Autocar's guide to the best things to do in 2019
Celebrate the launch of the new Defender by buying an old one
As part of our guide to the perfect motoring year, here are some top tips on what to fill your time with over the next 12 months
This month we’ve already even given you a comprehensive guide to all the new cars to get excited about in 2019, and yesterday we gave you our predictions for the motoring world over the next twelve months – but now it’s over to you.
There are plenty of ways you can indulge your love of cars this year, and it doesn’t have to cost you the world. This, then, is your updated New Year’s resolutions list, as compiled by Autocar writers.
Valet an old nail
Owning an old car implies a strong bond already exists between you and it. But you’ll be amazed how much this will be further improved if you have the car properly, professionally cleaned. For money. Suddenly, your car seems new again; it even appears to go better. At least until it rains… Steve Cropley
Buy an old Mini
It’s been 60 years since Mini became part of Britain’s street furniture. These days, they are pampered garaged collectibles. Not a branding exercise, just a perfectly formed tiny car, so it makes the ‘Bini’ look a bit daft. Classic car prices have calmed down a bit, including for Minis, but there is going to be a big old birthday bounce. Never mind, there are bargains. Stay away from overpriced Cooper recreations and get an honest 1973 850 at £8750, a 1985 City at £4250, or a 1979 Mini Clubman for £8995. James Ruppert
Take a drive in Europe
Never forget that the car’s not just for going where you need to go; it’s also about going where you want to go. Plan ahead and, for less than £50 for the ferry or train crossing, northern Europe can be your playground. Not much tops a weekend away. Jim Holder
Go ice driving
You’ll learn more about car control in two days on a frozen lake than you will in five years on the road. That’s partly because the car will begin to slide progressively and at very low speeds on the low-grip surface, but also because there isn’t anything to hit, which means there are no consequences to getting it all wrong. Several UK companies offer ice driving experiences in Scandinavia’s frozen north, which, as an added bonus, is breathtakingly pretty. Dan Prosser
Buy a big used diesel
Old diesel cars are dirty, so goes the received wisdom. They produce nitrogen oxides that, when concentrated, are apt to cause all manner of respiratory nasties in human beings. However, what the anti-diesel zealots tend to softpedal about is that NOx pollution is a point-source problem. It’s CO2 that is helping to kill the planet via global warming; and diesels (even old ones) produce considerably less greenhouse gas than petrol engines.
Upshot: if you live somewhere other than a NOx hotspot, it might make sense (and bring you a lot of pleasure) to buy one of the fit, bargain-priced diesel performance and/or luxury cars on the market. Auto Trader is awash with them. In 10 minutes, you’ll turn up ready supplies of Audi A8s, Mercedes SLs and Range Rovers in your area. Set a £15,000 limit on cars that started life at £70,000-plus and you’ll be amazed. Sure, your family might also need a Renault Zoe to penetrate the nearest low-carbon city. But for those impromptu trips to visit granny in Edinburgh, you may find a cheap, fit, big-name diesel just right for the job. Steve Cropley
Invest in a cheap classic
Buy a cheap, reliable almost-classic that, if you’re lucky (and well-researched), will appreciate while giving you plenty of day-to-day joy. From about £2000, you can get your hands on a Mercedes W123, a BMW 3 Series E30 or, for something more leftfield, a Peugeot 106 Rallye. Who needs electronics and a fancy touchscreen, anyway? Rachel Burgess
Check out Classic and Sports Car magazine
Great writers, great photos, and a chance to learn about things you wished you knew and reminisce about those you forgot you did. Jim Holder
Read a motoring book
Give your eyes a rest from those damned screens. Old car books are wonderful time capsules of information that you can pick up anywhere. Just 75p has bought me Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam’s The Reckoning, a 1986 700-page opus on the Ford vs Nissan battle for worldwide automotive supremacy. James Ruppert
Volunteer at a motoring event or venue
If you love the motor industry as much as we do, volunteering is a perfect way to surround yourself with the cars you covet and people who share your passion. There are plenty of opportunities around the country, ranging from the British Motor Museum at Gaydon, where you could be part of the education team, to marshalling at various motorsport events such as the British Touring Car Championship through the British Rally Marshals Club. Goodwood is always looking for volunteers too, for its Members’ Meeting, the Festival of Speed and the Revival. Roles vary from grandstand stewards to buggy drivers. Rachel Burgess
Hire a dream car
Sadly, most of us won’t get to spend our lives swanning around in Aston Martins or Lamborghinis. But for one day only, we can forget the real world, grab our driving gloves and hire the car of our dreams. Get your hands on an Aston Martin DB9 Volante for the weekend from £654 or, if you really want to splash out, a Ferrari 488 GTB for £1194 (dreamcarhire.com). Not the most frugal of weekends, but one that will be a highlight of your year. Not least when you turn up at your best mate’s place unannounced… Rachel Burgess
Take a road trip to see NASCAR (or the BTCC)
With 40-plus V8 stock cars battling on tight ovals, Nascar racing is intense, spectacular and very American. So a Nascar race is a perfect excuse for a Great American Road Trip, especially with many tracks in fantastic locations. You could drive the Blue Ridge Parkway between Bristol, Tennessee (7 April), and Richmond, Virginia (13 April), cruise California’s wine country for Sonoma (23 June), or visit the heart of the south in Talladega, Alabama (13 October).
Don’t fancy America? Try the British equivalent and drive to a BTCC race. Knockhill (15 September) offers great racing, top views and fine Scottish roads. James Attwood
Buy an old Defender
There will be a new Defender and it most likely won’t be identical to the old one. As a result, demand for the late models increases exponentially. The odd thing is that the proper, seriously uncomfortable Series models can still be bought for realistic money. Get in early to pay less than the five-figure sums being asked for the run-outs. Go back to the 1990s for a 2.5 TDi 90 with a full MOT at £6995. If you need a 110, then a 1998 110 in County spec is £7995. James Ruppert
Write a motoring story
Here’s an outlet for your burning urge to turn a phrase. Club mags are often desperate for wellwritten contributions, and not just about your experiences with the family car. Interviews with relevant designers and engineers make good subjects. So does historic stuff, or tours of relevant sites. Why not give it a go? Steve Cropley
Attend motoring talks
There’s a growing vogue for fascinating, cheap-to-attend evening talks at motor museums all over the country, not just on historic subjects. The Brooklands Trust recently held a successful electric cars event – at under £10 a head – during which attendees were actually driven in electric cars. Look for similar stuff at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, and the British Motor Museum, Gaydon. Steve Cropley
Watch the film Road
Yes, this is a car magazine and this is a movie about bike racing. And, yes, it’s coming up for five years old. But I’ve never watched a film that has made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up higher – and the passing of time has only made it more poignant. Jim Holder
Watch brilliant Australian Touring Car Racing
Imagine a series as closely contested as the BTCC but with 650bhp rear-wheel-drive V8s. Voila, the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, which you can watch online for about £35, about £1 a race (supercars.com/superview). It’s a championship whose regulations are designed around the spectator, not the competitor, so it’s incredibly close and fair. The racing is brilliant, locations are glamorous, driving standards are high, personalities are entertaining, the analysis and commentary are sound and the cars look cool and are quick. If I could only watch one thing on TV (online, but you know what I mean), it’d be this. Matt Prior
Looking for an absorbing form of motorsport that won’t break the bank, damage your car, or require a special licence or expensive driving gear? Try autosolo. You can compete in anything and, although speeds are low, you drive coned-off courses repeatedly as hard as your car will go. Steve Cropley
Engage with an entire Formula E weekend
It isn’t just the lack of noise and the restrictive street circuits that have stopped you from engaging with Formula E so far – you also haven’t taken the time to find your favourite driver, or understand the rivalries between the teams, or get a feel for the narrative of the championship. The moment you feel invested in one team or driver, you’ll very quickly see through whatever racing shortcomings had bothered you before now. This season, follow an entire Formula E race weekend from start to finish, properly engage with it and see if electric racing can win you over. Dan Prosser
Watch rallying on closed public roads
Last year saw the first-ever closed-road stage rally in England and the Corbeau Seats Tendring and Clacton Rally, organised by Chelmsford Motor Club, will run again in 2019. It’s a great way to watch some thrilling motorsport for free.
But what exactly is a closed-road stage rally? Until last year, the Road Traffic Act 1988 made it illegal to take part in a race or speed trial on a ‘public way’. So competitive rally stages could only take place on private land like a country estate or Forestry Commission sites. Thanks to an amendment, organisers can apply to Motorsport UK (the motorsport governing body in the UK) to hold a competitive event on closed public roads. So far, doing so has only been legal in Ireland, the Isle of Mull, the Scottish Borders and the Isle of Man.
In June, Coventry Motofest took advantage of the same amendment to hold a sprint (classified as a ‘speed event’) on closed roads during the event. The same permission has also been extended to Wales and, in October 2018, there were closed road stages on Wales Rally GB.
There’s something about rally cars being driven flat-out on the roads we use every day that makes it even more exciting. Matt Prior
Watch a forest rally
The British national rally scene remains strong, meaning there’s an opportunity to get into the forests and watch man and machine versus a gravel path most weekends. The colder and wetter, the better the spectacle too. Jim Holder
Go and have some fun on track
Have you ever done a track day? No? Then maybe this is the year to give it a go. It’s a great way to have fun with a car at much lower cost than, and without the stress of, full-on motorsport. Prices at UK tracks range from less than £100 to several hundred quid. Jesse Crosse
Source: Autocar Online