Weekend Waffle: 14 June 2014

We have literally been inundated with no emails asking us when PetrolBlog’s Weekend Waffle will return. And, faced with such pressure, we had little option but to bring the (ahem) much loved feature back.

So, put the dog’s lead back on the hook, pour another glass of orange juice and dust the croissant crumbs from your iPad. Weekend Waffle is back.

Pointless Variable Message Signs: a reprise

Motorway Electronic Signs

We start with some eloquent words from occasional contributor, Peter Counsell, who has more to say about our so-called Pointless Variable Message Signs.

Having been a critic of the Pointless Variable Message Signs in the past, I tend to view the matrix messages with some suspicion. But one caught my eye the other day that generated the hint of a smirk.

Our part of the world is dogged by the widening works on the M25 between Junctions 5 and 7. It is for the long term good, but creates miles of speed limited misery. Approaching it from the north, one is confronted by a mobile matrix sign with the legend “ADHERE TO 50MPH LIMIT”. I’ve thought about this and concluded that I love it.

On the one hand, you shouldn’t be sticking to the limit. The limit is there as…well…a limit, rather than an average velocity to which one must stick.

So, inherently, the message is just wrong, but what I love about it is the choice of language.

It could so easily say “DO NOT EXCEED 50MPH” or “STAY BELOW 50MPH” or, even, “STICK TO 50MPH LIMIT”, but it doesn’t.

Because somebody who has responsibility for the message has taken it upon themselves to wander into their O-level English Language and use “ADHERE”, which is just a bit more lovely than “STICK”.  I’d love it just as much if it said “ABIDE BY” and even more if it said “BELIEVE IN AND FOLLOW THE PRACTICES OF THE 50MPH LIMIT”.

Most of all I love the idea that there is a renegade aspiring author who has the keys to the PVMS system and wants to make our motorway life a little richer.

A hat tip and a hint of a smirk in your direction, Sir or Madam.

Weekend Want: Ford Orion 1.6i Ghia

When is a Shatchback acceptable?  When it’s either a Renault 19 Chamade or one of these, a Ford Orion 1.6i Ghia.

We make no apologies for featuring a Ford Orion 1.6i Ghia for a second time, there’s just something undeniably cool about them. The thinking man’s XR3i?

This particular example has a mere 67,000 miles on the clock and is as Essex as Essex can be. All over white, with a white spoiler and red pinstripe. Not only that, it’s for sale in Halstead, Essex.

Ford Orion 1.6 injection Ghia for sale

At the time of writing, there are 38 people watching this, which suggests that the £2,450 asking price might not be as optimistic as it first seems. How Many Left? suggests there could be fewer than 200 on the roads of Britain. What it doesn’t tell you is that approximately 75% of them will be found in Essex.

Tempted? Take a look at the Ford Orion 1.6i Ghia for sale on eBay here.

Most popular post on PetrolBlog this week: Nissan Qashqai

It’s arguably the least PetrolBloggy new car ever to be tested on PetrolBlog, but our review of the Nissan Qashqai is proving to be very popular.

The 2014 Nissan Qashqai

The first drive review is by far and away the most visited page on the site and this week it has managed to eclipse the waffle on Lexus-style rear lights and Tom’s farewell to his Panda.

How do you solve a problem like Alfa Romeo?

Driving the new Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde this week has left us feeling a little sad. It was a car we had really high hopes for. Surely some of the 4C supposed greatness could have rubbed off on the range-topping Giulietta?

To say we were disappointed would be putting it mildly. As one journalist concluded when arriving back at Heathrow, it doesn’t matter if we never get to drive it again. Which is desperately sad, but very true.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde grille badge

Believe us, there’s nothing better than experiencing a new car for the first time and then exiting the car beaming from ear to ear. We take great pleasure from handing the keys back to a member of the press team and congratulating them on a job well done. Witness the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST, Toyota GT86 and Suzuki Swift Sport. So how come Alfa Romeo can’t get it right? Are we asking too much?

Quite clearly, Alfa Romeo is suffering from a lack of direction. You only need to read Hilton Holloway’s excellent piece on Autocar to discover this. We don’t know enough about the new Giulia to predict whether or not it will reignite the Alfa (twin)spark, but we do know that a root and branch overhaul is required.

The MiTo is too old, the Giulietta isn’t good enough and the 4C is merely a halo product. But a halo car is as useful as a chocolate teapot if there’s no range for it to sprinkle some magic over.

Cast your mind back to 1995. Alfa Romeo was competing in the British Touring Car Championship, with the Old Spice Racing team made up of Italians, Gabriele Tarquini and Giampiero Simoni. How evocative does that sound?

Remember, a year earlier, Gabriele Tarquni had stormed to the BTCC championship, picking up eight victories in his stunning Alfa Romeo 155. Nobody pretended Alfa Romeos were perfect, but they were cars we wanted to own. Cars we dreamed about. And Alfa Romeo used this to great effect in its advertising strategy.

Alfa Romeo 155 magazine ad 1995

You only need recall the front cover of Car magazine in July 1995. On it were four Alfa Romeos, with the headline “Alfas to die for”. Underneath, the captions told you all you needed to know, “New GTV: the cut-price Ferrari 456”; “New Spider: 1300 miles roof down, foot down”; “Born-again 155: beats BMW 318i, Laguna 16v, Mondeo V6”, “New 146: Escort with attitude”.

And let’s not forget, you could still buy a 164, new. Sure, it might sound a bit Partridge, recounting the headlines on the front cover of a 20-year-old mag, but it only serves to highlight the point. How could it go so wrong and so quickly?

The engineers must take some of the blame. Thanks to the 4C, the Alfa Romeo name is enjoying something of a renaissance, so relaunching the hot Giulietta and indeed, the new MiTo, was a massive opportunity. But it has to go down as massive own goal. Why devote so much time to the QV Intake Engine Sound system when it would have been better served sorting out the steering and suspension?

Take the Ford Fiesta ST as an example. Here is a car that has been engineered to within an inch of perfection, and yet Ford can still sell it to us for £16,995. The Sony head-unit might be a bit naff and the ergonomics could be better, but nobody cares. Because the thing is so exceptional to drive. We could forgive the Giulietta its sins if it drove like an Alfa Romeo. And was a little cheaper.

Alfa Romeo 166 interior

If Alfa Romeo is to abandon hatchbacks in favour of executive saloons, then so be it. Should these saloons be rear-wheel drive with an interior to match that found in the much-missed 166, then brilliant. An Alfa Romeo doesn’t need to have the same level of quality as a German car. It just needs to have that flair, that imagination, that individuality and that certain something that were a given on Alfa Romeos of old.

We’re speaking from the heart here. It pains us to speak negatively about an Alfa Romeo. We just want you to be great again.

A word from our sponsors: Renault

We’ll leave you with a word from our sponsors, with some amazing finance deals on the Alliance, “racy” Fuego Turbo, the “affordable” Sportwagon and the “amazing” Encore.

Further waffle you might like

Facebook Comments


Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.


  1. June 14, 2014

    If I had an Orion…would have to be a 1600E!

    • June 14, 2014
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Good shout.

      Here’s a selection of 1600Es being prepared by Tickford.

  2. June 17, 2014

    Here’s another 80’s Renault ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3V0mRvh14Wc


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *