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AC/DC's Brian Johnson on the State of British Motoring - The Lohdown

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 3/26/2015 Edward Loh

While I'm more than happy to compile a magazine on the subject of British cars (the May 2015 issue of Motor Trend ), I feel less qualified to comment on the current state of British motoring, especially when I can enlist the aid of the most legit Brit I've ever met. I ran into AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson on the way to the 2014 Mille Miglia and called him to ask a few questions about the state of modern British cars. We talked for more than 40 minutes, and his wildly entertaining answers were punctuated by belly laughs and dozens of curses in his thick Geordie accent. ('Allo me son!) There isn't enough space here for all of his charming insights -- you'll have to head to our full interview feature for that -- but his response to my opening query on the state of modern British cars sets up this issue better than I ever could.

2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HST Limited Edition© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HST Limited Edition "I've been very lucky this year. I went to the Jaguar Land Rover factory. I went to McLaren. And you know, the thing was, I was just mightily impressed about what's happening there. There really are mind-boggling things there. I spoke to one chap, a production manager on the Range Rover Sport, and he said, 'Brian, if we had another three production lines, we still couldn't fill the orders.' He said it's just unbelievable.

AC/DC's Brian Johnson on the State of British Motoring - The Lohdown

"And at McLaren, I saw the 650S -- I did not see the 675 -- but I was lucky enough to drive the P1 and the 650. I mean, the McLaren factory is from another planet -- it's just ridiculous. But the … the … what's the word I'm looking for … the verve and the excitement at the presses -- I saw the new Jaguar XE production lines being readied -- it looked like … I mean it was exactly the opposite of what was happening in the '70s in Britain when through mismanagement, through union interference, I sat, as a young man, watching the British motoring industry dying. And it was a slow, horrible death. The machines that they were turning out were just absolutely dreadful. I mean, British Leyland were just awful. I remember the advertisements on the TV, the commercials -- Google them actually or YouTube these old advertisements -- they just downright lied! The cars were archaic. We lost everything to the Japanese and Germans. And to go back to these factories now is just … wow.

2015 Mclaren 650S Spider Front Three Quarter With Doors Open 02© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Mclaren 650S Spider Front Three Quarter With Doors Open 02 "But now to look around, I think Range Rover has to be the biggest success story of all. It's just unbelievable. Not far behind: Bentley. The thing I found out at Bentley, something that shocked me and surprised me and made me quite ashamed, was that I thought Bentley was the same as Rolls-Royce -- that the bodies were made in England and the engines were made in Germany. Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong.

"At Crewe, where [Bentley] make the 12-cylinder engines, a guy showed me and said, 'Brian, at Crewe here, we build more 12-cylinder engines -- by hand -- than the rest of the world put together.'

2016 Bentley Continental GT Speed Front Three Quarter In Motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Bentley Continental GT Speed Front Three Quarter In Motion "I was just shocked. I said, 'You mean the engines are built here in England?' And he said, 'Let me take you to the engine shop.' And there were guys with hands -- dirty hands -- which I thought was crazy because you never see any dirty hands in factories these days. The activity was just wonderful.

"The other one is Jaguar. Boy oh boy, what they've done to that plant is quite amazing. What I think is wonderful is that they've let people like Ian Callum -- who is one of my heroes -- just do what he wants to do. It's exactly like what Sir William Lyons was like when he said to Malcolm Sayer, 'OK, here's a rough drawing. Build that car.' And he did, and it was called the E-type.

"You know, the British worker is amongst the best in the world. They'll build a car like nobody else. But you gotta give them the tools. If you distract them with these stupid unions and bad management, well then you get what you deserve. Without BMW and the VW Audi group, there wouldn't be these stunning Rolls-Royces or stunning Bentleys we have today. And thank god for Tata. I want to thank them all for what they've done to make Britain proud of building cars again because we had lost it all."

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