Steve Cropley: There’s no place like (a) Cali for home working


Into my inbox falls some noise from a fleet management firm about how people are using their locked-down cars as phone booths and workspaces – just as I’ve started doing the same. I’ve parked our Volkswagen California in the front garden, raised its roof and started using it for work – perfect for sunny days. It’s very different from working on the dining room table and still in touch with the household wi-fi. Volkswagen has been factory-building campervans for 50 years, and the welcoming ambience of the California still surprises me. That goes for most car interiors; it’s one reason we put up with traffic jams in good times.


The news is full of air-quality surveys, and the best of them sound credible to me. One in The Guardian plausibly suggests that city NOx pollution has been a “key contributor” to Covid-19 deaths by weakening the lungs of already-susceptible people. Another in The Times finds the latest electric cars have less than half the carbon footprint of fossil-fuelled models even if you include battery production and disposal. Such killer info leads zealots to ban things, but I reckon the most practical course for us would be to have an electric car everyone uses. I’d pick a Renault Zoe: easy to use, proven, small, available and fun. The growing band of people who’ve done this will tell you the second car soon becomes the first. Then it hardly matters if there’s a Caterham or Corvette in the garage for special occasions.


Two big events: first a tri-weekly, eight-mile return journey to the supermarket, second a garage clean-up. For the trip ‘outside the wire’, I can choose from two extremes: a 2003 Citroën Berlingo or a £240,000 new Bentley Flying Spur. The Volkswagen California is busy, the Fiat 500 is hemmed in and the Mazda MX-5 usually stays in the shed. Wish I could do more because, as we know, all cars need use to stay healthy.

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While reorganising the garage, I start our also-rans (Fiat, Mazda, Harley-Davidson Sportster and Honda Pan-European) and run them where they stand, then listen to the exhausts tick away. Some days, just doing a tour of my trickle chargers can be therapeutic. You’ve got to appreciate the simple stuff.


I’d never say this in normal times, but I’ve always liked the frontal styling of the early Morris Marina. It reminds me of the split-grille thing Pontiac did with its 1960s muscle cars, although like many British Leyland achievements, this one was obliterated by awful manufacturing. I had a bit of a classifi eds hunt and found a superb 1.3-litre Coupé in white for £6000. It looked ideal for the Festival of the Unexceptional, but I see that’s now gone. Still, next time.



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