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From concept to reality: The VAZ/Lada 110/2110

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“You make me sad”, said King Arthur to the Black Knight in the very well known Monty Python movie. I’m reminded of that scene every time I compare Lada prototypes to the finalized production cars: it’s clear how the design studios were positively awash with striking ideas and impeccable taste, but despite getting the basic shape to production, something got lost in translation to sheetmetal. It’s hardly different from what universally happens to a concept car, but the Lada 110/2110 is especially galling: to get it so close, yet to fall so far.

The project, started in the mid-1980s and producing driveable, SVX-baiting prototypes in 1990-1991 made it to production beginning in 1995 and for European-wide sales by 1999. It managed to be a decade late, if you’re looking at the inspiration.

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Working out the recipe: 25 years of the SEAT Toledo

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The Skoda article this past weekend focused on the Octavia 1U, which was unveiled 20 years ago, after Volkswagen gradually took ownership of the Czech carmaker.

The Octavia was partly developed from the same parts, on the same floorpan as the later SEAT Toledo, but the Toledo was already a second-generation car by 1998. The initial, 1L body car went on sale in May 1991, or a quarter of a century ago. It’s pretty easy to see that Volkswagen Group really wanted to get the partsbin combination right.

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Weekend Edition: Rebuilding a brand – The 1996-2010 Skoda Octavia 1U

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It’s 25 years ago since Skoda and Volkswagen shook hands and made Skoda a Volkswagen subsidiary. The agreement took place on March 28th, 1991, and on April 16th, Volkswagen took ownership of 30% of Skoda’s shares. In Dec 1994, VW took majority of Skoda’s shares with 60,3% in their pocket, and grew that to 70% a year later. It is frankly amazing that in roughly five years from putting pen to paper, Skoda and VW produced the 1U body Skoda Octavia. The first one rolled off the production line on April 3th, 1996.

While the Felicia hatchback was still obviously a development of the sharper-edged Favorit and the later, Polo-based Fabia still used the old pushrod engines dating back to the Gutenberg printing machine, the Octavia was a completely fresh design from the ground up, working as a testbed of sorts for the upcoming fourth generation Golf, yet managing to do some things better with less. If Skoda today can be seen as an extremely successful player on multiple markets, it all started with the humble-but-worthy 1996 Octavia, which lived a long and prosperous life.

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Japanese Soft-Roader Weekend Edition: Suzuki X-90

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The previous cars posted in the Weekend Edition series have been wagons or hatchbacks, with the bodyshell a multi-purpose one despite the oftentimes jolly plastic dress-up or choice of colour. The Suzuki X-90 is something else, a small two-door SUV with a saloon-like trunk and a T-top. It’s definitely weird, despite being based on Vitara / Geo Tracker mechanicals.

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Japanese Soft-Roader Weekend Edition: Toyota Corolla All-Trac Wagon

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One of the coolest Toyota wagons ever is the late-’80s, early-’90s E90 body All-Trac wagon, which differs greatly from the regular shape FWD wagon.

The 4WD wagon took the fenders from the coupe-like Corolla Liftback 5-door, and mated them to a more avantgarde body, which was done up in the same style as the earlier, slightly unsymmetrical Tercel wagon. Depending of the market, the wagon was named in various ways, including “Sprinter Carib”.

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Japanese Soft-Roader Weekend Edition: Honda Civic Shuttle Beagle

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One of the most iconic small Japanese 4WD wagons is the Honda Civic Shuttle, also known as the Wagovan in some markets. It combined the great basic car that was the EF-body Civic with a taller roof and more interior room, and as a bonus it was a go-anywhere four wheel drive car.

The “Beagle” JDM version here features body addenda, to make it even more credible as a camping wagon.

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Japanese Soft-Roader Weekend Edition: Mazda BU-X Concept & Demio

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Mazda also produced a fairly similar car to the Starlet Remix, called the Demio. Most everyone who spent their teenage years holed up in their bedroom, getting to grips with Gran Turismo, became familiar with the Demio, as it was one of the starter cars on the path to Pikes Peak Escudos.

The Demio was preceded by a showcar called the BU-X, in the ’95 Tokyo Motor Show. The sheetmetal was identical and only the detailing was dolled up for show purposes.

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Japanese Soft-Roader Weekend Edition: Toyota Starlet Remix

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Japan is home to some very interesting developments of initially uninteresting cars. The Toyota Starlet is one such example, as it’s a honest, humdrum hatchback with no real styling effort seemingly undertaken at any point, except for the unapologetically jazzy seat trim.

But give it seriously heavy-looking body cladding and available four-wheel-drive, and the car is transformed into a camping-themed soft roader in an instant.

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The time still can’t be right for the Renault Avantime – but it’s cool

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The Renault Avantime is one of the bravest ideas for a mainstream manufacturer’s production car. In essence, we are talking about a personal luxury coupe three-door minivan, and one from France.

It cannot have come as a surprise that it didn’t exactly sell like hot cakes; production lasted from 2001 to 2003, with little more than 8500 built. But cult status is definitely deserved, and these photos show just how weird an Avantime looks with the windows down.

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We gather around to watch an E92 M3 chase a Volvo 850 wagon

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Watching in-car videos is double-triple the fun when you share them with your car buddies. The Hooniversal HQ is no exception. I cued this clip of a Norwegian-registered, commendably quick Volvo 850 making it difficult for a BMW E92 M3 to keep up. It was a heated discussion…

Bradley Brownell:  I haven’t shaved since January.

[Ed. note: Wait, that was another talking point.]

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