Elevation

The Height of Luxury.

Image: caradisiac

Be it in art, commerce, cartography or simply behind the wheel of a large automobile, there has always been something to be said for an elevated position. Because in the motoring field (not to mention stream or bridleway), not only does stature have much to commend it, but on the thoroughfares and highways a loftier perch also serves to convey a distinct aura of superiority over the huddled masses below.

Despite Land Rover’s time-honoured marketing tag line[1], the modern Range Rover evokes images, less of the wild yonder so beloved of advertising creatives, but a distinctly more built-environment aesthetic. Certainly, when Gordon Bashford and Spen King defined the parameters for the 1970 original, the creation of a luxury car was furthest from their minds. Yet to a great extent, that is what the Range Rover evolved into, a matter which became solidified by its third and perhaps now definitive generation. Because regardless of where you might Continue reading “Elevation”

Eighties Eco-Concept Marvels: Number 3 – BL Technologies ECV3

We look at three small eco-concept cars from the 1980s and see what became of them.

BL Technologies ECV3. Can you imagine the shock of BL presenting this in 1982? (Source: AROnline)

The last of the cars featured in this series is the BL Technologies ECV3. This is a classic BL tale of burgeoning promise turning to wracking frustration as funds dried up for the development of a new small car. As might be expected, it is also by some margin the most convoluted and protracted of the three stories.

BL Technology was the R&D arm of the state-owned British car maker. In 1980, it was led by renowned engineer Spen King and given a home at BL’s new testing facility at Gaydon in Warwickshire. BL Technology and its Gaydon site was basically a sand-box environment, enabling King and his colleagues to propose theories about the future design of cars, then turn these into working prototypes to Continue reading “Eighties Eco-Concept Marvels: Number 3 – BL Technologies ECV3”

Another One Bites The Dust

DTW recalls BL’s last stand: the 1980 Austin Metro.

1980 Austin Metro. (c) voiture.motorlegend

Friday, 8th October 1980 was the day. The car: most commonly referred to as Metro, others ADO88 (Amalgamated Drawing Office – from when Austin and Morris tied the knot in ‘52) with only those in the know as LC8. Forty years have now passed since the car hailed as Blighty’s answer to the inflow of foreign imports was launched. We deal here with the Metro’s tentative first twelve months (amidst some background) of being.

Any story concerning British Leyland inevitably must invoke the company’s changes of name and ownership, not to mention the impossibility of not mentioning crippling strikes, poor workmanship and the demise of the domestic car industry. Peeling back (most) of the bad apple nevertheless reveals a passion for this new project to succeed.

With experienced hands Spen King and Charlie Griffin at the helm, the Metro plan got off to a better start than most. Perennially cash strapped yet astute at finding talent, Griffin stipulated strict guidelines: larger than the original Mini, smaller than the competition, do not Continue reading “Another One Bites The Dust”

Class Act

Social mobility, across all-terrain.

Image: ifixit

The United Kingdom has always enjoyed a somewhat elastic relationship, not just with the land itself, but those who both own and administer it. Pivoting from forelock-tugging deference to bland indifference during the short years of relative social equality, the more recent austerity-era saw a shift back towards a renewed hunger for the certainties of the established social order – a matter which has been reflected to some extent by the rise of that automotive marker of social (and physical) superiority – the SUV.

Few vehicles personify landed gentry quite like the Range Rover. But to call the original version an SUV is really something of a misnomer. A car designed for the affluent farmer/landowner, hitherto forced to Continue reading “Class Act”

Two Word Epitaph

The Triumph TR7 Convertible embodied the BL charter in microcosm. 

(c) Car Magazine

If only this could have been the TR7 that was launched five years ago instead of the poorly-assembled and inadequately developed Speke-built versions that so quickly acquired a tarnished reputation.” [Howard Walker, Motor – August 30 1980.]

If only. Those two simple words perhaps most poignantly encapsulate the British Leyland charter. Because amid the egos, the politics, the industrial strife and lost hopes chiselled onto BL’s cenotaph, there were also well-conceived, rational motor cars which deserved a better fate. Continue reading “Two Word Epitaph”

Viking Burial

The stillborn Rover P8 remains a fascinating technical fossil, but should the cause of its demise be laid entirely at Jaguar’s door?

P8 in pre-production prototype form. (c) AROnline

Lost causes exert an undying fascination: The Beach Boys’ original Smile LP, Orson Welles’ allegedly destroyed original cut of The Magnificent Ambersons. These and others like them, while unrealised (or unfound) live on in our collective imagination, unsullied by inconvenient reality.

In 1965, the Rover Motor Company was a successful independent carmaker, producing well-regarded luxury saloons and a range of highly capable off-road vehicles. However, its flagship P5 saloon was dating and lacking the resources to replace it, Lode Lane’s developmental head, Charles (Spen) King, working under the guidance of Peter Wilks proposed a modular range of cars to be derived from a single base unit. Continue reading “Viking Burial”

Fastback Flashback

We attempt to remain aloof to the Rover SD1’s visual appeal, but like the car itself, we fall at the final hurdle.

Image: stubs-auto.fr

When it comes to legacies and reputations, has sufficient time elapsed to talk about the Rover SD1 without falling into the usual narrative tramlines? It’s a tricky one isn’t it? After all, the big Rover remains a deeply likeable car with much to commend it. Yet at the same time, although it never quite attained Lancia Gamma levels of toxicity, it became the living embodiment of British Leyland’s genius for snatching defeat from the cusp of victory.

It’s easy to Continue reading “Fastback Flashback”

Theme : Engines – The 1970 Triumph Stag V8

Ah, the Triumph Stag V8, the stuff of classic car legends.

1970 Triumph Stag V8
1970 Triumph Stag V8

It’s all there for a long chat at the pub: dashed hopes, shoddy Midlands workmanship, the dark days of British Leyland’s decline. There’s even a bit of Italian in there, as Giovanni Michelotti styled the car. The bit we’re interested in is the V8 though.

This unit was conceived in the middle of the 60s in response to the growing demands of the UK market for more powerful engines as the motorway system expanded. Continue reading “Theme : Engines – The 1970 Triumph Stag V8”