The Road Show #41 With Crap Car Collective interview Duggystone Radio
Jack Mortimer July 19, 2020
With an interview with Crap Car Collective and the usual brilliant format of the show
Just the Interview
The Show Notes
So we start, with some consumer advice on the used car market. Currently, as we all know the sales of new cars are pretty low, only slowly climbing up each month, however the same thing can’t be said for used cars. Demand for second hand cars is currently outweighing the supply and prices have seen the biggest monthly increase since January of last year. Why is this happening? Well, of course a lot of car factories have been closed for several months, so there’s fewer new cars to buy and many dealers aren’t offering part exchange deals so, instead, people are turning to the used car market. And, outside of the dealership, with social distancing still in place here in the UK, many people are more sceptical of using public transportation, so the independence of a car is welcomed by many. The cars with the biggest price increases are the older ones, with cars aged over 10 years increasing in value by 5.7% in the last month. Interestingly, with these older cars, factors such as the type of car, condition and mileage don’t seem to affect the amount they’re increasing by. However, this golden age for the used car is said to only last for another 6 or so weeks, so if you have a set of wheels to sell, get it on the market now.
And one person clearly following that advice is the comedian Steve Coogan. His 1961 Jaguar E-Type Roadster is about to go under the hammer, and it’s attracted a lot of attention. Most of this attention comes, not from who owned it, but because it’s an incredibly early one. With the chassis number of 62, this E-Type was one of the demonstrator cars from when the E-Type was first launched, but even better than that, it’s believed to be the first ever E-Type to be sold in Scotland. It seems to have had a lot of owners over the years with Coogan getting it with the help of motoring journalist and former Top Gear presenter Quentin Wilson back in 2016. Since then it’s had a full restoration and it’s currently expected to sell for somewhere between £300,000 and £350,000 when it goes under the hammer at the Silverstone Online Auction event between the 31st of July and the 2nd of September.
Over in Korea, Kia and Hyundai have stated that they are aiming to sell a million electric cars in 2025. This is quite a bold claim as that would be 10% of the global electric car market. So how would they do it? Well, perhaps in an even bolder claim, Hyundai stated that they’ll be launching a ‘next-generation’ electric vehicle which will have a range of 280 miles (that’s 450km) and can be charged fully in under 20 minutes. Little else is known so far as to what the two Korean giants have under their sleeves, but you’re sure to know if you keep on listening to later editions of The Road Show!
And, in the world of luxury cars, we’ve got some news on the new Mercedes Benz S-Class. Now, the wraps won’t be officially pulled off by Mercedes until the end of the year, however a few spy photos do tell us quite a bit of information. Really, it’s what you’d expect from a modern day Mercedes, with the design focusing on evolution, as opposed to revolution. You’ve got your typical big Mercedes grille and the headlamps that look a lot like the ones on the CLS. Where it gets a little more interesting is on the inside, as we have a massive touchscreen, much like the Teslas, and it’ll feature the second generation MBUX infotainment system. In short, what this means is a lot more will be done via touchscreens or, more excitingly, motion detection, as opposed to buttons or dials. Now, when it launches, there’ll be several hybrids and also a ‘pure-electric’ version which will apparently have a range of 310 miles. The new S-Class will be on sale next year, with the electric version scheduled for 2022.
Car You Love To Hate – Austin Maestro
OK then, so we haven’t had a car you love to hate in a little while – the last one was the Ford Pinto which I did with Kirk. So, why don’t we delve into everyone’s favourite cash-strapped British car company BL and take a look at what critics call the car that killed them – the Austin Maestro.
So, obviously we need to start before the Maestro’s launch. At the time, British Leyland’s main family car was the Allegro, which we covered a few months back. By the end of its life the Allegro was actually a pretty good car but sadly its reputation was in tatters after the rather serious teething issues the early models had – whether that was boot lids letting in water or rear windscreens falling off every time it was jacked up. Plus, sadly the Allegro was pretty dated by the late 70s thanks to the one thing it lacked – a hatchback. When it launched in 1973 that wasn’t a particularly common thing (competitors like the Ford Escort Mk1, the Citroen GS and the Hillman Avenger all opted for conventional saloons) but just a few years later the Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Chevette, Chrysler Horizon, Peugeot 104, Fiat 127, Renault 14, Datsun Cherry, Volvo 340 and Mazda 323 which all had hatchbacks.
And, obviously we have to mention that British Leyland in the late 70s wasn’t in a great position financially, partially because of their hectic range of cars over many different brands. So when Michael Edwardes became the chairman in 1977, part of his plan was to offer a new, fresh and simple range of cars that could keep up with the competition. There would be new small, lower-medium (that’s a family hatchback) and upper-medium (meaning saloon) cars and, if there was enough money perhaps a new luxury car or something sporty. But, with retrospect, we know that the three main cars ended up as the Metro, Maestro and Montego.
Anyway, since we know that the new family hatch was a part of a simplified range, it had to replace multiple cars, namely the Austin Allegro and Austin Maxi – two cars that sold well but were overshadowed by Ford’s offerings. So, a totally new platform called the LC10 was created and the designers and developers set to work. Both the Maestro and the Montego were developed closely alongside one another to help save costs. They used the same platform and were both designed by Ian Beech. Like the Allegro, and many of its competitors, the LC10 had front wheel drive but it lacked the unconventional Hydragas suspension system, instead using the much more popular MacPherson strut at the front, and torsion beam at the back set up. The main reason for this was most likely that, as good as Hydragas’ ride was, maintaining it if it went wrong was rather off-putting to most families. As for engines, surprise surprise, the 1.3 litre A-Series engine was used for the entry level models as well as the new 1.6 litre R-Series. Really, these weren’t exactly the best choices. The A-Series dated back to the 1950s with cars such as the Austin A30 and Morris Minor, whereas the R-Series was really no more than a stop gap for the new and improved version of the E-Series engines. Nevertheless, it did give buyers a choice between economy and power.
Originally, the Maestro was set to go on sale in 1979, meaning it would’ve launched alongside the original Vauxhall Astra and beat Ford’s new front wheel drive Escort to the market by about a year. Sadly, 1979 came and went and we had to wait until November of 1982 before production began, with a launch occurring at the Geneva Motor Show the following year. Really, the launch delay, much like that of the Metro in 1980 meant that BL had some very up to date cars for a couple of years, but when the next generation of cars launched they immediately looked dated in comparison.
Nevertheless, it’s the 1st of March 1983 and you’re in your local Austin dealer looking at their new Golf rival. What did you get? Well, despite the long wait, the Maestro did have some very modern (well for the time) features. There was adjustable front seat belt anchorage points, homofocal headlights for better visibility, an electronic management system and colour coded plastic bumpers. But perhaps the most innovative feature on the top of the range Maestro Vanden Plas and MG Maestro was its electronic dashboard and talking trip computer (we’ll get onto those don’t worry).
There were seven models initially in the range, going from the entry level 1.3 base, the ultra-economical HLE which supposedly could get up to 60mpg at a steady 56mph, the luxurious Vanden Plas and the relatively sporty (by which I mean it could get from 0-60 in 9.6 seconds) MG. So there really was a Maestro for any family, and the early sales figures reflected that. In both 1983 the Maestro was the sixth bestselling car in Britain – doing better than the Astra and the Golf, but then again, it still couldn’t overtake the Escort. Road testers also loved the Maestro – in particular it’s handling, ride and very roomy interior.
However, as time progressed, there were some evident issues with the Maestro. The dashboard, made up from several pieces, would often squeak whilst going over bumps, the new plastic bumpers would easily crack in the summertime heat, on hot days the 1.6 R-Series often wouldn’t start and of course there was the talking dashboard. So, back in the 80s, with programmes like Knight Rider the idea of having a car that could talk to you was something many dreamed of. So, with microchips going down in price and home computers becoming commonplace, they thought having an advanced dashboard was a way to liven up their new car. And it worked, for a little while at least. As well as a digital LED display (which was very novel at the time) there were audible warnings for when the car had issues. However, after a few months of ownership, some motorists found that these warnings would sound when there wasn’t any issue at all, sometimes just by going over a bump in the road.
So, the Maestro had quite a similar, if not worse, launch than the Allegro and in 1984 Austin had to make the car a little more conventional to stop more issues were having – goodbye high tech dashboard. There was also a new 1.6 engine that was developed just in time for the launch of the Montego (the S-Series) and also the 2.0 O-Series engine with fuel injection was fitted into the now much sportier MG Maestro. In fact, by doing that, the Maestro now had a 0-60 time that could only be beaten in its class by the Fiat Strada Abarth and the Lancia Delta Turbo.
But despite these changes the damage had been done and sales fell in 1985. The Maestro had fallen to the 10th bestselling car, being overtaken not only by the Ford Escort and Orion, but now also by the Astra. On that note, by now there were new competitors on the market in the form of the new Astra and, more crucially, the new Golf. Whilst the Maestro was still officially only two years old, at least these cars didn’t heart back to the 1970s and offered buyers an actual modern family car.
By the latter portion of the 1980s it was found that the Maestro gave off a very pedestrian image and so the Austin name was dropped with the Rover name being used to give it a more prestigious image. By 1988, Rover were purchased by British Aerospace and they were already planning on phasing out car assembly at Cowley South Works where the Maestro was built. The following year saw the new Rover 200, the Maestro’s true successor, and really it was all over. The Maestro continued until 1995 as a budget model where it was cancelled and would never see the light of day again…
…Accept it did, immediately. Yes, that’s because Rover entered a joint venture with a Bulgarian company to form Rodacar. At the time Eastern European companies were still in their early days of capitalism and needed some cheap and dependable cars to make. So, a factory in Varna was built and Rover would produce complete knock-down kits for the Bulgarians to assemble. The only issue was, well, the Bulgarians didn’t really want them. Production only lasted for a year and just 1,700 or so were exported. It seems that with cars like the Skoda Felicia or Lada 110 the Maestro looked dated even there. Interestingly enough, a company in the UK took on all of the kits produced before the factory closed and continued to build them until 2001, so you can actually buy a Maestro made in this millennia.
Anyway, that’s where the Maestro was cancelled and would never see the light of day again… Accept, again, it did, this time over in China. Yes, before China had their own very strong car industry, they were building clones of whatever they could, so in 1997 the shiny new Etsong Lubao QE6400 Ruby entered the forecourts. Interestingly enough, these Chinese models (or most of them at least) use the Montego front end on the Maestro’s body. The Maestro was sold over in China for quite some time, with the Maestro Van being particularly popular. Sadly, production over there of it has ended however, the basis of it is still being used in modern Chinese cars such as the Yema F12 and F99.
And that’s the Maestro, an odd car that had its flaws but one that I’m sure many will have fond memories of. So, if you want to get your hands on your own Maestro, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that they regularly appear on websites such as eBay or Car and Classic. What won’t please you however is how expensive they are – I guess many see them as a collector’s car now. A 1987 Maestro 1.6 Vanden Plas with just 26,500 miles on the clock will set you back £4,350 whereas a 50,000 mile Maestro van costs just shy of £2,000. The most collectable Maestros, predictably, are the go-faster ones and so the MG Maestro will set you back just under £6,000.
TV/ Film Car – Top 5 Coolest Features
So, after our look at the Austin Maestro (which admittedly went on a little longer than I originally expected it would) it’s time to mix it up with a TV or film car… Well, by that I mean it’s time to take a look at five TV or film cars, or actually it’s time to take a look at five features from five TV or film cars. Let me explain. In an effort to mix it up a little bit and get to hear what you really want to hear, I decided it would be a fun idea to set up a poll on The Road Show Facebook group. The question? What is your favourite feature from a TV or film car? By that I mean the sort of thing these set of wheels can do, but not your average family car. Well, today I’m very pleased to present your top 5 favourite fantasy features for film or TV cars.
And we start, rather annoyingly with a joint 4th place, and that goes to the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Herbie. So let’s go alphabetical and start with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a 1920s inspired race car that was made from the ground up. In the film, they used Ford 3.0 litre V6 engines, most commonly found in the Transit, Capri, or the TVR Tuscan. Nevertheless, what all those other cars couldn’t do was act independently. Naturally the most infamous thing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang did in the novel and film was sprout wings and fly. It also seems to be aware of human activity, saving the Pott family from drowning and helping to foil a group of gangsters.
Also on the theme of conscious cars, you also voted for Herbie. Herbie was, of course, a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle. Much like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, it’s unclear how Herbie gained its power to think and act on its own, but the difference is Herbie was fixed on creating mischief. Naturally, in the series it was converted into a race car, with red, white and blue stripes and that famous number 53 sticker, although I wouldn’t have thought an original Beetle would be much good as a performance car. Luckily however, Herbie is a very special car, and you thought so too, hence why it’s on the list!
Coming in at number 3, we’ve got KITT from the series Knight Rider. Based on a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am, KITT (which is an acronym for Knight Industries Two Thousand) was a cybernetic processor originally taken from a government mainframe computer. But, when KITT was fitted into a car, he managed to give it artificial intelligence capabilities, most notably the ability to talk to the protagonist Michael Knight. Capable of learning from others and the ability to control the car, KITT was not only able to drive, but also talk to occupants, complete with a very dry sense of humour. A talking dashboard? Where have I heard about one of those before? Anyway, with its powerful 1000 megabit memory (that’s 125 megabytes, or enough to store one fifth of a compact disc), KITT can be considered as the earliest form of a driverless vehicle as well as one that includes modern in car entertainment. Actually, it’s quite cool that really, thanks to Bluetooth and voice control, many of us drive KITTs of our own.
At number 2 we have everyone’s favourite killer car, Christine. Christine, as we all know from a previous episode of The Road Show, was a 1957 Plymouth Fury but most crucially, in both the novel and the film, it could do the impossible and fix itself. Now, I think the reason why this was such a popular choice was because in reality cars, and especially classic cars, can be notoriously unreliable and need a good deal of maintenance in order for them to hit the road. So, the idea of a car that could do everything itself, from repairing a small dent to completely reforming in the aftermath of a bulldozer, could be quite nice – even if it did actively seek to destroy you in the process.
And finally, at the top spot for your favourite feature in a TV or film car is… the DeLorean from Back to the Future. Now, obviously the main thing about the DeLorean was that it could travel through time when it reached the speed of 88mph thanks to the technology of the patented flux capacitor. Originally, it needed plutonium to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of power however, after an accidental trip back to 1955 along with some retaliation from the Libyans, who were more than a little irate, it was decided that it was too problematic a fuel to use regularly. So, thankfully, its designer, Doc Brown, went to 2015 to check up on renewable forms of energy. The result was a DeLorean time machine powered by rubbish which was installed via a Mr Fusion generator. Actually, it’s quite cool that they managed to predict how we became more concerned about the environment at that time. Sadly, though, Doc didn’t convert the car to run on battery alone – I mean, he’s not Vintage Voltage. Nevertheless, another circa 2015 mod allowed the DeLorean to also fly, something that sadly doesn’t really exist yet. Sadly, by the end of Back to the Future III, it was destroyed as Doc vowed he wouldn’t time travel again… He then immediately made a time travelling train and then another DeLorean in the cartoon series. The end. Yeah, that wasn’t so consistent, but the point remains that you love the idea of a car you can hop in, break the speed limit and then break the space time continuum and I agree.