Youngsters today: tell 'em what's what!

| 22 Jun 2011

Isn’t it about time we started to campaign for a revised driving test? No, I don’t mean making it tougher for all of those young whippersnappers – although frankly that’s not such a bad idea – but rather making it more classic-friendly. Let me explain. I am the first to admit that I lack the commitment of colleagues Port and Elliott. I don’t drive my MG Magnette to work every day – the school run followed by my shunting commute is tough on a 54-year-old car and my ‘Youngtimer’ classic, which is perfect for it, is currently in the dry dock – but I do try to take the ZB at least once or twice a week, otherwise what’s the point in having it? The trouble is that, though I am familiar with its foibles (and limitations), other road users most definitively are not.

Not that performance is an issue – after all, my car was supposedly a ‘sports saloon’. It’s sprightly enough to keep up around town, with a sweet ride over ruts and speed-humps, and plenty faster than better than school-run mums in their 4x4s think as they pull out into non-existent gaps in their desperation to avoid getting stuck behind an old banger. In doing so, however, they highlight the car’s biggest flaw: brakes – or lack thereof. The Magnette’s stoppers could be better, but even at their best they are no match for modern systems so please, people, don’t brake-test a car made in 1957 with your all-ventilated, servo-assisted cocoon with its ABS, EBA, EBD and whatever this week’s acronym of choice is.

My other big fear – apart from blinding headlights of oncoming traffic being no match for my Florence Nightingale candlepower, as supplied by Prince of Darkness Lucas – is when those impatient moderns are behind me. The tailgating I can deal with – as we’ve already ascertained, they’ll be a couple of footie pitches behind in the case of an emergency stop – but even the most eagle-eyed under-50 motorist will struggle with my signals. You see, the back of my car boasts just two lamps, both red, which multi-task as tail and brake lights, and distinguishing between the two isn’t exactly easy. And that’s before we get to turn signals. I’m rather proud of the MG’s fully functioning trafficators, which are quite marvellous to behold; trouble is, no one ever beholds the damn things. Instead, almost without fail, they nearly career into the back of me, then lean on their horns and sling verbal bows and arrows at my sheepishly departing tail. It’s not entirely their fault, I guess: does the Highway Code even tell drivers today what trafficators are any more?

Aside from a little rewrite of the aforementioned road-safety tome – not to mention a few classic-friendly questions added into the written driving test – I have one other suggestion. My solution is for all driving academies to keep a fleet of Morris Minor 1000s: a car not so tricky that a new driver would find it intimidating, but alien enough to give an insight into – and hopefully a bit of empathy for – the world of the classic driver.