Alphacar

A to Zoom

I was talking to a friend of mine about cars that people drive.
We all have preconceived ideas about their thoughts and lives.
And when I thought back on my life and cars I used to own,
I fitted all the types there were.  And I was not alone.

I started with an Austin.  A10 I think it was.
I loved that little car you know, with its paint a thick black gloss.
But when I was in the country and doing thirty-five,
All I got was horns and lights and people shouting “You can’t drive!”

So I got myself a new car.  I felt just like a king,
Even if the handling was like a prayer upon a wing.
But my Beetle days still haunt me.  In spirit anyway,
I still want love not war you know … and at any time of day.

Those days with my old Beetle made me think environment,
My mind was getting greener about the energy we spent.
So I went down to the High Street and got my fivers out,
And bought the latest fashion one couldn’t do without.

I purchased one of those things Sinclair called a C5.
I even bought the pole and flag so I’d be seen and kept alive.
I thought I was a hero and pollution was no longer,
But everyone who saw me in the street thought me a plonker.

I had to go upmarket so I became a Gent.
My Daimler was a class act, everywhere it went.
With tables in the rear and leather lined throughout.
The shiny paint was gleaming, I never had a doubt.

Until someone with a switchblade, ran it down the side.
I couldn’t keep the car no more, so sold it then I cried.
I had to get a basic car, something not so new,
An ubiquitous vehicle, an old Escort would do.

Although it was a simple thing I liked that little car,
And when the MOT ran out I didn’t look too far.
The company helped my choosing, I wasn’t at a loss,
They brought out a modern version.  I brought a new Focus.

I had the modern family car but with styling like a shark,
But I couldn’t find the damn thing when in a big car park.
So I changed it for another.  A car that looked much harder.
The Sweeney gave me the idea, I brought a black Granada.

I raced it here and raced it there all around the town,
But when the local bank was done they nearly sent me down.
I had to trade it in for something not so big and black.
So brought a Hillman next.  An Imp, with its engine at the back.

I tottered round the roads nearby but never went too mad.
The handling was, lets put it this way, pretty flipping bad.
One day I took a corner, I was only doing twenty-eight,
The skinny tyres gave me no grip, the car just went on straight.

Over pavement, through the hedge, half way up a leap.
I thought, this was fun I’ll go again but this time in a Jeep.
My off-roader was a total hoot.  I went round with muddy feet,
And everyone got out the way when I drove down the street.

But the Jeep was far too thirsty and I’m a sometimes frugal man,
I still needed all the cargo space so I brought a Kangoo van.
Economy and load lugging – they were second to none.
But nought to sixty in eighteen secs meant I didn’t pull anyone.

And a man has needs above the needs of his economy,
So I splashed my cash and traded up for a new Lamborghini.
Ray–bans specs, laying rubber lines and acting just like Rambo,
I terrorised the neighbourhood driving in my Lambo.

It had to go when I got caught going more than fifty-five.
Not much you think, but then again, it was in my front drive.
And when I tried to fit it past all the cars in my small street,
It wouldn’t fit as it was about as wide as seven feet.

I changed the car for something that I could drive most anywhere,
A shopping trip, an opera, a classless car without a care.
My little Mini would park up outside a flash boutique,
Or fit in with chavs at markets collecting their cheap meat.

So I lavished love and bits on it at every opportunity,
So much that it resembled last year’s Christmas tree.
And when the thing was laden down with all the bits from near and far,
I decided to trade it in for a proper custom car.

I looked around the free-ads and asked around the meets,
But most were overpriced and under funded junk-yard heaps.
Finding one seemed just like hunting out a four-leaf clover,
So I bought the latest ‘in-thing’ a custom Vauxhall Nova.

The bonnet bulge and paintwork made it stand out alright,
And the turbo-charged conversion set the big fat tyres alight.
Even the huge spoiler, which did nothing for my front wheel drive,
Seemed to shout I’m here – I’m now – I’m definitely alive.

But then I got my hair cut in the shape of cheddar cheese,
And wore my jeans hung down so low the crotch was near my knees.
And when I got the beanie hat, worn facing back to front,
It fell across my eyes and resulted in a shunt.

The Nova was a write off (all I salvaged was the dice),
So I had to start again from scratch and look for something nice.
The fancy car mags were the first place that I kept my eye on,
So, how is it I ended up with a mangy Ford Orion?

I guess they call it growing up and finally settling down.
The car was Mr. Sensible – for motorway or town.
I only had it two months, but it really seemed an age,
I guess that’s what happens when you drive something beige.

And in those two months living with the dreadful booted Ford,
Invisibly travelling round the place, getting me quite bored.
I had to get a car that shouted out until it’s hoarse.
Yes, you’re there before me.  A turbo-charged black Porsche.

I was the Mr. P-Man.  Seeing cars off at every light.
I’d give the single finger but I never stayed to fight.
They just couldn’t catch me when I laid my horses down.
The kids would grow up thinking I’m King without a crown.

I attained a God like status, pulling all the skirt,
I saw so much good loving that things started to hurt.
But when I faced up to a car and saluted in my way,
I didn’t realise his little Caterham could blow me away.

And when he got my number and threatened life and limb,
I chose to ditch the Porsche and get a hiding thing.
Something that had no-one thinking – he is up for S.E.X.
And Nissan came to my rescue with its big QX.

Now Q-cars look quite normal but are faster underneath,
With acceleration giving goose bumps and speed to clench your teeth.
It was big and strong and manly but this was not enough,
The stylist had a day off when this car was signed off.

And with performance comes the cost, fuel soaked up like a sponge,
But the styling didn’t get the looks despite being painted orange.
It finally put paid to all fast living and days out clubbing.
I had more luck when I changed it for a new Reliant Robin.

A new Reliant Robin buyer – I must have been a mug,
The salesman saw me coming and sold me a three-pin plug.
If you missed a hole with the front wheel the back would surely find.
Speed-humps eventually wrecked the car and rattled up my mind.

So I changed again and this time I went out all the way,
I brought a big red car with wings – a Chevrolet Stingray.
I posed about the town again driving like a lout,
But as it was American it didn’t make the roundabout.

A British car would make more sense than a big Yankee car,
And nothing seemed better than one named after a girl’s bra.
The Triumph was a perfect car made in steel for Purdy’s Steele,
But rust took away the pleasure along with the nearside cill.

I needed a rainproof vehicle ’cause I parked it near the shore,
Where savage rains and sea-salt oxidised metal to the core.
I had to get some transport built for this environment,
And invested in a U-boat from the German government.

Now, as you can imagine, this idea was not plain sailing.
At over fifty years old I spent too much time a’bailing.
And when I visited relatives or went down to the mall,
Torpedo tubes and periscopes couldn’t make up the shortfall.

I sold the boat to a contact in a complex and shady deal,
He would let me know his name, but Prince H was on the bill.
I had to get a some normal wheels and settled on a car,
You can’t get more normal than a (yawn) Vauxhall Vectra.

The lanes of Britain’s motorways opened up for me.
I say the lanes, actually it was only the one we all call three.
I finally had a way to do ninety mph city-to-city hacks,
And as a bonus somewhere to hang my coat up in the back.

But doing this for nine months solid without missing out one beat,
I put too many miles on and had a rapid over-heat.
I needed a new engine and wanted something cool.
I went for a different way of things and brought a new Wankle.

The rotary engine was a talking point in shops and at the Pub,
But when I loudly said its name I got fired from the country club.
They wouldn’t let me back in until I apologised and show,
I could get a classic British car to sit in the member’s row.

But I had followed alphabet choice, so was a good trendsetter,
And classic steeds did not start with requisite next letter,
But Jaguar they saved the day and followed up the hype,
With a brand new four-wheel drive, shiny new X-type.

With all my wheels in motion I could climb the highest peak,
But spent all day in traffic jams, cars tucked cheek to cheek.
The daily grind was wasteful as the fuel gauge dropped so far,
But that was nothing next to depreciation that fell off the radar.

I had to ditch the cruise control and my leather seats all had to go,
I swapped it at a dealers for a few grand and a nearly new Yugo.
And that is why I’m writing this to recall my memories.
I’ve been from A to Y in cars and motoring was a wheeze.

But I have yet to finish – It’s the way that I behave,
And I’ve settled on the last one that shall take me to the grave.
When I’ve saved enough to get me a fast zed for a few bob.
A classic Kawasaki or a Zonda Paganini should do the job.

Author: Vince Poynter

From the Cars section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 21 Feb 2018
First Published: Version 1.04 in Mar 2005, with photos added in 2018
Performed as part of the vinceunlimited Podcast 013 entitled Alphacar on this WordPress site dated 29 Oct 2014. Also available via Apple iTunes.
The image depicts the rear of a Ferrari 360 with a photoshopped registration number plate.  It was taken from a cherished number plate site, source now unknown, around 2002.  Please advise if you know of the source material and I will duly give credit.

My 2005 Top Ten Vehicles

21st Century Travelling

Maybe you were transported here by a strange new time machine, or even from another computer.  Any how you came you are welcome to read why I have chosen the next ten vehicles as my favourite of all time.

It is an eclectic mix of transport that I have either used or lusted after with envy.

Cyclists will note that I have not included a bicycle in the list.  After all cycle technology is now futuristic and sexy so I could forgive a lack of motorised power.  However I refuse to forgive saddle technology until I can actually ride a bicycle further than ten metres.

Of course, when compiling a list like this the rejected ones are nearly as interesting.

For instance you may wonder how I could have a list like this and not include a Ferrari.  Easy really, there’s none there.  A few may qualify on the grounds of looking fantastic but underneath is just a lightweight Fiat.  I’m not fooled, nor are many of the owners.  Check out the Owner’s Documents on any used Ferrari and you will be surprised to see so many names.  The hype doesn’t live up to the reality.  Great red though but this isn’t a favourite list of colours.

Keeping on the subject of cars, in the past I’ve swooned over the fantastically brutish Aston Martin Vantage and may still get one yet but how could I include a car that if a generous benefactor offered me a swap for any Aston from any time I’d really have no second thoughts about choosing the brand new, phenomally quick and beautiful DB9.

Some of the DB9’s details are cheaper than a crate of canaries although I’ve never been one to turn down a beauty because of a few small imperfections.  Mole on Demi Moore?  So what.

Another plus would be: “Blonde, James Blonde”. What a great introduction.

As you will be able to tell generally I’m not into classic vehicles.  I’d rather own a modern Bentley Arnarge than a 4½ litre supercharged model from the 1920s.  Unless I can sell it of course.  Plus, impressive that the 4½ litre Bentley behemoth is the most attractive classic car has to be the Jaguar SS100.  But still not as good as a couple of dozen modern vehicles.

I love bikes, it’s in my genes, whether I currently have a bike or not.  It’s all to do with the lack of a cycle when I was young and the freedom that my first moped rides brought me.  So I need to include bikes in this ultimate vehicles list and the Ducati 900 Monster was one of the first that I thought of. The reason why this strange naked retro was considered is that it re-vitalised my interest in bikes in the nineteen nineties.

I hadn’t had a bike for a while and the squared-off eighties styling never persuaded me to renew my interest.  The Monster 900 was a breath of fresh air.  It seemed so stylish and raw with an exposed engine and trellis frame it made me want two wheels again.  Thinking back, I can’t think why I brought a Yamaha Diversion 900 instead.

Oh yes. Italian electrics, Ducati clutches and a saving of about two grand.  And when you are able to make a choice based on such trivial reasons the original option doesn’t really deserve to be in a top ten.

And second best is why I cannot include a First Class dining experience aboard a ferry.  As you can tell from other entries I do like being spoilt.  So many cannot handle an obsequious waiter or fawning Maitre-d but I’m willing to be waited on hand and foot.  It’s not a case of being better than those who serve but the fact that it makes a pleasant change.  I’ll happily have a beer with the waiter afterwards.

A First Class dining experience on board a ferry, such as the cross channel version is a thoroughly pleasant way of passing the time.  But two reasons keep it off the top ten.  Firstly, the QE2 is infinitely better and secondly the QE2 doesn’t end up in France!

My final rejection is an oxymoron.  No, not the Ford 2-litre Oxymoron, but a genuine oxymoron from an age where such a beast could exist.  A cute war-plane.

Nowadays war planes are stunning, agile weapons of mass destruction but back in the 1920s at the dawn of flight the planes were not overly effective.  However, one stands out above the others, including the Red Baron’s exciting Fokker Tri-plane.

The Sopwith Camel first came into my life as a child.  If you were born a male in the late fifties or early sixties you would be familiar with Airfix kits.  Plastic self-build models that filled many a wet weekday after school.  They are still available but this tactile hobby, along with most other hands-on experiences, have become side-lined by the ubiquitous electronic games.  This is a shame as building a model is a very satisfying skill and I still fondly remember the first one I built – a Sopwith Camel.

This little bi-plane had all the ingredients of a favoured vehicle.  The styling was right with the curved leading edge to the wings, dual forward gun synchronised with the propeller and rounded tail plane.  A cute war plane, such an oxymoron.

So, onto the actual vehicles making my top-ten.


1969 Cooper F1 car

Photograpgh of a slightly tatty yellow and white Cooper racing car with steering operated from a leaning driver and a high rear wing
My toy racing car.  The wing on this model was set too high in this version, based on a late season entry.  So it now looks rubbish

Formula 1 racing has always held a certain appeal.  The fast cars, obscene money and glamorous locations keep the sport in my mind even if the last few years Schmedious results have kept it off my TV.  So it is natural that I should include a car from this pinnacle of motor sports.

I suppose it is a symptom of age that despite the obvious appeal of modern cars there is an era of racing that seems more glorious and it dates around the time I first got an interest in the sport.  I have chosen the Cooper F1 from the 1969 season as it was this car that, to me, epitomises open wheel racing.

The rear tyres look properly wide, the engine is exposed and the newly added wings were just right.  I like the front spoiler jutting from the actual nose and the rear spoiler was better looking mounted low on the engine.

I’ve never driven one, nor am I likely to as the price of classic F1 racers nearly match their modern counterparts but I can dream.


Aerial Atom

A black Ariel Atom stood in front of a red Jaguar XJ8
An Ariel Atom with my Jaguar XJ8 in the background.  I might need to take a moment

My next choice is not so far away from the car above and is probably chosen because of the similarities.  But instead of a having to be Ray Parlour’s wife to afford a classic F1 motor this blatant facsimile costs a more reasonable £30-40k.  Still a lot of money for a weekend car with no panels but well comparable with its natural opposition.

I love the Atom’s Meccano build and raw energy and can personally testify to its ability to deliver the goods that the look promises.  Short on comfort but very long on desire, the Atom deserves its place in this illustrious crowd.


Bentley Arnarge

Nearly as quick as the Aston but with seats like a Business Class jet and the torque to match.  I have never experienced power like the Bentley Arnarge delivers and in back to back tests with its bigger brother the Continental it wins on every count, including saving £100k.  The Continental may have the classic looks but I’m sure I can find an Arnarge to beat it.

The best car in the world.  Full stop.

Note that a full appraisal of my time with a Bentley Arnage will eventually be posted on this website


Concorde

My first aeronautical choice is probably in the list of everyone who has ever seen the Concorde.  Breathtakingly beautiful, stunningly quick and well out of the reach of the hoi-poli.  Marvellous.

The only problems are it’s cramped interior and that it has disappeared from our skies.

Worth every bit of pollution.

In the top ten? No doubt at all.


Dakota

A Far Eastern Airlines branded metal polished Douglas DC-3 hanging in the Smithsonian Museum
A Douglas DC-3 hanging in the Smithsonian Museum

The second most beautiful plane in the world [see above] hails from the time just before the second world war but its lines are just so perfect.  I love the fat fuselage, strong wing arrangements, classic twin prop design and sturdy tail.

Still operating in many places around the world today the McDonnell Douglas DC-3, known as a Dakota in the UK, is living proof that if it looks right then it probably is right.

I’ve yet to catch a flight in one of these beauties but guess that the reality doesn’t quite live up to the glamour.  Particularly as I’ll probably be in South America when I get a go in one.


Eurostar Best Class

I’m not much of a train buff.  For many years I rarely travelled on one thinking they were too expensive and inconvenient.  Also, with 8 miles between my home and the nearest station, thanks to Beecham’s cuts in the 60s, I never had cause to use them.

Not that I had no contact, my wife spent most of her career with a railway company and we took advantage of the odd subsidised trip.

Things have changed recently though as I now work mainly in London and the train is the only viable option.  I estimate that I have travelled over one hundred and fifty thousand miles sat on a train.  This experience, in all its sordid glory is why a trip on the Eurostar in the best carriages is such a delight.

I have travelled three times in First Class and on every occasion I have thought it most pleasant.  The large seats, at seat service and quiet comfort is reminiscent of travel tales of old.

Just don’t think that the modern version of First Class is the same.  For some peculiar reason, probably to do with the French translation, Business Class is the new premier travelling style and ‘mere’ First Class is a poor relation.

Now, how do I say ‘contravenes the Trade’s Description Act’ in French?


Honda CBX Moto Martin

A brown Moto Martin CBX motorbike
A Moto Martin CBX.  In brown.  Brilliant

The first bike in my top ten list is a hybrid vehicle and I’m not talking dual fuel.

In the late seventies Honda produced the stunning CBX with its fantastic transverse six cylinder engine.  Wider than a Cockney car salesman with a penchant for iced buns this behemoth was a dream machine.

Except two problems.  One, was the name.  Now Honda is a make to be respected for its engineering excellence and reliability but much like my Miele washing machine I don’t exactly look at the product with love.  The other problem with the CBX was the handling – the stock Japanese flexi-frames could never harness the engine outputs at the time.

Moto Martin, a small French custom builder came to the rescue by taking the engine and putting it in a stylish trick frame mounted with swoopy body parts with twin-headlamps.  All par for the course today but 30 years ago this was enough to make me tear out the advert and hang it on my wall.  Praise indeed.


Jaguar XJ

I own one.

Need I say more?

Note that a full appraisal of my Jaguar XJ8 4.0 will eventually be posted on this website


QE2

Who wouldn’t be impressed with one of the traditional Queens of the sea?

I have travelled the Atlantic on the QE2 and can confirm it is all that you would expect, then more.  One trip and I’m a confirmed cruise fan.  A tall order for the QM2 replacement to beat.

For more details about my experience on this most magnificent of vehicles see my separate story.  And be prepared to be jealous.

Note that a full appraisal of my time onboard the QE2 has already been posted on this website [8 Dec 2017]


Vincent Black Shadow

The author squatting down next to an immaculate Vincent Black Shadow motorbike
The two Vincents.  Vince and a Vincent Rapide.  The rarer Black Shadow was similar but faster with a black enamelled engine casing

Last, but not least, this list would be incomplete without the vehicle I was actually named after.  My father told me this, whilst saying I should have been grateful that he didn’t like Francis Barnetts.

Although this bike now looks a little quirky I am actually quite proud to be named after such a phenomenal bike from the nineteen fiftes, with a great reputation amongst those that know such things.

If only I could afford one now.  Think multiple grands.  And then some.

Fantastic name though.

Author: Vince Poynter
From the petrolhead section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 23 Jan 2018
First Published: Version 1.03 in Feb 2005 and reproduced here in full, unedited
The images all taken by the author, except the one he is in.  Obvs

Racecar

By Vince – Written in 1994 – Dedicated to Aryton Senna

It’s a week since first they came to this place the circus claims.
Fired up passion growing strong. Now the climax won’t be long.
Tens of thousands take their place to cheer on their chosen ace.
With ad. men selling top rate places to advertise their companies graces.

Pole man sits on the front row. Cameras focus on the show.
Eight hundred horses singing loud to a tune to please the crowd.
Noise increases on the grid as final checks reach fever pitch.
Greens release two dozen steeds and the rubber feet do bleed.

A multi-million-power game guarantees the man his fame.
Progress verses nerves so hard in the world of racing cars.

The first corner is a squeeze. Only four escape the siege.
With the start again its all clear but the last ones pay so dear.
Fifteen straights without a change, then an oil seal makes a claim.
Gives a chance to two more aces, for three circuits changing places.

A multi-million-power game guarantees the man his fame.
Progress verses nerves so hard in the world of racing cars.

More back markers, slipstreamed straights. Tyres and fuel in ten point eight.
Fastest lap is a new crown as the times come tumbling down.
Carbon fibre body getting light. Black and white comes into sight.
The gathered crowds roar out his name and another takes his fame.

A multi-million-power game guarantees the man his fame.
Progress verses nerves so hard in the world of racing cars.

A multi-million-power game guarantees the man his fame.
Progress verses nerves so hard in the world of racing cars.

Author: Vince Poynter
From the songs section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk web site Version 5.035 dated 11 Dec 2017
First Published: Version 1.00 in Oct 2003 and reproduced here in full, unedited
The image depicts the author’s two Formula 1 model racing cars. A 2002 season Jaguar Racing Team R3 and a BMW Williams FW24 photographed by the author in 2005. It was added to the web site in Version 5.035 dated 11 Dec 2017.

Minnie’s Mini’s Mini

The two subjects that most interest me at the moment are cars and computers and they do so for much the same reason.

Both technologies are full of shiny new things promising thrilling, interactive experiences barely limited by previous experience. And integration of the two is becoming closer. Or more specifically, the computery stuff is getting more and more wedged in the cars, as I’ve yet to see anyone promising actual reality travel on a mobile phone chassis.

The self-park, auto-cruise, blind-spot, iPod-connected, SatNav world of our auto-world is coming along nicely. However whilst a new phone, laptop or operating system is muted a few months ahead of release new cars take much longer to develop, possibly years. The cost of getting a chassis wrong is much greater than accidentally releasing a heavy, spiky edged laptop in purple that fails to attract an audience. If your latest hatchback is a dog the whole breed can suffer and we do not forgive easily [do we poor Lancia].

But cars are increasingly having to differentiate themselves by their included technology, perhaps because they find it so difficult to distinguish themselves in the homogenous world of exterior automotive design.

As an example, my car, a year 2000 Jaguar, could be an all time classic because the dials and gauges on display look like they developed glacially from a WWII Spitfire but the simple green-LED trip computer, inbuilt text only SatNav and multi-CD changer date it, by sheer coincidence, to around the year 2000. No Bluetoothing, WiFi enabled MP3s here. Electro-technology develops at a vastly different speed than mechanical stuff.

So my first thought was why not combine the two. It’s happening a little bit with iPod connections in almost every new car, allowing a feed of your latest downloaded beats into the built in car speakers. But this cable connector dangles the device on the seat next to you so when the new MapApp is opened it’s hardly conducive to safe viewing.

As I’ve said some now incorporate all that SatNavery, iPoddery and SeatAdjustery into their colourful, dash mounted, fingerprinty, widescreen displays but in a decade or less won’t they seem just a little bit, say, 2012ish.

The answer lies in an updatable colourful, dash mounted, fingerprinty, widescreen display that can move with the times. And the computer world is conveniently supplying these already.

Initially the iPad seemed the answer. A popular and current, ever customisable device that has secured a solid foothold in the market. But few cars could afford the dash space for a plug-in behemoth the size of a small plate of kippers. Then Apple released the Mini. All the adaptability of a full sized tablet almost designed to fit in a reasonable dash opening.

If you were currently launching your latest Sports Utility GTi 4 x 4 convertible Sportwagon hatch wouldn’t it make sense to let Apple or even others such as Samsung do the flatscreen bit for you so you can concentrate on the important things like finding ever more inventive ways to incorporate cup-holders.

Your new dash-tablet could be programmed to interact with your car in ever more cunning ways, such as service/sensor monitoring, lap timing and cheap fuel finding. And there are a host of third parties that will do the awkward development bit of this for you. Just charge a fee for your API integration. Simples.

OK you will have to allow some small flexibility over choice of device that will fit in, in case your Audi owner went for Android, your Mercedes customer wanted a Mac or your Westfield’s chap wanted a Windows device if they choose to. OK silly point, no one who buys a car with the intention of wearing a flat cap will want a screen that does more than show the oil pressure warning lamp.

Just one caveat. When I specified my Jaguar I could have been at the forefront of this technology/car interfacing. But right now my car would be fitted with a great plug in Motorola StarTAC flip-phone. And who wants one of those today?