I made my first visit to the Re:Fuel event in May. The weather was definitely not helping me to see it all at its best, as the current venue for this series of monthly “Cars and Coffee” style meets is the Mansell Raceway, situated in the middle of literally nowhere a few miles to the east of Wellington and the M5 on the Somerset/Devon border. Even so I could see the potential, with plenty of space for a lot of cars and bikes to meet, for owners to share their enthusiasm for their own car and everyone else’s, whilst availing themselves of the on-site catering which had offered warming cups of coffee and some excellent locally produced burgers and other temptations. Pre-booking is essential, and I noted in May that the capacity of 350 cars had not been achieved for the Sunday afternoon slot that I attended (it had been sold out for the morning) but there had still been plenty to enjoy before a downpour caused most attendees, me included, to rush for their car and to leave. I vowed to return, hopeful of a rather more populated event and some better weather. With the glorious sunshine of early June a fading memory, it did not look like the June 2021 meet was going to be the one that would help me achieve my objective, but on the day, when the forecast suggested it would stay largely dry, if rather grey and cold for the time of year, when I discovered that there were still tickets available, as I had been confined to barracks all week, I made a last minute decision to buy a ticket and to make that return visit. The weather was wet en route, very wet at times, but it did stay more or less dry once I arrived, but it was clear that a lot of people had decided to stay away, and there were rather fewer cars on site than there had been in May. Enough to keep me entertained for a while, and to have a chat to a couple of people, one of whom I knew, as a former Abarth owner, so the journey was more than just a run out in the car. Here is what I saw on site.
Sign of the rather unpromising weather forecast, perhaps, was the fact that there was only one Abarth present, mine, as this location has proved popular for other Abarth owners to meet up, but on his occasion they were all elsewhere or safely at home.
There was just one Alfa Romeo here, too, an example of the Stelvio.
Making another appearance at the event was this, one of oldest of the legendary M3 cars, from the E30 generation. 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 Caterham story is one of continual development, a four decade process of honing Colin Chapman’s original design, which is now 60 years old. Since 1973, when Graham Nearn’s Caterham cars took over the rights and manufacture of the fly-weight sportscars, it’s grown more power, better engines, more sophistication in both suspension and powertrains, as well – in some cases – as more space inside and certainly more creature comforts, all while preserving the original character. Caterham completed 42 of the heavier and not that well thought of Series 4 cars before deciding to concentrate on the classic Series 3 design, with a simple space frame chassis clothed in aluminium and glassfibre. At the time of the S3, the power unit was from Ford, with the Crossflow unit developing 84 bhp in GT form with a twin choke carburettor, though twin Webers were never far away. Sevens had started out with Ford side valve power, before the 948cc BMC A Series unit found its way into the car, followed by Ford’s new 1340cc and 1498cc engines, before the head redesign put the intake and the exhaust on opposite sides. When Ford discontinued the Kent engine in 1976, it caused something of a difficulty for Caterham, as this also meant the end of the Twin Cam and the BDR engines, of which Caterham had bought 500 in preceding years, and whilst the final pushrod engines came from South Africa, eventually the supply ran out and a new supplier was needed. At first the firm turned to Vauxhall’s 2 litre unit for the higher powered cars but when the found out that Rover were developing a new and sophisticated twin cam engine, which turned out to be the K Series unit, a deal was struck and the first K Series engined Caterhams appeared in 1991, once the multi-point injection version was available (the single point would have required a bonnet bulge which Caterham did not want). To get round the relative lack of torque, Caterham developed their own close ratio 6 speed gearbox which was lighter than the Ford unit they had been using, and which could cope with larger capacity and more powerful K Series units as Rover made them available. Caterham continued to develop the car throughout the 90s, starting to make their own steering racks among other changes. By the time the K Series and the 240 bhp Vauxhall engines in the HPC car came along, the interior had become plusher with a long cockpit option and a wider variant, the SV. There were now proper bucket seats instead of those with a plywood backrest and in 1996 the handbrake moved from under the dash to the transmission tunnel. This required extra tubing in the chassis, which made it 80% stiffer. The front suspension had gained a proper top wishbone and separate anti-roll bar, but the biggest change came with the adoption of de Dion rear suspension. The move was occasioned by a need to keep the rear wheels linked and parallel to each other, yet still as simple as possible, though the engineers harboured a desire for a fully independent rear end, which finally came about with the CSR version in 2004. This change improved the ride massively on bumpy roads and makes the car feel more planted. The collapse of Rover in 2005 meant the end for the K Series, so there was a switch back to Ford power, using the Sigma engine, which happily fits under the bonnet – something that few modern engines do as they are now often simply too tall. Adding more power is a law of diminishing returns with a Caterham, thanks to the aerodynamics, though there are now an array of different power outputs offered, but the most recent change was a new entry level model, which uses a 660cc Suzuki turbo triple, with a live axle and a similar power to weight ratio to the classic single carb Ford powered models of 30 years ago. However, these days you can get carpets, leather seats and full weather gear if you upgrade to an S pack. Caterham plan to continue to develop the car for as long as they can. To date they have built around 16,000 examples, and it is said that were you to gather 100 models together, you would not find two the same, even though, colour apart, many cars look very similar at a quick glance. The one seen here is a very recent car, produced as a limited edition car to mark the 60th anniversary of the Lotus Seven, with a “back to basics” look to it.
The third-generation Camaro was produced from 1981 (for the 1982 model year) to 1992. These were the first Camaros to offer modern fuel injection, Turbo-Hydramatic 700R4 four-speed automatic transmissions, five-speed manual transmissions, 14,15- or 16-inch wheels, a standard OHV 4-cylinder engine,] and hatchback bodies. The cars were nearly 500 pounds (227 kg) lighter than the second generation model. The IROC-Z was introduced in 1985 and continued through 1990. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Regulations required a CHMSL (Center High Mounted Stop Lamp) starting with the 1986 model year. For 1986, the new brake light was located on the exterior of the upper center area of the back hatch glass. Additionally, the 2.5 L Iron Duke pushrod 4-cylinder engine was dropped, and all base models now came with the 2.8 L V6 (OHV). For 1987 and later, the CHMSL was either mounted inside the upper hatch glass or integrated into a rear spoiler (if equipped). In 1985, the 305 cu in (5.0 L) small block V8 was available with indirect injection called “tuned port injection” (TPI). In 1987 the L98 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8 engine became a regular option on the IROC-Z, paired with an automatic transmission only. The convertible body style returned in 1987 (absent since 1969) and all came with a special “20th Anniversary Commemorative Edition” leather map pocket. 1992 offered a “25th Anniversary Heritage Package” that included stripes and a unique spoiler plaque. Beginning in 1988, the 1LE performance package was introduced, optional on street models, and for showroom stock racing in the U.S. and Canada. The B4C or “police” package was made available beginning in 1991. This created a Z28 in more subtle RS styling.
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 Sierra RS Cosworth model. a very sporting version of Ford’s upper-medium sized family car, was built by Ford Europe from 1986 to 1992, the result of a Ford Motorsport project with the purpose of producing an outright winner for Group A racing in Europe. The project was defined in the spring of 1983 by Stuart Turner, then recently appointed head of Ford Motorsport in Europe, who had realised right away that Ford was no longer competitive in this area. Turner got in touch with Walter Hayes, at the time the vice-president of public relations at Ford, to get support for the project. Hayes had earlier been the driving force behind the development of the Ford GT40 that won Le Mans in 1966, and the Cosworth DFV engine that brought Ford 154 victories and 12 world championships in Formula One during the 1960s and 1970s. Hayes found the project very appealing and promised his full support. Turner then invited Ken Kohrs, vice-president of development, to visit Ford’s longtime partner, the automotive company Cosworth, where they were presented a project developed on Cosworth’s own initiative, the YAA engine. This was a twin cam, 16-valve engine based on Ford’s own T88 engine block, better known as the Pinto. This prototype proved an almost ideal basis for the engine Turner needed to power his Group A winner. Therefore, an official request for a turbocharged version (designated Cosworth YBB) capable of 180 HP on the street and 300 HP in race trim, was placed. Cosworth answered positively, but they put up two conditions: the engine would produce not less than 204 HP in the street version, and Ford had to accept no fewer than 15,000 engines. Turner’s project would only need about 5,000 engines, but Ford nevertheless accepted the conditions. The extra 10,000 engines would later become one of the reasons Ford also chose to develop a four door, second generation Sierra RS Cosworth. To find a suitable gearbox proved more challenging. The Borg-Warner T5, also used in the Ford Mustang, was chosen, but the higher revving nature of the Sierra caused some problems. Eventually Borg-Warner had to set up a dedicated production line for the gearboxes to be used in the Sierra RS Cosworth. Many of the suspension differences between the standard Sierra and the Cosworth attributed their development to what was learned from racing the turbocharged Jack Roush IMSA Merkur XR4Ti in America and Andy Rouse’s successful campaign of the 1985 British Saloon Car Championship. Much of Ford’s external documentation for customer race preparation indicated “developed for the XR4Ti” when describing parts that were Sierra Cosworth specific. Roush’s suspension and aerodynamics engineering for the IMSA cars was excellent feedback for Ford. Some production parts from the XR4Ti made their way into the Cosworth such as the speedometer with integral boost gauge and the motorsport 909 chassis stiffening plates. In April 1983, Turner’s team decided on the recently launched Sierra as a basis for their project. The Sierra filled the requirements for rear wheel drive and decent aerodynamic drag. A racing version could also help to improve the unfortunate, and somewhat undeserved, reputation that Sierra had earned since the introduction in 1982. Lothar Pinske, responsible for the car’s bodywork, demanded carte blanche when it came to appearance in order to make the car stable at high speed. Experience had shown that the Sierra hatchback body generated significant aerodynamic lift even at relatively moderate speed. After extensive wind tunnel testing and test runs at the Nardò circuit in Italy, a prototype was presented to the project management. This was based on an XR4i body with provisional body modifications in fibreglass and aluminium. The car’s appearance raised little enthusiasm. The large rear wing caused particular reluctance. Pinske insisted however that the modifications were necessary to make the project successful. The rear wing was essential to retain ground contact at 300 km/h, the opening between the headlights was needed to feed air to the intercooler and the wheel arch extensions had to be there to house wheels 10” wide on the racing version. Eventually, the Ford designers agreed to try to make a production version based on the prototype. In 1984, Walter Hayes paid visits to many European Ford dealers in order to survey the sales potential for the Sierra RS Cosworth. A requirement for participation in Group A was that 5,000 cars were built and sold. The feedback was not encouraging. The dealers estimated they could sell approximately 1,500 cars. Hayes did not give up, however, and continued his passionate internal marketing of the project. As prototypes started to emerge, dealers were invited to test drive sessions, and this increased the enthusiasm for the new car. In addition, Ford took some radical measures to reduce the price on the car. As an example, the car was only offered in three exterior colours (black, white and moonstone blue) and one interior colour (grey). There were also just two equipment options: with or without central locking and electric window lifts. The Sierra RS Cosworth was first presented to the public at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1985, with plans to release it for sale in September and closing production of the 5,000 cars in the summer of 1986. In practice, it was launched in July 1986. 5545 were manufactured in total of which 500 were sent to Tickford for conversion to the Sierra three-door RS500 Cosworth. The vehicles were manufactured in right hand drive only, and were made in Ford’s Genk factory in Belgium. Exactly 500 RS500s were produced, all of them RHD for sale in the UK only – the biggest market for this kind of Ford car. It was originally intended that all 500 would be black, but in practice 56 white and 52 moonstone blue cars were produced.To broaden the sales appeal, the second generation model was based on the 4 door Sierra Sapphire body. It was launched in 1988, and was assembled in Genk, Belgium, with the UK-built Ford-Cosworth YBB engine. Cylinder heads on this car were early spec 2wd heads and also the “later” 2wd head which had some improvements which made their way to the 4X4 head. Suspension was essentially the same with some minor changes in geometry to suit a less aggressive driving style and favour ride over handling. Spindles, wheel offset and other changes were responsible for this effect. Approximately 13,140 examples were produced during 1988-1989 and were the most numerous and lightest of all Sierra Cosworth models. Specifically the LHD models which saved weight with a lesser trim level such as manual rear windows and no air conditioning. In the UK, the RHD 1988-1989 Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth is badged as such with a small “Sapphire” badge on the rear door window trims. All 1988-1989 LHD models are badged and registered as a Sierra RS Cosworth with no Sapphire nomenclature at all. “Sapphire” being viewed as a Ghia trim level that saw power rear windows, air conditioning and other minor options. Enthusiasts of the marque are mindful of this and will describe the LHD cars by their body shell configuration, 3 door or 4 door. As the Sapphire Cosworth was based on a different shell to the original three-door Cosworth, along with its more discreet rear wing, recorded a drag co-efficient of 0.33, it registered slightly better performance figures, with a top speed of 150 mph and 0-60 of 6.1 seconds, compared to the original Cosworth. In January 1990, the third generation Sierra RS Cosworth was launched, this time with four wheel drive. As early as 1987, Mike Moreton and Ford Motorsport had been talking about a four wheel drive Sierra RS Cosworth that could make Ford competitive in the World Rally Championship. The Ferguson MT75 gearbox that was considered an essential part of the project wasn’t available until late 1989 however. Ford Motorsport’s desire for a 3-door “Motorsport Special” equivalent to the original Sierra RS Cosworth was not embraced. The more discreet 4-door version was considered to have a better market potential. It was therefore decided that the new car should be a natural development of the second generation, to be launched in conjunction with the face lift scheduled for the entire Sierra line in 1990. The waiting time gave Ford Motorsport a good opportunity to conduct extensive testing and demand improvements. One example was the return of the bonnet louvres. According to Ford’s own publicity material, 80% of the engine parts were also modified. The improved engine was designated YBJ for cars without a catalyst and YBG for cars with a catalyst. The latter had the red valve cover replaced by a green one, to emphasise the environmental friendliness. Four wheel drive and an increasing amount of equipment had raised the weight by 100 kg, and the power was therefore increased to just about compensate for this. The Sierra RS Cosworth 4×4 received, if possible, an even more flattering response than its predecessors and production continued until the end of 1992, when the Sierra was replaced by the Mondeo. The replacement for the Sierra RS Cosworth was not a Mondeo however, but the Escort RS Cosworth. This was to some extent a Sierra RS Cosworth clad in an “Escort-like” body. The car went on sale in May 1992, more than a year after the first pre-production examples were shown to the public, and was homologated for Group A rally in December, just as the Sierra RS Cosworth was retired. It continued in production until 1996. The Sierra and Sapphire Cosworths were undoubted performance bargains when new, but they also gained a reputation both for suffering a lot of accidents in the hands of the unskilled and also for being among the most frequently stole cars of their generation. These days, though, there are some lovely and treasured examples around and indeed you are far more likely to see a Cosworth version of the Sierra than one of the volume selling models, as was the case here.
The Mustang underwent something of a renaissance with the launch of the retro-styled 2004 model, with the car finding huge favour in its native America. It was never officially imported into Britain but a surprising number of them have come here and the cars are quite commonly seen at events like this, some more standard looking than others. This is one such example.
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.
There was two examples here of the range known internally as the Tipo 338 and better known as the 3200GT and 4200GT and Spider. After producing BiTurbo based cars for 17 years, Maserati replaced their entire range with a new model in July 1998, the 3200 GT. This very elegant 2+2 grand tourer was styled by Italdesign, whose founder and head Giorgetto Giugiaro had previously designed, among others, the Ghibli, Bora and Merak. The interior design was commissioned to Enrico Fumia. Its name honoured the Maserati 3500 GT, the Trident’s first series production grand tourer. Sold mainly in Europe, the 3200 GT was powered by the twin-turbo, 32-valve, dual overhead cam 3.2-litre V8 engine featured in the Quattroporte Evoluzione, set up to develop 370 PS (365 hp). The car was praised for its styling, with the distinctive array of tail-lights, consisting of LEDs, arranged in the shape of boomerang being particularly worthy of comment. The outer layer of the ‘boomerang’ provided the brake light, with the inner layer providing the directional indicator. The car was also reviewed quite well by the press when they got to drive it in early 1999, though it was clear that they expected more power and excitement. That came after 4,795 cars had been produced, in 2001, with the launch of the 4200 models. Officially called the Coupé and joined by an open-topped Spyder (Tipo M138 in Maserati speak), these models had larger 4.2 litre engines and had been engineered so the cars could be sold in America, marking the return to that market for Maserati after an 11 year gap. There were some detailed styling changes, most notable of which were the replacement of the boomerang rear lights with conventional rectangular units. Few felt that this was an improvement. The cars proved popular, though, selling strongly up until 2007 when they were replaced by the next generation of Maserati. Minor changes were made to the model during its six year production, but more significant was the launch at the 2004 Geneva Show of the GranSport which sported aerodynamic body cladding, a chrome mesh grille, carbon fibre interior trim, and special 19-inch wheels. It used the Skyhook active suspension, with a 0.4 inch lower ride height, and the Cambiocorsa transmission recalibrated for quicker shifts. The exhaust was specially tuned to “growl” on start-up and full throttle. The GranSport was powered by the same 4244 cc, 90° V8 petrol engine used on the Coupé and Spyder, but developing 400 PS (395 hp) at 7000 rpm due primarily to a different exhaust system and improvements on the intake manifolds and valve seats. A six-speed paddle shift transmission came as standard. The GranSport has a claimed top speed of 180 mph (290 km/h) and a 0–62 mph (0–100 km/h) time of 4.8 seconds.
The 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. This one had AMG badging on it.
This is a late model version of the classic Issigonis-designed Mini.
These cars are both the Lancer Evo VI, of the type which was produced between January 1999 and February 2001. Based on the Lancer saloon, the Evo kept pace with changes to that model, so the Evo IV, seen in 1996 had been a new model compared to the first three Evo generations. Evo IV, V and VI were all broadly similar with detailed changes coming with each new iteration. The Evolution VI’s changes mainly focused on cooling and engine durability. It received a larger intercooler, larger oil cooler, and new pistons, along with a titanium-aluminide turbine wheel for the RS model, which was a first in a production car. The Evolution VI received new bodywork yet again, with the most easily noticeable change being within the front bumper where the huge fog lights were reduced in size and moved to the corners for better airflow. A new model was added to the GSR and RS lineup; known as the RS2, it was an RS with a few of the GSR’s options. Another limited-edition RS was known as the RS Sprint, an RS tuned by Ralliart in the UK to be lighter and more powerful with 330 hp. Yet another special edition Evolution VI was released in December 1999: the Tommi Mäkinen Edition, named after Finnish rally driver Tommi Mäkinen who had won Mitsubishi four WRC drivers championships. It featured a different front bumper, Red/Black Recaro seats (with embossed T. Mäkinen logo), 17″ Enkei white wheels, a leather Momo steering wheel and shift knob, a titanium turbine that spooled up more quickly, front upper strut brace, lowered ride height (with tarmac stages in mind), and a quicker steering ratio. Amongst other colours, the Evo VI came in either red (Tommi Mäkinen Edition only), white, blue, black or silver with optional special decals, replicating Tommi Mäkinen’s rally car’s colour scheme. This car is also sometimes referred to as an Evolution 6½, Evolution 6.5, or TME for short. There were two “standard” models. The RS – “rally sport” had a close-ratio 5-speed, minimal interior, rally suspension, Rear 1.5 Way LSD as opposed to AYC, (Shortened close-ratio 5-speed transmission, Optional Enkei Wheels, Optional Recaro Seats, Optional Air Conditioner, Optional Brembo brakes, Optional power windows). The GSR came with a 5-speed, gauge pack, AYC (Active Yaw Control), Anti-Lock Braking System, Recaro front bucket and rear seat, auto air-conditioner, double-din audio, power windows, Brembo brakes. The Tommi Mäkinen Edition Models also came in RS and GSR guise. The RS was the same as the standard RS with close-ratio 5-speed, lowered ride height, Tommi Mäkinen Edition front bumper, and titanium turbine (same option with standard RS) and the GSR was the same as the standard GSR with lowered ride height, Tommi Mäkinen Edition front bumper, Red/Black Recaro seats (with embossed T. Mäkinen logo), 17″ Enkei white wheels and titanium turbine. These cars were fearsomely expensive to run, and as such, you don’t see them very often any more. One of them belongs to Lance Litherland, who acquired it to replace his much loved Abarth Punto Scorpione and he did indeed confirm that this one needs rather more looking after than his always immaculate.
The R32 generation Skyline debuted in 1989 and was available as either a 2-door coupe or 4-door hardtop sedan, all previous bodystyles were dropped. The R32 featured several versions of the RB-series straight-6 engines, which had improved heads (the twelve port inlet was gone) and used the ECCS (Electronically Concentrated Control System) injection system. Also available was an 1,800 cc 4-cylinder GXi model. Most models had HICAS four-wheel steering, with the rear wheels being hydraulically linked to the front steering. The 2.5-litre GTS-25 became one of the first Japanese production cars to feature a 5-speed automatic transmission. The GTS-t came in standard and Type M configurations, with the Type M having larger five-stud 16-inch wheels, four piston front callipers and twin piston rears plus other minor differences. ABS was optional (except for the GT-R and GTS-4), mechanical LSD was standard on the GTR and viscous LSD was standard on all turbo models and optional on all but the GXi. Nissan also produced 100 Australian models of the R32. In addition, there was a 4WD version of the GTS-t Type M, called the GTS-4. This generation was considered a “compact” under Japanese legislation that determined the amount of tax liability based on exterior dimensions. The smaller engines were offered so as to provide Japanese buyers the ability to choose which annual road tax obligation they were willing to pay. The station wagon bodystyle was discontinued, and replaced by the Nissan Stagea. 296,087 of these cars were sold in its five year production run.
Much rarer than that was this one, an Autech Rumba. Autech is a Nissan subsidiary that only markets cars in Japan. It is probably best known for a collaboration with Zagato which turned out the most beautiful ugly car ever – the Stelvio. However, they also had a little dabble in this weird little trend of producing modified versions of more humdrum cars in the same way as better known Mitsuoka. Start point was the K11 version of the car we know as the Micra, and which was sold in Japan as the March. The K11 March was declined into at least four music/dance-themed retro sister models, as well as the Rumba seen here the others were called Bolero, Polka and Tango. This fearsome foursome came about in the late ‘90s. The 1996 Tango was the first, a sort of trial balloon. Then the March got a facelift in 1997 and the three others arrived in quick succession. Nissan made their Autech subsidiary put their name to these four March sisters. I’m not sure why. Perhaps to make them seem cutting edge, trendy or performance-oriented. They were neither, of course. Nissan were not the only ones to have a go at this, as there were many more K11-based modified cars. There’s the Nissan “Verita 1952” – a Taiwanese first cousin with an apparent thyroid issue. There were also a number of more distant family members afflicted with more serious cases of retro-itis, such as the infamous Mitsuoka Viewt and not one but at least three VandenPlas 1100 clones: the Lotas Princess, the Copel Bonito and the Ministar. This rampant retro fever did not stop with the demise of the K11 platform, either. Some of these jumped to the K12 and continued on for years. The Bolero, which seems to have created quite a following for itself and is not a rare sight even today, is still being made, though it has switched hosts and is currently infecting the Dayz kei car. It seems the Rumba, for some reason, didn’t catch on all that well. It was launched in November 1998 and was gone by 2002. Even the Macarena lasted longer (certainly felt like it). And I kind of see why. At least, the Bolero has that unique streamline-modern-esque grille. For their part, the Mitsuoka and the Princess pay homage to ‘60s legends (yes, I’m saying the VandenPlas ADO16 is a legend. Well, in Japan, anyway…) that would be challenging to afford and run otherwise. The other March sisters are pretty pointless, Rumba included. Some websites claim this is supposed to evoke the BMC Mini, but it really doesn’t. The Daihatsu Mira Gino did that far more convincingly. This March just looks like a fish-faced pike car without a purpose, a stylistic hook or a set of gills. No wonder it went extinct.
And then there was this, the Serena. The first generation of this mini-van was sold in the UK in the mid 90s, but the model was phased out across Europe, so many will not realise that the model has continued to evolve and be sold in Asian markets. It is now on its fifth generation, but the one seen here – a grey import for sure – is the model that preceded it, sold new between 2011 and 2016. The 2011 Nissan Serena was released in late November 2010 to the Japanese market, equipped with a new 2.0-litre MR20DD direct injection inline-four gasoline engine. This model is currently sold in Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia. In August 2012, Nissan added their newly developed simple hybrid system called Smart Simple Hybrid or S-HYBRID. The Nissan Serena C26 S-HYBRID has its regeneration capacity and output power of the Eco Motor, which is an alternator that is used for Nissan’s Serena having an idling stop mechanism and capable of restarting an engine, upgraded. Nissan added a lead sub-battery in the engine room for extended energy regeneration capacity. The Serena has a fuel economy of 15.2 km/L (approx 35.8 mpg) under the JC08 test mode. In Indonesia, the C26 Serena was locally assembled and went on sale in January 2013. The Autech version of the Highway Star trim was added in September 2013. The facelift version of the C26 Serena was launched on 13 March 2015. In Malaysia, Tan Chong launched Nissan Serena S-Hybrid in July 2013 being fully imported from Japan and only available in one trim level: Highway Star. In November 2014, the facelift version was launched, being locally assembled in Malaysia and available in two trim levels: Highway Star and Premium Highway Star. In July 2016, Impul versions were made available. The C27 generation was launched in 2016.
Polaris has been making these three-wheeled fun cars for a few years now, and a few have found their way even to the UK (I’ve seen them on show at Prescott more than once), so they may well be familiar to many people. For the 2019 model year, Polaris has streamlined its Slingshot lineup, ditching the old ‘LE’ moniker and opting instead to go with four, easy to understand specs. The entry-level S model is priced from $19,999, and comes with a GM-sourced 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine (as do all the versions), good for 173 HP and 165 lb-ft (223 Nm) of torque. It also has Electronic Stability Control and ABS disc brakes. Move up in the range and for $25,499 you could have the Slingshot SL, which adds a 7-inch multi-touch display, 18″ front and 20″ rear wheels, a 100-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, a backup camera and premium stitched seats. Then you have the SLR, which is a more extreme version of the SL, priced from $28,999. It comes with a Sparco steering wheel, shift knob and pedal covers, sport bucket seats and a larger rear wheel for increased performance. Last but not least is the Slingshot Grand Touring, which costs $29,499. This is more of a long-distance option and comes with Ride Command with navigation, a taller windshield, quilted comfort seats and a Slingshade removable roof option – it’s the only Slingshot you can use when the weather turns against you.
The Pontiac LeMans is a model name that was applied to subcompact- and intermediate-sized automobiles marketed by Pontiac from 1961 to 1981 (1983 in Canada) model years. Originally a trim upgrade based on the Tempest, it became a separate model. In 1964 the Tempest was available with an optional GTO package that later became a separate model, the Pontiac GTO, muscle car. 1970 introduced the GT-37 package. Manufactured in five generations in the 1960s and 1970s, it was replaced by the downsized Pontiac Bonneville for the 1982 model year.The Tempest line was changed to an intermediate-sized car on the new GM A platform in 1964. The LeMans was its own separate model like it was in 1963 which included carpeted lower door panels, deluxe steering wheels, courtesy lighting, and full wheel covers. For 1964, a two-door hardtop was added. A new 215 cu in (3.5 L) I6 was introduced, as well as a redesigned 326 cu in (5.3 L) V8 that now actually displaced 326 CID. Shortly after the start of the 1964 model year, the LeMans became available with a new performance package designated as the GTO, or ‘Gran Turismo Omologato’. The GTO option included a 389 cu in (6.4 L) V8 from the full-sized Pontiac line that produced 325 hp (242 kW) with a four-barrel carburetor or 348 hp in Tri-Power version featuring three two-barrels. Pontiac’s 1965 A-body intermediates included Tempest, Tempest Custom, Lemans, and GTO. The entire line was restyled, adding 3.1 inches (79 mm) to the overall length while retaining the same wheelbase and interior dimensions. The new model had Pontiac’s characteristic vertically stacked quad headlights. Overall weight was increased by about 100 lb (45 kg). The dashboard design was changed, and a breakerless transistor ignition was a new option. A 326 cubic inch High Output engine was available with 4-barrel carburation for Tempest and Lemans. The 326 HO produces 285 hp. Horsepower ratings for the GTO version were increased to 335 hp in the four-barrel and 360 hp with Tri-Power carburation. The LeMans line was expanded to include a four-door sedan for the 1965 model year. The pillared 4-door sedan was replaced by a four-door hardtop body style for the 1966 model year. The GTO became a separate model of its own for 1966, though retaining the same basic body as the Tempest and LeMans models. For 1966, all Pontiac intermediates got new styling featuring tunnelback rooflines on two-door hardtop and pillared coupes. While the GTO continued as a big-engined muscle car, the Tempest and LeMans models got a new SOHC 230 cu in (3.8 L) straight-six as the base engine. This engine, as well as the early Tempest with the transaxle in the rear, were ideas of Pontiac’s Chief Engineer John DeLorean (who became Pontiac’s general manager at the end of the 1965 model year). This engine was available in an economical one-barrel carburettor, 165 hp version as standard equipment on all Pontiac intermediates except GTOs. Optional on all Tempest and LeMans models except station wagons was a Sprint package that included a four-barrel version of the I6 that also included higher compression ratio and hotter cam, resulting in 207 horsepower, along with an “all-syncro” floor-mounted three-speed transmission with Hurst shifter, suspension kit, and body striping. Optional were a two-barrel 236 cu in (3.9 L) V8 rated at 250 hp or a 285 hp four-barrel 326 HO V8 with higher compression ratio and dual exhausts. The Sprint-optioned Tempest and LeMans models were not popular during the mid-to-late 1960s, being outsold by the bigger-engined GTO. The Sprint option and SOHC six-cylinder engine were discontinued after 1969, and replaced with a Chevrolet-built 250 cu in (4.1 L) OHV six-cylinder engine, becoming the base engine from 1970 to 1976 in most Pontiac intermediates.
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.
The 996 was replaced with the 997 in 2005. It retains the 996’s basic profile, with an even lower 0.28 drag coefficient, but draws on the 993 for detailing. In addition, the new headlights revert to the original bug-eye design from the teardrop scheme of the 996. Its interior is also similarly revised, with strong links to the earlier 911 interiors while at the same time looking fresh and modern. The 997 shares less than a third of its parts with the outgoing 996, but is still technically similar to it. Initially, two versions of the 997 were introduced— the rear-wheel-drive Carrera and Carrera S. While the base 997 Carrera had a power output of 321 hp from its 3.6 L Flat 6, a more powerful 3.8 L 350 hp Flat 6 powers the Carrera S. Besides a more powerful engine, the Carrera S also comes standard with 19 inch “Lobster Fork” style wheels, more powerful and larger brakes (with red calipers), lowered suspension with PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management: dynamically adjustable dampers), Xenon headlamps, and a sports steering wheel. In late 2005, Porsche introduced the all-wheel-drive versions to the 997 lineup. Carrera 4 models (both Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S) were announced as 2006 models. Both Carrera 4 models are wider than their rear-wheel-drive counterparts by 1.76 inches (32 mm) to cover wider rear tyres. The 0–100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration time for the Carrera 4S with the 350 hp engine equipped with a manual transmission was reported at 4.8 seconds. The 0–100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration for the Carrera S with the 350 hp was noted to be as fast as 4.2 seconds in a Motor Trend comparison, and Road & Track has timed it at 3.8 seconds. The 997 lineup includes both 2- and 4-wheel-drive variants, named Carrera and Carrera 4 respectively. The Targas (4 and 4S), released in November 2006, are 4-wheel-drive versions that divide the difference between the coupés and the cabriolets with their dual, sliding glass tops. The 997 received a larger air intake in the front bumper, new headlights, new rear taillights, new clean-sheet design direct fuel injection engines, and the introduction of a dual-clutch gearbox called PDK for the 2009 model year. They were also equipped with Bluetooth support. The change to the 7th generation (991) took place in the middle of the 2012 model year. A 2012 Porsche 911 can either be a 997 or a 991, depending on the month of the production.
The Proton Satria GTi was launched in 1998 with a 138 bhp 1.8-litre Mitsubishi-sourced 4G93P engine (“P” for Proton), originally found in the Mitsubishi Lancer GSR, but here without the turbo and with an increase in compression to compensate. The Satria GTi was developed and re-engineered as a traditional hot hatch by Lotus in Hethel, England. The Satria GTi could sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, making it among the fastest Proton production models ever produced. A new body kit was also adopted for better aerodynamics. The Satria GTi also wore a ‘Handling by Lotus’ badge on the rear hatch. The engine and handling of the Satria GTi were progressively updated and revised between 1998 and 2005. The Mitsubishi version was produced from 1998 until mid-2002. The VDO (Siemens) version had been in production from mid-2002 until 2005 when Proton ceased production. The Proton Satria GTi launched in the United Kingdom in November 1999 with a £14,500 price tag. It was equipped with air-conditioning, ABS, dual front power windows, electric mirrors and Recaro seats. Proton sold 160 units of the Satria GTi within its first six months in the U.K. Richard Hammond had reviewed the Proton Satria GTi alongside the more established Peugeot 206 GTi. The Satria GTi received more praise and approval as a traditional hot hatch, despite costing £500 more than the 206 GTi.
Now heading towards 25 years old are the first generation Impreza Turbo models. There have been seven noted versions of the WRX dating back from Subaru’s original World Rally Cross staging vehicles. Subaru adopted the name “WRX” to stand for “World Rally eXperimental” as all WRX versions (1992 to present) feature rally inspired technology, including all wheel drive, stiffened suspensions and turbocharged four cylinder engines. The STi versions were marketed with consecutive numbers. Another way to determine the version of a WRX was to look at the chassis code. All WRX sold between 1992 and 2000 have the beginning chassis code of GC8 2/4 door sedan or GF8 hatchback; this is followed by a letter from A to G. Coupe versions share the “GC” code with sedans, except in the US, where they have a separate chassis code of “GM”. In 1994, Subaru introduced Subaru Tecnica International (STi badged) versions of the WRX in Japan. These models were upgraded from the standard WRX in many categories, including blueprinted performance-tuned engines, transmissions, and suspensions. The STi versions of the WRX were immensely successful in rallies and popular among street racers but were only sold in the Japanese market. Compared to the WRX, the STi had mostly mechanical modifications. (STi prepped Subaru rally cars since 1988 including the Legacy RS, the WRX STi Version was just the first car with an actual STi badge, though with handcrafted tuning). The WRX debuted in November 1992 with 240 PS. The centre differential was a viscous coupling type, the rear limited slip differential was a viscous type. The WRX Type RA is a stripped down version of the WRX that was available in the Japanese market for people to purchase for motorsports and tuning. Targeted for race and rally, the RA versions were generally lighter in weight; featuring reduced soundproofing, manual windows, car horn delete, no air conditioning, no anti-lock brakes, and added racing features such as more robust engines, 5th injection, intercooler water spray and shorter gearing. The WRX Type RA uses a closer ratio gearbox and a three-spoke leather steering wheel from Nardi. The ra model chassis code between GC8-(000000 to 005000) are only sold to the race team by order. Close ratio transmission is anticipated race use, the gap between each gear is brought closer together and a specific close ratio transmission is used. In Europe, the WRX was introduced as the Impreza GT, and as the Impreza Turbo 2000 (UK). It came with 208 hp. A bewildering array of different versions would follow until the release of the second generation Impreza in 2000.
Envisioned as a luxury sports car, the Stag was designed to compete directly with the Mercedes-Benz SL. It started as a styling experiment, cut and shaped from a 1963–4 Triumph 2000 pre-production saloon, which had also been styled by Michelotti, and loaned to him by Harry Webster, Director of Engineering at Triumph. Their agreement was that if Webster liked the design, Triumph could use the prototype as the basis of a new Triumph model. Harry Webster, who was a long time friend of Giovanni Michelotti, whom he called “Micho”, loved the design and took the prototype back to England. The end result, a two-door drop head (convertible), had little in common with the styling of its progenitor 2000, but retained the suspension and drive line. Triumph liked the Michelotti design so much that they propagated the styling lines of the Stag into the new Mark 2 2000/2500 saloon and estate. The initial Stag design was based around the saloon’s 2.5-litre six cylinder engine, but Harry Webster intended the Stag, large saloons and estate cars to use a new Triumph-designed overhead cam 2.5-litre fuel injected V8. Under the direction of Harry Webster’s successor, Spen King in 1968, the new Triumph OHC 2.5 PI V8 was enlarged to 2997 cc to increase torque. To meet emission standards in the USA, a key target market, the troublesome mechanical fuel injection was dropped in favour of dual Zenith-Stromberg 175 CDSE carburettors. A key aim of Triumph’s engineering strategy at the time was to create a family of engines of different size around a common crankshaft. This would enable the production of power plants of capacity between 1.5 and 4 litres, sharing many parts, and hence offering economies of manufacturing scale and of mechanic training. A number of iterations of this design went into production, notably a slant four-cylinder engine used in the later Triumph Dolomite and Triumph TR7, and a variant manufactured by StanPart that was initially used in the Saab 99. The Stag’s V8 was the first of these engines into production. Sometimes described as two four-cylinder engines Siamesed together, it is more correct to say that the later four-cylinder versions were half a Stag engine. It has sometimes been alleged that Triumph were instructed to use the proven all-aluminium Rover V8, originally designed by Buick, but claimed that it would not fit. Although there was a factory attempt by Triumph to fit a Rover engine, which was pronounced unsuccessful, the decision to go with the Triumph V8 was probably driven more by the wider engineering strategy and by the fact that the Buick’s different weight and torque characteristics would have entailed substantial re-engineering of the Stag when it was almost ready to go on sale. Furthermore Rover, also owned by British Leyland, could not necessarily have supplied the numbers of V8 engines to match the anticipated production of the Stag anyway. As in the Triumph 2000 model line, unitary construction was employed, as was fully independent suspension – MacPherson struts in front, semi-trailing arms at the rear. Braking was by front disc and rear drum brakes, while steering was power-assisted rack and pinion. Although other bodystyles were envisaged, these never made production, so all Stags were four-seater convertible coupés. For structural rigidity – and to meet new American rollover standards of the time – the Stag required a B-pillar “roll bar” hoop connected to the windscreen frame by a T-bar. A removable hardtop was a popular factory option for the early Stags, and was later supplied as a standard fitment. The car was launched one year late in 1970, to a warm welcome at the various international auto shows. Sadly, it rapidly acquired a reputation for mechanical unreliability, usually in the form of overheating. These problems arose from a variety of causes, all of which are now well understood, and for which solutions have been identified, but at the time, they really hurt the reputation and hence sales of the car. They ranged from late changes to the engine which gave rise to design features that w
ere questionable from an engineering perspective, the choice of materials which necessitated the use of antifreeze all year round, the engine’s use of long, simplex roller link chains, which would first stretch and then often fail inside fewer than 25,000 miles; the arrangement of the cylinder head fixing studs, half of which were vertical and the other half at an angle causing sideways forces which caused premature failure of the cylinder head gaskets. and poor quality production from a plant troubled with industrial unrest and poor quality control. At the time, British Leyland never provided a budget sufficient to correct the few design shortcomings of the Triumph 3.0 litre OHC V8, and the dealers did not help matters. The Stag was always a relatively rare car. British Leyland had around 2,500 UK dealers when the Stag was on sale and a total of around 19,000 were sold in the UK. Thus the average dealer sold only seven or eight Stags during the car’s whole production run, or roughly one car per year. This meant that few dealers saw defective Stags often enough to recognise and diagnose the cause of the various problems. Many owners simply replaced the engine altogether, often with the Rover V8, Ford Essex V6, or even the Triumph 6-cylinder engine around which the car was originally designed. Perhaps thanks to such a reputation for its unreliable engine, only 25,877 cars were produced between 1970 and 1977. Of this number, 6780 were export models, of which 2871 went to the United States. The majority of cars were fitted with a Borg-Warner 3-speed automatic transmission. The other choice was a derivative of the ancient Triumph TR2 gearbox which had been modified and improved over the years for use in the TR series of sports cars. Other than the choice of transmissions there were very few factory-installed options. On early cars buyers could choose to have the car fitted with just the soft-top, just the hard-top (with the hood storage compartment empty) or with both. Later cars were supplied with both roofs. Three wheel styles were offered. The standard fitments were steel wheels with Rostyle “tin-plate” trims. Five-spoke alloy wheels were an option, as were a set of traditional steel spoke wheels with “knock-off”‘ hubcaps. The latter were more commonly found on Stags sold in North America on Federal Specification vehicles. Electric windows, power steering and power-assisted brakes were standard. Options included air conditioning, a luggage rack, uprated Koni shock absorbers, floor mats and Lucas Square Eight fog lamps, and a range of after-market products, most of which were dealer installed as optional accessories could also be fitted. Rather unusually for a 4-seat touring car, the accessory list included a sump protector plate that was never produced. This was probably included as a slightly “gimmicky” tribute to Triumph’s rallying successes. Nowadays, the Stag is seen in a very different light, with lots of very enthusiastic and knowledgeable owners who enjoy the good points of this attractive looking car and who revel in the fact that the market has not yet boosted prices into the unaffordable category, as one day will surely happen.
There were a series of classic Beetles here, parked in a line and attracting lots of interest as these cars always do.
Another rarity now, is this second generation Passat, which was launched in 1981. The platform, named B2, was once again based on the corresponding version of the Audi 80, which had been launched in 1978. The B2 Passat was slightly longer. In addition to the Passat hatchbacks and Variants (estate/wagon), there was also a conventional three-box saloon, which until the 1985 facelift was sold as the Volkswagen Santana in Europe. In the United States, the Passat/Santana was sold as the Volkswagen Quantum, available in three-door hatchback, four-door sedan, and a wagon model, but the five-door hatchback was never sold there and the three-door hatchback was dropped after less than two years. The four-wheel drive Syncro wagon version was introduced in October 1984, initially only with the more powerful five-cylinder engine. The Passat/Santana was also produced and commercialized in China, Mexico, South America and South Africa, too. In Mexico, it was marketed from 1984 to 1988 as VW Corsar and Corsar Variant (the 4-door saloon and 5-door wagon, respectively). In Argentina, from 1987 to 1991 as the VW Carat. In Brazil, the wagon model was badged VW Quantum. The Passat saloon and estate were produced in South Africa for the local market until 1987. Like the previous generation, the B2 Passat was mainly sold with four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. Unlike its predecessor, however, top-of the line versions received five-cylinder Audi or VW engines of 1.9–2.2 litres. The 5-cylinder version was sold in the US as the Quantum GL-5. In addition to four- and five-speed manuals and three-speed automatic gearboxes, the Passat/Santana was also available with the VW concern’s interesting 4+E transmission. This, also called the “Formel E” had a particularly high top gear, which combined with a freewheeling mechanism, provided better gas mileage. An automatic stop/start was also available in some markets. The four-wheel-drive system used in the Passat Variant Syncro shared the mechanics of the Audi 80 and not the Volkswagen Golf Syncro. The Syncro’s bottom plate was almost entirely different, requiring a transmission tunnel, a relocated gas tank and no spare tire well (to make room for the complex rear axle assembly). Only the more popular estate was reengineered. Syncro was also available in the North American market, only with the five-cylinder engine. In 1985, the range received a slight facelift, consisting of new, larger bumpers, interior retouches, a new front grille and new taillights on the hatchback versions. The three-door hatchback was discontinued, while the Santana nameplate was dropped in Europe. The saloon’s front end was now the same as the hatchback and estate. The North American version, still known as the Quantum, gained European-style composite headlamps. On 31 March 1988, production ended (although Syncro models continued in production until June) with 3,345,248 built in Germany. World production totalled approximately 4.5 million units.
VW launched the second generation Golf in August of 1983, nearly 9 years after production of the first model to bear the name had begun. This time, a GTi version was included in the product plans from the start, and the new GTi was announced in May 1984. Like the regular Golf 2, it was almost 7″ longer than the Mark 1, with 3″ extra in the wheelbase and a 2″ wider track. It was also 10% heavier, but with significantly improved aerodynamics, resulting from attention to detail which included integrated gutters and flush glass as well as more rounded styling, the cd fell from 0.42 to 0.34. Initially it was powered by the same 1781cc fuel injected engine, but there were all round disc brakes and longer suspension travel improved the ride. Competitors came snapping at its heels, though, so after 2/5 years, VW responded by giving the car 24% more power, achieved by doubling the number of valves to 16. Lower stiffer suspension and bigger front brakes were also fitted, all of which restored the Golf GTi 16V to the top of the Hot Hatch pile. For most people that is, though the 8v car retained a following thanks to its broader torque spread. This less powerful car changed from a mechanical K-Jetronic injection system to a new Digifant electronic set up in 1987 at which point the front quarterlights were deleted, and a digital instrument pack became an option on the 16v car. Power steering became standard in late 1990 and the 8v gained the interior from the 16v model. Production ran through to February 1992, by which time the Mark 3 GTi was waiting in the wings. over 600,000 were built over an 8 year period, around 10% of all Mark 2 Golf production.
I knew that this event was likely to be fairly sparsely attended, and so it proved to be. Let’s hope that it will turn out to be “third time lucky” at Re’Fuel and that I get a date blessed with decent weather and full attendance. With the event only taking place once a month – currently on the third Sunday – and an events calendar which looks pretty packed for the coming weeks, it may be a while before I get another chance, but I certainly will be back.