As 2014 approaches, the crankandpiston team looks back on the best bits of the last 12 months. We start with our publishing editor and the man with the tallest hair in the team, Phill Tromans.
Most people, when they find out you’re a motoring writer, expect that you spend your days gallivanting around in Ferraris and perfecting your Jeremy Clarkson impression. And while that may occasionally be true (POOWWEEEEERRRR!), it’s more likely the case that you’ll be in the office until late, trying to make sure there’s enough content lined up for the future. But for all the misconceptions, there are highlights, a few days here and there that make it all worthwhile. Here are my top memories of 2013.
Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster
The fun began early in the year when I took the Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster up to the northern tip of Oman and the incredible coastal road to Khasab. It was just me, the car and photographer David Benson, and it turned into a memorable day. The setting is one of the best for driving in the Middle East – a beautiful day, an incredible road surrounded on one side by soaring cliffs and crystal clear ocean on the other. Mercedes has announced the end of the SLS after only four years, which is a shame – it’s an epic, epic car.
Bentleys on Ice
Barely a month later, the sun and sea was replaced with white skies, snow and a frozen lake. I went to Finland and spent two hugely enjoyable days learning how to drift Bentleys on ice, not far outside the Arctic Circle. It’s just as much fun as you would imagine – sideways all the time, in luxury comfort. In fact, it’s so much fun that very wealthy people pay handsomely to come and do exactly the same thing. Not so much fun was waiting to be dug out of a snowdrift for the umpteenth time, but it was a weight I was willing to bear. It was bloomin’ cold though.
Germany to Abu Dhabi in a Cadillac
This next one is slightly cheating, as it happened at the tail end of 2012 but we didn’t get it all compiled and up on site until March. This was an epic road trip and a half – the Nurburgring in Germany, to Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, by road. It was a journey that took a month in a Cadillac ATS, which aside from a puncture held up remarkably well over the 12 countries and 10,000-odd kilometres. There are far too many highlights from that one trip alone to fit into a short summary, but check out the article for an idea.
McLaren 12Cs across Saudi Arabia
May saw another road trip – a week in Saudi Arabia, driving a fleet of McLaren 12Cs from the capital, Riyadh, to the west coast and then inland again to find what we’d been told would be one of the greatest roads we’ve ever seen. It was my first visit to Saudi, which made it an interesting experience on its own. But it was also enlightening to find out what it’s like to live for a week with the McLaren, one of the most exciting cars produced in the last five years. Did we find the epic road? Yes we did. And it was epic, if not quite what we were expecting…
Morgan 3 Wheeler
I left Saudi a day before the rest of the team to fly to the UK. While there, I visited the Morgan factory. It’s a place I’ve been meaning to go to for decades, having grown up just a few minutes away, but somehow never got around to it. So to spend the day with my dad, watching proper hand-made cars being built at what was at the time a proper family-owned carmaker, was an experience long overdue. After that, I had a chance to play with the brilliant Morgan 3 Wheeler and the Plus 8. Morgan has had some internal strife of late, with former chairman Charles Morgan given the boot by the board. But the company is still planning on bringing its quirky British sports cars to the Middle East, with a showroom planned for Dubai.
As the year drew to an end, I hopped on a plane for the long flight to Washington DC, and spent a few days driving the latest incarnation of an American icon. The Chevrolet Corvette has been the byword for American sports cars for 50 years, and the new C7 version might just be the best generation yet – a big step forward from the C6. I spent a day driving the Corvette around the beautiful countryside of northern Virginia, and then just for good measure spent the following day with the new Silverado truck. As if the scenery wasn’t enough of a reason to remember the trip, both vehicles were pretty good too. But it’s the Corvette that’ll stick in the mind – you can read why here.