As if to prove the point made in my last Event posting, which was from a Breakfast Club gathering of Italian Cars just outside Alton, on the first Saturday of June, the very next day saw me attend another one. This one was rather more local to home, just 42 miles away, at the Haynes Motor Museum, in Sparkford, just off the A303. It’s an event I’ve attended before, though not for a long time. The first few were pretty quiet, but I’d heard that in the last year or so, word has really got out and the site now tends to get packed. That was certainly the case this time. Arriving around 8:10am, and I found that the whole of the area in front of the museum was full, and so i was directed around to the side, and onto the track area which is brought into service as additional parking before cars have to resort to the grass. For a good couple of hours after I got there, more and more vehicles arrived, and as some made an early departure, there was plenty that was fresh to see throughout the morning. I left around 11:30am, by which time many, but not all of the Breakfast Club people had gone. Here are the highlights of this June 2019 Breakfast Club.
Although some of the regional Abarth Groups have arranged meets at this event in the past, as indeed has the nearest dealer, who is located in Wincanton, as far as I could tell, no-one had arranged anything for this particular Breakfast Club. Nevertheless, and not entirely surprisingly, there were 5 Abarth cars that I spotted here. First to appear were a couple of examples of the 124 Spider, which were parked fairly close to each other. This car has become slightly less rare now, with around 1500 of them sold in the UK, though it is unlikely to become any more commonplace, as it was recently announced that the car was withdrawn from sale, at least for now (due to a WLTP issue, I believe). That means it has had a sort on sale time in the UK, as the 124 Spider only went on sale in September 2016, at the same time as the Fiat version, which was developed in parallel. Critics immediately complained that the Abarth version does cost a lot more, and there are those who think you don’t get enough extra for your money, but those who have driven it will tell you otherwise. You certainly get more power. The 1.4 MultiAir turbo unit jumps up from 138bhp to 168bhp, while torque also increases by a modest 10Nm to 250Nm, which gives it a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds, which is half a second quicker than the 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5. The top speed is 143mph. It weighs just 1060kg meaning a power-to-weight ratio of 158bhp-per-tonne, and with the new Record Monza exhaust system it sounds great even at idle. The Abarth version gets a stiffer suspension setup than the regular Fiat 124 Spider, with Bilstein dampers and beefed-up anti-roll bars. Bigger Brembo brakes also feature, with aluminium calipers. It can be had with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with paddles, and the latter gets a Sport mode for quicker shifts. Many of the UK cars sport the ‘Heritage Look’ pack, which is a no-cost option. It brings a matt black bonnet and bootlid, plus red exterior trim detailing and has proved popular. The £29,565 starting price gets you standard equipment such as cruise control, climate control, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and satnav, plus Alcantara black and red (or pure black) seat trim. The automatic gearbox is a £2,035 extra, while an optional visibility pack brings LED DRLs, auto lights and wipers and rear parking sensors.
Later I spotted two 595 models, one each of the regular hatch and the open=topped 595C. These are far more numerous on our roads, with close to 20,000 of them having been sold since the model’s UK launch in February 2009.
Final Abarth present was a Punto Evo, an update from the original Grande Punto It was launched at the 2010 Geneva Show, with the cars reaching UK buyers in the summer of that year, and it incorporated many of the changes which had been seen a few months earlier on the associated Fiat models, the visual alterations being the most obvious, with the car taking on the nose of the associated Fiat, but adapted to make it distinctively Abarth, new rear lights and new badging. There was more to it than this, though, as under the bonnet, the T-Jet unit was swapped for the 1.4 litre Multi-Air, coupled to a 6 speed gearbox, which meant that the car now had 165 bhp at its disposal. Eventually, Abarth offered an Esseesse kit for these cars, though these are exceedingly rare. For those in the know – which never seemed to be that many people – this was a really capable and desirable car, and the owners love them, lamenting the fact that the model had quite a short production life and has not been replaced.
This is an AC Buckland, part of the AC 2-Litre family produced between 1947 and 1956. Two and, from 1952, four-door saloons were sold. In addition, as from 1949, a small number of drophead coupés and “Buckland” tourers were produced. The car’s wetliner, aluminium cylinder block, six-cylinder 1991 cc engine was the unit first offered by the company in the AC 16, back in 1922. However, by 1947 the engine was fed by three SU carburettors, and boasted a power output of 74 bhp, increased again in 1951 to 85 bhp which was more than twice the 35 bhp claimed for the engine’s original commercial application. The aluminium-panelled body on a wood frame was fitted to a conventional steel chassis with rigid axles front and rear with semi-elliptic leaf springs with, for the first time on an AC, hydraulic dampers. Until 1951 the car had a hybrid braking system, hydraulic at the front and cable at the rear with 12 in drums. The car changed very little during its ten-year production run, though the wheel size did increase slightly to 16 inches in 1951. The AC 2-litre was outlived by its engine, which continued to be offered in other AC models until 1963. 1248 2 litre models were made.
Oldest of the Alfa Romeo cars I came across was a 105 Series 2000 GTV. Part of a larger family of models, the Coupe is the most commonly seen version these days. The first car was called the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT, and was revealed at a press event held at the then newly opened Arese plant on 9 September 1963, and displayed later the same month at the Frankfurt Motor Show. In its original form the Bertone body is known as scalino (step) or “step front”, because of the leading edge of the engine compartment lid which sat 1/4 an inch above the nose of the car. The Giulia Sprint GT can be distinguished from the later models by a number of features including: Exterior badging: Alfa Romeo logo on the front grille, a chrome script reading “Giulia Sprint GT” on the boot lid, and rectangular “Disegno di Bertone” badges aft of the front wheel arches; flat, chrome grille in plain, wide rectangular mesh without additional chrome bars; single-piece chrome bumpers; no overriders. Inside the cabin the padded vinyl dashboard was characterised by a concave horizontal fascia, finished in grey anti-glare crackle-effect paint. Four round instruments were inset in the fascia in front of the driver. The steering wheel was non-dished, with three aluminium spokes, a thin bakelite rim and a centre horn button. Vinyl-covered seats with cloth centres and a fully carpeted floor were standard, while leather upholstery was an extra-cost option. After initially marketing it as a four-seater, Alfa Romeo soon changed its definition of the car to a more realistic 2+2. The Giulia Sprint GT was fitted with the 1,570 cc version of Alfa Romeo’s all-aluminium twin cam inline four (78 mm bore × 82 mm stroke), which had first debuted on the 1962 Giulia Berlina. Breathing through two twin-choke Weber 40 DCOE 4 carburettors, on the Sprint GT this engine produced 105 hp at 6,000 rpm. Like all subsequent models, the Sprint GT was equipped with an all-synchromesh 5-speed manual transmission. The braking system comprised four Dunlop disc brakes and a vacuum servo. The rear brakes featured an unusual arrangement with the slave cylinders mounted on the axle tubes, operating the calipers by a system of levers and cranks. According to Alfa Romeo the car could reach a top speed of “over 180 km/h (112 mph)”. In total 21,902 Giulia Sprint GT were produced from 1963 to 1965, when the model was superseded by the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce. Of these 2,274 were right hand drive: 1,354 cars fully finished in Arese, and 920 shipped in complete knock-down kit form for foreign assembly. For 1966, the Giulia Sprint GT was replaced by the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT Veloce, which was very similar but featuring a number of improvements: a revised engine—slightly more powerful and with more torque—better interior fittings and changes to the exterior trim. Alongside the brand new 1750 Spider Veloce which shared its updated engine the Sprint GT Veloce was introduced at the 36th Geneva Motor Show in March 1966, and then tested by the international specialist press in Gardone on the Garda Lake. Production had began in 1965 and ended in 1968. The Giulia Sprint GT Veloce can be most easily distinguished from other models by the following features: badging as per Giulia Sprint GT, with the addition of round enamel badges on the C-pillar—a green Quadrifoglio (four-leaf clover) on an ivory background—and a chrome “Veloce” script on the tail panel; black mesh grille with three horizontal chrome bars; the grille heart has 7 bars instead of 6; stainless steel bumpers, as opposed to the chromed mild steel bumpers on the Giulia Sprint GT. The bumpers are the same shape, but are made in two pieces (front) and three pieces (rear) with small covers hiding the joining rivets. Inside the main changes from the Giulia Sprint GT were imitation wood dashboard fascia instead of the previous anti-glare grey finish, front seats revised to a mild “bucket” design, and a dished three aluminium spoke steering wheel, with a black rim and horn buttons through the spokes. The Veloce’s type 00536 engine, identical to the Spider 1600 Duetto’s, featured modifications compared to the Giulia Sprint GT’s type 00502—such as larger diameter exhaust valves. As a result it produced 108 hp at 6,000 rpm, an increase of 3 hp over the previous model, and significantly more torque. The top speed now exceeded 185 km/h (115 mph). Early Giulia Sprint GT Veloces featured the same Dunlop disc brake system as the Giulia Sprint GT, while later cars substituted ATE disc brakes as pioneered on the GT 1300 Junior in 1966. The ATE brakes featured an handbrake system entirely separate from the pedal brakes, using drum brakes incorporated in the rear disc castings. Though the Sprint GT Veloce’s replacement—the 1750 GT Veloce—was introduced in 1967, production continued throughout the year and thirty final cars were completed in 1968. By then total Giulia Sprint GT Veloce production amounted to 14,240 examples. 1,407 of these were right hand drive cars, and 332 right hand drive complete knock-down kits. The Alfa Romeo 1750 GT Veloce (also known as 1750 GTV) appeared in 1967 along with the 1750 Berlina sedan and 1750 Spider. The same type of engine was used to power all three versions; this rationalisation was a first for Alfa Romeo. The 1750 GTV replaced the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce and introduced many updates and modifications. Most significantly, the engine capacity was increased to 1779 cc displacement. Peak power from the engine was increased to 120 hp at 5500 rpm. The stroke was lengthened from 82 to 88.5 mm over the 1600 engine, and a reduced rev limit from 7000 rpm to 6000 rpm. Maximum torque was increased to 137 lb·ft at 3000 rpm. A higher ratio final drive was fitted (10/41 instead of 9/41) but the same gearbox ratios were retained. The result was that, on paper, the car had only slightly improved performance compared to the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce, but on the road it was much more flexible to drive and it was easier to maintain higher average speeds for fast touring. For the United States market, the 1779 cc engine was fitted with a fuel injection system made by Alfa Romeo subsidiary SPICA, to meet emission control laws that were coming into effect at the time. Fuel injection was also featured on Canadian market cars after 1971. Carburettors were retained for other markets. The chassis was also significantly modified. Tyre size went to 165/14 from 155/15 and wheel size to 5 1/2J x 14 instead of 5J x 15, giving a wider section and slightly smaller rolling diameter. The suspension geometry was also revised, and an anti-roll bar was fitted to the rear suspension. ATE disc brakes were fitted from the outset, but with bigger front discs and calipers than the ones fitted to GT 1300 Juniors and late Giulia Sprint GT Veloces. The changes resulted in significant improvements to the handling and braking, which once again made it easier for the driver to maintain high average speeds for fast touring. The 1750 GTV also departed significantly from the earlier cars externally. New nose styling eliminated the “stepped” bonnet of the Giulia Sprint GT, GTC, GTA and early GT 1300 Juniors and incorporated four headlamps. For the 1971 model year, United States market 1750 GTV’s also featured larger rear light clusters (there were no 1970 model year Alfas on the US market). Besides the chrome “1750” badge on the bootlid, there was also a round Alfa Romeo badge. Similar Quadrofoglio badges to those on the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce were fitted on C pillars, but the Quadrofoglio was coloured gold instead of green. The car also adopted the higher rear wheelarches first seen on the GT 1300 Junior. The interior was also much modified over that of earlier cars. There was a new dashboard with large speedometer and tachometer instruments in twin binnacles closer to the driver’s line of sight. The instruments were mounted at a more conventional angle, avoiding the reflections caused by the upward angled flat dash of earlier cars. Conversely, auxiliary instruments were moved to angled bezels in the centre console, further from the driver’s line of sight than before. The new seats introduced adjustable headrests which merged with the top of the seat when fully down. The window winder levers, the door release levers and the quarterlight vent knobs were also restyled. The remote release for the boot lid, located on the inside of the door opening on the B-post just under the door lock striker, was moved from the right hand side of the car to the left hand side. The location of this item was always independent of whether the car was left hand drive or right hand drive. Early (Series 1) 1750 GTV’s featured the same bumpers as the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce, with the front bumper modified to mount the indicator / sidelight units on the top of its corners, or under the bumper on US market cars. The Series 2 1750 GTV of 1970 introduced other mechanical changes, including a dual circuit braking system (split front and rear, with separate servos). The brake and clutch pedals on left hand drive cars were also of an improved pendant design, instead of the earlier floor-hinged type. On right hand drive cars the floor-hinged pedals were retained, as there was no space for the pedal box behind the carburettors. Externally, the series 2 1750 GTV is identified by new, slimmer bumpers with front and rear overriders. The combined front indicator and sidelight units were now mounted to the front panel instead of the front bumper, except again on the 1971-72 US/Canadian market cars. The interior was slightly modified, with the seats retaining the same basic outline but following a simpler design. 44,269 1750 GTVs were made before their replacement came along. That car was the 2000GTV. Introduced in 1971, together with the 2000 Berlina sedan and 2000 Spider, the 2 litre cars were replacements for the 1750 range. The engine displacement was increased to 1962 cc. Oil and radiator capacities remained unchanged. The North American market cars had fuel injection, but everyone else retained carburettors. Officially, both versions generated the same power, 130 hp at 5500 rpm. The interior trim was changed, with the most notable differences being the introduction of a separate instrument cluster, instead of the gauges installed in the dash panel in earlier cars. Externally the 2000 GTV is most easily distinguished by its grille with horizontal chrome bars, featuring protruding blocks forming the familiar Alfa heart in outline, smaller hubcaps with exposed wheel nuts, optional aluminium alloy wheels of the same size as the standard 5. 1/2J × 14 steel items, styled to the “turbina” design first seen on the alloy wheels of the Alfa Romeo Montreal, and the larger rear light clusters first fitted to United States market 1750 GTV’s were standard for all markets. From 1974 on, the 105 Series coupé models were rationalised and these external features became common to post-1974 GT 1300 Junior and GT 1600 Junior models, with only few distinguishing features marking the difference between models. 37,459 2000 GTVs were made before production ended and these days they are very sought after with prices having sky-rocketed in recent years.
The 156 GTA cars were launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2001. Named after the Alfa Romeo GTA from the 1960s, the letters GTA meaning Gran Turismo Alleggerita (English: lightened Grand Tourer). 2,973 berlinas and 1,678 Sportwagons were built until the GTA production stopped in October 2005 as the 156 gave way to the Alfa Romeo 159. The GTA came with the 3.2 litre Bussone V6 engine (The big Busso, so called after legendary Ferrari engineer Giuseppe Busso), the largest capacity version of the much loved V6 engine. With a 93 mm bore and a 78 mm stroke giving it a capacity of 3,179 cc, it generated 250 PS (247 hp) and 300 N·m (220 lb/ft) of torque. After market Alfa Romeo specialist Autodelta produced performance versions up to 3.7 litres and 400 PS. The European Touring Car Championship winning 156 GTA was however running a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder 300 PS engine due to class regulations. The GTA variants were equipped with either a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed Selespeed (paddles in steering wheel, hydraulically operated robotised) gearbox, had a lowered and stiffened suspension, a distinctive body kit, wider rear arches and leather interior. The suspension was specifically made for the GTA by Fiat Research Centre and Fiat Auto Design and Development Department. Steering was also made faster, only 1.7 turns from lock to lock compared to 2.1 in normal models. The GTA had also larger brakes (Brembo), with 12″ front discs and 10.8″ at the rear. The front discs were later upgraded to 13 ” to cope with the performance potential. Even though the name suggests a light car, the GTA isn’t any lighter than other 156s, as it was actually 91 kilograms (201 lb) heavier than the 2.5 litre V6 engined version. The GTA did not get the Giugiaro designed facelift introduced to the 156 in 2002, but continued with the acclaimed Walter de Silva design to the very end of production.
Rather than replacing the 916 Series GTV with a single model, Alfa elected to produce two successors, The more commodious of the two, the GT, was the first to appear, making its debut in March 2003 at the Geneva Motor Show, finally going on sale in early 2004. The other 916 series replacement cars were the Brera and Spider models, and this is what was to be seen here. Visually similar to the 159 models at the front, the Brera and Spider boasted unique styling from the A pillars rearwards. They were offered with the same range of engines as the 159, and thanks to that strong, but rather heavy platform on which they were built, even the 3.2 litre V6 cars were more Grand Tourer than rapid sports car. Pininfarina was responsible for both models. The Brera was first to market, in 2005, with the Spider following in 2006. Production of both ceased in late 2010, by which time 12,488 units of the Spider and 21,786 units of the Brera had been built. It will be very surprising if these do not attain classic status, and the consequent rise in values, though that has not happened yet.
First seen in public at the British International Motor Show at the NEC in Birmingham in October 1996, the Atom began as a student project by Coventry University transport design student, Niki Smart. Known then as the LSC (Lightweight Sports Car), it was developed at the university in 1996 with input and funding from various automotive industry members, including British Steel and TWR. Ariel Motor Company boss Simon Saunders was a senior lecturer whose responsibility for the project was primarily as financial manager and design critic for Smart, whom he described as “The best all-round design student I’ve ever seen.” Since then, an operation was created in Crewkerne, Somerset, and around 100 cars a year are produced there. Each one is made by a single person, who undertakes everything from assembly to final road test before putting his name on the finished product. There have been 7 distinct models, with a wide variety of different engines ranging from a 2 litre Honda VTEC unit in naturally aspirate and supercharged guise, to the ultimate, the 500, with a 3 litre V8 that generates 500 bhp. Visually, the cars look similar at a quick glance, and it takes a real marque expert (which I am not!), to tell them apart. Never intended as an every day car, as their real raison d’etre is as a track machine, owners do take them out on public roads, and they do appear at events like this, which gives us all the chance to see them.
A couple of models from this much-loved British marque caught my eye, the recently superceded V8 Vantage and the still current DB11.
Still well-regarded over 35 years since its launch is the Quattro, a legend which transformed rallying and brought the idea of four wheel drive as a performance benefit to the market. The idea for a high-performance four-wheel-drive car was proposed by Audi’s chassis engineer, Jörg Bensinger, in 1977, when he found that the Volkswagen Iltis could outperform any other vehicle in snow, no matter how powerful. Bensinger’s idea was to start developing an Audi 80 variant in co-operation with Walter Treser, Director of Pre-Development.. Following an unveiling on 1st March 1980, Audi released the original Quattro to European customers in late 1980, with the car featuring Audi’s quattro permanent four-wheel drive system (hence its name), and the first to mate four-wheel drive with a turbocharged engine. The original engine was the 2,144 cc in-line-5-cylinder 10 valve SOHC, with a turbocharger and intercooler. It produced 197 bhp propelling the Quattro from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.1 seconds, and reaching a top speed of over 220 km/h (137 mph). The engine was eventually modified to a 2,226 cc inline-5 10 valve, still producing 197 bhp, but with peak torque lower in the rev-range. In 1989, it was then changed to a 2,226 cc inline-5 20v DOHC setup producing 217 bhp, now with a top speed of 230 km/h (143 mph) Audi Quattros are referred to among owners and enthusiasts by their engine codes, to differentiate between the earlier and later versions: the earliest 2144 cc 10v being the “WR” engine, the 2226 cc 10v being the “MB” engine, and the later 20v being the “RR” engine. Hence, Quattro models may be referred to as either the WR Quattro, MB Quattro, and RR or “20v” Quattro, respectively. Quattro car production was 11,452 vehicles over the period 1980–1991, and through this 11 year production span, despite some touch-ups, there were no major changes in the visual design of the vehicle. For the 1983 model year, the dash was switched from an analogue instrument cluster, to a green digital LCD electronic instrument cluster. This was later changed in 1988 to an orange LCD electronic instrument cluster. The interior was redesigned in 1984, and featured a whole new dash layout, new steering wheel design, and new centre console design, the switches around the instrument panel were also redesigned at this time. In 1985 the dash changed slightly with harder foam and lost a diagonal stripe, the dash switches were varied slightly and the diff lock pull knob gave way to a two-position turning knob with volt and oil temp digital readouts. External styling received very little modification during its production run. Originally, the car had a flat fronted grille featuring four separate headlamp lenses, one for each of the low and high beam units. This was altered for the 1983 model year, and replaced with combined units featuring a single lens, but housing twin reflectors. This was changed again, for the 1985 model year, in what has become known as the ‘facelift model’ and included such alterations as a new sloping front grille, headlights, and trim and badging changes. Max speed was 124 mph. The RR 20v Quattro also featured a new three spoke steering wheel design, leather covering for door arm rests, gloveboxes, centre console and door pockets. There was also a full length leather-wrapped centre console running all the way to the rear seats. The 20v was also the first Ur-Q to have “quattro” script interior with partial leather seats. The floor on the drivers side had a bulge due to dual catalytic exhaust setup. The different models may be distinguished by the emblems on their boot lids: the WR had a vinyl ‘quattro’ decal or a brushed aluminium effect plastic emblem, the MB had chrome plated ‘audi’, ‘audi rings’ and ‘quattro’ emblems, whilst the RR had only chrome plated ‘audi rings’. The rear suspension was altered early on with geometry changes and removal of the rear anti-roll bar to reduce a tendency for lift-off oversteer. For the 1984 facelift, the wheel size went from 6×15-inch with 205/60-15 tyres to 8×15-inch wheels with 215/50-15 tyres. At the same time the suspension was lowered 20 mm with slightly stiffer springs for improved handling. For 1987, the Torsen centre differential was used for the first time, replacing the manual centre differential lock. The last original Audi Quattro was produced on 17 May 1991, more than two years after the first models of the new Audi Coupe range (based on the 1986 Audi 80) had been produced.
It is more than 10 years since Audi launched their first true supercar, the R8, but the model still attracts attention wherever it appears and that was the case with this one, a first generation model.
From the current range, my camera recorded the presence of a couple of S3 models, in Saloon and Hatch guises.
Sitting above the more commonly seen and better known Seven in the range was the Ten, a model which Austin had launched in 1932, to plug the gap between the diminutive Seven and the larger Twelve models in their range which had been updated in early 1931. The Ten became the marque’s best seller and was produced, in a number of different versions through to 1947. A number of improvements were made to the car in the months following launch, but it was for 1937 when the first really big change came about with the launch of the almost streamlined Cambridge saloon and Conway cabriolet. Compared with the preceding cars, the passengers and engine were positioned much further forward, the back seat now being rather forward of the back axle. There were six side windows like the Sherborne and the quarter lights were fixed. Again like the Sherborne the forward doors opened rearwards. At the back there was now a compartment large enough to take a trunk as well as more luggage on the open compartment door when it was let down. A new smoother single plate spring-drive clutch was now fitted, the two friction rings carried by the centre plate were held apart by leaf springs. Other changes included Girling brakes with wedge and roller shoe expansion and balance lever compensation using operating rods in tension with automatic compensation between front and rear brakes all four of which might be applied by hand or foot. Drums were now 9 inches diameter. 16-inch steel disc wheels replaced the 18-inch wires Top speed from the 1141cc engine rose to 60 mph.
“A British car to beat the world”. So read the billboards when the Austin Metro was revealed in October 1980. We had waited a long time for this car. There were many false starts, with thoughts first turning to how to replace the Mini going back to the late 1960s, but for various reasons, every effort had been cancelled. Fortunately, that extended to the ADO88 prototype which got to quite an advanced state of development in 1978, but which received less than favourable feedback at customer clinics. A hasty redesign was conducted. Despite carrying over the A Series engines, albeit in modified A+ guise, as BL had nothing else suitable and no money to develop an alternative, and that meant the 4 speed in-sump gearbox came with it, the little Metro was an immediate hit. It looked good, with pert, modern styling, and was practical with a large hatchback, and some innovative ideas on how to maximise the use of space. This was a roomy car that Britain could indeed be proud of. That a young lady who came to prominence in the months following launch, the future Princess Diana, could be seen driving around in one probably helped still further. Five models were available at launch: 1.0, 1.0L, the economy-oriented 1.0 HLE, 1.3S and 1.3 HLS, and the cars were available in a wide range of bright and attractive colours, including a greater percentage of metallic paints than were typically offered to buyers of cars in this class. My parents bought a 1.0L in the summer of 1983, as a replacement for our Mini, and the car was a massive improvement in just about every respect. Unlike previous BL cars, this model was not dogged with build quality and reliability issues, though, sadly it did have the same propensity to rust as they had done, but it took several years before that would become obvious. Before that happened, the range was expanded with the introduction of cheaper a model using AP’s clever 4 speed Automatic gearbox, cheaper City and City X models, a top spec Vanden Plas and then the sporting MG version. There was a 1.3 HLE model here, in the post 1984 facelift which saw the introduction of 5 door models as well as cosmetic and equipment changes across the range.
Older of the Austin Healey models here was a Healey 100, the first generation of the “Big Healey” cars. Donald Healey had been producing a range of expensive sports cars from the 1940s, cars such as the Silverstone, the Abbott and the Farnham. For the 1952 London Motor Show, he produced a new design, which was called the Healey Hundred, based on Austin A90 mechanicals, which he intended to produce in-house at his small car company in Warwick. It was one of the stars of the 1952 Show, and it so impressed Leonard Lord, the Managing Director of Austin, who was looking for a replacement to the unsuccessful A90. that Lord struck a deal with Healey on the spot, to build it in quantity. Bodies made by Jensen Motors would be given Austin mechanical components at Austin’s Longbridge factory. The car was renamed the Austin-Healey 100, in reference to the fact that the car had a top speed of 100 mph. Production got under way in 1953, with Austin-Healey 100s being finished at Austin’s Longbridge plant alongside the A90 and based on fully trimmed and painted body/chassis units produced by Jensen in West Bromwich—in an arrangement the two companies previously had explored with the Austin A40 Sports. By early 1956, production was running at 200 cars a month, 150 of which were being sold in California. Between 1953 and 1956, 14,634 Austin-Healey 100s were produced, the vast majority of them, as was the case for most cars in this post war era, going for export. The car was replaced by an updated model in 1956, called the 100-6. It had a longer wheelbase, redesigned bodywork with an oval shaped grille, a fixed windscreen and two occasional seats added (which in 1958 became an option with the introduction of the two-seat BN6 produced in parallel with the 2+2 BN4), and the engine was replaced by one based on the six-cylinder BMC C-Series engine. In 1959, the engine capacity was increased from 2.6 to 2.9 litres and the car renamed the Austin-Healey 3000. Both 2-seat and 2+2 variants were offered. It continued in this form until production ceased in late 1967. The Big Healey, as the car became known after the 1958 launch of the much smaller Austin-Healey Sprite, is a popular classic now. You come across the 3000 models more frequently than the 100s, as they accounted for more than 60% of all Big Healey production.
Taking over from the cheeky looking first generation Sprite, the car nicknamed the “Frog Eye”, for obvious reasons, the second bodystyle was rather more conventional. The Mark II to Mark IV were all very similar and represented the evolution of the model throughout the 1960s, The Mark II was announced at the end of May 1961. It used the same 948 cc engine with larger twin 1 1⁄4 inch SU carburettors, increasing power to 46.5 bhp. A close-ratio gearbox was fitted. The bodywork was completely revamped, with the headlights migrating to a more conventional position in the wings, either side of a full-width grille. At the rear, styling borrowed from the soon-to-be-announced MGB gave a similarly more modern look, with the added advantages of an opening boot lid and conventional rear bumper bar. The result was a much less eccentric-looking sports car, though at the expense of some 100 lbs extra weight. It followed the MG version of the car which was introduced a couple of weeks earlier as ‘the new Midget,’ reviving a model name which had been a great success for the MG Car Company in the 1930s. The Midget was to prove more popular with the public than the Sprite and by 1972 had completely supplanted it within the BMC range. In October 1962, both Sprites and Midgets were given a long-stroke 1098 cc engine. A strengthened gearbox with Porsche (baulk-ring) synchromesh was introduced to cope with the extra power – 56 bhp. Front disc brakes were also introduced at the same time and wire wheels became an option. 31,665 Mark II Sprites were made. The Mark III Sprite was also marketed as the Mark II MG Midget – differences between the two were again restricted to minor trim detailing. Although still 1098 cc, the engine had a stronger block casting, and the size of the crankshaft main bearings was increased to two inches. A new (slightly) curved-glass windscreen was introduced with hinged quarterlights and wind-up side windows. Exterior door handles were provided for the first time, with separate door locks. Though the car could now be secured, with a soft-top roof the added protection was limited. The rear suspension was modified from quarter-elliptic to semi-elliptic leaf springs, which gave a more comfortable ride for a near-negligible weight penalty as well as providing additional axle location, the upper links fitted to the quarter-elliptic models being deleted. Though scarcely sybaritic, these changes helped the Sprite and Midget compete with the recently released Triumph Spitfire. 25,905 Mark III Sprites were made. The next upgrade was presented at the London Motor Show in October 1966. Besides receiving the larger 1275 cc engine (which disappointed enthusiasts by being in a lower state of tune than that of the Mini-Cooper ‘S’), the Mark IV and its cousin the Mark III MG Midget had several changes which were more than cosmetic. Most notable is the change from a removable convertible top, which had to be stowed in the boot, to a permanently affixed, folding top of greatly improved design, which was much easier to use. Separate brake and clutch master cylinders were fitted, as car manufacturers’ thoughts began to turn to making their products safer. For the 1970 model year cast-alloy wheels were fitted and the grille was changed to resemble that fitted to the MG Midget. 22,790 Mark IV Sprites were made. The Healey connection was discontinued in 1971, so the final 1,022 Sprites built were simply Austin Sprites.
Oldest of the BMW models here to catch the photographer’s eye was an E46 generation M3. These cars are still considered by many to be the best looking of all the 3 Series generations, much to the declared chagrin of the BMW design and marketing departments who have publically vented their frustration that we do not find their more recent efforts to be as pleasing to behold. Launched in 2000, quite a while after the first of the E46 family, the M3 version was available in coupé and convertible body styles, a saloon not being produced, due to the introduction of the new M5. The E46 M3 is powered by the S54 straight-six engine and has a 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) acceleration time of 5.1 s for the coupe, with either the manual or SMG-II transmission. The top speed is electronically limited to 249 km/h (155 mph). Total production of the E46 M3 was 56,133 coupes and 29,633 convertibles.
From the current range were the futuristic looking i8 and the latest M5.
These two Bugatti arrived together, and it emerged that they both belong to the same family. Neither has been out for several years, though both have been in the family for a long time, bought when they were worth peanuts. Of course, now, they are worth an awful lot more than that.
The third generation Corvette, patterned after the Mako Shark II concept car, was introduced for the 1968 model year and was in production until 1982. C3 coupes featured the first use of T-top removable roof panels. The C3 introduced monikers that were later revived, such as LT-1, ZR-1, Z07 and Collector Edition. In 1978, the Corvette’s 25th anniversary was celebrated with a two-tone Silver Anniversary Edition and an Indy Pace Car replica edition of the C3. This was also the first time that a Corvette was used as a Pace Car for the Indianapolis 500. Engines and chassis components were mostly carried over from the C2, but the body and interior were new. The 350 cu in (5.7 litre) engine replaced the old 327 cu in (5.36 litre) as the base engine in 1969, but power remained at 300 bhp. 1969 was the only year for a C3 to optionally offer either a factory installed side exhaust or normal rear exit with chrome tips. The all-aluminium ZL1 engine was also new for 1969; the special big-block engine was listed at 430-hp , but was reported to produce 560 hp and propelled a ZL1 through the 1/4 mile in 10.89 seconds. There was an extended production run for the 1969 model year due a lengthy labour strike, which meant sales were down on the 1970 models, to 17,316. 1970 small-block power peaked with the optional high compression, high-revving LT-1 that produced 370 bhp. The 427 big-block was enlarged to 454 cu in (7.44 litre) with a 390 bhp rating. The ZR-1 special package was an option available on the 1970 through 1972 model years, and included the LT-1 engine combined with special racing equipment. Only 53 ZR-1’s were built. In 1971, to accommodate regular low-lead fuel with lower anti-knock properties, the engine compression ratios were lowered which resulted in reduced power ratings. The power rating for the 350 cu in (5.7 litre) L48 base engine decreased from 300 to 270 hp and the optional special high performance LT1 engine decreased from 370 to 330 hp. The big-block LS6 454 was reduced from 450 to 425 bhp, though it was not used in Corvettes for 1970; it was used in the Chevelle SS. For the 1972 model year, GM moved to the SAE Net measurement which resulted in further reduced, but more realistic, power ratings than the previous SAE Gross standard. Although the 1972 model’s 350 cu in horsepower was actually the same as that for the 1971 model year, the lower net horsepower numbers were used instead of gross horsepower. The L48 base engine was now rated at 200 bhp and the optional LT1 engine was now rated at 270 bhp. 1974 models had the last true dual exhaust system that was dropped on the 1975 models with the introduction of catalytic converters requiring the use of no-lead fuel. Engine power decreased with the base ZQ3 engine producing 165 bhp), the optional L82’s output 250 bhp, while the 454 big-block engine was discontinued. Gradual power increases after 1975 peaked with the 1980 model’s optional L82 producing 230 bhp. Styling changed subtly throughout the generation until 1978 for the car’s 25th anniversary. The Sting Ray nameplate was not used on the 1968 model, but Chevrolet still referred to the Corvette as a Sting Ray; however, the 1969 (through 1976) models used the “Stingray” name as one word, without the space. In 1970, the body design was updated including fender flares, and interiors were refined, which included redesigned seats, and indication lights near the gear shift that were an early use of fibre optics . Due to government regulation, the 1973 Corvette’s chrome front bumper was changed to a 5-mile-per-hour (8 km/h)system with a urethane bumper cover. 1973 Corvettes are unique in that sense, as they are the only year where the front bumper was polyurethane and the rear retained the chrome two-piece bumper set. 1973 was also the last year chrome bumpers were used. The optional wire-spoked wheel covers (left) were offered for the last time in 1973. Only 45 Z07 were built in 1973. From 1974 onwards both the front and rear bumpers were polyurethane. In 1974, a 5-mph rear bumper system with a two-piece, tapering urethane bumper cover replaced the Kamm-tail and chrome bumper blades, and matched the new front design from the previous year. 1975 was the last year for the convertible, (which did not return for 11 years). For the 1976 models the fibreglass floor was replaced with steel panels to provide protection from the catalytic converter’s high operating temperature. 1977 was last year the tunnelled roof treatment with vertical back window was used, in addition leather seats were available at no additional cost for the first time. The 1978 25th Anniversary model introduced the fastback glass rear window and featured a new interior and dashboard. Corvette’s 25th anniversary was celebrated with the Indy 500 Pace Car limited edition and a Silver Anniversary model featuring silver over gray lower body paint. All 1979 models featured the previous year’s pace car seats and offered the front and rear spoilers as optional equipment. 53,807 were produced for the model year, making 1979 the peak production year for all versions of the Corvette. Sales have trended downward since then. In 1980, the Corvette received an integrated aerodynamic redesign that resulted in a significant reduction in drag. After several years of weight increases, 1980 Corvettes were lighter as engineers trimmed both body and chassis weight. In mid-1981, production shifted from St. Louis, Missouri to Bowling Green, Kentucky, and several two-tone paint options were offered. The 1981 models were the last available with a manual transmission until well into the 1984 production run. In 1982, a fuel-injected engine returned, and a final C3 tribute Collectors Edition featured an exclusive, opening rear window hatch.
Sole Citroen of note was this rather nice DS23 EFi. It is hard to imagine just how revolutionary this car must have seemed when it was unveiled at the Paris Show in 1955. 18 years in secret development as the successor to the Traction Avant, the DS 19 stole the show, and within 15 minutes of opening, 743 orders were taken. By the end of the first day, that number had risen to 12,000. Contemporary journalists said the DS pushed the envelope in the ride vs. handling compromise possible in a motor vehicle. To a France still deep in reconstruction after the devastation of World War II, and also building its identity in the post-colonial world, the DS was a symbol of French ingenuity. It also posited the nation’s relevance in the Space Age, during the global race for technology of the Cold War. Structuralist philosopher Roland Barthes, in an essay about the car, said that it looked as if it had “fallen from the sky”. An American advertisement summarised this selling point: “It takes a special person to drive a special car”. Because they were owned by the technologically aggressive tyre manufacturer Michelin, Citroën had designed their cars around the technically superior radial tyre since 1948, and the DS was no exception. The car featured a novel hydropneumatic suspension including an automatic levelling system and variable ground clearance, developed in-house by Paul Magès. This suspension allowed the DS to travel quickly on the poor road surfaces common in France. In addition, the vehicle had power steering and a semi-automatic transmission (the transmission required no clutch pedal, but gears still had to be shifted by hand though the shift lever controlled a powered hydraulic shift mechanism in place of a mechanical linkage, and a fibreglass roof which lowered the centre of gravity and so reduced weight transfer. Inboard front brakes (as well as independent suspension) reduced unsprung weight. Different front and rear track widths and tyre sizes reduced the unequal tyre loading, which is well known to promote understeer, typical of front-engined and front-wheel drive cars. As with all French cars, the DS design was affected by the tax horsepower system, which effectively mandated very small engines. Unlike the Traction Avant predecessor, there was no top-of-range model with a powerful six-cylinder engine. Citroën had planned an air-cooled flat-6 engine for the car, but did not have the funds to put the prototype engine into production. The 1955 DS19 was 65% more expensive than the car it replaced, the Citroën Traction Avant. This did impact potential sales in a country still recovering economically from World War II, so a cheaper submodel, the Citroën ID, was introduced in 1957. The ID shared the DS’s body but was less powerful and luxurious. Although it shared the engine capacity of the DS engine (at this stage 1,911 cc), the ID provided a maximum power output of only 69 hp compared to the 75 hp claimed for the DS19. Power outputs were further differentiated in 1961 when the DS19 acquired a Weber-32 twin bodied carburettor, and the increasing availability of higher octane fuel enabled the manufacturer to increase the compression ratio from 7.5:1 to 8.5:1. A new DS19 now came with a promised 83 hp of power. The ID19 was also more traditional mechanically: it had no power steering and had conventional transmission and clutch instead of the DS’s hydraulically controlled set-up. Initially the basic ID19 was sold on the French market with a price saving of more than 25% against the DS, although the differential was reduced at the end of 1961 when the manufacturer quietly withdrew the entry level ID19 “Normale” from sale. An estate version was introduced in 1958. It was known by various names in different markets: Break in France, Safari and Estate in the UK, Wagon in the US, and Citroën Australia used the terms Safari and Station-Wagon. It had a steel roof to support the standard roof rack. ‘Familiales’ had a rear seat mounted further back in the cabin, with three folding seats between the front and rear squabs. The standard Break had two side-facing seats in the main load area at the back. During the 20 year production life, improvements were made on an ongoing basis. In September 1962, the DS was restyled with a more aerodynamically efficient nose, better ventilation and other improvements. It retained the open two headlamp appearance, but was available with an optional set of driving lights mounted on the front bumpers. A more luxurious Pallas trim came in for 1965 Named after the Greek goddess Pallas, this included comfort features such as better noise insulation, a more luxurious (and optional leather) upholstery and external trim embellishments. The cars were complex, and not always totally reliable, One of the issues that emerged during long term use was addressed with a change which came in for 1967. The original hydropneumatic system used a vegetable oil liquide hydraulique végétal (LHV), similar to that used in other cars at the time, but later switched to a synthetic fluid liquide hydraulique synthétique (LHS). Both of these had the disadvantage that they are hygroscopic, as is the case with most brake fluids. Disuse allows water to enter the hydraulic components causing deterioration and expensive maintenance work. The difficulty with hygroscopic hydraulic fluid was exacerbated in the DS/ID due to the extreme rise and fall in the fluid level in the reservoir, which went from nearly full to nearly empty when the suspension extended to maximum height and the six accumulators in the system filled with fluid. With every “inhalation” of fresh moisture- (and dust-) laden air, the fluid absorbed more water. For the 1967 model year, Citroën introduced a new mineral oil-based fluid liquide hydraulique minéral (LHM). This fluid was much less harsh on the system. LHM remained in use within Citroën until the Xantia was discontinued in 2001. LHM required completely different materials for the seals. Using either fluid in the incorrect system would completely destroy the hydraulic seals very quickly. To help avoid this problem, Citroën added a bright green dye to the LHM fluid and also painted all hydraulic elements bright green. The former LHS parts were painted black. All models, including the Safari and ID, were upgraded at the same time. The hydraulic fluid changed to the technically superior LHM (Liquide Hydraulique Minéral) in all markets except the US and Canada, where the change did not take place until January 1969, due to local regulations. Rarest and most collectable of all DS variants, a convertible was offered from 1958 until 1973. The Cabriolet d’Usine (factory convertible) were built by French carrossier Henri Chapron, for the Citroën dealer network. It was an expensive car, so only 1,365 were sold. These DS convertibles used a special frame which was reinforced on the sidemembers and rear suspension swingarm bearing box, similar to, but not identical to the Break/Safari frame.
One of the rarer machines of the day, this is a Commer Cob. The Commer Cob was a 7 cwt delivery van introduced in early 1956 based on the Hillman Husky, itself a derivative of the Hillman Minx Mark VIII. In 1958 new Cob and Husky models were introduced, based on the “Audax” Hillman Minx and the Cob was updated in line with the frequent changes to the Minx. Production ceased in early 1965 when the model was replaced by a new Imp-based van.
As you might guess, this is a kit car, but it hails from America, which is more of a surprise. It is made by DDR Motorsport Miami Inc and is called the Grullon GT. The design is a mid engined, rear wheel drive layout, with a tubular steel space frame chassis and composite body. DDR Motorsport was founded in 2001 by Diego Grullón. DDR made his debut launching the DDR SP4 “Sport Prototype 4 cylinder” at the 2005 Knott’s Berry Farm kit car show in California. The two main models produced are the Miami GT8 “Gran Turismo 8 Cylinder” which is powered by a Corvette’s GM LS-series engine, and using either a Porsche G50, G96 or Audi 5000 transaxle, and the GT4 “Gran Turismo 4 cylinder”, powered by the Toyota 2.0 litre turbo 3S-GTE engine used in the SW-20 Toyota MR2. There are 2 models by special order. The SP-RE “Sport Prototype Rotary Engine” with a Mazda RX-7 engine, using a Porsche G50 transaxle coupled with a KEP adaptor plate. The other model is the DDR SP-BE “DDR Sport Prototype Boxer Engine” using a Subaru engine and transaxle. The cars manufactured by DDR Motorsport are primarily sold as components, though “turnkeys” are available from DDR too, although built by third parties.
Attracting lots of interest, as ever, was this pair of Delorean DMC12, parked next to each other. It is now over 35 years since this striking Northern Ireland built car entered production, but it still pulls the crowds, thanks in no small part, I am sure, to the gullwing doors, and its starring role in “Back to the Future”. The DeLorean story goes back to October 1976, when the first prototype was completed by American automotive chief engineer William T. Collins, formerly chief engineer at Pontiac. Originally, the car was intended to have a centrally-mounted Wankel rotary engine. The engine selection was reconsidered when Comotor production ended, and the favoured engine became Ford’s “Cologne V6.” Eventually the French/Swedish PRV (Peugeot-Renault-Volvo) fuel injected V6 was selected. Also the engine location moved from the mid-engined location in the prototype to a rear-engined installation in the production car. The chassis was initially planned to be produced from a new and untested manufacturing technology known as elastic reservoir moulding (ERM), which would lighten the car while presumably lowering its production costs. This new technology, for which DeLorean had purchased patent rights, was eventually found to be unsuitable. These and other changes to the original concept led to considerable schedule pressures. The entire car was deemed to require almost complete re-engineering, which was turned over to engineer Colin Chapman, founder and owner of Lotus Cars. Chapman replaced most of the unproven material and manufacturing techniques with those then employed by Lotus, like the steel backbone chassis. DeLorean required $175 million to develop and build the motor company. Convincing Hollywood celebrities such as Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis, Jr. to invest in the firm, DeLorean eventually built the DMC-12 in a factory in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland, a neighbourhood a few miles from Belfast city centre. Construction on the factory began in October 1978, and although production of the DMC-12 was scheduled to start in 1979, engineering problems and budget overruns delayed production until early 1981. By that time, the unemployment rate was high in Northern Ireland and local residents lined up to apply for jobs at the factory. The workers were largely inexperienced, but were paid premium wages and supplied with the best equipment available. Most quality issues were solved by 1982 and the cars were sold from dealers with a one-year, 12,000-mile warranty and an available five-year, 50,000-mile service contract. The DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt in late 1982 following John DeLorean’s arrest in October of that year on drug trafficking charges. He was later found not guilty, but it was too late for the DMC-12 to remain in production. Approximately 100 partially assembled DMCs on the production line were completed by Consolidated International (now known as Big Lots). The remaining parts from the factory stock, the parts from the US Warranty Parts Centre, as well as parts from the original suppliers that had not yet been delivered to the factory were all shipped to Columbus, Ohio in 1983–1984. A company called KAPAC sold these parts to retail and wholesale customers via mail order. In 1997, DeLorean Motor Company of Texas acquired this inventory. There had also been a long-standing rumour that the body stamping dies were dumped into the ocean to prevent later manufacture. Evidence later emerged that the dies were used as anchors for nets at a fish farm in Ards Bay, Connemara, Ireland. About 9,200 DMC-12s were produced between January 1981 and December 1982. Almost a fifth of these were produced in October 1981. About a thousand 1982 models were produced between February and May 1982, and all of these cars had the VINs changed after purchase by Consolidated to make them appear as 1983 models. The survival rate of the cars is good.
Launched in May 1994 as an evolution of the Ferrari 348, just about everything was changed, and improved for the F355, seen here in Berlinetta and Targa formats. Design emphasis for the F355 was placed on significantly improved performance, but driveability across a wider range of speeds and in different environments such as low-speed city traffic was also addressed, as the Honda NS-X had proved that you could make a supercar that could be lived with every day. Apart from the displacement increase from 3.4 to 3.5 litres, the major difference between the V8 engine in the 348 and F355 was the introduction of a 5-valve cylinder head. This new head design allowed for better intake permeability and resulted in an engine that was considerably more powerful, producing 375 hp. The longitudinal 90° V8 engine was bored 2mm over the 348’s engine, resulting in the small increase in displacement. The F355 had a Motronic system controlling the electronic fuel injection and ignition systems, with a single spark plug per cylinder, resulting in an unusual 5 valves per cylinder configuration. This was reflected in the name, which did not follow the formula from the previous decades of engine capacity in litres followed by number of cylinders such as the 246 = 2.4 litres and 6 cylinders and the 308 of 3.0 litres and 8 cylinders. For the F355, Ferrari used engine capacity followed by the number of valves per cylinder (355 = 3.5 litres engine capacity and 5 valves per cylinder) to bring the performance advances introduced by a 5 valve per cylinder configuration into the forefront. 5. The frame was a steel monocoque with tubular steel rear sub-frame with front and rear suspensions using independent, unequal-length wishbones, coil springs over gas-filled telescopic shock absorbers with electronic control servos and anti-roll bars. The car allows selection between two damper settings, “Comfort” and “Sport”. Ferrari fitted all road-going F355 models with Pirelli tires, size 225/40ZR 18 in front and 265/40 ZR 18 in the rear. Although the F355 was equipped with power-assisted steering (intended to improve low-speed driveability relative to the outgoing 348), this could optionally be replaced with a manual steering rack setup by special order. Aerodynamic designs for the car included over 1,300 hours of wind tunnel analysis. The car incorporates a Nolder profile on the upper portion of the tail, and a fairing on the underbody that generates downforce when the car is at speed. These changes not only made the car faster but also much better to drive,m restoring Ferrari to the top of the tree among its rivals. At launch, two models were available: the coupe Berlinetta and the targa topped GTS, which was identical to the Berlinetta apart from the fact that the removable “targa-style” hard top roof could be stored behind the seats. The F355 would prove to be last in the series of mid-engined Ferraris with the Flying Buttress rear window, a lineage going back to the 1965 Dino 206 GT, unveiled at the Paris Auto Show. The Spider (convertible) version came later in the year. In 1997 the Formula One style paddle gear shift electrohydraulic manual transmission was introduced with the Ferrari 355 F1 adding £6,000 to the dealer asking price. This system promised faster gearchanges and allowed the driver to keep both hands on the steering wheel, It proved to be very popular and was the beginning of the end for the manual-transmission Ferrari. Ferrari produced 4,871 road-going Berlinetta models, of which 3,829 were 6-speed and 1,042 were F1 transmissions. The Spider proved to be the second-most popular F355 model, with a total production of 3,717 units, of which 2,664 were produced with the 6-speed transmission and another 1,053 produced with the F1 transmission. A total of 2,577 GTS models were produced, with 2,048 delivered with the 6-speed transmission and another 529 with the F1 transmission. This was the last GTS targa style model produced by Ferrari. This made a total production run of 11,273 units making the F355 the most-produced Ferrari at the time, though this sales record would be surpassed by the next generation 360 and later, the F430.
Two generations on and we come to the F430 Spider. Successor to the Ferrari 360, this model debuted at the 2004 Paris Motor Show. Designed by Pininfarina, under the guidance of Frank Stephenson, the body styling of the F430 was revised from its predecessor, the Ferrari 360, to improve its aerodynamic efficiency. Although the drag coefficient remained the same, downforce was greatly enhanced. Despite sharing the same basic Alcoa Aluminium chassis, roof line, doors and glass, the car looked significantly different from the 360. A great deal of Ferrari heritage was included in the exterior design. At the rear, the Enzo’s tail lights and interior vents were added. The car’s name was etched into the Testarossa-styled driver’s side mirror. The large oval openings in the front bumper are reminiscent of Ferrari racing models from the 60s, specifically the 156 “sharknose” Formula One car and 250 TR61 Le Mans cars of Phil Hill. Designed with soft-top-convertible. The F430 featured a 4.3 litre V8 petrol engine of the “Ferrari-Maserati” F136 family. This new power plant was a significant departure for Ferrari, as all previous Ferrari V8’s were descendants of the Dino racing program of the 1950s. This fifty-year development cycle came to an end with the entirely new unit. The engine’s output was 490 hp at 8500 rpm and 465 N·m (343 lb/ft) of torque at 5250 rpm, 80% of which was available below 3500rpm. Despite a 20% increase in displacement, engine weight grew by only 4 kg and engine dimensions were decreased, for easier packaging. The connecting rods, pistons and crankshaft were all entirely new, while the four-valve cylinder head, valves and intake trumpets were copied directly from Formula 1 engines, for ideal volumetric efficiency. The F430 has a top speed in excess of 196 mph and could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds, 0.6 seconds quicker than the old model. The brakes on the F430 were designed in close cooperation with Brembo (who did the calipers and discs) and Bosch (who did the electronics package),resulting in a new cast-iron alloy for the discs. The new alloy includes molybdenum which has better heat dissipation performance. The F430 was also available with the optional Carbon fibre-reinforced Silicon Carbide (C/SiC) ceramic composite brake package. Ferrari claims the carbon ceramic brakes will not fade even after 300-360 laps at their test track. The F430 featured the E-Diff, a computer-controlled limited slip active differential which can vary the distribution of torque based on inputs such as steering angle and lateral acceleration. Other notable features include the first application of Ferrari’s manettino steering wheel-mounted control knob. Drivers can select from five different settings which modify the vehicle’s ESC system, “Skyhook” electronic suspension, transmission behaviour, throttle response, and E-Diff. The feature is similar to Land Rover’s “Terrain Response” system. The Ferrari F430 was also released with exclusive Goodyear Eagle F1 GSD3 EMT tyres, which have a V-shaped tread design, run-flat capability, and OneTRED technology. The F430 Spider, Ferrari’s 21st road going convertible, made its world premiere at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show. The car was designed by Pininfarina with aerodynamic simulation programs also used for Formula 1 cars. The roof panel automatically folds away inside a space above the engine bay. The conversion from a closed top to an open-air convertible is a two-stage folding-action. The interior of the Spider is identical to that of the coupé. Serving as the successor to the Challenge Stradale, the 430 Scuderia was unveiled by Michael Schumacher at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show. Aimed to compete with cars like the Porsche RS-models and the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera it was lighter by 100 kg/220 lb and more powerful (510 PS) than the standard F430. Increased power came from a revised intake, exhaust, and an ion-sensing knock-detection system that allows for a higher compression ratio. Thus the weight-to-power ratio was reduced from 2.96 kg/hp to 2.5 kg/hp. In addition to the weight saving measures, the Scuderia semi-automatic transmission gained improved “Superfast”, known as “Superfast2”, software for faster 60 millisecond shift-times. A new traction control system combined the F1-Trac traction and stability control with the E-Diff electronic differential. The Ferrari 430 Scuderia accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds, with a top speed of 202 miles per hour. Ferrari claimed that around their test track, Fiorano Circuit, it matched the Ferrari Enzo, and the Ferrari F430’s successor, the Ferrari 458. To commemorate Ferrari’s 16th victory in the Formula 1 Constructor’s World Championship in 2008, Ferrari unveiled the Scuderia Spider 16M at World Finals in Mugello. It is effectively a convertible version of the 430 Scuderia. The engine produces 510 PS at 8500 rpm. The car has a dry weight of 1,340 kg, making it 80 kg lighter than the F430 Spider, at a curb weight of 1,440 kg (3,175 lb). The chassis was stiffened to cope with the extra performance available and the car featured many carbon fibre parts as standard. Specially lightened front and rear bumpers (compared to the 430 Scuderia) were a further sign of the efforts Ferrari was putting into this convertible track car for the road. Unique 5-spoke forged wheels were produced for the 16M’s launch and helped to considerably reduce unsprung weight with larger front brakes and callipers added for extra stopping power (also featured on 430 Scuderia). It accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds, with a top speed of 315 km/h (196 mph). 499 vehicles were released beginning early 2009 and all were pre-sold to select clients.
The Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, a 2+2 coupé grand tourer, was produced between 2004 and 2010. The 612 Scaglietti was designed to replace the smaller 456 M; its larger size makes it a true 4 seater with adequate space in the rear seats for adults. The 612 was Ferrari’s second all-aluminium vehicle, the first being the 360 Modena. Its space frame, developed with Alcoa, was made from extrusions and castings of the material, and the aluminium body is welded on. The chassis of the 612 forms the basis of the later 599 GTB model. The 612 Scaglietti shared its engine with the Ferrari 575 Superamerica. The Scaglietti had a top speed of 320 km/h (198.8 mph) and a 0–100 km/h acceleration time of 4.2 seconds. It came with a either a 6-speed manual or the 6-speed F1A semi-automatic paddle shift system, a much refined version of the F1 system in the 360. The model was replaced by the Ferrari FF in 2011.
Oldest Fiat model to attract my attention, and indeed that of plenty of other people was this fabulous 500D. Known as project 110, the brief for the Nuova 500 was to create a micro-car that would not only carry on the tradition of the earlier Topolino, but which would also take sales away from the ever popular Lambretta and Vespa scooters of the day. It clearly needed to be smaller than the 600 which had been released with a conventional 4 cylinder engine. Not an easy task, but development started in 1953 and by August 1954, two designs were ready to be shown to Fiat management. They selected one, and serious development began. At first the car was referred to as the 400, as it was going to have a 400cc engine, but it was soon realised that this was just too small, so a larger 500cc air-cooled engine was developed. It was signed off in January 1956, with production starting in March 1957 in advance of a June launch. Fiat’s marketing department got busy, with hundreds of the new car taking to the streets of Turin, each with a pretty girl standing through the open sunroof that was a feature of all the early cars. The press loved it. 50 units were shipped to Britain, where the car made its debut at Brands Hatch, and again the reception was enthusiastic. But the orders just did not come in. Fiat went for a hasty rethink, relaunching the car at the Turin Show later that year. power was increased from 13 to 15 bhp, and the poverty spec was lessened a little, with headlight bezels, brightwork on the side and chrome hubcaps, a Nuova500 badge on the engine cover, winding side windows (the launch cars just had opening quarterlights) and the option of a heater fan. It was enough to get sales moving. The original car was still offered, at a lower price, called the Economy. In the first year of production, 28,452 Fiat 500s were made. Over the next 19 years, the car changed little in overall appearance, but there were a number of updates with more power and equipment added. A 500 Sport was launched in August 1958, with a more powerful version of the 499cc engine. It lost the soft top, having a ridged steel roof, to increase strength of the body. It was only available in grey with a red side flash. The first major changes came in 1960 with the 500D. This looks very similar to the Nuova, but with two key differences. One is the engine size: the D features an uprated 499 cc engine producing 17 bhp as standard, an engine which would be used right through until the end of the L in 1973; and the other is the roof: the standard D roof does not fold back as far as the roof on the Nuova, though it was also available as the “Transformable” with the same roof as the Nuova. The D still featured “suicide doors”. There were larger rear light clusters, more space in the front boot thanks to a redesign of the fuel tank and new indicators under the headlights. A year later, Fiat added a light on the rear-view mirrors and a windscreen washer, but the car still lacked a fuel gauge. Sales increased from 20,900 in 1960 to 87.000 in 1961, 132,000 in 1962 and by 1964, the last year of production, they hit 194,000 units. The D was replaced in 1965 by the 500F, which finally moved the door hinges from back to the front, owing to changes in Italian safety laws. There was a deeper windscreen and thinner door pillars, which increased the height of the car by 10mm, improving visibility for the driver. The 500F ran through to 1975, from 1968 alongside the more luxurious 500L which was added to the range in 1968. The L is easy to tell apart, with its bumper overriders. The final updates created the 500R, which incorporated many changes from the 126 under the skin of the classic shape, and in this form production continued alongside the newer 126 until 1976. There were several examples of the model on show, illustrating the progression from 1957 to those final cars of the mid 70s and among them was an Autobianchi badged Giardinietta.
The X1/9 followed a 1969 show concept car called the Autobianchi Runabout, with styling by Bertone under chief designer Marcello Gandini. The Runabout was powered by the same engine as the Autobianchi A112. Designed around the all-new 128 SOHC engine and with the gearbox (transmission) from the front wheel drive Fiat 128, the X1/9 relocated the transverse drive train and suspension assembly from the front of the 128 to the rear of the passenger cabin, directly in front of the rear axle, giving a mid-engined layout. The layout also located the fuel tank and spare wheel side by side ahead of the engine, directly behind the seats — optimising the proportion of the car’s weight falling within its wheelbase for more effective handling and also enabling cargo areas front and rear. Unlike Fiat’s marketing nomenclature at the time which used a numerical system (e.g., 127, 128, 124, 131) denoting relative position in the model range, the X1/9 retained its prototype code as its marketing name. Fiat’s prototype coding used X0 for engines, X1 for passenger vehicles and X2 for commercial vehicles. The X1/9 was thus the ninth passenger car developed using the nomenclature. The prototype car featured a distinctive wedge shape and took many styling cues from contemporary power-boat design. Though the more extreme features of the Runabout such as the C pillar mounted headlights and the small wind-deflector windscreen were lost for the production car, many aesthetic features of the Autobianchi Runabout are readily identifiable on the X1/9. The long flat bonnet with central indentation, the large front overhang, the wedge shape with prominent C pillar roll-over hoop and the car-length indented plimsoll-line all made the successful transition to the X1/9, giving it a highly distinctive appearance. Once developed for production, the two-seater featured sharp-edged styling with a wedge shape, pop-up headlights and a removable hard top roof panel (targa top). The removable hardtop stores in the front luggage compartment, below the front hood, only slightly reducing the space available for cargo. An aftermarket company offered a top made of lightweight clear-smoked polycarbonate. The car was developed for release for European sales in 1972 to replace the 850 spider by Bertone. It was not intended as a replacement for the 124 Sport spider and production of the 124 spider and X1/9 continued in parallel for much of the X1/9’s life. The car’s monocoque body was produced at the Bertone factory in Torino and then transported to the Fiat’s Lingotto factory for final assembly. In 1982, shortly after the introduction of the 1500 model, complete production was assumed by Bertone with models subsequently badged as the “Bertone” X1/9. Bertone models featured revised footwells redesigned to enhance legroom and sitting comfort for persons taller than the original design’s target. The first models featured a 75 bhp 1290 cc single overhead cam engine with an aluminium head. In 1978 the more powerful 85bhp 1500cc unit found its way into the engine bay which necessitated a raised engine cover to provide the clearance. Larger bumpers were fitted at this time. Fiat made few other changes for many years, as if they lost interest in the car. The last production models were named the Gran Finale and sold over the 1989/1990 period. They were a dealer modification of the special edition (commonly abbreviated to SE) of 1988/1989, with the addition of a rear spoiler and “gran finale” badges.
The 131 Mirafiori is rare in the UK these days. Named after the Turin suburb where it was built, the Fiat 131 was a much more conventional car than the innovative 128 and 127 which it joined in the range. The Fiat 131 employed construction techniques and technologies typical of its day. The body was a steel monocoque. Designed and styled on the typical three-box design, with distinct boxes for the engine compartment, passenger compartment, and boot. The major mechanical components were also conventional and contemporary, but with some notable advances. The 131 employed a front engine, rear-wheel drive layout. The engines were all inline-four types, derived from those used in the outgoing 124 range, with a cast iron cylinder block and aluminium alloy cylinder head. Initially the 131 was offered only with pushrod valve gear, which offered the innovation of being the worldwide first engine with OHV valve gear and a belt driven camshaft. Only later in the model’s life came the well known double overhead camshaft (DOHC) engines which used a toothed timing belt. Fuel supply was via a single Weber ADF twin-choke carburettor. Traditional contact breaker ignition systems were used, usually with Marelli distributors. The suspension system utilised fully independent front suspension, with MacPherson struts, track control arms and anti-roll bar. The rear suspension was quite advanced (when using a solid live rear axle), in that the rear axle was controlled by double unequal length trailing arms and a panhard rod, with coil springs and direct acting dampers. This design proved far superior to many of its contemporaries, especially with vehicle stability and handling. The car’s interior offered another worldwide first in having the secondary switches in the dashboard illuminated by a central bulb somewhere in the dashboard and fibre optics from there to the switches. The Fiat 131 Mirafiori was introduced at the 55th Turin Motor Show in late October 1974. The 131 came with a choice of a 1,297 cc or 1,585 cc OHV inline-four engines, both from the engine family first introduced on the Fiat 124. Both engines were fitted with a single twin-choke Weber 32 ADF downdraught carburettor. A four-speed manual transmission was standard, with a 5-speed manual and a 3-speed torque converter automatic optional on the 1600 engine only. The initial range comprised eleven different models. There were three body styles: 2-door saloon, 4-door saloon and Familiare station wagon (Estate on the British market). Station wagons were built by SEAT in Spain, but were labelled Fiats for all non-Spanish markets. Trim levels were two; the entry-level 131 Mirafiori (also known as “Normale” or “Standard”) had single square headlamps, wheels and dished hubcap from the 124, and simplified interior furnishings. Next was the better appointed 131 Mirafiori Special (or simply “S”), which could be distinguished from the base model by its quadruple circular headlamps, specific grille, side rubbing strips, chrome window surrounds, and rubber bumper inserts. Inside it added different instrumentation with triple square dials, a padded adjustable steering wheel, cloth upholstery, and reclining seats. Additionally the more sophisticated options—such as air conditioning, tachometer, limited slip differential and vinyl roof—were exclusive to the Special. Each body style could be combined with either of the engines and trim levels—save for the Special estate which only came with the larger engine. The 131 got a minor facelift in 1978. New DOHC, or “Twin Cam” engines arrived, and these models were badged as Supermirafiori. The biggest change exterior-wise for the Series 2 was larger rectangular shaped front lights, new bumpers, new bigger rear lights and new interior trim including a chunky, single-spoked steering wheel. Later in 1978, the 2-door sporting version Racing (Mirafiori Sport in the UK) with 115 PS twin cam engine, was launched. This car had four round headlights (the inner headlights being smaller than the outer ones, unlike any other Mirafiori model produced), different grille, spoilers and extended wheel arches, and a short-throw 5 speed gearbox. The Racing had top speed of 180 km/h (110 mph). Diesel engined versions also had four round headlights (equally sized), and a noticeable (and characteristic) bump in the hood to accommodate the taller engine. The 131 was updated again in March 1981. Production of the Racing/Sport versions ceased, although these were sold well into 1982. The same 2.0 twin cam engine went to the Supermirafiori. The car received a slightly updated interior (instruments, single-piece glovebox lid), whilst lower rubbing strips found their way onto all models up to CL specification. The Supermirafiori received larger lower door cladding. Mechanically, Mirafiori versions now received overhead cam engines rather than pushrod versions; a new 1.4 litre engine and a revised 1.6 litre. Also new were the clutch and gearboxes, a tweaked suspension was also introduced and the fuel tank increased in size by three litres. In June 1981, a new sport version, the Volumetrico Abarth, was introduced to some markets, with a supercharged version of the familiar 2 litre twin-cam. This car, also known as the 2000 TC Compressore, was built in a small series (about 200 units) and could reach 190 km/h (118 mph).In 1983, the production of saloon version was discontinued, but the estate, now named 131 Maratea, remained in production with two engine choices (115 PS 2.0 TC and 72 PS 2.5 D) until 1985, when they were replaced with the Ritmo-based Regata Weekend. These last versions featured four round headlights and the by-now familiar five-bar grille. In total, 1,513,800 units were produced in Italy.
Follow on to the Cinquecento was the Seicento, and that was represented here by the Sporting version, debuting in 1997. It did not differ much from its predecessor, retaining the same engines, chassis and general dimensions, although it did gain a minor 9 cm in length (total length of 3.34 m). At launch, the Seicento was available with three trim levels; a basic ‘S’ with black bumpers and spartan equipment and initially the 899 cc 39 PS FIAT 100 series engine; an ‘SX’ model, a slight upgrade over the ‘S’ with colour-coded bumpers, electric windows, central locking and a sunroof – which was also available as a ‘Citymatic’ with a clutchless manual gearchange – and a ‘Sporting’ with the larger FIAT FIRE series 1108 cc 55 PS engine, 20 mm (0.8 in) lower suspension and anti-roll bars added. Cosmetically, this version gained 13″ alloy wheels, sports seats. An Abarth styling kit was also available with a body kit with optional Abarth 14″ wheels a close-ratio gearbox, sill kick plates, embroidered headrests, leather gear stick and steering wheel, colour highlighted trim in the bumpers, side skirts and a spoiler also available. Both the sporting and the Abarths were available with ABS, air-conditioning and power steering but due to cost not very many owners took up the options. In 1999, the FIRE engine was used in the special ‘Suite’ version, which came with air-conditioning. A special edition ‘Soleil’ model was available in some markets, which was based on the ‘SX’ model but came with a full-length electrically-folding fabric roof. In 2001, after the update, all cars were given clear indicator lenses, with the Sporting model getting a restyled bodykit. Power steering was still an option, in lower end Seicentos. A ‘Michael Schumacher’ edition of the Sporting, with ABS and the Abarth styling kit, was also launched at this time to celebrate the Ferrari driver’s Formula One success, This model was almost identical to the Abarth kit with the exception of chrome gear stick surrounds and Michael’s signature on the boot lid and side skirt. A limited edition plate and number was also on the passenger door. In 2004, the model was withdrawn from the UK market, and production of RHD models ceased, following the arrival of the new and more practical Panda. The LHD model was facelifted, gaining a new design for the wheel rims and the introduction of the new Fiat logo to the rear. In 2005, the name Seicento was replaced by 600 (on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first edition, in 1955) together with some changes in the front and in versions donations: now the name Fiat is written on the seats. The new versions now were named “Class” and “50 anniversary”, thus reminding the strict relationship between this model and the previous one. Production continued until 2010 by which time over 1.33 million units had been built.
This is one of those cars which has appeared sufficiently frequently at events like this that I know now what it is. Known as a Fury or Fisher Fury, it is a kit car, as you would perhaps guess, and like many, the history of this model turns out to be somewhat complex. The car seen here looks like a Stylus RT. Launched in 1994, by Sylva Autokits, the first Styluses used a modified Fury chassis, but later a purpose built chassis was made to accommodate the lowered doors. The Fury had been launched by Sylva Autokits in 1991 and then sold on to Fisher Sportscars in 1994, and currently owned by Fury Sportscars who recently purchased the rights from BGH Geartech, based in Kent UK. The Fury has been very successful in competition with cars currently racing in many championships, including the 750 Motor Club’s RGB (Road-Going Bike-Engined Kitcar) and Kitcar series. Many different engines can be fitted to the Fury, including all manner of car engines from the Ford Crossflow to Rover V8 and Cosworth Turbo. Motorbike engines have also been fitted and are popular for track cars due to the low weight, high power and built-in sequential gearbox for relatively little money. There are two versions of the Fury rear suspension: the Live Axle version uses the Ford Escort rear axle located using two trailing links in conjunction with a Panhard rod. Coil over shock absorbers are used to give good ride comfort combined with excellent handling and grip; the Independent Rear Suspension version uses the Ford Sierra rear hub assembly in conjunction with purpose built hub carriers forming the uprights between upper and lower wishbones. Once again, coil over shock absorbers ensure a refined ride quality and excellent traction. For the new Stylus, the front rocker arms were upgraded with needle bearings and the front lower arms got redesigned to prevent the lower ball joints being damaged. As with most Sylva models, various engines could be fitted. The design was updated in 2003, with the Stylus RT which made a more modern looking sportscar. The Stylus RT (Road & Track) used the SSC standard chassis, but with wider front suspension, and uses wheel spacers at the rear. The rear wing was developed at Swansea University in their motorsport department. The RT also has a full front splitter and a rear diffuser. These 3 aerodynamic aids are optional extras. SSC fitted quad style lights. A standard Stylus can be modified to RT specification. The design rights of the Stylus were sold to Specialist Sports Cars in 1996, who sold them on to Stylus Sports Cars in 2004 but this company went bust in 2008.
The Mark I Ford Escort was introduced in the UK at the end of 1967, making its show debut at Brussels Motor Show in January 1968, replacing the successful, long-running Anglia. The car was presented in continental Europe as a product of Ford’s European operation. Escort production commenced at the Halewood plant in England during the closing months of 1967, and for left hand drive markets during September 1968 at the Ford plant in Genk. Initially the continental Escorts differed slightly from the UK built ones under the skin. The front suspension and steering gear were differently configured and the brakes were fitted with dual hydraulic circuits; also the wheels fitted on the Genk-built Escorts had wider rims. At the beginning of 1970, continental European production transferred to a new plant on the edge of Saarlouis, West Germany. The Escort was a commercial success in several parts of western Europe, but nowhere more than in the UK, where the national best seller of the 1960s, BMC’s Austin/Morris 1100 was beginning to show its age while Ford’s own Cortina had grown, both in dimensions and in price, beyond the market niche at which it had originally been pitched. In June 1974, six years into the car’s UK introduction, Ford announced the completion of the two millionth Ford Escort, a milestone hitherto unmatched by any Ford model outside the US. It was also stated that 60% of the two million Escorts had been built in Britain. In West Germany cars were built at a slower rate of around 150,000 cars per year, slumping to 78,604 in 1974 which was the last year for the Escort Mark I. Many of the German built Escorts were exported, notably to Benelux and Italy; from the West German domestic market perspective the car was cramped and uncomfortable when compared with the well-established and comparably priced Opel Kadett, and it was technically primitive when set against the successful imported Fiat 128 and Renault 12. Subsequent generations of the Escort made up some of the ground foregone by the original model, but in Europe’s largest auto-market the Escort sales volumes always came in well behind those of the General Motors Kadett and its Astra successor. The Escort had conventional rear-wheel drive and a four-speed manual gearbox, or three-speed automatic transmission. The suspension consisted of MacPherson strut front suspension and a simple live axle mounted on leaf springs. The Escort was the first small Ford to use rack-and-pinion steering. The Mark I featured contemporary styling cues in tune with its time: a subtle Detroit-inspired “Coke bottle” waistline and the “dogbone” shaped front grille – arguably the car’s main stylistic feature. Similar Coke bottle styling featured in the larger Cortina Mark III (also built in West Germany as the Taunus) launched in 1970. Initially, the Escort was sold as a two-door saloon (with circular front headlights and rubber flooring on the “De Luxe” model). The “Super” model featured rectangular headlights, carpets, a cigar lighter and a water temperature gauge. A two-door estate was introduced at the end of March 1968 which, with the back seat folded down, provided a 40% increase in maximum load space over the old Anglia 105E estate, according to the manufacturer. The estate featured the same engine options as the saloon, but it also included a larger, 7 1⁄2-inch-diameter clutch, stiffer rear springs and in most configurations slightly larger brake drums or discs than the saloon. A panel van appeared in April 1968 and the 4-door saloon (a bodystyle the Anglia was never available in for UK market) in 1969. Underneath the bonnet was the Kent Crossflow engine in 1.1 and 1.3 litre versions. A 940 cc engine was also available in some export markets such as Italy and France. This tiny engine remained popular in Italy, where it was carried over for the Escort Mark II, but in France it was discontinued during 1972. There was a 1300GT performance version, with a tuned 1.3 L Crossflow (OHV) engine with a Weber carburettor and uprated suspension. This version featured additional instrumentation with a tachometer, battery charge indicator, and oil pressure gauge. The same tuned 1.3 L engine was also used in a variation sold as the Escort Sport, that used the flared front wings from the AVO range of cars, but featured trim from the more basic models. Later, an “executive” version of the Escort was produced known as the “1300E”. This featured the same 13″ road wheels and flared wings of the Sport, but was trimmed in an upmarket, for that time, fashion with wood trim on the dashboard and door cappings. A higher performance version for rallies and racing was available, the Escort Twin Cam, built for Group 2 international rallying. It had an engine with a Lotus-made eight-valve twin camshaft head fitted to the 1.5 L non-crossflow block, which had a bigger bore than usual to give a capacity of 1,557 cc. This engine had originally been developed for the Lotus Elan. Production of the Twin Cam, which was originally produced at Halewood, was phased out as the Cosworth-engined RS1600 (RS denoting Rallye Sport) production began. The most famous edition of the Twin Cam was raced on behalf of Ford by Alan Mann Racing in the British Saloon Car Championship in 1968 and 1969, sporting a full Formula 2 Ford FVC 16-valve engine producing over 200 hp. The Escort, driven by Australian driver Frank Gardner went on to comfortably win the 1968 championship. The Mark I Escorts became successful as a rally car, and they eventually went on to become one of the most successful rally cars of all time. The Ford works team was practically unbeatable in the late 1960s / early 1970s, and arguably the Escort’s greatest victory was in the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally, co-driven by Finnish legend Hannu Mikkola and Swedish co-driver Gunnar Palm. This gave rise to the Escort Mexico (1598cc “crossflow”-engined) special edition road versions in honour of the rally car. Introduced in November 1970, 10,352 Mexico Mark I’s were built. In addition to the Mexico, the RS1600 was developed with 1,601 cc Cosworth BDA which used a Crossflow block with a 16-valve Cosworth cylinder head, named for “Belt Drive A Series”. Both the Mexico and RS1600 were built at Ford’s Advanced Vehicle Operations (AVO) facility located at the Aveley Plant in South Essex. As well as higher performance engines and sports suspension, these models featured strengthened bodyshells utilising seam welding in places of spot welding, making them more suitable for competition. After updating the factory team cars with a larger 1701 cc Cosworth BDB engine in 1972 and then with fuel injected BDC, Ford also produced an RS2000 model as an alternative to the somewhat temperamental RS1600, featuring a 2.0 litre Pinto (OHC) engine. This also clocked up some rally and racing victories; and pre-empted the hot hatch market as a desirable but affordable performance road car. Like the Mexico and RS1600, this car was produced at the Aveley plant. Seen here were an Escort Twin Cam and a 1300E.
The squarer-styled Mark II Escort appeared in January 1975. The first production models had rolled off the production lines on 2 December 1974. Unlike the first Escort (which was developed by Ford of Britain), the second generation was developed jointly between the UK and Ford of Germany. Codenamed “Brenda” during its development, it used the same mechanical components as the Mark I. The 940 cc engine was still offered in Italy where the smaller engine attracted tax advantages, but in the other larger European markets in Europe it was unavailable. The estate and van versions used the same panelwork as the Mark I, but with the Mark II front end and interior. The car used a revised underbody, which had been introduced as a running change during the last six months production of the Mark I. Rear suspension still sat on leaf springs though some contemporaries such as the Hillman Avenger had moved on to coil springs. The car came in for criticism for its lack of oddments space, with a glove compartment only available on higher end models, and its stalk-mounted horn. The “L” and “GL” models (2-door, 4-door, estate) were in the mainstream private sector, the “Sport”, “RS Mexico”, and “RS2000” in the performance market, the “Ghia” (2-door, 4-door) for a hitherto untapped small car luxury market, and “base / Popular” models for the bottom end. Panel-van versions catered to the commercial sector. The 1598 cc engine in the 1975 1.6 Ghia produced 84 hp with 92 ft·lbft torque and weighed 955 kg (2105 lb). A cosmetic update was given in 1978 with L models gaining the square headlights (previously exclusive to the GL and Ghia variants) and there was an upgrade in interior and exterior specification for some models. Underneath a wider front track was given. In 1979 and 1980 three special edition Escorts were launched: the Linnet, Harrier and Goldcrest. Production ended in Britain in August 1980, other countries following soon after. Spotted here were a number of the more sporting versions, including the 1600 Sport, the Mexico and the RS2000.
Ford introduced a new second generation Granada in 1977 and it was produced until April 1985 following a mild facelift which paid attention to drivetrain noise, vibration, and harshness in 1982. It was a development of the previous car, the main differences being the use of the “Cologne” V6 engine in 2.0, 2.3, and 2.8 ltire forms replacing the older “Essex” unit (which had never been offered in the Cologne-built Granadas), and the introduction of features such as air conditioning and, for the top-priced 2.8-litre versions, fuel-injection. In mainland Europe, a 1.7 litre V4 was originally available. By the time of its introduction, UK Granada production had been quietly abandoned “for some time”; UK market Granada IIs were imported from Germany. A relatively small number of vehicles were also produced with an Indenor four-cylinder diesel engine in 1.9-, 2.1- and 2.5-litre capacities. Most of these went to taxi operators, and few survive. The smallest 1.9 was quite underpowered and was soon replaced by the somewhat more powerful 2.1, which was presented as the “Granada GLD” in March 1979 at Geneva. By 1982, this was replaced by the more capable 2.5. Fuel-injected 2.8 models were originally offered with an ‘S’ pack or GL trim. In 1979, both versions were replaced by the 2.8i GLS. Today early injection models are particularly rare. The UK only received four door saloons and a commodious estate, but there was a two door saloon as well, offered to those markets who still wanted such a configuration. Although most surviving Granada Mark IIs feature the body-coloured post-facelift (1981) grille, the earlier cars came with a simple black grille regardless of body colour.
In April 1985, the third-generation car arrived, which was essentially a rebadged Ford Scorpio, the Granada name being used in both Ireland and the United Kingdom only, with the Scorpio badge (which covered the whole range in Continental Europe) being used instead as a trim designation for the top of the range models. The Mark III Granada was the first European volume production model to have antilock brakes fitted as standard across the range. It was voted European Car of the Year. Engine options included the familiar SOHC Pinto engine, in either tax-barrier undercutting 1.8 litre form, or a more powerful 2-litre version with fuel injection available. The Cologne V6 engines were carried over from the previous range in short-lived (and not much more powerful than the 2 litre Pinto) 2.4, and 2.8 (later 2.9) litre capacities. In 1991, a new range-topping vehicle was introduced, the Scorpio 24-valve. It featured a 2.9 litre Cologne engine that had been extensively reworked by Cosworth Engineering and featured quad camshafts and 24 valves, enough for 200 bhp). According to Ford, this gave a 0-60 mph time of 8.1 seconds and top speed of 140 mph (230 km/h). This version of the Granada continued the “Ford family” styling concept from the previous versions; this time, the car superficially resembled a larger version of the Cortina’s successor, the Ford Sierra. It had followed the precedent set by both the Sierra and the Escort Mk III in changing from the angular saloon styling of their predecessors to an advanced aerodynamic hatchback body style, though a three-box saloon and an estate were later added to the range, as well. The Ford Granada Mk III was the last car to bear the iconic Granada badge in the UK and Ireland, being replaced in 1994 with the Pan-European Scorpio. The Scorpio shared its platform doors and roof with the Mk III Granada and these elements of the cars design were unremarkable. The styling of the nose and tail sections suffered from the application of the Ford Ovoid design school being used across the Ford range in the 1990s. On the Scorpio, this appeared as a large gaping mouth, ‘bug’-eyed headlights, and a bulbous boot. A 1998 redesign did nothing to save it from being axed the same year with total European sales only 95,587 units.
The Sierra RS Cosworth model. a very sporting version of Ford’s upper-medium sized family car, was built by Ford Europe from 1986 to 1992, the result of a Ford Motorsport project with the purpose of producing an outright winner for Group A racing in Europe. The project was defined in the spring of 1983 by Stuart Turner, then recently appointed head of Ford Motorsport in Europe, who had realised right away that Ford was no longer competitive in this area. Turner got in touch with Walter Hayes, at the time the vice-president of public relations at Ford, to get support for the project. Hayes had earlier been the driving force behind the development of the Ford GT40 that won Le Mans in 1966, and the Cosworth DFV engine that brought Ford 154 victories and 12 world championships in Formula One during the 1960s and 1970s. Hayes found the project very appealing and promised his full support. Turner then invited Ken Kohrs, vice-president of development, to visit Ford’s longtime partner, the automotive company Cosworth, where they were presented a project developed on Cosworth’s own initiative, the YAA engine. This was a twin cam, 16-valve engine based on Ford’s own T88 engine block, better known as the Pinto. This prototype proved an almost ideal basis for the engine Turner needed to power his Group A winner. Therefore, an official request for a turbocharged version (designated Cosworth YBB) capable of 180 HP on the street and 300 HP in race trim, was placed. Cosworth answered positively, but they put up two conditions: the engine would produce not less than 204 HP in the street version, and Ford had to accept no fewer than 15,000 engines. Turner’s project would only need about 5,000 engines, but Ford nevertheless accepted the conditions. The extra 10,000 engines would later become one of the reasons Ford also chose to develop a four door, second generation Sierra RS Cosworth. To find a suitable gearbox proved more challenging. The Borg-Warner T5, also used in the Ford Mustang, was chosen, but the higher revving nature of the Sierra caused some problems. Eventually Borg-Warner had to set up a dedicated production line for the gearboxes to be used in the Sierra RS Cosworth. Many of the suspension differences between the standard Sierra and the Cosworth attributed their development to what was learned from racing the turbocharged Jack Roush IMSA Merkur XR4Ti in America and Andy Rouse’s successful campaign of the 1985 British Saloon Car Championship. Much of Ford’s external documentation for customer race preparation indicated “developed for the XR4Ti” when describing parts that were Sierra Cosworth specific. Roush’s suspension and aerodynamics engineering for the IMSA cars was excellent feedback for Ford. Some production parts from the XR4Ti made their way into the Cosworth such as the speedometer with integral boost gauge and the motorsport 909 chassis stiffening plates. In April 1983, Turner’s team decided on the recently launched Sierra as a basis for their project. The Sierra filled the requirements for rear wheel drive and decent aerodynamic drag. A racing version could also help to improve the unfortunate, and somewhat undeserved, reputation that Sierra had earned since the introduction in 1982. Lothar Pinske, responsible for the car’s bodywork, demanded carte blanche when it came to appearance in order to make the car stable at high speed. Experience had shown that the Sierra hatchback body generated significant aerodynamic lift even at relatively moderate speed. After extensive wind tunnel testing and test runs at the Nardò circuit in Italy, a prototype was presented to the project management. This was based on an XR4i body with provisional body modifications in fibreglass and aluminium. The car’s appearance raised little enthusiasm. The large rear wing caused particular reluctance. Pinske insisted however that the modifications were necessary to make the project successful. The rear wing was essential to retain ground contact at 300 km/h, the opening between the headlights was needed to feed air to the intercooler and the wheel arch extensions had to be there to house wheels 10” wide on the racing version. Eventually, the Ford designers agreed to try to make a production version based on the prototype. In 1984, Walter Hayes paid visits to many European Ford dealers in order to survey the sales potential for the Sierra RS Cosworth. A requirement for participation in Group A was that 5,000 cars were built and sold. The feedback was not encouraging. The dealers estimated they could sell approximately 1,500 cars. Hayes did not give up, however, and continued his passionate internal marketing of the project. As prototypes started to emerge, dealers were invited to test drive sessions, and this increased the enthusiasm for the new car. In addition, Ford took some radical measures to reduce the price on the car. As an example, the car was only offered in three exterior colours (black, white and moonstone blue) and one interior colour (grey). There were also just two equipment options: with or without central locking and electric window lifts. The Sierra RS Cosworth was first presented to the public at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1985, with plans to release it for sale in September and closing production of the 5,000 cars in the summer of 1986. In practice, it was launched in July 1986. 5545 were manufactured in total of which 500 were sent to Tickford for conversion to the Sierra three-door RS500 Cosworth. The vehicles were manufactured in right hand drive only, and were made in Ford’s Genk factory in Belgium. Exactly 500 RS500s were produced, all of them RHD for sale in the UK only – the biggest market for this kind of Ford car. It was originally intended that all 500 would be black, but in practice 56 white and 52 moonstone blue cars were produced.To broaden the sales appeal, the second generation model was based on the 4 door Sierra Sapphire body. It was launched in 1988, and was assembled in Genk, Belgium, with the UK-built Ford-Cosworth YBB engine. Cylinder heads on this car were early spec 2wd heads and also the “later” 2wd head which had some improvements which made their way to the 4X4 head. Suspension was essentially the same with some minor changes in geometry to suit a less aggressive driving style and favour ride over handling. Spindles, wheel offset and other changes were responsible for this effect. Approximately 13,140 examples were produced during 1988-1989 and were the most numerous and lightest of all Sierra Cosworth models. Specifically the LHD models which saved weight with a lesser trim level such as manual rear windows and no air conditioning. In the UK, the RHD 1988-1989 Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth is badged as such with a small “Sapphire” badge on the rear door window trims. All 1988-1989 LHD models are badged and registered as a Sierra RS Cosworth with no Sapphire nomenclature at all. “Sapphire” being viewed as a Ghia trim level that saw power rear windows, air conditioning and other minor options. Enthusiasts of the marque are mindful of this and will describe the LHD cars by their body shell configuration, 3 door or 4 door. As the Sapphire Cosworth was based on a different shell to the original three-door Cosworth, along with its more discreet rear wing, recorded a drag co-efficient of 0.33, it registered slightly better performance figures, with a top speed of 150 mph and 0-60 of 6.1 seconds, compared to the original Cosworth. In January 1990, the third generation Sierra RS Cosworth was launched, this time with four wheel drive. As early as 1987, Mike Moreton and Ford Motorsport had been talking about a four wheel drive Sierra RS Cosworth that could make Ford competitive in the World Rally Championship. The Ferguson MT75 gearbox that was considered an essential part of the project wasn’t available until late 1989 however. Ford Motorsport’s desire for a 3-door “Motorsport Special” equivalent to the original Sierra RS Cosworth was not embraced. The more discreet 4-door version was considered to have a better market potential. It was therefore decided that the new car should be a natural development of the second generation, to be launched in conjunction with the face lift scheduled for the entire Sierra line in 1990. The waiting time gave Ford Motorsport a good opportunity to conduct extensive testing and demand improvements. One example was the return of the bonnet louvres. According to Ford’s own publicity material, 80% of the engine parts were also modified. The improved engine was designated YBJ for cars without a catalyst and YBG for cars with a catalyst. The latter had the red valve cover replaced by a green one, to emphasise the environmental friendliness. Four wheel drive and an increasing amount of equipment had raised the weight by 100 kg, and the power was therefore increased to just about compensate for this. The Sierra RS Cosworth 4×4 received, if possible, an even more flattering response than its predecessors and production continued until the end of 1992, when the Sierra was replaced by the Mondeo. The replacement for the Sierra RS Cosworth was not a Mondeo however, but the Escort RS Cosworth. This was to some extent a Sierra RS Cosworth clad in an “Escort-like” body. The car went on sale in May 1992, more than a year after the first pre-production examples were shown to the public, and was homologated for Group A rally in December, just as the Sierra RS Cosworth was retired. It continued in production until 1996. The Sierra and Sapphire Cosworths were undoubted performance bargains when new, but they also gained a reputation both for suffering a lot of accidents in the hands of the unskilled and also for being among the most frequently stole cars of their generation. These days, though, there are some lovely and treasured examples around and indeed you are far more likely to see a Cosworth version of the Sierra than one of the volume selling models.
The Ford Escort RS Cosworth is a sports derivative and rally homologation special of the fifth generation European Ford Escort. It was designed to qualify as a Group A car for the World Rally Championship, in which it competed between 1993 and 1998. It was available as a road car from 1992–96 in very limited numbers. Ford developed the car around the chassis and mechanicals of its spiritual predecessor, the Sierra Cosworth to accommodate the larger Cosworth engine and transmission, whilst clothing it in Escort body panels to make it resemble the standard car. Designed under the guidance of Rod Mansfield and John Wheeler of Ford’s SVO department, the styling was carried out during 1989, a year before the standard Escort was launched, by Stephen Harper at MGA Developments in Coventry. The spoiler was added by Frank Stephenson, who originally proposed a three-deck piece. The body tooling was created by coachbuilders Karmann at their facility in Rheine, Germany, where the cars were manufactured. Changes were made to the engine management system and a new turbocharger was fitted. Permanent four wheel drive with a 34/66% front/rear split came courtesy of an uprated five speed gearbox as used in the Sierra Cosworth. Recaro sports seats came as a standard fitment. Later production models were available without the oversize tail spoiler although by far the majority were still ordered with it. Like its Sierra predecessor, they are commonly nicknamed “Cossie” by enthusiasts. The car’s top speed was 150 mph, which rivalled lower-end supercars including the Audi Quattro, BMW M3, Nissan 300ZX and Toyota Supra, and comfortably outperformed traditional “hot hatchbacks” like the Volkswagen Golf GTI. It was much faster than the 126 mph which the Escort RS2000 and earlier Escort RS Turbo were capable of. Two versions were produced. The initial 2,500 units were “homologation specials” used to get the FIA accreditation for entry into the World Rally Championship. They were fitted with a Garrett T3/T04B turbocharger. Among these initial units, a handful were badged as Motorsport versions, these lacked certain refinements such as a sunroof and sound deadening. The initial cars included features that, although they made the Cosworth a more effective car, did not enhance it as a road vehicle, and once the rules were satisfied Ford attempted to make the car less temperamental and easier to drive under normal conditions. The second generation, starting production from late 1994, were fitted with a Garrett T25 turbocharger, a smaller unit which reduced turbo lag and increased usability in everyday driving situations. With these later models, the ‘whale tail’ spoiler became a delete option. . The Escort Cosworth was a rare car, with 7,145 vehicles produced from the start of production on 19 February 1992 until the last car rolled out of the factory on 12 January 1996.
There were plenty of more recent sporting Ford models here, with a good mix of Fiesta and Focus models here, the latter represented both by the hot ST and the even hotter RS versions.
The American Ford was not to be forgotten with a couple of Mustangs, one of them an early car and the other the recently launched limited edition Bullitt model, created to mark the 50th anniversary of the original car’s star appearance in the film of that name.
The GWK was a British car made in Maidenhead, between 1911 and 1931. It got its name from its founders, Arthur Grice, J Talfourd Wood and C.M. Keiller. The cars were unusual in using a friction drive system. The prototype was made in a stable in Beckenham, Kent, and used a Coventry-Simplex engine, rear-mounted. The drive system involved the engine, which was mounted across the chassis, turning a disc on which a wheel could be moved from the periphery to the centre. Top speed was with the driven wheel furthest from the centre and reverse was obtained by moving it past the centre. A few examples were sold before the company moved to Datchet, Buckinghamshire in 1912. Proper production now started still using a water-cooled, Coventry-Simplex twin-cylinder engine of 1045 cc and 1069 two-seat cars were made before the outbreak of World War 1 and a move to war work. A move was also made to the larger Cordwallis Works in Maidenhead in 1914. During the war the company was run by Grice as his partners were in the army. Grice left the company in 1920 to start the unsuccessful Unit car company leaving Wood and Keiller in charge. They re-introduced the pre-war model, now called the Type E, and a further 82 were made largely from left over parts. A new model, the Type F was introduced in 1919 and was front-engined with a 1368 cc four-cylinder engine, still by Coventry-Simplex, with shaft drive to the friction disc at the rear. It was not a good seller partly because of the noise from the transmission. The Type H overcame most of the drive line problems but suffered from the reputation of its predecessor. About 1700 of the Types F and H were made between 1919 and 1926. The company had not given up on the rear-engined idea and a new car, the Type J, appeared in 1922 but only a few were sold. It had a bonnet and radiator very similar to the front-engined cars. The final car, the type G of 1930 was also rear-engined, with the engine behind the rear axle, only a few were made. GWK’s greatest days were before World War 1 and after 1918 financial success eluded them. They went into temporary liquidation in 1922 and Wood and Keiller left but Grice returned in 1923. No cars seem to have been made between 1926 and 1930 and very few of the Type G were produced. The company finally closed in 1931 with the Cordwallis factory being used by Streamline Cars Ltd and later Marendaz. GWK also sold an imported Belgian Imperia car between 1924 and 1928 as the British Imperia. There were plans to build the Imperia at Maidenhead but these came to nothing.
Complementing the Commer Cob van version seen earlier was the saloon car, the “Audax” generation Hillman Minx. The Audax body was designed by the Rootes Group, but helped by the Raymond Loewy design organisation, who were involved in the design of Studebaker coupés in 1953. Announced in May 1956, the car went through a succession of annual face lifts each given a series number, replacing the mark number used on the previous Minxes. The Series I, introduced in 1956, was followed by the Series II in 1957, the Series III in 1958, the Series IIIA in 1959, the Series IIIB in 1960, the Series IIIC in 1961, the Series V in 1963 and the Series VI in 1965. There was no Series IV. Over the years the engine was increased in capacity from 1390 cc (in the Series I and II) to 1725 cc in the Series VI. A variety of manual transmissions, with column or floor change, and automatic transmissions were offered. For the automatic version, the Series I and II used a Lockheed Manumatic two pedal system (really only a semi-automatic), the Series III a Smiths Easidrive and the V/VI a Borg Warner. The most notable changes came with the Series V, which had a revised body, with new roof line and front and rear ends. There were Singer Gazelle and Sunbeam Rapier variants of all these Hillman Minx models, and the names were again used on derivatives in the later Rootes Arrow range. Some models were re-badged in certain markets, with the Sunbeam and Humber marques used for some exports. The model was replaced in 1967 by the new “Arrow” model Minx.
This is an Integra type R and is from the fourth and final generation of the car, often referred to as the DC5, which is the Honda internal reference fro the car. The fourth generation Integra was introduced in Japan on April 13, 2001 and produced from July 2001 to July 2006. For North America (United States and Canada), it was introduced as the Acura RSX in accordance with Acura’s new alphabetical naming scheme. It also had an entirely new engine, the K-series. The Integra came in two models in the United States, the RSX and the RSX Type-S boasting the K20A2 engine from 2002 to 2004, while the 2005 and 2006 RSX-S came with a K20Z1. The RSX was sold as a Honda Integra in Japan and Australia, markets where Acura did not exist. In March 2006, Honda announced that the Integra would be discontinued in June after its final 300 cars were sold, due to the shrinkage of the coupe market. The reaction of the consumers towards the discontinuation, however, forced Honda to extend production until July 2006 and produce 150 more Integras. The Acura RSX was discontinued as well, as the RSX did not fit within the confines of Acura’s re-structured market strategy. This left the Acura TSX as Acura’s entry-level vehicle. Also, the introduction of the similarly powerful and less expensive 2006 model-year Honda Civic Si was there to fill in the gap left by the RSX. The DC5 Type R (Japanese market only) comes standard with a K20A 220 hp 2.0 litre DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder engine. The “i” in i-VTEC stands for intelligent VTEC, which employs VTC (Variable Timing Control) to advance or retard the intake cam timing within a 50 degree range. The Integra Type R comes equipped with Recaro seats, four-piston Brembo front brakes, a close ratio six-speed manual transmission, a limited-slip differential, variable back-pressure exhaust system, and a stiffer suspension.
There was also a nice example here of the S2000, the much missed sports car that Honda produced to mark their 50th anniversary. The S2000 was first alluded to at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show, with the Honda Sport Study Model (SSM) concept car, a rear-wheel-drive roadster powered by a 2.0 litre inline 4-cylinder engine and featuring a rigid ‘high X-bone frame’ which Honda claimed improved the vehicle’s rigidity and collision safety. The concept car was constructed with aluminium body panels and featured a 50:50 weight distribution. The SSM appeared at many automotive shows for several years afterwards, hinting at the possibility of a production version, which Honda finally announced in 1999. It featured a front mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout with power being delivered by a 1,997 cc inline 4-cylinder DOHC-VTEC engine. The engine produced outputs of 237–247 hp, and 153–161 lb/ft depending on the target market., and it was mated to a six-speed manual transmission and Torsen limited slip differential. The S2000 achieved what Honda claimed as “the world’s top level, high performance 4-cylinder naturally aspirated engine”. Features included independent double wishbone suspension, electrically assisted steering and integrated roll hoops. The compact and lightweight engine, mounted entirely behind the front axle, allowed the S2000 to achieve a 50:50 front/rear weight distribution and lower rotational inertia. An electrically powered vinyl top with internal cloth lining was standard, with an aluminium hardtop available as an optional extra. Although the S2000 changed little visually during its production run, there were some alterations, especially in 2004, at which point production of the S2000 moved to Suzuka. The facelifted car introduced 17 in wheels and Bridgestone RE-050 tyres along with a retuned suspension to reduce oversteer. The spring rates and shock absorber damping were altered and the suspension geometry modified to improve stability by reducing toe-in changes under cornering loads. The subframe has also received a revision in design to achieve a high rigidity. In the gearbox the brass synchronisers were replaced with carbon fibre. In addition, cosmetic changes were made to the exterior with new front and rear bumpers, revised headlight assemblies, new LED tail-lights, and oval-tipped exhausts. Although all the cosmetic, suspension and most drivetrain upgrades were included on the Japanese and European S2000s, they retained the 2.0l F20C engine and remained designated as an AP1. A number of special editions were made, such as the more track-oriented Club Racer version offered in the US in 2007/8 and the Type S for Japan in 2008/9. The UK received a GT for 2009, which featured a removable hard-top and an outside temperature gauge. The S2000 Ultimate Edition (continental Europe) and GT Edition 100 (UK) were limited versions of the S2000 released to commemorate the end of production. Both included Grand Prix White body colour, removable hard top, graphite-coloured alloy wheels, red leather interior with red colouring for stitching on the gear lever gaiter. The Ultimate Edition was unveiled at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show and went on sale in March 2009. The GT Edition 100 was a limited run of 100 units released for the UK market. In addition to the Ultimate Edition’s specification, it featured a black S2000 badge and a numbered plaque on the kick-plate indicating which vehicle in the series it was. The car was never replaced, as Honda decided to head off in the same direction as Toyota, producing a series of very dull appliance-like cars that focused on low emissions and dependability but of no appeal to the sort of enthusiast who bought (and probably kept!) an S2000.
After what seemed like an endless wait the new NS-X finally arrived a couple of years ago. It is a rare sight and has not really captured the imagination in the same way as the first one did. It was one of these which was here, more than a quarter of a century after Honda stunned the world with a true Ferrari-beater. Its origins go back all the way to 1984, when Honda commissioned the Italian car designer Pininfarina to design the HP-X (Honda Pininfarina eXperimental), which had a mid-mounted C20A 2.0 L V6 configuration. After Honda committed to the project, management informed the engineers that the new car would have to be as fast as anything coming from Italy and Germany .The HP-X concept car evolved into a prototype called the NS-X, which stood for “New”, “Sportscar” and “eXperimental”. The NS-X prototype and eventual production model were designed by a team led by Chief Designer Ken Okuyama and Executive Chief Engineer Shigeru Uehara, who subsequently were placed in charge of the S2000 project. The original performance target for the NS-X was the Ferrari 328, and later the 348 as the design neared completion. Honda intended the NS-X to meet or exceed the performance of the Ferrari, while offering targeted reliability and a lower price point. For this reason, the 2.0L V6 of the HP-X was abandoned and replaced with a more powerful 3.0L VTEC V6 engine. The bodywork design had been specifically researched by Okuyama and Uehara after studying the 360 degree visibility inside an F-16 fighter jet cockpit. Thematically the F-16 came into play in the exterior design as well as establishing the conceptual goals of the NSX. In the F-16 and other high performance craft such as unlimited hydroplanes, single seat race cars etc. the cockpit is located far forward on the body and in front of the power plant. This “cab-forward” layout was chosen early in the NSX’s design to optimise visibility while the long tail design enhanced high speed directional stability. The NS-X was designed to showcase several Honda automotive technologies, many derived from its F1 motor-sports program. The NS-X was the first production car to feature an all-aluminium monocoque body, incorporating a revolutionary extruded aluminium alloy frame, and suspension. The use of aluminium in the body alone saved nearly 200 kg in weight over the steel equivalent, while the aluminium suspension saved an additional 20 kg; a suspension compliance pivot helped maintain wheel alignment changes at a near zero value. Other notable features included an independent, 4-channel anti-lock brake system; titanium connecting rods in the engine to permit reliable high-rpm operation; an electric power steering system; Honda’s proprietary VTEC variable valve timing system (a first in the US) and, in 1995, the first electronic throttle control fitted to a Honda. With a robust motorsports division, Honda had significant development resources at its disposal and made extensive use of them. Respected Japanese Formula One driver Satoru Nakajima, for example, was involved with Honda in the NS-X’s early on track development at Suzuka race circuit, where he performed many endurance distance duties related to chassis tuning. Brazilian Formula One World Champion Ayrton Senna, for whom Honda had powered all three of his world championship-winning Formula One race cars before his death in 1994, was considered Honda’s main innovator in convincing the company to stiffen the NSX chassis further after initially testing the car at Honda’s Suzuka GP circuit in Japan. Senna further helped refine the original NSX’s suspension tuning and handling spending a whole day test driving prototypes and reporting his findings to Honda engineers after each of the day’s five testing sessions. Senna also tested the NSX at the Nurburgring and other tracks. The suspension development program was far-ranging and took place at the Tochigi Proving Grounds, the Suzuka circuit, the 179-turn Nurburgring Course in Germany, HPCC, and Hondas newest test track in Takasu, Hokkaido. Honda automobile dealer Bobby Rahal (two-time CART PPG Cup and 1986 Indianapolis 500 champion) also participated in the car’s development. The production car made its first public appearances as the NS-X at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1989, and at the Tokyo Motor Show in October 1989 to positive reviews. Honda revised the vehicle’s name from NS-X to NSX before final production and sale. The NSX went on sale in Japan in 1990 at Honda Verno dealership sales channels, supplanting the Honda Prelude as the flagship model. The NSX was marketed under Honda’s flagship Acura luxury brand starting in 1991 in North America and Hong Kong. It sent shockwaves through the industry, as the car was considerably better than the Ferrari 348 in just about every respect. But that was not the end of the story, of course. While the NSX always was intended to be a world-class sports car, engineers had made some compromises in order to strike a suitable balance between raw performance and daily driveability. For those NSX customers seeking a no-compromise racing experience, Honda decided in 1992 to produce a version of the NSX specifically modified for superior on-track performance at the expense of customary creature comforts. Thus, the NSX Type R (or NSX-R) was born. Honda chose to use its moniker of Type R to designate the NSX-R’s race-oriented design. In 1995, a Targa model was released, the NSX-T, which allowed customers to experience fresh air thanks to two removable targa top panels. The original NSX body design received only minor modifications from Honda in the new millennium when in 2002 the original pop-up headlamps were replaced with fixed xenon HID headlamp units. There was just one of these much admired cars here.
Replacement for the acclaimed XK models came in 1961 with the E Type, and it stunned the world at its premier at the 1961 Geneva Show. Considered by many to be Sir William Lyons’ greatest achievement, not only did the car have stop-you-in-your-tracks gorgeous styling, but it had explosive performance (even if the 150 mph that was achieved in The Autocar’s Road Test is now known to have been with a little “help”), but it was the price that amazed people more than anything else. Whilst out of reach for most people, who could barely afford any new car, it was massively cheaper than contemporary Aston Martins and Ferraris, its market rivals. It was not perfect, though, and over the coming years, Jaguar made constant improvements. A 2+2 model joined the initial range of Roadster and Coupe, and more powerful and larger engines came when the 3.8 litre was enlarged to 4.2 litres, before more significant styling changes came with the 1967 Series 2 and the 1971 Series 3, where new front end treatments and lights were a consequence of legislative demands of the E Type’s most important market, America. The examples seen here were both V12-engined Series 3 Coupe cars.
Although some of the older cars lived for a few months more, whilst production ramped up, the Jaguar XJ6 and Daimler Sovereign cars that were launched in 1968 were intended to replace all the saloon cars. Offered initially with a choice of 2.8 and 4.2 litre XK engines, these cars wowed the press and the public just as much as many of their predecessors had done, both for their excellence and the fact that they were priced well below their competitors. It was not long before there was a long waiting list. As if this was not enough, the new V12 engine which had first been seen in the Series 3 Jaguar E Type was slotted under the bonnet of the cars in Spring 1972, creating one of the fastest and most refined saloons available in the world. At the time, the fact that it would only average around 11 mpg was not an issue, but within 18 months, and the onset of the Yom Kippur war and the resultant fuel crisis of late 1973, suddenly these cars – desirable as they were – became rather harder to sell. A Series 2 model was launched in the autumn of 1973, with new front end styling and bumper height set to meet the requirements of the critical US market.
Now over 35 years old is the elegant XJC. First shown in September 1973, at the same time as the Series 2 versions of the Jaguar XJ6/12 and related Daimler models, it soon became clear that this version was not ready for production, with problems surrounding the window sealing. The economic troubles unfolding in the western world at this time seem to have reduced further any sense of urgency about producing and selling the cars, so it was a further two years before XJ Coupés finally started to appear in Jaguar showrooms. The Coupé was based on the short-wheelbase version of the XJ. The elongated doors were made out of a lengthened standard XJ front door, with the weld seams clearly visible under the interior panels where two front door shells were grafted together with a single outer skin. Even with the delay, these cars suffered from water leaks and wind noise. All coupes came with a vinyl roof as standard. Since the coupe lacked B-pillars, the roof flexed enough that the paint used by Jaguar at the time would develop cracks. More modern paints do not suffer such problems, so whenever a coupe is repainted it is viable to remove the vinyl. Today many XJ-Cs no longer have their vinyl roof, also removing the threat of roof rust. Some owners also modified their XJ-C by changing to Series III bumpers. This lifted the front indicators from under the bumper and provided built in rear fog lights. Both six and twelve-cylinder models were offered, along with Daimler badged versions. However, the delayed introduction, the labour-intensive work required by the modified saloon body, the higher price than the four-door car, and the focus on the new XJ-S all contributed to a short production run of just two years. 6,505 of the 4.2 and 1,873 of the V12 Jaguar models were made, along with 1677 Daimler Sovereign and 477 Double Six models, making a total of 10,426. Nowadays, the cars are much respected for their elegant design.
Successor to the E Type was the XJ-S, launched in September 1975, and to a not universally approving public. This was a very different sort of sporting Jaguar, more boulevard cruiser than sports car, even though the car had plenty of appeal with its smooth V12 engine which gave it genuine 150 mph performance. Press reports were favourable, but a thirsty V12 and a car with inconsistent build quality and styling that not everyone warmed to meant that sales were slow, and they got slower as the decade passed, leading questions to be asked as to whether the car should continue. As well as sorting the saloon models, Jaguar’s Chairman, John Egan, put in place a program to improve the XJ-S as well, which also benefitted from the HE engine in early 1981. A Cabrio model and the option of the new 3.6 litre 6 cylinder engine from 1984 widened the sales appeal, and the volumes of cars being bought started to go up. A fully open Convertible, launched in 1988 was the model many had been waiting for, and by this time, although the design was over 10 years old, it was now brimming with appeal to many. 1991 saw an extensive facelift which changed the styling details as well as incorporating the latest mechanical changes from the Jaguar parts bin, making the XJS (the hyphen had been dropped from the name in 1990) a truly desirable car. Seen here were was a couple of the post-facelift models.
Few would have guessed that the XJS would run for over 20 years, but eventually it came time for its replacement, and the car charged with so doing was the XK8. Development began in 1992, with design work having starting earlier, in late 1991. By October 1992 a design was chosen and later frozen for production in 1993. Prototypes were built from December 1993 after the X100 was given formal approval and design patents were filed in June 1994. Development concluded in 1996, at which point the car was launched. The first-generation XK series shares its platform with the Aston Martin DB7, and both cars are derived from the Jaguar XJS, though the platform has been extensively changed. One of the revisions is the use of the second generation of Jaguar’s independent rear suspension unit, taken from the XJ40. The XK8 was available in coupé or convertible body styles and with the then new 4.0-litre Jaguar AJ-V8 engine. In 1998 the XKR was introduced with a supercharged version of the engine. 2003 the engines were replaced by the 4.2-litre AJ34 engines in both the normally aspirated and supercharged versions. Equipment levels were generous and there was a high standard of fit and finish. Both models came with all-leather interior, burl walnut trim, and side airbags. Jeremy Clarkson, during a Top Gear test-drive, likened the interior of the original XK8 to sitting inside Blenheim Palace. The model ran for 10 years before being replaced by the X150 model XK and there was one of those here, too.
Sole Lamborghini of the morning was a Huracan. Replacing Lamborghini’s sales leader and most produced car, the Gallardo, the Huracán made its show debut at the March 2014 Geneva Auto Show, and was released in the second quarter of 2014. The name of the Huracan LP 610-4 comes from the fact that this car has 610 metric horsepower and 4 wheel drive. Huracán (huracán being the Spanish word for hurricane) is inspired by a Spanish fighting bull. Continuing the tradition of using names from historical Spanish fighting bulls, Huracán was a bull known for its courage that fought in 1879. Also Huracan is the Mayan god of wind, storm and fire. Changes from the Gallardo included full LED illumination, a 12.3 inch full-colour TFT instrument panel, Fine Nappa leather and Alcantara interior upholstery, redesigned dashboard and central tunnel, Iniezione Diretta Stratificata (IDS, essentially an adapted version of parent Audi’s Fuel Stratified Injection) direct and indirect gasoline injections, engine Stop & Start technology, EU6 emissions regulation compliance, Lamborghini Doppia Frizione (LDF) 7-speed dual-clutch transmission with 3 modes (STRADA, SPORT and CORSA), 20 inch wheels, carbon-ceramic brake system, optional Lamborghini Dynamic Steering variable steering system and MagneRide electromagnetic damper control. In early 2015, the Huracán appeared on Top Gear. It got a neutral review from Richard Hammond who said that it was too tame to be a “proper Lamborghini.” However, it got around the Top Gear test track in 1:15.8 which is faster than any other Lamborghini to go around the track to date, including the Aventador. Now it has been available in the UK for some a couple of years, there are now quite a few on our roads, so it was no surprise to find the model here.
Sole Lancia of the morning and one of the first cars to catch my eye and camera as I walked round to the front of the building was this fabulously well=preserved Beta Coupe. The Beta family formed the core of Lancia’s range throughout the 1970s, The Berlina model came first, launched at the 1972 Turin Show. In its day, it sold in grater numbers than cars like the rival BMW, though few would believe that now. In 1973 the second style to appear was a 2+2 two-door coupé with a 93″ wheelbase, although due to the fuel crisis it did not become available to the public until early 1974. It was launched with 1.6 and 1.8 engines. New 1.6 and 2.0 engines replaced the original units in late 1975 followed by a 1.3 in early 1976, at which point the Fulvia Coupe was deleted. In 1978 automatic transmission and power steering became available. In 1981 the car received a minor facelift and at the same time the 2.0 became available with fuel Bosch electronic fuel injection. In 1983 a 2.0 VX supercharged engine became available with an output of 135 bhp. The bodywork was developed in-house by a Lancia team led by Aldo Castagno, with Pietro Castagnero acting as styling consultant. Castagnero had also styled the Beta’s predecessor, the Lancia Fulvia saloon and coupé. The car was popular in the mid 1970s with 111,801 examples being built, though they are quite rare now. This is a late 1970s model, the era when the rust problems were at their worst, but they seem to have eluded this one, thankfully.
Oldest of the Lotus models on show was this +2. Introduced in 1967, the Elan +2 had a longer wheelbase and two rear seats and so was intended for those Lotus customers who needed space to carry (small) people in the back, without sacrificing the same basic principles which made the Elan so appealing. A fast and agile sport coupe, a number of different engines were fitted over the years, with the later models having 130 bhp and a 5 speed gearbox at their disposal, which gave a top speed of 120 mph and 0–60 acceleration of 7.9 seconds and 0-100 mph 21.8 seconds. 5,200 Elans +2 were made, with production ceasing in 1975. Fewer than 1,200 of these cars remain on the roads today. Their relative rarity, beautiful lines, impressive performance and practicality are the main factors for the rising interest on these cars among collectors.
There has only ever been one front wheel drive model with Lotus badges on it, the “M100” Elan sports car. Like many specialist produced cars of the era, there was a long wait for this car form when news first broke that it was under development to the actual release of cars people could buy. The M100 Elan story goes back to 1986 and the purchase of Lotus by General Motors which provided the financial backing to develop a new, small, affordable car in the same spirit as the original Elan, the last of which had been built in December 1972. A development prototype, the M90 (later renamed the X100) had been built a few years earlier, using a fibreglass body designed by Oliver Winterbottom and a Toyota-supplied 1.6-litre engine and transmission. Lotus was hoping to sell the car through Toyota dealerships worldwide, badged as a Lotus Toyota, but the project never came to fruition and the prototype was shelved, although Lotus’s collaboration with Toyota had some influence on the design of the Toyota MR2. The idea of a small roadster powered by an outsourced engine remained, however, and in late 1986 Peter Stevens’s design for the Type M100 was approved and work began by Lotus engineers to turn the clay styling buck into a car that could be built. This process was completed in just under three years, a remarkably short time from design to production car. The M100 Elan was conceived as a mass-market car and in particular one that would appeal to US buyers. Consequently, Lotus put an enormous effort (for such a small firm) into testing the car; over a two-year period 19 crash cars and 42 development vehicles were built, logging nearly a million test miles in locations from Arizona to the Arctic. The Elan was driven at racing speeds for 24 hours around the track at Snetterton. Finally each new car was test-driven for around 30 miles at Lotus’s Hethel factory to check for any manufacturing defects before being shipped to dealers. The choice of front-wheel drive is unusual for a sports car, but according to Lotus sales literature, “for a given vehicle weight, power and tyre size, a front wheel drive car was always faster over a given section of road. There were definite advantages in traction and controllability, and drawbacks such as torque steer, bump steer and steering kickback were not insurmountable.” This was the only front-wheel-drive vehicle made by Lotus. Every model made since the M100 Elan, such as the Lotus Elise, has been rear-wheel drive. The M100 Elan’s cornering performance was undeniable (on release the Elan was described by Autocar magazine as “the quickest point to point car available”). Press reaction was not uniformly positive, as some reviewers found the handling too secure and predictable compared to a rear-wheel-drive car. However, the Elan’s rigid chassis minimised roll through the corners and has led to its description as ‘the finest front wheel drive [car] bar none’. Unlike the naturally aspirated version, the turbocharged SE received power steering as standard, as well as tyres with a higher ZR speed rating. The M100 Elan used a 1,588 cc double overhead camshaft (DOHC) 16-valve engine, sourced from the Isuzu Gemini and extensively modified by Lotus (a third generation of this engine was later used in the Isuzu Impulse), which produced 162 hp. 0–60 acceleration time was measured by Autocar and Motor magazine at 6.5 seconds, and a top speed of 137 mph was recorded. Significant differences in the Isuzu-Lotus engine from the original include a new exhaust system, re-routed intake plumbing for better thermodynamic efficiency, improved engine suspension, and major modifications to the engine control unit to improve torque and boost response. Almost all models featured an IHI turbocharger. Two variants were available at launch, the 130 bhp Elan 1.6 (retailing at £17,850) and the 162 bhp Turbo SE (£19,850). Initial sales were disappointing, perhaps because its launch coincided with a major economic recession in the UK and USA, and perhaps also because it coincided with the cheaper Mazda MX-5 which was arguably similar in concept, though the MX-5 was quite intentionally nostalgic and old fashioned (apeing the original Elan), while the M100 was deliberately futuristic, modern and forward looking. The Elan was regarded as a good product in a bad market, but was also very expensive to make (the cost to design and produce the dashboard alone was more than the total cost of the Excel production line), and sales figures were too low to recoup its huge development costs. Altogether 3,855 Elans were built between November 1989 and July 1992, including 129 normally aspirated (non-turbo) cars. 559 of them were sold in the US, featuring a ‘stage 2 body’ which had a different rear boot spoiler arrangement together with a lengthened nose to accommodate a USA-compliant crash structure and airbag, and 16-inch wheels (optional in most markets, standard in the U.S.) instead of 15-inch as on the UK model. A limited edition of 800 Series 2 (S2) M100 Elans was released during the Romano Artioli era (produced June 1994–September 1995) when it was discovered that enough surplus engines were available to make this possible. According to Autocar magazine, the S2 addressed some of the concerns over handling, but power was reduced to 155 bhp and the 0–60 acceleration time increased to 7.5 seconds, due to the legislative requirement to fit a catalytic converter in all markets. The S2s have very similar performance to the USA vehicles, having an identical engine management system calibration and a slightly lower overall vehicle weight.
It is now over 20 years since Lotus launched the Elise, a model which showed a return to the core values of simplicity and light-weight which were cornerstones of Colin Chapman’s philosophy when he founded the marque in 1955. The first generation Elise was produced for just over 4 years, with a replacement model, the Series 2 arriving in October 2000. It came about as the Series 1 could not be produced beyond the 2000 model production year due to new European crash sustainability regulations. Lacking the funding to produce a replacement, Lotus needed a development partner to take a share of investment required for the new car. General Motors offered to fund the project, in return for a badged and GM-engined version of the car for their European brands, Opel and Vauxhall. The result was therefore two cars, which although looking quite different, shared much under the skin: a Series 2 Elise and the Vauxhall VX220 and Opel Speedster duo. The Series 2 Elise was a redesigned Series 1 using a slightly modified version of the Series 1 chassis to meet the new regulations, and the same K-series engine with a brand new Lotus-developed ECU. The design of the body paid homage to the earlier M250 concept, and was the first Lotus to be designed by computer. Both the Series 2 Elise and the Opel Speedster/Vauxhall VX220 were built on the same production line, in a new facility at Hethel. Both cars shared many parts, including the chassis, although they had different drive-trains and power-plants. The VX220 carried the Lotus internal model identification Lotus 116, with the code name Skipton for the launch 2.2 normally aspirated version and Tornado for the 2 litre Turbo which came out in 2004. Fitted with 17 inch over the Elise’s 16 inch front wheels, the Vauxhall/Opel version ceased production in late 2005 and was replaced by the Opel GT for February 2007, with no RHD version for the United Kingdom. The Elise lived on. and indeed is still in production now, some 15 years later, though there have been countless different versions produced in that time. Whilst the first of the Series 2 cars came with the Rover K-Series engine, and that included the 111S model which had the VVC engine technology producing 160 hp, a change came about in 2005 when Lotus started to use Toyota engines. This was initially due to Lotus’ plans to introduce the Elise to the US market, meaning that an engine was needed which would comply with US emissions regulations. The selected 1.8 litre (and later 1.6 litre) Toyota units did, and the K-series did not. that MG-Rover went out of business in 2005 and engine production ceased confirmed the need for the change. Since then, Lotus have offered us track focused Elise models like the 135R and Sport 190, with 135 bhp and 192 bhp respectively, as well as the 111R, the Sport Racer, the Elise S and Elise R. In 2008 an even more potent SC model, with 218 bhp thanks to a non-intercooled supercharger was added to the range. In February 2010, Lotus unveiled a facelifted version of the second generation Elise. The new headlights are now single units; triangular in shape they are somewhat larger than the earlier lights. The cheapest version in Europe now has a 1.6 litre engine to comply with Euro 5 emissions, with the same power output as the earlier 1.8 136bhp car. Lotus has been through some difficult times in recent years, but things are looking more optimistic again, with production numbers having risen significantly in the last couple of years, after a period when next to no cars were made. The Elise is still very much part of the range. Seen here were an array of Series 1 and Series 2 models.
Developed under the project name Project Eagle, this car was launched as the Evora on 22 July 2008 at the British International Motor Show. The Evora is based on the first all-new vehicle platform from Lotus Cars since the introduction of the Lotus Elise in 1995 (the Exige, introduced in 2000, and the 2006 Europa S are both derivatives of the Elise. Evora was planned to be the first vehicle of three to be built on the same platform and was the first product of a five-year plan started in 2006 to expand the Lotus line-up beyond its track-specialised offerings, with the aim of making Evora a somewhat of a more practical road car that would appeal to the mainstream. As such it is a larger car than recent Lotus models Elise and its derivatives (Exige, Europa S, etc.), with an unladen weight of 1,383 kg (3,049 lb). It is currently the only Lotus model with a 2+2 configuration, although it is also offered in a two-seater configuration, referred to as the “Plus Zero” option. It is also the only 2+2 mid engined coupé on sale. The interior is larger to allow taller persons of 6’5″ to fit. The cooled boot behind the engine is large enough to fit a set of golf clubs, although Lotus Design Head Russell Carr denies that this was intentional. Lotus intends Evora to compete with different market sectors including the Porsche Cayman. The name “Evora” keeps the Lotus tradition of beginning model names with an “E”. The name is derived from the words evolution, vogue, and aura. and it of course sounds similar to Évora, which is the name of a Portuguese city and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sales started in summer 2009, with an annual target of 2000 cars per year, with prices between £45,000 and just over £50,000. and in America from the beginning of 2010. The Evora received several accolades at its launch from the British motoring press, including: Britain’s Best Driver’s Car 2009 from Autocar and Car of the Year 2009, from Evo. Sales, however, were far from target, as the car was seen as too costly. A more powerful Evora S was launched in 2010 with a supercharged equipped 3.5-litre V6. A facelifted and more powerful Evora 400 model was unveiled at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show.
After producing BiTurbo based cars for 17 years, Maserati replaced their entire range with a new model in July 1998, the 3200 GT. This very elegant 2+2 grand tourer was styled by Italdesign, whose founder and head Giorgetto Giugiaro had previously designed, among others, the Ghibli, Bora and Merak. The interior design was commissioned to Enrico Fumia. Its name honoured the Maserati 3500 GT, the Trident’s first series production grand tourer. Sold mainly in Europe, the 3200 GT was powered by the twin-turbo, 32-valve, dual overhead cam 3.2-litre V8 engine featured in the Quattroporte Evoluzione, set up to develop 370 PS (365 hp). The car was praised for its styling, with the distinctive array of tail-lights, consisting of LEDs, arranged in the shape of boomerang being particularly worthy of comment. The outer layer of the ‘boomerang’ provided the brake light, with the inner layer providing the directional indicator. The car was also reviewed quite well by the press when they got to drive it in early 1999, though it was clear that they expected more power and excitement. That came after 4,795 cars had been produced, in 2001, with the launch of the 4200 models. Officially called the Coupé and joined by an open-topped Spyder (Tipo M138 in Maserati speak), these models had larger 4.2 litre engines and had been engineered so the cars could be sold in America, marking the return to that market for Maserati after an 11 year gap. There were some detailed styling changes, most notable of which were the replacement of the boomerang rear lights with conventional rectangular units. Few felt that this was an improvement. Minor changes were made to the model during its six year production, but more significant was the launch at the 2004 Geneva Show of the GranSport which sported aerodynamic body cladding, a chrome mesh grille, carbon fibre interior trim, and special 19-inch wheels. It used the Skyhook active suspension, with a 0.4 inch lower ride height, and the Cambiocorsa transmission recalibrated for quicker shifts. The exhaust was specially tuned to “growl” on start-up and full throttle. The GranSport was powered by the same 4244 cc, 90° V8 petrol engine used on the Coupé and Spyder, but developing 400 PS (395 hp) at 7000 rpm due primarily to a different exhaust system and improvements on the intake manifolds and valve seats. A six-speed paddle shift transmission came as standard. The GranSport has a claimed top speed of 180 mph (290 km/h) and a 0–62 mph (0–100 km/h) time of 4.8 seconds. The cars proved popular, though, selling strongly up until 2007 when they were replaced by the next generation of Maserati.
There were also a couple of models from the current range: the sublime GranTurismo and my Ghibli, which seemed to be attracting plenty of attention, as whenever I saw it, I could see people taking photos of it.
Classic Mercedes of note was a nice example of the W123 generation here, a model which Mercedes-Benz introduced in four-door form on 29 January 1976. While there were some technical similarities to their predecessors, the new models were larger in wheelbase and exterior dimensions. The styling was also updated, although stylistic links with the W114 / W115 were maintained. Initially, all models except 280/280E featured quad unequal-size round headlights and the latter large rectangular units. When facelifted, these units became standard across the range. All W115 engines were carried over, with the 3-litre 5-cylinder diesel model being renamed from “240D 3.0” to “300D” (as it had already been called before in North American markets). The only new engine was the 250’s 2,525 cc inline-six (Type M123, a short-stroke version of the 2.8-litre six Type M110) that replaced the old 2,496 cc Type M114 “six”. In the spring of 1976, a Coupé version was introduced on a shorter wheelbase than the saloon (106.7 in versus 110.0 in). This W123C/CE was available as a 230C (later 230CE) and as a 280C/CE in most markets; in North America there were additional 300CD versions with naturally aspirated, later turbocharged 3-litre diesel engines. In North America, buyers favoured diesel engines for upmarket cars, while CAFE legislation meant that Mercedes-Benz North America had to lower their corporate average fuel economy. This led to the introduction of a few diesel models only sold in the United States. It is a tribute to the car’s instant popularity – and possibly to the caution built into the production schedules – that nine months after its introduction, a black market had developed in Germany for Mercedes-Benz W123s available for immediate delivery. Customers willing to order new cars from their local authorised dealer for the recommended list price faced waiting times in excess of twelve months. Meanwhile, models that were barely used and were available almost immediately commanded a premium over the new price of around DM 5,000. From August 1976, long-wheelbase versions (134.8 in) were produced. These were available as 7/8 seater saloons with works bodies or as a chassis with complete front body clip, the latter serving as the base for ambulance and hearse bodies by external suppliers like Binz or Miesen. These “Lang” versions could be ordered as 240D, 300D and 250 models. At the Frankfurt Auto Show in September, 1977 the W123T estate was introduced; the T in the model designation stood for “Touring and Transport”. All engines derivative except “200TD” were available in the range. T production began in March, 1978 in Mercedes’ Bremen factory. It was the first factory-built Mercedes-Benz estate, previous estates had been custom-built by external coachbuilders, such as Binz. In early 1979, the diesel models’ power output was increased; power rose from 54 hp to 59 hp in the 200D, from 64 hp to 71 hp in the 240D and from 79 hp to 87 hp in the 300D; at the same time, the 220D went out of production. The first Mercedes turbo diesel production W123 appeared in September, 1981. This was the 300 TD Turbodiesel, available with automatic transmission only. In most markets, the turbocharged 5-cylinder 3-litre diesel engine (Type OM617.95) was offered only in the T body style, while in North America it was also available in saloon and coupé guises. June 1980 saw the introduction of new four-cylinder petrol engines (Type M102). A new 2-litre four with shorter stroke replaced the old M115, a fuel-injected 2.3-litre version of this engine (in 230E/TE/CE) the old carburettor 230. Both engines were more powerful than their predecessors. In 1980/81, the carburettor 280 versions went out of production; the fuel-injected 280E continued to be offered. In September 1982, all models received a mild facelift. The rectangular headlights, previously fitted only to the 280/280E, were standardised across the board, as was power steering. Since February 1982, an optional five-speed manual transmission was available in all models (except the automatic-only 300 turbodiesel). W123 production ended in January, 1986 with 63 final T-models rolling out. Most popular single models were the 240D (455,000 built), the 230E (442,000 built), and the 200D (378,000 built). The W123 introduced innovations including ABS (optional from August, 1980), a retractable steering column and an airbag for the driver (optional from 1982). Power (vacuum servo) assisted disc brakes were standard on all W123s. Available options included MB-Tex (Mercedes-Benz Texturized Punctured Vinyl) upholstery or velour or leather upholstery, interior wood trim, passenger side exterior mirror (standard on T models), 5-speed manual transmission (European market only), 4-speed automatic transmission (standard in turbodiesel models), power windows with rear-seat switch cut-outs, vacuum powered central locking, rear-facing extra seats (estate only), Standheizung (prestart timer-controlled engine heating), self-locking differential, sun roof, air conditioning, climate control, “Alpine” horn (selectable quieter horn), headlamp wipers (European market only), Tempomat (cruise control), power steering (standard after 1982/08), seat heating, catalytic converter (available from 1984 for California only, from autumn 1984 also in Germany for the 230E of which one thousand were built). These days, the cars are very popular “youngtimer” classics, with all models highly rated.
The only other Mercedes of note was this AMG GT C Roadster. The GT C is the performance oriented variant of the Mercedes-AMG GT. The M178 engine in this variant is tuned to an output of 557 bhp and 502 lb/ft (681 Nm) of torque. While the GT C retains the key mechanical differences the GT S gains over the GT, it also has a wider body and active rear steering, which the GT S does not have (even as options). The GT C is available now with body styles.
As one of Britain’s most popular classic cars, it was no surprise to find several examples of the MGB here, with cars from throughout the model’s long life, both in Roadster and MGB GT guise, as well as one of the short-lived V8 engined cars. Launched in October 1962, this car was produced for the next 18 years and it went on to become Britain’s best selling sports car. When first announced, the MGB was an innovative, modern design, with a monocoque structure instead of the traditional body-on-frame construction used on both the MGA and MG T-types and the MGB’s rival, the Triumph TR series, though components such as the brakes and suspension were developments of the earlier 1955 MGA and the B-Series engine had its origins back in 1947. The lightweight design reduced manufacturing costs while adding to overall vehicle strength, and with a 95hp 3-bearing 1798cc engine under the bonnet, performance was quite respectable with a 0–60 mph time of just over 11 seconds. The car was rather more civilised than its predecessor, with wind-up windows now fitted as standard, and a comfortable driver’s compartment offered plenty of legroom. The roadster was the first of the MGB range to be produced. The body was a pure two-seater but a small rear seat was a rare option at one point. By making better use of space the MGB was able to offer more passenger and luggage accommodation than the earlier MGA while being 3 inches shorter overall. The suspension was also softer, giving a smoother ride, and the larger engine gave a slightly higher top speed. The four-speed gearbox was an uprated version of the one used in the MGA with an optional (electrically activated) overdrive transmission. A five-bearing engine was introduced in 1964 and a number of other modifications crept into the specification. In late 1967, sufficient changes were introduced for the factory to define a Mark II model. Alterations included synchromesh on all 4 gears with revised ratios, an optional Borg-Warner automatic gearbox, a new rear axle, and an alternator in place of the dynamo with a change to a negative earth system. To accommodate the new gearboxes there were significant changes to the sheet metal in the floorpan, and a new flat-topped transmission tunnel. US market cars got a new safety padded dashboard, but the steel item continued for the rest of the world. Rostyle wheels were introduced to replace the previous pressed steel versions in 1969 and reclining seats were standardised. 1970 also saw a new front grille, recessed, in black aluminium. The more traditional-looking polished grille returned in 1973 with a black “honeycomb” insert. Further changes in 1972 were to the interior with a new fascia. To meet impact regulations, in late 1974, the chrome bumpers were replaced with new, steel-reinforced black rubber bumpers, the one at the front incorporating the grille area as well, giving a major restyling to the B’s nose, and a matching rear bumper completed the change. New US headlight height regulations also meant that the headlamps were now too low. Rather than redesign the front of the car, British Leyland raised the car’s suspension by 1-inch. This, in combination with the new, far heavier bumpers resulted in significantly poorer handling. For the 1975 model year only, the front anti-roll bar was deleted as a cost-saving measure (though still available as an option). The damage done by the British Leyland response to US legislation was partially alleviated by revisions to the suspension geometry in 1977, when a rear anti-roll bar was made standard equipment on all models. US emissions regulations also reduced horsepower. In March 1979 British Leyland started the production of black painted limited edition MGB roadsters for the US market, meant for a total of 500 examples, but due to a high demand, production ended with 6682 examples. The United Kingdom received bronze painted roadsters and a silver GT model limited editions. The production run of home market limited edition MGBs was split between 421 roadsters and 579 GTs. Meanwhile, the fixed-roof MGB GT had been introduced in October 1965, and production continued until 1980, although export to the US ceased in 1974. The MGB GT sported a ground-breaking greenhouse designed by Pininfarina and launched the sporty “hatchback” style. By combining the sloping rear window with the rear deck lid, the B GT offered the utility of a station wagon while retaining the style and shape of a coupe. This new configuration was a 2+2 design with a right-angled rear bench seat and far more luggage space than in the roadster. Relatively few components differed, although the MGB GT did receive different suspension springs and anti-roll bars and a different windscreen which was more easily and inexpensively serviceable. Although acceleration of the GT was slightly slower than that of the roadster, owing to its increased weight, top speed improved by 5 mph to 105 mph because of better aerodynamics. 523,826 examples of the MGB of all model types were built, and although many of these were initially sold new in North America, a lot have been repatriated here. Both the Roadster and MGB GT were represented.
Sitting alongside the MGB in the MG range was the smaller Midget, and there were a couple of these cars here, a Series 3 model and one of the later rubber-bumpered cars. The 1961 Midget resurrected the name that was used by MG for their smallest car, the M Type, in the late 20s, was the Midget announced in 1961, and 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 lbf·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.
The MG ZR is an MG branded “hot hatch” version of the Rover 25 supermini class car, produced by MG Rover at their Longbridge plant in Birmingham from 2001 to 2005. Compared to the Rover 25, the ZR featured a number of styling modifications and performance enhancements, such as uprated sports suspension and a less baffled exhaust. The MG ZR was one of Britain’s most popular sporting hatchbacks throughout its production life, and in 2004, it was MG Rover’s best selling car—the first time that any MG product had been the most popular product of any of the many combines that had owned the MG marque. It was launched in mid 2001 along with the ZS and ZT models and was still in production on the collapse of the company in April 2005. Tens of thousands of MG ZRs were sold in Britain, and proved particularly popular with young buyers who were attracted by deals such as free insurance and discounts that were the equivalent of VAT. While its handling was praised by reviewers, other aspects of the ZR were found to be inadequate. The entry level ZR 105 came with the 16 valve 1.4 K series engine which produced 102 bhp and 123 Nm (91 lb/ft) torque giving a 0–60 mph of 9.7 seconds and a top speed of 111 mph. The ZR 120 came with a larger 1.8 K series engine which produced 115 bhp and 160 Nm (120 lb/ft) torque giving a 0–60 mph of 8.6 seconds and a top speed of 119 mph. This had a more advanced brake set up despite the small power increase, featuring same diameter 262mm discs up front, but this time vented for aided cooling. The drums at the back were also replaced with 239mm solid disks to maintain braking balance. The range topping ZR 160 came with a 1.8 K Series VVC engine producing 159 bhp and 174 Nm (128 lb/ft) torque giving a 0–60 mph of 7.4 seconds and a top speed of 131 mph. This featured the most advanced brake set up available with 282mm vented front discs, and even larger solid 260mm rear discs, all of which provided excellent stopping force in a vehicle only weighing 1145 kg. There were also two diesel variants of the ZR, the first being the ZR TD 100 which had a 2.0 L Series engine producing 99 bhp and 240 N⋅m (180 lb⋅ft) torque, giving a 0-60 mph of 9.7 seconds and a top speed of 114 mph. The other diesel engined ZR was the TD 115 which came with the same 2.0 L series engine but with some minor performance enhancements (improved ECU map), to produce 111 bhp and 260 N⋅m (190 lb⋅ft) torque, which saw the car have a 0–60 mph of 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 116 mph. The ZR TD 115 also came equipped with disc brakes at both the front and the rear sharing its brake set up with the ZR 120, whereas the ZR TD 100 had drums at the back, sharing its brake set up with the ZR 105.
Completing the lineup was the most recent MG sportscar, the MG TF. 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.
Lots of the classic Issigonis-styled Mini models were here, with a strong Club representation, models ranging from one of the early 1960s Cooper car tho the 1990s reborn version of the Cooper.
This is one of the original Three wheelers from the 1930s
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 were both a Tourer and a Traveller.
The ADO17, launched initially as the Austin 1800, in October 1964, was the third of a trio of cars masterminded by Issigonis which espoused his basic beliefs of space efficiency and no undue fripperies. He often said that it was the car of which he was most proud. The market took a different view. One problem was that it was half a class larger than the most obvious rivals, such as the Ford Cortina and Vauxhall Victor, which meant that instead of replacing the Austin Cambridge, as originally intended, it ended up supplementing it in the range. Undeniably spacious, within a very compact footprint, the car was also rather basic looking inside, with a thin ribbon speedo set in a very narrow strip of dashboard, with a full width parcel shelf underneath (with an awkward umbrella handbrake sprouting somewhere to the left of the column. A Morris version, identical bar the badging arrived two years later. There were none of these original cars on display this time. What were there, though were several of the Mark 2 models which were launched in 1968, with revised styling front and back, a new dash panel and the option of a twin carb 1798 cc engine from the MGB in an S version. This was a few months after the more luxurious Wolseley 18/85 had been added to the range. This one is an 1800 Mark 2 Automatic. Over 50 years old, it has only done 30,000 miles, as the story goes that the original owner bought it without telling his wife, she did not like it, so the car was garaged and an Allegro was used in preference! It was bought in Jan this year by the current owner who had little to do to make it immaculate.
Among the most colourful of all the cars on offer, certainly for their period, were the Metropolitans, a number of which were on show here. Designed in the U.S. and patterned from a concept car, the NXI (Nash Experimental International), that was built by Detroit-based independent designer William J. Flajole for Nash-Kelvinator, this was designed as the second car in a two car family, for “Mom taking the kids to school or shopping or for Dad to drive to the railroad station to ride to work”. This “commuter/shopping car” bore a resemblance to the big Nash models of the era, but the scale was tiny as the Met’s wheelbase was shorter than a Volkswagen Beetle’s. The NXI design study had incorporated many innovative features, and attempted to make use of interchangeable front and rear components (the symmetrical door skins were the only interchangeable items that made it into production). Although more complex, the new vehicle also incorporated Nash’s advanced single-unit monocoque construction. It had been displayed at a number of “surviews” (survey/previews), commencing on 4 January 1950 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York, to gauge the reaction of the American motoring public to a car of this size, the results of which convinced Nash that there was indeed a market for such a car, if it could be built at a competitive price. A series of prototypes followed that incorporated many of the improvements requested, including roll-up glass side windows, a more powerful engine, and a column-mounted gearlever with bench seat (rather than bucket-type seats with floor change of the concept car). The model was named NKI (for Nash-Kelvinator International), and it featured revised styling incorporating a hood blister and rear wheel cutouts. Nash was positioning this new product for the emerging postwar market for “personal use” autos, and also saw it as a means of Nash to overseas markets. However, Mason and Nash management calculated that it would not be viable to build such a car from scratch in the U.S. because the tooling costs would have been prohibitive. The only cost-effective option was to build overseas using existing mechanical components (engine, transmission, rear end, suspension, brakes, electrical), leaving only the tooling cost for body panels and other unique components. Nash Motors negotiated with several European companies, and on October 5, 1952, announced that they had selected the Austin Motor Company (by then part of BMC) and Fisher & Ludlow (which also became part of BMC in September 1953, later operating under the name Pressed Steel Fisher), both based in Birmingham and vicinity. Fisher & Ludlow would produce the bodywork, while the mechanicals would be provided, as well as final assembly undertaken, by the Austin Motor Company. This was the first time an American-designed car, to be exclusively marketed in North America, had been entirely built in Europe. It became a captive import – a foreign-built vehicle sold and serviced by Nash (and later by American Motors) through its dealer distribution system. It is believed that the first pre-production prototype was completed by Austin on December 2, 1952. In all, five pre-production prototypes were built by Austin Motors and tested prior to the start of production. The total tooling cost amounted to US$1,018,475.94, which was a fraction of the tooling cost for a totally U.S.-built vehicle. The styling for all Nash vehicles at that time was an amalgam of designs from Pininfarina of Italy and the in-house Nash design team. The different models from Ambassador down to the Metropolitan utilised very similar design features (fully enclosed front wheels, notched “pillow” style door pressing, bar style grille etc.). Whilst Nash used the fact that styling was by Pininfarina in their advertising for their larger models, Pininfarina refused to allow his name to be associated with the Metropolitan as he felt it would damage his reputation with other Italian car companies to be linked to such a small car. The new Metropolitan was made in two body designs: convertible and hardtop. All came with several standard features that were optional on most cars of the era. Among these factory-installed benefits for customers were a map light, electric wipers, a cigar lighter, and even a “continental-type” rear-mounted spare tyre with cover. To give a “luxury” image to the interior, “Bedford cord” upholstery trimmed with leather was used (similar to larger Nash vehicles). An AM radio, “Weather Eye” heater, and whitewall tyres were offered as optional extras for the U.S. market. (It is unlikely that a Metropolitan could have been purchased without a heater and radio, as all vehicles left the factory with both items fitted.) The cars were small, with an 85 in wheelbase, an overall length of just 149.5 in and a gross weight of only 1,785 lb for the Convertible and 1,825 lb for the Hardtop, thus making the Metropolitan smaller than the Volkswagen Beetle. Power came from an OHV 1,200 cc straight-4 Austin ‘A40′ series engine as used in the Austin A40 Devon/Dorset) driving the rear wheels through a three-speed manual transmission. The new model was initially to be called the “NKI Custom”, but the name was changed to “Metropolitan” just two months before its public release. New chrome nameplates with the “Metropolitan” name were made to fit into the same holes as the “NKI Custom” script on the passenger side front fender. Nash dealers had to rebadge the early cars that came with the “NKI Custom” name, but some factory manuals had already been prepared and distributed to service departments with the NKI name. Initial reviews of the Metropolitan were mixed. However, owners of the cars reported that the “Metropolitan is a good thing in a small package”. Automotive industry veteran and the largest publisher of automotive books at the time, Floyd Clymer, took several Metropolitans through his tests. He “abused” a 1954 Metropolitan convertible and “got the surprise of my life” with its “performance was far better than I expected”, that he “felt very safe in the car”, and that “it may well be that Nash has started a new trend in American motoring. Perhaps the public is now getting ready to accept a small car”. Clymer also took a 1957 Metropolitan hardtop through a gruelling 2,912 mi road test that even took him 14,100 ft up Pikes Peak. He summed up his experience that “I can not praise the Metropolitan too highly. It is a fascinating little car to drive, its performance is far better than one would expect, and the ride is likewise more than expected”. It was not all good, of course, with Motor Trend magazine describing the backseat as “a joke”. Performance, whilst pedestrian by today’s standards, with a 0 to 60 mph time over 19.3 seconds and a top speed in excess of 70 mph was far better that of the rival VW, but at 60 mph, a common American cruising speed at the time, the Metropolitan was revving at 4300 rpm, which shortened engine life, whereas the Volkswagen could travel at the same speed at only 3000 rpm. Road & Track ’s testers also said that the car had “more than its share of roll and wallow on corners” and there was “little seat-of-the-pants security when the rear end takes its time getting back in line.” The lack of any form of opening for the boot also attracted plenty of complaints. Production at Austin’s Longbridge factory started in October 1953. The initial order was for 10,000 units, with an option to increase the order if sales were sufficient. The first examples badged as Nash went on sale on March 19, 1954 in the U.S. and Canada. Autocar said that “at a production rate of less than 400 cars a week … it was hardly going to be a runaway best seller.” In surveys, Americans had affirmed a desire for economy cars, but in practice they bought the Metropolitan in relatively small numbers. Although Nash merged with Hudson in 1954, and marketed the car as a Hudson Metropolitan in 1955, “demand never took off from the original level”, primarily because the Metropolitan was slow by North American standards. In the first month of sales, 862 Metropolitans were sold in U.S. and Canada, while in the first six months a total of 7,042 were sold. A further order was placed with Austin. After the first 10,000 cars were built, the engine was changed to a B-Series, but still of 1,200 cc, as used in the Austin A40 Cambridge. Other modifications that were incorporated at this time were a new gearbox, and hydraulic actuation for the clutch. The change to a new engine and gearbox added 50 lb to the weight. November 1955 saw the start of Metropolitan Series III (NK3) production. A redesign at this time saw the Metropolitan’s B-Series engine increased in capacity to 1,498 cc, as used in the Austin A50 Cambridge. Polished stainless steel sweep-spears on the body sides allowed a new two-tone finish to be incorporated, which had the cosmetic effect of lowering, slimming and lengthening the car. The grille was also redesigned, and the bonnet had its non-functional hood scoop removed. American Motors changed the designation to “Metropolitan 1500” to differentiate it from the earlier 1,200 cc models. The interior was also changed to incorporate a “houndstooth” check material for the seats trimmed with white vinyl. The dashboard was also now painted black, rather than the body colour as was the case for Series I and II Metropolitans. In September 1957, AMC announced that it was dropping the Nash and Hudson brand names. The Metropolitan was subsequently marketed under the “Metropolitan” name only, and sold through Rambler dealers. January 1959 saw the start of Metropolitan Series IV (NK4) production. This major redesign saw the addition of an external bootlid, at last. By this time, the engine had been upgraded by increasing the compression ratio from 7.2:1 to 8.3:1 giving an output of 55 bhp, as used in the Austin A55 Cambridge). The additional features added 15 lb (6.8 kg) to the weight. Sales rose to 22,209 units in 1959, the Metropolitan’s best-selling year, promoting it to second place behind Volkswagen in sales of cars imported to the U.S. American Motors’ advertising made much of this ranking, while omitting mention that the Volkswagen outsold the Metropolitan by 5½ to 1. Production ceased in April 1961, though sales of the existing inventory continued until March 1962. Approximately 95,000 Metropolitans were sold in the United States and Canada, making it one of the top-selling cars to be imported into those countries at the time, and its sales in 1959 helped to spur the introduction of the Big Three’s (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) new compact models. In October 1956, Austin obtained permission from American Motors to sell the Metropolitans in overseas countries where AMC did not have a presence. The early brochures for the Austin Metropolitans used a reversed photograph to show an apparently right hand drive (RHD) car parked in an English country town because only left hand drive vehicles were available at the time the photos were taken. From December 1956, production of Austin Metropolitans began, and from April 2, 1957, approximately 9,400 additional units were sold in overseas markets that included the United Kingdom. List prices for the UK Series III models were £713 17s 0d for the Hardtop and £725 2s 0d for the Convertible. An estimated 1,200 Metropolitans were sold in the UK in four years, though some have claimed far more than this were sold here. Markedly American, the styling was considered outlandish compared with the more sober British-styled models in the British Motor Corporation lineup. Only Series III and Series IV Metropolitans were produced for sale in the UK. UK Series III sales ran from April 1957 to February 1959. Series IV models, were sold from September 1960 to February 1961. The Metropolitan was not available for UK sales between February 1959 and September 1960, since all production during that time was for US & Canadian dealers. When sales in the UK resumed they were sold through Austin dealers at listed prices of £707 6s 8d for the Hardtop and £732 2s 6d for the Convertible. Austin was dropped from the name, which now became simply “Metropolitan”, and the cars carried no Austin badges although they had Austin Company chassis plates. Despite this the car remained known, by trade and public alike, as the Austin Metropolitan. In May 1960, Car Mart Ltd. (a large Austin dealership in London) presented Princess Margaret with a specially prepared Metropolitan finished in black with gold trim and gold leather interior as a wedding present. It was stolen in London in February 1961.
This is a 200SX, the last generation of a car also known as the Silvia, which was sold in the UK. The S14 Silvia debuted in Japan towards the end of 1993. It was lower and wider than the S13. New rounded styling contributed to the illusion of a greater increase in size than actually occurred. Wheelbase and track were both increased, leading to slightly improved handling. Unlike export markets, where sales of the S14 chassis variants faltered, the Silvia remained popular in Japan. However, the width dimension exceeded 1700 mm, which pushed this generation out of the compact class tax bracket, which also made Japanese buyers liable for higher road taxes. The fastback and convertible bodystyles was discontinued internationally, leaving only the coupe in production. Trim level designations were similar to the S13, however the Club Selection package was dropped. “Aero” variants of the Q’s and K’s were offered that featured large rear wings and mild ground effects. The S14 Silvia K’s received a new version of the SR20DET, with a slight bump in power due to the implementation of Nissan’s variable cam timing system known as N-VCT, on the intake cam, and a larger T28 turbocharger. There was a mild styling update to the S14 during 1996, which added aggressive-looking projector headlamps and tinted taillights to all models. Fascias and other exterior trim pieces were also revised. The turbocharger now used a more efficient ball bearing centre section. This updated version is also known as the kouki (後期, literally “later period”) S14, or by enthusiasts as the S14A. It was sold as the second generation 240SX in North America from 1995 to 1998, equipped with the non-turbo KA24DE engine. The final model year of S14 production in all markets was 1999, called the Touring Model, which had a better engine block, pistons, and better acceleration in lower gears.
After the ever softer evolution of the Z car, Nissan reversed the trend with the Z31 model, known as the 300ZX, introduced in late1983. Designed by Kazumasu Takagi and his team of developers, the 300ZX had improved aerodynamics and increased power when compared to its predecessor, with a drag coefficient of 0.30. It was powered by Japan’s first mass-produced V6 engine instead of an inline 6. According to Nissan, the V6 engine was supposed to re-create the spirit of the original Fairlady 240Z. The Z31 generation featured five engine options, including a pair of 2 litre V6 units which were never available in Europe. Cars sold in the UK all had the 3.0 litre V6 unit. which made 240 hp in turbo form due to a better camshaft profile, also known outside of Europe as the Nismo camshafts. All European turbocharged models received a different front lower spoiler as well, with 84-86 models being unique and 87-89 production having the same spoiler as the USDM 1988 “SS” model. The Z31 body was slightly restyled in 1986 with the addition of side skirts, flared fenders, and sixteen inch wheels (turbo models only). Many black plastic trim pieces were also painted to match the body colour, and the bonnet scoop was removed. The car was given a final makeover in 1987 that included more aerodynamic bumpers, fog lamps within the front air dam, and 9004 bulb-based headlamps that replaced the outdated sealed beam headlights. The 300ZX-titled reflector in the rear was updated to a narrow set of tail lights running the entire width of the car and an LED third brake light on top of the rear hatch. The Z31 continued selling until 1989, more than any other Z-Car at the time. Over 70,000 units were sold in 1985. Cars produced from 1984-1985 are referred to as “Zenki” models, while cars produced from 1987-1989 are known as “Kouki” models. The 1986 models are a special due to sharing some major features from both. They are sometimes referred to as “Chuki” models, but are usually grouped with the Zenki models because of the head and tail lights.
This is a Stagea, a station wagon produced from 1996 to 2007. Not sold here when new, quite a few were brought over when the fashion for Japanese grey imports was at its height, with boatloads of cars finding a new life here, avoiding the rigours of the Japanese MoT test which at 10 years old makes a car all but worthless and affording enthusiasts the opportunity to get hold of something which the maker had thought unviable to offer as a new car, even though we share right hand drive with the domestic Japanese market. The Stagea has the benefit of being both practical and offering a surprising turn of speed for those who are unfamiliar with what lurks beneath the rather boxy styling. There have been three distinct generations of the Stagea and this one is an example of the first kind, the WC34 Series, which was sold from 1996 to late 1998 This model bears many visual similarities to the HR31 Skyline, mainly at the front with the headlights and grille being the same shape if only slightly larger, as well as the placement of the air dams and indicator lights being in a similar position, giving the impression of lineage to the Skyline, though mechanically it is most similar to the R33 Skyline. The Stagea was available with a 2.0 single cam, a 2.5 twin cam naturally aspirated, a 2.5 twin cam turbo or 2.6 twin cam, twin turbo engine. All engines were from the RB range, with the 2.6, the 260RS model, being the same as that equipped in the Nissan R33 GTR. Engine power ranged from 153 hp in the 2.0 to 231 hp in the 2.5 turbo and 276 hp in the 2.6 twin turbo. The Stagea was available in 2WD (RWD) and AWD variants, with the RWD variants using RWD Laurel front suspension and AWD versions using RWD R34 Skyline front suspension. Both the RWD and AWD models shared a chassis platform with the C35 Laurel, which had the same wheelbase of 2720mm, and was also available in RWD and AWD. The chassis between 2WD and AWD did have some differences, the main being the drivers side chassis rail on the AWD version being positioned closer to the lower sill. This was done to make room for the transfer case located on the end of the AWD transmission. The AWD system, ATTESA E-TS, is identical in operation to the Nissan Skyline GTS-FOUR and GTR AWD system. As an added extra, the AWD Stageas fitted with an automatic transmission also featured a transfer case lock, this locked the transfer case in full 4wd and bypassed the ABS, g-force sensor inputs and ATTESA E-TS ecu which were all normally required for the AWD system to work. Unlike the Skyline and Laurel which had 5 speed automatic transmissions on some automatic 2.5 non turbo versions, all automatic Stageas were 4 speed. All manual models were 5 speed although only 2 models were available as a manual, the turbo RS4 and the 260RS, which was exclusively manual.
After a gap of a few years, Nissan re-introduced the Z moniker with the 350Z which made its UK debut in 2003, to critical acclaim. Five years later it was replaced by the conceptually similar 370Z, which remains in production to this day, though sales have slowed to a trickle, Both models were represented here.
It is quite surprising to realise that the Figaro is now more than 25 years old. This well-known retro-styled fixed-profile convertible was manufactured for just one year, 1991, and originally marketed solely in Japan at their Nissan Cherry Stores. The Figaro was introduced at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show under the slogan “Back to the Future”. The name references the title character in the play The Marriage of Figaro by Pierre Beaumarchais. Based on the Nissan Micra, the Figaro was built at Aichi Machine Industry, a special projects group which Nissan would later call “Pike Factory,” which also produced three other niche automobiles: the Be-1, Pao and S-Cargo. As a fixed-profile convertible, the upper side elements of the Figaro’s bodywork remain fixed, while its fabric soft top retracts to provide a less fully open experience than a typical convertible. The fixed-profile concept is seen on other convertibles, including the Citroën 2CV and the 1957 Fiat 500. The Figaro was marketed in four colours representing the four seasons: Topaz Mist (Autumn), Emerald Green (Spring), Pale Aqua (Summer) and Lapis Grey (Winter). Few, reportedly 2,000, were marketed in Topaz Mist. The Figaro was equipped with leather seats, air conditioning, CD player and a fixed-profile slide-back open roof. 8000 were originally available with an additional 12,000 added to production numbers to meet demand. Prospective purchasers entered a lottery to purchase a Figaro. Limited edition cars came with passenger side baskets and cup holders. A surprising number of them have been imported to the UK in recent years.
One of the biggest cars of the morning was this Cutlass Cabrio, an example of a big-selling car in its native land, as at this time, Oldsmobile led the US sales charts.
Oldest of the Peugeot models here was a 304 Cabrio. This had only 2 seats, unlike the coupe, and is the only version of the 304 that exists in any significant numbers in the UK today, as most saloons imported were destroyed by corrosion. Just under 19,000 cabriolets were produced from 1970-1975, of which 836 were produced in right hand drive and imported into the UK
Perhaps the best loved of all Peugeot models is the 205 GTi, and there were a couple of these here, along with a lesser GL model. Peugeot launched their new “supermini”, the 205 in January 1983, just one day after Fiat had presented the Uno, one of the car’s principal rivals. It was an immediate hit, with smart styling and a range of engines which combined with sharp handling made it good to drive. Mindful of the success of the Golf GTi, in the class above, and how a small car with good handling could take more power, as the Mini Cooper had proved, Peugeot came up with the GTi in early 1984. The first models had a 1.6 litre XU5J engine, producing 105 PS, which was uprated in 1987 with a cylinder head with larger valves thus becoming XU5JA, which took the power output up to 115 bhp. Visually the car retained the good looks of the 3 door version of the regular models, but it featured plastic wheel arch extensions and trim, beefier front and rear bumper valances and judicious use of red badging and trim. The shell also underwent some minor changes, including larger wheel arches (to suit the larger wheels , and the suspension was redesigned and sat lower on the GTI with stiffer springs, different wishbones and a drop-linked anti-roll bar. Red was a dominant colour inside. The car was an instant hit. At the end of 1986, Peugeot followed up with a more potent model, the 1.9 GTi, whose XU9JA engine produced 128 PS. Internally the engine of this car and the 1.6 model are very similar, the main differences on 1.9 litre versions being the longer stroke, oil cooler, and some parts of the fuel injection system. The shorter stroke 1.6 litre engine is famed for being revvy and eager, while the 1.9 litre feels lazier and torquier. Outside the engine bay the main differences between the 1.6 GTi and the 1.9 GTi are half-leather seats on the 1.9 GTi vs. cloth seats and disc brakes all-round (1.9 GTi) vs. discs at the front and drum brakes at the back; as well as the 14-inch Speedline SL201 wheels on the 1.6 GTi vs. 15 inch Speedline SL299 alloys on the 1.9 GTi. The 205 is still often treated as a benchmark in group car tests of the newest GTI models or equivalent. Peugeot itself has never truly recreated this success in future GTI models, although they came very close with the highly regarded GTI-6 variant of the Peugeot 306.
This is a Polaris Slingshot, and is made in the US, introduced in 2014 as a 2015 model by Polaris Industries, who claim “It’s a three-wheeled motorcycle!” It has a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, side-by-side bucket seats, and does not lean on cornering. Three-point seat belts are fitted, however it has no airbags or crumple zone, and driver and passenger must wear motorcycle helmets in certain jurisdictions. It has no roof, doors, or side windows. A small windscreen is an optional extra on the base model, and fitted as standard on the SL model. Steering wheel, gear stick, and brake, clutch, and throttle pedals have a conventional automobile layout. The Slingshot has a 2.4 litre 4 cylinder Ecotec engine, as formerly used by GM in the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars. It is connected to a 5 speed manual transmission. The standard Slingshot has two 17″ front wheels and a singular 18″ wheel in the rear of the vehicle, while the Slingshot SL and SL LE Edition have two 18″ Forged Aluminium front wheels with a 20″ rear wheel. All models have a Double-Wishbone Front Suspension with a Sway Bar to control the front end. It weighs 1,743 pounds (791kg).
There were very few Porsche models here, as there was a huge gathering for the marque at Beaulieu taking place at the same time as this event, and that had clearly attracted many of the owners who would otherwise doubtless have come to Haynes. Sole front-engined Porsche of note was this 944. Whilst its precursor, the 924, had received largely positive reviews, it was criticised by many including Porsche enthusiasts for its Audi-sourced engine and although the Turbo model had increased performance, this model carried a high price, which caused Porsche to decide to develop the 924, as they had with generations of the 911. They re-worked the platform and a new all-alloy 2.5 litre inline-four engine, that was, in essence, half of the 928’s 5.0 litre V8, although very few parts were actually interchangeable. Not typical in luxury sports cars, the four-cylinder engine was chosen for fuel efficiency and size, because it had to be fitted from below on the Neckarsulm production line. To overcome roughness caused by the unbalanced secondary forces that are typical of four-cylinder engines, Porsche included two counter-rotating balance shafts running at twice engine speed. Invented in 1904 by British engineer Frederick Lanchester, and further developed and patented in 1975 by Mitsubishi Motors, balance shafts carry eccentric weights which produce inertial forces that balance out the unbalanced secondary forces, making a four-cylinder engine feel as smooth as a six-cylinder. The engine was factory-rated at 150 hp in its U.S. configuration. Revised bodywork with wider wheel arches, similar to that of the 924 Carrera GT, a fresh interior and upgrades to the braking and suspension systems rounded out the major changes and Porsche introduced the car as the 944 in 1982. It was slightly faster (despite having a poorer drag co-efficient than the 924), the 944 was better equipped and more refined than the 924; it had better handling and stopping power, and was more comfortable to drive. The factory-claimed 0-60 mph time of less than 9 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph which turned out to be somewhat pessimistic, In mid-1985, the 944 underwent its first significant changes. These included : a new dash and door panels, embedded radio antenna, upgraded alternator, increased oil sump capacity, new front and rear cast alloy control arms and semi-trailing arms, larger fuel tank, optional heated and powered seats, Porsche HiFi sound system, and revisions in the mounting of the transaxle to reduce noise and vibration. The “cookie cutter” style wheels used in the early 944s were upgraded to new “phone dial” style wheels (Fuchs wheels remained an option). 1985 model year cars incorporating these changes are sometimes referred to as “1985B”, “85.5” or “1985½” cars. For the 1987 model year, the 944 Motronic DME was updated, and newly incorporated anti-lock braking and air bags. Because of the ABS system, the wheel offset changed and Fuchs wheels were no longer an option. In early 1989 before the release of the 944S2, Porsche upgraded the 944 from the 2.5 to a 2.7 litre engine, with a rated 162 hp and a significant increase in torque. For the 1985 model year, Porsche introduced the 944 Turbo, known internally as the 951. This had a turbocharged and intercooled version of the standard car’s engine that produced 220 PS at 6000 rpm. In 1987, Car and Driver tested the 944 Turbo and achieved a 0-60 mph time of 5.9 seconds. The Turbo was the first car using a ceramic port liner to retain exhaust gas temperature and new forged pistons and was also the first vehicle to produce identical power output with or without a catalytic converter. The Turbo also featured several other changes, such as improved aerodynamics, notably an integrated front bumper. This featured the widest turn signals (indicators) fitted to any production car, a strengthened gearbox with a different final drive ratio, standard external oil coolers for both the engine and transmission, standard 16 inch wheels (optional forged Fuchs wheels), and a slightly stiffer suspension (progressive springs) to handle the extra weight. The Turbo’s front and rear brakes were borrowed from the Porsche 911, with Brembo 4-piston fixed calipers and 12-inch discs as ABS also came standard. Engine component revisions, more than thirty in all, were made to the 951 to compensate for increased internal loads and heat. Changes occurred for the 1987 model year. On the interior, the 1987 944 Turbo for North America became the first production car in the world to be equipped with driver and passenger side air bags as standard equipment. A low oil level light was added to the dash as well as a 180 mph (290 km/h) speedometer as opposed to the 170 mph speedometer on the 1986 model Turbos. Also included is the deletion of the transmission oil cooler, and a change in suspension control arms to reduce the car’s scrub radius. The engine remained the same M44/51 as in the 1986 model. In 1988, Porsche introduced the Turbo S. The 944 Turbo S had a more powerful engine (designation number M44/52) with 250 hp and 258 lb·ft torque (standard 944 Turbo 220 hp and 243 lb·ft. This higher output was achieved by using a larger K26-8 turbine housing and revised engine mapping which allowed maintaining maximum boost until 5800 rpm, compared to the standard 944 Turbo the boost would decrease from 1.75 bar at 3000 rpm to 1.52 bar at 5800 rpm. Top speed was factory rated at 162 mph. The 944 Turbo S’s suspension had the “M030” option consisting of Koni adjustable shocks front and rear, with ride height adjusting threaded collars on the front struts, progressive rate springs, larger hollow rear anti-roll/torsion bars, harder durometer suspension bushings, larger hollow anti-roll/torsion bars at the front, and chassis stiffening brackets in the front frame rails. The air conditioning dryer lines are routed so as to clear the front frame brace on the driver’s side. The 944 Turbo S wheels, known as the Club Sport design, were 16-inch Fuchs forged and flat-dished, similar to the Design 90 wheel. Wheel widths were 7 inches in the front, and 9 inches in the rear with 2.047 in offset; sizes of the Z-rated tyres were 225/50 in the front and 245/45 in the rear. The front and rear fender edges were rolled to accommodate the larger wheels. The manual transmission featured a higher friction clutch disc setup, an external cooler, and a limited slip differential with a 40% lockup setting. The Turbo S front brakes were borrowed from the Porsche 928 S4, with larger Brembo GT 4-piston fixed calipers and 12-inch discs; rear Brembo brakes remained the same as a standard Turbo. ABS also came standard. The 944 Turbo S interior featured power seats for both driver and passenger, where the majority of the factory-built Turbo S models sported a “Burgundy plaid” (Silver Rose edition) but other interior/exterior colours were available. A 10-speaker sound system and equalizer + amp was a common option with the Turbo S and S/SE prototypes. Only the earlier 1986, 250 bhp prototypes featured a “special wishes custom interior” options package. In 1989 and later production, the ‘S’ designation was dropped from the 944 Turbo S, and all 944 Turbos featured the Turbo S enhancements as standard, however the “M030” suspension and the Club Sport wheels were not part of that standard. The 944 Turbo S was the fastest production four cylinder car of its time. For the 1987 model year, the 944S “Super” was introduced, featuring a high performance normally aspirated, dual-overhead-cam 16-valve 190 PS version of the 2.5 litre engine (M44/40) featuring a self-adjusting timing belt tensioner. This marked the first use of four-valve-per-cylinder heads and DOHC in the 944 series, derived from the 928 S4 featuring a redesigned camshaft drive, a magnesium intake tract/passages, magnesium valve cover, larger capacity oil sump, and revised exhaust system. The alternator capacity was 115 amps. The wheel bearings were also strengthened and the brake servo action was made more powerful. Floating 944 calipers were standard, but the rear wheel brake circuit pressure regulator from the 944 turbo was used. Small ’16 Ventiler’ script badges were added on the sides in front of the body protection mouldings. Performance was quoted as 0 – 100 km/h in 6.5 seconds and a 144 mph top speed due to a 2857 lb weight. It also featured an improved programmed Bosch Digital Motronic 2 Computer/DME with dual knock sensors for improved fuel performance for the higher 10.9:1 compression ratio cylinder head. Like the 944 Turbo, the 944S received progressive springs for greater handling, Larger front and rear anti-roll bars, revised transmission and gearing to better suit the 2.5 litre DOHC higher 6800 rpm rev limit. Dual safety air bags, limited-slip differential, and ABS braking system were optional on the 944S. A Club Sport touring package (M637) was available as was the lightweight 16 inch CS/Sport Fuch 16×7 and 16×9 forged alloy wheels. This SC version car was raced in Canada, Europe and in the U.S. IMSA Firehawk Cup Series. Production was only during 1987 and 1988. It was superseded in 1989 by the ‘S2’ 944 edition. The 1987 944S power-to-weight ratio was such that it was able to accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds thus matching the acceleration of its newer larger displacement 3.0 litre 944 S2 sibling. In 1989 the 944S2 was introduced, powered by a 211 PS normally aspirated, dual-overhead-cam 16-valve 3.0 litre version of the 944S engine, the largest production 4-cylinder engine of its time. The 944S2 also received a revised transmission and gearing to better suit the 3.0 litre M44/41 powerplant. The 944S2 had the same rounded nose and a rear valance found on the Turbo model. This was the first example of the use of an integrated front bumper, where the fender and hood profiles would merge smoothly with the bumper, a design feature that has only now seen widespread adoption on the 1990 onward production cars. Performance was quoted as 0-60 mph in 6.0 seconds with a top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph) via manual transmission. A Club Sport touring package (M637) was also available. Dual air bags (left hand drive models), limited-slip differential and ABS were optional. Series 90 16-inch cast alloy wheels were standard equipment. In 1989, Porsche released the 944 S2 Cabriolet, a first for the 944 line that featured the cabriolet body built by ASC-American Sunroof Company at Weinsberg Germany. The first year of production included sixteen 944 S2 Cabriolet for the U.S. market. For the 1990 model year, Porsche produced 3,938 944 S2 Cabriolets for all markets including right-hand drive units for the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa. This car was raced, including the British championship that was called the Porsche Motorsport Championship. Production was during 1989, 1990, and 1991. The 944 S2 power-to-weight ratio was such that it was able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. In February 1991, Porsche released the 944 Turbo Cabriolet, which combined the Turbo S’s 250 hp engine with the cabriolet body built by ASC-American Sunroof Company at Weinsberg Germany. Porsche initially announced that 600 would be made; ultimately 625 were built, 100 of which were right-hand drive for the United Kingdom, Japanese, Australian, and South African market. None were imported to the U.S. and The Americas. In early 1990, Porsche engineers began working on what they had intended to be the third evolution of the 944, the S3. As they progressed with the development process, they realised that so many parts were being changed that they had produced an almost entirely new vehicle. Porsche consequently shifted development from the 944 S/S2 to the car that would replace the 944 entirely, the 968. The 944’s final year of production was 1991. A grand total 163,192 cars in the 944 family were produced between 1982 and 1991. This made it the most successful car line in Porsche’s history until the introductions of the Boxster and 997 Carrera.
The RS version of the 991 GT3 was launched at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, and featured in first drive articles in the press a few weeks later, with cars reaching the UK in the summer and another series of universally positive articles duly appearing. It had very big shoes to fill, as the 997 GT3 RS model was rated by everyone lucky enough to get behind the wheel, where the combination of extra power and reduced weight made it even better to drive than the standard non-RS version of the car. A slightly different approach was taken here, with the result weighing just 10kg less than the GT3. It is based on the extra wide body of the 991 Turbo. Compared to the 991 GT3, the front wings are now equipped with louvres above the wheels and the rear wings now include Turbo-like intakes, rather than an intake below the rear wing. The roof is made from magnesium a bonnet, whilst the front wings, rear deck and rear spoiler all in carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP), the rear apron is in a new polyurethane-carbonfibre polymer and polycarbonate glazing is used for the side and rear windows. The wider body allows the RS’s axle tracks to grow, to the point where the rear track is some 72mm wider than that of a standard 3.4-litre Carrera and the tyres are the widest yet to be fitted to a road-going 911. A long-throw crankshaft made of extra-pure tempered steel delivers the 4mm of added piston stroke necessary to take the GT3’s 3.8-litre flat six out to 3996cc . The engine also uses a new induction system, breathing through the lateral air intakes of the Turbo’s body rather than through the rear deck cover like every other 911. This gives more ram-air effect for the engine and makes more power available at high speeds. It results in an output of 500 bhp and 339 lb/ft of torque. A titanium exhaust also saves weight. The suspension has been updated and retuned, with more rigid ball-jointed mountings and helper springs fitted at the rear, while Porsche’s optional carbon-ceramic brakes get a new outer friction layer. Which is to say nothing of the RS’s biggest advancement over any other 911: downforce. The rear wing makes up to 220kg of it, while the front spoiler and body profile generates up to 110kg. In both respects, that’s double the downforce of the old 997 GT3 RS 4.0. The transmission is PDK only. The result is a 0-62 mph time of just 3.3 seconds, some 0.6 seconds quicker than the 997 GT3 RS 4.0 and 0-124 mph (0-200kmh) in 10.9 seconds. The 991 GT3 RS also comes with functions such as declutching by “paddle neutral” — comparable to pressing the clutch with a conventional manual gearbox –- and Pit Speed limiter button. As with the 991 GT3, there is rear-axle steering and Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus with fully variable rear axle differential lock. The Nürburgring Nordschleife time is 7 minutes and 20 seconds. The interior includes full bucket seats (based on the carbon seats of the 918 Spyder), carbon-fibre inserts, lightweight door handles and the Club Sport Package as standard (a bolted-on roll cage behind the front seats, preparation for a battery master switch, and a six-point safety harness for the driver and fire extinguisher with mounting bracket). Needless to say, the car was an instant sell out, even at a starting price of £131,296.
Completing the Porsche models here was a Boxster Spyder.
Launched at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1980, the R5 Turbo was primarily designed for rallying, as a response to Lancia’s rallying success with the mid-engined Stratos, Renault’s Jean Terramorsi, vice-president of production, asked Bertone’s Marc Deschamps to design a new sports version of the Renault 5 Alpine supermini. The distinctive new rear bodywork was styled by Marcello Gandini at Bertone. Although the standard Renault 5 has a front-mounted engine, the 5 Turbo featured a mid-mounted 1397 cc Cléon-Fonte turbocharged engine placed behind the driver in mid-body in a modified Renault 5 chassis. In standard form, the engine developed 160 PS. At the time of its launch it was the most powerful production French car. The first 400 production 5 Turbos were made to comply with Group 4 homologation to allow the car to compete in international rallies, and were manufactured at the Alpine factory in Dieppe. Once the homologation models were produced, a second version named Turbo 2 was introduced using more stock Renault 5 parts replacing many of light alloy components in the original 5 Turbo version. The Turbo 2 was less expensive, but had nearly the same levels of performance, top speed of 200 km/h (120 mph) and 0–100 km/h in 6.9 seconds. A total of 3576 R5 Turbos were manufactured during a four-year production run.
You don’t see one of these very often, the Renault Sport Spider that was made in small quantities between 1996 and 1999. The idea for the Renault Spider was formulated in the early 1990s: in the midst of a revival after a difficult second half of the 1980s, Renault wanted a car to promote it as a sporting brand in much the way the Renault 5 Turbo had done a decade earlier. The Spider was intended to both serve as a racing car, in a one-make series organised by Renault, and as a road car. The first prototypes for Project W94, as it was known at the time, were completed in mid-1994 and a concept version was presented to the public at the Geneva Motor Show a year later. The concept featured several differences to the version that ultimately became the road car, most notably butterfly doors and the absence of a windshield. The car went on sale in early 1996, assembled at the Alpine factory in Dieppe. Designed from the outset as a driver’s car, the chassis was made of aluminium for its combination of low weight and substantial strength, while the actual bodywork is a plastic composite. Unusually, the Spider did not have a roof, either folding or hard-top. The gearbox and the engine were one unit transversally fixed in an oscillating hinge (an arrangement inspired by aeronautical design), which all but eradicated the interference of engine vibration with the chassis, and the pedals of the Spider were adjustable as well as the seat so the driver could achieve a better driving position. Power for the Spider came from a version of the 2-litre F7R engine from the Renault Megane Coupe, producing 148 hp. Either a windscreen or a small wind deflector was fitted, with the driver wearing a helmet in vehicles without a windscreen. Despite the promise of the design, the initial reviews were not particularly effusive and the car was expensive, so it struggled for sales. Around 1800 were made over a three year period.
Lots of those well-executed sporting Renault models which showed quite a transformation from some rather mundane hatch roots were with the diminutive Twingo GT joined by Clios of the second and current generations and a number of Megane RS cars including the recently launched fourth generation car.
The A610 looked very like its predecessor, the GTA, even though just about everything about the car was altered. There was a limited budget at the beginning of the development project so its appearance does not differ much from the GTA, and it looks particularly similar to the USA market GTA with its pop-up headlights (this was believed to be because the Alpine, when viewed head-on, strongly resembled mid-80s versions of the Ford Sierra; but the actual reason for that and for the batteries to be in the front was to better balance the weight between the front and the back). Nonetheless it was a completely different car, sharing only the windows with the GTA. The basic concepts of all Alpine cars are there, with the rear engine, and the steel backbone chassis that all Alpines since the A110 had had. The car was solely branded as an Alpine, as linking Alpine and Renault together (first as Alpine-Renault then Renault-Alpine) seemed to detract from the Alpine brand’s sporty image. The PRV engine remained, but it was enlarged to 3 litres, which enabled it to produce 250 PS (247 hp) and 260 lb/ft) of torque. The A610 Albertville 92 was presented in 1991 for the Olympic Games. 2 examples, and other Renault cars, were used to drive VIPs, before being sold as occasion. They had a specific colour (Gardenia White) and interior, but used the same engine and had the same technical specifications. The A610 Magny-Cours was created for the Williams-Renault Formula One victory in the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours in July 1991. 31 cars were built, with specific colour and interior. The A610 did not result in an improvement in sales over the commercially disappointing GTA and the car was discontinued in 1995, despite acclaim from the motoring press, and approval from Top Gear.
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.
Oldest Rover model here was a P5, a car beloved of Government Ministers, who kept theirs in service long after production had ceased in 1973, thanks to an amount of stock-piling. Now a much loved classic, the P5 is a quintessentially British motor car. Launched in late 1958, it was a partial replacement for the then 10 year old P4 model, but also an extension of the Rover range further upmarket. Early cars were known as the 3 litre, as they had It was powered by a 2,995 cc straight-6 engine which used an overhead intake valve and side exhaust valve, an unusual arrangement inherited from the Rover P4. In this form, output of 115 bhp was claimed. An automatic transmission, overdrive on the manual, and Burman power steering were optional with overdrive becoming standard from May 1960. Stopping power came originally from a Girling brake system that employed 11″drums all round,but this was a heavy car and by the time of the London Motor Show in October 1959 Girling front-wheel power discs brakes had appeared on the front wheels. The suspension was independent at the front using wishbones and torsion bars and at the rear had a live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs. A Mark I-A line, introduced in September 1961, featured a minor restyle with added front quarter windows, intended to “assist the dashboard ventilation”. Under the skin, the 1A featured modifications to the engine mountings and the automatic transmission and hydrosteer variable ratio power steering as an option. By 1962, when production of the original Mark I series ended, 20,963 had been produced. The Mark II version was introduced in 1962. It featured more power,129 hp, from the same 3 litre engine and an improved suspension, while dropping the glass wind deflectors from the top of the window openings which also, on the front doors, now featured “quarterlight” windows. The most notable addition to the range was the option of the Coupé body style launched in autumn 1962. Unlike most coupés, which tend to be two-door versions of four-door saloons, this retained the four doors and was of the same width and length as the saloon, but featured a roofline lowered by two and a half inches along with thinner b-pillars, giving it the look of a hardtop. Hydrosteer was standard on the Coupe and optional on the Saloon. Production of the Mark II ended in 1965, by which time 5,482 coupés and 15,676 saloons had been produced. The Mark III was presented at the London Motor Show in October 1965, described at the time as “even more luxuriously trimmed and furnished”. It was again available in two 4-door body styles, coupé and saloon. The Mark III used the same engine as its predecessor, but it now produced 134 hp. Externally it could be distinguished by the full-length trim strip along the body and Mark III badging; internally it replaced the rear bench seat with two individually moulded rear seats, making it more comfortable to ride in for four occupants but less so for five. A total of 3,919 saloons and 2,501 coupés had been sold by the time production ended in 1967. The final iteration of the P5 appeared in September 1967. Now powered by the 3,528 cc Rover V8 engine also used in the P6 model 3500, the car was badged as the “3.5 Litre”, and commonly known as the 3½ Litre. The final letter in the “P5B” model name came from Buick, the engine’s originator. Rover did not have the budget or time to develop such engines, hence they chose to redevelop the lightweight aluminium concept Buick could not make successful. They made it considerably stronger, which added some weight but still maintained the engine’s light and compact features. The Borg Warner Type-35 automatic transmission, hydrosteer variable ratio power steering and front Lucas fog lights were now standard. Output of 160 bhp was claimed along with improved torque. When compared to its predecessor, the aluminium engine enabled the car to offer improved performance and fuel economy resulting both from the greater power and the lesser weight of the power unit. The exterior was mostly unchanged, apart from bold ‘3.5 Litre’ badging, a pair of fog lights which were added below the head lights, creating a striking 4 light array, and the fitting of chrome Rostyle wheels with black painted inserts. The P5B existed as both the 4-door coupe and saloon body style until end of production. Production ended in 1973, by when 9099 coupés and 11,501 saloons had been built.
It is hard to imagine now just how excited people were when this dramatically different looking Rover burst onto the scene in July 1976. These days it takes a very extreme supercar for most car enthusiasts to get truly animated, but back then, a 3.5 litre V8 engined 5 seater British hatchback was all it took, and it was no surprise that the model collected the “Car of the Year” award later in 1976, fending off the second placed Ford Fiesta and the new Audi 100. Replacing both the Rover P6 and the big Triumphs which had been launched at the 1963 Motor Show and updated only in detail since then, this new David Bache styled car, with more than a hint of Ferrari Daytona in its profile really was something very different indeed to look at, even if underneath it was more of a clever update of proven mechanicals, with the 3.5 litre V8 engine carried over from its predecessor. Early press reports suggested that the car was as good to drive as it was to behold, and quickly there were long waiting lists as Rover struggled to produce the car fast enough in an all-new manufacturing facility in Solihull. Sadly, it did not take too long before it became apparent that although the car had been a long time in gestation, there were a number of design and manufacturing quality issues, quite apart form the extra ones that were inflicted by a still very truculent and strike-prone workforce. These frustrations did little to quell demand, though, which increased when the promised 6 cylinder models arrived in the autumn of 1977. 2300 and 2600 models sported a new 6 cylinder engine and were the more obvious replacement for the big Triumph and the Rover 2200 than the V8 car had been. BL’s next move was to take the car up market with the launch of the V8S in 1979 which was available in a rather bright Triton Green metalllic paint and a choice of gold or silver alloy wheels, as well having a far higher standard level of equipment. It was replaced by the even more luxurious Vanden Plas model in late 1980. More significant was a facelift which came in early 1982. A revised rear window line was aimed at improving the rather limited rear visibility and finally a rear wiper was fitted, this having been excluded from the earlier cars as it had been deemed unnecessary by a BL management who still thought that they knew better than the customers who clamoured for one) and the bumpers and lights were altered, along with significant interior trim and equipment changes. A few weeks later, a cheaper 4 cylinder 2000 model appeared, with the O Series engine under the bonnet, aimed at the all important fleet market and later that year it was joined by a diesel version, using the VM Motor engine, creating the 90 bhp 2400SD. The real joy though was the car revealed at the 1982 British Motor Show, the Vitesse, which boasted fuel injection and 190 bhp to give the car better performance, and with a new front and rear spoiler, the looks to suggest that this was an Autobahn-stormer to rival BMW and Mercedes. Of course, the other reason for the Vitesse was so as to homologate some of the changes for what turned out to be a less than successful career on the race track. It was this which led to the final handful of Vitesse models having a further power upgrade with the TwinPlenum versions, and these are the most highly prized cars of the lot these days. That said, values of SD1 remain very low, with the result that the majority of the cars have been scrapped as they are economic to restore.
When news of Project YY, a new mid-sized car started to filter out, another joint Honda-Rover development, it was assumed that once again each would adopt their own body style. Honda was first to market, by some months, with their Concerto, and when the Rover 200 Series, as the new 5 door hatch models were called, were then revealed in the autumn of 1989, there was much disappointment expressed that it seemed that Rover had merely changed the details of lights, bumpers and grille, as well putting their own touches to the interior. They had also put their brand new K Series 1.4 litre engine under the bonnet, though, and once the press and then the public got to drive the new car, any thoughts that this might be another dull Japanese car were dispelled, as it was evident that this was a cracking new car in every respect. Only high prices counted against it, but look past that, and the choice between a Rover 214 with a 92 bhp engine and sweet five speed gearbox and a quality interior, or a Ford Escort 1.4 saddled with the rough and crude 75bhp 1.4 litre CVH engine and a decidedly mass-market feeling interior pointed in the Rover’s favour every time. The 216 model retained a Honda engine, but with 125 bhp, this was unbelievably rapid for the class. The 4 door saloon version, the 400, followed a few months later, and then Rover added their own unique 3 door body style, as well as the option of a 2 litre model for a hot hatch to rival the Golf GTi and 309 GTi. Coupe, Cabrio and 400 Tourer versions followed soon after, giving a comprehensive range which was a clear class leader. I had a 414 Si from January 1992 for three years, during which time I put over 100,000 miles on the clock, the highest mileage I had covered to date, and I thought the car was absolutely brilliant. It would have been even better with power steering, probably, but this was an era when you needed to go up a size or two to find this feature as standard. Rover changed the front end of the cars with a false grille not long after the October 1992 launch of the Coupe, the car that was codenamed TomCat, so you don’t see many with the simple front end, but there was one here, along with a large number of cars with the grille. With a choice of 1.6 and 2,0 injected engines or a 2.0 Turbo that was astonishingly fast for its day and the money charged, these were popular cars which sold well, with only really the Calibra as a true market rival. Seen here was a 216 GTi. and quite a number of the Coupe (“Tomcat”) models.
There was a huge presence from the SAAB Owners Club, with most of the cars arriving in convoy, and when parked up, this was a history lesson in this Swedish marque with most models apart from the first (the 96-based cars) here. Oldest of those attending were from the 99 family, the regular 99GL and a couple of the pioneering 99 Turbo. The 99 was first shown on November 22, 1967. The first production cars came in autumn 1968, although only 4190 cars were built this year. Production increased considerably in 1969 and again in 1970 when the four-door model arrived. In 1970 the interior was also given a facelift and became more luxurious, with a new steering wheel. The exhaust system was now made of aluminium, engine mounts and drive joints were changed. In March, the 99E (also available with a three-speed automatic transmission) was introduced. It had a 1.75 L engine with electronically controlled fuel injection, giving 86 bhp. In 1971 the 99 was given a larger and stronger engine, a 1.85 L engine giving 85 bhp on the carburettor model and 94 bhp for the fuel-injected model. The 1.75 L engine was now only available with a carburettor. Saab also introduced headlight wipers, as well as larger rear-view mirrors and an additional air inlet beneath the existing grille. The dashboard was given a redesign along with new instruments. In 1972 the 1.75 L engine was no longer available. The power of the engine was increased to 87 bhp for carburettor models and 96 bhp for fuel-injected models. The 2.0 L engine became available. The major change this year were new plastic bumpers that could take impacts up to 8 km/h (5 mph) and still retain their shape. The suspension was stiffened and received stronger dampers. An electrically heated driver’s seat was also introduced. In January 1972 the 99 EMS (Electronic-Manual-Special) was introduced. It was a sportier model that was originally only available in a two-door version; but became available in the wagonback body beginning in 1974 (Europe). It had stiffer suspension and also silver or copper (‘bronze’)-coloured metallic paint as option. The engine had 1985 cc displacement and Bosch D-Jetronic electronic fuel injection giving 108 bhp and a top speed of 170 km/h (106 mph). In 1973 a low-cost model called the 99L was introduced. It was a two-door with a 1.85 L engine giving 87 bhp. All other models had the Swedish-built 2.0 L engine, which produces 95 PS in carburettor form. The LE model had electronic fuel injection giving 108 bhp. The LE model was mainly made for export. The inner ceiling was changed, as were protective bars in the doors, and a new black grille. In Northern Europe, a de-contented model called the 99 X7 was also marketed. In January 1974 the three-door hatchback Combi-coupé (marketed as a “Wagon Back” in the USA) was introduced. It was 11 cm (4.3 in) longer than the sedan. Front seats and steering wheel were new for 1974, while the EMS received an all-new, model-specific interior. Inertial reel belts were also fitted. In 1975 the brakes were improved and the hand brake now worked directly on the primary brake pads instead of on separate pads acting as drum brakes inside the brake rotor. The 99 was now available in two versions, one with a carburettor with 99 bhp and a fuel-injected version using Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system giving 116 bhp. In February a model using Zenith-Stromberg 150CDS(E) dual carburetors was introduced. It was only available for the Combi-coupé and has 107 bhp. The Combi-coupé had been fitted with a unique grille in 1974; this was now applied across the range. In 1976 nothing major was changed, but a self-adjusting clutch was introduced. The engines were adapted for tougher emissions requirements and several models with an electrically heated rear window were introduced. A luxurious 4-door sedan model was available, the 99 GLE. it came with power steering, an automatic transmission, a fuel-injected engine, luxurious upholstery on the seats and an armrest in the rear seat. The five-door Combi-coupé model was also introduced. In 1977, the front light clusters and the sedan’s tail lights were enlarged. The rubber strips on the bumpers were changed. The “One Hundred series” of test-fleet Turbo cars were distributed around the world. The cars were mainly made from three- and two-door EMS models, but a few four-door and even five-door cars were also made. The four- and five-door models were tested by mostly police in Sweden, Finland and Switzerland. In 1978 a turbocharged version of the car, the 99 Turbo, was introduced. It was only available as a Combi-coupé until the next year. The turbocharged two-litre engine produced 143 bhp giving the car a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph). The turbochargers were designed and built by Garrett AiResearch. In terms of appearance, it received distinctive alloy wheels and front and rear spoilers. The 99 Turbo repositioned Saab in the car market and it came to be regarded as an iconic and technologically significant model of its era. By early 1979, over 10,000 turbo-engined Saabs had already been built, as Saab successfully entered a new market segment. Other news for 1978 included the availability of a sunroof, and the EMS became a three-door Combi-coupé in some markets. In 1979 the Combi-coupé option was discontinued for the 99, as the new Saab 900 was only available in this bodystyle. The 99 Turbo changed over to the two-door saloon bodywork although only a small number were built. The rear axle was altered, the fuel tank changed to a plastic one, new wheels were fitted, and four-door models received new bumpers similar to those of the 900. These bumpers were also installed on two-doors beginning with the 1980 model year. In 1980 the 99 was also given the new and safer seats from the Saab 900, as well as low-mounted protective strips along the sides. The spare wheel was changed to an emergency unit. The carpeting, which had been changed to rubber a few years earlier, went back to textile. In the Swedish market the twin-carb version made a return for a single year, sold as the 99 Super and only available with four doors and an automatic transmission. In 1981 the twin-carb Super was discontinued, although the 99 did gain a new engine option in its stead: the 99 GL with 100 PS (74 kW; 99 hp) was joined by the 99 GLi with 116 bhp, both with four-speed manual transmissions. The GLi was a bit more luxurious and had power side mirrors. It was only sold in Northern Europe and only around 1600 were built. All 99s received a new rear seat, velour upholstery, new rear mirrors, a new steering wheel, and the 900’s front axle. In 1982 came the H engine, built by Scania at Södertälje, making it possible for all cars to run on 93 octane petrol. The two- and four-door 99 GLs were now available with a five-speed manual transmission. The window surround trim was blacked out and the wheels were new. In 1983 a number of smaller technical and cosmetic changes were made, including a new grille similar to that of the 900 and blacked out B-pillars on two-door models. Brake pads were now asbestos-free. Five-speed-equipped 99s received low-resistance tires, which sit on wider 5½-inch rims, requiring moving the rear axle. Some further minor changes took place for 1984, including electronic ignition, lowered seats, and a more upright steering wheel. Five-speed cars also received interval wipers. This was to be the final year for the 99. It was replaced by the Saab 90 and the Saab 900. A total of 588,643 were made; this total rises to 614,003 if Saab 90 production is included.
Viewed by many as the last true Saabs, the 900 was a long running model, produced from 1978 until replacement by the GM-based model of the same name in 1993. Saab was a small company in comparison to most, and had limited funds to develop new models, but they continued to evolve the 900 throughout its life, with a four door saloon being added to the range in 1980, and enhancements to the engine made on an almost continuous basis. In the mid-1980s, the president of Saab-Scania of America, Robert J. Sinclair, suggested a convertible version to increase sales. The first prototype was built by ASC, American Sunroof Company, and Lynx Motors International Ltd also produced two “convertible” models. Meanwhile, Saab themselves were working on something. The Trollhättan design department, headed by Björn Envall, based its version on the 3-door hatchback while the Finnish plant used the sturdier 2-door version, which also looked better and was therefore selected for production. The new car was shown for the first time at the Frankfurt Motor Show in the autumn of 1983. The first prototype aroused enormous interest and in April 1984, Saab decided to put the car in production at Valmet Automotive in Finland. The production of the first 900 convertible started during the spring of 1986. The initial production was not planned to be large but the orders kept coming in and a classic was born, with the Cabrio becoming an important part of the 900 and later 9.3 range right through to the end of Saab production. Most of the Cabrio models featured a 16-valve turbocharged engine, and this engine was also popular in the other body styles, too.
Sole example of the 9000 range was this 9000 Griffin. The 9000 was first seen in 1984 and was one of the Type 4 cars, the others being the Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema and Alfa 164. Shorter than the 900 which it did not replace, it had more space inside it, and it was positioned above the 900s as a contender in the executive class. For the first few years all 9000 models were five door hatches, with the 2 litre Turbo engine, but eventually at the end of 1987, SAAB added a more traditional three-box saloon version, as seen here, which was known as the 9000 CD and gradually the range of available engines was extended. A facelift to the front end styling came in 1991 and the hatch model took on the designation CS to distinguish it from the CD of the saloon . Further changes would follow on a frequent basis during the 1990s, with the model finally replaced at the end of 1997 by the 9.5. The Griffin sat a t the top of the range, and when introduced in 1994 as well having a lavish equipment level had a 211 bhp 3 litre V6 engine, though from 1996 this was replaced by a similarly powerful version of the 2.3 litre Turbo 4 cylinder unit.
There were also a number of examples of the 9.5 both from the first – long-lived and the second – rather short-lived – generations.
Something rather different is this SEAT 1500 hearse, an import from Spain. The 1500 was based on the large Fiat models of the era, usually seen with 1800 or 2100 and then 2300cc engines, but a 1500 version was offered even in Italy, for tax reasons. The Spain of the 1960s was a very poor place in comparison to northern European countries, so SEAT only offered what was their largest car with the 1500cc engine. Brought into the UK in January 2018, this is believed to be one of a batch of 50 odd Seats that were built as vans. It was then converted in Spain by Mirsan coachbuilders. It is a standard wheelbase and height as the estate car but has the rear doors welded shut and a different roof and tailgate. Needless to say, it is believed to be the only one in the UK.
This is a Favorit, the final design produced by the Czech firm before its acquisition by the VW Group. The Favorit eventually succeeded the ageing rear-engined, rear-wheel drive Škoda 105/120 Estelle, and was a considerable move towards the modern mainstream in design terms thanks to its Bertone-designed hatchback body and front-wheel drive. However, the Favorit initially took a long time to get to market – Škoda’s then owner, the communist government of Czechoslovakia approved the development of this new front-wheel drive car back in 1982, with actual development not starting until 1983. Disputes between the government’s brief, and Nuccio Bertone, the designer, meant that the car was not designed until mid-1985, and full production wouldn’t commence until 1987. Probably the worst aspects of this dispute is that a four-door saloon was fully designed, but was never allowed to go into production. The Favorit proved itself as one of Central Europe’s most popular cars, and was also exported to a number of countries including Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Israel, Poland, Russia, Turkey and other countries. It is perhaps comparable to the Volkswagen Polo (fuel injected versions share the Bosch Mono-Motronic 1.2.3 engine management system with the Volkswagen Polo Mk2 and Volkswagen Golf Mk3) due to its large engine compartment, contributing to the possibility of easy repair. Parts are very universal with other Eastern European cars. Its general design and mechanical functionality is very practical, especially in comparison to a Western car which requires expensive parts, or maintenance for simple knobs, buttons or other simple mechanical and rudimentary apparatus. The car body style of the Škoda Favorit was a five-door five-seater hatchback. A five-door estate version named the Škoda Forman (Type 785) appeared in 1990. This was known as the Favorit Estate in the UK from its launch in June 1991, two years after British buyers were first able to buy the hatchback. The name originates from the Czech word “forman”, which in English is “wagoneer”, or someone who transports goods by wagon. It is a common misconception that the name is somehow related to famous Czech filmmaker Miloš Forman. A two-door two-seat pick-up truck, called the Škoda Pick-up (Type 787), was introduced the following year. Following the takeover of Škoda Auto in 1991 by the Volkswagen Group, new developments and upgrades were rapidly implemented on the Favorit. This included new fuel injected catalytic converter versions, marketed as the Li, GLi and the GLXi models were introduced. At the same time many cosmetic improvements were made to the Favorit, such as improved door hinges, Volkswagen seats and interiors, dashboards and instrumentation. Quality control improvements were also implemented, along with safety features such as strengthened beams in the doors, and a redesigned front. During 1993, another range of modernisations took place, which included mechanical and electrical upgrades to the engine, a facelift of the bodywork, and bigger bumpers. In 1994 the car was modernised rather more and took on a new name, of Felicia. Some 50,000 examples of the Favorit were sold in the UK from 1989 to 1995, although just 232 were still on the road by December 2016.
Subaru launched the Justy to plug the gap in their range between the Japan only Rex kei-car and the family sized saloon, estate and coupe models with which the rest of the world was familiar, in mid 1984. A supermini-sized hatch, it distinguished itself by having standard all-wheel drive. Exports to the UK were slow to get underway, but for the next few years, it found a small but loyal group of customers who saw the appeal. Largely due to those low sales volumes, though, when it came to replacement time, Subaru took the approach of applying their own touches to a product better known by another name. The second generation Justy, launched in 1994 was based on the Suzuki Swift, available with three or five door bodies and standard all-wheel drive. It was produced for ten years and then replaced by a variant of the Suzuki Ignis. This would be the last Justy sold in most of Europe, but the model has lived on as an alter ego of various Daihatsu and Toyota models.
Replacing the Sunbeam-Talbot 90s were the first cars to bear the Rapier name and the first of the “Audax” range of light cars produced by the Rootes Group. Announced at the London Motor Show in October 1955, it preceded its Hillman Minx and Singer Gazelle counterparts which were not introduced until 1956. The Rapier was a four-seat, two door hardtop coupé, and although designed “in house” by the Rootes Group, it was inspired, via the Raymond Loewy design organisation, by the new-generation Studebaker coupés of 1953. The styling of the Series I Rapier was undertaken by the design firm of Raymond Loewy Associates and showed a great deal of influence of Raymond Loewy’s 1953 Studebaker Hawk (itself an acclaimed design). Available in a range of two-tone colour schemes typical of the period, it had a steering column gear change, leather trim and an overdrive as standard fittings. Vinyl trim was an option in the UK and standard in certain export territories. Rapier bodies were built by Pressed Steel, shipped to Thrupp & Maberly in north London where they were painted and trimmed, then shipped again to the Rootes assembly plant at Ryton-on-Dunsmore near Coventry where the engines, transmission and running gear were fitted. This complex situation persisted until late 1963 when the Series IV was introduced. The Rapier’s 1,390 cc engine was essentially the same as that fitted to the Hillman Minx but with a raised compression ratio (8:1 instead of 7:1), a Zenith DIF 36 carburettor and revised inlet and exhaust manifolds. In this form it developed 62.5 bhp at 5000 rpm. A column change, four speed transmission with overdrive on third and top was included in the price as a standard feature. From October 1956, directly as a result of experience gained in international rallying by Rootes’ competition department, the Rapier was fitted with the updated R67 engine on which the Stromberg carburettor was replaced by twin Zenith 36 WIP carburettors on a new inlet manifold. This engine produced 67.5 bhp at 5000 rpm, the effect of which was to reduce the Rapier’s 0-60 mph time by almost 1 second and increase its top speed by 3 mph. In competition, a Rapier driven by Peter Harper finished in fifth place in the 1958 Monte Carlo Rally. In total, 7,477 units were produced of this initial version of the Sunbeam Rapier. It was discontinued in 1958 on the introduction of the Series II, which was announced on 6 February 1958, available in hardtop and convertible forms. Rootes arranged for nine of the new cars to be in Monte Carlo for the press to try at the end of the 1958 Monte Carlo Rally. The traditional Sunbeam radiator grille was reintroduced, albeit shortened and widened and the spaces at its sides were filled with horizontal side grilles. The two-tone lower body colour scheme of the Series I was discontinued in favour of a broad full length flash in the same colour as the roof, but the most obvious change was the appearance on the rear wings of pronounced fins. The interior of the Series II was little changed from that of the Series I, except that a floor gear change replaced the column change, a modification, developed on the works Series I rally cars. To keep costs down, the leather upholstery, standard on the Series I, was discontinued in favour of vinyl and overdrive became an extra cost option. An improvement in the Series II though, was its more powerful engine. Referred to as the Rallymaster, it had an increased capacity of 1,494 cc. The capacity increase combined with a higher compression ratio of 8.5:1 and larger inlet and exhaust valves to raise the power output to 73 bhp at 5,200 rpm. Autocar quoted the top speed as 91 mph with a 0-60 mph time of 20.2 seconds. Also as a direct result of competition experience, the Series II was fitted with larger front brakes and a recirculating ball steering box instead of the worm and nut box of the Series I. The Series II was discontinued in favour of the Series III in 1959 after 15,151 units (hardtop and convertible) had been built. The Series III was introduced in September 1959. Rootes made subtle changes to the car’s body which individually were insignificant but when combined, considerably altered its appearance. For example, the number of horizontal bars in each of the side grilles was increased from three to four and the boot lid acquired an oblong number plate recess and surround in place of the square one of the earlier cars. The most striking change was the redesigned side flash, now narrower and lower down the side of the car with the Rapier script on its rear end. The most subtle change, however, was a reduction in thickness of the windscreen pillars and a lowering of the scuttle line to give a 20% increase in windscreen area. Inside the Series III the changes were more evident. Rootes stylists completely redesigned the seats and interior panels and specified that they be trimmed in single colour vinyl with contrasting piping. For the first time, deep pile carpets were fitted as standard in the foot-wells (previous versions had rubber mats). The steering wheel, control knobs and switches were in black plastic instead of beige. The dashboard, instead of being, as in the earlier cars, padded metal and plastic, was covered in burr walnut veneer surmounted by a padded crash roll fitted with black-faced British Jaeger instruments. Mechanically, the Series III benefited from the design of the Sunbeam Alpine sports car with which it shared its engine. Although the engine’s displacement was still 1,494 cc, it was fitted with a new eight-port aluminium cylinder head with an increased compression ratio and redesigned valves, and used a new, sportier camshaft. The twin Zenith carburettors from the Series II remained but were mounted on a new water heated inlet manifold. The result of these changes was a power increase of 5 bhp to 78 bhp at 5400 rpm. Gearbox changes included higher second, third and top gear ratios, and a reduced angle of gear lever movement to make for shorter lever travel and snappier changes. New front disc brakes significantly improved the Rapier’s braking capability and widened its front track to give greater stability and improved road-holding. The Series III, of which 15,368 units were built (hardtop and convertible) gave way to the Series IIIA in April 1961, which was was announced with the Series II Sunbeam Alpine 1,592 cc engine. Externally and internally the Series IIIA was identical to the Series III. The improvements were directed solely at improving the durability of the car. To this end, engine capacity was increased and a stiffer crankshaft fitted. To increase reliability, the crankshaft incorporated larger diameter connecting rod bearings which called for modifications to the connecting rods and gudgeon pins. Modified oil and water pumps completed the engine changes. As a result, power output increased from 78 bhp to 80.25 bhp at 5,100 rpm and torque increased from 84 lb·ft at 3500 rpm to 88.2 ft·lbf at 3,900 rpm.In addition, the Series IIIA included many detail changes such as an increased diameter front anti-roll bar which greatly improved roadholding, a redesigned clutch bell housing, a revised clutch assembly with nine pressure springs instead of six and a redesigned air cleaner assembly. Inside the car a fresh-air heater, hitherto available only at extra cost, became a standard fitting. All of these changes combined to make the Series IIIA subtly different from its predecessor and to give the Sunbeam Rapier a new lease of life in the showroom. Maximum speed for the Series IIIA was lower than the Series III at 90 mph. It also took longer than the Series III to get to 60 mph (19.3 seconds) but its engine was far more durable. In mid 1963, the Series IIIA convertible was discontinued but the hardtop soldiered on until October 1963 when it was replaced by the Series IV. When production of the Series IIIA ceased, 17,354 units had been built. Late in 1963, Rootes were set to drop the Rapier. It was no longer the mainstay of the competitions department because Rootes had directed its competitive effort towards the Hillman Imp and the Sunbeam Tiger. In fact a totally new Series IV Rapier had been designed, prototypes built and testing completed, and then the Rootes Group changed its mind! The new Series IV Rapier became the Mark I Humber Sceptre and the old Series IIIA Rapier was redesigned, hopefully to give it a new lease of life as a touring saloon rather than a sports coupé. The most obvious difference was the change to 13-inch road wheels in common with the rest of Rootes’ light car range. This meant that the stainless steel wheel trims of earlier Rapiers were replaced by Rootes corporate hub caps and rim finishers. At the front, the car was redesigned to make it look more up-to-date. A new bonnet made the front look lower and flatter and the front wings were modified to accept extensions housing alloy side grilles and sidelights with amber turn indicators. The traditional Sunbeam grille, already stylised for the Series II, was further modified to give a lower, more square shape with a pronounced convex profile. New headlamp rims were fitted, in fact Sunbeam Alpine items but chromed for the Rapier, and a new front bumper using the same shape and profile as the rest of the Light Car range. At the back, a new full width number plate plinth appeared with a new Light Car range bumper. To give a more open look from the side, the frames were removed from the side windows. Finally, small badges fitted at the bottom of each front wing and on the boot lid proclaimed each car to be a “Series IV”. Inside, a new dash, still in walnut veneer, but with the glove box raised into the dash itself allowed the inclusion of a proper storage shelf on each side of the car. Instrumentation and controls were much as before except that the heater switches and ashtray were now housed in a console in front of the gear lever. To aid driver comfort, an adjustable steering column was fitted along with new front seats which allowed more fore and aft adjustment and for the first time, included backrest adjustment. In common with the rest of the light car range, the Rapier’s front suspension was re-engineered to replace the half king pin on each side of the car with a sealed for life ball joint. All other suspension joints became either sealed for life or were rubber bushed thereby eliminating every grease point on the car. Gearing was adjusted overall to compensate for the smaller wheels and the front brake discs were reduced in size so that they would fit inside the wheels. A brake servo became standard and the spring and damper settings were adjusted to give a softer ride. A new diaphragm clutch and new clutch master cylinder brought lighter and more progressive clutch operation. The 1,592 cc engine from the Series IIIA was unchanged but the twin Zenith carburettors finally gave way to a single twin-choke Solex 32PAIA in the interests of serviceability. The effect of the new carburettor was to increase power to 84 bhp and torque to 91 lb/ft at 3,500 rpm. In October 1964, along with the rest of the light car range, the Series IV received the new Rootes all synchromesh gearbox, a change which coincided with the introduction of a new computerised chassis numbering system. When production of the Series IV ceased in 1965, 9700 units had been built. Pending completion of the new Fastback Rapier, Rootes decided to have one more go at updating the Sunbeam Rapier. In September 1965 they introduced the Series V version which looked exactly like the Series IV inside and out except for badges on wings and boot which now said “1725”, revealing a re-developed engine, although the actual capacity was 1,724 cc. Rootes redesigned the Rapier’s four cylinder engine to increase the capacity, with a new five main bearing crankshaft, making the unit stronger and smoother. This engine would be developed for many subsequent models. In the Series V Rapier the engine developed 91 hp at 5,500 rpm. To further update the car, they changed its polarity from positive to negative earth and fitted an alternator in place of the dynamo. They also devised a new twin pipe exhaust system so that the new engine could breathe more easily. The effect of these changes was to increase the Rapier’s maximum speed to 95 mph and reduce its time from rest to 60 mph to 14.1 seconds. However, for all its improvements, the Series V just did not sell. By the time it was discontinued in June 1967, only 3,759 units had been built, making it the rarest of all the “Series” Sunbeam Rapiers.
There were a couple of JDM cars here which caught my eye. First of these was a Chaser, a model produced in six different generations, none of which were ever sold in Europe. This, the one you see from time to time in the UK is from the sixth and final series. The Toyota Chaser has been known as one of the ‘triplet sedans’ of Toyota, because it shares the same chassis with the Toyota Cressida/Mark II, and the Cresta, and afforded Toyota the opportunity to sell one platform at two different dealership sales channels. Most of the models use double wishbone suspension with coil springs, especially beginning with the X81 series. The Chaser and its platform sisters are considered a rung below the Crown, allowing Toyota to offer a sedan with similar levels of luxury content, yet offering buyers lower tax liability and a more sporty image with a slightly smaller body length, powered by the 2.5-litre 1JZ engine. The Chaser initially was the competitor to the Nissan Skyline coupe and sedan. In September 1996, the X100 Chaser replaced the X90 Chaser. By this time, the Chaser had become a more sporty sedan; for many, it was the definitive Chaser and the best-looking model. The product lineup consisted mostly of Avantes and Tourers, with the Avante as the luxury model (with more interior accessories) and the Tourer as the sporty model (with large 16-inch wheels). Toyota’s VVTi, the company’s version of variable-valve timing, was added to the 1JZ engines; they were also upgraded to give out more torque, since they had already reached the legal limit set by Japanese authorities regarding horsepower. The 1JZ-GTE was powered by a single turbo configuration instead of the twin turbo of its predecessors. New to the lineup was the Avante Four and the Avante Four G Package (basically the Avante 2.5 L with a full-time 4WD system). These cars were only available in 4-speed electronic control type (ECT) automatic transmission. The Tourer V and automatic-only Avante G 3.0 L (2JZ) models had the option of electronic control flex lockup attaching 4-speed automatic (intelligent) (ECT-iE) transmission, besides the ECT-E automatic in the lower-end models. In 1997 the lineup remained largely unchanged, although a basic Tourer 2.0 L model was added. The Tourer was powered by a 1G-FE engine, capable of 140 PS at 5600 rpm. It was sold with only the 4-speed electronic control type (ECT) automatic transmission. In 1998, the basic Tourer received the optional manual gearbox and a 4WD option for basic Avante models; the Avante Four S Package received a higher special-edition interior. Additionally, the Chaser received a facelift, with the most significant changes to the rear tail lights. Other changes included new fog lights with a slightly redesigned front bar to accommodate them, different interior fabric, a 3-spoke steering wheel instead of 4 spokes, orange gauge lighting instead of white and a grille with 2 horizontal bars instead of 3. Toyota ceased producing the Chaser in June 2001. It was replaced with a new model called the Verossa which shares the same model code. The Cresta suffered the same fate, but the Mark II continued for another generation (X110) before it was also discontinued. In 2004, the all-new X120 Mark X was introduced in Japan, incorporating many characteristics of earlier-model Chasers (and also the models similar to the Chaser like the Mark II and the Cresta). In fact, the aim of the Mark X is to combine the characteristics of the 3 models into one single model.
There was also a Glanza. The Starlet Glanza is the sports version of the P90 generation Starlet, and the successor to the 80 series naturally aspirated Starlet 1.3 Gi and Starlet GT Turbo. The name “Glanza” comes from the German word “Glanz”, which means “brilliancy” or “sparkle”. The Glanza S was powered by the naturally aspirated 1331 cc 4E-FE and the Glanza V was powered by the turbocharged 1331 cc 4E-FTE. The 4E-FE used in the Glanza S generated 85 PS which, for the extremely light Starlet, was enough to propel the car from 0–100 km/h in 11.9 seconds. The turbo 4E-FTE used in the Glanza V generated 140 PS at 6400 rpm with a 0–100 km/h time of 8.2 seconds. In December 1996, the Glanza S Limited was released. It has standard body kits same as Glanza V Turbo except the scooped-bonnet and the engine did not have a Turbo. A lightweight version of the Glanza V was also available without air conditioner and electric windows to keep the car as light as possible, being intended for competitive usage. The Glanza S and Glanza V were only officially available on the Japanese market, although some used private imports made their way to the UK, New Zealand, and many other right-hand drive markets.
Also here was a Yaris GRMN, the very limited edition version of the familiar Yaris hatchback which was released for sale last year at a fairly ambitious price which left little change from £30,000. For that you got a potent 1.8 litre supercharged engine, tuned by Lotus, coupled to a six speed gearbox and suspension and chassis alterations A lateral brace across the front suspension towers provides essential strengthening and a front anti-roll bar that’s 26mm in diameter has been introduced. The MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension arrangements are fitted with Sachs Performance dampers, and shorter springs contribute to a 24mm reduction in ride height over the standard car – key to lowering the tall Yaris’s centre of gravity. Improved stopping power comes courtesy of disc brakes front and rear. A rear spoiler, central tailpipe, rear diffuser, 17in BBS alloy wheels and garish red and black decals help complete the transformation from bog-standard Yaris to aggressive and outlandish GRMN specification. The car only camesin one colour scheme, and this is it. It’s a niche look, for sure.
There were a lot of Triumph models here. Many of them were TR sports cars, of which the oldest present was a TR3b. Launched in 1955, the TR3 was an evolution of the TR2 and not a brand new model. It was powered by a 1991 cc straight-4 OHV engine initially producing 95 bhp, an increase of 5 hp over the TR2 thanks to the larger SU-H6 carburettors fitted. This was later increased to 100 bhp at 5000 rpm by the addition of a “high port” cylinder head and enlarged manifold. The four-speed manual gearbox could be supplemented by an overdrive unit on the top three ratios, electrically operated and controlled by a switch on the dashboard. In 1956 the front brakes were changed from drums to discs, the TR3 thus becoming the first British series production car to be so fitted. The TR3 was updated in 1957, with various changes of which the full width radiator grille is the easiest recognition point and the facelifted model is commonly referred to as the Triumph “TR3A”, though unlike the later TR4 series, where the “A” suffix was adopted, the cars were not badged as such and the “TR3A” name was not used officially, Other updates included exterior door handles, a lockable boot handle and the car came with a full tool kit as standard (this was an option on the TR3). The total production run of the “TR3A” was 58,236. This makes it the third best-selling TR after the TR6 and TR7. The TR3A was so successful that the original panel moulds eventually wore out and had to be replaced. In 1959 a slightly modified version came out that had raised stampings under the bonnet and boot hinges and under the door handles, as well as a redesigned rear floor section. In addition, the windscreen was attached with bolts rather than the Dzus connectors used on the early “A” models. Partly because it was produced for less time, the original TR3 sold 13,377 examples, of which 1286 were sold within the UK; the rest being exported mainly to the USA.
Successor to the TR3a, and code named “Zest” during development, the TR4 was based on the chassis and drivetrain of the previous TR sports cars, but with a modern Michelotti styled body. The TR 4 engine was carried over from the earlier TR2/3 models, but the displacement was increased from 1991cc to 2138 cc by increasing the bore size. Gradual improvements in the manifolds and cylinder head allowed for some improvements culminating in the TR4A model. The 1991 cc engine became a no-cost option for those cars destined to race in the under-two-litre classes of the day. Some cars were fitted with vane-type superchargers, as the three main bearing engine was liable to crankshaft failure if revved beyond 6,500 rpm; superchargers allowed a TR4 to produce much more horse-power and torque at relatively modest revolutions. The standard engine produced 105 bhp but, supercharged and otherwise performance-tuned, a 2.2-litre I4 version could produce in excess of 200 bhp at the flywheel. The TR4, in common with its predecessors, was fitted with a wet-sleeve engine, so that for competition use the engine’s cubic capacity could be changed by swapping the cylinder liners and pistons, allowing a competitor to race under different capacity rules (i.e. below or above 2 litres for example). Other key improvements over the TR3 included a wider track front and rear, slightly larger standard engine displacement, full synchromesh on all forward gears, and rack and pinion steering. In addition, the optional Laycock de Normanville electrically operated overdrive Laycock Overdrive could now be selected for 2nd and 3rd gear as well as 4th, effectively providing the TR4 with a seven-speed manual close ratio gearbox. The TR4 was originally fitted with 15×4.5″ disc wheels. Optional 48-lace wire wheels could be ordered painted the same colour as the car’s bodywork (rare), stove-enamelled (matte silver with chrome spinners, most common) or in matte or polished chrome finishes (originally rare, but now more commonly fitted). The most typical tyre originally fitted was 590-15 bias ply or optional radial tires. In the US at one point, American Racing alloy (magnesium and aluminium) wheels were offered as an option, in 15×5.5″ or 15×6″ size. Tyres were a problem for original owners who opted for 60-spoke wire wheels, as the correct size radial-ply tyre for the factory rims was 155-15, an odd-sized tyre at the time only available from Michelin at considerable expense. Some original TR4 sales literature says the original radial size was 165-15. The much more common 185-15 radials were too wide to be fitted safely. As a result, many owners had new and wider rims fitted and their wheels re-laced. The new TR4 body style did away with the classical cutaway door design of the previous TRs to allow for wind-down windows (in place of less convenient side-curtains), and the angular rear allowed a boot with considerable capacity for a sports car. Advanced features included the use of adjustable fascia ventilation, and the option of a unique hard top that consisted of a fixed glass rear window (called a backlight) with an integral rollbar and a detachable, steel centre panel (aluminium for the first 500 units). This was the first such roof system on a production car and preceded by 5 years the Porsche 911/912 Targa, which has since become a generic name for this style of top. On the TR4 the rigid roof panel was replaceable with an easily folded and stowed vinyl insert and supporting frame called a Surrey Top. The entire hard top assembly is often mistakenly referred to as a Surrey Top. In original factory parts catalogues the rigid top and backlight assembly is listed as the Hard Top kit. The vinyl insert and frame are offered separately as a Surrey Top. Features such as wind-down windows were seen as a necessary step forward to meet competition and achieve good sales in the important US market, where the vast majority of TR4s were eventually sold. Dealers had concerns that buyers might not fully appreciate the new amenities, therefore a special short run of TR3As (commonly called TR3Bs) was produced in 1961 and ’62. The TR4 proved very successful and continued the rugged, “hairy-chested” image that the previous TRs had enjoyed. 40,253 cars were built during production years. Most were sold new to the US, but plenty have returned, and it is estimated that there are not far short of 900 examples of the model in the UK at present.
There were no examples of the TR5 that I saw, but several of the next bodystyle to emerge, the TR6, the first Triumph for some time not to have been styled by Michelotti. By the mid 1960s, money was tight, so when it came to replacing the TR4 and TR5 models, Triumph were forced into trying to minimise the costs of the redesign, which meant that they kept the central section of the old car, but came up with new bodywork with the front and back ends were squared off, reportedly based on a consultancy contract involving Karmann. The resulting design, which did look modern when it was unveiled in January 1969 has what is referred to as a Kamm tail, which was very common during 1970s era of cars and a feature on most Triumphs of the era. All TR6 models featured inline six-cylinder engines. For the US market the engine was carburetted, as had been the case for the US-only TR250 engine. Like the TR5, the TR6 was fuel-injected for other world markets including the United Kingdom, hence the TR6PI (petrol-injection) designation. The Lucas mechanical fuel injection system helped the home-market TR6 produce 150 bhp at model introduction. Later, the non-US TR6 variant was detuned to 125 bhp for it to be easier to drive, while the US variant continued to be carburetted with a mere 104 hp. Sadly, the Lucas injection system proved somewhat troublesome, somewhat denting the appeal of the car. The TR6 featured a four-speed manual transmission. An optional overdrive unit was a desirable feature because it gave drivers close gearing for aggressive driving with an electrically switched overdrive which could operate on second, third, and fourth gears on early models and third and fourth on later models because of constant gearbox failures in second at high revs. Both provided “long legs” for open motorways. TR6 also featured semi-trailing arm independent rear suspension, rack and pinion steering, 15-inch wheels and tyres, pile carpet on floors and boot, bucket seats, and a full complement of instrumentation. Braking was accomplished by disc brakes at the front and drum brakes at the rear. A factory steel hardtop was optional, requiring two people to fit it. TR6 construction was fundamentally old-fashioned: the body was bolted onto a frame instead of the two being integrated into a unibody structure; the TR6 dashboard was wooden (plywood with veneer). Other factory options included a rear anti-roll bar and a limited-slip differential. Some say that the car is one of Leyland’s best achievements, but a number of issues were present and remain because of poor design. As well as the fuel injection problems, other issues include a low level radiator top-up bottle and a poor hand-brake. As is the case with other cars of the era, the TR6 can suffer from rust issues, although surviving examples tend to be well-cared for. The TR6 can be prone to overheating. Many owners fit an aftermarket electric radiator fan to supplement or replace the original engine-driven fan. Also the Leyland factory option of an oil cooler existed. Despite the reliability woes, the car proved popular, selling in greater quantity than any previous TR, with 94,619 of them produced before production ended in mid 1976. Of these, 86,249 were exported and only 8,370 were sold in the UK. A significant number have since been re-imported, as there are nearly 3000 of these much loved classics on the road and a further 1300 on SORN, helped by the fact that parts and services to support ownership of a TR6 are readily available and a number of classic car owners’ clubs cater for the model.
The TR’s smaller and cheaper brother was the Spitfire and there were a couple of examples from the later part of production. Based on the chassis and mechanicals of the Triumph Herald, the Spitfire was conceived as a rival to the Austin-Healey Sprite and MG Midget, which were launched a year earlier. The Triumph soon found a strong following, with many preferring it to the BMC cars which in time would become in-house stablemates. Mark II models arrived in 1965 and a more comprehensive facelift in 1967 with the distinctive “bone in mouth” front grille necessitated by US bumper height regulations also brought changes, but it was with the Mark IV that the greatest number of alterations would come about. The Mark IV featured a completely re-designed cut-off rear end, giving a strong family resemblance to the Triumph Stag and Triumph 2000 models, both of which were also Michelotti-designed. The front end was also cleaned up, with a new bonnet pressing losing the weld lines on top of the wings from the older models, and the doors were given recessed handles and squared-off glass in the top rear corner. The interior was much improved: a proper full-width dashboard was provided, putting the instruments ahead of the driver rather than over the centre console. This was initially black plastic however was replaced with wood in 1973. An all-new hardtop was also available, with rear quarter-lights and a flatter rear screen. By far the most significant change, however, was to the rear suspension, which was de-cambered and redesigned to eliminate the unfortunate tendencies of the original swing-axle design. The Triumph GT6 and Triumph Vitesse had already been modified, and the result on all these cars was safe and progressive handling even at the limit. The 75 hp engine was now rated at 63 hp (for UK market employing the 9:1 compression ratio and twin SU HS2 carburettors; the less powerful North American version still used a single Zenith Stromberg carburettor and an 8.5:1 compression ratio) due to the German DIN system; the actual output was the same for the early Mark IV. However, it was slightly slower than the previous Mark III due to carrying more weight, and employing a taller 3.89:1 final drive as opposed to the earlier 4.11:1. The engine continued at 1296 cc, but in 1973 was modified with larger big-end bearings to rationalise production with the TR6 2.5 litre engines, which somewhat decreased its “revvy” nature; there was some detuning, to meet new emissions laws, which resulted in the new car being a little tamer. With the overall weight also increasing to 1,717 lb (779 kg) the performance dropped as a consequence, 0 to 60 mph now being achieved in 15.8 seconds and the top speed reducing to 90 mph. The overall fuel economy also dipped to 32mpg. The gearbox gained synchromesh on its bottom gear. The Mark IV went on sale in the UK at the end of 1970 with a base price of £735. In 1973 in the United States and Canada, and 1975 in the rest of the world, the 1500 engine was used to make the Spitfire 1500. Although in this final incarnation the engine was rather rougher and more prone to failure than the earlier units, torque was greatly increased by increasing the cylinder stroke to 87.5 mm (3.44 in), which made it much more drivable in traffic. While the rest of the world saw 1500s with the compression ratio reduced to 8.0:1, the American market model was fitted with a single Zenith-Stromberg carburettor and a compression ratio reduced to 7.5:1 to allow it to run on lower octane unleaded fuel, and after adding a catalytic converter and exhaust gas recirculating system, the engine only delivered 53 bhp with a slower 0–60 time of 16.3 seconds. The notable exception to this was the 1976 model year, where the compression ratio was raised to 9.1:1. This improvement was short-lived, however, as the ratio was again reduced to 7.5:1 for the remaining years of production. In the UK the 9:1 compression ratio, less restrictive emissions control equipment, and the Type HS2 SU carburettors now being replaced with larger Type HS4 models, led to the most powerful variant to date. The 1500 Spitfire now produced 71hp (DIN) at 5500 rpm, and produced 82 lb/ft of torque at 3000 rpm. Top speed was now at the magical 100 mph mark, and 0 to 60 mph was reached in 13.2 seconds. Fuel economy was reduced to 29mpg. Further improvements to the suspension followed with the 1500 included longer swing axles and a lowered spring mounting point for more negative camber and a wider rear track. The wider, lower stance gave an impressive skid pad result of 0.87g average. This put the Spitfire head and shoulders over its competition in handling. The American market Spitfire 1500 is easily identified by the big plastic over-riders and wing mounted reflectors on the front and back wings. The US specification models up to 1978 still had chrome bumpers, but on the 1979 and 1980 models these were replaced by black rubber bumpers with built-in over-riders. Chassis extensions were also fitted under the boot to support the bumpers. Detail improvements continued to be made throughout the life of the Mark IV, and included reclining seats with “chequered brushed nylon centre panels” and head restraints, introduced for domestic market cars early in 1977 along with a new set of column stalk operated minor controls (as fitted already in the TR7) replacing the old dashboard mounted knobs and switches. Also added for the model’s final years were a wood dash, hazard flashers and an electric screen washer, in place of the previous manual pump operated ones. Options such as the hard top, tonneau cover, map light and overdrive continued to be popular, but wire wheels ceased to be available. The 1980 model was the last and the heaviest of the entire run, weighing 1,875 lb (850.5 kg). Base prices for the 1980 model year was £3,631 in the UK. The last Spitfire, an Inca Yellow UK-market model with hardtop and overdrive, rolled off the assembly line at Canley in August 1980, shortly before the factory closed. It was never sold and is now displayed at the museum at Gaydon.
Contemporary Triumph marketing advertised the GT6 as being developed from the “race winning Le Mans Spitfires” to capitalise on their aesthetic similarities, whereas the Le Mans Spitfires and the GT6 were actually two entirely separate development programmes (the GT programme pre-dating the racing programme). However, the marketing spin was so successful that many people erroneously believed the Le Mans Spitfires to actually be GT6s. The production car was introduced in 1966 and called the Triumph GT6. The new body was a sleek fastback design with an opening rear hatch which gave the GT6 the nickname “Poor man’s E-Type”. It was really a 2-seater, but a small extra rear seat could be ordered if required and was large enough for small children. The family resemblance to the Spitfire Mk II was strong, the longer 6-cylinder engine necessitated a new bonnet top with a power bulge and the doors were provided with opening quarter light windows and squared-off glass in the top rear corner. The 6-cylinder engine was tuned to develop 95 bhp at 5000 rpm, and produced 117 lb·ft of torque at 3000 rpm. The increased power necessitated certain changes to the Spitfire mechanics; the radiator was new and mounted further forward in the car and the gearbox was the stronger unit from the Vitesse, with optional overdrive. Front springs were uprated to cope with the extra weight of the new engine. The overall vehicle weight unladed was 1,904 lb (864 kg). The interior of the GT6 was well equipped; a wooden dashboard housed a full complement of instruments, with carpets and heater included as standard. The new car had some very strong selling points. The new engine provided a 106 mph top speed and 0–60 mph in 12 seconds, a little better than the MGB GT. Moreover, the unit was comparatively smooth and tractable, in marked contrast to the MG’s rather harsh 4-cylinder engine. Fuel economy was very reasonable for the period at 20mpg, and the interior well up to the competition. The only major criticism was of its rear suspension; the GT6 inherited the swing-axle system from the Spitfire, which in turn was copied from the Herald small saloon. In the saloon it was tolerated, in the little Spitfire it was not liked and in the powerful GT6 it was heavily criticised. Triumph had done nothing to improve the system for the GT6 and the tendency to break away if the driver lifted off the power mid-corner was not helped at all by the increased weight at the front of the car. The handling was most bitterly criticised in the USA, an important export market for Triumph, where they were traditionally very strong. Similar criticism was being levelled at the Vitesse saloon, which shared the GT6’s engine and its handling problems. Triumph realised that they needed to find an answer to the handling problem, if only to maintain their reputation in the USA. Their response came with the 1969 model year, with the introduction of the GT6 Mk II, known in the States as the GT6+. The rear suspension was significantly re-engineered using reversed lower wishbones and Rotoflex driveshaft couplings, taming the handling and turning the Triumph into an MGB beater. The Vitesse was also modified, but the Spitfire had to wait until 1970 for any improvements to be made. There were other changes for the Mk II; the front bumper was raised (in common with the Spitfire Mk.3) to conform to new crash regulations, necessitating a revised front end, and side vents were added to the front wings and rear pillars. Under the bonnet, the engine was uprated to develop 104 bhp with a new cylinder head, camshaft, and manifolds. Performance improved to 107 mph but perhaps more noteworthy the 0–60 mph time dropped to 10 seconds. The fuel economy was also improved to 25 mpg. The interior was updated with a new dashboard and better ventilation, a two-speed heater fan and a black headlining. Overdrive remained a popular option for the manual transmission. A further update to the Series 3 came in the autumn of 1970, at the same time as the Spitfire Mark IV was launched, but sales remained low and the car was deleted in the autumn of 1973 with production having reached 40,926 examples.
Always a popular classic, there were lots of the Stag present. Envisioned as a luxury sports car, this car was designed to compete directly with the Mercedes-Benz SL. It started as a styling experiment, cut and shaped from a 1963–4 Triumph 2000 pre-production saloon, which had also been styled by Michelotti, and loaned to him by Harry Webster, Director of Engineering at Triumph. Their agreement was that if Webster liked the design, Triumph could use the prototype as the basis of a new Triumph model. Harry Webster, who was a long time friend of Giovanni Michelotti, whom he called “Micho”, loved the design and took the prototype back to England. The end result, a two-door drop head (convertible), had little in common with the styling of its progenitor 2000, but retained the suspension and drive line. Triumph liked the Michelotti design so much that they propagated the styling lines of the Stag into the new Mark 2 2000/2500 saloon and estate. The initial Stag design was based around the saloon’s 2.5-litre six cylinder engine, but Harry Webster intended the Stag, large saloons and estate cars to use a new Triumph-designed overhead cam 2.5-litre fuel injected V8. Under the direction of Harry Webster’s successor, Spen King in 1968, the new Triumph OHC 2.5 PI V8 was enlarged to 2997 cc to increase torque. To meet emission standards in the USA, a key target market, the troublesome mechanical fuel injection was dropped in favour of dual Zenith-Stromberg 175 CDSE carburettors. A key aim of Triumph’s engineering strategy at the time was to create a family of engines of different size around a common crankshaft. This would enable the production of power plants of capacity between 1.5 and 4 litres, sharing many parts, and hence offering economies of manufacturing scale and of mechanic training. A number of iterations of this design went into production, notably a slant four-cylinder engine used in the later Triumph Dolomite and Triumph TR7, and a variant manufactured by StanPart that was initially used in the Saab 99. The Stag’s V8 was the first of these engines into production. Sometimes described as two four-cylinder engines Siamesed together, it is more correct to say that the later four-cylinder versions were half a Stag engine. It has sometimes been alleged that Triumph were instructed to use the proven all-aluminium Rover V8, originally designed by Buick, but claimed that it would not fit. Although there was a factory attempt by Triumph to fit a Rover engine, which was pronounced unsuccessful, the decision to go with the Triumph V8 was probably driven more by the wider engineering strategy and by the fact that the Buick’s different weight and torque characteristics would have entailed substantial re-engineering of the Stag when it was almost ready to go on sale. Furthermore Rover, also owned by British Leyland, could not necessarily have supplied the numbers of V8 engines to match the anticipated production of the Stag anyway. As in the Triumph 2000 model line, unitary construction was employed, as was fully independent suspension – MacPherson struts in front, semi-trailing arms at the rear. Braking was by front disc and rear drum brakes, while steering was power-assisted rack and pinion. Although other bodystyles were envisaged, these never made production, so all Stags were four-seater convertible coupés. For structural rigidity – and to meet new American rollover standards of the time – the Stag required a B-pillar “roll bar” hoop connected to the windscreen frame by a T-bar. A removable hardtop was a popular factory option for the early Stags, and was later supplied as a standard fitment. The car was launched one year late in 1970, to a warm welcome at the various international auto shows. Sadly, it rapidly acquired a reputation for mechanical unreliability, usually in the form of overheating. These problems arose from a variety of causes, all of which are now well understood, and for which solutions have been identified, but at the time, they really hurt the reputation and hence sales of the car. They ranged from late changes to the engine which gave rise to design features that were questionable from an engineering perspective, the choice of materials which necessitated the use of antifreeze all year round, the engine’s use of long, simplex roller link chains, which would first stretch and then often fail inside fewer than 25,000 miles; the arrangement of the cylinder head fixing studs, half of which were vertical and the other half at an angle causing sideways forces which caused premature failure of the cylinder head gaskets. and poor quality production from a plant troubled with industrial unrest and poor quality control. At the time, British Leyland never provided a budget sufficient to correct the few design shortcomings of the Triumph 3.0 litre OHC V8, and the dealers did not help matters. The Stag was always a relatively rare car. British Leyland had around 2,500 UK dealers when the Stag was on sale and a total of around 19,000 were sold in the UK. Thus the average dealer sold only seven or eight Stags during the car’s whole production run, or roughly one car per year. This meant that few dealers saw defective Stags often enough to recognise and diagnose the cause of the various problems. Many owners simply replaced the engine altogether, often with the Rover V8, Ford Essex V6, or even the Triumph 6-cylinder engine around which the car was originally designed. Perhaps thanks to such a reputation for its unreliable engine, only 25,877 cars were produced between 1970 and 1977. Of this number, 6780 were export models, of which 2871 went to the United States. The majority of cars were fitted with a Borg-Warner 3-speed automatic transmission. The other choice was a derivative of the ancient Triumph TR2 gearbox which had been modified and improved over the years for use in the TR series of sports cars. Other than the choice of transmissions there were very few factory-installed options. On early cars buyers could choose to have the car fitted with just the soft-top, just the hard-top (with the hood storage compartment empty) or with both. Later cars were supplied with both roofs. Three wheel styles were offered. The standard fitments were steel wheels with Rostyle “tin-plate” trims. Five-spoke alloy wheels were an option, as were a set of traditional steel spoke wheels with “knock-off”‘ hubcaps. The latter were more commonly found on Stags sold in North America on Federal Specification vehicles. Electric windows, power steering and power-assisted brakes were standard. Options included air conditioning, a luggage rack, uprated Koni shock absorbers, floor mats and Lucas Square Eight fog lamps, and a range of after-market products, most of which were dealer installed as optional accessories could also be fitted. Rather unusually for a 4-seat touring car, the accessory list included a sump protector plate that was never produced. This was probably included as a slightly “gimmicky” tribute to Triumph’s rallying successes. Nowadays, the Stag is seen in a very different light, with lots of very enthusiastic and knowledgeable owners who enjoy the good points of this attractive looking car and who revel in the fact that the market has not yet boosted prices into the unaffordable category, as one day will surely happen.
There were a couple of the Herald family here. Towards the end of the 1950s Standard-Triumph offered a range of two-seater Triumph sports cars alongside its Standard saloons, the Standard 8 and 10, powered by a small (803 cc or 948 cc) 4-cylinder engine, which by the late 1950s were due for an update. Standard-Triumph therefore started work on the Herald. The choice of the Herald name suggests that the car was originally intended to be marketed as a Standard, as it fits the model-naming scheme of the time (Ensign, Pennant and Standard itself). But by 1959 it was felt that the Triumph name had more brand equity, and the Standard name was phased out in Britain after 1963. Giovanni Michelotti was commissioned to style the car by the Standard-Triumph board, encouraged by chief engineer Harry Webster, and quickly produced designs for a two-door saloon with a large glass area that gave 93 per cent all-round visibility in the saloon variant and the “razor-edge” looks to which many makers were turning. As Fisher & Ludlow, Standard-Triumph’s body suppliers became part of an uncooperative BMC, it was decided that the car should have a separate chassis rather than adopting the newer monocoque construction. The main body tub was bolted to the chassis and the whole front end hinged forward to allow access to the engine. Every panel – including the sills and roof – could be unbolted from the car so that different body styles could be easily built on the same chassis. As an addition to the original coupé and saloon models, a convertible was introduced in 1960. The Standard Pennant’s 4-cylinder 948 cc OHV engine and 4 speed manual gearbox was used with synchromesh on the top three gears and remote gear shift and driving the rear wheels. Most of the engine parts were previously used in the Standard 8/10. The rack and pinion steering afforded the Herald a tight 25-foot turning circle. Coil and double-wishbone front suspension was fitted, while the rear suspension, a new departure for Triumph, offered “limited” independent springing via a single transverse leaf-spring bolted to the top of the final drive unit and swing axles. Instruments were confined to a single large speedometer with fuel gauge in the saloon (a temperature gauge was available as an option) on a dashboard of grey pressed fibreboard. The coupé dashboard was equipped with speedometer, fuel and temperature gauges, together with a lockable glovebox. The car had loop-pile carpeting and heater as standard. A number of extras were available including twin SU carburettors, leather seats, a wood-vaneered dashboard, Telaflo shock absorbers and paint options. In late 1958, prototype cars embarked on a test run from Cape Town to Tangiers. An account of the journey was embellished by PR at the time. However only minor changes were deemed necessary between the prototype and production cars. The new car was launched at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 22 April 1959 but was not an immediate sales success, partly owing to its relatively high cost, approaching £700 (including 45 per cent Purchase Tax). In standard single-carburettor form the 34.5 bhp car was no better than average in terms of performance. A saloon tested by The Motor magazine in 1959 was found to have a top speed of 70.9 mph and could accelerate from 0–60 mph in 31.1 seconds. A fuel consumption of 34.5 mpg was recorded. The rear suspension was criticised as yielding poor handling at the extremes of performance though the model was considered easy to drive with its good vision, light steering (smallest turning circle of any production car) and controls, and ease of repair. A Herald S variant was introduced in 1961 with a lower equipment level and less chromium than the Herald, offered in saloon form only. The 948cc Herald Coupe and Convertible models were discontinued in 1961, the 948cc Herald Saloon in 1962 and the Herald S in 1964. Standard-Triumph experienced financial difficulties at the beginning of the 1960s and was taken over by Leyland Motors Ltd in 1961. This released new resources to develop the Herald and the car was re-launched in April 1961 with an 1147 cc engine as the Herald 1200. The new model featured rubber-covered bumpers, a wooden laminate dashboard and improved seating. Quality control was also tightened up. Twin carburettors were no longer fitted to any of the range as standard although they remained an option, the standard being a single down-draught Solex carburettor. Claimed maximum power of the Herald 1200 was 39 bhp, as against the 34.5 bhp claimed for the 948 cc model. One month after the release of the Herald 1200, a 2-door estate was added to the range. Disc brakes became an option from 1962. Sales picked up despite growing competition from the BMC Mini and the Ford Anglia, with the car proving particularly popular to women drivers. The coupé was dropped from the range in late 1964 as it was by then in direct competition with the Triumph Spitfire. The Triumph Courier van, a Herald estate with side panels in place of rear side windows, was produced from 1962 until 1966, but was dropped following poor sales. Production in England ceased in mid-1964. CKD assembly by MCA in Malta continued till late 1965, at least. The Courier was powered by the 1147 cc engine. An upmarket version, the Herald 12/50, was offered from 1963 to 1967. It featured a tuned engine with a claimed output of 51 bhp in place of the previous 39, along with a sliding (Webasto) vinyl-fabric sunroof and front disc brakes as standard. The 12/50, which was offered only as a 2-door saloon, was fitted with a fine-barred aluminium grille. The power output of the 1200, which remained in production alongside the 12/50, was subsequently boosted to 48 bhp. In October 1967 the range was updated with the introduction at the London Motor Show of the Herald 13/60, which was offered in saloon, convertible and estate-bodied versions. The sun-roof remained available for the saloon as an optional extra rather than a standard feature. The front end was restyled using a bonnet similar to the Triumph Vitesse’s and the interior substantially revised though still featuring the wooden dashboard. Interior space was improved by recessing a rear armrest in each side panel. The engine was enlarged to 1296 cc, essentially the unit employed since 1965 in the Triumph 1300, fitted with a Stromberg CD150 carburettor, offering 61 bhp and much improved performance. In this form (though the 1200 saloon was sold alongside it until the end of 1970) the Herald Saloon lasted until December 1970 and the Convertible and Estate until May 1971, by which time, severely outdated in style if not performance, it had already outlived the introduction of the Triumph 1300 Saloon, the car designed to replace it and was still selling reasonably well but, because of its labour-intensive method of construction, selling at a loss.
Three years after the launch of the Herald, Triumph created a more sporting version by putting a 1600cc 6 cylinder engine under the bonnet, calling the result the Vitesse. Handling of the early cars, on their swing axle suspension was best described as “interesting”, but Triumph worked hard to revise (tame!) it so by the time that the 2 litre models were launched in 1965, the car was rather easier to drive briskly on bendy roads. A Mark 2 version was launched in 1968, with new front end styling and other trim differences, and the model lived on until 1971. To be seen here was a late model 2 litre Convertible.
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.
First of the TVRs here was the Chimaera, the slightly softer version of the Griffith, that was sold from 1993 to 2003. Offered with a choice of 4.0, 4,3 and later 4.5 and 5 litre Rover V8-based engines, this was still an exciting car, and a good looking one as well.
The Tuscan was launched in 2000, by which time there had been a series of what we think of as the modern era TVRs produced for nearly a decade, the Cerbera, Griffith and Cerbera. The Tuscan did not replace any of them, but was intended to help with the company’s ambitious push further up market to become a sort of Blackpool-built alternative to Ferrari. It did not lack the styling for the task, and unlike the preceding models with their Rover V8 engines, the new car came with TVR’s own engine, a straight six unit of 3.6 litre capacity putting out 360 bhp. The Tuscan was intended to be the grand tourer of the range, perfectly practical for everyday use, though with only two seats, no ABS, no airbags and no traction control, it was a tough sell on wet days in a more safety conscious world, but at least there was a removable targa top roof panel for those days when the sun came out. The car may have lacked the rumble of a V8, but when pushed hard, the sound track from the engine was still pretty special, and the car was faster than the Cerbera, but sadly, the car proved less than reliable, which really started to harm TVR’s reputation, something which would ultimately prove to be its undoing.
There was one Ultima here, the sports car manufactured by Ultima Sports Ltd of Hinckley, Leicestershire, England, and described by commentators as a supercar. It is available both in kit form and as a “turnkey” (i.e. assembled by the factory) vehicle. The design is a mid engined, rear wheel drive layout, with a tubular steel space frame chassis and GRP bodywork. Both close coupe and convertible versions have been made. The latter is called the Ultima Can-Am. Kit builders are free to source and fit a variety of engines and transmissions but the Chevrolet small block V8 supplied by American Speed mated to either a Porsche or Getrag transaxle is the factory recommended standard, and this configuration is fitted to all turnkey cars.
The Princess 1100 was a luxury version of the Austin/Morris 1100 family, introduced in late 1963. It proved quite popular, despite the relatively high price, there being quite a market for a nicely finished small car, which came with thick carpets, leather seats and lashings of walnut vaneer. The model would later gain the 1275cc engine which gave it a little more power, which is the one seen here. Production ran until 1974 and 43,741 examples were produced.
Needing little in the way of introduction was this classic Beetle, presented in “Herbie” livery.
Contemporary with this was the Type 1 Karmann Ghia Coupe. This model debuted at the October 1953 Paris Auto Show as a styling concept created for Ghia by Luigi Segre. In the early 1950s, Volkswagen was producing its economy car, the Type 1 (Beetle), but with an increase in post-war standards of living, executives at Volkswagen proposed adding a halo car to its model range, contracting with German coachbuilder Karmann for its manufacture. Karmann in turn contracted the Italian firm Ghia, who adapted styling themes previously explored for Chrysler and Studebaker to a Beetle floorpan widened by 12 in. Virgil Exner claimed that the design was his, based on the 1953 Chrysler D’Elegance. In contrast to the Beetle’s machine-welded body with bolt-on wings, the Karmann Ghia’s body panels were butt-welded, hand-shaped, and smoothed with English pewter in a time-consuming process commensurate with higher-end manufacturers, resulting in the Karmann Ghia’s higher price. The design and prototype were well received by Volkswagen executives, and in August 1955 the first Type 14 was manufactured in Osnabrück, Germany. Public reaction to the Type 14 exceeded expectations, and more than 10,000 were sold in the first year. The Type 14 was marketed as a practical and stylish 2+2 rather than as a true sports car. As they shared engines, the Type 14’s engine displacement grew concurrently with the Type 1 (Beetle), ultimately arriving at a displacement of 1584 cc, producing 60 hp. In August 1957, Volkswagen introduced a convertible version of the Karmann Ghia. Exterior changes in 1961 included wider and finned front grilles, taller and more rounded rear taillights and headlights relocated to a higher position – with previous models and their lower headlight placement called lowlights. The Italian designer Sergio Sartorelli, designer of the larger Type 34 model, oversaw the various restylings of the Type 14. In 1970, larger taillights integrated the reversing lights and larger wrap-around indicators. Still larger and wider taillights increased side visibility. In 1972, large square-section bumpers replaced the smooth round originals. For the USA model only, 1973 modifications mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) included energy-absorbing bumpers. A carpeted package shelf replaced the rear seat. In late 1974 the car was superseded by the Porsche 914 and the Golf based Scirocco. This is an early model.
Also built by Karmann was the Golf Cabrio. First produced in 1979, this Karmann built conversion of the regular Golf hatch is generally credited with resurrecting public interest in open-topped versions of family cars again. It would go, albeit updated, based on the Mark 1 model until the mid 90s when a Mark 3 based model appeared.
VW launched the second generation Golf in August of 1983, nearly 9 years after production of the first model to bear the name had begun. This time, a GTi version was included in the product plans from the start, and the new GTi was announced in May 1984. Like the regular Golf 2, it was almost 7″ longer than the Mark 1, with 3″ extra in the wheelbase and a 2″ wider track. It was also 10% heavier, but with significantly improved aerodynamics, resulting from attention to detail which included integrated gutters and flush glass as well as more rounded styling, the cd fell from 0.42 to 0.34. Initially it was powered by the same 1781cc fuel injected engine, but there were all round disc brakes and longer suspension travel improved the ride. Competitors came snapping at its heels, though, so after 2/5 years, VW responded by giving the car 24% more power, achieved by doubling the number of valves to 16. Lower stiffer suspension and bigger front brakes were also fitted, all of which restored the Golf GTi 16V to the top of the Hot Hatch pile. For most people that is, though the 8v car retained a following thanks to its broader torque spread. This less powerful car changed from a mechanical K-Jetronic injection system to a new Digifant electronic set up in 1987 at which point the front quarterlights were deleted, and a digital instrument pack became an option on the 16v car. Power steering became standard in late 1990 and the 8v gained the interior from the 16v model. Production ran through to February 1992, by which time the Mark 3 GTi was waiting in the wings. over 600,000 were built over an 8 year period, around 10% of all Mark 2 Golf production.
A number of performance oriented more recent VWs were also here, with GTi and R versions of the Golf R as well as the latest Polo GTi.
It goes without saying that I enjoyed my morning down at Haynes. It is a pleasant drive once you are clear of Bristol, down the A37 and through Shepton Mallett and skirting the pretty town of Castle Cary and there were lots of cars to see, more than a few of which have to count as rare. These Breakfast Clubs are held on the first Sunday of every month. Shame is, looking at my diary, it is going to be some time before I have another one of those free to be able to attend again. But I will just as soon as I get the chancebb