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Tags:   Cars,   Motoring

By The Swag Team   -  July 08, 2014

The former motoring editor of The Sunday Times of Malta and well-known car afficonado tells SWAG on his daily driver, a 30-year-old Jaguar, why purely electric cars are still 10 years away, and on why he became a car person relatively late on in life.

What was your very first car?


My first car was a two-door Fiat 127. It was bright red with wide tyres and had been used for racing. Within a week it went into the mechanic’s shop with engine problems. But it served its purpose until I bought my first family car. Over the years I’ve also owned a Peugeot 309, a Hyundai Lantra Estate and a seven-seater Opel Zafira, the car I use for family driving. I use a long wheelbase Jaguar Sovereign XJ40 as a daily driver.


Have there been any car purchases you regretted over the years?


Yes, there was one car that initially caused a lot of heartbreak but, after that early setback, went on to give good service and I even went overland with it up to the north of Italy.


What cars do you plan on owning in the future?


I would like to own a brand new luxury car but that will not happen for at least another 10 to 15 years. Having reported on the new car business for 25 years, and seen so much change in that time, I will decide on the make and model depending on my budget and physical disposition at the time.


Do you have a favourite TV or film car?


The Herbie film series cars were cute and celebrated the underdog, who we all tend to root for... at least I do anyway. I am not a particular fan of cars in movies, though.


If you could own a road car currently available for sale, what would it be?


The Nissan Qashqai – practical, roomy and dependable.


If you could own any classic car what would it be?


My current Jaguar is almost 30 years old and I intend to keep it for a few more years, as long as it is economically serviceable. Any classic car I could own in future has to have a history and must reflect the era for which it was designed.


What’s the best car you’ve ever driven?


It’s been some time since I have test driven cars as a motoring journalist, especially abroad, so the cars that usually make their way to Malta are run of the mill to me. One car that stands out was the Corvette I drove in the south of France and on the Paul Ricard circuit in 2006.


What have been your best, and worst moments when driving?


Best: driving on the track at Monza for the launch of the Pirelli P7000 tyre and sitting inside a rally car with a world championship rally driver at the wheel. Worst: a feeling of helplessness when my brakes failed and I simply had to crash my vehicle to bring it to a halt.


How are you at car maintenance?


I strongly believe in servicing cars regularly but I leave it to the experts.


Have you always been a car fan?


No. I bought the Fiat when I was 16 but I only obtained my car licence when I was around 20, since I got my bike licence first and drove a motorbike, a Honda S110. I kept driving that bike for around 20 years. My love for cars developed because of my journalism work and I gravitated towards motoring journalism in the mid- to late 80s when I reported on such car launches as the Fiat Tipo, the Punto, Bravo/Brava and the Opel Vectra.


What about motor racing?


I have been watching motor racing, Formula 1 in particular, ever since I can remember. One memory that sticks in my mind is the moment Ayrton Senna crashed. But I always tried to allow other people, who were more expert than myself to write about the sport in my motoring publications and only ever attended one F1 race, at Monza.


Have you ever raced a car?


Yes several times and on different circuits. I attended a track day at Silverstone in 1997, did advanced driver training at the Andrea de Adamic academy on Alfas and have also driven on a couple of race tracks in Spain for various car launches.


Who is your favourite racing driver?


Ayrton Senna is an all-time favourite for his spirit and character. I have a lot of admiration for Schumacher and Vettel for their achievements but of the current crop I am rooting for Hamilton this year.


What advice would you give to someone who is looking to buy a car?


Cars are not built to last beyond their warranty period. Don’t bust your budget but always go for a brand new car if you can afford it. Ask yourself what you intend to use the car for and do your homework properly. There are plenty of comparison websites to look to for advice.


Do you have any favourite driving songs?


Classical music, though not opera, to soothe the nerves and avoid road rage.


What’s on your car stereo at the moment?


Classic FM, when it’s on air.


Is there a famous road in the world that you dream of driving along one day?


None in particular, but I would love to drive overland to Malta from the UK one day.


Who would be your dream passengers on a long journey – dead or alive?


If it were a male, John F. Kennedy; a female, anyone who can provide intelligent conversation and let me get on with the driving.


How would you like to see the motor industry develop – keeping environmental and other world problems in mind?


The car industry is not going to ditch the combustion engine any time soon. Hybrids are the way forward and cost-effective electric vehicles that are respectful of the entire value chain, in terms of cost to produce and cost to recycle, are still more than a decade away.


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