Show and Tell (Part Three)

In the third episode of Bruno Vijverman’s retrospective through motor show memory lane, we enter the mid-nineties 

All images (c) courtesy of the author.

Geneva 1994

Sharp eyes might recognise a youthful Jeremy Clarkson sitting behind the wheel of the Bentley Java concept below. This prototype for a more compact Bentley was designed in conjunction with (former ARG Design Chief) Roy Axe, and a small bespoke series in various body configurations (coupé, convertible, station wagon) was later built for the Sultan of Brunei.

When still a concept, Ford named its upcoming supermini ka: Some may have preferred this more rotund concept version, but the actual production car was arguably more original.

The Lancia Zagato Hyena (lead photo above) was created through the initiative of an affluent Dutch classic car collector; He commissioned Zagato, where designer Marco Pedracini styled the car. A small series of 25 Hyenas – based on Delta HF Integrale mechanicals – was produced.

Paris 1994

The Citroën ZX Vent d’Ouest by Heuliez could have provided Citroën with a credible competitor for the Peugeot 306 Cabriolet, but this sole example is as far as it went. When bankrupt Heuliez was liquidated, the Vent d’Ouest was sold for less than €15,000 at auction.

Lada’s 110 was quite a big leap forward compared to the Fiat 124 based relics, but even so it failed to ever entice many western car buyers to ‘go east’. In its home country however the 110 enjoyed good sales – the absence of competition helped of course.

Pronto? Azione! Sergio Pininfarina is seen here getting ready for an interview on Italian TV about his carrozzeria’s work on the facelifted Ferrari Testarossa – the F512M.

Detroit 1995

The wildly impractical Chrysler Atlantic was love at first sight for me – although some may judge it a corny transatlantic interpretation of Bugatti T57S Atlantic and Talbot Lago T150SS styling cues. Chrysler even went to the trouble of giving it a period-correct straight eight powerplant, constructed from two Chrysler Neon engines.

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The cake tasted better than it looked; Volkswagen served this sweet Jetta at the press conference of its introduction.

If the Atlantic was shamelessly retro, Ford’s GT90 concept would not have looked out of place in a Star Wars movie. Interestingly, when the time came for an actual production successor of the famous GT40 Ford went down the retro route too.

Geneva 1995

Ital Design’s Lamborghini Calà concept was intended as a replacement for the Jalpa, but Lamborghini became part of the Volkswagen Group, and a few years later the Calà was shelved, with an Audi-based entry level Lamborghini (the Gallardo) developed. Like the Gallardo, the Calà also had a V10 engine; it was started and revved hard a couple of times during the press day to show it really worked – it could be heard across the halls!

The Lancia Kayak concept by Bertone also remained a one-off; wouldn’t it have made a better looking Kappa Coupé? That front grille with the headlights hidden behind it still looks lovely today to my eyes.

Frankfurt 1995

Mitsubishi has often had original and daring concept cars on display- it is a pity that most of their production cars (at least the ones sold outside of the Japanese domestic market) were usually a bit dowdy by comparison.

Renault’s Initiale concept was certainly daring as well; the level of detail in which the forward looking art deco style was infused in the concept is demonstrated by this lovely piece of custom made luggage. Or is it a large vanity case?

Author: brrrruno

Car brochure collector, Thai food lover, not a morning person before my first cup of coffee

28 thoughts on “Show and Tell (Part Three)”

  1. For me, the two most interesting cars above are the Lancia Kayak and Lada 110. Both were refreshingly unusual looking. It’s a shame the Kayak never made production and equally shameful that the 110 was rubbish when it did. Here are a couple more photos:

    Note the hopelessness of the panel alignment between the front wing and door on the Lada 112 (the hatchback version of the 110). What an extraordinary lapse for an official press photo, the sort if thing we used to see from BL in the 1970’s.

    1. Hi Daniel,

      I was about to say the same about the Lada 110. I’ve always liked it for some reasons, the design looks slightly futuristic but remains uncomplicated and honest if I can describe it that way.

    2. Also the front bumper alignement just ahead of the front wheel !

    3. …..And now let’s take in the regal interior of the Lada. It could almost have been a Citroën with this dashboard.

    4. Good morning NRJ. That dashboard is indeed rather Citroënesque, but more alignment issues are evident: look at the junction between the top roll of the dashboard and the door trim.

      I believe Porsche had some involvement in the development of this car, but I doubt they wanted to publicise it! It might be a good subject for a future DTW exposé!

    5. At the risk of appearing to be obsessing about the Lada, here’s a rather fetching ‘coupé’ version featuring a front end borrowed from the original Saab 9-5:

      and tail lights from the Peugeot 405:

    6. Yes and some of today’s cars don’t do any better in that regard (door/dashboard alignement):

      DS3 Crossback

    7. Daniel, can you imagine if you rock up with this 112 coupé and me with the Shanghai Maple Hisoon next time you head off to Tenerife ? The island’s people will be more impressed than with the C-Elysée I think.

    8. Yikes! Is there a Citroen ZX lurking somewhere under that Chinese monstrosity?

    9. Nice to read that other people also have a soft spot for this Lada. I liked the modernist sinplicity of its lines at the time. They certainly helped to derive varions bodystyles without making any one of them look wrong (maybe with exception of the strange frame on the notchback’s third window):

      Alas, the facelifts were terrible. The grille and rear lights on the coupé aren’t the worst, by far. They managed to present the Priora in 2007 which looked a bit like a Korean effort from about 1993:

    10. NRJ, you spared us from the more gruesome aspect of the Shanghai Maple Hisoon. I, however, am not so considerate of others’ delicate sensibilities:

      Can’t decide whether to go for low or high-level tail lights? Have both!

      Apparently, it was an unauthorised knock-off of the Citroën ZX.

    11. Hi Simon. Regarding the Priora, objectively, it is a much more ‘professional’ effort than the 110 but, you’re right, they’ve dialled out all the quirkiness that made the latter interesting:

      It now looks like a 1990’s GM Astra saloon.

    12. Beautiful rear quarter photo of the Kayak.

      There’s a slight similarity with the back of today’s Mercedes C/E-coupe, in a good way, which makes me think that Sensual Purity wouldn’t have looked entirely out of place at Geneva 1995.
      I’ve also got the impression that the Jaguar XF tail design isn’t too far removed from the Kayak’s.

  2. Hi Bruno,

    Eoin is again trying to pass this article off as his own (see the avatar at the top) but I know this fine article is all yours. Thanks for all these pictures and the commentary. It is said that Geneva 1994 was the best show ever, probably because I was there that year I think.

    Also I’ve found another postcard I got when I was there.

  3. The Bentley Java looks stunning despite being based on a BMW 5-Series, the same with an earlier attempt at a smaller model. –

    The Lancia Hyena exterior styling ranges from good to dreadful depending on the angle, at least the engine was uprated to 250 hp (even if that specification belonged in the Delta or even a high-performance Prisma / Dedra).

    Agree on the Lancia Kayak concept being a better alternative to the Kappa Coupe, not sure what was going on with Fiat during the mid/late-1980s onwards yet one would have expected Lancia to capitalize on its successes with its marque identity being akin to a more upmarket or luxurious analogue of Subaru and Mitsubishi (instead of being pretty much sabotaged within Fiat due to the presence of Alfa Romeo).

  4. Lovely article – there are vehicles there that I had forgotten about or was never aware of.

    For me, the Ka is a rare instance of the production model being much better than the concept – tighter, better balanced proportions and neater, more consistent and interesting detailing (e.g. headlights). ‘Lipstick rose red’ was clearly fashionable, then.

    I’m going to look in to the Mitsubishi Gaus – an initial search shows it has an asymmetrical rear. It still looks an interesting concept.

    Finally, I must do some research in to Heuliez. They did some very interesting work over the years. I came across the Citroën Berlingo Bulle concept the other day, which is by them. It’s basically a very thorough conversion of a van in to a hatchback. Whimsical and ‘jolie laide’, but nice that they did it.

  5. Great article – thank you.
    I hadn’t heard of the Kayak but it certainly looks as if it was way ahead of its time in the 90s. I love the styling; especially the front and sides (maybe not so much the rear as it kinda makes the car look as if it’s facing both directions at once).

    Silly question: Since that concept car wouldn’t look out of place in this century, why hasn’t there been a production car since with the same super-sleek elegant styling? Or have I missed it?

    1. Hi vwmeister. Unfortunately, there are two reasons why the Kayak has not and will never make production. The first, a generic one, is that the two-door coupé bodystyle is nothing as popular as it once was, steamrollered like everything else by the onslaught of the SUV and, now, its hideous mutant offspring, the SUV coupé.

      The second reason, specific to Lancia, is that the marque has been abused and neglected for two decades by its owners, Fiat then Fiat-Chrysler (FCA) in favour of Alfa-Romeo. The likelihood of a Lancia revival is about the same as me being able to grow a full head of hair again. For the avoidance of doubt, that would be zero!

    2. Thank you, Daniel.
      I remember Lancia had style, way back.
      We can mourn the loss of a stylish marque, but definitely not mourn the loss of your hair.

    3. vwmeister: I’m sure you (probably) meant that last comment as a compliment, but I might hazard that the best person to adjudge said loss might be the aggrieved party himself. Mind you, say what you like about ‘our’ Daniel, he not only appears to have (to paraphrase Brian Eno) gone bald shamelessly, but also seems to have made up for it elsewhere…

      I would say ‘chapeau’, but that might be construed as being somewhat pointed…

  6. Bruno, I’m greatly enjoying these. So much I’ve forgotten. Rather like returning to a 20 year old diary, although in my case most of that really was best forgotten.

    I have a liking for the Lada 110, although I’ve seen very few in real life. It had a long gestation period but recalls the purity and boldness of early ’80s designs like the Audi 100 C3 and the Mitsubishi Galant E12, as well as as the far earlier NSU Ro80.

    Perhaps Lada’s management and stylists found an old copy of The Fiat Charter, left behind by the VAZ-2101 team, and followed it to the letter to ‘evolve’ the 110 into the Priora.

  7. The production Ka is better than the one show here; can we surmise that the very blobular car was a rejected proposal and that the reason we like the production car was that it was better? I can´t offhand think of a rejected proposal that showed more promise than a production car. In part this is because consensus probably is not bad a rejecting the worst and also that the process of productionisation adds a phase of maturation the proposal don´t benefit from.
    The Kayak is one of the great cars-they-never-made. And it is also a handy and rare example of that which I could not think about a moment ago, a concept that bests the production car. My get out of jail card is that the Kayak and the Kappa coupé were not done concurrently and they had different criteria. I will now go to look at the Kappa coupé to remind myself of the bitter regret I feel for not buying one.

    1. I think British Leyland / Austin Rover pretty much specialised in developing interesting and attractive cars, and then putting something else in to production – usually for cost reasons, to be fair.

      GM also have form on that front; they’d come up with something way ahead of its time, and then back off. (Ditto Ford). The Cavalier and Viva are cases in point (examples taken from the excellent Vauxpedia site, below). I guess it’s what you’d expect from large, ultimately fairly conservative organisations.—cavalier-mk1-part-1—viva-part-1

  8. The Chrysler Atlantic is a favourite too.

    I’m happy that I kept this CAR image of LJKS in the absolute pomp of his ZZ Top era:

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