Is it time to ease restrictions?

As I begin week six of my isolation – along with millions of others – I am minded to reflect personally on where we are and, with greater difficulty, where we are heading.

I have a foot firmly planted in two rather different industries – automotive and tourism.

I am mostly but not entirely relaxed about my own lockdown and broadly support the thinking behind it. Other countries are indeed doing things in different ways and I think we are all beginning to see that “no size fits all”. My partner is a New Zealander who has lived here in the UK for fifty years and is rightly impressed with the way her country of birth has gone about things. PM Jacinda Ardern has been decisive, read the mood of the country well and her government’s steps are working well. Most of us are hoping that the USA comes out of it without too heavy a loss of life despite widely differing approaches by State Governors and Donald Trump’s highly individual approach. 

A good example of differing approaches currently is the vexed topic of face masks illustrating so many different solutions all claiming to be science lead and evidence based.

Looking to the future for the UK is more challenging.

I am delighted to see that in automotive a number of vehicle factories are creeping back into action, observing social distancing and testing the strength of their supply chains which have been idle as long as the car factories have been silent. I am rather taken with one of the Ford plants which has introduced with full staff and union approval the wearing of a bespoke wrist band which emits a sound when it comes within a two metre range of another wrist band. Simple and effective. 

We have all learned how finely tuned these supply chains are during the agonising Brexit debate. I am in no doubt the start-up phase will be complex and not without difficulty and surprise. We wait now with baited breath to see if there is an enthusiastic market waiting for the cars which are starting to be built quite apart from the not inconsiderable stockpiles of cars sitting at UK ports.

May 7th is likely to be a key date in the unlocking process and there is I believe a general understanding that it is simply not possible to keep us all locked up indefinitely. I am for instance not hugely enraptured that my own isolation is primarily driven by my age.

I fear, again writing entirely in a personal capacity, that tourism is in for a slow return to so called normality. Before much can be opened, the government will need to be clear that social and safe travel is permitted and be crystal clear what that means. I am hopeful that many tourist organisations able to demonstrate responsible opening with social distancing and all that goes with it, is a feasible way forward and herein lies the key path to a new normality. 

There seems little point the government declaring that, for instance, the west country is now off the hook or that, again just for theoretical example, take-aways are off the hook.

The only criterion must be whether an organisation has the wherewithal and the planning in place to operate safely both for its own staff and its customers. If supermarkets can do it, others in tourism can too. And Local Authorities and Planning Authorities may be called upon to briefly expand their roles and spot check those who claim to be operating safely, are so doing.

It seems self evident that big gatherings are going to be on a hot list for some time yet but equally self evident, professional, responsible and utterly Covid-19 compliant elements of the huge tourism industry must surely be encouraged to un-furlough staff and to quote the PM “fire up the engines of the economy.”

Christopher Macgowan


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As many as a thousand stylish sports cars….

As many as 1,000 stylish sports cars are expected to join the packed display as Beaulieu’s Simply Porsche returns to the grounds of the National Motor Museum on Sunday June 7th.

From early examples of the 1950s and 1960s, through the legendary 911, right up to the latest models from the German sports car marque, all Porsche owners are welcome to park up, compare cars and enjoy the whole of the Beaulieu attraction.

This eighth Simply Porsche, which will be held in association with The Independent Porsche Enthusiasts’ Club (TIPEC), is part of Beaulieu’s growing Simply range which features 13 Simply rallies in the 2020 line-up.

Event-goers can browse a variety of trade stands offering accessories, books and model cars, while throughout the day there is the chance to vote for your favourite Porsche of the show in the People’s Choice Award, with the winner receiving a Beaulieu trophy.

For more Porsche excitement, don’t forget to head inside the National Motor Museum to see the 1969 Porsche 917K, which made a star appearance in the Steve McQueen film Le Mans.

Event tickets include entry to the whole of the Beaulieu attraction, including the National Motor Museum, World of Top Gear, On Screen Cars, Secret Army exhibition, the Montagu ancestral home of Palace House, Beaulieu Abbeyand its grounds and gardens. For family fun all together, adventurous new play area Little Beaulieu will open its fantasy palace for big and little kids from March 15th.

For those driving Porsches into Beaulieu to take part in the show, participant tickets are £10.50 an adult and £5.25 a child (aged 5-16) if bought in advance online before 5pm on June 4th, or £12.50 an adult and £6 a child if bought later or on arrival. All other visitors can buy a standard Beaulieu attraction ticket. For tickets and details see

Christopher Macgowan


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Holden: end of the road.

End of the road: Giving voice to Holden workers’ experiences

This article is reproduced with the kind permission of Monash University.

Like a beloved relative who dies after a long illness, Holden’s decision to leave Australia wasn’t surprising – but it is a cause for sadness, and an opportunity to look back on what’s been lost.

Generations of Australians grew up with Holdens – for many people, Sunday drives, family holidays and first driving lessons all happened in a Holden. An Australian television comedy was named after the Kingswood, and surfers drove a Sandman, which had room for surfboards and a mattress in the back. In 1979, the Holden Commodore achieved record sales.

The Holden was named after a South Australian family who began as saddlers in 1856 and later moved into car manufacturing. When the US-based General Motors bought the company in 1931, it kept the family name and, post-war, used it to brand a car made for the local market.

Most significantly, tens of thousands of Australians and their families relied on General Motors Holden. When GMH stopped manufacturing cars in Australia in 2017, oral historians in South Australia and Victoria, the home of Holden HQ, began collecting memories from the company’s workers for a project to be housed at the National Library of Australia.

Many of these workers were immigrants, who played an important role in assembling the Australian car.

Monash University’s Professor Alistair Thomson is a key part of the project, and says “every former Holden worker I have interviewed … has been angry about General Motors’ withdrawal from Australian car manufacturing, and about our federal government’s decision not to subsidise an Australian car industry.

“They argue that governments in every other significant economy continue to support a national car industry, not just because of the direct and indirect employment it ensures, but also because of the essential manufacturing skills the industry sustains and develops.”

He says that in their interviews these workers also often referred to the Holden “family” – a family with its own tensions and hierarchies.

“If workers were loyal, their loyalty was earned not by the company, but by good bosses who treated them well,” he says.

Holden provided steady work, especially for new migrants who spoke little English but found their first working home in Holden’s factories.

Italian migrant Tony Liberatore, for example, started at the GMH Fishermans Bend plant in 1954.

“When Tony Liberatore’s foreman asked him to work on Christmas Day, Tony knew his wife would not be happy, but agreed he would do it for the foreman but ‘not for GM’,” Professor Thomson says.

“The foreman repaid the favour by helping Tony win accreditation as a qualified mechanic despite having no formal training.”

He also tells the story of Alex Angelico, a leading hand in prototype development at the Fishermans Bend Build Up Area in the early 2000s.

“When one of his team was ‘having a downer’, he allowed him to sleep it off in a car model which was hoisted into the air so he would be out of sight.

“If you looked after your team, they would work with you.”

Men who started as apprentices at 15 recalled the ‘father figures’ who helped them cope with the intimidating noise, overpowering smells and frenetic activity of a car plant.

Bob Pulford learned this lesson the hard way. He started on the shop floor in the Dandenong paint shop in 1958. Professor Thomson says that during his interview, Pulford “teared up when he recalled a foreman who forced him to work overtime rather than attending the birth of his child”.

“Bob ended up in a senior Holden training role and explained that a good manager would ‘get people to want to work for you’.”

The Australian-born Pulford also said that he learned about other cultures from his “new Australian” workmates at Holden – even taking Italian lessons so he could speak to the men on his line.  

Holden had its own class system, with “separate canteens for three grades of workers: the ‘plebs’ from the shop floor, white-collar ‘staff’, and executive ‘A Groupers’,” Professor Thomson says.

“Workers recall ‘dictatorial’ management cultures and ‘mongrel managers’, especially in the early post-war decades, and then again in the 2000s as sales declined and American bosses became more prominent.

“They recall bitter industrial strife and shop-floor militancy in the late 1960s and early 1970s, periodic lay-offs when supply outstripped demand, and redundancies as the forces of global capitalism closed Australian factories.”

“Workers recall ‘dictatorial’ management cultures and ‘mongrel managers’, especially in the early post-war decades, and then again in the 2000s as sales declined and American bosses became more prominent.”

On the other hand, GMH also generated company loyalty, he says.

“Men who started as apprentices at 15 recalled the ‘father figures’ who helped them cope with the intimidating noise, overpowering smells and frenetic activity of a car plant. The Holden Social Club was a hub of sporting and social activities for employees from all levels and sectors, and the Holden Family Christmas Party is a favourite memory for workers and their children.

“Employee participation schemes encouraged workers to devise production improvements, with cash prizes for successful innovations.

“Employee development schemes provided training and promotion opportunities. Some managers, in certain periods, implemented ‘people-centred’, ‘participative’ management – and workers responded positively to such collegial approaches.”

Tony Liberatore stopped working at Holden in 1988 when the Dandenong Vehicle Assembly Plant closed. He said he was “very sad” to farewell his workmates and lose his “second family”.

The Holden oral history project began just after General Motors Holden closed its last car assembly plant at Elizabeth in Adelaide in 2017.

At that stage, GMH said it would no longer make cars in Australia, but there would still be a Holden car, with Australian design, testing and sales. GMH even agreed to contribute funds to the Australia Research Council-funded Linkage project, alongside other industry linkage partners The National Motor Museum and the National Library of Australia, Professor Thomson says.

Then, on February 17, 2020, Holden’s Senior Vice-President (International Operations) Julian Blissett announced the brand would be retired from sales in Australia and New Zealand. Mr Blissett said the decision was “based on global priorities and does not reflect the hard work, talent and professionalism of the Holden team”.

“Holden was not always a happy family, yet for many workers, over many years, Holden provided steady, well-paid work, and generated pride in creating ‘Australia’s own car’,” Professor Thomson says.

“Holden was made by new and old Australians, but it was owned by a US company that, in the end, was motivated by profit more than people.”

Former Holden workers who are interested in being interviewed for the project should contact the project officer, Clare Parker, via email:, or telephone: (08) 8313 6352. They’re especially keen to interview women, migrant and shop-floor workers, as well as people who worked at Fishermans Bend or the Lang Lang testing centre in recent years.

This article was first published on Monash Lens. Read the original article

Christopher Macgowan


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Land Speed Record breaking 1920 Sunbeam 350hp

The National Motor Museum’s Land Speed Record breaking 1920 Sunbeam 350hp has been fitted with a replacement gearbox to match its rebuilt engine, decades after losing its original gearbox.

The ongoing project to restore and preserve Sir Malcolm Campbell’s iconic machine, which set a 150mph World Land Speed Record nearly a century ago, has been a labour of love for Beaulieu’s workshop engineers.

Having painstakingly rebuilt its complex V12 engine, they triumphantly took this landmark vehicle back to Pendine Sands in South Wales in 2015, for a low-speed reconstruction of its World Land Speed Record 90 years earlier.

However, while the engine was then in fine fettle, the non-original gearbox has always been the Achilles’ heel in this car’s history and has long been the missing part of its puzzle. At some point after World War II, the original gearbox was removed and by the time the Sunbeam became an exhibit at the National Motor Museum, it was fitted with a temporary gearbox from an Albion 35hp. Only designed to handle a tenth of the engine’s power, this gearbox also lacked a transmission brake – an important part of the Sunbeam’s original brake set-up.

Reinstating a suitable gearbox has been a priority for the engineers, as the next stage of the car’s ongoing preservation. With help from the museum’s supporters, a sturdy Bentley C-type gearbox has been sourced and adapted to fit the Sunbeam’s chassis with custom-made mounts. This unit has proven, in other applications, to be well suited to the task of handling the colossal power of the 18-litre V12 engine.

Best of all, this is enabling the engineers to install a robust and historically correct transmission brake and propshaft. Once the full installation has been completed, the Sunbeam will have the robust transmission its mighty engine deserves.

The 1920 Sunbeam 350hp can usually be seen on display at the National Motor Museum, as part of a multi-media presentation which also features its record-breaking stablemates the 1927 Sunbeam 1,000hp, 1929 Golden Arrow and 1960 Bluebird CN7.

Although great strides have been made, a project such as this cannot be rushed. Further funding is always required for the ongoing preservation of the museum’s collection. If you are keen to help with funding support, please get in touch at

The National Motor Museum’s collection of over 280 vehicles is world-famous, along with its extensive range of motoring artefacts, photographic images, specialist reference library and film and video library. For more information about its collection and services see

Visitors can enjoy all of the features of the attraction with a ticket to Beaulieu, including entry to the National Motor Museum, On Screen Cars, World of Top Gear, the ancestral Montagu home Palace House, Secret Army exhibition, Beaulieu Abbey and its grounds and gardens. Tickets can be bought in advance online. For tickets and details see or call 01590 612345.

Christopher Macgowan


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Venice tourism controls.

VENICE is continuing in its fight against over-tourism by tracking the number of tourists that come to the city, although controversially, the council will be tapping in to mobile phones to do so.


Photo inset shows the mobi phones checker – more than thirty are installed and they can reveal how long someone has been in the city.

Christopher Macgowan


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LEVC prototype vans underway

Ansty, 7 February 2020 – The first prototypes of the new van from London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) are now being built at the company’s state-of-the-art factory in Ansty, Coventry, ahead of its debut at this year’s CV show on the 28th April.

Due to the advanced manufacturing flexibility of the LEVC factory, it has been possible to build these verification prototypes on the same line, fully integrated with current TX production.

The prototypes will be deployed as test vehicles and undergo a strict development and homologation programme including hot and cold climate testing, durability and crash testing.

LEVC’s electric van is constructed using the same lightweight aluminium architecture as its TX electric taxi – 30% lighter than a conventional steel body, resistant to any form of rust and pound for pound can absorb twice the crash energy of mild steel.  

It also shares class-leading manoeuvrability with a city-friendly turning circle of just 10.1m and, most importantly for drivers and fleet operators, the LEVC electric van will offer class leading total cost of ownership.  

Joerg Hofmann, CEO of LEVC, commented: “Prototype stage is an important milestone in our new electric van’s development process as we stay on track towards full production in Q4.  This new van satisfies the growing demand zero-emissions vehicles in the 1-tonne segment, currently dominated by diesel products, and combines this with extended mileage capability to totally eliminate any range-anxiety.  It’s an intelligent green mobility solution for any commercial vehicle operator.”  

Using the proven TX e-City range extender technology, LEVC’s new van will set new standards in green logistics with 80 miles (130km) of emissions free driving and an extended electrically driven total range of over 370 miles (600km).   Owing to its flexible range, it offers a ‘distribution to door’ – not just last mile – service, providing the critical link between out of town depots and city centres.

Christopher Macgowan


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Beaulieu Blue Light Day

Get behind the scenes of the emergency services at Beaulieu’s brand new Blue Light Day on Sunday April 26th and see fully kitted-out fire engines and ambulances, as well as the vehicles of the police, Coastguard, Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and other vital services.

Meet the crews who drive and ride in the fast response vehicles and learn about their incredible work. Be impressed by a line-up of larger-than-life fire engines of all ages, spanning from the mighty machines in service today, right the way back to a preserved 1965 Morris FG40 fire engine at the show in the grounds of the National Motor Museum.

Sit in a police car and talk with officers about their front-line duties. Then for a nostalgic blast from the past, see a selection of historic police cars from the Blue Light Vehicle Preservation Group – can you remember seeing these distinctive motors with their ‘blues and twos’ on the beat?

Clamber inside the fully kitted-out ambulances used by the Fire and Rescue Service and South Central Ambulance Service, then see their vintage counterparts in the impressive display. You may even be lucky enough to spot a 1950s Green Goddess fire engine or maybe a 1960s police ‘panda’ car.

Teams from Hampshire Search and Rescue (HANTSAR), the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and HM Coastguard will be talking to show-goers about their rescues and showcasing vital equipment. New Forest Verderers and Agisters will bring a New Forest pony and chat to visitors about their important work to protect the forest, while Hampshire Fire Dogs will be accompanied by canine colleagues.

Become a big kid for the day and enjoy all of the feature displays. The action-packed event takes place on National Drive It Day, as historic vehicles take to the road up and down the country – so why not make Beaulieu your destination.

Blue Light Card holders (for members of the emergency services, NHS and Armed Forces) can claim a 30% discount on their on-the-day ticket to Beaulieu both for the event and visits throughout 2020. Just show your card on the day of the event to apply for the discount.

Blue Light Day will run from 10am – 4pm and tickets are available in advance online, as well as on the day. Tickets include entry to the whole of the Beaulieu attraction, including the National Motor Museum, World of Top Gear, On Screen Cars, the Secret Army exhibition, Montagu ancestral home of Palace House, Beaulieu Abbey and its grounds and gardens. Also open from March 15th is the adventurous new play area Little Beaulieu, for family fun all together.

Christopher Macgowan


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