WEEKLY CAR DIARY – THE G-MONSTER! MERCEDES-AMG G63

The weekend is off to a good start. I have just returned from the dentist having had a wisdom tooth removed and I’m not allowed any hot food or drink for the rest of the day. That’s the second tooth I have lost this year. A few months ago, I finally lost my last baby tooth. Yes, really. I’m 53. I got my money’s worth there. I asked the dentist if I could keep the wisdom tooth but no, that’s not allowed these days. Health and safety (surprise!), infection control, bla bla. Now that has blown my brilliant plan for my wife’s Christmas present. I was thinking of making her a bracelet. So annoying. Exactly how would I infect the masses with an old tooth?? Wave it around on a crowded bus? And what would I infect them with? Foot and mouth disease? Anyway, here are the cars and vans I have driven this week:-

Monday: Volkswagen Touareg R Line Plus (262hp) auto, Nottingham to Orpington, Kent

Tuesday: two Ford Transit Customs (one a rare automatic), Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, Staffordshire to Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire

Wednesday: Vauxhall (Opel) Insignia Grand Sport SRi 1.6 Turbo D (110hp)  Ecotec, Southampton to Old Sarum, Salisbury; Nissan X-Trail Tekna 1.6 DCI (130hp) hire car, Salisbury to the Aston Martin factory, Gaydon, Warwickshire, then to Bicester, Oxfordshire back to Gaydon, then Gaydon to Leicester. Phew.

Friday: Mercedes-AMG G63 (G-Wagen), Oakham, Rutland to Nottingham and back.

So much I could write about! Like Wednesday’s epic adventure which included a delivery to Old Sarum with its iron age hillfort and The Curious Incident of the Aston Martin in the Night-time. Maybe something about that another day because the clear highlight of an interesting week was the Mercedes G-Wagen …..

And what a great little jaunt that was! Perfect for the last day of the week. A short hop on the train from Leicester to Oakham in the dinky little county of Rutland where the G-Wagen was waiting to be taken to the Mercedes dealer in Nottingham. There I was to wait while it had a new bobblecog and thingummy fitted and then take it back to Oakham – a round trip of 60 miles. Unless I’m overdue a trip to SpecSavers, the G-Wagen is a very rare sight on British roads. It’s Mercedes’s answer to the Land Rover Defender and was conceived with military use very much in mind. Indeed, as I approached the G-Wagen from a distance, I did wonder whether it was a relic from the Rutland War of Independence (you can read an in-depth account of this little known conflict by clicking right here). A closer inspection enhanced this impression because a heavy duty dog guard separated the boot space from the passenger compartment. Clearly to keep gnashing German Shepherds in check when they weren’t on duty patrolling the Rutland – Leicestershire border. Actually, it turned out that this G-Wagen was only made in 2016 (by hand in Austria, where all G-Wagens are made), long after Rutland regained its independence.

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The Mercedes-AMG G63. Spot the curves. Yes, yes, I know – the wheels and headlights are round…. Notice the exhaust tail pipes peeping out at the side. Or should that be side pipes? These were matched by a pair on the other flank.
To call the G-Wagen’s looks “utilitarian” is an understatement. They are based loosely on a shipping container but with flat panels rather than corrugated. Like shipping containers, they are built to last. The basic exterior (designed using a ruler and nothing else) has hardly changed since it was first introduced. I was actually surprised to discover that it first hit the roads (and battlefields) as late as 1979. Take the Mercedes badges off, paint it green and it could almost pass as a Soviet military vehicle from the fifties or sixties.

Now this G-Wagen was no ordinary G-Wagen (if there is such a thing as an ordinary G-Wagen). Instead of the usual diesel power, this AMG version had a 5.5 litre, 571hp, petrol gulping V8 lump capable of hurling the brute from 0-62 mph (100kph) in 5.4 seconds. Not sure I would like to try that.

Once settled in the cockpit, it was obvious that Mercedes has attempted to give this no nonsense, rufty-tufty off-roader a luxury makeover (well, you would expect that for the £136,000 asking price, wouldn’t you?). However, despite all the usual modern gadgetry and swathes of leather covering the seats, doors and slab-like dashboard, it still felt old-fashioned and, er, utilitarian! The big grab handle above the glove box and conventional handbrake added to this feel. And the upright, flat windscreen which didn’t seem that far away from my nose. And looking out over the angular bonnet. And the narrow, slightly cramped nature of the cabin. Actually, it was all quite exciting. Not sure why. I guess it reminded a bit me of the Reynolds-Boughton RB-44 (the wot??) I drove back in February which was such great fun.

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A Room with a View. And look at those indicator lenses. Good example of recycling – they used to contain Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Coleslaw. Mercedes just wash them, turn them upside down and voilà!
Starting the V8 wasn’t quite as dramatic as starting an overtly sporting V8 such as a Bentley Continental but it did give enough of a roar to give away the fact that this was not an everyday car. So what was it like to drive? Different. A firm ride, not soft and wobbly like a Range Rover. A bit bumpy at times. Virtually no noise from the engine unless accelerating. Relatively little wind noise despite the shipping container aerodynamics. No boy racer histrionics when lifting your foot off the throttle or changing down manually. But, a lovely low, V8 burble, rumble and grumble when you did accelerate. In fact, with the V8 doing its thing, this black beast felt more like an extra from Mad Max than a prop from a Cold War thriller. And it all felt very quirky. Mainly because of the steering.  It was surprisingly heavy and it soon became clear that it was low geared as well. More turn on the wheel was required compared to “normal” cars to get it round corners. Add to this a bit of body roll and I sensed that hustling the G-Wagen quickly into a corner might induce a sudden bout of Durchfall (look that one up; it translates literally as “through​ fall” – wonderfully descriptive). Being a coward (and also being responsible, even if having a baby tooth until the age of 53 might indicate a degree of immaturity), it was steady as she goes on the fairly bendy and up and down country roads between Oakham and Nottingham. I still loved driving the G-Wagen though and I did listen to the V8 occasionally on the straight bits. And because I enjoyed driving the G-Monster so much, I will describe the odd steering as having “character” which basically the whole overgrown Tonka toy had in spades.

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Not what you would call a looker is it? But lots of character. At Mercedes Nottingham about to have a bandanbladderstiddle transplant.

I’m off to have an ice cream sandwich for my lunch now.

Colin

 

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RUTLAND WAR OF INDEPENDENCE 1974 – 1997

After I had delivered the Audi A4 Avant to Oakham last week, I had a very pleasant, sunny stroll through this tranquil town situated in the county of Rutland. As I made my way to the train station I noticed that Oakham has sufficient quaint bits to make it interesting, including a castle with England’s most complete Norman great hall (yes, I looked that up afterwards). However, the walk did not take long because most things in Rutland, the UK’s smallest historic county, are, well … small. Including Oakham. Multum in parvo is Rutland’s motto. A lot in a little.

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The Buttercross (market place) in pretty Oakham

However, it was not all tranquility in Oakham’s recent and bloody past. Rutland is a historic county but that long history was interrupted when it lost its county status in 1974 and was absorbed into neighbouring Leicestershire. The population of Rutland then had to kowtow to the tyrannical Leicestershire County Council (LCC). But the feisty Rutlanders were not going to take this lightly. The Rutland Independence Party (RIP for short) led by Nicholas Barage organised resistance while Rutland Weekend Television (anyone remember RWT??) broadcast subversive propaganda in an attempt to undermine the authority of the LCC’s despotic leader, Percy Soulless. The LCC instigated a clamp down. Thanks to the LCC’s notorious secret police, several Rutland freedom fighters disappeared in the dead of night. They were sent to a concentration camp known as Skegness (known by some as Leicester-by-the-Sea) and forced to read the Leicester Mercury (readily available in Skeggy) in an attempt to brainwash them. Their families were notified of their incarceration by means of saucy postcard. The suppression continued. Leicestershire, famous for Melton Mowbray pork pies, Stilton and Red Leicester cheeses, banned exports of these dietary staples to Rutland. In retaliation, the RIP threatened to cut-off water supplies from Rutland Water, England’s largest reservoir by surface area (like Nicholas Barage’s ego, not everything in Rutland is small. By the way, Rutland Water is a good place to hire bikes and cycle round). However, that plan backfired when someone pointed out that Rutland Water did not actually supply Leicestershire with its water.

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Rutland’s most famous landmark, Normanton Church on Rutland Water nearly became a watermark(?!). When Rutland Water was created in 1976, the church was thankfully spared.

Nevertheless, the hardy Rutlanders, surviving on black market Lincolnshire sausages and Cheddar cheese, would not give up. The RIP laid low but not idle in the rural idyll that is Rutland and would be forever Rutland, the beauty of its little villages and countryside comparable to those of the Cotswolds but without the hordes of tourists. The RIP planned and executed forays into Leicestershire causing chaos and confusion. Cling film was surreptitiously put over all the toilets in the LCC offices; all the potato peelers were stolen from the Walkers crisp factory and Percy Soulless’s wheelie bin was stolen not once but three times. Things came to a head when the LCC tracked down Nicholas Barage to Oakham Castle and laid siege. The siege lasted until tea time when Barage said he needed to go home to feed his cat and watch Coronation Street. Finally, common sense seemed to prevail when a meeting was held between the leaders of the RIP and LCC in Oakham’s bijou and very ancient Lord Nelson pub which dates back to the 1500s.

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The Great Hall of Oakham Castle, scene of the Great Siege in March 1997. The siege lasted until tea time.

However, the meeting started badly and went downhill from there. Things got heated, people’s parentage was brought into question and other insults were thrown. And, when everyone “stepped outside”, handbags and punches followed the insults. It was the bloodiest battle Oakham had ever seen – Barage suffered a cut lip and then threw a Bloody Mary over Percy Soulless’s Armani suit. That was the final straw. Soulless could stand no more and promised independence for Rutland on condition that Barage let go of his hair, paid the cleaning bill for his suit and returned his wheelie bin. Thus on 1st April 1997, Rutland became an independent county again. Peace reigned and Rutland celebrated. The “disappeared” were returned from Skegness by donkey, bearing sticks of rock, knotted hankies on their heads and burning copies of the Leicester Mercury. The Rutles sang songs in the streets (now do you remember Rutland Weekend Television?? Eric Idle? Neil Innes?). The Rutland Navy was disbanded and its battlecruiser, the Rutland Belle, was converted back to its original pleasure cruiser rôle by removal of its armament (3 x .22 air rifles). The Rutland Belle still plies its trade on Rutland Water today, so after your cycle ride, watersports or wildlife watching, you can enjoy a relaxing cruise on the reservoir then go and explore the delights of this charming little county in the East Midlands.

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The Rutland Belle in today’s happier, more peaceful times. It never saw action in the War of Independence as its armament (3 x .22 air rifles) did not have the range to hit any part of Leicestershire.

Colin

P.S. I do apologise for the appalling drivel in the above post but it was enormous fun writing it. Hopefully, you can separate fact from fiction. If you can’t, please let me know which planet you live on and how I can get there; it is probably a fun place to be. In case there is any doubt, Rutland did cease to be a county in 1974. The story of how it really re-gained county status in 1997 is probably very boring.

P.P.S. Rutland Weekend Television was a TV sketch show with two series broadcast in 1975 and 1976. It was ex-Python Eric Idle’s first television project in the post-Monty Python era with music written by Neil Innes (ex-Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band). The show spawned the Rutles, originally a fictional then actual rock band parodying the Beatles.

WEEKLY CAR DIARY & HOW TO OCCUPY YOURSELF ON A LONG TRAIN JOURNEY

I had jobs on three days this week:-

Thursday: BMW X5 Xdrive 40e M Sport plug-in hybrid, Leicester to Kettering, Northants; second BMW X5 Xdrive 40e M Sport plug-in hybrid, Kettering to Leicester

Friday: Jaguar XF S (3 litre) Portfolio D Sportbrake and Range Rover 4.4 SDV8 Autobiography, Leicester to Rutland County Showground, Oakham, Rutland

Yes, that’s only two days. I had another job on Wednesday but ended up not driving a car or van. A group of us went by minibus to collect some cars and deliver them to somewhere nearer the equator (in Hampshire). However, my allocated car had damaged paintwork and wasn’t going anywhere so I had to head for home by train. Annoyingly, I hadn’t bothered to bring a book with me because on group jobs, when we are taken to and from a job by chase vehicle, there is always entertainment in the form of endless witty banter and heckling the driver of the chase car or minibus. It is amazing how we all still laugh at highly original quips such as “I wouldn’t have come this way” (when stuck in a traffic jam), “Are we nearly there yet?” (five minutes after starting the journey) and “So the brakes work then” (after coming to a standstill in overly sharpish fashion).

But on my unexpected three and a half hour train journey home on Wednesday there would be no verbal entertainment and I had no book (I love reading and it’s a good thing to do on trains).  However, I did have my other two favourite train journey pastimes to fall back on. These are: 1) enjoying the beautiful British countryside (and occasional interesting man-made landmark) from the vantage point of the train window and 2) applying my mind to the consideration of life’s important issues. The latter may be my version of mindfulness although I don’t really know what mindfulness is but it seems popular these days. The good thing with these two activities is that they can be enjoyed at the same time. Despite my gender disadvantage, even I can manage this bit of multi-tasking and, incredibly, I am also capable of simultaneously consuming sandwiches. So, as I gaze out of the train window munching a carefully crafted (by my own hand) tuna salad sarnie, I ponder such weighty questions as:-

  • How many words do the Inuit have for pesto?
  • Does Ray Mears have a house?
  • Why does the BBC’s One Show always start 2 minutes before its scheduled start time? (It does – always. Not that I actually care).
  • What is an Experian credit score and do I really need one?
  • What on earth is mindfulness?
  • How often does Ray Mears have a wash?
  • Did I close the front door properly?
  • Why do celebrities feel it imperative to give their kids stupid names?
  • Does anyone think that Marmite is, well, just sort of OK?
  • Will self-driving cars get road rage?
  • Has Ray Mears ever had a Big Mac and fries?
  • Is Judith Chalmers still orange?
  • Why do blondes dye their roots a darker colour?
  • Are we nearly there yet?
  • If you put Ray Mears and Bear Grylls together in the same room (or tent) would they scratch each other’s eyes out?
  • If you drink orange squash and milk will you really die? (This was a commonly held belief when I was a kid. I’m 53 and still haven’t dared to try it. I think about it a lot though.)
  • What does go through the mind of middle lane hoggers on the motorway?? Why do they think it’s the correct way to drive? Are they completely oblivious to the chaos they are causing as they bumble along in their own little world? They are probably pondering one or more of the questions above. But please, there is a time and a place – the place being a train, not the middle lane of the M1.

So you see, there is plenty to do in order to occupy yourself when on a train. And no, I don’t have an obsession with well-known TV wilderness expert, Ray Mears but when you’re staring at all that countryside, outdoorsy stuff sort of springs to mind.

For those missing more car content from this and my last post, here are a couple of blatantly gratuitous photos from my motoring week. One from a small classic car meet I went to on Tuesday evening in the sleepy town of Market Bosworth (of King Richard III infamy). The other from the Rutland County Showground where I took the Jaguar XF and Range Rover in preparation for this Sunday’s county show. Guess which one’s which.

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“Luke, I am your father”. Too good a photo opportunity to miss! My MKIV Sprite meets a long-lost relative which could be its dad. The MK1 “Frogeye” Sprite is cuddlier than Darth Vader though.

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What a beast! This would have Top Gear’s Matt LeBlanc salivating. I’m not a tractor fanatic but I wouldn’t mind having a go in one of  these. In a large field. Well away from any other vehicle.
Colin