Despicable Me – Parts 1,2,3 (And 4)

Thrills, chills and headaches. 

Mitsubishi Colt CZC. Image: convertiblecarmagazine

Car making CEOs are not generally known for their comedic skills. One expects variations of sobriety; suits, stoic faces, a modicum of good manners – even to the press. This is not a charity. Making money (and cars) is serious business. Anomalies do however occasionally surface. Maybe the planets line up in a certain order, a particularly cheeky Chateau Neuf de Pape loosens the guard, revealing the (not so) inner Dr. Nefario (with Gru peering over his shoulder) for a moment, allowing an otherwise unmined niche to come into being. With belly laughs in such short supply, faces must have cracked, mirth wrinkling otherwise stern executive visages when first they beheld the B-segment coupé-convertible.

Mitsubishi CZC

Launched to a cacophony of spluttered profanities amid the sound of slapped foreheads, this puzzling combination of Japanese engineering blended with Italian manufacturing nous certainly turned heads. A commodious derrière, there purely to store that fold-away roof left the casual on-looker in a quandary: coming toward or leaving? Should your perception be correct, the side view furthered that misconception. 

Aimed almost exclusively at the female of driving age, what vicious retort was likely to be rendered when the only possible adjective is dumpy? The A-pillar appears almost to grow from the ground, an unbroken arc of dough terminating on that well-nigh hatbox of a bootlid. The old adage of a wheel at each corner is evident here, and while the front can do little wrong, the gap between the door’s trailing edge and that odd area towards the rear wheel arch? Redundant as a dirty joke in a convent.

Image: Parkers

What were the executives of Mitsubishi and Chinese Frog fasteners[1] Pininfarina, thinking? UK road tests leaned the only way possible: Reliable, check. Frugal, check. Rigid with roof up, check. Body integrity lost roof down, extraordinary panel gaps and just look at the bloody thing – check. Raised in 2006, lowered by 2011. Prices started at £10,000, rising to £16,000. Examples remaining are unsurprisingly few and far between.

A final Colt CZC factoid – the roof required manual intervention – a clip for dainty digits. Most unlike its contemporary, below.

Nissan Micra C+C

Image: Parkers

This one managed six years in the marketplace where once more, with the roof up, the boot area was commensurate with that of a class larger – as were the road tester’s comments. While the Colt, in the UK at least, was largely unknown, Micra was a sensible, if soulless beast. Having engineered-in structural rigidity kept the press happy. Micra handled, didn’t creak or groan and was the paragon of inscrutable Japanese form. Only long term (genuine) users knew otherwise. Roof problems, water ingress, expensive repairs. Then we must head outside where the populace had to endure the somewhat English view.

The C+C (guesses as to what it stood for – anyone?) was designed in Nissan’s London studio, engineered in Cranfield (Nissan Technical Centre Europe), Bedfordshire and made in Sunderland. Handy for the UK’s penchant for topless motoring. But if two inscrutable letters were not enough for you, Sebastian Conran (he of the Conran design dynasty) brought forth the C+C+Conran, first witnessed at the 2006 British motor show. 

Micra C+C+Conran. Image: theautochannel

Practising the “ethos of Wa” – a Japanese principle where opposed counterparts feed off one another – led to a Micra with few equals. An exterior of Blushing Black with a vibrant red interior, Conran ascribed his creation to that of a bespoke suit. “Outside, discreet and classy but shocking inside.” Quite. Fashion being fickle and automotive fashion often difficult to comprehend, “Micra Cubed” lit up that corner of the show before exiting the catwalk, stage left. Sales unknown.

Peugeot 206CC

Image: autoevolution

To France now with a more notable attendee. Remaining reasonably faithful to Eric Berthet’s sketch under Murat Günak’s supervision allowed some coupé-convertible dignity, a frisson of manners, something which its aforementioned rivals could not get close to. Roof down looked better. When closed, an air of indifference occurred. Complete the circuit might be, but the canvas was too cramped for true coherence. Cute, but procured through expediency? Undoubtedly – world domination is deferred. But Sochaux villainy is in the blood! The open road to the shopping mall – via the service station for some essence de Rudolf.

Image: Auto

The T-16 had a trip to Cerizay and Heuliez for those incongruous boot lid handles, something for the cartoon good guy to cling onto for dear life maybe? Quotes of 400 produced per day appear logical. The 206 retains quite the following to this day, although more frequently succumbing to the twilight attentions of the aftermarket crew. Which leads us onto the unexpected fourth part, also made in Cerizay.

Opel/Vauxhall Tigra Twin Top

Image: Parkers

Providentially, those imaginative minions over at Rüsselsheim managed to strike gold with the single most pleasing B-sector coupé-cabriolet of them all. A grimace worthy of silver-screened bad guys must have been worn by rival auto-executives the day the second generation Tigra was released upon the world. Composed and confident, Tigra-2 knocked the looks of those also-rans into the weeds. A decade (and more) later, its appeal remains unsullied. 

Sharp, sassy and ditching the pointless rear seats for useable space, roof up or down made the Twin Top practical whilst keeping those chiselled looks. The inevitable bustle-back a world away from the CZC, the Micra frantically waving the white flag with even the pugnacious Peugeot steering well clear. The Twin Top could be optioned with a contrasting roof structure colour, one of which – Matt Moonland – was not in fact named after a 1960s crooner, as some might have thought.

Image: Carzone.ie

The coupé-convertible might have been an amusing whim for a time but sales folded faster than their roofs. This shift in taste, compounded with ever-larger vehicular requests, eventually put paid to the entire kit and caboodle. A sad indictment, you might say, but also a comedic craze we’ll never have to endure again. Listen carefully though – executive laughter may still be heard on the breeze as that metal top folds away, in the style of Georges Paulin.

[1] A braided, button loop found on many a garment.

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

25 thoughts on “Despicable Me – Parts 1,2,3 (And 4)”

  1. Good morning Andrew. What a hideous collection! The only one of these ‘Barbie Cars’ that is remotely acceptable from a design perspective is the Tigra. Opel did the right thing by dumping the redundant rear seats to achieve acceptable proportions. With the others, you risked clouting your head on the A-pillar or being fried under the windscreen. And as for those backsides, yuck!

  2. Can I say that, although the C+C version was terrible, that generation of the Micra hatch was rather lovely to my eyes. It was very much true to its Japanese origins and was distinctive and quirky without repelling too many suitors.

    1. Different strokes – the K12 Micra always made me think of the Triumph Mayflower….

  3. Moonland – there’s an Opel suv waiting to be made!

    Probably a wretched suv-cabriolet, like the Evoque and Troc, overdue even now for well-deserved and sharply worded ridicule.

  4. The two Japanese examples are bad, design-wise, but in my eyes not even the worst offenders. This title is reserved for the bigger folding-roof convertibles like Renault Mégane or Peugeot 307/8. The necessity (?) to include reasonably useful back seats made their roofs longer and their rears as well.

    The Opel is easily the best looking of these cars, it’s almost a shame I didn’t really remember it. However, I still have a soft spot for the 206. Certainly, the design isn’t exactly harmonious, but still manages to put a smile on my face, and the way they used the large rear shelf to incorporate some sort of baggage rack is quite charming. And the car was available in a very lovely light green!

  5. Good morning Andrew. Mmmm you have certainly identified some horrors that, in my mind, begs the question” What were the Top Brass thinking of ?”
    I quite like the Opel/Vauxhall but barely recognise the Japanese contenders. Not that sure about the Peugeot either to be honest.

  6. The Opel certainly is the most acceptable, even somewhat handsome of this collection of Quasimodos. There is one around where I live and it’s a pleasant contrast to the antediluvian monsters that otherwise populate the streets these days. The 206 is vaguely acceptable and was blindingly popular. Not so much the 207CC:

    Incidentally, the 206 was based on the 20🖤 (if it doesn’t display properly: 20 followed by a heart shape) concept, which was supposed to be pronounced “twenty-heart”, or “vingt-coeur” in French, i.e. vainqueur, or winner. However, it could also be pronounced “two hundred heart” (as was not uncommon): “deux cent coeur”, or “deux sans coeur”, meaning “two without heart”. Which may or may not be construed as a comment on the occupants.

    I would also like to call attention to a car of similar concept that, had it been more well-known, would have provided endless giggles for ten-year-olds: the Renault Wind.

    1. I was about to post the Renault wind here, but you beat me to it, Tom. The Opel isn’t that bad, but the rest… No, thank you.

  7. What is it with Renault and wind? My nephew’s Renault Fluence saloon is referred to as the ‘Flatulence’ by his family.

    Bad as the B-Segment CCs were, Simon is right to say that things got even worse a size up. Behold the 307CC:

    The only thing I can say in defence of the 307CC was it was slightly less hideous than its successor, the 308CC:

    It looks to me as though it has melted in the sun and is sagging at both ends, especially the Kardashian-esque rear end.

    On the T-Roc convertible, they’re surprisingly popular in Tenerife. I saw exactly four times as many there in three weeks as I have seen in the UK. (That would be four and one respectively, for the avoidance of doubt.)

  8. I gave this some thought. It’s quite hard to make a small convertible with a folding metal roof. The other day I saw one of these. It looks a bit awkward with the roof up, but it managed to put a smile on my face.

    1. That Daihatsu is indeed adorable. Like most of its ilk, it looks better with the roof down.

    2. The point of posting a photo here was to show that besides the Tigra mk2, not all small fixed metal fold up roof cars need to be hideous. The Cappuccino has a fixed roof, but with no less than 3 panels and only 1 fold away part, I don’t think this particular comparison makes sense.

  9. It’s easy to criticise these rather ungainly cars (though I have a sneaking regard for the 206 and the Tigra) but it has to be said they were an attempt to provide a solution to a genuine issue – how to make a small open car that isn’t vulnerable to a passer-by with a sharp knife. I know someone who had to return her new Mk3 MX-5 because it was basically uninsurable, and get a hardtop model instead.
    The frustrating thing about this is that the security issue is probably more pressing at the more affordable end of the market – exactly where the cars can least comfortably accommodate a heavy and bulky roof folding mechanism. If you can afford a high-end convertible, you are more likely to have access to secure off street parking…

    1. You mentioned the Tigra Mk2. That`s an all-out excellent bit of industrial design. It´s unlike anything else, completely consistent and despite the packaging challenges has credible proportions. I wish I saw more of them around.

    2. You have a point there, Richard. I seem to remember that these were not much fun to drive, so maybe that’s why they’re quite rare

  10. By chance, two more C-segment CC offerings vaguely on the right side of acceptable reside close to each other near where I live: the Renault Megane CC and the Volkswagen Golf CC/Eos (excuse the dark image, I’ve literally just snapped it).

  11. There was also this, developed by Pininfarina and shown at Bologna ’99, before it sank without trace:

    1. The last three Punto cabrio photos look like very bad Photoshops. I rather wish they had been…

    2. They look as awful as the first group Andrew posted in my opinion.

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