There are so many events for the car enthusiast during the course of a year that it is totally impossible to attend them all. And that inconvenient truth means that coverage of them by any of the well known magazines, websites, bloggers, vloggers and other reports is equally incomplete, so when you come across an event that you’ve not attended before, it can be quite difficult to get an idea of what to expect. That certainly applies to the event under consideration here: the Cars in the Park, which takes place over 2 days at the start of July in Beacon Park in the central English city of Lichfield. It’s been running for a very long time, thanks to tireless enthusiasm by the local organiers, and I became aware of it when some of the Midlands-based Abarth owners decided to ask for a Club stand. They spoke enthusiastically of the event, but there was always something else going on which precluded my attendance. for 2017, I decided to foresake some of those other attractions, and go and find out for myself what it was like. The diary was not completely clear, though, so I had to content myself with attending on the Saturday. From what I learned, this is a very quiet day compared to the Sunday, when the expansive Beacon Park is completely filled with cars and other attractions, and, with only one access road in and out, the surrounding roads grind to something of a halt for much of the day. I did not get that, but what I did get was a very enjoyable event, with a mix of Dealer displays, Car Club stands and much-prized classics brought along by their proud owners. There was plenty to keep me entertained for the day, as this report will evidence.
With plans for a rather larger gathering of Abarths for the Sunday, with the monthly West Midlands meeting moved from its summer-time regular location of Curborough to this venue, there was ample space for the cars gathered on the Saturday. I was not the first to arrive, as two of the owners, Jack Slade and Stephen Walley, had taken advantage of the venue’s offer of an adjoining camp site and had overnight-ed there (and would go on to do so again on the Saturday night). That meant that my 595 Competizione was able to join their 500 (Black Betty, for Jack’s car) and Stephen’s car, which had still not mutated into the Series 4 model he has had on order for what seemed like an age.
There were some more unusual Abarths here, too. Among them were examples of the newly released 695 XSR Yamaha, the first examples of which have just started to reach their owners. Genesis of the car, and its name is that for the third year running, Abarth is the Official Sponsor and Official Car Supplier of the Yamaha Factory Racing Team in the 2017 FIM MotoGP World Championship. And so, in the wake of the thrilling Abarth 595 Yamaha Factory Racing and the 695 biposto Yamaha Factory Racing Edition, along came the Abarth 695 XSR Yamaha Limited Edition special series, available exclusively with a Pista Grey livery: only 695 examples of each of the hatch and convertibles will be made. This version was created to celebrate the Yamaha XSR900 Abarth, which is the first exclusive motorcycle to spring from the collaboration between the two brands and which sports the same grey livery with red trim as the 695 XSR, as well as sharing many of its features. The special series makes extensive use of carbon fibre to demonstrate its affinity with the front fairing, front mudguard and saddle cover of the two-wheel Yamaha. The Abarth 695 XSR and the Yamaha XSR900 Abarth also share Akrapovič ultralight exhaust developed in the racing world to boost the personality, sound and performance of both vehicles. On the Abarth car, the carbon fibre tailpipes enhance the looks and technology of the exhaust system. The XSR logo on the tailgate distinguishes the Abarth 695 XSR, while an aluminium badge identifies the sequential number of 695 units for each body type. Other carbon fibre details, in addition to the mirror caps and Akrapovič tailpipes, are available as optional equipment, such as dashboard fascia, pedal covers, gear knob and kick plate. Despite the 695 badging, the car is powered by a 165 bhp version of the 1.4 T-Jet engine. Equipment on this special series includes Koni rear suspension and Eibach springs, 17” Supersport alloy rims with Matt Black finish, Satin Chrome accents on handles and badge supports, red details on bumpers and mirrors, red brake callipers and a braking system with perforated discs. This version can be customised even further using the tuning kit to increase the power to 180 bhp, improve handling by fitting a Koni front suspension with FSD (Frequency Selective Damping) valve and make braking even prompter with 305x28mm perforated and self-ventilating Brembo floating front discs with high-performance Ferodo HP 1000/1 front brake pads. It also features the new UconnectTM 7″ HD LIVE system integrated with Apple CarPlay allows iPhone users to access contents such as Apple Maps, Messages, telephone calls, Apple Music, also with Siri voice assistance.
Even these had to defer to the real rarity of the day, though, which was a genuine works-produced R3T Rally Car. Revealed in late 2009, it came type approved for Group R3T (hence the name), a class that covers turbocharged cars with an engines of 1.6-litre or smaller. This car took its engine from the regular, road-going Abarth 500, so the regular 1.4-litre unit, but the R3T benefitted from the fitment of a Garret fixed geometry turbocharger to boost power to 178bhp – 20bhp more than the highest powered official 500 of the time, the Esseesse. The engine comes mated to a sequential six-speed transmission, with a twin-plate clutch and self-locking differential, which I understand costs the not inconsiderable sum of £20k should you need to replace it. Smart 17in OZ alloys shroud Brembo disc brakes with four-pot calipers. The suspension is highly adjustable, with racing shock absorbers and tweakable ground clearance and caster/camber angles. The idea was to make a car that can be ideally suited to each of its drivers’ individual driving styles. The drivers in question were intended to be private racers, and young ones at that – those who want to prove themselves in a bona fide racing car. Group R3T is ideal for balancing pretty potent power with more attainable running costs, and it’s a class that’s predicted to have a bright future. It has a 1080kg minimum weight figure, which the Abarth hits perfectly, meaning it boasts 167bhp/ton. The cars had a typically Italian livery, and integrates itself perfectly into the current Abarth range with stripes aplenty. The promotional trophy it stars in follows years of tradition, featuring an eclectic mix of racing Fiats past – from the Uno Turbo to the titchy Cinquecento and rather unloved Stilo. This one, which lives relatively locally to the event, was bought some years ago, by an enthusiast, who had to pay around £50k for it. A special Abarth indeed.
Sole Alfa Romeo here, and one which we welcomed onto the Abarth stand was this fabulous yellow 4C Competizione. It belongs to Jan Vermeer, who has had a number of Abarths in his time, and is well known to those who were in the Abarth scene in the early years, as under his forum name of Trooper, he helped to run Abarthisti and organised a number of events, such as our first appearance at MITCAR and a memorable trip to Cosford for a Breakfast Club meeting. I’d not seen Jan for a couple of years, so it was great to catch up with him, and even better that he brought another ex Abarth driver, Shaun Yates with him. Jan bought this car late in 2016, something of an indulgence, but he loves it, and it is not hard to see why. It is, he understands. the only yellow painted Coupe model in the UK at present, yellow having been a popular colour for the later Spider.
This is a TE21 Coupe, the last bodystyle produced by local marque, Alvis. Conceived in 1956, the shape started as the TD21 and was quite a departure from the lovely, but rather “post-war” TC21. However, on its arrival in dealer’s showrooms, it quickly set about changing established views of the Alvis. Following the loss of coachbuilders Mulliner and Tickford (who were now tied to other companies), Alvis turned to the Swiss coachbuilder, Graber whose tradition of producing sleek, modern and very elegant saloons and dropheads proved a good fit in terms of the way Alvis saw their future. Graber first presented this new style to the Alvis board in late 1957 who were very impressed with the Swiss company’s flowing design and commissioned the body to be built on the new TD chassis. To ease logistical problems, Park Ward of London, built the Graber designed bodies in the UK. The Alvis Three Litre TD21 Series I was produced between the end of 1958 and April 1962, and was powered by the TC’s 2993 cc engine, uprated by 15bhp to 115 as a result of an improved cylinder head design and an increased compression ratio. A new four-speed gearbox from the Austin-Healey 100 was incorporated, while the suspension remained similar to the cars predecessor, independent at the front using coil springs and leaf springs at the rear, but the track was increased slightly and a front anti-roll bar added. From 1959 the all drum brake set up was changed to discs at the front retaining drums at the rear. In April 1962, the car was upgraded with four wheel Dunlop disc brakes in place of the disc/drum combination, aluminium doors, a five-speed ZF gearbox and pretty recessed spotlights either side of the grille, these improvements coming together to create the TD21 Series II. The car would be updated in 1963 to create the TE21, with its distinctive dual headlights proving a recognition point, and the later TF21, continuing in production until 1967 at which point Alvis ceased car manufacture.
Based on the A50 Cambridge that was launched in 1954, was this, the Half Ton van. By the time they were launched, in 1957, the A50 had been updated to the A55. The van was released in February and was followed in May by pick-up, chassis and cab and chassis and scuttle models. Contemporary sales literature used the term “Austin ½ ton van and pick-up”. In October 1962, new models were introduced with a restyled front end and bumper, chrome side mouldings, 14″ wheels, and various interior refinements. Morris-badged van and pick-up models also were now offered. From September 1963 the commercial models were fitted with the 1,622 cc B Series engine from the Austin A60 saloon, with the Austins still marketed under the “Austin ½ ton” name. They remained in production through 1973.
There were couple of examples of the ADO16 1100 in Mark 2 guise. ADO16 was the second of the Issigonis trio of space efficient front wheel drive cars, following the smaller Mini and preceding the larger ADO17 1800 “Land Crab”. It extended to become a complete family of cars, the first of which was seen in August 1962 as the Morris 1100. A four door saloon, with styling that had been influenced by Pininfarina, this car applied the same principles as had been seen in the Mini of three years earlier, but in a larger package, creating plenty of space for 4 or even 5 adults and with more luggage room. Power came from a 1098cc version of the proven A Series engine, which gave it a lively (for the time!) performance and the combination of a long wheelbase and innovative hydrolastic suspension gave it a particularly comfortable ride. A sporting MG model, with twin carburettors was added to the range before the year was out. In 1963 an Austin model appeared, identical to the Morris in all but grille and tail end treatment, and then Wolseley, Riley and even Vanden Plan models were added to the range in 1965 and 1966, as well as Countryman and Traveller estate versions of the Austin and Morris. Mark 2 models were launched in 1967 with the option of a 1300 engine, and a slightly less spartan interior. The car became Britain’s best seller, a position it held until 1972. Surprisingly few of the model have survived, and you always see far fewer of these than the admittedly longer running Mini, or even the Morris Minor which the car was intended to replace, but which it did not, at events.
Something a bit different was this FX3 Taxi. These were made from 1948 to 1958 and were designed to comply with the Metropolitan Police Conditions of Fitness for London taxicabs, though the design was also used in other towns and cities in the UK. It was commissioned from Austin by taxi dealers Mann & Overton and built by Carbodies of Coventry on a chassis supplied by Austin. The first prototype, the FX had a 1.8-litre sidevalve engine that proved inadequate for the job. The second prototype, the FX2 had a 1.8-litre petrol engine, but this was replaced by the third version, the FX3, which had a 2.2-litre ohv petrol engine. Fitted with an all-steel body from Carbodies the FX3 was registered as JXN 842, and it and the FX2 (registered as JXN 841) went on test in the summer of 1948. It was announced at the Commercial Motor Exhibition in the following November and went into full production in 1949. Following on from previous designs of London taxi, the FX3 had a traditional 3-door body, with an open luggage platform rather than a front passenger seat beside the driver. The FX3 was fitted with mechanical brakes, with rod operation, beam axles on leaf springs and a built-in Jackall hydraulic jacking system. Like all London taxis, it has a tight turning circle of 25 ft, as required by the Conditions of Fitness. The petrol engine proved too expensive to run and a conversion to a Standard diesel engine was offered by taxi and bus proprietors Birch Brothers of Kentish Town. A 3-litre Perkins engine was also offered and these, as well as pressure for Mann & Overton prompted the Austin Motor Company to develop their own diesel engine. This appeared in 1956 and quickly became the most popular choice in the FX3. The FX3’s manual transmission has four forward speeds plus reverse, with synchromesh on all but first gear. In 1957-1958 a series of automatic transmission test vehicles were manufactured, of which only two are known to survive. Outside London, cab operators in major UK cities like Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Liverpool ran FX3s, either bought new or when they were retired from service in the capital. Examples of four-door FX3s were known to run in Manchester, where, in common with every other UK local authority outside London different taxi licensing regulations were enforced. Several FX3s were exported to Madrid, Spain and proved successful. Attempts to sell them to the United States were a failure. A Hire Car version, the FL1 was also made, which had four full doors, a bench front seat, column gear-change and an umbrella-type handbrake handle. The two occasional seats faced forward. A ‘driveaway’ chassis-cab was also supplied to outside coachbuilders. Several shooting brake (‘woodie’ ) bodies were made, as well as newspaper vans for the three London evening papers, the Star, News and Standard. A number of hearse bodies were also mounted on FL1 chassis by such coachbuilders as Simpson and Slater, Alpe and Saunders, Arthur Mulliner and Woodall Nicholson. Undoubtedly the most remarkable body built on an FX3 chassis belonged to Armenian oil magnate Nubar Gulbenkian. Built by London coachbuilders FLM Panelcraft, it was an open-drive town car, with carriage lamps and wickerwork decoration on the body sides. It was powered by a Ford six cylinder engine. The FX3 was a popular model. Out of a combined production total of 12,435 FX3 and FL1 models, 7,267 were licensed in London between 1948 and the end of production in 1958. The FX3 was replaced in 1958 by the Austin FX4, but continued in use in London until 1968. The Austin FX3 is still sought after by collectors and enthusiasts of vintage London Transport.
Slightly unusually, the only Austin Healey here was not one of the Big Healeys, or even one of the Frog Eye cars, but rather a Sprite Mark III. The Mark II to Mark IV were all very similar and represented the evolution of the model throughout the 1960s, The Mark II was announced at the end of May 1961. It used the same 948 cc engine with larger twin 1 1⁄4 inch SU carburettors, increasing power to 46.5 bhp. A close-ratio gearbox was fitted. The bodywork was completely revamped, with the headlights migrating to a more conventional position in the wings, either side of a full-width grille. At the rear, styling borrowed from the soon-to-be-announced MGB gave a similarly more modern look, with the added advantages of an opening boot lid and conventional rear bumper bar. The result was a much less eccentric-looking sports car, though at the expense of some 100 lbs extra weight. It followed the MG version of the car which was introduced a couple of weeks earlier as ‘the new Midget,’ reviving a model name which had been a great success for the MG Car Company in the 1930s. The Midget was to prove more popular with the public than the Sprite and by 1972 had completely supplanted it within the BMC range. In October 1962, both Sprites and Midgets were given a long-stroke 1098 cc engine. A strengthened gearbox with Porsche (baulk-ring) synchromesh was introduced to cope with the extra power – 56 bhp. Front disc brakes were also introduced at the same time and wire wheels became an option. 31,665 Mark II Sprites were made. The Mark III Sprite was also marketed as the Mark II MG Midget – differences between the two were again restricted to minor trim detailing. Although still 1098 cc, the engine had a stronger block casting, and the size of the crankshaft main bearings was increased to two inches. A new (slightly) curved-glass windscreen was introduced with hinged quarterlights and wind-up side windows. Exterior door handles were provided for the first time, with separate door locks. Though the car could now be secured, with a soft-top roof the added protection was limited. The rear suspension was modified from quarter-elliptic to semi-elliptic leaf springs, which gave a more comfortable ride for a near-negligible weight penalty as well as providing additional axle location, the upper links fitted to the quarter-elliptic models being deleted. Though scarcely sybaritic, these changes helped the Sprite and Midget compete with the recently released Triumph Spitfire. 25,905 Mark III Sprites were made. The next upgrade was presented at the London Motor Show in October 1966. Besides receiving the larger 1275 cc engine (which disappointed enthusiasts by being in a lower state of tune than that of the Mini-Cooper ‘S’), the Mark IV and its cousin the Mark III MG Midget had several changes which were more than cosmetic. Most notable is the change from a removable convertible top, which had to be stowed in the boot, to a permanently affixed, folding top of greatly improved design, which was much easier to use. Separate brake and clutch master cylinders were fitted, as car manufacturers’ thoughts began to turn to making their products safer. For the 1970 model year cast-alloy wheels were fitted and the grille was changed to resemble that fitted to the MG Midget. 22,790 Mark IV Sprites were made. The Healey connection was discontinued in 1971, so the final 1,022 Sprites built were simply Austin Sprites.
This 401 is an example of the second body design produced by Bristol Cars. The 401 model replaced the first ever Bristol model, the 400, and then a program of updates saw the car morph into the 403 (the 402 having been an open topped version of the 401) and this car was then produced between 1953 and 1955, the third of the eventual five series of Bristols powered by the BMW-derived pushrod straight-six engine. It replaced both the Bristol 401 and 402 in 1953 and whilst it retained much the same styling as the 401, the new 403 featured many mechanical improvements compared to its predecessor. The 1971 cc six-cylinder engine was modified through the use of bigger valves and larger main bearings with a diameter of 54 mm as against 51 mm on the 400 and 401, which increased the power output to 100 hp as against 85 hp in the 401. The acceleration was markedly improved: the 403 could reach 60 mph in 13.4 seconds as against 16.4 seconds for the 401. The 403 had a top speed of 104 mph. To cope with this increased power, an anti-roll bar was fitted on the front suspension and improved drum brakes known as “Alfins” (Aluminium finned) were fitted. Early models had them on all wheels, but Bristol thought the car was over-braked and they were thus restricted to the front wheels on later 403s. The 403 was the last Bristol to feature a BMW-style radiator grille. It is also noteworthy for having two extra headlamps at the side, almost pre-dating the adoption of the four-headlamp layout in larger cars (Bristol themselves adopted it with the 411 in the late 1960s).
Replacement for the 401 and 403 cars came in the form of the 404 and 405 ranges. The Bristol 404 came first, manufactured from 1953 to 1958, and the 405 from 1955 to 1958. The 404 was a two-seat coupé and the 405 was available as a four-seat, four-door saloon and as a four-seat, two-door drophead coupé, as seen here. Unlike previous or later Bristol models, there is considerable confusion in nomenclature when it comes to the Bristol 404 and 405. The 404 had a very short-wheelbase (8 feet) as against 9 feet 6 inches for the 405. The 405 itself was seen in two versions. The more common (265 of 308 built) is a four-door saloon built on the standard chassis of the previous Bristols, whilst the 405 drophead coupé or 405D (43 built) had a coupé body by Abbotts of Farnham and most built had a highly tuned (through advanced valve timing) version of the 2 litre six-cylinder engine called the 100C which developed 125 bhp as against the 105 bhp of the standard 100B 405 engine. All engines for the 404 and 405 had higher compression ratios than previous Bristols — 8.5:1 as against 7.5:1. Compared to the 403, the 404 and 405 had an improved gearbox with much shorter gear lever which improved what was already by the standards of the day a very slick gearchange. The 405, though not the 404, had overdrive as standard.
The next model produced as the Bristol 406, once again, a 2 door car, and built between 1958 and 1961 by British manufacturer Bristol Aeroplane Co. It was the last Bristol to use the BMW-derived pushrod straight six engine that had powered all cars built by the company up to that point. In a stopgap measure for the 406 its torque was improved by a 250 cc increase in capacity because it was clearly unable to give a performance comparable to that of newer engines emerging at the time. A prototype with a body by Carrosserie Beutler AG of Thun in Switzerland was exhibited in 1957 in both Paris and London Motor Shows. The start of production at Filton was announced in late August 1958. Compared to the 405, the 406 saw several significant changes. The most important was that the six-cylinder engine itself was enlarged slightly in both bore and stroke to dimensions of 69 mm by 100 mm. This gave an engine displacement of 2,216 cc but the actual power of the engine was no greater than that of the 405. However, the torque was higher than the smaller engine, especially at low engine speeds. The 406 also featured Dunlop-built disc brakes on all four wheels (making it one of the first cars with four-wheel disc brakes). The rear suspension of the 406 also did away with the outdated A-bracket of all previous Bristols for a more modern Watt’s linkage. The 406 was the world’s first production car to be thus equipped. However, the outdated front suspension of previous Bristols was retained and not updated until the following model with its more powerful drivetrain. Like all Bristols, these were hand-built, in very low volumes, so the specific needs of the prospective first owner could often be incorporated. A small number of them were produced with very different looking Zagato bodies.
Representing Bristol from the 1960s was an example of the series of cars which started with the 407, and which extended up to the 411, which would stay in production until 1976. Changes were subtle and it takes a marque expert to spot which model you are looking at, as there is no model designation on the cars. The car seen here is a 410.
There were a couple of 603 models here. This was launched in 1976, to replace the 411, and along with the Zagato-built 412, was the first all new Bristol design since the introduction of the 406 in the late 1950s. The original 603 was offered in two versions, largely owing to the energy crisis which increased fuel prices so that affordability of fuel was no longer a certainty for those who could afford such expensive cars. The 603E had a 5,211 cc V8 petrol engine, whereas the 603S had a larger 5.9-litre unit, from Chrysler. Both retained the same transmission and suspension as the 411, but the cabin had become more luxurious with the provision of electrically adjustable seats and air conditioning. With the 603S2, as the energy crisis eased, all Bristols had a standard 5.9-litre Chrysler unit that was to be used for all subsequent editions of the car. The headlamp clusters were also set in a new grille. The third series of 603, introduced in 1982 and continuing until 1994, saw Bristol adopt for the first time the names of the famous Bristol Aeroplane Company models for its cars. With this series of 603, there was a smaller radiator grille and more modern rear vision mirrors. The tail-lights were also mounted directly vertically, whereas on previous versions of the 603 the reversing lights were separate from the rear turn indicators and brake lights. The Bristol Britannia was the standard version, whilst the Bristol Brigand had a Rotomeister turbocharger added to the Chrysler V8 engine and a torque converter originally used on the 440 V8 to cope with the extra performance, which saw the Brigand capable of 150 mph. The Brigand could be distinguished from the Britannia by the bulge in the bonnet needed to accommodate the turbocharger, and also had alloy wheels as standard equipment. There were a number of minor changes to the appearance of both models during their 12-year production run, especially at the front. With the Blenheim, Bristol further refined the 603, in particular modernising the mechanicals of the car through the introduction of multi-port fuel injection, which improved both performance and fuel consumption. Turbocharging was no longer available, but the Blenheim Series 1 still had the same level of performance as the Brigand. There was a significant change in frontal and rear-end styling with the introduction of the Blenheim. The headlights were paired and mounted considerably inboard from the extreme front of the car. The bonnet was also modified with the fitting of gas struts to hold it up when open for the first time, and featured a fully rectangular hinge for the first time in Bristol’s history. Since that time the Blenheim has gone through two additional series, the Bristol Blenheim Series 2, made from 1998 to the end of 1999, featured for the first time a 4 speed overdrive automatic transmission, which significantly improved fuel consumption, whilst the Blenheim 3 which went on sale in 2000 saw the abandonment of the vertically mounted tail-lights and a much revised interior layout with completely new gear selector and improved instrumentation.
There were a number of examples of the Crossfire here. Developed during the union of Daimler and Chrysler, this rear wheel drive two-seater was based on the R170 Mercedes SLK platform and shared 80% of its components with that car. Seen initially in 2001 as a concept car styled by Eric Stoddard, the Chrysler was further refined by Andrew Dyson before production began in 2003. The name “Crossfire” refers to the two character lines that run from front to rear along the body sides — crossing each other midway through the door panel. The Crossfire’s fastback roof and broad rear haunches were certainly distinctive, but they did not appeal to everyone, with one Jeremy Clarkson being among the more critical, stating that the shape of the rear end resembled the stance a dog takes when defecating. Chrysler had executed the interior and exterior styling. All other elements of the car such as wheelbase, track, engine, transmission, chassis structure, suspension components, were shared with old R170 platform. An example of this is the engine bay of the Crossfire, which is virtually identical to the Mercedes-Benz SLK320 on the R170 platform. The seats from the Mercedes-Benz SLK320 would bolt directly into the Crossfire chassis. The dashboard layout, controls and instruments are also similar to those on the Mercedes-Benz SLK320. The standard transmission was a 6-speed manual with an optional 5-speed automatic. Base (Standard) and Limited models, originally sold beginning in the 2004 model year, were equipped with a Mercedes-Benz 3.2 litre 18-valve, SOHC V6 engine which produced 215 hp and 229 lb.ft of torque. SRT-6 models were equipped with a special supercharged version of the engine built by AMG. SRT-6 models came only with the 5-speed automatic transmission, consistent with AMG cars of the same era. The 6-speed transmission used by the Chrysler Crossfire was a variant of the Mercedes sourced NSG-370. The 5-speed automatic transmission in the Crossfire (known as 5G-Tronic) was also Mercedes sourced and a variant of the 722.6 family. The automatic achieved a better EPA fuel efficiency rating over the 6MT, mostly due to the difference in gear ratios. Unlike most cars of its time, the Crossfire did not use a rack and pinion steering system; instead, it utilises a recirculating ball system as employed on the donor R170 platform. Front suspension was unequal length (SLA) double wishbone suspension with 5 point multi link in the rear. All Crossfire models were built with 2 different wheel sizes, the front wheels are 18-in. x 7.5-in. with 225-40/18 tyres and the rear wheels are 19-in. x 9-in. with 255-35/19 tyres. Sales of the Crossfire were slow, with an average 230 day supply of the vehicles during November 2005. In December, the cars were listed on Overstock.com to clear out inventory. Very few Crossfires were imported to the United States and Mexico for 2006, almost all of these were roadsters. The car fared little better elsewhere once the novelty had worn off. Chrysler discontinued the Crossfire after the 2008 model year, as part of its restructuring plans. The last Crossfire rolled off of the assembly line on December 17, 2007.
These Commer vans were once a common sight on our roads, but as most of them had a hard life, almost all of them simply wore out (or rusted away), so they are quite rare now. Produced from 1960 to 1976, the vehicle bore a number of different names, though it changed little in appearance. Initially called the FC, it was sold with many body styles, including a 1,500 cc van. After engine and interior upgrades it was renamed the PB in 1967 and the SpaceVan in 1974. Following the merger of Rootes Group with Chrysler to form Chrysler Europe, the SpaceVan would be sold as a Dodge and Fargo model until 1976, when both Commer and Fargo names were dropped. These were rounded-front forward-control vans with narrow front track—a legacy of their Humber car-derived suspension. Utilising at first the Hillman-derived 1,500 cc 4-cylinder engine in the PA series, then the larger 1,600 cc, and from 1968 onwards the 1,725 cc unit in the PB, only the cast-iron-head version of this engine were used. A Perkins 4108 diesel was also available. The “1725 cc engine” was available in the 1970s with a Borg Warner Model 35 3-speed automatic transmission with a dashboard-mounted selector. This was not a popular option and few were built. The 4-speed gearbox on manual transmission models was based on those fitted to contemporary Hillman Minx (of the “Audax” generation) and later Rootes Arrow series cars such as the Hillman Hunter. One of the reasons that the van was less popular with fleet operators than the Bedford and Ford Transit models it sold against was that, as on the BMC J2 and J4 models the forward-control design restricted access to the engine and made engine changes labour-intensive; the only way to remove the engine without dropping the suspension subframe was to remove the windscreen and crane the engine out through the passenger door. A 1974 road test of a motor caravan version fitted with the 1725cc engine reported a maximum speed of 70 mph and a 0–50 mph time of 25 seconds, indicating a higher top speed but, in this form, slower acceleration than the BMC competitor. However, the testers reported that at 70 mph the van was “plainly at its absolute limit, screaming away in a most distressing fashion”; readers were advised to view 65 mph as a more realistic absolute maximum. Reportedly, one condition of the government bailout of Chrysler’s British operations in 1976 was a commitment to upgrade the Spacevan, which was praised for its brakes, cornering, and price, but criticised for its power, comforts, and top speed. A revised Spacevan was thus introduced in 1977, using the same mechanicals but with numerous cosmetic changes, conveniences, and a new interior. Although outdated by its demise in 1982, by which time Commer had been taken over by Peugeot, the Spacevan remained a familiar sight in the UK thanks to its role with Post Office Telephones—which was almost solely responsible for it remaining in production for so long and these vans and outstanding orders were inherited by British Telecom on its formation in October 1981. By this time, there were three engines: two 1725cc petrol engines and a small diesel engine, with a four-speed manual transmission and no automatic available. The last Spacevan was built in 1983.
Smallest Fiat here was a 500L an example of the Nuova 500, a model which celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2017. Known as project 110, the brief for the Nuova 500 was to create a micro-car that would not only carry on the tradition of the earlier Topolino, but which would also take sales away from the ever popular Lambretta and Vespa scooters of the day. It clearly needed to be smaller than the 600 which had been released with a conventional 4 cylinder engine. Not an easy task, but development started in 1953 and by August 1954, two designs were ready to be shown to Fiat management. They selected one, and serious development began. At first the car was referred to as the 400, as it was going to have a 400cc engine, but it was soon realised that this was just too small, so a larger 500cc air-cooled engine was developed. It was signed off in January 1956, with production starting in March 1957 in advance of a June launch. Fiat’s marketing department got busy, with hundreds of the new car taking to the streets of Turin, each with a pretty girl standing through the open sunroof that was a feature of all the early cars. The press loved it. 50 units were shipped to Britain, where the car made its debut at Brands Hatch, and again the reception was enthusiastic. But the orders just did not come in. Fiat went for a hasty rethink, relaunching the car at the Turin Show later that year. power was increased from 13 to 15 bhp, and the poverty spec was lessened a little, with headlight bezels, brightwork on the side and chrrome hubcaps, a Nuova500 badge on the engine cover, winding side windows (the launch cars just had opening quarterlights) and the option of a heater fan. It was enough to get sales moving. The original car was still offered, at a lower price, called the Economy. In the first year of production, 28,452 Fiat 500s were made. Over the next 19 years, the car changed little in overall appearance, but there were a number of updates with more power and equipment added. A 500 Sport was launched in August 1958, with a more powerful version of the 499cc engine. It lost the soft top, having a ridged steel roof, to increase strength of the body. It was only available in grey with a red side flash. The first major changes came in 1960 with the 500D. This looks very similar to the Nuova, but with two key differences. One is the engine size: the D features an uprated 499 cc engine producing 17 bhp as standard, an engine which would be used right through until the end of the L in 1973; and the other is the roof: the standard D roof does not fold back as far as the roof on the Nuova, though it was also available as the “Transformable” with the same roof as the Nuova. The D still featured “suicide doors”. There were larger rear light clusters, more space in the front boot thanks to a redesign of the fuel tank and new indicators under the headlights. A year later, Fiat added a light on the rear-view mirrors and a windscreen washer, but the car still lacked a fuel gauge. Sales increased from 20,900 in 1960 to 87.000 in 1961, 132,000 in 1962 and by 1964, the last year of production, they hit 194,000 units. The D was replaced in 1965 by the 500F, which finally moved the door hinges from back to the front, owing to changes in Italian safety laws. There was a deeper windscreen and thinner door pillars, which increased the height of the car by 10mm, improving visibility for the driver. The 500F ran through to 1975, from 1968 alongside the more luxurious 500L which was added to the range in 1968. The L is easy to tell apart, with its bumper overriders. The final updates created the 500R, which incorporated many changes from the 126 under the skin of the classic shape, and in this form production continued alongside the newer 126 until 1976.
Commercially even more significant than the 500 was the Uno, though the survival rate of them is far lower than its antecedent. This is one of the rare limited edition Breeze models that was produced in 1989. Fiat launched the Uno, the Tipo 146, in January 1983, just one day before the equally iconic Peugeot 205, to replace the elderly Fiat 127. Both were huge sellers, and deservedly so too, but it was the Fiat that sold in greater quantity, with over 8 million examples produced. It was Italy’s best selling car, and by some margin, throughout its 10 year production life, though you might find that hard to believe now, as they were are not a common sight even in Italy. The 127 had revolutionised the supermini market on its launch more than 10 years earlier, and the Uno followed the same format, but brought uptodate. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s ItalDesign company, its tall, square body utilising a Kamm tail achieved a low drag coefficient of 0.34 won it much praise for interior space and fuel economy as well as its excellent ride and handling, and was widely regarded as the most innovative small car in Europe at the time of its launch. It incorporated many packaging lessons learnt from Giugiaro’s 1978 Lancia Megagamma concept car (the first modern people carrier / MPV / mini-van) but miniaturised. Its tall car / high seating packaging is imitated by every small car today. It reversed the trend for lower and lower built cars. It showed that not just low sleek cars could be aerodynamic, but small, roomy, boxy well packaged cars could be too. There was a lot of activity in the supermini class in 1983, as the Uno hit the UK market a couple of months before the Peugeot 205 – another small European car which became the benchmark for this market sector, enjoying a long production life and strong sales, and just after General Motors launched its new Opel Corsa/Vauxhall Nova. Within a few months of its launch it had gained two new major competitors in the shape of the restyled Ford Fiesta and Nissan’s new Micra. UK sales began in June 1983, and more than 20,000 were sold in its first full year and peaking at more than 40,000 sales in 1988, making it one of the UK’s most popular imported cars during the 1980s. In December 1983, it was European Car of the Year for 1984, finishing narrowly ahead of the Peugeot 205. Initially, the Uno was offered with the 0.9 litre (903 cc) 100-series OHV, 1.1 litre (1116 cc) and 1.3 litre (1301 cc) 128-series SOHC petrol engines and transmissions carried over from the 127. The Uno’s badging was not by the commonly used measurement of engine size but by metric horsepower: 45, 55, 60, 70, or 75. The Uno was available as either a three- or five-door hatchback. It also featured ergonomic “pod” switchgear clusters each side of the main instrument binnacle, (that could be operated without removing the driver’s hands from the steering wheel), although indicators remained on a stalk; an unusual arrangement similar to that used by Citroën. The Uno had MacPherson strut independent front suspension and twist-beam rear suspension with telescopic dampers and coil springs. From 1985, the 1.0 litre (999 cc) SOHC Fully Integrated Robotised Engine (FIRE) powerplant was offered, replacing the 0.9 litre unit. This was a lighter engine, built with fewer parts, and gave improved performance and economy. The most luxurious version, the single-point injected 75 SX i.e., had remote door locks, integrated front foglamps, and the oval exhaust tip also used on the Turbo. In April 1985 the hot hatch version of the first series Uno – the Uno Turbo i.e. – was launched as a three-door only derivative. It competed with the likes of the Ford Fiesta XR2, MG Metro Turbo and Peugeot 205 GTI. The Breeze seen here was one of a series of limited edition models (there was also one called Eleganza a few months earlier), before a facelifted model arrived in 1990. The Uno was replaced by the Punto in late 1993, although production for some markets continued for some time after that.
There were a couple of representatives here of the Cortina 80 Ghia, sometimes known as the Mark V, both finished in the same shade of pale metallic silvery-green. The car was announced on 24 August 1979. Officially the programme was code named Teresa, although externally it was marketed as “Cortina 80”, but the Mark V tag was given to it immediately on release by the press, insiders and the general public. Largely an update to the Mark IV, it was really a step between a facelift and a rebody. The Mark V differentiated itself from the Mark IV by having revised headlights with larger turn indicators incorporated (which were now visible on the side too), a wider slatted grille said to be more aerodynamically efficient, a flattened roof, larger glass area, slimmer C-pillars with revised vent covers, larger slatted tail lights (on saloon models) and upgraded trim. Improvements were also made to the engine range, with slight improvements to both fuel economy and power output compared to the Mark IV. The 2.3 litre V6 engine was given electronic ignition and a slight boost in power output to 116 bhp, compared to the 108 bhp of the Mark IV. Ford also claimed improved corrosion protection on Mark V models; as a result, more Mark Vs have survived; however, corrosion was still quite a problem. The estate models combined the Mark IV’s bodyshell (which was initially from the 1970 Ford Taunus) with Mark V front body pressings. A pick-up (“bakkie”) version was also built in South Africa. These later received a longer bed and were then marketed as the P100. Variants included the Base, L, GL, and Ghia (all available in saloon and estate forms), together with Base and L spec 2-door sedan versions (this bodystyle was available up to Ghia V6 level on overseas markets). The replacement for the previous Mark IV S models was an S pack of optional extras which was available as an upgrade on most Mark V models from L trim level upwards. For the final model year of 1982 this consisted of front and rear bumper overriders, sports driving lamps, an S badge on the boot, tachometer, 4 spoke steering wheel, revised suspension settings, front gas shock absorbers,’Sports’ gear lever knob, sports road wheels, 185/70 SR x 13 tyres and Fishnet Recaro sports seats (optional). Various “special editions” were announced, including the Calypso and Carousel. The final production model was the Crusader special edition which was available as a 1.3 litre, 1.6 litre, and 2.0 litre saloons or 1.6 litre and 2.0 litre estates. The Crusader was a final run-out model in 1982, along with the newly introduced Sierra. It was the best-specified Cortina produced to date and 30,000 were sold, which also made it Ford’s best-selling special edition model. Another special edition model was the Cortina Huntsman, of which 150 were produced. By this time, the Cortina was starting to feel the competition from a rejuvenated Vauxhall, which with the 1981 release Cavalier J-Car, was starting to make inroads on the Cortina’s traditional fleet market, largely helped by the front wheel drive benefits of weight. Up to and including 1981, the Cortina was the best selling car in Britain. Even during its final production year, 1982, the Cortina was Britain’s second best selling car and most popular large family car. On the continent, the Taunus version was competing with more modern and practical designs like the Talbot Alpine, Volkswagen Passat, and Opel Ascona. The very last Cortina – a silver Crusader – rolled off the Dagenham production line on 22 July 1982 on the launch of the Sierra, though there were still a few leaving the forecourt as late as 1987, with one final unregistered Cortina GL leaving a Derbyshire dealership in 2005. The last Cortina built remains in the Ford Heritage Centre in Dagenham, Essex, not far from the factory where it was assembled.
There was also an example of the Sierra’s larger brother, the Granada Scorpio here. Known in Europe as the Scorpio, but with that name used in the UK as a top trim designation for a car still called Granada, so as not to alienate the traditionally converative buyers who were target customers for the car, this executive car, produced by Ford Europe from 1985 to 1998 was quite a change from the European Ford Granada line that it replaced. Codenamed DE-1 during its development (since it was intended to straddle the European D and E segments), the Scorpio was heavily based on the Sierra, sitting on a stretched version of its floorpan, and using a similar styling philosophy set by both the Sierra and the third generation Escort. Under the bonnet were well proven engines, starting with the venerable Pinto engine unit in 1.8 and 2.0 litre capacities, as well as the V6 Cologne engine in 2.4, 2.8, and later 2.9 litre displacements. By the summer of 1989, the Pinto engines had begun to be gradually replaced, with the 8 valve version of the Ford I4 DOHC engine replacing the 2.0 litre model. The Scorpio was intended to maintain Ford’s position in Europe as the principal alternative to a Mercedes or BMW for those looking to own an executive car. It was also launched more than a year ahead of new competitors from Rover and Vauxhall. To this end Ford built on the already extensive specification available on the outgoing MkII Granada (which for the period, was very well equipped, with features such as leather heated electrically adjustable seats, air conditioning, electric sunroof and trip computer either standard or available as options) by adding some additional features unusual on a mass market car. Improvements available included: heated windscreen, cruise control and, later all-wheel drive. The most notable advance was the fitment of anti-lock braking system, the first time this feature had been made standard across the whole range on a mass produced car. The car was widely praised as being very comfortable and spacious, particularly in respect of its rear legroom. Unlike the Granada, it was initially only available as a hatchback, and not as a saloon or estate. This proved to be a mistake for Ford, which later introduced a saloon version in December 1989. An estate version finally appeared in the beginning of 1992, when the whole range underwent a facelift, with new styling which hinted at the new Mondeo, which would replace the Sierra a year later. There were few engineering changes over the years, notably the introduction of the DOHC engines in 1989, and the Scorpio Cosworth with a 2.9 litre 24 valve Cosworth V6 in December 1990. The Cosworth was both large and fast, which consequently gave it poor fuel consumption. Many owners often commented at the fact that 25 mpg was about as much as you could get out of a car with this engine. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, following the initial market resistance towards the Sierra, something which had been attributed to its radical styling, Ford elected to keep the Granada name in those markets, making the Scorpio effectively a Mk III Granada. The “Scorpio” name was instead used as a trim designation rather than the model name, being positioned higher than Ford’s traditional Ghia top of the range model. These models were marketed as “Granada Scorpio”, but were badged simply as “Scorpio”, with an elongated “Granada” underneath. The controversial facelift of 1994 saw the Granada name abandoned (along with the option for the hatchback body styling). You don’t see them very often these days.
More common are examples of the Mark 3 Escort, which was contemporary with that Granada. It does tend to be the sporting ones that you see these days and that was the case here, with the limited production RS1600i and the later XR3i in facelift guise both here, as most of the “cooking” versions have simply disappeared. A sporting model was announced with the launch of the first front wheel drive 1.1, 1.,3 and 1,6 litre cars in October 1980. This was the XR3, and it came initially with a carb fed 1.6 litre engine generating 105 bhp and had a four speed gearbox. Fuel injection finally arrived in October 1982 (creating the XR3i), eight months behind the limited edition (8,659 examples), racetrack-influenced RS 1600i. The Cologne-developed RS received a more powerful engine with 115 PS, thanks to computerised ignition and a modified head as well as the fuel injection. For 1983, the XR3i was upgraded to 115bhp thanks to the use of fuel injection and a five speed transmission had been standardised. Both variants proved very popular, getting a significant percentage of Escort sales and also as a slightly more affordable alternative to a Golf GTi. For those for whom the performance was not quite enough, Ford had an answer, withe the RS Turbo. This 132 PS car was shown in October 1984, as a top of the range car, offering more power than the big-selling XR3i and the limited production RS1600i. Going on sale in the spring of 1985, it proved to be somewhat of a disappointment, with the chassis coming in for severe criticism. The RS Turbo Series 1 was only marketed in a few European nations as production was limited to 5,000 examples, all in white. They were well equipped, with the alloy wheels from the limited production RS 1600i, Recaro seats, and a limited slip differential. One car only was finished in black; it was built especially for Lady Diana. Ford facelifted the entire Escort range in January 1986, and a few months later, a revised Series 2 RS Turbo emerged, which adopted the styling changes of the less potent models, and the new dashboard, as well as undergoing a mechanical revision and the addition of more equipment including anti-lock brakes. The Series 2 cars were available in a wider range of colours.
Next Ford to bear the legendary RS moniker was the Siierra RS Cosworth and this much-loved classic was on show here. The Sierra RS Cosworth model. a very sporting version of Ford’s upper-medium sized family car, was built by Ford Europe from 1986 to 1992, the result of a Ford Motorsport project with the purpose of producing an outright winner for Group A racing in Europe. The project was defined in the spring of 1983 by Stuart Turner, then recently appointed head of Ford Motorsport in Europe, who had realised right away that Ford was no longer competitive in this area. Turner got in touch with Walter Hayes, at the time the vice-president of public relations at Ford, to get support for the project. Hayes had earlier been the driving force behind the development of the Ford GT40 that won Le Mans in 1966, and the Cosworth DFV engine that brought Ford 154 victories and 12 world championships in Formula One during the 1960s and 1970s. Hayes found the project very appealing and promised his full support. Turner then invited Ken Kohrs, vice-president of development, to visit Ford’s longtime partner, the automotive company Cosworth, where they were presented a project developed on Cosworth’s own initiative, the YAA engine. This was a twin cam, 16-valve engine based on Ford’s own T88 engine block, better known as the Pinto. This prototype proved an almost ideal basis for the engine Turner needed to power his Group A winner. Therefore, an official request for a turbocharged version (designated Cosworth YBB) capable of 180 HP on the street and 300 HP in race trim, was placed. Cosworth answered positively, but they put up two conditions: the engine would produce not less than 204 HP in the street version, and Ford had to accept no fewer than 15,000 engines. Turner’s project would only need about 5,000 engines, but Ford nevertheless accepted the conditions. The extra 10,000 engines would later become one of the reasons Ford also chose to develop a four door, second generation Sierra RS Cosworth. To find a suitable gearbox proved more challenging. The Borg-Warner T5, also used in the Ford Mustang, was chosen, but the higher revving nature of the Sierra caused some problems. Eventually Borg-Warner had to set up a dedicated production line for the gearboxes to be used in the Sierra RS Cosworth. Many of the suspension differences between the standard Sierra and the Cosworth attributed their development to what was learned from racing the turbocharged Jack Roush IMSA Merkur XR4Ti in America and Andy Rouse’s successful campaign of the 1985 British Saloon Car Championship. Much of Ford’s external documentation for customer race preparation indicated “developed for the XR4Ti” when describing parts that were Sierra Cosworth specific. Roush’s suspension and aerodynamics engineering for the IMSA cars was excellent feedback for Ford. Some production parts from the XR4Ti made their way into the Cosworth such as the speedometer with integral boost gauge and the motorsport 909 chassis stiffening plates. In April 1983, Turner’s team decided on the recently launched Sierra as a basis for their project. The Sierra filled the requirements for rear wheel drive and decent aerodynamic drag. A racing version could also help to improve the unfortunate, and somewhat undeserved, reputation that Sierra had earned since the introduction in 1982. Lothar Pinske, responsible for the car’s bodywork, demanded carte blanche when it came to appearance in order to make the car stable at high speed. Experience had shown that the Sierra hatchback body generated significant aerodynamic lift even at relatively moderate speed. After extensive wind tunnel testing and test runs at the Nardò circuit in Italy, a prototype was presented to the project management. This was based on an XR4i body with provisional body modifications in fibreglass and aluminium. The car’s appearance raised little enthusiasm. The large rear wing caused particular reluctance. Pinske insisted however that the modifications were necessary to make the project successful. The rear wing was essential to retain ground contact at 300 km/h, the opening between the headlights was needed to feed air to the intercooler and the wheel arch extensions had to be there to house wheels 10” wide on the racing version. Eventually, the Ford designers agreed to try to make a production version based on the prototype. In 1984, Walter Hayes paid visits to many European Ford dealers in order to survey the sales potential for the Sierra RS Cosworth. A requirement for participation in Group A was that 5,000 cars were built and sold. The feedback was not encouraging. The dealers estimated they could sell approximately 1,500 cars. Hayes did not give up, however, and continued his passionate internal marketing of the project. As prototypes started to emerge, dealers were invited to test drive sessions, and this increased the enthusiasm for the new car. In addition, Ford took some radical measures to reduce the price on the car. As an example, the car was only offered in three exterior colours (black, white and moonstone blue) and one interior colour (grey). There were also just two equipment options: with or without central locking and electric window lifts. The Sierra RS Cosworth was first presented to the public at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1985, with plans to release it for sale in September and closing production of the 5,000 cars in the summer of 1986. In practice, it was launched in July 1986. 5545 were manufactured in total of which 500 were sent to Tickford for conversion to the Sierra three-door RS500 Cosworth. The vehicles were manufactured in right hand drive only, and were made in Ford’s Genk factory in Belgium. Exactly 500 RS500s were produced, all of them RHD for sale in the UK only – the biggest market for this kind of Ford car. It was originally intended that all 500 would be black, but in practice 56 white and 52 moonstone blue cars were produced.To broaden the sales appeal, the second generation model was based on the 4 door Sierra Sapphire body. It was launched in 1988, and was assembled in Genk, Belgium, with the UK-built Ford-Cosworth YBB engine. Cylinder heads on this car were early spec 2wd heads and also the “later” 2wd head which had some improvements which made their way to the 4X4 head. Suspension was essentially the same with some minor changes in geometry to suit a less aggressive driving style and favour ride over handling. Spindles, wheel offset and other changes were responsible for this effect. Approximately 13,140 examples were produced during 1988-1989 and were the most numerous and lightest of all Sierra Cosworth models. Specifically the LHD models which saved weight with a lesser trim level such as manual rear windows and no air conditioning. In the UK, the RHD 1988-1989 Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth is badged as such with a small “Sapphire” badge on the rear door window trims. All 1988-1989 LHD models are badged and registered as a Sierra RS Cosworth with no Sapphire nomenclature at all. “Sapphire” being viewed as a Ghia trim level that saw power rear windows, air conditioning and other minor options. Enthusiasts of the marque are mindful of this and will describe the LHD cars by their body shell configuration, 3 door or 4 door. As the Sapphire Cosworth was based on a different shell to the original three-door Cosworth, along with its more discreet rear wing, recorded a drag co-efficient of 0.33, it registered slightly better performance figures, with a top speed of 150 mph and 0-60 of 6.1 seconds, compared to the original Cosworth. In January 1990, the third generation Sierra RS Cosworth was launched, this time with four wheel drive. As early as 1987, Mike Moreton and Ford Motorsport had been talking about a four wheel drive Sierra RS Cosworth that could make Ford competitive in the World Rally Championship. The Ferguson MT75 gearbox that was considered an essential part of the project wasn’t available until late 1989 however. Ford Motorsport’s desire for a 3-door “Motorsport Special” equivalent to the original Sierra RS Cosworth was not embraced. The more discreet 4-door version was considered to have a better market potential. It was therefore decided that the new car should be a natural development of the second generation, to be launched in conjunction with the face lift scheduled for the entire Sierra line in 1990. The waiting time gave Ford Motorsport a good opportunity to conduct extensive testing and demand improvements. One example was the return of the bonnet louvres. According to Ford’s own publicity material, 80% of the engine parts were also modified. The improved engine was designated YBJ for cars without a catalyst and YBG for cars with a catalyst. The latter had the red valve cover replaced by a green one, to emphasise the environmental friendliness. Four wheel drive and an increasing amount of equipment had raised the weight by 100 kg, and the power was therefore increased to just about compensate for this. The Sierra RS Cosworth 4×4 received, if possible, an even more flattering response than its predecessors and production continued until the end of 1992, when the Sierra was replaced by the Mondeo. The replacement for the Sierra RS Cosworth was not a Mondeo however, but the Escort RS Cosworth. This was to some extent a Sierra RS Cosworth clad in an “Escort-like” body. The car went on sale in May 1992, more than a year after the first pre-production examples were shown to the public, and was homologated for Group A rally in December, just as the Sierra RS Cosworth was retired. It continued in production until 1996. The Sierra and Sapphire Cosworths were undoubted performance bargains when new, but they also gained a reputation both for suffering a lot of accidents in the hands of the unskilled and also for being among the most frequently stole cars of their generation. These days, though, there are some lovely and treasured examples around and indeed you are far more likely to see a Cosworth version of the Sierra than one of the volume selling models.
A more recent sporting Ford was this second generation Focus RS.
Final Ford on display was something rather different, a US-made Model T, Henry’s long-running model which not just put America on wheels, but which set Ford up for the market dominance that it still enjoys today.
The Super Minx was announced in October 1961, and was intended to give Rootes, and particularly its Hillman marque, an expanded presence in the upper reaches of the family car market. It has been suggested that the Super Minx design was originally intended to replace, and not merely to supplement, the standard Minx, but was found to be too big for that purpose. An estate car joined the range in May 1962, and a two-door convertible in June 1962. The convertible never sold in significant numbers: the last one was made in June 1964. At launch, the car was powered by the Rootes 62 bhp 1,592 cc unit, which had first appeared late in 1953 with a 1,390 cc capacity. The original Super Minx had the cast-iron cylinder head version of the engine, though on later cars the cylinder head was replaced with an aluminium one. Suspension was independent at the front using coil springs with anti-roll bar and at the rear had leaf springs and a live axle. Un-assisted 9 in Lockheed drum brakes were fitted. The steering used a recirculating ball system and was as usual at the time not power assisted. Standard seating, trimmed in Vynide, used a bench type at the front with individual seats as an option. A heater was fitted but a radio remained optional. The car could be ordered in single colour or two tone paint. The four-speed manual transmission featured synchromesh on the top three ratios from the start and had a floor lever: “Smiths Easidrive” automatic transmission was option. A year after the car was launched a Mark II version was presented, in October 1962, with greasing points eliminated, larger front disc brakes and a revised axle ratio. For buyers of the automatic transmission cars, 1962 was the year that the Smiths Easidrive option was replaced by the Borg-Warner 35 transmission. In 1964, with the launch of the Super Minx Mark III, the wrap-around rear window gave way to a new “six-light” design with extra side windows aft of the rear side doors. Engine capacity was increased to 1,725 cc for the Super Minx Mark IV launched at the London Motor Show in October 1965.The car was replaced by the Arrow range (Hunter) in late 1966.
Needing little of an introduction is this car, the replacement for the elegant XK models, which came in 1961. It is, of course, the E Type, and it stunned the world at its premier at the 1961 Geneva Show. Considered by many to be Sir William Lyons’ greatest achievement, not only did the car have stop-you-in-your-tracks gorgeous styling, but it had explosive performance (even if the 150 mph that was achieved in The Autocar’s Road Test is now known to have been with a little “help”), but it was the price that amazed people more than anything else. Whilst out of reach for most people, who could barely afford any new car, it was massively cheaper than contemporary Aston Martins and Ferraris, its market rivals. It was not perfect, though, and over the coming years, Jaguar made constant improvements. A 2+2 model joined the initial range of Roadster and Coupe, and more powerful and larger engines came when the 3.8 litre was enlarged to 4.2 litres, before more significant styling changes came with the 1967 Series 2 and the 1971 Series 3, where new front end treatments and lights were a consequence of legislative demands of the E Type’s most important market, America.
Successor to the E Type was the XJ-S, launched in September 1975, and to a not universally approving public. This was a very different sort of sporting Jaguar, more boulevard cruiser than sports car, even though the car had plenty of appeal with its smooth V12 engine which gave it genuine 150 mph performance. Press reports were favourable, but a thirsty V12 and a car with inconsistent build quality and styling that not everyone warmed to meant that sales were slow, and they got slower as the decade passed, leading questions to be asked as to whether the car should continue. As well as sorting the saloon models, Jaguar’s Chairman, John Egan, put in place a program to improve the XJ-S as well, which also benefitted from the HE engine in early 1981. A Cabrio model and the option of the new 3.6 litre 6 cylinder engine from 1984 widened the sales appeal, and the volumes of cars being bought started to go up. A fully open Convertible, launched in 1988 was the model many had been waiting for, and by this time, although the design was over 10 years old, it was now brimming with appeal to many. 1991 saw an extensive facelift which changed the styling details as well as incorporating the latest mechanical changes from the Jaguar parts bin, making the XJS (the hyphen had been dropped from the name in 1990) a truly desirable car. Seen here were examples of the pre- and post facelift cars.
JCB and MACHINERY
Something rather different, that you only tend to get at country shows like this was this display of historic JCB models. Several of them would be seen in action in the arena later in the day.
An enduring classic that has far more appeal now than when it was new (not an uncommon story) is the Jensen Interceptor, launched as a replacement for the rather gawky looking CV8 of the early 1960s. After a false start when a car with the same name was shown in 1965, which received a massive “thumbs down”, Jensen went to Italy to find a new stylist for another attempt. They ended up with Carozzeria Touring, who produced a stunning looking grand tourer which, although sharing some styling cues with other models that they had designed, had a style all of its own, and they then approached another, Vignale, to build the bodies before they would be shipped back to West Bromwich for final assembly. As with the CV8, motive power came from a large Chrysler V8 engine, which gave the car effortless performance, and a somewhat prodigious thirst. The original specification included electric windows, reclining front seats, a wood rimmed steering wheel, radio with twin speakers, reversing lights and an electric clock. Power steering was included as standard from September 1968. The Mark II was announced in October 1969, with slightly revised styling around the headlamps, front grille and bumper and revised rear lights. The interior was substantially revised in order to meet US regulations, and air conditioning was an option. The Mark III, introduced in 1971, revised the front grille, headlamp finishers and bumper treatment again. It had GKN alloy wheels and air conditioning as standard, and revised seats. It was divided into G-, H-, and J-series depending on the production year. The 6.3 litre engine was superseded by the 7.2 litre in 1971. A Convertible version was premiered in 1974,. but just 267 were built, and then in 1975 a Coupe model was shown, effectively a fixed roof version of the Convertible, just 60 of which were made as by this time, the company had fallen on hard times due to the then world-wide recession, and massive and costly reliability problems with its Jensen-Healey sports car. It was placed into receivership and the receivers allowed production to be wrapped up using the available cache of parts. Production of the Interceptor ended in 1976. Enthusiasm for the car remained, though, so in the late 1980s, a group of investors stepped in and re-launched production of the Interceptor, as the Series 4, back as a low-volume hand built and bespoke affair, marketed in a similar way to Bristol, with a price (£70,000 and more) to match. Though the body remained essentially the same as the last of the main production run of series 3; the engine was a much smaller Chrysler supplied 5.9 litre unit which used more modern controls to reduce emissions comparatively and still produce about 230 hp. In addition, the interior was slightly re-designed with the addition of modern “sports” front seats as opposed to the armchair style of the earlier models, as well as a revised dashboard and electronics. The then owner sold up in 1990 to an engineering company believed to be in a stronger position to manufacture the car which lasted until 1993 with approximately 36 cars built, and while work commenced on development of a Series 5 Interceptor, once again receivers were called in and the company was liquidated. Even that was not quite the end of the story, as the Jensen specialist based at Cropredy Bridge has made a business out of rebuilding original Interceptors using modern components, with a General Motors supplied 6.2 litre LS3 engine and transmission from a Chevrolet Corvette. In May 2010, Jensen International Automotive was set up, with the financial backing and know-how of Carphone Warehouse founder and chairman Charles Dunstone who joined its board of directors. A small number of Jensen Interceptor Ss, which had started production under a previous company, are being completed by Jensen International Automotive (JIA), in parallel with JIA’s own production of the new Jensen Interceptor R; deliveries of the latter started at the beginning of 2011.
Series 3 88
The Lotus Owners Club had quite an extensive display, even on the Saturday, with a nice variety of model types on show. Oldest of these was an example of the first mid-engined road-going Lotus, the Europa. The concept originated during 1963 with drawings by Ron Hickman, director of Lotus Engineering (Designer of the original Lotus Elan, as well as inventor of the Black and Decker Workmate), for a bid on the Ford GT40 project. That contract went to Lola Cars as Colin Chapman wanted to call the car a Lotus and Henry Ford II insisted it would be called Ford. Chapman chose to use Hickman’s aerodynamic design which had a drag coefficient of Cd 0.29 for the basis for the Europa production model. The car was originally intended to succeed the Lotus 7. Volkswagen owned the rights to the Europa name in Germany so cars for sale in Germany were badged Europe rather than Europa. The original Europa used Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s minimalist steel backbone chassis that was first used in the Lotus Elan, while also relying on its fibreglass moulded body for structural strength. The four-wheel independent suspension was typical of Chapman’s thinking. The rear suspension was a modified Chapman strut, as used for Chapman’s earlier Formula racing car designs. Owing to the rubber suspension bushes used to isolate engine vibration from the car body, the true Chapman strut’s use of the drive shaft as the lower locating link could not be followed whilst still giving the precise track and handling desired. The forward radius arms were increased in size and rigidity, to act as a semi-wishbone. A careful compromise between engine mounting bush isolation and handling was required, culminating eventually in a sandwich bush that was flexible against shear but stiff in compression and tension. The car’s handling prompted automotive writers to describe the Europa as the nearest thing to a Formula car for the road. Aside from the doors, bonnet, and boot, the body was moulded as a single unit of fibreglass. The first cars has Renault 1470cc engines, and suffered from a number of quality issues as well as limited visibility. An S2, released in 1968 brought improvements to the build quality, but Lotus knew that the Renault engine was not powerful enough for what they thought the car could achieve on track and on the road, so the Europa underwent another update in 1971 when the Type 74 Europa Twin Cam was made available to the public, with a 105 bhp 1557cc Lotus-Ford Twin Cam engine and a re-designed bodyshell to improve rearward visibility. Initially with the same gearbox as the earlier cars, once the supply had been exhausted in 1972 a new stronger Renault four-speed gearbox was introduced. Mike Kimberley, who rose to become chief executive of Group Lotus, then a new engineer at Lotus, was appointed Chief Engineer of the Europa TC project. 1,580 cars were shipped as Europa “Twin Cam” before Lotus switched to a 126 bhp “Big Valve” version of the engine. The big valve “Europa Special” version was aspirated by Dell’Orto carburettors version of the same engine; in addition it also offered a new Renault five-speed (Type 365) gearbox option. It weighed 740 kg (1631 lb), Motor magazine famously tested a UK Special to a top speed of 123 mph, did 0–60 mph in 6.6 seconds, and ran the 1/4 mile in 14.9 sec. This at a time when all road tests were carried out with both a driver and passenger, with only the driver on board the 0–60 mph time would have been well under 6 seconds, a phenomenal performance for the period. Introduced in September 1972 the first 100 big valve cars were badged and painted to honour the just won Team Lotus’s 1972 F1 World Championship title with John Player Special as sponsors, all with five-speed gearbox, these were all black with gold pin stripe matching the livery of the GP cars – plus a numbered JPS dash board badge, becoming the first ever John Player Special commemorative motor vehicles. The “Special” name and colour scheme was planned to be dropped after the first 200 cars, reverting to the Twin Cam name, but such was the reaction to the new car that the name and pin stripe scheme remained until the end of Europa Production although colours other than black were made available. In the end only the numbered plaque distinguishing the first 100 JPS cars from other black Europa Specials. According to Lotus sources, no Special left the factory with “numbered JPS badges” or “JPS stickers” – these were added by the American importer & weren’t official done by Lotus. There were no “badged” cars sold in the UK, Australia, etc, just in the USA. In total 4710 Type 74s were produced of which 3130 were “Specials”.
Launched in 1974, the Type 74 Elite was the first of a new generation of Lotus cars which represented a concerted push up-market. The imposition of VAT had effectively killed off the market for the range of models that Lotus had hitherto produced as kit cars, and the only way to stay profitable was to produce something which could sold at higher prices. So whilst Lotus would tell you that the Elite was a replacement for the Lotus Elan Plus 2, it was more accurate to say that it was a rival for cars like the Reliant Scimitar GTE and Lancia Beta HPE. The styling was quite unlike anything that Lotus had produced before, with distinctive wedge lines penned by Oliver Winterbottom which hid the fact that the bodies were produced out of two separate glassfibre moulds and they had to join up in the middle around the waistline. The shooting brake style, with a hatchback as well as the fact that the Elite had 4 seats made it reasonably practical. luggage compartment. Mechanically there were fewer surprise. It was front engined with rear wheel drive, and had 4-wheel independent suspension using coil springs. The Elite was Lotus’ first car to use the 907 aluminium-block 4-valve, DOHC, four-cylinder, 1973cc, developing 155 bhp. which had previously been used in the Jensen-Healeys, where all the reliability issues had been found) The 907 engine ultimately became the foundation for the 2.0 litre and 2.2 litre Lotus Esprit powerplants, the naturally aspirated 912 and the turbocharged 910. The Elite was fitted with a 4 or 5 speed gearbox and from January 1976 automatic transmission was optional. The Elite had a claimed drag co-efficient of 0.30 and at the time of launch it was the world’s most expensive four cylinder car. Elites were available in 4 main specification variations, 501, 502, 503, and later on 504. The 501 was the ‘base’ version. The 502 added air conditioning, the 503 had power steering and the 504 added automatic transmission. The Elite was the basis for a coupe model, the Eclat which was launched in October 1975. Facelifted versions of both came in 1980, with a larger 2.2 litre engine and refinements to the trim. The Elite would live a couple of years in this form, but market interest shifted to the Coupe and when this was given a more significant revision a couple of years later, and a new name of Excel, the Elite was dropped from the range. Although 2535 of them were made, they are rare these days, so it was nice to see this one.
There was also an example of the Excel here. Known internally as the Type 89, the Excel, built from 1982 to 1992, was a development of the earlier Lotus Eclat, which itself was based on the Type 75 Elite. Although a promising design, the Elite and Eclat had suffered from numerous quality control issues which were difficult for owners to accept given the price of the cars. The Excel was a concerted effort to address these, and it stood every chance of so doing, as it took advantage of the relationship with Toyota. This had started when Toyota engaged Lotus to assist with engineering work on the Supra. During this period, Toyota then became a major shareholder in Lotus. Part of the deal between the two included the use of many Toyota mechanical components in Lotus’ cars. The original Excel (aka the Eclat Excel) used the W58 manual transmission, driveshafts, rear differential, 14×7 in alloy wheels, and door handles from the Supra Mk II, which was made from 1982 to 1986. The engine was the familiar all-aluminium, DOHC 2.2 litre Lotus 912 Slant Four which was also used in the Lotus Esprit S3. During its lifetime, the Excel received two major upgrades. With the introduction of the Excel SE which had a 180 bhp engine vs the standard 160 bhp car in October 1985, the bumpers, wing and interior was changed, including a new dashboard. In October 1986 the Excel SA with automatic gearbox was introduced. Further facelifts in 1989 saw Citroën-derived mirrors, as featured on the Esprit, and 15 inch OZ alloy wheels to a similar pattern as the Esprit’s. According to Lotus records, only 1 Excel was manufactured to USA specification. The lack of release in the USA was due to the high emission regulations (which would hinder the car’s performance), and poor sales of the car in Europe.
In 1987, a new version of the Esprit was unveiled, incorporating rounder styling cues given by designer Peter Stevens (who later designed the McLaren F1). A new Lotus patented process was introduced to create the new body, called the VARI (Vacuum Assisted Resin Injection) process, which offered more advantages than the previous hand laid process. Kevlar reinforcement was added to the roof and sides for roll-over protection, resulting in an increase of the Esprit’s torsional rigidity by 22 percent. Giugiaro is said to have liked the restyling, claiming it was perhaps too close to his original design. The Stevens styled cars retained the mechanical components of the previous High Compression Esprit and Turbo Esprit, but introduced a stronger Renault transaxle, which necessitated a move to outboard rear brakes. However, the MY 1988 North American Esprit Turbo kept its Citroën SM type transaxle and the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system used in the previous model year. The car’s Type 910 engine retained 215 bhp and 220 lb·ft, but decreased its zero to sixty from 5.6 seconds to a varied time between 5.4 – 5.1 seconds and a top speed of over 150 mph. The exterior style changes were accompanied by a redesign of the interior, allowing a little more space for the occupants. The Stevens styled Esprit is often known by its project code of X180. In 1989, the Esprit was again improved with the GM multi-port, electronic fuel injection system and the addition of a water to air intercooler, which Lotus has named the Chargecooler, producing the SE (Special Equipment). This inline-four engine was known as the Type 910S. Horsepower was pushed up to 264 with 280 available on overboost and zero to sixty miles per hour times reduced to 4.7 seconds with a top speed of over 160 mph. Several modifications were made to the body kit as well, like side skirts which are parallel to the body, five air ducts in the front air dam, wing mirrors from the Citroën CX and the addition of a rear wing. Along with the SE, Lotus produced the little seen Esprit S, a midrange turbocharged car offering fewer appointments and 228 hp, as well as the standard turbo still offering 215 hp . The N/A and lower-powered turbo were cancelled after 1990, and the S in 1991. Another unusual variant was a two-litre “tax special” developed for the Italian market, fitted with an intercooled and turbocharged version of a new 1,994 cc version of the venerable 900-series four-cylinder engine. Equipped with SE trim, this appeared in December 1991 and produced 243 PS at 6,250 rpm. Beginning in the autumn of 1996, this engine became available in other markets as well. The Esprit was a popular and successful addition to the American IMSA Bridgestone Supercar Championship and as a result Lotus produced the SE-based X180R, with horsepower bumped to 300 and with racing appointments. The Sport 300 was a derivative of the X180R sold in Europe, which included many modifications. These are known as the fastest of the four-cylinder Esprits and among the most desirable. In 1993, another exterior and interior revamp of the car resulted in the S4 which was the first model to include power steering. The exterior redesign was done by Julian Thompson, which included a smaller rear spoiler placed halfway up the rear decklid. Other major changes were to the front and rear bumpers, side skirts and valence panels. New five spoke alloy wheels were also included in the redesign. The S4 retained the same horsepower as the SE at 264 hp.The S4 was succeeded in 1994 by the S4s (S4 sport), which upped power to 300 bhp and 290 lb·ft of torque, improving all-around performance while retaining the comfort of the previous version. Top speed was increased to 168 mph, skidpad increased to 0.91g, an increased slalom of 61.7 mph and a 0-60 mph time of 4.6 seconds. Although the engine kept its 2.2-litre capacity, many modifications were added to improve engine performance. Some of the changes were enlarged inlet ports, cylinder head modifications, a re-calibrated ECM and a revised turbocharger. The most visible external styling changes was the addition of a larger rear wing taken from the Sport 300. In 1996 the Esprit V8 used Lotus’ self-developed all-aluminium, twin-turbocharged (Garrett T25/60 turbos) 90-degree V-8, Code-named Type 918, in front of the same Renault transmission as before with no Chargecooler. Derek Bell developed an uprated gearbox that overcame a lot of the gearbox problems with a much thicker single piece input shaft. The Type 918 engine was detuned from a potential 500 bhp to 350 bhp to prevent gearbox damage due to the fragility of the Renault UN-1 transmission. In period tests, zero to sixty miles per hour came in at 4.4 seconds and top speeds of over 175 mph were achieved. Produced alongside V8 models was the GT3, a turbocharged four-cylinder car with the type 920 2.0 litre chargecooled and turbocharged engine which had been used only in Italian market cars previously. In 1998 the V8 range was split into SE and GT specifications, both cars with a much changed interior configuration, both offering similar performance with the SE being the more luxurious of the two. The ultimate incarnation of the Esprit came in 1999 with the Sport 350. Only 50 were made, each offering 350 horsepower (per the name) and various engine, chassis and braking improvements, like the addition of AP Racing brakes, stiffer springs and a revised ECU. Several visual changes were made as well, including the addition of a large carbon fibre rear wing on aluminium uprights in place of the standard fibreglass rear wing. By this time the Esprit could reach 60 mph in 4.3 seconds as well as reaching 0-100 mph in less than 10 seconds, and weighed 1,300 kg (2,866 lb) as a result of many modifications. Thereafter, Lotus made little development aside from minor cosmetic changes including a switch to four round tail lights for the 2002 model year. Esprit production ceased in February 2004 after a 28 year production run. A total of 10,675 Esprits were produced.
There has only ever been one front wheel drive model with Lotus badges on it, the “M100” Elan sports car. Like many specialist produced cars of the era, there was a long wait for this car form when news first broke that it was under development to the actual release of cars people could buy. The M100 Elan story goes back to 1986 and the purchase of Lotus by General Motors which provided the financial backing to develop a new, small, affordable car in the same spirit as the original Elan, the last of which had been built in December 1972. A development prototype, the M90 (later renamed the X100) had been built a few years earlier, using a fibreglass body designed by Oliver Winterbottom and a Toyota-supplied 1.6-litre engine and transmission. Lotus was hoping to sell the car through Toyota dealerships worldwide, badged as a Lotus Toyota, but the project never came to fruition and the prototype was shelved, although Lotus’s collaboration with Toyota had some influence on the design of the Toyota MR2. The idea of a small roadster powered by an outsourced engine remained, however, and in late 1986 Peter Stevens’s design for the Type M100 was approved and work began by Lotus engineers to turn the clay styling buck into a car that could be built. This process was completed in just under three years, a remarkably short time from design to production car. The M100 Elan was conceived as a mass-market car and in particular one that would appeal to US buyers. Consequently, Lotus put an enormous effort (for such a small firm) into testing the car; over a two-year period 19 crash cars and 42 development vehicles were built, logging nearly a million test miles in locations from Arizona to the Arctic. The Elan was driven at racing speeds for 24 hours around the track at Snetterton. Finally each new car was test-driven for around 30 miles at Lotus’s Hethel factory to check for any manufacturing defects before being shipped to dealers. The choice of front-wheel drive is unusual for a sports car, but according to Lotus sales literature, “for a given vehicle weight, power and tyre size, a front wheel drive car was always faster over a given section of road. There were definite advantages in traction and controllability, and drawbacks such as torque steer, bump steer and steering kickback were not insurmountable.” This was the only front-wheel-drive vehicle made by Lotus. Every model made since the M100 Elan, such as the Lotus Elise, has been rear-wheel drive. The M100 Elan’s cornering performance was undeniable (on release the Elan was described by Autocar magazine as “the quickest point to point car available”). Press reaction was not uniformly positive, as some reviewers found the handling too secure and predictable compared to a rear-wheel-drive car. However, the Elan’s rigid chassis minimised roll through the corners and has led to its description as ‘the finest front wheel drive [car] bar none’. Unlike the naturally aspirated version, the turbocharged SE received power steering as standard, as well as tyres with a higher ZR speed rating. The M100 Elan used a 1,588 cc double overhead camshaft (DOHC) 16-valve engine, sourced from the Isuzu Gemini and extensively modified by Lotus (a third generation of this engine was later used in the Isuzu Impulse), which produced 162 hp. 0–60 acceleration time was measured by Autocar and Motor magazine at 6.5 seconds, and a top speed of 137 mph was recorded. Significant differences in the Isuzu-Lotus engine from the original include a new exhaust system, re-routed intake plumbing for better thermodynamic efficiency, improved engine suspension, and major modifications to the engine control unit to improve torque and boost response. Almost all models featured an IHI turbocharger. Two variants were available at launch, the 130 bhp Elan 1.6 (retailing at £17,850) and the 162 bhp Turbo SE (£19,850). Initial sales were disappointing, perhaps because its launch coincided with a major economic recession in the UK and USA, and perhaps also because it coincided with the cheaper Mazda MX-5 which was arguably similar in concept, though the MX-5 was quite intentionally nostalgic and old fashioned (apeing the original Elan), while the M100 was deliberately futuristic, modern and forward looking. The Elan was regarded as a good product in a bad market, but was also very expensive to make (the cost to design and produce the dashboard alone was more than the total cost of the Excel production line), and sales figures were too low to recoup its huge development costs. Altogether 3,855 Elans were built between November 1989 and July 1992, including 129 normally aspirated (non-turbo) cars. 559 of them were sold in the US, featuring a ‘stage 2 body’ which had a different rear boot spoiler arrangement together with a lengthened nose to accommodate a USA-compliant crash structure and airbag, and 16-inch wheels (optional in most markets, standard in the U.S.) instead of 15-inch as on the UK model. A limited edition of 800 Series 2 (S2) M100 Elans was released during the Romano Artioli era (produced June 1994–September 1995) when it was discovered that enough surplus engines were available to make this possible. According to Autocar magazine, the S2 addressed some of the concerns over handling, but power was reduced to 155 bhp and the 0–60 acceleration time increased to 7.5 seconds, due to the legislative requirement to fit a catalytic converter in all markets. The S2s have very similar performance to the USA vehicles, having an identical engine management system calibration and a slightly lower overall vehicle weight.
Still acclaimed as one of the best-looking saloons ever produced is this car, the fifth generation Quattroporte, a couple of which were on show. Around 25,000 of these cars were made between 2004 and 2012, making it the second best selling Maserati of all time, beaten only by the cheaper BiTurbo of the 1980s. The Tipo M139 was unveiled to the world at the Frankfurt Motor Show on 9 September 2003, with production starting in 2004. Exterior and interior design was done by Pininfarina, and the result was widely acclaimed to be one of the best looking saloons not just of its time, but ever, an opinion many would not disagree with even now. Built on an entirely new platform, it was 50 cm (19.7 in) longer than its predecessor and sat on a 40 cm (15.7 in) longer wheelbase. The same architecture would later underpin the GranTurismo and GranCabrio coupés and convertibles. Initially it was powered by an evolution of the naturally aspirated dry sump 4.2-litre V8 engine, mounted on the Maserati Coupé, with an improved output of 400 PS . Due to its greater weight compared to the Coupé and Spyder, the 0-62 mph (0–100 km/h) time for the Quattroporte was 5.2 seconds and the top speed 171 mph (275 km/h). Initially offered in only one configuration, equipped with the DuoSelect transmission, the gearbox was the weak point of the car, receiving most of the criticism from the press reviews. Maserati increased the range at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show, with the launch of the Executive GT and Sport GT trim levels. The Executive GT came equipped with a wood-rimmed steering wheel, an alcantara suede interior roof lining, ventilated, adaptive, massaging rear seats, rear air conditioning controls, veneered retractable rear tables, and curtain shades on the rear windows. The exterior was distinguished by 19 inch eight-spoke ball-polished wheels and chrome mesh front and side grilles. The Quattroporte Sport GT variant offered several performance upgrades: faster shifting transmission and firmer Skyhook suspensions thanks to new software calibrations, seven-spoke 20 inch wheels with low-profile tyres, cross-drilled brake rotors and braided brake lines. Model-specific exterior trim included dark mesh front and side grilles and red accents to the Trident badges, as on vintage racing Maseratis. Inside there were aluminium pedals, a sport steering wheel and carbon fibre in place of the standard wood inserts. A new automatic transmission was presented at the 2007 Detroit Motor Show, marketed as the Maserati Quattroporte Automatica. As all three trim levels were offered in both DuoSelect and Automatica versions, the lineup grew to six models. The Quattroporte Sport GT S was introduced at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show. Taking further the Sport GT’s focus on handling, this version employed Bilstein single-rate dampers in place of the Skyhook adaptive system. Other changes from the Sport GT comprised a lowered ride height and 10 mm wider 295/30 rear tyres, front Brembo iron/aluminium dual-cast brake rotors and red-painted six piston callipers. The cabin was upholstered in mixed alcantara and leather, with carbon fibre accents; outside the door handles were painted in body colour, while the exterior trim, the 20 inch wheels and the exhaust pipes were finished in a “dark chrome” shade. After Images of a facelifted Quattroporte appeared on the Internet in January 2008; the car made its official début at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show. Overseen by Pininfarina, the facelift brought redesigned bumpers, side sills and side mirrors, a convex front grille with vertical bars instead of horizontal, new headlights and tail lights with directional bi-xenon main beams and LED turn signals. Inside there was a new navigation and entertainment system. All Quattroporte models now used the ZF automatic transmission, the DuoSelect being discontinued. The 4.2-litre Quattroporte now came equipped with single-rate damping comfort-tuned suspension and 18 inch wheels. Debuting alongside it was the Quattroporte S, powered by a wet-sump 4.7-litre V8, the same engine of the Maserati GranTurismo S, with a maximum power of 424 bhp and maximum torque of 361 lb·ft. In conjunction with the engine, the braking system was upgraded to cross-drilled discs on both axles and dual-cast 360 mm rotors with six piston callipers at the front. Skyhook active damping suspension and 19 inch V-spoke wheels were standard. Trim differences from the 4.2-litre cars were limited to a chrome instead of titanium-coloured front grille. The Quattroporte Sport GT S was premièred at the North American International Auto Show in January 2009. Its 4.7-litre V8 produced 440 PS (434 hp), ten more than the Quattroporte S, thanks to revised intake and to a sport exhaust system with electronically actuated bypass valves. Other mechanical changes were to the suspensions, where as on the first Sport GT S single-rate dampers took place of the Skyhook system, ride height was further lowered and stiffer springs were adopted. The exterior was distinguished by a specific front grille with convex vertical bars, black headlight bezels, red accents to the Trident badges, the absence of chrome window trim, body colour door handles and black double oval exhaust pipes instead of the four round ones found on other Quattroporte models. Inside veneers were replaced by “Titan Tex” composite material and the cabin was upholstered in mixed Alcantara and leather. This means that there are quite a number of different versions among the 25,256 units produced, with the early DuoSelect cars being the most numerous.
First Mercedes that I spotted was this rather elegant W123 280CE Coupe. Mercedes-Benz introduced the W123 four-door versions on 29 January 1976. While there were some technical similarities to their predecessors, the new models were larger in wheelbase and exterior dimensions. The styling was also updated, although stylistic links with the W114 / W115 were maintained. Initially, all models except 280/280E featured quad unequal-size round headlights and the latter large rectangular units. When facelifted, these units became standard across the range. All W115 engines were carried over, with the 3-litre 5-cylinder diesel model being renamed from “240D 3.0” to “300D” (as it had already been called before in North American markets). The only new engine was the 250’s 2,525 cc inline-six (Type M123, a short-stroke version of the 2.8-litre six Type M110) that replaced the old 2,496 cc Type M114 “six”. In the spring of 1976, a Coupé version was introduced on a shorter wheelbase than the saloon (106.7 in versus 110.0 in. This W123C/CE was available as a 230C (later 230CE) and as a 280C/CE in most markets; in North America there were additional 300CD versions with naturally aspirated, later turbocharged 3-litre diesel engines. In North America, buyers favored diesel engines for upmarket cars, while CAFE legislation meant that Mercedes-Benz North America had to lower their corporate average fuel economy. This led to the introduction of a few diesel models only sold in the United States. It is a tribute to the car’s instant popularity – and possibly to the caution built into the production schedules – that nine months after its introduction, a black market had developed in Germany for Mercedes-Benz W123s available for immediate delivery. Customers willing to order new cars from their local authorised dealer for the recommended list price faced waiting times in excess of twelve months. Meanwhile, models that were barely used and were available almost immediately commanded a premium over the new price of around DM 5,000. From August 1976, long-wheelbase versions (134.8 in) were produced. These were available as 7/8 seater saloons with works bodies or as a chassis with complete front body clip, the latter serving as the base for ambulance and hearse bodies by external suppliers like Binz or Miesen. These “Lang” versions could be ordered as 240D, 300D and 250 models. At the Frankfurt Auto Show in September, 1977 the W123T estate was introduced; the T in the model designation stood for “Touring and Transport”. All engines derivative except “200TD” were available in the range. T production began in March, 1978 in Mercedes’ Bremen factory. It was the first factory-built Mercedes-Benz estate, previous estates had been custom-built by external coachbuilders, such as Binz. In early 1979, the diesel models’ power output was increased; power rose from 54 hp to 59 hp in the 200D, from 64 hp to 71 hp in the 240D and from 79 hp to 87 hp in the 300D; at the same time, the 220D went out of production. The first Mercedes turbo diesel production W123 appeared in September, 1981. This was the 300 TD Turbodiesel, available with automatic transmission only. In most markets, the turbocharged 5-cylinder 3-litre diesel engine (Type OM617.95) was offered only in the T body style, while in North America it was also available in saloon and coupé guises. June 1980 saw the introduction of new four-cylinder petrol engines (Type M102). A new 2-litre four with shorter stroke replaced the old M115, a fuel-injected 2.3-litre version of this engine (in 230E/TE/CE) the old carburettor 230. Both engines were more powerful than their predecessors. In 1980/81, the carburettor 280 versions went out of production; the fuel-injected 280E continued to be offered. In September 1982, all models received a mild facelift. The rectangular headlights, previously fitted only to the 280/280E, were standardised across the board, as was power steering. Since February 1982, an optional five-speed manual transmission was available in all models (except the automatic-only 300 turbodiesel). W123 production ended in January, 1986 with 63 final T-models rolling out. Most popular single models were the 240D (455,000 built), the 230E (442,000 built), and the 200D (378,000 built). The W123 introduced innovations including ABS (optional from August, 1980), a retractable steering column and an airbag for the driver (optional from 1982). Power (vacuum servo) assisted disc brakes were standard on all W123s. Available options included MB-Tex (Mercedes-Benz Texturized Punctured Vinyl) upholstery or velour or leather upholstery, interior wood trim, passenger side exterior mirror (standard on T models), 5-speed manual transmission (European market only), 4-speed automatic transmission (standard in turbodiesel models), power windows with rear-seat switch cut-outs, vacuum powered central locking, rear-facing extra seats (estate only), Standheizung (prestart timer-controlled engine heating), self-locking differential, sun roof, air conditioning, climate control, “Alpine” horn (selectable quieter horn), headlamp wipers (European market only), Tempomat (cruise control), power steering (standard after 1982/08), seat heating, catalytic converter (available from 1984 for California only, from fall (autumn) 1984 also in Germany for the 230E of which one thousand were built). These days, the cars are very popular “youngtimer” classics, with all models highly rated.
Also well rated are the R107 series of SL and SLC cars and there were several of these here: a 380 SLC as well as both 420SL and 300SL models. Replacing the W113 “Pagoda” SL cars, the R107 had a long production life, being the second longest single series ever produced by the automaker, after the G-Class. The R107 and C107 took the chassis components of the midsize Mercedes-Benz W114 model and mated them initially to the M116 and M117 V8 engines used in the W108, W109 and W111 series. The SL variant was a 2-seat convertible/roadster with standard soft top and optional hardtop and optional folding seats for the rear bench. The SLC (C107) derivative was a 2-door hardtop coupe with normal rear seats. The SLC is commonly referred to as an ‘SL coupe’, and this was the first time that Mercedes-Benz had based a coupe on an SL roadster platform rather than on a saloon, replacing the former saloon-based 280/300 SE coupé in Mercedes lineup. The SLC was replaced earlier than the SL, with the model run ending in 1981, with a much larger model, the 380 SEC and 500SEC based on the new S class. Volume production of the first R107 car, the 350 SL, started in April 1971 alongside the last of the W113 cars; the 350 SLC followed in October. The early 1971 350SL are very rare and were available with an optional 4 speed fluid coupling automatic gearbox. In addition, the rare 1971 cars were fitted with Bosch electronic fuel injection. Sales in North America began in 1972, and cars wore the name 350 SL, but had a larger 4.5L V8 with 3 speed auto (and were renamed 450 SL for model year 1973); the big V8 became available on other markets with the official introduction of the 450 SL/SLC on non-North American markets in March 1973. US cars sold from 1972 through 1975 used the Bosch D Jetronic fuel injection system, an early electronic engine management system. From July 1974 both SL and SLC could also be ordered with a fuel-injected 2.8L straight-6 as 280 SL and SLC. US models sold from 1976 through 1979 used the Bosch K Jetronic system, an entirely mechanical fuel injection system. All US models used the 4.5 litre engine, and were called 450 SL/SLC. In September 1977 the 450 SLC 5.0 joined the line. This was a homologation version of the big coupé, featuring a new all-aluminium five-litre V8, aluminium alloy bonnet and boot-lid, and a black rubber rear spoiler, along with a small front-lip spoiler. The 450SLC 5.0 was produced in order to homologate the SLC for the 1978 World Rally Championship. Starting in 1980, the 350, 450 and 450 SLC 5.0 models (like the 350 and 450 SL) were discontinued in 1980 with the introduction of the 380 and 500 SLC in March 1980. At the same time, the cars received a very mild makeover; the 3-speed automatic was replaced by a four-speed unit, returning to where the R107 started in 1971 with the optional 4 speed automatic 350SL. The 280, 380 and 500 SLC were discontinued in 1981 with the introduction of the W126 series 380 and 500 SEC coupes. A total of 62,888 SLCs had been manufactured over a ten-year period of which just 1,636 were the 450 SLC-5.0 and 1,133 were the 500 SLC. Both these models are sought by collectors today. With the exception of the SL65 AMG Black Series, the SLC remains the only fixed roof Mercedes-Benz coupe based on a roadster rather than a sedan. Following the discontinuation of the SLC in September 1981, the 107 series continued initially as the 280, 380 and 500 SL. At this time, the V8 engines were re-tuned for greater efficiency, lost a few hp and consumed less fuel- this largely due to substantially higher (numerically lower) axle ratios that went from 3.27:1 to 2.47:1 for the 380 SL and from 2.72:1 to 2.27:1 for the 500 SL. From September 1985 the 280 SL was replaced by a new 300 SL, and the 380 SL by a 420 SL; the 500 SL continued and a 560 SL was introduced for certain extra-European markets, notably the USA, Australia and Japan. Also in 1985, the Bosch KE Jetronic was fitted. The KE Jetronic system varied from the earlier, all mechanical system by the introduction of a more modern engine management “computer”, which controlled idle speed, fuel rate, and air/fuel mixture. The final car of the 18 years running 107 series was a 500 SL painted Signal red, built on August 4, 1989; it currently resides in the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart.
Also here was an example of the W201 model. Mercedes spent over £600 million researching and developing the 190 and subsequently said it was ‘massively over-engineered’. It marked a new venture for Mercedes-Benz, finally giving it a new smaller model to compete with the likes of the BMW 3 Series. The W201-based 190 was introduced in November 1982, and was sold in right-hand drive for the UK market from September 1983. Local red tape in Bremen (which produced commercial vehicles at the time) prevented Daimler-Benz from building the 190 there, so production was started in Sindelfingen at a capacity of just 140,000 units per year. Eventually after just the first year, Bremen was cleared for production of the 190, replacing its commercial vehicle lines, and there the 190 was built with the first running modifications since release. Initially there were just two models, the 190 and 190 E. Each was fitted with an M102 1,997 cc displacement engine. The 190 was fitted with an M102.921 90 hp engine and the 190 E fitted with an M102.962 122 hp engine. In September 1983, the 190 E 2.3 (2,299 cc) was released for the North American market only (although a 190 E 2.3 appeared in other countries later), fitted with a 113 hp M102.961 engine. This reduction in power was due to the emissions standards in the North American market at the time. The intake manifold, camshaft, and fuel injection system were refined in 1984, and the engine produced 122 hp. The carburettor 190 was revised in 1984 as well, increasing its horsepower rating to 105 hp. 1984 also saw the arrival of the 2.3-16 “Cosworth.” In 1985, the 190 E 2.3 now came fitted with the M102.985 engine, producing 130 hp until it was revised in 1987 to use Bosch KE3-Jetronic Injection, a different ignition system, and a higher compression ratio, producing 136 hp. 1987 marked the arrival of the first inline-six equipped 190, the 190 E 2.6. Fitted with the M103.940 engine, the 190 E 2.6 provided 160 hp with a catalyst and 164 hp without. In the North American market, the 190 E 2.6 was sold until 1993, the end of the W201 chassis’s production. From 1992-1993 the 2.6 was available as a special “Sportline” model, with an upgraded suspension and interior. The 190 E 2.3 was sold until 1988, then went on a brief hiatus until it was sold again from 1991 until 1993. The W201 190 D is known for its extreme reliability and ruggedness with many examples doing more than 500,000 miles without any major work. The 190 D was available in three different engines. The 2.0 was the baseline, and was never marketed in North America. The 2.2, with the same power as the 2.0, was introduced in September 1983. It was only available in model years 1984 and 1985, and only in the USA and Canada. The 2.5 was available in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The 2.5 Turbo, while sold in mainland Europe, but not the UK for many years, was available to American buyers only in 1987 and is now somewhat of a collectors item. The exterior of the 2.5 Turbo is different from other models in that it has fender vents in the front passenger side fender for the turbo to breathe. Although the early cars were very basic and not very powerful, they sold strongly, and things only got better as the model evolved, with the result that over 1.8 million had been produced by the time the W202 model arrived in 2002 to replace it.
Two more recent AMG cars were here as well: an SL63 AMG and one of the very latest AMG GT C Roadsters.
I am not sure today’s 1 or 3 Series driver would be that enamoured of the prospect of one of these YB Saloons as his or her daily driver, but the reality is that this was a sports saloon of its era which would have appealed to the same sort of buyer who wanted something that was a cut above a regular Morris, Ford or Hillman. The Y Series was conceived before the war. when MG had sought to supplement its popular range of ‘Midget’ sports cars with three saloons of various sizes and engine capacities. These were the “S”, “V” and “W” models, which were introduced in the mid 1930s. But these were large and costly machines with the SA and WA aimed at the Jaguar Saloons of the era and even the VA having an engine of 1,548 cc, so the next development was to produce another saloon, of smaller engine capacity than the “VA”. To keep costs down, the Cowley design office turned to Morris’s Ten-Four Series M saloon, which was introduced during 1938, and the smaller Eight Series E which was launched at the Earls Court Motor show the same year for componentry. The prototype “Y” Type was constructed in 1939 with an intended launch at the Earls Court Motor show, the following year. However, as a result of the hostilities the public had to wait a further eight years before production commenced. All prototypes originating from the MG Factory at Abingdon were allocated numbers prefixed by the letters EX; this practice continued until the mid-fifties. Although the prototype of the MG “Y” Type was primarily a Morris concept from Cowley, much of the ‘fleshing out’ was completed at Abingdon. As a result it was allocated the prototype number EX.166. When the car was launched, the MG Sales Literature stated “A brilliant new Member of the famous MG breed. This new One and a Quarter Litre car perpetuates the outstanding characteristics of its successful predecessors – virile acceleration, remarkable ‘road manner,’ instant response to controls, and superb braking. A ‘lively’ car, the new One and a Quarter Litre provides higher standards of performance.” The UK price of the car was £525.0.0 ex works plus purchase tax of £146.11.8d. Gerald Palmer was responsible for body styling and, in essence he took a Morris Eight Series E four-door bodyshell in pressed steel, added a swept tail and rear wings, and also a front-end MG identity in the shape of their well-known upright grille. The MG 1 1/4 Litre Saloon would retain the traditional feature of separately mounted headlights at a time when Morris was integrating headlamps into the front wing and it was also to have a separate chassis under this pressed-steel bodywork, even though the trend in the industry was towards ‘unitary construction’. The car featured an independent front suspension layout designed by Gerald Palmer and Jack Daniels (an MG draughtsman). Independent front suspension was very much the latest technology at the time and the “Y” Type became the first Nuffield product and one of the first British production cars with this feature. The separate chassis facilitated the ‘Jackall System’, which consisted of four hydraulically activated rams that were bolted to the chassis, two at the front and two at the rear. The jacks were connected to a Jackall Pump on the bulkhead that enabled the front, the back, or the entire car to be raised to facilitate a wheel change. The power unit was a single carburettor version of the 1,250 cc engine used in the latest MG-TB. This engine, the XPAG, went on to power both the MG-TC and MG-TD series. The MG Y Type saloon developed 46 bhp at 4,800 rpm, with 58.5 lb ft of torque at 2,400 rpm, the YT Tourer (with the higher lift camshaft and twin carburettors) develop 54 bhp. With the exception of only the Rover Ten, which managed 2 additional bhp, the “Y” Type had more power than other British saloons of similar size. Indeed at the time many manufacturers were still producing side valve engines. The MG “Y” Type had an extremely high standard of interior furnishing and finish, in accordance with the best British traditions. The facing surfaces of all seats were leather, as were the door pockets. The rear of the front seats were made from Rexine, a form of leathercloth, which matched the leather fronts, as were the door panels themselves. A roller blind was fitted to the rear window as an anti-glare mechanism (not a privacy screen as many think). Considerable use of wood was made in the internal trim of the “Y” Type. Door windows, front and rear screens were framed in burr walnut, the instrument panel set in bookmatched veneer offsetting the passenger side glove box. The speedometer, clock, and three-gauge cluster of oil pressure, fuel and ammeter, were set behind octagonal chrome frames, a subtle iteration of the MG badge theme later replicated in the MG TF. An open topped YT Tourer was produced but fewer than 1000 of these were made. Production of the Y Type ended in 1953, when the car was replaced by the ZA Magnette. Just 8336 were made over its 6 year life.
As one of Britain’s most popular classic cars, it was no surprise to find several examples of the MGB here, with cars from throughout the model’s long life, both in Roadster and MGB GT guise, as well as one of the short-lived V8 engined cars. Launched in October 1962, this car was produced for the next 18 years and it went on to become Britain’s best selling sports car. When first announced, the MGB was an innovative, modern design, with a monocoque structure instead of the traditional body-on-frame construction used on both the MGA and MG T-types and the MGB’s rival, the Triumph TR series, though components such as the brakes and suspension were developments of the earlier 1955 MGA and the B-Series engine had its origins back in 1947. The lightweight design reduced manufacturing costs while adding to overall vehicle strength, and with a 95hp 3-bearing 1798cc engine under the bonnet, performance was quite respectable with a 0–60 mph time of just over 11 seconds. The car was rather more civilised than its predecessor, with wind-up windows now fitted as standard, and a comfortable driver’s compartment offered plenty of legroom. The roadster was the first of the MGB range to be produced. The body was a pure two-seater but a small rear seat was a rare option at one point. By making better use of space the MGB was able to offer more passenger and luggage accommodation than the earlier MGA while being 3 inches shorter overall. The suspension was also softer, giving a smoother ride, and the larger engine gave a slightly higher top speed. The four-speed gearbox was an uprated version of the one used in the MGA with an optional (electrically activated) overdrive transmission. A five-bearing engine was introduced in 1964 and a number of other modifications crept into the specification. In late 1967, sufficient changes were introduced for the factory to define a Mark II model. Alterations included synchromesh on all 4 gears with revised ratios, an optional Borg-Warner automatic gearbox, a new rear axle, and an alternator in place of the dynamo with a change to a negative earth system. To accommodate the new gearboxes there were significant changes to the sheet metal in the floorpan, and a new flat-topped transmission tunnel. US market cars got a new safety padded dashboard, but the steel item continued for the rest of the world. Rostyle wheels were introduced to replace the previous pressed steel versions in 1969 and reclining seats were standardised. 1970 also saw a new front grille, recessed, in black aluminium. The more traditional-looking polished grille returned in 1973 with a black “honeycomb” insert. Further changes in 1972 were to the interior with a new fascia. To meet impact regulations, in late 1974, the chrome bumpers were replaced with new, steel-reinforced black rubber bumpers, the one at the front incorporating the grille area as well, giving a major restyling to the B’s nose, and a matching rear bumper completed the change. New US headlight height regulations also meant that the headlamps were now too low. Rather than redesign the front of the car, British Leyland raised the car’s suspension by 1-inch. This, in combination with the new, far heavier bumpers resulted in significantly poorer handling. For the 1975 model year only, the front anti-roll bar was deleted as a cost-saving measure (though still available as an option). The damage done by the British Leyland response to US legislation was partially alleviated by revisions to the suspension geometry in 1977, when a rear anti-roll bar was made standard equipment on all models. US emissions regulations also reduced horsepower. In March 1979 British Leyland started the production of black painted limited edition MGB roadsters for the US market, meant for a total of 500 examples. Due to a high demand of the limited edition model, production ended with 6682 examples. The United Kingdom received bronze painted roadsters and a silver GT model limited editions. The production run of home market limited edition MGBs was split between 421 roadsters and 579 GTs. Meanwhile, the fixed-roof MGB GT had been introduced in October 1965, and production continued until 1980, although export to the US ceased in 1974. The MGB GT sported a ground-breaking greenhouse designed by Pininfarina and launched the sporty “hatchback” style. By combining the sloping rear window with the rear deck lid, the B GT offered the utility of a station wagon while retaining the style and shape of a coupe. This new configuration was a 2+2 design with a right-angled rear bench seat and far more luggage space than in the roadster. Relatively few components differed, although the MGB GT did receive different suspension springs and anti-roll bars and a different windscreen which was more easily and inexpensively serviceable. Although acceleration of the GT was slightly slower than that of the roadster, owing to its increased weight, top speed improved by 5 mph to 105 mph because of better aerodynamics. 523,826 examples of the MGB of all model types were built, and although many of these were initially sold new in North America, a lot have been repatriated here. There were several Roadsters and MGB GT models here.
Final MG here, and the most recent, was the ZT. Three years after the launch of the Rover 75 and less than a year after the de-merger of MG Rover from BMW, the MG ZT and MG ZT-T were launched, along with the cheaper 25-based ZR and 45-based ZS models. The basic shape and styling of the MG ZT remained the same as for the Rover 75 but with changes to the front bumper, now with an integrated grille, and detail alterations including colour coding of the chromed waistline, a new bootlid plinth and different alloy wheels and tyres sizes. The interior featured revised seats and dashboard treatment with new instrument faces. Engineering changes ranged from uprated suspension and brakes to revised engine tuning for the petrol and diesel models. Development of the MG ZT was headed by Rob Oldaker, Product Development Director, with styling changes undertaken by Peter Stevens, who was previously responsible for the styling of the McLaren F1 and X180 version of the Lotus Esprit. At launch, the most potent ZT was the 190bhp petrol powered model, but in 2003, the 260 version of the car was launched, which utilised a 4.6 litre V8 from the Ford Mustang range. The model was converted from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive and was largely engineered by motorsport and engineering company Prodrive before being completed by MG. Apart from the badges, the only visual difference externally between the 260 and other ZTs are the quad exhausts. The 4.6 version is regarded as a true Q-car. and it has its own every enthusiastic and active Owners Club.
Without doubt, the rarest version of the classic Issigonis-designed Mini is the Pickup, as seen here. Introduced in 1961, at the same time as the Van, whose longer platform this version shared, there was an open-top rear cargo area and a drop down tailgate. The factory specified the weight of the Pick-up as less than 1,500 lb (680 kg) with a full 6 gallon tank of fuel. As with the Van, the Pick-up had stamped metal slots for airflow into the engine compartment. The Pickup was basic, although the factory brochure described a “fully equipped Mini Pick-up is also available which includes a recirculatory heater.” Passenger-side sun visor, seat belts, laminated windscreen, tilt tubes and cover were also available at extra cost. Equipment levels improved gradually over time. Like the van, the Pick-up was renamed as the Mini 95 in 1978. Production ceased in 1983 by which time 58,179 Mini Pick-up models had been built, barely 10% of the number of Vans made.
To see one 505 Estate these days is a rarity, but to get two of them together in the UK is not something you are likely to see repeated for the rest of the year. The 505 had a long production life, as it was built from 1979 to 1992 in Sochaux, as well as being manufactured in various other countries including Argentina (by Sevel from 1981 to 1995), China, Indonesia and Nigeria. 1,351,254 505s were produced between 1978 and 1999 with 1,116,868 of these being saloons, but there are very few of them left in the UK, or even Europe (Africa is a different matter, of course!). Officially unveiled on 16 May 1979, the 505 was the replacement for the 504 with which it shared many of its underpinnings. It was originally available only as a saloon. There was a long wait for the estate, which when it did come included an eight-passenger Familiale version, both being seen at the 1982 Geneva Motor Show. The 505’s styling, a collaboration between Pininfarina and Peugeot’s internal styling department, is very similar to that of its smaller brother the 305. The original interior was designed by Paul Bracq, generally more well known for his work for Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The UK launch came in October 1979. The 505 was the last of Peugeot’s rear-wheel drive cars, with a front engine, mounted longitudinally. The suspension system included MacPherson struts and coil springs at front and semi-trailing arms with coil springs at rear, with a body-mounted rear differential and four constant-velocity joints. Station wagons (and most sedans built in Argentina) had instead a live-axle rear suspension, with Panhard rod and coil springs. Stabiliser bars were universal at front but model-dependent at rear. The car used disc brakes at the front, and either disc or drum brakes at the rear, depending on the model. The steering was a rack and pinion system, which was power assisted on most models. The first cars came with the familiar 2 litre carburettor and the Douvrin injected petrol engines and a 2.1 litre diesel. This latter was gradually upgraded to larger and more powerful units and a GTi model, the first Peugeot to bear the name was launched in 1984. Later Peugeot would add a Turbo 4 cylinder unit and the 2.7 litre Douvrin V6 engine, to give the car a more luxurious feel which it needed when it took over from the 604 as the marque’s flagship. The Break (Estate) and Familiale versions were quite different from saloons. The wheelbase was also longer, to help make it one of the most spacious in the market, at 2,900 mm (114 in). This was, not coincidentally, the same exact wheelbase as had been used on both the 404 and 504 estate derivatives. The Familiale (family estate), with its third row of bench seats (giving a total of eight forward-facing seats), was popular with larger families and as a taxi. The two rows of rear seats could be folded to give a completely flat load area, with 1.94 cubic metres of load capacity. The total load carrying capacity is 590 kg (1,301 lb). When released, it was hailed as a luxury touring wagon. The Familiale was marketed as the “SW8” in the United States, for “station wagon, eight seats.” The 505 was praised by contemporary journalists for its ride and handling, especially on rough and unmade roads; perhaps one reason for its popularity in less developed countries; – “Remember that the 505´s predecessor, the 504, had an outstanding ride. It took a British-market model on a hard charging drive across the green lanes of the Chilterns. The impacts were well suppressed and the car veritably floated over the undulations and potholes. I concluded that the 505 is as good as the 504 (but no better).” The 505 also had good ground clearance; if it wasn’t enough though, Dangel offered a taller four-wheel drive version of the 505 estate equipped with either the intercooled turbodiesel 110 hp engine or the 130 hp 2.2 L petrol engine. The four-wheel drive 505 also had shorter gear ratios. The interior styling was viewed positively in contemporary reviews: “Having settled into the 505’s neat cockpit one notices how handsomely styled it all would appear to be. The tweed seats and brown trim look smart and less confrontational than offerings from a certain other French marque.” But the ergonomics were criticised too: “The ashtray was competitively sized but is placed directly behind the gear stick. For British market cars, this will be a constant nuisance while our continental cousins will consider the placement quite logical and natural.” The range was given a facelift, including an all new interior, in 1986, but European Peugeot 505 production began to wind down following the launch of the smaller Peugeot 405 in 1987. Saloon production came to a halt in 1989, when Peugeot launched its new flagship 605 saloon, while the estate remained in production until 1992 – although plans for an estate version of the 605 never materialised. The 605 was in production for a decade but never matched the popularity of the 505. In some countries such as France and Germany, the 505 estate was used as an ambulance, a funeral car, police car, military vehicle and as a road maintenance vehicle. There were prototypes of 505 coupés and 505 trucks, and in France many people have modified 505s into pickup trucks themselves.
A cabriolet version of the 205, known as the CJ (or CT in France), was designed and partially assembled by Pininfarina of Italy. A CTi version, with the same plastic arches and wheels as the 1.6 GTI was also available. Only minor changes were made to the car in the next few years, with the most obvious visual change being the switch to grey bumpers and trim from black ones in 1990, along with revised lights. A new dashboard had been incorporated across the entire 205 range a couple of years before this. Sales of the GTI in the UK in the early 1990s were badly hit by soaring insurance premiums, brought about by high theft and ‘joyriding’ of cars of this sort. Increasingly stringent emissions regulations meant the 1.6 GTi went out of production in 1992, while the 1.9 litre was sold for a couple more years thanks to re-engineering of the engine to enable it to work properly with a catalytic converter, which dropped power to 122 bhp. Many of them had a hard life, but there are some nice original cars out there and people are starting to spend serious money in restoring them.
Much older than these Peugeot models was this 172B. Also known as the 5CV, there were several models of the Peugeot Type 172 produced between 1925 and 1929. The first of the 5CV series was the Type 172 BC, itself a new model, though similar to the Quadrilette, which was still sold through 1924. The Type 172 BC carried over the 667 cc engine from the Quadrilette, but with power up to 11 hp. It debuted at the Tour de France automobile in 1924. Small styling changes and a new engine changed the Type 172 BC into the Type 172 R in 1926. The engine was a 720 cc inline 4 cylinder unit and produced the same power rating as before, but torque was quoted appreciably higher. In 1928, the engine was replaced with a smaller 695 cc powerplant that nevertheless produced more power, at 14 hp. A smaller engine and a wider track nevertheless lowered the rating of the new Type 172 M tax classification to 4CV. Total production of the Type 172 models amounted to 48,285 units.
Older of the two Plymouth models on show was this 1956 Belvedere Sport Sedan. The Belvedere had replaced the Cranbrook as the top-line offering for 1954 and was now, a separate model instead of just a two-door hardtop, it was also available as a convertible, two-door station wagon, and four-door sedan. The two-door hardtop version was now called the “Sport Coupe”. Minor styling updates adorned the carry-over body design. For the first time, small chrome tailfins appeared on the rear fenders. In March 1954, Plymouth finally offered a fully automatic transmission, the Chrysler PowerFlite two-speed. Also new was a larger standard engine: a 230.2 cu in (3.8 litre) I6 that was also used by the Dodge Division. Power was now rated at 110 hp. Belvedere production totalled 32,492 for the year. All Plymouths were treated to a major overhaul for the 1955 model year. This was the first year of Chrysler Stylist Virgil Exner’s “Forward Look.” The Belvedere returned as top-of-the-line. For 1956, Plymouth styling evolved from that of the 1955s. Most notable would be the introduction of the first push-button automatic transmission to appear in an American automobile, and a more dramatic rear-end treatment highlighted by a pair of rakish tail-fins. In early 1956, the Fury joined the Belvedere line as a special-edition high-performance coupe. Belvedere remained the top full-line series through 1958. In 1956, Plymouth added seat belts. A completely new model replaced the car for 1957.
The other Plymouth model here was a Satellite, dating from 1969. The Satellite was a mid-size car introduced in the 1965 model year as the top trim model in Plymouth’s “B” platform Belvedere line. Available only in two-door hardtop and convertible models, the Satellite remained the top of the line model until the 1967 model year, when it was moved a notch down by the GTX. A second generation Satellite was launched for the 1968 model year and this ran for three years, offered in sedan, hardtop coupe, convertible and wagon bodystyles and with an array of V8 engines from 4.5 litres up to 7.2. The better known Plymouth Road Runner debuted at the same time, and this shared the same body as the Satellite and Belvedere models.
There was a big presence from the Porsche Owners club, something which seems to be the case at almost every event I attend these days, reflecting the popularity of the marque and also no doubt in recognition of the fact that when the millionth example of the 911 was built recently, we were told that around 70% of all the other cars to bear the name are still around. All the generations of this car from its greater than 50 year history were present, ranging from a 911 SC with the wider Turbo body, to a 993 Targa, a number of 996 cars including a Carrera and a couple of Turbo models, as well as the current 991 Turbo S.
There were several 944 models here, too. Whilst its precursor, the 924, had received largely positive reviews, it was criticised by many including Porsche enthusiasts for its Audi-sourced engine and although the Turbo model had increased performance, this model carried a high price, which caused Porsche to decide to develop the 924, as they had with generations of the 911. They re-worked the platform and a new all-alloy 2.5 litre inline-four engine, that was, in essence, half of the 928’s 5.0 litre V8, although very few parts were actually interchangeable. Not typical in luxury sports cars, the four-cylinder engine was chosen for fuel efficiency and size, because it had to be fitted from below on the Neckarsulm production line. To overcome roughness caused by the unbalanced secondary forces that are typical of four-cylinder engines, Porsche included two counter-rotating balance shafts running at twice engine speed. Invented in 1904 by British engineer Frederick Lanchester, and further developed and patented in 1975 by Mitsubishi Motors, balance shafts carry eccentric weights which produce inertial forces that balance out the unbalanced secondary forces, making a four-cylinder engine feel as smooth as a six-cylinder. The engine was factory-rated at 150 hp in its U.S. configuration. Revised bodywork with wider wheel arches, similar to that of the 924 Carrera GT, a fresh interior and upgrades to the braking and suspension systems rounded out the major changes and Porsche introduced the car as the 944 in 1982. It was slightly faster (despite having a poorer drag co-efficient than the 924), the 944 was better equipped and more refined than the 924; it had better handling and stopping power, and was more comfortable to drive. The factory-claimed 0-60 mph time of less than 9 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph which turned out to be somewhat pessimistic, In mid-1985, the 944 underwent its first significant changes. These included : a new dash and door panels, embedded radio antenna, upgraded alternator, increased oil sump capacity, new front and rear cast alloy control arms and semi-trailing arms, larger fuel tank, optional heated and powered seats, Porsche HiFi sound system, and revisions in the mounting of the transaxle to reduce noise and vibration. The “cookie cutter” style wheels used in the early 944s were upgraded to new “phone dial” style wheels (Fuchs wheels remained an option). 1985 model year cars incorporating these changes are sometimes referred to as “1985B”, “85.5” or “1985½” cars. For the 1987 model year, the 944 Motronic DME was updated, and newly incorporated anti-lock braking and air bags. Because of the ABS system, the wheel offset changed and Fuchs wheels were no longer an option. In early 1989 before the release of the 944S2, Porsche upgraded the 944 from the 2.5 to a 2.7 litre engine, with a rated 162 hp and a significant increase in torque. For the 1985 model year, Porsche introduced the 944 Turbo, known internally as the 951. This had a turbocharged and intercooled version of the standard car’s engine that produced 220 PS at 6000 rpm. In 1987, Car and Driver tested the 944 Turbo and achieved a 0-60 mph time of 5.9 seconds. The Turbo was the first car using a ceramic port liner to retain exhaust gas temperature and new forged pistons and was also the first vehicle to produce identical power output with or without a catalytic converter. The Turbo also featured several other changes, such as improved aerodynamics, notably an integrated front bumper. This featured the widest turn signals (indicators) fitted to any production car, a strengthened gearbox with a different final drive ratio, standard external oil coolers for both the engine and transmission, standard 16 inch wheels (optional forged Fuchs wheels), and a slightly stiffer suspension (progressive springs) to handle the extra weight. The Turbo’s front and rear brakes were borrowed from the Porsche 911, with Brembo 4-piston fixed calipers and 12-inch discs as ABS also came standard. Engine component revisions, more than thirty in all, were made to the 951 to compensate for increased internal loads and heat. Changes occurred for the 1987 model year. On the interior, the 1987 944 Turbo for North America became the first production car in the world to be equipped with driver and passenger side air bags as standard equipment. A low oil level light was added to the dash as well as a 180 mph (290 km/h) speedometer as opposed to the 170 mph speedometer on the 1986 model Turbos. Also included is the deletion of the transmission oil cooler, and a change in suspension control arms to reduce the car’s scrub radius. The engine remained the same M44/51 as in the 1986 model. In 1988, Porsche introduced the Turbo S. The 944 Turbo S had a more powerful engine (designation number M44/52) with 250 hp and 258 lb·ft torque (standard 944 Turbo 220 hp and 243 lb·ft. This higher output was achieved by using a larger K26-8 turbine housing and revised engine mapping which allowed maintaining maximum boost until 5800 rpm, compared to the standard 944 Turbo the boost would decrease from 1.75 bar at 3000 rpm to 1.52 bar at 5800 rpm. Top speed was factory rated at 162 mph. The 944 Turbo S’s suspension had the “M030” option consisting of Koni adjustable shocks front and rear, with ride height adjusting threaded collars on the front struts, progressive rate springs, larger hollow rear anti-roll/torsion bars, harder durometer suspension bushings, larger hollow anti-roll/torsion bars at the front, and chassis stiffening brackets in the front frame rails. The air conditioning dryer lines are routed so as to clear the front frame brace on the driver’s side. The 944 Turbo S wheels, known as the Club Sport design, were 16-inch Fuchs forged and flat-dished, similar to the Design 90 wheel. Wheel widths were 7 inches in the front, and 9 inches in the rear with 2.047 in offset; sizes of the Z-rated tyres were 225/50 in the front and 245/45 in the rear. The front and rear fender edges were rolled to accommodate the larger wheels. The manual transmission featured a higher friction clutch disc setup, an external cooler, and a limited slip differential with a 40% lockup setting. The Turbo S front brakes were borrowed from the Porsche 928 S4, with larger Brembo GT 4-piston fixed calipers and 12-inch discs; rear Brembo brakes remained the same as a standard Turbo. ABS also came standard. The 944 Turbo S interior featured power seats for both driver and passenger, where the majority of the factory-built Turbo S models sported a “Burgundy plaid” (Silver Rose edition) but other interior/exterior colours were available. A 10-speaker sound system and equalizer + amp was a common option with the Turbo S and S/SE prototypes. Only the earlier 1986, 250 bhp prototypes featured a “special wishes custom interior” options package. In 1989 and later production, the ‘S’ designation was dropped from the 944 Turbo S, and all 944 Turbos featured the Turbo S enhancements as standard, however the “M030” suspension and the Club Sport wheels were not part of that standard. The 944 Turbo S was the fastest production four cylinder car of its time. For the 1987 model year, the 944S “Super” was introduced, featuring a high performance normally aspirated, dual-overhead-cam 16-valve 190 PS version of the 2.5 litre engine (M44/40) featuring a self-adjusting timing belt tensioner. This marked the first use of four-valve-per-cylinder heads and DOHC in the 944 series, derived from the 928 S4 featuring a redesigned camshaft drive, a magnesium intake tract/passages, magnesium valve cover, larger capacity oil sump, and revised exhaust system. The alternator capacity was 115 amps. The wheel bearings were also strengthened and the brake servo action was made more powerful. Floating 944 calipers were standard, but the rear wheel brake circuit pressure regulator from the 944 turbo was used. Small ’16 Ventiler’ script badges were added on the sides in front of the body protection mouldings. Performance was quoted as 0 – 100 km/h in 6.5 seconds and a 144 mph top speed due to a 2857 lb weight. It also featured an improved programmed Bosch Digital Motronic 2 Computer/DME with dual knock sensors for improved fuel performance for the higher 10.9:1 compression ratio cylinder head. Like the 944 Turbo, the 944S received progressive springs for greater handling, Larger front and rear anti-roll bars, revised transmission and gearing to better suit the 2.5 litre DOHC higher 6800 rpm rev limit. Dual safety air bags, limited-slip differential, and ABS braking system were optional on the 944S. A Club Sport touring package (M637) was available as was the lightweight 16 inch CS/Sport Fuch 16×7 and 16×9 forged alloy wheels. This SC version car was raced in Canada, Europe and in the U.S. IMSA Firehawk Cup Series. Production was only during 1987 and 1988. It was superseded in 1989 by the ‘S2’ 944 edition. The 1987 944S power-to-weight ratio was such that it was able to accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds thus matching the acceleration of its newer larger displacement 3.0 litre 944 S2 sibling. In 1989 the 944S2 was introduced, powered by a 211 PS normally aspirated, dual-overhead-cam 16-valve 3.0 litre version of the 944S engine, the largest production 4-cylinder engine of its time. The 944S2 also received a revised transmission and gearing to better suit the 3.0 litre M44/41 powerplant. The 944S2 had the same rounded nose and a rear valance found on the Turbo model. This was the first example of the use of an integrated front bumper, where the fender and hood profiles would merge smoothly with the bumper, a design feature that has only now seen widespread adoption on the 1990 onward production cars. Performance was quoted as 0-60 mph in 6.0 seconds with a top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph) via manual transmission. A Club Sport touring package (M637) was also available. Dual air bags (left hand drive models), limited-slip differential and ABS were optional. Series 90 16-inch cast alloy wheels were standard equipment. In 1989, Porsche released the 944 S2 Cabriolet, a first for the 944 line that featured the cabriolet body built by ASC-American Sunroof Company at Weinsberg Germany. The first year of production included sixteen 944 S2 Cabriolet for the U.S. market. For the 1990 model year, Porsche produced 3,938 944 S2 Cabriolets for all markets including right-hand drive units for the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa. This car was raced, including the British championship that was called the Porsche Motorsport Championship. Production was during 1989, 1990, and 1991. The 944 S2 power-to-weight ratio was such that it was able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. In February 1991, Porsche released the 944 Turbo Cabriolet, which combined the Turbo S’s 250 hp engine with the cabriolet body built by ASC-American Sunroof Company at Weinsberg Germany. Porsche initially announced that 600 would be made; ultimately 625 were built, 100 of which were right-hand drive for the United Kingdom, Japanese, Australian, and South African market. None were imported to the U.S. and The Americas. In early 1990, Porsche engineers began working on what they had intended to be the third evolution of the 944, the S3. As they progressed with the development process, they realised that so many parts were being changed that they had produced an almost entirely new vehicle. Porsche consequently shifted development from the 944 S/S2 to the car that would replace the 944 entirely, the 968. The 944’s final year of production was 1991. A grand total 163,192 cars in the 944 family were produced between 1982 and 1991. This made it the most successful car line in Porsche’s history until the introductions of the Boxster and 997 Carrera.
Representing the pinnacle of the smaller more recent Porsche models was this Cayman GT4. This was officially launched at the 2015 Geneva Show, positioned to sit between the Cayman GTS and the 911 GT3. By the time of the official unveiling, the car was supposedly sold out many times over, though more recently it has become apparent that at least some Porsche dealers have been holding onto cars claiming that the first purchaser changed their mind, and then offering them to those who did not get one of the allocation a year ago, at vastly inflated prices. If true, this is very sharp practice indeed, but seems to be the sort to tricks that are becoming increasingly common as enthusiasts are being fleeced in the name of extra profit. For a starting price of around £65,000 in the UK, the lucky customer would get a car which used used a stiffened and strengthened Cayman bodyshell as a starting point, but lowered by 30mm . Porsche say that in fitting as many GT parts as possible, they did not make it out of a Cayman GTS, but rather they produced an entry-level mid-engined GT3 car. That sounds like PR spin to me, as of course the car does use an awful lot of parts from the regular Cayman. However, plenty is changed, too. There is a reworked version of the Carrera S’s 3.8-litre flat six engine, producing 380bhp at 7400rpm and 310lb ft at 4750-6000rpm, hooked up to a modified version of the Cayman GTS’s six-speed manual gearbox. A PDK dual-clutch automatic was considered but rejected, meaning the Cayman GT4 is manual only. This is enough to mean that the 0-62mph sprint takes 4.4sec and the top speed is 183mph, with combined fuel economy of 27.4mpg and CO2 emissions rated at 238g/km. The front axle and suspension are borrowed from the 911 GT3 and the rear axle and forged aluminium double wishbone suspension are completely new. Dampers are taken from the 911 GT3. The electric steering system from the 911 GT3 does make it onto the Cayman GT4 but is given new software. Stopping power is provided by standard steel brakes, or optional carbon-ceramics from the 911 GT3. The forged 20in alloy wheels were new and are shod with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. The rear 295/30 ZR20 tyres are bespoke, but the front 245/35 ZR20s were borrowed from the 911 GT3 as they were “a perfect match”. design-wise, the goal was to create a “zero lift car”, but thanks to the extensive aerodynamic and cooling package on the car – which includes a front splitter, a larger front grille and increased frontal air intakes, side air intakes, not one but two rear spoilers and a fully functional diffuser – the Cayman GT4 produces as much downforce at speed (100kg) as the 911 GT3. Every single part on the Cayman GT4 has a functional use. Other design features include “cool” black glass on the front and rear lights, blackened twin central exhausts and quality stitching on the twin lightweight bucket seats, taken from the 918 Spyder, as small details adding to that ‘want factor’.Despite all the extra equipment, the Cayman GT4 weighs no more than a Cayman GTS, tipping the scales at 1340kg dry. You could delete items such as the sat-nav and air-con to save weight, but few customers did, just as with the 911 GT3 RS were just 2% of buyers deleted the air-con. Inside, the steering wheel was new. The sports seats were trimmed in both leather and Alcantara. Standard equipment included bi-xenon headlights, a sports exhaust system, a Sport Chrono Package with dynamic engine mounts, the Porsche Torque Vectoring system, a mechanical limited-slip differential at the rear and the Porsche Stability Management system. On the options list were items such as carbonfibre-reinforced, plastic-backed seats for the two-seat interior. These weigh just 15kg each and were inspired by the 918 Spyder. A customised version of the Sport Chrono Package was offered, as is a Club Sport Package. With production limited – each Porsche Centre in the UK was allocated just 10 cars – the car sold out long before any reviews were published, but when they came, it was quite clear that Porsche had produced an absolutely cracking car. Anyone who managed to get one, and UK deliveries were a long time coming, was very lucky indeed.
Final Porsche of note was a 981-generation Boxster Spyder.
Most unusual Reliant here was the Fox, and there were two of them present. The Fox was a small four wheeled glass-fibre utility vehicle manufactured between 1983 and 1990. It used Reliant’s own 850 cc aluminium engine, and a galvanised chassis similar to the Reliant Kitten’s. The base vehicle was a pickup in design but could be sold with any corresponding rear hard top for any job wanted. A rear hard top could be bought to build an estate, a van, a canvas rear pickup, basic pickup or half convertible. The Fox has an interesting history. Reliant has exported technology and designs to several companies and countries, including MEBEA in Greece (Robin and TW9 models), but in the case of this car an almost “reverse” course was followed. Indeed, in the late 1970s MEBEA attempted to develop a “passenger-utility” vehicle, a type very popular in Greece at the time due to a law allowing such cars to be taxed as “commercial vehicles”. In that respect it was one of several companies to build such a vehicle in this country, including Namco, Autokinitoviomihania Ellados, MAVA, Automeccanica and others. MEBEA, which had already built the Reliant Robin under licence, modified the four-wheel chassis of the Reliant Kitten in order to accommodate higher loads and developed the prototype of a light utility vehicle with glass-fibre reinforced composite body. For the body design, the Greeks appear to have been inspired by an earlier Italian car, the 1974 Fiore 127 Gypsy. In order to produce it, though, MEBEA had to deal with the hurdle of obtaining type certification; this process was particularly complex for locally developed “passenger cars” (unlike other types of vehicles) in Greece. Thus, MEBEA did what other Greek companies had also done: it sought a partner abroad (the procedure was much easier for vehicles already certified in another country). Reliant was the obvious choice and the British company was involved in the final development and certification of the production version. The car was produced by MEBEA in Greece as the MEBEA Fox between 1979 and 1983, when the law favouring such cars was changed; sales dropped and production was terminated (a total of about 3000 had been produced). After this Reliant reused the design for themselves instead of shelving it, the Fox had a massive amount of details changed from the Greek version with Reliant apparently spending £500,000 on alterations for the UK version. Reliant started producing the Fox in the Tamworth factory in 1983, as an informal successor to the Kitten. About 600 were built in the UK up to 1990.
Following the success of the Scimitar GT Coupe, Reliant looked as to how to evolve the car and Tom Karen of Ogle was asked to submit some body designs based on the Ogle Design GTS estate car experiment for a new four seater Scimitar, the SE5 Reliant Scimitar. Managing Director Ray Wiggin, Chief Engineer John Crosthwaite and fibreglass body expert Ken Wood went to Ogle’s in Letchworth to look at a couple of mock-up body designs for the new SE5. Wiggin told Wood to go ahead and do a proper master. The SE5 was conceived and ready for the 1968 Motor Show in under 12 months. For the SE5 John Crosthwaite and his team designed a completely different longer chassis frame, revised and improved suspension, new and relocated fuel tank, a rollover bar, new cooling system, spare wheel mounted in the nose to give increased rear space and a 17 1⁄4 gallon) fuel tank. When designing the chassis Crosthwaite worked closely with Ogle body stylist Peter Bailey to modify and refine the prototype. The SE5 came with the same 3.0 litre Ford Essex engine used in the SE4a/b. This gave the SE5 a claimed top speed of over 120 mph. A Borg-Warner automatic transmission was added as an option in 1970 and by 1971, overdrive on the 4-speed manual was offered. In 1972 several improvements were included in the upgrade to SE5A, including a boost in power. The extra 7 hp and maximum engine speed raised performance quite a bit and the GTE was now capable of 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds and top speed was raised to 121 mph. The SE5’s flat dashboard also gave way to a curved and moulded plastic one. The 5a can be recognised from a 5 at the rear by the reverse lamps which are below the bumper on the earlier model and are incorporated into the rear clusters on the later version (these were also carried over onto the SE6 and later). 4311 SE5s were produced. It was an instant success; GT production was cut down and the proportion of GTEs to GTs being built was four-to-one. Reliant increased their volume by 20 per cent in the first year. The 5A model sold more than any other Scimitar, with 5105 manufactured. Princess Anne was given a manual overdrive SE5 as a joint 20th birthday present and Christmas present in November 1970 by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. It was Air Force blue in colour with a grey leather interior and registered 1420 H in recognition of her position as Colonel-in-Chief of the 14th/20th Hussars. Princess Anne subsequently owned eight other GTEs.
After concentrating its four wheeled efforts on the larger Scimitar GTE sports hatch and GTC cabrio throughout the 70s, Reliant took a different direction for their first new model for a couple of decades, with the 1984 Scimitar SS1. A small sports car that was intended to appeal to those who had previously bought cars like the MGB, the model hit a couple of obstacles straight away. For many, the rather distinctive looks of the Michelotti styling were a bit too much of a challenge, but the real problem was that automotive giant Toyota launched the MR2, with a far higher standard of build quality, a jewel like 1600cc engine and rather better standards of road holding thanks to its well-sorted mid engine compared to the SS1’s Ford 1300 and 1600cc CVH units and front engined layout. Despite an upgrade to the engine, with Nissan’s 1800cc Turbo finding its way under the bonnet, and improvements to the build quality, sales did not really improve. In 1990, the car adopted some of the styling features of the concept SS2 prototype were incorporated into a facelifted SS1 model, renamed Scimitar SST (“T” for “Towns”). More than a mere facelift, the new body was also of a very different construction. The SS1’s bodypanels were mounted on a steel framework, itself mounted to the chassis, while the SST’s body was of a “semi-monocoque” design fixed directly to the chassis. The bodywork, consisting of two large pieces (front and rear), thus did not suffer the unsightly panel gaps that were so characteristic of the SS1. The engines were Nissan’s CA18ET in the 1800Ti, producing 135 bhp and Ford’s CVH in the cheaper 1400, producing 75 bhp. The only transmission available was a five-speed manual unit.. A final upgrade which created the Sabre came in late 1992 with flared wheelarches, larger 15″ wheels and Rover K-Series engines replacing the ford units. None of this helped, as the car now had the Mazda MX5 to contend with as well, and sales remained few and far between. Reliant had initially projected sales of 2000 cars a year, but when production ceased in 1995, with the collapse of Reliant, just 1507 had been made over a 10 year period.
Whilst the 3 litre P5 model may have been thought of as a replacement for the top end of the long running P4 Rovers, it was really this car, the P6 model, first seen in October 1963 which was its true successor. Very different from the long-running 60/75/80/90/95/100/105/110 models, this car took some of its inspiration, it is claimed, from the Citroen DS as well as lessons learned from Rover’s Jet Turbine program of the 1950s and early 60s. It was a “clean sheet” design, carrying nothing over, and was advanced for the time with a de Dion tube suspension at the rear, four-wheel disc brakes (inboard on the rear), and a fully synchromesh transmission. The unibody design featured non-stressed panels bolted to a unit frame. The de Dion set-up was unique in that the “tube” was in two parts that could telescope, thereby avoiding the need for sliding splines in the drive shafts, with consequent stiction under drive or braking torque, while still keeping the wheels vertical and parallel in relation to the body. The Rover 2000 won industry awards for safety when it was introduced and included a carefully designed “safety” interior. One innovative feature was the prism of glass on the top of the front side lights. This allowed the driver to see the front corner of the car in low light conditions, and also confirmed that they were operative. One unique feature of the Rover 2000 was the design of the front suspension system, in which a bell crank (an L-shaped rotating bracket trailing the upper hub carrier joint) conveyed the vertical motion of the wheel to a fore-and-aft-horizontally mounted spring fastened to the rear wall of the engine compartment. A single hydraulically damped arm was mounted on the firewall for the steering. The front suspension was designed to allow as much width for the engine compartment as possible so that Rover’s Gas Turbine engine could be fitted. In the event, the engine was never used for the production vehicle, but the engine compartment width helped the accommodation of the V8 engine adopted years after the car’s initial launch for the 2000. The luggage compartment was limited in terms of usable space, because of the “base unit” construction, complex rear suspension and, in series II vehicles, the battery location. Lack of luggage space (and hence the need to re-locate the spare tyre) led to innovative options for spare tyre provision including boot lid mountings and optional Dunlop Denovo run-flat technology. The car’s primary competitor on the domestic UK market was the Triumph 2000, also released in October 1963, just one week after the Rover, and in continental Europe, it contended in the same sector as the Citroen DS which, like the initial Rover offering, was offered only with a four-cylinder engine – a deficiency which in the Rover was resolved, four years after its launch, when Rover’s compact V8 was engineered to fit into the engine bay. The Rover 2000 interior was not as spacious as those of its Triumph and Citroen rivals, especially in the back, where its sculpted two-person rear seat implied that Rover customers wishing to accommodate three in the back of a Rover should opt for the larger and older Rover 3 Litre. The first P6 used a 1,978 cc engine designed specifically for the car, which put out around 104 bhp. That was not enough to live up to the sports saloon ambitions, so Rover later developed a twin SU carburettor version with a re-designed top end and marketed the revised specification vehicles as the 2000 TC. The 2000 TC was launched in March 1966 for export markets in North America and continental Europe, relenting and making it available to UK buyers later that year. This engine generated around 124 bhp. The standard specification engines continued in production in vehicles designated as 2000 SC models. These featured the original single SU. More performance was to come. Rover saw Buick’s compact 3528 cc V8 unit that they had been looking at developing as the means of differentiating the P6 from its chief rival, the Triumph 2000. They purchased the rights to the innovative aluminium engine, and, once improved for production by Rover’s own engineers, it became an instant hit. The Rover V8 engine, as it became known, outlived its original host, the P5B, by more than thirty years. The 3500 was introduced in April 1968, one year after the Rover company was purchased by Triumph’s owner, Leyland and continued to be offered until 1977. The light metal V8 engine weighed the same as the four-cylinder unit of the Rover 2000, and the more powerful car’s maximum speed of 114 mph as well as its 10.5-second acceleration time from 0–60 mph were considered impressive, and usefully faster than most of the cars with which, on the UK market, the car competed on price and specifications. It was necessary to modify the under-bonnet space to squeeze the V8 engine into the P6 engine bay: the front suspension cross-member had to be relocated forward, while a more visible change was an extra air intake beneath the front bumper to accommodate the larger radiator. There was no longer space under the bonnet for the car’s battery, which in the 3500 retreated to a position on the right side of the boot. Nevertheless, the overall length and width of the body were unchanged when compared with the smaller-engined original P6. Having invested heavily in the car’s engine and running gear, the manufacturer left most other aspects of the car unchanged. However, the new Rover 3500 could be readily distinguished from the 2000 thanks to various prominent V8 badges on the outside and beneath the radio. The 3500 was also delivered with a black vinyl covering on the C-pillar, although this decoration later appeared also on four-cylinder cars. A 3-speed Borg Warner 35 automatic was the only transmission until the 1971 addition of a four-speed manual 3500S model, fitted with a modified version of the gearbox used in the 2000/2200. The letter “S” did not denote “Sport”, it was chosen because it stood for something specific on those cars: “Synchromesh”. However it is important to note that the 3500S was noticeably quicker than the automatic version of this car with a 0-60mph time of 9 seconds, compared with 10.1 for the standard car. Moreover, due to the fuel-guzzling nature of automatic gearboxes of this era, the manual car’s official cycle was 24mpg compared to the automatic’s 22mpg. The Series II, or Mark II as it was actually named by Rover, was launched in 1970. All variants carried the battery in the boot and had new exterior fixtures such as a plastic front air intake (to replace the alloy version), new bonnet pressings (with V8 blips even for the 4-cylinder-engined cars) and new rear lights. The interior of the 3500 and 2000TC versions was updated with new instrumentation with circular gauges and rotary switches. The old-style instrumentation with a linear speedometer and toggle switches continued on the 2000SC versions. The final changes to the P6 came in the autumn of 1973 when the 2200 SC and 2200 TC replaced the 2000 SC and TC. These cars used an enlarged 2,205 cc version of the 2000 engine, which increased power outputs to 98 and 115 bhp respectively as well as offering improved torque. The P6 was replaced by the SD1 Rover, a completely different sort of car indeed, after 322,302 cars had been built.
It is hard to imagine now just how excited people were when this dramatically different looking Rover burst onto the scene in July 1976. These days it takes a very extreme supercar for most car enthusiasts to get truly animated, but back then, a 3.5 litre V8 engined 5 seater British hatchback was all it took, and it was no surprise that the model collected the “Car of the Year” award later in 1976, fending off the second placed Ford Fiesta and the new Audi 100. Replacing both the Rover P6 and the big Triumphs which had been launched at the 1963 Motor Show and updated only in detail since then, this new David Bache styled car, with more than a hint of Ferrari Daytona in its profile really was something very different indeed to look at, even if underneath it was more of a clever update of proven mechanicals, with the 3.5 litre V8 engine carried over from its predecessor. Early press reports suggested that the car was as good to drive as it was to behold, and quickly there were long waiting lists as Rover struggled to produce the car fast enough in an all-new manufacturing facility in Solihull. Sadly, it did not take too long before it became apparent that although the car had been a long time in gestation, there were a number of design and manufacturing quality issues, quite apart form the extra ones that were inflicted by a still very truculent and strike-prone workforce. These frustrations did little to quell demand, though, which increased when the promised 6 cylinder models arrived in the autumn of 1977. 2300 and 2600 models sported a new 6 cylinder engine and were the more obvious replacement for the big Triumph and the Rover 2200 than the V8 car had been. BL’s next move was to take the car up market with the launch of the V8S in 1979 which was available in a rather bright Triton Green metalllic paint and a choice of gold or silver alloy wheels, as well having a far higher standard level of equipment. It was replaced by the even more luxurious Vanden Plas model in late 1980. More significant was a facelift which came in early 1982. A revised rear window line was aimed at improving the rather limited rear visibility and finally a rear wiper was fitted, this having been excluded from the earlier cars as it had been deemed unnecessary by a BL management who still thought that they knew better than the customers who clamoured for one) and the bumpers and lights were altered, along with significant interior trim and equipment changes. A few weeks later, a cheaper 4 cylinder 2000 model appeared, with the O Series engine under the bonnet, aimed at the all important fleet market and later that year it was joined by a diesel version, using the VM Motor engine, creating the 90 bhp 2400SD. The real joy though was the car revealed at the 1982 British Motor Show, the Vitesse, which boasted fuel injection and 190 bhp to give the car better performance, and with a new front and rear spoiler, the looks to suggest that this was an Autobahn-stormer to rival BMW and Mercedes. Of course, the other reason for the Vitesse was so as to homologate some of the changes for what turned out to be a less than successful career on the race track. It was this which led to the final handful of Vitesse models having a further power upgrade with the TwinPlenum versions, and these are the most highly prized cars of the lot these days. That said, values of SD1 remain very low, with the result that the majority of the cars have been scrapped as they are economic to restore.
This is a Saab 95, a seven-seater, two-door estate that was produced by Saab from 1959 to 1978. Initially it was based on the Saab 93 sedan, but the model’s development throughout the years followed closely that of the Saab 96 after the 93 was taken off the market in 1960. It was introduced in 1959, but because only 40 were made in 1959, production is often said to have started in 1960. The first engine was an 841 cc three-cylinder two-stroke, but from 1967 onward, it became available with the same four-stroke Ford Taunus V4 engine as used in the Saab 96, the Saab Sonett V4 and Sonett III, and the German Ford Taunus. It had a four-speed manual transmission. There was a small handle on the firewall that, when pushed, put the car into a “freewheeling” mode. This allowed the driver to coast downhill without seizing the two-stroke engine, but when power was needed the transmission would engage and the driver could power the car up hill again. As the 95 received the four-speed gearbox before the 96 (that still had the old three-speed unit) it was also used for rallying. In the US, the Saab 95 received the larger 1.7 litre V4 for the 1971 model year, as a response to tighter emissions regulations. The compression ratio was lowered to 8.0:1, meaning that the power remained 73 hp The rear-facing folding seat was dropped with the 1976 model year, making the car a regular five-seater. Production ended in 1978 (when only 470 examples were built). A total of 110,527 were made.
The first Sunbeam to bear the Alpine name was an open-topped version of the Sunbeam-Talbot 90 sports saloon, named after the model’s success in rallying, especially the Monte Carlo rally, launched in 1953. Kenneth Howes and Jeff Crompton were tasked with doing a complete redesign in 1956, with the goal of producing a dedicated sports car aimed principally at the US market to compete with the MGs and Triumphs that were very popular. Ken Howes contributed some 80 per cent of the overall design work, which bears more than incidental resemblance to the early Ford Thunderbird, hardly a surprise, as Howe had worked at Ford before joining Rootes. The Alpine was produced in four subsequent revisions until 1968. Total production numbered around 70,000. Production stopped shortly after the Chrysler takeover of the Rootes Group. Styled by the Loewy Studios for the Rootes Group, the “Series” Alpine started production in late 1959. One of the original prototypes still survives and was raced by British Touring car champion Bernard Unett. The car made extensive use of components from other Rootes Group vehicles and was built on a modified floorpan from the Hillman Husky estate car. The Series I used a 1,494 cc engine with dual downdraft carburettors, a soft top that could be hidden by special integral covers and the first available wind-up side windows offered in a British sports car of that time. The running gear came mainly from the Sunbeam Rapier, but with front disc brakes replacing the saloon car’s drums. An overdrive unit and wire wheels were optional. The suspension was independent at the front using coil springs and at the rear had a live axle and semi-elliptic springing. The Girling-manufactured brakes used 9.5 in (241 mm) discs at the front and 9 in (229 mm)drums at the rear. Coupé versions of the post-1959 version were built by Thomas Harrington Ltd. After the Le Mans Index of Efficiency success of 1961, Harrington sold replicas as the “Harrington Le Mans”, using a fastback body and an engine tuned to 104 hp. Unlike the Le Mans racers, these cars had a more integrated rear roofline and were without the tail fins of the roadsters. Until 1962 the car was assembled for Rootes by Armstrong Siddeley. An open car with overdrive was tested by The Motor in 1959. It had a top speed of 99.5 mph and could accelerate from 0–60 mph in 13.6 seconds. A fuel consumption of 31.4 mpg was recorded. The test car cost £1031 including taxes. 11,904 examples of the series I were produced.The Series II of 1962 featured an enlarged 1,592 cc engine producing 80 bhp and revised rear suspension, but there were few other changes. When it was replaced in 1963, 19,956 had been made. The Series III was produced in open and removable hardtop versions. On the hardtop version the top could be removed and the soft-top was stored behind the small rear seat; also the 1592 cc engine was less powerful. To provide more room in the boot, twin fuel tanks in the rear wings were fitted. Quarter light were fitted to the windows. Between 1963 and 1964, 5863 were made. For the Series IV, made in 1964 and 1965, there was no longer a lower-output engine option; the convertible and hardtop versions shared the same 82 bhp engine with single Solex carburettor. A new rear styling was introduced with the fins largely removed. Automatic transmission with floor-mounted control became an option, but was unpopular. From autumn 1964 a new manual gearbox with synchromesh on first gear was adopted in line with its use in other Rootes cars. A total of 12,406 were made. The final version was the Series V, produced between 1965–68 which had the new five-bearing 1,725 cc engine with twin Zenith-Stromberg semi-downdraught carburettors producing 93 bhp. There was no longer an automatic transmission option. 19,122 were made.
The car also formed the basis for the V8 engined Tiger, and you tend to see those more often than the regular Alpine, and sure enough. there was a Tiger here as well. This is one of those cars which you just knew the market would suddenly wake up to. And if you look at asking prices of those for sale in the last few months, it would seem that this has started to happen. The Tiger was based on the Sunbeam Alpine, and was created in 1964. Designed in part by American car designer and racing driver Carroll Shelby and produced from 1964 until 1967. Shelby had carried out a similar V8 conversion on the AC Cobra, and hoped to be offered the contract to produce the Tiger at his facility in America. Rootes decided instead to contract the assembly work to Jensen at West Bromwich in England, and pay Shelby a royalty on every car produced. Two major versions of the Tiger were built: the Series I (1964–67) which was fitted with the 260 cu in (4.3 litre) Ford V8; and the Series II, of which only 633 were built in the final year of Tiger production. This had the larger Ford 289 cu in (4.7 litre) engine. Two prototype and extensively modified versions of the Series I competed in the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans, but neither completed the race. Rootes also entered the Tiger in European rallies with some success, and for two years it was the American Hot Rod Association’s national record holder over a quarter-mile drag strip. Production ended in 1967 soon after the Rootes Group was taken over by Chrysler, who did not have a suitable engine to replace the Ford V8. Owing to the ease and affordability of modifying the Tiger, there are few surviving cars in standard form.
This Corona 1500 Saloon is a rare example of the first model type that Toyota sold in the UK. It was actually the third generation model to bear the Corona name and was introduced in September 1964, one month before the 1964 Summer Olympics. Italian designer Battista Farina assisted in the styling of this Corona, which was available in saloon, two-door hardtop, three-door van, five-door estate (also as a van), two pickup variants and a five-door hatchback, though not all of these bodystyles were available in the UK. A public demonstration of the new Corona’s performance was done on the Meishin Expressway, where the new model was tested to 100,000 km, and was able to sustain speeds of 140 km/h (87 mph). The Corona was released one year after the debut of the Corona’s traditional competitor, the Nissan Bluebird. Toyota introduced a smaller vehicle to address the market that needed a more fuel efficient vehicle, called the Toyota Corolla in November 1966. This allowed the Corona to increase in size and offer more passenger and cargo room over previous generations. 0–60 mph time was 15.1 seconds. Originally, commercial models (three-door van, pickup, and double-cab pickup) utilised the 1,198 cc 2P engine, with 55 PS at 5,000 rpm. This allowed for a maximum load of 500 kg (1,100 lb) for the two-seater versions and 300 kg (660 lb) for the five-seaters. Heavier loads were better accommodated by the Toyota Stout, while larger commercial grade trucks became available at Toyota Diesel Store locations. 1967 also saw the debut of a cab over van equipped for both commercial and commuting duties using the Corona engines, called the Toyota HiAce, offering more payload than the Corona was suited for. Top speed for the 1.2-litre Corona is 68 mph. In January 1967 the Corona also became available as a five-door van. In May 1967, the larger and more powerful 3P (1.35-litre) and 2R (1.5-litre) engines became available, replacing the lesser 2P in most markets. Power of these were 77 and 65 PS respectively. The Toyota automatic transmission, dubbed Toyoglide, was introduced on this version of the Corona. The 4R (12R in Australian versions) engine that had a displacement of 1587 cc was equipped with a twin SU carburettor (Australian models with 12R engine had one double barrel Aisin downdraft carburettor), and was capable of 90 bhp. Disc brakes were also introduced for the front wheels. Exports of this Corona proved popular in the USA and Europe, with increased engine performance and durability improvements over previous versions. In September 1967 alone, Toyota produced 80,000 cars, with 30,000 being Coronas. The model was produced until 1970.
Launched at the same time as the Rover 2000 was Triumph’s large saloon car, also called 2000. A replacement for the long running Standard Vanguard, this was the more sporting of the duo, with a subtly different appeal from the Rover. Between them, the cars defined a new market sector in the UK, promising levels of comfort and luxury hitherto associated with larger Rover and Jaguar models, but with usefully lower running costs and purchase prices, all in a modern package. Both added more powerful models to their range, with Rover going down the twin carburettor route, whilst in 1967, Triumph installed a larger 2.5 litre engine and the then relatively new fuel injection system, creating the 2.5PI, which is what was to be seen here. This Lucas system was not renowned for its reliability in the early days, but it did make the car rapid and refined. A facelift in 1969 brought new styling front and rear, which turned out to be a taster for a new grand tourer model which would emerge a few months later, and in this Mark 2 guise, the car was sold until 1977, in both saloon and estate guises. A mid range model, with twin carburettors but the larger engine, the 2500TC was introduced in 1974 and the 2500S arrived in 1975 with more power but also carb fed, to replace the troublesome and thirsty PI. These are the most sought after models now. Representing the model here was a Mark 2 2500TC Saloon.
Representing the Dolomite range was this Sprint model, finished in the very period colour of Magenta, never a popular hue when new, and now believed to be the only one left in such a shade. The Dolomite really was the 3 Series of its day, a family sized saloon that offered a combination of luxury and sportiness that made it a cut above the average Cortina and Marina. Designed as the successor for the upmarket variants of Triumph’s front-wheel drive designs, and also to replace a sporting relative of the Herald, the 6-cylinder Triumph Vitesse, the Triumph Dolomite was unveiled at the London Motor Show in October 1971. However, due to a number of strikes and other industrial upsets, the car was not reported to be in full production until October 1972. The Dolomite used the longer bodyshell of the front wheel drive Triumph 1500, but with the majority of the running gear carried over from the rear-wheel drive Triumph Toledo. Initially, the only version available used the new slant-four 1854 cc engine, which mated an alloy OHC head to an iron block, providing 91 bhp which offered sprightly performance. This was a version of the engine that the company was already providing to Saab for use in their 99 model. The car was aimed at the then-new compact performance-luxury sector, vying for sales against cars such as the BMW 2002 and Ford Cortina GXL, and was offered with a high level of standard equipment, including twin headlamps, a clock, full instrumentation, luxury seats and carpets, a heated rear window, and a cigar lighter. Styling was similar to the Triumph 1500, with some updates such as a black painted rear panel, vinyl D-posts, and new wheel trims. The car was capable of 100 mph with 60 mph coming up in just over 11 seconds. An overdrive gearbox was soon made available as an option, offering relaxed motorway cruising and improved fuel economy, and there was also an optional automatic transmission. Although the Dolomite proved to be refined and rapid, competitors such as the BMW 2002 had a performance advantage which was costing Triumph dearly, both in terms of sales and prestige. To remedy this, Triumph unveiled the Dolomite Sprint in June 1973, although the launch had been delayed by a year; it had been due to go on sale in 1972. A team of engineers led by Spen King developed a 16-valve cylinder head with all of the valves being actuated using a single camshaft rather than the more conventional DOHC arrangement. The capacity was also increased to 1,998 cc and combined with bigger carburettors the output was upped to 127 bhp. This represented a significant power increase over the smaller 1850cc variant, however it fell short of the original target of 135 bhp Despite BL engineers being able to extract a reliable 150 bhp from test engines, the production line was unable to build the engines to the same level of quality, with production outputs being in the region of 125 bhp to 130 bhp. This led to the original model designation, the Dolomite 135, being replaced at short notice with the Sprint name. As a result of the use of this engine, the Dolomite Sprint has been claimed to be “the world’s first mass-produced multi-valve car”. While other multi-valve engines (notably the Lotus 907) were produced in volume, they were not used in mass production vehicles until after the introduction of the Dolomite Sprint. The design of the cylinder head won a British Design Council award in 1974. Performance was excellent, with 0–60 mph taking around 8.4 seconds, with a maximum speed of 119 mph. Trim was similar to the 1850, with the addition of standard alloy wheels (another first for a British production car), a vinyl roof, front spoiler, twin exhausts and lowered suspension. By now seats were cloth on the 1850, and these were also fitted to the Sprint. Due to the increase in power brought by the new engine, the rest of the driveline was upgraded to be able to withstand the extra torque. The gearbox and differential were replaced by a version of those fitted to the TR and 2000 series cars, albeit with a close ratio gearset in the gearbox. The brakes were upgraded with new pad materials at the front, and the fitment of larger drums and a load sensing valve at the rear. Other changes over the standard Dolomite included the option of a limited slip differential. The optional overdrive and automatic transmission from the 1850 model were also offered as options on the Sprint. Initial models were only offered in Mimosa Yellow, although further colours were available from 1974 on. At launch the Sprint was priced at £1740, which compared extremely well to similar cars from other manufacturers. Prospective buyers would have been hard pressed to justify the extra £1000 cost of the BMW 2002 Tii, which offered similar performance. The four-door practicality of the Sprint also made it a very attractive proposition for the young executive choosing his first company car. The press gave the Dolomite Sprint an enthusiastic reception. Motor summarised its road test (subtitled “Britain leads the way”) with glowing praise: ” …the Sprint must be the answer to many people’s prayer. It is well appointed, compact, yet deceptively roomy. Performance is there in plenty, yet economy is good and the model’s manners quite impeccable … Most important of all, it is a tremendously satisfying car to drive”. Sadly, it proved not quite so satisfying to own, as the legendary BL lack of reliability was a feature on some, but by no means all Sprints. In 1976, Triumph rationalised their range, calling all their small models, Dolomite, and using the same body shell, so the Toledo (which had maintained its stubby tail until this point) and 1500TC became the Dolomite 1300, 1500 and 1500HL respectively. With minor changes to trim and equipment, the cars continued in production until 1980.
Most numerous Triumph model here was the Stag, a significant number of which were to be found parked up together, although there were a few more scattered around the rest of the venue. Envisioned as a luxury sports car, this car was designed to compete directly with the Mercedes-Benz SL. It started as a styling experiment, cut and shaped from a 1963–4 Triumph 2000 pre-production saloon, which had also been styled by Michelotti, and loaned to him by Harry Webster, Director of Engineering at Triumph. Their agreement was that if Webster liked the design, Triumph could use the prototype as the basis of a new Triumph model. Harry Webster, who was a long time friend of Giovanni Michelotti, whom he called “Micho”, loved the design and took the prototype back to England. The end result, a two-door drop head (convertible), had little in common with the styling of its progenitor 2000, but retained the suspension and drive line. Triumph liked the Michelotti design so much that they propagated the styling lines of the Stag into the new Mark 2 2000/2500 saloon and estate. The initial Stag design was based around the saloon’s 2.5-litre six cylinder engine, but Harry Webster intended the Stag, large saloons and estate cars to use a new Triumph-designed overhead cam 2.5-litre fuel injected V8. Under the direction of Harry Webster’s successor, Spen King in 1968, the new Triumph OHC 2.5 PI V8 was enlarged to 2997 cc to increase torque. To meet emission standards in the USA, a key target market, the troublesome mechanical fuel injection was dropped in favour of dual Zenith-Stromberg 175 CDSE carburettors. A key aim of Triumph’s engineering strategy at the time was to create a family of engines of different size around a common crankshaft. This would enable the production of power plants of capacity between 1.5 and 4 litres, sharing many parts, and hence offering economies of manufacturing scale and of mechanic training. A number of iterations of this design went into production, notably a slant four-cylinder engine used in the later Triumph Dolomite and Triumph TR7, and a variant manufactured by StanPart that was initially used in the Saab 99. The Stag’s V8 was the first of these engines into production. Sometimes described as two four-cylinder engines Siamesed together, it is more correct to say that the later four-cylinder versions were half a Stag engine. It has sometimes been alleged that Triumph were instructed to use the proven all-aluminium Rover V8, originally designed by Buick, but claimed that it would not fit. Although there was a factory attempt by Triumph to fit a Rover engine, which was pronounced unsuccessful, the decision to go with the Triumph V8 was probably driven more by the wider engineering strategy and by the fact that the Buick’s different weight and torque characteristics would have entailed substantial re-engineering of the Stag when it was almost ready to go on sale. Furthermore Rover, also owned by British Leyland, could not necessarily have supplied the numbers of V8 engines to match the anticipated production of the Stag anyway. As in the Triumph 2000 model line, unitary construction was employed, as was fully independent suspension – MacPherson struts in front, semi-trailing arms at the rear. Braking was by front disc and rear drum brakes, while steering was power-assisted rack and pinion. Although other bodystyles were envisaged, these never made production, so all Stags were four-seater convertible coupés. For structural rigidity – and to meet new American rollover standards of the time – the Stag required a B-pillar “roll bar” hoop connected to the windscreen frame by a T-bar. A removable hardtop was a popular factory option for the early Stags, and was later supplied as a standard fitment. The car was launched one year late in 1970, to a warm welcome at the various international auto shows. Sadly, it rapidly acquired a reputation for mechanical unreliability, usually in the form of overheating. These problems arose from a variety of causes, all of which are now well understood, and for which solutions have been identified, but at the time, they really hurt the reputation and hence sales of the car. They ranged from late changes to the engine which gave rise to design features that were questionable from an engineering perspective, the choice of materials which necessitated the use of antifreeze all year round, the engine’s use of long, simplex roller link chains, which would first stretch and then often fail inside fewer than 25,000 miles; the arrangement of the cylinder head fixing studs, half of which were vertical and the other half at an angle causing sideways forces which caused premature failure of the cylinder head gaskets. and poor quality production from a plant troubled with industrial unrest and poor quality control. At the time, British Leyland never provided a budget sufficient to correct the few design shortcomings of the Triumph 3.0 litre OHC V8, and the dealers did not help matters. The Stag was always a relatively rare car. British Leyland had around 2,500 UK dealers when the Stag was on sale and a total of around 19,000 were sold in the UK. Thus the average dealer sold only seven or eight Stags during the car’s whole production run, or roughly one car per year. This meant that few dealers saw defective Stags often enough to recognise and diagnose the cause of the various problems. Many owners simply replaced the engine altogether, often with the Rover V8, Ford Essex V6, or even the Triumph 6-cylinder engine around which the car was originally designed. Perhaps thanks to such a reputation for its unreliable engine, only 25,877 cars were produced between 1970 and 1977. Of this number, 6780 were export models, of which 2871 went to the United States. The majority of cars were fitted with a Borg-Warner 3-speed automatic transmission. The other choice was a derivative of the ancient Triumph TR2 gearbox which had been modified and improved over the years for use in the TR series of sports cars. Other than the choice of transmissions there were very few factory-installed options. On early cars buyers could choose to have the car fitted with just the soft-top, just the hard-top (with the hood storage compartment empty) or with both. Later cars were supplied with both roofs. Three wheel styles were offered. The standard fitments were steel wheels with Rostyle “tin-plate” trims. Five-spoke alloy wheels were an option, as were a set of traditional steel spoke wheels with “knock-off”‘ hubcaps. The latter were more commonly found on Stags sold in North America on Federal Specification vehicles. Electric windows, power steering and power-assisted brakes were standard. Options included air conditioning, a luggage rack, uprated Koni shock absorbers, floor mats and Lucas Square Eight fog lamps, and a range of after-market products, most of which were dealer installed as optional accessories could also be fitted. Rather unusually for a 4-seat touring car, the accessory list included a sump protector plate that was never produced. This was probably included as a slightly “gimmicky” tribute to Triumph’s rallying successes. Nowadays, the Stag is seen in a very different light, with lots of very enthusiastic and knowledgeable owners who enjoy the good points of this attractive looking car and who revel in the fact that the market has not yet boosted prices into the unaffordable category, as one day will surely happen.
There was also Triumph’s smallest car here, the Spitfire Mark IV. Based on the chassis and mechanicals of the Triumph Herald, the Spitfire was conceived as a rival to the Austin-Healey Sprite and MG Midget, which were launched a year earlier. The Triumph soon found a strong following, with many preferring it to the BMC cars which in time would become in-house stablemates. Mark II models arrived in 1965 and a more comprehensive facelift in 1967 with the distinctive “bone in mouth” front grille necessitated by US bumper height regulations also brought changes, but it was with the Mark IV that the greatest number of alterations would come about. The Mark IV featured a completely re-designed cut-off rear end, giving a strong family resemblance to the Triumph Stag and Triumph 2000 models, both of which were also Michelotti-designed. The front end was also cleaned up, with a new bonnet pressing losing the weld lines on top of the wings from the older models, and the doors were given recessed handles and squared-off glass in the top rear corner. The interior was much improved: a proper full-width dashboard was provided, putting the instruments ahead of the driver rather than over the centre console. This was initially black plastic however was replaced with wood in 1973. An all-new hardtop was also available, with rear quarter-lights and a flatter rear screen. By far the most significant change, however, was to the rear suspension, which was de-cambered and redesigned to eliminate the unfortunate tendencies of the original swing-axle design. The Triumph GT6 and Triumph Vitesse had already been modified, and the result on all these cars was safe and progressive handling even at the limit. The 75 hp engine was now rated at 63 hp (for UK market employing the 9:1 compression ratio and twin SU HS2 carburettors; the less powerful North American version still used a single Zenith Stromberg carburettor and an 8.5:1 compression ratio) due to the German DIN system; the actual output was the same for the early Mark IV. However, it was slightly slower than the previous Mark III due to carrying more weight, and employing a taller 3.89:1 final drive as opposed to the earlier 4.11:1. The engine continued at 1296 cc, but in 1973 was modified with larger big-end bearings to rationalise production with the TR6 2.5 litre engines, which somewhat decreased its “revvy” nature; there was some detuning, to meet new emissions laws, which resulted in the new car being a little tamer. With the overall weight also increasing to 1,717 lb (779 kg) the performance dropped as a consequence, 0 to 60 mph now being achieved in 15.8 seconds and the top speed reducing to 90 mph. The overall fuel economy also dipped to 32mpg. The gearbox gained synchromesh on its bottom gear. The Mark IV went on sale in the UK at the end of 1970 with a base price of £735. In 1973 in the United States and Canada, and 1975 in the rest of the world, the 1500 engine was used to make the Spitfire 1500. Although in this final incarnation the engine was rather rougher and more prone to failure than the earlier units, torque was greatly increased by increasing the cylinder stroke to 87.5 mm (3.44 in), which made it much more drivable in traffic. While the rest of the world saw 1500s with the compression ratio reduced to 8.0:1, the American market model was fitted with a single Zenith-Stromberg carburettor and a compression ratio reduced to 7.5:1 to allow it to run on lower octane unleaded fuel, and after adding a catalytic converter and exhaust gas recirculating system, the engine only delivered 53 bhp with a slower 0–60 time of 16.3 seconds. The notable exception to this was the 1976 model year, where the compression ratio was raised to 9.1:1. This improvement was short-lived, however, as the ratio was again reduced to 7.5:1 for the remaining years of production. In the UK the 9:1 compression ratio, less restrictive emissions control equipment, and the Type HS2 SU carburettors now being replaced with larger Type HS4 models, led to the most powerful variant to date. The 1500 Spitfire now produced 71hp (DIN) at 5500 rpm, and produced 82 lb/ft of torque at 3000 rpm. Top speed was now at the magical 100 mph mark, and 0 to 60 mph was reached in 13.2 seconds. Fuel economy was reduced to 29mpg. Further improvements to the suspension followed with the 1500 included longer swing axles and a lowered spring mounting point for more negative camber and a wider rear track. The wider, lower stance gave an impressive skid pad result of 0.87g average. This put the Spitfire head and shoulders over its competition in handling. The American market Spitfire 1500 is easily identified by the big plastic over-riders and wing mounted reflectors on the front and back wings. The US specification models up to 1978 still had chrome bumpers, but on the 1979 and 1980 models these were replaced by black rubber bumpers with built-in over-riders. Chassis extensions were also fitted under the boot to support the bumpers. Detail improvements continued to be made throughout the life of the Mark IV, and included reclining seats with “chequered brushed nylon centre panels” and head restraints, introduced for domestic market cars early in 1977 along with a new set of column stalk operated minor controls (as fitted already in the TR7) replacing the old dashboard mounted knobs and switches. Also added for the model’s final years were a wood dash, hazard flashers and an electric screen washer, in place of the previous manual pump operated ones. Options such as the hard top, tonneau cover, map light and overdrive continued to be popular, but wire wheels ceased to be available. The 1980 model was the last and the heaviest of the entire run, weighing 1,875 lb (850.5 kg). Base prices for the 1980 model year was £3,631 in the UK. The last Spitfire, an Inca Yellow UK-market model with hardtop and overdrive, rolled off the assembly line at Canley in August 1980, shortly before the factory closed. It was never sold and is now displayed at the museum at Gaydon.
Sole TVR I spotted here was a Tamora, the car that was launched in 2002, as the entry point of the range, taking over from the Chimaera. It was fitted with TVR’s in-house ‘Speed Six’, a DOHC 3605 cc six-cylinder engine rated at 350 hp and 290 lb/ft of torque at 5500 rpm, mated to a five-speed manual. Brake rotors were 12.0 inches up front, and 11.1 inches in the back, both clamped by AP Racing calipers. The suspension is a double wishbone setup at all four corners. Standard wheels are 16×7 inch aluminium, with 225/50ZR-16 Avon ZZ3 tyres. The Tamora was built on a 93-inch wheelbase, and the car’s overall profile measured 154.5 inches long, 67.5 inches wide and 47.4 inches high. It weighed 2,337 pounds, with 58/42 weight distribution. Keeping with the TVR tradition, the Tamora lacked driving aids such as traction control and ABS as well as air bags. It was still in production when TVR went bankrupt in 2006.
Oldest of the Vauxhall models on show was this Victor F Series Super. Vauxhall looked across the Atlantic for the styling inspiration for a new 4 cylinder car, effectively a replacement for the Wyvern, which they called Victor and launched in February 1957. The car was of unitary construction and featured a large glass area with a heavily curved windscreen and rear window. Following then current American styling trends, the windscreen pillars sloped backwards. In fact, the body style was derived directly from the classic 57 Chevrolet Bel Air, though this was not obvious unless the two cars were viewed side by side. Bench seats were fitted front and rear trimmed in Rayon and “Elastofab”, and two-colour interior trim was standard. The Super model had extra chrome trim, notably around the windows; remnants of the signature Vauxhall bonnet flutes ran along the front flanks and the exhaust pipe exited through the rear bumper. The car was equipped with arm rests on the doors, door-operated courtesy lights, a two-spoke steering wheel, and twin sun visors. Although the engine was of similar size to that of the outgoing Wyvern it was in critical respects new. Fitted with a single Zenith carburettor it had an output of 55 bhp at 4200 rpm and gained a reputation of giving a long trouble free life. This was also the year when Vauxhall standardised on “premium” grade petrol permitting an increase in the compression ratio from the Wyvern’s 6.8:1 to 7.8:1. Premium grade petrol had become available in the UK at the end of 1953, following an end to post-war fuel rationing, and at that time offered average octane level of 93, but in the ensuing four years this had crept up to 95 (RON). The Victor’s three-speed gearbox had synchromesh on all forward ratios and was operated by a column-mounted lever. In early 1958 Newtondrive two-pedal control was available as an option. Suspension was independent at the front by coil springs and with an anti-roll bar was fitted on a rubber mounted cross member. The rear suspension used a live axle and semi elliptic leaf springs. Steering was of the recirculating ball type. Lockheed hydraulic 8 in drum brakes were used. The Victor had a top speed of 74.4 mph and could accelerate from 0-60 mph in a heady 28.1 seconds, and on test averaged 31.0 mpg. An estate variant was launched in 1958. A Series II model was announced in 1959 with simplified styling, the model losing all its ’57 Chevy styling detail and the teardrop shaped Vauxhall flutes were replaced by a single chrome side-stripe running nose to tail. The sculpted “porthole” rear bumper tips, which rusted badly due to exhaust residue, were replaced by plain, straight ones. The old bumper ends continued to be used for many years on a variety of motor coaches and ice-cream vans. The new car was available in three versions with a De-Luxe as the top model featuring leather trim and separate front seats. Total production of the F-Series (later known as FA) Victor was more than 390,000 units, but a particularly bad propensity for rusting means that there are few survivors.
The HB Series Viva was launched in October 1966. It inherited the engines, but little else, from the first Viva, the HA. It was a larger car than the HA, featuring coke bottle styling, modelled after American General Motors (GM) models such as the Chevrolet Impala/Caprice of the period. It featured the same basic engine as the HA, but enlarged to 1159 cc, but with the added weight of the larger body the final drive gearing was reduced from 3.9 to 1 to 4.1 to keep the nippy performance (except the SL90 which retained the 3.9 diff having the power to cope with the higher ratio). An automatic Viva HB was offered from February 1967, fitted with the ubiquitous Borg Warner Type 35 system. Cars of this size featuring automatic transmission were still unusual owing to the amount of power the transmission systems absorbed: in a heartfelt if uncharacteristically blunt piece of criticism a major British motoring journal later described Viva HBs with automatic transmission as “among the slowest cars on the road”. The HB used a completely different suspension design from the HA, having double-wishbone and coil springs with integrated telescopic dampers at the front, and trailing arms and coil springs at the rear. Lateral location and anti-squat of the rear axle was achieved using upper trailing arms mounted at approximately 45° fixed to lugs at the top of the differential. Both front and rear could also be fitted with optional anti-roll bars. The HB set new standards for handling in its class as a result of the adoption of this suspension design, where many of its contemporaries stuck with leaf springs and MacPherson struts. This encouraged the development of more powerful Viva models. First to appear was the Brabham SL/90 HB that was purported to have been developed with the aid of world racing champion Jack Brabham. Brabham models were marked out externally by distinctive lateral black stripes at the front of the bonnet that curved down the wings and then headed back to end in a taper at the front doors. The Brabham model differed from the standard Viva SL/90 in having a different cam-shaft, uprated suspension with anti-roll bars, different exhaust manifolds, and a unique twin-carb manifold, as well as differing interior trim. This model is almost impossible to find today. Not quite so rare is the top of the range model which was first seen in February 1968, the Viva GT. This car featured the 2 litre twin carb overhead camshaft engines from the larger Vauxhall Victor. It was distinguished by having a black bonnet with twin louvres and significant changes to the interior. Initially all the cars were white, but later GTs came in different colours. Fast for sure, the car was not as thoroughly developed as it needed to be, and the car was not really the desirable sports saloon that Vauxhall envisaged. A revised version produced in 1970 for the final months of HB production was much better, and these are the most desirable version of the range, if you can find one. 566,391 Viva HBs were produced. Whilst the body design had improved after Vauxhall’s poor reputation with corrosion on previous models, and the HB had better underbody protection, UK cars were still prone to rusting through the front wings in the area behind the headlights where water, mud and salt could accumulate. This ongoing problem with salt on UK roads affected many makes and models, not just the Viva, but Vauxhall’s ongoing poor reputation for corrosion undoubtedly contributed to the development of bolt-on wings and wheel-arch liners in subsequent generations of family passenger cars. There are not many HB Vivas left which is perhaps why this rather nicely presented GT model, which has recently emerged from a complete restoration at Vauxhall’s Luton works was creating so much interest.
The Viva HB was produced for just 4 years, and was then replaced with a new design, the Viva HC. This was mechanically the same as the HB but had more modern styling and greater interior space due to redesigned seating and positioning of bulkheads. It offered 2- and 4-door saloons and a fastback estate with the choice of either standard 1,159 cc, 90 tuned 1,159 cc or 1,600 cc overhead cam power. No 2.0 GT version was offered with the new range, although the 2.0 became the sole engine offering for Canada, where the HC became the Firenza, marketed by Pontiac/Buick dealers without the Vauxhall name. The cloned Envoy Epic was dropped as Chevrolet dealers now carried the domestic Chevrolet Vega. The HC was pulled from the Canadian market after two model years amidst consumer anger over corrosion and reliability issues. A class action lawsuit launched against General Motors of Canada by dissatisfied owners was not settled until the early 1980s. The American influence was still obvious on the design, with narrow horizontal rear lamp clusters, flat dashboard with a “letterbox” style speedometer, and a pronounced mid bonnet hump that was echoed in the front bumper. A coupé version called the Firenza was introduced in early 1971 to compete with the Ford Capri and forthcoming Morris Marina Coupé. It was available in deluxe and SL forms, with the latter sporting four headlights and finally resurrecting the missing 2.0 twin-carburettor engine from the HB Viva GT. The basic 1,159 cc engine was enlarged to 1,256 cc in late 1971 and with this the 90 version was removed from the line-up. The overhead cam engines were upgraded in early 1972, the 1.6 becoming a 1.8 and the 2.0 twin carburettor became a 2.3 (2,279 cc). At this time, the Viva 2300 SL and Firenza Sport SL did away with the letter-box speedometer and substituted an attractive seven-dial instrument pack. Firenza SLs had a two round-dial pack, though all other Vivas and Firenzas stuck with the original presentation. In September 1973, the Viva range was divided, the entry 1,256 cc models staying as Vivas, with an optional 1.8 litre engine if automatic transmission was chosen. The 1.8 and 2.3 litre models took on more luxurious trim and were rebadged as the Magnum. At the same time, the Firenza coupe was given a radical makeover with an aerodynamic nose and beefed up 2.3 litre twin carb engine mated to a ZF five-speed gearbox, turning it into the HP (High Performance) Firenza. The Viva was again revised in 1975, with trim levels becoming the E (for Economy), L and SL. The E was Vauxhall’s answer to the Ford Popular and was first offered as a promotional edition two-door coupe using surplus Firenza body shells, before becoming a permanent Viva model in two-door saloon form. It was the only Viva to still have the strip speedometer after this as the L and SL adopted the Firenza SL’s two round dial set up. As of the autumn of 1975 the 1800 engine was also upgraded, increasing power from 77 to 88 hp. For 1977, the SL was replaced by the GLS, essentially marrying the plusher Magnum trim and equipment with the base 1,256 cc pushrod ohv engine. These models all had the full seven dial instrument panel, velour seating and Rostyle wheels, among many other upgrades. Viva production was scaled down after the launch of the Chevette in spring 1975. Originally a three-door hatchback, the Chevette offered two- and four-door saloons and a three-door estate in 1976 that all usurped the Viva’s position as Vauxhall’s small car entry. The Viva remained on sale until the later part of 1979, with 640,863 cars having been made, effectively replaced by the new Vauxhall Astra, a variant of the front-wheel-drive Opel Kadett. By that time it was dated in comparison with more modern rivals like the Volkswagen Golf.
There was also an example of car which was once a very common sight on our roads, but which as is always the case, suddenly disappeared, the Cavalier Mark 3 hatch.
This is 1800E is a nice example of the Volvo P1800, a sports car that was manufactured by Volvo Cars between 1961 and 1973. The car was a one-time venture by the usually sober Swedish Volvo, who already had a reputation for building sensible sedans. The project was originally started in 1957 because Volvo wanted a sports car to compete in the US and European markets, despite the fact that their previous attempt, the P1900, had failed to take off with only 68 cars sold. The man behind the project was an engineering consultant to Volvo, Helmer Petterson, who in the 1940s was responsible for the Volvo PV444. The design work was done by Helmer’s son Pelle Petterson, who worked at Pietro Frua at that time. Volvo insisted it was an Italian design by Frua and only officially recognised that it was by Pelle Petterson many years later. The Italian Carrozzeria Pietro Frua design firm (then a recently acquired subsidiary of Ghia) built the first three prototypes between September 1957 and early 1958, later designated by Volvo in September 1958: P958-X1, P958-X2 and P958-X3. In December 1957 Helmer Petterson drove X1, the first hand-built P1800 prototype to Osnabrück, West Germany, headquarters of Karmann. Petterson hoped that Karmann would be able to take on the tooling and building of the P1800. Karmann’s engineers had already been preparing working drawings from the wooden styling buck at Frua. Petterson and Volvo chief engineer Thor Berthelius met there, tested the car and discussed the construction with Karmann. They were ready to build it and this meant that the first cars could hit the market as early as December 1958. But in February, Karmann’s most important customer, Volkswagen forbade Karmann to take on the job, as they feared that the P1800 would compete with the sales of their own cars, and threatened to cancel all their contracts with Karmann if they took on this car. This setback almost caused the project to be abandoned. Other German firms, NSU, Drautz and Hanomag, were contacted but none was chosen because Volvo did not believe they met Volvo’s manufacturing quality-control standards. It began to appear that Volvo might never produce the P1800. This motivated Helmer Petterson to obtain financial backing from two financial firms with the intention of buying the components directly from Volvo and marketing the car himself. At this point Volvo had made no mention of the P1800 and the factory would not comment. Then a press release surfaced with a photo of the car, putting Volvo in a position where they had to acknowledge its existence. These events influenced the company to renew its efforts: the car was presented to the public for the first time at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1960 and Volvo turned to Jensen Motors, whose production lines were under-utilised, and they agreed a contract for 10,000 cars. The Linwood, Scotland, body plant of manufacturer Pressed Steel was in turn sub-contracted by Jensen to create the unibody shells, which were then taken by rail to be assembled at Jensen in West Bromwich. In September 1960, the first production P1800 left Jensen for an eager public. The engine was the B18, an 1800cc petrol engine, with dual SU carburettors, producing 100 hp. This variant (named B18B) had a higher compression ratio than the slightly less powerful twin-carb B18D used in the contemporary Amazon 122S, as well as a different camshaft. The ‘new’ B18 was actually developed from the existing B36 V8 engine used in Volvo trucks at the time. This cut production costs, as well as furnishing the P1800 with a strong engine boasting five main crankshaft bearings. The B18 was matched with the new and more robust M40 manual gearbox through 1963. From 1963 to 1972 the M41 gearbox with electrically actuated overdrive was a popular option. Two overdrive types were used, the D-Type through 1969, and the J-type through 1973. The J-type had a slightly shorter ratio of 0.797:1 as opposed to 0.756:1 for the D-type. The overdrive effectively gave the 1800 series a fifth gear, for improved fuel efficiency and decreased drivetrain wear. Cars without overdrive had a numerically lower-ratio differential, which had the interesting effect of giving them a somewhat higher top speed of just under 120 mph, than the more popular overdrive models. This was because the non-overdrive cars could reach the engine’s redline in top gear, while the overdrive-equipped cars could not, giving them a top speed of roughly 110 mph. As time progressed, Jensen had problems with quality control, so the contract was ended early after 6,000 cars had been built. In 1963 production was moved to Volvo’s Lundby Plant in Gothenburg and the car’s name was changed to 1800S (S standing for Sverige, or in English : Sweden). The engine was improved with an additional 8 hp. In 1966 the four-cylinder engine was updated to 115 PS, which meant the top speed increased to 109 mph. In 1969 the B18 engine was replaced with the 2-litre B20B variant of the B20 giving 118 bhp, though it kept the designation 1800S. For 1970 numerous changes came with the fuel-injected 1800E, which had the B20E engine with Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection and a revised camshaft, and produced 130 bhp without sacrificing fuel economy. Top speed was around 118 mph and acceleration from 0–62 took 9.5 seconds. In addition, the 1970 model was the first 1800 with four-wheel disc brakes; till then the 1800 series had front discs and rear drums. Volvo introduced its final P1800 variant, the 1800ES, in 1972 as a two-door station wagon with a frameless, all-glass tailgate. The final design was chosen after two prototypes had been built by Sergio Coggiola and Pietro Frua. Frua’s prototype, Raketen (“the Rocket”), is located in the Volvo Museum. Both Italian prototypes were considered too futuristic, and instead in-house designer Jan Wilsgaard’s proposal was accepted. The ES engine was downgraded to 125 bhp by reducing the compression ratio with a thicker head gasket (engine variant B20F); although maximum power was slightly down the engine was less “peaky” and the car’s on-the-road performance was actually improved. The ES’s rear backrest folded down to create a long flat loading area. As an alternative to the usual four-speed plus overdrive manual transmission, a Borg-Warner three-speed automatic was available in the 1800ES. With stricter American safety and emissions standards looming for 1974, Volvo did not see fit to spend the considerable amount that would be necessary to redesign the small-volume 1800 ES. Only 8,077 examples of the ES were built in its two model years.
A close relative of the better known MG Magnette was this Wolseley 4/44, produced from 1953 to 1956. It was designed under the Nuffield Organisation but by the time it was released in 1953, Wolseley was part of BMC. Much of the design was shared with the MG Magnette ZA which was released later in the same year. Unlike the MG, the 4/44 used the 1250 cc XPAW engine a version of the XPAG engine previously seen in the later MG T-type series of cars but detuned by only having a single carburettor. The power output was 46 bhp at 4800 rpm. The four speed manual transmission had a column change. The construction was monocoque with independent suspension at the front by coil springs and a live rear axle. The car had upmarket trim with wooden dashboard and leather seats and a traditional Wolseley radiator grille with illuminated badge but was expensive at £997 on the home market. The 4/44 was replaced in 1956 by the similar Wolseley 15/50.
There were plenty of new cars on show, too. These were all supplied by local dealers. What was good to see was that a number of brand new models, in some cases not yet even on sale in the UK, had been sourced and were on show, with plenty of opportunity to get a good look having this far only read about them in the motoring press and online.
Newest car on the BMW stand was one of the latest 5 Series cars. A subtle evolution, visually, from its predecessor, the more you see these cars, the more you realise that it is actually possible to distinguish them both from the old F10 model 5 Series and indeed other BMW saloons car. It has been praised highly in all the early reviews, and given BMW’s highly competitive finance deals, is likely to be a common sight on our roads, though surely in 520d and 530e guises rather than the 540i M Sport that was to be seen here.
There was something of an M theme to the other cars on show, too, with an M4 Coupe and an M2 joined by a M140i Hatch and the popular 3 series, as well as the top of the range X5M.
Two cars here were the crowd-pullers: the Mustang and the new, yet to go on sale Fiesta, that looks very like the old one from the outside, even though every panel is different. At least inside you know you are in a new one, as it has a massively improved interior.
The Kuga seen here was a Vignale spec one. The market has been as indifferent to Vignale spec as everyone except Ford themselves predicted. The pricing is ambitious for cars with the pedigree they have, and the Vignale extras range from useful to almost glitzy and pointless. Once savage depreciation has cut in, as it surely will, they may be quite appealing, but value for money at new, list prices, they are not.
Also on show were the latest Mondeo, C-Max, Ka+ and the EcoSport.
There was nothing that has not been seen before among the Lexus cars. Familiar NX and RX, Crossovers were joined by the latest IS and CT hatch.
Centre piece of the Mazda display was the MX5 sports car with the open topped model joined by the new RF. If history is anything to go by, this version is likely to become the more popular (the CC version of the old car certainly was).
Also here was the new CX-5, alongside the smaller CX-3.
There were plenty of cars on the Mercedes stand, reflecting the fact that there are a vast number of different models now in the range. There was one car here that was the most popular with attendees, by far and that was the AMG GT C Roadster, which was the crowd puller, with lots of people wanting the inevitable selfie.
Once on the stand there was a chance to look at the other models on show: the E Coupe and Convertible look so similar to the established C Class equivalents that it is going to take time to learn how to tell them apart at a glance, and these were joined by the GLC Coupe, and the smaller GLA and A Class.
Newcomer among the Renault models was the second generation Koleos that made its debut at the Geneva Show earlier in the year, and which is due to go on sale in the summer. Unlike the first Koleos, this is not a rebadged Samsung, but a car conceived as a Renault model from the outset. The Koleos is built on the CMF C/D platform, which is shared with the similarly sized and priced Nissan X-Trail, as well as larger Renault-Nissan models, including Renault’s Espace, Talisman, Kadjar, and the Nissan Qashqai. While specifications for Europe are yet to be confirmed, engines offered in Asia are two petrol and two diesel units, with power outputs ranging between 128bhp and 173bhp. These are available with either a six-speed manual or Renault-Nissan’s X-Tronic CVT ‘box. Unlike with the Mégane, Renault doesn’t offer a hybrid model Koleos further down the line. Both front and all-wheel drive Koleos models are available, with the latter offering switchable FWD and AWD modes, as well as full-time AWD for low-speed, low-grip conditions. Renault claims approach and departure angles of 19 and 26 degrees respectively and a ground clearance of 213mm. The Koleos is one of the longer models in the Renault range at 4670mm – 221mm longer than the Kadjar. Renault claims ‘record-breaking interior space’, as well as rear knee room of 289mm. In the cabin, Renault’s R-Link 2 infotainment system is available in 7-in landscape or 8.7in portrait setups, while the dials are replaced by a standard-fit touchscreen displaying driving data. Bluetooth and USB connectivity are included as standard, and voice recognition also features. Renault claims a widespread use of premium and soft-touch materials in the cockpit of the Koleos. As featured on the Megane, optional, personalisable interior mood lighting is also scattered around the interior. A panoramic sunroof over the front and rear seats will be available, however Renault couldn’t confirm whether it would be standard-fit or an optional extra. Optional extras include a heated steering wheel and windscreen, electronic seat adjustment, heated and ventilated front and heated second row seats, reversing camera and all-round parking sensors, remote starting, and a Bose speaker system. A wide range of driver aids are available, including AEB, lane departure, traffic sign recognition, blind spot and safe distance warnings, tiredness detection, and easy park assist, either as standard or as options. The new Koleos will be built in the existing Koleos plant in Busan, South Korea, for all markets except China. Chinese-market Koleos models will be built in Renault’s Wuhan plant in China. Based on the Kadjar’s similarity in price to the Nissan Qashqai, it is expected that the Koleos to follow suit with Nissan X-Trail pricing.
Also on show were the latest fourth generation Megane, in both Hatch and Estate versions. These have been on sale for some months now, but they are still a rare sight on our roads. Whilst the cars are perfectly acceptable, they compete in a tough sector of the market, and there is little to distinguish them from plenty of other accomplished rivals.
The popular Clio, now the oldest model in Renault’s range was also on show.
Newcomer in the Toyota display was the facelifted Yaris, though you’d have to look long and hard to realise it. Toyota say that there are 900 brand new parts aimed at improving the design, dynamic performance and safety of the third generation car which has been around since 2011. Visually, the front and rear aprons have been designed to give what Toyota claim is a sportier and more dynamic outward appearance. This has been achieved through new headlights, a trapezoidal grille, new headlights, a revised tailgate, rear bumper and distinctive LED taillights. I think they have made it look even worse than the last facelift. Two new colours have also been added to the European Yaris range, Hydro Blue and Tokyo Red. The cabin of the 2017 Yaris also benefits from a selection of improvements including a new 4.2-inch colour infotainment screen, a three-spoke steering wheel, piano black trim inserts, propeller-style air vents and blue instrument illumination. A number of different upholstery and trim colour options are also included.
The rest of the display contained familiar models, ranging from the diminutive Aygo through the sporty GT86 to the popular RAV4.
There were two new models here, both of them recently on sale. The more significant of the two, in sales terms is the smaller, the rather oddly named Crossland X. Slightly larger than the already established Mokka X, this is the successor of the Meriva. It was designed together with PSA and shares its underpinnings with the Citroen C3 Picasso, and Peugeot 2008. It does, however, lack an all-wheel drive system, but there’s a reason for that – it’s aimed at the urban lifestyle, as the automaker claims. Vauxhall/Opel have not yet shares any powertrain details at this point. The cabin is claimed to offer class-leading space, featuring things like a sliding rear bench and a luggage space of 410 litres with the rear seats up and at their furthest position. Tech lovers will be pleased by all infotainment systems available as both of them will be compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, while there is also a wireless charging point and the standard OnStar service. The Crossland X will also feature a wide range of driver assistance systems, including a 180-degree panoramic rear-view camera, advanced park assist, forward collision alert with pedestrian detection and autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, speed sign recognition and side blind-spot alert, among others. Opel’s new baby crossover will be joined in autumn by the bigger Grandland X crossover which is set to rival the Seat Ateca and the Skoda Kodiaq. The new Crossland X will hit the market this summer. On looks alone, I was not that impressed. It looks rather dumpy and forgettable, and there is stiff competition in this class.
Looking far more promising is the new generation Insignia, which will be the largest car in the Vauxhall range, taking the place of the old model which has had a 9 year production life. There will be two body styles, officially called the Grand Sport and Sports Tourer, though I am sure everyone will simply refer to them as the Hatch and the Estate. The new car is based on a new modular platform which allowed not only for athletic proportions but also for a more spacious cabin and class-leading aerodynamics with a Cd figure of 0.26. The new underpinnings also brought significant weight savings of up to 175kg (385lbs) with the body-in-white being 60kg (132lbs) lighter on its own. The roofline is now lower by 29mm with the tracks being wider by 11mm. The wheelbase is now longer by 92mm, with the overhangs reduced significantly. As for the design, it’s pretty obvious that Opel wanted to bring as many elements of the Monza concept to production as they could. Under the elegant bodywork, there’s a wide range of the latest technologies that aim to make the new Insignia Grand Sport not only safer but more comfortable as well; Opel has given their new model features like a new gen of their IntelliLux LED matrix lighting, Lane Keep Assist, Head-up Display and unique AGR-certified premium seats, front- and rear-seat heating and a heated windsscreen among others. Also new is the intelligent all-wheel drive system, which features two electrically controlled multi-plate clutches that replace the rear axle differential, enabling for the first time the torque vectoring feature. The revised FlexRide chassis offers three driving modes: Standard, Sport and Tour with a new Drive Mode Control option to adapt the car continuously to the driving style by analyzing the information provided by the sensors and settings of the car. The new Insignia will become a global model and it will go on sale in Australia as a Holden Commodore, whereas in North America and China, it will use the Buick Regal badges.
The Viva has been on sale for a couple of years, but you don’t see them very often. This was a chance to remind myself of what they look like.
The VW display contained a small selection of familiar models from the vast range that this German brand offers. Seen here were the soon to be replaced Polo, the recently facelifted (but look hard to spot the changes!) Golf, the Passat in GTE guise and a Scirocco.
Star attraction among the Volvo models was the new XC60, UK sales of which are about to begin. Volvo hopes that this model will further accelerate the firm’s dramatic sales growth, with this all-new car set to be pitched against the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace and Mercedes-Benz GLC in the booming mid-size SUV sector. Volvo sales have risen for the past three years, with the growth led by the popularity of the XC90, S90 and V90. Combined sales of the 90-series models grew 125% last year compared with 2015. However, the outgoing XC60, which was launched in 2008, hinted at the potential appeal of a new model by setting a new sales record in 2016, accounting for 161,092 units of Volvo’s 534,332 total annual sales. The new XC60 sits on Volvo’s SPA large car platform, which will underpin all of the firm’s 60 and 90 models, including the all-new S60 saloon and V60 estate that are expected early next year. The move to the new platform has allowed Volvo to make the new SUV longer, lower and wider than its predecessor, without adding weight. It is 4690mm long (up 62mm on the current car), has a 2865mm wheelbase (up 91mm), 1902mm wide (up 12mm) and 1658mm high (down 14mm). At the same time, practicality has been increased with more cabin space, especially in the second row of seats, and a greater ground clearance engineered, while the design retains a more dynamic, ‘cab-back’ look. The XC60 will go on sale following this week’s Geneva show reveal, with deliveries expected from September. At launch, it will be offered with the familiar 187bhp D4 and 232bhp D5 2.0 diesels, plus the 251bhp T5 2.0 petrol and 401bhp T8 petrol-electric hybrid unit. Few performance figures have been revealed beyond the T8’s 0-62mph time of 5.3sec. All launch, models will be four-wheel drive and linked to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Manual and front-wheel drive models will arrive later, as well as new diesel and petrol engines and possibly an economy-focused three-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid. In an effort to enhance both the dynamic set-up and noise and vibration isolation, the XC60 has double-wishbone front suspension and a rear multi-link arrangement. Height-adjustable air suspension will be offered as an option, offering an additional 60mm of travel up and down. Inside, the XC60 is heavily inspired by the XC90’s award winning cabin, with all versions getting the same 9-inch central digital control screen and all but entry-level Momentum models having a 12.3in digital instrument dash display. The infotainment controls have also been updated, to offer greater clarity and ease of use; these changes will also be applied to the XC90 later this year, and may be retrospectively updated on cars fitted with the system. The cabin also has a large, sculpted central dash cowling, which will be offered in several designs of metal or wood finish, and several clever storage solutions, including laptop storage under the rear seats. This being a Volvo, there is also a suite of safety and self-driving equipment, both standard and optional. Standard kit includes automatic braking if the car senses a potential collision up to 37mph and steering support if the car detects either a head-on collision or any imminent accident. Optional systems that can hold the car in lane while keeping a safe distance from other vehicles up to 80mph, monitor traffic as you come out of junctions and brake the car if necessary or detect an imminent rear impact and pre-tension the seat belts in preparation are also available. Prices for the XC60 have risen a but over the old model, but are comparable with those of its premium rivals, starting at around £30,000, but Volvo hopes to gain an edge by offering a greater amount of standard kit, including a raft of active safety equipment. Sportier R-Design models are expected to dominate UK sales ahead of the Momentum and Inscription trims.
Joining it were the V90, XC90 and now the oldest model in the range, the V60.
This proved to be a most enjoyable event. Whilst the Park was not jammed solid with cars, there was more than enough, and the upside of this was that there were no traffic jams getting in, or out. There’s plenty of alternatives to go to on the first weekend of July, the usual scheduling for this one, so it will be harder than ever before, in 2018, to decide which to attend.