MRAdvent 24 Dec: The Darkness falls over Christmas

The Darkness Ferrari

And so we come to the end of our Christmas advent calendar. Over the past 24 days, we have featured everything from Santa giving his sleigh a wash to model cars rolling off the production line in glorious black and white. We end with darkness. Not in the literal sense, but with The Darkness.

In 2003, Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) was famously robbed of the Christmas number one slot by the downbeat and comatose Mad World. We can’t right this wrong, but we can give The Darkness some extra exposure in 2015.

But why does it belong on a motoring website? Well it just happens to feature a Ferrari 308 GTB, so that’s a good enough reason for us. And we didn’t want to run with Chris Rea again. Surely he’s home by now. If not, should we think about sending out a search party?

All that’s left for us to say is have a very merry Christmas and thanks for reading our words in 2015. Take it away, Justin.

MRAdvent 23 Dec: Sliding home for Christmas

Celebrity Driving on Ice

Celebrity ice skating nonsense, Dancing on Ice, last aired in 2014 and – if we’re honest – we haven’t really missed it. But we do have an idea for a new version, known simply as Driving on Ice.

We’ve been inspired by this archive footage of an Ice Grand Prix, held on the frozen Lake Saint Pierre in Quebec. Sit back and enjoy this:

It looks superb. Everything from a Volvo PV444 to a Panhard PL17, not to mention a host of British sports cars in between. Look out for a Rover P4 and a very sideways Morris Minor, too.

We tip our hats to the ‘Canadian enthusiasts’ who cleared a 30ft wide track on the ice of Lake Saint Pierre. If we had access to a frozen lake, we doubt the PlayStation 4 would be quite so appealing.

[bctt tweet=”So, I’m a Celebrity Driving on Ice Factor Come Idol – who’s up for it?”]

So here’s the thing. In this celebrity-obsessed age, surely there’s room for some kind of ice driving show? Take a group of Z-listers, parachute them on to a frozen lake somewhere suitably cold and tell them to go racing. What could possibly go wrong? Aside from the celebs falling through the ice, but then the loss of a few hangers-on would hardly be a bad thing.

Better still, why not enlist the help of some drivers with genuine talent? A kind of pro-am It’s a Knockout approach, in which professional racing drivers go head-to-head with proper enthusiasts. Mika Häkkinen versus Rowan Atkinson. Nigel Mansell versus Jay Kay. Steve Soper versus Jodie Kidd. Stig Blomqvist versus Ben ‘The Stig’ Collins. You get the idea.

It’ll make for better viewing than the vast majority of other programmes on TV and there are many opportunities for sponsorship. Winter tyres, performance cars and winter clothing, to name but three. As for the cars – how about a couple of Toyota GT86s/Subaru BRZs in the preliminary stage, with Porsche 911s reserved for the final? So much potential.

So, I’m a Celebrity Driving on Ice Factor Come Idol – who’s up for it?

MRAdvent 22 Dec: Mr Kelly’s Car Wash

Car wash

Snow! Rain! Mud! No, not the UK weather forecast for Christmas Day, but the words used to promote Mr Kelly’s Car Wash. Back in 1964, American children must have been working themselves into a lather over this must-have toy. And having watched the advert, we’re rather excited, too.

The motorised fully-automatic car wash featured a ‘no-mess water system’, that could make your toy car look as good as new in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately it didn’t include a bodyshop, so those dents and imperfections, caused as a result of too many encounters with the skirting boards, couldn’t be washed out. Mind you, if you were handy with your Mum’s nail varnish, you could have it looking as good as new in next to no time.

[bctt tweet=”The motorised fully-automatic car wash featured a ‘no-mess water system'”]

To operate, you simply ‘drove’ the car up the ramp, attached the chain and watched as the car was pulled through the wash and dry system. Each set came complete with two cars, wax, towels, sponges and even a sign. We suspect Walter White was given a Mr Kelly’s Car Wash as a child, which is why he made such a good cleaning operative in Breaking Bad.

According to the advert – which features a song that’ll be in your head for the rest of the day – every boy wanted a Remco toy, and so did the girls! Judging by the boy’s reaction to the car as it emerges from the wash, the results are outstanding. Not even Barry Scott could hope to achieve such an amazing job. You’ve just got to hope your parents remembered to buy some batteries, otherwise it’s a Christmas Day trip the gas station for you.

The question is, were you given a Remco Mr Kelly’s Car Wash as a present back in the mid 1960s? Let us know. If you’ve still got it, even better.

MRAdvent 22 Dec: Mr Kelly's Car Wash

Car wash

Snow! Rain! Mud! No, not the UK weather forecast for Christmas Day, but the words used to promote Mr Kelly’s Car Wash. Back in 1964, American children must have been working themselves into a lather over this must-have toy. And having watched the advert, we’re rather excited, too.

The motorised fully-automatic car wash featured a ‘no-mess water system’, that could make your toy car look as good as new in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately it didn’t include a bodyshop, so those dents and imperfections, caused as a result of too many encounters with the skirting boards, couldn’t be washed out. Mind you, if you were handy with your Mum’s nail varnish, you could have it looking as good as new in next to no time.

[bctt tweet=”The motorised fully-automatic car wash featured a ‘no-mess water system'”]

To operate, you simply ‘drove’ the car up the ramp, attached the chain and watched as the car was pulled through the wash and dry system. Each set came complete with two cars, wax, towels, sponges and even a sign. We suspect Walter White was given a Mr Kelly’s Car Wash as a child, which is why he made such a good cleaning operative in Breaking Bad.

According to the advert – which features a song that’ll be in your head for the rest of the day – every boy wanted a Remco toy, and so did the girls! Judging by the boy’s reaction to the car as it emerges from the wash, the results are outstanding. Not even Barry Scott could hope to achieve such an amazing job. You’ve just got to hope your parents remembered to buy some batteries, otherwise it’s a Christmas Day trip the gas station for you.

The question is, were you given a Remco Mr Kelly’s Car Wash as a present back in the mid 1960s? Let us know. If you’ve still got it, even better.

MRAdvent 20 Dec: behind the scenes at Matchbox

Matchbox

What is it about toy cars? Long before we’re old enough to appreciate what a real car is, we get genuine joy out of pushing a fun-size replica across the living room floor, probably making ‘broom-broom’ noises at the same time.

As adults, we still appreciate miniature cars, although most of us stop short of making ‘broom-broom’ noises. Some of us don’t even get as far as taking the cars out of their boxes. Face it, everybody loves a toy car.

Which is why we’re keen to share these fabulous videos from the British Pathé archives. The footage from 1962 shows the journey of a Matchbox car, from initial design, to the creation of a wooden model, right through to the finished article.

[bctt tweet=”We still appreciate miniature cars, although some of us stop short of making ‘broom-broom’ noises.”]

At the time, Matchbox was making a million models a week and had already topped the 250 million mark. And you thought the Nissan Qashqai was successful. We especially like the method used to paint the cars, with two coats applied using a spinning mechanism, almost as though the cars are going through a super-fast spray tan booth.

The backstory is just as wonderful, with Matchbox established just after the war when two ex-serviceman started making miniatures in a near-derelict pub. Having designed the machines themselves, the men sold over a million coronation coaches, giving the company a firm platform for future growth.

Three years later, production continued in Hackney and there’s another chance to see the cars being painted. At the time, Matchbox generated around £1 million by exporting models across the globe. Small cars, big profits.

Finally, if only to prove we’re not complete Matchbox fanboys, we head over to the Dinky Toys factory in Liverpool. Established in 1935, the company lived on until 1979.

Here we see the latest edition to the Dinky range was a Pathé News camera car, just one of several million produced every week, with half going for export.

As you’ll see around 50 seconds into the video, the camera cars aren’t handled using baby gloves. The cars shoot down a little slide, with collisions occurring at the end. If you always wondered why your Pathé News camera car was dented at the front, now you know.

We don’t know about you, but if we were to receive a Matchbox or Dinky Toy this Christmas, we’d be made up. Little things mean a lot.

MRAdvent 19 Dec: a new car to be proud of

Hillman Avenger

“Britain has a new car to be proud of”, says the man in a voice so typical of the era, as the Hillman Avenger comes hurtling into view. There’s plenty of understeer and body roll in evidence as Britain’s great hope for export makes its way around the MIRA test track in Warwickshire.

If we’re honest, there isn’t anything festive about the video, but we’re using the snow piled up along the edges of the track as a valid reason to give it a Christmas spin. The test driver is also doing his best to give the Avenger a spin…

With an accompanying soundtrack, that doesn’t sound too dissimilar to something dished out by The Shadows, the video is classic British Pathé.

Note the trim levels: De Luxe, Super and Grand Luxe. Oh how we miss trim levels that sound like this. You knew where you stood in those days. With a De Luxe, daddy was doing OK. With a Super, he was on the up. With a Grand Luxe, daddy was the daddy. A Christmas bonus would have been on the cards, too. Maybe even a £10 voucher to spend at Woolworths…

The ‘car for the seventies’ was set to be launched into 50 markets, including the USA as a Plymouth and South Africa as a Dodge. Of course, the Avenger we all wanted was the Tiger, a performance edition that delivered on the car’s true potential.

Sadly, not even a production life spanning over 10 years, and subsequent rebadging to Chrysler and Talbot, could save the Avenger from spiralling into obscurity. Today, they are all but gone.

As for WUC 201G – the Avenger featured in the video – one of our eagle-eyed readers has tracked it down in Malta. It’s in near-perfect condition, we’re told, and owned by one of the original Hillman test-drivers. Great to hear!

MR Advent 18 Dec: Heavens, Dando, keep pedalling!

RAC pedal cars

Today, we’re taking another look at classic pedal cars, tipping our festive hats to RAC and Mr Dando of Eastcote, Middlesex.

Back in 2012, RAC rolled out an Austin J40 pedal car to help promote a seasonal offer for its breakdown cover. You’ll be able to find some rich information on the Austin J40 over on the Austin Works website, but in a nutshell, these fun-size cars were built in South Wales using scrap off-cuts from the Austin factory at Longbridge.

Production started in 1949 and the factory was run on a not-for-profit basis for the employment of disabled coal miners. The Austin J40 brochure stated:

Austin J40 cars are made in a specially constructed factory at Bargoed in South Wales. Here, in good conditions with the guidance of an experienced rehabilitation officer and under the supervision of a doctor, disabled Welsh miners are able to find new interest in life and do a job of work that is both useful and congenial. There are employment facilities at this factory for 250 men.

According to Austin Works, the J40 was a “very well equipped toy of excellent quality and was probably the best pedal car on the market at the time.” For a young petrolhead, it must have been a dream come true and was far superior to the vast majority of the plastic pedal cars found today.

Working headlights, a horn, detachable wheels with Dunlop tyres, leather cloth seating, an opening bonnet and boot and swathes of chrome. Early cars even had the Flying A ornament on the bonnet, although this was later dropped due to a change in legislation.

A total of 32,098 Austin J40 pedal cars were built and production continued until September 1971. The factory continued to be used, but was eventually closed down in 1999. An end of a wonderfully British era.

[bctt tweet=”The question is, would you rather be driving the RAC breakdown truck or the Austin J40?”]

The RAC ad is beautifully shot and dripping in nostalgia. The question is, would you rather be driving the RAC breakdown truck or the Austin J40?

Heavens, Dando!

Mr Dando’s pedal car pre-dates the Austin J40 by a couple of years and is captured by the retro brilliance of British Pathé. Today, we’re getting excited about petrol dropping below £1 per litre, but back in 1947, British motorists were facing a petrol shortage. Mr Dando (we don’t know his first name, but calling him Mr Dando just seems right) had an idea.

Using typically British built-in-the-shed ingenuity, Mr Dando created a pedal car that was so light it could be carried up and down stairs or – weirdly – stored upright in the larder. It cost £5 to create and – aside from some light lubrication – required very little maintenance. Watch until the end and you’ll discover you can also engage in some three-wheeled antics. Citroën GS owners, eat your heart out.

We’ll leave you with Mr Dando and his amazing zero-emissions and lightweight pedal car. Thank you, Mr Cholmondley-Warner. Goodnight, Mr Grayson.

MRAdvent 15 Dec: Get these buses out, Butler

03_Bus_Simulator_16

Looking for the best driving game? Forget Gran Turismo, Forza and Mario Kart, we reckon Bus Simulator 16 could be the surprise hit of 2016. We’ve read the press release, watched the video (three times) and now we’re more excited than we probably should be.

The only disappointment is that the game – which will be available on both PC and Mac – won’t roll out of the depot before Christmas – but at least the January 20th release date gives us something to look forward to in 2016. Ding-ding… all fares please.

According to the publishers of Bus Simulator 16, “players must take on a variety of tasks in order to be successful, not only from a driving perspective but also a logistical one”, which means you’re more than just a bus driver. In fact, while driving the bus is central to the game, you’ll also have to manage your very own public transport company. Easy, right?

Maybe not, because to be successful you have to remain punctual and ready to react to everyday circumstances. If you’re prepared to wait for that lady frantically running to the bus stop, your reputation will increase. But if you get stuck in traffic, meaning commuters are late for work, you’ll soon lose passengers. You’ll also be asked to print virtual tickets and fix jammed doors. We doubt you’ll ever get a chance to sleep in your virtual world.

02_Bus_Simulator_16

It puts us in mind of Crazy Taxi, albeit in a more structured and formal environment, along with the potential to carry a lot more passengers. And we doubt the vicar – who always wanted to be taken to the church – will make an appearance in Bus Simulator 16. But like Grand Theft Auto, the game presents an open and freely drivable city, without the darker and more sinister elements of the popular franchise. We suspect you could drive around your virtual city all day, simply obeying the rules of the road and not picking up any fares, although you may not have a viable company at the end of week one.

According to the game’s Facebook page, the buses are modelled on their real-life counterparts, including MAN’s Lion’s City A37 and A23. It goes on to say you’ll get the chance to control the navigation device and the cash register, along with creating a music playlist for your passengers. No doubt Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday and Bus Stop by The Hollies will prove to be quite popular. Did anyone mention Wheels on the Bus?

01_Bus_Simulator_16

Is it wrong to be excited about Bus Simulator 16? Let us know. We’re already counting the days until its release, although we suspect the wait will feel like an eternity and two games will arrive at once.

MRAdvent 14 Dec: Bentley Blower for the price of a Dacia?

Bentley Blower scale model

OK, so the title is a tad misleading, for which we apologise. You can, in fact, pick up a Bentley Blower for less than the price of a new Dacia Sandero. But you may have to make one or two tiny sacrifices.

The Bentley Blower – which got its name from the front-mounted supercharger – made its race debut at Brooklands in 1929 and until now we thought ownership was the preserve of the rich and famous. But no, it turns out you can ‘drive away’ in a Bentley Blower for £5,166. Still want that £5,995 Dacia Sandero Access?

Each Blower takes an incredible 3,000 hours to complete and consists of 1,000 individual resin and aluminium parts. The only catch? It’s a 1:8 scale model. No seats for five adults or a 3-year/60,000-mile warranty with this machine. On the plus side, we guarantee the Bentley will fit neatly into your garage.

[bctt tweet=”You can pick up a Bentley Blower for less than the price of a new Dacia Sandero.”]

Think of this as a Motoring Research public service announcement. With 10 days to go until Christmas, you’re probably in need of some last minute present ideas. And we’re pretty sure your petrolhead friend will appreciate a £5k Bentley Blower. Sadly, you will have to fork out an extra £12.87 for postage, which feels a bit Scrooge-like given the price of the model. Maybe that Sandero is looking more attractive after all.

But don’t worry if – like 99.9% of the world’s population – you cannot justify spending £5,000 on a model car, Bentley offers a 1:18 scale model for £150. It even features turning wheels, along with an opening bonnet and doors. But like the Sandero Access, there is no radio. You pays yer money and you takes yer choice.

MRAdvent 13 Dec: the naughty list

Naughty and nice Mercedes-Benz

He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice. He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. Santa Claus is coming to town. Which is good news for all the angelic children across the world.

As we catapult towards Christmas, faster than Clark W. Griswold on a freshly lubed sled, we turn our attentions to a simple but effective festive ad, courtesy of Mercedes-Benz USA. Kids, forget what your parents may have told you, it turns out Santa caters for the nice and the naughty.

Allow us to demonstrate:

Santa appears to take a rather simplistic view, with white cars disappearing into the night under the NICE banner and red cars heading under the NAUGHTY sign. Fair enough, but we’d have thought it should be AMG cars on the left and standard Mercedes-Benz on the right. After all, we all know Affalterbach is German for naughty.

[bctt tweet=”If Santa asked us to select 10 naughty tearaways and 10 nice motors, how easy would it be?”]

Which got us thinking. If Santa asked us to select 10 naughty tearaways and 10 nice motors, how easy would it be? We started with a list of 20 and split them down the middle. We’re going to need a couple of mighty transporters for this little lot.

The naughty list

Nissan Juke R

Ford Mustang 5.0

Mercedes-AMG GT S

Skoda Citigo Monte Carlo

Volvo V60 Polestar

Lexus GS F

Range Rover Sport SVR

Honda Civic Type R

Ferrari 488 Spider

Vuhl 05

The nice list

Skoda Superb

Volvo XC90

British Motor Heritage MGB

Vauxhall Astra

Mercedes-Benz GLS

Toyota Mirai

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Hyundai Genesis

Mazda MX-5

Aston Martin DB9 GT

So what kind of car do you drive? Is it naughty or nice? Answers on the back of a postcard to the usual address. Post early to avoid the Christmas rush.