Fly Me Down To The Moon

It’s another new year. What was happening 20 years ago? 

Rover R40 concept: Car Magazine, Jan 1998

At Gaydon, Rover’s engineers worked on the R55 (to be sold as the R40). Predictions suggested a vehicle with rounded windows like a 1992 Nissan Micra and an upright chrome grille with main body surfaces akin to the 75. Rover expected the launch to be in 1999 when the last of the Honda-based Rovers would be phased out.

Interestingly, it was expected that the R40 would be sold only a year from 1998 and that a mid-size executive car would

appear in 2002.  Aronline suggests the cars were to be sold as R35 and R55, with a launch date of 2003.

1999 Audi A2:

Over at Audi, the A2 received the green light, and ended up resembling the Al2 shown in Frankfurt in 1997. More conventionally, BMW started showing images of the E46 3-series which reverted to fairly conventional classicism, with lots of lines down the body side, resembling nothing so much as a busier, smaller 5.  This car was important for what it was not: daring. Chris Bangle, BMW’s then-new styling director used this car as an argument for a bolder styling direction that is still talked about today.

1998 Audi A-class, rusting

The COTY the year 1998 award went to the Alfa Romeo 156, plausibly the last convincing Alfa Romeo to also sell well – and before it a string of moderate to mediocre cars plus a few gems (164, for sure). Coming second: the VW Golf. In at three, the Audi A6. The Mercedes A-class came fifth and due to some error, the Citroen Xsara received 204 votes. Had the elk-test fiasco not wounded Mercedes, the A-class might very well have a) earned the award and b) been justly named as yet another (in retrospect) undeserved winner.

Alfa Romeo 156:
1998 Volvo C70: source

Volvo presented the C70 for review and it received a warm reception from Car. With a 2-4 litres turbo five it offered 6.7 seconds to 60 and room for four people. It provided a “relaxed, if rapid approach to B-road motoring” and managed to look like a Volvo and also be conventionally attractive.  Funnily, it’s another forgotten car, from the tail-end of the coupe era.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

3 thoughts on “Fly Me Down To The Moon”

  1. Every time I see an MGR concept sketch or prototype from “before the fall” I’m grateful they never made it any further. Can you imagine how a retro Mitsuoka-esque tragedy like the one shown above would have performed in the marketplace when they finally got it on sale in a post Bangle world?

  2. For some reason, that Rover has strong hints of the (2nd?) 1 series BMW for me, and looks just as “wrong”.

    1. I think there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the original 1-Series owes something to the R30. I actually think that time has been kind to that car (the first generation 1-Series) , especially in 2-door coupe format – certainly it’s more agreeable than the model that replaced it.

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