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P66: The Forgotten Jensen

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Back before the great Intensedebate Apocolypse of 2014, I managed to find myself behind the wheel of one of the most spectacular cars ever to come out of Birmingham. Not an especially long list, admittedly, but a star-studded one. Nevertheless, the Jensen Interceptor was a British car with Italian style and American brute power – an intoxicating combination.

But what if Italy hadn’t got involved? With Britain now about to bid adieu to our European partnership once and for all, it’s interesting to look back at how the Interceptor might have developed if Jensen’s in-house stylist, Eric Neale’s suggestion had gone into production. This is the P66, the Interceptor that never did.

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Diecast Delights: The Audi Avus Concept

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Concept cars. As an impressionable kid the unveiling of new concept cars was always the highlight of my motor show trips. On any manufacturers stand these lurid flights of fancy would stand out from the massed ranks of more spacious superminis and cleaner-burning diesels, which, naturally, bored the shit out of me.

No, give me something in chrome, with crazy doors and a mountain of power, and all those earnest, practical conveyances are suddenly put in context. They represented where we were, the concepts would show us where we were going. But fast-forward a few decades and yesterday’s concepts become even more fascinating.

Like the original Metropolis; as channelled by Matt Groenings Futurama; yesterday’s vision of tomorrow is often way more exciting than what inevitably surfaces when its time comes. The Audi Avus concept was unveiled in an era before the TT and the R8; neither of which really owe all that much to the Avus, apart perhaps from its spirit. It was Audi’s tangible sci-fi vision of a future supercar, before later concepts came to define the design language that would soon ensure that every Ingolstadt product seems uncomfortably familiar. The Avus presents such a fascinating parallel to the present that I just had to add it to my diecast collection.

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Carchive New Year Special: The 1937 Plymouths

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As 2016 dons its hat and scarf and prepares itself to hobble uselessly into history, a brand spanking new year has beamed in from the future and is presesently plumping up the sofa cushions, ready to make itself comfortable.

How better for The Carchive to welcome 2017 than by peering back a solid 80 years into the past? For one last time, I ask you to follow me down the the dank, dark staircase into the dungeons that house ghosts from roads gone by. Let’s take a look at the ‘new for ’37’ Plymouth line.

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V.I.S.I.T.: A 1972 Triumph TR6 Pleases all my senses

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What could be better on a winter’s day off than a stroll down to the riverside? It’s one of our favourite activities after the Christmas dust has settled, and it so happens that several of the classic car owning locals are of very much the same persuasion.

The Mistley Walls is a popular haunt in the summer months where the ice-cream vans fight for business and Andy’s superb mobile coffee dispensary is on hand for a caffeine injection, you’ll find motorists in concours convertibles mixing with bikers astride their polished steeds. But it’s rare that you see something interesting down here when there’s a risk of salt on the roads. So I was thrilled to get a chance to see, hear and smell this beautiful TR6 on bank holiday Tuesday.

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The Carchive: The Ferrari 612 Scaglietti

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It’s Christmas Eve eve, and I’m just about to round off my day by wrapping family gifts in an inimitable, shambolic way that I have perfected. With my special technique, I could start with a perfectly rectangular gift and end up with something the shape of a rugby ball. Anyway, it’s time to put on our red and white suits and hats, play with our fine, white, candy-floss beards for a while and then delve into our bulging sacks. Welcome to the Christmas Carchive.

What is it we like about Ferraris? There are some, many in fact, that we can love for their beauty. The 308 and its derivatives were pretty, culminating in the downright explicit 288 GTO with its gaping holes and dirty, exposed running gear. Many call the 456 GT bland, but while it may start out as merely easy on the eye, it continues to work on you until it becomes insufferably handsome.  The F50 wasn’t exactly an oil painting, but it had the mechanical wherewithal to more than make up for it. Generally, if you can’t fall in love with the looks of a Ferrari, it’ll have another attribute that’ll get you back on side.

The 612 Scaglietti is nobody’s favourite Ferrari, but it tries so, so hard.

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An English car better than the Rover P6?

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Here’s startling revelation for anybody who hasn’t spent a lot of time in this comfy little corner of the internet: I’m English. Yep, a fully paid up, tiffin nibbling, tea drinking, cricket… uh, ignoring, monarchy…uh, tolerating limey. We all have our problems.

Here’s another truth. Though I have a huge fondness for ’em, I’m by no means diehard fan of the English car; especially not if there is a direct equivalent from another nation that can beat it, either on points or issue a comprehensive wholesale drubbing. There are some, though, that will never test my allegiance, and a prime example is the Rover P6.

Running (if you got a good one – JK) from 1963 to 1977, the Rover P6 can surely be judged as an example of the British doing the car properly. It was a pretty sophisticated machine, really, with a De Dion rear suspension setup, inboard rear disc brakes (that may be effective are absolute hell to work on) and a cleverly designed ‘safety first’ interior. It was also one of the very first cars to receive the ex-Buick 215 c.i V8 that would soon become the doyen of the British sports car industry. It was certainly better than the Chevy Corvair, with anti-sway bar enthusiast Ralph Nader citing it as an example of how all cars should be built.

But how could you make it better?

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The SN Honda Prelude reminds us of a prettier past

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As Honda releases its new generation Civic, a riot of curves, lines, grilles and pointy bits that will give us headaches until we get used to it, let’s not get upset. It’s progress, they say. It certainly seems inevitable that the more bloated and bulky cars become to accommodate mandatory safety, comfort and  anti-pollution equipment, designers have to resort to sleight of hand tactics – adding as many visual distractions as possible to disguise the sheer mass of the car.

Since we’re approaching Christmas,  a time to look at the past and dream mournfully of years gone by, lets put tomorrow on hold for just a minute. Once upon a time, when the Earth was a younger, more innocent little planet, Honda released a gorgeous little coupe. It was named it Prelude, and in some respects it was a sign of things to come. In others, sadly, it wasn’t.

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Marcos Mantis: Ahead of its time or road to nowhere?

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The history of the UK motor industry is dotted with fascinating footnotes, risks and flights of fancy. Take Marcos Engineering, a once proud of sports cars which has been in stasis since 2007.

First collaborating in scenic Wales in 1959, Jem Marsh and Frank Costin  produced the first Marcos small sports car, the frighteningly-named Xylon, with a view to taking the 750 Motor Club racing scene by storm. To a certain extent, it did, and pretty soon the brand expanded its lineup with the Volvo Engined 1800 GT, its first real full-size sports car. And as if to prove the concept of getting it right first time, it’s that shape that went on to endure the next 40 years, including the faintly ridiculous Chevy small-block powered Mantara LM600.

So what of the Marcos Mantis M70? The car  “for the man who is going places and wants to travel in style”? Well, what do you reckon?

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2016 HCOTY Nominee: A specific 1982 Austin Allegro.

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My nominees don’t always do very well in this annual exercise in global gong-banging, in fact they usually crash and burn. This year, though, I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get at least one vote for my nomination – if only by the honourable denizen of the ‘verse who now calls this car his own.

We’ve celebrated this car before on these pages, not least when it appeared on a Craigslist ad in November 2015. Since then it’s been under global surveillance and I was delighted to see it go into the custody of the one person in the Northwest USA properly equipped to give it a good home. That alone isn’t my reason for nominating it for HCOTY, though:

I put it to you that the willingness to own a car as maligned as the 1982 Austin Allegro III is a hallmark of the true Hoon.

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V.I.S.I.T: Ural 750- A Great Escape from sobriety

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I recently had cause to partake in a corporate event. It was based at the London Shuffle Club, Europe’s first all shuffleboard venue. The club premises drip with character; based in part of the old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch, London, only the bare minimum of gentrification has been performed before the doors were opened to guests.

Along with ‘distressed’ peeling paint, ‘authentic’ rusting metalwork and ‘chic’ exposed concrete, the atmosphere of the club was further enhanced by a certain amount of set-dressing. Lighting was provided by strings of exposed bulbs, old industrial furniture was placed along side modern desks and facilities, and there were plenty of details that had obviously endured their fair share of history. Prince among accessories, though, was that which housed a Prosecco dispenser.

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