Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

Just occasionally, a car manufacturer will wander off-piste, surprising the world with something a little unexpected. Like turning up at a goth festival dressed as Hello Kitty. OK, so maybe not that leftfield, but here are some examples of cars built when a manufacturer wandered down an untrodden path.

BMW i3

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

The i3 wasn’t BMW’s first electric car – that accolade belongs to the 1602e of 1972 – but it was the company’s first production EV. It looked quite unlike anything like BMW had built before, while bringing a new breed of premium buyers to the electric car segment. For BMW purists, it seemed to fly in the face of the ‘ultimate driving machine’ proposition, but a near 50:50 weight distribution, rear-wheel drive and whippet-like off-the-line pace meant that it was more on-brand than it first appeared. A few years later, BMW ventured even further off the beaten track, when it launched its first front-wheel-drive car. But we’re not including the 2 Series Active Tourer, because while it might be leftfield (for BMW), it’s not what you’d call cool.

Ferrari FF

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

FF – Ferrari Four. Four, as in four seats. But, more importantly, four, as in four-wheel drive. This was Ferrari’s first foray into the world of four-wheel drive, with a car that offered space for four people and their luggage, and enough power to get to the top of a ski slope before those who took the plane had collected their oversized baggage from the airport carousel. The FF was also the first and only V12 supercar to sport a seven-speed dual clutch F1 transmission. Seven years on from its launch, it looks and feels less radical, but at the time it caused quite a stir.

Honda NSX

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

Honda didn’t build supercars. Honda built small cars, hatchbacks and saloons. So, in 1990, the arrival of the NSX was a little like turning up at the station to catch the 8.20 stopping service to Waterloo only to find the Japanese bullet train waiting at the platform. Sure, in typical Honda fashion, the NSX was a useable, everyday supercar – with touch of Ayrton Senna for good measure – but it allowed a brand most famous for the Civic and Accord to rub shoulders with the supercar elite.

Hyundai i30N

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

To the average car enthusiast, looking at a Hyundai is akin to spending a couple of hours at a soulless retail park perusing washing machines. You buy a Hyundai because you like peace of mind, long warranties, beige slacks and Simply Red. Or least, you did. The Hyundai i30N is like a washing machine on a fast spin cycle with only one thing on its mind: messing with the hot hatch establishment. No amount of Persil Non-Bio is going to clean up its act. The dirty little hooligan.

Kia Elan

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

In 1995, Kia added the Sportage to its UK range, with the value-driven compact SUV sharing showroom space with the Pride and Mentor. A trio of worthy cars, if totally devoid of excitement and thrills. Which kind of makes the Kia Elan – a badge-engineered version of the Lotus with the same name – stand out as being a little leftfield. As indeed was the idea of a front-wheel-drive Lotus.

Kia Stinger

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

In truth, the Kia Elan was little more than an end-of-season repackaging deal, but the Stinger is a rather different proposition. Kia’s growth has mirrored that of the budget supermarkets, stealing sales from the established giants and winning a legion of loyal fans. Which is great, but it’s not what you’d call sexy. Which is where the Stinger GT-S comes in, with its fancy key, brutish styling, rear-wheel-drive joy and missile-like pace. It is, quite frankly, the most exciting seven-year warranty in the world.

Lamborghini LM002

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

The Urus: Lamborghini’s first SUV. Yeah, whatever. The LM002 was devouring sand dunes and lining the pockets of Middle Eastern oil companies a full generation before the Urus was exciting YouTubers and Instagrammers. The V12 engine at least gave it a whiff of supercar, but the ‘Rambo Lambo’ stood out from the rest of the Lamborghini range like a… well, like an LM002 parked in a field of Countaches.

Porsche C88

Porsche C88

Looking more like a mid-90s Daewoo, the C88 was actually built by Porsche in response to a brief from the Chinese government. Twenty car manufacturers were invited to submit their ideas for the China Family Car Project, which was focused on the design of a cheap, five-seater family car for the Chinese market. Although the C88 did not feature any references to Porsche, it was very much an in-house job. Sadly, when China cancelled the project, Porsche was left with a design for a car that was rather off-brand. Having no success selling it to Indian car manufacturers, the C88 was consigned to seeing out its days in the Porsche Museum.

Proton Satria GTI

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

For most Proton owners, a trip to Norfolk meant the coast at Cromer, tea from a Thermos flask and a late lunch in the garden centre on the way home. Not in the case of the Satria GTI, which went via Hethel, stopped off at Lotus for some suspension wizardry and cosmetic surgery, and emerged ready to terrorise unsuspecting junior hot hatches. This thing was good – Mitsubishi Lancer chassis, 1.8-litre engine, Recaro seats – but traditional Proton owners weren’t quite sure what to do with it.

Renault 5 Turbo

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

In the case of the 5 Turbo, it’s not so much the motorsport connection – Renault had a long and distinguished sporting heritage – but more the sheer lunacy of the thing. Conceived in 1976, unveiled in 1978 and on sale in 1980, the Renault 5 Turbo was a supermini in a supercar suit. The ‘Supercinq’, long before the name was used for the second-generation R5 of 1984.

Saab Sonett

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

Think Saab and images of large, executive cars might come to mind, along with aircraft-inspired cabins, big bumpers and turbocharging. Things were a little different in the days of the Saab 92, but the Sonnet – or 94 – remains Trollhättan’s most leftfield creation. Designed for the 1956 Stockholm motor show – and with one eye on the American market – the original Sonnet was an experimental race car built for the track. A road-going Sonnet II followed in 1966, before the Sonnet III arrived in 1970.

Skoda 110 Supersport ‘Ferat’

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

Tell another lame joke about Skoda and this thing is likely to visit you in the middle of the night and haunt your dreams for eternity. First introduced in 1972, and based on the 110R Coupe, this was the first and only Skoda with a door that tilts up with the windscreen and roof. Ten years after making its public debut, the concept was transformed into the ‘Ferat’ for use in the Ferat Vampire movie. Today, it runs on human blood and hangs upside down in the Skoda Museum.

SsangYong Kallista

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

SsangYong: famous for its difficult to spell and hard to pronounce name, 4x4s and, in the case of the Rodius, arguably one of the least attractive man-made objects in the world. Not a company you’d associate with squint-and-it-looks-like-a-Morgan two-seater sports car. But that’s precisely what this is: a badge-engineered version of the Panther Kallista, built following SsangYong’s purchase of the Surrey-based company. A total of 78 were built in South Korea, and you can find one in the Samsung Transportation Museum.

Subaru XT

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

The XT came straight out of the leftfield, even if it did offer Subaru’s staple of four-wheel drive. Before its arrival, if you’d asked a motorist to summarise Subaru in a few words, they’d have muttered things about rugged dependability, four-wheel drive and practical interiors. They’d have struggled to say much about the styling, because Subarus were largely forgettable. The XT was a different beast, offering flat-four, turbocharged, four-wheel-drive performance for the road, all dressed up in a space-age suit.

Subaru SVX

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

Does the fact that the SVX followed the XT make it less leftfield than its predecessor? Perhaps, but in just about every other respect, the Subaru SVX is more leftfield than a Labour party conference in a grassy paddock. A 3.3-litre flat-six engine offers a decent turn of pace and a distinctive howl, while the ‘windows within windows’ are the kind of quirky details loved by car enthusiasts. Few manufacturers could offer two leftfield cars in quick succession, but Subaru did.

Vauxhall VX220

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

When you want to sharpen up your image, you might head to the high street for some new bib and tucker. For Vauxhall, no amount of retail therapy was going to provide a much-needed image makeover, so it turned to Lotus for some help. The VX220 was built alongside the Lotus Elise in Hethel, but shared just 10 percent of its parts with its more famous sibling. It was a terrific car, but the strategy never really paid off. Buyers of hardcore sports cars prefer Prada to Primark.

Volkswagen Phaeton

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

People’s car? Yeah, about that. Much to the annoyance of his colleagues in Wolfsburg, Ferdinand Piëch developed a car that was so far removed from the founding principles of Volkswagen, you’d need a map to find your way home again. The Phaeton was a fine car, offering levels of refinement previously unseen at VW. But it was too expensive, looked too much like a Passat and, perhaps most importantly, buyers prefered the cachet of an Audi or Bentley, both Volkswagen Group brands.

Volvo 480

Leftfield legends: cool cars that weren’t on brand

What’s more leftfield, the P1800 or the 480? We’re opting for the 480, not least because it ushered in a new era of front-wheel-drive Volvos, along with a pair of pop-up headlights. We’ll never see the likes of a wedge-shaped Volvo again, but Sweden hasn’t turned its back on good-looking cars. Which is why the 480 gets the nod over the P1800.

Zagato Zele

Zagato Zele

Established in 1919, the Italian coachbuilder Zagato has jumped into bed with some of the biggest names in the automotive industry to create some of the most beautiful and iconic cars of the past 100 years. The tiny Zele electric car is like the mole on Cindy Crawford’s face – a charming distraction from an otherwise flawless display. Or something. This 1974 Zele 1000 sold for £11,500 at the RM Sotheby’s ‘Weird & Wonderful’ sale in 2018.

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FCA on the hunt for high school student automotive designers

2019 FCA Drive for Design Contest 001

The North American design studio of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has officially opened the 2019 edition of the Drive for Design competition.

Aimed at finding the next young talented automotive designers, the contest is open to U.S. high school students in grades 10 to 12 with a creative flair.

For the lucky winner, and two runners up, the competition could pave the way for an incredible start to a career in car design.

Drive for Design

2019 FCA Drive for Design Contest 002

Now into its seventh year, Drive for Design asks entrants to meet a simple brief. Namely, to create a new vehicle capturing the ultimate expression of any FCA brand – one that will bring excitement to showrooms.

This could be the next-generation of Dodge muscle cars, a concept for a luxurious Chrysler, or hardcore Jeep off-roader. Previous winners have shown serious talent, meaning entrants will need to give the competition their all.

A judging panel from the FCA Product Design Office will asses entries against four equally weighted criteria: craftsmanship, design quality, illustration, and originality.

2019 FCA Drive for Design Contest 003

The top three entrants will be invited to the EyesOn Design event in Detroit, Michigan, where they will receive their awards.

However, the biggest prize is the behind-the-scenes tour of the FCA Product Design Office, with one-to-one mentoring from current FCA design experts.

Winners will also receive a scholarship to attend a three-week Pre-college Summer Experience in transportation design, held by the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

A design for life

2019 FCA Drive for Design Contest 004

In launching the contest Mark Trostle, head of performance, passenger car and utility vehicle design for FCA – North America, wanted to encourage entries from those who had not even considered car design as a career.

Trostle won a similar contest when younger, leading him to the role he has now. He noted that “many of today’s designers had no idea that automotive design could be a career option and we want to change that.”

The closing date for entries is 27 April 2019, with the Drive for Design website having all the information budding designers need. Good luck.

4 in 10 motorists want elderly drivers OFF the road

Elderly drivers off the road

Prince Philip’s crash brought the question of old age on the road into the spotlight last month. Some argued that, because he is 97 years of age, he was too old to be behind the wheel. Now, new research now reveals exactly what Brits really think about elderly drivers.

Analysis of 1 million garage customers reveals that just over 40 percent of us believe there should be an age cap for driving licences. As many as 83 percent of us think that older drivers should have to pass yearly safety checks to be able to retain their licence.

How elderly is too old? 70? 65? …60?

What age such a proposed limit should sit at? Over a third of the whocanfixmycar.com respondents who that said there should be a cap indicated it should be as low as 70 years of age.

For reference, that’s 27 years younger than Prince Philip, and just five years above retirement age. That gap is only due to tighten in the coming years as the retirement age rises.

Incredibly, as many as a fifth of those respondents said that the limit should apply to 65 or even 60 year-olds. Who said 60 was the new middle-aged?


Older drivers off the road

Functioning faculties are essential standard fitment for driving, regardless of your age. That increasing age usually correlates with a lapse in driving aptitude would best be addressed by regular assessments rather than a blanket ban. We’re in no doubt some 80 year-olds are better drivers than some 40 year-olds.

Still, funding such regular assessments of the nation’s elderly drivers would be difficult, particularly as the demographic is expanding. This might lead some to argue a cap could be the safest option, albeit with the caveat that you can earn your right to stay on the road. However, we’re not in the business of suggesting people should be relieved of their liberties.

Of course, the Duke of Edinburgh got back on the road shortly after the accident, raising even more eyebrows and questions around age and driving. He’s since surrendered his licence…

Beautiful Dino 246 GT headlines our 2019 Race Retro auction preview

Dino 246 GTThe Dino 246 GT made its debut at the Turin Motor Show in November 1969, succeeding the Dino 206 GT, a car named in honour of Alfredo ‘Dino’ Ferrari, who died in 1956. As the name suggests, it was powered by a 2.4-litre engine, and although the cars look visually similar, the 246 GT was longer than its predecessor.

This 1972 example is arguably the star lot at the Silverstone Auctions Race Retro sale on 23 February 2019. It is expected to sell for between £240,000 and £280,000. Now keep scrolling as we guide you through our auction highlights.

Porsche 356 A Speedster – £280,000 – £320,000

Porsche 356 A Speedster

Jockeying for position with the 246 GT as the retro headline act is this 1958 Porsche 356 A Speedster. It was supplied new by Hoffman in New York and was acquired by the vendor at Pebble Beach in 2015. Having arrived in the UK, the Porsche was sent to JD Classics for conversion to right-hand drive and has remained in professional storage with little use.

Vauxhall Lotus Carlton – £65,000 – £75,000

Vauxhall Lotus Carlton

One of three Lotus Carltons at the Race Retro sale (although one is a left-hand-drive Opel Omega), this looks like the best of the trio. The first owner was a managing director of a Lotus main dealer, but it has been owned by the vendor for the past 17 years. During that time, it was listed as SORN for six years, which suggests that the owner must have incredible willpower. Imagine owning such a legendary performance car and not using it.

Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTI – £17,000 – £22,000

Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTI

There aren’t many opportunities to buy an original, one-owner, low-mileage Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTI, which means that the pre-auction estimate for this 1979 example might be a tad pessimistic. It was supplied new to its original and only owner in Sheffield, but has spent the past two decades on axle stands in storage. Try finding another one-owner 1.6-litre GTI with just 53,000 miles on the clock.

Saab 900 Turbo – £22,500 – £27,500

Saab 900 Turbo

Bidding is likely to be less frenzied for this Saab 900 Turbo, but that doesn’t mean this former racing car is any less special. It was built by Abbott Racing to compete in the 1994 Foxboro Production Saloon Championship and the Group N specification Championships in 1995/96. It also has N24 pedigree to its name, running as high as ninth before an accident forced it out of the race an agonising 30 minutes from the end.

Subaru Impreza – £20,000 – £30,000

Subaru Impreza

This 1993 Subaru Impreza was first registered and owned by Prodrive, and was used as a recce car by the Allstars Team and on national stage rallies in the UK. As pointed out by Silverstone Auctions, many of the body panels have been replaced, and there’s a good chance it has an entirely new body shell. Surely only giving it further rally-special kudos?

Ford Escort RS Cosworth – £80,000 – £90,000

Ford Escort RS Cosworth

We’ll be watching the sale of this 1996 Ford Escort RS Cosworth Lux with interest, as it’s no stranger to the auction circuit. Back in 2017, it sold for a staggering £91,125 at the NEC Classic Car Show, but the pre-auction suggest that it might not fetch quite the same amount at Race Retro. It has covered 838 miles, which means it has travelled just a single mile since November 2017.

Audi R8 Sport Performance Parts Edition – £160,000 – £180,000

Audi R8 Sport Performance Parts Edition

The newest car in the auction also happens to be one of the most expensive. Launched in 2018, this is one of only five Audi R8 Sport Performance Parts Edition models sold in the UK, with only 44 cars sold worldwide. A price tag of £176,560 meant that it was £35,360 more expensive than the regular R8 V10 Plus, but Audi chucked all but the kitchen sink at this special edition. Exclusivity is guaranteed, but it comes at a price.

Peugeot 207 THP Spider – £22,000 – £26,000

Peugeot 207 THP Spider

If exclusivity is what you’re after, this is one of two Peugeot 207 THP Spiders in the UK. The track-only car is powered by a mid-mounted 175hp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine from the Peugeot 207 GTI, but this thing is far more agile than its supermini sibling. For a start, it weighs just 720kg, but it also features a Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox. Car number 18 of 50 was purchased by a UK Peugeot dealer and has lived in the showroom ever since.

Honda NSX – £35,000 – £40,000

Honda NSX

Recently, our Tim Pitt was able to grab a seat in a Honda NSX convoy travelling to Retromobile in Paris. If, like the rest of us, you were a little bit jealous, this is your chance to follow in Mr Pitt’s footsteps. Sure, it’ll cost you the best part of £40,000, but we can’t think of a better way to celebrate 30 years of Honda’s iconic supercar. This 1991 example was delivered new in Japan before spending time in the U.S. and Belgium.

BMW M3 CSL – £35,000 – £40,000


In an age of inflated classic car valuations and crazy auction prices, a pre-auction estimate of £35,000 to £40,000 looks like exceptional value for money for a BMW M3 CSL. Whether it fetches such a relatively small amount remains to be seen, because we’ve seen some of the best examples on sale for figures nudging £100,000. Just 422 M3 CSLs were sold in the UK, of which 106 were finished in Sapphire Black.

Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth – £40,000 – £50,000

Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth

Google ‘E55 DGU’ and you’ll discover that this is a very famous Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth, with a history of magazine appearances in the likes of Max Power and Performance Ford. When it was new, ‘E55 DGU’ was sent to Graham Goode Racing to be turned into a street-legal version of the RS500 BTCC race car. It has a history to die for and will almost certainly be the centre of attention at any fast Ford meet. Having sat in storage for nine years, it requires some recommissioning, hence the ‘low’ pre-auction estimate.

Ferrari F430 – £100,000 – £120,000

Ferrari F430

Fifteen years is a long time in the car industry, and yet the Ferrari F430 still looks fresh and relevant today. In fact, you wouldn’t bat an eyelid if it was lined up alongside Ferrari’s current range of supercars. It was, at the time, as close to automotive perfection as you could get, benefiting from Ferrari’s F1 expertise, with a V8 engine that was more powerful than the turbocharged F40. While we’d never call a six-figure sum ‘cheap’, you’ll struggle to find a Ferrari as polished as this for less money.

De Tomaso Longchamp – £100,000 – £125,000

De Tomaso Longchamp

Launched at the 1972 Turin Motor Show, the De Tomaso Longchamp was a two-door coupe based on a shortened version of the Deauville chassis. Eight years later, De Tomaso introduced the modernised Series 2, complete with GTSE and Spyder variants. According to the De Tomaso Drivers Club, of the 410 Longchamps built, just 16 were convertibles, making this GTSE Spyder an incredibly rare vehicle.

Jensen Interceptor Convertible – £50,000 – £60,000

Jensen Interceptor Convertible

Speaking of rare drop-tops… This is one of only 456 Jensen Interceptor Convertibles, with the vast majority exported to the U.S. and the continent. A mere 87 were produced for the British market, although this 1975 example was sold in the U.S. and subsequently converted to right-hand drive. Yours for around half the price of the Longchamp.

Austin Mini Cooper 970 S – £36,000 – £42,000

Austin Mini Cooper 970 S

The Austin Mini Cooper 970 S was a homologation special built to allow BMC to compete in the 1000cc circuit racing class. Just 963 units were produced between June 1964 and April 1965, making it one of the rarest and most sought after classic Minis. This Surf Blue example was originally Old English White and has spent its entire life in the south of England, including a period under the ownership of Chris Middlehurst, the son of racing driver and famed Nissan tuner Andy Middlehurst.

Ford Falcon Sprint – £65,000 – £75,000

Ford Falcon Sprint

The Ford Falcon was a victim of the Mustang’s success, with the pony car utilising its platform to devastating effect. Not even the Sprint package, complete with a V8 from the Fairlane, stiffer suspension and louder exhausts could prevent the Falcon Sprint from a premature death in 1965. But as anyone who has witnessed classic motorsport will testify, the Falcon is a formidable competition car, which is why this is such a compelling prospect.

Aston Martin DB7 Vantage ‘Keswick’ – £26,000 – £30,000

Aston Martin DB7 Vantage ‘Keswick’

In March 1999, Aston Martin unveiled the DB7 Vantage, complete with a 6.0-litre V12 engine. The ‘Keswick’ was a limited edition produced for the Lancaster Group, with only ten units produced – five coupe and five Volante models. All were finished in Ferrari Nero Daytona Black, with a host of cosmetic upgrades and 19-inch wheels. Owners were treated to a numbered IWC wrist watch.

Ferrari F355 GTB F1 – £85,000 – £95,000

Ferrari F355 GTB F1

“This example is one of the finest we have seen,” says Silverstone Auctions. Hardly surprising, given the fact that it has covered just 4,985 in its pampered life. The F355 may have been an evolution of the 348, but it moved the game on to such an extent, it felt like an entirely new Ferrari. In an era of dual-clutch transmissions, the F1 automated manual gearbox might seem a bit old-school, but when the car looks this good, who cares?

Sunbeam Tiger – £45,000 – £55,000

Sunbeam Tiger

Launched in 1964, the Sunbeam Tiger was a development of the Alpine and featured a 4,261cc V8 engine. This example was built in 1965 and marked for export to South Africa, where it spent the best part of 25 years in the sunshine. Over the course of the next two decades, the Tiger was transformed into an historic race car, with the work totalling tens of thousands of pounds.

MGC GTS – £40,000 – £46,000


Only two lightweight versions of the MGC GTS were built by BMC Abingdon, including ‘RMO 699F, a car affectionately known as ‘Romeo’. This 1969 MGC GTS was built as a kind of homage to ‘Romeo’ and it saw plenty of competition action in the 1980s. Today, it is suitable for hill climbs, circuit racing and, according to Silverstone Auctions, “fast road use”.

McLaren MP4-12C – £75,000 – £85,000

McLaren MP4-12C

Amazingly, this 2012 McLaren MP4-12C wasn’t registered until last year, having spent the first six years of its life in a private collection in Hong Kong. It has since covered 5,000 miles and is presented, we assume, in an as-new condition. The MP4-12C might have been eclipsed by McLaren’s more recent models, but this remains a tantalising prospect. Just be sure to check out Hoovies Garage YouTube channel before you part with your cash.

Lotus Elan Sprint – £40,000 – £50,000

Lotus Elan Sprint

A Lotus Elan Sprint in Gold Leaf Team Lotus colours – where do we sign? The Sprint was introduced in 1971, which makes this 1972 example one of the first to leave the factory in Hethel. Amazingly, it appears to have been owned by the same person until 2015, but has been fully restored, with the work extending to a replacement chassis.

BMW 1800 – £40,000 – £45,000

BMW 1800

This 1965 BMW 1800 was originally a German-registered road car and remained so until 1992. Frick Motorsport then converted it into an FIA race car and it has remained in competition use ever since. Its last race was in 2012, so the FIA papers will need renewing.

Land Rover Series III – £18,000 – £22,000

Land Rover Series III

When all is said and done, nothing is cooler than a Land Rover tow truck. Just think how useful it would be if your auction purchase lets you down on the way back from Race Retro. Speaking of which, the Silverstone Auctions Classic Car Sale gets underway on 23 February at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire.

Brexit sends car finance costs soaring nearly 50 percent

Brexit car finance PCP

New research by Parkers has revealed that car finance costs have increased by as much as 48 percent since Britain voted for Brexit and to leave the European Union. All of sudden used cars look a lot more appealing…

This is thanks, in part at least, to the drop in the value of the pound against other currencies, particularly the Euro. In May 2016, the Euro was 1.30 to the pound, while in February 2019, it sits strong at 1.10. Given a large number of cars are imports from the EU, costs to buy and lease have, at best, risen commensurately and are, at worst, significantly more.

The scary thing is that these figures aren’t with reference to big-ticket cars – quite the opposite, in fact. Take the BMW 1 Series, a car at the end of its life cycle that ought to be a value proposition right now. If you signed a £200 per-month contract for a 1er in January 2017, the same car would cost you £298 per month now.

In total, you’d end up paying £4,606 more over the course of the contract. That is an astonishing increase, giving credence to that 48 percent increase figure.

Brexit car finance PCP

The BMW seems a somewhat lofty proposition, so for comparison purposes, consider the humble and appallingly unsafe Fiat Panda. January 2017 cost: £119 per month. February 2019 cost: £153 per month. That’s an increase of £34 per month, adding up to a total of £1,580 extra over the course of a contract.

Given we’re approaching the three-year mark since the Brexit vote was passed, many PCP contracts taken out around the time will be coming to an end. PCP buyers will invariably be facing marked increases if they want to replace their car like-for-like on a new contract.

Opinion: Why Brexit may not be a factor in the Honda Swindon decision

Honda Civic production line in SwindonHonda’s decision to close its Swindon car factory in 2021 will inevitably be blamed on Brexit by many. Some are already highlighting the Swindon region’s 54.7 percent leave vote in the 2016 European Union Referendum.

However, a Honda spokesman today insisted Brexit is not a factor in the shock move. Rather, it’s the unprecedented challenges of electrification that’s behind the decision.

And figures released by Honda suggest this may be correct – because only 2 in 10 cars built in Swindon are actually exported to the European Union.

The vast majority, around 55 percent, go to North America, and 8 percent are exported to Japan. 15 percent of British-built Honda Civics remain here in the UK.

So the threat of trade barriers with the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit may not have factored as heavily in Honda’s dramatic decision as some have assumed.

Indeed, added the spokesman, Swindon is Honda’s sole factory in the European Union, and ‘only’ builds around 160,000 cars a year, rather than the millions built in Asia and North America.

The idea of moving production elsewhere in Europe was therefore not considered. Honda added it is restructuring its small-scale manufacturing operations in Turkey too: the Civic saloon will cease production there in 2021.

Honda will, instead, build the next-generation Civic hatchback in other regions, including North America. 

‘Deeply regret’

The challenges of electrification “will see Honda revise its global manufacturing operations, and focus activity in regions where it expects to have high production volumes,” explained the Japanese company in a statement.

“It is vital that we accelerate our electrification strategy and restructure our global operations accordingly,” said Katsushi Inoue, Honda’s chief officer for its European operations.

“As a result, we have had to take this difficult decision to consult our workforce on how we might prepare our manufacturing network for the future.

“This has not been taken lightly and we deeply regret how unsettling today’s announcement will be for our people.”

The Japanese car maker began building engines at Swindon, a former airfield, in 1989, and started building cars in 1992. Since then, it has built more than 3.5 million vehicles, and today builds the Civic hatchback, including the high-performance Type R.

3,500 people work there and it exports to more than 70 countries.

Honda will still keep its European HQ in the UK, at its large facility in Bracknell, Berkshire, added the firm.


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Revealed: almost every car-making region voted LEAVE in Brexit referendum

Honda car factory in SwindonThe shock news that Honda is to close its Swindon car manufacturing plant has inevitably focused attention on the region’s decision to vote leave in the 2016 European Union Referendum. 

Local Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson insisted Brexit was not a factor in Honda’s decision, but other industry commentators argue it will not have helped. 

But it’s not just Honda. Nissan and Sunderland are intrinsically linked, yet Sunderland is another region that voted leave. The company employs almost 7,000 people at the factory itself, with thousands more across the North East tied to the supply chain that feeds it.

Leave voting automotive areas

In an area affected by the decline of traditional industries, Nissan is not just part of the economy. For many, it is central to the financial lifeblood of the region. In the aftershock of Nissan’s recent decision to cancel building the next X-Trail SUV in the UK, attention also focused strongly on the region.

Counting the consequences

Leave voting automotive areasThe Sunderland area has itself become closely associated with the fallout from the 2016 European Union membership referendum.

Sunderland City Council has a determination to count election votes the quickest, meaning it often makes the headlines on polling day. In 2016, this meant that, for many, the first results from Wearside are intrinsically linked to memories of the referendum.

The connection between Nissan and Sunderland had led many to wonder how an area so dependent on frictionless trade with Europe could have voted to leave the EU.

Sunderland and Swindon: two of many

Leave voting automotive areasOther commentators have gone even further, revelling in schadenfreude, and suggesting that the people of Sunderland and Swindon deserve outcomes like the loss of the X-Trail and Civic for how they voted in 2016.

However, as much as the two regions’ decision to vote leave in 2016 may have baffled some, our research shows they were not alone.

Data from the EU referendum reveals districts linked to no fewer than 20 other car factories and sites across the UK also voted to leave. Just two voted remain.

Marginal leave-voting areas

Leave voting automotive areasEight voting districts, covering eight separate car production facilities, voted with a marginal swing towards leave.

The various companies accounted for a combined total of more than 12,000 employees at the time of the vote, with Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port facility alone producing more than 118,000 cars in 2016.

FactoryManufacturerVoting District2016 Vote Result
LongbridgeMG Motor SAICBirmingham50.4% Leave
Castle BromwichJaguar Land RoverBirmingham50.4% Leave
Ellesmere PortVauxhallCheshire West & Chester50.7% Leave
GoodwoodRolls-RoyceChichester50.9% Leave
CreweBentleyCheshire East51.2% Leave
GaydonAston MartinStratford-on-Avon51.6% Leave
HalewoodJaguar Land RoverKnowsley51.6% Leave
HethelLotusSouth Norfolk51.7% Leave
MalvernMorganMalvern Hills52.2% Leave

Stronger leave-voting areas

Ford BridgendAccounting for a staggering 22,000 automotive jobs, this group of districts includes a mixture of manufacturing and technical facilities.

Vauxhall’s Luton plant has existed in various guises since 1905, while Toyota UK’s Deeside facility only opened in 1992.

FactoryManufacturerVoting District2016 Vote Result
BridgendFordBridgend54.6% Leave
Honda of the UKHondaSwindon54.7% Leave
Plant SwindonBMW (Mini)Swindon54.7% Leave
WhitleyJaguar Land RoverCoventry55.6% Leave
SolihullJaguar Land RoverSolihull56.2% Leave
DeesideToyota Flintshire56.4% Leave
LutonVauxhallLuton56.5% Leave

Strongest leave-voting areas

Leave voting automotive areasThe final set of five factories are spread across a wide geographic area, with more than 15,000 employees split between them.

Intriguingly, Dagenham, Hams Hall and Wolverhampton all exist as facilities to produce engines only.

Jaguar Land Rover’s Wolverhampton-based Engine Manufacturing Centre was only opened in 2014. Plant Hams Hall has seen recent investment from BMW to produce engines for the i8 hybrid sports car.

FactoryManufacturerVoting District2016 Vote Result
BurnastonToyota UKSouth Derbyshire60.4% Leave
SunderlandNissan UKSunderland61.3% Leave
DagenhamFordBarking & Dagenham62.4% Leave
WolverhamptonJaguar Land RoverSouth Staffordshire64.8% Leave
Plant Hams HallBMWNorth Warwickshire66.9% Leave

Remain-voting areas

Leave voting automotive areasNot every area linked to car production voted leave in 2016. Our research found two districts that voted in favour of remain.

FactoryManufacturerVoting District2016 Vote Result
WokingMcLarenWoking56.2% Remain
Plant OxfordBMW (Mini)Oxford70.3% Remain

Leave it out

Leave voting automotive areasThe 2016 EU referendum is a deeply polarising topic, with the reasons for how individuals voted often complex and multifaceted.

What our research does show is that despite local economies often being deeply linked to the local automotive sector, for most areas this did not affect how they voted.

It also serves as a key reminder of the scale of the UK automotive sector, and that those taking satisfaction from the latest Nissan announcement may be overlooking a far wider trend.

Highways England DOES listen when we moan about roadworks

motorway improvements 2019 Highways England

Highways England has announced it’s changing the way upgrades to major motorways are managed. This in response to the North West of England that’s all but unified against the plight of roadworks and poor highway management and maintenance.

It’s not nationwide, but the North West is primed for a significant upgrade in roadworks management to help reduce the impact on drivers. The project to add extra lanes and better technology to the M6 between Warrington and Wigan, as well as the M56 near Manchester Airport, has been delayed while ongoing upgrades are completed. The former has been staggered, to start between 2020 and 2025 while the latter will come in Spring 2020 after the ongoing M62 upgrade is completed.

Future projects will aim for the following improvements; Fewer overnight diversions, projects to be finished quicker, increased speed limits in temporary limit zones and a consistent three-lane flow to be maintained while work is carried out. Contraflows will be used to keep traffic flow moving both ways while allowing more workspace and a quicker rate of completion on closed lanes.

motorway improvements 2019

“We’ve listened to what people have been telling us about roadworks and have decided to reschedule two major schemes, benefitting drivers who use our roads to get to work and businesses who deliver goods across the region,” said Mike Bull, Highways England’s smart motorways programme manager for the North West.

“We’re committed to the upgrades; we are simply changing the timetable for projects on the M56 and M6.

“We’re also reviewing how we carry out major upgrades so that we can minimise disruption as much as possible and maintain connections for drivers using the road network.”

We very much hope that similar mind is paid to the efficiency of works carried out and the effect it has on passing traffic elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Hopefully, all goes well so that we may yet see a more streamlined highway maintenance process and a road network, one day, not partially comprised of speed limits and never-ending roadworks. 

2019 new car buyers favour hybrid electric over diesel

diesel hybrid electric

Research into what new cars buyers would go for next, ahead of the 19-registration plate change, has revealed that more drivers would buy alternative fuel cars (AFVs) than diesels.

A total of 18 percent of those surveyed said they would plump for good old-fashioned oil-burners. That compares with an impressive 27 per cent of respondents who said they’d go for alternative fuel vehicles (electric and hybrid).

Does this mean that electric cars are finally finishing off diesels? Not quite… Just five percent of respondents said they’d go for a fully electric car, with 22 percent saying they’d plump for a hybrid.

plug-in and self-charging hybrids

That’s not to say alternative fuel vehicles aren’t rising in popularity. January 2019 saw a 26.3 percent increase in sales, compared with diesel’s drop of 20.3 percent.

Overall, as things stand, petrol still wins out. A total of 55 percent of respondents said they’d plump for a petrol-powered car over diesel, hybrid or electric cars if they were to go out now looking to buy.

The research comes from GoCompare. Speaking from the perspective of an insurance comparison website, the question of insuring an electric car is an interesting one. Whether insurers are liable to replace leased batteries, wires being trip hazards and whether an insurer covers EVs at all, are all factors to consider.

diesel emissions efficiency

“As the government continues to place tighter restrictions on petrol and diesel cars and the infrastructure for fuelling stations improves, we’ll start to see many more alternative fuel vehicles on the road,” said Matt Oliver, car insurance expert at GoCompare.

“At the moment, alternative fuel cars are pricier to buy than their petrol or diesel counterparts but, as demand increases, and more cars are made, prices will fall.”


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Toast more toxic than roadside air, research finds

burnt toast toxic emissions

New research by the University of Texas suggests that the smoke from your burning toast is a lot more toxic than traffic fumes.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that air should contain no more than 25 micrograms per cubic metre of fine particulates. When you burn your toast, you’re exposing yourself to as much as 4,000 micrograms per cubic metre… This, according to academic journal Atmosphere.

Golden brown toast, the ideal level of toasting according to experts, still sees particulate levels skyrocket to between 300 and 400 micrograms per cubic metre.

For comparison, recent studies have suggested that there are 250 micrograms per cubic metre of air in London tube stations. That’s 20 times higher than what the WHO would consider acceptable. Atmospheric conditions cultivated during the burning of toast are more like 150 times the WHO limit… On the street, you can expect around 13.7 micrograms per cubic metre.

We’re not about to publish a guide on how to cook your toast – that would be a bit beyond our envelope of expertise. It seems common sense, however, to suggest you might want to open a window while making toast, or cooking in general.

burnt toast toxic emissions

Indeed, there are a number of pollutants that lower air quality indoors. Woodburners and fireplaces are obvious dangers, as are air fresheners, aerosols, gas cookers, spray cleaners. We’ve covered the dangers of candle-burning beyond the obvious fire risk before. All sully the air that we breathe.

It does lend an intriguing perspective on the hotly debated topic of urban pollution and air quality. Is it a bit rich to scrutinise motor manufacturers so meticulously for emissions and urban air quality? Especially when we could be causing much more harm at home or indoors.

Given that, according to researcher Marina Vance, “in most of the developed world, people spend about 90 percent of their time in indoor environments,” it’s worth pondering. Food for thought…