Keeping it brief.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.