Recognising the massive support for “Cars and Coffee” type events, and mindful of the instant success of the Caffeine & Machine venue in the Midlands, Re:Fuel was launched in August 2019, with the aim of providing a venue for car and bike enthusiasts of the South West to get together to share their passion for things automotive in a place which could safely accommodate a large number of attendees and where coffee and food could be made available. The venue for the first couple of meets was at Froginwell Vineyard. Online pictures show a fabulous looking location, and the inaugural event attracted far more people than expected, as did the second, such that the search started to a different venue, one with the potential to open more regularly than once a month and perhaps on Saturdays. The trial move to nearby Mansell Raceway for the October 2019 event was such a success that the event moved there permanently. I started to see photos from this location, and vowed to head south – the location is just east of Wellington on the Devon/Somerset border – but of course Covid-19 and the associated Lockdown rather put paid to that during 2020. Like most venues, all events had to cease. With restrictions easing from April 2021, though, I hope I would be in with a chance. However, such was the pent up demand for events that when I looked at availability for the first event of 2021, on the third Sunday of April, it proved to be sold out. With the diary for May still largely empty, I had another go and found that afternoon tickets were still available, so paid my £5.00 and eagerly awaited my first visit. May 2021 will be remembered for being one of the wettest months ever, and as the due date neared, the forecast did not alter from that which had been predicting rain all day, so I did pause to wonder whether to go or not. I decided that I would and hope that others would do the same. 350 tickets are available for both the morning and afternoon slots, so I was rather hopeful that others would decided to do the same, even if some would opt out. Having travelled the last few miles to the venue on a combination of single track roads and those which were just about wide enough for 2 cars to pass, I got to the site, which is an old air field on the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere, to find a short line of cars queuing to get in. It was not actually raining, though there were huge puddles on the ground which called for care as to where you parked. Cars did arrive steadily for the next hour or so. There certainly weren’t 350 cars, but there were enough to make this feel like a proper meeting, and there were a couple of stalls selling coffee and some rather tasty bangers and burgers, so there was plenty to see and do. Around 2:15pm, though, the heavens opened, and it chucked it down for quite a while. Most people retreated to their cars and then started up and drove off. Suspecting that no-one else was likely to arrive, I made an earlier exit than originally planned, too. There were a lot of modified cars, mostly with owners on the youthful side, which are not really to my taste, but there were some other cars which were and those are the ones presented here.
I knew that a number of Abarth Owners from SWAG (South West Abarth Group) had planned to attend this event in the morning, and some of them had said that they intended to stay around, so I was likely to see them. But the weather tested even their resolve and they had all quite wisely, gone to somewhere that was warmer and drier. There were a couple of fairly heavily modified examples of the 595 on site when I got there, and a further one arrived not long after me. Add in mine and there were four in total, of which mine was the only one that was in “standard” appearance.
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.
There were a number of Alfa Romeo models here. The one that really caught my eye was this, a very rare late model 916 Series Spider with the 3.2 litre engine. Very few of these came to the UK and when the owner of this car – who owns several other Alfa cars, as he told – saw it, he just knew he had to have it. It featured in an article in Auto Italia magazine in late 2019, as not only is this a rare car but it was actually a press launch car. It’s now done 93,000 miles and the owner is agonising over whether to keep it below the magic 100,000 or whether to enjoy it a bit more. The 916 Series cars were conceived to replace two very different models in the Alfa range. First of these was the open topped 105 Series Spider which had been in production since 1966 and by the 1990s was long overdue a replacement. Alfa decided to combine a follow on to the Alfetta GTV, long out of production, with a new Spider model, and first work started in the late 1980s. The task was handed to Pininfarina, and Enrico Fumia’s initial renderings were produced in September 1987, with the first clay models to complete 1:1 scale model made in July 1988. Fumia produced something rather special. Clearly an Italian design, with the Alfa Romeo grille with dual round headlights, recalling the Audi-based Pininfarina Quartz, another design produced by Enrico Fumia back in 1981, the proposal was for a car that was low-slung, wedge-shaped with a low nose and high kicked up tail. The back of the car is “cut-off” with a “Kamm tail” giving improved aerodynamics. The Spider would share these traits with the GTV except that the rear is rounded, and would feature a folding soft-top with five hoop frame, which would completely disappear from sight under a flush fitting cover. An electric folding mechanism would be fitted as an option. Details included a one-piece rear lamp/foglamp/indicator strip across the rear of the body, the minor instruments in the centre console angled towards the driver. The exterior design was finished in July 1988. After Vittorio Ghidella, Fiat’s CEO, accepted the design, Alfa Romeo Centro Stile under Walter de Silva was made responsible for the completion of the detail work and also for the design of the interiors, as Pininfarina’s proposal was not accepted. The Spider and GTV were to be based on the then-current Fiat Group platform, called Tipo Due, in this case a heavily modified version with an all new multilink rear suspension. The front suspension and drivetrain was based on the 1992 Alfa Romeo 155 saloon. Chief engineer at that time was Bruno Cena. Drag coefficient was 0.33 for the GTV and 0.38 for the Spider. Production began in late 1993 with four cars, all 3.0 V6 Spiders, assembled at the Alfa Romeo Arese Plant in Milan. In early 1994 the first GTV was produced, with 2.0 Twin Spark engine. The first premiere was then held at the Paris Motor Show in 1994. The GTV and Spider were officially launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1995 and sales began the same year. The cars were well received. At launch, many journalists commented that Alfa had improved overall build quality considerably and that it came very close to equalling its German rivals. I can vouch for that, as I owned an early GTV for eighteen months, and it was a well built and reliable car. In 1997 a new engine, a 24-valve 3.0 litre V6, was available for the GTV along with bigger, 12.0 inch brakes and red four-pot calipers from Brembo. The console knobs were changed from round central to rectangle ones and to a three-spoke steering wheel. Some versions were upgraded with different front bumper mesh to bring the wind noise down to 74 dBA. In May 1998 the cars were revamped for the first time, creating the Phase 2 models. Most of the alterations were inside. The interior was changed with new centre console, painted letters on skirt seals, changed controls and switches arrangement and different instrument cluster. Outside, the main changes included chrome frame around the grille and colour-coded side skirts and bumpers. A new engine was introduced, the 142 bhp 1.8 Twin Spark, and others were changed: the 2.0 Twin Spark was updated with a modular intake manifold with different length intakes and a different plastic cover. Power output of the 2.0 TS was raised to 153 bhp. Engines changed engine management units and have a nomenclature of CF2. The dashboard was available in two new colours in addition to the standard black: Red Style and Blue Style, and with it new colour-coded upholstery and carpets. The 3.0 24V got a six-speed manual gearbox as standard and the 2.0 V6 TB engine was now also available for the Spider. August 2000 saw the revamp of engines to comply with new emission regulations, Euro3. The new engines were slightly detuned, and have a new identification code: CF3. 3.0 V6 12V was discontinued for the Spider and replaced with 24V Euro3 version from the GTV. 2.0 V6 Turbo and 1.8 T.Spark were discontinued as they did not comply with Euro3 emissions. By the 2001-2002 model year, only 2 engines were left, the 2.0 Twin.Spark and 3.0 V6 24V, until the Phase 3 engine range arrived. The Arese plant, where the cars had been built, was closing and, in October 2000, the production of GTV/Spider was transferred to Pininfarina Plant in San Giorgio Canavese in Turin. In 2003 there was another and final revamp, creating the Phase 3, also designed in Pininfarina but not by Enrico Fumia. The main changes were focused on the front with new 147-style grille and different front bumpers with offset numberplate holder. Change to the interior was minimal with different centre console and upholstery pattern and colours available. Instrument illumination colour was changed from green to red. Main specification change is an ASR traction control, not available for 2.0 TS Base model. New engines were introduced: 163 bhp 2.0 JTS with direct petrol injection and 237 hp 3.2 V6 24V allowing a 158 mph top speed. Production ceased in late 2004, though some cars were still available for purchase till 2006. A total of 80,747 cars were made, and sales of the GTV and Spider were roughly equal. More V6 engined GTVs than Spiders were made, but in 2.0 guise, it was the other way round with the open model proving marginally more popular.
Having a rather short production life was the GTA version of the 147. Launched in 2002. this car was intended to compete with the most sporting Golf and Focus models of the day. as well as injecting more potency into a range which always seemed like it needed more power. Fitted with a 3.2 V6 engine which produced 247 bhp, the 147GTA was the most powerful hot hatch available at the time, and the modifications to the body, including lower sills and wider wheel arches, if anything, made it look even better rather than endowing it with the sort of “after market look” that can afflict some high end performance versions of regular family cars. Performance figures were impressive, with the car able to achieve a top speed of 153 mph. It had a widened body by 15 mm at each side to accommodate the 225/45R17 tyres. Most models had a 6-speed manual transmissions; whilst a smaller number of other models used the semi automatic Selespeed system. Production ran through to 2004 and in total 5,029 147 GTAs were built, 1004 of which were Selespeeds. Only around 300 came to the UK, so this was never a common sighting on British roads.
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, and quite a group of them were parked up here, most of them modified in some way or other.
There is now an enthusiastic MiTo Owners Club, so where Italian cars are gathered together, it is quite common to get a whole line of the smallest current Alfa assembled, but there is just one of them in my photos. Known internally as the Tipo 955, the MiTo (the name allegedly standing for Mi-lano and To-rino, where it was designed and is built, respectively, and a pun on the Italian word for “myth”), the smallest Alfa ever made is a three-door only supermini, which was officially introduced on June 19, 2008, at Castello Sforzesco in Milan,, going on sale a few weeks later, with UK supplies reaching the country after the British Motor Show in 2008. Built on the Fiat Small platform used on the Grande Punto, and also employed by the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, the MiTo was intended to compete with the MINI and the newer Audi A1. Designed by Centro Stile Alfa Romeo, the design is believed to be inspired by the 8C Competizione. A range of engines has been offered since launch, though sadly the GTA Concept that was shown at the 2009 Geneva Show never made it to production.
In August 2004, Audi announced that the next generation TT would be manufactured using aluminium, and would go into production in 2007. A preview of the second-generation TT was provided in the form of the Audi Shooting Brake concept car, shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2005. This concept was an insight into the new TT, but featured angular styling, and a “shooting-brake” two-door hatchback body style. Audi debuted the second-generation TT, internal designation Type 8J, on 6 April 2006, using the Volkswagen Group A5 (PQ35) platform with aluminium front bodypanels, and steel in the rear, to enhance its near-neutral front-to-rear weight distribution. Available in front-wheel drive or ‘quattro’ four-wheel drive layout, the TT is again offered as a 2+2 Coupé, and as a two-seater Roadster. The second generation is five inches longer and three inches wider than its predecessor. Factory production commenced during August 2006. The powertrain options initially only included petrol engines, which consist of either one of two inline four-cylinder engines – the all-new 1.8-litre EA888 Turbocharged Fuel Stratified Injection (TFSI) (available initially only in Germany, later elsewhere from mid 2009), or the more common and established EA113-variant 2.0-litre TFSI. The Fuel Stratified Injection (FSI) technology was derived from the Audi Le Mans endurance race cars, and offers improved fuel efficiency as well as an increased power output and cleaner emissions. The 3.2-litre ‘V6’ badged VR6 engine is carried over from the previous generation, and this engine was also available in the Canadian model. 2.0 TFSI quattro models, with the latest EA888 engine, became available in 2009 model year. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, with the six-speed Direct-Shift Gearbox (now called “S-TRONIC” on all Audi models) as an option for all engines. Quattro on-demand four-wheel drive, again using the Haldex Traction clutch is available – standard on V6 models, but not available on the 1.8 TFSI. Like all its PQ35 platform-mates, the new 8J TT now has a multi-link fully independent rear suspension to complement the front independent suspension. The entire suspension system can be enhanced with Audi’s new active suspension, “Audi Magnetic Ride”, available as an option. This is based on BWI Group’s MagneRide, which uses magneto rheological dampers (this means that an electronic control unit for the suspension will automatically adjust its damping properties depending on the current road conditions and driving manner). The new TT also features a revised rear spoiler which preserves the clean aesthetics of the TT when not raised. The spoiler automatically deploys at speeds greater than 78 mph (125 km/h) to increase down-force, and retracts again below 50 mph (80 km/h). The spoiler can also be manually controlled by the driver via a switch on the lower centre console. Manual operation by the switch reverts to automatic operation (i.e.: manual mode is cancelled) if the vehicle speed rises above the stated limit. Launched at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, Audi offered the first diesel engined version of the Audi TT in the European market, the Audi TT 2.0 TDI quattro. As its name indicates, it is only available with quattro, and is also available in Coupé and Roadster versions. Power comes from the new 2.0-litre Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) engine, now with 16 valves, double overhead camshaft (DOHC), 1,800-bar (26,110 psi) common rail fuel delivery and eight-hole piezo fuel injectors, which produces a DIN-rated output of 168 bhp at 4,200 rpm and torque of 350 Nm (258 lb/ft) at 1,750 to 2,500 rpm. It includes a six-speed manual transmission. Acceleration from standstill to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) on the Coupé is achieved in 7.5 seconds, and it will go on to reach a top speed of 226 km/h (140.4 mph). The slightly less aerodynamically efficient. Roadster reaches 100 km/h (62 mph) in 7.7 seconds, with a top speed of 223 km/h (138.6 mph). Audi claim average fuel consumption for the Coupé variant with this 2.0 TDI engine is 5.3 l/100 km (53.3 mpg), which achieves a CO2 emissions rating of 139 g/km The Roadster TDI achieves an average 5.5 l/100 km (51.4 mpg) and CO2 of 144 gkm. As an additional package a standard Audi TT can be bought from factory with a special body kit upgrade to make it look like the Audi TT-RS version. The upgrade includes a fixed rear spoiler, and Alcantara/leather sports seats (Silk Nappa, Fine Nappa leather optional). At the 2008 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Audi released the first Audi “S” model of the TT range – the Audi TTS quattro, with a heavily revised 2.0 TFSI engine. The cylinder block, cylinder head and the fuel injectors have all been modified from the base 2.0 TFSI engine (ID: CDL). Together with other modifications, this engine produces a DIN-rated power output of 268 hp, and generates a torque of 350 Nm (258 lb/ft) from 2,500 to 5,000 rpm. It was available with a choice of either a six-speed close-ratio manual transmission, or a six-speed ‘S tronic’ transmission. In the United States, the S tronic gearbox was the only available transmission. Like all Audi “S” models, it was only available with quattro four-wheel drive as standard. The suspension was lowered by 10 mm (0.4 in) over the standard models, and includes “Audi Magnetic Ride” as standard and a new two-stage sports-biased Electronic Stability Programme (ESP). Radially ventilated front disc brakes are clamped by a single-piston gloss black caliper emblazoned with a bold TTS logo, and a lap timer is prominent in the centre of the instrument cluster. 9Jx18″ ‘5-parallel-spoke’ design alloy wheels are standard, with 245/40 ZR18 high-performance tyres. 19″ ‘5-spoke star’ wheels and tyres are optional. The exterior has some changes over the standard model – with a TTS body styling: with redesigned front, with larger air intakes, redesigned rear bumper, side sill extensions, and four exhaust tailpipes. Official performance figures include a 0–62 mph (0–100 km/h) acceleration time of 5.2 seconds, with the Roadster four-tenths slower at 5.6 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph (249 km/h). Audi displayed a new show car variant of the second generation Audi TT – the Audi TT Clubsport quattro, at the 2008 Wörthersee Tour at Pörtschach am Wörthersee in Austria. Shown only in an open-topped ‘speedster’ variant, its 2.0 TFSI engine has been tuned to give 296 bhp. The soft-top on the standard TT Roadster has been deleted, and replaced with two ‘humps’, along with two substantial roll bars. LED daytime running lamps, an aggressive body kit with large frontal air intakes, black-painted ‘single frame grille’ and a lower spoiler lip complete the new look from the front. The axle track has been widened by 66 mm (2.6 in), with bolder and wider wheel arch extensions, polished 19-inch alloys, wider side sills and 255-section tyres are the highlight of the side profile. At the rear, twin polished stainless steel oval tail pipes exit aside a new rear diffuser. Racing bucket seats, along with lightweight aluminium detail complete the interior look, and a six-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission with quattro four-wheel drive and TTS spec brakes (340 mm (13.4 in) up front, and 310 mm (12.2 in) at the rear) complete the mechanicals. Whilst the TT Clubsport quattro was primarily a ‘show car’, Audi did not rule out the possibility of small-scale production, though this did not happen. With its world debut at the 2009 Geneva Auto Show, and developed by Audi’s high-performance subsidiary quattro GmbH at Neckarsulm, Germany, Audi released the first ever compact sports car Audi “RS” variant – the Audi TT RS, which was available from 2009 in Coupé and Roadster variants. The TT RS featured an all-new 2.5-litre Inline-5 turbocharged petrol engine. This new 183 kg (403 lb) engine produces a DIN-rated power output of 335 bhp from 5,400 to 6,700 rpm, and torque of 450 Nm (332 lb/ft) at 1,600–5,300 rpm. Ever since the original Audi “RS” model – the Audi RS2 Avant – all Audi “RS” models were assembled at the quattro GmbH factory in Neckarsulm. The TT RS is the first Audi RS vehicle that didn’t have any of its assembly performed in Neckarsulm but was completely assembled in the Audi factory in Győr, Hungary, alongside the base Audi TT. The TT RS has a new short-shift close-ratio six-speed manual transmission, and like all “RS” models, is only available with Audi’s ‘trademark’ quattro four-wheel-drive system, with the TT RS using a specially adapted version of the latest generation multi-plate clutch from Haldex Traction. Additions to the quattro system include a constant velocity joint before the cardan propeller shaft, and a compact rear-axle differential – upgraded to cope with the increased torque from the five-cylinder turbo engine. Like the TTS, the TT RS has a 10 millimetres (0.4 in) lower ride height, optional “Audi Magnetic Ride”, and rides on standard 18-inch wheels with 245/45 ZR18 tyres (optional 19″ or 20″ wheels are also available). The brakes are upgraded to include two-piece cross-drilled and radially vented front discs, sized at 370 mm (14.6 in) in diameter. The front discs are clamped by gloss black painted four-piston calipers, adorned with the RS logo. Rear ventilated discs are sized at 310 mm (12.2 in) in diameter. It includes a fixed rear spoiler (retractable optional), and has black interior with heated Alcantara/leather sports seats (Silk Nappa, Fine Nappa leather optional). The Recaro “RS bucket” seats, first seen in the Audi B7 RS4 are also available as an option. Also carried over from the B7 RS4 is the ‘Sport’ button, which sharpens the throttle response and deepens the exhaust note, and a three-stage user-selectable Electronic Stability Programme (ESP). Official performance figures indicate the TT RS Coupé will accelerate from a standstill to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in 4.5 seconds (4.7 seconds for the Roadster), with an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph). There is a factory option to de-restrict the top speed to 280 km/h (174.0 mph). The Coupé has a kerb weight of 1,450 kg (3,197 lb), and the Roadster weighs in at 1,510 kg (3,329 lb). As of 2010 the TT-RS is available with the 7-speed DSG automatic transmission capable of handling the torque delivered by the engine. The 6-speed gearbox used in the TT-S cannot cope with 450 Nm (332 lb/ft) which is why the TT-RS initially was offered only with a manual transmission. The car went on sale in March 2009, with delivery beginning in summer. In 2012, the TT RS plus was launched. It featured the uprated version of the TT RS’ engine that had originally been developed for the RS Q3 concept car; this version of the engine produces 355 hp at 5500 rpm, and 343 lb/ft (465 Nm) of torque at 1650 rpm. As a result of this power increase, Audi claimed that the 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time had decreased to 4.3 seconds for the manual version, and 4.1 seconds for the S-tronic version. In addition to this, Audi raised the top speed limiter, with the TT RS plus being restricted to 174 mph (280 km/h).
Also here was a second generation R8. Launched at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show and is based on the Modular Sports System platform shared with the Lamborghini Huracan. The development of the Type 4S commenced in late 2013 and was completed in late 2014. Initial models included the all-electric e-Tron and the V10 5.2 FSI along with the V10 plus. Unlike its predecessor, there was no manual transmission available and the entry-level V8 trim was also dropped. In 2016, the convertible (Spyder) variant was added to the line up which was initially available in the base V10 trim. In mid-2017, the high performance V10 plus Spyder was added to the range. A rear-wheel-drive model called the R8 RWS was introduced. In 2018, the R8 received a mid-cycle refresh with mechanical and exterior changes. The newer and more aggressive design language carried over from famous Audi models of the past and it’s appearance is slightly more angular up front. Some of the aerodynamic features such as the front aeroblades are shared with the Lamborghini Huracàn. The refreshed model had substantial performance improvements over its predecessor. The base R8 got a power boost from 532 hp to 562 hp, while the V10 Plus was renamed V10 Performance Quattro and the engine saw a power increase by 10 hp, now up to 612 hp. It remains a current model.
Oldest of the legendary M3 cars was this fabulous E30 M3. Produced initially purely as a homologation special, the car achieved far greater levels of interest than ever imagined, and the rest, as they say, is history. Based on the 1986 model year E30 3 Series, the car was initially available with the 2 door body and was later offered as a convertible bodies. The E30 M3 used the BMW S14 engine. The first iteration of the road car engine produced 195 PS with a catalytic converter and 200 PS without a catalytic converter in September 1989 power was increased to 215 PS with a catalytic converter. The “Evolution” model (also called “EVO2”) produced 220 PS. Other Evolution model changes included larger wheels (16 X 7.5 inches), thinner rear and side window glass, a lighter bootlid, a deeper front splitter and additional rear spoiler. Later the “Sport Evolution” model production run of 600 (sometimes referred as “EVO3”) increased engine displacement to 2.5 litres and produced 238 PS. Sport Evolution models have enlarged front bumper openings and an adjustable multi-position front splitter and rear wing. Brake cooling ducts were installed in place of front foglights. An additional 786 convertibles were also produced. The E30 M3 differed from the rest of the E30 line-up in many other ways. Although using the same basic unit-body shell as the standard E30, the M3 was equipped with 12 different and unique body panels for the purposes of improving aerodynamics, as well as “box flared” wheel-arches in the front and rear to accommodate a wider track with wider and taller wheels and tyres. The only exterior body panels the standard model 3 Series and the M3 shared were the bonnet, roof panel, sunroof, and door panels. The E30 M3 differed from the standard E30 by having a 5×120 wheel bolt pattern. The E30 M3 had increased caster angle through major front suspension changes. The M3 had specific solid rubber offset control arm bushings. It used aluminium control arms and the front strut tubes were changed to a design similar (bolt on kingpins and swaybar mounted to strut tube) to the E28 5 Series. This included carrying over the 5 series front wheel bearings and brake caliper bolt spacing. The rear suspension was a carry over from the E30. The E30 M3 had special front and rear brake calipers and rotors. It also has a special brake master cylinder. The E30 M3 had one of two Getrag 265 5-speed gearboxes. US models received an overdrive transmission while European models were outfitted with a dogleg version, with first gear being down and to the left, and fifth gear being a direct 1:1 ratio. Rear differentials installed included a 4.10:1 final-drive ratio for US models. European versions were equipped with a 3.15:1 final drive ratio. All versions were clutch-type limited-slip differentials with 25% lockup. To keep the car competitive in racing following year-to-year homologation rules changes, homologation specials were produced. These include the Evo 1, Evo 2, and Sport Evolution, some of which featured less weight, improved aerodynamics, taller front wheel arches (Sport Evolution; to further facilitate 18-inch wheels in DTM), brake ducting, and more power. Other limited-production models (based on evolution models but featuring special paintwork and/or unique interior schemes commemorating championship wins) include the Europa, Ravaglia, Cecotto, and Europameister. Production of the original E30 M3 ended in early 1992.
The BMW 1 Series M Coupe (often referred to as the “1M”) is the high-performance model of the E82 coupe range, sold under the BMW M performance sub-brand. While BMW naming convention would have called the car the “M1”, an alternate name was chosen to avoid confusion with the 1970s BMW M1 supercar. At the 2007 Tokyo Auto Show, BMW unveiled the 1 Series tii Concept, which was thought to be a preview of the M version of the 1 Series. However, the eventual 1M model appeared four years later and with significant differences, such as an engine with six-cylinders instead of four. The 1M was BMW M’s second turbocharged engine (after the S63 V8 which debuted in the X6M). The BMW N54 fitted to the 1M was originally being used in the E89 Z4 sDrive35is and has rated outputs of 335 bhp at 5900 rpm and 450 Nm (332 lb/ft) from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm. An additional 50 Nm (37 lb/ft) is produced during overboost taking overall peak torque to 500 Nm (369 lb/ft). The sole transmission available was a six-speed manual. The front and rear track widths were widened by 74 mm (2.9 in) and 46 mm (1.8 in) respectively and a limited slip differential was used. As a result, the overall width is 1,803 mm (71.0 in). The curb weight is 3,296 lb (1,495 kg). Initial plans were to limit production of the 1M Coupe to 2700 units; however, the final production total was 6309. Such is the esteem with which the car is held that it had barely depreciated from new and you will still likely pay over £30k for a good one.
The fourth-generation Camaro debuted in 1993 on an updated F-body platform. It retained the same characteristics since its introduction in 1967: a coupé body style with 2+2 seating (with an optional T-top roof) or convertible (reintroduced in 1994), rear-wheel drive, pushrod 6-cylinder and V8 engines. The standard powerplant from 1993 to 1995 was a 3.4 L V6, then a 3.8 L V6 was introduced in 1995. A 350 MPFI (LT1) Small Block V-8 engine, which was introduced in the Corvette in 1992, was standard in the Z28. Optional equipment included all-speed traction control and a new six-speed T-56 manual transmission; the 4L60E 4-speed automatic transmission was standard on the Z28, yet optional on the V6 models which came with a 5-speed manual as standard. Anti-lock brakes were standard equipment on all Camaros. A limited quantity of the SS version (1996-1997) came with the 330 HP LT4 small block engine from the Corvette, although most were equipped with the 275 hp LT1. The 1997 model year included a revised interior, and the 1998 models included exterior styling changes and a switch to GM’s aluminum block LS1 used in the Corvette C5. In 1998, the 5.7 L LS1 was the first all-aluminum engine offered in a Camaro since the 1969 ZL-1 and carried a 305-horsepower rating. The SS versions (1998-2002) received slightly improved exhaust and intake systems, bigger wheels and tires, a slightly revised suspension for improved handling and grip while retaining ride comfort, an arc-shaped rear wing for downforce, and different gearing ratios for faster acceleration, over the Z28 models. Chevrolet offered a 35th-anniversary edition for the 2002 model year. Production of the F-Body platform was discontinued due to slowing sales, a deteriorating market for sports coupés, and plant over-capacity, but an entirely new platform went on sale in 2009. The B4C Special Service Package for police agencies was carried over from the 3rd generation & sold between 1993 and 2002.
The C5 Corvette was re designed from the ground up after sales from the previous generation began to decline. Production of the C5 Corvette actually began in 1996 but quality/manufacturing issues saw its release to the public in mass delayed until 1997, and continuing through the 2004 model year. The C5 was a completely new design that featured many new concepts and manufacturing breakthroughs that would be carried forward to the C6 & C7. It had a top speed of 176 mph (283 km/h) and was judged by the automotive press as a breakthrough with vastly improved dynamics in nearly every area over the previous C4 design. Innovations included a 0.29 drag coefficient, near 50/50 weight distribution, active handling (the first stability control for a Corvette). It also weighed less than the C4. It was the first time the platform was badge engineered as the Cadillac XLR with limited sales. An all new LS1 aluminium engine (Gen III small block) featured individual ignition coils for each cylinder, and aluminium block and pistons. It was initially rated at 345 bhp and 350 lb/ft (470 Nm), but was increased to 350 bhp in the 2001 edition. The new engine, combined with the new body, was able to achieve up to 28 mpg on the highway. For its first year, the C5 was available only as a coupe, although the new platform was designed from the ground up to be a convertible, which returned in 1998, followed by the fixed-roof coupe (FRC) in 1999. One concept for the FRC was for it to be a stripped-down model with a possible V6 engine (nicknamed in-house as the “Billy Bob”). By 2000, FRC plans laid the groundwork for the return in 2001 of the Z06, an RPO option not seen since Zora’s 1963 race-ready Corvette. The Z06 model replaced the FRC model as the highest performance C5 Corvette. Instead of a heavier double-overhead cam engine like the ZR-1 of the C4 generation, the Z06 used an LS6, a 385 bhp derivative of the standard LS1 engine. Using the much more rigid fixed roof design allowed the Z06 unprecedented handling thanks to upgraded brakes and less body flex. Those characteristics, along with the use of materials such as a titanium exhaust system and a carbon fiber hood in the 2004 model year, led to further weight savings and performance gains for the C5 Z06. The LS6 was later upgraded to 405 bhp for 2002–2004. Although the Z06’s rated power output equal to that of the C4 ZR-1, the improved rigidity, suspension, brakes, and reduced weight of the C5 produced a car quicker than C4 ZR-1. A sixth generation model arrived for the 2005 model year.
This trio of Citroen cars really caught my eye. All are what you might characterise as “true” Citroen, with a level of quirky that has eluded most of the recent products bearing the double chevron badge. Oldest design present was a rare survivor from the Visa family. These are rare now, even in France, as despite the fact that Citroën built 1,254,390 examples of the model between 1978 and 1988, the model is all but extinct everywhere. There was a very long gestation to this car, which goes all the way back to 1965, when Robert Opron worked on the Citroën G-mini prototype and projet EN101, a replacement for the 2CV, using the flat twin engine from the 2CV. It was supposed to launch in 1970. The advanced space efficient designs with very compact exterior dimensions and an aerodynamic drag co-efficient Cd of 0.32, were axed because of adverse feedback from potential clients. With Citroën’s small car range all getting somewhat elderly, the decision was taken to try again, with the Citroën Prototype Y which was planned to replace the 2CV based Citroën Ami that dated back to 1960 in the early seventies. This was originally developed in co-operation with Fiat, built on the lessons from the Citroën G-mini and EN101 projects. It used the then new and advanced Fiat 127 platform, that used a transverse front wheel drive engine, with an end on gearbox layout that Fiat had pioneered in the 1960s. When co-operation with Fiat ended, a new Citroën designed platform was planned. After the takeover of Citroën by Peugeot in the wake of the 1974 oil crisis, the renamed “Projet VD (Voiture Diminuée)” became the Citroën Visa, incorporating the floor pan and advanced 104 engine, with its transmission (under the engine) and chassis. It was the first new model under the platform-sharing policy of PSA Peugeot Citroën that continues today. The earlier Citroën LN had just been a facelift of the Peugeot 104Z “Shortcut” with a re-engine and transmission from the Citroën Dyane. Eventually, in 1984, the original Citroën platform design from “Project Y” emerged as the Oltcit Club in Romania, using a Citroën Visa flat-twin engine and Citroën GS based gearbox, and Citroën GS flat-four engine and gearbox, and was also sold in Western Europe as the flat-four only Citroën Axel to recoup money that Citroën had invested in Romania, which the communist government could not repay. This project was problematic for Citroën due to build quality issues, only 60,184 cars were made, even though the base models were priced below the 2CV in Western Europe. The Axel was never sold in the UK. The five-door Citroën Visa and the three-door Axel look very similar, but there is no part interchangeable between these two Citroën models. The Visa entered a crowded market, with supermini competitors including the Chrysler Sunbeam, Mk1 Renault 5, Mk1 Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Chevette, Mk1 VW Polo and Fiat 127. Though it was launched as a supermini, it was about the same length (3725mm) and height (1430mm), but slightly narrower at 1526mm than a Volkswagen Golf Mk1, which was in the next class up. It was part of a ‘between sizes’ policy that Citroën also followed with the BX. From its launch in September 1978, the front-wheel drive Visa was available in “Spécial” and “Club” models with a mapped electronic ignition 652 cc, 2-cylinder and a “Super” (later “Super E”) model (called the 11RE after 1984), with the advanced Peugeot 1,124 cc Douvrin engine / PSA X engine, a four-cylinder “Suitcase engine” — all aluminium alloy, chain driven overhead cam, with gearbox in the sump, sharing engine oil, mounted almost on its side. The 1124 cc was as economical as the Citroën 2CV-derived twin, but with much better performance. Later on it had 1,219 cc (Super X) and then 954 cc (10E after 1984) and 1,360 cc (1983 Visa GT and 14TRS after 1985) versions of the same engine. The ergonomic design of the Visa controls used a Citroën “PRN Satellite” (P=Pluie – Rain, R=Route – Road, N=Nuit – Night) which gave access on one cylindrical unit to wipers, washers, horn, indicators, headlamps and flashers, all mounted a finger’s reach away from the steering wheel. The heat and ventilation control sliders that moved in arcs, were on the other side of the steering wheel, also within closer reach than usual. In 1982 the Visa underwent a major external restyling, designed by Heuliez, to look more mainstream. It kept the original interior and “PRN Satellite” controls until 1985 when, along with the Citroën BX, it was updated with a new bulkier dashboard, instruments and switchgear that made the car feel smaller inside. Stalk switchgear like contemporary Peugeots added self-cancelling indicators, but it kept the original monospoke steering wheel. It had very soft, but well damped, long travel, fully independent suspension with coil-sprung MacPherson struts at the front and coil sprung trailing arms at the rear, that caused it to have a soft ride like the Citroën 2CV, but without such extreme roll angles. CAR magazine made the Visa diesel one of its top ten models on the market for two years running in the mid-1980s (January 1986 and 1987), for its versatility (higher models in the range had split rear seats which could be lifted-out to give an almost van-like luggage capacity); ride comfort (“like a limousine”); its ability to maintain high average speeds due to high levels of grip; and value for money. It was also particularly aerodynamically stable at high speeds for a relatively light, narrow and tall car. It would remain unperturbed by cross-winds and truck bow waves at motorway speeds. It also had at the middle ‘R’ trim level and above, (currently unfashionable), but practical, grey plastic side rubbing strips, to protect against car park damage. The very curved sides of the windscreen, enabled the use of a very large single wiper on the long narrow windscreen, without fouling the windscreen seal. The front of the revised car, was designed to aerodynamically reduce the deposition of dirt on the headlights, and to reduce the risk of stone chips to the headlights, bonnet and windscreen. The heating and ventilation system, (even though it used only a water control valve for temperature control and not air mixing), could provide cold air from fascia side vents, to the face while warming the car. The central directable fascia vents could be heated and angled, so that they could be pointed directly at the windscreen in front of the driver, to keep it clear in extreme misting conditions. There was also an additional mid level vent, to blow air between the front seats to the back of the car. The rear parcel shelf was in two hinged sections, one in the car, the other on the tailgate, to allow objects that were slightly too tall to still fit without removing the shelf. When carrying larger loads, the part of the shelf attached to the tailgate could be folded up, and fixed with the elasticated support strings, to protect the rear window and heated rear screen elements. Long time CAR magazine columnist George Bishop, actually bought one with his own money. Before the advent of the diesel model, the electronic ignition (mechanical and vacuum controlled), 1124cc high compression engined Super E, (later renamed 11RE) with high gearing, was the best seller in the range. It was better equipped than the base 1.0 litre Austin Metro and Ford Fiesta it was priced against, having height adjustable halogen headlights, intermittent rear wash-wipe and multi-speed / intermittent front wipers, heated rear window, removable split folding rear seats, as well as five doors when its main competitors in the UK only had three, (the five-door Metro was launched in 1985, the five-door mark three Fiesta launched in 1989). A five speed gearbox was optional, when the base model competitors could only be had with a four speed. Most 1980s base model hatchback economy cars did without halogen headlights and rear wash-wipes, even heated rear windows could be optional. The 1984 launched 954cc 10E model was a direct competitor on specification to the Metro and Fiesta, but significantly undercut them on price. A four-door convertible version, with the doors and window fra
mes remaining intact, of the 11RE was also produced in the Heuliez factory from 1984. This was heavier and slower than the hatchback that it was based on. In spring 1984 the very successful diesel version was added. The Visa 17D and 17RD used the famously rugged and refined, class-leading 1,769 cc XUD diesel and transmission from the Peugeot 205. It also capably powered the Peugeot 405, which was two classes larger, and made light work of powering the lightweight Visa. It had too wide a track for the original engine compartment and wings, so the front wings were extended with large black plastic wheel arch panels. The spare wheel that in smaller petrol engine versions, was mounted on top of the flat or near horizontal engine, was bolted to the otherwise flat boot floor — compromising luggage space. In continental Europe, a basic diesel van the ‘Visa Enterprise’ was sold that used the normal Visa bodyshell with the rear doors welded shut. It mounted a spacesaver spare wheel under the bonnet, over the diesel engine. Some diesel hatchbacks there, also used this arrangement. At the Paris Salon 1984, for model year 1985, the 1.4 litre TRS was presented. This version was produced for two years (1985–1987), shared its engine with the Citroën BX14. Even though it received a favourable review by CAR magazine who felt it was a better performance/economy compromise than the 11RE, it wasn’t very successful, due to being squeezed by the Visa Diesel and the extremely competitively priced BX 14. Between 1985 and 1987 the 1.1 litre petrol and 1.7 litre diesel “Leader” special editions were marketed. In the latter half of the eighties a 55 PS catalysed version of the 1,360 cc engine was added for markets with stricter emissions standards. No automatic gearbox version was produced.
Despite the fact that 2,315,739 BXs were built during its 12-year production run, and the car sold well, these are getting increasingly scarce, even in France. The rather angular hatchback was designed by Marcello Gandini of Bertone, based on his unused design for the British 1977 Reliant FW11 concept and his 1979 Volvo Tundra concept car. It was the second car to benefit from the merger of Peugeot and Citroën in 1976, the first being the Citroën Visa launched in 1978. The BX shared its platform with the more conventional 405 that appeared in 1987, except the rear suspension which is from a Peugeot 305 Break. Among the features that set the car apart from the competition was the traditional Citroën hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension, extensive use of plastic body panels (bonnet, tailgate, bumpers), and front and rear disc brakes. The BX dispensed with the air cooled, flat four engine which powered the GS, and replaced it with the new PSA group XY, TU and XU series of petrol engines in 1360 cc, 1580 cc and, from 1984, 1905 cc displacements. In some countries, a weaker, 80 PS version of the 1580cc engine was badged as the BX15E instead of BX16. A 1124 cc engine, in the 11TE, very unusual in a car of this size, was also available in countries where car tax was a direct function of engine capacity, such as Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Greece. The 11TE model was seen by foreign motoring press as slow and uncomfortable. It was fitted to the cars made from 1988 to 1993 and produced 55 hp. The 1.1 and 1.4 models used the PSA X engine (known widely as the “Douvrin” or “Suitcase Engine”), the product of an earlier Peugeot/Renault joint venture, and already fitted in the Peugeot 104 and Renault 14. The 1.6 version was the first car to use the all-new short-stroke XU-series engine. It was produced in a new engine plant at Trémery built specifically for this purpose, and was later introduced in a larger 1.9-litre version and saw long service in a variety of Peugeots and Citroëns. The XUD diesel engine version was launched in November 1983. The diesel and turbo diesel models were to become the most successful variants, they were especially popular as estates and became the best selling diesel car in Britain in the late 1980s. Despite being launched on the continent in the autumn of 1982, it wasn’t launched onto the British market until August 1983, initially only with 1.4 and 1.6 petrol engines, although further engine options and the estate model would arrive later, and it would go onto become one of the most popular foreign-built cars here during the second half of the 1980s. A year after the launch of the hatchback model, an estate version was made available. In 1984 power steering became optional, welcome particularly in the diesel models. In the late 1980s, a four-wheel drive system and turbodiesel engines were introduced. In 1986 the MK2 BX was launched. The interior and dashboard was redesigned to be more conventional-looking than the original, which used Citroën’s idiosyncratic “satellite” switchgear, and “bathroom scale” speedometer. These were replaced with more conventional stalks for light and wipers and analogue instruments. The earlier GT (and Sport) models already had a “normal” speedometer and tachometer. The exterior was also slightly updated, with new more rounded bumpers, flared wheelarches to accept wider tyres, new and improved mirrors and the front indicators replaced with larger clear ones which fitted flush with the headlights. The elderly Douvrin engine was replaced by the newer TU-series engine on the 1.4 litre models, although it continued to be installed in the tiny BX11 until 1992. 1988 saw the launch of the BX Turbo Diesel, which was praised by the motoring press. The BX diesel was already a strong seller, but the Turbo model brought new levels of refinement and performance to the diesel market, which brought an end to the common notion that diesel cars were slow and noisy. Diesel Car magazine said of the BX “We can think of no other car currently on sale in the UK that comes anywhere near approaching the BX Turbo’s combination of performance, accommodation and economy”. In 1989, the BX range had further minor revisions and specification improvements made to it, including smoked rear lamp units, new wheeltrims and interior fabrics. Winning many Towcar of the Year awards, the BX was renowned as a tow car (as was its larger sister, the CX), especially the diesel models, due to their power and economy combined with the self levelling suspension. The biggest problem of the BX was its variable build quality, compared to its competition. In 1983, one quarter of the production needed “touchups” before they could be shipped, though later models were more solid. The last BX was sold around 1994. This car, a BX19 TRS, started out in Citroen UK’s press fleet.
The C6 was inspired by the Citroën C6 Lignage prototype which was first shown at the Geneva Motor Show in the spring of 1999. When shown, it was clear that this was a potential replacement for the XM, and Citroën was intent on launching it before the end of 2000. It took rather longer than that, though, with the production C6 not being launched until 2005, four years later than Citroën had originally planned and five years after the XM had ceased production. In appearance, it was not very different form the C6 Lignage concept, though it did lack the rear suicide doors. Intended to compete against the might of the German executive triumvirate of E Class, 5 Series and A6, as well as be a flagship French model, the C6 was launched with the choice of a 3.0 litre V6 petrol engine producing 208hp or a 2.7 litre V6 HDi diesel producing 201 hp (shared with the Jaguar models of the time. In October 2006 a 2.2 litre 4 cylinder HDi producing 168hp joined the range and in June 2009 the V6 diesel unit was enlarged to 3 litres and now producing 237 hp. Few other changes were made to the car during its product life. Despite the looks, the C6 was a conventional saloon, with a boot lid, as opposed to a hatchback (just as the earlier CX had been). Citroën hoped that as well as its undoubted elegance, the C6’s selling points would be its innovative technology, which included a head-up display, a lane departure warning system, xenon directional headlamps (also available on the Citroën C4 and Citroën C5), and the Hydractive 3+ suspension with electronically controlled springing and damping which gave the car a “magic carpet” like ride, and a rear spoiler which automatically adjusted to speed and braking. On launch, the press used phrases such as “spaceship that rides on air”, “charmingly idiosyncratic” and “refreshingly different”. Unsurprisingly, the C6 immediately became a prominent vehicle among the fleet of executive cars of the Élysée Palace. Former Presidents of France, Jacques Chirac & Nicolas Sarkozy, have chosen the Citroën C6 as their official car. Chirac, in particular, used a pre-series car before the model was introduced. But finding buyers among the general public proved more difficult. At launch sales expectations across the model’s lifespan were given as 20,000 per year, but when production ended on 19 December 2012, only 23,384 units built over a 7 year period.
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. All models were discontinued at the end of 1974, in preparation for the second generation car.
Most recently, the most sporting Fords have been the RS versions of the Focus. On each occasion there was been a long wait for the car after the launch of the cooking models. The regular second generation cars were released in late 2004. An ST version followed very quickly, and for a long time, Ford maintained that was the only sporty Focus there was going to be. Finally, on December 17, 2007 Ford of Europe confirmed that a Mk 2 Focus RS would be launched in 2009, with a concept version due in mid-2008. t with an upgraded Duratec ST engine with 305PS Duratec RS, gearbox, suspension, and LSD. In 2008, Ford revealed the new Focus RS in “concept” form at the British International Motor Show. Contrary to numerous rumours and speculation, the RS was announced by Ford to have a conventional FWD layout. The Duratec RS engine was upgraded to produce 301 bhp and 325 lb/ft of torque. 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration was quoted to be under 6 seconds. The RS used a modified Volvo -engineered 2,522cc five-cylinder engine found in the Focus ST. A larger Borg Warner K16 turbo now delivers up to 20.3-psi of boost. A new air-to-air intercooler has been developed as a complement, while the forged crankshaft, silicon-aluminum pistons, graphite-coated cylinder bores, 8.5:1 compression ratio and variable valve timing also up the power output. The car remained front wheel drive, but to reduce torque steer used a Quaife Automatic Torque Biasing LSD, and a specially designed MacPherson strut suspension at the front called RevoKnuckle, which provided a lower scrub radius and kingpin offset than traditional designs while avoiding the increased weight and complexity of double wishbone and multi-link suspension setups. Ford UK claim: “It’s as close as you’ll come to driving a full-spec rally car (Ford Focus RS WRC). The production car was finally unveiled on 5 January 2009. It looked very distinctive, as at the rear a large venturi tunnel and a dramatic rear spoiler created a purposeful look. It was available in three expressive exterior colours: Ultimate Green, Performance Blue and Frozen White. The ‘Ultimate’ Green was a modern reinterpretation of the classic 1970s Ford Le Mans Green of the Ford Escort RS1600 era.
Beginning Summer 2012 (UK)/late 2012 in the US, Ford offered a new performance-oriented hot hatch Focus ST, as first revealed at the 2010 Paris Motor Show and then at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show when more details were announced, including the availability of an estate(wagon) version for European markets, and the possibility of a sports sedan version for North American markets. The ST features a new, more aggressive exterior design, including a redesigned front bumper with larger air intakes and grille, larger rear wing, wider side sills, center-exit exhaust, and alloy wheels. Inside, the car receives a trio of additional gauges mounted in the dashboard, faux-carbon fiber trim, and sport seats with body-coloured inserts and stitching. The car will be offered three trim options: ST1, ST2, and ST3; the same three options that were available with the MkII ST. Differences between the US and European models besides the lack of the wagon model outside Europe and Federally-required amber side reflectors are limited to paint and trim: Euro ST1s get all-cloth Recaro seats while U.S.-spec ST1s use the same seats as the 2012 SE Sport Package; Red seat accents on the Recaro seats are not available on American ST2s; Euro ST3s feature a leather Recaro rear seat setup; The rear headrests are different in each market; Red is the only exterior colour included in the base price in Europe while yellow is the only extra-cost colour in the U.S.; The optional MyFord Touch system that is fitted to ST2/ST3 models in the U.S. is not offered in Europe; The North American ST utilizes a full-size spare tire while the Euro ST features a mini spare or fix-a-flat setup, depending on what audio system is fitted; The Euro ST offers further options (some grouped in option packages) compared to the North American models including: red brake calipers (standard on all ST trim levels in U.S.), pop-out door guards, heated windshield, lane departure system, and active speed limiter; Headlight washers are fitted to the Euro ST3; Only the ST3 model in the United States features the handbrake, armrest, and cup holder design from the Focus Titanium, while all Euro and Canadian Focus STs have that setup; The Euro Focus ST features a height-adjustable front passenger seat. The ST used a 252 bhp and 366 Nm (270 lb/ft) version of the 4-cylinder 2.0L EcoBoost engine, a gain of 25 bhp above the previous Focus ST which used a larger 2.5L 5-cylinder engine. It is resultantly estimated that the ST will reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.1 seconds, while its top speed will be 248 kilometres per hour (154 mph). Compared to the previous ST, the new model has the same 0 to 100 km/h time and has a 2 mph higher top speed. Another significant improvement is weight; the new car is 30 kg (66 lb) lighter than its 5-cylinder powered predecessor. For the 2015 model year, the ST continued to use the 252 hp 2.0L EcoBoost with a 6-speed manual gearbox in ST1, ST2 and ST3 trims for the European and US markets, and the single ST trim in the Australian market. Updates were made to the front and rear fascias to coincide with the changes implemented in the standard Focus, including the lights, grille, and rear diffuser. The availability of 5-door hatchback and estate (wagon) body styles remained unchanged. For the European markets, a 2.0L TDCi Duratorq Diesel engine was available for the ST with a 6-speed PowerShift automatic gearbox to rival the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTD and the SEAT León FR. The 2.0L Duratorq’s rated output is 182 bhp, and 300 lb/ft (407 Nm) of torque in the ST. Pricing and badging is the same for petrol and diesel models. The car was phased out in 2018 when the next generation Focus arrived.
The Bullitt Mustang returned for the third time for the 2019-2020 model years. It was revealed on stage during the 2018 North American International Auto Show alongside the one of the original surviving vehicles from the 1968 film. Molly McQueen, Steve McQueen’s granddaughter was the presenter on stage. The s550 variant of the Bullitt was offered in either its signature Dark Highland Green or in Shadow Black paint and had unique exterior features such as: 19″ black Torq-Thrust style wheels, spoiler delete, removed badges and a chrome trim along its side windows and front grille. The faux gas cap was back as was the white cue ball style shifter knob. Performance-wise, the Bullitt came equipped with the Gen 3 Coyote V8 but with the intake manifold, throttle body and airbox from the Shelby GT350 that helped the engine to produce an additional 20 horsepower over the GT at 480. The engine was only offered with the MT-82 6-speed manual transmission. Lastly, the active-valve exhaust was tuned to produce a sound more reminiscent of the movie car. The car proved very popular.
This Civic Jordan model comes from the sixth generation. Introduced in September 1995, with 3-door hatchback, 4-door sedan and 2-door coupe bodystyles, replicating its predecessor’s line-up. A 5-door hatchback was also produced to replace the Honda Concerto hatchback in Europe but this model, while using the same design language as the rest of the Civic range, was quite distinct, instead being a hatchback version of the Honda Domani, sharing that car’s platform which was related to the fifth-generation (EG/EH/EJ) Civic. The Domani replaced the sedan version of the Concerto in Japan while the sedan version of the Concerto was directly replaced by the sixth generation Civic sedan in other markets. Two wagons were also made available; the JDM Orthia, based on the Civic sedan/3-door hatchback line, and a 5-door hatchback/Domani based model, sold as Civic Aerodeck, in Europe. Neither were offered in North America. The Civic 5-door hatchback also formed the basis for the 1995 Rover 400 although the 4-door sedan version of the Rover was quite distinct from the Domani. At its introduction in 1995, it won the Car of the Year Japan Award for the third time. The Type R version was , sold only in the Japanese domestic market, and only available as a hatchback and a 5-speed manual with LSD as the only available transmission. This model was equipped with the B16B 182 bhp at 8,200 rpm) (AKA PCT), which is essentially a destroked, but powerful, version of the B18C engine from the Integra Type R. The chassis was given the designation EK9. The EK9 was very special as it was essentially based on the JDM EK4 SiR but taken out of the production line and given additional reinforcement to the chassis and body shell. Weight was also meticulously removed to create a light weight racecar feel. Other additions over the EK4 were bigger brakes,5 stud wheel hub, quicker steering ratio, specially tuned suspension, Recaro seats, MOMO steering wheel, titanium shift knob, front lip spoiler, rear wing, smoked headlights and a hand built engine that embodied the racing spirit of Honda. This engine featured a hand polished cylinder head, lighter flywheel, redesigned cam profiles, high compression pistons and balanced crankshaft. The gearbox was fitted with a helical type limited slip differential. To commemorate the Honda (Mugen) Jordan F1 team. A 500 car special limited edition Honda Civic VTi (EK4 3-door model) was created with their own signed Eddie Jordan plaque with the specific number stamped on it in the centre console. This car was sold in 1999–2000. It had the same basic spec as the EK4 VTi, but the extras included: Sunlight Yellow paint work, yellow-and-black leather interior, Jordan decals on the sides and rear of the car as well as stitched into the seats and floor carpets. Like the Renault Clio Williams, the Jordan team had no involvement in the development of the car.
In 2001, Honda introduced the next generation of the Civic Type R as a unique 3-door hatchback to the UK market, which was manufactured in Swindon, England. This European Domestic Market Civic Type R featured a 200 PS 2.0-litre i-VTEC engine (K20A2) and the regular Type R treatment of seam welding, close-ratio 6-speed transmission and upgraded brakes, but did not include some of the other higher-end features, such as the helical LSD and red Recaro race-seats, that were standard on the EK9. However, Honda marketed a JDM (Japanese domestic market) version of the EP3 (which was exclusively manufactured in Swindon, UK and was shipped to Japan), which retained the highly renowned helical LSD similar to that of the EK9 and red Recaro race-seats. Other differences of the JDM model included a more track-oriented chassis/undercarriage settings as compared to the European model as well as a more powerful engine having a power output of 215 PS (designated K20A) had a fully balanced crankshaft assembly with the different intake manifold, exhaust manifold, higher-lift camshafts, higher-compression pistons, chrome-moly flywheel and ECU programming. All of the Japan-spec K20A Type R powertrains were built in Japan and shipped to the Swindon plant to be installed in the Japan-spec Type-R EP3. The JDM EP3 was also available in the traditional Type R Championship White while the EDM was not. The EDM has more relaxed gear ratios and some high rpm torque traded for low rpm torque compared to the JDM. In 2003, the EP3 was updated with many improvements – revised EPS with quicker steering, revised suspension settings, projector headlamps (JDM came equipped with halogens only while the EDM came with an option for HIDs with self-leveling motors), lighter clutch and flywheel assembly, etc. Based on Honda literature, this facelifted (FL) model was targeted at addressing customers’ and critics’ feedback such as understeer on the limit (due to the front MacPherson strut setup), numb steering response and lack of low-end torque. Mugen Motorsports developed an upgraded version of the JDM Civic Type R, with a sport exhaust system and engine tuning, special Mugen Grille, and anti-roll bars for pro racing activities. In 2003 Honda celebrated 30 years of the Civic badge by offering a special edition 30th Anniversary Civic Type R. This special edition features red bucket seats from Recaro, AIR CONDITIONING, privacy glass on the rear windows, a leather MOMO steering wheel, red interior carpet and door cards. The 30th Anniversary models in the UK were available in Nighthawk Black, Satin Silver and Milano Red. Only 300 of these models were produced, 100 in each colour. In 2005 towards the end of the EP3’s production run, Honda introduced the Civic Type R Premier edition which had Recaro Trendline seats (similar to those found in the Anniversary Edition, only in red and black rather than all red), a darker shade of fabric on the rear seat centre sections, a MOMO Steering Wheel, Red Carpet, Door Linings, “Type R” embossed into the front brake calipers and black privacy glass on the rear windows. Air conditioning was an option. They were available in Milano Red, Nighthawk Black, Cosmic Grey and Satin Silver. In 2004 Honda introduced the “C Package” option (¥330,000 JPY) to Japan’s Civic Type R line-up which included an additional colour, Satin Silver Metallic, HID lighting, rear privacy glass, automatic air conditioner and outside air temperature sensor. For the last production year (2005), the EP3 Type R was offered in Vivid Blue Pearl for the European Market. A total of 132 EP3’s, which were all left-hand drive, were produced in Vivid Blue Pearl.
Throughout the 1970s Jaguar had been developing “Project XJ40”, which was an all-new model intended to replace the original XJ6. Scale models were being built as early as 1972. Due to the 1973 oil crisis and problems at parent company British Leyland, the car was continually delayed. Proposals from both Jaguar’s in-house designers and Pininfarina were received. Eventually, it was decided an internal design would be carried through to production and, in February 1981, the British Leyland board approved £80 million to produce the new car. Launch was originally scheduled for 1984, but following Jaguar’s de-merger from BL and privatisation that same year, the company’s CEO Sir John Egan took advantage of the resurgence in sales of the existing Series III XJ6 (particularly in the lucrative North American market) to delay the XJ40’s launch a further two years to allow for more development time. The XJ40 was at the time, the most extensively tested vehicle the company had ever developed. Designs for the XJ40 pioneered significant improvements to how Jaguar cars were designed, built, and assembled. Among these improvements was a 25% reduction in the number of bodywork panels required per car (e.g. three pressings needed for a Series 3 door compared with one for a XJ40 door), resulting in not only a more efficient assembly process, but also a weight saving and a stiffer structure. Initially, only two engines were offered across the XJ40 models: a 2.9 L and a 3.6 L version of the AJ6 inline-six. In 1990 the 3.6 L was replaced by a 4.0 L model and in 1991 the 2.9 L was replaced by a 3.2 L model. During the development of the XJ40, British Leyland had considered providing the Rover V8 engine for the car, which would have eliminated the need for future Jaguar engine production. The XJ40 bodyshell was allegedly engineered to prevent fitting V-configuration engines – in particular the Rover V8 – which British Leyland management had desired; this delayed the introduction of the V12-powered XJ12 until 1993 as the front structure of the XJ40 had to be extensively redesigned. As a consequence, the preceeding Series III XJ was kept in production in V12 form to cater for this market need until 1992. The automatic gearbox used in the 2.9 L, 3.2 L and 3.6 L six-cylinder cars was the four-speed ZF 4HP22. On the 4.0 L, the four-speed ZF 4HP24 was used. A stronger automatic gearbox was required for the V12-equipped cars, and the four-speed GM 4L80-E was selected. The manual gearbox fitted to early cars was the five-speed Getrag 265, while later cars received the Getrag 290. The automatic transmission selector was redesigned to allow the manual selection of forward gears without accidentally selecting neutral or reverse. This new feature was dubbed the “J-Gate” and remained a staple of all Jaguar models up until the 2008 Jaguar XF, when shift by wire technology rendered it redundant – all subsequent Jaguar models now use a rotary knob for transmission mode selection. The base XJ6 of the model range was modestly equipped; extra-cost options included alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes, air conditioning, leather upholstery, and an automatic transmission. The exterior featured two pairs of circular headlamps and black powder-coated window frames. The Sovereign model came equipped with significantly more features than the base XJ6. Included was air conditioning, headlamp washers, a six-speaker sound system, rear self-levelling suspension (SLS), anti-lock braking system, and inlaid burl walnut wood trim (pre-MY1991). The headlamps fitted were the rectangular single units. The window frames were made from stainless steel. Further variants would follow, before the car’s replacement in 1994.
The only other Jaguar which I photographed was one of the still very elegant looking F Type convertibles.
The current Grand Cherokee is a much better car than most Europeans probably give it credit for, but as few even consider it, then it remains a rare sight on our roads. And rarer still is the top spec SRT version with the Hemi-engine and a thunderous exhaust note. Parking up next to this and listening to the sound it made was quite a treat!
Now an established part of the McLaren range, the 570S along with its slightly cheaper and less powerful brother, the 540C, was revealed at the 2015 New York Auto Show, going on sale towards the end of that year. These were labelled as part of McLaren’s Sports Series. This mid-engine sportscar features the lightweight carbon fibre MonoCell II chassis, and a highly efficient 3.8-litre twin turbo V8 engine generating 562bhp and 443lb/ft of torque. Although the model has been conceived with a greater focus on day-to-day usability and refinement, it is still very much a pure McLaren, boasting a class-leading power-to-weight ratio of 434PS per tonne, and electrifying performance. The 570S Coupé accelerates from 0 to 100km/h in just 3.2 seconds, reaches 200km/h (124mph) in 9.5 seconds, and on to a top speed of 204mph. Pricing for the 570S Coupé started at £143,250, though like all cars of this type, that figure can quickly rise once you raid the options list.
The Mercedes-Benz W140 is a series of flagship vehicles that were manufactured by the German automotive company Mercedes-Benz from 1991 to 1998. On November 16, 1990, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the W140 S-Class via press release, later appearing in several February and March editions of magazines. The W140 made its public debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1991, with the first examples rolling off the production line in April 1991 and North American examples on August 6, 1991. Short (SE) and long (SEL) wheelbase sedans were offered initially, as well as the coupé (SEC = S-Klasse-Einspritzmotor (Fuel injection engine)-Coupé) body style C140 from October 1992. Like all Mercedes-Benz lines, the W140 S-Class was rationalized in late 1993 using the new “letter-first” nomenclature. The SE, SEL, and SEC cars were renamed the S-Class, with alphanumerical designations inverted. For example, the 500 SE became the S 500, and the 500 SEL became the S 500 L. In 1996 the coupé models following a mid-life update were separated into the CL-Class. As with its predecessor, the W126, the W140 was the first of the “next generation” of Mercedes-Benz models to feature the company’s new design theme. This design was adopted for the new C-Class in 1989 and during 1991 for use on the facelifted W124 in 1993. Development on the W140 began in 1981, originally set for an October 1989 production start. From 1982 to 1986 several designs were reviewed, until December 9, 1986 when a definitive design by Olivier Boulay was approved. Several prototypes were tested onwards from early 1987 and the final production exterior design was frozen in September 1987, with domestic design patents being filed on February 23, 1988 and U.S. patents six months later on August 23. The design was said by lead designer Bruno Sacco to be influenced by Jaguar’s XJ40 sedan and BMW’s E32 7-Series. Before production started, the exterior appearance of the W140 was revised in the form of the grille on all W140s being recessed as opposed to a planned exclusive grille on the top model, a feature which later spread to the rest of the Mercedes-Benz range. In 1987, an 18-month delay was made from 1989 to 1991 to accommodate a V12 engine and a high-performance braking system. This resulted in the final development prototypes being completed in June 1990. Pilot production models were made from June 1990 to January 1991. The W140 introduced innovations such as double-pane window glazing, power-assisted closing for doors and trunk lid, electric windows which lowered back down upon encountering an obstruction, rear-parking markers which rose from the rear wings (discontinued on later vehicles, and replaced with sonar-assisted parking) and a heating system which, if desired, continued to emit warm air after the engine was turned off. For details like this, the W140 is often known as the last Mercedes to be “over-engineered,” a Mercedes trait that was costing the company in product delays and overbudgeting. According to Motor Trend, this action reportedly caused project cost overruns and resulted in the departure of Wolfgang Peter, Daimler-Benz’s chief engineer. The vehicle is believed to have cost Mercedes-Benz over $1 billion to develop. For the consumer, the W140 cost a considerable 25 percent more than its predecessor, the W126. The W140 was to feature air suspension as an option, but it was dropped shortly before launch because Mercedes was still perfecting the technology at the time. Mercedes chose to launch air-suspension (AIRMATIC) in the next generation S-Class in 1998. The W140 instead used a rear hydropneumatic suspension, first introduced on the W116 450 SEL 6.9 (introduced in 1975) to be used on the S 500 and S 600 models. Following the mid-year facelift in 1995, Mercedes-Benz made Electronic Stability Control an optional fixture to both sedan and coupé body styles in the W140 range. Both the sedan and coupé body styles were equipped with Acceleration Slip Regulation (ASR) traction control as a standard feature on V8 models after the 1994 model year (V12 models always had ASR standard), and then the 1997 model year for I6 models. Like its predecessor, the car was available in two wheelbase lengths (short W140 and long V140) along with the C140 coupé. In 1991, a new M120 6 litre 402 horsepower V12 engine joined the lineup for the first time with the 600 SEL and 600 SEC. A “V12” badge was affixed to the C-pillar. In 1993, the 402 bhp ( 408 bhp Europe ) V12 engine was slightly detuned to 389 bhp to comply with tighter emission control regulations in the United States and Europe. The V8 models were tuned down from 322 to 315 bhp. This de-tuning, among other changes, involved the deletion of the full-throttle enrichment circuit,. The W140 600 SEL was available with wooden rear ash tray covers, wood/leather shift knob, leather dashboard and a suede headliner, unlike the V8 and inline 6-cylinder models. Following the facelift in 1994, the S 600 was updated with a wood/leather steering wheel, a V12 badge on the wood/leather shifter, double needle stitching all over the interior and two tone nappa leather seating – further distinctions from its lower rung siblings. In June 1993, as part of the new corporate naming campaign, the model range was renamed. This resulted in all SE and SEL models now being redesignated as “S”, being followed by the numbering. In late 1991, after worldwide launch, work begun on improvements to the W140. By the end of 1992, final design changes were approved and later patented(application) on February 27, 1993, exactly 5 years after the original W140 design patent application in 1988. In March 1994, the updated models were unveiled at the Geneva Auto Salon and went on sale in April 1994 in mainland Europe and in other markets during the second half of the year. The clear turn signal indicator lenses on the front and new taillights were the most obvious change, as was the grille including a new and distinctive one for S 600s. Headlamps were fitted with separate low H7, H1 fog, and high H1 beam reflectors in 1994; pre-1995 models used an H4 bulb and H3 for the fog lamp. In April 1995, “Parktronic” replaced the parking guiders on the rear boot lid. In 1995, the two tone exterior appearance was made to be monotone, low-beam xenon headlamps were added and the rear indicator lenses became clear. The changes were later introduced in June 1996 as 1996.5 models in Europe and 1997 models in the United States. The range was replaced by the far less bulky looking W220 saloon and C215 coupe in 1998 by which time Mercedes-Benz had built 432,732 examples, comprising 406,710 sedans and 26,022 coupés.
There were a number of other Mercedes models here, as you might expect, but the only one that I photographed was this last generation C63 AMG Coupe.
The Mini was the model that refused to die, with sales continuing after the launch of the Metro in 1980, and gathering momentum again in the 1990s, thanks in no small part to interest from Japan and because Rover Group decided to produce some more Cooper models. The first series of Cooper cars had been discontinued in 1971, replaced by the cheaper to build 1275GT, but when a limited edition model was produced in 1990, complete with full endorsement from John Cooper, the model was a sell out almost overnight, which prompted the decision to make it a permanent addition to the range. A number of refinements were made during the 90s, with fuel injection adding more power, a front mounted radiator and more sound deadening making the car quieter and new seats adding more comfort and a new dash making the car look less spartan inside.
This is an 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.
No surprise, perhaps, to see an example of the R35 generation GT-R, as this is a popular among enthusiasts and as it has been on sale for well over a decade now, there are quite a few around.
A close relative of the Camaro seen earlier in this report, this is the Firebird. The fourth-generation Firebird amplified the aerodynamic styling initiated by the previous generation. While the live rear axle and floorpan aft of the front seats remained largely the same, ninety percent of the Firebird’s parts were all-new. Overall, the styling of the Firebird more strongly reflected the Banshee IV concept car than the 1991 “facelift” did. As with the Camaro, major improvements included standard dual airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, 16-inch wheels, rack-and-pinion power steering, short/long-arm front suspension, and several non-rusting composite body panels. Throughout its fourth generation, trim levels included V6-powered Firebird, and V8-powered Formula and Trans Am. Standard manual transmissions were the T5 five-speed manual for the V6s, Borg-Warner’s T56 six-speed manual for the V8s. The 4L60 four-speed automatic was optional for both in 1993, becoming the 4L60E with built-in electronic controls in 1994. From 1993 until 1995 (1995 non-California cars), Firebirds received a 160 hp 3.4 L V6, an enhanced version of the third-generation’s 3.1 L V6. Beginning mid-year 1995 onward, a Series II 3.8 L V6 with 200 hp became the Firebird’s sole engine. From 1993 to 1997, the sole engine for the Formula and Trans Am was the 5.7 L LT1 V8, essentially identical to the LT1 in the C4 Corvette except for more flow-restrictive intake and exhaust systems. Steering wheel audio controls were included with optional uplevel cassette or compact disc stereo systems. Beginning with 1994 model year cars, “Delco 2001”-series stereo systems replaced the previous Delco units.:898 This revised series, also introduced for other Pontiac car lines, featured ergonomically-designed control panels with larger buttons and an optional seven-band graphic equalizer. Also in 1994, the fourth-generation convertible was available; every Firebird (and Camaro) convertible featured a glass rear window with a built-in electric defroster. The 1995 models were the same as those of previous years, but traction control (ASR: acceleration slip regulation) was available for LT1 Firebirds, controlled by a switch on the console. The steering wheels in all Firebirds were also changed; their optional built-in audio controls were more closely grouped on each side. The “Trans Am GT” trim level was dropped from the lineup after its model year run in 1994. For 1995, all Trans Ams received 155-mph speedometers and Z-rated tires. 1995 was also the first year of the vented version of the Opti-Spark distributors on LT1 F-cars, addressing a common mechanical fault with the unit. The ‘transmission perform’ button was available only in the 1994 and 1995 Formula and Trans Am. This option was stopped for the 1996 and later models, but the unused connections remain available for 1996 and 1997 Formula and Trans Am. While 1995 cars still used the OBD-I (on-board diagnostic) computer system (the last year of any American car including the F-body to use OBD-I), a majority of them had OBD-II connector ports under the dash. Firebird performance levels improved for 1996, with the establishment of the stronger 200-hp 3.8 L V6 as the new base engine, and the power rating of the LT1 increased to 285 for 1996, due to its new dual catalytic-converter exhaust system. 1996 was also the first model year of the OBD-II computer system. Optional performance enhancements were available for each Firebird trim level; the Y87 performance packages for V6s added mechanical features of the V8 setups, such as four-wheel disc brakes, faster-response steering, limited-slip rear differential, and dual tailpipes. For Formulas and Trans Ams, functional dual-inlet “Ram Air” hoods returned as part of the WS6 performance package. The optional package boosted rated horsepower from 285 to 305, and torque from 325 lb·ft to 335. Also included were 17×9-wheels wheels with 275/40ZR17 tyres, suspension improvements, oval dual tailpipe tips, and a WS6 badge. Bilstein shocks were a further option with the package. The 1997 model year introduced standard air conditioning, daytime running lamps (utilizing the front turn signal lamps), digital odometers, and optional 500-watt Monsoon cassette or compact disc stereo systems to all Firebird trim levels. For V6 Firebirds, a W68 sport appearance package was also introduced as a counterpart to the Camaro RS trim level. The WS6 “Ram Air” performance package was now also an option for the Formula and Trans Am convertibles, although these convertibles did not receive the 17-inch wheel-and-tire combination. There were 41 Formula convertibles and 463 Trans Am convertibles produced from 1996 to 1997 with the WS6 package. In 1997, in relation to the Camaro, the Firebird received a mid-cycle refresh for the 1998 model year. Major changes included a new hood and front fascia with dual intakes, retracting quad halogen headlights, circular turn signals and fog lamps, a front license plate pocket, lower fender air vents, unified-style lower door raised lettering for each trim level, and a new “honeycomb” rear light panel, with circular reverse lamps. In the dashboard, “next-generation” reduced-force dual airbags became standard. As before, the Formula and Trans Am again received a close derivative of the Corvette’s 5.7 L V8, the LS1 of the C5 Corvette, as the LT1 (and LT4) V8s were discontinued.: The LS1 Firebirds were also equipped with an aluminium driveshaft, replacing the previous steel version, while all Firebird trim levels gained four-wheel disc brakes with dual-piston front calipers and larger rotors at each wheel, complete with a solenoid-based Bosch anti-lock system. The Formula convertible was no longer offered. Beginning in 1998 for 1999 models, a standard 16.8-gallon non-metallic fuel tank increased the potential travelling range. GM’s ASR traction control system was extended to the V6-powered Firebirds, and all LS1 (V8) and Y87 (V6) Firebirds also received a Zexel/Torsen II slip-reduction rear axle. An electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) system replaced the old hydraulic proportioning valve for improved brake performance. An enhanced sensing and diagnostic module (SDM) recorded vehicle speed, engine rpm, throttle position, and brake use in the last five seconds prior to airbag deployment. :915 In 1999, a Hurst shifter for variants with the 6-speed manual and a power steering cooler became options for LS1 Firebirds. In 2000, the WS6 performance package was available exclusively for the 2001 model year Trans Am coupe and convertible variants. For 2002, more convenience items such as power mirrors and power antenna became standard equipment, while cassette stereos were phased out.
Launched at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1980, the R5 Turbo car 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.
After presenting an initial concept at the 2006 Mondial de l’Automobile, Renault debuted the production Twingo II at the 2007 Geneva Motor Show with French market trim levels named Authentique, Expression, Initiale, Dynamique and GT. Using the floorpan of the Renault Clio II, the Twingo II offered improved crash protection and was available in LHD & RHD configurations. Production began in France and subsequently moved to the Revoz plant in Novo Mesto, Slovenia. In January 2008, Renault debuted the Twingo Renaultsport 133, with a new 133 hp 1,598 cc engine, at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show. In July 2011, Renault debuted a facelifted Twingo II at the Frankfurt Motor Show, featuring a design language subsequently used on their entire range and offering revised fascias as well as redesigned front and rear light clusters. In August 2013, ordering and production of the 133 model ended. Special editions included the Twingo Renaultsport Gordini; Twingo Gordini TCe 100; Twingo Bizu; Twingo Pzaz; Twingo Renaultsport Silverstone GP (UK-only); Twingo Miss Sixty; and Twingo Renaultsport Red Bull RB7. A completely different Twingo, with a rear-engine took over in 2014.
In May 1990, a heavily revised Metro was revealed, with the model adopting full Rover badging. The looks had been modernised, but it was what had been done under the bonnet that was far more significant, with the relatively new K-Series engine finding a home in both 1100 and 1400cc guises. Combined with a five speed gearbox in more costly models, and a new trim that looked decidedly up-market for a small car, suddenly the Metro was back in contention, and that year, the model won high praise and just about every comparison test there was. The MGs were no more, but there was a 1.4 GTi car at the top of the range, and there was even a (very low volume) Cabrio for a while. Sadly, though, with development funds still next to non-existent, the car stayed in production for too long. By 1997, the basic design was 17 years old, and it was the fact that it had the safety standards more akin to cars of 1980 than 1997 that finally finished it off, with a disastrous NCAP safety test which deterred all but the very faithful from buying it.
This is a P1 version of the first generation Impreza. To counter the grey imports of high-performance Japanese variants, Subaru UK commissioned Prodrive to produce a limited edition of 1,000 two-door cars in Sonic Blue, called the WRX “P1”. Released in March 2000, they were taken from the STI Type R lines and used for the P1. The car was the only coupé version of the WRX STI GC chassis to receive ABS. In order to allow for ABS, the DCCD was dropped. Engine output was boosted to 276 bhp, and the suspension optimised for British roads. Options were available from Subaru consisting of four-piston front brake calipers, electric Recaro seats, 18-inch wheels and a P1 stamped backbox. The P1, or Prodrive One, is echoed in the name of the Prodrive P2 concept car. They are among the most sought after of all Subaru Impreza models now.
The MR2 derived from a 1976 Toyota design project with the goal of a car which would be enjoyable to drive, yet still provide good fuel economy – not necessarily a sports car. Design work began in 1979 when Akio Yoshida from Toyota’s testing department started to evaluate alternatives for engine placement and drive method, finalising a mid-transverse engine placement. Toyota called the 1981 prototype SA-X. From its original design, the car evolved into a sports car, and further prototypes were tested both in Japan and in the US. Significant testing was performed on race circuits including Willow Springs, where former Formula One driver Dan Gurney tested the car. All three generations were in compliance with Japanese government regulations concerning exterior dimensions and engine displacement. The MR2 appeared around the same time as the Honda CR-X, the Nissan EXA, the VW Scirocco from Europe, and the Pontiac Fiero and Ford EXP from North America. Toyota debuted its SV-3 concept car in October 1983 at the Tokyo Motor Show, gathering press and audience publicity. The car was scheduled for a Japanese launch in the second quarter of 1984 under the name MR2. Toyota introduced the first-generation MR2 in 1984, designating it the model code “W10”. When fitted with the 1.5-litre 3A engine, it was known as the “AW10”. Likewise, the 1.6-litre 4A version is identified by the “AW11” code. The MR2’s suspension and handling were designed by Toyota with the help of Lotus engineer Roger Becker. Toyota’s cooperation with Lotus during the prototype phase can be seen in the AW11, and it owes much to Lotus’s sports cars of the 1960s and 1970s. Toyota’s active suspension technology, called TEMS, was not installed. With five structural bulkheads, the MR2 was quite heavy for a two-seater of its size. Toyota employed the naturally aspirated 4A-GE 1,587 cc inline-four engine, a DOHC four-valve-per-cylinder motor, borrowed from the E80 series Corolla. This engine was also equipped with Denso electronic port fuel injection and T-VIS variable intake geometry, giving the engine a maximum power output of 112 hp in the US, 128 hp in the UK, 116 or 124 PS (114 or 122 hp) in Europe (with or without catalytic converter), 118 hp in Australia and 130 PS (128 hp) in Japan. Japanese models were later detuned to 120 PS (118 hp). A five-speed manual transmission was standard, with a four-speed automatic available as an option. In 1986 (1988 for the US market), Toyota introduced a supercharged engine for the MR2. Based on the same block and head, the 4A-GZE was equipped with a small Roots-type supercharger and a Denso intercooler. T-VIS was eliminated and the compression ratio was lowered to 8:1. It produced 145 hp at 6,400 rpm and 186 Nm (137 lb/ft) of torque at 4,400 rpm and accelerated the car from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.5 to 7.0 seconds. The supercharger was belt-driven but actuated by an electromagnetic clutch, so that it would not be driven except when needed, increasing fuel economy. Curb weight increased to as much as 2,494 lb (1,131 kg) for supercharged models, due to the weight of the supercharger equipment and a new, stronger transmission. A fuel selector switch was also added in some markets, to allow the car to run on regular unleaded fuel if required to. In addition to the new engine, the MR2 SC was also equipped with stiffer springs, and received special “tear-drop” aluminium wheels. The engine cover had two raised vents (only one of which was functional) that visually distinguished it from the naturally aspirated models. It was also labelled “SUPER CHARGER” on the rear trunk and body mouldings behind both doors. This model was never offered outside of the Japanese and North American markets, although some cars were privately imported to other countries. Toyota made detailed changes to the car every year until replacing it with a second generation model in 1989.
The third-generation MR2 was marketed as the Toyota MR-S in Japan, Toyota MR2 Spyder in the US, and the Toyota MR2 Roadster in Europe. Also known as the Midship Runabout-Sports, the newest MR2 took a different approach than its predecessor, most obviously becoming a convertible and receiving the ‘Spyder’ marketing nomenclature. The first prototype of MR-S appeared in 1997 at the Tokyo Motor Show. The MR2 Spyder chief engineer Harunori Shiratori said, “First, we wanted true driver enjoyment, blending good movement, low inertia and light weight. Then, a long wheelbase to achieve high stability and fresh new styling; a mid-engine design to create excellent handling and steering without the weight of the engine up front; a body structure as simple as possible to allow for easy customizing, and low cost to the consumer.” The only engine available for the ZZW30 was the all-aluminium alloy 1ZZ-FED, a 1.8 litre Inline-four engine. Like its predecessors, it used DOHC and 4 valves per cylinder. The intake camshaft timing was adjustable via the VVT-i system, which was introduced earlier on the 1998 MR2 in some markets. Unlike its predecessors, however, the engine was placed onto the car the other way round, with the exhaust manifold towards the rear of the car instead of towards the front. The maximum power of 138 bhp at 6,400 rpm and 126 lb/ft (171 Nm) of torque at 4,400 rpm was quite a drop from the previous generation, but thanks to the lightness of the car it could still move quite quickly, accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.8 to 8.7 seconds depending on the transmission option, the Sequential Manual being unable to launch and shift as quickly as the clutch operated manual. Curb weight is 996 kg (2,195 lb) for manual transmission models. In addition to the 5-speed manual transmission, a 6-speed manual or 5-speed Sequential Manual Transmission (SMT) was also available starting in 2002. The SMT was a standard feature in Australian market; however, air conditioning was optional. After 2003, a 6-speed SMT was an option. The SMT had no conventional H-pattern shift lever or clutch pedal. The driver could shift gears by tapping the shift lever forward or backward or by pressing steering-wheel mounted buttons. Clutch engagement is automatic, and the car will automatically shift to second and then first gear when stopping. Cruise control was never offered with the manual transmission, but was standard for SMT-equipped cars. The MR2 Spyder featured a heated glass rear window. A hard top was also available from Toyota in Japan and Europe. Production ended in 2007 and there was no direct successor.
The Toyota Alphard (Japanese: トヨタ・アルファード, Toyota Arufādo) is a minivan produced by the Japanese automaker Toyota since 2002. It is available as a seven- or eight-seater with petrol and hybrid engine options. Hybrid variants have been available since 2003, and it incorporates Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive technology. The vehicle was named after Alphard, the brightest star in the constellation Hydra. The Alphard is primarily made for the Japanese market, but is also sold in Bangladesh, Belarus, Russia, the Middle East, Greater China, and Southeast Asia. Similar to the Camry, it is often classified as a luxury car in Southeast Asian markets. A number of them have arrived in the UK on the “grey import” market. This is a first generation model, which ran from 2002 to 2008.
Also here were two examples of Toyota’s much vaunted GR range of cars. The GR Supra has been on sale for a couple of years, though they are still quite a rare sight on our roads, and the Yaris GR arrived in late 2020 with a long waiting list that built up once the initial reviews were in and everyone realised how impressive the car is. Thanks to lockdown, this is the first one I have actually seen in the metal.
Convertible versions of the Astra arrived with the second generation model in the mid 80s, and an open-topped Astra was a feature of each successive generation of Vauxhall/Opel’s medium-sized family car for four generations before becoming a stand-alone car in its own right, the Cascada. This one is based on the fourth generation Astra, also referred to as Astra G. Released in 1998, the MK4 addressed many of the criticisms of the MK3 in the UK with greatly improved ride and handling. The growing emphasis on safety was also reflected in greater body rigidity, resulting in a Euro NCAP 4 star crash test rating, considered excellent for its time. In the UK the MK4 Astra was available with a range of 16v Ecotec engines as well some 8v units. The 8v unit was refined during the model’s life however, with the Z16SE offering good all round performance compared with its higher insurance 16v equivalent. In addition to the standard hatchback, the MK4 also had a popular choice of the coupé and convertible, both released in 2000. Although it was replaced in 2004 by the MK5, variants of the model continued for a while afterwards, 5-door hatchbacks were sold until mid-2005 with a reduced range, while the coupe, convertible and Astravan models continued into 2006.
Holden’s Monaro was also sold in the United Kingdom as the Vauxhall Monaro where it won Top Gear magazine’s best muscle car award in 2004. Vauxhall offered the Monaro buyer a limited edition prior to discontinuation of the model: the VXR 500. A Harrop supercharger was installed onto the standard GM 6.0 L LS2 engine by Vauxhall dealer Greens of Rainham in conjunction with tuning firm Wortec, increasing power to 500 bhp and torque to 677 Nm (500 lb/ft). In addition to this, a shorter gear linkage was added to enable quicker shifts. The resultant 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) was 4.8 seconds. With the end of production, Vauxhall opted to replace the Monaro in 2007 with a version of the HSV Clubsport R8 4-door sedan. The new model sports sedan is simply referred to as the Vauxhall VXR8.
The Mark 2 series is the longest-running Jetta so far. Introduced to Europe in early 1984 and to North America in 1985, the second generation Jetta proved to be a sales success for Volkswagen. The car secured the title of best-selling European car in North America, Farmer’s Journal COTY 1991, and outsold the similar Golf by two-to-one in that market. Based on the all-new second-generation Golf platform, the car was larger, heavier, and could seat five people instead of four as in the Mark 1. Exterior dimensions increased in all directions. Overall length was up by 100 mm (3.9 in), the wheelbase grew 66 mm (2.6 in), and the width went up 53 mm (2.1 in). The suspension setup was basically unchanged from the first generation, although refined slightly, for example by the inclusion of a separate subframe for mounting the front control arms to help noise isolation, as well as improved rubber mountings for all components. Aerodynamics improved considerably, with a drag coefficient of 0.36. With a 470-litre (16.6 ft3) luggage compartment, the trunk had grown nearly as large as some full-sized American sedans. Interior room was also increased 14%, which changed the EPA class from sub-compact to compact. Cars built in Germany were assembled in a brand new (at the time) plant at Wolfsburg in Assembly Hall 54. The plant was heavily robotised in an effort to make build quality more consistent. New innovations on the second generation included an optional trip computer (referred to as the MFA, German Multi-Funktions-Anzeige), as well as silicone dampened engine and transmission mounts to reduce noise, vibration, and harshness levels. In 1988, a more advanced fully electronic fuel injection system became available. This arrangement is known as the Digifant engine management system. Like the Mark 1, the second generation was offered as a two-door or four-door sedan. External changes throughout the series’ run were few: the front-quarter windows were eliminated in 1988 (along with a grille and door trim change), and larger body-coloured bumpers and lower side skirts were added from 1990. In 2007, Volkswagen of America held a contest to find the diesel-powered Volkswagen with the highest distance travelled on the original engine. The winning car was a 1986 Jetta Turbodiesel found in Blue Rock, Ohio which had 562,000 miles (904,000 km). A local dealer verified the odometer reading. Notable on this particular car was that it also had the original muffler despite being located in an area subject to road salt in the winter.
Broadly contemporary with that car was this second generation Scirocco. A heavily redesigned “Type 2” variant (internally designated Typ 53B) went on sale in 1981, although it remained on the A1 platform. 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 in March that year. Designed by Volkswagen’s own internal design team, the new car featured increased front and rear headroom, increased luggage space and a reduction in the coefficient of drag. One feature of the Type 2 was the location of the rear spoiler midway up the glass on the rear hatch. A mid-cycle update occurred in 1984, which included minor changes over the 1982 model: removal of the outlined “SCIROCCO” script from the rear hatch (below the spoiler), a redesigned air conditioning compressor, and a different brake master cylinder with in-line proportioning valves and a brake light switch mounted to the pedal instead of on the master cylinder. Halfway through the 1984 model year, a new space-saver spare wheel was added, that provided room for a larger fuel tank (with a second “transfer” fuel pump). Leather interior, power windows and mirrors, air conditioning, and a manual sunroof were options for all years. The 1984 model year saw the return of two windshield wipers (vs the large single wiper), absent since the 1976 models. Eleven different engines were offered in the Type 2 Scirocco over the production run, although not all engines were available in all markets. These engines included both carburettor and fuel injection engines. Initially all models had eight-valve engines. A 16-valve head was developed by tuner Oettinger in 1981, with the modification adopted by Volkswagen when they showed a multi-valve Scirocco at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show. It went on sale in Germany and a few other markets in July 1985, with a catalysed model arriving in 1986. Displacements ranged from 1.3 litres up to 1.8 litres. Power ranged from 60 PS to 112 PS for the 8 valve engines and either 129 PS or 139 PS for the 16 valve engines. Numerous trim levels existed, depending on the model year and market, and included the L, CL, GL, LS, GLS, GLI, GT, GTI, GTL, GTS, GTX, GT II, Scala, GT 16V and GTX 16V. Special limited edition models including the White Cat (Europe), Tropic (Europe), Storm (UK), Slegato (Canada), and Wolfsburg Edition (USA and Canada) were also produced. These special models typically featured unique interior/exterior colour combinations, special alloy wheels and had special combinations of options such as leather, multi-function trip computer and/or power windows as standard. Scirocco sales continued until 1992 in Germany, the UK, and some other European markets. The Scirocco was briefly joined but effectively replaced by the Corrado in the VW line-up. Seen here was a Storm, of which the owner told me, there are just 13 examples in the UK, and they all came in either this pale brown of a light blue paint finish.
It’s such a shame that the weather was so awful, as I can well imagine that had there been spring sunshine, or even just a dry day, there would have been the full quote of cars here and the atmosphere would have buzzed rather more than it did. I did enjoy some of the cars and had interesting conversations with quite a few people and the food was both excellent and reasonably priced, all of which point to the potential for this event and the fact that I should give it another chance. For now, at least, it is only open once a month, on the third Sunday, so given what else is in the diary over the summer months, it may be a while before I get back, but I certainly do plan to return when I can.