I am in most things a most patriotic Englishman, but where motor cars are concerned my allegiance changed some time ago.
In 1965 after 10 years’ motoring in a variety of British cars, including two brand-new ones, I rebelled against faulty workmanship and shoddy service. At that time, as now, I relied on a car for my livelihood and I became sick and tired of being let down either by the car or poor service.
Accordingly, I bought my first foreign car, a Volkswagen Beetle. I quickly began to appreciate the unique design features and superb engineering and finish. The car covered just over 55,000 miles before I sold it— and not one single part had needed replacement, even the tyres were good for at least another 10,000 miles. This was over a 2-1/2 year period, and the bodywork and general appearance of the car was still “as new”. Now, I know this is not at all unusual for a Volkswagen—we’ve all heard about owners who regard 100,00 miles on the clock as nothing—but the fact remains they are built to last and they do give a certain pride of ownership. Since then I have had a fourth-hand Volvo 121 saloon which had recorded 47,000 miles when I bought it and after nearly 50,000 miles of completely trouble-free motoring I fell in love with a VW Karmann-Ghia coupé, again second-hand.
I now own my second Karmann-Ghia, a delightful machine which fulfils all of my present motoring needs and attracts admiring glances wherever I go. And I get very cheap motoring. In between the two Karmann-Ghias I had a year with a BMW 2000 and the only criticism I would make is the high cost of servicing and spare parts. But at least one gets what one pays for, and there is nothing shoddy about the car or the servicing.
Perhaps the keen interest in British vintage and veteran cars reflects a yearning for the quality of bygone days, for better quality and individual attention. Certainly the modern car fails to generate much enthusiasm unless one is in the fortunate position to afford one of the more exotic makes in which this country still excels.
No, the failing seems to be in the mass production market where it seems the very last person to be considered is the long-suffering customer.
I am told that the continental buyer is more discerning, that he expects his car to perform with the minimum of servicing, to last longer and to hold its value longer.
Perhaps with motor cars, as in other things, the British merely accept poor quality without complaint. After all, the purchase of a foreign car is the only way one can effectively register a protest. I for one, would much prefer to buy British if only I could get what I want without endless argument and aggravation. I am frequently grieved when in the company of my German friends by their obvious delight at everything German, a deep pride in the quality of goods manufactured in their country. If only we could capture the same spirit in England we would once again take our rightful place among the great trading nations of the world!
Yours sincerely, a would-be British Motorist.
Maurice Grundy – Epsom.