 g/km and 3.4l/100 km mean this super mini can pull 69.2 miles per gallon for those using the imperial system. The car is available in Casablanca white, yellow (sunny melon), magma red, oriental blue and black sapphire.

12 The Sunday Times MOTORING

FEBRUARY 19, 2012


Full hybrid Yaris set for Geneva

Skoda trials electric Octavia



ere is a sneak peek of the first full hybrid supermini on the market, the new Toyota Yaris Hybrid, which will have its world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show in March. With the ability to run solely on electric power, with zero exhaust emissions, it also acts as a closed system and never needs to be recharged. The system is similar to that seen in the Auris Hybrid, but redeveloped in key areas to make it 20% lighter. The Yaris Hybrid’s 1.5-litre petrol engine is new, while the motor, battery pack and associated components are smaller. The result is a Yaris just like any other with the family face to match, but combining 98bhp with what Toyota is calling “segment-leading CO2 emissions.” Its key rival is the Honda Jazz Hybrid, which doesn’t run a full hybrid system and emits 104g/km, so expect sub-100g/km from the Yaris. Toyota is staying tight-lipped about final numbers until official tests have been run and the data confirmed. What’s particularly impressive is that Toyota has been able to package all the hybrid technology without compromising interior or boot space at all, leaving it with the same 286-litre luggage capacity as any other version. Modifications have been made, however, to the aerodynamics of the hybrid model to make sure it’s as efficient as it can be.

There will be driving modes available for using the electric motor as much as possible, creating a zeroemission, super-quiet car for in-town driving. When the batteries’ energy is depleted the petrol engine will cut back in and help to recharge them. Final specifications are yet to be confirmed, but all models will come with continuously variable automatic transmissions and climate control. (PA)

ests have begun on a zeroemission version of Skoda’s family hatchback, which will see 10 all-electric Green E Line Octavias rolling around the streets of Mlada Boleslav in the Czech Republic. The real-world evaluations mark Skoda’s first use of an electric powertrain on the public road. The technology, which is being developed in tandem with other Volkswagen Group companies, will give engineers an insight as to whether plug-in cars of the Octavia’s size are viable yet. It will also show the companies those aspects of the systems that need to be improved or could be developed further prior to production. Using a 60kW (80bhp) motor that can run at up to 114bhp for oneminute bursts, the Octavia Green E Line can hit 62 mph in 12 seconds, with a top speed of 84 mph. The motor’s 199lb.ft of torque is available from zero revs, making it very quick from stationary up to urban speeds. A total of 180 battery cells make up the energy storage, providing up to 93 miles of range – more than enough for most commuters, says Skoda. The batteries weigh a total of 315kg and are installed under the middle and rear of the car in such a way that it can still seat five people. Dr Eckhard Scholz, board member in charge of research and development, said: “ŠKODA and the entire Volkswagen Group have a longtime aim, and that is sustainable mobility based on renewable energy sources. “There is no doubt electric propulsion is becoming more and more important for mobility with as low emissions as possible. Working as we are with our Group partners, we think we are making very good progress.” (PA)

New Kia Cee’d has designs on the future


orean car maker Kia is to launch an all-new version of its popular Cee’d at the Geneva Motor Show next month. The all-new Cee’d five-door hatchback is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, with the same long wheelbase to ensure plenty of space for passengers. The car’s coupe-like proportions are emphasised by a steeply raked A-pillar, a low belt-line at the front and lengthened side windows. At the front, new Cee’d is dominated by the latest interpretation of Kia’s trademark ‘tiger-nose’ grille and aggressive, wraparound headlamp clusters housing signature LED daytime running lights. Inside, there is a new interior boasting higher quality materials.

Subaru’s double debut at Geneva Motor Show


apanese car maker Subaru is preparing to wow the crowd at the influential Geneva Motor Show next month with two new models. First up is the firm’s hotly anticipated new sports coupe, the BRZ. Developed in co-operation with Toyota, this front-engine, rear-wheel drive coupe promises affordable performance motoring for keen drivers. Powered by Subaru’s trademark horizontally-opposed 2.0-litre Boxer engine, this car is expected to deliver impressive levels of grip and handling thanks to the lowest centre of gravity of any production car. Of equal importance will be the unveiling of Subaru’s fourth-generation Impreza. According to its maker, the car will boast superior reliability, handling and safety features, while its signature Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system and Boxer engine remain its core features. (PA)

FEBRUARY 19, 2012

The Sunday Times MOTORING 13

ON TEST The new Hyundai i40 Wagon

An unexpected drive HUGH ARNETT


t 4,770 mm, the sheer length combined with a new concept in rather special motoring, marks the i40 Wagon as a most intriguing vehicle. It is the modern equivalent of the old station wagon. You know the concept... wooden struts outside to give it a rural look. However, the emphasis remains on carrying capacity with both seats and luggage room. The unframed question lurking in the recesses of this driver’s mind are all to do with the darkened rear side windows, the ‘rear privacy glass’, the fact that very important executives or others engaged in a need for confidentiality can be wafted around our road system, at high average speeds, in a great deal of comfort, without the hoi-polloi being remotely aware of the importance of the drive, marks the i40 Wagon as very special indeed. On opening the rear lid the sheer size of the hold reveals that this vehicle is designed for five people and

a lot of luggage. However, the really interesting fact is that in two-seat mode with the entire rear forming a luggage platform, the load capacity goes from an entertaining 553 litres, to a mind-bending 1,719 litres, without the use of a roof rack. Initially there was some concern that the car, taking up 1,815 mm of road, without taking into account the door mirrors would, combined with its length, be a bit of a liability on lesser roads. In fact, the car is so well balanced and she handles so precisely that bulk fails to really enter into the equation. However, going backwards without the rear view camera working as well as it does would entail slow progress using the door mirrors continuously. The parking assist was used extensively, given the fact that the steering parks the car, twirling away merrily. Speed and braking are still under the control of the pilot’s feet, and believe me, the rear view camera then comes into

its own as the parking sensors bleat their merry tune, while a degree of apprehension creeps into the controllers’ mind. The 1,685cc CRDi diesel develops a reasonable 114 bhp at 4,000 rpm, and combined with a great amount of torque, 260Nm from 1,250-2,750 revs per minute, the car is well able to maintain high average speeds even when fully laden. She’s a pleasantly responsive car to drive with a great many electronic wizardries, including cruise control for those owners engaged on long or lazy travel. Of more immediate relevance to drivers in Malta we obviously used on test the ABS, BAS

“Looks great, is beautifully finished, with enormous potential for carting people” (Brake Assist System), HAC (Hill Assist Control), ESS (Emergency Stop Control) and importantly, VSM (Vehicle Stability Management) and ESC (Electric Stability Control). This has its own on/off switch, and on a dry day driving in Malta it was impossible to tell the difference when the switch was off. This says a lot for the car’s inherent stability.

The power steering was light and surprisingly positive, and even though the vehicle had only two people on board, the brakes were superbly responsive, never tried to ‘grab’ and were progressive rather than sudden and immediate. I have a personal preference for a ‘normal’ handbrake rather than the contemporary trend towards having to use the brake pedal to engage, and disengage the hand brake, for I feel that most drivers will forget what they were taught as learners, and simply sit with the foot brake in use, using the hand brake only as a parking brake. Please prove me wrong. The interior has been properly set up and finished to a very high standard. The electrically operated seats provided all the movements required, including a lift function. The steering column is also adjustable, tilt and telescopic modes being available. There are seven air bags, very good seat belts and reactive head restraints. The feeling of safety within the passenger area is really most extraordinarily reassuring. The 17-inch wheels rode the undulations well, and with MacPherson struts and coil springs up front with a multi-link type rear suspension with stabiliser bar the whole package seems ‘glued’ to the road, and the six-speed gearbox with its delightful manual change allowed the most to be made of every opportunity. It almost goes without saying these days that the air-conditioning package and the various media functions are fantastic with many controls being conveniently placed on the steering wheel, and of course, the i40 is no different. All-in-all this wagon not only looks great, is beautifully finished to very high standards with all the comforts required for happy travelling, but with its enormous potential for carting things, or people, the i40 fills the bill, and she is also available in sedan version to fill a market niche.

VERDICT COMFORT No hesitation at all.

PERFORMANCE Satisfactory for a small diesel. Bear in mind the fastest petrol version gets to 100 km/h in only 9.7 seconds.

COOL ‘Cool’ is the wrong word to use. I would give it five stars for multi-functionality.

QUALITY In class, this car is right up there with the very best.


0-100km 12.9 seconds

ECONOMY 4.3 l/100 km travelled.



ENGINE 1,685cc common rail injected diesel. Euro 5 rating. Four cylinders, double overhead camshaft, 16 valves. Gear change – six-speed manual

POWER 114bhp at 4,000 rpm.

MAXIMUM TORQUE 260Nm from 1,250 to 2,750rpm.


14 The Sunday Times MOTORING

FEBRUARY 19, 2012


Paris classic car auction makes history


istory was made last Friday week as the biggestever sale of collectors’ cars in France took place. In a five-hour auction that saw €14.5 million of classic cars change hands, the star attraction was the Ferrari 250 GT California bought new by Roger Vadim. The famous French filmmaker’s old car sold for its top estimate of €4 million before fees and taxes were added, making a final sale price of just over €4.5 million. Also under the hammer at the Artcurial auction was a 1913 Delauney Belleville Type 06 8-litre, dismantled and hidden during World War II and only rediscovered decades later. It sold for €471,800. Ninety per cent of more than 100 cars offered were sold in front of a crowd of over 1,000 people. Among the stranger of the lots was a Citroen 2CV from 1965, with just 116 miles from new. Its new owner paid a mildly shocking €59,600 for it. The auction is further proof that classic cars are a very sound investment in economically challenging times. While banks can print more money, cars like these can never be made again and the doublewhammy of scarcity and heritage makes these cars very tempting to investors.

Harley unveils stunning new 72


stunning new retro custom bike has been revealed by Harley-Davidson – the Sportster 72. The 72 is based on the Sportster XL1200 series, but with more of an emphasis on styling from yesteryear, including spectacular flaked paintwork and slim, whitewall tyres. It harks back to the glory days of the 1970s ‘custom chop’ style that originated from Whittier Boulevard, a street in East Los Angeles otherwise known as Route 72. The paint, called Hard Candy Big Red Flake, is created by applying a black base coat, followed by a polyurethane system that carries hexagon-shaped flakes that are more than seven times the diameter of metal flake used in typical production paint. Each flake is coated with a thin aluminium film and then tinted red. Four applications of clear coat, combined with handsanding, create a smooth finish over the flakes for an amazing finish. “In creating the 72, we were very much inspired by the vibe of the early chopper era,” Frank Savage, Harley-Davidson manager of Industrial Design, said. “Those bikes were colourful and chromed, but also narrow and stripped down to the essentials. You look at period examples and they are almost as simple as a bicycle. The 72 reflects the creative urge of riders from yesteryear in a thoroughly modern package. The 1200cc, fuel-injected Vtwin engine is familiar from existing Sportster bikes. The two staggered, chromed exhausts are beautiful, adding to an extremely well-proportioned bike. The fuel tank is as small as it looks, however, measuring just 7.9 litres. That means fill-ups cost little over €15. (PA)

FEBRUARY 19, 2012

The Sunday Times MOTORING 15


Me and my car Water technology expert Marco Cremona tells RAMONA DEPARES that he prefers getting around on two wheels, rather than four. What car do you drive? I actually drive a scooter. It is only on very rainy days and/or when I have items to transport that I drive my trusty old Fiat Punto – which also doubles up as a van (with the back seat lowered) which I use to take our two dogs for a run in the countryside. What do you usually look for in a car? Fuel efficiency, reliability, and practicality. Style? Not really, and the less gadgets the better. Were you scared when you first started driving or were you a natural? My first means of transport was a motorbike, which I got when I turned 18. I also got to drive my mother’s car a number of times. Exams always make me very nervous and it was no different when it came to my driving test. Back then, the motorbike driving test involved setting off, switching on the indicator while still within the examiner’s sight and

because I’m usually on the scooter and am very apprehensive of other motorists’ bad driving. What do you keep in your glove box? The car’s manuals, log book, a pen, some small change – essentially things that are related to the car. Nothing terribly exciting or worth stealing. Do you suffer from road rage at all? And what drives you mad behind the wheel? I think road rage is a waste of energy so I sensibly avoid getting all worked up and spoiling my day or mood. However, having said that, if it weren’t for the radio I’d probably get worked up in traffic. It’s a good thing that I do not often experience traffic jams as I’m generally on the scooter and I can choose when to start and leave work and thus avoid peak hours. What’s the best music to drive to? Anything that happens to be playing on the radio. There is an element of spontaneity/surprise in radio that you don’t get from a CD.

“Cleaning the car is a waste of time and water. As long as I can see out of the car windows and the headlamps emit enough light, I’m fine” going round the block on your own. If you came back in one piece you passed the test. My first car was a red and white Citroen 2CV (commonly known as a Dolly) which, apart from the Skoda, was the least expensive car on the market. Loved it! Pity they don’t make them anymore.

Have you ever had a crash? Whose fault was it and how did you deal with it? The only crashes that come to mind are those I had with my motorbike/scooter, for obvious reasons. Do you know how to change a flat wheel? Do you actually do it yourself? Of course I do. How can an engineer not change a flat wheel himself?

What was your worst/best car? I have owned three cars – the Dolly, a Fiat Punto and currently, a Honda Fit (which is the family car). They all suited my style and requirements at the time, so I really cannot trash any of them. The Dolly is a fun car; but I was disappointed that its chassis collapsed after only seven years – which seems to be an inherent defect. Considering that Citroen continued to churn this model out for over four decades one would have expected such a defect to have been ironed out by then!

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in a car? This is a family paper, right? So I’ll say that it was when I took the Dolly off-roading on the Selmun clay slopes. It trudged along where four-wheel drives got terribly bogged down and stuck.

What is your dream car? A Jaguar E-Type. But I’m too much of an environmental activist to enjoy long, fuel-guzzling rides if I ever owned one. I think I’ll stick with the scale model.

Who cleans your car and how often? Cleaning the car is a waste of time and water. As long as I can see out of the car windows and the headlamps emit enough light, I’m fine.

Do you consider yourself to be a good driver? I think I drive well when I’m behind a steering wheel, not least

Have you ever messed up badly while driving? Any funny stories to tell? I was once followed by a crazy guy

Who would be your perfect passenger? A silent one.

Marco’s trusty old Fiat Punto doubles up as a van used to take his dogs for a run. Photo: Jason Borg all the way from Mosta to Mġarr because the guy got all worked up when I flashed my lights at him for driving in the middle of the road. I was driving the Dolly then; he was driving an old Triumph. I took advantage of the slope of the arterial road leading to Mġarr to overtake

him, but when I did I could hear him changing gear and accelerating to ram his car into mine. We raced all the way to the Mġarr police station where I stopped and ran in shouting “Qed jiġri warajja, qed jiġri warajja” (he’s chasing me, he’s chasing me).

Of course, he had disappeared by the time the police came out. What do you think of Maltese drivers in general? Now that I am a father of two kids, I am contemplating life insurance. Need I say more?

16 The Sunday Times MOTORING

FEBRUARY 19, 2012


Labours of love JOSEPH BUSUTTIL


ohn Pullicino grew up in a house on the outskirts of Attard facing the disused Ta’ Qali airstrip, which served as an unofficial racing track for the speed-loving motoring enthusiasts. His earliest recollections feature handfuls of Minis, Mini Coopers, Triumph Spitfires, Alfa Romeos, MGBs and Midgets noisily going through their paces in strong competitive spirit at various times of the day, as well as night, largely undisturbed by the police. “I was only eight at the time, but the sight of these racing cars left an indelible impression on me. The Triumph Spitfires always caught my eye. I was determined to buy one when I grew up,” he said. “Other early classic car influences were the 1958 Hillman Minx which my father Joseph and my brother Edgar, used to run. I remember Edgar getting to grips with any mechanical problems in the family car or motorcycles which he had – and still has.” “He would not let me touch anything in the garage; but although I did not take part in the technical work, I stood beside him, absorbed, observing and learning.” While still at university Pullicino worked part-time and saved every penny to realise his dream. In 1979, the opportunity presented itself: the owner of a 1964 Triumph Spitfire Mark I was emigrating, and wanted to sell. Pullicino was soon behind the wheel of the Triumph, one of the first to roll off the Malta Car Assembly line in Marsa. “But it was a case of buy in haste, and relent at leisure,” he admitted. While the body was in a very good condition, the same could not be said of the engine. Strange noises were frequently emitted from under the bonnet, and the car was working only on one carburetor. Pullicino took it to a friend’s garage in Paola, where he gave the engine a full overhaul and restored it to good running order. He used it for two years prior to selling it. “It had become too expensive to run, and my father offered me the use of his Mini, which by contrast was very economical.” Before getting married, Pullicino was building a house in Attard, and he wanted a practical and strong car to carry construction materials. His eyes fell on a 1968 Triumph Herald 13/60 convertible. “The body of the blue vehicle was in a fair condition, while the engine was still good. The vehicle was robust enough for the tasks that I wanted it to do, and moreover, the Triumphs are easy to work on mechanically.” After the house was finished, John wanted to show his appreciation for the now tired classic car by giving it a face lift. The rubber

John Pullicino with his 1964 VW Beetle (above) and (top right) with his 1964 Triumph Spitfire Mk1. (Right, below) The 1968 Triumph Herald 19/60 Convertible. Photos: Jonathan Pullicino bumpers were restored, a proper hood was fitted, and the vehicle was sprayed again, this time in red. The Herald was introduced in 1959 by the Standard Triumph Company of Coventry in England. It was designed by the well known Italian Giovanni Michelotti, who incidentally also designed the Spitfire. Some time later, a chance conversation with a colleague revealed that there was a Volkswagen Beetle available for free. The only snag was that its owner, a doctor, had garaged it for six years, and there were back-dated licences to be paid. “When I saw it, I realised why the owner wanted to give it away,” Pullicino said as he flipped through a wad of photos showing the Beetle in its cobwebbed condition. However, even in that state, he could see that the 1964

Known as the People’s Car, the Volkswagen saw the light of day in Germany in 1937. It really took off after WWII, when, after American and British car companies wanted nothing to do with it, it was taken over by the West German government, and became part of the country’s economic revival. The finished VW gave Pullicino a sense of euphoria, and having gained so much experience working on it, he went back to the Triumph Herald to restore it from scratch. The project involved dismantling it piece by piece at home in Attard, taking the parts for storage in a Balzan garage, and bringing the items back to Attard one by one to work on each individual part. The nut and bolt restoration was lengthy and arduous, and took five years to complete, with Grima also chipping in with assistance at times. One of the biggest

“For me, car production stopped in 1995 with the advent of computerisation” grey vehicle had great potential. It only knew one owner, who had left everything in it as it was, not even bothering to ever wash it. The carpets as well as the roof lining were in impeccable condition. John subsequently embarked on a labour of love project that took one year to complete. The vehicle was dismantled, and the running boards and the mudguards replaced. The main body shell needed very little attention. The spray was left in the hands of his friend, Lino Grima, who came up with the original anthracite grey for most of the body, with the side panels sprayed ruby red.

headaches was the reinstallation of one of the doors, which would just not fit in again. Another hiccup was the new colour. Pullicino wanted it yellow. But when the paint arrived, it was green. The agent would not change it, but at least came up with a formula to change the green to yellow. “It is a unique yellow, made in Malta, and only I have the combination for it,” Pullicino said. Over the moon with the ship-shaped condition of his two restored classics, Pullicino now wanted to keep them in that state, and was reluctant to use them daily. For such tasks he sought a 1968 Ford Escort Mark I Estate. One of the features that attracted him to it was

an unusual sunroof. The vehicle was soon the subject of a rolling rebuilt. The original 1,300cc engine needed very little attention, although the clutch, mountings, and shock absorbers were replaced. The body required some panel beating, as well as rust removal, and repainted in ermine white. The white roof was replaced with a more contrasting black vinyl top. The Escort was manufactured by the Ford European Division between 1968 and 2003, and the early models have become much sought-after classics, with a number of British enthusiasts coming to Malta to look for them. Pullicino is full of praise for the workmanship, style and practicality of classic cars, and has second thoughts about modern cars. “For me, car production as we knew it, stopped in 1995 with the advent of such techniques as fuel injection and computerisation. Today the new car buyer is a victim, at the mercy of the agent, the computer, and depreciation. The same cannot be said of old vehicles”. Pullicino is lucky in that all the members of his family – wife Liz and sons Jonathan and Benjamin – are ardent classic car lovers. He sees the local old motoring environment as growing significantly, with a nucleus of professional people involved in the restoration of classic vehicles. He also considers as positive official steps taken to encourage and assist old car owners, like the multiple ownership registration. He has strong views about the argument that old cars pollute. “When one considers how much energy goes into transporting all the parts needed to assemble a new car, then the argument does not hold much water”.

The Sunday Times Motoring  

February Issue