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    Andrew English
    Andrew English is now following Diederik Plug
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    CAR #1965-Aston-Martin-DB5 / #1965 / #Aston-Martin-DB5 / #Aston-Martin

    OWNER Andrew English

    ‘I’m not In love, so don’t forget it,’ sang 10cc, in their eponymous 1975 number-one single; and I was beginning to feel the same way about Gobbo, my Aston Martin DB5.

    I’d almost decided to sell the old girl and had squared my conscience with the idea of parting with the ‘family heirloom’, as my wife puts it on the good days. But then I saw the new Bond No Time To Die trailer, which is book-ended by his Silver Birch DB5 roaring and sliding, battered but unbowed and firing its chain guns (yes, forget those Brownings). It’s the sort of film that makes you wonder whether you really want to relinquish one of the loveliest things you’ve ever owned.

    She’s been in my hands for many years now, though the Aston Martin Owners’ Club people still call her ‘Bob Fairburn’s Old Car’ or ‘Gobbo’. I bought her just as the tumbling masonry of the get-rich-quick ’80s was falling around our ears and DB5s were still rare, but available. I heard Gobbo before I bought her, twice. First, as Fairburn gunned her engine as he headed up to Glasgow after taking a class win at the AMOC Wiscombe hillclimb.

    Second, when a friend raced Gobbo past my house on open exhausts, the rev-counter yowling past 6000rpm. I lifted my head and entered the fantasy world that the impoverished Aston Martin owner must keep one foot in.

    In the meantime she’s been raced and hillclimbed but always as a standard car. She’s done countless high days and holidays and school proms, and had money poured into her slightly faster than you can pour it out of a two-gallon can. Two engine and complete drivetrain rebuilds, countless suspension and brake refurbs, and paint – oh, the paint that car has had in my tenure.

    Best event was undoubtedly the 1400m Mont Ventoux hillclimb in southern France, where we were gate-crashers on part-entry fees and were asked by the organisers to slow down as we were upsetting owners with potentially far faster cars. Another best day was when my daughter took the wheel.

    They’re all best days in an Aston but I have to admit that, while the costs have risen, my income hasn’t. Writing about cars never really did stretch to running a classic Aston, but these days it’s quite impossible; rates haven’t risen for over a decade. Gobbo really should go to someone with the wherewithal to keep her in the manner to which she’s become accustomed.

    Trouble is, as soon as you announce that such an unmolested prize – she’s never been totally apart – is for sale, you are descended on by an army of the most deluded Walter Mittys. ‘Just put a bloody advert in the paper: it’s simple,’ said Talacrest’s John Collins a few years ago, when I interviewed him about selling a Ferrari GTO. According to my friend Andrew Mitchell of body shop and restoration specialist Mitchell Motors in Wiltshire, however, now is not a good time to offer Gobbo up for sale. ‘If things pick up, try the Spring.’

    Good advice – but if you’re interested, get in touch anyway. To use that time-worn phrase: please, no time-wasters…
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    Andrew English
    Andrew English is now following Delwyn Mallett
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    Bumper cars

    CAR #1965-Aston-Martin-DB5 / #1965 / #Aston-Martin-DB5 / #Aston-Martin-DB / #Aston-Martin

    OWNER Andrew English

    It’s been well over a year since I decided to put bumpers back on the Aston and it’s been away at Mitchell Motors in Wiltshire for almost six months being measured, prodded and poked. Parts of it have been removed and photographed, and bodywork patterns have been made, with images sent off to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) in Vietnam. It’s here that Harrington Group has its 32,000sq ft factory making 300 different classic-car bumpers and a growing range of half-scale replica cars.

    Of course, I could have bought unfinished steel blanks, but once tailored, chromium-plated and fitted, they’d cost four times the £1650 of these stainless-steel Vietnamese-made examples. And, since we’ve even been to the trouble of creating a wooden buck for the back of the car, there’s no excuse for getting it wrong. Well, that’s the theory.

    Ly Phan, managing director of the Harrington Group, told me as she sipped a coffee in my kitchen: ‘There are some rivals making stainless bumpers, but they aren’t as good as ours.’ Hang on: ‘In my kitchen’? Yes. Phan was in Britain a few months ago and stopped off for a chat and to collect the rolled-up pattern for the rear bumper, which she was taking back as hand luggage. This was a fairly serious undertaking, for the big cardboard tube was almost as tall as she is.

    Harrington was formed in 2003 by Phan and her ex-partner Nathan Redfearn. He’d worked in the classic car industry and could see the advantage of Vietnam’s local craft skills and low wage rates in creating labour-intensive parts for old cars. I questioned Phan closely over my fears that this might be a Vietnamese sweatshop employing underage workers in terrible conditions.

    ‘We have 60 people employed,’ she says, ‘and we are expanding steadily. We are about 30 minutes from the centre of Saigon and that is the beauty of the works, where there are old English Wheels and the skills to use them.’

    Phan recounts how they were initially determined to pay double the average wage of about £100 a month. ‘We paid them £200 at the end of the month and the next day they didn’t show up,’ she says. ‘That was lesson one… Now we pay around £150 a month plus insurance and healthcare. There is employment law in Vietnam and I am confident about how we treat our employees.’

    Harrington’s most skilled panelbeater does all the bodywork on the scale replicas and earns £650 a month.

    A couple of nights ago I watched my savings account empty into PayPal. We’ll see if it was money well spent when the bumpers arrive.

    From top Andrew’s DB5 was measured in Wiltshire and never left the UK. Meanwhile, patterns were sent to Vietnam, where new bumpers were made up. The company also builds half-scale replica classics.
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    SHOWROOM STARS #Aston-Martin-One-77 / #2016 / #Aston-Martin / #2016-Aston-Martin-One-77 / £1,800,000

    Aston Martin Works, UK. +44 (0)1908 610620, www.astonmartinworks.com

    The economics of buying a brand new car outright still make little sense in general – the AA reckons that the average new car is worth just 40% of the purchase price after three years – but in recent times several hypercars have demonstrated that not everything loses value the moment it is driven away from the showroom. Defying the depreciation curve with particular belligerence is the Aston Martin One-77, a £1.2-million machine when delivery began in 2011, and even more expensive in the UK once Her Majesty’s Government had added VAT at 20%.

    It was easy to understand why the price tag was so large, though: each of the 77 cars built was completed to the buyer’s specification inside and out, and beneath the handcrafted aluminium body was an awe-inspiring 750bhp V12, then the most powerful naturally aspirated petrol engine in the world. (That title now belongs to the 6.2-litre 770bhp unit in the Ferrari F12tdf but, if the factory figures are to be believed, the One-77 is nonetheless the quicker car, topping out at a tyre-shredding 220mph.)

    It was devastatingly attractive, too – very recognisably a post-DB9 Aston, but with a don’t-mess, all-business aesthetic of its own. Unsurprisingly, in the years since 2011, those who were unable to secure a One-77 when new have been prepared to pay handsomely to acquire a used car. Handsomely enough, in fact, that values are already far north of the new price.

    ‘Used’ is probably the wrong word, for there are not many One-77s in the world that are driven regularly. Indeed, the car currently available through Aston Works has done just 900 miles, and presents in correspondingly pristine condition.

    Its first owner picked a combination of Pearl Black paint over a silver-and-black interior. That wouldn’t have been our choice, but we needn’t worry about that: not only do we not have £1,800,000 to spend, but the car is also unlikely to be available for long. The market shows that the world’s car enthusiasts have conferred classic status on the One-77 already. Getting hold of one will only get harder.
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    Andrew English
    Andrew English joined the group Aston Martin
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    It’s not about the money

    CAR: #1965-Aston-Martin-DB5 / #Aston-Martin-DB5 / #1965 / #Aston-Martin-DB5 / #Aston-Martin

    OWNER: Andrew English

    Funny how folk seem to want to offer financial advice at every turn, especially when they learn you own an Aston Martin and even more so when they learn it’s a DB5. Several years ago, forthcoming Top Gear Stig replacement Chris Harris told me to sell it ‘and buy a proper racing car’. Then, last year, website supremo Honest John (aka Peter Lorimer) passed on the advice of supercar dealer Tom Hartley that, as soon as interest rates rose, my old car would plummet in value. Oh, and when the Fed finally did raise interest rates for the first time in a decade just before Christmas, the chorus of ‘sell it’ from friends, colleagues and family was deafening. Glad everyone’s got my best interests at heart.

    Yet if Gobbo (the family heirloom) was to go up for sale, it wouldn’t be about bloomin’ interest rates, but more because of a deep weariness at being repeatedly told what a great investment it’s been. No-one ever asks what it’s like to drive or own. And its investment potential isn’t quite that clear-cut, either. In my almost-quarter-century tenure, Gobbo’s had a partial body rebuild, two complete engine, gearbox and rear-axle rebuilds, endless suspension rebuilds and fettling, two complete resprays plus countless blow-overs, a full retrim plus reupholstered driver and passenger seats. Add annual servicing, tyres, fuel, expensive brakes, very expensive oil and a couple of windscreens and you’re looking down the barrel of 160 grand.

    Of course, the millionaires have almost completely taken over the upper end of the classic car scene these days and there’s an almost terrifying price inflation taking place in services and parts. Take the interior lamps in the cabin, for example. These plastic Hella items are the most absolute rubbish, fitted to Astons, Mercedes and some VW models I think. The heat from the festoon bulbs heats the clear plastic lamp cover and makes it brittle, so the delicate clips break off and the cover lands in your lap.

    So I purchased six covers many years ago from Adrian Musto at Aston Engineering in Derby for £20 a pop. The last one landed in my lap last week and I phoned to ask for a renewal price – and gently put the phone down when I was told it was £108 plus VAT. My wife Philippa’s skills as a fine-art restorer came in handy to fix the broken lamp (pictured top).

    The number of David Brown-era cars going through the doors of the respected Aston builders such as Aston Engineering, Davron (which looks after Gobbo) and Richard Stewart Williams is extraordinary at the moment. They’ve become investment cars, like cigarettes in prisoner-of-war camps, yet few of them are ever used. ‘They’ve been driven off the road,’ said one restorer.

    And are these gussied-up 4s, 5s and 6s any good? David Reed handed over the keys to Gobbo last month after a reassuringly expensive service (including new hubs and brake master cylinder). ‘After driving some quite good-looking DBs that are completely awful,’ he said, ‘it’s just lovely to get behind the wheel of one as well-sorted as yours.’

    I know people love to talk about money, but I don’t. Next time I have a conversation about Gobbo, hopefully it’ll be about what it’s like to drive and not how much it’s worth – that’s really dull.
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    A punch to the solar plexus. Lexus’s Mercedes SL rival offers a properly snorting V8. Words Andrew English.

    / #Lexus-LC500 / #2017-Lexus-LC500 / #Lexus / #2017 / #Lexus-LC

    After a mixed reception for the smaller Lexus RC coupé in 2014, there’s a lot riding on this all-new LC. Not least is the pride of this upmarket Toyota badge, which has been continually traduced for being boring by Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s chief executive. There’s also the fact that this steel, carbonfibre and aluminium chassis platform will also underpin next year’s new LS saloon and all future big, rear-drive Lexus cars.

    So the 4.8m-long, 2+2 GT has been given the startling look of the 2012 LC-LF concept, while the cabin borrows from the style set by the LFA supercar, its facia dominated by horizontal lines and slightly reminiscent of 1970s US luxury cars. Material choice is fabulous, with soft leathers and satin metals, but the centre-screen is too small and the touch-pad controller is a poor substitute for the capstan controls on German rivals. Top models get a Mark Levinson stereo; it sounds terrific but struggles against the roar of the optional 21in Michelin run-flat tyres.

    There are two drivetrains, both costing the same. The LC 500, with a 467bhp/389lb ft 5.0-litre, quad-cam V8 coupled to a ten-speed auto transmission, has a top speed of 168mph, reaches 62mph in 4.4sec and emits 267g/km of CO2. The innovative LC 500h is a petrol-electric hybrid that uses a 291bhp/257lb ft 3.5-litre V6, a four-speed automatic gearbox mounted on the back of the 174bhp twin-motor hybrid system with CVT, and a 1.1kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The idea is that the four gears combine with the CVT’s artificial ‘ratios’ to give ten ‘speeds’ in total and reduce the rubber-band driving effect often associated with this Prius-based technology. Figures are 155mph, 0-62mph in 4.7sec and 148g/km of CO2.

    Double-wishbone suspension, a low centre of gravity and a 50:50 weight distribution promise pleasing chassis dynamics, while the most expensive Sport+ package gets variable-ratio steering, a rearsteering system, a carbonfibre roof and a Torsen limited-slip differential. These were the cars we drove.

    On the road the V8 is a delight, gurgling and snorting with giddy amounts of high-revving power up to 7100rpm and that tenspeed filling the low-torque gap at the bottom end of the revcounter. We’re going to miss engines like this when they’re gone. It’s fun to over-drive this Lexus with the tyres squealing, but ultimately the handling is deliberate rather than sports-car agile. It’s a big, wide car and feels it, but body control is good, the steering loads up progressively and the brakes feel strong and positive. It rides well, too, although those harsh tyres don’t do the low-speed comfort many favours.

    The hybrid likes to pull away in electric mode but the engine chimes in soon after, providing a screaming, high-rev soundtrack. It’s possible to identify the real from the artificial gearchanges but there’s still a precision in the driving process. It’s not as fast as the #V8 , of course, but the combined electric and petrol power is more than enough, even if it sounds laboured at times.

    The hybrid weighs just over two tonnes and it shows. The steering feels over-assisted when turning-in and it’s difficult to sense just how hard the tyres are working. It feels more trustworthy once it’s actually in the corner, but you can’t grab it by the scruff of the neck and hurl it up the road in quite the way you can with the V8. It rides brilliantly, however, even on those optional 21in tyres.

    Priced at between £76,595 and £85,895 depending on spec, the LC is good value against the opposition. I’d choose the V8 for its power, soundtrack and superior handling, but the hybrid is far more economical and – much to Lexus management’s surprise – is occupying about half of UK orders.

    Left, above and below LC touts shout-out-loud looks and supremely comfortable seats, but it’s a wide, heavy GT.
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