Over the years I’ve attended quite a few of the Breakfast Clubs that are held in front of the CoventryTransport Museum, and whilst perfectly agreeable events, they’ve always left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. There’s plenty of space, as the various Abarth Events that I have organised and attended at this venue have proved, with room for around 100 cars, if parked carefully, and yet on most occasions, this Breakfast Club has done well to get to 40 vehicles on show. I understand that the weather has been a big part of this, as almost without fail whenever I have been, there it has drizzled, or worse, never a recipe for getting a huge showing of old and classic cars, and the organisers have said that this has resulted in a very significant number of no-shows. There was a very clearly stated policy that only cars that were over 20 years old would be accepted, which probably did not help either. For 2019, though, the event was given something of a relaunch, and the attendance policy was changed to allow for cars that were over 10 years old, or “a future classic”. Having seen that a couple of Abarths had featured in photos of the April 2019 event, when my diary logistics suggested that I could include the May 2019 Breakfast Club in my plans, I penned a quick email to book my car in. It was duly accepted “as a future classic”. Sadly, the weather was no different to previous visits, with grey skies and the odd spot of drizzle featuring yet again. However, there were rather more cars in attendance this time, and whilst the parking area was not full, it did make for a more engaging morning. Some of the cars were ones I had seen here before, but there were plenty that I had not, and some real rarities which I enjoyed seeing. Couple that with some informative conversations with a number of the owners and the fact that all display car owners got a voucher for a free coffee and a pastry from the museum cafe and this was a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning, before I moved on to fulfill the plans for the rest of the day. Here are the cars that came along:
The first car to catch my eye, and my camera was this rather fabulous late model 116 Series Giulietta. These cars are rare even at gatherings of Italian cars, so it was a real and unexpected pleasure to come across this car here. The Giulietta was introduced in November 1977 and while it took its name from the original Giulietta of 1954 to 1965, it was a new design based on the Alfa Romeo Alfetta chassis (including its rear mounted transaxle). While it was a conventional three-box saloon/sedan body style, a defining point of difference was at the rear, where there was a short boot, and a small aerodynamic spoiler, integrated into the body. The Giulietta was only offered in saloon form, but there were several estate/station wagon conversions made. First out was Moretti, whose conversion appeared in the first half of 1978. At launch, two models were available: Giulietta 1.3, with an oversquare 95 PS 1357 cc engine, and Giulietta 1.6, with a 109 PS 1570 cc engine, both Alfa Romeo Twin Cam inline-fours fed by two twin-choke carburettors. In April 1979, just under two years later, Giulietta 1.8 with a 122 PS 1,779 cc engine was added, and in May of the following year the Giulietta Super with a 2-litre engine (1,962 cc, 130 PS appeared. In summer of 1981, the Giulietta received a minor facelift, externally and internally, while the engines remained the same. The car got plastic protection around the lower body, while interior modifications included a new steering wheel and new seats. The instrument panel and the centre armrest were also modified. The Autodelta-produced Giulietta 2.0 Turbo Autodelta (175 PS) was introduced at the 1982 Paris motor show. This special version had a turbocharged 1,962 cc engine. The production Giulietta Turbodelta version had 170 PS and a KKK turbocharger coupled with two double-barrel Weber carburettors. All turbo versions were black with red interior; only 361 were produced. In the same year, the Giulietta 2.0 Ti and turbodiesel (VM) 1995 cc version with 82 PS were also introduced, going on sale in early 1983. In 1982, Alfetta and Giulietta turbodiesels achieved seven world speed records over 5/10/25/50 thousand kilometres and 5/10/25 thousand miles at Nardò (Lecce). While one of the quickest diesels in its category at the time, the Giulietta was rather costly and suffered from a very forward weight distribution (56.9 per cent over the front wheels). In late 1983, the “84” Giulietta (Series 3) was presented, with minor differences in appearance, bumpers were redesigned and the dashboard was significantly re-designed, the instruments changed slightly and the rear seat in some versions changed its form. Mechanically it was basically the same, with minor modifications to the brake booster and inlet manifold on some versions. The largest market for the Giulietta was South Africa, where a very successful TV advertising campaign by Alfa Romeo produced good sales between 1981 and 1984. Central to this campaign was emphasis of the Giulietta’s new ‘aerodynamic’ line, which was carried over to the 75, and then the 33. The Giulietta was the ‘last hurrah’ for Alfa in South Africa before the appearance of the 164 and 156 models in the 1990s. In 1985, after around 380,000 Giuliettas had been built, it was replaced by the Alfa Romeo 75, which used much of the Alfetta/Giulietta underpinnings.
By contrast whilst this Armstrong Siddeley Whitley is also rare, it is a car I have seen at this event a few times before. The Armstrong Siddeley – a long forgotten marque that few will even had heard of – is one of a number present which very firmly belongs in the city, Armstrong Siddeley. Car production ceased in 1960, so many will not have heard of this marque, I fear, but those who do know something of the company will recall a series of post war models named after British fighter planes, and a series of distinguished pre-war cars which appealed to the very upper middle class buyer who wanted something special but could not quite stretch to a Bentley or a Rolls Royce. Like many companies, the early years were marked by merger and acquisition. The story starts with Siddeley Autocars, of Coventry, founded by John Davenport Siddeley in 1902. Its products were heavily based on Peugeots, using many of their parts but fitted with English-built bodies. This company merged with Wolseley in 1905 and made stately Wolseley-Siddeley motorcars. They were used by Queen Alexandra and the Duke of York later King George V. In 1909 J. D. Siddeley resigned from Wolseley and took over the Deasy Motor Company, and the company became known as Siddeley-Deasy. In 1912, the cars used the slogan “As silent as the Sphinx” and started to sport a Sphinx as a bonnet ornament, a symbol that became synonymous with descendent companies. During the Second World War the company produced trucks, ambulances, and staff cars. In 1915 airframes and aero-engines started to be produced as well. In April 1919 Siddeley-Deasy was bought out by Armstrong Whitworth Development Company of Newcastle upon Tyne and in May 1919 became Armstrong Siddeley Motors Ltd, a subsidiary with J. D. Siddeley as managing director. In 1927, Armstrong Whitworth merged its heavy engineering interests with Vickers to form Vickers-Armstrongs. At this point, J. D. Siddeley bought Armstrong Siddeley and Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft into his control. In 1928, Armstrong Siddeley Holdings bought Avro from Crossley Motors. Also that year Siddeley partnered with Walter Gordon Wilson, inventor of the pre-selector gearbox, to create Improved Gears Ltd, which later became Self-Changing Gears – the gearbox that should be credited with enabling the marketing tagline “Cars for the daughters of gentlemen”. Armstrong Siddeley manufactured luxury cars, aircraft engines, and later, aircraft. In 1935, J. D. Siddeley’s interests were purchased for £2 million by Tommy Sopwith owner of Hawker Aircraft to form – along with the Gloster Aircraft Company and Air Training Services – Hawker Siddeley, a famous name in British aircraft production. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft became a subsidiary of Hawker. The aviation pioneer Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith – Tommy, later Sir Thomas, Sopwith – became chairman of Armstrong Siddeley Motors, a Hawker Siddeley subsidiary. Armstrong Siddeley was merged with the aircraft engine business of Bristol Aeroplane Company (Bristol Aero Engines) to form Bristol Siddeley as part of an ongoing rationalisation under government influence of the British aircraft and aircraft engine manufacturers. Armstrong Siddeley produced their last cars in 1960. Bristol Siddeley and Rolls-Royce merged in 1966, the latter subsuming the former which remained for a while as an aircraft engine division within Rolls-Royce. In June 1972, Rolls-Royce (1972) Ltd sold all the stock of spares plus all patents, specifications, drawings, catalogues and the name of Armstrong Siddeley Motors Ltd to the Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club Ltd. This meant that “Armstrong Siddeley” and “A-S Sphinx Logo” are trademarks and copyright of the Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club Ltd. The “Siddeley” name survived a while longer in aviation; in Hawker Siddeley Aviation and Hawker Siddeley Dynamics before they joined with others to become British Aerospace (BAe) which with further mergers is now BAE Systems. The first car produced from the 1919 union was a fairly massive machine, a 5-litre 30 hp. A smaller 18 hp appeared in 1922 and a 2-litre 14 hp was introduced in 1923. 1928 saw the company’s first 15 hp six; 1929 saw the introduction of a 12 hp vehicle. This was a pioneering year for the marque, during which it first offered the Wilson preselector gearbox as an optional extra; it became standard issue on all cars from 1933. In 1930 the company marketed four models, of 12, 15, 20, and 30 hp, the last costing £1450. The company’s rather staid image was endorsed during the 1930s by the introduction of a range of six-cylinder cars with ohv engines, though a four-cylinder 12 hp was kept in production until 1936. In 1933, the 5-litre six-cylinder Siddeley Special was announced, featuring a Hiduminium aluminium alloy engine; this model cost £950. Car production continued at a reduced rate throughout 1940, and a few were assembled in 1941. The week that World War II ended in Europe, Armstrong Siddeley introduced its first post-war models; these were the Lancaster four-door saloon and the Hurricane drophead coupe. The names of these models echoed the names of aircraft produced by the Hawker Siddeley Group (the name adopted by the company in 1935) during the war. These cars all used a 2-litre six-cylinder engines, increased to 2.3-litre engines in 1949. The Whitley, which is the model seen here, was a large sports saloon, a version of the 16/18 hp series, made between 1946 and 1954 and was the last of the range to enter production, first appearing in 1949. It only used the larger 2309 cc overhead valve engine with a tax rating of 18hp that had first appeared on export versions of the Tempest coupled with a choice of synchromesh or pre-selector gearbox. The front suspension was independent using torsion bars, while at the rear was a live axle and leaf springs. A Girling hydro-mechanical braking system was fitted, with the front drums hydraulically operated, while those at the rear were cable. A variety of body styles were made, of which the most common are the 4 or 6 light saloons, but limousines were also made on a long-wheelbase chassis from 1950 to 1952. The Utility Coupe and Station Coupe were pick up versions made for the export market and in particular for Australia. The former had a conventional front seat only and the latter had an extended cabin with a small additional seat at the rear. 4321 examples of the Whitley were made in a 5 year period. They are understandably rare these days.
Looking particularly petite compared to the cars around was this “Frog Eye”. Known officially as the Sprite, it was announced to the press in Monte Carlo by the British Motor Corporation on 20 May 1958, just before that year’s Monaco Grand Prix. It was intended to be a low-cost model that “a chap could keep in his bike shed”, yet be the successor to the sporting versions of the pre-war Austin Seven. The Sprite was designed by the Donald Healey Motor Company, with production being undertaken at the MG factory at Abingdon. It first went on sale at a price of £669, using a tuned version of the Austin A-Series engine and as many other components from existing cars as possible to keep costs down. It was produced for a little over 3 years before being replaced by a Mark 2 version, which was then joined by a badge-engineered MG version, the Midget, reviving a model name used by MG from the late 1920s through to the mid 1950s. Enthusiasts often refer to Sprites and the later Midgets collectively as “Spridgets.” The first Sprite quickly became affectionately known as the “frogeye” in the UK and the “bugeye” in the US, because its headlights were prominently mounted on top of the bonnet, inboard of the front wings. The car’s designers had intended that the headlights could be retracted, with the lenses facing skyward when not in use; a similar arrangement was used many years later on the Porsche 928. But cost cutting by BMC led to the flip-up mechanism being deleted, therefore the headlights were simply fixed in a permanently upright position, giving the car its most distinctive feature. The body was styled by Gerry Coker, with subsequent alterations by Les Ireland following Coker’s emigration to the US in 1957. The car’s distinctive frontal styling bore a strong resemblance to the defunct American 1951 Crosley Super Sport. The problem of providing a rigid structure to an open-topped sports car was resolved by Barry Bilbie, Healey’s chassis designer, who adapted the idea provided by the Jaguar D-type, with rear suspension forces routed through the bodyshell’s floor pan. The Sprite’s chassis design was the world’s first volume-production sports car to use unitary construction, where the sheet metal body panels (apart from the bonnet) take many of the structural stresses. The original metal gauge (thickness of steel) of the rear structure specified by Bilbie was reduced by the Austin Design Office during prototype build, however during testing at MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) distortion and deformation of the rear structure occurred and the original specification was reinstated. The two front chassis legs projecting forward from the passenger compartment mean the shell is not a full monocoque. The front sheet-metal assembly, including the bonnet (hood) and wings, was a one-piece unit, hinged from the back, that swung up to allow access to the engine compartment. The 43 bhp, 948 cc OHV engine (coded 9CC) was derived from the Austin A35 and Morris Minor 1000 models, also BMC products, but upgraded with twin 11⁄8 inch SU carburettors which gave it 43 hp at 5200 rpm and 52 lb/ft at 3300 rpm. When tested by “The Motor” magazine in 1958. It had a top speed of 82.9 mph and could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 20.5 seconds. Fuel consumption of 43 mpg was recorded. The rack and pinion steering was derived from the Morris Minor 1000 and the front suspension from the Austin A35. The front suspension was a coil spring and wishbone arrangement, with the arm of the Armstrong lever shock absorber serving as the top suspension link. The rear axle was both located and sprung by quarter-elliptic leaf springs, again with lever-arm shock absorbers and top links. There were no exterior door handles; the driver and passenger were required to reach inside to open the door. There was also no boot lid, owing to the need to retain as much structural integrity as possible, and access to the spare wheel and luggage compartment was achieved by tilting the seat-backs forward and reaching under the rear deck, a process likened to potholing by many owners, but which resulted in a large space available to store soft baggage. The BMC Competition Department entered Austin Healey Sprites in major international races and rallies, their first major success coming when John Sprinzel and Willy Cave won their class on the 1958 Alpine Rally. Private competitors also competed with much success in Sprites. Because of its affordability and practicality, the Austin Healey Sprite was developed into a formidable competition car, assuming many variants by John Sprinzel, Speedwell and WSM. The Sebring Sprite became the most iconic of the racing breed of Austin Healey Sprites. Many owners use their Austin Healey Sprites in competition today, sixty years after its introduction. 48,987 “frogeye” Sprites were made and the car remains popular to this day.
I saw this car on one of the approach roads and guessed that it was headed into the event, but the owner simply parked on the adjoining street, where it proved to have quite a pull, as lots of people went over to have a look. This is a 1959 car, the model year remembered for its huge sharp tailfins with dual bullet tail lights, two distinctive rooflines and roof pillar configurations, new jewel-like grille patterns and matching deck lid beauty panels. In 1959 the Series 62 had become the Series 6200. De Villes and 2-door Eldorados were moved from the Series 62 to their own series, the Series 6300 and Series 6400 respectively, though they all, including the 4-door Eldorado Brougham (which was moved from the Series 70 to Series 6900), shared the same 130 in wheelbase. New mechanical items were a “scientifically engineered” drainage system and new shock absorbers. All Eldorados were characterised by a three-deck, jewelled, rear grille insert, but other trim and equipment features varied. The Seville and Biarritz models had the Eldorado name spelled out behind the front wheel opening and featured broad, full-length body sill highlights that curved over the rear fender profile and back along the upper beltline region. Engine output was an even 345 hp from the 390 cu in (6.4 litre) engine. Standard equipment included power brakes, power steering, automatic transmission, back-up lamps, two-speed wipers, wheel discs, outside rearview mirror, vanity mirror, oil filter, power windows, six way power seats, heater, fog lamps, remote control deck lid, radio and antenna with rear speaker, power vent windows, air suspension, electric door locks and license frames. The Eldorado Brougham also came with air conditioning, automatic headlight dimmer, and a cruise control standard on the Seville and Biarritz trim lines. For 1960, the year that this Fleetwood Eldorado was made, the styling was toned down a little. General changes included a full-width grille, the elimination of pointed front bumper guards, increased restraint in the application of chrome trim, lower tailfins with oval shaped nacelles and front fender mounted directional indicator lamps. External variations on the Seville two-door hardtop and Biarritz convertible took the form of bright body sill highlights that extended across the lower edge of fender skirts and Eldorado lettering on the sides of the front fenders, just behind the headlamps. Standard equipment included power brakes, power steering, automatic transmission, dual back-up lamps, windshield wipers, two-speed wipers, wheel discs, outside rearview mirror, vanity mirror, oil filter, power windows, six-way power seats, heater, fog lamps, Eldorado engine, remote control trunk lock, radio with antenna and rear speaker, power vent windows, air suspension, electric door locks, license frames, and five whitewall tyres. Technical highlights were finned rear drums and an X-frame construction. Interiors were done in Chadwick cloth or optional Cambray cloth and leather combinations. The last Eldorado Seville was built in 1960. The idea of a large car finished in pink now is simply unthinkable, but the colour goes quite well with the style here. These 59 and 60 Cadillacs attract lots of interest from collectors and the public and this one was no exception.
This very distinctive 1969 Ford Mustang is another of the cars which I have seen at this event a number of times before. For the first two years of Mustang production, the car’s appearance had changed little, but from 1967, Ford made the annual model updates which were common among all US manufacturers at the time. Whilst the 1967 and 1968 changes were largely concentrated on the front end, and the car was still visually quite like the very first 1964.5 models, the 1969 model year restyle “added more heft to the body” with the body length extended by 3.8 inches on the same 108 inch wheelbase, width increased by almost half an inch, and the Mustang’s “weight went up markedly too.” 1969 was the first model to use quad headlamps placed both inside and outside the grille opening. The corralled grille pony was replaced with the pony and tribars logo, set off-centre to the drivers side. The car was longer than previous models and sported convex rather than concave side panels. The fastback body version was renamed Sportsroof, styled as SportsRoof in Ford’s literature. The 1969 model year saw the introduction of the Mach 1, with a variety of powerplants options and many new styling and performance features. Distinctive reflective striping was placed along the body sides, with a pop-open fuel cap, dual exhausts, matte-black hood with simulated air scoop and NASCAR-style cable and pin tiedowns. It used steel wheels with bold-lettered Goodyear Polyglas tyres. A functional “shaker” bonnet scoop – which visibly vibrated by being attached directly to the air cleaner through a hole in the bonnet – was available, as were tail-mounted wing and chin spoilers and rear window louvered blackout shade. The Mach 1 featured a deluxe interior with simulated wood trim, high backed seats, extra sound deadening, remote sports mirrors and other comforts. The Mach 1 proved popular with buyers with 72,458 cars sold through 1969. The Boss 302 was created to meet Trans Am rules and featured distinctive hockey-stick stripes, while the understated Boss 429 was created to homologate the Boss 429 engine (based on the new Ford 385 series engine) for NASCAR use. The two Boss models received fame on the track and street and to this day they still demand premium pricing for their pedigree. 1628 Boss 302’s and 859 Boss 429’s were sold through 1969 – making these vehicles somewhat rare. A new “luxury” model became available starting for 1969, available in only the hardtop body style. The ‘Grande’ featured a soft ride, 55 pounds of extra sound deadening, as well as deluxe interior with simulated wood trim. It was popular with buyers with 22182 units sold through 1969. Amidst other special editions, the 1969 Mustang E was offered for those desiring high mpg. The 1969 Limited Edition Mustang E was a rare (about 50 produced) fastback special model designed for economy. It came with a six-cylinder 4.1 litre engine, a high stall torque converter for the standard automatic transmission and a very low, 2.33:1 rear axle ratio. Mustang E lettering on the rear quarters identified the special Mustang E. Air conditioning was not available on the ‘E’ model. The Mustang GT was discontinued in 1969 due to poor sales versus the success of the new Mach 1 with only 5396 GT models sold that year. Although 1969 continued with many of the same basic V8 engines available on 1968 models, notably a now revised 302 cu in (4.9 litre) Windsor engine with 220 hp, the 390 cu in (6.4 litre) FE with 320 hp and the recently launched 428 cu in (7.0 litre) Cobra Jet engine (with or without Ram-Air) with an advertised 335 hp, a variety of revised options and changes were introduced to keep the Mustang fresh and competitive including a new performance V8 available in 250 hp or 290 hp tune known as the 351 cu in (5.8 litre) Windsor (351W), which was effectively a stretched and revised 302 cu in (4.9 litre) to achieve the extra stroke. The 428 cu in (7.0 litre) Cobra Jet engine continued unchanged in the 1969 and 1970 model years and continued to be advertised at just 335 hp despite being closer to 410 hp. However, whenever a V or W axle was ordered (3.90 or 4.30 locking ratio) on any Cobra Jet Mustang, this kicked in various engine improvements which were designed to make the engine more reliable on the strip. These improvements included an engine oil cooler (which resulted in AC not remaining an option), stronger crankshaft and conrods and improved engine balancing and was named the ‘Super Cobra Jet’. On the order form, these improvements were later referred to as ‘Drag Pack’. Today, these models request a premium price despite offering no notable performance increase other than provided by their unique axle ratios. The 1969 Shelby Mustang was now under Ford’s control and made to look vastly different from regular production Mustangs, despite now being built in-house by Ford. The custom styling included a fibreglass front end with a combination loop bumper/grille that increased the car’s overall length by 3 inches as well as five air intakes on the bonnet. Two models were available, GT-350 with a 351 cu in (5.8 litre) Windsor (351W) producing 290 hp and GT-500 with the 428 cu in (7.0 litre) Cobra Jet engine, in both sportsroof or convertible versions. All 1969–1970 Shelby Mustangs were produced in 1969. Because of dwindling sales, the 789 remaining 1969 cars were given new serial numbers and titled as 1970 models. They had modified front air dam and a blackout paint treatment around the hood scoops. The 1970 model year Mustangs were restyled again, to be less aggressive and therefore returned to single headlamps which were moved to the inside of the grille opening with ‘fins’ on the outside of the grille sides. Some felt the aggressive styling of the 1969 model hurt its sales and this view prompted the headlamp revisions and simplification of other exterior styling aspects. It’s worth noting though that 1969 model year sales exceeded those of 1970. The rear fender air scoops were removed and the taillight panel was now flat instead of concave as seen on 1969 models. The interior options remained mostly unchanged.
The Gentry is a British kit car styled to resemble a MG TF. It was offered for sale to the public by RMB Motors of Barwell, Leicestershire from 1974, the original prototype having been completed at the end of 1973. 15 kits were supplied in this first year, rising to over 80 per year produced in 1979. The company was formed by Roger Blockley who had worked for the Triumph Car Company. The car was built on the chassis of a Triumph Herald using an angle iron framework which supported aluminium over marine ply body tub panels, aluminium bonnet, engine bay sides and ‘fuel tank’, with fibreglass wings and doors. The radiator grille was frequently sourced from an MG Magnette ZA/ZB. From 1975 a version was made to fit the Triumph Spitfire chassis and running gear, but only 2 of this variant were ever produced. The rights to the car were sold in 1989 to S.P. Motors founded by Gentry owners, Mick Sinclair and Terry Phillips and they developed a Ford-based version of the car. Mick Sinclair left the company in 1997 and the name changed to TP Motors who modified the design to take parts from the Ford Sierra. In 2001 the factory unit was sold and the company closed selling the design in 2002 to the Vintage Motor Car Company based in Doncaster, Yorkshire but few if any cars were made. In 2008 the design moved to new owners Geoff and Ellen Beston who formed the Gentry Car Company based in Nuneaton and restarted production. The company and all rights were sold on again in early 2019 and The Gentry Motor Car Company Ltd was reformed. The Gentry is back in production and the new owners, based in Coventry, are actively looking at additional engine options to complement the original whilst maintaining the MG / Triumph heritage. 2019 marks the 45th anniversary of the car. The owner told me that there are believed to be around 200 of them on UK roads and they have over 300 members in the Owners Club.
One of the most loved Jaguars of all time, both when it was new, and still now, is the Mark 2 saloon. Many will tell you that it is not the 3 Series BMW that “invented” the “compact sports saloon” car class, but this model, which dates back to 1959. A thorough revision of the small Jaguar saloon that had joined the range in 1955, the Mark 2 was notable in that it was the first car to use the Arabic numeral in its name, as opposed to the Roman numerals of the larger Jaguar models. At launch, the earlier model which had hitherto been known by its engine size was christened the Mark 1. Although clearly based on that car, the updated car looked significantly different, with an increase of 18% in cabin glass area greatly improving visibility. The car was re-engineered above the waistline. Slender front pillars allowed a wider windscreen and the rear window almost wrapped around to the enlarged side windows now with the familiar Jaguar D-shape above the back door and fully chromed frames for all the side windows. The radiator grille was amended and larger side, tail and fog lamps repositioned. Inside a new heating system was fitted and ducted to the rear compartment (although still notoriously ineffective). There was an improved instrument layout that became standard for all Jaguar cars until the XJ Series II of 1973. As well as the familiar 2.4 and 3.4 litre engines, what made this car particularly special was that it was also offered with the potent 220 bhp 3.8 litre unit that was fitted to the XK150 and which would later see service in the E Type. This gave the car a 0 – 60 time of around 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 125 mph. No wonder that the Mark 2 became popular as a get-away car for the criminal fraternity, and to keep up with and catch them, many police forces bought the car as well. With revised suspension and standard four wheel disc brakes, the car was effective on the track, taking plenty of class wins when new, and it is still popular in historic racing circles today. The quickest and most successful private entries came from John Coombs, a man with significant race experience who operated a large Jaguar dealership in Guildford. Coombs would undertake modifications to meet the demands of his customers, so not all the cars that he worked on are the same. Jaguar replaced the Mark 2 with simplified and slightly more cheaply finished 240 and 340 models, as an interim measure until an all-new model was ready to take over from them. The 3.8 litre disappeared from the range at this time, but in the 7 years it had been in production, it had been the best seller of the range, with around 30,000 cars produced, as compared to 28,666 of the 3.4 litre and 25,741 of the 2.4 litre model.
There is a certain following now for examples of early Lexus models, most of which then undergo the, erm personalisation, treatment. And that was the case here with a couple of the second generation GS model cars parked up together, and which left together. In 1993, after sales commenced for the first generation S140 series, development began on the successor under the internally known codenamed JZS160. The design process began under chief engineer Yasushi Nakagawa in May 1994 and by November 1995 after 18 months of design work, the final production design by Akihiro Nagaya was approved by the executive board. In January 1997, Lexus debuted the “High Performance Sedan” (HPS) concept at the Detroit Auto Show, previewing the design direction for the redesigned GS. In August 1997, the second generation Toyota Aristo was launched in Japan, codenamed JZS160 (S300 version) for models with 2JZ-GE engines and JZS161 (V300 version) for those with 2JZ-GTE twin-turbocharged engines, remaining exclusive to the former Vista network that was renamed Toyota Netz Store Japanese dealerships. VVT-i was now standard, resulting in an increase of torque. The twin-turbocharged version was available with electronic four-wheel steering, VSC electronic stability control and an automatic transmission with a manual sequential mode. The second generation sedans used a new front-engine, rear-wheel drive midsize platform, also featured in the Japanese-market Toyota Crown. The new model’s styling was produced in-house, and featured quadruple headlights in a fashion similar to the Lexus SC coupe. It had a drag coefficient of Cd=0.30. Inside, electroluminescent Optitron gauges were offered for the first time, along with an upgraded stereo system. For export markets, the second generation GS began production in the JZS161 body style on 4 August 1997 and was officially launched in late 1997. Lexus offered the GS 300 once again and featured a slightly revised version of the previous generation’s 3.0-litre straight-six now producing 225 bhp and 305 N⋅m (225 lb⋅ft) of torque. Answering customer requests for more power, the American market GS 400 (UZS160) was equipped with the 4.0-litre 1UZ-FE V8 that produced 300 bhp and 420 N⋅m (310 ft⋅lb) of torque. Both models featured a five-speed automatic transmission with the GS 400 receiving steering wheel shift buttons. As with the S140 series, no turbocharged variants were offered outside Japan. The 0–60 mph time of the GS 400 prompted Lexus to claim that the GS was the world’s fastest production sedan at its introduction in 1997. The 1998 BMW M5 sedan would list 0–60 mph times of between 4.8 and 5.2 seconds. Lexus promoted the arrival of the second generation GS sedan with the tagline, “Something Wicked Comes This Way.” Compared to its predecessor, the second generation GS sedan was a much bigger success, with sales reaching 30,622 vehicles in its first year, increasing in the second, and stabilizing at 28,079 vehicles by 2000. In 2000, a facelift was applied. This was the only year with any major changes for the second generation GS. New clear tail lights with turn signal indicators were added to the boot area, as well as a slightly revised grille and very subtly tinted headlights on the front end. Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights were now standard on the V8 and optional on the straight-six. Inside, more wood trim was added, and steering wheel shift buttons were now also featured on the GS 300. The V8 engine also received a 300cc increase in displacement and the model was renamed GS 430 (UZS161). Peak power was unchanged, but torque increased to 441 N⋅m (325 lb⋅ft). The GS 430 took 5.7 seconds to do 0–60 mph. For the 2001 model year, Lexus also added a limited production GS 300 “SportDesign” edition for North America, featuring the sport suspension from the GS 430, wider tyres, and polished alloy wheels. The SportDesign interior added perforated leather upholstery along with brushed aluminium and dark stained walnut trim. For the third quarter of 2001, production of the GS 300 SportDesign was limited to a run of 3,300 units (vs. 25,000 annual GS sales annually). Production of the limited model occurred through 2004. A third generation model arrived in 2005.
Logistics were such that I was driving the Ghibli, and that was the car I registered, It was easily the newest car in the day, and as such you might have thought that it would not generate as much interest as the older cars, But it did. Every time I looked, I could see someone posing in front of it for pictures, with the car being a particular hit among the children who were passing through the event.
No surprise that there were a number of MGB models here, as this is probably the most popular classic of all in the UK, thanks to a plentiful supply of cars and the fact that mechanically it is quite simple. With excellent availability of just about every part you might need including a complete bodyshell, many of these cars have enjoyed a new lease of life. Launched in October 1962, the MGB 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 homemarket 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.
Resurrecting the name that was used by MG for their smallest car, the M Type, in the late 20s, was the MG Midget, announced in 1961. The new car was essentially a slightly more expensive badge-engineered version of the MkII Austin-Healey Sprite. The original ‘Frogeye’ Sprite had been introduced specifically to fill the gap in the market left by the end of production of the MG T-type Midget as its replacement, the MGA had been a significantly larger and more expensive car with greater performance. Many existing MG enthusiast and buyers turned to the Sprite to provide a modern low-cost sports car and so a badge-engineered MG version reusing the Midget name made sense. The new Midget differed from the Sprite only in its grille design, badging, colour options and having both leather seats and more external chrome trim as standard to justify its higher purchase price. Mechanically the car was identical to its Austin-Healey counterpart, retaining the rear suspension using quarter-elliptic leaf springs and trailing arms from the ‘Frogeye’. The engine was initially a 948 cc A-Series with twin SU carburettors producing 46 hp at 5500 rpm and 53 lb/ft at 3000 rpm. Brakes were 7″ drums all round. A hard top, heater, radio and luggage rack were available as factory-fitted extras. In October 1962 the engine was increased to 1098 cc, raising the output to 56 hp at 5500 rpm and 62 lb/ft at 3250 rpm, and disc brakes replaced the drums at the front. Wire spoked wheels became available. The doors had no external handles or locks and the windows were sliding Perspex side-screens. A heater was still an optional extra. The car sold well, with 16,080 of the small-engined version and 9601 of the 1098 being made before the arrival in 1964 of the Mark II. Externally the main changes were to the doors, which gained wind-up windows, swivelling quarter lights, external handles and separate locks. The windscreen also gained a slight curvature and was retained in a more substantial frame. The hood, though modified, continued to have a removable frame that had to be erected before the cover was put on. The rear springs were replaced by more conventional semi-elliptic types which gave a better ride. The engine block was strengthened and larger main bearings were fitted, increasing the power to 59 hp at 5750 rpm and torque to 65 lb/ft at 3500 rpm. A total of 26,601 were made. 1967 saw the arrival of the Mark III. The engine now grew to 1275 cc using the development seen on the Mini-Cooper ‘S’. Enthusiasts were disappointed that this was a detuned version of the 76-bhp Cooper ‘S’ engine, giving only 65 hp at 6000 rpm and 72 lbf·ft at 3000 rpm. A reduced compression ratio of 8.8:1 was used instead of the 9.75:1 employed on the Cooper S engine. The Midget used the 12G940 cylinder head casting that was common to other BMC 1300 cars, whereas the Cooper ‘S’ had a special head with not only larger inlet, but also larger exhaust valves; however, these exhaust valves caused many ‘S’ heads to fail through cracking between the valve seats. The detuned engine was used for reasons of model range placement – with the Cooper ‘S’ spec engine, the Midget would have been faster than the more expensive MGB. The hydraulic system gained a separate master cylinder for the clutch. The hood was now permanently attached to the car, with an improved mechanism making it much easier to use. Minor facelift changes were made to the body trim in late 1969 with the sills painted black, a revised recessed black grille, and squared off taillights as on the MGB. The 13″ “Rostyle” wheels were standardised, but wire-spoked ones remained an option. The square-shaped rear wheel arches became rounded in January 1972 and later that year a Triumph steering rack was fitted, giving a gearing that was somewhat lower than earlier Midgets. A second exhaust silencer was also added in 1972. Alternators were fitted instead of dynamos from 1973 onwards. Many consider the round-arch Midgets with chrome bumpers produced for model years 1972 and 1974 to be the most desirable. These round-arch cars started leaving the Abingdon factory in late 1971. Between 1966 and the 1969 face lift, 22,415 were made, and a further 77,831 up to 1974.
In late 1974, to meet US federal regulations, large black plastic bumpers (usually called rubber bumpers, despite not actually being rubber) were added to the front and rear and the ride height was increased. The increased ride height affected handling, and an anti-roll bar was added to help with higher centre of gravity. The A-Series engine was replaced by the 1493 cc unit from the Triumph Spitfire with a modified Morris Marina gearbox with synchromesh on all four gears. The increased displacement of the new engine was better able to cope with the increasing emission regulations. Although the horsepower ratings were similar, at 65 bhp, the 1493 cc engine produced more torque. The increased output combined with taller gear ratios resulted in faster acceleration and a top speed of just over 100 mph. In the US market British Leyland struggled to keep engine power at acceptable levels, as the engines were loaded with air pumps, EGR valves and catalytic converters to keep up with new US and California exhaust emission control regulations. The home market’s dual SU HS4 carbs were swapped for a single Zenith-Stromberg 150 CD4 unit, and the power fell to 50 bhp at 5000 rpm and 67 lb-ft of torque at 2500 rpm. The round rear-wheel arches were now square again, to increase the body strength. The last car was made on 7 December 1979, after 73,899 of the 1500 model had been made, with the last 500 home-market cars painted black.
MG re-entered the sports car market in 1995 with the launch of the MGF Two versions of this mid-engined and affordable rival to the Mazda MX5 were offered: both of which used the 1.8 litre K-Series 16-valve engine. The cheaper of the two put out 118 hp and the more costly VVC model (by dint of its variable valve control) had 143 hp. Rover Special Projects had overseen the development of the F’s design and before finalising the styling bought-in outside contractors to determine the most appropriate mechanical configuration for the new car. Steve Harper of MGA Developments produced the initial design concept in January 1991 (inspired by the Jaguar XJR-15 and the Ferrari 250LM), before Rover’s in house design team refined the concept under the leadership of Gerry McGovern. The MGF used the Hydragas suspension, a system employing interconnected fluid and gas displacers, which gave the car a surprisingly compliant ride and which could be tuned to provide excellent handling characteristics. The MG F quickly shot to the top of the affordable sports car charts in Britain and remained there until the introduction of the MG TF in 2002. The MG F underwent a facelift in Autumn of 1999 which gave the car a revised interior as well as styling tweaks and fresh alloy wheels designs. There was also the introduction of a base 1.6 version and a more powerful 160 hp variant called the Trophy 160, which had a 0-60 mph time of 6.9 seconds. It was only produced for a limited time. An automatic version with a CVT called the Steptronic was also introduced. A comprehensive update in 2002 resulted in the MG TF, named after the MG TF Midget of the 1950s. Based upon the MG F platform but heavily redesigned and re-engineered, the most significant mechanical changes were the abandonment of Hydragas suspension in favour of conventional coil springs, the new design of the air-induction system that along with new camshafts produces more power than in MG F engines, and the torsional stiffness of the body increased by 20%. Various cosmetic changes included a revised grille, redesigned front headlights, bumpers, side air-intake grills and changes to the rear boot,. The car continued to sell well. Production was suspended when MG-Rover went out of business, but resumed again in 2007 when Nanjing built a number more. There was an MG TF model here.
Instantly recognisable was this Mini Mayfair, from the 1980s. By this time, the Mini range had been partially replaced by the Metro, so there were just two models left in the range, the very basic City and the plusher Mayfair, both available with the 998cc A Series engine. During the early 1980s, the Mini received many mechanical upgrades which were shared with the Metro, such as the A-Plus engine, 12-inch wheels with front disc brakes, improved soundproofing and quieter, stronger transmissions. This not only modernised the Mini but, because many of its major subassemblies were now shared with the Metro, made it very cost-effective to produce despite falling sales volumes. The Mini’s 25th anniversary fell in 1984 and British Leyland produced a ‘Mini 25’ limited-edition model, both to mark the occasion and to publicise the recent upgrades to the model. This marked the start of a turnaround in the Mini’s fortunes. Basic models such as the City and the City E (using the economy-tuned drivetrain from the Metro HLE) filled in the bottom of the Austin-Rover range and still found buyers who wanted a compact city car that was easy to park and cheap to run. Low purchase and running costs also made the Mini continually popular as a first car for younger drivers, and Austin-Rover introduced a steady stream of limited editions with bright paint colours, body graphics, and trim to appeal to this market. The Mini was also becoming prized as a characterful and nostalgic car in its own right, and the London Collection of limited-edition models was more upmarket and luxurious and named after affluent or fashionable parts of London. These marketing strategies proved very successful; Mini production actually had modest increases through the mid-1980s, from 34,974 in 1985 to 35,280 in 1985 and 39,800 in 1986. By 1990, with the reintroduction of the very popular Cooper model, Mini production passed 40,000. In 1988, Austin Rover decided to keep the Mini in production for as long as it was viable to do so, putting an end to reports that it would be discontinued by 1991, by which time the original Metro would also be replaced.
A relatively late arrival to the event was this Morgan.
No surprise to see the evergreen Morris Minor here as this is a very popular classic. The Minor was conceived in 1941. Although the Nuffield Organization was heavily involved in war work and there was a governmental ban on civilian car production, Morris Motors’ vice chairman, Miles Thomas, wanted to prepare the ground for new products to be launched as soon as the war was over. Vic Oak, the company’s chief engineer, had already brought to Thomas’ attention a promising junior engineer, Alec Issigonis, who had been employed at Morris since 1935 and specialised in suspension design but he had frequently impressed Oak with his advanced ideas about car design in general. Issigonis had come to Oak’s particular attention with his work on the new Morris Ten, which was in development during 1936/7. This was the first Morris to use unitary construction and was conceived with independent front suspension. Issigonis designed a coil-sprung wishbone system which was later dropped on cost grounds. Although the design would later be used on the MG Y-type and many other post-war MGs the Morris Ten entered production with a front beam axle. Despite his brief being to focus on the Ten’s suspension Issigonis had also drawn up a rack and pinion steering system for the car. Like his suspension design this was not adopted but would resurface in the post-war years on the MG Y-type, but these ideas proved that he was the perfect candidate to lead the design work on a new advanced small car. With virtually all resources required for the war effort, Thomas nonetheless approved the development of a new small family car that would replace the Morris Eight. Although Oak (and Morris’ technical director, Sidney Smith) were in overall charge of the project it was Issigonis who was ultimately responsible for the design, working with only two other draughtsmen. Thomas named the project ‘Mosquito’ and ensured that it remained as secret as possible, both from the Ministry of Supply and from company founder William Morris (now Lord Nuffield), who was still chairman of Morris Motors and, it was widely expected, would not look favourably on Issigonis’ radical ideas. Issigonis’ overall concept was to produce a practical, economical and affordable car for the general public that would equal, if not surpass, the convenience and design quality of a more expensive car. In later years he summed up his approach to the Minor; that he wanted to design an economy car that “the average man would take pleasure in owning, rather than feeling of it as something he’d been sentenced to” and “people who drive small cars are the same size as those who drive large cars and they should not be expected to put up with claustrophobic interiors.” Issigonis wanted the car to be as spacious as possible for its size and comfortable to drive for inexperienced motorists. Just as he would with the Mini ten years later, he designed the Mosquito with excellent roadholding and accurate, quick steering not with any pretence of making a sports car, but to make it safe and easy to drive by all. As work proceeded, there were plenty of battle to overcome, to get Issigonis’ ideas approved, and not all of them were. The production car, called the Minor was launched at the British Motor Show at Earls Court in London on October 27, 1948. At the same show Morris also launched the new Morris Oxford and Morris Six models, plus Wolseley variants of both cars, which were scaled-up versions of the new Minor, incorporating all the same features and designed with Issigonis’ input under Vic Oak’s supervision. Thus Issigonis’ ideas and design principles underpinned the complete post-war Morris and Wolseley car ranges. The original Minor MM series was produced from 1948 until 1953. It included a pair of four-seat saloons, two-door and (from 1950) a four-door, and a convertible four-seat Tourer. The front torsion bar suspension was shared with the larger Morris Oxford MO, as was the almost-unibody construction. Although the Minor was originally designed to accept a flat-4 engine, late in the development stage it was replaced by a 918 cc side-valve inline-four engine, little changed from that fitted in the 1935 Morris 8, and producing 27.5 hp and 39 lbf·ft of torque. This little engine pushed the Minor to just 64 mph but delivered 40 mpg. Brakes were four-wheel drums. Early cars had a painted section in the centre of the bumpers to cover the widening of the production car from the prototypes. This widening of 4 inches is also visible in the creases in the bonnet. Exports to the United States began in 1949 with the headlamps removed from within the grille surround to be mounted higher on the wings to meet local safety requirements. In 1950 a four-door version was released, initially available only for export, and featuring from the start the headlamps faired into the wings rather than set lower down on either side of the grille. The raised headlight position became standard on all Minors in time for 1951. From the start, the Minor had semaphore-type turn indicators, and subsequent Minor versions persisted with these until 1961 An Autocar magazine road test in 1950 reported that these were “not of the usual self-cancelling type, but incorporate[d] a time-basis return mechanism in a switch below the facia, in front of the driver”. It was all too easy for a passenger hurriedly emerging from the front passenger seat to collide with and snap off a tardy indicator “flipper” that was still sticking out of the B-pillar, having not yet been safely returned by the time-basis return mechanism to its folded position. Another innovation towards the end of 1950 was a water pump (replacing a gravity dependent system), which permitted the manufacturer to offer an interior heater “as optional equipment”. When production of the first series ended, just over a quarter of a million had been sold, 30 per cent of them the convertible Tourer model. In 1952, the Minor line was updated with an Austin-designed 803 cc overhead valve A-series engine, replacing the original side-valve unit. The engine had been designed for the Minor’s main competition, the Austin A30, but became available as Austin and Morris were merged into the British Motor Corporation. The new engine felt stronger, though all measurements were smaller than the old. The 52 second drive to 60 mph was still calm, with 63 mph as the top speed. Fuel consumption also rose to 36 mpg. An estate version was introduced in 1952, known as the Traveller (a Morris naming tradition for estates, also seen on the Mini). The Traveller featured an external structural ash (wood) frame for the rear bodywork, with two side-hinged rear doors. The frame was varnished rather than painted and a highly visible feature of the body style. Commercial models, marketed as the Morris Quarter Ton Van and Pick-up were added in May 1953. Rear bodies of the van versions were all steel. The 4-seat convertible and saloon variants continued as well. The car was again updated in 1956 when the engine was increased in capacity to 948 cc. The two-piece split windscreen was replaced with a curved one-piece one and the rear window was enlarged. In 1961 the semaphore-style trafficators were replaced by the flashing direction indicators, these were US-style red at the rear (using the same bulb filament as the brake lamp) and white at the front (using a second brighter filament in the parking lamp bulb) which was legal in the UK and many export markets at the time (such as New Zealand). An upmarket car based on the Minor floorpan using the larger BMC B-Series engine was sold as the Riley One-Point-Five/Wolseley 1500 beginning in 1957: versions of this Wolseley/Riley variant were also produced by BMC Australia as the Morris Major and the Austin Lancer. In December 1960 the Morris Minor became the first British car to sell more than 1,000,000 units. To commemorate the achievement, a limited edition of 350 two-door Minor saloons (one for each UK Morris dealership) was produced with distinctive lilac paintwork and a white interior. Also the badge name on the side of the bonnet was modified to read “Minor 1,000,000” instead of the standard “Minor 1000”. The millionth Minor was donated to the National Union of Journalists, who planned to use it as a prize in a competition in aid of the union’s Widow and Orphan Fund. The company, at the same time, presented a celebratory Minor to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, but this car was constructed of cake. The final major upgrades to the Minor were made in 1962. Although the name Minor 1000 was retained, the changes were sufficient for the new model to be given its own ADO development number. A larger version of the existing A-Series engine had been developed in conjunction with cylinder head specialist Harry Weslake for the then new ADO16 Austin/Morris 1100 range. This new engine used a taller block than did the 948 cc unit, with increased bore and stroke bringing total capacity up to 1,098 cc. Although fuel consumption suffered moderately at 38 mpg, the Minor’s top speed increased to 77 mph with noticeable improvements in low-end torque, giving an altogether more responsive drive. Other changes included a modified dashboard layout with toggle switches, textured steel instrument binnacle, and larger convex glove box covers. A different heater completed the interior upgrade, whilst the larger combined front side/indicator light units, common to many BMC vehicles of the time, were fitted to the front wings. These now included a separate bulb and amber lens for indicators while larger tail lamp units also included amber rear flashers. During the life of the Minor 1000 model, production declined. The last Convertible/Tourer was manufactured on 18 August 1969, and the saloon models were discontinued the following year. Production of the more practical Traveller and commercial versions ceased in 1972, although examples of all models were still theoretically available from dealers with a surplus of unsold cars for a short time afterwards. 1,619,857 Minors of all variants were ultimately sold and to be seen here was nice example of the Tourer, Traveller and the 2 door Saloon.
Another car which was I’ve seen here a number of times before was this 1987 Panther Kallista. A largely forgotten marque these days, Panther Westwinds of Byfleet in Surrey built a series of pastiche models in the 1970s, starting with the Jaguar SS100 inspired J72 that was launched in 1972. After heading upmarket still further with the DeVille and then producing the amazing 6 wheeled Six, which never got beyond a couple of cars, a model with greater volume prospects arrived in 1977. Called Lima, it used Vauxhall mechanicals under its glassfibre body which echoed the styling of British sports cars from the 1930s and 1940s, 897 units were made before it was updated and renamed in 1982 as the similar looking Kallista. This car had an aluminium body and used Ford mechanicals, including a range of engines from a 1.6 litre 4 cylinder to the 2,8 Essex and later 2.9 litre Cologne V6 units. There was a small but steady market for the car, and it would be produced throughout the 1980s, and it was only when Panther over-reached itself with the ambitious Solo that the company collapsed. Korean giant Ssangyong bought what remained and produced a badge engineered version in 1992 called the SsangYong Kallista. Only 78 of the SsangYong models were ever built.
Sole Porsche model here (which makes a change from so many events these days!) was a late model 928 S4. The first V8 engined Porsche, the 928 was originally conceived to replace the 911, though as we all know, that did not happen, with the two complementing each other in the range during the 18 year life of the 928. By the late 1960s, Porsche had changed significantly as a company, and executives including owner Ferdinand Porsche were toying with the idea of adding a luxury touring car to the line-up. Managing Director Ernst Fuhrmann was also pressuring Ferdinand to approve development of the new model in light of concerns that the current flagship model at the time, the 911, was quickly reaching the limits of its potential. Slumping sales of the 911 seemed to confirm that the model was approaching the end of its economic life cycle. Fuhrmann envisioned the new range-topping model as being the best possible combination of a sports coupe and a luxury sedan, something well equipped and comfortable enough to be easily driven over long distances that also had the power, poise and handling prowess necessary to be driven like a sports car. This set it apart from the 911, which was intended to be an out-and-out sports car. Ordered by Ferdinand Porsche to come up with a production-feasible concept for his new model, Fuhrmann initiated a design study in 1971, eventually taking from the process the final specification for the 928. Several drivetrain layouts were considered during early development, including rear and mid-engined designs, but most were dismissed because of technical and/or legislative difficulties. Having the engine, transmission, catalytic converter(s) and exhaust all cramped into a small rear engine bay made emission and noise control more difficult, something Porsche was already facing problems with on the 911 and wanted to avoid. After deciding that the mid-engine layout didn’t allow enough room in the passenger compartment, a front engine/rear wheel drive layout was chosen. Porsche also may have feared that the U.S. government would soon ban the sale of rear-engined cars in response to the consumer concern over safety problems with the rear-engined Chevrolet Corvair. Porsche engineers wanted a large-displacement engine to power the 928, and prototype units were built with a 5-litre V8 producing close to 300 hp. Ferdinand Piëch wanted this car to use a 4.6-litre V10 based upon Audi’s five-cylinder engine. Several members of the Porsche board objected, chiefly because they wished for Porsche AG to maintain some separation from Volkswagen. The first two running prototypes of Porsche’s M28 V8 used one four-barrel carburettor, but this was just for initial testing. The cars were sold with the planned Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system. When increasing concern within the company over the pricing and availability of fuel during the oil crisis of the 1970s became an issue of contention, smaller engines were considered in the interest of fuel economy. A push began for the development of a 3.3 litre 180 hp powerplant they had drawn up designs for, but company engineers balked at this suggestion. Both sides finally settled on a 4.5 litre SOHC per bank 16-valve V8 producing 240 PS which they considered to have an acceptable compromise of performance and fuel economy. The finished car debuted at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show, going on sale later that year. Although it won early acclaim for its comfort and power, sales were slow. Base prices were much higher than that of the 911 model and the 928’s front-engined, water-cooled design put off many Porsche purists, not least because the design marked a major change in direction for Porsche started with the introduction of the Porsche 924 in 1976 which purists found hard to accept. Porsche utilised a transaxle in the 928 to help achieve 50/50 front/rear weight distribution, aiding the car’s balance. Although it weighed more than the difficult-to-handle 911, its more neutral weight balance and higher power output gave it similar performance on the track. The 928 was regarded as the more relaxing car to drive at the time. It came with either a five-speed dog leg manual transmission, or a Mercedes-Benz-derived automatic transmission, originally with three speeds, with four-speed from 1983 in North America and 1984 in other markets. More than 80% had the automatic transmission. Exact percentage of manual gearbox cars for entire production run is not known but it is believed to be between 15 and 20%. The body, styled by Wolfgang Möbius under guidance of Anatole Lapine, was mainly galvanised steel, but the doors, front fenders, and hood were aluminium in order to make the car more lightweight. It had a substantial luggage area accessed via a large hatchback. The new polyurethane elastic bumpers were integrated into the nose and tail and covered in body-coloured plastic; an unusual feature for the time that aided the car visually and reduced its drag. Porsche opted not to offer a convertible variant but several aftermarket modifiers offered convertible conversions, most notably Carelli, based in Orange County, CA. The Carelli conversions were sold as complete cars, with the conversion doubling the price of the car. A reported 12 units were made. The 928 qualified as a 2+2, having two small seats in the rear. Both rear seats could be folded down to enlarge the luggage area, and both the front and rear seats had sun visors for occupants. The rear seats are small (due to the prominent transmission hump) and have very little leg room; they are only suitable for adults on very short trips or children. The 928 was also the first vehicle in which the instrument cluster moved along with the adjustable steering wheel in order to maintain maximum instrument visibility. The 928 included several other innovations such as the “Weissach Axle”, a simple rear-wheel steering system that provides passive rear-wheel steering to increase stability while braking during a turn, and an unsleeved, silicon alloy engine block made of aluminium, which reduced weight and provided a highly durable cylinder bore. Porsche’s design and development efforts paid off during the 1978 European Car of the Year, where the 928 won ahead of the BMW 7 Series, and the Ford Granada. The 928 is the only sports car ever to have won this competition, which is regarded as proof of how advanced the 928 was, compared to its contemporaries. Porsche introduced a refreshed 928 S into the European market in 1980 model year. Externally, the S wore new front and rear spoilers and sported wider wheels and tyres than the older variant, but the main change for the 928 S was under the bonnet where a revised 4.7 litre engine was used. European versions debuted with 300 PS, and were upgraded to 310 PS for 1984, though it is rumoured that they typically made around 330 hp. From 1984 to 1986, the S model was called S2 in UK. These cars used Bosch LH-Jetronic fuel injection and purely electronic Bosch ignition, the same systems used on the later 32-valve cars, though without the pollution controls. North American-spec 1983 and 1984 S models used, among other differences, smaller valves, milder camshafts, smaller diameter intake manifolds, and additional pollution equipment in order to meet emissions regulations, and were limited to 234 hp as a result. Due to low grade fuel 16V low compression S engine was made for Australian market in 1985 model year. It had 9.3:1 compression ratio pistons instead of normal 10.4:1 but used same large intake, high lift cams, large valves etc. of other S engines. In 1982, two special models were available for different markets. 202 “Weissach Edition” cars were sold in North America. Unusual features were champagne gold metallic paint, matching brushed gold flat disc wheels, two-tone leather interior, a plaque containing the production number on the dash and the extremely collectible three-piece Porsche luggage set. It’s believed these cars were not made with S spoilers even though these were available in U.S. during this time period as part of the “Competition Group” option. The “Weissach Edition” option was also available for the US market 911 in 1980 model year and 924 in 1981 model year. 141 special “50th Jubilee” 928 S models were available outside the U.S. and Canada to celebrate the company’s 50-year existence as a car manufacturer. This model is also sometimes referred to as the “Ferry Porsche Edition” because his signature was embroidered into the front seats. It was painted meteor metallic and fitted with flat disc wheels, wine red leather and special striped fabric seat centres. Similar 911 and 924 specials were also made for world markets. Porsche updated the North American 928 S for 1985, replacing the 4.7 litre SOHC engine with a new 5.0 litre DOHC unit sporting four valves per cylinder and producing 288 hp. Seats were also updated to a new style, these cars are sometimes unofficially called S3 to distinguish them from 16-valve “S” models. European models kept a 4.7 litre engine, which was somewhat more powerful as standard, though lower 9.3:1 compression 32-valve engine together with catalytic converters became an option in some European countries and Australia for 1986. In 1986, revised suspension settings, larger brakes with 4-piston calipers and modified exhaust was installed on the 928S, marking the final changes to old body style cars. These were straight from the 928S4, which was slated to debut a few months later. These changes came starting from VIN 1001, which means that the first thousand ’86’s had the old brakes, but later cars had the later systems. This later 1986 model is sometimes referred to as a 19861⁄2 or 1986.5 because of these changes. The name is a little misleading as more than 3/4 of the 1986 production had these updates. The 928 S4 variant debuted in the second half of 1986 with an updated version of the 5.0 litre V8 producing 320 PS, sporting a new single-disc clutch in manual gearbox cars, larger torque converter in automatics and fairly significant styling updates which gave the car a cleaner, sleeker look. S4 was much closer to being a truly world car than previous models as only major differences for North American models were instrumentation in either kilometers or miles, lighting, front and rear bumper shocks and the availability of catalytic converters in many other markets. The Australian market version was only one with different horsepower rating at 300 PS due to preparation for possible low grade fuel. Even this was achieved without engine changes. A Club Sport variant which was up to 100 kg (220 lb) lighter became available to continental Europe and U.S. in 1988. This model was watered down version of the 1987 factory prototype which had a lightened body. Also in 1987 the factory made four white lightened manual gearbox S4 models for racecar drivers who were on their payroll at the time. These were close to same as later actual Club Sport models and can also be considered prototypes for it. An SE (sometimes called the S4 Sport due to model designation on rear bumper), a sort of halfway point between a normally equipped S4 and the more race-oriented Club Sport, became available to the UK. It’s generally believed these Porsche Motorsport-engined cars have more hp than the S4. They utilise parts which later became known as GT pistons, cams and engine ECU programs. Some of them had stronger, short geared manual gearbox. The automatic gearbox was not available. For the 1989 model year, a visible change inside was digital trip computer in dashboard. At the same time Australian models received the same 320 PS engine management setup as other markets. Porsche debuted the 928 GT in the late winter 1988/89 after dropping the slowly selling CS and SE. In terms of equipment, the GT was like the 928 SE, having more equipment than a Club Sport model but less than a 928 S4 to keep the weight down somewhat. It had the ZF 40% limited-slip differential as standard like the Club Sport and SE before it. Also like the CS and SE, the GT was only available with a manual gearbox. European 1989 CS and GT wheels had an RDK tyre pressure monitoring system as standard, which was also optional for the same year S4. For 1990 model year Porsche made RDK and a 0-100% variable ratio limited-slip called PSD (Porsche SperrDifferential) standard in both GT and S4 models for all markets. This system is much like the one from the 959 and gives the vehicle even more grip. In 1990 the S4 was no longer available with a manual gearbox. The S4 and GT variants were both cut at the end of 1991 model year, making way for the final version of the 928. The 928 GTS came for sale in late 1991. Changed bodywork, larger front brakes and a new, more powerful 5.4 litre 350 PS engine were the big advertised changes; what Porsche wasn’t advertising was the price. Loaded GTS models could eclipse US$100,000 in 1995, making them among the most expensive cars on the road at the time. This severely hampered sales despite the model’s high competency and long standard equipment list. Porsche discontinued the GTS model that year after shipping only 77 of them to the United States. Total worldwide production of 928s over an 18 year period was a little over 61,000 cars. Second-hand models’ value decreased as a result of generally high maintenance costs due largely to spare parts that are expensive to manufacture, with the result that there are fewer survivors than you might expect, though with values hardening, people are now spending the money required to restore these cars.
The Riley RM Series was the last model developed independently by Riley. RM vehicles were produced from 1945, after the Second World War, until the 1952 merger of Riley’s parent company, the Nuffield Organisation with Austin to form BMC. They were originally made in Coventry, but in 1949 production moved to the MG works at Abingdon. The RM models were marketed as the Riley 1½ Litre and the Riley 2½ Litre. There were three types of RM vehicles produced: the RMA was a large saloon, and was replaced by the updated RME, both of which had the 1.5 litre engine; the RMB was an even larger car, and was replaced by the RMF, and these cars had the 2.5 litre engine; the RMC and RMD were open topped cars produced in limited numbers, intended largely for the all important export markets, with about 500 of each being made. These were nicely produced quality cars and considered quite sporting in their day, with the sort of appeal that many years later would be inherent in a BMW. Ironically, of course, BMW now own the rights to the Riley brand. The RMC (Roadster) was an open 2-door, single bench seat, 2/3-seater version of the RMB, with a large rear deck area and fold-flat windscreen. Instead of side windows it was supplied with flexible celluloid-glazed side curtains with a hole for hand signals and, when deployed, flimsy synthetic roofing over a light metal frame. It shared that car’s 2.5 litre 100 hp engine, and could reach 100 mph. The car was primarily designed for the North American export market, and just over 500 were built from 1948 until 1951. The gear change lever was moved to the steering column on left-hand-drive models. The car seen here is an RMA, meaning the 1.5 litre engine and the earlier version.
When new, the Silver Shadow was considered a big car, but looking at this one, it does not seem quite so massive any more.The Silver Shadow was produced from 1965 to 1976, and the Silver Shadow II from 1977 to 1980. Initially, the model was planned to be called “Silver Mist”, a natural progression from its predecessor Silver Cloud. The name was changed to “Silver Shadow” after realising that “Mist” is the German word for manure, rubbish, or dirt. The design was a major departure from its predecessor, the Silver Cloud; although several styling cues from the Silver Cloud were modified and preserved, as the automobile had sold well. The John Polwhele Blatchley design was the firm’s first single bow model. The original Shadow was 3 1⁄2 inches narrower and 7 inches shorter than the car it replaced, but nevertheless managed to offer increased passenger and luggage space thanks to more efficient packaging made possible by unitary construction. Aside from a more modern appearance and construction, the Silver Shadow introduced many new features such as disc rather than drum brakes, and independent rear suspension, rather than the outdated live axle design of previous cars. The Shadow featured a 172 hp 6.2 litre V8 from 1965 to 1969, and a 189 hp 6.75 ltire V8 from 1970 to 1980. Both powerplants were coupled to a General Motors-sourced Turbo Hydramatic 400 automatic gearbox, except on pre-1970 right-hand-drive models, which used the same 4-speed automatic gearbox as the Silver Cloud (also sourced from General Motors, the Hydramatic). The car’s most innovative feature was a high-pressure hydropneumatic suspension system licensed from Citroën, with dual-circuit braking and hydraulic self-levelling suspension. At first, both the front and rear of the car were controlled by the levelling system; the front levelling was deleted in 1969 as it had been determined that the rear levelling did almost all the work. Rolls-Royce achieved a high degree of ride quality with this arrangement. In 1977, the model was renamed the Silver Shadow II in recognition of several major changes, most notably rack and pinion steering; modifications to the front suspension improved handling markedly. Externally, the bumpers were changed from chrome to alloy and rubber starting with the late 1976 Silver Shadows. These new energy absorbing bumpers had been used in the United States since 1974, as a response to tightening safety standards there. Nonetheless, the bumpers on cars sold outside of North America were still solidly mounted and protruded 2 in less. Also now made standard across the board was the deletion of the small grilles mounted beneath the headlamps. Outside of North America, where tall kerbs and the like demanded more ground clearance, a front skirt was also fitted to the Silver Shadow II and its sister cars. In 1979 75 Silver Shadow II cars were specially fitted to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the company with the original red “RR” badges front and rear, pewter/silver paint, grey leather with red piping, scarlet red carpets, and a silver commemorative placard on the inside of the glove box door. 33 75th anniversary cars were designated for and shipped to the North American market. 8425 examples of the Shadow II were made, which, when added to the total of over 16,000 of the first generation cars made this the biggest selling Rolls Royce of all time. There was a Series 2 car here.
The first new car that Rover announced after the war was the P4 model, known as the 75. It was launched at the Earls Court Motor Show in September 1949, to replace all previous models and then continued in production until 1964, though the car underwent lots of change under the skin in those 15 years. Designed by Gordon Bashford, the car went into production in 1949 as the 6-cylinder 2.1-litre Rover 75. It featured unusual modern styling in stark contrast with the outdated Rover P3 model 75 which it replaced. Gone were the traditional radiator, separate headlamps and external running boards. In their place were a chromium grille, recessed headlamps and a streamlined body the whole width of the chassis. The car’s styling was derived from the then controversial 1947 Studebakers. The Rover executives purchased two such vehicles and fitted the body from one of them to a prototype P4 chassis to create a development mule. In James Taylor’s highly regarded book ‘Rover P4 – The Complete Story’ he advised that this vehicle was affectionately known as the ‘Roverbaker’ hybrid. Another, at the time minor, distinctive feature but this one did not catch-on was the centrally mounted light in the grille where most other manufacturers of good quality cars provided a pair, one fog and one driving light often separately mounted behind the bumper. Known, unkindly, as the “Cyclops eye” it was discontinued in the new grille announced 23 October 1952. The earliest cars used a more powerful version of the Rover engine from the 1948 Rover P3 75, a 2103 cc straight-6 engine now with chromium plated cylinder bores, an aluminium cylinder head with built-in induction manifold and a pair of horizontal instead of downdraught carburetters. A four-speed manual transmission was used with a column-mounted gear lever which was replaced by a floor-mounted mechanism in September 1953. At first the gearbox only had synchromesh on third and top but it was added to second gear as well in 1953. A freewheel clutch, a traditional Rover feature, was fitted to cars without overdrive until mid-1959, when it was removed from the specifications, shortly before the London Motor Show in October that year. The cars had a separate chassis with independent suspension by coil springs at the front and a live axle with half-elliptical leaf springs at the rear. The brakes on early cars were operated by a hybrid hydro-mechanical system but became fully hydraulic in 1950. Girling disc brakes replaced drums at the front from October 1959. The complete body shells were made by the Pressed Steel company and featured aluminium/magnesium alloy (Birmabright) doors, boot lid and bonnets until the final 95/110 models, which were all steel to reduce costs. The P4 series was one of the last UK cars to incorporate rear-hinged “suicide” doors. After four years of the one model policy Rover returned to a range of the one car but three different sized engines when in September 1953 they announced a four-cylinder Rover 60 and a 2.6-litre Rover 90. A year later, an enlarged 2230cc engine was installed in the 75, and an updated body was shown with a larger boot and a bigger rear window and the end of the flapping trafficators, with redesigned light clusters. Further detailed changes would follow. Announced 16 October 1956, the 105R and 105S used a high-output, 8.5:1 compression version of the 2.6 litres engine used in the 90. The higher compression was to take advantage of the higher octane fuel that had become widely available. This twin-SU carburettor engine produced 108 hp. Both 105 models also featured the exterior changes of the rest of the range announced a month earlier. The 105S featured separate front seats, a cigar lighter, chromed wheel trim rings and twin Lucas SFT 576 spotlamps. To minimise the cost of the 105R, these additional items were not standard, however they were provided on the (higher priced) 105R De Luxe. The 105R featured a “Roverdrive” automatic transmission. This unit was designed and built by Rover and at the time was the only British-built automatic transmission. Others had bought in units from American manufacturers such as Borg-Warner. This unit was actually a two-speed automatic (Emergency Low which can be selected manually and Drive) with an overdrive unit for a total of three forward gears. The 105S made do with a manual transmission and Laycock de Normanville overdrive incorporating a kick-down control. The 105S could reach a top speed of 101 mph. Production of the 105 line ended in 1958 for the 105R and 1959 for the manual transmission 105S, 10,781 had been produced, two-thirds with the manual transmission option. For 1959 the manual model was described simply as a 105 and the trim and accessory level was reduced to match the other models. In 1959, the engines were upgraded again, with the 80 replacing the 60 and the 100 replacing the 90 and the 105. The four cylinder cars were not particularly popular, though and in September they were replaced by the six cylinder 95. Final model was the 110, which took its place at the top of the range until production ceased, a few months after the very different P6 model 2000 had come along. These cars are popular classics these days.
The Trabant was the result of a planning process which had intended to design a three-wheeled motorcycle. In German, a trabant is an astronomical term for a moon (or other natural satellite) of a celestial body. The first of the Trabants left the VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau factory in Saxony on 7 November 1957. It was a relatively advanced car when it was formally introduced the following year, with front wheel drive, unitary construction and independent suspension. The Trabant’s greatest shortcoming was its engine. By the late 1950s many small Western cars (such as the Renault) had cleaner, more-efficient four-stroke engines, but budgetary constraints and raw-materials shortages mandated an outdated (but inexpensive) two-stroke engine in the Trabant. It was technically equivalent to the West German Lloyd automobile, a similarly sized car with an air-cooled, two-cylinder four-stroke engine. The Trabant had a front, transversely-mounted engine and front-wheel drive in an era when many European cars were using rear-mounted engines or front-mounted engines with rear-wheel drive. Its greatest drawback was its largely unchanged production; the car’s two-stroke engine made it obsolete by the 1970s, limiting exports to Western Europe. The Trabant’s air-cooled, 500 cc engine—upgraded to 600cc in 1962–63—was derived from a pre-war DKW design with minor alterations during its production run. The first Saab car had a larger (764cc), water-cooled, two-cylinder two-stroke engine. Wartburg, an East German manufacturer of larger sedans, also used a water-cooled, three-cylinder, 1,000 cc two-stroke DKW engine. The original Trabant, introduced in 1958, was the P50. Trabant’s base model, it shared a large number of interchangeable parts with the latest 1.1s. The 500 cc, 18 hp P50 evolved into a 20 hp version with a fully synchronized gearbox in 1960, and received a 23 hp, 600 cc engine in 1962 as the P60. The updated P601 was introduced in 1964. It was essentially a facelift of the P60, with a different front fascia, bonnet, roof and rear and the original P50 underpinnings. The model remained nearly unchanged until the end of its production except for the addition of 12V electricity, rear coil springs and an updated dashboard for later models. The Trabant’s designers expected production to extend until 1967 at the latest, and East German designers and engineers created a series of more-sophisticated prototypes intended to replace the P601; several are on display at the Dresden Transport Museum. Each proposal for a new model was rejected by the East German government due to shortages of the raw materials required in larger quantities for the more-advanced designs. As a result, the Trabant remained largely unchanged for more than a quarter-century. Also unchanged was its production method, which was extremely labour-intensive. The Trabant 1100 (also known as the P1100) was a 601 with a better-performing 1.05-liter, 45HP VW Polo engine. With a more-modern look (including a floor-mounted gearshift), it was quieter and cleaner than its predecessor. The 1100 had front disc brakes, and its wheel assembly was borrowed from Volkswagen. It was produced between from 1989 to 1991, in parallel with the two-stroke P601. Except for the engine and transmission, many parts from older P50s, P60s and 601s were compatible with the 1100. In mid-1989, thousands of East Germans began loading their Trabants with as much as they could carry and drove to Hungary or Czechoslovakia en route to West Germany on the “Trabi Trail”. Many had to get special permission to drive their Trabants into West Germany, since the cars did not meet West German emissions standards and polluted the air at four times the European average. A licensed version of the Volkswagen Polo engine replaced the Trabant’s two-stroke engine in 1989, the result of a trade agreement between East and West Germany. The model, the Trabant 1.1, also had minor improvements to its brake and signal lights, a renovated grille, and MacPherson struts instead of a leaf-spring-suspended chassis. When the 1.1 began production in May 1990, the two German states had already agreed to reunification. By April 1991 3.7 million vehicles had been produced. However, it soon became apparent that there was no place for the Trabant in a reunified German economy; its inefficient, labour-intensive production line survived on government subsidies. The Trabant ceased production in 1991, and the Zwickau factory in Mosel (where the Trabant 1.1 was manufactured) was sold to Volkswagen AG.
There were more Triumph models here than any other marque. Is that a surprise? Perhaps not, and for at least two reasons: Triumphs are, let’s face, among the most popular classics out there, and also, this site is only the proverbial stone’s throw from Canley where they were built. Although the plant closed over 30 years ago, there are still people who remember it well, and even who worked there.
Most numerous of the various models represented was the Stag, no fewer than four of which were here. 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 aftermarket 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.
Older of a duo of TR sports cars here was one of the first models, the TR2, a model produced between 1953 and 1955, during which time 8,636 cars were produced. Standard’s Triumph Roadster was out-dated and under-powered. Company boss Sir John Black tried to acquire the Morgan Motor Company but failed. He still wanted an affordable sports car, so a prototype two-seater was built on a shortened version of the Standard Eight’s chassis and powered by the Standard Vanguard’s 2-litre straight-4. The resulting Triumph 20TS prototype was revealed at the 1952 London Motor Show. Black asked BRM development engineer and test driver Ken Richardson to assess the 20TS. After he declared it to be a “death trap” a project was undertaken to improve on the design; a year later the TR2 was revealed. It had better looks; a simple ladder-type chassis; a longer body; and a bigger boot. It was loved by American buyers, and became the best earner for Triumph. In 1955 the TR3 came out with more power; a re-designed grille; and a GT package that included a factory hard-top. The car used a twin H4 type SU carburettor version of the 1991 cc four-cylinder Standard wet liner inline-four engine from the Vanguard, tuned to increase its output to 90 bhp. The body was mounted on a substantial separate chassis with coil-sprung independent suspension at the front and a leaf spring live axle at the rear. Either wire or disc wheels could be supplied. The standard transmission was a four-speed manual unit, with overdrive available on top gear as an option. Lockheed drum brakes were fitted all round. The car was replaced by the similar looking TR3 in 1955.
What turned out to be the final TR model was launched in January 1975, and this time it really was all new. A dramatic Harris Mann wedge shaped was shock enough for the purists, but the fact that at launch it only came as a Fixed Head Coupe was almost too much for some to bear. In the end, though. more TR7s were sold than any other TR model, so it really cannot have been all that bad even if the car had a somewhat bumpy existence, moving production plant from Speke, Liverpool where the early cars were made, to Canley, Coventry in 1978 and then finally to the Rover Solihull plant in 1980. An open topped model did join the range in 1980 and small numbers of factory built TR8s with the 135 bhp Rover V8 engine under the bonnet were made, but the proposed 2+2 Lynx model, and a version with the 16 valve Dolomite Sprint engine and the 2 litre O Series unit never made production. The car was launched in the United States in January 1975, with its UK home market debut in May 1976. The UK launch was delayed at least twice because of high demand for the vehicle in the US, with final sales of new TR7s continuing into 1982. The TR7 was characterised by its “wedge” shape, which was commonly advertised as: “The Shape of Things to Come”, and by a swage line sweeping down from the rear wing to just behind the front wheel. It had an overall length of 160 inches, width of 66 inches, wheelbase of 85 inches and height of 49.5 inches, and a kerbside weight of 2205 pounds, exactly 1000 kg. During development, the TR7 was referred to by the code name “Bullet”.The original full size model wore MG logos because it was styled at Longbridge, which was not a Triumph factory. Power was provided by a 105 bhp 1,998 cc eight-valve four-cylinder engine that shared the same basic design as the Triumph Dolomite Sprint engine, mounted in-line at the front of the car. Drive was to the rear wheels via a four-speed gearbox initially with optional five-speed manual gearbox, or three-speed automatic from 1976. The front independent suspension used coil spring and damper struts and lower single link at the front, and at the rear was a four-link system, again with coil springs. There were front and rear anti roll bars, with disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear. The interior trim was revised in March 1977, with the broadcord seat covers being replaced with red or green “tartan” check inserts with black leather effect vinyl edging, which looks so very period. now The tartan trim was also reflected in the door cards in padded matching red or green tartan cloth inserts in the black leather effect vinyl. A number of other detailed changes were made, partly to ensure commonality of parts in future models, such as the Convertible and the TR8, and also based on what else was available from the corporate parts bin. Badging changed a number of times, but there were no other significant alterations before the end of production in 1981. In total approximately 115,000 TR7 models were built which includes 28,864 soft top/convertibles, and approximately 2,800 TR8 models. Seen here was a rather nice TR8 Convertible.
Also representing this much missed Coventry marque was a Dolomite 1500HL Automatic, a car which I had seen at tis event on previous occasions. This is yet another those cars which has survived thanks to spending much of its existence in the care of an elderly owner who rarely used the car. It was acquired by the current owner relatively recently, who had little work to do, bringing it up to its present condition. 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.
There was another Dolomite here, a much older one. The Dolomite name first appeared in 1934 as a sports car and the name was then used from 1937 on a series of sporting saloons and open cars until 1939 when the company went into receivership. All except the Straight 8 featured a “waterfall” grille styled by Walter Belgrove, versions of the saloons with conventional grilles were sold as Continental models. With the 1937 car, the car this time had a 1,767 cc four-cylinder engine and saloon body. The design was overseen by Donald Healey and the cars were marketed as “the finest in all the land” and targeted directly at the luxury sporting saloon market. Triumph had been moving progressively upmarket during the 1930s, and the 1938 Dolomites were very well equipped, with winding windows in the doors, automatic chassis lubrication, a leather-bound steering wheel adjustable for rake and reach, dual hydraulic brake circuits, twin trumpet horns, and spot lamps included in the price. There was even a tray of fitted tools slotted beneath the driver’s seat cushion, and for an extra 18 guineas buyers could specify a radio. The body was aluminium over a rot-proofed ash frame. Like many Triumphs of that time, the car followed the American trend of concealing its radiator behind a flamboyant shining metal grille. The British market, then as now, was in many ways a conservative one, however, and, before Dolomite production was suspended completely, Triumph had time to introduce a “Vitesse”-branded version of the Dolomite on which the grille had been removed and the car’s own radiator was exposed in the traditional manner. In April 1938 an increased compression ratio and mild further engine tuning justified a changed designation from 14/60 to 14/65 (where 14 was the fiscal horsepower and 65 was the claimed actual horsepower. There was an open version of the 14/65, announced 29 March 1938, with seating for three people on a single bench seat and “two additional outside seats in the tail, reminiscent of the dickey seat that was at one time common” for two more people behind. The hood folded completely into the body to give the appearance of an open sports car. The car was announced with the 1,767 cc engine with twin SU carburettors, and it is this version which is seen more often these days, and indeed was the car here. The owner told me that when he bought it, a long time ago, it was really just in the scrap category, with very rusty panels and a rotten wooden frame but he persevered to get it to the state it is in now. This was no mean feat, as he had to have new body panels specially made, and getting the curves right was hard. Everything about the car is complex. The hood, for instance has a vast number of parts associated with it, and folding it down takes him – and he knows what he is doing! – around 11 minutes! But the end result is elegant and the car drives well, so he felt it was all worth it.
A second rare Triumph arrived, as well. I assumed that this was a Renown, but the owner told me it is in fact the even rarer Limousine. Just 191 of these ere built of which it is believed 8 survive. Launched in 1951, but with all but 6 of the cars then made in 1952, the Limousine version had an extra 3 in in the wheelbase, and a there was a division (glass partition) behind the driver separating the front and back of the car. A radio and heater were fitted as standard. The Renown is the name generally applied to Triumph’s large saloon car made from 1949 to 1954 but it is, in reality, part of a three-car series of the 1800, 2000 and Renown models. Together with the Triumph Roadster, they were the first vehicles to carry the Triumph badge following the company’s takeover by the Standard Motor Company. The cars were distinctively styled in the later 1930s vogue for Razor Edge coachwork used in the 1940s by others including Austin for its big Sheerline. The six light (featuring three side windows on each side) design and the thin C pillars at the rear of the passenger cabin anticipated the increased window areas that would become a feature of British cars during the 1960s. The car’s side profile resembled that of the contemporary prestigious Bentley saloons, which some felt was more than a coincidence. Similar styling subsequently appeared on the smaller Triumph Mayflower. The Managing Director of the Standard Motor Company at that time, Sir John Black, commissioned the design of the Razoredge saloon. There has been much discussion over the years as to exactly which designers of that period were responsible for the styling but it is very clear from the records that Sir John drove the production forward and used the Triumph name from the prewar Triumph company that had been bought by the Standard Motor Company. The body was built by Mulliners of Birmingham in the traditional coachbuilder’s method of sheet metal over a wooden frame. The principal panels were constructed not from steel, which was in short supply in the wake of the Second World War, but from aluminium. It had been used extensively for aircraft manufacture during the war, which had taken place in a number of car plants (known at the time as “shadow factories”) in the English Midlands. But by the mid-1950s aluminium had become the more expensive metal, which may have hastened the Renown’s demise. The first car, launched in 1946 was called the Triumph 1800 Town & Country Saloon. The 1776 cc, 65 bhp engine and the gearbox for the 1800 came from the pre-war Standard Flying Fourteen (also built 1945-1948). The chassis was fabricated from tubular steel and was a lengthened 108 in (2,743 mm) version of the one on the Roadster with which it also shared its transverse leaf spring front suspension. The cars were well fitted out with leather seats and a wooden dashboard. A total of 4000 were produced. It cost £1425 including purchase tax. The 2000 Type TDA was only produced for one year and was essentially a Triumph 1800. The front independent suspension used a transverse leaf spring. The car used the larger 2088 cc four-cylinder engine with single Solex carburettor as fitted to the Standard Vanguard. The engine developed 68 bhp at 4200 rpm. The 3-speed gearbox with column shift also came from the Vanguard and had synchromesh on all the forward ratios. There was independent suspension at the front but a solid axle and half-elliptic leaf springs was at the rear. Lockheed hydraulic brakes with 9 in drums were fitted. 2000 were produced. The car was renamed the Renown in October 1949. It had an entirely new chassis based on the Standard Vanguard with pressed steel sections replacing the tubes previously used. The front suspension changed to coil springing. Although the 3-speed column change transmission was retained, from June 1950 an overdrive unit was offered as an option. Inside there was a new instrument layout. Of the 6501 produced, fewer than 100 are known to have survived. The final version of the Renown, made from 1952 to 1954, used the longer-wheelbase chassis from the limousine. It is easily distinguished from the earlier cars by virtue of the push button door handles and the wider rear window. Of the 2800 produced, only 150 remain worldwide.There was no direct replacement Triumph saloon following the end of Renown production
And there was not one, but two example of the Scirocco here, too. Both were second generation cars, one of them in the limited edition Scala form. The second generation Scirocco, still assembled on behalf of Volkswagen by Karmann of Osnabrück (in the same factory as the first generation Scirocco), was first shown at the 1981 Geneva Motor Show. Designed by Volkswagen’s own internal design team, the new car featured increased front and rear headroom, increased luggage space and a reduction in the coefficient of drag. One feature of the Type 2 was the location of the rear spoiler midway up the glass on the rear hatch. A mid-cycle update occurred in 1984, which included minor changes over the 1982 model: removal of the outlined “SCIROCCO” script from the rear hatch (below the spoiler), a redesigned air conditioning compressor, and a different brake master cylinder with in-line proportioning valves and a brake light switch mounted to the pedal instead of on the master cylinder. Halfway through the 1984 model year, a new space-saver spare wheel was added, that provided room for a larger fuel tank (with a second “transfer” fuel pump). Leather interior, power windows and mirrors, air conditioning, and a manual sunroof were options for all years. The 1984 model year saw the return of two windshield wipers (vs the large single wiper), absent since the 1976 models. Eleven different engines were offered in the Type 2 Scirocco over the production run, although not all engines were available in all markets. These engines included both carburettor and fuel injection engines. Initially all models had eight-valve engines. A 16-valve head was developed by tuner Oettinger in 1981, with the modification adopted by Volkswagen when they showed a multi-valve Scirocco at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show. It went on sale in Germany and a few other markets in July 1985, with a catalysed model arriving in 1986. Displacements ranged from 1.3 litres up to 1.8 litres. Power ranged from 60 PS to 112 PS for the 8 valve engines and either 129 PS or 139 PS for the 16 valve engines. Numerous trim levels existed, depending on the model year and market, and included the L, CL, GL, LS, GLS, GLI, GT, GTI, GTL, GTS, GTX, GT II, Scala, GT 16V and GTX 16V. Special limited edition models including the White Cat (Europe), Tropic (Europe), Storm (UK), Slegato (Canada), and Wolfsburg Edition (USA and Canada) were also produced. These special models typically featured unique interior/exterior colour combinations, special alloy wheels and had special combinations of options such as leather, multi-function trip computer and/or power windows as standard. Scirocco sales continued until 1992 in Germany, the UK, and some other European markets. The Scirocco was briefly joined but effectively replaced by the Corrado in the VW line-up.
On a previous occasion I had a long chat with the owner of this 122S “Amazon” Volvo in which he told me he had just returned from a week driving it around the Netherlands, where the combination of an uprated engine (it has been enlarged to 2.2 litres) and a higher axle ratio made it a relaxed cruiser. The car has been carefully restored and uprated over the years, and parts are apparently quite easy to go by whenever anything is needed. Whilst there are not that many of the cars in the UK, there are plenty in Scandinavia and the Low Countries. Although costly when new, thanks to the UK’s Import Duty which applied to foreign car imports at the time, the Volvo of this era was surprisingly popular with UK buyers. The cars were tough, as strong success in rallying evidenced, but not that many have survived. There’s a complex history to this model, with lots of different numbers applied to the car during a 13 year production run. When introduced, the car was named the Amason (with an ‘s’), deriving from the fierce female warriors of Greek mythology, the Amazons. German motorcycle manufacturer Kreidler had already registered the name, and the two companies finally agreed that Volvo could only use the name domestically (i.e., within Sweden), modifying the spelling to Amazon. Subsequently, Volvo began its tri-digit nomenclature and the line became known as the 120 Series. Under prototype designation 1200, following the PV444’s internal designation as the 1100, the Amazon was released in the press in February 1956, with production initially set to begin in July of the same year, and deliveries commenced in August 1956 — under the now modified internal designation 120 series. The Amazon sedan’s ponton genre, three-box styling was inspired by US cars of the early 1950s, strongly resembling the Chrysler New Yorker sedan and the Chrysler 300C hardtop Coupe. According to designer Jan Wilsgaard, the Amazon’s styling was inspired by a Kaiser he saw at the Gothenburg harbour. The Amazon featured strong articulation front to rear, pronounced “shoulders”, and slight but visible tailfins. These features became inspiration for Peter Horbury when reconceiving Volvo’s design direction with the V70 after decades of rectilinear, slab-sided, boxy designs. The Amazon’s bodywork was constructed of phosphate-treated steel (to improve paint adhesion) and with heavy use of undercoating and anti-corrosive oil treatment. The Amazon shared the wheelbase, tall posture and high H-point seating of its predecessor, the PV. In 1959 Volvo became the world’s first manufacturer to provide front seat belts as standard equipment — by providing them on all Amazon models, including the export models — and later becoming the first car featuring three-point seat belts as standard equipment. The Amazon’s handbrake location, outboard of the driver’s seat, was intended to accommodate subsequent bench seat models with column shift transmissions — which never materialised. Buyers began to receive the first cars in February 1957, and initial models were two-tone red and black with light grey roof, light grey with a black roof, followed by a dark blue with grey roof in 1958. Further iterations included the 121, the base model with a single carburettor 66 bhp engine, the 122S introduced in 1958 as a performance model equipped with a dual carburettor 85 bhp engine. The estate version was introduced at the 1962 Stockholm Auto Show, and Volvo manufactured 73,000 examples between 1962 and 1969. The Amazon estate featured a two-piece tailgate, with the lower section folding down to provide a load surface and the upper section that hinged overhead. The vehicle’s rear licence plate, attached to the lower tailgate, could fold “up” such that when the tailgate was lowered and the vehicle in use, the plate was still visible. This idea was used by the original 1959 Mini. In recent years a similar arrangement was used on the tailgate of the Subaru Baja. In 1966 the Volvo PV ended production, replaced by the Amazon Favorit, a less expensive version of the Amazon, without exterior chrome trim, a passenger-side sun visor or cigarette lighter, and with a three-speed rather than four-speed transmission — available in black with red interior and later white or black with red interior. The newer Volvo 140 was becoming the company’s mainstream model, and the last of the four-door 120 saloons were produced in 1967, the year which saw the launch of the 123GT, which was a Model 130 with high-compression four-cylinder B18B engine (from the Volvo P1800), M41 gearbox, fully reclining seats, front fog and driving lights (on some markets), alternator, fender mounted mirrors, special steering wheel, dash with a shelf and tachometer, and other cosmetic upgrades. In 1969 the displacement of the old B18 engine was increased and the engine was called the B20. The last Amazon was manufactured on 3 July 1970. By the end of production, 234,653 four-door models, 359,917 two-door models and 73,220 station wagons had been produced, of which 60% were exported; a total of 667,791 vehicles.
Now quite a rare sighting, this was a nice example of the Volvo 480ES, a car produced in Born, Netherlands, at the factory that built DAF cars, including the DAF 66 based Volvo 66, and later, the Volvo 300 Series. It was the first front-wheel drive car made by the automaker. The 480 was available in only one body style on an automobile platform related to the Volvo 440/460 five door hatchback and four door sedan models. It featured an unusual four seat, three door hatchback body, somewhere between liftback and estate in form, the first Volvo of its style since the P1800ES, and the last until the unveiling of the C30. All of these models featured a frameless glass hatch for cargo access.. Volvo took six years from the time the 480 was conceived, through its development, and finally brought to production readiness. Designed by Volvo’s Dutch subsidiary, the “sporty 480 ES coupe” was introduced to change the automaker’s “frumpy image” and into the “yuppie” market segment. The concept was to market a modern, compact front wheel drive car with a unique low slung design targeting buyers “between 25 and 40, probably with a higher than average education and with a career.” The press launch was on October 15, 1985, but the 480 was first put on public show at Geneva in March 1986, becoming available to the buyers in 1987. It was initially well received, with the press describing it as having a “sleek hatch body” in contrast to Volvo’s traditional “boxcar look”. Because the 480 was originally planned for the North American market (evidenced by its front and rear side markers, not used on European automobiles). it was, Volvo claimed, one of the first cars sold in Europe featuring bumpers designed to comply with United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulations to withstand a 5 mph front rear impact without damage to the engine, lights, and safety equipment. This was the only Volvo to feature pop up headlamps for better aerodynamics. Volvo highlighted that the car was “well-endowed with advanced electronics” and the automaker’s press release described in detail the numerous features, though some of these would prove to be the cause of the reliability problems that plagued early cars. The 480 had good handling, due in part to its Lotus designed suspension. The normally aspirated Renault engines were reliable. The 1987 models were available with ABS as an optional extra. In 1988, a Turbo version was introduced, the Garrett AiResearch turbocharger increasing the power from 108 bhp to 118 bhp. Maximum torque was 129 lb-ft compared to 103 lb-ft for the naturally aspirated engine. In 1993 new legislation meant that catalytic converters had to be fitted to unleaded petrol engines, power dropped and so the 2.0 litre engine was developed; it was rated at 108 bhp and 122 lb-ft. A four-speed automatic transmission was also offered. In 1991, the 480 received new mirrors, headrests for the back seats, as well as subtle modifications to the trim and body colour bumpers. The 2.0 naturally aspirated engine was also introduced, again based on the Renault F3 engine. Changes between the CEM (Central Electronic Module) are externally apparent with the introduction of a total closure system whereby the key can be held in the lock position to close the windows and (where fitted) sunroof. Earlier CEM modules feature a “passing” function for the wipers, whereby fully depressing the accelerator pedal will switch intermittent wipers to full. Early 1992 saw the first release of special editions such as the “TwoTone”. 1994 saw the United Kingdom release of the “Celebration” limited edition of 480 specially equipped and numbered cars. In 1994, the 480 also received its last light update, and now sported clear front turn signals. Production ended on 7 September 1995. According to the Volvo Museum, 76,375 cars in ES and Turbo versions were made between 1986 and 1995.
This was an absolutely pristine looking Wartburg 1.3, a model that was not sold in the UK when new. These were produced by Automobilwerk Eisenach between October 1988 and April 1991, as an updated version of the Wartburg 353, with a 1.3 litre, four-stroke, four-cylinder engine as also used in the second generation Volkswagen Polo, instead of the original 1-litre, two-stroke, three-cylinder unit found in the 353. In 1984 a deal was reached in which IFA would assemble Volkswagen’s 1.3-litre EA111 engine under license, in the Barkas plant in Karl-Marx-Stadt (Chemnitz). The engine was too long to be mounted longitudinally in the Wartburg 353, and too long to fit between the front wheels in a transverse installation. One prototype with the longitudinal engine was built, nicknamed Nasenbär (Coati) because of its long nose. Wartburg chose the transverse option, and thus the Wartburg 1.3 only entered production in October 1988 as a new transmission also had to be developed, as well as an entirely new front end (everything ahead of the A-pillar was new). The track was widened by 3.9 inches in front and by 2.4 inches in the rear, necessitating small wing extensions. The new drivetrain also meant that the gearlever migrated to the floor, instead of on the column where it was usually found on Wartburgs. The considerable changes meant that the development costs far outreached the projected expense of manufacturing the four-stroke 1600 cc engine developed by Wartburg’s own engineers in the early seventies. The appearance was also altered by the installation of a new front panel, with large wraparound turn signals and a smoothed-off appearance. Being rather expensive (nearly twice the price of the 353 W), the 1.3 sold slowly from the get-go. The two-stroke 353 W continued to be built until 1989, when imported cars became available. Being a four-stroke was not enough of a novelty to convince buyers, especially in Western export markets. After the reunification in late 1989, the Wartburg 1.3 was no longer competitive, and production slowed down until it was discontinued on 10 April 1991. A pickup version (not available within the Eastern Bloc) called the Wartburg 1.3 Trans was also available, although only about 920 were built. A total of 152,757 Wartburg 1.3 were built, about half of them intended for export. As I started to look at this car, the owner appeared, and he told me that this car, one of around 30 such in the UK, has been here for about 20 years but spent most of that time in a collection. He has owned it for a few years, and he does take it out whenever he car. The Polo engine makes it a quieter long distance companion but it is not as economical as the old two-stroke cars. he was telling me about how he has now got an IFA-produced Caravan, believed unique in the UK and had just been to Hungary to drive a Trabbie back when his wife appeared and said that he could talk for England and she pleaded with him to buy her a coffee. It allowed me to move on, too, though he clearly is quite an enthusiast and doubtless had more tales to impart.
And so, whilst this was still not quite the event it could have been, it was better than previous Coventry Museum Breakfast Clubs have been, and I am pleased that I made the effort to attend. A quick look at the diary suggests that I may be able to attend the one in June 2019 as well, Let’s hope the weather gods decided finally to bless this event. I have the feeling this could make all the difference not just to the experience on site but also to encourage everyone who booked actually to turn up.