May 2018We Did It Our Way!

Italy: is there any country which loves cars more, or has contributed as much to their history?

After four days driving almost flat-out through landscapes which are often unchanged since our cars were first built, it’s hard to imagine anywhere which would have given us such a warm welcome, or provided such a ‘step back in time’ immersion. The excuse was, as you’ve probably guessed, the Mille Miglia. They don’t even call it ‘the retrospective’ anymore, preferring ‘race’ instead, which of course sounds heroic but is typically wishful thinking: we were threatened with disqualification if we got to any more checkpoints ahead of the pace car, although the police motorcycle outriders and cheering crowds along the route seemed to think otherwise. However seriously you take it, the ‘MM’ is a unique social, cultural, gastronomic and sporting event, wonderfully Italian in its chaos and exuberance, and an absolute must if you love cars. 

Our advice? Check you have a stopwatch, waterproof clothes, a car that will last 1,000 hard miles and a sense of humour. You’ll laugh, curse, miss sleeping and want to do it all over again when you’ve recovered.

April 2018The Continental Dash

Just boarding the plane to Europe after another epic Bahrain Grand Prix. These guys know how to organize a seamless, exciting and hospitable race weekend, and it’s great to see an old friend ‘supplied by Kidston’ in pride of place outside the royal viewing tower. The first owner was the equal of a prince in his home country: Gianni Agnelli. The young Italian industrial heir ordered his new Bentley R-Type Continental in 1952, diplomatically and stylishly as ever, in Fiat ‘Traffic Blue’.  I doubt it was ever mistaken for a Fiat...

February 2018Weren't around in '55 to buy one? Meet the 2018 Jaguar D-Type!

So here it is, the 2018 Jaguar D-Type, unveiled this week in Paris. Yours for £1.7 million. Plus tax. And excluding registration, which technically isn’t possible. Technically...

What do we think? A worthy continuation of the original- “we just finished the job we started back in ‘55”- or rather like Picasso’s heirs putting their name to a batch of newly made copies? 

January 2018A belated happy New Year and here is to the road ahead!

Next week the classic car market gets back into gear with the Arizona auctions, quickly followed by the Cavallino extravaganza for Ferrari fetishists under the Palm Beach sunshine and, across the Atlantic, the Gallic charm of Retromobile in chilly Paris with yes, you guessed, even more auctions...

Everyone’s asking what’s in store but we don’t predict any great surprises. Most of it’s been seen before. ‘Discoveries’ are few and far between and if they’re real, they’ll do well. My money’s on the red D-Type at Gooding and, don’t laugh, the ‘58 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham at RM (actually that’s a friend’s recommendation, but he has excellent taste). Anyone up for a sweepstake on what they make? 

See you there!

December 2017Winter Vengeance

Winter’s arrived with a vengeance- down to sub-zero in Geneva- which is a great excuse to fire up a hot Italian and take her out on a lunch date just as others are taking cover. If you’ve ever tried the air conditioning on a Countach, you’ll know that Christmas is the perfect time to enjoy its company. I even looked for the heater! (and no, I didn’t find it. ‘Ergonomics’ don’t translate into Italian…)

August 2017The Road Ahead: Blue Sky or Stormy Weather?

If you collect cars, there's a good chance you've just returned from the Pebble Beach weekend. I turned it into a holiday and made the pilgrimage there using period appropriate transport, following James Dean's ill-fated 1955 route from Los Angeles but with a less dramatic outcome. Even with cockpit temperatures soaring on the drive through the Californian desert, it was worth every moment for the romance, nostalgia and great people I met along the way. That's what old cars are made for.

But clouds are on the horizon. Days before I left, the UK Government announced plans to ban the sale of new cars powered by petrol or diesel by 2040, and other countries may follow. At Pebble Beach I was invited to speak on a panel about the future of car collecting in the face of electric and autonomous cars. It's a reality we need to face.

The short summary of the discussion is that new technology won't go away, and nor should it. Most commutes are dull as dishwater and tech will make the daily grind easier. If you're wondering what this means for the future of historic cars on the roads, it'll be years until we know. My friend Gautam Sen of FIVA points out that “Classic cars represent a way of life, a world of thousands of clubs, thousands of meets and millions of enthusiasts worldwide. It’s widely accepted that emissions from historic vehicles are a statistical irrelevance, certainly small enough to be far outweighed by the cultural and economic contribution of the historic vehicle movement. We're hopeful of a future where historic vehicles can happily co-exist on public roads with modern electric and autonomous cars, giving freedom of choice to individuals.”

I couldn’t agree more. Imagine the Goodwood Festival of Speed celebrating its 50th anniversary in silence, the whirring Priuses and Teslas drowned out by the thunder of hooves on earth at the neighbouring horseracing track. Restorers, auctioneers, dealers and (heaven forbid) brokers forced out of business; the sound of a V12 at full chat just a tale passed down from grandfather to grandson and finally forgotten altogether. It does rather conjure up the Statue of Liberty washed up on a beach centuries from now in Planet of the Apes.

Consider this instead. A hundred years ago we all travelled by horse. Today, horses aren’t considered practical transport and yet they’re bred, traded, coveted – and used on our public roads by anyone who chooses to do so. They’re also far more valuable than our ancestors could ever have imagined. Created with fanatical attention to every genetic detail in the quest for perfection, pampered like four-legged rock stars, raced for pride and passion, and traded among a fortunate few. Oh, and of zero practical use. Sound familiar?

To me it sounds like a good excuse to get out and drive.

May 2017Inspiration 1927 - 2017
April 2017Going our way?

Spring is in the air, and with it petrolheads' thoughts turn to getting behind the wheel, road trips and convertibles. Where are you heading?

Tomorrow we leave for the German city of Essen, better known in our world as the sausage factory of shiny 300SLs and 'speculator special' 911s, to judge what's on offer and see who's buying. We'll report back from the front line but these days the best 'finds' seldom make it to trade fairs. It's always good though to meet industry colleagues and exchange views, news and plans. See you there!

March 2017High Speed Winter's Tale

We do get to have some fun in this business. Uncovering little known motoring stories is one of the most rewarding spin-offs of handling cars which have often belonged to famous, eccentric or notorious characters, and the human interest element brings metal, wood and rubber to life. When a client acquired a Miura with a very special first owner and gave us carte blanche to do what we thought appropriate with it, what do you think was the first thing that crossed our mind? Making a film, of course.

And the fact that no Miura had ever been driven up a snow-covered mountain to 2,400 metres in the middle of winter was a challenge too good to resist. Stay tuned for our high speed Winter’s Tale…

January 2017The Future Has Landed

So I took the plunge and ordered a BMW i8. Was it the right decision?

Stepping from a full fat, twin turbo, 600bhp V8 (the M6) into a three cylinder, 1500cc iPhone on wheels isn't the obvious move for a petrolhead fond of speed and power. Sure, it looks like a prop from Blade Runner but can you really get excited about something which whooshes when you'd normally expect a roar, hasn't required the felling of a rare breed of forest to decorate the interior, and that you have to remember to put on charge when you get home? (good luck)

It's early days yet but the surprising answer appears to be yes. The eureka moment came this weekend when for my first proper drive I visited a client in a ski resort which until the day before hadn't seen a flake of snow all winter, but overnight had become a slippery white piste. Usually in these situations you call to explain to a fellow car guy that your rear-wheel drive sports car can't get any further, and would he mind collecting you? When the i8 arrived up his Land Rover access-only driveway he couldn't believe his eyes. What's that? A McLaren? A Huracan? Oh, really? Mind if I take a closer look? 

One day I'll find the resolve to read the owner's manual but in the meantime I'm loving it. Next test: the gladiatorial arena known as the Italian Autostrada. Let's see how battery boy fares against the take-no-prisoners local heroes.

November 2016And now for something completely different...

From the heat scorched Spanish hills reverberating to the sound of an armada of Italian V12s, this week has been all about grace, space and Old World luxury. Not much beats the automotive equivalent of a gentlemen's club to navigate the historic streets of London, even in 21st century traffic. There's something inherently soothing about the whiff of Connolly leather, the distant burble of a nonchalant V8 and the poise of the Flying Lady mascot leading the way ahead. At almost 5.4 metres from bow to stern, she gets there some time before you. Just don't ask about parking.

Business? Hectic. McLaren F1s and Miura SVs seem to be much in demand, but we've also taken time to supervise Bugatti Type 35 and 57C restoration work, editing our next film and scheduling shooting of the 'Christmas Special', due to begin next week in the Alps. Gregor Fisken's dramatically-lit Kensington showroom re-opening party resembled an old school reunion, and his 'behind the scenes' tales over dinner afterwards reminded me that none of our challenges are unique. He had a full head of hair when we first met. Now he's talking about buying a Swinging Sixties Rolls-Royce to get around town...

October 2016Miura Meets Miura!

It's a wrap! This comes to you live from Andalusia in Spain where we've just celebrated the conclusion of an epic three-day tour to honour the Lamborghini Miura's 50th birthday. A record 23 Miuras and their owners arrived from the four corners of the globe – crews from Mexico City (8,999km away), Tokyo (11,123km) and Singapore (11,642km) travelled the furthest – to sample some of Europe's most picturesque roads, finest cooking and most historic landmarks, making new friendships and cementing old ones along the way.

A highlight was meeting the Miura brothers Don Antonio and Don Eduardo at the famous ranch where their family has bred Spain's most formidable fighting bulls for seven generations, from which Ferruccio Lamborghini took the name for his landmark supercar back in 1966. Neither brother had ever sat in a Miura, much less ridden in one. We remedied that.

Thanks to everyone who took part, and it's with some pride that there was only one non-finisher despite a punishing pace on and off the road. No proper car tour will now be complete without an 11am champagne and caviar stop...

See you in 2021 for the 55th!

September 2016Monterey Marathon: The Classic Car Olympics

There’s no less preparation and the stakes are equally high for the challengers. It just takes place every year rather than every four, and the only performance enhancing substances involved are octane booster and polish. Lots of it.

Auctions. Racing. Displaying. Dealmaking. These are the major sports in Monterey, and all the top players come to compete. 

The market spoke, and it made sense. The big show prize was awarded, and as usual the winner was much debated. Someone won the racing, but what was once the main event is now a (big) sideshow so well done whoever you are.

Top tips to take home from the peninsula? Where there’s a real seller there’s a real buyer. Silver haired owners judged by silver haired experts still rule the concours, which remains a pre-war club. And lastly, don’t try to escape using Monterey airport. “We’re in an overbooking situation" is a wonderful euphemism for “we’ve sold the same seat twice” if they haven’t already cancelled your flight. Option B is a taxi, and I now know the answer to the question: “Do you know the way to San Jose?”.

Monterey is a marathon on many levels, but if you want to stay ahead you can’t afford not to be there.

August 2016No Rest For The Wicked

The Le Mans 24 Hours? Monte Carlo Rally? No, this overnighter was the culmination of an even longer marathon: the three year restoration of a unique racing Ferrari in its homeland near Modena, where the air is warm and the Lambrusco chilled.
Our team have just finished returning the car to how it first looked when delivered to a gentleman driver in Geneva 46 years ago, and you’ll be able to judge whether the effort was worthwhile at the Pebble Beach concours in less than three weeks’ time. The coachbuilders applied the finishing touches late last night and the photographers then took over to record the result before a truck arrived at 7am to deliver the gold Ferrari to a cargo ‘plane headed for California. It’s a far cry from the snowy Swiss rallies where the car earned its spurs early in its life.
Colours are a very personal statement, but we’ve always believed that they’re also an important part of a car’s history. Not everyone agrees: one famous collector friend and client  insists that his cars can be any colour, as long as they were period options. I disagree: a car’s original colour is much more memorable than, say, its engine number, and original colours should be preserved. Ask a first owner or driver which they remember best: it won’t be the engine number…

July 2016Clash of the Titans

This comes to you live from the hangar of a Cold War air base in Germany's Black Forest, waiting for a rain storm to pass. Just a few yards away, being tended to by a team of mechanics and camera crew, sit two of the greatest supercars ever built. We're shooting our next video and asking if Bugatti's now out-of-production, 1,001bhp Veyron can follow the revered McLaren F1 to cult classic status. Outside, the runway is 3.5km long. Inside, a Le Mans winning driver is eyeing the sky.

We aim to find out...

July 2016Could this just be the best German car ever?

I’ve just dropped off my ’73 Porsche Carrera RS at Heathrow valet parking on a wet English day, having driven almost 1,000 miles in it over a long weekend. London traffic, rain, motorway driving, Goodwood mud, twisty Welsh roads getting past slow moving caravans – it devoured them all and not for a moment did I think “I’d rather be driving a…” Somehow everything comes together on this car, from the tactile, thin-rimmed steering wheel that dances in your fingers, to the satisfying clunk of the doors, the smooth swish of the electric windows and sunroof (very cool in ’73), to the great seats and visibility, luggage space, parkability… and that’s before I bore you with a glorious engine which revs happily to over 7,000rpm and sounds epic from the moment you fire it up. Oh, and the colour. Love it!

June 2016I've seen the future, and it's silent.

Those nice people at BMW – the same ones who provide me with a new M6 Gran Coupé every few months – just dropped off something I’d been curious to try for ages: the i8 coupé. Wow! Have you seen it up close? My colleague Emanuele summed it up as “the love child of a Prius and a DeLorean.” Someone else in the office commented “An iPhone on wheels”. Personally – being romantic – I thought early ‘70s M-Turbo show car meets Tron the sci-fi movie. First impressions? Try getting in with a car parked close to you – good luck. Once seated snugly inside, it’s pretty intuitive if you’re used to BMWs. ‘Engine start’ is familiar, but nothing happens. Try again – what little noise there was disappears. Try a third time – it’s like the first. Are we running? Yes, but not as we know it. Slipping the gear lever into ‘D’ and the car slides effortlessly and silently out of your parking spot. We’re off – and it’s surreal.

I need some space to try this thing properly, but it looks sinister, has a Jekyll and Hyde personality, goes almost as fast as the M6 and is huge fun on twisty roads. The luggage space is almost non-existent, charging looks daunting (but so did an iPhone to me) and there are lots of plasticky feeling surfaces inside for something which costs well into six figures. Do I want one? I’m still pondering, but I’m already looking forward to my next drive…


May 2016Here we go at last!

I’ll be sharing car stories, opinion, insider news and anything else which friends in the car world and I might talk about. ‘Simon Says’ is intended to be informal and more reactive than my monthly magazine columns or our company newsletters.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch, and I hope you enjoy it.