FEB 08th 2016

Mystery Monday: Andrew English – Has anything actually changed in 20 years?

Mystery MondayAndrew English has been 30 years at the coal face of automotive journalism. He started as a road tester at Commercial Motor magazine and for the last 20 years has been the motoring correspondent at The Daily Telegraph. He is married, with two children and a large black dog and lives in Surrey. Ian callum on Twitter



Ever had the feeling that while it seems as though everything is changing, underneath it all, everything’s staying the same? After years of freelancing for The Daily Telegraph, while pursuing a separate staff career in motoring magazines, I finally joined the establishment of the biggest selling broadsheet newspaper as motoring correspondent in April 1996. So this April, it’s been a 20-year stretch at the paper, although these days I’m there as a contracted freelancer – same job title but no desk.

So what was my first story in the paper as staff motoring correspondent? The new Jaguar XK8 convertible, launched at the April New York Show and on sale that autumn, priced at about £55,000. In those days Jaguar used to sell a lot of cars in the States and XK8 sales were expected to be around 14,000 a year. Last year, Jaguar’s total US sales were just 14,466 and while the cars have got better in almost every way, Jaguar seems to have forgotten how to sell cars to Americans.

Other cars making their debut that spring were Lotus’s new Elise sports car, Citroën’s Saxo and Audi’s A3. Ford was about to disband its Thunderbird name, Volvo posited the idea of a futuristic dashboard controlled with hand gestures, the Americans were about to start a trial of autonomous driving cars on an unused stretch of interstate near San Diego and the European Commission were about to legislate against lead in petrol. Oh and a survey by the American newspaper Detroit News showed that what women really wanted in their new cars was somewhere to put their handbag…


So boil it down and in my first six months at The Telegraph I wrote about proposed new and tougher environmental legislation, a classic car name about to disappear, gesture-controlled dashboards and autonomous driving, and there was also a Land Speed Record attempt in the offing, with then squadron leader Andy Green about to fire up the engines of Thrust SSC against the rival Craig Breedlove’s Spirit of America. I don’t need to tell you that 20 years on, all these subjects are occupying the news pages of our papers, only the names are changed. So diesel emissions are threatening our air quality rather than lead in petrol, Land Rover’s Defender is disappearing instead of the Thunderbird, gesture control and self-driving cars are still automotive news catnip and the Bloodhound LSR team with Andy Green at the wheel is due to start running in South Africa this autumn.

Seems weird doesn’t it? Only the lines on my face have changed. Mind you, unleaded was just 58p a litre in 1996, so one thing has significantly changed…

And I have to admit to a few highlights on the way from 20 years ago to 2016. But that’s a very different and altogether longer story…

Share this