Remembering a highly successful car from a company that was once an automotive giant.
It is generally acknowledged that the honour of producing the first true mass-market(1) European B-segment supermini is most equitably shared between Fiat and Renault. While the Fiat 127 was unveiled first, in April 1971, it did not initially feature that essential ingredient, an opening tailgate, but instead had a conventional boot lid and fixed rear windscreen(2). The three-door Renault 5 followed in December of that same year, but its front-wheel-drive mechanical layout, featuring a longitudinally mounted engine with gearbox sited out in front(3), would not be adopted by any other supermini and, when the second-generation Renault 5 arrived in 1984, it featured what had by then become the supermini norm, a transverse engine with end-on gearbox.
Widely derided as a travesty of Issigonis’ original, but was the 1969 Clubman intended to be something more?
The Mini was wasn’t really styled as such – its body style simply a clothing for the technical package set out by its creators, with only the barest concession to style. Surprisingly, it worked, the car’s appearance proving relatively timeless, endearing and well proportioned. The problem was, it didn’t really lend itself to facelifting. By 1967, the Mini had yet to become legendary, to say nothing of iconic. It was just another product which had been on the marketplace for some time and would soon require more than the rather perfunctory nip and tuck it had just received.
When the first Porsche Boxster was launched in 1997, it was, aesthetically at least, something of a disappointment. The Boxster Concept, revealed at the 1993 Detroit Motor Show, was a sinuous and lithe design with an attractive and beautifully detailed interior. It was greeted with great enthusiasm by all who saw it. Here was a smaller, mid-engined roadster that would provide a more accessible route to Porsche ownership and complement the larger 911, while maintaining a clear distance in price and size between the two models.
Concluding our retrospective on a car that went from cynical marketing exercise to icon for a generation of drivers.
The Mk2 Capri was launched in February 1974. In the immediate aftermath of the Oil Crisis and quadrupling of OPEC oil prices, Ford seemed to have suffered some loss of nerve and decided to make the new model rather more practical and less overtly sporting than the Mk1. The bonnet was shorter, the interior enlarged, with a hatchback and folding rear seats instead of a separate boot. The emphasis seemed to have changed to Continue reading “A Promise Fulfilled (Part Two)”
A retrospective on a car that went from cynical marketing exercise to icon for a generation of drivers.
That Ford chose to produce the Capri was as logical as night following day. The US Ford Mustang, launched five years earlier and, like the Capri, based largely on a humble sedan (the Falcon), had been a huge sales success. Ford had expected to shift around 100,000 Mustangs annually, but 400,000 were sold in its first year and a further 600,000 in its second year of production. Little wonder that, on seeing these numbers, Ford Europe decided to Continue reading “A Promise Fulfilled (Part One)”
“This morning, shortly after 11:00, comedy struck this little house on Dibley Road. Sudden…violent…comedy.”
As the 1960s drew to a close, centuries of hierarchy and forelock-tugging deference were under attack in class-riven Blighty. Television shows like The Frost Report saw a younger generation of university-educated writers and performers taking increasingly accurate potshots at a hidebound establishment who deserved every critical drubbing they received. The 1969 debut of Monty Python’s Flying Circus on BBC television therefore marked a watershed in what was deemed admissible for a primetime audience.
Owing a debt to the earlier Goon Show and Round the Horne radio formats, the Python’s anarchic, whimsical and often downright silly TV sketch series brought absurdist comedy into living rooms across the length and breadth of Britain, sending up authority and making household names of its creators – at least amidst those who understood, or at the very least appreciated its gleefully skewed logic. Post-Python, comedy would never Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 1969 – I Didn’t Expect A Kind of Spanish Inquisition”
We compare a couture twinset from the tail-end of the GT era.
It’s an incontrovertible fact that the end of the 1960’s marked the apogee of the Gran Tourismo concept, both in design terms and in appeal to the broader swathe of the car market. Certainly by then, the choices available to the upwardly mobile individual who wanted to express their more indulgent side were of the more fecund variety. However, those who couldn’t Continue reading “Il Sarto Piemontese”
Carmaking is a brutal business, as Renzo Rivolta discovered to his cost. But was Iso’s ultimate failure the consequence of prejudice or simply outrageous fortune?
A humble background, while rarely a barrier to financial success, can often prove an impediment to the doors behind which respectable society resides. In the high-end car business, such things as provenance and exclusivity matter, but the right name and a racebred track record is better still. By consequence, Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A, during their short heyday as purveyors of exclusive, swift and sultry Italian gran turismos, found themselves fighting their Modenese rivals with one hand tied behind their backs.
You probably won’t see it commemorated anywhere else.
Of all the cars which mark their 50th anniversary this year, this is perhaps the most (to non-Italians) obscure and certainly least recalled. Partially a consequence of the marque’s subsequent demise – another piece of bungled stewardship by Fiat Auto – and the fact that the car is not only fairly unremarkable in itself, but lasted a mere three years on the market before being withdrawn in 1972. Continue reading “Weekend Re-issue : A Fiat By Any Other Name?”
The Bristol Motor car, from its 1948 inception has always proven to be a rarefied and somewhat piquant recipe. Because for every individual who admires and covets the earthbound products of Filton, there are those who find them ungainly, crude and overpriced. But even amongst the former group, there are Bristols and there are Bristols.
We continue our look at the spring 1969 debutants, contemplating heady matters of gestalt.
The rather Lancia Beta-like profile rendering from the early stages of BMC’s ADO14 project shows considerable promise. Too short in the nose, probably at Issigonis’ prompting, but otherwise elegant in spite of the ‘carry-over’ 1800 doors. So what went wrong along the road to BLMC’s five-door fiasco? Continue reading “128 vs Maxi Part 2 : Function over Form”
A little over 50 years ago, two of Europe’s leading automotive businesses introduced a pair of rather utilitarian cars to the world. One was hugely successful and influential, the other turned out to be a prophet with little honour in its own time.
In bombastic terms, there’s a ‘clash of giants’ story to be told. Issigonis v. Giacosa. BLMC v. Fiat SpA. Maxi v. 128. It’s not quite ‘rumble in the jungle’, but a comparison tells a lot about the way things were done at Lingotto and Longbridge.
In a curious coincidence, the Austin Maxi and Fiat 128 were the last cars developed by their lead designers which reached production, although Issigonis’ input to the Maxi project was sporadic and remote.
BLMC’s ill-starred 1969 confection still casts a max-sized shadow.
Orthodoxy judges Austin’s troubled hatchback pioneer harshly — it tells us ADO14 was a terrible motor car — ungainly, ill-conceived, introduced with a litany of serious flaws, failing to even approach its commercial aspirations. Its introduction was repeatedly delayed, with serious concern being expressed over its styling, driveability, power output, commercial viability and basic fitness for purpose.
For the second time since the two businesses were merged, British Leyland’s Donald Stokes took the momentous decision to Continue reading “Maxi Twist”