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The Carchive: The Lancia Y10

From last week’s look at the Mazda 626, a car that had buyers both sides of the Atlantic abandoning domestic rivals in droves, we turn our attentions to a car that, as far as I know, was never sold Stateside in any official capacity.

It was an interesting car, an interesting design and an interesting premise. Using engineering shared by the utilitarian yet loveable Fiat Panda, the Lancia (née Autobianchi) Y10 was intended to offer all the benefits of a tiny car, with much of the luxury of a far larger one. That was the idea, anyway.

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In Search of Involvement: Finding it in blow-up form

Chris Haining June 19, 2017 Roadwork

Always on the quest for new and exciting experiences, my wife and I have just got into wearing neoprene and playing with rubber. With designs on seeing familiar things from a unique and dangerous perspective, we’ve taken up kayaking.

I’ve never previously been much involved in watersports – in the kind of aquatic pursuits I enjoy the most, getting wet often means you’ve had a very bad, expensive day out. Playing out on the estuary with the Kayak, though, is something else. With our inflatable plaything, you’re separated from the water by only air and a few millimeters of man-made membrane. Best of all, you’re 100% involved in what your vessel does.

So, just as I found helming a yacht and riding my bike, Kayaking reminded me of the feel and sensation that cars so often deprive us of.

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The Carchive: 1981 Mazda 626 Saloon and Coupe

The last couple of visits to The Carchive have taken a look at a few of North Americas most honest cars of the late ’70s. The economy offerings of Ford and Chevy – basic, simply engineered cars designed to work hard so their owners didn’t have to. They weren’t aspirational, but they were the right cars for the time.

It was around that time, though, that America’s domestic makers were really starting to feel the pressure of cars from the orient – and the same was true in Europe at the turn of the ’80s. The best selling car of that time – the Ford Cortina – was feeling a certain amount of strain from the Mazda 626.

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Classified-ad finds: Decidedly non-standard Cortina P100

The Ford Cortina P100 pickup is an increasingly forgotten machine. Effectively the front end of a late MkIV (colloquially MkV) Cortina mated with a ladder chassis rear end and a pickup bed, most examples used the famous 2.0-litre ‘Pinto’ engine in single-choke, low compression form, whose low 77bhp tune meant it would run on wood shavings and metaphors.

For the most part, these were working vehicles. Sold in Ford’s ‘commercials’ catalogue, the P100 pickup was never marketed as a recreational vehicle in the UK, unlike the Utes and Bakkies of other nations, including South Africa, where the P100 was actually built. As a result, the vast majority were used up and thrown away. Survivors are few, and many of those which live on have strayed wildly from ‘as built’ condition. And now, for a vast sum of money, you can buy an example of the latter.

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Power above absolutely all else: The Vauxhall Monaro VXR500

Many of my posts blather on about the obvious joy to be found in driving a car whose handling limits can be found even before you’ve left your own driveway. There’s something incredibly satisfying about sitting at the bleeding edge of a car’s capabilities without coming close to breaking local speed limits. It’s also immensely rewarding to know that it’s you who has the upper hand. Just like a fair-weather sailing boat, a car like this lets you know when things are getting hairy enough to reef the main and lift off a bit – whereas a supercar or racing yacht will egg you on to go faster until something snaps or you make a silly mistake.

Between the simple pleasures of the low-powered hatchback and the pure hedonism of the supercar, there lives another breed of car with an appeal all of its own. We’re talking about cars which look and feel, to all intents and purposes, like regular family sedans and coupes, but that have such latent firepower lurking beneath the skin that one false move could prove catastrophic. We’re talking Muscle Cars – and this Monaro is a prime example.

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Driving the Kia Pride: The exhilaration of the past

Scientific endeavour has proven that a frog, if slowly heated in a vat of water, won’t notice until it’s too late and he’s boiled alive. I feel that this metaphor also fits for small cars, which may have made vast strides forwards in handling and roadholding prowess, but progress has been very gradual indeed.

If a habitual small car buyer changes his car every three years, the noticeable change between each successive version is incremental at best, and may well not even be detected. But throw the frog straight into a vat of boiling water, or put a Kia Picanto driver behind the wheel of a twenty-six year old Pride, and both reptile and human will immediately leap out, citing intolerable conditions.

Of course, the launch of the Mazda 121 / Ford Festiva / Kia Pride is an epoch ago in terms of car development, so I jumped at the chance to go back in time.

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The Carchive: The ’77 Chevrolet Chevette

The Carchive has its fair share of spangly, high-buck automobiles accounted for amid its dusty, cobwebbed shelves. But it’s the down-to-earth, blue-collar, working guy’s everyday transport that’s, in so many ways, more interesting. These are the cars that litter the streets one week, and are all gone the next. There’s no mourning, no sadness, just out with the old, in with the new. This brochure has out-lived the vast majority of the cars it represents.

Last week we peered at Ford’s economy champion of the 70’s, and now it’s the turn of The General. It’s the rapid-selling Chevy Chevette.

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Overdue reappraisal: The Mitsubishi 3000 GT

“The 3000GT offers a rather detached driving experience and is simply too big and bulky to feel as truly agile and involving as a sportscar should”

The words of Autocar there, in its August ’92 review of Mitsubishi’s heavyweight high-powered projectile. These are words that I first read as an eleven-year old, and came to define my opinion of the car from that day forth. The learned magazine’s three-star (out of five) rating for the the 3000GT was the ultimate in faint praise, labeling it as an also-ran. Nothing special.

From then to now, my opinion of the car wasn’t improved one jot by the countless examples you see which have fallen on hard times – ‘enhanced’ with big, chrome wheels, gaudy body-kits and aftermarket lamp clusters, the work of successive fifth and sixth-hand owners. This is inevitable when once expensive cars lose their value and find their way into the wrong hands. For two and a half decades, the 3000GT had been swept from my radar by a loud chorus of indifference from experts.

So, was the GTO / Dodge Stealth / 3000GT really as off-message as we’re lead to believe?

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What’s the most special special edition?

‘Special edition’ can mean many, many things, and just how special they are tends to depend on whether we’re looking at a supercar or a shopping car. The Bugatti Veyron Vitesse SE, for example, was conceived to give the ultra rich a reason to buy another Veyron that’s somehow more special than the bog-standard version they already have tucked away in the hangar. A little more down to earth, the Mercedes CLS Final Edition is just that – kindly folk would call it a last hurrah, while cynical types would say it’s a last ditch attempt to drum up interest in an obsolescent model.

There are certain special editions that become all-time classics, though, and my favourite comes from just briefly before I was born. Celebrating – or cashing in – on the 1980 Olympics, I bring you the Ford Granada Chasseur.

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The Carchive: 1975 Ford Pinto

What could be more fun than perusing a forty-two year-old brochure for a really excellent, broadly celebrated automobile of class and distinction? Why, reading a forty-two year-old brochure for a car that’s widely panned as an example of automotive mediocrity from the least lamented era of all time, of course.

It’s the Ford Pinto. This is a car that I probably wouldn’t have ever known about were it not for a trip to Florida in 1993, where many, many examples were listed in the Kissimmee Auto Trader for barely any dollars. Twelve-year old me wondered “my, what it this curious Ford of which I have never heard before”? I’ve always had a soft spot for it, in particular because it often joins my beloved Rover 800 in lazily researched lists of ‘the worst cars ever’

And I’ve often wondered whether it really deserved the rep it acquired, what, with the whole bursting into flames thing and that. Hey ho…

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