This is the third instalment of this series which definitively ranks the very best European cars of all time.
To make cut the cars have been rigorously assessed for engineering merit, technical competence and design quality. Each parameter was subvivided into its essential elements and assigned a number of points. The total number of points possible is 100. The minumum grade was 79. Today we assay an Alvis, evaluate an Audi, weigh up a Wolseley, over-view an Opel and muse about an MG.
If you wish to find out which models made it to the ranks of 15-10, then you only have to carry on reading. Shall we begin?
In at number 15 is the 1967 3.0 Graber-Alvis. One can only describe this as exotic squared. Alvis made the engine and chassis and the Swiss coachbuilder Graber produced the svelte body. This bodywork is non-obvious by which I mean it is not merely the strict application of one rule set. Nor is it a disjointed collection of shapes hammered into unity (step forward, Bristol).
The excellent proportions underpin the controlled variation of each element. Particularly thrilling is the rear screen and the side glass. You’d think the side-glass should have a soft radius where the cant rail turns down to the c-pillar. It doesn’t and it makes it lively. This might be one of the most beautifully understated coupes of the 60s: it’s light, feminine but strong; individual without being idiosyncratic.
The product history of Alvis is one of continuous improvements and changing model designations. The 3.0 Graber-Alvis was based on the TE21 and was assembled in Switzerland. If only Bristol had had the wit to retain an equally capable coachbuilder they might have fared a little better. Rating: 82/100
Number 14 .The Opel Kadett (final version) is another DTW stalwart. I don’t need to say more about it other than to remind readers that it had a full range of engines and bodystyles and every single body-style trumped the equivalents from Ford and VW. Rating: 82/100.
Number 13. Woleseley preserved inside the Nuffield group some standards of quality and elegance while also throwing down the gauntlet to other upper-middle marques in Britain. The 1953 4/44 did the throwing and even if it had some elements shared with the Magnette ZA it was a far superior car. Under the impressive bonnet there lurked a 1250 cc engine with one carburetor.
Being a Wolseley it had to have four speeds not three and the control was mounted on the column for easy access. The illuminated badge provided a dash of charm and it had independent coil-spring suspension up front. A well-located live rear axle kept things under control hindmost. A cruise in one of these things probably epitomised the joy of 1950s Britain just as a Topolino summed up Italy at the time or 300 SL characterised Germany.
Number 12: For this most apostolic of numbers, we turn to the Audi 100 of 1976. This handsome saloon offered six cylinder power and four cylinder economy by means of a novel five-cylinder engine mounted transversely. The car showcased Audi’s carefully detailed industrial design language. The car managed more than a million sales and can be seen as the model that moved Audi from being a rather indistinct middle-market brand to a potential premium player. The 100 also came with more conventional 1.6 and 1.8 litre petrol units and there was even a subtle two-door saloon. Rating: 83/100.
Number 11 rounds off today’s collection. This is a Belgian interpretation of the MGB by Jacques Coune.
A dizzying number of MG B variants existed, most of which had a 1.8 litre in-line four and rather unusual fastback styling but six-cylinder and 8-cylinder versions appeared as well. The standard MGB GT version had Pininfarina styling and the cars boasted Laycock overdrive systems. The MG B takes its place as the classic classic car due to its simple nature and appealing shape, giving a British twist to an archetypal car format. Even if the cars weren’t all that reliable they did have the advantage of being simple to fix. Rating: 83/100.