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Embracing the slowness

It can hardly come as a surprise to you that we, the CompleteCar team, are often compared to the Top Gear team. It's inevitable. Top Gear has done the remarkable job of, in just under a decade, taking motoring and general petrol-headedness off the specialist (nerdy, anorak-y, lonely...) shelf and placing it front and screaming centre in people's minds. People who know nothing about cars watch Top Gear. People who have no interest in driving, who couldn't tell understeer from oversteer from any-steer. They love it, in their millions, worldwide. And we, the rest of the hard working motoring writing and reviewing types, who will never so much as touch the hem of a Clarkson paycheque, get a kind of fringe benefit. If you, the wider public, are being entertained by car-related stuff, then you're slightly more likely to pay attention to what we're saying over here. Nice. Thanks Jezzer.

Of course that means that we also endlessly find ourselves compared to the three BBC personalities and the sad, simple fact is that I am almost certainly Ireland's answer to James May. Captain Slow. Mr Slowly. Heck, I even once owned a former member of James May's personal motoring fleet, but that is perhaps a story for another time.

I am, like James, a touch pernickety about things, verging at times on being OCD. I adore the history of aviation and flying, just like James. I don't have his hair (this is possibly a good thing), but I certainly have his easily-irritated, hair-trigger temper. And most of all, I'm slow. Slowly. Not fast.

I don't even really enjoy driving on track. I've done it loads, and had a few laughs along the way, but ultimately I know I'm out of my depth. I don't have the laser-like ability to get a sidewall precisely on to the mathematical apex point. I can't drift very well. I'm a bit of a coward. I once had to hand back the keys to a Porsche 911 Carrera Cup car, in spite of there being no time or track restrictions placed on me, simply because I couldn't summon the bal... er, guts to heat up its tyres properly and thus make it drive properly. I have not had a speeding ticket since 2001.

Going slowly though, I do very well, thanks for asking. In fact, what is still my favourite all time drive was also one of my slowest. It was a few years ago when Land Rover was launching the most recent update of the venerable Defender. That time when it gained a Transit engine and a bonnet bulge, but sadly lost the evocative old scuttle vents.

Anyway, before driving the new one, Land Rover rather kindly let a few of us drive the old one. Or I should say all the old ones. It laid on a paddock (a literal paddock, this is Land Rover we're talking about) of classic and historic Defenders to drive. There was an ex-Chris Evans example with a V8 engine and an automatic gearbox; there were royal Defenders, Defenders with tank tracks, even a fire engine. But the one I drove, and loved, more than any other, was the simplest and slowest. It was a 1949 Series 1, registration 438 DEL. Inevitably it was green, and on this sunny fine day the canvas tilt and side screens had been removed and the windscreen was folded flat against the bonnet.

Being an early Series 1 it had an old Rover P3 1.6-litre engine that can muster around 50hp and looked for all the world as if you could pick it up in one hand and find the word 'Dinky' stamped underneath. I fell hopelessly, immediately in love.

Perched on its plain green cushion seat, my grip on the spindly Bakelite steering wheel the only thing keeping me in the car, we, DEL and I, bounced our way across the rural landscape. Just the grass, the sun, the sky and us. It wasn't fast, it was dead slow. I reckon the top speed I hit was probably about 30km/h. But of course, a car of that age amplifies speed. It wasn't just the entirely open nature of the cockpit, it was the fact that to reach that dizzying (trust me) speed, you had to work with the car, not merely instruct it. Every precious km/h had to be coaxed, nudged and balanced into position. Get it right and the little Landie would surf bouncily over the rough farm track I was driving it on. Get it wrong and it would bog down and you'd have the start the delightful process all over again. I adored it and one day, when income and wifely permission permit, I'm going to buy one.

The moral of the story? There's no challenge and little pleasure in going fast anymore. The humblest diesel hatchback can accelerate at a rate and reach terminal speeds that would have created delirium in hot hatch circles a decade ago. But to what end? Either to get you pulled by the ever present long arm of the law or simply to allow you to catch up with the back of the traffic that much faster. Fast cars are now officially boring.

But a slow car? One with wayward steering, bouncy cart springs and a mere hint of brakes? Now that turns even a loop of the block into a proper driving adventure. My eldest son is now a mere nine years from licence-able driving age. I'd better start saving, because I swear he's going to earn his spurs in a Series 1. Keep it slowly, son. You know it makes sense...

8 Top Tips to Save on Car Insurance Costs

According to the latest data, car insurance has overtaken fuel prices as the biggest concern for motorists. And with good reason: as discovered late last year insurance premiums are on the rise while the drop in crude oil prices mean car owners are paying less at the pumps.

So how do you save on car insurance costs?

1 Shop around
Irish consumers are typically averse to switching service providers and while we are more likely to switch car insurance provider than we are our…

Friday Find 6th February 2015

The Volkswagen Golf is amongst the most popular cars in Ireland, finishing 2014 atop the sales charts having sold more, in one model, than the entire Audi range combined. So far, 2015 looks to be no different with the Golf finishing comfortably ahead of the second placed Ford Focus in the busy January period.

Demand for the Golf is strong but there are savings to be made. For this week's #FridayFind we present a used Golf in popular Comfortline specification with the all-important 1.6-litre TDI diesel engine. This particular model is an ex-demo car…

Eight top tips on how to prepare your car for its NCT

There was a time when being caught without a valid NCT involved a nod and a wink and a promise to get the car tested, but that has all changed. Since December 2014, driving without a valid certificate means a fixed charge penalty notice and three penalty points.

Figures show that over 50 per cent of cars - or more than 650,000 - failed their NCT in 2013, including 4,500 that had to be towed away from test centres, deemed unroadworthy. Scary, but the NCT itself is not scary and even the least mechanically minded can follow our…