This year's British Motor Show was not, as believed, called off, Sniff Petrol can exclusively reveal. The event, at London's Earls Court, was meant to have been cancelled in a flurry of antipathy when in fact the show went ahead exactly as planned. "We just got sick of normal motor shows," one anonymous manufacturer's source revealed. "We always put a lot of effort into creating impressive stands to show off our shiny new models, and then the general public turn up and make everything look messy. Our solution was not to tell them about it."
And, according to our spy, the secret show was a resounding success: "We saved a fortune on brochures and we were able to halve our budget for leggy lovlies" he trilled. "There was no need
to clean finger prints and snot off the cars, plus most days we got to knock off by half four. I had a great time."
The smokescreened show's success has already inspired car makers for next year's Birmingham Motor Show. "We've already announced that we won't be at the NEC," sniggered a BMW spokesman, "and we're hoping that others will follow our lead so we can 'cancel' again. If they don't, we'll just pretend we aren't there by covering our stand with a big cloth or something."
The London Show lying has also influenced other event organisers, including the 2002 Wimbledon tennis tournament: "We're heartily sick of all these people shuffling, farting and putting players off," grumbled a Wimbledon source, "so we might just tell the plebs it's not happening. That should show them."
There was a similar mood over in Japan: "Bloody hell," said a spokesman for the 2002 World Cup swearily, "all the security and crowd control measures are costing us a fortune. Is it too late to tell everyone it's off?"
NEW RETRO OPTION PACKS FOR MINI
Buoyed by the success of the new Mini, BMW is to release new option packs to capitalise on the car's retro design. The new packs will compliment the existing Salt, Chili and Pepper trims, but are designed to capture the appeal of the old Mini. First up, the Soy Sauce package includes a unique engine management programme which will allow the car to piss oil all over your drive. State-of-the-art multiplex wiring has also allowed engineers to create deliberate 'bugs' in the car's electrics, causing phantom operation of the lights, wipers and de-misting fan whilst permitting them to 'pack up' when a sensor detects bad weather. A second complimentary pack, dubbed Balsamic Vinegar, comes with a feature linked to the rain sensing wipers which allows water to leak into the car when it rains. Thanks to lightweight valve technology, the water leak can be switched between ten different locations, making it utterly impossible to trace. Ever. Balsamic Vinegar equipped cars will also come with small pieces of loose metal inside randomly chosen body cavities, creating a series of irritating and ever lasting rattles which nothing short of dismantling the entire car will cure.
Continuing the old-skool theme, dealers will now offer a new deal to compliment the revolutionary TLC servicing scheme. For an extra �100 customers can chose the PITA (Pain In The Arse) option which will attempt to replicate the elusive 1970s BL dealer experience. Your car's service will be done in a really half baked way and your Mini will be returned scratched, dirty and smelling of spaniels. Some lucky customers may even find that their car has been lent to a 17-year-old apprentice who has had sex in the back seat and then crashed it into some sort of tree.
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Ford bosses in Detroit have announced plans to make a three-part movie to promote parts of their Premier Automotive Group in the United States.
"We're real excited about this," slithered one senior Ford manager we spoke to, "The Jag-war movie is gonna be real moving. It's the story of Bill Lion, a brave ex-USAF war hero from Wisconsin, who returns to his family farm and realises he can use the natural resources of wood from his forest and leather from his cattle to make a premium automobile. You can't put a price on that sorta heritage."
The Land Rover film promises to be equally awful: "The second movie is called Land Rover: A New Frontier," our insider reports, "It's about a pair of brothers growing up. They're good kids, sure, but they terrorise their neighbourhood in Birmingham, Alabama. Then a chance meeting with a mysterious knight, Lord Stokes, leads them to create a premium SUV. Using their crazy contraption they conquer the Wild West and save their long lost sister, played by Neve Campbell."
The final part of the triumvate of toss will be Aluminum Horizon: The Aston Martin Story. "This is the real epic," simpers our Blue Oval blabbermouth, "Davey Brown, a blue eyed boy from California, makes an amazing discovery: aluminum! The folks say he's crazy, but he perseveres with his vision: to make a premium sports car. From aluminum! He does and he uses it to win the Indy 500 and also something called the Lemons 24. Whatever the hell that is." Spies in Hollywood suggest that the young Brown could be played by Leonardo Di Caprio, whilst in later years he will be portrayed by Paul Newman. Or, if he's busy, John Goodman. But it's not all depressingly piss-poor news for British film-goers: the part of Victor Gauntlet will be taken by David Suchet.
PAG: The Movie will be directed by Hollywood hot shot Spunk Weaselhammer whose work includes Hawking! Robot With A Heart and The Diary of Anne Frank: On Ice.
GERMAN CAR MAKERS IN NAME-BASED FIASCO
The German car industry is in crisis this week after experts identified that it is suffering from Namenzeitundverh�ltnisyndrom or 'name time and proportion syndrome'. Professor Rudi Newdy of Bonn University speaks now: "The German car industry's naming policies are in tatters. Firstly we have Porsche, who have released a name, 'Cayenne', without a car attached to it. And then Volkswagen announced their new luxury saloon, but no name for it. Namenzeitundverh�ltnisyndrom is rampant."
Aside from rendering car makers incapable of releasing cars and their names at the same time, the syndrome affects their ability to apportion names correctly. "This helps to explain Mercedes' problem," Prof Newdy explains, "they went and wasted far too many names on the C-class Sport Coup� C220 CDi and then were left with nothing for their new MPV, forcing them to tack two letters onto the end of the word 'van'. So now everyone will be reminded it's just a glorified light commercial and they are, how you say, fucked." According to Prof Newdy, VW is suffering from a similar problem; "They used so many names on the Volkswagen Golf GT TDI PD 150 that they have none left over for their forthcoming luxury car. And worse still, their name resources will be stretched further with the appointment of Bernd Pites�.Pisher�.Pitstree�erm, thingy"
Experts say the best VW can hope for is that the general public independently gives the new luxo-barge a name. Experts suggest this name could be 'The Albatross', 'The Lame Duck' or 'The Hopelessly Over-ambitious Disaster'.
WHAT CAR? WINS COMFY AWARD
What Car? has been named Britain's most comfortable car magazine, earning special mention for its soft, easy-to-turn pages, safely progressive page numbering and fully fold-backable access.
"There's far more to a comfortable magazine than the obvious talents of a smart-casual road test editor," said editor Steeve Fouler. "He needs to be bolstered by a full range of easy-to-use knobs."
Impartial tests conducted by WH Smith found readers grow increasingly uncomfortable with also-ran Top Gear magazine and soon fidget. By contrast, up to three in five lunchtime readers of What Car? earnestly read entire group tests with no apparent need to shift from one leg to the other.
What Car?'s award stifles recent calls to re-design the cuddly-but-popular magazine. "What Car? is very easy to walk in and out of without inadvertently grunting," Fouler added, grunting slightly. "You should come here and try some, it's nice. It also has excellent visibility. We've seen many try to take us on, but they all walk away with an aching back."
ROY LANCHESTER, Car Of The Year judge and motoring correspondent for the Harrogate Evening Weasel, gives a unique insight into this year's CoTY
It always amazes me how fast European Car of the Year comes round again. For a judge such as myself that means lots of work to do in sifting the excellent from the superb with no time to lose! It's quite a responsibility, as you're acutely aware that the public is hungry for the result and of course us CoTY judges are equally hungry. This year was one of the hardest so far, judging-wise. There were so many excellent entries and there could be only one car that would win the right to put a small multi-coloured sticker in its back window.
The first car I sampled was the excellent Fiat Stilo. I was somewhat disappointed when Fiat said they could only supply a left-hand-drive car in this country. I lobbied them long and hard until eventually they corrected this. My wife and I were flown to the Cote D'Azure and could enjoy the LHD Stilo on the correct side of the road. Excellent. Given their professionalism in this matter, I'm confident all Stilo customers will receive the excellent service for which the Italian company is renowned.
Next up, the excellent Renault Laguna. This car has a lot going for it, including class leading safety and a comprehensive equipment list. However, it's the little touches that make the new Renault truly excellent. My test car arrived complete with comfortable leather seats, innovative key-less entry system, a branded umbrella, a free cappuccino maker and a case of fine Chablis in the boot. Full marks to Renault for equipping their cars to such a high standard.
I was particularly excited to try the excellent new Mini and it didn't disappoint. My confidence in this car was bolstered when I dined with some of the car's engineers at a top London restaurant. I can fully imagine the quality of the engineering having seen the effort BMW put into the food, wine and hotel facilities.
Sampling the excellent Honda Civic, I was struck by how similar it felt to the excellent Fiat Stilo. Turns out I had actually been sent another Stilo by mistake. Full marks to Honda who apologised for this error by sending my wife and I to Paris for the weekend. Trust the Japanese to lead the way on customer service.
My disappointment of the CoTY was, it pains me to say, the excellent Jaguar X-type. I lunched with some of their top brass at a top eaterie in Scotland where I discovered the service was slow, the soup was cold and there weren't enough bread rolls. The only compensation was a superb claret, though even that was marred because I reacted badly to the beef and was violently ill, staining my shoes. I hope the X-type will make a better impression when I get to drive it.
And so to the winner. As I said, this was a tough contest with many judges voting in completely different ways. With consensus so hard to find, it's reassuring to see that the winner was a car that no one liked: the excellent Peugeot 307. Excellent.
BURNS CITES SIFFRE IN SUBARU SHIFT SNAFU
As Subaru's legal action looms, Richard Burns has issued a statement making clear the reasons why he wants to drive for the Peugeot WRC team next season.
"It was the consistently high quality of their television adverts that swung it for me," the ginger champ confessed. "A few weeks ago I settled down in front of the 345-inch plasma screen TV I've just had installed on my new gold yacht when the advert for the new 307 came on. As the first bars of Something Inside So Strong blasted out of the 4000w Dolby Surround Sound speakers, I almost choked on the swan I was eating."
"It was just so moving," the quite dull driver continued, with a tear in his eye. "That Red Indian with the baby really brought a lump to my throat, and I've never been able to resist little Chinese men with gaps in their teeth, or such like."
Burns went on to re-live the moment when he became truly convinced that
Peugeot was the team for him; "Barely a day later I saw that old 405 advert during an episode of I Love 1980s Car Adverts. It literally took my breath away," he gushed, with no irony whatsoever. "Burning cornfields are my favourite thing, ever, and so are groups named after capital cities. Except The London Boys. They were shite. Anyway, the next day I called my local Peugeot dealer and signed a contract on the back of a fag packet. It's still legally binding, isn't it?"
There are unconfirmed reports that Burns is so captivated by Peugeot's inoffensive music policy that his WRC 206 will be fitted with a radio, permanently tuned to AOR station Heart FM. One Peugeot engineer also implied that the slightly geeky wheelman would dump co-driver Robert Reid in favour of honking-voiced singer Heather Small out of M-People, "if we can find a way to get her hair into the car."
It's the early 1980s. Ford's MkIII Escort is hailed as being modern for ditching live-axles and rear-wheel-drive. Then along comes a spacious, easy-to-drive, versatile hatchback boasting a sophisticated engine management computer, an advanced flat-pack wiring loom and numerous techy touches like a fully bonded windscreen and moulded polycarbonate bumpers. The future should have started here. But it, quite liderally, didn't start at all because all this new tech came from British Leyland, the people who'd have trouble producing toast. In fact, the problems started much earlier, in the styling department. The Maestro was styled at Land Rover's studio in Solihull where, apart from saddling it with those gawky looks, they worked to off-roader principles, hence the tragic
AUSTIN MAESTRO (1983-94)
panel gaps, vague trim fit and inexplicably high floor. On early Maestros the engine management would set the idle speed to anywhere between 500 and 5000rpm, the bonded screens leaked water and the plastic bumpers cracked in cold weather. Oh, and the clever wiring loom never worked and had to be replaced with a conventional one, which didn't fit the wiring ducts properly. When it came to facelift time anyone assigned to the job developed a nervous tic, cried a bit, gave up and went to become a monk. Once again, BL had snatched defeat from the jaws of glorious victory. Brilliant.
Boffins try to fit Heather Small in the car
Another motorshow not happening, yesterday
"I'm off to a fondue party, hepcats. Or something"
Some comfortableness, yesterday
Nice idea, done really, really badly
This bit's true
FACT! One of the Sunday papers claims that GM is working on a car in consultation with rapper Snoop Dogg. And it might be called the 'Snoop DeVille'. Jay-sus
SCURRIL! Guess which executive saloon's styling, almost universally greeted with a lukewarm reception, is even hated by a least two senior designers within the company that makes it
� 2001. Sniff Petrol every fortnight. Next issue 21 December