Max Mosely has got it very wrong with his proposals to put a break on technological development and speed in Formula One. When business goes bad, Britons have always looked to powerful cars to cheer them up.
Next time miserable Max feels like indulging in a little fancy dress will the killjoy of the world’s most glamorous sport decide the character he would really like to be is badger from the Wind in the Willows?
It was badger who devoted himself to frustrating the auto-addicted amphibian’s dreams of high octane on the open road.
In the beastly brock’s imagination, ‘Toad is busy arraying himself in those singularly hideous habiliments so dear to him which transform him form a (comparatively) good-looking Toad into n object which throws any decent-minded animal that comes across it into a fit.’
And so poor Toad is stripped of his gear and imprisoned in his own house. What would Jeremy Clarkson have to say about that or GQ motoring correspondent (and Lord Mayor of London), Boris Johnson?
Big, fast cars have been associated with our heroes since the first traffic jam was invented. During the 1930s depression no character was more popular than the Bulldog Drummond, the First World War hero turned amateur detective.
Happiness, for Bulldog, is a fast car and a vast armoury. His creator, Sapper makes it very plain where any right-thinking Briton stands on guns and cars:
‘The 30hp two-seater made short work of the run to Godalming. Under the dicky seat lay a small bag containing the bare necessities for the night; and as Drummond thought of the two guns rolled up carefully in his pyjamas the harmless toy and the wicked little automatic he grinned to himself.
‘Persistent honking behind him aroused him from his reverie and he pulled into the side of the road. Under normal circumstances, he would have let his own car out, and as she could touch 90 with ease, he very rarely found himself passed. But this afternoon he felt disinclined to race.’
No worries for Drummond that he would be limited in the number of engines he could get through in a season.
And no need to feel pressured when you’ve got 30hp under the bonnet, and a wicked little pistol in your jim-jams either.
John Lodge played the very British hero in a 1937 film, perfectly summing up the position of the sexes in the inter-wars years. ‘I never found a woman who could handle a car,’ he tells the lady of the piece. ‘I never found a man who could handle a woman,’ she replies. Could Jeremy or Boris have put it any better?
After the Second World War Ian Flemming gave the country another ex-officer with a penchant for fast cars.
But Bond could never have trailed Goldfinger to Switzerland with a ban on refuelling. Godalming maybe: Geneva never.
Nor could Q have supplied him with the essential gadgets if there had been a ban on aerodynamic research, and factory closures for six weeks a year.
As to sgaring the same transmission in his Bentley as Hugo Drax had fitted to his Mercedes in Moonraker, M (as opposed to Mosely) would have had him shot for treason.
Even when writing for children, Fleming put cars at the centre of his stories. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is based on the monster cars that Count Louis Zborowski tested, without limit, along the A20 in Kent. No rev limits or dreams of energy efficiency for the Count. He fitted airplane engines to cars. Bang Bang II, for example, was powered by a 18,882cc Merceds Benz aero engine.
If the world’s most exciting motors are to be muzzled, it’s a spiral into depression for all those brought up on dreams of open roads and thundering motors.
Even our songs will have to change.
Goodbye Prince’s Liitle Red Corvette, say hello to his new Little Red Corsa. The Beach Boys sang about their Little Deuce Coupe, ‘ She’s got a competition clutch with four on the floor And she purrs like a kitten till the lake pipes roar.’ Would they say the same of a Little Deuce Hybrid?
Janis joplin begged, ‘Oh lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive Porsches I must make amends.’ It just doesn’t work with a Mazda and a Panda, does it? John Travolta loved Greased Lightning, but with the power limitations and cap on research that would now be, at best, a case of Flickering Neon.
And instead of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, it would be a bimble down a B Raod to Bognor.
Petrol heads: your country needs you!