President's Log

Edmund King explains the joys of summer motoring

Edmund King Driving recently through St Albans I saw a dark green Ford Zodiac Mark 111 which brought the memories of summer motoring flooding back.

During the Sixties, my dad was very much a Ford man with various Zephyrs and Zodiacs. In the Seventies when he worked for a French wine company he became a Citroën man with a new DS and then SM ever other year. Coming from a big family we always needed big cars. I have very fond memories of the many family adventures we had in those classic Fords and Citroëns.

The Zodiac Mark 111 was produced between 1962 and 1966. I remember being taken to cub camp in the Zodiac on that day in 1966 when England won the World Cup. I also remember throwing up my cap in the air and losing it when Geoff Hirst scored that hat trick. My boys are amazed that I wasn't at Wembley or indeed watching it on television... well we didn't have a television as we had too many kids or vice versa.

We thought we had arrived when we got the Zodiac as it was an up market version of the Zephyr 6 with sharper roofline and tail, unique grille (four headlights instead of two), exclusive bumper bars, plusher seating, and posh upholstery, dashboard and interior fittings.

The Citroën DS was a different beast. Produced between1955 and 1975 it was years ahead of its time. Styled by Italian sculptor and industrial designer Flaminio Bertoni and the French aeronautical engineer André Lefèbvre, the DS was known for its aerodynamic futuristic body design and innovative technology, including a hydraulic self-levelling suspension. My dad couldn't resist showing off the 'high suspension' lever and telling us it was essential for driving through fords. He even drove us to a 12-inch ford near Cringleford, in Norfolk, to show it off.

The DS came in third in the 1999 Car of the Century competition, recognizing the world's most influential auto designs, and was named the most beautiful car of all time by 'Classic & Sports Car' magazine. We all loved the DS.

So this summer, no matter what your car, take some time out to enjoy motoring. As kids we used to love going out and about in the car. Yes with nine kids at times it would be a military operation marshalling us into the car. Knowing what I know today I hate to think of the safety implications of four in the front (bench seat essential) and seven in the back without a seat belt or child seat in sight. The only problem was Alice as we though she had a bony bottom so would be based along the lower level of siblings.

I guess the classic trip was ten of us going to Bordeaux in the DS. My mother was scared of losing us on the ferry so we all had to wear hideous red, white and blue toweling t-shirts. The gendarme at customs tried about ten times to count us... un, deux, trois... wiggle, move, pass Alice on... un, deux, trois. In the end he gave up on the mad English and waved us on.

Even if we have record prices at the pumps you don't have to go far to have fun. Take your time; take a picnic and even take the b-roads. Stop in a forest, by a lake, a canal or search for a rural pub. Take your own picnic and sit on a rug. Sometimes it the fast moving world it is good to just slow down. My favorite poem is 'Leisure' by William Henry Davies.

"What is this life if, full of care. We have no time to stand and stare."

So get that top down, get the classic out of the garage, and get the kids in the car and drive. Follow Simon Calder's advice in 'The Independent' and take the 'B' roads: "Before the motorway age, motorists enjoyed a far closer and rewarding engagement with the country through which they travelled. Britain is latticed with a chronology of thoroughfares from Iron Age tracks via Roman roads to Thomas Telford's magnificent works connecting London with North Wales. As these were superseded by roads that were wider and faster (at least in theory), many of them were relegated to 'B' roads – bestowing the UK with a shadow network of highways for motorists keener on the quality of the journey than sheer speed.

"'B' road Britain is blossoming with light traffic on a wide range of secondary roads running parallel to trunk links. When you are not in a hurry 'B' roads are the way to go. Take your time, stop off at a pub in then middle of nowhere, and enjoy the drive through woods and across rivers that you never experience on the M1, M4, M5, M6, M8 and the M25."

Why not follow some of these 'B' routes below kindly reproduced with permission from Simon Calder at 'The Independent'.

B3181, M5 junction 27-Exeter

Circumvent the final four junctions of the M5 by taking the B3181 that meanders over the motorway several times and deposits you in the beautiful centre of Exeter. If you sense that the road seems surprisingly good for a 'B' road, that is because it was once the main A38.

B390 and B3095, Stonehenge-Gillingham, Dorset

The M3/A303 fast track to the South-west becomes frustratingly slow in good weather. This pair of 'B' roads may therefore save time as you meander across Salisbury Plain, as well as providing a satisfying journey through ancient landscapes.

B2036, Gatwick airport-Burgess Hill

Bank Holiday weekends drive Londoners in their tens of thousands to the nearest 'proper' seaside resort, Brighton. Avoid the constricted M23/A23 corridor from Gatwick airport by taking this picturesque and undulating link through wonderful unspoilt villages.

B1176, Stamford-Grantham

The A1(M) is one of Britain's most dispiriting highways, bypassing almost everywhere of interest. But patches of the old Great North Road remain, and this section connects two historic market towns and reminds drivers of the loveliness of Lincolnshire.

B5381, St Asaph's-Llandudno Junction

The main route along the coast of North Wales towards the Llyn Peninsula, Anglesey, obscures views of Snowdonia and the shoreline. So steer off the for a dozen junctions on this scenic byway.

B7078, Abington Services-Hamilton

Forget the M74 link between Glasgow and Carlisle: the Borders offer a serene alternative – and even has long stretches of dual carriageway to help ease caravan rage.

B862, Inverness-Fort Augustus

Main Street for the Highlands is the monstrous A82. Far better to take the high road on the opposite bank of Loch Ness. Besides sublime views across the mountains, there is even the option to take a sub-byway in the shape of the B852

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