I have seen motoring utopia and it means driving around with a shed on your roof

| 7 Nov 2011

I spent Saturday driving around London with a shed on the roof of my car. It wasn't assembled, obviously, but it seemed so bonkers that it might as well have been – the shed was rather bigger, heavier and wider than had been anticipated and, though it was quite secure (thanks to Al Clements doing some impressive knots learned from his yachting days), it had an interesting effect on my driving.

With a tonne of wood piled up two foot high and a couple of feet overhanging front, back and sides, you become very aware of, well, everything. Take-up and braking must be super smooth, anticipation is more vital than ever and caution and patience are your watchwords.

Gaps are smaller, speeds are slower and road rage is banished: rather than cursing slow city traffic, you find yourself counting your blessings that you will never reach such a speed that the wind might tuck under the giant wing on your roof and cause alarm systems to start blaring in little towers at Heathrow and Gatwick.

So, all in all, it had a positive effect on me. So much so that I started to think that anyone sent on one of those driver courses because of their ineptitude might just as well be forced to drive around with a shed on the roof instead. Job done.

That said, it isn't just the "shedee" whose driving is noticeably improved.

Oddly, no one seemed to want to tailgate a bloke with a  shed on his roof, neither did they brake suddenly in front of me, forget to indicate, or try and steal my right of way where parked cars reduced the street to a lane and a half (though if it were on a weekday and coincided with the schoolrun, I bet those monster 4x4s would still have charged through the non-existent gaps). A few people may have been impatient or angry at this slow-moving chicane, but they didn't show it.

In fact everyone seems to give a bloke with a shed on his roof a wide berth and drives around him with rare understanding and courtesy. Even cyclists and the weekend warriors in their rented, white 7.5-tonne box vans. Let's face it we've all leased one so we all know that it makes you feel like the king of the road and has a very unwelcome impact on your ego, aggression and driving the moment you have slap a copy of The Sun and a styrofoam cup on the dashboard.

So not only should everyone be made to drive around with a shed on their roof for a bit, but I reckon they should also be made to spend at least a day following someone else who is driving around with a shed on their roof. This will cure most of the ills on our roads. Fact.

Naturally, I have no idea how to implement this (that's what endless government departments we are funding are for), but I am seriously considering starting an e-petition about it.

If you don't know that is, in the UK the Government set up a website where people can go and start petitions, the theory being that if it gets 100,000 signatures, Parliament will have to consider it. Or something.

To be honest, I haven't really researched the more intricate details, because you just know that it isn't really manned and is merely a slick-and-official-looking on-line dustbin for missives from nutters like myself and people who have had a couple too many on a Friday night.

Presumably if any petition does ever gain 100,000 signatures, a little red light goes off on a dusty old telephone (with a  proper dial) in an office somewhere in Whitehall that hasn't had its door opened since 1942.

So what has all of this to do with classics? Well, if everyone – especially the younger generation – was forced to spend a day driving around with a shed on the roof, to suffer the lack of responsiveness, the heavy steering, the slow pick-up, the lack of brakes and the need to slow to a crawl on speedhumps instead of pummelling them at 40mph, they might better understand what it is like to drive a classic in comparison to a modern, powered-everything car.

Then when it comes to Day 2 of their compulsory course – spending a day following someone with a shed on their roof – and every time they follow a classic thereafter, they might just drive with a little more awareness, understanding and empathy. And they might simply drive a little bit better thanks to this back to basics driving education and understand their – and their car's – limits a little better.

In fact , assuming that there are rather more cars and drivers in the UK than there are sheds, we could ditch the whole shed thing and just make driving a classic for a day and then following a classic for a day, part of the driving test. As Al suggested in a previous blog it wouldn't just improve life for classic drivers, but for all motorists.

Pictures: Annabel Symington and Ferdinand Reus