Alert regular visitors to the corner shop we call DTW will certainly recall our recent discussions of American cars sold in Europe.
By way of a follow-up article for what will undoubtedly be a fine spring morning I have been delving into the recent past (2006). This is to look at a few other American vehicles that made it to this side of the Atlantic. That’s just what you want to read as you tuck into your cornflakes and toast. Before some of you jump up shouting “You must be overlooking cars like Jeeps!” I am not overlooking such vehicles.
I have a private definition of “American car in Europe”. It’s anything imported on an opportunistic basis or imported unofficially. This is to distinguish them from the reasonable kind of American imports such as the smaller Jeeps of recent years. So where does that leave rubbish like the Chrysler Neon and P/T Cruiser? These were sent over with the stated aim of selling quite well because they were small enough dimensionally and engine-wise. Well, yes, I suppose they are American cars too. They aren’t the ones I have in mind.
The archetypal American car in Europe is the one that is obviously not designed with Europe in mind. The Mercury Monarch mentioned recently is one. All those 80s GM cars that ended up in Switzerland would also fit my bill along with patent nonsense like Chevrolet Suburbans and Hummers, vehicles plainly unsuited to our roads and petrol prices.
And trucks? These I have no interest in. They aren’t cars.
Bringing it back to today’s trio: the 2006 Mustang, the CTS and the 300C. The first could be had as an unoffical import. The second two were here via Vauxhall/Opel dealers and Chrylser dealers respectively.
One firm bringing in Mustangs was Litchfield Imports. They are still in business if not exactly in Litchfield. They have brought over and remapped Mustangs such as the one shown above. This could be had with a V6 or V8 engine. The V6 can be dismissed as not being butch enough and the V8 can be dismissed for its profligate petrol consumption which is to say this is not a car for people who don’t like American cars.
And if you want an American car it’s your business whether you want one more suited to UK petrol prices of if you want the full-fat 4.6 litre V8 experience. The car is noted for its live axle and iffy cabin plastics but it’s also not an expensive car in the US so these things are relative.
The Cadillac CTS first appeared in 2003. The first iteration ran until 2007. Anoraks know it was the first Cadillac with a manual transmission since the Cimarron. It had independent suspension and rear wheel drive. That arrangement plus its Art & Science styling signalled GM’s intent to go head to head against the German brands stealing their sales. Car magazine considered it ready to park next to a Volvo S80 at the bowl’s club. That was when Jason Barlow had the editor’s chair, note.
Despite the relatively modest engine, the CTS still only obtained 20 mpg. It also had light steering and a light brake pedal, conforming to the stereotypes of US motoring, I suppose. You can get a used one for about between one and three grand. And Parker’s likes the car apart from the “rather plasticky interior” and hard ride. Well, it is supposed to be able to manage the ‘Ring, unlike Cadillacs of yore (and it goes to show Cadilllac can’t win: either too soft or too hard).
Into the same market came the Chrysler 300C, a car that went on to become a Lancia in its second generation. In 2006 the first generation had just been launched (and ran to 2010). Like the Cadillac, it’s a RWD car, formed in line with what US motoring writers had been asking for for decades. It looked unashamedly Detroit, had 5.6 litre V8 and also struggled not to throw raw petrol out the back when underway.
Right-hand drive versions originated in Austria, courtesy of Magna Steyr. Like the CTS it had vague steering but better brakes. Honest John thinks they are okay and aimed at people who miss lazy, comfy, inexpensive cars like the Omega and Scorpio.
Such is the convergence of automotive design and engineering that none of these three cars are really, truly North American, not in the unique way of cars like the Olds 98 and Cadillac coupe de Ville. Yet for all their watered-down conformity, they are still too American for most tastes and probably not American enough for those of us who like our US cars to look plush and stately and that little bit too tinselly.