The popular Sunday morning versions of the Wheels on Wednesday series of events reappeared on the calendar for the winter months, with a new venue, the SixWays stadium area, which is just off junction 6 of the M5 on the outskirts of Worcester, and I attended one of these in November 2021. That was billed as the last of the year and we were told there would be a pause for the festive season but the event would return early in 2022. And sure enough, a date was announced for the second weekend in February. With little competing for my time in the diary, and anyway mindful of how good these events are, I booked a ticket. As the date neared, though, the weather forecast looked pretty terrible, and indeed on the day itself, it turned out the forecasters were not wrong. It was not particularly cold but it was very wet and the wind meant that an umbrella was something of a challenge. I decided to give it a go, but expecting that it would be much quieter than usual. And that is how it was. Marshalls were well wrapped up and directing cars on to the hard standing, but there were not that many cars there before me, and whilst more did arrive, the site was far from full. Not surprisingly, more of the cars were more modern that you usually get, as this was not really the sort of day for getting the classic out, but there were some, and there were enough cars to present a decently lengthy report of the event. So, enjoy in the dry what I got rather wet taking in:
There was a strong showing of Abarths, which is perhaps not a surprise, as many owners are undeterred by unfavourable weather and as the cars are all pretty new, they are not going to suffer or struggle in the way that older classics might do. On this occasion the were all 500-based models, a car which has been on sale now since the end of 2008, following a launch at the Paris Show that year. Since that time there have been a number of detailed changes to the standard cars and a lot of limited editions. Those who really know the marque can spot most of them, but some are so subtle that unless there is a badge you can see, you will not ne quite sure which version you are looking at. It used to be relatively easy, when the model was first launched, as there was only one version as shipped ex works called the 500. It had a 135 bhp 1.4 litre turbo-charged engine coupled to a five speed manual gearbox, with 16″ alloys as standard, and the option of 17″ wheels, and a colour palette comprising of two whites (BossaNova White, the standard colour, or the pearlescent Funk White), Red (Pasadoble), Pale Grey (Campovolo) or Black. If you wanted more power – 160 bhp – then you could order an Esseesse kit, which came in a large wooden crate, containing new wheels, springs, an ECU upgrade, the Monza exhaust system and badging. It was dealer fitted and could be applied at any time within the first 12 months or 10,000 miles from registration. Needless to say, it proved popular. As were many of the optional extras, with stickers for the sides, a large scorpion for the bonnet and even a chequered pattern for the roof among the personalisation options offered. These early cars are quite rare, as mot that many were sold but we had one among the group which was Andrew Hurley’s Funk White painted Esseesse.
Having used the legendary 695 badging from the 1960s on the Tributo cars, at the 2012 Geneva Show, Abarth dusted off the 595 name that had been used on the less powerful of the Nuova 500 based cars of the same generation, and created two new versions which we should think of as Series 2 cars, the 595 Turismo and Competizione, both of which could be bought in either closed or open top C guise, with either the 5 speed manual or robotised automated gearshifts. Both models had the 160 bhp engine as standard. Effectively they were a replacement for the Esseesse kit, and it meant that the cars were produced complete at the factory, rather than needing the dealer to undertake the upgrade (and the associated paperwork), though Abarth did not withdraw the Esseesse kits from the market for some while. Turismo, as the name suggests was aimed slightly less extreme in intent, featuring standard leather upholstery, upgraded dampers and climate control, Xenon headlights and Alutex interior details. The sportier Abarth 595 Competizione replaced the leather seats with Sabelt cloth sport seats and Alutex with aluminium, while adding p-cross-drilled brakes and the Record Monza dual-mode exhaust. Some new colours were introduced, and very soon one of those, Record Grey, frequently combined with a tan interior became one of the most popular choices. Mitch Witts’ car seen here shows why it is so popular.
The Series 4 version of the familiar 595 reached the markets in the middle of 2016. After rumours had circulated all winter following the launch of the facelifted Fiat 500 last year, Abarth finally unveiled the Series 4 at the end of May 2016. Initially, we were told that the cars would not be available in the UK until September, but that came forward somewhat, with dealers all receiving demo cars in June, and the first customers taking delivery in July. Three regular production versions of both the closed car and the open-topped C were initially available, all badged 595, and called Custom, Turismo and Competizione, as before, though numerous limited edition models have since appeared and in most case disappeared. The most significant changes with the Series 4 are visual, with a couple of new colours, including the much asked for Modena Yellow and a different red, called Abarth Red, which replaces both the non-metallic Officina and – slightly surprisingly – the tri-coat pearlescent Cordolo Red. as well as styling changes front and rear. The jury is still out on these, with many, me included, remaining to be convinced. At the front, the new air intake does apparently allow around 15 – 20 % more air in and out, which will be welcome, as these cars do generate quite a lot of heat under the bonnet. Competizione models for the UK retain the old style headlights, as they have Xenon lights as standard, whereas the Custom and Turismo cars have reshaped units. At the back, there are new light clusters and a new rear bumper and diffuser. Inside, the most notable change is the replacement of the Blue & Me system with a more modern uConnect Audio set up, which brings a new colour screen to the dash. Mechanically, there is an additional 5 bhp on the Custom (now 145) and Turismo (now 165 bhp) and the option of a Limited Slip Diff for the Competizione, which is likely to prove a popular option. Details of the interior trim have changed, with a filled-in glovebox like the US market cars have always had, and electric windows switches that are like the US ones, as well as a part Alcantara trim to the steering wheel in Competizione cars. These cars have now been on offer for five years and with Abarth sales on the rise, this is the model you see most often.
There have been an almost bewildering array of limited production models over the years, Among them is the 695 XSR Yamaha Edition, a limited production car that was made in 2017. Created in recognition of the fact that for the third year running, in 2017 Abarth was to be Official Sponsor and Official Car Supplier of the Yamaha Factory Racing Team, competing in the 2017 FIM MotoGP World Championship. In the wake of the Abarth 595 Yamaha Factory Racing and the 695 biposto Yamaha Factory Racing Edition, the 695 XSR Yamaha Limited Edition special series is available exclusively with a Pista Grey livery: only 695 sedans and 695 convertibles will be made. The new car was created to celebrate the Yamaha XSR900 Abarth, which is the first exclusive motorcycle to spring from the collaboration between the two brands and which sports the same grey livery with red trim as the 695 XSR, as well as sharing many of its features. The special series makes extensive use of carbon fibre to demonstrate its affinity with the front fairing, front mudguard and saddle cover of the two-wheel Yamaha. The Abarth 695 XSR and the Yamaha XSR900 Abarth also share Akrapovič ultralight exhaust developed in the racing world to boost the personality, sound and performance of both vehicles. On the Abarth car, the carbon fibre tailpipes enhance the looks and technology of the exhaust system. The XSR logo on the tailgate distinguishes the Abarth 695 XSR, while an aluminium badge identifies the sequential number of 695 units for each body type. Other carbon fibre details, in addition to the mirror caps and Akrapovič tailpipes, are available as optional equipment, such as dashboard fascia, pedal covers, gear knob and kick plate. The car uses the 1.4 T-Jet engine delivering 165 bhp. Equipment on this special series includes Koni rear suspension and Eibach springs, 17” Supersport alloy rims with Matt Black finish, Satin Chrome accents on handles and badge supports, red details on bumpers and mirrors, red brake callipers and a braking system with perforated discs. This version can be customised even further using the tuning kit to increase the power to 180 HP, improve handling by fitting a Koni front suspension with FSD (Frequency Selective Damping) valve and make braking even prompter with 305x28mm perforated and self-ventilating Brembo floating front discs with high-performance Ferodo HP 1000/1 front brake pads. It also features the new UconnectTM 7″ HD LIVE system integrated with Apple CarPlay allows iPhone users to access contents such as Apple Maps, Messages, telephone calls, Apple Music, also with Siri voice assistance.
Sole Alfa here was a new car, too, a Giulia Veloce.
Quite a rarity is this Alpina D3 Touring from the recently superceded F30 generation of 3 Series cars.
The Mark I Ford Escort was introduced in the UK at the end of 1967, making its show debut at Brussels Motor Show in January 1968, replacing the successful, long-running Anglia. The car was presented in continental Europe as a product of Ford’s European operation. Escort production commenced at the Halewood plant in England during the closing months of 1967, and for left hand drive markets during September 1968 at the Ford plant in Genk. Initially the continental Escorts differed slightly from the UK built ones under the skin. The front suspension and steering gear were differently configured and the brakes were fitted with dual hydraulic circuits; also the wheels fitted on the Genk-built Escorts had wider rims. At the beginning of 1970, continental European production transferred to a new plant on the edge of Saarlouis, West Germany. The Escort was a commercial success in several parts of western Europe, but nowhere more than in the UK, where the national best seller of the 1960s, BMC’s Austin/Morris 1100 was beginning to show its age while Ford’s own Cortina had grown, both in dimensions and in price, beyond the market niche at which it had originally been pitched. In June 1974, six years into the car’s UK introduction, Ford announced the completion of the two millionth Ford Escort, a milestone hitherto unmatched by any Ford model outside the US. It was also stated that 60% of the two million Escorts had been built in Britain. In West Germany cars were built at a slower rate of around 150,000 cars per year, slumping to 78,604 in 1974 which was the last year for the Escort Mark I. Many of the German built Escorts were exported, notably to Benelux and Italy; from the West German domestic market perspective the car was cramped and uncomfortable when compared with the well-established and comparably priced Opel Kadett, and it was technically primitive when set against the successful imported Fiat 128 and Renault 12. Subsequent generations of the Escort made up some of the ground foregone by the original model, but in Europe’s largest auto-market the Escort sales volumes always came in well behind those of the General Motors Kadett and its Astra successor. The Escort had conventional rear-wheel drive and a four-speed manual gearbox, or three-speed automatic transmission. The suspension consisted of MacPherson strut front suspension and a simple live axle mounted on leaf springs. The Escort was the first small Ford to use rack-and-pinion steering. The Mark I featured contemporary styling cues in tune with its time: a subtle Detroit-inspired “Coke bottle” waistline and the “dogbone” shaped front grille – arguably the car’s main stylistic feature. Similar Coke bottle styling featured in the larger Cortina Mark III (also built in West Germany as the Taunus) launched in 1970. Initially, the Escort was sold as a two-door saloon (with circular front headlights and rubber flooring on the “De Luxe” model). The “Super” model featured rectangular headlights, carpets, a cigar lighter and a water temperature gauge. A two-door estate was introduced at the end of March 1968 which, with the back seat folded down, provided a 40% increase in maximum load space over the old Anglia 105E estate, according to the manufacturer. The estate featured the same engine options as the saloon, but it also included a larger, 7 1⁄2-inch-diameter clutch, stiffer rear springs and in most configurations slightly larger brake drums or discs than the saloon. A panel van appeared in April 1968 and the 4-door saloon (a bodystyle the Anglia was never available in for UK market) in 1969. Underneath the bonnet was the Kent Crossflow engine in 1.1 and 1.3 litre versions. A 940 cc engine was also available in some export markets such as Italy and France. This tiny engine remained popular in Italy, where it was carried over for the Escort Mark II, but in France it was discontinued during 1972. There was a 1300GT performance version, with a tuned 1.3 L Crossflow (OHV) engine with a Weber carburettor and uprated suspension. This version featured additional instrumentation with a tachometer, battery charge indicator, and oil pressure gauge. The same tuned 1.3 L engine was also used in a variation sold as the Escort Sport, that used the flared front wings from the AVO range of cars, but featured trim from the more basic models. Later, an “executive” version of the Escort was produced known as the “1300E”. This featured the same 13″ road wheels and flared wings of the Sport, but was trimmed in an upmarket, for that time, fashion with wood trim on the dashboard and door cappings. A higher performance version for rallies and racing was available, the Escort Twin Cam, built for Group 2 international rallying. It had an engine with a Lotus-made eight-valve twin camshaft head fitted to the 1.5 L non-crossflow block, which had a bigger bore than usual to give a capacity of 1,557 cc. This engine had originally been developed for the Lotus Elan. Production of the Twin Cam, which was originally produced at Halewood, was phased out as the Cosworth-engined RS1600 (RS denoting Rallye Sport) production began. The most famous edition of the Twin Cam was raced on behalf of Ford by Alan Mann Racing in the British Saloon Car Championship in 1968 and 1969, sporting a full Formula 2 Ford FVC 16-valve engine producing over 200 hp. The Escort, driven by Australian driver Frank Gardner went on to comfortably win the 1968 championship. The Mark I Escorts became successful as a rally car, and they eventually went on to become one of the most successful rally cars of all time. The Ford works team was practically unbeatable in the late 1960s / early 1970s, and arguably the Escort’s greatest victory was in the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally, co-driven by Finnish legend Hannu Mikkola and Swedish co-driver Gunnar Palm. This gave rise to the Escort Mexico (1598cc “crossflow”-engined) special edition road versions in honour of the rally car. Introduced in November 1970, 10,352 Mexico Mark I’s were built. In addition to the Mexico, the RS1600 was developed with 1,601 cc Cosworth BDA which used a Crossflow block with a 16-valve Cosworth cylinder head, named for “Belt Drive A Series”. Both the Mexico and RS1600 were built at Ford’s Advanced Vehicle Operations (AVO) facility located at the Aveley Plant in South Essex. As well as higher performance engines and sports suspension, these models featured strengthened bodyshells utilising seam welding in places of spot welding, making them more suitable for competition. After updating the factory team cars with a larger 1701 cc Cosworth BDB engine in 1972 and then with fuel injected BDC, Ford also produced an RS2000 model as an alternative to the somewhat temperamental RS1600, featuring a 2.0 litre Pinto (OHC) engine. This also clocked up some rally and racing victories; and pre-empted the hot hatch market as a desirable but affordable performance road car. Like the Mexico and RS1600, this car was produced at the Aveley plant. Seen here was the rare Twin Cam.
Ford played much the same guessing game about whether there would be an RS version of the third generation Focus as they had done with the earlier versions. Production of the regular cars started in late 2010, but it was not until the 2015 Geneva Motor Show before the production ready MKIII Ford Focus RS was unveiled. It came packing the turbocharged 2.3-litre inline-four engine found in the Mustang EcoBoost. In the Focus RS, the engine itself produces 350 hp. Power is sent to all four wheels via Ford’s all-new Torque-Vectoring All-Wheel-Drive system with a rear drive unit designed by GKN, as well as upgraded suspension and brakes. As well as that, the new Focus RS will be fitted with Drive Modes – including an industry-first Drift Mode that allows controlled oversteer drifts – and Launch Control. The RS will boast a model specific aerodynamic package that helps to differentiate it from other Focus models. The RS is capable of accelerating to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.7 seconds. Sales finally started in mid 2016, with long waiting lists having been created, though Ford did eventually catch up with expanded production levels allowing them to meet the demand.
Introduced on 7 November 1996, the fifth generation retained an FF layout with an independent front suspension and 63/37 weight distribution. Most fifth-generation Honda Preludes came with 16-inch alloy wheels with all-season 205/50 R16 87V tyres, featured the 11.1-inch front brakes like the 1996 VTEC model, and most Preludes also received a 5-lug hub (not the 4-lug wheel hub of older models). The Prelude was only available in three models for Canada and two models for the US (the Base and Type SH). All models came with 16-inch alloy wheels and 200HP (203 PS). The 2.0i and JDM Si trims came with 195/60 R15 steel wheel, and the JDM Xi came with 14-inch steel wheels. Unlike the North American market Preludes, JDM Preludes came with rear windscreen wipers, except for the Xi. Australian and JDM Preludes weigh less than American and European models: VTi-R manual weighs 1,268 kg (2,795 lb), autos weigh 1,298 kg (2,862 lb), and the ATTS weighs 1,308 kg (2,884 lb). The ATTS model received Honda’s Active Torque Transfer System; the equivalent model was called the Type S in Japan, VTi-S in Europe, and Type SH (“Super Handling”) in North America. ATTS was designed to counteract the understeer inherent in a front-wheel drive car, but the Prelude’s 63.1 percent front weight distribution was too much for the system to successfully mask. The fifth-generation Prelude marked a return to the more square bodystyle of the third generation (1987–1991), in an attempt to curb slumping sales of the fourth-generation bodystyle. All models and trim packages stayed within the BB-chassis code (BB5-BB9) and housed either an H-series or F-Series engine: For the 1999 model year, the Prelude received a mid-cycle refresh; this included a 5 bhp increase in power for manual (200 bhp) from 195 bhp and automatic (195 bhp) from 190 bhp transmission models, a new front grille featuring a small “Prelude” badge, an access door to the cabin air filtration system allowing for cabin air filter replacement without modifications, and changes to available colours. Sales weakened beginning with the third generation Prelude, particularly due to competition from Honda’s other offerings. The sixth-generation Accord coupe received an exclusive front fascia, rear tail lights, wheels and many other body panels, now being marketed alongside the Prelude with shared brochures in Canada, yet its sedan roots gave it much more utility than the comparatively cramped Prelude, and the option of a V6 engine gave North American buyers an appealing alternative. The sixth-generation Civic Si coupe was considerably less expensive than the Prelude as well, while also providing better fuel economy ratings. The Honda S2000 was another offering that while more expensive than the Prelude, offered rear wheel drive, a six-speed transmission, 40 extra horsepower, and a convertible top. The exterior dimensions of the Prelude were no longer in compliance with Japanese government regulations, and the additional costs resulting from this contributed to the popularity of smaller Honda products. Production ceased in late 2001.
There were a couple of examples of the Civic Type R here. Friend and fellow Abarth Owner. John Littlewood, bought one of the current models a few weeks ago and he brought that along. Elsewhere in the event was an example of the previous generation model, as well.
The i20N went on sale last summer and received very favourable reviews, and now cars are starting to appear on our roads.
Few would have guessed that the XJS would run for over 20 years, but eventually it came time for its replacement, and the car charged with so doing was the XK8. Development began in 1992, with design work having starting earlier, in late 1991. By October 1992 a design was chosen and later frozen for production in 1993. Prototypes were built from December 1993 after the X100 was given formal approval and design patents were filed in June 1994. Development concluded in 1996, at which point the car was launched. The first-generation XK series shares its platform with the Aston Martin DB7, and both cars are derived from the Jaguar XJS, though the platform has been extensively changed. One of the revisions is the use of the second generation of Jaguar’s independent rear suspension unit, taken from the XJ40. The XK8 was available in coupé or convertible body styles and with the then new 4.0-litre Jaguar AJ-V8 engine. In 1998 the XKR was introduced with a supercharged version of the engine. 2003 the engines were replaced by the 4.2-litre AJ34 engines in both the normally aspirated and supercharged versions. Equipment levels were generous and there was a high standard of fit and finish. Both models came with all-leather interior, burl walnut trim, and side airbags. Jeremy Clarkson, during a Top Gear test-drive, likened the interior of the original XK8 to sitting inside Blenheim Palace. The model ran for 10 years before being replaced by the X150 model XK.
Also here was the current Jaguar sports car, the F Type.
Sole Maserati here was my Ghibli Hybrid.
This is an example of the second generation Mazdaspeed3 MPS. The 2010 Mazdaspeed3 retained the MZR 2.3 DISI Turbo engine. New ECU tweaks provided for a more useful power curve; additionally the gear ratios were revised. The 6-speed manual transmission has a wider 2nd through 5th gear ratio than the previous generation. A torque-sensing conical limited-slip differential (LSD) is standard. The 2nd generation Mazdaspeed3 comes with larger diameter stabilizers with longer mount spans and wider Dunlop 18-inch tires. Front brakes have large diameter 12.6-inch ventilated discs. A functional hood scoop was added to allow for a denser charge to the top-mounted intercooler while also keeping heat soak to a minimum, a common complaint with the 1st generation Mazdaspeed3. The newer generation MZR engine contained updated pistons with a “dish” around the spark plug area. This was probably to keep the fuel mix concentrated around the spark plug for better combustion. The updated car came with some additional weight, which was offset by the ECU and gear updates. From a standstill a 2010 Mazdaspeed3 can reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.2 seconds, and the 1⁄4 mile in 13.9 seconds at 102 mph. The suspension and steering have been changed to improve performance, most notably with the addition of electric-assisted steering. On the 2013 models, the wheels were powdercoated a black hue, and the mirrors and rear valance were black. The U.S. EPA rates the 2013 Mazdaspeed3 at 18 mpg‑US (22 mpg‑imp) City and 25 mpg‑US (30 mpg‑imp) Highway on premium gasoline. The 2013 model year was the final year of production for this generation of Mazdaspeed3 vehicles. Although well received by the press, sales were not strong, with few being sold in the UK.
The MP4 12C was the first ever production car wholly designed and built by McLaren, and their first production road car produced since the McLaren F1, which ended production in 1998. McLaren started developing the car in 2007 and secretly purchased a Ferrari 360 to use as a test mule. The mule called MV1 was used to test the 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine. The car also featured side vents for additional cooling which were later incorporated in the final production model. Later in the year, the company purchased an Ultima GTR to test the braking system and suspension components, that mule was called the MV2. The space frame and body of that car were modified in order to accommodate the new components. Later another prototype was purchased which was another Ferrari 360 dubbed the MV3 which was used to test the exhaust system. McLaren then built two prototypes themselves called CP1 and CP2 incorporating the Carbon Monocell monocoque which were used for testing the heat management system and performance. The MP4-12C features a carbon fibre composite chassis, and is powered by a longitudinally-mounted Rear mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout McLaren M838T 3.8 litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine, developing approximately 600 PS (592 bhp) at 7500 rpm and around 600 Nm (443 lb/ft) of torque at 5600 rpm. The car makes use of Formula 1-sourced technologies such as “brake steer”, where the inside rear wheel is braked during fast cornering to reduce understeer. Power is transmitted to the wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The entire drivetrain is the first to be entirely designed and produced in house by McLaren. The chassis is based around a F1 style one-piece carbon fibre tub, called the Carbon MonoCell, weighing only 80 kg (176 lb). The MonoCell is made in a single pressing by using a set of patented processes, using Bi-Axial and Tri-Axial carbon fibre multi-axial fabrics produced by Formax UK Ltd. with the MonoCell manufactured by Carbo Tech in Salzburg, Austria. This has reduced the time required to produce a MonoCell from 3,000 hours for the F1 and 500 hours for the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, to 4 hours for the MP4-12C. The McLaren MP4-12C utilizes a unique hydraulic configuration to suspend the vehicle as opposed to more traditional coil springs, dampers and anti-roll bars. What McLaren has called “ProActive Chassis Control,” the system consists of an array of high and low pressure valves interconnected from both left to right and front to back, and the typical anti-roll bars were omitted entirely. When high pressure meets high pressure under roll conditions, stiffness results; and subsequently when high pressure meets low under heave and warp, more give is allowed, ultimately providing a firmer, competent suspension setup in spirited driving, and a very plush, compliant and comfortable ride when moving at slower, constant speeds. The car has a conventional two side-by-side seating arrangement, unlike its predecessor the McLaren F1 which featured an irregular three seat formation (front centre, two behind either side). To make up for this however, the car’s central console is narrower than in other cars, seating the driver closer to the centre. Interior trim and materials can be specified in asymmetric configuration – known as “Driver Zone”. The final car was unveiled to the public on 9 September 2009 before the company’s launch in 2010. A convertible version of the car called the MP4-12C Spider, as added to the range in 2012. The name’s former prefix ‘MP4’ has been the chassis designation for all McLaren Formula 1 cars since 1981. ‘MP4′ stands for McLaren Project 4 as a result of the merger between Ron Dennis’ Project 4 organisation with McLaren. The ’12’ refers to McLaren’s internal Vehicle Performance Index through which it rates key performance criteria both for competitors and for its own cars. The criteria combine power, weight, emissions, and aerodynamic efficiency. The coalition of all these values delivers an overall performance index that has been used as a benchmark throughout the car’s development. The ‘C’ refers to Carbon, highlighting the application of carbon fibre technology to the future range of McLaren sports cars. At the end of 2012, the name of the MP4-12C was reduced to 12C – that name is usually used when referring to the coupe. The open-top version now being called the 12C Spider.
There were a few AMG-badged models here, with the current range-topping sports car, the AMG GT being the one that my camera recorded.
The MG Metro was launched in May 1982, to more than a few howls of protest from MG purists who decried the fact that it was not a proper sports car. It was, however, a well-considered upgrade on the more prosaic Austin models, and it proved popular from the outset. Styling touches included MG badging, liberal use of red inside – even the seat belts – and different wheel trims. Mechanically there were alterations, too. The changes between the MG engine (taken directly from the Mini Cooper) and the standard 1275 included a modified cylinder head, with larger valves and improved porting, altered cam profile and larger carburettor leading to a 20% increase in BHP to 72 bhp. At the October 1982 Birmingham Motor Show the MG Metro Turbo variant was first shown. With a quoted bhp of 93, 0–60 mph in 8.9 seconds, and top speed of 115 mph (185 km/h) this car had few direct competitors at the time, although the growing demand for “hot hatches” meant that it soon had a host of competitors including the Ford Fiesta XR2, Peugeot 205 GTI and Renault 5 GT Turbo. This model had a few addition modifications bolted on over the normally aspirated MG model to give an additional 21 bhp. Aside from the turbocharger and exhaust system itself, and what was (at the time) a relatively sophisticated boost delivery and control system, the MG Turbo variant incorporated stiffer suspension (purportedly with engineering input from Lotus), and an uprated crankshaft of nitrided steel and sodium-cooled exhaust valves. Both MG variants were given a “sporty” interior with red seat belts, red carpets and a sports-style steering wheel. The Turbo also benefitted from an LCD boost pressure gauge. The Turbo also received alloy wheels, black wheel arch extensions, blacked out trim, a rear spoiler surrounding the windshield, and prominent “TURBO” decals. While it retained rear drums, the front disc brakes were changed to ventilated units. The later MG variants were emblazoned with the MG logo both inside and out, which only served to fuel claims of badge engineering from some of the more steadfast MG enthusiasts. Others believed that this sentiment was unfounded, particularly in the case of the turbo variant, due to the undeniably increased performance and handling when compared to the non-MG models. From 1983, the MG badge also found its way onto higher performance versions of the Maestro, and shortly afterwards it was adopted for higher performance versions of the Montego. Sadly, there are relatively few survivors.
No danger of missing this R35 generation GT-R, with its very bright green hue.
During the 1990s, Porsche was facing financial troubles and rumours of a proposed takeover were being spread. The signature air-cooled flat-6 of the 911 was reaching the limits of its potential as made evident by the 993. Stricter emissions regulations world wide further forced Porsche to think of a replacement of the air-cooled unit. In order to improve manufacturing processes, Porsche took the aid of leading Japanese car manufacturer Toyota whose consultants would assist in the overhaul of the Zuffenhausen manufacturing facility introducing mass production techniques which would allow Porsche to carry out production processes more efficiently. Porsche had realised that in order to keep the 911 in production, it would need radical changes. This led to the development of the 996. The sharing of development between the new 911 and the entry level Boxster model allowed Porsche to save development costs. This move also resulted in interchangeable parts between the two models bringing down maintenance costs. The Porsche 996 was a new design developed by Pinky Lai under Porsche design chief Harm Lagaay from 1992 to 1994; it was the first 911 that was completely redesigned, and carried over little from its predecessor as Porsche wanted the design team to design a 911 for the next millennium. Featuring an all new body work, interior, and the first water-cooled engine, the 996 replaced the 993 from which only the front suspension, rear multi-link suspension, and a 6-speed manual transmission were retained in revised form. The 996 had a drag coefficient of Cd=0.30 resulting from hours spent in the wind tunnel. The 996 is 185 mm (7 in) longer and 40 mm (2 in) wider than its predecessor. It is also 45% stiffer courtesy of a chassis formed from high-strength steel. Additionally, it is 50 kg (110 lb) lighter despite having additional radiators and coolant. All of the M96 engines offered in the 996 (except for the variants fitted to the Turbo and GT2/GT3 models) are susceptible to the Porsche Intermediate Shaft Bearing issue which can potentially cause serious engine failure if not addressed via a retrofit. The 996 was initially available in a coupé or a cabriolet (Convertible) bodystyle with rear-wheel drive, and later with four-wheel drive, utilising a 3.4 litre flat-6 engine generating a maximum power output of 296 bhp. The 996 had the same front end as the entry-level Boxster. After requests from the Carrera owners about their premium cars looking like a “lower priced car that looked just like theirs did”, Porsche redesigned the headlamps of the Carrera in 2002 similar to the high performance Turbo’s headlamps. The design for the initial “fried egg” shaped headlamps could be traced back to the 1997 911 GT1 race car. In 2000, Porsche introduced the 996 Turbo, equipped with a four-wheel-drive system and a 3.6-litre, twin-turbocharged and intercooled flat-six engine generating a maximum power output of 420 bhp, making the car capable of accelerating from 0–60 mph in 4.2 seconds. An X50 option which included larger turbochargers and intercoolers along with revised engine control software became available from the factory in 2002, increasing power output to 451 bhp. In 2005, Porsche introduced the Turbo S, which had the X50 option included as standard equipment, with the formerly optional Carbon fibre-reinforced Silicon Carbide (C/SiC) composite ceramic brakes (PCCB) also included as standard. In 2000, power output on the base Carrera model was increased to 300 bhp. 2001 marked the final year of production for the base Carrera 4 Coupé in narrow body format. In 2002, the standard Carrera models underwent the above-mentioned facelift. In addition, engine capacity was also increased to 3.6-litres across the range, yielding gains of 15 bhp for the naturally aspirated models. 2002 also marked the start of the production of the 996 based Targa model, with a sliding glass “green house” roof system as introduced on its predecessor. It also features a rear glass hatch which gave the driver access to the storage compartment. Also in 2002, the Carrera 4S model was first introduced.
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.
Parked up with them was an example of the second generation Panamera.
Following the success of the Scimitar GT Coupe, Reliant looked as to how to evolve the car and Tom Karen of Ogle was asked to submit some body designs based on the Ogle Design GTS estate car experiment for a new four seater Scimitar, the SE5 Reliant Scimitar. Managing Director Ray Wiggin, Chief Engineer John Crosthwaite and fibreglass body expert Ken Wood went to Ogle’s in Letchworth to look at a couple of mock-up body designs for the new SE5. Wiggin told Wood to go ahead and do a proper master. The SE5 was conceived and ready for the 1968 Motor Show in under 12 months. For the SE5 John Crosthwaite and his team designed a completely different longer chassis frame, revised and improved suspension, new and relocated fuel tank, a rollover bar, new cooling system, spare wheel mounted in the nose to give increased rear space and a 17 1⁄4 gallon) fuel tank. When designing the chassis Crosthwaite worked closely with Ogle body stylist Peter Bailey to modify and refine the prototype. The SE5 came with the same 3.0 litre Ford Essex engine used in the SE4a/b. This gave the SE5 a claimed top speed of over 120 mph. A Borg-Warner automatic transmission was added as an option in 1970 and by 1971, overdrive on the 4-speed manual was offered. In 1972 several improvements were included in the upgrade to SE5A, including a boost in power. The extra 7 hp and maximum engine speed raised performance quite a bit and the GTE was now capable of 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds and top speed was raised to 121 mph. The SE5’s flat dashboard also gave way to a curved and moulded plastic one. The 5a can be recognised from a 5 at the rear by the reverse lamps which are below the bumper on the earlier model and are incorporated into the rear clusters on the later version (these were also carried over onto the SE6 and later). 4311 SE5s were produced. It was an instant success; GT production was cut down and the proportion of GTEs to GTs being built was four-to-one. Reliant increased their volume by 20 per cent in the first year. The 5A model sold more than any other Scimitar, with 5105 manufactured. Princess Anne was given a manual overdrive SE5 as a joint 20th birthday present and Christmas present in November 1970 by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. It was Air Force blue in colour with a grey leather interior and registered 1420 H in recognition of her position as Colonel-in-Chief of the 14th/20th Hussars. Princess Anne subsequently owned eight other GTEs.
A real rarity was this R17 Gordini. Effectively a coupe version of the Renault R12 saloon, there were two distinct models, the R15 and R17, both launched at the same time, a the 1971 Paris Show. The main visual differences between the two cars were their headlight configuration (the 15 had two rectangular headlights whereas the 17 had four round headlights) and their rear side windows. The R15 TL had the same 1289cc engine as the R12, whereas the R15 TS and R17 TL had a more powerful 1565cc engine from the Renault R16 TL and the top of the range R17TS had more power from its fuel injected engine – 109 bhp, rather than 90bhp and a five speed gearbox. At the 1974 Paris Motor Show, the R17TS was renamed the “17 Gordini”. This new name was an attempt to fill the gap left by the recently discontinued Renault 12 Gordini, nothing was changed beyond the badging. There was a minor facelift announced in March 1976, most noticeable on the grille of the 15, where the chrome edge surround was replaced with a body-coloured one: the headlights were enlarged and brought forward to a position approximately flush with the surround. The grille of the 17 also lost its chrome surround, although on both cars the partially chrome front bumper now curved up at the edges to roughly half-way up the height of the grille. The R15 and R17 remained in production until summer 1979 when they were both replaced by the Renault Fuego. They were reasonably popular when new, though they cost rather more than the Ford Capri, the main UK market rival, but there are only a handful of survivors in the UK, so this example of the facelifted style was a real rarity.
In 1999 Renault presented the first officially branded RenaultSport Clio, this was the third Clio produced by the RenaultSport division succeeding the Clio 16V and Clio Williams. This new Clio, the 172 was based on the 3 door Clio II shell however had numerous features over the standard car including wider arches, restyled bumpers, side skirts and 15-inch OZ F1 alloy wheels. Power was delivered by the F4R730 engine, a 2.0-litre 16-valve Inline 4 engine with a Variable valve timing (VVT) system via a dephaser on the intake camshaft pulley. The engine was a modified version of the F4R used in models such as the Laguna and Espace and was modified by Mecachrome to deliver a power output of 172 PS. Power was delivered to the wheels via a JC5-089 five-speed manual gearbox. The 172 also featured interior changes over the standard car including Half Leather, Half Alcantara seats embossed with the RenaultSport logo and the car also came standard with manually controlled Air Conditioning. A limited edition of the Phase 1 172 was produced and known as the Clio 172 Exclusive. This was limited to 172 units, all 172 of this “Exclusive” edition were 296 Scarab Green, featured BBS alloy wheels and a full leather interior as opposed to the half-leather half Alcantara seats featured in the standard car. In 2001 the interior and exterior of the Clio II were face-lifted, the Clio RS followed suit shortly after. This facelift of the Clio 172 included redesigned front and rear bumpers, the front bumper falling in line with the style of the face-lifted Clio II. The rear bumper was now less rounded and featured a strip of ABS plastic effectively splitting the bumper into two. The lights, bonnet and boot lid were also matched to the face-lifted Clio II. The interior was also changed to closer match that of the face-lifted Clio II, the seats were slightly revised however still featured the same Half Leather, Half Alcantara fabrics and the embossed RenaultSport logo. One new feature that the Phase 2 172 featured was automatic climate control as opposed to the manual air-conditioning featured in the Phase 1. The dashboard featured Silver interior trims and the steering wheel included a plastic insert featuring the RenaultSport logo. The gear shifter was changed from the metal ball featured on the Phase 1 to a Leather wrapped shifter with a silver coloured insert on the top. The Phase 2 172 also featured increased equipment including automatic Xenon headlights and headlight washers, Rain Sensing wipers a six-disc CD changer, and it also included side-impact airbags integrated into the seats. The 15-inch OZ F1 alloy wheels were also replaced with a 16-inch Alloy Wheel of Renault’s own design. The facelift of the 172 also brought about a number of changes to the engine of the car. A revised version of the F4R used, the F4R 736, this featured a revised cylinder head with the exhaust ports being approximately 30% smaller than those featured on the Phase 1 172. The airbox was also redesigned to be much more square than the original airbox. A revised version of the JC5 gearbox, the JC5-129 was introduced in this version of the Clio 172, which revised JC5 featured a shorter final drive to counter the increased weight of the face-lifted 172. The catalytic converter, which on the PH1 172 had been dual barrel was reduced to a single barrel and featured 2 lambda sensors, one before and one after the catalytic converter. The biggest change to the PH2 172 over the PH1 was the introduction of an electric throttle. This meant the Idle Control Valve of the PH1 was no longer required leading to a minor redesign of the intake manifold. In 2002 Renault released the 172 Cup, which bore the chassis code CB1N and was known by Renault as the “sport lightweight version”. The vast majority of cars were produced in D43 Mondial Blue (metallic) with a limited run of around 90 cars being produced in 640 Iceberg Silver (metallic). The Cup, originally built for Gr.N homologation of the Clio 172 was differentiated from the “non cup” 172 by its lack of many of the luxuries included in the regular car. Instead of the leather / Alcantara seats instead the same style seat was upholstered in a durable but low-cost fabric, the automatic Xenon headlights were replaced by manually controlled halogen units and the washer jets replaced with blanks. The rain sensing wipers and solar reflective coated windscreen were also omitted from the 172 Cup. However the car had features not before seen on a production version of the 172, which included lightweight 16-inch Speedline Turini alloy wheels, matte blue door strips, ABS plastic “Cup” front splitter and a restyled “Cup” rear spoiler. The dash strips which were silver on the regular car were painted to match the outside of the car. One of the main features of the 172 Cup was its significant weight saving, having a kerb weight of 1021 kg, making it the lightest of 172 versions produced. This was achieved by the removal of a majority of sound deadening from the car alongside thinner glass to reduce weight even further. One large difference was also the lack of air conditioning which was a standard fit component on the regular 172, which typically led to the cup producing more power due to the engine having less ancillaries to drive. This however was reintroduced as an optional extra later in the production run of the Cup. The 0–60 time of the 172 Cup was officially marketed by Renault as being 6.5 seconds; however AutoCar Magazine reportedly timed the 0–60 at 6.2 seconds which if this were the case would make the 172 Cup the second fastest road going Clio produced at the time of this article, second to only the V6. Many enthusiasts regard the 172 Cup as the last “hardcore” hot hatch due to its lack of anti-lock brakes; the car also featured modified suspension which gave it a wider track thanks to modified wishbones, the car also sat lower than standard and featured stiffer shocks and springs, the suspension geometry was revised to suit these components and to mean that the steering response was increased, this also lead to an increase in oversteer thanks to the lack of weight and revised geometry. Due to the lack of ABS the brake bias of the car was fixed by way of disconnecting the rear axle compensator, within the UK this often lead to the cars failing the MOT test, VOSA eventually issued an advisory to prevent this from happening. 2004 marked yet another refresh of the Clio II. The inserts of the headlights were changed from Black to Grey, new wheels styles were introduced and new colour options were added with others being dropped. The basic design of the car stayed the same with only minor changes. The Six-Disc CD changer was dropped as standard equipment however was still available as a cost option. This refresh marked the introduction of cruise control and Electronic Stability Program (ESP) as standard equipment. The Clio RS featured a lot more changes than the regular Clio. The engine was again revised and became the F4R 738. The difference between the F4R 738 and F4R 736 was a revised oil breather setup meaning the intake manifold found on a 172 would not fit a 182. Thanks to a number of other changes this engine produced 182 PS . This increase in power was thanks to the addition of a 4-2-1 Manifold and high flow 200 cell sports catalytic converter. The spare wheel well was removed and replaced with a flat floor to make way for the new dual exit exhaust featured on the 182. Minor revisions were made to the interior, the perforated texture of the Alcantara on the seats now featured white dots. The car also featured a new 8 spoke wheel design which came in Silver on a regular car and Anthracite on a “Cup Packed” car. The rarest optional extra available was the Carminat Sat-Nav which was fitted to very few cars. However, the unit wasn’t a popular option due to its high cost and rumoured poor performance compared to aftermarket options. The “Cup” Front Splitter and “Cup” Spoiler originally fitted to the 172 Cup made a reappearance as a cost option known as the Cup Style Pack. This was one of two cup packs available, the other being the Cup Chassis. This Cup Chassis pack included a strengthened hub with 60mm spacing on the strut bolt holes as opposed 54mm on non cup packed cars. The Cup Chassis also featured lowered suspension with stiffer shocks and springs and an anthracite version of the standard alloy wheels. The Clio 182 could also be ordered in a more race focused than ‘base’ RS model called “Cup Specification”, this was available in just two colours, J45 Racing Blue and D38 Inferno Orange, however came as Standard with the Cup Chassis and Cup Style Pack. The 182 Cup lacked the automatic Xenon headlights and headlight washer jets, climate control (rear footwell heater vents were also removed), illuminated sun visors, Solar Reflective Windscreen and Automatic Wipers. The leather / Alcantara seats were replaced with cloth items and the rear bench was downgraded to match. The engine cover and sill plates were removed and the steering wheel was downgraded to no longer include the RenaultSport Logo or rubber thumb grips. Carpet and headlining were downgraded to basic specification and even the documentation wallet was changed from faux leather to cloth. Sound deadening was removed from the 182 Cup, the horn was downgraded from a twin to single unit and the interior light no longer included a map reading function. Despite all of these reductions in specification the 182 Cup was still considerably heavier than the previous 172 Cup, meaning this version of the Clio II RS was considered one of the least desirable versions. The final version of the Clio 182 was known as the 182 Trophy. This version was based on the 182 Cup and featured the same strengthened hubs with 60 mm bolt spacing. Originally only 500 cars were to be produced for the UK market however an additional 50 were produced to be sold in Switzerland. At the time, believing there was no market for this version of the Clio, the Marketing Department of Renault France failed to order a 182 Trophy. The 182 Trophy included 16 Inch Speedline Turini Alloy wheels as seen on the 172 Cup, the Spoiler from the Clio 255 V6, Recaro Trendline seats and exclusive 727 Capsicum Red Paint with Trophy Decals lacquered onto the Side skirts. Each car had an individually numbered plaque on the base of the driver’s seat. The biggest difference however between the 182 Cup and 182 Trophy was the inclusion of Sachs Remote-Reservoir dampers. The basic principle of a Remote-Reservoir damper is that because there is a separate reservoir for the gas or oil which fills the shock they can either be of a reduced length or can house a longer rod, this means that the sizing of the shock can be optimised for the application in which it is being used. These changes definitely made a big difference to the 182 Trophy and have led to its being heralded as one of the best hot hatches of all time and it won Evo Magazine’s “People’s Performance Car of The Year” 2005, whilst also beating off rivals such as the Lamborghini Gallardo and other exotica in an Evo Magazine Group Test. AutoCar Magazine’s front cover from 5 July 2005 simply stated “World’s Greatest Hot Hatch”.
Something of a rarity was this Suzuki Alto. The first generation (SS30V/40V), was introduced in Japan in May 1979, is a three-door cargo version of the Fronte passenger car, equipped with a folding rear seat. Front suspension comprised coils struts, with leaf springs at the back. The steering was of the recirculating ball type, and four-wheel drums were used. On introduction, the Alto received the T5B two-stroke 539 cc (SS30) three-cylinder engine, producing 28 PS at 5500 rpm. The Alto was a “micro sensation” when introduced, largely due to its rock bottom price of ¥470,000 (circa $1,900 in 1979, at a time when the cheapest Ford Pinto cost $4,999 in the US). This low price was made possible by a number of Japanese special concessions for commercial vehicles: most notably, the engine was subject to less stringent emissions rules and did not require expensive twin catalysts. Two fewer doors provided another saving, as did the exemption from commodity tax. The Alto’s success changed the kei-car market, and other producers such as Subaru (with the “Family Rex”) quickly followed suit with cut-price “commercial” vehicles that were really intended for private use. Suzuki was unable to keep up with demand the first few years, particularly in the home market. The Alto helped Suzuki move into seventh place in Japanese production for cars and trucks. In the last full year of production for this generation, it was still by far the best selling Kei car, with the Alto outselling the Fronte at a rate of about five to two. In May 1980, a fully automatic two-speed option was added to the Alto SS30. In January 1981, the F5A four-stroke 543 cc from the Fronte was also made available for the Alto; although it only had a single-barrel carburettor, it too put out 28 PS but at 6,000 rpm. Torque was considerably lower, however, down from 52 to 41 Nm; 38 to 30 lb/ft). 1981 saw also the year that it became available in the United Kingdom, as Suzuki began selling cars there that year. In export markets, the Alto name was used for the passenger car versions (chassis codes with trailing letter “S”) as well as on commercials (ending in “V”), while the van was marketed as the “Suzuki Hatch” in Australia. The four-doors were not proper hatchbacks, only featuring an opening rear window. Export cars were also available with twelve-inch wheels, unlike the domestic versions which only used ten-inch units until the introduction of the 4WD version in October 1983. The 4WD “Snow Liner” thus gained an extra 2.5 cm (1 in) of ground clearance. Most export Altos were passenger car versions (which used the “Fronte” badge in the Japanese domestic markets), and usually received the 796 cc F8B engine and the SS80 chassis code. The 800 had better performance, and due to the higher possible gearing it saw an improved gas mileage as well – by about ten percent according to Suzuki. The SS80 was also built in New Zealand, by South Pacific Suzuki Assemblers at a rate of six per day. It was introduced in New Zealand in March 1980. While Suzuki held on to the two-stroke engine concept for a half decade longer than any of its Japanese competitors, eventually market pressures and ever tightening emissions regulations spelled its end in the Alto by September 1981. The Jimny, however, did use the same 539 cc engine (called LJ50 in the Jimny) as late as 1987.
In July 1999, Toyota began production of the seventh-generation Celica, with European sales beginning late that year. It closely resembled the XYR concept with the exception of the front bumper and rear spoiler, while omitting the previously available coupe body style. The 2000 model year Celica was an element of Toyota Project Genesis, an effort to bring younger buyers to the marque in the United States. Toyota took time to lighten the car and lower cost wherever possible. Power window and door lock controls were placed in the center console so only 1 set was necessary for both doors. Initial sunroofs were made of polymer plastic instead of the traditional glass. This generation was assembled by Kanto Auto Works at its Higashi-Fuji plant in Susono, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. The Celica came in only one Liftback body style with the choice of two different engines. The ZZT230 was powered by a relatively economical 1.8 L 4-cylinder 140 hp (104 kW) 1ZZ-FE engine and the ZZT231 powered by a higher-performance 1.8 L 4-cylinder 192 hp (in Europe and Japan) 2ZZ-GE version, co-developed with Yamaha, the latter featuring a two-step variable valve lift control in conjunction with its variable valve timing. In 2004, CNNMoney.com rated the Celica as one of the best cars to purchase for fuel economy. Exporting of the Celica ceased in July 2005. However, until mid-May, customers could still order one, although it was advised they took action before that time ended. The last Celica was rolled off production line on 21 April 2006, after 36 years and seven generations. In its last year, the Celica was only officially sold in Japan. There has been no direct successor to the Celica, however, the Scion tC (exclusive to North America) is seen by some people as the spiritual successor to the Celica.
Successor to the TR3a, and code named “Zest” during development, the TR4 was based on the chassis and drivetrain of the previous TR sports cars, but with a modern Michelotti styled body. The TR 4 engine was carried over from the earlier TR2/3 models, but the displacement was increased from 1991cc to 2138 cc by increasing the bore size. Gradual improvements in the manifolds and cylinder head allowed for some improvements culminating in the TR4A model. The 1991 cc engine became a no-cost option for those cars destined to race in the under-two-litre classes of the day. Some cars were fitted with vane-type superchargers, as the three main bearing engine was liable to crankshaft failure if revved beyond 6,500 rpm; superchargers allowed a TR4 to produce much more horse-power and torque at relatively modest revolutions. The standard engine produced 105 bhp but, supercharged and otherwise performance-tuned, a 2.2-litre I4 version could produce in excess of 200 bhp at the flywheel. The TR4, in common with its predecessors, was fitted with a wet-sleeve engine, so that for competition use the engine’s cubic capacity could be changed by swapping the cylinder liners and pistons, allowing a competitor to race under different capacity rules (i.e. below or above 2 litres for example). Other key improvements over the TR3 included a wider track front and rear, slightly larger standard engine displacement, full synchromesh on all forward gears, and rack and pinion steering. In addition, the optional Laycock de Normanville electrically operated overdrive Laycock Overdrive could now be selected for 2nd and 3rd gear as well as 4th, effectively providing the TR4 with a seven-speed manual close ratio gearbox. The TR4 was originally fitted with 15×4.5″ disc wheels. Optional 48-lace wire wheels could be ordered painted the same colour as the car’s bodywork (rare), stove-enamelled (matte silver with chrome spinners, most common) or in matte or polished chrome finishes (originally rare, but now more commonly fitted). The most typical tyre originally fitted was 590-15 bias ply or optional radial tires. In the US at one point, American Racing alloy (magnesium and aluminium) wheels were offered as an option, in 15×5.5″ or 15×6″ size. Tyres were a problem for original owners who opted for 60-spoke wire wheels, as the correct size radial-ply tyre for the factory rims was 155-15, an odd-sized tyre at the time only available from Michelin at considerable expense. Some original TR4 sales literature says the original radial size was 165-15. The much more common 185-15 radials were too wide to be fitted safely. As a result, many owners had new and wider rims fitted and their wheels re-laced. The new TR4 body style did away with the classical cutaway door design of the previous TRs to allow for wind-down windows (in place of less convenient side-curtains), and the angular rear allowed a boot with considerable capacity for a sports car. Advanced features included the use of adjustable fascia ventilation, and the option of a unique hard top that consisted of a fixed glass rear window (called a backlight) with an integral rollbar and a detachable, steel centre panel (aluminium for the first 500 units). This was the first such roof system on a production car and preceded by 5 years the Porsche 911/912 Targa, which has since become a generic name for this style of top. On the TR4 the rigid roof panel was replaceable with an easily folded and stowed vinyl insert and supporting frame called a Surrey Top. The entire hard top assembly is often mistakenly referred to as a Surrey Top. In original factory parts catalogues the rigid top and backlight assembly is listed as the Hard Top kit. The vinyl insert and frame are offered separately as a Surrey Top. Features such as wind-down windows were seen as a necessary step forward to meet competition and achieve good sales in the important US market, where the vast majority of TR4s were eventually sold. Dealers had concerns that buyers might not fully appreciate the new amenities, therefore a special short run of TR3As (commonly called TR3Bs) was produced in 1961 and ’62. The TR4 proved very successful and continued the rugged, “hairy-chested” image that the previous TRs had enjoyed. 40,253 cars were built during production years. Most were sold new to the US, but plenty have returned, and it is estimated that there are not far short of 900 examples of the model in the UK at present.
This VXR8 is an example of the series of Australian built Holden models which were rebadged as Vauxhalls in the UK. These were intended as something of an image boost for the brand offering performance on a par with the BMW M5 of the time, but at a much lower price. For sure they were a bit crude and the interior quality was never going to rival the Germans, but they represented excellent value for money and a reasonable number were sold. Initially, the car was a two door coupe called the Monaro but later cars had four doors and were known as the VXR GTS. There were numerous variants, generally with each offering more power than their predecessor.
Volvo debuted the first generation C70 at the 1996 Paris Motor Show, and introduced it in Europe as a 1997 model, and a year later as a 1998 model in North America — with 2.0 (sold mostly in Italy), a low-pressure turbo (2.4L) and a high-pressure turbo (2.0L and 2.3L), 5-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engines and manual and automatic transmissions. Peter Horbury designed the exterior and Mexican designer Jose Diaz de la Vega led the interior design team. The C70 broke Volvo’s decades-long styling tradition of boxy, rectilinear designs and was Volvo’s first luxury coupe since the 780. According to Peter Horbury, Volvo’s design chief from 1991 to 2002, with the C70, Volvo threw away the box, but “kept the toy inside!” “Our vision was to design a convertible that would meet the needs of a family of four looking for comfortable blue-sky motoring in a vehicle also providing stylish looks, performance and faultless driving and road-holding.” In a development program of 30 months and working with a Volvo 850-derived platform, Britain’s TWR (Tom Walkinshaw Racing) co-designed the car’s basic design and suspension tuning with Volvo. Manufacture of the C70 was a joint venture until the two companies experienced disputes that threatened to interrupt production; TWR did not contribute to the second generation C70. Volvo’s first modern convertible, the C70 was manufactured in Uddevalla, Sweden on a separate assembly line from the 70-series sedan and station wagon. The four-seater convertible featured an electrically heated glass rear window, automatic (pop-up) rollover hoops system ROPS, seat belt pre-tensioners, boron steel reinforced A-pillars, front and side airbags, and a safety cage — a horseshoe-like structure around the passenger compartment. The cloth convertible top, initially available in four colours, was fully automatic, operated by a single, dashboard-mounted button. The top stored automatically under an integral rigid tonneau cover in a system pioneered in modern convertibles with the fourth generation Mercedes SL. The C70 convertible exhibited two negative traits endemic to convertibles: poor rear visibility and pronounced scuttle shake, a characteristic whereby the structural design of the bulkhead between engine and passenger compartment of a convertible suffers sufficiently poor rigidity to negatively impact ride and handling, allowing noticeable vibration, shudder or chassis-flexing into the passenger compartment. Early special editions featured two-tone leather interior with wood trim and a SC-901 (1998) Dolby Pro Logic I stereo with 3-disc integrated changer unit (via a cartridge) 400 watts of power and 11 high end Dynaudio speakers. I had a C70 Coupe for a few months and it was a lovely car – supremely comfortable, and pleasingly rapid with a nice note from that 5 cylinder engine.
Like most people, I did not stay all that long at this event, as the weather really was unspeakably horrid. It soon became clear that no more cars were going to arrive and people starting heading away, so i took that as my cue to do the same. I do look forward to more of these Wheels on Wednesday events, which will remain at SixWays and on Sunday mornings for a couple of months before reverting back to Spetchley Park. Let’s hope the weather is kinder for those than it was for this one.