Fiat Gets It Right!

Fiat Red

Fiat has done a fine job of creating it’s own Mazda MX5. It’s quick and fun to drive, but manages it all in a slightly different way to its sister car. Yes, it’s a little pricier, but for a lot of people the 124 Spider will be just the ticket. The biggest difference between 124 and MX5 is how grown up the Italian car feels.

The two cars share the same chassis structure, suspension and rear-wheel drive transmission but Fiat has done its bit to make the car stand out. Both cars will be built at Mazda’s Hiroshima facility.

While the Mazda uses a couple of naturally aspirated engines, the Fiat makes use of turbocharging, with the 1.4-litre petrol unit boasting 138bhp. Thanks to the turbo kicking in around the mid-point of the rev range, it’s a little more relaxed on the move, only needing a shove on the throttle to make decent progress. The MX5, by comparison, needs to be constantly wound up to get down the road quickly.

But the Fiat’s turbo does come with some disadvantages. It’s not quite as frugal as the entry-level MX5 and below 3,000rpm the engine can seem a little unresponsive due to the undisguisable turbo lag.

Fiat White

Click photo for large side view

The Fiat feels a more refined on the move thanks to an acoustic windscreen, extra sound deadening behind the dashboard and thicker rear glass. The interior also feels slightly plusher – the soft-touch plastics and tan leather seats mean the Fiat feels just a little step up from the Mazda. Moreover, Fiat has recalibrated the steering, making it a little heavier to add to the old-school sports car experience.

Fiat Cockpit

It is clear Fiat is pitching the 124 as a slightly more premium roadster, so it’s real shame there is no limited-slip differential available. It’s standard on the 2.0-litre MX5 but if you want a 124 with one you’ll have to splash out another £10,000 for the Abarth version.
Despite this, there’s no denying Fiat has built a terrific sports car that takes all the MX5’s good points and adds a certain Italian flair. We could argue all day which car is better but the ultimate choice will come down to personal taste. Click on the logo below to learn more about the new Fiat 124 Spider:

Fiat Logo

A Special Award For The MX5!

The festive season is upon us, and we flock to the garden centre  to pick out our Christmas tree, but finding a way of getting it home can be problematic. You can try strapping it to the roof of your car or squeezing it inside, however, neither method is ideal for transporting a larger evergreen, when you are restricted by the length of your roof or interior space. The problem grows larger the larger the tree you buy. Upgrade to a 12 footer and most people end up flummoxed when trying to work out how to get it home!
Which car would be best to transport our 12 foot Evergreen? A Mazda 6 Estate? A CX5? Both good options, but we weren’t convinced that even they would be able to handle our XXL purchase. And then we had a brainwave. We needed a car with personality. A car which would take on any challenge, no matter how big or small. A car that knows what the word fun is all about. Then we knew – we needed an MX5 of course!

MX5 Tree

Roof down and slotting nicely into the passenger position, our Christmas tree looked every bit the comfortable co-pilot. Our huge tree had a ride back to its future residence in style. Not many Christmas trees get to travel along in a multi award winning roadster. Air flowing through its branches, it clearly felt like the good old days when winds whistled through its foliage in the forest. A sense of freedom and style – well, its hard not to feel that way when in an MX5.


So we would like to offer up a new award to the prestigious Mazda MX5: The best car to transport a 12 foot Christmas tree in! It’s not the World’s best selling two seater roadster of all time for nothing!

With thanks to TW White & Sons:


Last Flight of the Vulcan

I spent over 30 years as a Royal Air Force air traffic controller, starting at RAF Kemble with the Red Arrows and then moving on to Area Radar centres, where I spent many hours looking after the huge fleet of Vulcans which were the mainstay of our nuclear deterrent. I have never forgotten the thrill of seeing these incredibly powerful aircraft hurtling down the runway and I feel very sad that XH558 has finally reached the end of her life.

You Take The High Road

Thers is always a plan, we often just don’t know it, and the numbering of roads in the UK is one of those things that I used to wonder about every time I heard the traffic news. It seems I was not alone either, Bill Bryson’s new book, “The Road to Little Dribbling”,  is out now and in a publicity interview at the Cheltenham Festival he said, “The road numbering system in Britain is completely insane!”. Well Bill, I am afraid it ain’t…..

Basically the allocation of numbers is based on a hub-and-spoke system. Because mainland Britain is long and narrow (and because Scotland always likes a measure of autonomy from the Sassenachs), there are actually two hubs, London and Edinburgh. Radiating from these hubs are the nine principal A-roads 1 to 9:

A1 London to Edinburgh
A2 London to Dover
A3 London to Portsmouth
A4 London to Avonmouth
A5 London to Holyhead
A6 London to Carlisle
A7 Edinburgh to Carlisle
A8 Edinburgh to Greenock
A9 Edinburgh to Scrabster

These roads divide Great Britain into nine distinct areas, shown in the map above. Each zone is numbered, taking its number from the A-road on its anticlockwise boundary. From this point, the system is remarkably simple: other roads get their number according to which zone they lie in. Any road in, say, zone 5 gets a number with the first digit 5. It’s as easy as that.

Of course, there’s a system to work out how the rest of the digits are assigned but there is a man who can explain this much better than I can; the amazing CBRD website is an entertaining source of  information about our roads and motorways, just click on this picture of a famous exception to the plan to find out lots more:

Do You Think Anyone Noticed?


Red Arrows pilot Ben Plank (really), Red 8,  hits the wrong button during a display in Shropshire. It would never have happened in my day!

Arrows 2013

To read more about the world’s most famous aerobatic team, just click on the logo below:


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