2019 – Year In Review

To continue the theme of recapping, last year was a pretty busy one kicking off with surprise, surprise… another trip to the UAE. Although it was only a short weekend trip, I’ve covered most of this in detail in my previous post The UAE: A Car Lovers Paradise so feel free to check that out! Here’s a few photos from that trip:

Back in a very cold England, and H.R. Owen Ferrari invited me to the open day of their workshop displaying cars both old and new. I commend H.R. Owen Ferrari for being so open with social media, pathing the way for other prestige car dealer networks who are currently playing catchup. They’ve always been open with collaborating with creative people and very accommodating. The woman who I believe to be single handedly spearheading their social media success is my good friend Helen, feel free to drop them a follow on Instagram here.

In February – unexpectedly, I ended up landing a job at McLaren Group Ltd. Having a career background in IT, I wasn’t expecting to end up in the automotive sector. I’ve since left McLaren but the office furniture wasn’t bad to look at! 

Moving into March, my good friend Jamie bought his dream car – A Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 S coupe finished in Obsidian black. Ever since I’ve met him, he’s been going on about buying a black C63 so I was happy to see his dreams turn into a reality. He’s since wrapped the car red, you can see it on his Instagram here.

Later on that month I met up with my buddy @KillsBugsFast – A proper car guy who loves his Porsche’s and has plenty of stories to tell. In the age where privacy is pretty much non-existent on social media, he along with a few other cool Porsche guys have been able to share their experiences and ownership without revealing too much about their private lives. Not caring for those who use terms like ‘winter storage’ and ‘delivery miles’ and just get out and drive. He owns a manual PTS Gulf Orange 991.2 GT3, He’s a proper cool dude too, feel free to drop him a follow on the gram – his ‘brain farts’ are rather entertaining. 

At the end of March was the grand opening of NVN London, the UK branch of NVN Motorworks which I visited whilst in Dubai. Their facility is very impressive and looks more like a high-end private lounge than a detailing facility. They’ve since relocated in Dubai and now have the largest detailing facility in the world, I can’t wait to see their new facility when I’m next over in the UAE. 

Moving across Europe, I found myself back at the Nordschleife for my annual trip to the Nürburgring – Usual sightings of Porsche’s and various stripped out Renault’s and BMW’s littered around. I think there was a 24 hour GranTurismo endurance race going on as well whilst we were there too.

Back home in England, my mate Merlin (@DukeofLondon) moved into his new digs at The Brentford Project. The space is a lot larger than his last place and is home to several different businesses within in it including a detailing studio, a gym, cobblers and even pizza shop (must try). It’s since hosted many a Classics & Cake meet and I’m sure once normality resumes, there will be many more!  

Ah yes, Goodwood Festival of Speed… An event which was very noticeably missing from the calendar this year. I don’t think there’s much I need to say about this event other than if you haven’t been, go. 

In August Jamie ended up getting the keys to a Mercedes-AMG G63 but not just any G63, a BRABUS G800 Widestar. That’s 800 as in 800 horsepower, in a G Wagon. A G Wagon that costs the same as a 3 bedroom house – I’m not sure what the actual retail is but I’m looking on the official BRABUS website here and they have one up for 356.932,00 EUR (circa £327K). The V8 roar with the added ‘tssss’ of the dump valve when you let off the throttle is hilarious. I think there’s more sensible ways to spend 327 grand but when it comes to this target market for this car, being sensible isn’t one of the things on the agenda.  

September came around which usually marks the end of car season here in the UK and one new event in the calendar for me was Concours of Elegance. Concours of Elegance is held in the prestigious grounds of Hampton Court Palace and offers a wide selection of some the worlds most rarest and beautiful cars on display. Car clubs also get invited to display their cars as well which really does add variety to the cars on display. There was a few stand out cars on display for me, here’s the photos from the event…

On the same weekend, I also attended Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. I’ve written a piece on Salon Privé here from 2018 if you want to read more about the event. This years theme was celebrating Porsche’s 70th anniversary meanings that there was some proper metal in attendance, see below… 

Later that month my friend Andy asked if I wanted to go for dinner and catch up, he even bought a friend along – A 2019 Toyota GR Supra. 

Now the GR Supra was one of the most highly anticipated cars of 2019 as the brand revived the fabled ‘Supra’ name for their latest sports car. When news was unveiled that the Supra and the BMW Z4 (G29) was going to share the same platform and engine, true Supra fans were outraged. The previous MK4 Supra was known for its legendary inline-6 engine, the 2JZ. Instead the new Supra is offered with two offerings; a 4 cylinder that you can find In the current Mini Cooper S, and the 6 cylinder B58 engine that can be found in the BMW M40i models. 

I like the look of the Supra, obvious design cues taken from the FT-1 concept are clear but I do often think “what if” when it comes to the overall development of this car. What if Toyota followed in the footsteps of Nissan and revived the car as a supercar? A proper Japanese 6 cylinder that could have maybe been paired with hybrid tech and fettled with by the Gazoo Racing guys. Yes, it wouldn’t have been as affordable but with the die hard Supra fans shunning this car and the fact that I’ve seen no customer cars on the road, I think this may have been a better route to the take. The B58 engine is a great one, very tuneable good as you can see from the vast network of BMW tuners out there who’ve managed to squeeze incredible numbers of the engine however in terms of research and development costs, I imagine that after the LFA, Toyota wanted to play this one safe and redevelop a tried and tested engine as opposed to building a new one. I think the Supra is a great car but it was created with the idea of churning out sales numbers and not creating a proper Japanese sports car. Even the die hard fans who have bought them have decided to drop the B58 in favour of the 2JZ. Is this a true Japanese sport car? No. At least not for me. It’s a Japanese sports car with German internals, but that doesn’t mean it is a bad car. 

Going back to the office, there was a Cars & Coffee X Topaz Detailing event being held at the McLaren Technology Centre which showed some of the most ridiculous cars turning up in the visitor car park. It was quite humorous to see all the different supercars from Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s, Porsche’s and of course McLaren’s at the home of the British supercar maker in Woking. McLaren didn’t disappoint either showing a full display of the latest sports, super and ultimate series models as well as some legacy models on the lake. 

Finishing up for the year back in the UAE with a couple friends. Other than our usual shenanigans, I managed to get a few press cars booked in to experience whilst we were there. The Maserati Middle East Levante Trofeo is the car I had for the longest and you can see my full thoughts here

One of the other cars we had access to was the GMC Sierra Denali courtesy of GMC Arabia. I’ve never been as scared to drive a car more than I have with this truck. To say it had prescience is an understatement – it was massive. It filled up two parking spaces in our apartment block and just felt like an absolute tank when you are driving it around. It has a big ol’ American 6.2L V8 under the hood and everything you’d want in a modern day pickup truck. Living in the UK, we don’t get powerful pickups – mostly because people prefer to use a van for their utility vehicle needs however I did notice quite a few GMC pickups around Dubai (mostly single cab). The Sierra Denali blurs the lines between utility and luxury – the cabin full of creature comforts, leather everywhere, big lounge-y seats, cameras and sensors everywhere, 3 pin plug sockets (in and out), Apple CarPlay, wireless charging, I could go on but it was better equipped than some AirBnB’s I’ve stayed in all whilst being able to haul all the tools or whatever you put in the back of a pickup. In a country like the UAE where the fuel is cheap and the roads are wide, this truck makes sense but for a British guy like me, driving something with the same square footage as your average apartment in London seems a little… daunting. 

The last car we had for a few days was a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon thanks to Jeep Middle East. I’ll first start with this, I’ve never been a ‘Jeep guy’ – not to say I don’t like them, I’ve just never had the burger to go out and buy a purpose built off road SUV. I suppose this is very different in the UAE considering going off road is a large part of their diverse car culture. Unfortunately, for insurance reasons I was given strict instructions to not go off road in the Wrangler and too be honest I’m glad because I think I would have got stuck. So how is it as a road car? Well the car we had was lifted and fitted with Fox shocks, great for off roading I’m sure but even for a 6ft 4 guy like myself, a bit of a reach getting in and out. Driving around town, there was a lot of body roll but this is to be expected of a lifted Jeep. What I will say is the 3.6L V6 that’s been tickled by MOPAR sounded great when you put your foot to the floor. To be honest as a road car, I don’t really think it’s that great but this is mostly because I know it was setup for going off-road. I say this in the same way someone would criticise a track-focused car for riding too hard – it’s to be expected. I think what I will say is owning a Jeep is more than just owning a 4×4. You join a community of owners who respect each other and personalise their cars. There’s tonnes of modified Jeeps in the UAE, not any one the exact same and even when you see another Jeep, there’s that sense of being in a club that no one else is in. It’s a niche 4×4 cherished by many, yeah sure it’s not going to ride as smooth as a Patrol or look as slick as a Range Rover but it is a purpose build off-roader and that’s all you care about when you’re driving it. 

One of the highlights for me must’ve been shooting the Lexus LFA at sunset in the desert thanks to NVN Motorworks. These must be some of my favourite shots I’ve taken to date. I really should write a full post of why I love this car so much — maybe another day. 

I completely forgot a shot a pair of Ford GT’s too, I met the owner at the Dubai AutoDrome and a couple days later he messaged me asking if I wanted to shoot his GT’s.

And here’s some other random photo’s also from that trip… Including @doncassanova‘s Bugatti Veyron and @faisalbinladen‘s McLaren P1 LM by Lanzante Motorsport.

That was pretty much 2019 summed up, 2020 was er… less interesting. But that’ll be coming up next. 

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