If variety is the spice of life, this week was a vindaloo:-
Monday: Ford Transit Connect, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire to Leeds. Ford Fiesta 1.0 turbo Zetec, Manchester to Leicester.
Tuesday: Ford Fiesta 1.0 Turbo Zetec, Leicester to Brentford, Middlesex; Kia Cee’d 1.6 diesel, London to Leicester
Wednesday: Aston Martins galore – Rapide S (2014), Vantage S manual (2016), Vantage S auto (2014), DB7 Vantage (2003), DB9 (2014), DBS (2012), all for about 8 miles each! Second Rapide S (2014) Derby to Scunthorpe; Mercedes C220d, Scunthorpe to Derby.
Friday: Ford Focus Titanium 2.0TDCi, Thurleigh Airfield, Bedfordshire to London SE1.
Monday saw Episode IV in the Rebel Alliance’s mission to supply X-wings to satellite station Sky. Or was it Episode I?? Like George Lucas, my episodes count can’t I.
Wednesday saw something a little out of the ordinary. Seven Aston Martins in one day – all 5.9 litre V12s. I was just told to turn up at Aston Martin Derby who needed a driver for the day. Most of the time was spent taking some of their used stock for a run down the A52 dual carriageway to give each one a drink of their favourite super unleaded. The grimmest of tasks, I know and the weather was miserable too – all warm and sunny.
I got to know the lady in the petrol station quite well. Her name is Philomena Wingnut, she lives on a canal boat called the Mary Rows (it has no engine) and she has a life-sized tattoo of Richard Hammond down her left thigh (apparently). People began to notice our frequent meetings and all those loyalty points she was giving me so to stop tongues wagging we are having to get married next week but don’t tell the wife. Anyway, before 1pm I had driven five different models of Aston Martin. Shame there was no Vanquish or DB11, but let’s not get greedy, eh? Here are some brief thoughts on each based on an 8 mile drive, except the second Rapide in which I drove about 70 miles to somewhere near Scunthorpe:-
Rapide S – a five door family hatchback. Starting up all these V12 Astons was an occasion in itself. Pushing the button instigates lots of dramatic whirring noises followed by a loud bark. The Rapides were no different and on the move, they would growl even under mild acceleration. When cruising you can always hear a muted engine note just to remind you that there’s a 5.9 litre V12 lurking under the bonnet but it is perfectly civilised. The one I took to somewhere near Scunthorpe was quite comfortable but had an annoying rattle coming from the back. The source was nothing to do with the car, it was a very rattly child seat. Told you – this really is a five door family hatchback (albeit with a luxury leather-clad interior).
Vantage S Manual. You could tell straightaway that this is an absolute little hooligan of a car. Growling, howling and snarling loudly the whole time. If it had nostrils, fire and smoke would be blowing out of them. Obviously very quick off the mark – really exhilarating and I didn’t go over 70mph (truly). You sit a bit lower and the suspension is noticeably harder than on the other Astons so 70mph feels much faster than say, in the Rapide. This was the only manual I drove, a seven speed box with dog leg first (just like a Reynolds Boughton RB44 but there the similarity ends!!). The shift was quite stiff and the clutch heavy so an interesting challenge.
Vantage S Automatic. As above but with a slightly hesitant self-shifter. This one had a fetching red stripe down the black centre console. Added to the drama.
DB9. Somewhere between the Rapide and Vantage S in manners and probably the most beautiful. Good combination of brute force with some civility if you want it.
DBS. To be honest, on such a short drive I couldn’t tell the difference between this and the DB9. Even the interiors looked the same. Hang on, yes I could. One was metallic bluey silver (“Skyfall” – what else?) and one was black (probably “Taxi de Londres” or something).
DB7 Vantage. About 14 years old and looked a bit antique inside. Lots of wood to go with the leather and smelled liked a classic car. For some reason I was surprised when it made a proper and youthful sound on start up. Still went well too.
The pick of the bunch? For me, the manual Vantage S. Enjoyed not just the outrageous sound track but also the challenge of mastering that slightly awkward clutch and gearbox and driving it smoothly. Might be a bit wearing on a long journey though!
I have driven a couple of Aston Martins before. Last year I drove a DB9 round a track in absolutely torrential rain. Surprised at how fast the instructor got me to go in those conditions. If I had been on my own I would have tiptoed round. All credit to him.
About thirteen years ago I had a day driving classic cars. Eight cars in total from the Classic Car Club in Birmingham (don’t think it exists anymore) to the Cotswolds. The eight cars included the recently restored beauty below. Slightly disappointing to drive mind you. Took a while to gather its skirts when accelerating and cornered like a battleship.
All in all Wednesday was an unusual and interesting day. Had ostrich for my evening meal when I eventually got home (but not ostrich vindaloo). Don’t know why I mentioned that. Probably because it was unusual and interesting (and delicious).