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V.I.S.I.T: An Icelandic Selection

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I was staggered, I tell you. Blown away. Awestruck, dumbfounded and hornswaggled. Iceland is a tiny island with a population less than a third of a million souls. I couldn’t possibly have imagined the sheer diversity of cars that I would find during my recent trip to this beautiful, fascinating country.

Click the jump below to get a flavour of what wheeled wonders await discovery in the land of fire and ice.

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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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The Carchive: Maserati Biturbo 222 and 430

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Once again Friday is upon us, for which we let out a collective hurricane of relaxed exhalation. In the dusty parking lot in which I type this, the sun is beating down and I’m in a really good mood. It’s also my birthday, and as has become customary this means airing one of the more spangly documents from The Carchive.

The Maserati Biturbo was launched in 1981, the same year as me. So lets head to Italy and take a look at a couple of cars from a period of Maserati’s history they probably don’t want to dwell on.

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Japanese Cars Living and Dying in Poland – Part 3

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Going back to the communist times, the few cars that were available to the people of Poland were of Eastern Bloc production: Polish Fiats, Ladas, Skodas, Wartburgs, and many others that we have covered here before. They had a few traits in common, specifically that all were poorly made, were very small, inefficient, and frequently unreliable. But most Japanese cars were the exact opposite of that, with a bonus of a reasonable price. Buying a Japanese car in communist Poland was not an easy task, but once the Wall came down, the flood-gates of car importation have opened.

This is our third, and last, time looking at what older Japanese cars are currently living and dying in Poland. As always, all pictures have been provided by the faithful readers of zlomnik.pl (thank you), a page which has since undergone a complete makeover. Grab a beverage and enjoy!

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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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