Blogs : November 2007

28 November

The joy of MGF ownership


I HAVE been very interested to read your comments on the MGF after your brief acquaintance with a 1997 model in the last couple of weeks. I can only concur with most of what you have said about the model. My interest stems from the fact that I came to the same conclusion as yourself and following an excellent article in both Practical Classics and another in Classic and Sports Car I decided to take the plunge and purchase an MGF in April of this year.

My particular model is a 1997 stock 1.8 but with a few well-chosen options – black leather, wood pack, power steering, black hardtop and chrome boot rack. Other notable advantages were the low mileage (42,000), careful enthusiast owner and a full service history from Brown and Gammons (the well known MG dealer in Biggleswade – and soon to be an official MG dealer again under NAC). The starlight silver paintwork looks stunning combined with the black leather interior and needless to say she drives superbly. The only work carried out in 5000 miles since was an oil service and the addition of Slick 50, which I always add to my new purchases.

What impresses most with this model is its sheer drivability and unbelievable ride/handling compromise. Remember this is the model that beat the BMW Z3 and Alfa GTV in the Car magazine group test of 1995! Almost impossible to believe today given the relentless negative publicity surrounding Rover Group products. But the fact remains that as an A or B road point to point car I can think of nothing so composed and so relatively quick due to that ride/handling combination.

Yes the 1.8, 118bhp K-Series engine is not the quickest, but it has plenty of low down torque and combined with the relatively light weight and fantastic handling it can hold its own with much more exotic machinery. Also do you really want a bone shaker of a car with today’s poorly repaired roads? In many ways the later MG TF was a retrograde step, and having owned a 115 from new in 2004 (when I could still get the 30 per cent MG Rover staff discount!) I can vouch for the fact that my MGF outshines the later model with a far more liveable ride in day-to-day situations. I would think nothing of taking the F to France in relative comfort – not so the later TF. I appreciate what Rob Oldaker was trying to achieve but for me TF was too harsh and tiresome on a long journey.

…combined with the relatively light
weight and fantastic handling it can hold
its own with much more exotic machinery…

Of course the MGF owes much of its underpinnings to the Rover Metro (R6), and when that model ceased in 1997 the hydragas suspension was then unique to the MGF and it became uneconomic to produce only 15,000 sets per year. Incidentally when BMW phased out R6 there was a backlog of 17 weeks orders for the little car – it makes you think what would have happened if R6 could have been rebodied because the underpinnings really were fantastic – Thanks Mr Moulton!

Anyway because of the mileage, condition and hardtop, I paid £3200 for my MGF and it is one of the best cars I have ever owner – especially compared to the £12,500 I paid for the MG TF 115 in 2004. It just proves that to own a fantastic cherished future classic need not cost an arm and a leg. I have been asked twice if I would sell the car, but my view is where else can you get such a competent all round sports car for £3000 (or less with higher mileage).

So if anyone on the site is thinking of taking the plunge then I would say go on. Even if at some time you factor in a head gasket change (mine has been done by the previous owner) for approximately £700 it still makes sense. Rimmer Bros of Lincoln now sell the Land Rover Freelander improved head gasket set so if disaster strikes that’s the way to go. I now that the press are obsessed with the supposed superiority of the Mazda MX5, but for me the MGF is much more sophisticated – mid engine and hydragas sprung, not to mention those stunning Gerry McGovern looks that have so much in common with the MG EXE of 1985.

You really can trace the lineage back to those wonderful BMC cars of the 1960s – Mini and ADO16 which the Metro owed so much. In many ways MGF is more a product of BMC that the MINI will ever be despite the fantastic styling and image of that car. Did you now that BMW toyed with the idea of hydragas suspension on R50 (Mini) and even consulted the great Alex Moulton. That really would have been something to celebrate.

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27 November

I can’t keep quiet any longer


I’VE held fire on this one because I’m still not quite sure what I think about it. Mostly I’m disappointed that they had the opportunity to make a programme which was still funny, but much more balanced – but they spurned it in favour of slapstick. I mean, come on, a door falling off? That joke is surely copyright Laurel and Hardy and every two-bit slapstick show since. And it was very noticable (to an anorak like me anyway) that they’d had to purposefully let the Hydragas down on the Princess to make it a bit more crap, being as it was so much better than the others in terms of condition.

And I’m not convinced about the laps of MIRA’s track against the 120Y, either. It wasn’t so long ago that Hammond was racing a similar SD1 and claiming that it featured “One of the world’s great engines”. He even had the pleasure of testing one belonging to some Adams bloke, and loved it. So why did they have to tow the party line on this one?

This series of Top Gear has generally been fantastic, and has atoned for the sins of the previous one in my view. But believable TV is good TV, and this was a bit of a two-bit piss-take with more holes in its central premise than there were in the SD1’s sills. I was looking forward to it, I was prepared for them to give the cars a bit of ribbing, but I also expected them to go in with slightly more open minds. It was that which offended me the most, I think.

It just gives ammo to all those who erroneously state that Top Gear killed the British car industry.

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I AGREE with everything others have said here. Isn’t it about time there was a proper TV series about the BL years? There’s plenty of material, and no shortage of talking heads to comment. Surely someone with an amazing knowledge of the company and its products could be persuaded to produce an authoritative series, possibly featuring interviews with Roy Axe, Spen King and the like and maybe to be called ‘The Whole Story’.

Go for it Keith, we need you!


I wouldn’t worry too much about Top Gear’s recent coverage of old BL cars. I very rarely watch the show but, having just seen part of this particular programme, the three presenters are in my view such awful, pretentious, uninformed old tossers that that their views are barely worth listening to.

Are they deliberately trying to be parodies of what an opinionated, cliched, irritating motoring TV presenter is meant to be? And those terrible voices and chummy jokes. Ghastly. As someone else has said, it’s a bit rich criticizing these particular cars which come from a very different era and have done well to have survived so long in the first place.


I thought I would drop you a line as I came across your website earlier this year following a link from ebay for an early XJ-S. Now I am not a particular fan of Austin products (even though my first car was an MG Metro, or perhaps thats the reason why) but I think your website is exceptional.

For car fans of any marque it is superb, its anorak rating is wonderful, I especially enjoy looking over the old brochures which I used to collect so I could stare for hours trying to imagine what it would be like to drive one. The standard of the site and the content is by far superior to anything current manufacturers provide for their customers, you should be proud, I assume its a labour of love.

I wanted to take task with you and your contributors for your views on the recent Top Gear programme but to be honest I enjoy the programme for entertainment not factual content so to defend the piece from an entertainment stance would not stack up.

I will continue to visit your site each month, shame the Talbot site was removed and the early Jag’s seem to have disappered. Excellent work, shame the managment at Rover did not take care of the industry to the same extent that you (and your contributors) clearly do.


26 November

Top Gear… a crunchy down-change


ABOVE is one of the most beautiful images a committed AR head like me will ever see – a Rover SD1 V8 powersliding around MIRA’s bowl driven by someone, by all accounts, who knows how to handle a car. You can imagine the scene now – the V8 howling, and the almost narcotic combination of the smell of burning rubber and the sound of those old Goodyear Grand Prix S tyres forming the ultimate cocktail of BL-tinged joy…

Shame the rest of it was very much to form, then…

Top Gear‘s long awaited (in these circles anyway) BL Special evoked mixed reactions at AR Towers, though. I know that the programme’s not supposed to be anything other than a supercar knockabout for car enthusiasts – and more casual viewers – and takes a lighthearted approach to motoring capers, but come on… what was the point of doing in BL now?

Ever since I received a barrage of calls from various BBC researchers a few months back, asking for various BL-related nuggets of information, I knew that the resultant programme wasn’t exactly going to be a fond look at a dark period in UK manufacting industry. They wanted me to put them in touch with anyone who helped build these cars, or some hapless part of the management team – something I couldn’t do, as I knew no one directly involved. I remember one harassed conversation with a very nice sounding researcher, deadline rapidly approaching, asking me for anything… and the firmly negative response to my question: ‘is it going to be a piss-taking exercise?’

So when Jeremy’s opening salvo was that the SD1 was built longer on one side than the other (it was the 800 the last time he spouted that guff), I knew it was going to be exactly that.

To be fair, with my thirtysomething grouchiness when it comes to BL’s misfortunes, it was always going to be difficult for me to see the joke. I’m a Brummie, and I still feel a great sense of sadness about the implosion of manufacturing industry in the region… so it’s close, and I’m touchy. But when the facts are just plain wrong – on TV for goodness sake, and with a talented writing, production and researching team – my rage levels do start to rise.

I’m a fan of Top Gear, though – it brings a love of cars to the people, sticks up two-fingers to the anti-motoring lobby, and we get to live some fantastic adventures with two of the best motoring journalists we’ve ever seen. But please… please, please, do we really need so much malicious piss-taking? And if we do (and the audience figures say that we do), at least make sure you get all of your facts right…

Still, the powersliding was nice.

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The latest edition of Top Gear was both brilliant and tragic; you could see just how the tone was headed when Hamster kept on gleefully bashing his Dolly door against the flanks of Captain Slow’s Princess at any and every opportunity. Let’s see him smile his artificially whitened teeth when someone does that to his Mustang. Filling the cars with water made funny television but frankly contributed little beyond ensuring the cars were terminally wrecked. I think the Princess upheld its honour really well – you can be sure that none of those cars received a suspension overhaul before they were put on the MIRA test track. And as someone has commented elsewhere, public exposure on TG might just raise awareness of an interest in ‘our’ cars and help a few be saved.

Like you, I’ve been contacted in the past by breathless ‘researchers’ who ‘insist’ on my help and to be honest I can rarely be bothered… not least because they always lie through their teeth to get what they want, and then half the time don’t use (or misuse) the material you’ve troubled to put together in any case.

I suppose there was a relatively affectionate look behind the p-take; and I wonder how rust free the Datsun was… their engines and electrics used to last forever, but their tinny bodywork often lasted just over the limit of the one year warranty.


I too watched the program last night and found the whole thing depressing. Like yourself I am from Birmingham and have worked at Canley, Longbridge, Gaydon and Solihull.

I haven’t been back to Longbridge since 2005 where there were the 100 years of Austin celebrations in Cofton Park, I hope to go back there for Mini 50 in 2009 , i wonder if there will be anything left by this time. If the program was sensible and did a normal road test against competitors vehicles and, yes, this includes Datsun’s finest! Then this would be okay.

But what was the point of filling the cars full of water , this reduced them to scrap in an instant, in particular the Wedge Princess, which I had spotted on the Internet a few months back. The Princess seeming to be that perfect find; a genuine car recorded mileage all correct in other words.

Once again disappointing…


I’m not going to add to the debate and I’m sure you discussed it to death at Practical Classics magazine, but aren’t you and your collegues in the perfect position as scribes on Britain’s best selling classic car organ to bring the BBC to account and ask what is to be the ultimate fate of those cars?


WHEN I read in the TV guide that Top Gear were going to do a tribute to BL, I knew in my heart of hearts that it was going to be a big piss-take. Perhaps what made that even more obvious was the fact it was published in a newspaper.

I had to tune in, and I couldn’t believe how well those cars actually stood up to the brutal antics that the team put those poor cars through. Finally, if you pay mid range prices for low end mechanically sound cars – then things will drop off, and yes you will be able to put your fingers through the wings.

Daft question, did anyone actually see a tax disc on display at any point? I’ll have my TV licence fee back please.


UNFORTUNATELY, I didn’t catch the programme from the beginning (I’ll watch the repat on Wednesday night though), I joined at the point when they’d got to the track. I agree with you it’s almost like they wanted to kick BL from the start, (i.e., they’d started out with a negative perception of BL products), and then the production team had done everything they could to prove this was true by setting ridiculous tests to prove that this was the case.

When for example would you park your car regularly on a 1-in-3 hill, or when would you drive your car on a road surface that was as rough as that which they used on the test track to judge ride quality? Answer, probably never, and if you did then you’d probably driving a Land Rover. I notice their absence from the programme last night, owing to them being too reliable, obviously!

Seriously, I think we need to get this in to context though, any car would have fallen apart if you subjected it to the punishment which those vehicles were put through! Even the Datson 120Y! And what also wasn’t mentioned was the fact that 197’s Datsuns were rust buckets (how many of those are left on the road today).

What really annoyed me though is that three perfectly usable cars were totally ruined to make this programme, and therefore destroying yet more of our motoring History? Can anyone tell me what the point in that is?


It really offends me that cars that have managed to survive for 30 years, still have MoTs, and look half decent so they can get trashed in the name of ‘entertainment’. Note how they didn’t trash the Datsun 120Y


Usual pointless crap really. Quite how thrashing to death three tired cars proves anything about the British car industry 30 years ago I have no idea. It doesn’t even prove anything about the cars in comparison to each other given that they weren’t in comparable shape (mind you, the prices they paid for them…) The deliberate faults are all a bit obvious too. I’m sure the doors of the Rover weren’t at all engineered to fall off.

As for the anti BL attitude; I notice that no reference was made to the awesome ability of Japanese cars of the 1970s to rust quickly to the extent that UK cars seemed excellent in comparison.


The Wedge rules! Well, I thought it was okay. It would have been really boring if they drove them like Frank Page did on Top Gear in the 1970s. Lets face it, no one else would have done it and the Rover and Dolly were well past their prime, surely.


Now I know these wern’t the best cars in the world and were built to apalling standards and one has to face reailty. Some consilation can be taken from the fact the Dolly and SD1 were shagged but the Princess looked in good fettle if not mint. It would with a bit of tidying made a good show car for years to come. Now only fit for spares, I expect the displacers are knackered as well since May was driving it around with front drivers side displaces on the bump stops.

In the end this saga is of no importance what so ever, but at this moment I can’t help but feel a tinge of sadness and rage that three more examples of cars I love dearly have been consigned to the scrapheap.

Forum member, ‘Mr Average’

It was interesting to watch and most of it was acceptable, but the water took it too far in my opinion. A great shame that the Princess was ruined, must have been one of the best ones left. And why did they visit Longbridge? None of the cars were made there!


I can scarcely recall an episode of the current-format Top Gear where they didn’t get something wrong. I often find myself in full ‘anorak’ mode while watching it (if you get my drift), but I suppose they are simply subscribing to the old journalistic maxim of not letting the truth get in the way of a ‘good’ story.

As I believe Clarkson has said himself, the programme is now designed primarily to entertain rather than educate or inform (hence all the hare-brained stunts and feeble conclusions, and the delight they seem to take in describing many of their efforts as “ambitious, but rubbish”). How many times has Clarkson described a car he’s just driven as “absolutely brilliant”, only to say the same thing the following week about the next one. Such superlatives can rarely be taken at face value.

More irritating still, as Eamonn has touched on, is the increasingly mannered delivery (mainly due to Clarkson’s wilful mangling of the English language and Hammond’s apparent inability to stop gurning into the camera). Does JC really think it’s cool to persist in referring to ‘horsepowers’, ‘torques’ and ‘an internet’ or ‘an interweb’ week after week? I find the novelty of these intentional solecisms tends to wear off very quickly…

And yet, despite all this… I still find the programme compulsive viewing, much as I have done since the late 1970s. Taken purely as entertainment, it’s not a bad way to pass an hour. And for every one of us who cringed at some of the treatment doled out to the BLTin(TM) last night, I guess there would be someone in a parallel universe mourning the loss of all the caravans that have needlessly met their ends at the TG team’s hands over the past couple of years.

One final point in the programme’s favour on the funding front: I’d be very, very surprised if it doesn’t comfortably cover its production budget in the revenue generated by sales of the programme to other countries and spin-off activities.


Last night’s TG was cheap. OK, peeps on this forum will refer to the incorrect facts and the “dressing up” of the BL cars to cause them to fall apart but let’s remember, it is well publicised that the BBC is under financial pressure. Last night’s show was a cheapy. Don’t believe that a presenter forked out any of their own cash (and we are assuming that the amounts paid were genuine *cough*). Considering what past shows have contained, last night’s effort was a “Tesco value” TG.

What irked me was something that has not been commented on in this forum. The Aston Martin, piloted round the wet test track, did not perform particularly well. Low and behold, Jezza announced that it was taken round again just prior to the show being broadcast and LOOK: it suddenly has done very well. Come on Aunty. You expect us to believe in that?

Mmmm. Something stinks here. In my humble opinion, the answer could well be found in something that links MIRA, AM, and TG together. I will say no more, other than I feel that motoring journalism (and TG) has hit a low. Pity.

Forum member, ‘Triumph Toledo’

23 November



IT’S at times like 8.30pm this evening when I say to myself… ‘yes this job isn’t too bad, after all.’ Cruising up the A1, top down (yes I kid you not), in an MGF, I realised that this nice little car is currently in very real danger of becoming a conspicuously well-priced bargain of our time.

The version I drove, a 1997 R-plater, with the 120PS 1.8-litre engine was so delightful in so many ways, that I had to keep telling myself that it could be mine for around £2000. Consider that – for a moment. A roadster that works, which is packed full of heritage, and that can still hold its own in modern traffic, for less than the price of the creakiest MGB Roadster.

On the road, it’s fine, too… grippy, neutral and light to drive. And with a ride quality that’s scarcely believable for an open topped roadster of this type. It almost seems a shame that they toughened it up so much for the TF revisions. No, if I had £2000 burning a hole in my pocket, I’d put my money where my mouth is and buy one today…

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I like the car, drove one once and it was fun, but as we all know it was developed on a shoestring budget. This particularly showed on the TF, the trim finishing in the front and rear boots was particularly cheap, made a Fiat X1/9 look well made!

A friend of mine owned an MGF from new, loved it until the headgasket failed during the second year, then the suspension kept collapsing, the hood leaked and the alarm and immobiliser kept failing.

Surely for £2000, the best choice has got to be a Mazda MX-5?


Interestingly, this car was the most profitable road car from the Rover cars (disregarding the Land Rover). Its profit mark-up was 15 per cent, which was specified from the outset. The other models were generally designed for a mark up of about 5 per cent.

With regards to the power steering, even the engineers didn’t really see any point of it since the steering was so light and easy. It was purely for marketing purposes, since the Japanese martket demanded it. EPAS was used instead as it was easier to control the level of power applied to the steering at varying speeds – more for low speed town manoevring and less for highway driving.


The ‘F is a car that I would actually like to test-drive. A friend owns a TF from new and is happy with it (okay, got the HGF repaired already at young age), but he admits it is rather ‘sporty’ in the suspension department. Who says a roadster needs to be an out and out sportscar?

On the other hand, I have had a close look on a dismantled ‘F (HGF followed by head failure), and it’s an absolute nightmare to work on – makes a Mini seem spacious and comfortable in the engine bay. They seem also have inherited a bit of the Metros rust problem, not as bad as the Metro, but worse than it should be for a car of that age.


The MGF was a severly compromised design with some absolutely truly awful engineering (much more so than other vehicles being developed at the same time, such as R3)… Absolutely stupid pathetic things which could have been sorted out for a few pence per vehicle were dismissed… (I was actually told during a meeting on PR3 If it was cheaper to put right under warranty rather than spend a wee bit more getting the thing right in the first place that this was the way they would go…)

The MGF was instrumental for one of the resons I left the Company… I could come up with a list of piss poor design features on that car…

IMO truly hateful things… (But this could no doubt be a case of being ‘too close’ ) if you get my drift..


I would say now is the time to buy an MGF. My local auction has seen more than usual poring through the hall even accounting for the time of year. A packed auction hall made no difference to the 2002 MGF VVC that struggled for bids up to £2500 last night which wasn’t enough to buy it, and several late 1990s Fs barely managed £1500 in recent weeks, though they did eventually sell for less than reserve. Makes me wonder whether the MG honeymoon is over.


Keith, my rantings about diabolical MGF engineering, quality and manufacture was off-putting to the MGCC/MGF Register’s Core Values, so I was kindly shown the door. Their loss. Still, I bought what is considered to be the last TF built and indeed at huge expensive in terms of time, money and bribes. Even the ever nice Rob Oldaker phoned at home regarding that car!

I mean, the MGF was the Reliant Sabre’s poor relation in all honesty. I firmly believe that for every pound spent sorting a F, you could equally sort a TR7 into an 8, now theres a usable British sports car, that’ll remain a classic.

We have Fs coming in now terminal HGF, leaky Hydragas (admittedly through ingnorance and abuse) and failing clutches and they are effectively write-offs. Replacement Heads are increasingly scare, Hydragas units are used and virtually impossible to correctly replace (that’ll be the body engineering side), heaters pack in all the time, their handling is usually lethal. Correct tyres are NLA, so too are VVC mechanisms. Coil packs are just about unreachable, the coolant is a pig to bleed and the shells are getting weaker every day. Nuts seize and their pressed steel locators/captive nuts sheer at the first twist. Pipes correct, the brakes are week at the front and under utilised at the back. Deadlocks go dead, remotes pack in, windows don’t align.

I can think of no redeeming feature over the MX5, and yet, secrectly, I love them.


Had mine seven years, it’s now done 81,000 miles. The clutch packed up earlier this year, it’s had a new hood fitted, the plastic rear screen has been replaced, after the original cracked. It’s been through two front bumpers – once after a high-speed collision with a cat and before that, when a fellow in a Kia emerged without warning from a pub car park – and earlier this year had a new radiator fitted.

Actually, now I think of it, the rear screen was replaced twice. The first replacement cost me all of £25 when I found a chap near where I used to live who worked out of a shed and who sewed in the translucent material they use in boat awnings and the like. It did mean that I had to drive around for a week with a fertiliser bag taped over the gaping hole before the man in the shed was ready.

Other than that, it’s been okay over those seven years – although I have noticed recently a milky deposit on the dipstick. I forgot uneven tyre wear.

Main dealer servicing was pretty steep, and not entirely satisfactory, but for the past umpteen years I’ve taken the car to the MGF Centre in Wolverhampton who seem to know the cars inside out, and have fettled the car so that it goes around corners even better than it used to. Over the years they’ve fitted lowering knuckles to the suspension, the quicker steering rack from the TF, solid front subframe mounts, and adjustable Gaz dampers, but the best modification in my experience costs nothing and concerns the car’s electronic power steering system. Just remove the fuse. I was warned not to do that by the main dealer – the steering will be much too heavy, they cried – but I ignored them.

I just find EPAS unnervingly light, and feel-less. After nearly losing the car on a wet right hand bend once I removed the EPAS fuse and have never since had a ‘moment.’ I just can’t describe the car’s handling as ‘lethal.’ Quite the reverse, in fact, because the thing just grips dementedly.

I remember the launch of the F back in 1995, to generally ecstatic reviews. It was initially only available as a 1.8i – the VVC followed a few months later – and those early cars were not equipped with power steering as standard. I think the later fitment of EPAS did much to mask the excellence of the car’s road behaviour – the damned lightness of system tends to make you ‘over egg’ your steering inputs, and the lack of sensation, the absence of any sense of the steering ‘loading up’ in cornering can make the car seem twitchy.

In my experience, perhaps the best way to run an F is to find a decent specialist. And pray a lot.


Loved my ’96 F,even with all its faults; white with red interior, a totally classic combination. Handled okay in the dry but the slightest hint of moisture or worn road surface and the thing became somewhere between entertaining and lethal. Mine had EPAS, which gave zero feed back. The petrol fumes made it being a convertible almost mandatory and any shopping in the boot would be warm by the time you got home. The MGF/TF was built to be a classic car, used only at the weekends, during the summer.

I lived with mine for eight months, it never broke down and I miss it much,but I would never have one as an only car. Spanner rash seems to be a built in optional extra and the metal around the engine access panel could slice a sunday joint. Wins in the looks department though.

Forum member ‘DOLLYSPRINT’

22 November

I love LPG


FILLED up the Range Rover today for the first time in weeks, and had that nice feeling you get when you feel like you’re beating the system. 200 miles of mixed driving, including towing a friend’s Bertone X1/9 on a trailer, and hammering up the motorway, and all I needed to pay for the fill-up was £30…

That makes it cheaper to fuel than my Vauxhall Cavalier Sports Hatch… and I have a fair bit more luxury for the privalege. You know, things like a radio. That’s a bit cruel on the old Vauxhall which I am loving to bits right now, but my goodness was it good to climb up into the leather-lined Range Rover and feel like I’m in command of my surroundings.

The only downside about LPG – and one that has me constantly worried: when will the government drop the tax break? As soon as LPG cars get popular… perhaps I should keep it to myself…

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21 November

For 2008, where will the big AR trip be going to?


As 2007 draws to a close and we can look back on what has been a great year for the AR community. We had our first road trip in the form of the Inaugural Champagne Tour of Reims, an event where friendships were forged, and we got the chance to show off our fine collection of heritage on mainland Europe.

Sadly, I couldn’t make it to this one – despite booking upfront, and arranging it all a long time in advance – so I want to make doubly sure that I’m leading the way at the next one, and I’ll be at the wheel of a pristine Polish restored Rover 3500. At the moment, there are no concrete plans, and I’m open to suggestions from you, our dear readers.

It would be ace to involve a visit to some of the European BL production sites such as Seneffe, as well as a trip to the Nürburgring, followed by some nice mountain driving. But there are so many more options – and things I may not have even thought about yet. One option might be to do a tour of the UK production sites – after all, a journey that involves going as far and wide as Wales, the North West and Scotland… as well as the Midlands could well be something to savour.

Again, Andrew Elphick and myself will be organizing this little shindig, and we’re now open for suggestions from you…

So, the ball’s in your court – let us know what you think, and where you’d like to go via email or the forum, and we’ll take it from there.

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19 November

Stereotypically wrong


WHILE we’re all one big happy European family right now, it is untrue to say that some national stereotypes refuse to persist. According to an article in last week’s Times the French think that English women are fat, lazy, and fail to take care of their appearance. British men, meanwhile, are rubbish in bed and can’t cook, something which I’m sure would come as a surprise to Gordon Ramsey. Well, the second one would, anyway.

We’re as bad as anyone else, mind. Ask an Englishman to précis the various European nations and he’ll launch into a travelogue that would put Marco Polo to shame. The Germans are humourless and efficient, the French are rude and intransigent, and the Dutch all speak perfect English in between tokes on the bong. The Greeks are mental, the Italians are anarchists (and in the case of the women, raven-haired beauties who, however, become wizened old crones off the Dolmio advert some time around their thirtieth birthday) and the Belgians are boring. Whether or not he’s ever been to these places, an Englishman will be able to reel you off these definitions without so much as a moment’s hesitation. They’re accepted wisdom. They are facts.

Except, of course, they’re not facts at all. Having been on a hitchhiking mission to Paris last weekend, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a conciliatory French railway official, a Persian (not Iranian) communist in exile, and a Dutch bloke who spoke no English. A Belgian chap who gave us a lift across the channel, meanwhile, was the biggest playboy I have ever encountered – as a pilot and former tank driver, with his own boat on Lake Maggiore, he’s the definition of what a small boy wants to grow up to be. Ask him the definition of the word boring and he’d probably have to look it up in a dictionary. In short, he did not fit into my preconceived Belgian paradigm. Perhaps that’s why they say that travel broadens the mind.

How, though, to broaden the public’s mind with regard to cars? Because the automotive world suffers just as many preconceived judgments as the geographical one, and some of them are just daft. The one I’ve been struggling with the most this week has been the Renault Clio, which is, of course, perceived as the archetypal young person’s car. Ask me to count the number of cars on Warwick’s university campus that aren’t Clios, and I’d not be in any danger of taking my shoes and socks off. Nicole, it seems, has done her job well.

A Belgian chap who gave us a lift across
the channel, meanwhile, was the biggest
playboy I have ever encountered…

But I’ve been thrashing about in a 1997 1.4 model and I’ve been frankly appalled at almost every aspect of it. It IS a young person’s car, in that a child’s birthday party clearly had a major hand in the design process. The ride was modelled on a pogo-stick, the clutch was harder to depress than the birthday boy on a Ribena high, and the seats were as comfortable as his Little Tyke’s Cozy Coupe. The dash was laid out by blindfolded toddlers as part of a the afternoon’s entertainment, meaning the conjurer could slip outside for a cigarette – the car has no magic, no sparkle, none of the (sorry) joie de vivre I was expecting from a car pitched at the young, enthusiastic driver. It was slow, thrashy, the brakes didn’t work and it wasn’t even all that economical.

Compare this to the overlooked Rover 200, in both R8 and R3 form, which is of course perceived as the car of choice for fans of Werthers’ Originals. Those who carry a tartan rug on the passenger shelf. Those with a predilection for wearing pork-pie hats. Not to put too fine a point on it – old giffers. But why should this be? My old R8 was a tired old thing which set me back just £196, but it was superior in almost every way to the Renault. The dash was well laid out, its 1.4 K-series had the measure of its French cousin by forty horses (whilst sounding gorgeous through its K&N cone filter) and the cabin was light and airy. The boot was bigger, the driving position was superior, and despite a blowing exhaust and a rogered catalytic converter, I’d see over 40mpg on a run – all the things that are important to a young driver on a tight budget. What’s more, there was an air of class, of faded grandeur, like the country house of a family who have fallen on hard times. For first-time buyers, the Rover was a tatty Cotswold cottage to the Renault’s Barratt starter-home.

Sadly, though, the stereotype is self-perpetuating. Whilst the MG Z-cars went a long way to rehabilitating that brand’s image, it would be untrue to say that this halo-effect extended to their Rover siblings, and thusly to the rest of the brand. Old people drive Rovers, therefore more old people buy Rovers, and young people are put off by this. The few enlightened individuals that I know who admit to owning R8s face a similar level of incredulity to if they announced they’d discovered a cracking German stand-up comedian or an Italian business with a correctly filed tax report.

So we are back where we started – the Clio is a young person’s car, and the 200 is for pensioners. In that case, to quote that nice young man Robert Williams, ‘I hope I’m old before I die.’

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16 November

What to do?


SENTIMENTALITY is a wondrous, if frustrating, thing to suffer from. Well, with cars it is, anyway. I mean, can anyone explain to me why I still own the 216GTi 16V as pictured above, and continue to spend money on it? I no longer have a use for it, as well as the fact that I’m still paying the insurance, and continuing the upgrade programme.

Do I actually use it? No…

Why not? I don’t actually know…

It’s a great car, and I’ve had a lot of happy times in it – but really, it should be moved on to pastures new. To someone who’ll appreciate such a fine modern classic more thoroughly. On the road. And at revs. And yet, I can’t bring myself to sell it…

So what is it about these inanimate objects that make us behave so irrationally? Perhaps someone could explain it to me… and talk me into selling the car (after I’ve re-MoT’d it, slapped in my centre arm-rest and put some different wheels on it).

Nurse! Help!

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14 November

What an experience!


REMEMBER that very first time you climbed uncertainly behind the wheel of a car, and were given the awesome responsibility of actually piloting it somewhere? You know, rather than enjoying the luxury of your parents or friends whisking you magically from one place to another without any hassle at all – you actually had to do it yourself? That first faltering drive will have been jerky, uncoordinated, and downright unpleasant.

Last Sunday, I found myself back there – and, boy, was it funny…

The car you see above is a Zaporozhets (or ZAZ) 968 – a Ukranian built answer to the NSU Prinz or Hillman Imp, and staple transport for the middle classes in Soviet-era Russia who couldn’t quite stomach the ten year wait for a Lada (or VAZ) 1200 saloon. You can find out more, here, if you’re so inclined. It’s powered by a rear mounted aircooled V4 engine of indeterminate heritage, and sports some of the most gorgeous art-deco detailing you’re ever likely to encounter on a car produced well into the 1980s.

Don’t believe me, take a look at the chrome-ringed air scoops.

Anyway, thanks to the generosity of Julian Nowill, the founder of the USSR Car Club, and the brains behind the iconic Plymouth-Dakar Rally, the car you see above is now mine. Yes, I’d let it slip to him some time ago that I harbour a filthy secret involving East Europeans – and although cars weren’t my first thought, he let it be known that he could service my need. Fast forward a few months, and I’m driving out of Hall 4 of the NEC in this delightful Zapo Jet, and into the dark, rainy night in a car I’ve never driven before.

Okay, that shouldn’t be a problem, but with a backwards gearchange patter, loose vague steering and lethrgic brakes, this was going to be no ordinary drive. Onto the M6 and building up to a heady 55mph, the car’s waywardness and prediliction to change lanes by itself have had me laughing nervously, and praying that the drivers around me were sympathetic to my plight. As the drive wore on, I began to get the hang of changing gear cleanly – but still without gay abandon – and to stop trying to steer the thing as I would a normal car – but just point it in the vague direction I wish to go in and let it scurry its own merry path.

By the time I make it home (and we’re talking only 50 miles) I’m absolutely wired. This has been the most challenging drive of my life… and yet, I can’t help but laugh about it now. Its comical incompetence makes me like it – there’s genuine love in some of the design features, and you know that this was a car designed and manufactured for absolutely no money whatsoever… and in that context, this really is a good car.

And, hey, it makes me laugh and smile, so who cares what the neighbours think?

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12 November

The Sierra… again


I remember Sierra’s launch vividly, as it made its UK showroom debut on my fifth birthday. I thought my dad was amazing, because he drove me to Gordon Ford in Stockport to see it in the metal as a birthday treat (other kids had expensive parties, or trips to Alton Towers, but for me the opportunity to collect a few brochures was far more of a thrill…) He couldn’t afford one, of course, and being a Cortina man he vowed never to own one there and then, as he couldn’t get on with the styling – a fairly trivial suggestion, seeing as he never bought a car that was less than ten years old to start with!

19 years later, Dad and I did a road trip together across Europe. Our steed? His D-reg Sierra 2.0 Ghia – one of the last of the Mk 1s, complete with rot-free rear wheelarches and pepperpot alloys. It appears that almost two decades of Sierras appearing on our roads in droves had softened his attitude. 4500 miles in 14 days in a 15-year old car with 150k on the clock and it didn’t miss a beat, even undertaking a perfectly civilised 100mph dash to the ferry after we got stuck in traffic near Rouen.

Once, until very very recently, a part of
Britain’s street furniture, the Sierra has
all but disappeared, and while it may not
be the most distinctive car in the world
I sincerely believe it to be one of the most
daring, coherent and pivotal pieces of
vehicle styling ever…

Alas, the Sierra was written off three months later while parked outside my dad’s house, after a freak incident that saw a lorry lose its spare wheel, which then bounced across the road and into the Sierra’s B-Pillar. My father was mortified at its demise, and declared it the best car he’d ever owned – from man who behaved reverentially towards his Cortina Mk IV, this was a bold statement He remembers it so fondly that I’d love to find him an identical one, but try searching for a red Mk I Sierra Ghia these days… Once, until very very recently, a part of Britain’s street furniture, the Sierra has all but disappeared, and while it may not be the most distinctive car in the world (unlike it may have once have been) I sincerely believe it to be one of the most daring, coherent and pivotal pieces of vehicle styling ever.

It’s funny, too, how the public’s initial shock reaction to the Sierra was quickly forgotten as the car became so common. In more recent memory, both the Ford Ka and original Focus polarised opinion, but have become so prolific that we tend not to notice these days. Plus ca change…

Incidentally, unlike your good self I have had the honour of Sierra ownership, in the form of a very tired G-registered 1.6L in white. Bought for fifty quid from the local car auction, it wasn’t what you’d deem a prime specimen, but it got me out of a hole when I needed it most, and I never once was concerned that it wouldn’t start in the morning. You’re right, though – much more modern to look at than it was to drive!

Now, a three-door Cosworth in Moonstone Blue, that’s another story…

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9 November

More Sierra thoughts


In my mind, the Ford Sierra will always have a place in my heart as a pretty forward thinking piece of product design, with a restrained French eccentricity the head designer managed to convey. The jellymould design was the benchmark for many cars, from the Vauxhall Astra MkII onwards. Vauxhall, took the idea and refined it.

I think the most off-putting aspect of the car would have been the less than conventional Ford ‘nose’. You must bare in mind that people were used to seeing a grille up front and this desgn did away with that. Had the facelifted car been available in 1982, there would have been a better reaction since it would have been easy to recognise the Ford, and indeed the Cortina’s DNA. Perhaps to the lay-person, DNA is a poncified way of saying ‘belongs to the family’ but it does give the essence of what Ford should have done with the original frontage.

Had this been the case, I believe the car would have been far more popular since Cortina owners would have felt more familiar with it. The same applies to the Princess to the Ambassador. Also, perhaps if the Saloon (sedan) version, the Sapphire, had been available from the start, we may well have seen the popularity of the car sky-rocket. My favourite will always be, obviously, the RS Cosworth.. pity they kept getting nicked.

As a second note, you talk about the anonimity of these cars as classics. Well, I have my own opinion on this. firstly, how long did it take for the A60 to become a classic? Or any other bread and butter car for that matter? It’s only recently the Cortina ’80 (the one with the big rear lights) became some sort of a classic, although people have been tuning these for quite a while.

These, like the Montego, will become classics of sorts – The Sierra more so, partly because it’s a Ford and partly because there was hardly any stigma attached to this car – it just worked. The Montego seemed to just rust, leak, and break gear-linkages (though the engine’s were excellent). For those who own a MG Turbo or EFi – even an Si, take good care of them, like the Rover 220 Turbo, at some stage they will be worth a lot of money.

Secondly, and this is an important point. The 1980s was the start of our throw away culture and the deep integration of technology around the automobile. These days it is not difficult to dismiss a car like this because as time has gone on, the time taken to develop a new car has shrunk exponentially. With next generation modelss launching every three to five years, and what with the real price of cars being ever lower, moving onto the next mass-produced car has never been easier. Our culture, which as I said stems from the 80’s, sums up why this car will not be the instant classic in the real sense of the word until it is too late.

From the 1980s onwards highly common cars like this were most likely to be scrapped, without any thought as the nation got richer. The demand for better quality and performance, outstrips our sentimentality for them, unless of course they are extra special. I cite the Escort RS Cosworth as an example. The Escort MkV will be unloved by many, but the moment it was announced that the RS Cosworth would be going out of production, the used prices sky-rocketed.

It’s a modern car that even I would desperately want to find (along with a Vauxhall Lotus Carlton), to have as part of my all-time favourite classic fleet eventually. I would of course place inside the 220 Turbo Coupe… In addition to all this, car recycling has become ever more easier, so you will start to see cars from this period, but more so from the 1990s, disappearing from our roads a lot quicker.

I will even cite Vauxhall as an example.. trade in you banger and receive £500 off your next Corsa. So why bother fiddling around with trick electronics in engies and braking systems when you can go onto the next new thing? – or even buy an older, simpler, less complicated classic…

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8 November

The real reason the CCV never happened?


To quote Roy Axe, ‘We were not aware at first that Honda has a two door Coupe in their plan…’ But they did and less than ten months after the Turin motor show debut of the CCV, a new coupe rolled out the showrooms of Honda’s domestic (Japanese) distributors.

A while later the MGF and Honda Beat hit the street, as did the Land Rover Freelander… and the Honda CR V. For a pair of industrial partners so entwined, one wonders what was there ever a connection between Longbridge and Tokyo?

Part of the original CCV styling team overseen by Roy Axe was young designer who went by the name of Gerry McGovern, the studio’s beau of the moment. The proposal, had been shaped from a cast off clay buck of the much applauded MG EX-E prototype, the CCV. It was of almost classical Italian design, with a thin pillared glass house, disguising a car that should have been nearly five metres long (the actual concept car was an 8/10th scale replica).

And had the funding or political decision’s faired the team’s way, maybe it could have been a best seller too. However back in Japan where prestigious coupe’s such as the Toyota Soarer were big sellers in the home market, the go-ahead was given for two-door pillarless version of the new Legend, sharing very little of its exterior with the four-door saloon.

It became slighter wider at 1735mm, the wheelbase shrunk 50mm, the roof line dropped 20mm lower and a Kamm effect tail appeared comparable with the rear profile of the CCV. All finished off with an enlarged 2.7-litre version of the existing 2.5. Strangely the newly formed Acura brand was uninvolved with the gestation of the Legend two-door hardtop; especially strange bearing in mind the potential North American sales for such a vehicle.

At the end of the day, the CCV probably surprised the Legend product leader Akinobu Yokoyama as much as the Legend surprised Roy Axe.

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7 November

Filling up: Why is it such a chore these days?


HAS anyone else here noticed that filling up is getting increasingly tiresome these days? I don’t just mean the financial pain of parting with around £1 per litre of petrol that it’s costing… No, the biggest gripe for me these days is finding a filling station that doesn’t involve queueing for ages. It simply can’t be done.

You know how it is… the yellow light comes on the dashboard, you pull into a petrol station, only to find that half the pumps are either coned off, or there’s a ‘SORRY, NOT IN USE’ notice stuck on the nozzle of the one you’ve driven up to. But my question there is: why? I always thought that filling stations had communal tanks underneath the forecourt… and that shutting off half the pumps does nothing more than generate longer queues.

And if that’s the case, they do why do it?

Perhaps my irritation stems from the fact that I absolutely hate queueing. Sorry, let me rephrase that. I detest queueing. I mean in all walks of life… a trip to the bank fills me with dread, then anger, and finally rage. As for going to the supermarket to stock up on ready meals. Well, just forget it. So why does it seem to me that we’re waiting longer than every to pump our horribly overpriced fuel into our cars? I know one statistic I heard recently – that there are less petrol stations now in the UK than there was in 1910 – probably has a lot to do with it, but more than that, the stations that are left don’t seem interested in serving us.

I don’t recall seeing it like that in any other country in Europe. So, what gives?

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You’re right Keith, it is becoming a nightmare. Presumably because running a petrol station isn’t much of a money spinner (unlike creaming the tax off it!)

Also, why are more and more petrol stations turning into mini-supermarkets? All this does is encourage people to leave their cars blocking the pumps while people mooch about the store trying to decide whether to buy Pot Noodle or a microwaveable burger.

I don’t see why we can’t have more pay at the pump devices which speed things up nicely while stopping you from having to speak to the unfortunates behind the counter. In many European countries, petrol stations are completely unmanned. You swipe your card, fill up and head off again. Isn’t that what a petrol stations is meant to be about?


I try when possible to go early mornings or late evenings, as the ones down here can be a nightmare to traverse.

What with people parking to far from the pump so you can’t get round to the pump in the front, as Ian said then you get people doing a there WEEKLY grocery shop, getting their lottery ticket, some charcoal for the barbeque, flowers for the wife, and canister of gas for the caravan and some cash from the whole in the wall.

Forum member, ‘Mr Average’

Two on the A26 have gone in the last 10 years, a bit of an eye-opener that there’s fewer now than in 1910, but cars had a much shorter range in those days. Some Shell petrol stations in the South East have just one bay between two pumps, so you can choose which side you use- it’s great but it’s always surprised me as it’s not very efficient.


When I started driving, my local petrol station was still an attended service operation, which I much prefered. Are there any of these left in the UK now? The 1910 statistic is interesting but misleading. Think what would have counted as a filling station back then – any shop selling cans of “fuel spirit” or whatever it was called, no doubt, plus lots of single-pump forecourts. Today’s “multiplex” filling station provide far greater overall capacity, albeit at greater intervals.

I used to share your view on forecourt shops in the early days, when the parking situation hadn’t really been thought through, but nowadays I find my local 24hr BP/M&S combo a boon, as it means I can shop when I want to (and doing this in the small hours invariably ensures quick service). Pay at pump is definitely the way forward to tackle the queueing issue, and of course to speed up throughput on the forecourt itself. It also means that if you want to refuel and shop, you no longer have to feel circumspect about moving your car from the pump to a parking bay before going in. More and more Shell stations round my way are introducing this facility now.

Individual pumps being out of service is probably due to some kind of calibration issue, as they are bound by the Weights & Measures Act.

One final point Keith – take care that you’re not falling prey to Grumpy Old Man syndrome. You don’t want your local garage recording songs about you…


There’s an attended one at my local MoT station/garage – quarter of a mile from house in the high street (a decapitated Renault dealer; his office chairs look like leather R25 ones!)

As for queues in petrol stations, I’m a cash man and Chip & pin has buggered everything. The days of saying “A tenner pump six” have gone because of the EPOS computer till too. As an aside my did fits/builds/repairs forecourts for a living – petrol makes no money, coffee and cigarettes do, air and water dispensers steal valuble shopping parking spaces.

This century he has not fitted out a single forecourt with a garage – you know ramps, benches etc – that space is for the cold room or in store bakery…

…we won’t even mention the BP solar panel roofs that are not actually connected due to H&S concerns…


I got so fed up with driving around trying to find a working LPG pump last night that I put forty quids worth of petrol in the 110 instead – and I had to queue for that as the numpty working in the BP at Bretton clearly didn’t have a clue what day it was let alone what he was doing…


Where I live in New Jersey, USA, we are the only one of two states (the other is Oregon) that require gas (petrol) to be pumped by an attendent. Even in New Jersey and at most gas stations in the USA, we have ‘pay at the pump’ for credit card and debit/bank ATM card sales.

Although prices have gone up 20-25 cents a USA gallon (5-6 cents per litre) for gas in the last two weeks, even with attendent service, as of today most stations are selling gas for about $2.75 – 2.85 a gallon (68-71 USA cents/litre or about 34-36 UK pence/litre with 1 pound = 2 USD).

Maybe only 10-15 per cent of gas stations exist with service bays here either, with almost all the rest, especially if refitted or replaced or new in the last ten years being convenience stores or with car washes. Part of the reason is that very few repairs can be done by private garages anymore due to the room, specialized equipment required often owned by dealers only and lower rates of breakdowns of modern cars.

Forum member, ‘LeonUSA’

I know of an attended garage in Horncastle, Lincolnshire. The way I go to Skeg, and given that I bear off to Ingolmells it is the last petrol station that you can fill up at without going into skeg. Most garages I know of make their money from the forecourt shop rather than the sales of petrol.

About six garages have closed down in Nuneaton in the last five years. I hate the idea of garages closing at night and only being pay at pump. Where else can you go for milk on a saturday and sunday night? The worst thing at garages is where you can drive in either way and someone at the pump in front of you has parked with their filler level with the pump forcing you to stretch the hose right back and have to crane to see the display. GRR!!


5 November

Sierra’s a good ‘un


Picture: Declan Berridge

I’VE spent most of the weekend smoking around in a 1983 Ford Sierra 2.3 Ghia, lent to me by the guys at Ford Heritage, based in Dagenham. I must admit that it was an experience I’ve been looking forwards to for a very long time, as it’s a car that I can vividly remember being launched, and the impact it’s ‘outta here’ styling had on me. Sat in around the bike sheds, copy of Autocar magazine in hand, the colour images of the Sierra were pretty damned striking… Gazing longingly at the Champagne Gold 2.3 Ghia, I remember thinking to myself, ‘one day I’ll have one of those’…

Well, in the end, I never did buy a Sierra – by the time, I was at a licensable age, I’d moved very much back to the BMC>MG (and Vauxhall) stable, and the Sierra had become a drearily familiar piece of street furniture. Shame really, as looking at the immaculate Y-registered example sat on my drive right now (we won’t talk about dynamics), I can’t help but think that its styling, as penned by Renault’s Patrick Le Quement, was incredibly prescient – even if buyers were turned off in their droves.

As a classic, though, for some reason, my silver example doesn’t really seem to stack up. It’s anonymous in a way that you’d have found impossible to imagine back in 1982, and very few people actually notice it at all. Whereas on my drive down to Dagenham in my Cavalier Sports Hatch to collect it, people were staring, taking ‘photos with their camera ‘phones, and generally making a fuss. And in many ways, that’s why people drive classics – to stand out from the crowd and be noticed.

But… doesn’t that sheer anonymity mark the Sierra out as something special? After all, ‘my’ example is 24 years old, and it doesn’t look that out of place on the city streets – if it stands up today, then surely it means it’s a timeless piece of design, and perhaps we should be thinking of it in the same terms as seminal designs such as the NSU Ro80 and Peugeot 205.


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Funnily enough, I was driving a Y-reg 2.3 Ghia earlier this year and I know exactly what you mean. It doesn’t feel classic yet that torquey (rather than punchy) V6 allows you to cruise along quite nicely and I’d much rather be behind the wheel of a Sierra than a Mondeo.

I’ve always liked the styling and I love the rear lights on the Ghia with their black lines – rather like the facelifted Scirocco.


Ah, the Sierra.

I too remember its sheer revolutionary styling back in 1982, even for a nipper like me my platinum gold Corgi Sierra Ghia looked completely different to everything else.

But, not so much a failing of the Sierra but of the rest of the industry as a whole, I’d state that the reason why the Sierra looks so unnoticeable now is the failure of others to move on from it. Its jell mould styling certainly proved to be controversial back in 1982, plus it signalled the death of the Cortina.

The Sierra is to the Cortina as what the Allegro was to the 1100/1300, but ultimately it succeeded because the rest of the competition reacted to it and tried to copy it, with mixed results. Ironically, the ultimate of these to emulate the original Sirerra was the R8 hatch; it shouts Sierra in spades, but lacks the awkward styling cues of the original, like the side windows and the dubious front grille treatment.

As for winds of change, I’d argue it was Chryslers Alpine that really set the ball rolling back in 1976 for hatchback plastic bumpered mid sized saloons.

Forum member, ‘MARINAST’

3 November

Evans’ Dolly mixture


IMAGINE the scene, you’re a successful business man, a skilled engineer and, first and foremost, an enthusiast. Sitting there pondering what to do with your millions, you think, ‘I know lets build an aluminium space-framed GT and exhibit at the Motorfair’. Like you do.

However if you were Ken Evans you would grabbed a hacksaw and called the local metal stockholder…

Back in 1975 ex-Le Mans mechanic Ken and fellow mechanic (and business partner) Vivian Hunt spent 20 months between servicing customers cars and their own hire fleet to develop the ‘Delta’ (Glenfrome being the road the Bristol based company were based in). A Triumph Dolomite Sprint 16-Valve engine attached to a Saab 99 transmission gave mid engined configuration for the coupe.

The low nose with front wheel arch spats filtered out into a barrel sided cigar profile, with its hollow flying buttress probably the result of glazing costs, rather than a styling feature. Sitting on wide Dolomite sprint-esque alloy wheels just filling out the arches, it gave a stance quite the opposite to the (then current) Lotus Elite. Further raiding of the Triumph parts bin gave the independent front wishbones from the GT6, and the Stag’s rear semi-trailing arms. The body was created by building a light gauge tubular steel skeleton and then clothing the metal ‘buck’ in hand beaten aluminium, before removal of the steel frame within by cutting it out.

The low nose with front wheel arch spats
filtered out into a barrel sided cigar
profile, with its hollow flying buttress
probably the result of glazing costs,
rather than a styling feature…

The enthusiastic reception the Delta received at the 1977 Earls court Motorfair was to come to nothing however, as did the plans for a Rover V8 and ZF transmission. The threat of new Type Approval regulations would mean production costs would escalate with each model needing to be built to the same exact standard.

However Glenfrome was to flourish within the BL Universe – the precision coupe creation spawned a sub contracting order to enhance(!) Range Rover’s for Arabian customers, resulting in Glenfrome’s own stretched, multiple axle, multiple-door creations. The pinnacle in 1982 being the ‘Facet’ a glassfibre rebodied Range Rover. Styled by Dennis Adams (famous for the low slung Adams Probe amongst others) in the style of an almost amphibious looking Jeep, and without exception fitted with every lavish electrical gadget of the day. (Including a targa top stored under its electrically operated bonnet.) Production ran at one Facet a month retailing in the region of £50,000 each…

However OPEC’s stranglehold on world oil prices was finally broken in the mid 1980s and Glenfrome like Wood & Pickett were to feel the pinch of cutbacks by its Middle Eastern customers and eventually filled for receivership, though Ken retained ownership of the Delta. Twenty years on the trail goes cold, though Range Rover conversions frequently appear though the whereabouts of the coupe are cloudy, though it is presumed still in the Evans family ownership.

Unless you know differently of course!

Keith Adams

1 Comment

  1. Hey guys come on top gear poking fun at leyland cars they do it because its easy lets face it they suck.My father worked there for 20 years and even he will admit they where the worst made cars on the planet. All the people sat there in there sheds lusting over there rust ridden jags stags rovers mg spitfire need i say anymore they don,t run when they do they run badly they rust leek and much much more so admit it workers spent more time round a burning oil drum than they did round a design table they deserved to go bust rant over if you dont like top gear poking fun at leyland then simple dont watch it and quit bitchin

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