Alexei Sayle: Take pride in our great British van

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Indy Lifestyle Online

In the last few weeks I have found, unsettlingly, that I have begun to lose interest in car magazines. I couldn't understand it, it had always been the greatest of pleasures to get my hands on the latest shiny new copy of Car Express or First Gear.

In the last few weeks I have found, unsettlingly, that I have begun to lose interest in car magazines. I couldn't understand it, it had always been the greatest of pleasures to get my hands on the latest shiny new copy of Car Express or First Gear.

Yet recently these publications have begun to lose their allure, despite such great features as "Five-Way Budget Diesel Estate Shoot-out!" and blurry spy photos of the new Hyundai Elantra on test in the Arizona desert.

At first I couldn't understand my sudden lack of interest until finally, scanning the pages of one magazine, it dawned on me what was missing - Rover. All these years I now realise that subconsciously I had always hung on to the hope there would appear a new model from the only remaining British car maker. I watched as the replacement for the Rover 45 slipped in the "Coming Soon" features from "early 2004" to "late 2006", still thinking that one day MG Rover might surprise us all by suddenly revealing it or some other exciting new model at the Vladivostok motor show. Slowly it dawned on me that I was now a man from a country that had no car domestic ndustry, and on realising this a wave of sadness swept over me. I felt suddenly bereft, lonely and lost like some sort of automotive refugee.

Yes, you tell me, there are plenty of foreign companies that have car plants in the UK, and more vehicles are built here than ever before, but that's not the same. I might as well be a Czech Republican or a New Zealandish person for all the difference it makes - there is no remaining large British-owned car maker, and our national pride is severely dented. Korean, Japanese, German, Italian and French tourists have already begun to be mean to me in the streets of London, knocking my hat into the gutter, pulling my underpants out of my trousers and pushing me out of the queue for muffins in the coffee shop shouting: "You have no British-owned motor industry, you are not a man!" At least that's what I think they are shouting. The only way to restore my feelings of patriotic self-worth was to find a British-made, mass-produced vehicle to drive. If I didn't then pretty soon I was sure Malaysians would be asking me if I wanted to go and see the blue goldfish.

Luckily a saviour was at hand. When considering my motoring choices I'd forgotten that there is one UK firm still sucessfully manufacturing four-wheeled vehicles in large quantities: that firm goes by the name of LDV. You can see their products driving around all the time. You might not have noticed them simply because they're not cars, they're vans and light trucks. These workhorses are particularly popular with big institutions: the Royal Mail own thousands, the police use them in large numbers and if you've been in an ambulance recently, chances are it will have been built on the chassis of an LDV truck. LDV (which stands for Leyland Daf Vans) was the old Freight Rover commercial vehicles division of BL that, after privatisation, was sold to the Dutch truck maker Daf in 1989. When this company also collapsed, a management buyout brought the firm back into British ownership. Until this year there have been two models, the Pilot and the larger Convoy, and if you look closely you can see in some of their side panels signs of the old Morris J4 van from the early 1960s.

In January this year LDV launched a new range of light commercials - the LDV Maxus which was awarded "Van of the Year 2005" in April this year. So that's what I'm going to drive from now on. To restore national pride I'll only be using LDV products, and if you happen to see me at the wheel of a Maxus painted in the colours of "Uncle Akbar's Tasty Cornish Pakoras", it's because I'm being patriotic, not because things have got so bad for me that I've had to take a driving job.

motoring@independent.co.uk

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