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SO, do we actually want Automotive Autonomy?

Autonomous cars are gradually lurching closer to being a reality. Pretty soon kind of cars that mortal man can dare to aspire to will soon have an automatic pilot that runs beyond a simple cruise control. But what do you – the folk who will be sharing your roads with robots – really think?

Personally, despite my slightly dystopian outlook a year ago, I’m all for it. So long as I have the choice to drive my car how I like, when I like, if I like, it matters not one jot if it’s endowed with layers of NASA-grade technology. As autonomy reaches Level Three capability and beyond, though, one point intrigues me:

How many drivers will actually use it as it’s intended before it becomes mandatory?

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V.I.S.I.T: A ’79 Chevy Van in Woodbridge, Suffolk

The Chevy Van was one of those machines which was so numerous on North American roads as to blend in with the visual white noise of street furniture and roadside ephemera. No doubt it will become increasingly sought after as good examples become scarce, but I don’t suspect the supplies are due to dry up any day soon.

Examples in the UK, though, are few and far between, and tend to be rather well looked after. This is clearly true of the this superb bronze ’79 example seen in the well-to-do riverside town of Woodbridge in Suffolk, UK

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Peugeot Oxia Concept: Like reality, only better

I’ve always thought that the best concept cars are those that feel like they’re only a few degrees separated from real life. As if the car you’re looking at comes from some parallel now on some much cooler planet. One such car was the Peugeot Oxia concept of 1988.

One of my favourite years, ’88. Some of the best disposable pop music of all time (I loved Debbie Gibson when I was seven, and Voice of the Beehive and our own Transvision Vamp had the same appeal for my Dad, I’m sure), and it was also the year the Oxia was released at the Paris Auto Show, looking for all the world like the Peugeot 405 would if normal non supercars had never been invented.

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The Carchive: The European Ford Fusion

Sometimes a car brochure will positively sweat with pro-lifestyle excess, while others simply play things straight down the line. The best brochures will give you an accurate description of the conveyance they represent, the worst will leave almost everything to your imagination and force you to carry out your own research.

The most fascinating, though, are those which point to a car manufacturer not having the faintest idea what to do with one of its products. A case in point is the European Ford Fusion – a very different car to the comfy family sedan of that name that clogs the streets of North America

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Vauxhall SRV: State of the dart in 1970

The Vauxhall XVR concept actually had its feet bound firmly to 1965, despite styling that couldn’t look any more outlandish if you ate your own body weight of LSD and looked at it after spinning around really fast.

One of the names associated with its very existence was one Wayne Cherry, who went on to style a great many General Motors products – his overseeing the Vauxhall Astra GTE being of particular note. His concept game wasn’t over after the XVR, either. Witness the Vauxhall SRV of 1970 – a car which ventured far, far beyond the relative sanity of the XVR.

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Vauxhall XVR: The Little Vette that Wasn’t

This is a Vauxhall. You know, the famous French British arm of General Motors. Though it’s cars have been – badges and steering wheel side aside – virtually identical since the early ‘Eighties, there was a time when the the Griffin-badged company was fiercely independent.

Its cars may not always have been the most exciting on the road, but every now and again the Luton company would let its hair down and come up with something other than the humdrum family saloons that made  its bread and butter. And there’s no better example of this than the XVR concept of 1966. Remind you of anything?

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Prolonging the joy: Driving Anticipation

Wanderlust has got a tight grip on The Towers of Rust right now – my wife and I have got ourselves a minibreak booked in Slovenia in May. It’s all thanks to one of those last minute holiday websites. The last trip we went on, which took in Prague, Vienna and Budapest was organised in just such a way, and it took us quickly, effortlessly and oh so cheaply by rail between those great cities. This time its different.

This time, our package includes a rental car.

Exactly what it will be remains something of a mystery – and I don’t really care. In Iceland I ended up with an Opel Corsa automatic, and the incredible roads more than made up for the lukewarm conveyance. I’m kind of hoping the same will happen again. To say I’m looking forward to it is an understatement. I’ve even gone as far as buying a road atlas of Slovenia.

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The Carchive: The 1977 Mitsubishi Colt range

Of the myriad documents found in The Carchive, a big percentage were collected as I grew up, many were harvested secondhand from autojumbles and the like, and a good few have come from generous benefactors – some of whom might be reading this right now. The considerable balance, though, have been purloined from eBay. This is one of those.

There’s a considerable risk, though, in buying something you’ve only seen portrayed in a few small photos. When you’re looking at a brochure, unless it’s properly described it’s tricky to identify whether you’re looking at a catalogue or a pamphlet. Will there be pages to leaf through, or merely a single double sided sheet to glance at? In the case of this one, I had no idea it measured approximately 3″x9″ until it fluttered through the mail slot in a tiny envelope.

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Diecast Delights: A Lotus Esprit in 1:18 scale (007 Edition)

When asked “what’s your favourite Bond film” my answer is “I don’t have one”. When asked “what’s one of your favourite Bond films” I might may say For Your Eyes Only. It’s not a very good Bond film, really – the action is slow paced, the dialogue is often corny and stilted, but it’s somehow warming and familiar as an old security blanket. And it’s got a pretty good car in it.

The Esprit Turbo in FYEO plays a pretty minor role. In its white incarnation it has about five seconds of screen time before being blown to smithereens. It later appears in bronze metallic, with a pair of Olin Mk VI skis on the roof, and we only see it as it pulls up to a halt as a convenient spot for Ferrara the Italian spy to get murdered.

So, one of the least significant Bond cars in living memory? Of course, I had to own it.

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Ferrari needs a Ferrari Ferrari. Not just a LaFerrari.

The development of a new Ferrari isn’t taken lightly. Every new model the legendary marque unveils has undergone years of painstaking work on the drawing board, in-depth technical feasibility studies and been subjected to thousands of miles of excruciating, uncompromising track tested by the finest drivers in Ferrari’s crack test squadron.

Yet, how many reviews have you read, though, where a Ferrari is put through its paces only for the all-knowing Journalist to claim that “the old car had so much more soul” or “all this technology feels a bit sterile” and that “it’s a technical masterpiece, but the old car was magical”?

Well, I think there’s a pretty simple solution, and one which would be incredibly easy for the Prancing Horse to pursue.

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