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Motors, Columns

Petrolhead: Best of British

“For my generation brands like Triumph and Rolls Royce represent ‘Britishness’”

I still love all things needing petrol to make them work; especially cars and bikes, so I’m a pariah in the eyes of many, which is ironic as the word ‘pariah’ originated from India which is where much of our motoring manufacturing has gone.

At least my motorbike – which I’m riding now the weather is more agreeable – needs less of the black stuff to make it go, compared to my car; so I’m trying to do my bit. Recently I swopped my beloved Triumph Bonneville T120 for a Kawasaki Z900rs. My transition from UK to Japanese manufacturer made me feel guilty for a short while. In my defence Triumph isn’t purely British any longer as many of their production facilities are in Thailand. My Grandfather would turn in his grave. He was from the era when Britain made everything. He rode Triumph’s, BSA’s and Royal Enfield’s and the odd Norton thrown in for good measure. India now makes Royal Enfield and BSA’s and Norton was also saved in 2020 by Indian multinational motorcycle manufacturer TVS Motor Company. It became their very own ‘Jewel in the Crown’.

For my generation brands like Triumph and Rolls Royce represent ‘Britishness’. But, British brands are experiencing an identity crisis in the wake of Brexit. Over the last couple of decades, due to globalisation and the lower cost of overseas labour, many UK industries have been taken abroad. That is slowly changing, and, with the world becoming ever more volatile, many companies are bringing production home again. 

Our aging workforce is also cause for concern. As the older, skilled workers retire, the younger generation are choosing university over apprenticeships. They feel that studying subjects such as media studies and the life and times of David Beckham will result in their ability to earn higher salaries in the long term…

But not all is doom and gloom.

There has been a resurgence in British Manufacturing lately. Britain is now the eighth-biggest manufacturer in the world and although Brexit has created new hurdles for overseas trade our products are still in global demand. Brands like Rolls Royce or Mini could manufacture anywhere in the world, but they will always be as British as afternoon tea. David Beckham recently rode a Triumph Scrambler through the South American rainforest, now that is ‘The Best of British’ in a nutshell. Maybe the Uni students are right…


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