Opinion : Hatchbacks – The forgotten generation

Keith Adams considers some of the earlier hatchbacks which hit the market before the Volkswagen Golf Mk1 arrived and created a legacy that’s lasting to this day.

Had history been different, any one of these cars could well have been as famous as the Golf. But which of these was the best, and which was the cleverest?

 Who built the first modern small family car?

The Autobianch Primula - is this the true forerunner of the modern car?
The Autobianchi Primula – is this the true forerunner of the modern car?

For years we’ve all blithely talked about the Golf-class market sector. You know the sort of thing – a two-box medium-sized hatchback, with front-wheel drive, and perfectly sized to fit in a European garage. However, there’s actually a forgotten generation of small family hatchbacks which sit in that class and were doing the same job an awful lot earlier than Volkswagen’s eight-generation juggernaut.

In the UK, we had the BMC 1100/1300, which was the national best-seller for the best part of a decade. This had front-wheel drive and was launched in 1962  – some 12 years before the Volkswagen burst on to the scene in 1974. So, were these really the forerunners of the Golf-class car, the first modern family cars?

Who got there first?

In the UK, we’ve traditionally tended to think of the Mini and 1100/1300 as the true precursors of the modern car but, in reality, as successful and influential as they both were, they were evolutionary dead ends. The Mini and 1100 were both beautifully packaged and desirable but the compromises (in terms of cost and production engineering) inherent with their transmission in sump layout and rubber suspension meant that, when rivals came to producing their own facsimiles, they’d go their own way.

Here, then, are the most important small family cars that followed the BMC 1100/1300, but pre-dated the Golf  – each, in their own way, vitally important in the evolution of the mass-market automobile. You’ll notice I’ve not included the Austin Maxi and Renault 16 and that’s because they were aimed at a higher market segment; nor have I included the Citroën Dyane and Renault 4/6 as they were much cheaper and had mechanical layouts that you can no longer buy in a modern car.

1964: Autobianchi Primula

Autobianchi Primula
Autobianchi Primula: looks like a BMC 1100 doesn’t it?

Dante Giacosa’s engineering genius is legendary and he was easily the equal of Alec Issigonis. Giacosa’s primary legacy is that he motorised Italy with the creation of the Fiat 500, but it’s his later projects that are arguably more influential.

His first front-wheel-drive hatchback was the Autobianchi Primula and, as much as he believed that front-wheel drive was the way forward, Fiat wasn’t confident enough to take the plunge, deciding instead to go down this route via its subsidiary. Technically, the Primula was a masterpiece: it was powered by the 1221cc ohv ‘four’ from the Fiat 1100D mounted transversely, which took its drive through an end-on four-speed transmission (the first four-stroke application). Rack and pinion steering (a Giacosa first) and unequal length driveshafts with Rzeppa CV joints added to the package.

Mind you, although it is correct to acknowledge the Primula’s role in automotive evolution, it wasn’t quite in the modern idiom thanks to its column gearchange and suspension set-up: wishbones and transverse leaf spring at the front and a dead axle with half-elliptic springs at the rear. However, that aside, the appealing Pininfarina-styled hatchback was influential enough for Fiat to have faith in the concept and that encourged Giacosa to continue with the project.

1967: Simca 1100

Simca 1100
Simca 1100: five doors and compact

What makes the Simca 1100 so special is that it had been conceived in response to customer research in France which showed that buyers expected front-wheel drive in their small cars – and that it was designed to meet that demand. The Simca 1100 could, then, be described as the world’s first second-generation front-wheel-drive hatchback.

Development started in 1962 and, unlike Fiat and its faltering beginnings, Simca put its rescources 100% into the project –  once, that is, the company had decided it was going with the new concept. Like the Primula, Simca ignored BMC’s transmission in sump layout, going straight for an end-on arrangement that aped Giacosa (and, of course, unknown to both – Issigonis’ design based on a front-wheel-drive Morris Minor-based mule from the 1950s), although this would not have been unexpected given Fiat and Simca’s ties at the time.

Although the 1100’s engine was new, it was based on the Simca 1000‘s ohv power unit and was therefore something of a known quantity for Simca Engineers. When Chrysler took a controlling stake in Simca in 1963, it gave the project its blessing – and Simca pushed for a 1967 launch, some seven years before the Golf.

However, the 1100’s suspension layout was at variance with subsequent industry practice, featuring an independent front (double wishbone) and rear (trailing arm) suspension using Chrysler-style torsion bars. Advances included the canted engine (not uncommon these days) for a lower bonnet line and a multiple range of body options, including three- and five-door hatch, five door estate, panel van and a ground-breaking lightweight SUV version (the Rancho). How modern does that seem now?

1971: Zastava 101

Zastava 101

Yes, I know what you’re thinking – it’s just a Fiat 128 built in an command economy country, but the genius of this car is that, in many ways, it improves on the car it was based on. Once again, Giacosa showed his mastery of engineering with the Fiat 128, taking the best points established with the Autobianchi, and moving them on several stages.

In came a wonderful new belt-driven ohc engine (which was incredibly advanced and long-lived), as well as a contemporary sounding all-independent MacPherson strut suspension layout. Architecturally, the modern car had truly arrived, even if it was packaged in a three-box body that did all it could to disguise that ultra-modern envelope.

However, Fiat’s long-standing partners, Zastava, took a 1968 hatchback version that Giacosa had penned, but which Fiat management was too conservative to manufacture, and put it into production. Either way, the Zastava 101 can probably lay a genuine claim to really creating the Golf class –  it was the first front-wheel-drive mid-liner that had all of the ingredients of modernity. Not bad for a car launched at the same time as the Morris Marina and produced in a Communist country…

The question that we may not dare ask, but will do anyway is… was the Zastava 101 more of a ground-breaking design than the BMC Mini? You tell us.

Zastava 101: all the benefits of the Fiat 128, but with one vital extra
Zastava 101: all the benefits of the Fiat 128, but with one vital extra…
Keith Adams


  1. Very thought provoking! I can’t help thinking that the Mini contained more original thinking. Would the 128 have happened without the Mini coming first? Maybe not. Ditto the Autobianchi and Simca.

    I think, then, that I’ll say the Mini was the more ground-breaking. The Zastava came late to the UK and had to be sold at a bargain price – mainly because of poor image and build quality – but, if it had been launched in 1969 as a Fiat, that would have been a different story. The rear styling of the Zastava was also poor but it did pre-date the Golf, a ground-breaking car for the market.

    Not launching a hatchback Fiat 128 in 1969 stands as a real missed opportunity now.

  2. Keith – sorry to hear that you are wounded (did you forget the axle stand?). Regarding the influence of Mini/1100, don’t forget that one major manufacturer also copied, very rapidly, the gearbox in sump approach – Peugeot with the 204 and its derivatives. My abiding memory of the 204 was the wonderful ’round the corner’ fan belt run.
    Ian Elliott

    • Right Peugeot used the gearbox in sump set-up but the engine was incredibly modern with OHC and hemi-head all alloy 5 bearings, something that could not compare with the antiquated A-Series which would soldier-on for another 35 years (2000 with the Mini). And yes funny “round the corner” fan-belt.

  3. Keith – a valuable treatise on the cars that shaped the orthodoxy of our times. Neither Giacosa, nor Grundeler and Scales were first with the transverse end on configuration. DKW, Saab and Lloyd had been using it with two-stroke twins for years before . Of course if Issigonis had stayed at BMC from 1953 to develop the front wheel drive Minor, and Giacosa had overcome his innate “arrangiarsi” and persuaded the Fiat board to go for a fwd transverse engined Seicento, it all could have kicked off a decade sooner.

    I have an enduring fondness for those who “backed the wrong horse” in the front wheel drive stakes, the V-fours, flat fours, various longitudinal permutations from Triumph, Toyota, Renault, Saab. The motorcycle-inspired Honda 1300 layout with the gearbox behind a transverse engine, linked by a Hy-Vo chain looked to have potential but is now long forgotten.

    Only Audi and Subaru defy convention now, and I wonder for how much longer. “Arrangiarsi” would inevitably win, and the inelegant asymmetrical configuration which overcomes the need to take power to a gearbox behind or below the engine through expensive chains or idler gears, or indeed the requirement for a costly crown wheel and pinion to turn drive through 90 degrees, has become the world standard.

    As is inevitable when so many minds are at work on one technology, some clever things have grown from the end-on transverse system, such as Volvo and Daewoo’s improbable in line sixes. I still find it inelegant, and yearn – surely in vain – for a return to the days of technological diversity.

    “Arrangiarsi” – a not quite translatable Italian expression – closest notion are “thrift” and “to make do and mend”.

  4. A yugo!.. I had one of thses back in the early 90’s it was a 513, highly underated, although it was probably the newest car I have owned (at 6 years old I recall) the drivers seat was falling apart, rust was rampant and overall it was a bit of a shed. But it was a very good car to drive, and more than a match for equally aged fiestas and novas, although I will admit to removing all the zastatva badging and putting fiat 128 badges on! I also fitted a 5 speed strada box to it

  5. my dad had a A111, that looked like a fiat 128 but with big rectangle headlamps, it was quite spoty, but being a 8CV road-tax was double than that of the peugeot 204 break 6CVwe had before.It was dully changed for a GS 1220 there was more space at the back for us as well, but no-one at school asked about the car!!

  6. To answer Jonathan Carling, I’d say yes, Giacosa would have developped a front wheel drive with a transverse engine, for he had first begun studying such an architecture as soon as 1947.
    Would the first Autobianchi or Fiat have been released as early without the Mini ? No, because the Mini prompted Fiat engineers show their management (ingenieri Bono and Valetta) that this was the way to go, which they had been extremely reluctant to admit.

  7. @tryphons
    Yes, you#re probably right. There was also a mini-sized fwd Alfa prototype in about 1960 which could have had an impact if it had made production

  8. The Renault 16 is the only one worth the consideration, it was far superior to any of those listed and dare I say the Maxi, you see far more 16’s around today than Maxi’s, especially abroad.

    • Nearly 2 million R16 sold versus less than a quarter of that for the Maxi, explains that. Also very limited Maxi exports they were nearly all sold on home market. I’ve never seen one on continent despite extensive travel there. You do still see R16 in France Belgium and Holland and Iberian peninsula.

      • The Renault 16 has a lot of good points, but the engine & driveline were a little pedestrian. Renault seemed to have an aversion to transverse engines, even some of the 21s launched over 20 years after the 16 had a longitudinal engine.

        Another problem was the poor rustproofing which seemed to kill most of them in the UK off by the mid 1980s.

        • Rustproofing was the problem of all cars manufactured in the seventies, even Mercedes and Volvo had the problem, not speaking of Jaguar. Yes the Renault 16 had still the longitudinal engine like the DS, Renault 4 and some others, conservative approach probably unability to match big engine and hight torque (for that time !) gearbox with transverse mounting. Yes the Renault 21 had the F engine with 90bhp transverse mounted and the J engine with either diesel 65bhp or gasoline injected 120bhp longitudinal overhang, for same reason : too wide ! The Renault 16 in standard form delivered 65bhp (not far from a Maxi), 83bhp as TS with hemi head, and 93bhp as TX – where is the Maxi 🙂 ?

  9. There was also the Chrysler Alpine, a big leap forward for Chrysler as it was a leap forward from their rwd family cars by being a fwd hatchback. Reviewers raved about the ultra modern design, performance from the 1442 cc engine, cossetting ride and huge interior and boot, but were less impressed by the rattly Simca engine and rubbery gearchange.

  10. The Poissy-developped Chrysler Alpine that we called SIMCA 1307 here was a terrible rot box. Nicely styled under Roy Axe direction, it used an extended SIMCA 1100 platform and drivetrain, yes that triplex chain without tensionner was terribly rattling but gave good performance. The engine designer was Georges Martin who had also designed the Le Mans winner and Formula 1 performer Matra V12.

    • The Alpine was the sort of car, like the Maxi, that was advanced for the time, but had several shortcomings. My parents had two and probably kept the rust at bay by regularly undersealing the cars and treating any rust spots immediately. Otherwise they were decent enough cars and actually weren’t too noisy when in fourth gear, but were diesel like at idle. A Solara that replaced the second Alpine in 1985 with a Peugeot transmission was better and had better rustproofing.

  11. We had some Maxis in France but few and noone kept them as collectors, the reason why you still see Renault 16s but nor Maxis here. In 1965 my father was working for Renault and the 16 was a real UFO, maybe like the DS was back in 1991, everybody wanted one, most of the French civilian or military officers, executives and so on had one if not a DS which was much higher range. Still many as tributes to our fathers – mine was working for the 16 but owned a 4 sadly !

  12. The rubber suspension, transmission in sump layout and other compromises aside, based on the hatchback conversions alone it would be more accurate to say the Mini and 1100/1300 COULD have succeeded the Innocenti A40 Combinata in being the true precursors of the modern hatchback (with the 1100/1300 possessing a large enough engine bay for a end-on transmission layout to be feasible unlike the original Mini).

  13. Box in sump was no real problem, only the Peugeot / Renault unit with its 3 idle rattling pinions. The ADO16 was the real precursor, just missing a lift-back. End-on transmission was more complicated due to non-symetry. Box in sump was somehow following the “box behind” scheme of the DKW and SAAB 92 2 cylinders. With 3 cylinders they turned the engine 90° with conventional overhang FWD layout. The Trabant had end-on transmission since the mid fifties (was then called a P50).

    • The end-on transmission layout was something that Alec Issigonis himself was working on via an experimental FWD Morris Minor prototype during the early 1950s prior to his move at Alvis, however it seems he decided it would be more expedient to simply adopt the Mini’s transmission in sump layout for both ADO16 and ADO17 in the rush to get them into production. Especially after the latter two were forced to make use of the company’s existing engines instead of the originally planned narrow-angle 18-degree V4 engines, which were to be mounted above the gearbox a la the Triumph 1300.

      One issue with the transmission in sump layout that comes to mind would be that it would soon become a limiting factor for when the company wanted to extract more power from the easily capable engines (in twin-carb or later turbocharged forms) of the in sump cars. That challenge is not insurmountable since they were working on uprated 5-speed manual and even 5-speed automatic versions of the transmission in sump layout, however how long would they have been able to continue with the layout before finally embracing the since universal end-on gearbox layout?

      • To clarify when referring to development of the 5-speed manual version of the transmission in sump layout, am of course not referring to the Austin Maxi’s 5-speed gearbox.

      • I think Sir Alec was working on a flat-four for his FWD Minor before it was axed for the old sidevalve Morris 8 engine. A kind of Lancia Flavia scheme – maybe inspired by the Cemsa-Caproni prototype.
        I never heard about a V4 – again Lancia but Fulvia-like. Yes the Triumph 1300 was ahead of its time, wonder why it ended as RWD in the Dolomite. It’s bonnet was not that high, wonder why engine above box was not carried-on by Renault or Ford for their 12MP4 instead of engine overhang, the Renault inline four made it visually long. and you could place you luggage in between engine and scuttle. Well later-on on the transvers-engined 21 your luggage could be in freont of engine above steering-rack. Why so long bonnets for so-small powertrains …

        • The answer to the Dolomite question was cost – It cost more to produce the FWD than the RWD cars and the joints were a regular warranty issue. The Longitude engine layout in the original Triumph 1300 was designed so the company could make it 4 wheel drive, something that Harry Webster was keen to develop but due to lack of funds never happened. However because this was designed into the car it made it easy to convert to RWD. My Uncle had both a FWD and RWD cars – on the FWD joints went!

        • The Flat Four engines were developed during the development of the Mosquito project in the 1940s that became the post-war Morris Minor and was something Issigonis developed which was outside of the design brief he was given. He also envisioned larger versions of the Flat Four being used in the Oxford MO (in 1300/1500 form IIRC) as well as in place of the inline-6 in the Morris Six MS and Morris version of the stillborn (Sheerline/Princess-sized) Viceroy/Imperial project (in 2500 form), the engine was also used in the Nuffield Gutty 4×4.

          The FWD Morris Minor was a later project from the early 1950s prior to the merger between Austin and Morris, which was believed to either be powered by the existing 918cc Morris SV or the 918cc Wolseley Eight OHV (possibly the stillborn 950-980cc version planned for the Minor pre-BMC) mated to an end-on gearbox.

          • I often think about how the flat-four v inline-four layout. Why is the inline configuration dominant? Is it for technical reasons?
            For a sample of the smooth running capabilities of a flat-four, look at the Honda GoldWing motorcycle, the party trick is to balance a 50p coin on edge on the flat-four engine and run the rpm up and down, the coin should not topple!

          • Cyclist – I think it is down to packaging and maintenance. V4 are notoriously rough, though with modern technology that probably could be rectified. I do wish there was more flat fours and boxer 4s, they are so more charismatic.

  14. The 1307/1308/Alpine was not that advanced, just a Renault 16 competitor with a Simca 1100 drivetrain. All seventies manufactured cars had rust, the most famous being the XJ6.

    • Phillipe I think Chrysler 180s were worse!

      Annoyingly BMC developed the ADO16 into the YDO16, but only the Aussies got it. To be honest the Maxi wasn’t really needed if this had been developed.

      • Take-it easy Christopher ! I am a proud 1976 XJC 4.2 MAN+OD owner, but those were among the least reliable cars of the seventies to be fair, rust boxes, leaking air-box, leaking-sealings, poor sheetmetal, some crazy body shapes retaining water and lack of metal protection – good chromes anyway. The survivors have been enhanced by their owners since. And they still are the most beautifull saloons or coupés in the World !

  15. Daveh, despite being made in Poissy we had very few 180 here, so I can’t remember. As for the Morris Nomad you’re right, I guess it was more a Golf size that a Maxi size anyway but it would certainlt have been a better choice than the Allegro. The Kimberly/Tasman would also have been better than the Wedge, both being Harris Mann disasters.

  16. My father went to buy an Alpine but noticed the car in the showroom had a dented door, he mentioned the dent to the salesman who said it was nothing and probably caused by a shopping bag! How not to sell a car as the dent was sizeable. If I remember correctly my father then went to look at what Vauxhall had on offer and ended up with an Alfasud. The local Vauxhall dealer also sold Alfa for a while and the Alfasud was in the same showroom as Vauxhall. A far better choice than the Alpine.

  17. Alfasud smaller that 1307/Alpine and not very reliable, more fun to drive anyway what an engine ! I have had a 33 with same flat-four, nice sounding and very willing.

  18. I conclude the same about this article in the same way I did about your similar article looking at what was the first Supermini.

    The point is not that all these cars were flawed in some way on what we know now is the mid sized hatchback formula, be it the cart springing rear end of the Autobianchi, the too home market focused Simca and the devoid of style Zaatava, but also so was the Golf Mk1 which was a tad smaller than the centre of gravity for the market it initiated.

    No, the reason we should see the Golf Mk1 as the start of mid sized hatchback, is because for the same reason we should see the Renault 5 as the first Supermini and the Peugeot 205 / Fiat Uno as the first of the 2nd generation Supermini, not because of their engineering, looks and or specification, but because when these cars arrived in the market, they changed what the customer expected a car in this segment of the market to be like.

    • Wonder why the SIMCA 1100 would have been “home-market focussed”. Probably some they just did not have the network in some countries, especially in the UK where Chrysler had purchased Rootes, even though there was no Rootes competitor, the Rootes dealers did not sell the 1100, it seams they just sold the VF1 ans VF2 vans. It did very well in Spain with the Barreiros plant, in Germany with a correct network and probably other countries, even a few in the US. 2 millions produced within 14 years I expect some were exported.

      • SIMCA 1100 also sold very well in Benulux countries. Most of the 2million sold found customers in the first 6 years of production. They were building 250 thousand plus a year in early seventies.

        • Thanks Rod for the figures. The Horizon was as good and good looking, maybe the agricultural Poissy engine made it less attractive ? It sold well for 2 years. Of course it lacked 2 doors and estate but was-it the problem ?

          • I think the engines were the big problem as well as Chrysler ongoing issues with sales. Once Peugeot took over Talbot was really an enigma for most buyers, as it was a brand everyone had forgotten about.

            The thing that is the shame is that Europe got warmed over Simca 1100, the US got a new car. If we had got the American version would it have sold better?

          • Given the North American Horizon was said to be influenced by the VW Golf, it is pretty likely a European adapted version would have been a much better drive compared to the 1100/Alpine derived European Horizon.

            Heading even further into uncharted territory, a European adapted version of the North American Horizon would have also likely been a much better starting point for the unbuilt Chrysler C2-Short Supermini project over the European Horizon based project (carryover Poissy engines notwithstanding).

          • North-American Horizon had Mc Pherson instead of torsion bars and of course most of them VW 1.7 and Chrysler 2.2, the rest of the vehicle being mostly identical. And in Europe it also received the totally new Peugeot Diesel XUD but a little late to make it a winner. I remember Lee Iaccoca stating “This car is not an imported car, it’s like our Big Macs a pure American product” and then telling that the electronic ignition was a pure US product !

  19. The engine later-on finished under the 309 bonnet – and some Spanish 205 with less noisy tappets. The US Horizon got 1st a VW 1.7, then a Chryslier 2.2 and finally the SIMCA 1.6. Why Talbot ? The Société industrielle de mécanique et carrosserie automobile acronym was not covering the Rootes perimeter. No reason to use Hillmann or Sunbeaam who were British – Barreiros even worse, Talbot was idealistic because both French and British and the brand was purchased with the Chrysler-Europe portfolio. Audi was forgotten in the sixties too, who would have bet that transforming DKW into Audi would have made a winner ?

    • The American Horizon was a completely different car. Underneath it had a completely new platform, and yes, originally VW engines before the Chrysler engine came on Stream.

      The problem with Talbot was in Britain and France it was just an enigma, it had been around for 20 years. Chrysler didn’t even take the Simca branding off. If they they had used Simca in mainland Europe, and Hillman here, it would only need a badging exercise on the cars themselves. Audi is not exactly a good example, as it took them until the 90s to be taken seriously as a luxury player, as before then they were seen below that prestige branding where Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar were sitting.

      • No different platform, only front suspension to fit bigger powetrain. Audi same, it was not due to compete against BMW but to be the poor man’s Mercedes, DKW was not targetting Jaguar. Ferdinand Piëch then decided to reposition it towards VW, turning the Audi 50 into the VW Polo, levelling the 80, introducing high tech. Peugeot had no plan to differentiate Talbot, 1st thing they did was to create the Samba competitor to the 104 to feed the network and finally axe the Tagora despite a nice looking and well finished powerful and comfy car. It could have been a badge engineering job like Opel/Vauxhall but the SIMCA image was not as good end of the seventies due to multiple strikes and “home-made” Pigozzi inherited far-rightist unions setting troubles against the “regular” unions.

          • Hi daveh, it’s a joke, the difference apart from trimming was the Mc Pherson and powertrain. Iacocca tried to deny it’s European origin but this was the truth anyway.

          • Phillipe there is very little that can be interchanged between the cars. The panels on the American Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni are of a heavier grade steel. The L platform is different as they had to be changed between the cars to accommodate the different suspension systems and engine. The American car is actually superior to the European car. Basically we didn’t get those parts her was cost, the tooling for the Simca 1100 was already operational so it was just reused, as Chrysler were in financial trouble. It is a shame that we didn’t get the American version, as Nate said, a short c2 version could have really made an interesting car in the super mini market.

  20. Sir Alec was a genius, probably a kind of Ferdinand Porsche – Porsche worldwide known because of the Ferry Porsche sports cars brand but as visionary. So sad that Harry Webster let things down after.

    • I think Webster hands were partially tied by BL management. If you look at the volume of work we didn’t see launched from Triumph, and his original idea to just rebody the ADO16 shows he did have vision.

  21. Isn’t Webster the one who changed the 1300 from FWD to RWD ? And rebodied the Minor into the Marina ?

    • No he created the 1300. He was the Technical Director of Triumph behind the 2000 and 1300, and started the Stag project. He joined Austin Morris when BLMC was created, and yes was behind the Marina. However he was constrained by the time to turn the project round and the stipulations laid down by Stokes and Turnbull. His biggest disaster was the project drift of project Ladybird, and was the scapegoat for the failure of the Allegro, though he probably did contribute. If you can get a copy of Classic Cars April 1998 it was a Triumph special which shows the ideas of both Webster and Michelotti who had a special relationship.

  22. As for V4s they are not so rough, the Köln V4 was heavy and lumpy but not vibrating due to separated crankpinds. The Fulvia V4 is not a rough engine. As for the flat four they are short but wide and … tall.. Tall because of the manifolds and worse when they were carburetted.

  23. daveh, I just do not understand why a Mc-Pherson would be superior to torsion bars. As for engines, the big ones were probably quieter but thirstier. All in all the French Horizon was a good car but the SIMCA take-over by PSA introduced trouble in the network, plant and even customers mind. And it lacked an estate – the 2 doors hatch was probably not lacking even though the 1100 was offered in this form. Moreover the 83bhp manual was long before appearing, leaving the previous SIMCA 1100 TI lonesome or dashing to the competition.

  24. The American Horizon came at the right time as another energy crisis and recession were just around the corner, and for all the K cars take the credit for saving Chrysler, the Horizon/ Omni gave them a decent competitor against the Japanese. Unlike the European version, it had decent rustproofing and the decent and economical for its size 2.2 that was also found in the K car. and remained a popular car until it was cancelled in 1990. Many lived on for years afterwards as second cars or for poorer motorists who needed a cheap used car.

    • The Horizon was one of the cheapest cars on the market in America 40 years ago, and for a couple of hundred dollars more, you could specify it with the must have option in some states of air conditioning. Adding the 2.2 as an option over the 1.7 Volkswagen engine gave the cat a bit more power, particularly for the automatic versions that many Americans would specify, and there was a performance version called the GLH. A different and far more durable version than the Talbot Horizon, which vanished from the roads quite quickly.

      • Typically US : the lack of MOT in some states, poverty, some very dry states make cars stay much longer on the road than in Europe despite generally poor quality. I wonder why the US Horizon would have been a quality car when you see what the rubbish were Aspens and other contemporary Chryslers. 1st Chrysler rescue by the French, the 2nd one will be when they purchase American-Motors with the Premier which would bring them the technology for the Chrysler LH platform – Eagle Vision etc … plus advanced CAD plus François Castaing. The Mercedes takeover was technically ok but a management disaster later-on, oppositely to the later Fiat takeover, now see what PSA will do with them…

        • @ Philippe, Chrysler’s salvation came with the K car, a compact with as much space inside as a full size car, an economical four cylinder engine and prices nearly as low as a Japanese subcompact. It was a masterstroke and turned Chrysler round, but was a joyless car with limited performance, drab interiors in basic versions and built to a price, with early Ks falling apart after a couple of years, although later cars proved to be quite durable and cheap used buys. Also the platform spawned an early MPV and was stretched for bigger and more luxurious Chryslers.

          • @Glenn, sure they had learnt from Europe then, but to compete against Japan they used … Mitsubishi engines. And the following generation would be the LH – Vision and all, much inspired from the Renault Premier/Dodge Monaco after the AMC take-over. And then Mercedes, and then Fiat …

  25. I have sent Keith part of a story in Classic Car April 1998 edition where there was a Triumph special. In it there is a selection of Michelotti drawings along with an interview with Harry Webster. In the interview he talks about a small Triumph hatchback being planned in early 60s with a couple of pictures too.

          • Nope. The magazine has two drawings and 1 picture of a prototype. I sent Keith two of the pictures as the third is across the centrefold and you can’t see it.

          • Thanks for clarifying.

            Michelotti had a thing for the hatchback layout and can definitely see BMW 02 Touring influences in Project Sherpa, yet a hatchback layout would likely made more sense on the 1300 based hatchback’s FWD layout.

            In retrospect as it seems doubtful Triumph was in a position to develop the 1300 based hatchback and given the flaws of the 1300’s longitudinal FWD layout in terms of cost, etc compared to ADO16. They would have probably been better off initially producing Ajax in rear-wheel drive 1200-1500cc form from the outset to gradually replace the Herald and related models as well as potentially allowing for an early installation of the 1.7-litre Slant-Four (yet still possessing scope for later conversion to FWD/AWD), prior to looking into using the Ajax platform as a basis for a smaller properly conceived front-wheel drive 1000/1200-1500cc hatchback/saloon.

  26. To answer the original question, no. I’m no Mini fan but in 1959 a FWD car that could carry four passengers in relative comfort (of the day) in such a small package was utterly revolutionary. The gearbox in sump was a feature not a failure (as they say in the software branch). The idea was to save space IIRC, but could and should have been rectified with an end on transaxle in both the 1100/1300 and Mini. Fitting a East-West transaxle would have been more achieveable in the 1100/1300 but the Mk2 Mini could have had revised panelwork to accomodate a proper transaxle.

    Mind you, why it was left to the Yugoslavians to unlock the potential of the (already drafted) Fiat design is a mystery.

    • During the 1992 Minki project those involved did look at whether they could have used the Maestro A Plus Series engine and end-on gearbox, however it was too tight – the A Plus four cylinder engine was roughly equivalent to a K-Series three and a half cylinder engine in length, which lead to a 973cc 3-cylinder K-Series engine being fitted into the Minki prototype.

      Otherwise intrigued by the idea of the mk2 Mini could have had revised panelwork to accommodate a proper transaxle, since it is would have entailed either a Project Ant like solution or a Minki-II solution where the latter was widened by about 2-inches to fit the 1.4-litre 4-cylinder K-Series and end-on gearbox (plus another 2-inches in the wheelbase).

      It seems the Fiat 128’s lack of a proper hatchback bodystyle was ultimately Gaudenzio Bono’s call. he preferred the traditional type of luggage trunk or “boot” at the back and thought that there was too much risk in the five-door hatchback layout and said that the boys on the commercial side did not as yet consider it valid from the marketing point of view.

      Bono was also apparently against the A112 featuring a hatchback during its development and wanted it to look like a sedan to the point of wanting Dante Giacosa to modify the rear of the coachwork even if it meant putting production back from.

      It would also appear to explain why the Fiat 127 initially debuted as a 2-door two-box before receiving a hatchback.

      The following below are models for a 3-door hatchback bodystyle for the Yugoslavia 128 project.

  27. The Seat 128 in another (dictatorship) also had the better design with the hatch, and looking much, much better than the squat Fiat 128 design. Seat was then as now the superior design over its stablemates, then bought-in designs from the Italians, now as a subsidiary of VW.

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