Steve Cro­p­ley

MY WEEK IN CARS

Autocar - - THIS WEEK -

The Cro­p­leys go camp­ing

SATUR­DAY

Change of heart alert! Hav­ing whinged about car­a­vans all my life I was per­suaded by the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee to take the high road in a bor­rowed VW Cal­i­for­nia, a gen­tri­fied ver­sion of the Trans­porter de­liv­ery van that hon­ours and up­dates the 60-year tra­di­tions of the ubiq­ui­tous Kombi camper. The re­sult is that I now be­lieve no home should be with­out one.

They’re beau­ti­fully built, fun to drive, com­pact yet spa­cious, fru­gal, fine for sleep­ing in and when­ever you open a cup­board or throw a switch you’re re­minded that ev­ery func­tion has been honed by dis­cern­ing Ger­mans. The bug­bear is price: you could pay a lot of ho­tel bills with the £62k. But the ex­pe­ri­ence is quite dif­fer­ent from any ho­tel: it makes to­tal sense of park­ing in ran­dom grassy fields, some­thing one does plenty of times over a Bri­tish sum­mer. Maybe the SC and I won’t blow our sav­ings on a Cal­i­for­nia, but you can bet we’ve thought about it.

SUN­DAY

Those who crit­i­cise mod­ern For­mula 1 have a poor mem­ory of how it was, but this week I’m join­ing the com­plain­ers. The Monaco race was dull, for sure, what with all the coast­ing and tyre-pre­serv­ing, but what re­ally got my goat was the in­abil­ity of Chan­nel 4 pre-race grid walk­ers David Coulthard and Mark Web­ber (who be­tween them have 21 grand prix vic­to­ries and 77 podi­ums) to hold a sin­gle, re­ward­ing con­ver­sa­tion with an ex­pert. In­stead we made do with celebs whose ma­jor ob­ser­va­tion was that this was a glam­orous week­end (some­thing their pres­ence made me doubt).

As much as the driver-re­porters did badly, this was also a ma­jor in­dict­ment of F1’s bosses who, by fail­ing to see the prob­lem and help, be­haved as if we TV watch­ers were as dim and unim­por­tant as ever. Oc­ca­sion­ally in the dis­tance we sighted these wise men sur­vey­ing the scene, osten­si­bly de­cid­ing what to change. But ex­pres­sions I once read as wise and in­sight­ful are start­ing, sadly, to look in­ef­fec­tual.

TUES­DAY

News that Daim­ler is get­ting se­ri­ous about con­vert­ing Smart to a maker of bat­tery-only cars comes as a re­lief. The green light seems to be the de­par­ture of CEO An­nette Win­kler, who in an eight-year reign al­lowed a de­cent Smart re-en­gi­neer­ing job to be spoiled by poor styling, and failed to make much of an awk­ward Smartre­nault al­liance. Now Smart can match its cars’ com­pact­ness and agility to elec­tric car givens like smooth­ness, torque and a per­fect step-off.

Given the above you may think it weird that our fam­ily has owned four Smarts in 20 years. The first came be­cause I loved the orig­i­nal, mid-1990s ‘Swatch car’ con­cept, and bought an early left-handed edi­tion straight from the mo­tor show stand. The oth­ers have been for my mother-in-law, an ac­tive older lady who en­joys the small size, big doors and high seat­ing. Still, we both agree there’s now a chance for Smart to prop­erly jus­tify a name that has al­ways smacked of over­promise.

There’s now a chance for Smart to jus­tify its name

WED­NES­DAY

Not To Be Missed Dept: final elim­i­na­tions were held this week to iden­tify 50 fi­nal­ists bid­ding for glory at this year’s Fes­ti­val of the Unex­cep­tional, to be held at Stowe House, Bucks on 14 July.

Al­le­gros, Mari­nas and Maxis have pre­vi­ously fea­tured heav­ily, but this year’s star at­trac­tions will in­clude sev­eral of the UK’S four sur­viv­ing Hyundai Stel­lars (which through half-closed eyes re­sem­ble small Maserati Qu­at­tro­portes, says event or­gan­iser and se­rial optimist Gary Axon).

The fi­nal­ist list isn’t ac­tu­ally final. Judges may pluck promis­ing pre-1989 drive-ins from the car park on the day if they’re good enough. If you can’t make the Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed that week­end, this may be your thing...

Cal­i­for­nia dream­ing: a ho­tel on wheels is un­ex­pect­edly bril­liant

Date for your diary: 2018 Fes­ti­val of the Unex­cep­tional, 14 July

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