Quentin Will­son

ral­lies the troops in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a po­lit­i­cal clas­sic car witch-hunt

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents - Quentin Will­son had a nine-year stint pre­sent­ing the BBC’S Top Gear, has bought and sold count­less cars and has ce­mented a rep­u­ta­tion as ev­ery­one’s favourite mo­tor­ing pun­dit.

2 017 may be re­mem­bered as the year of the death war­rant for the mo­tor car. The gov­ern­ment’s an­nounce­ment that all new cars and vans must be elec­tric by 2040 is the big­gest change to per­sonal mo­bil­ity for a cen­tury. Backed into a cor­ner by the Greens and their High Court ac­tion to lower road­side ni­tro­gen diox­ide lev­els, Michael Gove had no op­tion but to drop his bomb­shell an­nounce­ment. A mas­sive cho­rus of wor­ried voices have al­ready asked all the ob­vi­ous ques­tions about the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of such a rad­i­cal ban but we old car own­ers need to ask some too. Will the car-hat­ing Green Party try to leg­is­late clas­sic cars off the road as well, and what are we go­ing to do to pro­tect our hobby from the mar­ginal politi­cians that no­body votes for? This is one of the most im­por­tant ques­tions our in­dus­try and hobby will ever face.

My experience of deal­ing with West­min­ster, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and green politi­cians isn’t great. Heavy on evan­ge­lism but light on facts, they rarely have any sig­nif­i­cant experience of roads, cars or fuel and ex­ist in a po­lit­i­cal bub­ble. Their as­sump­tions are of­ten ques­tion­able and the pol­lu­tion and grid­lock in our cities are largely the re­sults of the un­in­tended con­se­quence of their poor trans­port poli­cies. Gove’s nu­clear an­nounce­ment was a po­lit­i­cal re­ac­tion to a Euro­pean Com­mis­sion claim that 40,000 of us die pre­ma­turely as a re­sult of diesel pol­lu­tion. Look at those EC fig­ures, do the sums and look at their ta­bles, and you’ll see that per capita those deaths are ac­tu­ally pre­ma­ture by just 3.5 hours. But this mis­chievous head­line in an ex­ec­u­tive sum­mary has made politi­cians all over Europe trem­ble and firmly em­bed­ded it­self as an im­mutable truth in the me­dia. The war on cars just got very se­ri­ous in­deed.

And we’re a prime tar­get. We’re in their crosshairs right now. Our low-tech cars will be painted as an en­vi­ron­men­tal beelze­bub spew­ing out un­fil­tered tailpipe emis­sions. We’ll be seen as un­re­con­structed Lud­dites, re­sis­tant to change and self­ishly en­joy­ing the dirty tech­nol­ogy of a for­got­ten era. You can al­ready hear the lec­tures from the greens from their lofty moral high ground. But what they don’t re­alise is that most clas­sic cars travel only a few hun­dred miles a year and their col­lec­tive emis­sions add up to a rain­drop in an ocean. We pre­serve rather than con­sume and the CO2 pro­duced to orig­i­nally build our cars has been dis­si­pated over decades. No­body knows what per­cent­age of NOX, CO2 or par­tic­u­late emis­sions comes from our clas­sics be­cause it’s too small to mea­sure. I bet more NOX and PMS come from the na­tion’s mil­lions of wood-burn­ing Agas than from the ex­haust pipes of our clas­sics.

But we need to roll our sleeves up and get ready for the Big Fight. Write to your MP and to Num­ber 10 and de­mand an un­der­tak­ing that our hobby with its 35,000 jobs and £5 bil­lion of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity will be pro­tected. De­mand that they re­ally will un­der­stand how lit­tle we use our cars and how tiny our col­lec­tive emis­sions ac­tu­ally are. Be­cause if we don’t the greens will deal a mor­tal blow to our in­no­cent and charm­ing hobby. We’re squar­ing up to the most se­ri­ous threat to our hobby for 100 years and we all need to fight back hard.

We can’t al­low ill-in­formed policy de­ci­sions to kill the joy of ana­logue driv­ing, says Quentin

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