BY JAMES CAMPBELL
This week I was having a few ales with my Countryside pals in the Hare & Hound.
One of my friends, who for the purpose of this piece we shall call Boris, is wealthier than Croesus. As you do, after a couple, we got onto the subject of cars. And we’d just been talking about Brexit, so the two conversations overlapped somewhat.
“I must buy British this year,” declared Boris, jiggling with the key to his Mercedes S Class in his hand. “The British economy needs supporting. About time we showed the Germans and Juncker what we are about.”
“So, what are you thinking of, Boris?” we asked inquisitively.
“Hmm,” Boris pondered. “Am I too old for an Aston Martin?”
“Foreign owned,” we replied in unison.
Poor Boris went through the list of cars of his desire and, alas, they all turned out to be foreign owned, or at least partly in the hands of foreign owners.
Rolls and Bentley are owned by Germans. So too, Mini. Jaguar and Land Rover are in Indian hands. Lotus is Malaysian. And Aston Martin, the favoured ride of a certain British secret agent? Mostly Italian.
It’s partly this sort of foreign takeover of what were once considered British heritage brands that arguably fuelled the ire of Brexit’s petrol head supporters. And while few would deny that outside investment helped save some of these marques from uncertain futures, they could now be facing some of the same problems. For one thing, the British auto industry “is highly integrated into an international spider’s web of suppliers,” The Guardian wrote recently, and “more than three-quarters of firms believe Brexit would harm business, a survey by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders found.”
“So, what the hell should I buy then?”, asked an exasperated Boris, as we all chuckled into our pints beside our friend.
“A Mclaren?” I suggested.
All turned to me as I explained that McLaren’s cars, stunning and astonishingly fast, are 100% designed and built by hand in the UK, with as many British components as possible. Far from being an encumbrance, McLaren has thrived, first in the realm of Formula 1 and other racing series, and more recently with road cars including the ground-breaking McLaren F1, launched in 1992. That car, now worth millions to collectors, eventually spawned the new McLaren MP4-12C almost 20 years later in 2011, for which McLaren Automotive was established.
Boris – nigh on twenty stone – was initially interested but then realised there was no room in the car for his dogs.
The conversation petered out with mention of Robin Reliants. Bristol, Morgan and Caterham were the only other three remaining British marques of note that came up in discussion.
It’s time more British cars were made. Maybe Brexit will usher in a fresh Golden Era in car manufacturing. Maybe it will not.