Short Story (Part Two)

Keeping it brief.

Image: automobile

Audi Sport Quattro

The spectacular but dangerous Group B rally class produced some mythical, awe-inspiring cars during its short existence; the Audi Sport Quattro being one of them. Group B regulations required competitors to produce a minimum of 200 roadgoing versions of the car they entered, resulting in an elite group of highly sought after collector’s cars.

Obviously derived from the standard Audi Quattro, the short wheelbase Sport Quattro with its body partly made from Kevlar was not simply a cut-and-shut job. Opening the bonnet one found a 5-cylinder engine alright, but this was an all-aluminium version delivering a potent 306 hp out of a displacement of 2.1 litres: the sub-five seconds 0-62 dash it could propel the Sport Quattro to being highly impressive at the time.

Audi Sport Quattro. Authors collection

An unsubstantiated rumour exists that, being unconvinced of the durability of the aluminium engine block in this application, Audi manufactured as many extra cast iron blocks as Sport Quattros sold (214) in order to replace them if needed.

Mercedes Stadtwagen. Image: Topspeed

Mercedes 190 Stadtwagen / Schulz Mercedes 190 City

One ultimately unrealised version of the successful Mercedes W201 190/190E was this three door hatchback version known internally as the Stadtwagen. The brainchild of Mercedes engineer, Erich Waxenberger, conceptually it was both an exploration of the possibilities for rally competition as well as a foray into the compact city vehicle arena.

Cleverly fitted with optical decoys in the form of Volkswagen Golf doorhandles, Ford hubcaps and Cologne-based license plates this Erlkönig was not readily identifiable during its public road trials as a product of the three pointed star although seen from the rear the S123 tailgate and taillights provided some clues to its true identity.

Inside, the dashboard and seats were quite similar to the eventual W201 items but of course that car has not yet been revealed. The two seater Stadtwagen had a wheelbase of just 87,4 inches but was otherwise mechanically identical to other W201 pre-production vehicles; in the end Mercedes-Benz shelved the small hatchback 190 since it was deemed a step too far from its existing image and market position – the standard W201 being already an entry in a hitherto unexplored segment itself.

The car was never entered in competition either as Mercedes-Benz quit rallying in 1981, notwithstanding some victories and good results with a few 450SLC (C107) derivatives.

Image: Topspeed/ Carwp

Eberhard Schulz had worked at Mercedes-Benz, being involved with the C111 and CW311 experimental vehicles as well as the development of the W201. Schulz left Mercedes in 1981 and founded his own car company, Isdera (Ingenieurbüro für Styling, Design und Racing) which is still active today. Isdera would in the 1980s present some high end, almost concept car-like sportscars with Mercedes-Benz mechanicals such as the Imperator 108i and Spyder 036i.

These were however not enough to keep the company afloat,
therefore Schulz offered mechanical and optical tuning kits and modifications for regular Mercedes-Benz cars as well. Having surely been involved in the stillborn Stadtwagen in his previous capacity, Schulz decided to actually build a somewhat refined version of the same concept.

This resulted in the 190 City, which saw the light of day in 1989. Contrary to the Stadtwagen the City was technically a four seater as its wheelbase had been cut only slightly. As with the Stadtwagen a T-model tailgate (S124 this time) and rear lights were fitted, the result appearing more harmonious and better integrated than was the case with the Stadtwagen.

Powered exclusively by the larger 2.5 and 2.6 litre inline sixes with prices starting at 50,000 D-Mark, the Schulz 190 City was clearly aimed at a very specific clientele. Just how specific can be reflected in the fact that between 1990 and 1991 only six of them were sold.

Image: Notoriousluxury/ Hemmings/ RP Bombeck

Cadillac Park Avenue 1961-63

As American vehicles, and luxury cars in particular grew ever longer, lower and heavier during the 1950s an interesting demographic phenomenon came to light: Cadillac started to receive word from owners complaining that the new models no longer fit inside their garages.

Many Cadillac owners were of course part of the more affluent segment of society, were middle-aged and often lived in houses constructed in the twenties. The garages attached to these residences were therefore designed to accommodate the
typical car of that era which was generally shorter. On top of this there were also female drivers who expressed the desire for a car that was a bit easier to park (and find a parking space for).

Cadillac reacted by adding the so-called Short-Deck Sedan De Ville to its line-up starting in the model year 1961; this car had the same wheelbase and thus as much room inside as the regular Cadillac but the section behind the rear axle was seven inches shorter. Renamed Park Avenue Sedan De Ville for 1962 the shortened Cadillac proved a resounding sales flop, and after one more go-around for 1963 the model was quietly discontinued.

For 1961, just 3765 Short-Deck Sedan De Villes were sold, representing just 3% of Cadillacs total sales volume. By 1963 this had dropped to 1575 cars which was even less than the exclusive and very pricy Eldorado Biarritz convertible. Perhaps the fact that the short Cadillacs cost the same as the regular model put people off, but it must have been a bit baffling to Cadillac’s marketing people nevertheless.

Could it be that on second thoughts the typical Cadillac owner would rather spend some money to extend his garage than being seen in a truncated Cadillac? Or had the idea that one’s car had become so large that it did not fit in the garage turned into some perverse status symbol? It is not known if Cadillac continued to receive letters from customers asking for more compact models, but most American cars would continue to get bigger until 1977 when an almost industry-wide wave of downsizing swept the country.

Image: Pinterest/ myclassicnews

Standard 8 Stanmobile

Around 1960 the Indian government asked three car manufacturers – Fiat/ PAL Premier Auto Ltd, Hindustan and Standard Motors- to submit prototype suggestions for a small and cheap people’s car. Standard’s proposal was a two-door version of the existing Standard Ten named the Stanmobile with a shorter wheelbase and different rear styling.

It may have looked like a hatchback but unfortunately there was no luggage compartment lid – the spare wheel was mounted on the back of the car. The rear seat back could be flipped down however so that luggage could be entered via one of the doors. In order keep costs down, chrome plating was kept to a minimum.

Only this one prototype Stanmobile was built; it was stored in the Standard factory in Madras and faded into obscurity. Some years ago the purchasers of the long defunct Standard plant demolished the building and sold the old machines, parts and car wrecks found inside it for scrap. The Stanmobile is feared to have been among them – the new owners unaware of the unique provenance of the car.

Author: brrrruno

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

36 thoughts on “Short Story (Part Two)”

  1. Good morning Bruno. Interesting stuff, thank you. The ‘official’ Mercedes-Benz W201 compact looks like an engineering mule with its extreme ‘cab-backwards’ stance, but the Schulz version is very plausible. The only thing that lets it down is The split rear side window, presumably taken from the regular W201’s rear door. I guess there wasn’t the budget to have a bespoke rear side window made:

    In addition to the cars you have featured, there was an obscure Irish project to produce a compact version of the Rover 200 SD3. Little is known about the project, although it was apparently instigated by an entrepreneurial Catholic priest using funds that were, to quote him, “just resting in my account”. Only one photo exists of the prototype, which clearly needed some further refinement:

    1. Hi Chris. That was actually the first Rover 200:

      The example in the photo above is the one borrowed from the ‘dancing priest’ after Father Jack took it for a nocturnal drive,

      (Apologies to our readers from beyond the British Isles who have never seen ‘Father Ted’, the best TV comedy ever to come out of Ireland!)

    2. Plausible indeed, Daniel, especially if you look at the picture of the Schulz 190 next to a contemporary Golf. Pity that rear side window really highlights the fact that it’s a conversion. Lingering thoughts of conversions of this nature probably gave us the C SportCoupe and the 3 compact in the 2000’s. Never looked quite right then, either. To me anyway.

      The Isdera Imperator is quite something:

      Proper supercar looks, based on the also mentioned CW311 concept (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2xXtsIDvCQ).

      That second picture… oh, sure, I’ll bite: what!? Is that from an obscure (or not so obscure) comedy?

      “Stanmobile” would these days translate as Fanmobile, by the way. A “Stan”,or to “stan” – referring to an Eminem song – is (to be) an extreme fan of something or someone (https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Stan). Possibly the reaction that Standard (and much later, Tata, as documented on DTW not long ago) were hoping for.

    1. And that really is inexcusably poor design, Mervyn. At least Schulz had good reason for his compromise.

  2. The Stanmobile is new to me – very interesting.

    It seems unlikely that it would be destined for success, as it lacked space or load carrying utility. It’s a ‘personal car’, and India wasn’t ready for such things. Hindustan offered the ‘Baby Hindustan’ in the 1950s, a four door Morris Minor, but it was made in far smaller numbers than their bigger Oxford-based Landmaster and Ambassador, which could easily seat six, and had far more boot space.

    Stampro must have known the issues, given their request to Standard-Triumph for a rethink of the Herald when it was being readied to replace the Madras-built Standard Ten. I quote from Graham Robson’s excellent “Book of the Standard Motor Company”:

    “Almost at once, however, the local Indian management, led by Mr K Gopalkrishna, requested major changes to the `Standard’ Herald, to make it more socially acceptable for the Indian market. No doubt if Sir John Black had still been in charge, he would have to tried to ride, roughshod, over the objections, but the later management (which included Donald Stokes and Technical Director Harry Webster) was more open to change.

    The problem, Mr Gopalkrishna told him, was one of social status. In India, he insisted, it was not viable to sell as many two-door cars as he would like. Social mores made it clear that at this point in history, men had social superiority over women, and only they would be allowed to ride in the front seats of the car. On the other hand, an Indian woman in a sari might find it very difficult to clamber into the back seat of a ‘Standard’ Herald. In any case, it was often the case that the driver would be of a different (ie lower) caste than the owner, who would therefore refuse to use the same door as his chauffeur.

    Astonishing? Ludicrous? Politically incorrect? Today, in the 21st century it certainly looks like that, but in 1960s India it was normal practice. Fortunately for all concerned, Standard-Triumph had already built a four-door saloon prototype version of the Herald, kept in the Experimental Department back at Canley, which might just be the answer to this conundrum.”

    1. One wonders why the four and five-door versions of the Herald weren’t sold more widely. Because of the car’s separate chassis, they weren’t difficult to engineer and would have been useful additions to the range at minimal cost:

    2. Hello Daniel, re the Herald, they had other priorities based on the 2-door version that they wanted to get in to production, first. Also, I think the 4-door wasn’t quite as easy to engineer as they’d hoped.

      I have to go, as my pet brick needs attention.

    3. Please please please ! As a former Herald owner, four doors do not fit nicely in this wheelbase! Two doors were more than enough. Four doors would give me bad dreams.
      I notice the windows have frames for the four-door – Subaru made four door Imprezas with frameless windows.

    4. Daniel, I’ve always wondered that myself. 4-door versions of the Herald and the Vitesse would have been much more useful than the 2-door “saloon” versions that were basically the only saloon option. Of course, I’ve always loathed swing-axle rear suspensions, but if they fitted a camber compensator or a compensating spring as standard would certainly have improved handling. But still, the Herald was a fine candidate for having a 4-door version. Perhaps it could give the Mk. I Cortina a decent run for its money, too – who knows?

  3. Another more familiar French example is the Peugeot 104. The three-door ZS derivative had 189mm (7 1/2″) taken out of the wheelbase and 317mm (12 1/2″) out of the overall length to produce an A-segment city car from a B-segment superminis:

    Cleverly done, in that both cars still loon well balanced and the ZS didn’t end up looking like a ‘cut ‘n’ shut’ job.

    1. Say that as you may Daniel, but the 104 never suited the Starsky and Hutch look!

    2. Fair point, well made, Robertas! It was the only photo I could find that featured both 104s and I was too lazy to post two photos!

      Here’s a nice unmolested 104ZS:

    3. Oh yeah, the ZS. Great car. I love it! – even though it’s a Peugeot.

      (I had the honour of driving this car as a Citroen LN, one of the best cars in this world – I know “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”, the Panda may forgive me – I would give a lot to acquire a LN again (not a LNA, this is a just ZS with another Badge).)

    4. An unmolested 104ZS is not nice! It looks as though Father Ted has had a go at it.

    5. Odd fact: The 81-on facelift 104 uses the same headlights as the first generation Fiat Ducato / Peugeot C25 / Citroën J5 / Talbot Express / Alfa Romeo AR6.

    6. Now, that is interesting, Robertas. Before the facelift, the 104 had trapezoidal shaped headlamps that sloped upwards towards the outer corners, following the bonnet line:

      This was a nice Peugeot styling detail that also featured on Peugeot’s larger models, the 304, 305, 504 and 505.

      I always thought that the facelifted cars looked ‘wrong’ because the smaller rectangular headlamps (and surrounding grille) no longer followed the line of the bonnet, leaving an awkward gap at the outer edges:

      At least now I know why they did it!

    7. And how did I not know that this existed, an Alfa Romeo panel van?

      What a travesty!

    8. Completely off topic…
      This Alfa van is just a badge engineered version of the usual PSA/Fiat cooperation stuff.
      Alfa did some vans of its own called Romeo and F12.

      At its time it mus have been the only van with a twin cam engine

      You could even fit the carburettors from the Alfa cars but then the passenger had no more room for his legs.

    9. I think the F12 is well-designed – very neat, yet characterful.

      Equally, Lancia has a long history of trucks and vans. As with M-B, I think it demonstrates a good breadth of engineering expertise to be able to offer commercial vehicles, which will have to withstand unsympathetic treatment.

      Lancia Jolly

    10. I don’t dislike those genuine Alfa Romeo and Lancia vans, but the badge-engineered AR6 is a bit nasty.

    11. Unless the Citroen C35 / Fiat 242 already made of significant Citroen CX and other Fiat/Lancia componentry, it is a bit surprising there were not plans to use mechanicals from the Citroen CX and Lancia Gamma (given their early common roots) to develop a direct (possibly Flat-Four powered) LCV replacement for both the Flavia-derived Lancia Superjolly and Citroen H-Type.

    12. What kept them from retooling the jig for the hood of the facelifted 104? Were they torn between spending money on this and letting the CEO get a new yacht?

    13. Bob: the Gamma and the CX never had anything in common. This myth, started by Martin Buckley, needs to be euthanized. Here are the cruel facts:

      1. Citroën started development of the Projet L, which became the CX, when Lancia, bankrupted and acquired by Fiat, was busy getting its pieces back together, keeping its engineers from bailing, and using whatever funds it could muster to develop the Beta.
      2. Citroën knew Lancia was in trouble. What were the chances it would start a joint venture with a moribund partner?
      3. Citroën was developing the Birotor engines, intending to use them in the CX. When this project failed, they opted to use the DS engine instead. Besides the fact the idea of a JV with Lancia never crossed their mind, they had focused their efforts on the development of rotary engines – they never cared for Lancia’s Flavia-derived flat-four.
      4. Development work on the Gamma started around the time the CX had already entered mass production. So, no Charles De Gaulle saying “non” to the JV (after all, he’d have a bit of trouble saying anything, given he’d died in 1970).

      It’s not my fault Mr. Buckley gets dates mixed-up, and it certainly isn’t my fault he doesn’t have what it takes to issue a correction afterwards. Then again, perhaps he’s of the “shut up, it makes a good story” philosophy, like a certain entrepreneur from the Golden Age of Piracy, who once sold previously-owned vessels and then moved on to sell previously-owned coffins.

  4. Oh, and I must file away Bruno’s lovely description of bodykits as “optical tuning” for future recycling!

  5. Do like the Schulz Mercedes 190 City, it is an idea that Mercedes could have utilized to expand the appeal of the 190 and perhaps even include a 5-door version as well as more accessible inline-4s unlike the Schulz conversions. Did Mercedes look at other 190 based models given the omission of an estate, etc?

    BMW could have also benefited from produce direct successors to the 02 Touring prior to the E36/E46 Compact, beyond a self-made E21 Touring by BMW Dealership Faigel and a few E30 hatchback photoshops.
    https://www.bmwe21.net/?page_id=150

    The Standard Stanmobile brings to mind both a more utilitarian version of the A40 Farina as well as something a more conservative (e.g. anti-FWD) BMC would produce in place of the Mini via some small RWD model based on a SWB A35.

    Going in the opposite theme of SWB cars and conversions, the 4-door saloon / 5-door estate versions of the Herald (later the Gazel) is an improvement though not sure how much longer it was compared to both the existing Herald as well as the 1300.

    1. Hi Bob. Here’s a photoshopped BMW E30 ‘compact’ :

      I think they’ve overdone the ‘Manx’ tail a bit. A little more ‘bustle’ would improve it, I think.

  6. Take this one as a starting point and shorten the wheelbase

    to get this one

    or use the even shorter spider floorpan for one of those

    Buy one of these

    and have every test start with the question why people pay more money for less car and less doors.

    A certain manufacturer from Maranello regularly did versions with SWB in their name that were derided by LJKS.

  7. Some very interesting stuff here, as always. I was going to mention the Peugeot 104 of course, but I can’t believe the world’s best selling short /long kombo hasn’t been mentioned … the first three generations of the Toyota RAV4 were all available in two sizes. Here in Switzerland, 2nd hand examples of the three door 3rd generation still seem to be rather expensive, despite the youngest being about 10 years old now. I think they’re rather funky.

    And of course, the bigger brother the Land Cruiser Prado is also available in 3 and 5 door versions. Our local building services has a short one that has a snow plough attached in the winter. Sounds daft, but it’s not as bad as the Jimny with a plough.

    Cheers
    Andrew

    ps can you post images from Flickr here?
    pps those 104S trapezoidal shaped headlamps were never available in the scrapyards round Manchester. I wanted to upgrade my square ones but I did manage to find the top of the line ZS dashboard, complete with rev counter!

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