Diary logistics were such that I found myself in Coventry on the morning of the monthly Breakfast Club meeting which takes place on Millennium place, just outside the Transport Museum, so once I had realised this was going to be the case, I had booked my car in for display purposes just as I had done the month previously, when, despite it being the newest car on show, it seemed to attract plenty of attention, especially from the younger visitors. The forecast did not look promising, and indeed on the Saturday morning, rain continued to fall out of the sky to add to the damp that was already there. Trying to clean the car seemed pointless, so I simply headed off from my hotel not exactly full of expectation for a bumper turn out. There were just five cars parked up when I arrived, and no sign of the owners, all of whom had taken refuge in the cafe or somewhere else dry. During the course of the morning further cars arrived, on a very gradual basis, with the total reached all of 13 before it was clear that this was going to be it. Of those 13 cars, though every single one was from a different manufacturer, so there was no duplication. Some were cars that I have seen at this event before, but a few were ones I had not. That all means that this is not going to be the longest of reports, but there was enough to justify recording the event. So here are those 13 cars.
The current Giulietta arrived in 2010 as a much awaited replacement for the 147. Spy photos had suggested that the car was going to look very like Fiat’s ill-fated Bravo, but the reality was that it had a style all of its own. A range of very efficient petrol and diesel engines were among the most emissions-efficient in their class at the time, and a 250 bhp Quadrifoglio version at the top of the range made sure there was something for the man who wanted a rapid, but quite subtle hatch. The car has enjoyed reasonable success in the UK, and the car has certainly found favour among Alfa enthusiasts, so it was no surprise to find on this wet day that it was one of these which was representing this much-loved marque.
One of the late arrivals was tis rather imposing Bentley Eight. The Eight was Bentley’s “entry-level” offering from 1984 until 1992. Distinguished mainly by a wire-mesh grille radiator instead of vertical slats, the Eight also had somewhat less equipment than the similar Mulsanne on which it was based. This brought the introductory price to under the psychologically important £50,000 mark at the time of introduction, £6,000 less than the Mulsannne. A firmer suspension offered slight handling improvements. The Eight was so popular that sales expanded from the original UK market to Europe and the United States. The Eight was introduced with cloth upholstery, steel wheels, and a mesh grille that was simpler than the slatted grille of the Mulsanne. Fuel injection and anti-lock brakes were added in 1986, leather upholstery and power memory seats were added in 1987, and automatic ride height adjustment was added in 1990. In Britain, catalytic converters became optional in 1990 – although they had been available long before in markets where such were required. The three-speed automatic transmission was replaced by a four-speed transmission in August 1992. The Bentley Brooklands was introduced in 1992 as a replacement for the Bentley Mulsanne S and Bentley Eight models. It was intended as a slightly cheaper alternative to the Bentley Turbo R, featuring the same styling, underpinnings and the Rolls-Royce 6.75-litre V8 engine, but without the more powerful model’s turbocharger. The Brooklands continued Bentley’s relatively angular design theme, which was also used on contemporary Rolls-Royce vehicles, throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. The exterior design featured the classic Bentley waterfall grille as well as dual headlights with wraparound parking lights. As in many Bentley and Rolls-Royce vehicles, the Brooklands also featured the trademark descending bootlid and chrome B-pillars. The interior remained relatively unchanged from previous Bentley models, with more curvaceous design elements surrounding the leather-wrapped centre console. The steering wheel and interior door panels remained largely unchanged; the major change arrived in the form of relocating the gear selector to the centre console – for decades the standard practice among R-R and Bentley models utilised a steering column mounted selector. The interior continued to be surrounded by ample woodgrain which featured engraved, lighter-coloured outlines on the door panels.
BMW was represented by an E92 generation M3 Coupe. For some reason, I do not appear to have taken any photos which show this car as the star of the picture.
Final car to arrive as the second generation Focus ST belonging to my friend Andy Convery. Although he has lived all his life in Coventry, even he did not immediately find the entrance to Millennium Place, as I saw him go “around the block”. It was only when we where chatting over coffee and a breakfast pastry that we realised that his car would qualify for entry under the “over 10 years old” rule, as well as the “future classic”, so I am sure he will pop down again for future events. The first of the second generation Focus models were unveiled towards the end of 2004, and it was not that long after this before a more sporting version arrived, with the 2005 launch of the ST. It was offered in either three or five-door hatchback forms and featured the Ford Duratec turbocharged 2.5 litre 5-cylinder engine producing 225 bhp. In 2008 Ford, in conjunction with Mountune Racing, unveiled a power upgrade kit which raises the power output to 260 bhp, the kit consisting of: a K&N panel filter, larger intercooler and a re-map. The ST was produced until the arrival of the third generation Focus in the spring of 2011.
Credit has to go to the driver of this Jensen Healey, as I understand he had come up all the way from Northampton specially to attend the event. He was one of the last to arrive, and clearly had trouble in finding the entrance, as I saw the car go back and forth around the perimeter roads, including under the dreaded camera-protected arch before he found a way in. I am glad he did, as these cars are quite a rare sighting. With the demise of the Austin-Healey 3000, Donald Healey opened discussions with Jensen Motors, who had built the bodies for Healey’s Austin-Healey cars. The largest Austin Healey Car Dealer in the US, Kjell Qvale was also keen to find a replacement to the Austin-Healey 3000 then became a major shareholder of Jensen, making Donald Healey the chairman. The Jensen-Healey was designed in a joint venture by Donald Healey, his son Geoffrey, and Jensen Motors. Hugo Poole did the styling of the body, the front and back of which were later modified by William Towns to take advantage of the low profile engine and to allow cars for the U.S. market to be fitted with bumpers to meet increasing US regulations. The unitary body understructure was designed by Barry Bilbie, who had been responsible for the Austin-Healey 100, 100-6 and 3000 as well as the Sprite. It was designed to be cheap to repair, with bolt-on panels, to reduce insurance premiums. Launched in 1972 as a fast luxurious and competent convertible sports car, it was positioned in the market between the Triumph TR6 and the Jaguar E-Type. The 50/50 weight balance due to the all alloy Lotus engine led to universal praise as having excellent handling. It all looked very promising, but it was the engine which was the car’s undoing. Various engines had been tried out in the prototype stage including Vauxhall, Ford and BMW units. The Vauxhall 2.3 litre engine met United States emission requirements but did not meet the power target of 130 hp. A German Ford V6 was considered but industrial action crippled supply. BMW could not supply an engine in the volumes needed. Colin Chapman of Lotus offered, and Jensen accepted his company’s new 1973 cc Lotus 907 engine, a two-litre, dual overhead cam, 16 valve all-alloy powerplant. This multi-valve engine is the first to be mass-produced on an assembly line. This setup put out approximately 144 bhp, topping out at 119 mph and accelerating from zero to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds. The problem was that it was a brand new engine, and Lotus were effectively using Jensen-Healey to complete the development. There were numerous issues early on, which meant that warranty claims rocketed and then sales stalled, so whilst this soon became the best selling Jensen of all time, it also helped seal the fate of the company. In total 10,503 (10 prototypes, 3,347 Mk.1 and 7,146 Mk.2) were produced by Jensen Motors Ltd. A related fastback, the Jensen GT, was introduced in 1975. Values are surprisingly low these days, which is a shame, as the problems are long since ironed out, and the resulting car looks good and goes well.
There had been two of these GS models here the previous month, but this time there was just the one. There is a certain following now for examples of early Lexus models, most of which then undergo the, erm personalisation, treatment. And that was the case here with a couple of the second generation GS model cars parked up together, and which left together. In 1993, after sales commenced for the first generation S140 series, development began on the successor under the internally known codenamed JZS160. The design process began under chief engineer Yasushi Nakagawa in May 1994 and by November 1995 after 18 months of design work, the final production design by Akihiro Nagaya was approved by the executive board. In January 1997, Lexus debuted the “High Performance Sedan” (HPS) concept at the Detroit Auto Show, previewing the design direction for the redesigned GS. In August 1997, the second generation Toyota Aristo was launched in Japan, codenamed JZS160 (S300 version) for models with 2JZ-GE engines and JZS161 (V300 version) for those with 2JZ-GTE twin-turbocharged engines, remaining exclusive to the former Vista network that was renamed Toyota Netz Store Japanese dealerships. VVT-i was now standard, resulting in an increase of torque. The twin-turbocharged version was available with electronic four-wheel steering, VSC electronic stability control and an automatic transmission with a manual sequential mode. The second generation sedans used a new front-engine, rear-wheel drive midsize platform, also featured in the Japanese-market Toyota Crown. The new model’s styling was produced in-house, and featured quadruple headlights in a fashion similar to the Lexus SC coupe. It had a drag coefficient of Cd=0.30. Inside, electroluminescent Optitron gauges were offered for the first time, along with an upgraded stereo system. For export markets, the second generation GS began production in the JZS161 body style on 4 August 1997 and was officially launched in late 1997. Lexus offered the GS 300 once again and featured a slightly revised version of the previous generation’s 3.0-litre straight-six now producing 225 bhp and 305 N⋅m (225 lb⋅ft) of torque. Answering customer requests for more power, the American market GS 400 (UZS160) was equipped with the 4.0-litre 1UZ-FE V8 that produced 300 bhp and 420 N⋅m (310 ft⋅lb) of torque. Both models featured a five-speed automatic transmission with the GS 400 receiving steering wheel shift buttons. As with the S140 series, no turbocharged variants were offered outside Japan. The 0–60 mph time of the GS 400 prompted Lexus to claim that the GS was the world’s fastest production sedan at its introduction in 1997. The 1998 BMW M5 sedan would list 0–60 mph times of between 4.8 and 5.2 seconds. Lexus promoted the arrival of the second generation GS sedan with the tagline, “Something Wicked Comes This Way.” Compared to its predecessor, the second generation GS sedan was a much bigger success, with sales reaching 30,622 vehicles in its first year, increasing in the second, and stabilizing at 28,079 vehicles by 2000. In 2000, a facelift was applied. This was the only year with any major changes for the second generation GS. New clear tail lights with turn signal indicators were added to the boot area, as well as a slightly revised grille and very subtly tinted headlights on the front end. Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights were now standard on the V8 and optional on the straight-six. Inside, more wood trim was added, and steering wheel shift buttons were now also featured on the GS 300. The V8 engine also received a 300cc increase in displacement and the model was renamed GS 430 (UZS161). Peak power was unchanged, but torque increased to 441 N⋅m (325 lb⋅ft). The GS 430 took 5.7 seconds to do 0–60 mph. For the 2001 model year, Lexus also added a limited production GS 300 “SportDesign” edition for North America, featuring the sport suspension from the GS 430, wider tyres, and polished alloy wheels. The SportDesign interior added perforated leather upholstery along with brushed aluminium and dark stained walnut trim. For the third quarter of 2001, production of the GS 300 SportDesign was limited to a run of 3,300 units (vs. 25,000 annual GS sales annually). Production of the limited model occurred through 2004. A third generation model arrived in 2005.
Whilst there were not exactly crowds of people looking at the cars during the morning, once again my Ghibli did seem to generate plenty of interest among those who had decided to brave the elements, and I did pass on the observation to the event organisers that their change in policy to admit more recent cars would potentially bring in a wider audience, as it does seem to be the case that the younger generation are more interested in more recent cars.
One of the rarer cars of the morning was this rather nice RX7 Cabrio. The second generation RX7, also known initially as the Series 4, appeared in 1985. Still known as the Mazda Savanna RX-7 in Japan, the new car featured a complete restyling reminiscent of the Porsche 924. Mazda’s stylists, led by Chief Project Engineer Akio Uchiyama, focused on the Porsche 924 for their inspiration in designing the FC because the new car was being styled primarily for the American market, where the majority of first-generation RX-7s had been sold. This strategy was chosen after Uchiyama and others on the design team spent time in the United States studying owners of earlier RX-7s and other sports cars popular in the American market. The Porsche 944 was selling particularly well at the time and provided clues as to what sports-car enthusiasts might find compelling in future RX-7 styling and equipment. While the SA22/FB was a purer sports car, the FC tended toward the softer sport-tourer trends of its day, sharing some similarities with the HB series Cosmo. Handling was much improved, with less of the oversteer tendencies of the FB. The rear end design was vastly improved from the FB’s live rear axle to a more modern, Independent Rear Suspension (rear axle). Steering was more precise, with rack and pinion steering replacing the old recirculating ball steering of the FB. Disc brakes also became standard, with some models (S4: Sport, GXL, GTU, Turbo II, Convertible; S5: GXL, GTUs, Turbo, Convertible) offering four-piston front brakes. The rear seats were optional in some models of the FC RX-7, but are not commonly found in the American Market. Mazda also introduced Dynamic Tracking Suspension System (DTSS) in the 2nd generation RX-7. The revised independent rear suspension incorporated special toe control hubs which were capable of introducing a limited degree of passive rear steering under cornering loads. The DTSS worked by allowing a slight amount of toe-out under normal driving conditions but induced slight toe-in under heavier cornering loads at around 0.5 Gs or more; toe-out in the rear allows for a more responsive rotation of the rear, but toe-in allowed for a more stable rear under heavier cornering. Mazda also introduced Auto Adjusting Suspension (AAS) in the 2nd generation RX-7. The system changed damping characteristics according to the road and driving conditions. The system compensated for camber changes and provided anti-dive and anti-squat effects. The Turbo 2 uses a turbocharger with a twin scroll design. The smaller primary chamber is engineered to cancel the turbo lag at low engine speeds. At higher revolutions, the secondary chamber is opened, pumping out 33% more power than the naturally aspirated counterpart. The Turbo 2 also has an air-to-air intercooler which has a dedicated intake on the bonnet. The intake is slightly offset toward the left side of the bonnet. Though about 800 lb (363 kg) heavier and more isolated than its predecessor, the FC continued to win accolades from the press. The FC RX-7 was Motor Trend’s Import Car of the Year for 1986, and the Turbo II was on Car and Driver magazine’s 10Best list for a second time in 1987. In the Japanese market, only the turbo engine was available; the naturally-aspirated version was allowed only as an export. This can be attributed to insurance companies in many Western nations penalising turbo cars (thus restricting potential sales). This emphasis on containing horsepower and placating insurance companies to make RX-7’s more affordable seems ironic in retrospect. Shortly after the discontinuance of the second generation RX-7s in 1992, an outright horsepower “arms race” broke out between sports car manufacturers, with higher and higher levels of power required to meet buyer demands. This rising horsepower phenomena arose from the US CAFE standards remaining stable while engine technologies marched forward rapidly. Mazda sold 86,000 RX-7s in the US alone in 1986, its first model year, with sales peaking in 1988. Mazda introduced a convertible version of the RX-7 in 1988 which featured a removable rigid section over the passengers and a folding textile rear section with heatable rear glass window. Power operated, lowering the top required unlatching two header catches, power lowering the top, exiting the car (or reaching over to the right side latch), and folding down the rigid section manually. Mazda introduced with the convertible the first integral windblocker, a rigid panel that folded up from behind the passenger seats to block unwanted drafts from reaching the passengers—thereby extending the driving season for the car in open mode. The convertible also featured optional headrest mounted audio speakers and a folding leather snap-fastened tonneau cover. The convertible assembly was precisely engineered and manufactured, and dropped into the ready body assembly as a complete unit—a first in convertible production. Several car magazines at the time lauded the convertible. Production ceasing in 1991 after Mazda marketed a limited run of 500 example for 1992 for the domestic market only. In Japan, the United Kingdom, and other regions outside the US, a turbocharged version of the convertible was available. Mazda introduced the 10th Anniversary RX-7 in 1988 as a limited production run based on the RX-7 Turbo II. Production was limited to 1,500 models. The 10th Anniversary RX-7 features a Crystal White (paint code UC) monochromatic paint scheme with matching white body side mouldings, taillight housings, mirrors and 16-inch alloy 7-spoke wheels. There were two “series” of 10th Anniversary models, with essentially a VIN-split running production change between the two. The most notable difference between the series can be found on the exterior- the earlier “Series I” cars had a black “Mazda” logo decal on the front bumper cover, whereas most if not all “Series II” cars did not have the decal. Series II cars also received the lower seat cushion height/tilt feature that Series I cars lacked. Another distinctive exterior feature is the bright gold rotor-shaped 10th Anniversary Edition badge on the front wings (yellow-gold on the Series II cars). A distinctive 10th Anniversary package feature is the all black leather interior (code D7), which included not just the seats, but the door panel inserts as well and a leather-wrapped MOMO steering wheel (with 10th Anniversary Edition embossed horn button) and MOMO leather shift knob with integrated boot. All exterior glass is bronze tinted (specific in North America to only the 10th Anniversary), and the windshield was equipped with the embedded secondary antenna also found on some other select models with the upgraded stereo packages. Other 10th Anniversary Edition specific items were headlight washers (the only RX-7 in the US market that got this feature), glass breakage detectors added to the factory alarm system, 10th Anniversary Edition logoed floormats, 10th Anniversary Edition embroidered front hood protector and accompanying front end mask (or “bra”), and an aluminium under pan. A third generation model arrived in 1992.
This car belongs to one of the organisers and he brought around to the front of the museum during the morning, to try to augment the display a bit. The second generation Mercedes-Benz SLK, internally designated model R171, like its predecessor was a two seater front-engine, rear-drive, retractable hardtop roadster and was unveiled at the 74th Geneva International Motor Show in 2004. The R171 featured a number of revisions compared to its predecessor, the R170: a 30mm longer wheelbase, increased length (72mm) and width (65mm), 40% increased use of high strength steel, seven-speed automatic transmission, adaptive two-stage airbags, head/thorax side airbags and a revised roof mechanism (marketed as the Vario roof) deployable in 22 seconds (previously 25 seconds) with a rotary-pivoting rear window enabling a more compact folded roof stack and boot space increased by 63 litres with the roof retracted. Optional features include remote operation of the retractable hardtop as well as an innovative forced air, neck-level heating system integral to the headrests, marketed as Airscarf. The fully galvanized bodywork featured a 19 percent improvement in static bending and 46 percent improvement in torsional strength with the roof down, also features a 3% improvement in aerodynamic efficiency, with a Cd value of 0.32. The design was aerodynamically optimised to minimise interior draughts with the top retracted and includes a fabric windblocker which can be pulled up over the two roll-over bars. Mercedes marketed the R171’s tapering front end styling by designer Steve Mattin as “Formula One-inspired”. Engines included a the 2 litre supercharged 4 cylinder in the SLK200, the SLK280 and SLK350 with a V6 and the top of the range SLK AMG55which put out 360 bhp in standard form and 395 bhp in the limited edition Black Series model. In 2008, the SLK reached sales of 500,000 and this was the year when a mildly updated version was unveiled, with a revised front bumper with a modified air-dam arrangement and a more pronounced arrow shape. The rear end was modified by introducing a diffuser-style lower section that makes the Roadster appear more powerful when viewed from behind. The larger exterior mirrors feature LED indicators with a pronounced arrow shape, while the range of light-alloy wheels is also almost entirely new. Interior was optimised to be more driver-oriented. Instrument cluster was updated to include NTG 2.5 audio and telematics with optional LINGUATRONIC voice-operated control, optional Harman/Kardon Logic7 sound system. The car was replaced by the R172 third generation model in 2011.
Most potent car of the morning was this Evo X, the last (for now) of a series of highly-regarded performance saloons generated by Mitsubishi’s rally program. In 2005, Mitsubishi introduced a concept version of the next-gen Evolution at the 39th Tokyo Motor Show named the Concept-X, designed by Omer Halilhodžić at the company’s European design centre. Mitsubishi unveiled a second concept car, the Prototype-X, at the 2007 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). The Lancer Evolution X featured a newly designed 4B11T 1,998 cc turbocharged, all-aluminium alloy GEMA Inline-four engine. Power and torque depend on the market, but all versions had at least 276 bhp. UK models were reworked by Mitsubishi UK, in accordance with previous MR Evolutions bearing the FQ badge, with power between 300 bhp and 360 bhp. It also featured Mitsubishi’s new sequential semi-automatic six speed SST twin-clutch transmission with steering-mounted magnesium alloy shift paddles. It replaced the Tiptronic automatic transmission, hence the SST version replaced the GT-A version (which was used in Evolution VII and Evolution IX Wagon). A five speed manual gearbox was also available.
Two versions of the car are offered in the U.S. The Lancer Evolution MR, with 6-speed Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission (TC-SST). The other version is the GSR which has a 5-speed manual transmission system. The car also has a new full-time four-wheel drive system named S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control), an advanced version of Mitsubishi’s AWC system used in previous generations. The S-AWC uses torque vectoring technology to send different amounts of torque to the rear wheels. The Evolution X went on sale October 1, 2007 in Japan, January 2008 in the USA, February in Canada (as the first version of Evolution in Canada) and in March 2008 in the UK. The Twin Clutch SST version was available in Japan from November 2007. The introduction of the 2010 MR-Touring moved the car even further upscale. Leather and a sunroof became standard while revising the rear spoiler to just a lip spoiler. The car remained on sale until 2017, though as the market focus moved elsewhere, relatively few were registered in the model’s later years and there was no direct replacement.
Representing Porsche was a first generation Boxster, an important car, as it saved Porsche from the parlous financial state that this now highly profitable German marque found itself in during the early 1990s. Grant Larson’s design, inspired by the 356 Cabriolet, Speedster, and 550 Spyder, stimulated a commercial turnaround for Porsche. Through consultation with Toyota, Porsche began widely sharing parts among models and slashed costs. Many believe the introduction of the Boxster helped save Porsche from acquisition. By October 1991 following a visit to the Tokyo Motor Show, Porsche in dire straits, began to devise solutions to succeed the poor selling 928 and incoming 968, which was merely a heavy update of the 944) In February 1992, Porsche began development of a successor to the 928 (mildly updated for 1992) and recently released 968. By June 1992, out of 4 proposals based on dual collaboration between 986 and 996 (993 successor) design teams, a proposal by Grant Larson and Pinky Lai was chosen by Harm Lagaay. In August 1992, a decision was made to develop the concept into a show vehicle, in time for the 1993 North American International Auto Show. After garnering widespread acclaim from the press and public upon presentation of the Boxster Concept in January 1993, the final production 986 production exterior design by Larson was frozen in March 1993. However, by the second half of 1993, difficulties arose with fitment of some components, resulting in lengthening of the hood and requiring another design freeze by fourth quarter of that year. Prototypes in 968 bodies were built to test mid-engine power train of the 986 by the end of 1993, with proper prototypes surfacing in 1994. Pilot production began in the second half of 1995, ahead of series production in mid-1996. The Boxster was released ahead of its big brother, the 996. The 986 Boxster had the same bonnet, front wings, headlights, interior and engine architecture as the 996. All 986 and 987 Boxsters use the M96, a water-cooled, horizontally opposed (“flat”), six-cylinder engine. It was Porsche’s first water-cooled non-front engine. In the Boxster, it is placed mid-engine, while in the 911, rear-engine. The flat, mid-engine layout provides a low centre of gravity, near-perfect weight distribution, and neutral handling. The engines had a number of failures, resulting in cracked or slipped cylinder liners, which were resolved by a minor redesign and better control of the casting process in late 1999. A failure for these early engines was a spate of porous engine blocks, as the manufacturer had difficulty in the casting process. In addition to causing problems with coolant and oil systems mingling fluids, it also resulted in Porsche’s decision to repair faulty engines by boring out the cast sleeves on the cylinders where defects were noted in production and inserting new sleeves rather than scrapping the engine block. Normally, the cylinder walls are cast at the same time as the rest of the engine, this being the reason for adopting the casting technology. The model received a minor facelift in 2002. The plastic rear window was replaced by a smaller glass window. The interior received a glove compartment, new electro-mechanical bonnet and boot release mechanism (with an electronic emergency release in the fuse box panel) and an updated steering wheel. Porsche installed a reworked exhaust pipe and air intake. In addition, the front headlight’s amber indicators were replaced with clear indicators. The rear light cluster was also changed with translucent grey turn signals replacing the amber ones. The side marker lights on the front wings were changed as well from amber to clear, except on American market cars where they remained amber. The bumpers were also changed slightly for a more defined, chiselled appearance, and new wheel designs were made available. The second generation of the Boxster debuted at the 2004 Paris Motor Show with the new 911 (997) and became available in 2005.
Very much the local product, as it was built just a few miles away from this venue was this Dolomite 1500HL Automatic, a car which I had seen at tis event on previous occasions. This is yet another those cars which has survived thanks to spending much of its existence in the care of an elderly owner who rarely used the car. It was acquired by the current owner relatively recently, who had little work to do, bringing it up to its present condition. The Dolomite really was the 3 Series of its day, a family sized saloon that offered a combination of luxury and sportiness that made it a cut above the average Cortina and Marina. Designed as the successor for the upmarket variants of Triumph’s front-wheel drive designs, and also to replace a sporting relative of the Herald, the 6-cylinder Triumph Vitesse, the Triumph Dolomite was unveiled at the London Motor Show in October 1971. However, due to a number of strikes and other industrial upsets, the car was not reported to be in full production until October 1972. The Dolomite used the longer bodyshell of the front wheel drive Triumph 1500, but with the majority of the running gear carried over from the rear-wheel drive Triumph Toledo. Initially, the only version available used the new slant-four 1854 cc engine, which mated an alloy OHC head to an iron block, providing 91 bhp which offered sprightly performance. This was a version of the engine that the company was already providing to Saab for use in their 99 model. The car was aimed at the then-new compact performance-luxury sector, vying for sales against cars such as the BMW 2002 and Ford Cortina GXL, and was offered with a high level of standard equipment, including twin headlamps, a clock, full instrumentation, luxury seats and carpets, a heated rear window, and a cigar lighter. Styling was similar to the Triumph 1500, with some updates such as a black painted rear panel, vinyl D-posts, and new wheel trims. The car was capable of 100 mph with 60 mph coming up in just over 11 seconds. An overdrive gearbox was soon made available as an option, offering relaxed motorway cruising and improved fuel economy, and there was also an optional automatic transmission. Although the Dolomite proved to be refined and rapid, competitors such as the BMW 2002 had a performance advantage which was costing Triumph dearly, both in terms of sales and prestige. To remedy this, Triumph unveiled the Dolomite Sprint in June 1973, although the launch had been delayed by a year; it had been due to go on sale in 1972. A team of engineers led by Spen King developed a 16-valve cylinder head with all of the valves being actuated using a single camshaft rather than the more conventional DOHC arrangement. The capacity was also increased to 1,998 cc and combined with bigger carburettors the output was upped to 127 bhp. This represented a significant power increase over the smaller 1850cc variant, however it fell short of the original target of 135 bhp Despite BL engineers being able to extract a reliable 150 bhp from test engines, the production line was unable to build the engines to the same level of quality, with production outputs being in the region of 125 bhp to 130 bhp. This led to the original model designation, the Dolomite 135, being replaced at short notice with the Sprint name. As a result of the use of this engine, the Dolomite Sprint has been claimed to be “the world’s first mass-produced multi-valve car”. While other multi-valve engines (notably the Lotus 907) were produced in volume, they were not used in mass production vehicles until after the introduction of the Dolomite Sprint. The design of the cylinder head won a British Design Council award in 1974. Performance was excellent, with 0–60 mph taking around 8.4 seconds, with a maximum speed of 119 mph. Trim was similar to the 1850, with the addition of standard alloy wheels (another first for a British production car), a vinyl roof, front spoiler, twin exhausts and lowered suspension. By now seats were cloth on the 1850, and these were also fitted to the Sprint. Due to the increase in power brought by the new engine, the rest of the driveline was upgraded to be able to withstand the extra torque. The gearbox and differential were replaced by a version of those fitted to the TR and 2000 series cars, albeit with a close ratio gearset in the gearbox. The brakes were upgraded with new pad materials at the front, and the fitment of larger drums and a load sensing valve at the rear. Other changes over the standard Dolomite included the option of a limited slip differential. The optional overdrive and automatic transmission from the 1850 model were also offered as options on the Sprint. Initial models were only offered in Mimosa Yellow, although further colours were available from 1974 on. At launch the Sprint was priced at £1740, which compared extremely well to similar cars from other manufacturers. Prospective buyers would have been hard pressed to justify the extra £1000 cost of the BMW 2002 Tii, which offered similar performance. The four-door practicality of the Sprint also made it a very attractive proposition for the young executive choosing his first company car. The press gave the Dolomite Sprint an enthusiastic reception. Motor summarised its road test (subtitled “Britain leads the way”) with glowing praise: ” …the Sprint must be the answer to many people’s prayer. It is well appointed, compact, yet deceptively roomy. Performance is there in plenty, yet economy is good and the model’s manners quite impeccable … Most important of all, it is a tremendously satisfying car to drive”. Sadly, it proved not quite so satisfying to own, as the legendary BL lack of reliability was a feature on some, but by no means all Sprints. In 1976, Triumph rationalised their range, calling all their small models, Dolomite, and using the same body shell, so the Toledo (which had maintained its stubby tail until this point) and 1500TC became the Dolomite 1300, 1500 and 1500HL respectively. With minor changes to trim and equipment, the cars continued in production until 1980.
Final car here was a second generation Scirocco, again one of the two cars which had been here the previous month. The second generation Scirocco, still assembled on behalf of Volkswagen by Karmann of Osnabrück (in the same factory as the first generation Scirocco), was first shown at the 1981 Geneva Motor Show. Designed by Volkswagen’s own internal design team, the new car featured increased front and rear headroom, increased luggage space and a reduction in the coefficient of drag. One feature of the Type 2 was the location of the rear spoiler midway up the glass on the rear hatch. A mid-cycle update occurred in 1984, which included minor changes over the 1982 model: removal of the outlined “SCIROCCO” script from the rear hatch (below the spoiler), a redesigned air conditioning compressor, and a different brake master cylinder with in-line proportioning valves and a brake light switch mounted to the pedal instead of on the master cylinder. Halfway through the 1984 model year, a new space-saver spare wheel was added, that provided room for a larger fuel tank (with a second “transfer” fuel pump). Leather interior, power windows and mirrors, air conditioning, and a manual sunroof were options for all years. The 1984 model year saw the return of two wipers (vs the large single wiper), absent since the 1976 models. Eleven different engines were offered in the Type 2 Scirocco over the production run, although not all engines were available in all markets. These engines included both carburettor and fuel injection engines. Initially all models had eight-valve engines. A 16-valve head was developed by tuner Oettinger in 1981, with the modification adopted by Volkswagen when they showed a multi-valve Scirocco at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show. It went on sale in Germany and a few other markets in July 1985, with a catalysed model arriving in 1986. Displacements ranged from 1.3 litres up to 1.8 litres. Power ranged from 60 PS to 112 PS for the 8 valve engines and either 129 PS or 139 PS for the 16 valve engines. Numerous trim levels existed, depending on the model year and market, and included the L, CL, GL, LS, GLS, GLI, GT, GTI, GTL, GTS, GTX, GT II, Scala, GT 16V and GTX 16V. Special limited edition models including the White Cat (Europe), Tropic (Europe), Storm (UK), Slegato (Canada), and Wolfsburg Edition (USA and Canada) were also produced. These special models typically featured unique interior/exterior colour combinations, special alloy wheels and had special combinations of options such as leather, multi-function trip computer and/or power windows as standard. Scirocco sales continued until 1992 in Germany, the UK, and some other European markets. The Scirocco was briefly joined but effectively replaced by the Corrado in the VW line-up.
It was such a shame that the weather really did ruin this event. That 13 cars showed up is testament to the levels of enthusiasm shown by a small number of devotees, which makes me long for one of these Breakfast meetings when the weather is actually favourable, as it could see the Millennium Place full of cars, something I’ve never experienced on many a visit. I shall keep trying and hoping one month that I get lucky.