#944. Rule, Britannia! (and its exotic cars)

By Pascal Ollier | Travel Photography

Dec 23

Brussels is endowed with a permanent automobile exhibition hall around the monument celebrating its relatively recent independence, called “AutoWorld”. Built late in the 19th century for a national exhibition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of said independence, the building houses many cars from one of the largest car collections in the world based close to the French border – “Mahymobiles” in the secluded town of Leuze-en-Hainaut for car nuts.

At this moment and Brexit time, Autoworld is dedicating an exhibition until the end of January 2020 to the British car industry, called “So British”. I had the opportunity to visit it and took a few shots.

In the days of yore, Britain was a very serious competitor both in the luxury and sports car segments. In the 1950s, Jaguar was a big player with its XKs, starting with the 120 exemplified by this drop head.

Sony A7 III with Zeiss Loxia 25mm ƒ/6.3 1/30 1250 ISO

The E Type which followed was called the most beautiful car of its time by Commendatore Enzo Ferrari himself.

Jaguar E Type series One Zeiss Loxia 25mm ƒ/5.6 1/30 1600 ISO
Jaguar E Type series One Zeiss Loxia 25mm ƒ/5.6 1/30 1250 ISO

Jaguar was also very present on the track with racing versions.

Sony A7III CV 50mm ƒ/5.6 1/50 4000 ISO

For real fast road goers, including James Bond who contributed no end to its fame, Aston Martin, then owned by David Brown hence the name DB, was also a strong contender.

Aston Martin DB 4 Sony A7III Zeiss Loxia 25mm ƒ/6.31/30 2000 ISO

Nowadays, the car industry in the UK is … no longer British save for some very special manufacturers. Luxury car manufacturer Rolls Royce belongs to BMW, for example.

Rolls Royce Phantom, Sony A7III with Zeiss Loxia 25mm ƒ/2.4 1/30 250 ISO

McLaren Group, making spectacular cars, belongs to the Bahrain royal family.

McLaren 720 S Sony A7III with CV 50mm ƒ/5.6 1/50 2000 ISO
McLaren Senna Sony A7III with CV 21mm ƒ/5.6 1/30 500 ISO

In these turbulent times on the island, it is refreshing to see that Britain can be capable of the best…


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  • philberphoto says:

    Haha, you could have written: “roule, Britannia!”. That said, wonderful pics of wonderful cars. But, as you say, not British any more really. Can it really be that the largest indigenous motor car company is Morgan? Such clever use of multiple focal lengths, and astute choice of colours and B&W. My favorite has to be the DB4. Jaguar, great though they are, are so for the hoi polloi…:-)

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Thank you for your very kind comments, Philippe. Much appreciated.
      According to the AA, there are only two British car manufacturers left. One is indeed Morgan, the other one is Caterham (making a replica of the Lotus Super Seven). Mighty little.
      The rest is either factories owned by non-British companies (eg Toyota, Nissan) which will take French leave (if they have not already) due to Brexit, or famous marques now owned by the Germans or the Indians as a for example (Mini, Jaguar-Land Rover).
      I beg to differ on the E-Type, while a “mere” Jaguar, I would tend to agree with Enzo that it was (and remains) a spectacular design. Thereafter, who drives them is another debate ^^.

      • pascaljappy says:

        Caterham counts for 7 in my book 😉

        As for Jags, well, why do I always prefer them to the Astons in James Bond movies ? …

        • Pascal Ollier says:

          Great scene with Belmondo in “Flic ou voyou” with a Caterham. But not very compatible with Northern European weather.
          Great scene with an E-type in “Le petit baigneur” with Louis de Funès.
          Neither as glamorous as James, though.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Great Britain?

    Well – let’s see. First America’s Ford Motor Company bought Jaguar, then they sold it to India’s Tata Motors. Similarly, America’s Ford Motor Company bought Aston Martin and has since sold it to a consortium led by Prodrive founder David Richards, Aston Martin collector John Sinders, and Investment Dar and Adeem Investment Co, two international investment companies headquartered in Kuwait. Rolls/Bentley went under the hammer and Rolls ended up with Germany’s BMW. For a while, McLaren’s Ron Dennis owned 15% of McLaren and the rest was owned his Saudi business partner (15%), a Bahrain state holding company (30%) and Germany’s Mercedes (40%) – but some time after 2011 Mercedes competing with McLaren led to a reversal and some of their shares are back in the hands of the McLaren group, which would mean 25% Dennis (UK) and the rest Saudi or Bahrain.

    Seems the past has been and gone.

    Saw an interesting footnote on this, this evening. There’s a boy genius in the UK who, at the tender age of 5, has obtained a professional certificate from Microsoft – and when asked what he intends doing with his life, said he wants to found E-Valley – an English version of Silicon Valley. But he’s apparently a Pakistani kid whose family now lives in England.

    All this stuff is rather topical, right now, with Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

    Never mind – it’s all a distraction, since none of it has the slightest relevance to photography.

    The Jaguar XK120, in bright red, with Marilyn Monroe driving it, was the image of – ahem – certain dreams I had as a very you lad. We won’t go into details here, of course – they have nothing to do with photography either (I hope!) A friend of mine’s brother had the original E-type series 1 3.8L roadster and it was a hell of a beast. The later 4.2L versions never really appealed to me – purely on aesthetic grounds – but then what does that matter, I never had the money to buy one anyway.

    Aston Martins were another story – not only James Bond had one, roaring around hills roads in Switzerland in the first 007 movie I ever saw, but a friend of my father had one, and on discovering that my brother had never had a ride in one, gave him a ride that scared the pants off him! Totally illegal of course, and you’d likely be jailed for it if caught doing such things these days – but roaring through suburbia from dad’s golf course to our house at speeds of up to 100 mph (yep – 160 kph).

    My adopted big brother had a Roller – in fact he had several – it was the only indulgence he allowed himself in his old age, at least the only one after he sold his yacht. I met him in May 1969 and he died in 2006. I was his alter ego at board meetings of his company, which meant I clashed with his son, who had fought with his father and remained furious for the rest of time. Sadly, that meant I was told not to go to his funeral – something I don’t normally go to anyway, but in his case it was something I did want to do. Anyway – when he had his first Roller, we drove down to Fremantle Boat Harbour, bought fish & chips (wrapped in the traditional plain white butcher’s paper), and sat on a park bench to eat it. When along came a local, gobsmacked by the sight of a Rolls Royce in that locality – pointed at it as he passed us, and said “I wonder what bastard owns that thing!” Back in those days a Rolls was always a Rolls. Looking at them now, I sometimes wonder – I seriously DON’T like those headlights, I think they are just plain ugly.

    Back to the McLaren – funny story – a super rich business man was retiring, having reached the end of his career, and his business associates knew he idolised McLarens – so they bought him one, as their farewell gift to him, after a life time dedicated to the company. Poor choice – they are designed for young, fit racing car drivers. And our friend was past middle age, and decidedly portly. So he was simply too fat to fit in between the back of the driver’s seat and the steering wheel. No possibility of making any adjustments sufficient to get him into the driver’s seat. So he was never able to drive his toy.

    Bacak to photos – Pascal, the trophy goes to the final photo – I love available light photography, and even though I suspect this is actually a tripod shot with an extended shutter time, it’s perfect to bring out the image of the McLaren. 🙂

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      If necessary, your comments prove again your vast knowledge, on yet another totally different subject.

      Thank you for your compliments to yours truly. To answer your question, the last picture, of the McLaren Senna, were taken without a tripod and with a not that fast a lens (CV 21mm F3,5 not the F1,4). Shutter time was 1/30th of a second, aperture 5,6 and ISO 500. Light was good :-).

  • Andreas Aae says:

    I would go with the DB4 anytime:
    “James Bond: Are you gonna complain the whole way?
    M: Go on then. Eject me. See if I care…”

    Anyway, Hasselblad is now partly, if not fully, owned by DJI. It’s still ‘handmade in Sweden’ and it maintains the class, style and the gorgeous output, which at the end of the day is what counts.
    -There’s the relevance !
    And the fact that you produce these very classy images with a distinct un-classy camera just proves the point. Well done. would love to see that exhibition 🙂

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    Beautiful pics, Pascal!
    Being born in Bruxelles, I have nice memories of the tramway museum… maybe one day you can share that too with DS members 🙂
    About British cars, the Triump spider was fsmous too, and I still miss my grandfather MG BGT!
    My favourite one has always been the Jaguar Type E… except when modified like the one in “Harold and Maud”! Hem 😀

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Pascal, always appreciated.

      There were quite a few other cars beyond those I shared on DS. However, their positioning did not lend itself to suitable photography especially with the numerous visitors (in my humble opinion any way).

      I take due note of your tram museum suggestion and will look into it in the New Year.

  • Dallas says:

    A lovely set of images Pascal well done.

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