Reprieved! Instead of needing to return my latest test wheels, a Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian X pick-up, I’ll be keeping it a while longer, because Boris has given us Lockdown III and, as a result, the Mitsu people are happy to leave their big beast with me. It will be especially useful if we strike snowdrifts on forthcoming village-to-town supermarket forays or need to bring home an especially large haul of tinned tomato soup.
The UK has had a tax-driven love affair with four-cab pick-ups for years, but this L200 teaches me not to discount the driving enjoyment they also bring. It makes a fascinating mix of crudeness and sophistication: cumbersome 5.3-metre length but accurate steering; rough 2.2-litre diesel but silken torque delivery through a relaxing six-speed auto gearbox; well-equipped cab but enough hard plastic to reassure you about longevity; and busy primary ride but decent long-wheelbase stability. Plus, the enduring benefit of most body-on-frame machines: low road noise. Shame I won’t be doing more driving.
Of course, if we decide that the Barbarian is too big for the supermarket car park (haven’t tried it yet), we will still have on the home fleet the Suzuki Ignis Hybrid 4×4 SZ5, which is also staying for the duration. This car is closer than any recent arrival to fulfilling the singular next-car requirements of the Steering Committee (thus replacing her trusty, 85,000-mile Fiat 500 TwinAir), because it fits any space, has an amazing cabin package, sports a gearchange worthy of our Mazda MX-5, looks satisfyingly funky and refuses absolutely to deliver less than 55mpg. Automotively, we’re in clover.
Visited my new Lotus M100, professionally stored near home, to take pictures; it’s soon to appear in the Our Cars section of our sister organ Classic & Sports Car and I didn’t have any decent images. I’ve never had a decent garage (a big problem with our barn is something a neighbour jokingly labels ‘condescension’), so it’s comforting at this time of the year to know that your pristine classic car is living in bone-dry, well-ventilated conditions, with its battery connected to a trickle-charger. I’m paying £100 per month, which even for a £10,000 car seems a good investment.
I did some research before choosing my storage firm and discovered that secure car slots are a bit like hotel rooms: some people prefer economy, others like to pay £400 a month to store their Ferrari Daytonas in places with oil paintings on the walls. For me, it’s a case of Travelodge versus Ritz: the prices are very different, but both provide you with decent accommodation.
It’s funny how quickly one forgets the names of ‘retiring’ Formula 1 teams. While shooting the breeze with friends via Zoom on the prospects of the new Aston Martin F1 project, I found the team’s previous handles of Racing Point and Force India were already slipping my mind, and the Spyker and Midland names that it wore before them had gone already.