Friday June 30, 2017
The months of June - September are when classics and Sunday motoring are as natural a combination as Tony Hancock and Sidney James. Some will take part in shows such as Hatfield House on 9th July, while others will take a deserved break from the working week and gently motor towards the nearest tea room. This magnificent seven list was selected of cars that I regard as being perfect for a summer weekend - even when stuck in a traffic jam on the A46.
7) Fiat Panda Mk. I
The original version of the Panda is, in my not-at-all-biased view, one of the greatest small cars of its era and proof that practical utility transport need not lack for sheer fun. The rare survivors (the Panda did suffer from tin worm) are still just right for a trip to Severn Beach, especially if they are fitted with the optional canvas folding roof. And for me the Panda Mk. I is as charmingly ultra-1980s as ABC miming to 15 Storey Halo on The Lenny Henry Show. Sometimes I do feel very old…
6) Mini Clubman Estate
One of my favourite incarnations of the Mini, especially in its early form with a strip of artificial wood decorating the exterior. In the 1970s the Clubman liked to think itself a cut above the Mini 850/1000 – you can just imagine Hyacinth Bucket approving of it – but for some bizarre reason, I always associate the Estate with Sunday visits to the Little Chef on the A303. Jubilee pancakes all round.
5) Citroen 2CV
Who needs air-conditioning, or indeed winding windows when you have a car so fundamentally sound as the Deux Chevaux? Luxuries may be few – on the 2CV Special they are virtually non-existent – but once the roof is fully open to experience the fresh air, thoughts of such fripperies as CD players are soon forgotten. Best of all, the seats can be removed for a New Forest picnic that, naturally, includes ginger beer and hard-boiled eggs.
4) MGB Roadster
The ‘B’ has been an integral part of the classic scene for so long that it is sometimes taken for granted. My own favourite incarnation of this iconic MG is the first-generation version fitted with hubcaps rather than wire wheels, the better to highlight the beautifully proportioned coachwork. And it is still the ideal car for a spin around the Purbeck Hills in Dorset.
3) Morris Oxford Series V/VI ‘Farina’
Throughout the 1960s, the Morris remained entirely oblivious to mods, rockers, hippies, The Beatles and The Kinks for it was as sensible as the BBC Home Service and as reliable as a pair of army surplus boots. Even today the Oxford remains the epitome of a car for taking one’s ease at the seafront of Lee on Solent, with a tartan rug in case of sudden breezes and a thermos of oxtail soup carefully stowed in the glovebox.
2) Ford Consul Cortina Super Mk.1 Estate
If you were the sort of motorist who affected the sort of mid-Atlantic accent used by Roger Moore in early episodes of The Saint and wanted sharp US style looks on your new estate car, the Consul Cortina was brilliantly suited to your requirements. Not only did it have more than enough luggage space for a weekend break, the Super version was distinguished by ‘wood’ trim made from the finest artificial Di-Noc cladding. And after more than five decades the ‘Cortina Woody’ is a prime example of a car that is quite irresistibly over-the-top.
1) Bedford CA Dormobile Romany
Arguably the definitive British camper of the 1950s and 1960s and a masterpiece of design from Martin Walter of Folkestone. The elevating roof was very cleverly planned and the two-tone paint finish was downright jaunty. Most importantly, the gas stove was very handy for a cup of tea in a lay-by somewhere near Chichester, preferably accompanied by Russ Conway’s Side Saddle on a portable Dansette record player. And my own favourite memory of the CA camper is of the Bedford driven by the great character David Lodge in the silent comedy San Ferry Ann.