If your new year resolution was to start reading an online auto website that you’ve never visited before, then Hello and welcome to Hooniverse, you’ve made a wonderful web-browsing decision. Welcome, too, to The Carchive, the like of which you’ll never have previously experienced. Prepare for unbridled excitement.
Several times a week we feature a brochure from back in time which describes a particular car that you’ve quite possibly forgotten even existed. In an effort to begin 2014 with appropriate style, this week we’ve been looking at the fabulous products of FSO. Today, lets douse ourselves with Old Spice and relax with a Watneys Red Barrel. It’s 1982.
“Luxury is one thing that FSO aren’t short on”
When it’s raining or miserable and cold outside, luxury means a roof and a bit of warmth. When you’re trapped in a club and there’s no escape from hi-decibel sonic assault from repetitive beats and vocodered voices, getting home to a nice cup of tea and Gershwin on vinyl might be described as luxurious. Luxury is a word with an almost elastic definition.
Of course, there wasn’t a huge amount separating the 1300 and 1500 Saloon models of Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych from the Fiat 125 of the late ’60s, aside from the fact that the 125 was a far, far more advanced piece of kit. The 125 had a twin-cam engine, for example. The FSO had an arrangement of overhead valves. Actually, the engine was so basic you could have carved it from wood. The disc brakes on all four wheels, though, which was very unusual for a decidedly non-sporting car in ’82.
So, FSO’s idea of what represented luxury in 1982 was perhaps a little different to what Ford, Mercedes-Benz or Rolls Royce might have been. Still, you had fully adjustable and reclining front seats with headrests, deep pile carpets, and even “door open warning reflectors on all four doors”. Such debauchery. The GLS was even fitted with a radio.
There was also a “comprehensive range of warning lights” to warn you of the many ways in which you could fail to reach your destination.
“The handsome FSO Polonez looks quite a car from any angle”
Polonez, named for the Polish dance of the Polonaise, was the newer, fresher, more avant-garde, space-age, cutting-edge, statement model for the ’80s. Giorgetto Giugiaro, of course, was the architect, and the shape was considerably sharper than its three-box stablemate.
“The sleek lines of the Polonez conceal a sumptuous interior”
It was indeed notably more plush than the old model, with actual evidence of “styling” having gone into the dashboard and general decoration. There was still little, though, of the indulgence that were starting to creep into the cars of Western Europe by this stage, though. Robust was more of a fitting description than lavish.
The hatchback tailgate was remote and there were folding rear seats making the Polonez a far more practical load carrier than the saloon. The loading sill, though, made lugging heavy objects a literal pain in the back, and also served as a reminder of the limitations as to what could be done with the underlying structure. The narrow track and long, thin overall shape was the legacy of the whole car still being based on the same old 1960s Fiat.
With Polonez the driver benefited from a rev counter, an oil pressure gauge and “nine different warning lights” which confirmed nine different exciting means buy which your car could go wrong. Actually, the mechanical systems were pretty well inert. That OHV engine was 1481cc big, and its four pistons pumped put a not entirely disappointing 82hp. If you had the balls, you could coax around 90mph out of it.
“The Polonez from FSO Cars. It’s much more than just a pretty face”
The mother of one of my schoolfriends used to drive one of these, a long, long time ago. I remember being ferried in it to Magic City (neither a city nor particularly magical) in Clacton-On-Sea, a local seaside resort of somewhat faded splendor. I can still recall the bounciness of the ride, the springiness of the seats and the flatulent nature of the exhaust note. Hers was white with painted steel rally-style wheels, and extra lamps which made the car look unnaturally butch.
I’ve not seen one in the wild for a long time, the majority having succumbed to rust, neglect, mechanical violation, total failure, the absolute indifference of their owners or a messy combination of the above. Survivors tend to be extremely well tended by an eccentric bunch of kindly nutters, and those are exactly the kind of people this world needs.
(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturers publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of FSO, who now build, depressingly, the Aveo. Yes, that one)