#1028. German cars in rural England (a tiny photo series)

By pascaljappy | Travel Photography

Jul 27

Love him or hate him, Jeremy Clarkson is leaving his mark on the motoring journalism world. Among his numerous aphorisms, one states that a carefully renovated cottage should always have a classic British car parked in the drive.

His argument was made during one of the more extraordinary episodes of Top Gear ever to be aired. An ode to the e-Type on it’s 50th birthday. To paraphrase a man his friends call “The Orang Utan” and gifted with tremendous imagination for deliberate controversy: “why is it that you almost need a special permit signed in the Queen’s blood to change the door handle or a broken window in a listed home, but can then park any automotive atrocity outside it without having to answer for the crime?”

Try as I might to counter the reasoning of a man who has verbally gone too far too often on motoring-populist ground, this one seems to defy adverse scrutiny. There’s inevitability to that logic that requires bad faith in spades to completely deny.


But you could understand why someone passionate about heritage might not be into swanky motors. Mutual exclusivity doesn’t rattle my cage or contradict my experience in any way.

One of my fondest “motoring” memories was walking round “the block” where my grandparents lived, near Guildford, and past a lovely thatched cottage, owned and immaculately maintained by an elderly gentleman who also nursed something special in his garage. Every so often, he would open it to polish an Aston Martin DB 5 and take it for a spin to the shops. To him, it seemed normal, and little did he know the shivers sent through the spine of a young French passer-by.

But neighbours in equally other-halfly accommodation went about their grocery runs inside very unexciting metal boxes. Sadly, the Aston was very much the exception rather than the rule.


So I’m willing to accept the lack of correlation between a love of fine ol’ brit homes and a love of fine ol’ brit motoring.

What tickles me pale red is an unexpected, yet as statistically significant as Cheddar + Branston, correlation between houses that would not look out of place in a Downton Abbey sequel and cars that would look the part in a Detective Chief Inspector Stephan Derrick special. What’s that about?

Don’t get me wrong. This frown is a surprised one, not unhappy. If sauerkraut mixes with beer, why couldn’t Beemer adorn Victorian or Mercedes beam and stucco? As post-Covid European financial recovery proves (as if more proof was needed, really) collaboration between countries always, systematically, without exception, trounces petty nationalism. And cars in the sportier echelons of clan VW haunt my dreams. The one below, in spite of its rejection by purists, was particularly guilty for my lack of teen sleep.


Besides, in spite of jaw-dropping swag and healthy James Bond bad guy credentials, a Jag would have some trouble passing as a truly British car, these days. Let’s be honest, the balance of sexy has drifted seriously Eastwards when it comes to emotions on wheels.

Yet, it troubles me not to understand.

My very limited experience of such poshly antiquated dwellings, mainly B&Bs for me, I must confess, tells me that they are a pig to maintain, keep warm, keep mold free and that you need to enjoy an Aga more than sunlight to spend any extended period inside one. As gorgeous as they are to the casual glance, ownership of such houses requires dedication to traditional in equal measure to serious dinero.


And it seems to me that the sort of cars so frequently found in the drives of those twisted wood & brick pieces of architectural history, labour-of-love cottage-garden and all, would appeal to a complete other set of psychological drivers.

Don’t they?

What can look more modern than a recent S6 Audi? While you can accuse in-house designers to rehash the legacy look over and over again to levels that would make even Aston pale, there’s no denying that the muzzle of a recent Audi smells as fresh as morning dew and feels as edgy as Iggy Pop in spandex shorts.


At what point do the two trajectories possibly meet?

Maybe being outside the financial circles for the possession of either disqualifies my ability to judge and understand. That is quite possible. So I question this purely on the basis of New meets Old. Or New clashes Old, in my naive appreciation of it all.

Are both simply coincidal fashion items ? Does the age of one naturally call for a countermeasure of new ? Does the reassuringly comfy cottage appeal to those who value perceived quality and safety in their steeds? Is my sample village simply too accidental for a meaningful questioning of the phenomenon?


I suppose it matters very little, since it gave me the opportunity to enjoy picture-making (had I thought of making a series of it, I’d have tried harder to capture more such pairings, as there certainly were plenty more to consider).

But I ask you nonetheless. Our friends (not) at Google tell me the largest readership for DS is from the US, followed by Germany, then the UK, a close third. Perhaps readers of the latter two can weigh in on this mystery, compared to which Atlantis, Stonehenge and Kim Kardashian seem self-evident.

How do you explain the odd pairings?

(all pics 100% made of Swedish-bred photons collected by a Hasselblad X1D with an XCD 45 lens, in distinctly crossbread hands)


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  • JohnW says:

    How do you explain the odd pairings?

    Human beings are systemically and dynamically perverse!

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Effort ?
    No one has the time to keep *both* an old house and an old car in working order…
    ( – except the occasional elderly gentleman.)
    – – –

    Or Comfort ?
    A timber-framed house (and many other older constructions) produces a much healthier inner atmosphere than a concrete house or one built the modern way with plastic foil covering the insulation. So long as you remember to bend your neck when passing a door.
    A posh modern car is far more comfortable – both for driver and passenger – than any old-timer, except, perhaps, an RR. Unless you wear a hat and like to keep it on.

    ( I used to say: There are only two car makes, Rolls Royce and CitroΓ«n 2CV, the rest are only means of transport.)
    – – –

    Or perhaps :
    The wife has moved out because of the hard-worked old house. The remaining man bought a fine new car to increase his attraction…

    ( The man shopping a new after-shave was finally advised: Try this one, it’s become very popular, it smells of new car.)

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hmmm, the first two points are well made, Kristian, but I shan’t comment on the last idea πŸ˜€

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

        ( I’m still wondering from where he got the money; if he already had it, why didn’t he appoint a housekeeper?)

        • pascaljappy says:

          Who? Jeremy Clarkson? I think he made his money through his shows.

          • Kristian Wannebo says:

            Sorry, πŸ™‚ ,
            the man in “Or perhaps :”

            • pascaljappy says:

              Ah, the mystery man and his mysterious income source πŸ˜‰

              • Kristian Wannebo says:

                Arsène Lupin ?

              • pascaljappy says:

                Possibly πŸ˜‰

              • Kristian Wannebo says:

                Then Holmlock Shears or Herlock SholmΓ©s will most probably be frustrated by him again – as usual.
                [ Just as the CitroΓ«n 2 CV was superior and exceptionally flexible (only, it was one of the least deceptive cars ever built).
                Long ago I dreamed of the two-engine 4-wheel-drive “2 CV” (=4 CV?), although my Dyane (2 CV in newer clothes) – with roof and seats off – solved most any transport problem and managed snow better than any other car I’ve had.
                The CitroΓ«n 2CV was, in a way, the “Plaubel Makina” among cars.]

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      I’ve never tried a 2CV – those who have are passionate about them, so perhaps I should – I did have a friend who, in his old age, decided it was easier to drive an RR than anything else, because they were designed to make driving easy for people his age – it was a 1973 Silver Shadow, and was everything a Rolls should be. The modern ones are horrible – they look like something from a Sci Fi film.

      I’m afraid the man who thought cars are good “chick bait” is in for a boring night life. He might learn what a “snigger” sounds like, though.

      • pascaljappy says:

        My wife used to own a 2CV. Now, I know some people are passionate about them. But my memories of it are terrifying. For a fun afternoon stroll on a tiny empty road, fine. Busy road with plenty of 2.5 tons pickups zooming around you at twice your speed … never again. Thank goodness, that thing was stolen.

        RR today are brash and showy. As are most people with new money … brands have to adapt to the shifts in the market or disappear. As glorifier beemers with added vulgarity, not sure I’d miss them much if they did.

        But that’s overly harsh of me, in both cases. Because, let’s face it, 98% of cars today are so utterly boring and depressing, that it’s really nice to see a green 2CV or an white and orange roller in the traffic. It reminds us not all humans have given up on freedom and creativity πŸ˜‰

        • Kristian Wannebo says:

          you’re, of course, right!
          The 2 CV was not for modern fast traffic.
          The Dyane with its somewhat larger motor (top speed 110km/h) was OK, but German motorways were much easier at night.
          And when my mother and I planned a long tour in 1973 my father said, “Not in that cardboard box!”

          But as a car for a more rural use: cool in summer without an AC (but cold in winter), very good handling on any kind of road, could start uphill (10%) with summer tyres in 10 cm of new snow. Once at -17Β° C with a dead battery the small motor was easily hand-cranked (and I did remember how to place my thumbs).

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Perhaps a viewing of a “”coarse British farce/comedy” called “Car Trouble” might help the understanding of British motoring habits. Although it was produced as a comedy, it was apparently based on a true story of something that actually happened in Regent’s Park. Ah, ces anglais! LMAO!

    For me, a car is a mechanical appliance. I want whatever suits my current needs. I have had a different car, on average, once every 4 years – and I mean “different”, in most cases. It would never occur to me to consider what the house looked like, in relation to the car. I don’t think cars care much, what the house looks like – so long as there is a nice warm, dry garage to sleep in, at night.

    What puzzles me most about this post, Pascal, is why car owners care so much about what other people think about the car they are driving. I know, I know – they DO, so there’s not much point denying it. It’s just that it seems nuts, to me.

    I live in a commercial street. Parking in my street gives an astonishing view of the passing parade. I’ve had Bentleys, Mercs, Audis, Peugeots, Renaults, Alfas, Ferraris, Lambos, Harley Davidsons, and lord alone knows how many different versions of an SUV (designed to take 7 people, but never driven by anything other than a slightly built, single female – with no passengers and no need whatsoever for such a monstrous piece of crap. Cars that are too big for the parking spaces, too wide for the width of the carriageway. Cars parked back to front, in the “no stopping area” in front of my driveway, on top of a fire hydrant, & partly on the footpath – total fine, AUD$800 – which I thought was rather expensive parking.

    That rant was triggered by your reference to Jeremy Clarkson. If a car can’t do 0-100 in less than 2.6 seconds, he’s not interested. That epitomises what’s wrong with people buying cars for show, instead of for some meaningful purpose – like transport between home and shop, for example. And it’s not even keeping the industry going – all over the world, people are holding off from buying their next car, waiting till they can buy a suitable EV. It’s game over, folks – the show is finished, kaput, dead – just like the ICE automobile industry is – all shrinking, all making a loss, all facing collapsing sales.

    So goodness only knows what’s to become of all these thatched cottages in the next round. Unable to front with any half-decent ICE vehicle that Jeremy would regard as “acceptable”.

    • pascaljappy says:

      A mechanical appliance ? Pete ! πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

      I don’t know either why people care so much what others think of their cars. My love for nice cars is stronger that comfortable, but it certainly isn’t based on what the neighbour will think.

      My guess is we all hove different aspirations. My dream of cars that can take me anywhere when I live in a country where anything remotely fun outdoors is strictly verboten, is probably no less silly than buying a car to impress …

      Clarkson is a showman. He’ll say whatever will amuse an audience large enough to pay his salary πŸ˜‰ All media types do that, he just happens to be balsy and rude about it, with a strong sense of flair. Always a good laugh, even when I hate myself for finding him amusing πŸ˜‰

      EVs are a worry. Not only will owners of old style cars soon be considered terrorists, but when we have a pile of junk batteries higher than Everest to deal with, the problem will probably by far more difficult to solve than planting forests to absorb CO2. Oh, and since France can’t produce enough electricity for those cars, it buys surplus from Germany, all coal-based. Brilliant. But hey sel-appointed #GretaGood zealots will be happy.

    • Kristian Wannebo says:

      Jean Pierre,
      I lived in Germany for many years.
      In the town outskirts the gardens were all *well* groomed, most had a number of Gartenzwerge, garden gnomes, and the cars in the street were all of the “better” kind – as if they followed their neighbor’s update, which many probably did.
      Sunday, or was it Saturday, all the men were out in the street washing their car, competing for the shiniest finish.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Maybe that’s why I park off the street. I can’t remember which car I washed last – that’s what the rain’s for!

        • Kristian Wannebo says:

          Jean Pierre,
          – you seem to have more tolerant neighbors…

          • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

            It’s a commercial street, in a formerly working class suburb, which is slowly being gentrified. Fortunately the gentry all live in the side streets – I have one of the few “houses” in the entire street, and all my neighbours are shops or offices.

  • NMc says:

    Well Pascal you are picking up some rather loose treads of logic here. Perhaps the automotive equivalent of living in an old wobbly house is owning and maintaining a vintage Alpha Romeo (parked outside a modern house, instead of a mid century house ).

    For my imaginary spend like a rich man money, I find the modern German sports and luxury cars just a bit boring and lacking flair, joy or fun. They sometimes come across as the euro brand label snobs version of buying a Toyota Camry; the wrong way to do either the luxury, safety or reliability. Maybe Audi buck that trend just a little, so I won’t be a total curmudgeon about it.

    Give a Mazda MX5 less kudos (snobbery), less high tech detachment, more engagement and fun. Spend the imaginary change on travel and maybe some high engagement camera gear, or vintage camera. Just not a jack of all trades master of none, do it all modern tech-fest. Ok, was that was my long winded way of saying that either Leica or Hasselblad can be made to look like a sensible option and better value πŸ˜‰ maybe one day an Xpan or a Rollei ………

    Regards Noel

    • pascaljappy says:

      “Well Pascal you are picking up some rather loose treads of logic here. ” Oh dear, I was rather hoping no one would notice!

      I’m with you on the car selection and actively trying to get my wife to get an MX5 to replace her ageing Peugeot cabrio while she eyes Audi A3s … I do have a very sweet tooth for some Porsches (a GT3 Touring, a Targa 4S, a plain Jane Cayman or Boxster) but the Premium German cars are not my cup of tea at all. Too serious for me. A GT86, and old Honda S2000, an F-Type, or an old Land Cruiser, yum.

      You make a great point with your symetrical “new house, old car”. Somehow, that seems rather logical. Maybe because I drive very little, so the prospect of a “complicated” car doesn’t phase me as much as someone commuting 3h a day!

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    For total inverse snobbery any post war (WWll) British car would do to park outside those houses. However, it was always a lottery to see whether they would run and if so , how far πŸ™‚

    • pascaljappy says:

      Particularly in the 70s and 80s. Oh boy, those cars …
      Even today, we Europeans really struggle to match the reliability of Asian brands. But the situation is still a lot better than it used to be in the bad old days …

      As for build quality, I remember an old joke, though not the exact brands. Two engineers are in a bar discussing the door mounting accuracy of their respective brands :
      The guy from (say) Mercedes says : “We consider a car to be well built if we can put a cat in it in the evening and it has suffocated the next morning”.
      The other (Jaguar ?) replies : “We do the same and consider the car sufficiently well put together if the cat hasn’t escaped the next morning”

      Sorry πŸ˜‰

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        In the old days … there were a lot of jokes about Ford(s), and it was said that Henry F. himself was behind many.
        – Mr. Ford?
        – Speaking.
        – I’ve heard, that you’ve broken a record and managed to manufacture a car in 14 days?
        – Yes, Sir, that…
        – That *must* be the car I bought last week!!
        [ receiver slammed ]

        In the 1970s I read in a main Swedish paper on their “diverse” page, that an Australian farmer had just pulled out a brand new Ford T from his barn. He was, of course, offered hugh sums for it, but said it wasn’t for sale. He had originally bought two Ts, and now that the first was worn out he would start with the second as his farm tractor, no better tractor could be had for money, he said.

  • Frank Field says:

    Pascal —

    From observations of everyday life comes a whimsical, time-bound, interesting project. Well done!


  • Jean-Claude Louis says:


    I’m in shock, as you ignored the well-established rules of German car photography: their portraits have to be taken with a Leica. Initially with an M, but the rules have been relaxed a bit recently and tolerate the SL2. One exception to the rule are BMWs; a Sony with Zeiss glass is acceptable. Go figure…Smartphones for VW and Opel, though. And, please, keep the Hasselblad for the Volvos.



    • pascaljappy says:

      Oh dear, I do apologize for this breach of The Code ! From now on, it will be regulations-only car photography on this blog, and I have begun the search for a French camera for those Peugeots and Renaults we Frogs are so hell bent about inflicting upon the world πŸ˜‰

      • Jean-Claude Louis says:

        Search no more…I took pictures of the many 2CVs I owned with a rangefinder Foca camera and Oplar lenses made in Levallois by OPL – a wonderful little Leica and Contax ersatz , at a time (1945-60) when those were not readily available in France because of import restrictions and very high customs taxes.
        Other French makers included Lumiere, Berthiot, Fex, Coronet; they made cameras for the amateur market. Interestingly, France was a pioneer in motion picture cameras and lenses – Pathe, Eclair, Beaulieu, Berthiot. And today there is Pixii….;))

  • Patrick says:

    Such magnificent brit homes and Porsche/ Mercedes coupes are quite out of my reach…… all being the better things in life.
    I’m quite content, nonetheless, with my black Golf VR6 hot hatch (German made of course) which I have enjoyed and loved for over 25 years.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Wow, you’re not doing badly with a Gold VR6, Patrick πŸ˜‰ And 25 years old! That illustrates the sort of reliability that has turned VW into a legendary brand. Not sure it is still the case today, judging by the consumer surveys we get over here, but it’s great that it has been the case and that you are enjoying the fruit of that hard work πŸ™‚

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    Funny how this topic moved to cars πŸ˜€
    And, even more, to the cheapest ones!
    The Citroen suspension in the 2CV made me – like a few others I know -… seasick!
    So my first car, in 1978 or 79, was a used 1962 Beetle… I loved it and sold it later to a garage 8 times the price I paid… today it would be 20 times πŸ™‚
    Now that’s a collective item πŸ˜€

  • Peter Thomas says:

    I think the answer to your original question Pascal is that you have been photographing in commuter-belt villages (in North Hertfordshire?) where it is crucially important to have a better car than the family next door. In truly rural England people care less about such things. I have lived in 3 old houses in different parts of England over the last 40 years so do I have some experience. True my neighbour across the field now in this rural area does have a beat-up old VW Passat but he also has a Triumph TR3, an MGB and an old Alvis. Next door in the other direction is a Ford Fiesta and beyond is a Citroen. We have a Fiat Panda and a Hyundai (Electric). I can’t think of any smart German cars for many miles.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Good point, Peter! It was indeed a communter-belt village (Pirton, near Luton). Your comment makes me want to visit more rural parts of the country, now πŸ˜‰

    • Adrian says:

      So true.
      Where my mum lives, in a small provincial market town, there are lots of older cars and smaller cars, because average wages are lower, they’re what people can afford, and perhaps people care less about image.
      In contrast, in the M4/M40 commuter belt, you’re right the it’s an expensive status symbol and an important part of self image.

  • Adrian says:

    I feel that the German car brands offer some of the most “under-styled” products on the market. They tend to offer ranges where every model is almost identical except for size, make generations of the same model which are near identical (in some misguided belief it makes them a “design classic”?), and they only seem to come in 7 very boring shades of silver-grey.

    As for Jeremy Clarkson, he was at least entertaining, and once described the rather dour interior of a BMW he was test as “like being in a 1980s Berlin strip club”. Gloomy, black with chrome accents, lit by red light.

    An Englishmen’s home is his castle, which explains our national obsession with front gardens when European towns have shared communal spaces. Since Britain was a nation founded on the class system, which has translated to shows of conspicuous wealth in all classes as a symbol of “success”, then the quaint country house and the expensive “premium” German car can merely be seen as ostentatious signs of social success. It’s why the truly wealthy from the upper classes often drive around in an antique Range Rover, Fiat Panda 4×4, or a clapped out elderly French hatchback – they simply have nothing to prove. Unless they’re a cad – in which case they have a Jaaag.

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