Cropley on cars – Fast times at Goodwood, no mourning Chrysler
SATURDAY/SUNDAY – Fine, fulfilling weekend at the year’s first big motoring event, the 73rd Members’ Meeting at Goodwood.
The idea behind the fixture is to recreate the unique club atmosphere of enthusiast-orientated gatherings in the circuit’s heyday while accompanying it with some hectic racing and amazing, full-noise demonstrations by cars never before seen there.
An awesome roll call of ‘airbox’ F1 cars, including Freddie Hunt in his father James’s Hesketh, circulated at something close to full speed. Later, a collection of 18 Group C Le Mans cars, also driven flat out, grabbed every ear and eye in the place.
In between, there were hectic races for 1950s and 1970s/1980s saloons, plus jockeying clumps of tiny single-seaters and some lovely sports cars – all of it done with breathtaking attention to detail. Goodwood has the knack of persuading you to leave your ordinary life at the gate, and did it again this year, only better.
TUESDAY – Absorbing trundle into central London in the new Range Rover Sport Hybrid, a jaunt that carried the chance to compare it directly with our ‘normal’ V6 diesel long-termer.
Very impressed to return 36mpg on the trip computer during a congested 11 miles, where the standard car would have done 22-24mpg. However, I was surprised to discover that the price difference between the two models is nearly £15,000.
The main reason why you’d choose a hybrid, as I understand it, is to reduce company car tax, but the difference between the pair is only about £500 a year.
Of course, Land Rover has built the hybrid for bigger reasons. Big cities are moving towards banning all but low-emissions cars from their centres – and the hybrid can go about a mile or two without its engine.
Another plus for the hybrid is that its components are well integrated – better, in my view, than in equivalent Mercs and Porsches. The brake assistance isn’t quite as easy to modulate as in our V6 and the all-electric steering has a shade more stiction, but there isn’t much in it. Full marks to Land Rover’s integration experts, but good luck to their salesmen.
WEDNESDAY – Spent a happy afternoon near Wolverhampton touring Jaguar Land Rover’s fantastic new Ingenium engine plant. My guide was Neil Hume, a fact-perfect senior engineer who was the one of the first employees there.
I’m often impressed by the way well-designed modern industrial buildings welcome you. The light, view, space and organisation all made me wish my own house reached Wolverhampton’s standards, although it could do with nicer soft furnishings…
THURSDAY – Chrysler croaked in the UK last week, to no one’s regret and without ever producing a market-leading car. The US marque established a European operation here in the late 1950s. It was a misbegotten set-up that swept the assets of Simca and Rootes into a disorganised heap before selling out to Peugeot – which crazily resurrected the Talbot name to ensure a final failure.
The Alpine (Simca) and Avenger (Hillman) were sort of okay, but the only genuinely new European Chrysler was the slow-selling 180, a weird union of unrelated Rootes and Simca projects.
Chrysler raised its flag here again about 15 years ago to bring us US-made clunkers such as the Neon and PT Cruiser, although at least the 300C and Crossfire were okay and the associated Jeeps deserved the following they acquired. But when FCA boss Sergio Marchionne chose Chrysler as the bonnet badge for a couple of stray right-hand-drive Lancias, the Delta and Ypsilon, the die – in the ‘death’ sense – was cast. I almost always regret the passing of car companies, but not this one.