Re-1998 : Introduction

The summer is here and DTW’s offices become ferociously stuffy, a maelstrom of dandruff, cigar ash and wine-label dust dancing in the shafts of half-light.

1998 Alfa Romeo 166 rear view: Wikipedia.org

Simon Kearne, the editor, moves his collection of sherry and cooking marsala to his summer residence (location: secret) and Myles Gorfe’s padded rally jacket disappears off his swivel chair. We never see him, or him taking it. He has gone, like a swallow in September.

So, this writer is also fleeing DTW’s dusty, cramped, byzantine, magazine-clogged rooms on the ninth floor for a summer pause. However, I am not going to display complete dereliction of duty and so have left a trove of articles on automotive life in 1998. which I have tagged Re-1998. They will appear over  the coming weeks.

To see what I might have picked out you don’t need to do much more than carry on reading.

1998 Chryslodgemouth Neon: source

In the summer of 1998 the world sat up and took notice of the following cars: the Peugeot 206, the Volvo C70 2.5T, the Chrysler Neon, the Volkswagen GTi, the Volvo S80 and the Mazda Demio plus the VW Golf Cabrio. The late 1990s were also a time when the UK number plates changed over (I am not au fait with this arcane tradition) and so some manufacturers offered special editions. Ford offered the Escort Finesse and Peugeot offered the 306 Meridian, neither of which I have seen (or seen and remembered).

I had a look through What Car? for August 1998 to do some research. The following cars took up space in the magazine: the Renault Laguna (“genetic engineering”), the Peugeot 106 Quiksilver, the Escort Finesse with a 1.6 litre 16 valve engine and air conditioning, the Suzuki Grand Vitara (“experience a real 4×4”), the Citroen Saxo (“as recommended by the bloke downstairs”), Daewoo Lanos, the Ford Fiesta Zetec, the Mazda 626 special edition (sic), the Jeep Cherokee**, Hyundai Coupe F2, used Jeeps from official dealers, the Alfa Romeo 145 Cloverleaf …and I am only on page 39. So I will stop.

Interestingly, Modern Classic (July 2018) took a Cloverleaf out for a spin and revealed there are only 94 of them left and that they are quite good after all. I cringe at the way the motoring press expresses its ideas on styling: “…styling is straight from the 1980s school of right angles, Tonka toys, and slab sides”. I can’t see one right angle on this car and the sides of the car have flipping huge strakes down them.

Stephen Bayley considered it post-modern when asked to mull over the 145’s appearance for Car. I wonder does he stand by that judgement now?

Alfa Romeo 145. The Cloverleaf looks much the same: source

The 145, to me, looks as good now as it did then and the attractive glazed C-pillar is especially pleasant and well-handled. So to is the crease that runs along the bodyside and then merges into the rear light cluster before fading gently away. Motor Classic claims Bangle did the sketches and they were intended for Lancia.

I notice to my surprise that I have not written much about this car. I have written a little about the 146 though.  The 145 always looks to me like a junior of the Citroen XM, more so than the excrescent ZX does

Maybe I can ask the readership to discuss which 1998 car they still think worth the trouble? The Volvo S80 or the by-now deliciously rare Peugeot 106 Quiksilver?

Author: richard herriott

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

9 thoughts on “Re-1998 : Introduction”

  1. Somewhere on the internet there is a story in which Ermanno Crressoni tells how the Alfa 145 came into being.
    They had a clay model for a new Lancia in the wind tunnel. That car must have looked like an Alfa 146 with a short boot and someone in the test team had the idea to fit a styrofoam block onto the boot lid and look how this affected the aerodynamics of the car.
    After the tests this car complete with styrofoam block was wheeled down the corridors of Centro Stile when some Fiat bigwig saw the car and declared that it looked like an Alfa, not a Lancia.
    The styling team then added some Alfa elements like scudetto and rear lights and created the 145 from a Lancia and a cubic metre of styrofoam. Cressoni also tells that he was very happy to have been able to meet his desire to finally give a car a kink in the door window line, something he had already intended for the Cinquecento where it was turned down for cost reasons.

  2. Love the 145, and completely agree (although I never noticed it before) that it really does look like it is related to the XM. I recently came across the 1988 edition of Car which featured a ‘world exclusive’ on driving the XM, written by then editor Gavin Green. It brought memories flooding back and reignited my admiration for the car. Richard may well have the same edition.

    1. If anyone is interested I have a pile of old copies of Car looking for a good home. From memory they are mostly from early 80s (1981 to 1985-86 if I remember correctly), and a handful from 1960s.
      The lot fills a storage crate and is located in South London.

  3. Glazed c-pillars seem so impossibly exotic to me… I’ve only knowingly seen two cars thusly equipped: Nissan S13 fastback and (arguably) the i3. Once you get back from your undisclosed locations, I’m curious to know more the topic.

    1. Citroen XM would be a very clear example; 1986 Ford Scornada; 1988 Olds Cutlass Supreme and other listed here in an article done some time back.

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