For a bit of fun, we decided to knock up a list of the most popular cars on AROnline as chosen by you. Yes, we’ve counted up our Google analytics data for 2013, totted up the number of page impressions for every car’s index page, and come with the definitive list of your favourites – the car pages you’ve looked at the most. It’s interesting to see that the Maestro/Montego and Rover 75 top the Mini, while the MGB doesn’t even make it into the Top 10.
But what this proves is that AROnline readers are a sucker for a hard luck story, and ultimately, the majority of our Top 10s don’t paint a happy ending. You’re also not coming here for the new cars especially, with the highest place car you can go to a dealer and actually buy, the MG3, is beaten by the Austin Allegro. And that’s really where your loyalties lie – the oldies but goodies…
1: Austin/MG Maestro and Montego
Launched in 1983 and ’84, the Maestro and Montego were seen as the great white hope for the emergent Austin Rover – but after an initial sales flurry, both ranges faded fast on the back of a poor reputation for reliability and build, and a distinct lack of showroom glamour. And we know how the story panned out – they were arguably the final in-house engineered mid-market saloon and hatch, eclipsed by the Honda Joint Venture Rover 200.
But you love them – we have lots of Maestro and Montego stories, and have a great inside line into the cars’ development. And that’s why you keep coming back – a combination of the whiff of failure, and the distilled essence of what might have been. A common theme that runs through so many of the cars that star on AROnline.
2: Rover 75/MG ZT
The Rover 75 and MG ZT were the bedrock of the its maker’s model range as the company crumbled and slid into administration in 2005. It could have been so good – the 75 was arguably the best engineered Post-War Rover, and clothed in a gorgeous retro-modern body that was probably too sophisticated for the buyers it was aimed for. The engine line-up wasn’t ideal, with the K-Series powerplants a stop-gap to the all-new Hams Hall-built NG4 and NG6 engines – the legacy of which, you’ll see in today’s BMW 318.
But the co-BMW developed Rover 75 had its launch torpedoed by the company boss, Bernd Pischetsrieder, and then suffered the agonising indignity of being cheapened by a cash-strapped MG Rover. The launch of the ZT, to create a genuinely talented sporting saloon, was a genuine bright spark in a tragic story that should have ended so differently. Still, it lives on to this day in the form of the Roewe/MG 750, MG7 and the MG6’s front bulkhead…
3: Mini Classic
The Mini’s had a big 2013 – its scene has continued to grow, and values are rising ever upwards. Considering it’s the best-selling car built by BMC, BL and Rover, and has by far the largest following of all of the cars in the Top 10, third place here shows that your love of the loveable loser is even greater than the might-have-been element of the story. But be that as it may, the Mini is still regarded as one of the most important cars of the 20th century – and rightly so.
The car’s legacy is now entrusted by the BMW-era MINI, a huge commercial success that continues to arouse impassioned debate within the comments area of AROnline – and one thing’s for sure, it’s bigger, younger cousin is a very different beast altogether, that’s due to move into a new iteration in 2014.
4: Austin Allegro
The Austin Allegro ticks all of the AROnline boxes – it has a hugely interesting back story, it failed to meet all of its commercial targets, became a cultural phenomenon for all the wrong reason, and now enjoys a cult classic car following. We’ve pored over the story too many times before to relive the horror now, but it’s heartening to see that the Allegro’s emerged as a cool and retro starter classic.
The only new car in the list, the MG3 is a controversial addition to our Top 10. The supermini appeared in China in 2010, and initially didn’t impress the readership – but by the time it appeared here, newly lowered and bodykitted, offered with some youthful sticker packages, and priced to perfection, many of its shortcomings were forgiven. For less than £10,000, it’s a convincing warm-hatch that deserves to do well – but one question remains: when will they start making it at Longbridge?
Since AROnline opened for business in 2001, the Rover SD1 was one of the site’s most important signature cars. Like all good stories, it was a case of unfulfilled potential, a beautiful car undermined by shoddy build and a reputation to rot for England. Back in 2001, the SD1 was undergoing final death throes of its banger phase, but since then, it’s emerged as an all-time classic, with a following that’s growing and growing. Of course, the Vitesse is the version that everyone wants now – but AROnline readers are a discerning bunch – you like ’em all, even the 2400SD Turbo.
7: Austin 3 Litre
The Austin 3 Litre has another one of those tragic back stories that you love – it could have been great, but ended up being undercooked, under-developed and under-bought. Where it was good, it was brilliant – in its high speed ride quality – and where it was bad, it was truly awful. Who could forgive that styling? AROnline readers certainly seem to be able to…
8: Austin/MG Metro
The Metro was touted at the time of its launch in 1980 as the beginning of the Product-led recovery to save its maker from what – in 1979 – seemed like certain death at the hands of market forces. Under the skin, it was a cleverly updated Mini, sharing an updated version of its A-Series engine and transmission-in-sump, and using a not fully-interconnected version of the Allegro’s Hydragas suspension. It didn’t sound so promising, but in fact the Metro was brilliant – and despite being developed on a relative shoestring, it managed to keep up with the Ford Fiesta on the UK market. But although the Metro kept held up its part of BL’s recovery plan admirably, it was let down by the rest of the range…
9: Austin Maxi
What a sensible car the Maxi was, and what a suitably excellent final flowering of the Issigonis front-wheel drive flame it proved to be. Well, sort of. It was undercooked when launched, with abysmal gearchange, underpowered engine, high list price, and compromised styling. As usual, a great concept let down by dreadful execution. Still, it was engineered into a good car throughout its production run, with the last of the 1750s proving to be genuinely talented family hold-alls – but the poor old Maxi never recovered from its rubbish start in life in 1969.
10: Morris Marina and Ital
Pity the poor Morris Marina. It was actually a very clever reheating of a collection of BMC and Triumph components from the parts bin, packaged in a Roy Haynes body, created by the new BL management as the Corporation’s answer to the Ford Cortina and Escort. And in 1971, aside from an unfortunate suspension foible – that was quickly fixed – it managed to compete. It was so effective, it ended up being the Corporation’s best seller throughout the 1970s. So why the pity? It lived too long, went stale, rusted and ended up being mocked by our national broadcaster by having pianos dropped on its roof.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.