The Mediterranean island of Malta, a small land mass measuring only around 27 km by 14km is not perhaps the most obvious place for a Car Museum. But look at the cars that you see out on the roads and dig a little deeper and find that there is in fact a thriving classic car scene in this place where a combination of a temperate climate and journeys all being short because of the size of the place and you realise that it was only a matter of time before someone did create a Car Museum. That person was called Carol Galea, a former property developer and one time racer, and he found the perfect location for his collection of cars in a small resort called Qawra in the north west of the island, opening up in 2005. I’d read about the museum in various places so it was already on my “to do” list for a short break there in February 2022, but there is plenty of publicity among the other tourist information, so it would seem that many car enthusiasts are well aware of it, which is perhaps just as well, as its location, on Tourist Street, in a small town is not one you would stumble across by accident. The museum is located in the basement of a complex that comprises a mix of shops and apartments, and there is plenty of space over two levels of the building for around 100 cars and a lot of associated memorabilia. Sadly, the founder, Carol Galea, passed away in June 2021, but the museum lives on, with his personal collection taking pride of place. The museum not only restores cars for its own collection but there is also a business restoring them for sale, and some of these are displayed until a buyer is found, so you can expect to find some changes to what is on show on a repeat visit. Here is what was on show at the time of my visit in February 2022:
A couple of Alfa models from the early 1960s which bore Giulia badging had in fact started out as Giulietta cars, and there was an example of one of these here. This is the more commonly seen of the pair, the lovely Giulia Spider 1600. Alfa had followed up the 1950 launch of the 1900 Berlina with a smaller model, the Giulietta. Known as the Type 750 and later 101 Series, the Giulietta evolved into a family of models. The first to be introduced was the Giulietta Sprint 2+2 coupé at the 1954 Turin Motor Show. Designed by Franco Scaglione at Bertone, it was produced at the coachbuilder’s Grugliasco plant near Turin. A year later, at the Turin Motor Show in April 1955, the Sprint was joined by the 4-door saloon Berlina. In mid 1955, the open two-seat Giulietta Spider, featuring convertible bodywork by Pininfarina, and it was one of these achingly pretty cars that was to be seen here. Alfa replaced the Giulietta with the Giulia in 1962, but as the Coupe and Spider were not ready, the Giulietta based models were kept in production, and renamed as Giulia. They gained a larger 1600cc engine, and this meant that the bonnet need to be raised a little to accommodate the new unit, so the easy recognition beyond Giulietta and Giulia Spiders is whether there is a flat bonnet or one with a slight hump and a vent in it.
This is a Giulia Sprint Speciale, the later version of a car which was produced between 1957 and 1965, initially with Giulietta badging. Just 1,366 examples were made. The first cars were fitted with the 1,290cc Giulietta engine and then in 1963 this was replaced by the more powerful 1,570cc Giulia unit. The SS, or Sprint Speciale series was never intended to be a volume car and it was considerably more expensive than the other models in the Giulietta and Giulia ranges. It certainly looked special, with streamlined bodywork which bore a marked resemblance to some of the marque’s earlier competition designs, particularly the famous Disco Volante sports-racer, not to mention the BAT 9 show car. With an all-up weight of under 950kgs, a five-speed gearbox and an output of 112bhp (in Giulia form) these were excellent road cars and were equally used in competition. They don’t come up for sale very often, and needless to say, the price tag is not small when they do.
The 2600, or 106 Series, were an evolution of the model first seen in 1958 as a replacement for the 1900, and called the 2000 and known internally as the 102 Series. This was the time when Alfa was still in transition from being a maker of exclusive coachbuilt and racing cars to one that offered volume production models. The 102 Series were never likely to be big sellers, in a world that was still recovering economically from the ravages of the Second World War, but the range was an important flagship, nonetheless. The 2000 models ran for 4 years, from 1958 to 1962, at which point they were updated, taking on the name of 106 Series, with minor styling changes being accompanied by a larger 2600cc engine under the bonnet. As with the 2000 models, the new 2600 cars were sold in Berlina (Saloon), Sprint (Coupe) and Spider (Convertible) versions, along with a dramatically styled SZ Coupe from Italian styling house Zagato and a rebodied Berlina from OSI, all of them with an inline twin overhead cam six cylinder engine of 2.6 litres, the last Alfas to offer this configuration. Just 6999 of the Sprint models were made and 2255 Spiders, very few of which were sold new in the UK where they were exceedingly expensive thanks to the dreaded Import Duty which made them much more costly than an E Type. Many of the parts were unique to these cars, so owning one now is far harder than the more plentiful 4 cylinder Alfas of the era. Whilst the rather square styling of the Berlina, which won it relatively few friends when new and not a lot more in recent times means that there are few of these versions to be seen, the Sprint and Spider models do appear from time to time, and market interest in the cars is now starting to accelerate, with values rise accordingly. Seen here were a 2000 Berlina and a 2600 Spider.
It was with the 105 Series of cars that Alfa really found the sort of sales volume that they would need to be able to survive throughout the 1960s. The first car in this range, known as the Giulia, because it was larger than the Giulietta, was the Berlina model launched in 1962. The Giulia was produced from 1962 to 1978 in a bewildering array of similar models, which even the marque enthusiast can find hard to untangle. The styling was quite straight forward, but great attention was paid to detail. The engine bay, cabin and boot were all square shaped. But the grille, the rooflines and details on the bonnet and boot made for an integrated design from bumper to bumper. Thanks to Alfa Romeo using a wind tunnel during its development, the Giulia was very aerodynamic with a drag coefficient of Cd=0.34, which was particularly low for a saloon of the era and not a bad figure even for cars of today. Couple that with the fact that Alfa Romeo was one of the first manufacturers to put a powerful engine in a light-weight car (it weighed about 1,000 kilograms) and thanks to an array of light alloy twin overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine, similar to that of the earlier Giulietta models range, the car had a lively performance which bettered that of many sports cars of the day. The Tipo 105.14 was the first model introduced in 1962. with a 1,570 cc Twin Cam engine with single down-draft carburettor generating 91 hp at 6500 rpm. The “TI” nomenclature referred to a class of Italian saloon car racing known as “Turismo Internazionale”, and had previously been applied to higher-performance versions of the 1900 and Giulietta saloons in the 1950s. However, for the Giulia saloon, the Ti was at first the only version available, and later, with the introduction of the TI Super and Super, the TI became the base version for the 1,600 cc engine class. The steering column gearchange (the only one in the Giulia range) was replaced with a floor change for 1964 (Tipo 105.08). Right hand drive cars, available from 1964, only ever had a floor change (Tipo 105.09). Brakes were by drums all around at first. Discs were introduced later, first at the front, and later all around. A brake servo was not fitted at first, but was introduced in later cars. The steering wheel featured the only horn ring ever in the Giulia range. The dashboard with a strip speedo is a notable feature, as is the steering wheel with a horn ring. The Giulia TI was phased out in 1968 and re-introduced as the austerity model 1600 S. Tipo 105.16 was a special racing model introduced in 1963. Quadrifoglio Verde stickers on the front wings were a distinguishing feature. Only 501 were made for homologation and today it is very rare and desirable. The 1,570 cc engine was fitted with two double-choke horizontal Weber 45DCOE carburettors for 110 hp at 6500 rpm. The body was lightened and a floor gearchange was fitted as standard, as were alloy wheels of very similar appearance to the standard steel ones of the TI. The TI’s instrument cluster with its strip speedometer was replaced with a three-instrument binnacle comprising speedometer, tachometer and a multi-gauge instrument (fuel, water temperature, oil temperature and pressure) – these instruments were similar to those fitted to the contemporary Giulia Sprint and Sprint Speciale coupes and Spider convertibles. The steering wheel was a three-spoke item with centre hornpush, also similar to that of the more sporting models. Braking was by discs all around, although the first cars used drums and early disc models lacked a servo which was introduced later. The police cars seen in The Italian Job were of this type. Tipo 105.06 was an austerity model made from 1964 to 1970 with a 1,290 cc single-carburettor engine for 77 hp at 6000 rpm. Four-speed gearbox with floor change fitted as standard (the 1300 was the only Giulia model not fitted with a five-speed gearbox). Though the engine was given a 105 series type number, it was basically the engine from the 101 series Giulietta Ti. This model appears not to have been exported to many markets outside Italy, if at all. Braking was by discs all around, without a servo at first, later with a servo. Tipo 105.26 was introduced in 1965. It transferred the technology from the racing TI Super to a road car, to make the most successful Giulia saloon. 1,570 cc engine with two double-choke Weber 40DCOE carburettors for a milder, but torquier tune than the TI Super – 97 hp at 5500 rpm. There was a new dashboard with two large round instruments (speedo and tacho) and clock, a sportier steering wheel with three aluminium spokes and centre horn push, similar to that of the Ti Super, later changed for one with the horn pushes in the spokes. All-around disc brakes with servo were fitted as standard from the outset. The serpent crest of the Sforza family appears in a badge on the C-pillar and is a distinguishing feature of the Super. For 1968, there was a suspension update, including revised geometry and a rear anti-roll bar. The wheels were changed in size from 5J x 15 to 5J x 14, and tyres from 155/15 to 165/14. For 1970, updates included dual-circuit brakes, centre-mounted handbrake lever to replace under-dash “umbrella handle”, larger external doorhandles, and top-hinged pedals (the latter in left hand drive models only; right hand drive continued with bottom-hinged pedals to the end of production). In 1972, Tipo 105.26 was rationalised into the Giulia 1.3 – Giulia 1.6 range. Tipo 105.39 built from 1965 to 1972. Right hand drive model replaced in 1970 by the 1300 Super. 1,290 cc engine with single down-draft carburettor for 81 hp at 6000 rpm. Unlike the re-deployed 101-series Giulietta engine of the austerity-model 1300, the 1300 ti motor was a 105 series engine, basically that of the sportier GT1300 Junior coupe with different camshaft timing (but the same camshafts) and induction system. Five-speed gearbox. Three-spoke bakelite steering wheel with plastic horn push covering the centre and spokes. Dashboard initially with strip speedo like that of the TI. For 1968, updates included a dashboard based on that of the Super, but with a simpler instrument binnacle, still featuring two large round instruments (speedo and tacho) and a separate fuel gauge, and the same suspension, wheel and tire updates applied to the Giulia Super in the same year. For 1970, updates included dual-circuit brakes, centre handbrake, larger external doorhandles and top-hinged pedals (on left hand drive cars only), again as applied to the Super for that year. Tipo 105.85 was basically a Giulia TI re-introduced in 1968 as a lower-level model to come between the 1300 and 1300 ti on one hand, and the Super on the other. It had a re-interpretation of the 1,570 cc single-carburettor engine for 94 hp at 5500 rpm and similar trim to the 1300 ti. Replaced in 1970 by the 1300 Super which offered similar performance in a lower tax bracket. The last cars from 1970 featured the top-hinged pedals, centre handbrake and dual-circuit brakes as for the Super and 1300 ti. Tipo 115.09 was introduced in 1970. It was basically a 1300 ti fitted with the engine from the GT 1300 Junior coupe that featured two double-choke horizontal carburettors; the engine actually had the GT 1300 Junior type number. This model was rationalised into the Giulia Super 1.3 – Giulia Super 1.6 range in 1972. In 1972 a rationalisation of the Giulia range saw the Super 1300 (Tipo 115.09) and the Super (Tipo 105.26) re-released as the Super 1.3 and Super 1.6. The two models featured the same equipment, interior and exterior trim, differing only in engine size (1,290 cc and 1,570 cc) and final drive ratio. The 1300 ti was dropped. A small Alfa Romeo badge on the C-pillar is a distinguishing feature, as are hubcaps with exposed wheel nuts. In December 1972 Alfa-Romeo South Africa released the 1600 Rallye. This locally developed more powerful 1600 cc version of the 1300 Super, using the 1300’s single-headlight body shell. The car was largely ready for competition and was only planned to be built in limited numbers, and was fitted with racing-style rear-view mirrors, rally lamps, fully adjustable seats, and a limited-slip differential. Claimed power was 125 hp. The Giulia Super range was re-released in 1974 as the Nuova Super range, including the Giulia Nuova Super 1300 and 1600 This and featured a new black plastic front grille and a flat boot lid without the characteristic centre spine. Otherwise the cars differed little from their Giulia Super predecessors and bore the same Tipo numbers with an S suffix. A Nuova Super fitted with a Perkins 1,760 cc diesel with 54 hp at 4000 rpm, the firm’s first attempt at diesel power. The same Perkins diesel was used also in Alfa Romeo F12 van. The diesel version was slow, 138 km/h (86 mph), and the engine somehow unsuitable for a sport sedan so it was not big seller, only around 6500 examples were made in 1976 and the car was not sold in the UK. Production of the Giulia ceased in 1977.
Alfa replaced the Giulia-based Spider model with an all-new design which finally made its debut in 1966 together with the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce at an event organised in Gardone Riviera. With its boat tailed styling, it quickly found favour, even before taking a starring role in the film “The Graduate”. The original 1600cc engine was replaced by a more powerful 1750cc unit at the same time as the change was made to the rest of the range, and the car continued like this until 1970, when the first significant change to the exterior styling was introduced on the 1750 Spider Veloce, with the original’s distinctive elongated round tail changed to a more conventional cut-off tail, called the “Kamm tail”, as well as improving the luggage space. Numerous other small changes took place both inside and out, such as a slightly different grille, new doorhandles, a more raked windscreen, top-hinged pedals and improved interior trim. 1971 saw the Spider Veloce get a new, larger powerplant—a 1962 cc, 132 hp unit—and consequently the name was changed from 1750 Spider Veloce to 2000 Spider Veloce. The 1600 Spider restarted production a year later as the Spider 1600 Junior, and was visually identical to the 1300. 1974 saw the introduction of the rare, factory request, Spider-Targa. Based upon the Spider, it featured a Porsche style solid rear window and lift out roof panels, all made out of black GRP type material. Less than 2,000 models of such type were ever made and was the only part solid roof Spider until the introduction of the factory crafted hard top. The 1300 and 2000 cars were modified in 1974 and 1975 respectively to include two small seats behind the front seats, becoming a “two plus two” four seater. The 1300 model was discontinued in 1977. Also, between 1974 and 1976, the early-style stainless-steel bumpers were discontinued and replaced with black, rubber-clad units to meet increasingly stringent North American crash requirements. 4,557 examples of the 1300 Junior were made and 4,848 of the 1600 Junior as well as 16,320 2000 Spider Veloces and 22,059 of 2000 Spider Veloce US version. There were also 4,027 1750 Spider Veloces produced.
Continuing the theme of naming their cars after the counties of England, Austin replaced the Devon and Dorset in 1952 with the A40 Somerset. A rival to the Morris Oxford and Hillman Minx, and only made until 1954, it looked bigger than its predecessor, though that was largely an illusion of the new appearance which was somewhat “Transatlantic” in style with flowing lines, intended to increase the car’s appeal to export markets. The Somerset bore a close resemblance with the larger Austin A70 Hereford, and telling the two apart at glance is no easier than some of today’s cars where people think that the same styling went under the “reduce” or “enlarge” buttons! The Somerset shared a number of components with its earlier sibling which included a similar 1.2 litre straight-4 pushrod B series engine, but updated to produce 42 hp, compared to the Devon’s 40 hp, giving the car a top speed of 69 mph. Stopping it was done with hydraulic brakes. The Austin A40 Somerset’s reputation for being somewhat slow and lumbering to drive is not wholly deserved. The vehicle had to endure poor quality petrol supplies and in consequence had retarded ignition settings to tolerate the low octane rating of this poor fuel grade to avoid the ‘pinking’ condition that was well known in those times. In fact BMC later produced a kit to improve the performance and fuel consumption of these cars once premium fuel supplies resumed under the popular petrol brands. This kit comprised a replacement distributor and an optional head gasket for the cylinder head that was thinner and therefore raised the compression slightly from the standard 7.2:1. An Autocar magazine road test published 18 April 1952 achieved a maximum of 66 mph and a 0-60 mph acceleration of 36.6 seconds whereas the example registered new in February 1954 and given a Used Car Test published in the Autocar series dated 8 April 1960 returned a 0-60 mph time of just 27.9 seconds. The standing quarter mile was down from 24.4 secs to 23.2 secs a marked improvement on the former result taken in 1952 and directly comparable with the Mini 850 launched in 1959, that was considered to be fairly brisk then. There were two close fitting front seats which could be arranged as a bench seat, with space freed up by virtue of the four speed column mounted gear change. The Somerset was initially offered only as a 4-door saloon, with a 3-passenger 2-door convertible, of the same body shape, introduced in late 1952. The body for the convertible was made by Carbodies of Coventry and the model was marketed as the Austin A40 Somerset Coupé. The convertible differed from the saloon in having separate front seats that folded forward to give access to the rear. The Austin Motor Company in 1953 made a “special” version of around 500 Somerset saloons with a more powerful engine, different interior appointments and two-tone paintwork. The Austin Somerset Special had a top speed of 74 mph. Over 173,000 were sold before the Somerset was replaced by the A40 Cambridge in 1954. 7243 of them were convertibles.
Donald Healey had been producing a range of expensive sports cars from the 1940s, cars such as the Silverstone, the Abbott and the Farnham. For the 1952 London Motor Show, he produced a new design, which was called the Healey Hundred, based on Austin A90 mechanicals, which he intended to produce in-house at his small car company in Warwick. It was one of the stars of the 1952 Show, and it so impressed Leonard Lord, the Managing Director of Austin, who was looking for a replacement to the unsuccessful A90. that Lord struck a deal with Healey on the spot, to build it in quantity. Bodies made by Jensen Motors would be given Austin mechanical components at Austin’s Longbridge factory. The car was renamed the Austin-Healey 100, in reference to the fact that the car had a top speed of 100 mph. Production got under way in 1953, with Austin-Healey 100s being finished at Austin’s Longbridge plant alongside the A90 and based on fully trimmed and painted body/chassis units produced by Jensen in West Bromwich—in an arrangement the two companies previously had explored with the Austin A40 Sports. By early 1956, production was running at 200 cars a month, 150 of which were being sold in California. Between 1953 and 1956, 14,634 Austin-Healey 100s were produced, the vast majority of them, as was the case for most cars in this post war era, going for export. The car was replaced by an updated model in 1956, called the 100-6. It had a longer wheelbase, redesigned bodywork with an oval shaped grille, a fixed windscreen and two occasional seats added (which in 1958 became an option with the introduction of the two-seat BN6 produced in parallel with the 2+2 BN4), and the engine was replaced by one based on the six-cylinder BMC C-Series engine. In 1959, the engine capacity was increased from 2.6 to 2.9 litres and the car renamed the Austin-Healey 3000. Both 2-seat and 2+2 variants were offered. It continued in this form until production ceased in late 1967. The Big Healey, as the car became known after the 1958 launch of the much smaller Austin-Healey Sprite, is a popular classic now. You come across the 3000 models more frequently than the 100s, as they accounted for more than 60% of all Big Healey production
Also here was its smaller stablemate, the “Frog Eye”. Known officially as the Sprite, it was announced to the press in Monte Carlo by the British Motor Corporation on 20 May 1958, just before that year’s Monaco Grand Prix. It was intended to be a low-cost model that “a chap could keep in his bike shed”, yet be the successor to the sporting versions of the pre-war Austin Seven. The Sprite was designed by the Donald Healey Motor Company, with production being undertaken at the MG factory at Abingdon. It first went on sale at a price of £669, using a tuned version of the Austin A-Series engine and as many other components from existing cars as possible to keep costs down. It was produced for a little over 3 years before being replaced by a Mark 2 version, which was then joined by a badge-engineered MG version, the Midget, reviving a model name used by MG from the late 1920s through to the mid 1950s. Enthusiasts often refer to Sprites and the later Midgets collectively as “Spridgets.” The first Sprite quickly became affectionately known as the “frogeye” in the UK and the “bugeye” in the US, because its headlights were prominently mounted on top of the bonnet, inboard of the front wings. The car’s designers had intended that the headlights could be retracted, with the lenses facing skyward when not in use; a similar arrangement was used many years later on the Porsche 928. But cost cutting by BMC led to the flip-up mechanism being deleted, therefore the headlights were simply fixed in a permanently upright position, giving the car its most distinctive feature. The body was styled by Gerry Coker, with subsequent alterations by Les Ireland following Coker’s emigration to the US in 1957. The car’s distinctive frontal styling bore a strong resemblance to the defunct American 1951 Crosley Super Sport. The problem of providing a rigid structure to an open-topped sports car was resolved by Barry Bilbie, Healey’s chassis designer, who adapted the idea provided by the Jaguar D-type, with rear suspension forces routed through the bodyshell’s floor pan. The Sprite’s chassis design was the world’s first volume-production sports car to use unitary construction, where the sheet metal body panels (apart from the bonnet) take many of the structural stresses. The original metal gauge (thickness of steel) of the rear structure specified by Bilbie was reduced by the Austin Design Office during prototype build, however during testing at MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) distortion and deformation of the rear structure occurred and the original specification was reinstated. The two front chassis legs projecting forward from the passenger compartment mean the shell is not a full monocoque. The front sheet-metal assembly, including the bonnet (hood) and wings, was a one-piece unit, hinged from the back, that swung up to allow access to the engine compartment. The 43 bhp, 948 cc OHV engine (coded 9CC) was derived from the Austin A35 and Morris Minor 1000 models, also BMC products, but upgraded with twin 11⁄8 inch SU carburettors which gave it 43 hp at 5200 rpm and 52 lb/ft at 3300 rpm. When tested by “The Motor” magazine in 1958. It had a top speed of 82.9 mph and could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 20.5 seconds. Fuel consumption of 43 mpg was recorded. The rack and pinion steering was derived from the Morris Minor 1000 and the front suspension from the Austin A35. The front suspension was a coil spring and wishbone arrangement, with the arm of the Armstrong lever shock absorber serving as the top suspension link. The rear axle was both located and sprung by quarter-elliptic leaf springs, again with lever-arm shock absorbers and top links. There were no exterior door handles; the driver and passenger were required to reach inside to open the door. There was also no boot lid, owing to the need to retain as much structural integrity as possible, and access to the spare wheel and luggage compartment was achieved by tilting the seat-backs forward and reaching under the rear deck, a process likened to potholing by many owners, but which resulted in a large space available to store soft baggage. The BMC Competition Department entered Austin Healey Sprites in major international races and rallies, their first major success coming when John Sprinzel and Willy Cave won their class on the 1958 Alpine Rally. Private competitors also competed with much success in Sprites. Because of its affordability and practicality, the Austin Healey Sprite was developed into a formidable competition car, assuming many variants by John Sprinzel, Speedwell and WSM. The Sebring Sprite became the most iconic of the racing breed of Austin Healey Sprites. Many owners use their Austin Healey Sprites in competition today, fifty years after its introduction. 48,987 “frogeye” Sprites were made and the car remains popular to this day.
Auto-Union presented the 1000 SP coupe at the 1957 Frankfurt auto show and turned the model into a convertible in 1961. Both body styles wore a shockingly Ford Thunderbird-like design. This was a relatively common and accepted practice at the time; many other companies (including Volvo and DAF) sold models that liberally borrowed styling cues from the cars meandering across America. German coachbuilder Baur manufactured 1000 SP bodies in Stuttgart and shipped them to Ingolstadt, where final assembly took place. Both variants backed up their sporty pretensions with a 980cc three-cylinder, two-stroke engine rated at 55hp. In 1959, 50 models were produced with a 1,280cc two-stroke V6 engine. This 1965 1000 SP Roadster is one of just 1440 roadsters and 5000 coupes that were built over a 6 year period starting in 1958. and this would be last open-topped model until the Audi 80 Cabriolet of 1994.
The Isetta is far more significant than many might realise, as without these cars, the modern BMW company simply would not exist. However, the car originated with the Italian firm of Iso SpA, and it is two of those models which were to be seen here. In the early 1950s the company was building refrigerators, motor scooters and small three-wheeled trucks. Iso’s owner, Renzo Rivolta, decided he would like to build a small car for mass distribution. By 1952 the engineers Ermenegildo Preti and Pierluigi Raggi had designed a small car that used the motorcycle engine of the Iso Moto 200 and named it Isetta—an Italian diminutive meaning little ISO. The Isetta caused a sensation when it was introduced to the motoring press in Turin in November 1953, it was unlike anything seen before. Small (only 7.5 ft long by 4.5 ft wide) and egg-shaped, with bubble-type windows, the entire front end of the car hinged outwards to allow entry. In the event of a crash, the driver and passenger were to exit through the canvas sunroof. The steering wheel and instrument panel swung out with the single door, as this made access to the single bench seat simpler. The seat provided reasonable comfort for two occupants, and perhaps a small child. Behind the seat was a large parcel shelf with a spare wheel located below. A heater was optional, and ventilation was provided by opening the fabric sunroof. Power came from a 236 cc 9.5 hp split-single two-stroke motorcycle engine. The engine was started by a combination generator-starter known as Dynastart. A manual gearbox provided four forward speeds and reverse. A chain drive connected the gearbox to a solid rear axle with a pair of closely spaced 25 cm (10 in) rear wheels. The first prototypes had one wheel at the rear, but having a single rear wheel made the car prone to roll-overs, so the rear wheel layout was changed to two wheels set 19 in apart from each other. This narrow track eliminated the need for a differential. The front axle was a modified version of a Dubonnet independent front suspension. The Isetta took over 30 seconds to reach 50 km/h (31 mph) from rest. Top speed was only about 75 km/h (47 mph). The fuel tank held only 13 litres. However, the Isetta would get somewhere between 50 and 70 mpg depending on how it was driven. In 1954, Iso entered several Isettas in the legendary Mille Miglia where they took the top three spots in the economy classification. Over a distance of 1,600 km (1,000 mi) the drivers achieved an average speed of over 70 km/h (43 mph). In view of its maximum speed, which was just 15 km/h (9 mph) higher, this was an almost incredible figure. However, despite its initial success, the Isetta was beginning to slip in popularity at home. This was mainly due to renewed competition from Fiat with its 500C model. Renzo Rivolta wanted to concentrate on his new Iso Rivolta sports car, and was extremely interested in doing licensing deals. Plants in Spain and Belgium were already assembling Isettas and Autocarros using Italian made Iso components. BMW began talking with Rivolta in mid-1954 and bought not just a license but the complete Isetta body tooling as well. Rivolta did not stop with licensing the Isetta to BMW. He negotiated similar deals with companies in France and Brazil. After constructing some 1,000 units, production of the Italian built cars ceased in 1955, although Iso continued to build the Isetta in Spain until 1958. In addition to the Turismo, Iso in Spain also built the Autocarro, a commercial version with full-width rear axle. The Autocarro was offered in several body styles, a flatbed pickup, enclosed truck, a tilt-bed, or even a fire engine, although some of these might not have been sold. The Autocarro was an extremely popular type of vehicle in Italy, and numerous manufacturers produced some variant of the type. Iso had previously produced a motorcycle-type Isocarro. The Iso Autocarro was larger than most, with its four-wheel layout, conventional rear axle with differential and leaf springs, and a large tubular frame. It could carry a 500 kg load. It is thought that more than 4,000 Autocarros were built and there was one of those here as well as the more often seen Turismo
The first generation of Corvette was introduced late in the 1953 model year. Originally designed as a show car for the 1953 Motorama display at the New York Auto Show, it generated enough interest to induce GM to make a production version to sell to the public. First production was on June 30, 1953. This generation was often referred to as the “solid-axle” models (the independent rear suspension was not introduced until the second generation).Three hundred hand-built polo white Corvette convertibles were produced for the 1953 model year. The 1954 model year vehicles could be ordered in Pennant Blue, Sportsman Red, Black, or Polo White. 3,640 were built, and sold slowly. The 1955 model offered a 265 cu in (4.34 litre) V8 engine as an option. With a large inventory of unsold 1954 models, GM limited production to 700 for 1955. With the new V8, the 0-60 mph time improved by 1.5 seconds. A new body was introduced for the 1956 model featuring a new “face” and side coves; the taillamp fins were also gone. An optional fuel injection system was made available in the middle of the 1957 model year. It was one of the first mass-produced engines in history to reach 1 bhp per cubic inch (16.4 cc) and Chevrolet’s advertising agency used a “one hp per cubic inch” slogan for advertising the 283 bhp 283 cu in (4.64 litre) Small-Block engine. Other options included power windows (1956), hydraulically operated power convertible top (1956), heavy duty brakes and suspension (1957), and four speed manual transmission (late 1957). Delco Radio transistorised signal-seeking “hybrid” car radio, which used both vacuum tubes and transistors in its radio’s circuitry (1956 option). The 1958 Corvette received a body and interior freshening which included a longer front end with quad headlamps, bumper exiting exhaust tips, a new steering wheel, and a dashboard with all gauges mounted directly in front of the driver. Exclusive to the 1958 model were bonnet louvres and twin trunk spears. The 1959–60 model years had few changes except a decreased amount of body chrome and more powerful engine offerings. In 1961, the rear of the car was completely redesigned with the addition of a “duck tail” with four round lights. The light treatment would continue for all following model year Corvettes until 2014. In 1962, the Chevrolet 283 cu in (4.64 litre) Small-Block was enlarged to 327 cu in (5.36 litre). In standard form it produced 250 bhp. For an extra 12% over list price, the fuel-injected version produced 360 bhp, making it the fastest of the C1 generation. 1962 was also the last year for the wrap around windshield, solid rear axle, and convertible-only body style. The boot lid and exposed headlamps did not reappear for many decades.
This is a Torpedo 109 dating from 1930. This was a new model for 1930 and sat at the bottom of the range. It had a 1500cc 4 cylinder engine and was offered as a chassis for the buyer to take to their favoured coachbuilder for a body to be added. This car has had a nut and bolt restoration and is offered for sale.
After a gap of some years, Ferrari added a 4 seater V8 model to the range at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, with the California. According to industry rumours, the California originally started as a concept for a new Maserati, but the resulting expense to produce the car led the Fiat Group to badge it as a Ferrari in order to justify the high cost of purchase; the company denies this, however. The California heralded a number of firsts for Ferrari: the first front engined Ferrari with a V8; the first to feature a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission; the first with a folding metal roof; the first with multi-link rear suspension; and the first with direct petrol injection. Bosch produced the direct injection system. The engine displaces 4,297 cc, and used direct injection. It delivered 453 bhp at 7,750 rpm; its maximum torque produced was 358 lb/ft at 5,000 rpm. The resulting 106 bhp per litre of engine displacement is one of the highest for a naturally aspirated engine, as other manufacturers have used supercharging or turbocharging to reach similar power levels. Ferrari spent over 1,000 hours in the wind tunnel with a one-third-scale model of the California perfecting its aerodynamics. With the top up, the California has a drag coefficient of Cd=0.32, making it the most aerodynamic Ferrari ever made until the introduction of the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. Throughout the California’s production, only 3 cars were built with manual transmission, including one order from the UK. On 15 February 2012, Ferrari announced an upgrade, which was lighter and more powerful. Changes include reducing body weight by 30 kg (66 lb), increased power by output of 30 PS and 11 lb/ft, acceleration from 0–100 km/h (62 mph) time reduced to 3.8 seconds, introduction of Handling Speciale package and elimination of the manual transmission option. The car was released at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show as a 2012 model in Europe. To give the clients a more dynamic driving experience, an optional HS (Handling Speciale) package was developed as part of the update. It can be recognised by a silver coloured grille and ventilation blisters behind the front wheel wells. The HS package includes Delphi MagneRide magnetorheological dampers controlled by an ECU with 50% faster response time running patented Ferrari software, stiffer springs for more precise body control and a steering rack with a 9 per cent quicker steering ratio (2.3 turns lock to lock as opposed to the standard rack’s 2.5). A more substantive update came in 2014, with the launch of the California T, which remains in production. It featured new sheetmetal, a new interior, a revised chassis and a new turbocharged powertrain.
Known as project 110, the brief for the Nuova 500 was to create a micro-car that would not only carry on the tradition of the earlier Topolino, but which would also take sales away from the ever popular Lambretta and Vespa scooters of the day. It clearly needed to be smaller than the 600 which had been released with a conventional 4 cylinder engine. Not an easy task, but development started in 1953 and by August 1954, two designs were ready to be shown to Fiat management. They selected one, and serious development began. At first the car was referred to as the 400, as it was going to have a 400cc engine, but it was soon realised that this was just too small, so a larger 500cc air-cooled engine was developed. It was signed off in January 1956, with production starting in March 1957 in advance of a June launch. Fiat’s marketing department got busy, with hundreds of the new car taking to the streets of Turin, each with a pretty girl standing through the open sunroof that was a feature of all the early cars. The press loved it. 50 units were shipped to Britain, where the car made its debut at Brands Hatch, and again the reception was enthusiastic. But the orders just did not come in. Fiat went for a hasty rethink, relaunching the car at the Turin Show later that year. power was increased from 13 to 15 bhp, and the poverty spec was lessened a little, with headlight bezels, brightwork on the side and chrrome hubcaps, a Nuova500 badge on the engine cover, winding side windows (the launch cars just had opening quarterlights) and the option of a heater fan. It was enough to get sales moving. The original car was still offered, at a lower price, called the Economy. In the first year of production, 28,452 Fiat 500s were made. Over the next 19 years, the car changed little in overall appearance, but there were a number of updates with more power and equipment added. A 500 Sport was launched in August 1958, with a more powerful version of the 499cc engine. It lost the soft top, having a ridged steel roof, to increase strength of the body. It was only available in grey with a red side flash. The first major changes came in 1960 with the 500D. This looks very similar to the Nuova, but with two key differences. One is the engine size: the D features an uprated 499 cc engine producing 17 bhp as standard, an engine which would be used right through until the end of the L in 1973; and the other is the roof: the standard D roof does not fold back as far as the roof on the Nuova, though it was also available as the “Transformable” with the same roof as the Nuova. The D still featured “suicide doors”. There were larger rear light clusters, more space in the front boot thanks to a redesign of the fuel tank and new indicators under the headlights. A year later, Fiat added a light on the rear-view mirrors and a windscreen washer, but the car still lacked a fuel gauge. Sales increased from 20,900 in 1960 to 87.000 in 1961, 132,000 in 1962 and by 1964, the last year of production, they hit 194,000 units. The D was replaced in 1965 by the 500F, which finally moved the door hinges from back to the front, owing to changes in Italian safety laws. There was a deeper windscreen and thinner door pillars, which increased the height of the car by 10mm, improving visibility for the driver. The 500F ran through to 1975, from 1968 alongside the more luxurious 500L which was added to the range in 1968. The L is easy to tell apart, with its bumper overriders. The final updates created the 500R, which incorporated many changes from the 126 under the skin of the classic shape, and in this form production continued alongside the newer 126 until 1976
This is a 595 Barchetta, which was created from a concept by designer Peter Stevens, famous for being the designer behind the McLaren F1. Inspired by the design of the Fiat 500 it is actually based on elements and mechanicals from the Fiat 126, which means that the car benefits from a gearbox with full synchromesh and rack and pinion steering, both of which make it better to drive than a Nuova 500 (an example of which the current owner also has). The engine of this one is a 700cc unit, and with some Abarth upgrades it generates around 70 bhp, which makes it brisk rather than fast. One of the reasons for that is because the body is made from composite materials and mixes fibreglass with Kevlar. That means that the car weighs just 465kg. Sadly, it also made it every expensive, so when the designer decided to launch series production with Simpatico Design Ltd, as well as the marketing of kits, it struggled to find buyers. Just nine vehicles, including this one were assembled by the company. As far as is known, all 9 of the cars still exist and there is believed to be three in the UK this one in Malta, with the rest on the French Riviera, mostly in Monaco.
Although Fiat replaced the 1200 Saloon with the new 1300 and 1500 models in 1960, the Pininfarina-designed Coupé and Cabriolet models continued with largely unchanged bodywork, although they were now equipped with the larger 1.5 litre engine. The O.S.C.A. engined 1600 S Coupé and Cabriolet also continued to be available. All of the coupés and convertibles were replaced by the new 124 coupés and spiders in 1966.
Following the success of the 500 and 600 models, Fiat introduced a slightly larger and more expensive variant, the 850 in 1964. The regular 2 door saloon was soon joined in the range by other models and they are the ones you see more often these days, not that they are exactly common now. The 850 Coupe, early and later versions of which were to be seen here was seen for the first time at the 1965 Geneva Show. As was generally the case at the time, the body looked completely different from the saloon on which it was based, but underneath it shared the same mechanicals including the the original 843 cc engine producing 47 hp, which gave it a maximum speed of 84 mph. A Spider model was launched at the same time. In order to separate the sportier variants, equipment levels were raised, with both models getting sport seats, a sport steering wheel and round speedometer; The Spider even received a completely rearranged instrument panel. The front drum brakes were replaced with disc brakes, although drum brakes remained on the rear wheels. In 1968, Fiat revised both the Spider and Coupé and gave them a stronger engine with 903 cc and 52 hp. They were called Sport Spider and Sport Coupé. The Sport Spider body stayed essentially the same, but with a restyled front, whereas the Coupe gained twin headlights at the front and a revised tail with a slight lip on the trailing edge of the engine cover. Despite its popularity, the Coupe was the first model to cease production, being deleted in 1971.
The Ford Thunderbird began life in February 1953 in direct response to Chevrolet’s new sports car, the Corvette, which was publicly unveiled in prototype form just a month before. Under rapid development, the Thunderbird went from idea to prototype in about a year, being unveiled to the public at the Detroit Auto Show on February 20, 1954. It was a two-seat design available with a detachable glass-fibre hard top and a folding fabric top. Production of the Thunderbird began later on in 1954 on September 9 with the car beginning sales as a 1955 model on October 22, 1954. Though sharing some design characteristics with other Fords of the time, such as single, circular headlamps and tail lamps and modest tailfins, the Thunderbird was sleeker and more athletic in shape, and had features like a bonnet scoop and a 150 mph (240 km/h) speedometer hinting a higher performance nature that other Fords didn’t possess. Mechanically though, the Thunderbird could trace its roots to other mainstream Fords. The Thunderbird’s 102.0 inches wheelbase frame was mostly a shortened version of that used in other Fords while the car’s standard 4.8 litre Y-block V8 came from Ford’s Mercury division. Though inspired by, and positioned directly against, the Corvette, Ford billed the Thunderbird as a personal car, putting a greater emphasis on the car’s comfort and convenience features rather than its inherent sportiness. The Thunderbird sold exceptionally well in its first year. In fact, the Thunderbird outsold the Corvette by more than 23-to-one for 1955 with 16,155 Thunderbirds sold against 700 Corvettes. With the Thunderbird considered a success, few changes were made to the car for 1956. The most notable change was moving the spare tyre to a continental-style rear bumper in order to make more storage room in the boot and a new 12 volt electrical system. The addition of the weight at the rear caused steering issues. Among the few other changes were new paint colours, the addition of circular porthole windows as standard in the fibreglass roof to improve rearward visibility, and a 5.1 litre V8 making 215 hp when mated to a 3-speed manual transmission or 225 hp when mated to a Ford-O-Matic 2-speed automatic transmission; this transmission featured a “low gear”, which was accessible only via the gear selector. When in “Drive”, it was a 2-speed automatic transmission (similar to Chevrolet’s Powerglide). The Thunderbird was revised for 1957 with a reshaped front bumper, a larger grille and tailfins, and larger tail lamps. The instrument panel was heavily re-styled with round gauges in a single pod, and the rear of the car was lengthened, allowing the spare to be positioned back in the boot. The 5.1 litre V8 became the Thunderbird’s standard engine, and now produced 245 hp. Other, even more powerful versions of the V8 were available including one with two four-barrel Holley carburettors and another with a Paxton supercharger delivering 300 hp. Though Ford was pleased to see sales of the Thunderbird rise to a record-breaking 21,380 units for 1957, company executives felt the car could do even better, leading to a substantial redesign of the car for 1958.
The Carrozzeria Francis Lombardi was founded in 1947 in Vercelli, Italy, by noted pilot Carlo “Francis” Lombardi. They originally engaged in some aeronautical design, but this soon ended. and they focussed exclusively on automobiles after 1950. Their first efforts were coupés on Fiat 1100 and 1400 basis; these were soon followed by station wagons with wood-panelled bodywork on 1100-basis. Francis Lombardi also made six-seater limousines from Fiat sedans of the period such as the 1400 and 1800. Intended for ministerial or representational use, they had stretched wheelbases and luxuriously fitted interiors. Famously, they built a Vatican-commissioned Fiat 2300-based limousine with a glass roof for Pope Paul VI in 1963 – this was the first “true” Popemobile. Francis Lombardi also developed four-door versions of the Fiat 600, 850, and 127. This series of small four-door saloons was called “Lucciola” by Lombardi. The first one was the 600 Lucciola which appeared in early 1957; in addition to four doors without a B-pillar (the rear door opening backwards) it also had a floor mounted shifter unlike a regular 600. Francis Lombardi’s greatest commercial success was with the luxuriously appointed Fiat 500 called “My Car”; which supported an annual production of about 6,000 cars in the sixties, up from about 1,500 towards the late fifties. The Fiat 850 Lucciola was also used by Spain’s SEAT for their 850 four-door sedan, although eventually they developed their own, longer version. At the end of the sixties, the Lombardi Grand Prix appeared, the closest thing to an independent design from the firm. This model had a convoluted history and was sold in small numbers under a variety of names until 1972, fitted with Fiat engines in various states of tune. Francis Lombardi continued to focus on modifying cars as well, building coupés on Fiat as well as on NSU basis (1000 TTS). In the 1970s they made special versions of the Fiat 128 and Lancia 2000, but in 1973 their doors were closed for good. Ten years later, Carlo Lombardi died. This is their version of the Nuova 500, which was known as the Francis Lombardi MyCar which came with a fixed roof, a slightly raised roofline and a higher quality interior trim compared to the Fiat version.
Known internally at Rootes as the “Apex” project, the Imp was to be the group’s first post-Second World War small car. Its main rival on the home market was the BMC Mini, which preceded the Imp by almost four years. Launched in May 1963, much was expected of this promising small car, which was all-new and which was built in a new factory in Linwood in Scotland, far away from the rest of the Rootes Group’s facilities in the Coventry area. Conceived as a direct competitor to the BMC’s Mini, it adopted a different approach to packaging, with a space-saving rear-engine and rear-wheel-drive layout to allow as much luggage and passenger capacity as possible in both the rear and the front of the car. It used a unique opening rear hatch to allow luggage to be put into the back seat rest. In addition to its 875 cc all-aluminium power unit, adapted by Rootes from a Coventry Climax FWMA fire pump engine it was the first mass-produced British car to have an engine in the back and the first car to use a diaphragm spring clutch. The baulk-ring synchromesh unit for the transaxle compensated for the speeds of gear and shaft before engagement, which the Mini had suffered from during its early production years. It incorporated many design features which were uncommon in cars until the late 1970s such as a folding rear bench seat, automatic choke and gauges for temperature, voltage and oil pressure. At launch it was considered advanced for the time, but reliability problems quickly harmed its reputation, which led to the Rootes Group being taken over by Chrysler Europe in 1967. Over the life of the car, Rootes (and later Chrysler UK) produced four body styles. The original saloon was introduced in May 1963 and ran through to the end of production in 1976. It has an opening rear window, making it effectively a hatchback. The opening rear window was intended to make it easier to load the small luggage area behind the fold-down rear seat. The fold-down nature of the rear seat was itself unusual in small car design at the time, being more often associated with larger upmarket estate cars. In 1965 a van badged as the “Commer Imp” was introduced. A coupe, the Imp Californian, was introduced in 1967 at the same time as the van’s pressings were used to create an estate car, badged “Hillman Husky”. Several estate car prototypes using the saloon body with extended rooflines were tried, but never offered to the public. Instead, buyers choosing the estate had to settle for a van-derived car with somewhat unusual styling. Both the van and estate ceased production in 1970. In an attempt to interest a wider public when sales figures fell well short of the intended 100,000 cars per annum, several badge-engineered derivatives, such as the luxury Singer Chamois (launched October 1964), and the Sunbeam Sport (launched October 1966), with a more powerful twin-carburettor engine, were offered with varying degrees of success. For marketing reasons the Singer variants were sold as Sunbeams in many export markets, even before May 1970 when the Singer marque was discontinued altogether by Chrysler UK. In some markets, such as France, the “Sunbeam” name was used on all British Rootes products, including the Imp and the Husky.The coupe bodyshell is similar to the standard body but features a more shallow-raked windscreen and rear window which, unlike that on the standard bodied cars, can not be opened. The attempt at a more sporty design did not translate into better acceleration or top speed figures and the aerodynamics of the standard saloon are actually slightly better. The new body style made its first appearance at the Paris Motor Show in October 1967, with the introduction of the sporting Sunbeam Stiletto. The coupe body had also appeared, with less powerful engines, in the Hillman Imp Californian announced in January 1967 and the more luxurious Singer Chamois coupe. Production continued to 1976, and around 440,00 units were sold, a far cry from the figures achieved by the Mini, which sold at about 10 times that rate. Seen here were several Imp saloons as well as the Husky estate wit some Sunbeam Stilletto-style modifications.
The Series 1 E Type was introduced, initially for export only, in March 1961. The domestic market launch came four months later in July 1961. The cars at this time used the triple SU carburetted 3.8-litre six-cylinder Jaguar XK6 engine from the XK150S. Earlier built cars utilised external bonnet latches which required a tool to open and had a flat floor design. These cars are rare and more valuable. After that, the floors were dished to provide more leg room and the twin bonnet latches moved to inside the car. The 3.8-litre engine was increased to 4,235 cc in October 1964. The 4.2-litre engine produced the same power as the 3.8-litre (265 bhp) and same top speed (150 mph), but increased torque approximately 10% from 240 to 283 lb/ft. Acceleration remained pretty much the same and 0 to 60 mph times were around 6.4 seconds for both engines, but maximum power was now reached at 5,400 rpm instead of 5,500 rpm on the 3.8-litre. That all meant better throttle response for drivers that did not want to shift down gears. The 4.2-litre’s block was completely redesigned, made longer to accommodate 5 mm (0.20 in) larger bores, and the crankshaft modified to use newer bearings. Other engine upgrades included a new alternator/generator and an electric cooling fan for the radiator. Autocar road tested a UK spec E-Type 4.2 fixed head coupé in May 1965. The maximum speed was 153 mph, the 0–60 mph time was 7.6 seconds and the 1⁄4 mile from a standing start took 15.1 seconds. They summarised it as “In its 4.2 guise the E-Type is a fast car (the fastest we have ever tested) and offers just about the easiest way to travel quickly by road.”. Motor magazine road tested a UK spec E-Type 4.2 fixed head coupé in Oct 1964. The maximum speed was 150 mph, the 0–60 mph time was 7 seconds and the 1⁄4 mile time was 14.9 seconds. They summarised it as “The new 4.2 supersedes the early 3.8 as the fastest car Motor has tested. The absurd ease which 100 mph can be exceeded in a 1⁄4 mile never failed to astonish. 3,000 miles (4,828 km) of testing confirms that this is still one of the world’s outstanding cars”. All E-Types featured independent coil spring rear suspension designed and developed by R J Knight with torsion bar front ends, and four wheel disc brakes, in-board at the rear, all were power-assisted. The Coventry engineers spared nothing with regards to high automotive technology in braking. Like several British car builders of the middle and late 1950s, the four-wheel disc brakes were also used in that era by Austin-Healey, MG,putting the British far ahead of Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz. Even Lanchester tried an abortive attempt to use copper disc brakes in 1902. Jaguar was one of the first vehicle manufacturers to equip production cars with 4 wheel disc brakes as standard from the XK150 in 1958. The Series 1 (except for late 1967 models) can be recognised by glass-covered headlights (up to 1967), small “mouth” opening at the front, signal lights and tail-lights above bumpers and exhaust tips under the number plate in the rear. 3.8-litre cars have leather-upholstered bucket seats, an aluminium-trimmed centre instrument panel and console (changed to vinyl and leather in 1963), and a Moss four-speed gearbox that lacks synchromesh for first gear (“Moss box”) on all except very last cars. 4.2-litre cars have more comfortable seats, improved brakes and electrical systems, and, obviously, an all-synchromesh Jaguar designed four-speed gearbox. 4.2-litre cars also have a badge on the boot proclaiming “Jaguar 4.2 Litre E-Type” (3.8 cars have a simple “Jaguar” badge). Optional extras included chrome spoked wheels and a detachable hard top for the OTS. When leaving the factory the car was originally fitted with Dunlop 6.40 × 15-inch RS5 tyres on 15 × 5K wire wheels (with the rear fitting 15 × 5K½ wheels supplied with 6.50 X15 Dunlop Racing R5 tyres in mind of competition). Later Series One cars were fitted with Dunlop 185 – 15 SP41 or 185 VR 15 Pirelli Cinturato as radial ply tyres. A 2+2 version of the fastback coupé was added in 1966. The 2+2 offered the option of an automatic transmission. The body is 9 in (229 mm) longer and the roof angles are different. The roadster and the non 2+2 FHC (Fixed Head Coupé) remained as two-seaters. Less widely known, right at the end of Series 1 production, but prior to the transitional “Series 1½” referred to below, a small number of Series 1 cars were produced with open headlights. These Series 1 cars had their headlights modified by removing the covers and altering the scoops they sit in, but these Series 1 headlights differ in several respects from those later used in the Series 1½ (or 1.5), the main being they are shorter at 143 mm from the Series 1½ at 160 mm. Production dates on these machines vary but in right-hand drive form production has been verified as late as July 1968. They are not “rare” in the sense of the build of the twelve lightweights, but they are certainly uncommon; they were not produced until January 1967 and given the foregoing information that they were produced as late as July 1968, it appears that there must have been an overlap with the Series 1.5 production, which began in August 1967 as model year 1968 models. These calendar year/model year Series 1 E-Types are identical to other 4.2-litre Series 1 examples in every respect except for the open headlights; all other component areas, including the exterior, the interior, and the engine compartment are the same, with the same three SU carburettors, polished aluminium cam covers, center dash toggle switches, etc. Following the Series 1 there was a transitional series of cars built in 1967–68 as model year 1968 cars, unofficially called “Series 1½.” Due to American pressure the new features were not just open headlights, but also different switches (black rocker switches as opposed to the Series 1 toggle switches), de-tuning for emissions (using two Zenith-Stromberg carburettors instead of the original three SUs) for US models, ribbed cam covers painted black except for the top brushed aluminium ribbing, bonnet frames on the OTS that have two bows, and other changes. Series 1½ cars also have twin cooling fans and adjustable seat backs. The biggest change between 1961–1967 Series 1 E-Types and the 1968 Series 1.5 was the reduction in the number of carburettors from 3 to just 2 (North America), resulting in a loss in horsepower. Series 2 features were gradually introduced into the Series 1, creating the unofficial Series 1½ cars, but always with the Series 1 body style. A United States federal safety law affecting 1968 model year cars sold in the US was the reason for the lack of headlight covers and change in dash switch design in the “Series 1.5” of 1968. An often overlooked change, one that is often “modified back” to the older style, is the wheel knock-off “nut.” US safety law for 1968 models also forbade the winged-spinner knockoff, and any 1968 model year sold in the US (or earlier German delivery cars) should have a hexagonal knockoff nut, to be hammered on and off with the assistance of a special “socket” included with the car from the factory. This hexagonal nut carried on into the later Series 2 and 3. The engine configuration of the US Series 1.5s was the same as is found in the Series 2. An open 3.8-litre car, actually the first such production car to be completed, was tested by the British magazine Motor in 1961 and had a top speed of 149.1 mph and could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. A fuel consumption of 21.3 mpg was recorded. The test car cost £2,097 including taxes.The cars submitted for road test by the motoring journals of the time (1961) such as Motor, Autocar and Autosport magazines were prepared by the Jaguar works. This work entailed engine balancing and subtle tuning work such as gas-flowing checking the cylinder heads but otherwise production built engines. Both of the well-known 1961 road test cars: the E-Type coupé Reg. No. 9600 HP and E-Type Convertible Reg. No. 77 RW, were fitted with Dunlop Racing Tyres on test, which had a larger rolling diameter and lower drag coefficient. This goes some way to explaining the 150 mph (240 km/h) maximum speeds that were obtained under ideal test conditions. The maximum safe rev limit for standard 6-cylinder 3.8-litre E-Type engines is 5,500 rpm. The later 4.2-Litre units had a red marking on the rev counter from just 5,000 rpm. Both 3.8 test cars may have approached 6,000 rpm in top gear when on road test, depending on final drive ratio. Production numbers were as follows: 15,490 of the 3.8s, 17,320 of the 4.2s and 10,930 of the 2+2s. And by body style there were 15,442 of the FHC, 17,378 of the OTS and 5,500 of the 2+2, making a total of 38,419 of the Series 1 car.
The Series 2 introduced a number of design changes, largely due to U.S. National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration mandates. The most distinctive exterior feature is the absence of the glass headlight covers, which affected several other imported cars, such as the Citroën DS, as well. Unlike other cars, this step was applied worldwide for the E-Type. Other hallmarks of Series 2 cars are a wrap-around rear bumper, larger front indicators and tail lights re-positioned below the bumpers, and an enlarged grille and twin electric fans to aid cooling. Additional U.S.-inspired changes included a steering lock which moved the ignition switch to the steering column, replacing the dashboard mounted ignition and push button starter, the symmetrical array of metal toggle switches replaced with plastic rockers, and a collapsible steering column to absorb impact in the event of an accident. New seats allowed the fitment of head restraints, as required by U.S. law beginning in 1969. The engine is easily identified visually by the change from smooth polished cam covers to a more industrial “ribbed” appearance. It was de-tuned in the US with twin two-barrel Strombergs replacing three SUs. Combined with larger valve clearances horsepower was reduced from 265 to 246 and torque from 283 to 263. Air conditioning and power steering were available as factory options. Production totalled 13,490 of all types, with 4885 of the FHC, 5,326 of the 2+2 and 8,628 of the OTS model.
This is a lovely Ford Lotus Cortina, in Mark 1 guise. The history of this model began in 1961, before the launch of Ford’s family saloon. Colin Chapman had been wishing to build his own engines for Lotus, mainly because the Coventry Climax unit was so expensive and his chance came when he commissioned Harry Mundy (a close friend and designer of the Coventry Climax engine and technical editor for Autocar) to design a twin-cam version of the Ford Kent engine. Most of the development of the engine was done on the 997cc and 1,340cc bottom end, but in 1962 Ford released the 116E five bearing 1,499 cc engine and work centred on this. Keith Duckworth, from Cosworth, played an important part in tuning of the engine. The engine’s first appearance was in 1962 at the Nürburgring in a Lotus 23 driven by Jim Clark. Almost as soon as the engine appeared in production cars (Lotus Elan), it was replaced with a larger capacity unit (82.55 mm bore to give 1,557 cc). This was in order to get the car closer to the 1.6 litre capacity class in motorsport. Whilst the engine was being developed, Walter Hayes (Ford) asked Colin Chapman if he would fit the engine to 1,000 Ford saloons for Group 2 homologation. Chapman quickly accepted, although it must have been very busy in the Cheshunt plant, with the Elan about to be launched. The Type 28 or Lotus Cortina or Cortina Lotus (as Ford liked to call it) was duly launched. Ford supplied the 2-door Cortina bodyshells and took care of all the marketing and selling of the cars, whilst Lotus did all the mechanical and cosmetic changes. The major changes involved installing the 1,557 cc 105 bhp engine, together with the same close-ratio gearbox as the Elan. The rear suspension was drastically altered and lightweight alloy panels were used for doors, bonnet and boot. Lightweight casings were fitted to gearbox and differential. All the Lotus factory cars were painted white with a green stripe (although Ford built some for racing in red, and one customer had a dark blue stripe due to being superstitious about green). The cars also received front quarter bumpers and round Lotus badges were fitted to rear wings and to the right side of the radiator grille. Interior modifications were limited to a centre console designed to accommodate the new gear lever position, different seats and the later style dashboard, featuring tachometer, speedometer, oil pressure, water temperature and fuel level gauges. A wood-rimmed steering wheel was fitted. The suspension changes to the car were quite extensive; the car received shorter struts up front, forged track control arms and 5.5J by 13 steel wheel rims. The rear was even more radical with vertical coil spring/dampers replacing the leaf springs and two trailing arms with a A- bracket (which connected to the differential housing and brackets near the trailing arm pivots) sorting out axle location. To support this set-up, further braces were put behind the rear seat and from the rear wheelarch down to chassis in the boot. The stiffening braces meant that the spare wheel had to be moved from the standard Cortina’s wheel well and was bolted to the left side of the boot floor. The battery was also relocated to the boot, behind the right wheelarch. Both of these changes made big improvements to overall weight distribution. Another improvement the Cortina Lotus gained was the new braking system (9.5 in front discs) which were built by brake specialist Girling. This system also was fitted to Cortina GTs but without a servo, which was fitted in the Cortina Lotus engine bay. Initially, the engines were built by J. A Prestwich of Tottenham and then Villiers of Wolverhampton. In 1966, Lotus moved to Hethel in Norwich where they had their own engine building facilities. The Cortina Lotus used a 8.0 in diaphragm-spring clutch, whereas Ford fitted coil-spring clutches to the rest of the range. The remainder of the gearbox was identical to the Lotus Elan. This led to a few problems because although the ultra-close gear ratios were perfect for the race track or open road, the clutch was given a hard time in traffic. The ratios were later changed. The early cars were very popular and earned some rave reviews; one magazine described the car as a tin-top version of a Lotus 7. It was ‘THE car’ for many enthusiasts who before had to settle for a Cortina GT or a Mini-Cooper and it also amazed a lot of the public who were used to overweight ‘sports cars’ like the Austin-Healey 3000. The launch was not perfect however, the car was too specialist for some Ford dealerships who did not understand the car; there are a few stories of incorrect parts being fitted at services. There were a few teething problems reported by the first batch of owners, (most of these problems show how quickly the car was developed) some of the engines were down on power, the gear ratios were too close and the worst problem was the differential housing coming away from the casing. This problem was mainly caused by the high loads put on the axle because of the A bracket it was an integral part of the rear suspension. This was made even worse by the fact any oil lost from the axle worked its way on to the bushes of the A bracket. There were 4 main updates made to the Mk1 Lotus during its production to solve some of these problems. The first change was a swap to a two-piece prop shaft and the lighter alloy transmission casing were changed for standard Ford items; this also included swapping the ultra close ratio gears for Cortina GT gear ratios, the main difference was 1st, 2nd and reverse were much higher ratios. from 1964, standard panels were used rather than the light alloy ones. Alloy items and ultra-close ratios could be specified when buying new cars. The 2nd main change came in late 1964 when the entire Cortina range had a facelift which included a full width front grille and aeroflow outlets in the rear quarters because the Cortina Lotus also gained Ford’s new ventilation system which also included an update to the interior. The third and probably most important change came in mid-1965, when the Lotus rear suspension was changed for the leaf springs and radius arms of the Cortina GT. This replaced all the stiffening tubing as well. The last update also came in 1965 when the rear drums were swapped for self-adjusting items and also the famous 2000E gearbox ratios were used. These lowered 1st and reverse about halfway between the Cortina GT ratios and the ultra close-ratio box. All these changes made the cars less specialised but far more reliable and all the special parts were still available for competition as well as to members of the public. The Cortina Lotus had by this time earned an impressive competition reputation. It was also being made in left hand drive when production finished around late 1966 and the Mk2 took over. 3306 examples were made. It is sometimes suggested that the survival rate is well in excess of that, with many cars being created out of non-Lotus models. There certainly are plenty of those around, so it really is a case of “buyer beware” if in the market to acquire one of these cars.
First mid-engined road-going Lotus was the Europa. The concept originated during 1963 with drawings by Ron Hickman, director of Lotus Engineering (Designer of the original Lotus Elan, as well as inventor of the Black and Decker Workmate), for a bid on the Ford GT40 project. That contract went to Lola Cars as Colin Chapman wanted to call the car a Lotus and Henry Ford II insisted it would be called Ford. Chapman chose to use Hickman’s aerodynamic design which had a drag coefficient of Cd 0.29 for the basis for the Europa production model. The car was originally intended to succeed the Lotus 7. Volkswagen owned the rights to the Europa name in Germany so cars for sale in Germany were badged Europe rather than Europa. The original Europa used Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s minimalist steel backbone chassis that was first used in the Lotus Elan, while also relying on its fibreglass moulded body for structural strength. The four-wheel independent suspension was typical of Chapman’s thinking. The rear suspension was a modified Chapman strut, as used for Chapman’s earlier Formula racing car designs. Owing to the rubber suspension bushes used to isolate engine vibration from the car body, the true Chapman strut’s use of the drive shaft as the lower locating link could not be followed whilst still giving the precise track and handling desired. The forward radius arms were increased in size and rigidity, to act as a semi-wishbone. A careful compromise between engine mounting bush isolation and handling was required, culminating eventually in a sandwich bush that was flexible against shear but stiff in compression and tension. The car’s handling prompted automotive writers to describe the Europa as the nearest thing to a Formula car for the road. Aside from the doors, bonnet, and boot, the body was moulded as a single unit of fibreglass. The first cars has Renault 1470cc engines, and suffered from a number of quality issues as well as limited visibility. An S2, released in 1968 brought improvements to the build quality, but Lotus knew that the Renault engine was not powerful enough for what they thought the car could achieve on track and on the road, so the Europa underwent another update in 1971 when the Type 74 Europa Twin Cam was made available to the public, with a 105 bhp 1557cc Lotus-Ford Twin Cam engine and a re-designed bodyshell to improve rearward visibility. Initially with the same gearbox as the earlier cars, once the supply had been exhausted in 1972 a new stronger Renault four-speed gearbox was introduced. Mike Kimberley, who rose to become chief executive of Group Lotus, then a new engineer at Lotus, was appointed Chief Engineer of the Europa TC project. 1,580 cars were shipped as Europa “Twin Cam” before Lotus switched to a 126 bhp “Big Valve” version of the engine. The big valve “Europa Special” version was aspirated by Dell’Orto carburettors version of the same engine; in addition it also offered a new Renault five-speed (Type 365) gearbox option. It weighed 740 kg (1631 lb), Motor magazine famously tested a UK Special to a top speed of 123 mph, did 0–60 mph in 6.6 seconds, and ran the 1/4 mile in 14.9 sec. This at a time when all road tests were carried out with both a driver and passenger, with only the driver on board the 0–60 mph time would have been well under 6 seconds, a phenomenal performance for the period. Introduced in September 1972 the first 100 big valve cars were badged and painted to honour the just won Team Lotus’ 1972 F1 World Championship title with John Player Special as sponsors, all with five-speed gearbox, these were all black with gold pin stripe matching the livery of the GP cars – plus a numbered JPS dash board badge, becoming the first ever John Player Special commemorative motor vehicles. The “Special” name and colour scheme was planned to be dropped after the first 200 cars, reverting to the Twin Cam name, but such was the reaction to the new car that the name and pin stripe scheme remained until the end of Europa Production although colours other than black were made available. In the end only the numbered plaque distinguishing the first 100 JPS cars from other black Europa Specials. According to Lotus sources, no Special left the factory with “numbered JPS badges” or “JPS stickers” – these were added by the American importer & weren’t official done by Lotus. There were no “badged” cars sold in the UK, Australia, etc, just in the USA. In total 4710 Type 74s were produced of which 3130 were “Specials”.
Produced between May 1955 and February 1963, having first been seen in prototype at the 1954 New York Auto Show, the 190SL was designed as a more affordable sports car than the exclusive and rather pricey 300SL, sharing its basic styling, engineering, detailing, and fully independent suspension. While both cars had double wishbones in front and swing axles at the rear, the 190 SL did not use the 300 SL’s purpose-built W198 tubular spaceframe. Instead, it was built on a shortened monocoque R121 platform modified from the W120 saloon. The 190 SL was powered by a new, slightly oversquare 105 PS Type M121 1.9 litre four cylinder engine. Based on the 300 SL’s straight six, it had an unchanged 85 mm bore and 4.3 mm reduced 83.6 mm stroke, was fitted with twin-choke dual Solex carburettors, and produced 120 gross hp. In detuned form, it was later used in the W120 180 and W121 190 models. Both the 190 SL and the 300 SL were replaced by the Mercedes-Benz 230SL in 1963.
Sitting alongside the MGB in the MG range was the smaller Midget, and there was an early model here. The 1961 Midget resurrected the name that was used by MG for their smallest car, the M Type, in the late 20s, was the Midget announced in 1961, and was essentially a slightly more expensive badge-engineered version of the MkII Austin-Healey Sprite. The original ‘Frogeye’ Sprite had been introduced specifically to fill the gap in the market left by the end of production of the MG T-type Midget as its replacement, the MGA had been a significantly larger and more expensive car with greater performance. Many existing MG enthusiast and buyers turned to the Sprite to provide a modern low-cost sports car and so a badge-engineered MG version reusing the Midget name made sense. The new Midget differed from the Sprite only in its grille design, badging, colour options and having both leather seats and more external chrome trim as standard to justify its higher purchase price. Mechanically the car was identical to its Austin-Healey counterpart, retaining the rear suspension using quarter-elliptic leaf springs and trailing arms from the ‘Frogeye’. The engine was initially a 948 cc A-Series with twin SU carburettors producing 46 hp at 5500 rpm and 53 lb/ft at 3000 rpm. Brakes were 7″ drums all round. A hard top, heater, radio and luggage rack were available as factory-fitted extras. In October 1962 the engine was increased to 1098 cc, raising the output to 56 hp at 5500 rpm and 62 lb/ft at 3250 rpm, and disc brakes replaced the drums at the front. Wire spoked wheels became available. The doors had no external handles or locks and the windows were sliding Perspex side-screens. A heater was still an optional extra. The car sold well, with 16,080 of the small-engined version and 9601 of the 1098 being made before the arrival in 1964 of the Mark II. Externally the main changes were to the doors, which gained wind-up windows, swivelling quarter lights, external handles and separate locks. The windscreen also gained a slight curvature and was retained in a more substantial frame. The hood, though modified, continued to have a removable frame that had to be erected before the cover was put on. The rear springs were replaced by more conventional semi-elliptic types which gave a better ride. The engine block was strengthened and larger main bearings were fitted, increasing the power to 59 hp at 5750 rpm and torque to 65 lbf·ft at 3500 rpm. A total of 26,601 were made. 1967 saw the arrival of the Mark III. The engine now grew to 1275 cc using the development seen on the Mini-Cooper ‘S’. Enthusiasts were disappointed that this was a detuned version of the 76-bhp Cooper ‘S’ engine, giving only 65 hp at 6000 rpm and 72 lbf·ft at 3000 rpm. A reduced compression ratio of 8.8:1 was used instead of the 9.75:1 employed on the Cooper S engine. The Midget used the 12G940 cylinder head casting that was common to other BMC 1300 cars, whereas the Cooper ‘S’ had a special head with not only larger inlet, but also larger exhaust valves; however, these exhaust valves caused many ‘S’ heads to fail through cracking between the valve seats. The detuned engine was used for reasons of model range placement – with the Cooper ‘S’ spec engine, the Midget would have been faster than the more expensive MGB. The hydraulic system gained a separate master cylinder for the clutch. The hood was now permanently attached to the car, with an improved mechanism making it much easier to use. Minor facelift changes were made to the body trim in late 1969 with the sills painted black, a revised recessed black grille, and squared off taillights as on the MGB. The 13″ “Rostyle” wheels were standardised, but wire-spoked ones remained an option. The square-shaped rear wheel arches became rounded in January 1972 and later that year a Triumph steering rack was fitted, giving a gearing that was somewhat lower than earlier Midgets. A second exhaust silencer was also added in 1972. Alternators were fitted instead of dynamos from 1973 onwards. Many consider the round-arch Midgets with chrome bumpers produced for model years 1972 and 1974 to be the most desirable. These round-arch cars started leaving the Abingdon factory in late 1971. Between 1966 and the 1969 face lift, 22,415 were made, and a further 77,831 up to 1974.
Along with the Morris Mini Traveller. the Austin Mini Countryman was a two-door estate car with double “barn”-style rear doors. Both were built on a slightly longer chassis of 84 inches (2.1 m) compared to 80.25 inches (2.038 m) for the saloon. The early Morris Mini Traveller and Austin Mini Countryman cars had an internal fuel tank located on the left hand side of the rear load area. This is identifiable by the fuel filler cap being on the left hand side of the car just below the rear window. In October 1961 the fuel tank was relocated to the underneath of the car and the filler cap was moved to low down on the right hand side of the car – the same configuration that was already in use on the Mini Van. From the start of production both models had a decorative, non-structural, ash wood trim on the rear body, in the style of a pre-war shooting-brake. This gave the car a similar appearance to the larger Morris Minor Traveller and gave rise to these cars simply being called a woodie. It is a popular misconception that the difference between the Traveller and the Countryman is the wood trim. An all steel version of both the Traveller and the Countryman without the wood trim was launched for export markets in April 1961 and for the home market in October 1962, but the woodie version remained more popular. In October 1967 the Mk2 version was launched with the same changes as the saloon. Approximately 108,000 Austin Mini Countrymans and 99,000 Morris Mini Travellers were built. Variations of this model were also built in South Africa, by Innocenti in Italy and by Industria de Montagem de Automoveis in Portugal. The models were replaced by the Clubman Estate in the autumn of 1969.
Without doubt, the rarest version of the classic Issigonis-designed Mini is the Pickup, as seen here. Introduced in 1961, at the same time as the Van, whose longer platform this version shared, there was an open-top rear cargo area and a drop down tailgate. The factory specified the weight of the Pick-up as less than 1,500 lb (680 kg) with a full 6 gallon tank of fuel. As with the Van, the Pick-up had stamped metal slots for airflow into the engine compartment. The Pickup was basic, although the factory brochure described a “fully equipped Mini Pick-up is also available which includes a recirculatory heater.” Passenger-side sun visor, seat belts, laminated windscreen, tilt tubes and cover were also available at extra cost. Equipment levels improved gradually over time. Like the van, the Pick-up was renamed as the Mini 95 in 1978. Production ceased in 1983 by which time 58,179 Mini Pick-up models had been built, barely 10% of the number of Vans made.
Issigonis’ friend John Cooper, owner of the Cooper Car Company and designer and builder of Formula One cars, saw the potential of the Mini for competition. Issigonis was initially reluctant to see the Mini in the role of a performance car, but after John Cooper appealed to BMC management, the two men collaborated to create the Mini Cooper. The Austin Mini Cooper and Morris Mini Cooper debuted in September 1961. The 848 cc engine from the Morris Mini-Minor was given a longer stroke to increase capacity to 997 cc increasing power from 34 to 55 bhp. The car featured a race-tuned engine, twin SU carburettors, a closer-ratio gearbox and front disc brakes, uncommon at the time in a small car. One thousand units of this version were commissioned by management, intended for and designed to meet the homologation rules of Group 2 rally racing. The 997 cc engine was replaced by a shorter stroke 998 cc unit in 1964. In 1962, Rhodesian John Love became the first non-British racing driver to win the British Saloon Car Championship driving a Mini Cooper. A more powerful Mini Cooper, dubbed the “S”, was developed in tandem and released in 1963. Featuring a 1071 cc engine with a 70.61 mm bore and nitrided steel crankshaft and strengthened bottom end to allow further tuning; and larger servo-assisted disc brakes, 4,030 Cooper S cars were produced and sold until the model was updated in August 1964. Cooper also produced two S models specifically for circuit racing in the under 1,000 cc and under 1,300 cc classes respectively, rated at 970 cc and a 1,275 cc both had a 70.61 mm bore and both were also offered to the public. The smaller-engine model was not well received, and only 963 had been built when the model was discontinued in 1965. The 1,275 cc Cooper S models continued in production until 1971. Sales of the Mini Cooper were: 64,000 Mark I Coopers with 997 cc or 998 cc engines; 19,000 Mark I Cooper S with 970 cc, 1,071 cc or 1,275 cc engines; 16,000 Mark II Coopers with 998 cc engines; 6,300 Mark II Cooper S with 1,275 cc engines. There were no Mark III Coopers and 1,570 Mark III Cooper S.
The Minor was conceived in 1941. Although the Nuffield Organization was heavily involved in war work and there was a governmental ban on civilian car production, Morris Motors’ vice chairman, Miles Thomas, wanted to prepare the ground for new products to be launched as soon as the war was over. Vic Oak, the company’s chief engineer, had already brought to Thomas’ attention a promising junior engineer, Alec Issigonis, who had been employed at Morris since 1935 and specialised in suspension design but he had frequently impressed Oak with his advanced ideas about car design in general. Issigonis had come to Oak’s particular attention with his work on the new Morris Ten, which was in development during 1936/7. This was the first Morris to use unitary construction and was conceived with independent front suspension. Issigonis designed a coil-sprung wishbone system which was later dropped on cost grounds. Although the design would later be used on the MG Y-type and many other post-war MGs the Morris Ten entered production with a front beam axle. Despite his brief being to focus on the Ten’s suspension Issigonis had also drawn up a rack and pinion steering system for the car. Like his suspension design this was not adopted but would resurface in the post-war years on the MG Y-type, but these ideas proved that he was the perfect candidate to lead the design work on a new advanced small car. With virtually all resources required for the war effort, Thomas nonetheless approved the development of a new small family car that would replace the Morris Eight. Although Oak (and Morris’ technical director, Sidney Smith) were in overall charge of the project it was Issigonis who was ultimately responsible for the design, working with only two other draughtsmen. Thomas named the project ‘Mosquito’ and ensured that it remained as secret as possible, both from the Ministry of Supply and from company founder William Morris (now Lord Nuffield), who was still chairman of Morris Motors and, it was widely expected, would not look favourably on Issigonis’ radical ideas. Issigonis’ overall concept was to produce a practical, economical and affordable car for the general public that would equal, if not surpass, the convenience and design quality of a more expensive car. In later years he summed up his approach to the Minor; that he wanted to design an economy car that “the average man would take pleasure in owning, rather than feeling of it as something he’d been sentenced to” and “people who drive small cars are the same size as those who drive large cars and they should not be expected to put up with claustrophobic interiors.” Issigonis wanted the car to be as spacious as possible for its size and comfortable to drive for inexperienced motorists. Just as he would with the Mini ten years later, he designed the Mosquito with excellent roadholding and accurate, quick steering not with any pretence of making a sports car, but to make it safe and easy to drive by all. As work proceeded, there were plenty of battle to overcome, to get Issigonis’ ideas approved, and not all of them were. The production car, called the Minor was launched at the British Motor Show at Earls Court in London on October 27, 1948. At the same show Morris also launched the new Morris Oxford and Morris Six models, plus Wolseley variants of both cars, which were scaled-up versions of the new Minor, incorporating all the same features and designed with Issigonis’ input under Vic Oak’s supervision. Thus Issigonis’ ideas and design principles underpinned the complete post-war Morris and Wolseley car ranges. The original Minor MM series was produced from 1948 until 1953. It included a pair of four-seat saloons, two-door and (from 1950) a four-door, and a convertible four-seat Tourer. The front torsion bar suspension was shared with the larger Morris Oxford MO, as was the almost-unibody construction. Although the Minor was originally designed to accept a flat-4 engine, late in the development stage it was replaced by a 918 cc side-valve inline-four engine, little changed from that fitted in the 1935 Morris 8, and producing 27.5 hp and 39 lbf·ft of torque. This little engine pushed the Minor to just 64 mph but delivered 40 mpg. Brakes were four-wheel drums. Early cars had a painted section in the centre of the bumpers to cover the widening of the production car from the prototypes. This widening of 4 inches is also visible in the creases in the bonnet. Exports to the United States began in 1949 with the headlamps removed from within the grille surround to be mounted higher on the wings to meet local safety requirements. In 1950 a four-door version was released, initially available only for export, and featuring from the start the headlamps faired into the wings rather than set lower down on either side of the grille. The raised headlight position became standard on all Minors in time for 1951. From the start, the Minor had semaphore-type turn indicators, and subsequent Minor versions persisted with these until 1961 An Autocar magazine road test in 1950 reported that these were “not of the usual self-cancelling type, but incorporate[d] a time-basis return mechanism in a switch below the facia, in front of the driver”. It was all too easy for a passenger hurriedly emerging from the front passenger seat to collide with and snap off a tardy indicator “flipper” that was still sticking out of the B-pillar, having not yet been safely returned by the time-basis return mechanism to its folded position. Another innovation towards the end of 1950 was a water pump (replacing a gravity dependent system), which permitted the manufacturer to offer an interior heater “as optional equipment”. When production of the first series ended, just over a quarter of a million had been sold, 30 per cent of them the convertible Tourer model. In 1952, the Minor line was updated with an Austin-designed 803 cc overhead valve A-series engine, replacing the original side-valve unit. The engine had been designed for the Minor’s main competition, the Austin A30, but became available as Austin and Morris were merged into the British Motor Corporation. The new engine felt stronger, though all measurements were smaller than the old. The 52 second drive to 60 mph was still calm, with 63 mph as the top speed. Fuel consumption also rose to 36 mpg. An estate version was introduced in 1952, known as the Traveller (a Morris naming tradition for estates, also seen on the Mini). The Traveller featured an external structural ash (wood) frame for the rear bodywork, with two side-hinged rear doors. The frame was varnished rather than painted and a highly visible feature of the body style. Commercial models, marketed as the Morris Quarter Ton Van and Pick-up were added in May 1953. Rear bodies of the van versions were all steel. The 4-seat convertible and saloon variants continued as well. The car was again updated in 1956 when the engine was increased in capacity to 948 cc. The two-piece split windscreen was replaced with a curved one-piece one and the rear window was enlarged. In 1961 the semaphore-style trafficators were replaced by the flashing direction indicators, these were US-style red at the rear (using the same bulb filament as the brake lamp) and white at the front (using a second brighter filament in the parking lamp bulb) which was legal in the UK and many export markets at the time (such as New Zealand). An upmarket car based on the Minor floorpan using the larger BMC B-Series engine was sold as the Riley One-Point-Five/Wolseley 1500 beginning in 1957: versions of this Wolseley/Riley variant were also produced by BMC Australia as the Morris Major and the Austin Lancer. In December 1960 the Morris Minor became the first British car to sell more than 1,000,000 units. To commemorate the achievement, a limited edition of 350 two-door Minor saloons (one for each UK Morris dealership) was produced with distinctive lilac paintwork and a white interior. Also the badge name on the side of the bonnet was modified to read “Minor 1,000,000” instead of the standard “Minor 1000”. The millionth Minor was donated to the National Union of Journalists, who planned to use it as a prize in a competition in aid of the union’s Widow and Orphan Fund. The company, at the same time, presented a celebratory Minor to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, but this car was constructed of cake.The final major upgrades to the Minor were made in 1962. Although the name Minor 1000 was retained, the changes were sufficient for the new model to be given its own ADO development number. A larger version of the existing A-Series engine had been developed in conjunction with cylinder head specialist Harry Weslake for the then new ADO16 Austin/Morris 1100 range. This new engine used a taller block than did the 948 cc unit, with increased bore and stroke bringing total capacity up to 1,098 cc. Although fuel consumption suffered moderately at 38 mpg, the Minor’s top speed increased to 77 mph with noticeable improvements in low-end torque, giving an altogether more responsive drive. Other changes included a modified dashboard layout with toggle switches, textured steel instrument binnacle, and larger convex glove box covers. A different heater completed the interior upgrade, whilst the larger combined front side/indicator light units, common to many BMC vehicles of the time, were fitted to the front wings. These now included a separate bulb and amber lens for indicators while larger tail lamp units also included amber rear flashers. During the life of the Minor 1000 model, production declined. The last Convertible/Tourer was manufactured on 18 August 1969, and the saloon models were discontinued the following year. Production of the more practical Traveller and commercial versions ceased in 1972, although examples of all models were still theoretically available from dealers with a surplus of unsold cars for a short time afterwards. 1,619,857 Minors of all variants were ultimately sold and to be seen here was the now rare Pickup.
The first post-war NSU car, the Prinz I, was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1957 accompanied by the advertising slogan “Fahre Prinz und Du bist König” (“Drive a Prince and you’re a king”). After a pilot run of 150 preproduction cars, volume production began in March 1958. The Prinz I was available as a 2-door saloon featuring an upright roof line and seating for four people. The doors opened wide enough to permit reasonable access even to the rear seats, although leg room was severely restricted if attempting to accommodate four full sized adults. In addition to a luggage compartment accessed via a hatch at the front of the car and shared with the spare wheel and fuel filler, there was a narrow but deep full width space behind the rear seat sufficient to accommodate a holiday suitcase. The noisy two-cylinder 600 cc 20 hp engine was located at the back where it drove the rear wheels, initially via a “crash” gearbox. Later versions gained a four-speed all-synchromesh gearbox. Contemporaries were impressed by the brevity of the maintenance schedule, with the engine, gear box and final drive operating as a single chamber and all lubricated by means of oil, added through a filler in the rocker box cover. There were just two grease nipples requiring attention, positioned on the steering kingpins. The engine was also commended in contemporary reports for its fuel economy and longevity. Although noisy, the engine offered impressive flexibility, recalling NSU’s strengths as a motorcycle manufacturer. The Prinz II (a ‘luxury’ version) was released in 1959 with better trim and an all-synchromesh gearbox. A 30E export version was equipped with a 30 hp engine. The Prinz III was launched in October 1960 featuring a new stabilizer bar and the 30 hp motor.
The Spider was the first Western production car in the world to be powered by a Wankel rotary engine. Apart from its water-cooled single rotor engine and standard front disc brakes, the car was in most other respects unremarkable. First appearing at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1964, the Spider featured a two-door cabriolet body based on that of the NSU Sport Prinz coupé introduced back in 1959. In addition to the folding roof, the Spider was distinguishable from the hard top car by a grille at the front. As with all NSU cars at the time, the engine was rear-mounted: in order to improve weight distribution, space was found for the Spider’s radiator and for its 35-litre fuel tank ahead of the driver. The front luggage locker was in consequence small. There was a second luggage area in the rear of the car above the engine. It appears that NSU Spiders were painted either red or white. Claimed output from the revolutionary Wankel engine was initially 50 bhp at 5500 rpm, though in later models 54 bhp at 6000 rpm was advertised. The rotary engine was installed above the rear axle. It was compact, light and very free revving in comparison with conventional engines of the time. By ignoring the manufacturer’s recommendations it was possible to rev the engine briefly above 7000 rpm in the lower gears and thereby to achieve a 0 – 100 km/h (0 – 62 mph) time of 14.5 seconds: other sources, presumably based on following the manufacturer’s recommendations, give a time of 15.7 seconds. Large sales volumes were never envisaged for the car, and this was reflected in a relatively high retail price. Between 1964 and 1967 2,375 were built. In 1967, the model was withdrawn and NSU’s second rotary-engined production saloon was presented.
Dating from 1929 is this Pontiac 6-29. The 1926 Pontiac Six was first introduced as the Series 6-27 using Fisher Body coachwork, and only offered a 2-door 2-passenger Coupe or 5-passenger Coach with a list price of US$825. It was first introduced January 3, 1926, while manufacture at the Oakland Factory in Pontiac Michigan began December 28, 1925 and introduced the Pontiac straight-6 engine split-flathead which was designed by Henry M. Crane. As this was an entry-level vehicle, options were limited to a front and rear bumper, rear mounted spare tire and a heater for the passenger compartment. The Coach came painted in Sage Green with Faerie Red striping while the Coupe had Landau bars on the roof and was painted in Arizona Grey while both came with black fenders. Mid-year changes were introduced in August adding three more coachwork choices, while the coupe was available in blue with a red stripe, the coach was available in blue or gray with an orange stripe. Deluxe models could be distinguished by having both the fender and body in one colour. When the model year had finished 76,742 cars had been manufactured. When model year 1927 began, it was renamed the “New Finer Series 6-27” and a Sport Roadster or Sport Coupe was now offered as a 2-passenger with optional rumble seat. Prices reflected the popularity of the brand and ranged from US$775 for a choice of the Sport Roadster, 2-passenger Coupe or 2-door 5-passenger Coach to US$975 for the Deluxe Landau Sedan. Earlier in 1925, the GM Art and Color Section, headed up by Harley Earl standardized all GM products and continued the tradition of planned obsolescence which introduced yearly appearance, mechanical upgrades or new optional equipment that in later years became standard equipment, and the 1928 Pontiac Six “New Series 6-28” was the new sales leader favourite of GM and saw various changes too. The front fenders now had a higher crown which meant that the edge of the fender came further down the sides of the tires and covered more of the front of the tire with a beaded edge. All previous “Deluxe” models were renamed “Sport”, and the Indian head hood ornament no longer had a headdress, which now signified it was using the likeness of an Indian brave. Prices remained under US$1,000 for all coachwork choices. January of 1929, the updated Series 6-29 “New Big Six” was introduced, signifying that the engine displacement was now at 200 ci, and styling was now influenced by the Vauxhall 20-60 which GM had previously purchased in 1925. All vehicles built between August and October of 1929 were identified as Series 6-29A. Some of the improvements recorded were appearance, mechanical or feature enhancements to include a vertical centre divider on the surface of the radiator, vertical louvers on the sides of the engine cover, oval opera windows on closed body sedans, and a combination transmission and ignition lock. When the Wall Street Crash of 1929 occurred in September, both Pontiac and Oakland sales dropped dramatically and because Oakland was the more expensive, GM leadership decided that Pontiac should remain. January of 1930 introduced the Big Six Series 6-30B and some of the improvements recorded were a rearward sloping windshield, a beltline molding that extended around the exterior, and exterior sun visors above the windshield. Wheel dimensions were measured at 29″ and model year production dropped to 62,888. For model year 1931 the “Fine Six Series 401″ was introduced in January, and the most notable changes were a 112″ wheelbase, seven body style choices, while it shared appearance and technical advancements introduced by GM on all cars for this model year. This was the last year for Oakland, and prices remained close in comparison to Chevrolet at US$675 for a choice of a 2-passenger Coupe or 2-door 5-passenger sedan to US$785 for the 4-door 5-passenger Custom Sedan. Model year production improved to 84,708. 1932 was the first year that Pontiac offered two products, with the Series 302 V8 being renamed from the previous Oakland Model 301 V8. The Series 402 Six offered the same appearance, mechanical and optional equipment installed on all GM vehicles that year, a 114″ wheelbase, including the availability of a radio, relocating the sun visor to inside the vehicle, replacing the vertical engine compartment vents with individual doors, fender lights on deepened crown front fenders, and sharing the curved front bar between the headlights used on the 1932 Chevrolet. Kelsey-Hayes spoked 18” wire wheels were optional covering four-wheel mechanical drum brakes.
Another of the restored cars offered for sale is this Rolls Royce 20 HP. The Rolls-Royce Twenty built between 1922 and 1929 was Rolls-Royce’s “small car” for the 1920s and was produced alongside the 40/50 Silver Ghost and the successor to the 40/50, the Phantom. It was intended to appeal to owner-drivers but many were sold to customers with chauffeurs A new inline-6 cylinder overhead valve engine was designed for the car of 3127 cc with a bore of 76 mm and stroke of 114 mm. Unlike the Silver Ghost engine, the cylinders were cast in one block and the cylinder head was detachable. Both coil and magneto ignition were fitted. The early cars had 3-speed manual gearboxes with the change lever in the centre of the car, but this changed in 1925 to a four-speed unit with traditional right-hand change. The power was transmitted to the rear axle via a standard propeller shaft with a universal joint at each end. The substantial chassis had rigid front and rear axles suspended by half-elliptic springs, with braking initially only on the rear wheels. Four-wheel brakes with mechanical servo were introduced in 1925. The famous Rolls-Royce radiator with triangular top was fitted, and early examples had enamel-finished horizontal slats, later changing to a nickel finish and finally becoming vertical. In 1920 a chassis cost £1100 with, typically, a complete tourer-bodied car costing around £1600. With coachwork to the factory recommended weight the car could reach 60 mph, but many owners had large limousine bodies fitted, with the inevitable detrimental effect on performance. Only the chassis and mechanical parts were made by Rolls-Royce. The body was made and fitted by a coachbuilder selected by the owner. Some of the most famous coachbuilders who produced bodies for Rolls Royce cars are Barker, Park Ward, Thrupp & Maberly, Mulliner and Hooper. 2940 were made before the car was succeeded by the 20/25.
The Flying Eight was the smallest member of the Standard Flying family. It was launched by the Standard Motor Co Ltd late September 1938, prior to the 1938 Motor Show at Earls Court in October of that year. Apart from the power unit, it was a brand new design, and marked Standard’s first entry into the smallest 8 hp market. The frame was all new, with box section longitudinals, and independent front suspension (ifs) by a transverse leaf spring. It was the first British 8 hp family car to feature ifs. At the same time, an updated Flying Ten and a Flying Twelve were introduced, incorporating the same chassis features. The engine was a development of the previous Flying Nine/Ten, but now with a counterbalanced crankshaft and an aluminium cylinder head. The bore was reduced to 57 mm in order to get into the 8 hp class, while the stroke remained at 100 mm. At 1,021 cc swept volume, maximum power was quoted to 31 bhp at 4,000 rpm. A 3-speed gearbox was used, as well as Bendix mechanical brakes operated by cables. Two versions were available from the launch of the model: A two-door all-steel saloon, and a 2/4-seat open tourer. The former body was built for Standard by Fisher & Ludlow at a newly erected plant at Tile Hill, Coventry. The open tourer bodies were built by Carbodies at Holyhead Road, Coventry, and these cars were probably also assembled there. These tourers featured cut-down door tops, and a fold-flat windscreen. Around the turn of the year 1938/39 a drophead coupe became available. This body was built for Standard by Mulliners of Birmingham, who were already building drophead bodies for the Standard Flying Twelve. The initiative for this version probably came from Mulliner’s and not from Standard themselves, as it appeared 4–5 months after the original saloon and tourer versions. The prewar production ledger has not survived. The saloon and tourer prototypes (DDU 514 and −516 respectively) were both registered on 15 February 1938. However, series production of the saloons at Standard’s Canley plant seems to have commenced early September 1938, and it seems probable that 23,069 home market (RHD) saloons had been assembled by the end of August 1939 (end of company’s 1938/39 financial year). The number of home market open tourers seem to be 1,500 (two batches of 1,000 and 500 respectively). Assembly of these seem to have begun in early November 1938, and continued uninterrupted until about July 1939. Number of drophead coupes were certainly less than 1,000 – only one proper batch of 500 has been identified. 550 left hand drive (LHD) completely knocked down (CKD) sets were supplied to Denmark for assembly by their importers, Bohnstedt-Petersen AS in Copenhagen. 500 of these were saloons, 50 were open tourers. CKD sets were also supplied to Australia, and assembled there by Mortlocks of Perth. For open tourers they used locally built bodies by Richards. The number of Flying Eights assembled in Australia is unknown. Production at Standard’s Canley plant continued into the early weeks of 1940. The highest chassis number now known is 33433, a saloon first registered on 11.7.1940. The Glass Guide quotes 34,601 as the final pre-war (saloon?) chassis number. The saloon was road tested by The Autocar magazine in their issue of 30 September 1938, and the drophead in the issue of 26 May 1939. Both recorded top speeds very close to 62 mph (100 km/h), and standing start 0–50 mph acceleration figures of 26.2 sec and 25.3 sec respectively – the drophead being 57 lb (26 kg) lighter than the saloon. The tourer was priced at £125, the saloon at £129, the saloon de luxe at £139, and the drophead at £159. The 8 hp model, now without the Flying name, was rapidly re-introduced after the Second World War with the first models appearing within ten days of VE day. The only major update from the pre-war model involved the fitting of a 4-speed gearbox. The cylinder bore was reduced to 56.7 mm, giving 1,009 cc swept volume. Maximum power was now quoted to 28 bhp at 4,000 rpm. The absence of bonnet louvres on the 8 hp model provided visual differentiation from the pre-war Flying Eight. The pre-war tourer body by Carbodies was dropped, being replaced by a new tourer body in the form of a simplified drophead coupe, with cut-down door tops, detachable sidescreens and a fixed windscreen frame. Estate cars were produced in 1948 only and were not on general sale. The car was pitched by Standard against the Austin 8 and Morris Eight rivals and was priced at £314. After this version of the 8 was phased out Standard-Triumph’s next small car was the Triumph Mayflower and it was only after this model had failed to meet its sales targets that a new Standard Eight was launched.
Launched in 1955 the TR3 was a clear evolution of the TR2 and not a brand new model. It was powered by a 1991 cc straight-4 OHV engine initially producing 95 bhp, an increase of 5 hp over the TR2 thanks to the larger SU-H6 carburettors fitted. This was later increased to 100 bhp at 5000 rpm by the addition of a “high port” cylinder head and enlarged manifold. The four-speed manual gearbox could be supplemented by an overdrive unit on the top three ratios, electrically operated and controlled by a switch on the dashboard. In 1956 the front brakes were changed from drums to discs, the TR3 thus becoming the first British series production car to be so fitted. The TR3 was updated in 1957, with various changes of which the full width radiator grille is the easiest recognition point and the facelifted model is commonly referred to as the Triumph “TR3A”, though unlike the later TR4 series, where the “A” suffix was adopted, the cars were not badged as such and the “TR3A” name was not used officially, Other updates included exterior door handles, a lockable boot handle and the car came with a full tool kit as standard (this was an option on the TR3). The total production run of the “TR3A” was 58,236. This makes it the third best-selling TR after the TR6 and TR7. The TR3A was so successful that the original panel moulds eventually wore out and had to be replaced. In 1959 a slightly modified version came out that had raised stampings under the bonnet and boot hinges and under the door handles, as well as a redesigned rear floor section. In addition, the windscreen was attached with bolts rather than the Dzus connectors used on the early “A” models. Partly because it was produced for less time, the original TR3 sold 13,377 examples, of which 1286 were sold within the UK; the rest being exported mainly to the USA.
The TR’s smaller and cheaper brother was the Spitfire and there were a couple of examples from the later part of production. Based on the chassis and mechanicals of the Triumph Herald, the Spitfire was conceived as a rival to the Austin-Healey Sprite and MG Midget, which were launched a year earlier. The Triumph soon found a strong following, with many preferring it to the BMC cars which in time would become in-house stablemates. Mark II models arrived in 1965 and a more comprehensive facelift in 1967 with the distinctive “bone in mouth” front grille necessitated by US bumper height regulations also brought changes, but it was with the Mark IV that the greatest number of alterations would come about. The Mark IV featured a completely re-designed cut-off rear end, giving a strong family resemblance to the Triumph Stag and Triumph 2000 models, both of which were also Michelotti-designed. The front end was also cleaned up, with a new bonnet pressing losing the weld lines on top of the wings from the older models, and the doors were given recessed handles and squared-off glass in the top rear corner. The interior was much improved: a proper full-width dashboard was provided, putting the instruments ahead of the driver rather than over the centre console. This was initially black plastic however was replaced with wood in 1973. An all-new hardtop was also available, with rear quarter-lights and a flatter rear screen. By far the most significant change, however, was to the rear suspension, which was de-cambered and redesigned to eliminate the unfortunate tendencies of the original swing-axle design. The Triumph GT6 and Triumph Vitesse had already been modified, and the result on all these cars was safe and progressive handling even at the limit. The 75 hp engine was now rated at 63 hp (for UK market employing the 9:1 compression ratio and twin SU HS2 carburettors; the less powerful North American version still used a single Zenith Stromberg carburettor and an 8.5:1 compression ratio) due to the German DIN system; the actual output was the same for the early Mark IV. However, it was slightly slower than the previous Mark III due to carrying more weight, and employing a taller 3.89:1 final drive as opposed to the earlier 4.11:1. The engine continued at 1296 cc, but in 1973 was modified with larger big-end bearings to rationalise production with the TR6 2.5 litre engines, which somewhat decreased its “revvy” nature; there was some detuning, to meet new emissions laws, which resulted in the new car being a little tamer. With the overall weight also increasing to 1,717 lb (779 kg) the performance dropped as a consequence, 0 to 60 mph now being achieved in 15.8 seconds and the top speed reducing to 90 mph. The overall fuel economy also dipped to 32mpg. The gearbox gained synchromesh on its bottom gear. The Mark IV went on sale in the UK at the end of 1970 with a base price of £735. In 1973 in the United States and Canada, and 1975 in the rest of the world, the 1500 engine was used to make the Spitfire 1500. Although in this final incarnation the engine was rather rougher and more prone to failure than the earlier units, torque was greatly increased by increasing the cylinder stroke to 87.5 mm (3.44 in), which made it much more drivable in traffic. While the rest of the world saw 1500s with the compression ratio reduced to 8.0:1, the American market model was fitted with a single Zenith-Stromberg carburettor and a compression ratio reduced to 7.5:1 to allow it to run on lower octane unleaded fuel, and after adding a catalytic converter and exhaust gas recirculating system, the engine only delivered 53 bhp with a slower 0–60 time of 16.3 seconds. The notable exception to this was the 1976 model year, where the compression ratio was raised to 9.1:1. This improvement was short-lived, however, as the ratio was again reduced to 7.5:1 for the remaining years of production. In the UK the 9:1 compression ratio, less restrictive emissions control equipment, and the Type HS2 SU carburettors now being replaced with larger Type HS4 models, led to the most powerful variant to date. The 1500 Spitfire now produced 71hp (DIN) at 5500 rpm, and produced 82 lb/ft of torque at 3000 rpm. Top speed was now at the magical 100 mph mark, and 0 to 60 mph was reached in 13.2 seconds. Fuel economy was reduced to 29mpg. Further improvements to the suspension followed with the 1500 included longer swing axles and a lowered spring mounting point for more negative camber and a wider rear track. The wider, lower stance gave an impressive skid pad result of 0.87g average. This put the Spitfire head and shoulders over its competition in handling. The American market Spitfire 1500 is easily identified by the big plastic over-riders and wing mounted reflectors on the front and back wings. The US specification models up to 1978 still had chrome bumpers, but on the 1979 and 1980 models these were replaced by black rubber bumpers with built-in over-riders. Chassis extensions were also fitted under the boot to support the bumpers. Detail improvements continued to be made throughout the life of the Mark IV, and included reclining seats with “chequered brushed nylon centre panels” and head restraints, introduced for domestic market cars early in 1977 along with a new set of column stalk operated minor controls (as fitted already in the TR7) replacing the old dashboard mounted knobs and switches. Also added for the model’s final years were a wood dash, hazard flashers and an electric screen washer, in place of the previous manual pump operated ones. Options such as the hard top, tonneau cover, map light and overdrive continued to be popular, but wire wheels ceased to be available. The 1980 model was the last and the heaviest of the entire run, weighing 1,875 lb (850.5 kg). Base prices for the 1980 model year was £3,631 in the UK. The last Spitfire, an Inca Yellow UK-market model with hardtop and overdrive, rolled off the assembly line at Canley in August 1980, shortly before the factory closed. It was never sold and is now displayed at the museum at Gaydon.
The introduction of the Fiat 600 in 1955 meant the start of the era of Italian mass mobility. For the first time in their lives many Italians could afford to have their own motor car. Vignale was eager to produce their own interpretations on the Fiat 600 right from its introduction and it was with their Fiat 600 based Coupe and Spider that the name of Vignale became famous with the Italian public. Clothing the standard Fiat mechanicals in all-new pretty bodies, these cars provided a more desirable product at a modest price. In 1960 Fiat offered the 600 in a variant with an engine enlarged to 750 cc. Vignale offered three new models dubbed the 750 Berlinetta, 750 Coupe and 750 Spider. The cars were produced until 1964. They are rare now.
This was a fascinating museum to visit. You could race around it in less than an hour, but to do so would be missing out on so many of the displays of memorabilia that line the walls throughout. There is also a library replete with books and old car magazines. I picked up a few of those and started to read them, then realised I would end up being there all day! With some of the cars likely to leave once they are sold, this is definitely a place to return to on a future visit to the island.
More details can be found on the museum’s website: https://www.classiccarsmalta.com/