Issigonis Exhibition at Sommers Automobile Museum

Finally, here is the last instalment of my series about the Sommers car museum. There is a special exhibition running on the subject of the idiosyncratic genius of Alec Issigonis.

Sir Alex Issogonis and his big idea: sommers automobile museum
Sir Alex Issogonis and his big idea: sommers automobile museum

Gathered together under one roof is a circle of oil-leaking cars from the heyday of the BMC corporation, a time when one man’s singular and, frankly, narrow idea of what a car should be was imposed with astonishing rigidity. Continue reading “Issigonis Exhibition at Sommers Automobile Museum”

Theme: Special – 1988 MG Maestro Turbo

“Special” might not be a term that many would use in its positive sense to describe a Maestro of any kind, but I think this one deserves a mention as part of this month’s thematic celebration.

1989 MG Maestro: source
1989 MG Maestro: source

I like to think that this was a car marketed with a twinkle in the eye of those involved. It was as if they knew that the public and journalists in particular would scoff at the very notion of it, and so they just added a little wry smile to the way that it was presented to the market. Continue reading “Theme: Special – 1988 MG Maestro Turbo”

A Bit More Volvo 780 ES: It’s 30 This Year

Murilee Martin used to post Down At The Junkyard at Jalopnik. Here’s a discovery from 2010, a 1989 Volvo 780 ES. Alas, there’s no commentary, which is puzzling.  

1989 Volvo 780 ES:better parts.org
1989 Volvo 780 ES:better parts.org

The 780 ES was presented the 1985 Geneva motorshow, and went on sale in 1986. That means this is its 30th anniversary year. Skol!

There is a nice collection of photos here plus a little bit of history. What I didn’t know is that the 780 ES was not only sold with the 6-cylinder PRV engine. One could also have a 2.0 L turbo I4,  a 2.0 L turbo dohc I4 ,2.3 L turbo I4 and 2.4 L I6 turbodiesel. They only made about 6000 of the things so some of those must have been made in very small numbers indeed. Continue reading “A Bit More Volvo 780 ES: It’s 30 This Year”

A photo for Sunday: 1998 Lancia Lybra SW

Those were the days: Lybra (saloon and wagon), Z multipurpose vehicle, Kappa (coupe, saloon and wagon) and the Ypsilon. It’s 1998.

1998-2005 Lancia Lybra estate/wagon.
1998-2005 Lancia Lybra estate/wagon.

Lancia had a full line-up of vehicles, offering in most cases something distinctively different to what Fiat was selling. The Lybra had its basis in the Alfa 156 but you’d be hard pressed to tell. With the passage of time you can see a robust-looking car with a distinctive form language. Maybe it could have used some brightwork around the windows. Enrico Fumia started the development of the design in 1992 and Peter Robinson completed it. Where is he now? The rather pleasant interior is the work of Flavio Manzoni who is now at Ferrari, with a string of cars to his name. Some of them include the later Musa (not so good) and Ypsilon (treasurable). Continue reading “A photo for Sunday: 1998 Lancia Lybra SW”

Gorfe´s Granadas: 1980 Granada Chasseur 2.8

The Mk 2 Ford Granada had a lot going for it writes editor-at-large Myles Gorfe. 

1980 Ford Granada Chasseur: carandclassic.co.uk
1980 Ford Granada Chasseur: carandclassic.co.uk

With a range of powerful engines, excellent roadholding and sharp-styling, it virtually sold itself. Ford didn’t like to rest on their laurels though. So, to celebrate the Olympics of 1980, they made a limited run of Chasseur special edition estates.

Ford are making a bit of a meal of their luxurious Vignale-edition Mondeo, but this idea is not new for Ford who have actually presented smart, luxury versions of their mainstays for decades. The Granada Chasseur estate, to be precise. During the week, the Granada estate worked like any other large, prestigious and fast saloon. At the weekends, the huge load bay meant it could Continue reading “Gorfe´s Granadas: 1980 Granada Chasseur 2.8”

Theme: Benchmarks – From Standard to Acclaim

The only constant is change.

1960 Standard Vanguard Vignale
1960 Standard Vanguard Vignale

What once passed for normal, becomes a rarity (think: Renault 12). Usage debases the value of language so while our words remain set on the page, the meanings attached to them drift off and new meanings, hunting for home, attach themselves. So it is that the world outside our head is unstable and shifting and the words inside our heads lose value like sweating gold coin in a sack or drachmas, lire and roubles in wallets.

This is getting very post-modern, isn´t it? The word for a fixed reference changes its meaning and the thing it refers to changes as well. It´s all relative now, kids.

Continue reading “Theme: Benchmarks – From Standard to Acclaim”

Theme: Benchmarks – Personal Luxury Coupés

Benchmarks come and then they go. Personal  luxury coupes (PLC) occupied the hottest sector of the American car market in the late 70s and early 80s. What were they?

1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme: America´s best selling car that year. Isn´t it quite like the Ford Granada we looked at recently?
1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme: America´s best selling car that year. Isn´t it quite like the Mercury Monarch we looked at recently?

A personal luxury coupe is understood as a two door, four seat car with at least a V6 or ideally a V8. Whilst the advertising for these may have suggested sporting capability, the body-on-frame and bench seat reality spoke of cars whose main talent lay in getting quickly up to 65 mph and staying there from Baker, Ca. to Frederick, Md.

The image above is my idea of the archetype of this car. I don´t think European had equivalents of the PLC. Two-door Ford Granadas (such as the 1975 example owned by our stalwart contributor Myles Gorfe) don´t strike the same note. Whether with two doors or four they retain their Granada-ness (the Ghia fastback came a bit closer to the concept). The Opel Monza offered a sporty experience and isn’t Continue reading “Theme: Benchmarks – Personal Luxury Coupés”

An American View of Bristol

Via the Bristol Owner’s website I found this nice American take on Bristol cars. The photo is from the Curbside Classics website which I can’t recommend highly enough.

This is a Bristol 411 from the time when Bristol cars were beautiful.
This is a Bristol 411 from the time when Bristol cars were beautiful: thanks to Curbside Classics for the image.

The 411 looks like a combination of the proportions of a Jaguar XJ-6 and the surface treatment of a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. We have had some debate about the British ability to style cars. This one shows that a British car need not be heavily ornate to look good.

The Renault 16 Is Fifty This Year. There Are None Left.

Our good friends at Renault UK’s press office have sent us a reminder that the Renault 16 is fifty years old this year.

1967 Renault 16 TX
1967 Renault 16 TX

Philippe Charbonneaux is credited with the design of this car which was in production from 1965 to 1980. Its main claim to fame is related to its innovative deployment of a hatchback in the middle-to-large sized car class. At that point there developed a marked fork in the road in car design. Some manufacturers followed this path, those makers most like Renault. Continue reading “The Renault 16 Is Fifty This Year. There Are None Left.”