The Road Show #43 – Duggystone Radio
Jack takes to the track, to drive some amazing classic cars from the Escort to the Cortina
The biggest news story of the week occurred on Monday when Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi announced that they’ll be freezing new model launches in Europe. Mistubishi’s new ‘Small but Beautiful’ motto is used to reflect and demonstrate the company’s mentality in cutting costs over the next few years. With it, the vast majority of focus will be put into the South East Asian countries where they have the biggest margin when compared to other markets at 6.9% of all new cars. However, over in the likes of Europe and America, it is unlikely that sales of their new models, for example the latest Mirage or Outlander, will start for the foreseeable future. Currently there’s no end-date for this phase of Mitsubishi, however they have stated that they expect to achieve sustainable growth by the end of 2022. So, what does that mean for European buyers? Well, you’ll still be able to buy a new Mitsubishi and aftersales services will still be as they were before the announcement. However, over time, as the EU emission figures get progressively stricter, it’s highly likely that we’ll see the range be cut in an effort to remain compliant. Naturally, this announcement comes not so long after Renault (Mitsubishi’s parent company) also began cutting back production. We know very little else about the fate of Mitsubishi in Europe during the next few years, however as news breaks, you’ll be able to hear it right here on The Road Show.
And in showbiz news, Good Morning Britain presenter Kate Garraway this week was shocked after experiencing a full tyre blow-out on the motorway. Garraway lost control of the Volvo V50 estate on her way to visit her husband, Derek, who has recently had serious health conditions. Unfortunately, the motorway in question didn’t have a hard shoulder and therefore certainly not ideal for an incident such as the one that occurred, with Garraway saying that she ‘was nervous of people coming up on the inside’. Thankfully, the family alerted the police of the situation, after being told by a recovery service that it would take over an hour for them to arrive, and a taxi was arranged to take them home, in Garraway’s words ‘shaken but safe’. Tire blowouts are a large cut in a tyre that causes rapid air-loss. The main reason they occur is because of low tyre pressures – meaning you should regularly check your tyres when they are cold with an accurate gauge to see if they match the recommended figures, as printed in your car’s manual.
In some lighter news, we’ve an update on the MG5. Longstanding listeners of The Road Show will remember me talking about the 5 – a Chinese built electric estate car, made by Roewe (the company who purchased Rover in 2005). Well the British incarnation of it, fitted with the very British MG badge, is set to go on sale later in the year. It uses a 52.5kWh battery which is connected to a 114bhp motor, allowing for the 5 to travel for 214 miles, according to the WLTP cycle test. The MG will be the first battery electric estate car sold in the UK and is likely to cost around £25,000 after the government grant, meaning that it’ll be quite an affordable large electric vehicle when it goes on sale quite soon.
And finally, spy photos this week show that Volvo appear to be testing a new electric version of their famous P1800 sports car. The car, most famous for appearing in the 60s drama The Saint, is rapidly approaching its 60th anniversary, so it’s likely that the Swedish company are looking into modifying a version of it for the modern world. Some have speculated that they believe this might not just be a one off, either – instead perhaps a sign that Volvo are working on a ‘reimagined’ version that could go on sale next year. Either way, Volvo have claimed that they anticipate 50% of their global sales by 2025 will be fully electric vehicles.
Classic Car Driving Experience:
Right then, so one thing that you might have noticed in our 43 editions of The Road Show is, whilst we love to talk about cars of all shapes, sizes, ages, makes, top speeds and everything else they have to offer, we’ve never actually done a road test. Now, the main reason why this is the case is, of course, I would need to be on temporary insurance which the vast majority of companies don’t offer that to 18 year olds, and the ones that do cost an absolute fortune for a tiny window in which the car can be driven. Nevertheless, today on The Road Show we do actually have our first road test! Well, kind of.
You see, way back when at Christmas I was given one of those classic car driving experiences at a place called Bicester Heritage, a former RAF ground that now is home to a bunch of classic car restorers and an airfield that makes for the perfect racetrack. Now, there are many companies offering this kind of experience and they all have different specifics on how much they cost and what exactly they offer. For me, the package I received as a gift allowed me to choose two cars and do eight laps of the track in each.
I could choose from a pretty wide variety of vintage vehicles, all with a sporty flair. I initially chose an original Lotus Cortina and a Mini Cooper S, however when I arrived the latter had apparently broken down – now we’re truly living the classic car life! The good news was, quite rightfully, I could choose another vehicle to drive, so I chose the original Ford Escort RS1600. So, it looks as if this is a road test of two fast Fords.
Naturally, right now, meetups of this nature need to be dealt with in a very careful manner, and I was pleased to see plenty of hand sanitiser and social distancing in effect. It was a requirement to wear a mask in the cars, and the instructors would clean the car down quite vigorously before you got in. Needless to say, they too were all wearing good quality masks and also gloves in and indeed out of the vehicles.
Anyway, the bit that you’ve been waiting for – the actual road tests. But, unlike most you see, I don’t have any recordings from inside the vehicles as I was driving, simply because I wasn’t allowed to record in there. Nevertheless, what I do have is a relatively good brain that’s able to recall how both of the cars drove.
So, the first car I took to the track in was the 1966 Lotus Cortina. Now, we do need to cover the Cortina but it’s a very long story. All you need to know right now is that this was a Lotus engineered version of Ford’s first generation family saloon. Getting in, I was very impressed with the amount of room the Cortina had. As someone who’s 6ft2 I do need quite a bit of legroom, and the Cortina had plenty of excess. Naturally, the interior was pretty basic overall – a non-padded dashboard, wooden and steel steering wheel and black vinyl seats.
As for instrument dials, you’re two main ones are you’re speedometer and your tachometer (often incorrectly called a rev-counter), but there’s also four auxiliary dials which tell you about the battery level, engine temperature, oil level and, of course, remaining fuel. Although, for this Lotus Cortina, these didn’t really help as they weren’t connected up. It had only just been restored when I drove it so I guess they just wanted it to go, stop and steer.
Nevertheless, windows down, key in the ignition and we were good to go. Like the vast majority of 60s cars, the Lotus Cortina has a 4 speed gearbox. It also has synchromesh on all gears, like a modern car, which means no double-declutching is necessary. Changing gears in the Cortina was a very nice experience. The clutch was relatively light, especially for an old car, and selecting a gear felt very certain.
Sadly, the track was relatively small and only had one straight but I can tell you that acceleration did feel very exciting. The 1557cc twin overhead-cam engine produces 105bhp and 107lbs per square feet of torque, which is enough to get it up to 60 in 13.6 seconds and a top speed of 108mph if you’ve enough distance. Now, that doesn’t sound particularly impressive to our modern ears, especially for what at the time was a sporty car, but back then it was a marked improvement over the standard Cortina.
One of the things you don’t tend to get with a modern car is the lack of decent soundproofing. Now, in most cases that would be an issue, and indeed if you were travelling long distances on a motorway in a Cortina, it probably would be too, but that’s exactly what you want to hear on a track – and it did sound incredibly impressive when accelerating.
The brakes were, of course, not up to the standard of a modern car although the setup found in the Lotus Cortina (that’s disc brakes at the front and drums at the back) is still seen on some small cars today. But then again, I could hardly slam on the brakes at any point on the track, so I couldn’t really test them to their full capability.
But perhaps the thing I found most impressive about the Lotus Cortina was the steering. I’ll be honest, in the days before this experience, the one thing that made me nervous about driving old cars was the lack of power steering. My main car is a Citroen C1 and, up to that point, I’d never driven anything without power assisted steering, but as soon as I began driving the Cortina I was amazed. Cornering at relatively low speeds (well, I was nervous driving someone else’s car) I found the steering to be only slightly heavier than what I’m used to and it actually offered a little more control – you actually felt the road beneath you.
Now, of course that’s not exactly the most vigorous road test in the world – obviously I couldn’t deal with real world traffic, parking or any long distance travel but nevertheless, I was very impressed with just how well the car drove given its age.
The other classic car I drove on that day was a 1970 Ford Escort RS1600. Now, the Escort was the smallest car in Ford’s range at the time with engines typically being a 1.1 or a 1.3. However, on sporty models a different 1.6 Cosworth engine to that of the Cortina was fitted. In fact, this engine was ever so slightly more powerful – achieving 115bhp. Like the Lotus, the Escort did very well in motorsport, winning the British Saloon Car Championship in 1968 and ’69, along with the 1972 RAC Rally.
And indeed, as I got in, the instructor told me that I’d find it quite different to the Cortina as this Escort was designed to be a rally car – meaning it had stiffer sports suspension and a strengthened body shell. Inside, the Escort was, understandably, a bit more basic than the Cortina regarding comfort, however it did feature a lot more bells and whistles to improve drivability. Nevertheless, everything was set so nothing really had to be adjusted. It’s also worth noting that this Escort in particular was left hand drive which did take a little bit of getting used to.
The first thing I noticed about the Escort was that the clutch’s biting point was notably lower than on anything I’d ever driven so slightly more gas was needed to get it off the mark. I was a little concerned I was going to stall it on several occasions at lower speeds however, impressively that never happened.
Acceleration was marginally more impressive than in the Cortina, of course owing to that slightly more powerful engine, however again my lack of confidence meant I probably never did more than 45mph on the rather short straight the track had to offer. One thing I will say though is that both cars feel incredibly fast when you’re at the wheel, but look painfully slow from the outside. I’d assume this is because they tend to be lower to the ground, especially compared to the SUVs of today. If you did have enough space and confidence to test it, the RS1600 is capable of an impressive 0-60 time of 8.9 seconds and a top speed of 113mph.
For the most part, the brakes are the same story as the Cortina – discs at the front, drums at the back. However, I did have somewhat of an issue lowering my speed in the Escort and that came from the pedals. I have size 12 feet (that’s about 46 or 47 in European terms) and simply put, when I’d slow down, I’d find myself pushing both the brakes and the accelerator at the same time. The pedals clearly weren’t designed for feet as big as mine! Nevertheless, apart from some loud revving noises coming from under the bonnet, this was the only issue I had with the car. Other than that, the gear change was just as pleasant as the Cortina’s and the steering was a little heavier, although that’s probably due to the smaller ‘rally-style’ steering wheel fitted.
And they really were my experiences with two fast Fords. As I mentioned, these recollections don’t really make up a road test in the conventional sense, I never got to take the cars onto real roads, however hopefully my recollections on what driving both of them was at least interesting, as someone who’d never driven a classic car beforehand.
Oh and one final thing. If my descriptions of both cars has made you want to buy one, I wouldn’t go waving your chequebooks just yet. Either the original Lotus Cortina or the RS1600 in good condition will set you back over £50,000.
Cars with the Highest Mileage
Sometimes, when I’m bored on long trips where I’m not driving, I’ll idly tap in the number plates I see on the DVLA’s car check website. If you’re not from Britain, you might not have a service like this, but with it, you enter a car’s number plate and you can check some stuff about it – what the car is, if it’s taxed and MOT’d, even the mileage figures from each MOT. Sometimes it’s amazing to see how many miles a car has done, as if it’s well kept sometimes you just can’t believe it. So, for this segment, why don’t we look at some of the cars with the world’s highest mileages featuring on their odometers?
Actually, let’s start with a question. What do you think is a high mileage for a car? 100,000 miles? 200,000? A quarter of a million? Well, given that one lap of Earth is a little under 25,000 miles that would logically mean a car with 250,000 miles on the clock has done the equivalent of travelling the world more than ten times over. It’s impressive to think, but it’s even more impressive to think that there’s a lot of cars with over 250,000 miles on the clock, and beyond.
But here’s the thing, we don’t start this list with cars that have covered mileage figures in the 200,000s, we’re starting with cars that have done figures in the region of 1,200,000! And so in our look at the Top 10 highest mileage cars, as researched by HotCars website, our first two cars are huge American pickup trucks with similarly high figures. The lesser, so to speak, is a 2006 Ford F-250 fitted with a 7.3 litre turbodiesel engine. Yes, you’re quite right, that is an absolutely huge engine, and it goes into an absolutely huge pickup – it’s over 5.6 metres long and 2 metres high! The owner reportedly uses their mega-mileage mean machine for towing a caravan all over the States, and despite well over 1,200,000 miles on the clock, they say they’ve had no major issues with it whatsoever.
At number 9, with a mere 20,000 extra miles, is the 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 – another diesel pickup of epic proportions. Right from the start, it was put to good use – hauling supplies over to towns affected by Hurricane Katerina. To this day, it makes very similar trips, all over America, although it doesn’t seem to be doing as much, which is understandable for a 14 year old car that has travelled so far already. In an interview, its owners said that the key to its eternal health was an oil change every 5,000 miles and a good wash after every long trip – that way any salt on icy roads doesn’t stay on the car and cause rust to form.
At number 8 we’ve something a little different – a 1966 Mercedes 250SE. Here’s a 54 year old luxury saloon that’s covered an impressive 1,280,000 miles. It’s said that the first owner of this car owned it for the rest of his life, covering around 877,000 miles before, sadly passing away. It was inherited by a family member who made it their mission to get it to a million miles. Naturally, this was achieved just before it was sold on to its current owner who, and this is the really impressive bit, still drives it to work every day. In its life, spanning over six decades in total, the Merc has needed two bottom end repairs, four top end repairs and two transmission rebuilds, thus showing that it can sometimes be cheaper to buy a new car, but nowhere near as impressive!
At number 7, surprise, surprise, we’ve another truck – this time a 1991 Chevrolet C1500 with 1,290,000 miles on the clock. For the majority of its life it was used to transport seafood from Wisconsin to Illinois and back (that’s a round trip of 500 miles) every day. They said the reason it’s lasted so long is because the owner regularly rustproofed the undercarriage and maintained it.
Next up, at number 6 we’ve a 1983 Lincoln Town Car. Over the last 37 years it’s covered over 1,300,000 miles and, back in 2009, got the attention of American news giant CNN. The car itself really was just used by its owner for fun – he’d regularly take it across America on holidays, enjoying the comfort than only an old luxury car can bring, and even returning… 26mpg. Alright that sounds horrific now we’re in 2020, but remember this is a massive car with a V8 from the early 80s. Then again, what’s really impressive is the fact that, supposedly, during all his time behind the wheel of the car, the owner has said it’s never actually broke down on him before – sheer madness, I know!
Now, I know what you’re thinking. So far a lot of these cars have been big engined, luxury motors. Is there any hope for the underpowered underdog? Why, yes there is, as at number 5 we’ve a little 1963 Volkswagen Beetle. Sadly, this one’s no longer with us, in fact it hasn’t been around since 1987, but by that time, it had clocked up a very impressive 1,610,000 miles. The owner in California owned the car for all its life, which is particularly impressive, given the amount of issues it had. So much for having a car that never breaks down, as this Volkswagen, over its 24 year life, went through three transmissions, 150 tyres and seven entire engines. The million mile mark cost him a whopping $38,000 in maintenance, which if you’re wondering is 20 times what the car originally cost back in ’63.
At number 4, we’re back to American cars, but this time one that isn’t from America. That’s right, folks, pack your bags and your French dictionaries as we’re heading all the way to Montreal, Canada. That’s where a 1963 Plymouth Fury lives with 1,620,000 miles on the clock. Sadly, much like the equally old Beetle, the Plymouth is also no longer with us. Back in 1999 it was written off after being hit by a truck, although thankfully its owner was absolutely fine. Whilst it was still on the road, it was used as a taxi, carrying around 800,000 passengers across the city.
Now, onto the top 3. In third place, weighing in at a grand total of 1,630,000 miles is a 1979 Volvo 245 GL. We all know those big and boxy Volvos and this example in Finland, used as a company car by a logistics firm, shows that they were very capable machines. Sadly, out of all these vehicles, we don’t really know that much about this one. Is it still around? Who drove it? Where did it go? All of these questions, and more, remain unanswered sadly.
In the silver spot, another Merc. This one’s a 1976 240D that’s covered 2,850,000 miles. This Mercedes was the first car to ever reach the highly coveted 2 million mile mark and was used as a taxi in Greece until 2004. The story goes that at that time, Mercedes Benz found out about the high mileage hero, and its driver, and gifted them a brand new C-Class to replace it. To this day, you can still find the original Merc at the Mercedes Museum.
And our final car, the car with the highest mileage of them all is… a Volvo. I’m sure that’s quite underwhelming to hear. We’ve already had a Volvo and they’re known as very durable cars. However, this isn’t the Volvo you’re expecting. This Volvo is a 1966 P1800 – the sporty coupe mentioned earlier in the show. The original owner bought it and used it regularly for long distance drives across America. Regularly maintaining the car, keeping it clean and closely following the owner manuals, this driver managed to achieve 3,040,000 miles. The owner still visits classic car shows in it often and changes the oil every 3,000 miles and transmission fluid every 25,000. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this Volvo, however, is its clutch. If you treat it nicely, a clutch can typically last for 100,000 miles. On this Volvo, the original clutch lasted for 450,000. In all, it’s a very impressive car in a whole collection of amazing vehicles.
What’s the highest mileage vehicle you’ve ever owned? Why not let me know on our social media pages? On Facebook, there’s a group called ‘The Road Show: Duggystone Radio’ and over on Instagram our page is DStoneRoadShow.