Steve Cro­p­ley

Han­ker­ing af­ter a Har­ley-davidson

Autocar - - THIS WEEK -

SATUR­DAY

Bit­ter-sweet ex­pe­ri­ence at Brook­lands: took my X-class pick-up for its very last out­ing un­der my hand to Mercedes-benz World, just in­side Lon­don’s or­bital M25 mo­tor­way, at 8am on the first day of 68-plate regis­tra­tions, to be­come (very likely) the first per­son in the UK to take de­liv­ery of a new-reg S500 limou­sine. Now it can be re­vealed: run­ning this big saloon has been in editor Mr Tis­shaw’s grand car plan for many months, but de­mand from proper cus­tomers has been so great – th­ese cars are huge in China and other Asian coun­tries – that I drove (and thor­oughly en­joyed) my past 9000 miles in the Benz pick-up while my saloon or­der pro­gressed in the queue. No deny­ing the limo is a big step up in class, though, and I’ll be telling you much more about that very soon.

SUN­DAY

Beau­ti­ful day bask­ing un­der the blue at Blen­heim Palace as one of a dozen judges at this year’s Clas­sic and Su­per­car con­cours, a Pirellispon­sored ‘do’ held af­ter the far swankier three­day Salon Privé has ended. The task at hand was to judge a co­terie of Porsches – a class for 911 con­vert­ibles and an­other for 911 GTS – in the com­pany of Paul Keel­ing, a proper Porsche Club expert who has be­come a bit of a mate now that we’ve done this for the past three years on the hop. Paul has taught me plenty but I haven’t yet tapped a tenth of his knowl­edge.

Hav­ing grown up doubt­ing the need for the all-hands-to-the-cot­ton-buds kind of con­cours, I’ve warmed to this much more prac­ti­cal va­ri­ety, where cars ar­rive un­der their own power and are of­ten well-owned daily driv­ers. Sev­eral of the en­tered cars had done more than 100,000 miles. I de­parted (in the Steering Com­mit­tee’s twin-pot Fiat 500) think­ing what I al­ways do about closely ex­am­ined Porsches: how care­fully and con­scien­sciously every sin­gle car is built to live a long life. No other fast car mar­que bet­ter un­der­stands how well this plays with own­ers.

TUES­DAY

Last week’s eu­logy to the 50-year-old Jaguar XJ takes me back to some past ex­ploits of my own, such as: buy­ing a cheapo Se­ries II with ‘new’ sills so badly fit­ted that they let wa­ter into the footwells every time it rained; lord­ing it around Coven­try in Sir Wil­liam Lyons’ own early XJ6 (now part of Jaguar’s Her­itage col­lec­tion); feel­ing elated at the end of a two-day, three-car com­par­i­son in North Wales be­cause I’d ‘won’ the smooth and silent Jaguar in which to drive home; and storm­ing half­way across Aus­tralia at 9mpg in an early, car­bu­ret­tor-fed XJ12 (com­plete with cool­ing fan on its bat­tery box), en­joy­ing the soft ride while keep­ing an ea­gle eye out for oc­ca­sional megabumps that tended to use up all the avail­able sus­pen­sion travel and a hel­luva lot more.

I stormed half­way across Aus­tralia at 9mpg in an XJ12

WED­NES­DAY

Whis­per this, but I’ve got a soft spot for Har­leydavid­son mo­tor­cy­cles. Its lat­est range has ac­quired a new so­phis­ti­ca­tion, so I rode my scruffy, low-miles Sport­ster to a lo­cal dealer for a test. Soon dis­cov­ered the bike for me is the new Sport Glide, and re­turned from my ride ready to deal, but the sales­man was so ham-fisted about it, and so clearly pre­vented by his su­pe­ri­ors from en­gag­ing in any kind of sen­si­ble price ne­go­ti­a­tion, that I left in an­noy­ance, mut­ter­ing dark hopes that on­line pur­chase will sweep deal­er­ships away for good. Sus­pect I’ll buy a Sport Glide at some stage, but only if I can find a Har­ley dealer pre­pared to treat me like an adult.

Blen­heim Palace Clas­sic and Su­per­car event had an eye-catch­ing line-up

Farewell en­joy­able X-class, hello lux­u­ri­ous S-class

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