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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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Techno Classica Weekend Edition: The 1978-1981 BMW M1

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Never to be outdone, BMW brought a freaking airplane to Techno Classica. They recently turned 100 years old, and the Bavarian propeller logo does stand for actual propellers.

But since this isn’t Atomic Toasters, I’m dedicating this post to the BMW M1: the best Lamborghini BMW ever made. Or something.

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Techno Classica Weekend Edition: Volkswagen at Techno Classica

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Volkswagen’s stand at Techno Classica was expectedly GTI-heavy, as they celebrated the Golf GTI’s 40th anniversary. The ’76 GTI was represented by a Dutch example, the very first GTI to be registered in that country. It wasn’t nannied, but served as a dealership demo car and ended up in the need of complete restoration – that was done over a two-year period, and reportedly performed using parts made available by Volkswagen’s Classic Parts department. Can’t have come cheap.

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Techno Classica Weekend Edition: Mercedes-Benz 190E W201 Cabriolet

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For Techno Classica, Mercedes-Benz brought out a one-off convertible version of their modern classic 190E. The 2.6-litre car is the only one with factory backing, and it does look quite balanced.

The two-tone blue suits the car exceptionally well, and it was built around the time the 190E had its “MoPf” facelift, meaning it has the wide plastic cladding on the sides.

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Techno Classica Weekend Edition: 1991 Audi Avus Quattro

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A suitable counterpart or companion piece for the restrained and tasteful – albeit orange – Quattro Spyder is the Avus concept, all bulges and polished surfaces. This is also a 1991 car, and mid-engined, but somehow it couldn’t be more different.

For some reason, I really enjoy Volkswagen Audi Group’s “Not Veyron” concepts.

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