On two wheels and no responsibility

BMW SCRATCH: It might not look like much, but it's deep and expensive, trust me.
BMW SCRATCH: It might not look like much, but it's deep and expensive, trust me.

I was crashed into by a cyclist this week in the easy-natured but slow commute into Christchurch.

It appears the ear-bud wearing but unhelmeted pedaller was going too quickly for the traffic flow.

Turning hard along the rear of my BMW 650i Grand Sport, in a dash across several semi-stationary traffic lanes, his left foot and pedal came into crunching contact with my temporary pride and joy's rear bumper.

PETROLHEAD: British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell, seen here with her Oxford-built Mini, has cars in her blood.
PETROLHEAD: British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell, seen here with her Oxford-built Mini, has cars in her blood.

He righted himself and disappeared down a side road, never to be seen again.

I've buffed back most of the bruising on the bumper, but there's a definite dent, and I do so hate returning a car with such marks on it.

There were no apologies, no swapping of names, insurance details and addresses, as required of four-wheeled road-users, just an "I'm out of here" escape.

Oh, the joys of cycling.


British High Commissioner, Vicki Treadell, will forgive me for calling her a petrol-head. Because she is one.

And it's one of the reasons why she has put the resources of the High Commission behind the 2013 Great British Car Rally, an event that involves, if you care to take full part in it, a drive from Auckland to Christchurch, arriving in time to commemorate the second anniversary of the destructive earthquake. The proviso is that you must do it in a British-built car.

But it's not just an excuse for British car nuts to kick each other's tyres. The rally is also designed to help four charities: The Starship Foundation, the Steppingstone Trust, the Christchurch City Mission and Save the Children.

But the cars are certainly expected to be the stars, because the rally will also celebrate New Zealanders' great affection for British cars and acknowledge that Britain's automotive history has led to a modern car industry that is once again one of the old country's biggest exporters.

In a life of postings all over the world, Treadell, who has been our British High Commissioner since 2010, has owned and used a raft of British cars, even when it has been difficult to find them.

She has shipped out everything from an MGBGT to a brilliant red Range Rover, to places like Malaysia and India. But the biggest obstacle to indulging in her driving passion, has been in New Zealand. Her latest acquisition, a tiny Tata Nano, she is told cannot be driven on public roads here.

Fortunately, the long drive at her residence means the Nano can at least occasionally be exercised. We agree that if a car is designed specifically for the Indian subcontinent, then it shouldn't surely have problems in New Zealand.

That's not the only stumble she's had at the hand of a jobsworth, however. The red Range Rover was seen by one High Commission minion as being "above her station" as third secretary at the time. However, a few velvet words to "the boss", as she puts it, ensured the Range Rover could be shipped out for her use and that of her husband, also in the Foreign Service.

At school in southern England, while her contemporaries were lusting after Golf GTis and XR Escorts, she was diverted from some such ordinariness by a Triumph Vitesse convertible, especially restored for her by her father. It was pristine, but more importantly, says Treadell, "It was a bloke magnet!"

Her father has prepared other cars for her. Her much-loved MGBGT was fettled by him. As was the car she uses at her southern England cottage bolt- hole: a Morris Minor convertible. I can't think of anything better for running into the nearest station or on village shopping detail.

Her previous work as British Trade and Investments director for the Northwest of England would have prepared her well for four years as Deputy High Commissioner in Mumbai.

This saw Treadell very much with a business brief, and it was surely an interesting time for someone steeped in British cars and their history, because she was involved with the signing of the purchase of Land Rover and Jaguar by Indian steel conglomerate Tata.

It's worth noting that Ratan Tata himself saw to it that her dear wee Nano's roof gained a union jack, making it not only the first exported example of the car, but also the first factory customised one.

For the Great British Rally, all British manufactured cars are welcome, old or new, and participants can do the whole journey from Auckland to Christchurch or one or more stages, while enthusiasts can join in as the event passes through each city or town.

British cars don't just mean classic machines, like Aston Martins and Jaguars, you may have a Honda built in Swindon, or a Sunderland-made Nissan, not to mention a Derbyshire-built Toyota or even a Holden made in Ellesmere Port.

For more information: go to: ukinnewzealand.fco.gov.uk/ GREATbritishcarrally. There you can learn about fees, ferries and other details of the event on February 17 to 23, 2013.


The head of Mitsubishi in France got himself into a spot of trouble after calling the country's industry minister a "retard".

Jean-Claude Debard was the head of Mitsubishi's French dealer network when quoted by French daily La Provence making the following statement about Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg:

"This moron, this retard, is increasing green taxes, lowering speed limits on the Paris ring road and ruining our lives."

Debard was annoyed that the minister was effectively putting up motoring taxes while complaining about the demise of the French car industry. He's right, of course, such decisions smack of sawing off the branch you're sitting on. But the choice of words was patently wrong.

Mitsubishi France says that Debard has "stepped down for personal reasons, effective immediately". Yeah, right.


Mitt Romney, the Republicans' 2012 presidential candidate, when trying to gain some points from incumbent President Obama, told an Ohio crowd last week that Jeep is considering moving all of its production to China. It would have been a good one had Romney read the news story properly. Chrysler does have plans for producing Jeeps in China, but it is explained that Jeep production sites are being added to the mix rather than there being a shift of output from North America per se. This is to cope with a huge 86 per cent increase in demand for Jeep's Wrangler model.

You'd think a man whose father ran one time Jeep partner American Motors would know better than that.