As the Northern Group of Motoring Writers celebrates its 40th Anniversary, DAVID HOOPER drives some of the now classic cars which at the time were brand new – including the Queen Mum’s Jag!
IT’S 40 years since the Queen Mum bought this lovely Jaguar XJ12 limousine . . .
The same year, 1973, also saw the creation of the Northern Group of Motoring Writers, the first regional group of motoring writers in England, and the two were recently brought together to celebrate what were momentous events, albeit for very different reasons.
The XJ12 served the Queen Mother faithfully for many years, and is still in remarkably good condition and is now back with Jaguar Cars after the Queen offered the limo back to the company following the Queen Mum’s death. It still has two small holes in the bonnet where the Royal Standard was once attached.
This long wheelbase model was specially finished in the Royal colour of Claret, and uniquely among Jaguars, was fitted with the special Vanden Plas interior, more usually found on the equivalent Daimler.
Another famous Jaguar, the E-Type, was also wowing the motoring world, and this 1971 V12 model in Regency Red was one of the original press cars and featured in a stunt with jet fighter of the same name. I’m told the E-Type was quickest off the mark, but the Jaguar fighter soon overtook once the jet started rolling.
Several manufacturers brought historic cars to a nostalgic weekend to mark the Northern Group’s 40th anniversary.
A 1974 3.0-litre Ford Granada with its Essex V6 engine, similar to the one used by Jack Regan in The Sweeney, still looked good and was surprisingly luxurious to drive, even by today’s standards, with its automatic gearbox and slightly soggy, but comfortable suspension.
The Ford Capri – billed by Ford’s marketing campaigns when it was launched as The Car You Always Promised Yourself, was only a 1.6, not the sexy 3.0-litre model used in the TV series The Professionals, or the now collectible 2.8-litre models which ended the production run of the car.
This 1977 MkII example, with one lady owner from new before Ford bought it back, was still a treat and marked my first time at the wheel of one of the cars I’ve always wanted to drive.
Honda brought along one of the first Civics, a bright yellow one, and the Renault 5 still looked good.
I also had a quick drive of a very nice looking Peugeot 504 Convertible, in Yellow. Designed by Pininfarina, it was never officially sold in the UK and this car was a left-hooker and was in need of lots of TLC to bring it back to its original condition.
By way of contrast, there also some of the latest models on display, a high-performance Jeep SRT, the latest three-door Kia cee’d and the new Jaguar F-Type Sport Tourer, which has just gone on sale.
A rather special McLaren P1 hypercar almost stole the show, but with a ridiculous price tag, its performance isn’t the only thing that’s hyper!
To see how much things have changed, like the power brakes we take for granted, and the power assisted steering which means our arm muscles don’t have to be as well-developed as they once were, it was an interesting reminder of just how much things have changed in the last 40 years.
The world of motoring journalism is also radically different. Gone are the days when the founding members of the Northern Group were all staff motoring writers employed by major regional newspapers. A few are left, but many now work as freelancers, either on-line, in print or on the radio.
Blogs, Facebook and Twitter have also become an integral part of the motoring hack’s toolkit – it makes you wonder how we’ll be getting our news in another 40 years’ time – and what sort of cars we’ll be driving.
Will we even have petrol engines? Makes you think, doesn’t it?