Thursday, 21 May 2009


Last Sunday, the SS7 clan went carbooting.

Our chosen venue was the Beaulieu autojumble, one of the biggest events of its type, and the main mission was too offload some of the motoring books I've accumulated over the years.

We also sold some pewter tankards and cups that we found in a run down old wooden bungalow we bought a few years ago. It was in a lovely location next the the river Thames near Windsor, and we planned to demolish it to build our first house. The bungalow had been owned by an old widow, Mrs Dimond, who had recently died, and was being sold by her estate.

We had been intrigued by some old trophies and a portrait we found amongst the other stuff that had been left once the family had picked through them. When we asked the relatives about them this is the story we were told;-

Mrs Dimond had made a good match to the heir to a hotel owning family in the early 30's. The couple lived comfortably, owning the little holiday bungalow in Windsor amongst other houses. They were able to travel extensively, we also found in the house a number of souvenirs bought home after trips to Africa and the middle east.

Edmund Dimund, was also something of a sportsman and a car enthusiast. In the mid-30's he entered several of the long-distant trials then fashionable. They were in some ways predecessors to modern rallies, but were altogether more gentle affairs, with transit sections that crossed the country between stages, usually a muddy climb up a steep hill.

Evidently, Edmund had been quite successful, and collected a dozen or so tankards, cups and awards, most engraved. Several have an 'MG' badge on then, and I still have a few, one, a small tray with some shot glasses, is engraved "To E.H Dimond, as a token of appreciation, from Lord Nuffield, October 1934".

However, Edmund had a gambling habit, and over the years he lost the hotels and most of his fortune. Eventually he and his wife were reduced to living in the bungalow in Windsor. Clearly a lost cause, he started taking his wife's possessions to pawn for money for his habit. One day after taking the last of her jewelry he put everything he had on a complicated horse racing accumulator. It failed on the last race, and Edmund facing disgrace and utter ruin, suffered a fatal heart attack. They found his body still in his car, outside the bookies where he placed his last bet.

His rather gloomy portrait still hangs in the hallway at Shoestring Towers. The family don't like it, but it reminds me how fate can tempt all of us.


Let it Shine..

Its probably fair to say the jury is still out on the contribution that hybrids are able make to CO2 savings, especially as the best only match the fuel economy figures of a modern European turbo diesel. And that's likely to remain the case until an affordable plug-in is market-ready.

On the petrol hybrid's side, there is a case to be made around the provision of diesel-like economy without the nasty particle and NOX levels produced by compression ignition engines. And frankly I'm tiring of the rumbly vibes that a tdi generates; there really is nothing like a good petrol engine for raising the hairs on the back of your neck.

Having said that I've always had a soft spot for Honda. Even post Soichiro they appear to have retained engineering integrity, and have developed a great track record for commercials (even though their actual track record has been frankly a bit of a disaster recently). After breaking the market with their pre-CDDti Insight - a 2 seater coupe - Honda went pretty quiet and the current RoW based Civic hybrid misses the mark by a long way.

The new model looks to be much more successful, its a a lower price-point compared to Toyota, and is clearly defined seperate model, not a modified Civic. At least, until the next one!

Here's the commercial for the new Honda Insight* - enjoy.

*PS Wonder if I can borrow one for a weekend?

Monday, 18 May 2009

Goodbye boy Golf, hello...

.... lady-boy Golf?

Its been all-change in the SS7 garage recently. The VR6 has gone to a discerning buyer, as has the Cayman. Each buyer had a bit of a profile; that of the VR6 was the MD of a Porsche specialist dealer and expensive-wax importer. He was looking for an excellent VR6 to use as a show-car to advertise their wares. Mine met his requirements precisely, and what's more, inspite of the pesimism of the naysayers on the VR6OC website, he paid good money.

The Cayman went to the engine builder at a well know British sportscar manufacturer (think 4 wheeled motorbikes.....) within 3 days of me putting it on the market. And the agreed price was around 60% of what I paid - a pretty good result in today's market; I'd had the car for 30 months and 16k miles.

So that reduced the fleet to 1. I believe there are some families who can manage with one; ours can't, so the search was on for a replacement.

Now the SS7 forecast for summer '09, is Long, Hot & Sunny. The nippers (SS7 jnr and SS3 1/2) have also now reached the stage where they can be trusted not to launch themselves out of a roofless vehicle, and Mrs E-H and I have fond memories of driving a soft-top in the South of France.

With that in mind it made sense to look for a convertible - one with 4 seats. Once Mrs SS7 and I had rejected several offerings on the grounds of image(her) running and purchase costs(me) the usual suspects remained; BMW 3series, Saab 9-3, Audi, and Golf.

The search took a couple of weeks, and included the usual experiences of dodgy private buyers, and dealer cars described as 'mint' when in reality they were worn out and shabby. Then one evening ebay turned up a low mileage 2 owner Golf Cabriolet within 10 miles of us. This was in black (not my no. 1 choice I'll admit) and was a 2.0l Avantage with rare aircon and electric everything.

I did get a chance for a quick look-over even though the car wasn't taxed. Compared to the other cars I'd looked at this was nice and clean and obviously had been cherished and garaged for most of its life. The sellers, (about to drop sprog #1) were genuine, albeit not car people.

That evening we 'won' the ebay auction, and although we were the highest bidder, the optimistic reserve wasn't reached. However a deal was reached by phone afterwards, and next day the car was ours.

So far, after an over-due service and the addition of 6 months Brown tax, its been a lot of fun!


Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Brawn vs Brains

So after 5 GP’s, Jensen Button has scored 40 out of a possible 45 points.

And crucially, the Spanish GP at the weekend signalled the start of the main European season, when we expected the big teams to catch up.

But they didn’t.

And what’s more, current limits on testing time mean it’s a lot more difficult to throw dollars are any problems- the big boys look stuck with underperforming cars..

On that basis, Ross Brawn has got to have moved from thinking that his team got a lucky jump start on the others, to thinking they can actually win both the 2009 driver’s and constructors titles.

And if I think that, the other teams are going to be thinking the same - and the gloves will be coming off fast.

Its going to be an interesting season,