Spring really is in the air
After cautiously welcoming a gradual return to daily life in the first few weeks of May, many of us are starting to feel like a corner has been turned, with the road to normality now looking a lot clearer. Even the weather has improved, making life for those still 'zooming from home' perhaps a little easier. Like many of you, we at Lockton are looking forward to the return to the office, seeing colleagues and friends away from a screen and having face-to-face meetings and conversations. The odd pint after work on a Friday will be welcomed too.
With this in mind, please read on for all the latest news in the world of performance, luxury, classic and special vehicles as we bring your our roundup for May below.
A fond goodbye to the man behind the Mondeo
Unfortunately, we did receive some sad news at the beginning of this month. We wrote in April's roundup about the Ford Mondeo, and we are sad to report the passing of the man behind the Mondeo, Professor Richard Parry-Jones.
Parry-Jones revolutionised the way Ford made cars – and that is no exaggeration. He oversaw the move in focus for Ford from pure cost-saving to vastly improved driver dynamics, and his Mondeo, Focus and reworked Fiesta were and remain proof of that ethos. These are all humble 'cars of the people' that genuinely drive brilliantly.
Many European manufacturers revamped their products to compete with Ford models, particularly during the 1990s. Parry-Jones was also behind Ford's successful return to rallying during the 1990s, recruiting Malcolm Wilson to manage and Colin McRae to drive the Focus WRC which went on to score more than 40 victories and two manufacturer titles. Before his passing, Parry-Jones had recently joined Aston Martin from retirement, such was the demand for his expertise.
It was, however, road car development where his genius was most apparent. While Parry-Jones was himself an exceptional driver with a motorsport background, creating cars that drove superbly at normal speeds will remain his automotive legacy.
Formula One season in full throes
We think Professor Parry-Jones would have thoroughly approved of the way this year's Formula One season has started and with how thrilling it is turning out to be, with the long anticipated clash between the two best drivers on the current grid in machinery. The competition appears more evenly matched than it has been in many years.
While the Lewis and Max show has already given us wheel to wheel excitement and a level of race craft that is stunning to watch (and looks set to continue to do so), it is equally wonderful to watch some of the new young talent starting to shine. Lando Norris in particular is showing what he is capable of with a good car, Lawrence Stroll and Charles LeClerc likewise. If this is what the next few years of the sport will look like, then we think it's in very, very good hands. The return of some famous European circuits is a real plus too for many longer term fans of the sport.
Historic motorsport has also made a welcome return with the Vintage Sports Car Club, Historic Sports Car Club and Masters all bringing plenty of on-track action at Donington and Silverstone, with machinery ranging from the very best pre-war cars through to F1 machines from the golden era of the 70s. Spectators are yet to be allowed back in numbers, but we hope that this is only around the corner.
We are excited to be able to confirm that Lockton will once again be attending Salon Prive in September. We will be able to tell you more next month so watch this space!
The events don't stop there. We will once again be a headline partner to Veloce – the trackday like no other. We have written about this event and also the amazing events planned around the trackday. The support last year bordered on truly spectacular and we look forward to returning to Goodwood's famous tarmac to meet up, see the cars and star drivers and, most importantly, raise as much for the event's charities as possible.
Car clubs are finalising their plans for 2021 and Lockton will be attending as many of their shows and events as we can. These are at the heart of our club partnerships and we are looking forward to returning to them as much as the clubs and their members are.
The Caffeine and Machine
We have stepped out on the road for what feels like the first time in a long, long while, with a trip up to Caffeine and Machine in Warwickshire. Brainchild of father and son team Alan and Phil McGovern, Caffeine and Machine is a former country pub acquired by the pair back in 2015, which they have gradually converted into something of a hub for anyone with a drop of petrol in their veins.
At the heart of the concept is an acceptance of anything with wheels – from motorcycles to Maseratis, combine harvesters (yes, really), to Corvettes – all are welcome, providing that you behave. If have visited before, you'll have read the signs asking you to leave 'without being silly' – so you know the drill!
A place to congregate with like-minded enthusiasts, enjoy an excellent burger, ribs or a coffee and wander around the always excellent array of machinery in the grounds, it really is a great hangout. If you haven't paid them a visit, then we recommend you make the trip. Find out more about the venue here.
Luxury car market rallies
In other motoring news, we're pleased to report extremely positive results announced by luxury car makers, with sales bouncing back from one of the worst years on record. Rolls Royce, for example, reports sales up by 62% for the first quarter of 2021 from the previous year. This represents its best sales performance in the company's 116-year history.
Bentley's figures are similarly positive and it is worth remembering that, when sales and productivity increase, so to do job opportunities – particularly good news for any UK-based manufacturer and their supply chains.
New models on the horizon
We've written plenty about iconic cars known by their badge alone and the letters 'GTI' sit firmly in this category. The originators of the GTI have recently announced that future performance-orientated EV models will be named 'GTX' to distinguish them from their regular stablemates. Model rollout has yet to be confirmed but the cars can be identified by their sportier appearance and, of course, their greater performance.
We recently wrote about Group B rally cars and Italian classic car restorer Kimera Automibili has recently announced plans to produce a reimagined model. Videos reveal that the 'new' car will remain faithful to the original and Kimera recruited some of the original design team to ensure that this stays central to the project.
Chief among this is the inclusion of Claudio Lombardi, the man who designed the original car's engine meaning that the car will be powered by a 2000cc turbo and supercharged unit, which will produce 550bhp, just as the original was. In a car weighing less than 1000kg, performance will surely be comparable with many modern supercars and delivered in a way equally reminiscent of the car's famous ancestor.
Pricing for each of the 37 cars has been confirmed at around £430,000 and Kimera will follow this project with ten Integrales, following the same ethos.
Reimagined classic cars have an unarguable place in the sector, appealing both to those wanting to combine the look and feel of an old car with modern engineering, performance and safety, or to those wishing to recreate an icon. It really is fantastic to see more of these projects becoming reality.
Staying with the theme of reimagined cars, our friends at GTO Engineering have announced their take on Ferrari's legendary 250 GT SWB. Named 'The Squalo' (Italian for Shark), it takes a brave team to produce a homage to such a legend, but GTO have managed to produce a design that clearly resembles the original while including just the right balance of modern touches.
The body is made from carbon, with doors and bonnet in aluminium (the same as on the original car), and the engine remains very traditional – a four cam V12 made to the original design. GTO have extensive experience in building engines for a wide range of classic Ferrari models and, while power figures are yet to be confirmed, the weight should be at or just below 1000kg, promising thoroughly modern performance.
Perhaps the best known example of the mass produced reimagined car celebrates its twentieth birthday this year. It's hard to believe that BMW's Mini first rolled off the production line in 2001, such is the familiarity for the reborn icon. More than 3,000,000 cars have been produced since launch in five current bodystyles and the car appeared in a reboot of its ancestor's famous movie outing in the 2003 version of The Italian Job, boosting the car's popularity in the USA.
Production continues at the historic Cowley plant in Oxford, home of the original Mini, and cars are produced at factories in Swindon and The Netherlands. The BMW Mini is sold in 110 countries throughout the world.
The original car sold more than 5.3 million units during a 41 year cycle, so the new model has plenty of time left to surpass this figure.
A halt on production
The semiconductor chip shortage story that we've been following also continues, with Jaguar announcing a temporary production freeze due to a lack of stock. This is caused by a continued excess demand for chips in other sectors, notably in the domestic technology sphere – such has been the increased demand during lockdown.
Recycling for a greener future
We finish our news this month by highlighting reports of an urgent need to upscale the recycling facilities for electronic vehicle (EV) batteries. These batteries have an estimated life cycle of up to 15 years, and it is suggested that existing facilities will have to be significantly expanded to cope with growing volumes due to an upsurge in electric vehicles. EV batteries require a specialist recycling process and specific handling because they are more hazardous than traditional lead batteries.
Manufacturers are leading the charge, with giants like Nissan and VW using recycled batteries in production line equipment and setting up recycling plants to cope with the anticipated increase in demand.
New cars for May
- Bentley Bentayga hybrid and Flying Spur PHEV – the first models in Bentley's move towards an all-electric line-up with the latter borrowing the Porsche Panamera's 671hp drivetrain
- Ferrari SF90 Spider – open-top version of the halo car from Maranello. Expect a 2.5 second 0-60mp time and around 212mph top speed. Without a roof and with the hybrid twin turbocharged V8 motor
- Hyundai i20N – could this be the car to topple Ford's Fiesta ST from its perch on top of the small hot hatch tree? 200hp from its 1600cc turbocharged engine, manual gearbox, optional mechanical differential. The ingredients are all there
- Mercedes AMG GT73 - four door saloon, over 800hp. We're just glad that AMG still make cars like this
- Porsche 911 GT3 – the much anticipated 992 variant of Porsche's driver-focused sports car continues the trend set by its predecessors, as a homologated racing car for road use. Fitted once again with a manual gearbox, there is not a hybrid powertrain in sight
- Porsche Taycan RWD. Few can offer an 'entry level' car with almost 470hp. Porsche is one of those that can. And it's also set the European drift car record with it – 26.2 miles in case you were wondering
So, May has sprung and we hope we're not far away from a return to a less restrictive normal. We know that some things have changed and life will be different for some time yet, but for the time being, we can appreciate the joy of getting back out there in our cars.
Enjoy the drive, seize the day, but most of all: please stay safe.