Obviously, the motor car can give pleasure of various kinds. There is the pleasure of driving a good car and making it perform to its driver’s wishes. There is the convenience of a car as pleasant transport, compared to public forms of getting from A to B and home again. There is the competition aspect, a combination of all sorts of fulfillments, especially for those who tune, even build, the cars they drive. But one enjoyment of owning a car seems to be diminishing. I refer to that derived from the places a car takes you to, the scenery observed en route.
Time was when owners took regular outings in their cars, and toured in them when on holiday. They still do, but to a far lesser extent, I think, than was once the case. The motoring press used to provide frequent ideas for such outings, regional runs, short tours embracing interesting places and historical landmarks. Before the Easter and Whitsun weekends these pocket-tours were a regular feature. Motorists, as they were then called, were encouraged to get out and about, not only for a change of scene but to see (even smell, if in hood-down open tourers), the countryside.
Not any more.
Descriptions of a few out-of-the-ordinary runs still appear, albeit very occasionally, and the journeys are usually associated with one make of car, and are too long to appeal to ordinary drivers.
Tourism is, we are constantly reminded, a lucrative business. Yet so much is being done to make all roads, every town, and many villages, all alike, that the object of runs for their own sake is being eroded. My nearest country town used to have an air of quiet, almost the atmosphere of a Victorian seaside place, about it. It was approached, off the throughway, by a nice road, flanked by old houses, and shops and hotels blending nicely with them. But that approach road has been widened, a new bridge built. The once-pleasant approach is fast being altered out of all recognition, as a mini-Spaghetti Junction, to take trucks to the new factory areas now being imposed on the old rurality. Necessary, maybe; but if you want to pull in the tourists, you must give them a change of scene to drive to and through, not a replica of the crowded cities they have escaped from. Development, with all the horrors that implies, bungaloid overspills where stone cottages are expected, huge road signs, white-lines and Give Way triangles even in the remotest of lanes, are spoiling the sort of countryside to which the families, of the 1920s and 1930s in particular, were driven as one of the pleasures of owning a motor car. . . I am even old fashioned enough to think that the Channel Tunnel will remove for many the “adventure” of going abroad by boat or Hovercraft.
One gets so tried of speed being associated with driving criminality that it is good when leniency prevails for those convicted of it, as MOTOR SPORT used to record whenever it could. Thus I was delighted to learn that Judge Halman upheld the appeal of a lady who had been convicted of dangerous driving by Ely Magistrates, for having done 103 mph on a country road. The judge reduced the charge of dangerous driving to one of careless driving, saying, rather contradictorily, that “by a whisker” he could not be sure that the lady “had not driven like a careful and competent person”. An £80 fine stood, but a year’s ban and testretake were rescinded. Good for Cambridge Crown Court. Dangerous driving is easy to recognise — like someone driving round a bend on the wrong side of the road, jumping, or nearly so, a red light, coming out of a side-turning without slowing and so on. It is difficult, however, to see where speed comes in. If someone runs into the road without looking, you could knock them
down at 30 or 20 mph . . . And I know of country roads with open verges and no side-turnings where 100 mph is safe, but illegal. So, although 1 did not vote for him, 1 feel sympathy for Neil Kinnock whose 103 mph on the Ml 1 (the sort of road built originally for speed and which is surely safe in light traffic in good weather?) cost him a E I 40 fine, £85 costs, six penalty-points and a seven-day ban — but congratulations to Ford for confirmation that a Granada hirecar will exceed the ton . . .
ysterious are the ways of those who
insure our cars. Sun Alliance UK offered Motorist 50+ Insurance, with the incentive of a free gift for those who asked for a quotation. I applied, against a small low speed vintage car, listing its annual mileage in hundreds rather than thousands of miles backed by a very long no-claims and accident-free record. All I received was a letter from their Robin Holloway stating, ambiguously it seemed to me, “Please note that we are not refusing to insure you, but do not wish to issue a quotation due to the age (1930) of the vehicle you wish to insure.” Another example of a dislike of the older cars! Never mind, I needn’t have bothered. John Scott & Partners of Farnham look after my requirements very well . .