Not the biggest, obviously, but large enough! It was very interesting to see the fancy hydraulics close up, and I admired the spacious cab - what I could see of it, for it was so high up. In fact, I was puzzled as to how the driver (and any passenger) could get up there. There was no clear sign of where they might put their feet to climb up. Did they use the treads of the tyres? Or somehow scrabble up using anything that offered a handhold? Bearing in mind that these things might operate at night, and you wouldn't want to slip in the dark and impale yourself on a metal spike, how was it done? Surely it wasn't driven by Tarzan of the Apes, swinging himself up on a liana, or Spiderman, or some ace mountaineer who regularly tackled the North Face of the Eiger? It was only when studying my photos afterwards that it dawned on me that the tall green thing behind the glass of the cab in the lower shot was not the engine exhaust but a set of hinged steps that swung down. Duuuh.
On to exotic chariots for the posh farmer or racehorse owner and his family. Harwoods, one of the more upmarket Sussex motor dealers, were displaying Jaguars and Range Rovers. I had a good look at them.
Two Jaguars first. They had an F-type and an XK, both convertables, and naturally they looked stunning in the bright sunshine. Things of beauty to sweep you into a fantasy world of old-time motor sport, champagne and exhilarating alpine driving, a hint of Monaco casino life and James Bond thrown in - and as British as hell. But I wasn't alone in being amused at the white F-type's ridiculously small boot: it would hardly take a briefcase, certainly not a set of golf clubs! So not a serious contender, whatever its prowess on the road. Its official list price started at £58,520, but you could be sure that with all normal equipment and trim options you could add at least 50% to that. Nice as a sunny-day runabout, of course.
The larger XK looked a much more practical proposition. Here it is, resplendent in British Racing Green:
Wow. It exuded quality. The leather trim and the controls looked fantastic. However, I immediately wondered how long that leather would stay so white, and after prodding the seats and examining the stitchwork I thought that it wasn't really any better than the cream leather I had in Fiona. Strange that they extended the leather to those parcel shelves behind the seats...oh! Those are the rear seats! They're kidding. It's a leg-pull. There's no space for your legs! How silly...well, no further interest from from me, then. That said, the XK, with an official price 'from £71,465' (but again, add 50% for decent options) was rather more practical for a weekend away than the F-Type. It might even be good for a small-scale expedition to the local Waitrose, when you run out of Pimm's.
I turned to the Range Rovers. Much more my cup of tea.
At this point I will remind you what Fiona looks like. She's a top-of-the-range Volvo XC60 SE Lux Premium with the D5 five-cylinder 2.4 litre diesel engine, six-gear automatic transmission with permanent all-wheel drive, and most of the useful options. She cost £40,000 in May 2010 (actually only £34,000, because of the £6,000 trade-in on my old Honda CR-V under the Scrappage Scheme then in force). Four shots from 2010, when she was new:
Three more from 2011, 2012, and 2013 (the very day of the Show):
Right then, the supposedly posher Range Rovers. First up a snazzy-looking red Evoque:
Interior, courtesy of Mrs Beckham, the wife of a retired football player I've vaguely heard of. I have to say, she's got a sense of style. And I saw James May take this car through its paces in the rough stuff on Top Gear: it's a tough and capable little car. But only two doors! And I hate the exterior styling - the car looks as if a giant has sat on it, and squashed it down. I can't get past that. This is supposed to be the chic, mini Range Rover for fashionista mums with style-conscious children. Dare I say Essex mums? (No, perhaps best not) I can't quite make out the precise version on the card in the front window in my photo, but the price looks like £50,064 (phew) so it must be loaded up with all the options going! It's too small, too red, and not practical enough for me.
Let's now contemplate a full-sized Range Rover Vogue in a more sobre hue:
Your carriage awaits, Your Majesty...and indeed, the Royal Family do run around their estates in Range Rovers because there is nothing better for their purposes. This is a car of superlatives. I'd consider having one if I could afford to buy and run it. This version cost £82,656. But you can pay close to £100,000 if you want everything they can bolt on. I'd reckon on realistic annual running costs, cash only, ignoring depreciation, of £12,000, or an average of £1,000 a month. I'd certainly want a better colour than metallic grey with a slate decor inside. On the other hand, it's just the right drab neutral background colour to make your Ladies' Day at Ascot outfit sing with colour and brilliance. And a good camouflage colour for the shoot, especially when dusty. You don't want to unsettle the stags with lurid bodywork one can see for miles! Certainly not.
I can perceive a difference between the finish on a Range Rover, and the finish on Fiona. But Fiona is still luxurious, does the same thing, and doesn't come with the pretentious social baggage that a Range Rover does, nor with the extreme running costs. Fionas are for those who look for alternatives, who plough their own furrow, who blaze their own trail, and don't want to be trapped in an upper-class dream.
To round this post off, let's have a look at the stunt bike display. The setup was simply a ramp that curled up sharply to get the stunt riders airborne, and a long landing strip on the back of a lorry:
But then they began to do increasingly daring stunts, gradually holding onto the bike with less and less, not even the handlebars eventually:
Whatever next? No contact with the bike at all? I didn't stay to see any more, in case one of the riders misjudged his stunt and there was tragedy. But I'm sure they all survived.
There are more of these stunt photos on my Flickr site (link in the upper top right of this page).