Subcompact and Substandard (Part One)

Fifty years ago, Ford and General Motors introduced their first subcompact models to challenge the rising tide of Japanese and European imports. One was underdeveloped and riddled with faults. The other would become an infamous cause célèbre for US safety campaigners.

(c) wheelsage

In the late 1960’s US auto makers were becoming concerned about the growing popularity of small Japanese and European imports. These tended to be basic and unsophisticated, but were also cheap, economical and reliable, particularly when compared to the alternative of a second-hand domestic model. Ford and GM needed to fight back, so set to work developing what would become known as subcompacts.

The Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega were launched within a day of each other in September 1970. Conceptually, they were identical: conventionally engineered front-engined RWD cars that would be available in saloon, hatchback and estate versions. The Vega was slightly larger, with a 3” (75mm) longer wheelbase, although rear seat space in both was occasional at best for adult passengers.

The development of the Vega was highly unusual in that it was controlled, not by Chevrolet, but by an independent team of fifty engineers led by Lloyd Reuss, who reported directly to GM President, Ed Cole. Reuss would himself go on to Continue reading “Subcompact and Substandard (Part One)”

So Lay Upon the Riven Meads the Sullied Rags of Hope

The other day we were talking about the Renault 16 which led us to the Renault 21 which…

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…led me to look for one for sale. Finding one I noticed the unhappy design of the nose cone, the plastic mask around the headlamp and containing the upper grille aperture. Here (below)  are some other cars which demonstrate an attempt at rethinking the way the front fascia was handled.

One of them really works – the Ford Sierra is utterly industrial design. And have you noticed the Dacia Duster uses the same concept but eschews the body-colour for the lamp panel? In fact the elegance of the concept is hidden by the Duster’s other fussy details.

I have done this theme before, I think – the new bit is Continue reading “So Lay Upon the Riven Meads the Sullied Rags of Hope”