PetrolBlog’s Ode to Autumn Leaves

In his Ode to Autumn, Keats spoke of the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, going on to proclaim the loveliness of hedge-crickets, swallows, robins and, weirdly, gnats. But having studied the poem in great detail, I note he doesn’t mention ‘leaves dancing playfully behind a Ford Capri.’

And with this oversight, I fear Keats missed a point.

Yesterday, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) issued a nine-point guide to preparing a car for autumn. Most of it is standard stuff: clean out the plenum chamber, check the wiper blades, carry sunglasses, check the battery and clear windows of condensation. Oh, and asking the car if it has taken its vitamin tablets.

But point number nine reminded me of one of the most glorious autumn spectacles. Here’s what the IAM has to say:

“Watch out for wet leaves that gather up on main roads. Driving through wet leaves at high speed is dangerous and can force your car to lose traction – take extra care and reduce your speed before driving through them.”

Sure thing, but PetrolBlog reckons leaves on the road has the potential to rival any of the treats mentioned in Keat’s autumnal ditty. Seriously, have you ever followed a car driving through a pile of fallen leaves? It’s a wonderful sight.

There’s just something terribly evocative about the way the leaves swirl and dance in the wake of a fast moving car. The displaced air creates a vortex of colour that is especially great if the car is low-slung and offers the literal double pleasure of a twin exhaust.

I can vividly remember following a Capri 2.8i Special through the Gloucestershire countryside. Every time it passed through a layer of leaves on the road, it created a spectacular autumn spectacle behind it. Worryingly, this was some 18 years ago, yet the image is still ingrained on my mind.

I was behind the wheel of my Mineral Blue Ford Capri 1.6 Laser, but in my head I looked every bit as cool as the lucky chap in the Capri 2.8i. Obviously, I wasn’t as cool.

Far from mourning the passing of summer, we should embrace autumn and all it has to offer. Get out there and enjoy the falling leaves, before they turn into a pile of rotting mess.

Keats poem: an amendment

With this in mind, PetrolBlog proposes an amendment to Keats’ poem:

Season of mists and mellow rustiness,
Of fallen leaves dancing merrily ‘yond Ford Capri.

Granted, this is waffle and bunk in the truest sense. But it’s early and I haven’t had enough coffee. Does anyone share my love of dancing leaves behind a car? Anyone? Hello…?

Happy autumn and all that. Pinch and a punch…

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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. October 4, 2015

    Absolutely! Leaves are the British cinematic equivalent of ‘clouds of dust’ in America. We use each to visually evoke momentum and speed and its joys. The Cadillac in the opening sequence of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is the best that Hollywood can muster to emulate an Austin A30 wheezing along at 50 ‘neath the beech trees of Thame.
    RoSPA’s advice on most things automotive reeks of ox-blood leather, rod brakes and blankets over the knees…

    • October 15, 2015
      Gavin Big-Surname

      Nicely put, Loop.

      Having just returned from France, which is looking beautifully autumnal, I’m even more convinced that autumn leaves are a thing of joy. I fear a slow-mo video may need to be created!


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