Bubble Car Museum
A few months ago, for a birthday treat, I was taken out on a mystery outing, the first stop was at the Bubble Car Museum in Langrick Lincolnshire. It was a pleasant surprise and the museum proved fascinating for me and quite nostalgic, there were cars(?) that I had forgotten, cars that I remembered well and cars that I had never heard of. Many moons ago I related my experiences with a Bond MkA microcar and you may remember what an appalling machine it was, one that should never have been allowed on the road. There are others at the museum that were probably as bad although, like the Bond, they were smart to look at, often quite sporty, and one can easily understand how the public might have been attracted to them at a time when a proper car was beyond the means of many. Most of these bad designs did not have long production runs. The Bond did run for a good number of years with improved Marks, but I doubt that they were ever really acceptable. Most people will remember the Isetta, however, one of the better ones, with its door at the front, Heartbeat fans will remember Ginaâ€™s example. Originally manufactured in Italy as the Iso Isetta the design was taken over by BMW. Who could forget the tiny Messerschmitt with its tandem seating arrangement, another of the better ones. Another German car was the Goggomobil, this was very successful on the continent with sales reaching 25,000 before production ceased, they could be seen in the UK also. Ernst Heinkel, like Messerschmitt also prevented from engaging in aircraft manufacture, decided he could improve on the Isetta by building a car of similar appearance but with a better engineered structure. This car was later made by Trojan and marketed in the UK under that name and was quite popular but it was a little late coming to the UK market as the Mini was well established by then.
Makes I did not remember included a Nobel, a Meadows Frisky, and a Scootacar, all UK manufacture. Both the Nobel and the Frisky used two wheels close together at the rear to avoid the need for a differential. I do not remember the Solyto and Inter-Autoscooter both made in France, the latter had tandem seating arrangement with more room than in the Messerschmitt, a more practical design it looked good in the open form and gave me the impression that it might have been very drivable. The French made a number of very low powered machines which I believe could be driven in France at the age of 14. In the UK, apart from the rubbish, there were a few slightly more acceptable cars. Some will recall the Berkeley, available with three wheels or four, an attractive usable car with the appearance of a small sports car, like most it was powered by a two-stroke motor cycle engine, in this instance of around 350cc, later models offered a 650cc four stroke motor cycle engine.
I am sure everyone will remember the Reliant Regal and the larger Robin, not really micro-cars, and the Bond Bug, possibly the most usable of all the micro-cars. The Bug was initially produced by Bond but was subsequently produced by Reliant. The better British micro-cars such as the Bug and the Berkeley came late and were in competition on price with the Mini and the Imp and the Austin Healey Sprite, their relatively small production rate meant that they, like all the bubble cars, were unable to compete on price or quality.
The list of these micro-cars is very extensive and it is not possible to describe them all here, I would recommend those interested to visit the museum, unfortunately it is now closed for the winter, details of location and opening times can be found on their web-site.
Is our democracy fit for purpose?
We are a divided nation on a number of issues. The responsibility for this rests with our democratic system and the politicians resulting from it. Our electoral system results in a government that is controlled by one or other of the two major parties each with fundamentally opposed ideologies, and so we swing from one to the other, each one often spending a great deal of parliamentary time and the nationâ€™s money undoing the work of the other. Almost all the governments that we have had in recent times have been elected by a minority of the electorate. As I have said before in these columns, I was amazed and disappointed when we had a referendum on our electoral system that the majority chose to stay with this crazy undemocratic process. The argument that a more representative system would lead to a weak coalition does not stand up, many other countries work more successfully than we do with coalition governments. A coalition is far less likely to pursue an extreme ideology and far more likely to pursue common sense policies that would be far less divisive.
Sadly, in recent times the nation has had a number of major problems that have needed to be tackled by governments, most prominent of these being inequality of wealth and a chronic housing shortage. All our governments have failed completely to tackle these problems such that they have now reached such proportions that they are almost beyond any government to put right.
Furthermore, it was wrong, I believe, for David Cameronâ€™s government to permit a simple referendum to change the nationâ€™s constitution on the basis of a simple majority. All constitutions of clubs, societies and unions that I have known (admittedly not that many) have always required a vote to have a specified majority in order to bring about a change in the constitution. The result of David Cameronâ€™s decision is that we have a nation that is split into almost exactly two equal parts. a nation divided.
The polarisation in society that our system has created cannot be good for any society. The electoral system in the USA for electing a president is no better, the result has been Donald Trump, elected by a minority of the electorate.