On the Road

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Transport heritage, whether by road, rail, sea or air, is always a popular subject that gets readers’ – and authors’ - memories going and prompts some wonderful recollections. Our current autumn issue includes the “Motoring Adventures” article, which takes us on a terrific journey across Europe as a writer recalls his family holidays by car from the 1960s and 1970s. Evergreen's winter issue, which is published on 22nd November (click here for subscriptions), features an article highlighting an entirely different method of transport that was once a familiar sight on the streets of certain towns and cities across the UK; the trolleybus. Remember them? They looked just like a conventional bus, but were attached to a network of overhead cables and wires.

It can't have escaped your notice that transport issues have been making headlines recently. In an attempt to improve air quality and reduce environmental pollution there are plans to levy taxes on high-polluting vehicles, while the sale of new petrol and diesel cars is to be banned by 2040. The cleaner, quieter, electric vehicles are seen as the way forward. Plugging-in will replace filling-up at the pumps. Not far from our office two new charging points for electric cars have appeared. These green tarmac bays, with their adjacent white chargers, are occasionally occupied for their legitimate purpose, or by cheeky rogue polluters looking for a free parking space!

I must confess to being in two minds over electric cars. While on the one hand I regard myself as environmentally aware and realise that there is a desperate need to cut pollution, at the moment, I'm not exactly brimming with unbridled enthusiasm to leap into the driving seat of a plug-in car. However, it's clear that many drivers are, as sales of pure electric and hybrid vehicles are accelerating rapidly.

Perhaps my reluctance to navigate my way down electric avenue is because I am a traditionalist and one who adores old vehicles. Much as I love my modern (petrol-powered) set of wheels, the cars of my dreams are from yesteryear. These mechanical masterpieces are imbued with charm, quirks and style. As far as I'm concerned nothing beats the sound and smell of an old petrol-powered engine as it roars, chugs, splutters or vrooms into life. Yes, they may break all the prescribed emissions limits, but they hark back to an era when cars had character, engines were simpler and owners would actually dare to tinker under the bonnet. And, if you were in doubt, you just consulted one of the excellent Haynes Workshop Manuals to guide you through the mechanical maze of oily workings.

When you start the engine of an old car you prepare to embark on an adventure that is a million miles away from the smooth, silent, and - let's be honest - boring ride offered by a modern vehicle. Accelerating, cornering, braking and changing gear are no longer a routine manoeuvre, they are an exhilarating experience and you feel at one with the road. This is real driving - no cruise control, power steering or ABS included! These are the joys of traditional motoring. It is a world away from the illuminated, digital, touch-screen dashboards that we sit behind today as we point and steer our cars.

Whereas the notion of a driverless vehicle, or one powered by electricity, was once the stuff of science fiction, it has - like so many things - become a reality. The new, clean age of motoring has dawned. The electric fleet is growing and I am sure that I will join it ...eventually. But, until then, I'll relish every single mile and gallon of pure petrol power!

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