Mike Humble and Keith Adams
Well, as the turkey carcass is thrown into the bin, and the in-Laws are sent packing into the cold dark wilderness, the Christmas festivities come to and end. It’s now time to welcome in the new year, and 2013 was certainly a busy year for all of us involved on AROnline, with Keith Adams, Richard Kilpatrick and Mike Humble plunging behind the settee cushions for small change to quench our thirst for buying old tat in the form of an unloved Citroen XM Turbo, an elderly Jeep Cherokee and, of course, the well-documented very early Rover 214.
Historically speaking, wind the clock back 30 years ago and we have the Austin Maestro launch whose birthday was celebrated at the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show. Jump forward another 10 years and the most successful car in recent times – the Ford Mondeo heralded a new era of front wheel drive family cars which for so many years following the undeniable success of Cortina and Sierra, kept Ford very much at the top of the tree in this sector. Can this really be so many years behind us now, or are we all just getting old?
But, of course, 2013 was important for our carmakers. Jaguar Land Rover’s momentum continued with the launch of the Range Rover Sport, which moved up the automotive pecking order marrying excellent off-road ability with brilliant on-road dynamics. Many people ended up questioning why you’d really want a full-fat Range Rover.
The Jaguar F-Type roadster seemed to seduce everyone who drove it during 2013, while the Coupe, unveiled in November, completed the range and, thanks to glorious styling and realistic pricing, is set to overshadow the original ragtop when it goes on sale in 2014.
The year 2013 was a very important time for our very own MG Motor UK, as it launched the MG3 (above) to the press and public. After the lacklustre sales of the really rather competent MG6, the new warm hatchback had more to prove than ever before and it seems that it’s generally liked by the motoring writers and the punters who have bought them. There is still so much to be done in terms of public perception and credibility, but there seems to be a breeze of change from Longbridge and we hope the MG3 does well during a time where registrations are picking up again.
Other new British-built cars emerged in 2013 – the Nissan Qashqai looks set to be another big hit for the UK’s largest car maker in 2014, while the Honda Civic range was extended by the locally-developed Tourer version. The F56-generation MINI (below) was launched amid huge pomp and circumstance on Sir Alec Issigonis’ birthdate and, even if the Union flags were flown with a little too much fervour, there’s no denying the company has made a huge commitment in the UK by extending its operations in Birmingham, Swindon and at the MINI factory in Cowley.
The British car industry as a whole has been going from strength to strength in 2013. Car sales have recovered to near pre-2008 levels, while production here continues to boom on the back of the success of Jaguar Land Rover – which currently appears to be unable to make any mistakes. It’s great to see that these huge sales are being converted into investment – a drive up the M54 will show you that the i54 factory where the company’s next generation post-Ford drivetrains will be made, is nearing completion. That really is a heartening sight.
It also seemed that UK PLC began to wake up to the real value of engineering. There was a renewed interest in apprenticeship schemes, with MINI, Rolls-Royce, Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota announcing new schemes to get young people into the industry and secure the next generation. Additionally, there were a number of new initiatives in education – the Silverstone University Technical College (UTC) opened for business, its task to educate 14-18 year old students into engineering, with a number of high profile automotive companies supporting the venture.
So what’s in store for 2014? Well, in terms of British Motor history the year will mark the 30th birthday of Austin Rover’s antidote to the conquering Cavalier and the slippery Sierra with the Montego range. Further up the range saw the introduction of the all new Rover 200 series – the next stage of the BL/Honda collaboration plan that saw much more UK involvement than the out-going Acclaim. Vauxhall had a big year too three decades back with the Astra Mk2 – a car that earned Vauxhall the European Car of the Year award.
Morris Motors finally faded away in the same year too with the last car being a Longbridge-built Ital and the last vehicle being a Metro-based van. Staying with commercial vehicles, 2014 sees the 30th birthday of the toughest truck on two wheels – the Leyland Roadrunner. Truck building in Leyland has never been busier in recent years and its good to know the plant still produces trucks under the DAF brand – the only plant in the UK still producing trucks with well over 100 years of heritage behind them.
Other birthdays in 2014 also include the Land Rover Discovery’s and Rover 214/216’s quarter century, the Vanden Plas 1500’s 40th (which makes an interesting comparison with the year’s genuine superstar, the Volkswagen Golf Mk1), and the 60th anniversary of the Austin A40 Cambridge, Austin A50 Cambridge, Austin A90 Westminster, Austin FX3D/FL1D, Morris Oxford Series II, Morris Cowley, Wolseley 6/90, Metropolitan, Daimler Sportsman, Daimler Regina, Lanchester Sprite, Jaguar XK140 and Standard Ten…
The Austin 1800, Vanden Plas 4-litre R, Alvis TE21 also celebrate their half-century in 2014. The Landcrab, especially, will be an interesting case in point – brilliant technically,with flawed execution and styling and yet much more modern to modern viewers than its contemporaries. Wasn’t it always thus?
So lots and lots to celebrate… and mourn.