Just before Christmas 2022, whilst visiting family in Northern ireland, I took the opportunity to go over to Dundrod, just west of Belfast. I’ve always had a great admiration for the bravery of the drivers that participated in road racing, and the 7.4 mile Dundrod circuit, used between 1950 and 1955 for the Tourist Trophy, has long been a fascination of mine.

As I’d taken my Toyota GR Yaris to Northern Ireland, the opportunity to drive the circuit, which is all on public roads, was too good to miss.

This is the layout of the circuit

And the GR Yaris, being such a quick road car, didn’t disappoint, despite the road conditions being slippery and visibility poor.

The layout is basically as it was (obviously without the grandstands, pit buildings etc) with two exceptions:

In the South Eastern corner, you have Leathemstown Corner, where the B38 joins the B101. Back in the 1950’s, the drivers would have turned right just before this junction, as this part of the B101 ran slightly to the East of it’s current profile, and they would then have accelerated hard over the stone, hump backed Leathemstown bridge up the B101 toward Deers Leap. The road here was reprofiled in the mid 1960’s to it’s current form.At the furthest Eastern point of the circuit, you have the Lindsay hairpin. This has long been used by Motorcycle racers (who’ve continued to use the circuit up until very recently for the Ulster TT), but in 1950-55 the hairpin was a little further North East, and much tighter. This part can still be driven on, so we did!


The 1955 TT was the last time the circuit was used for cars, as it was regarded as too fast, narrow, and dangerous. Coming just 3 months after the tragedy of the 1955 Le Mans, where over 70 spectators were killed when the wreckage of Pierre Levegh’s car was hurled into the grandstand, the 3 driver fatalities at Dundrod proved to be the last straw, and road racing, for cars at least, never happened again here.

The great Stirling Moss was in his element here, and headed a Mercedes 1-2-3 in his 300SLR at the end, despite suffering a puncture at 130mph.

As an aside, I had the privilege of meeting and talking to the great man twice: one of the very first Goodwood Festival of Speed meetings in, I think, 1995. Those were the days when you could wander anywhere on a standard ticket, including the pits and paddock. I spied the famous ‘722’ – the Mercedes 300SLR that Moss used to win the 1955 Mille Miglia and wandered over to it, and looked into the cockpit. I was lost in a reverie when I was tapped on the shoulder, and heard ‘excuse me young man, I need to get into this one’. Yes, it was Stirling. I was too astonished to say much, as I recall. The second time was at a dinner at the RAC Club around 10 years ago where he was guest of honour, when we had a brief chat, the content of which is sadly lost on me now.

Here’s some British Pathe footage of the 1955 event

And, last but not least, a video of our lap of the circuit. In a really capable modern road rocket, it’s difficult to imagine wrestling a 1950’s racer on comparitively skinny tyres around the 7.4 miles. Brave men in those days. As, of course, are the bike racers that have used the circuit more recently, but that’s outside the scope of this blog.

Want a cheap car? – try a scam website

when I originally wrote this post, I named the website that I believe is fraudulently advertising vehicles they don’t personally own, stock, or are otherwise able to legally sell. They certainly have one of our stock on their website, with an advertised price some £13000.00 lower than ours. I’ve subsequently been advised by my legal people that it a) it might be unwise to name them, b) that it might be ‘all a mistake’, and they are genuine sellers. Doesn’t explain why they’re using photos of one of the cars we have in stock, but whatever. Anyway, I’ve removed all traces of their name – make your own judgement

sorry, I can’t find the button to remove this screenshot of a clearly absolutely bona fide dealers website

following on from my previous blog posts on scam sellers (more fake advert shenanigans) and (fake listings on a well-known auction site), I seem to be spending a depressing amount of time at the moment fending off calls from clients that have been scammed by fake classified listings of our cars by fraudulent third parties on the internet, where cars are advertised at absurdly low prices.

I think most sentient people are aware these days that both a ‘well-known auction site’ and the biggest social network are like the Wild West when it comes to fake and scam listings. One of our cars is currently on the social network, and is clearly very well travelled as it’s showing as being advertised in Glasgow and Worthing, despite being within my eyeline in our showroom as I write this..

However, I’d never before seen an actual dealer website used for this purpose before, until yesterday.

XXX Car Sales (to appease my lawyer) fulfils this criteria.

A late-model Ford Mustang for just under 15K? Where’s my debit card?

A Porsche 997 for £9870? Where do I sign?

Land Rover Defender 90 TD5 XS station wagon for £7700? Oh yes…

Or should that be no. I can’t speak with certainty about the Mustang or the 997 (perhaps it’s a massively different market in Glasgow – if so then I’m on my way up there, or indeed, xxx Car Sales can happily contradict me) but I know for sure the Defender can’t be bought for £7700.00, as it’s currently sitting in our showroom for a competitive and realistic £19995.00. For once, they haven’t cloned our photos though.

As a dealer who’s worked long and hard for their reputation, and who, post Covid, still does a reasonable amount of remote sales, this sort of scam is insidious, as it erodes prospective buyer’s trust in us, by association. The person who called me about this car, that she’d seen advertised at xxx Car Sales, seemed to imply that Motodrome were somehow complicit in this fraud. As you can imagine, that left a nasty taste in the mouth.

It seems they did actually attempt to send xxx Car Sales a deposit, but fortunately for them, their bank suspected a potential fraud and refused to authorise it.

I made a throwaway comment to said client to the tune of; ‘you’d have to be pretty gullible to think you could buy a Defender like that for £7700.00’

reply; ‘I’m a Barrister, so I’m certainly not gullible’

Go figure.

As I’ve previously advised, if something looks to good to be true, it undoubtedly is. If you’re in any doubt as to a seller’s bona fides, a What’sApp video call in front of the vehicle with the seller will at least give you some comfort that they do at least have the vehicle to hand. And, whilst you’re at it, if you’re seriously interested in it, run an HPi check on it so you know the VIN number, and ask the vendor to show you the VIN tag on the WhatsApp call. If the vendor refuses, probably best to walk away.

NB you can ask to see a copy of the V5, but most trade vendors won’t release details, pictures, or reference numbers until at least some funds have changed hands, as ‘bad actors’ can use the reference number data for nefarious purposes.

Also, run a google search on the company, or individual, concerned.

Two examples:

google xxx car sales and all you’ll get is their website, nothing else.

google Motodrome and you’ll be deluged with Google’s information on us, (and me personally) including details of our YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram accounts, together with our Google reviews etc. Furthermore, our YouTube videos show me personally actually standing in front of the vehicle I’m describing, and yes, that’s me driving too.

I’m not for a minute saying any of the above advice is infallible, and I certainly don’t want complaints from people saying’ I followed your advice and still got scammed’, (which is a sad indictment on todays society where one’s own mistakes are invariably someone else’s fault).

Or perhaps, just buy from a bona fide dealer that’s well-known and has a reputation to maintain?

Family cars part II – badge engineering madness

I think it must have been January 1974 when my father announced that he was finally getting a company car – one beloved of suburban worker bees across the land – a Mark III Cortina!

For those of a younger disposition, a company car in the 1970’s was an easy way for employers to reward staff without falling foul of government salary increase restrictions imposed to combat rampant inflation, and the major home market producers, especially Ford, quickly cottoned onto this, forming a new hierarchy.

With the Mark 3 Cortina, for instance, you could have a ‘base’ spec (effectively a proper steering wheel and glass in the windows), L, XL, GT (pretty rare as I recall) and GXL, the latter 2 with racy quad headlamps and a 6-dial dash. Probably the 2.0 engined one meant you got the pick of the choice at the wife-swapping parties (spoiler alert – ours was a 1.6, although my mother still has the giant pampas grass in the garden – however I don’t think she’s aware of the urban myth)

As an 12 year old boy who’s underpants mysteriously had started shrinking every time he stole his grandmother’s Kays catalogue to look at the lingerie models, I spent hours poring over a Cortina brochure with much the same effect, imagining my dad turning up in his brand-new 2.0 GXL with a vinyl roof. I was looking forward to the envious glances of my friends.

The day came. My father came home in his brand new Cortina, PGB 271M * But where were the quad lights and the vinyl roof, and why was it dogs lipstick purple? And why was there no badge whatsoever on the boot!!!

The shame. The ignominy. After years of motoring stodge, my dad had had the chance to redeem himself by driving something cool and racy (from the perspective of a boy of 12) and had blown it big time by coming home in a 1.6 Base model. My friends would want to beat me up and Nikki Varley wouldn’t want to kiss me. Or was it the other way round?

It was tempting to leave home there and then until I remembered I was 12 , so would have to tough it out for a few years yet…

* PGB 271M was first registered February 1974, and was last taxed in 1987. It was actually quite a good car, and my parents bought it after it was replaced as my dad’s company car by 2 Mark IV Cortinas, an orange 1.6 Base and lastly a white 1.6L Oh, the decadence.

It was kept as our second car for a few years, even surviving a bizarre accident (where it demolished a fence and a table tennis table when some young fool who’ll remain nameless) lost control of it) with no more than a slightly bent number plate.


Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been told by a couple of people that they’ve been scammed out of £500.00 or £600.00 by ‘sellers’ on such classified sites as Exchange and Mart, and Schpock (whatever the hell that is) using photos of at least one of our vehicles, and asking us to ‘do something’.

Such as what? Our own website stops the unscrupulous from copying our photos and text, but the same cannot be said for 3rd party websites that we have to use, who a) won’t let us put watermarks on our pictures, b) don’t really seem to care about seller fraud. It’s sensible to tell the two aggrieved parties that we’ll pay for a course of common sense pills for them, but that might be taken the wrong way…

This is the Land Rover that’s (at the time of writing) being advertised on Exchange and Mart.

The ‘vendor’s’ description is as follows:

Selling my dads old Land rover been stored in the barn for a few years. i know nothing about these at all so i am selling it as spares or repairs. i have uploaded recent photos of it. looking 500 for it Does not start. V5 Here will need trailer to tow away. My phone signal isnt great so please sms or email me

‘selling my dads old Land Rover’ – stops potential buyers asking difficult questions and introduces third-part deniability

‘been stored in the barn’ – an attempt to justify the ridiculously low price asked, and this is trading off it’s charmingly disreputable looks. Fortunately it drives really well…

‘I know nothing about these at all’ – again, stops buyers asking difficult questions

‘V5 here’ – err, no, don’t think so unless DVLA have made a major screw up. This one is actually personally registered to us.

‘Phone signal isn’t great so please text’ -classic scammer’s tactic – stops people recognising voices or indeed taping conversations.

Sadly people can’t seem to avoid looking a gift horse in the mouth. If it looks too good to be true, it most likely is. So here’s a tip: in the modern age, everyone has access to WhatsApp video calling, Facetime or similar. A genuine seller should have no problem whatsoever doing a live video call with you and the vehicle you’re interested in.

Family cars part 1

My dad was never a big car enthusiast. I’ve written before about the ‘family car’ being a Vauxhall Viva HA, although in fairness my parent’s one was a ‘deluxe 90’ version, which presumably was slightly less asthmatic than the standard model, but I’d guess still cornered like a hippo on roller skates. I have two vague memories of it: my parents buying it new from Great Western Motors in Station Road Reading (now Revolution bar), and of my father returning home from work in it one day probably a year later, with both the bonnet and bootlid tied down with twine, and the Viva looking, if it were possible, even uglier than before, having been rear-ended and then pushed into the car in front. Whilst it then disappeared from our lives, GRD 290D seems to have lived on until 1993.

I wasn’t technically-minded enough aged 5 to appreciate the charms of a blue Renault Dauphine that (temporarily) replaced the Viva in my parent’s affections, but as far as I can recall it swiftly went back to the supplying dealer as it was very rusty. Very ugly in my opinion, although the number plate swinging down to reveal the spare wheel was mildly interesting in a James Bond sort of way.

Next up came a Mark 2 Cortina 1600 Super, and, whilst not a 1600E, at least it wasn’t a vehicle that a car-mad small boy was embarrassed to be seen in. However, soon after, the ‘big end’ went (according to my father, who I doubt knew what that meant. To be fair, neither did I at the time, but I did have youth on my side). So that bit the dust as well.

My mother had always liked entering competitions, and those where if you supplied a witty slogan or something were quite popular in the 1960’s, and some new piece of furniture or gadget would often turn up at our house, she having won it. Anyway, in 1968 she won a brand new Austin 1100 2-door, as you can see at the top of the page, with me adorning the bonnet. RUD 89G was in the family for many years as my mother’s car. Memories of being wedged in the back on a family camping trip to Spain, with a massive box of spares from the AA for ‘everything the motorist might need’ taking up most of the space not already taken by the tent, food (none of that ‘foreign stuff’) still linger. DVLA have no record of RUD 89G so I suspect, like most of these, it rusted into oblivion many years ago.

You can see from my father’s expression in the photo that, although not interested in cars, he was less than enamoured with the little 1100, so it was about this time that we became upwardly mobile as a two-car suburban family, with the acquisition of a gold Hillman Minx.

Apart from the headlights, I’m not sure what the difference was between the Minx and the Hillman Hunter, but I’d imagine the Minx was the poverty spec model. However, ours was the 1725cc model (as proudly announced on the bootlid) with a massive 61bhp. I quite liked the Minx because of it’s busy dashboard – there always seemed to be a lot going on.

Apart from my dad’s friend James and his E-type (covered in a previous post), I think most of my mate’s fathers had similarly ‘sensible’ taste in cars. With one exception. My mate Steve’s dad had a maroon XJ6 Series 1.

He also wore a sheepskin coat, smoked cigars, had a glamourous wife, and allegedly had been a racing driver. All very rakish. Mind you I’m pretty sure his XJ6 was the 2.8 model not the 4.2, so he didn’t get everything right. However, travelling in the XJ6 (even though I was sick in it once, but that’s another story) cemented a love of these big beasts that continues to this day – especially the Series 1 models with the classic dash.

If I a) can be bothered and b) find the time, next time I’ll delve into my father’s company car years, and examine the hierarchy of L, XL, and GXL badges in the car park of a 70’s catering company. Compelling stuff.

2020 Lego Defender build – part one

I got a Lego Technic Land Rover Defender (the new one, obvs) for Christmas from my children, and just made a start on the transmission. 400 or so pieces later, one missing yellow rod, and retrieving one of the tyres from the dog who thought it was the best chew ever, this is the result.

If you’re building one of these, best not to do as I did and start it after a big drink…


Early motoring years P4 – blue oval classics!

I threatened last time out to trawl the memory banks for reminiscences about various ‘performance’ Ford cars I owned back in the early 1980’s, when you could pick them up for pocket money. So here goes…

Lotus Cortina mark 2

more properly known as the Cortina Twin Cam, mine looked pretty much the same as this one, apart from a) in 1982/3 mine had a black stripe I think, and b) the one in the photo looks to be in great condition – mine certainly wasn’t. In fact it was a bit of a dog, with a fair bit of interior trim missing – even in those days some bits were hard to find. All sorts of reliability issues as well – it refused to start with monotonous regularity, and as an impecunious 21 year old I didn’t have the expertise or the money to sort it out. I’ve never owned a Lotus since and this car is probably the reason for that. Didn’t have it long, and quickly moved it on.

Escort Mexico Mark 1

Mine, JEA 377K, looked rather like this one (it was certainly Daytona Yellow with black stripes), but without the spotlamps, and again, certainly not in this condition. And I think it was on steel wheels too. I bought it from a bloke in Walsall, and, driving it home, wondered why it wasn’t quite as lively as I’d hoped. I found the ignition timing was 180 degrees out – I suppose it’s a testament to the strength of the 1600 crossflow engine that it didn’t cause lasting damage. To date, this remains the only car I’ve ever written off in an accident, when a myopic pensioner punted me into the barriers on a roundabout in Reading in Spring 1983, ripping off the front crossmember and suspension. Amazingly, it still seems to survive according to the DVLA, but seems to be fitted with a 4.2 litre engine! I had heard it had been converted to a dragster so that may explain that…

After a brief interlude with a very quick and well-built white Mini Clubman 1380cc, the next fast Ford outside my house was..

Capri Mark 1 (facelift) 3.0 GXL manual

again, very similar to the one in the photo, in Daytona Yellow with a black vinyl roof. But without the horrid rear window slats – the one in the picture may actually be a V8 powered Perana from South Africa? This was a brilliant car and cemented my love of Capris. It never let me down – in fact I owned it twice as I sold it to a long standing friend who owned it for about a year before asking me if I wanted it back as he’d been offered a Mach 1 Mustang (which 35 years later he still owns).

I’d driven Capris before – a friend had a 2.0 V4 version (known affectionately as the Diesel Dumper) which was horrible, and a couple of 1.6’s which were a little underwhelming, but the torque of the Essex V6 was a revelation. In 1984/5 my then boss had a near-new 2.8 injection which I did a couple of long trips in, but again, preferred my old 3.0. It wasn’t the last ‘proper’ Capri (to my mind they have to have a V6 to be regarded as such) but more of that another time.

These days all of the above (especially the Mexico) command very high prices – I get the simplicity and the motorsport heritage bit, but with hindsight I do find them a little underwhelming in terms of their performance – give me a BMW 2002 Tii anyday. That said, I certainly wouldn’t turn any of them away if I was offered a good one. I feel I’ve missed out by never owning a Cortina 1600E, or an Escort Mark 1 RS2000. That may have to change soon..

Next time, we’ll move into the world of company cars when I gained a foothold in the motor trade.