First, let me just say that the town of Guildford here in Surrey, part of the Greater London Built-Up Areas, is lovely and charming. But I have to admit, after a little bit of auto-snooping around, I’m saddened and confused because the car-scape of this place is so aggressively, relentlessly boring. I’ll back this up with photographic evidence.
Now, I don’t want to seem ungrateful; I’m absurdly lucky that my job involves travel, and one of the best parts about going somewhere new is experiencing what the overall car-scape is like. I’ve done in this in several cities already, and usually even a short walk can expose some hidden treasures, or at least quirky cars that capture the character of the area.
Guildford did not make this easy.
There’s nothing actually wrong with the cars here, it’s just that they’re almost entirely rational, reasonable cars, with a slight emphasis on premium, since this is a pretty well-to-do area. The car color landscape here is especially bleak, consisting almost entirely of black, white, and various silvers and grays.
I looked hard in the limited time and area I had for the corn kernels in this glossy silver turd, and while I found a few standouts, I’m going to have to issue Guildford an official Jalop Warning: as of now, Guildford is on Double-Laser Probation, and I’ll give them one year to show they’ve made a significant effort to improve the car landscape of the area.
I know other parts of London have some wonderful cars driving around: old Minis, new Morgans, wonderfully terrible old British Leyland stuff, the occasional well-preserved Jag, ratty British Ford Granadas, you name it. I didn’t see anything with that sort of charm in Guildford.
Here’s the best of what I was able to find.
Vauxhall Astras were everywhere, usually in black. Not a bad looking car, I like that it’s a smallish manual wagon, and in the U.S. it’d be sort of interesting, but only to real car geeks.
Since we still have no French cars in America, any French car is at least somewhat interesting, and this Renault Megane convertible is no exception. It sort of feels like an Audi TT that did a few more drugs in college, and has better stories to tell.
Finally! A color! If you live around here, and you want to be able to find your car even if you’re in a hot-air balloon over the city, my advice is to get a car in a color. A real color. You’ll spot your car, this car, and a half-dozen red Citroen C1s.
Think I’m kidding about the color stuff? Look at this random shot I took so I could get a picture of that DS there:
That DS is Citroën’s premium brand, and we don’t get that (yet?) in America, and it’s a pretty interesting car. But I didn’t wait for a murder of all-black cars to go by– this is just how it is here. Why couldn’t that Citroën have been a Cactus? I want to see one of those.
Since the cars were so boring, I expanded out into car-like things, like this street-vac thing. It’s surprisingly sleek for something like this (aero must be very important) but what I really love is that it’s called ‘Glutton.’ What a fantastic name for a street vacuum!
Somehow they’ve made a machine to suck up anything it finds, and then they name it after a Deadly Sin, like it should be ashamed of itself. This is why the machines will rise up.
This little yellow Fiat Panda and the red car behind it are the highest concentration of automobile color in Guildford. Kids were walking up, thinking a carnival was happening.
This Land Rover Defender with the window-less van body may be the best car I saw out there today. This thing was very cool, and also unavailable in America.
I know this sign is supposed to tell me there’s CCTV cameras watching, but it looks like a Hasselblad, so I like to imagine there’s tiny robots on the roofs with expensive, large-format cameras hanging around their necks on leather straps.
Is this what they call Porta-Potties in the U.K., or are these literally chamber pots? Because that would be a hell of a service. What’s more luxurious that taking a leisurely dump into a pot in your bed and then having some poor bastard in a truck come to collect it?
The next Bronco is supposed to be built on the Ranger platform, so I was curious to see the scale of a Ranger in person. I like these; I think we in America could do with a truck about this size, too.
There’s at least one person in Guildford who appreciates Italian sportscars. I wonder if I should find the owner to tell them they left their parking lights on?
I was so desperate, I actually took a picture of a Peugeot Bipper work van. I mean, I like the van and all, and I rooted through the trash a bit, but it’s just not enough.
I found one other car with an actual color, this Skoda Fabia:
These Fabias are nicely designed; the two-tone works well, and the proportions of the car seem practical and well-balanced. I’m not sure how Americans would react to the brand, but bringing Skoda to the U.S. might be an interesting way for the Volkswagen Group to sell volume cars without the stigma that their name currently holds.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe my short little exploration didn’t hit the wonderful caches of interesting cars in this town. Maybe people have them, but don’t drive them, keeping them hidden away, to greedily enjoy in private.
Anyway, Guildford, I’m watching you now.