MRAdvent 12 Dec: Pedal cars to the metal

Mercedes-Benz doesn't give you wings. All this 300 SL is lacking is the iconic 'Gullwing' doors.

Mercedes-Benz doesn’t give you wings. All this 300 SL is lacking is the iconic ‘Gullwing’ doors.

What’s cool, green and fun? No, not Kermit the frog at the office Christmas party, a zero-emissions pedal car. Forget walking, as soon as we were old enough, we wanted to get behind the wheel of a pedal car, preferably with a cool badge on the front.

Back in the day, the hallway became the Mulsanne straight, the living room played host to a fun-size Silverstone and the back garden became the Kielder Forest. The skirting boards took a hammering, but hey, we were having fun.

If you’re looking for a cool Christmas present for the junior petrolhead in your family, you can’t go wrong with a pedal car. There’s quite literally a pedal car to suit all budgets, from a pre-owned bargain on eBay to a £10,000 Land Rover Defender. Yes, that’s right. While the real thing is on borrowed time, the pedal car version will be available next year. Even at £10k, we expect the tiny Landy to be in demand.

[bctt tweet=”The skirting boards took a hammering, but hey, we were having fun.”]

For those not wanting to wait until next year, or indeed spend the price of a supermini on a pedal car, there are other options. Over on the Porsche website we’ve found everything from a Baby Porsche 4S for £107 to a brilliant Porsche 356 electric car.

Meanwhile, the Ferrari Store is loaded with Christmas win, with a fantastic Ferrari FF electric car for a not too unrealistic £254.90. Put it this way: that’s cheaper than a PlayStation 4 and your child will be the coolest kid in town.

Or, how about the Bobby-Benz SLS AMG? The special edition is supplied with two sets of stickers, allowing children to create a Lewis Hamilton Edition or Nico Rosberg Edition. All the proceeds go to Tribute to Bambi, which helps disadvantaged children, so it’s a good way to spend £95.

There are many pedal cars out there, so make sure your child gets off to the best start in life by treating them to their first car. Click through our gallery for inspiration.

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MRAdvent 11 Dec: Time is different in a Lamborghini

Santa Lamborghini Aventador

It’s one of the world’s greatest mysteries. Just how does Father Christmas manage to deliver all those presents in one single night? Magic dust? Supersonic reindeer? LSD? That’s a limited-slip diff, kids. Not the other stuff.

No, the answer is he drives a Lamborghini Aventador. All of which means he can wait until the very last minute before setting off on his epic journey. Sorry, Rudolph and your associated friends, you may not be required this year.

Even with a V12-engined Italian thoroughbred at his disposal, Father Christmas manages to perform a minor miracle. Figures released by the Telegraph in 2009 suggest he has to visit a total of 700,000,000 children in one night, which equates to 233,000,000 stops.

By the end of the night, this will be one well-used Aventador, with 212,030,000 miles on the clock. Needless to say the network of Lamborghini distributors will need to offer a 24/7 service to ensure the Aventador doesn’t miss any oil and filter changes.

He’ll need to put his foot on the gas, with an average of 1,800 miles per second required to ensure he keeps on schedule.  Fortunately for Santa, there are no speed cameras in the sky. But he will need to watch out for low-flying drones.

[bctt tweet=”Sorry, Rudolph and your associated friends, you may not be required this year”]

Talking of which, perhaps Santa could subcontract Amazon to use those delivery drones in 2016. Quick, get Clarkson on the blower.

In the meantime, he’ll have to pack very carefully, because the 110 litres of boot space is hardly cavernous. Quite frankly, we’re surprised Santa hasn’t invested in something like an AMG wagon or Audi RS6 for nights such as this. Could somebody renew his subscription to What Sleigh?

This Christmas, don’t listen out for the sound of sleigh bells on the roof, keep your ears to the ground for the unmistakable roar of a 6.5-litre V12. Oh, and if you happen to see an advertisement for a one-careful-owner Lamborghini Aventador, you might want to check the mileage. There’s running in and then there’s running in.

MRAdvent 10 Dec: a ski jump was snow problem for Audi

Audi 100 CS quattro ski jump

Top Gear may have sent a Mini down a ski jump, but in 1986, Audi did the exact opposite. Looking to demonstrate its then relatively new quattro all-wheel drive technology, Audi sent a 100 CS quattro up a ski jump in Finland.

Back then, this was a remarkable achievement. Audi was beginning to forge a reputation in the premium sector, but still lagged behind BMW and Mercedes-Benz in terms of sales and brand awareness. But in quattro, it had a system that could propel the Audi name to the forefront of consumers’ minds. Crucially, Audi also had the balls to do something like this. Here’s a reminder of the TV advertisement:

The chap behind the wheel – who had clearly eaten three Shredded Wheat that morning – was rally driver Harald Demuth. He was the man tasked with driving the Audi 100 up the 37.5º slope of the Pitkavouri ski jump in Kaipola, Finland. Anyone seeing the ad for the first time was left slack-jawed and suffering from a minor case of vertigo.

Everybody was talking about the advert and they continued to do so for years to come. Audi and its ad agency deserve great respect, because by driving up a ski jump, they helped create a formidable brand. Cables attached to the 100 or not, the advert had the desired effect.

It was no surprise when – to mark 25 years of quattro – Audi returned to the same location. The Pitkavouri jump hadn’t been used since 1994, so it had to be rendered safe before the commercial could be shot. Audi also added a safety device to prevent the A6 from sliding down the ramp, along with a steel base plate to the underbody.

[bctt tweet=”Did the Milk Tray man drive an Audi 100 CS quattro?”]

The remake was good, of course it was. But it lacked the originality and wow factor of the 1986 ad. Back then, Audi was, relatively speaking, an unknown quantity and there was a touch of Milk Tray and James Bond about the stunt. Come to think of it, did the Milk Tray man drive an Audi 100 CS quattro?

And all because the lady loves all-wheel drive…

MRAdvent 9 Dec: how GM outfoxes cold weather in Kapuskasing


If your Vauxhall, Opel, Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac or GMC starts without a problem when the temperatures hit freezing, spare a thought for the General Motors employees at Kapuskasing, Canada.

Since the 1940s, GM has been cold-testing vehicles at the town which lies some 12 hours north of Detroit and 9 hours north of Toronto. The town, which, according to Wikipedia has a population of 8,196, sees temperatures below freezing between October and April, making it ideal for extreme cold weather testing of GM vehicles.

General Motors decided to build a permanent Cold Weather Development Centre at ‘the Kap’ in 1973 and by 1983, all GM vehicles were being tested there. This advert captures the early days at Kapuskasing.

A number of things strike us about this video, not least the appearance of the Vauxhall Magnum and Opel GT. But look how well the GM cars perform in the snow. These were the days before everybody rushed out to buy a 4×4 when the going got tough.

Back then, as the video points out, the tests included cold start and drive-away, defrost capability, heater operation, traction and overall reliability. Today, the tests will be much the same, but expanded to include the likes of battery operation, ‘low volatility’ fuel, interior parts, rubber door seals and electronics.

[bctt tweet=”Your Insignia will survive a visit from Jack Frost, thanks to the work conducted in Ontario”]

Your Insignia will survive a visit from Jack Frost, thanks to the work conducted in Ontario. Gives you a warm glow, doesn’t it? Not that the testers in Kapuskasing will know that feeling.

Oh, and in case you were wondering. The fox in the main photo was seen prowling the GM facility in Kapuskasing. He’s clearly wondering where all the snow has gone. Either that or he’s mourning the passing of the Opel GT. As are we, foxy. As are we.

MRAdvent 8 Dec: we live in a Materia world

Daihatsu Materia Christmas

If you end up at a pub quiz over the festive period, you could be asked to name five famous fans of the Daihatsu Materia. This will inevitably lead to much head scratching as your fellow quiz-goers wrack their brains desperately searching for the answer. Well, allow us give you a head start.

For one, we know Madonna is crazy about the Daihatsu, telling the world that we are living in a Materia world and she is a Materia girl. She even asked Daihatsu to paint one True Blue. Which is nice.

And then there’s Mr & Mrs Christmas of Torquay. No, really, hear us out with this one.

Sheila and Phil Scott, known locally as Mr & Mrs Christmas, fell in love with the boxy but brilliant Daihatsu Materia while holidaying in America. We were told that, back in 2008, Mr & Mrs Christmas returned to the UK and “couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw an ad for their beloved car”, so naturally they placed an order. Oh, Madonna would have been so proud.

[bctt tweet=”Madonna is crazy about the Daihatsu, telling the world that we are living in a Materia world”]

The couple – who do a lot for charity – were said to be “bowled over by the Materia’s sliding and reclining rear seats, making it an ideal car for transporting presents for all their fundraising fun”, but were less impressed by the range of colours on offer. Well, come on, if you’re going to make a statement, do it in style.

So, inspired by Lamborghini, the Scotts painted it mauve. As you do. We understand the local spray shop thought they were “quite potty”, before greeting the job with open arms.

Seven years ago, Mr & Mrs Christmas said they “wouldn’t buy anything else”, so we’re wondering, given Daihatsu’s sad departure from these shores, what are they driving now? A quick search suggests the distinctive number plate is now living on a Nissan Qashqai, so have the Scotts jumped ship? Surely a Kia Soul would have been more appropriate?

Is the Materia dressed as a Quality Street ‘Purple One’ still doing the rounds in Devon? Answers on a postcard. Usual address.

In the meantime, we’re struggling to find two more famous fans of the Daihatsu Materia. Katie Price? Purple Ronnie? It might be easier to name five famous Belgians.

MRAdvent 7 Dec: trucking around the Christmas tree

Eddie Stobart Christmas

If a certain drinks company is to be believed, Christmas starts when a big red truck rolls into town. But three years ago, it was the iconic green and red livery of Eddie Stobart that signalled the start of the festivities. Of sorts.

You may not remember, or perhaps you were doing your best to forget, but in 2012, Eddie Stobart released its first Christmas single. The 12 Days of Christmas recording was memorable (if that’s the right word?) for exchanging tree for deliv-er-ies. Yeah, it kind of works. And hey, it’s just a bit of fun.

Besides, the single – which was available for a ‘bargain’ 79p, or £1.29 if you wanted to experience the magic of the video – was recorded to raise money for Help for Heroes. And we can all raise a glass for charidee songs, especially at this time of the year. Be aware, this might just get into your head. It’s a bit of an earworm.

As you’d expect, the Eddie Stobart version of the famous Christmas song doesn’t feature the usual milking maids, french hens and pear trees. Instead, the truckers sing about frozen turkeys, spotters and mince pies. Not forgetting five tonnes of Brussel Sprouts. Watch out for windy conditions in the Stobart Group’s hometown of Carlisle.

And wait, five tonnes of Brussel Sprouts instead of five gold rings? Is that really true love?

[bctt tweet=”The Eddie Stobart fleet travels the equivalent of 33 laps of the earth EACH DAY”]

In 2012, Eddie Stobart was destined to deliver 500,000 Christmas trees and 40 million mince pies, so it’s fair to say Steady Eddie can rival Father Christmas in the festive deliveries department. Indeed, the Eddie Stobart fleet travels the equivalent of 33 laps of the earth EACH DAY, and that’s without the use of a sleigh or reindeer.

Eddie Stobart Christmas song

Good effort on the Christmas single, lads and lasses. We’re looking forward to the follow-up single. Trucking All Over The World? Another Truck And Roll Christmas? Trucking Around The Christmas Tree? Trucking Home For Christmas?

We’re getting our own coats…

MRAdvent 6 Dec: when Matchbox offered part-ex deals

Matchbox Superfast

What would you trade for a new ’71 Superfast? What you would trade for the Superfast Rat Rod? What would you trade for this fabulous Formula One? Back in the early 1970s, these were the kind of tough questions facing young petrolheads.

Looking back, this was a great deal for kids and a slice of marketing genius by Matchbox. Just like their parents, children were invited to trade in their old and broken Matchbox cars in exchange for shiny new ones. No questions asked. No finance forms to complete. No bother. Simply drive away in a new Matchbox Superfast for 59 cents. Brilliant.

The advert is dripping in nostalgia, taking us back to the days when happiness was a few hours spent pushing cars across the living room floor. Our fathers would curse us for leaving them ‘parked’ on the stairs, while our mothers would grow tired of patching the holes in our jeans. Different times, lad. Different times.

Today, we can revisit the halcyon days of youth by picking up one of the Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars on offer in the supermarket. There are some properly good models on offer right now, all for under £1.50. They’re for the children, of course. We buy them for the children. Just don’t ask us why they’re still in their boxes.

[bctt tweet=”When happiness was a few hours spent pushing cars across the living room floor”]

In the related videos section, this weirdly engaging video appeared, showing the ‘torture chamber’ at the Lesney Products factory, Hackney Wick. Watch how the unsuspecting Rusty is subjected to abuse, designed to mimic that enforced by a young child.

Tia the doll doesn’t fare much better, having to withstand a bit of hair pulling. The Quality Assurance Test Laboratory wouldn’t look out of place in a nightmare version of Toy Story, although we’re not sure Buzz Lightyear could come to the rescue of these toys.

Main image courtesy of Riley on Flickr.

MRAdvent 5 Dec: When carmakers go sledging

Peugeot sledge

Sledges tend to create a bit of an issue in the UK. Unlike some of our more fortunate European neighbours, snow isn’t exactly guaranteed. When it does snow, the entire country grinds to a halt, the media creates mass panic and everyone rushes off to buy a 4×4. Oh, and we also like to go sledging.

Which is great, just as long as you have a sledge. If you throw open the shed or garage door only to find an absence of sledges, you’re in a spot of bother. No problem, you think, there’s bound to be a few for sale online.

Only there isn’t, because everybody else has had the same idea. And even if you could order one, the delivery driver won’t be able to get to you. British roads simply cannot cope with anything beyond a light dusting of snow.

[bctt tweet=”Being a petrolhead, you want something with a tad more class than the average sledge”]

Of course, being the sensible and forward thinking type, you pre-order one for the next bit of snow. Only it doesn’t snow. Not for many years. So your shiny sledge remains hanging up in the garage, just gathering dust. Great.

Being a petrolhead, you want something with a tad more class than the average sledge. Something with an automotive badge. That ought to do it, right? If you’re prepared to splash the cash, here are some automotive sledges from Christmas past and present. It’s the 5th December, so we’ve selected five manufacturers.

Volkswagen Crazy Bob

Volkswagen sledge

Squint hard and this looks just like a Volkswagen Golf GTI. It’s the GTI-branded Crazy Bob, which is made from plastic and features integrated footrests.

According to one ad on eBay, you can “be the envy on the hills with this stylish GTI sledge”, not that it’ll come cheap. You’ll need to part with the best part of £70, so it might be cheaper to draw a Volkswagen badge on a dustbin lid. Nobody mention emissions…

Porsche bobsleigh

Porsche bobsleigh

Alternatively, you could opt for the £100 Porsche bobsleigh, which is said to be influenced by the 918 Spyder. We also understand it’s the quickest children’s bobsleigh around the Nürburgring.

For something a little more grown-up, with a price tag to match, how about the Porsche Design sledge? It features an aluminium frame, stainless steel runners and an imitation leather seat. The price – at launch – was a cool £328.

Porsche sledge

Citroen C-Design snow surfer

Citroen sledge

You could do someone a serious mischief with the Citroen snow surfer, but there’s no denying it’s a cracking piece of design. It’s the work of Ognyan Bozhilov, who scooped first prize in Citroen’s C-Design competition.

MINI Snow Rocker

MINI sledge

MINI teamed up with Ann Summers to create the Snow Rocker. No, wait, that’s not right. MINI designed the Snow Rocker to “bring out your carefree youthful streak on the slopes”, but it’s not one for the fainthearted. It has been classified with a downhill racing speed in excess of 100km/h, so you might want to think twice before pushing your friend down Acacia Avenue.

Audi Snow Sledge

Audi sledge

Who needs quattro all-wheel drive when you can have no-wheel drive? The Audi Snow Sledge was designed to perform optimally at temperatures as low as -20ºC, so it should be perfect for use in Northamptonshire. Yours for £35, with retina-burning LED daytime running lights available as an option.

MRAdvent 4 Dec: Driving Home for Christmas

Driving Home For Christmas

You get the distinct impression Chris Rea spends an awful lot of time just driving about. His love of cars has been well documented, but songs such as Looking for the SummerThe Road to Hell and Auberge bring to mind images of Middlesbrough’s finest at the wheel of his old Caterham Seven or a Ferrari.

Then there’s the Christmas favourite, Driving Home for Christmas. If our nation’s retail outlets are anything to go by, Chris sets off in mid October and normally arrives home about 6pm on Christmas Eve. That’s one heck of a long drive, Chris. One thing is for certain – according to this report in the Birmingham Post – he’ll be doing his level best to avoid the M6 outside Walsall.

The question is, what car would Chris Rea be driving? The Caterham Seven is too obvious and probably a bit draughty for a man of his age. No, we like to think of Chris Rea driving a MK1 Ford Granada, ashtray full of cigarette butts and some Ry Cooder playing on the eight-track.

MK1 Ford Granada

In so many ways, this video encapsulates the images that spring to mind when we hear the song. The slow and steady driving, the deep, crisp and even snow, along with scenes of a wintery nature. We understand the footage wasn’t recorded on the road between Congleton and Newcastle-under-Lyme. If only all commutes were this epic.

[bctt tweet=”Think of Chris Rea driving a MK1 Ford Granada, ashtray full of cigarette butts and Ry Cooder on the eight-track.” via=”no”]

It’s makes for strangely hypnotic viewing, even if we’re not entirely sure the driver actually made it home.

MRAdvent 3 Dec: You can’t beat Scalextric

You can't beat Scalextric

“Turn on my lights, I can race all night.” To readers of a certain age, this will bring back memories of a time when Scalextric ruled the living room. Back in the day, the only present a young petrolhead wanted to find under the tree was a Scalextric set. Or maybe a Matchbox Powertrack.

But whatever, the 1970s and 1980s were the golden decades for Scalextric. In the days before games consoles, and when the television offered a paltry three channels, this was the best way to get your petrolhead kicks. As the advert proclaimed: “you can’t be-e-e-e-e-eat Scalextric.” How could a young and impressionable child resist this?

The advert has got it all. A catchy soundtrack (that will be in your head for the rest of the day), crashes, smashes and the occasional flip. Highlights include the Ford Capri (3.0S?), Triumph TR7 and a Porsche 911, complete with working headlights. The darkness gives it a real feeling of Le Mans. Also look out for the TT racers, which were notoriously hard to control.

In reality, the living room experience was never quite the same as the advert made out. Unless your parents were prepared to splash the cash with Geoffrey down at Toys ‘R’ Us, a simple track layout couldn’t really cut it. Well, not beyond Boxing Day. For the full effect you really needed the pit lane, the scenery, the chicanes, the grandstands and the adoring race fans. Oh, and a slow-motion camera would be useful, too.

[bctt tweet=”A catchy soundtrack (that will be in your head for the rest of the day), crashes and smashes”]

But then that was the beauty of Scalextric. Once you had a set, you just had to build on it. And as the ad states, accessories were available from 57p to £28.75. No internet price-match nonsense in those days. Although we’re not quite sure what you could have bought for your 57p pocket money. Answers on a postcard to the usual address.