Saturday, December 23, 2006

Random Retro Detailing: Datsun Sunny 120Y

Ahhh, the 120Y. One of the best selling cars of the 1970s in the UK, yet hardly any survive. Indestructable mechanicals, rot-prone bodywork - so typical of Japanese cars from that era. But what a magnificently styled machine!

Datsun Sunny 120Y

The exterior is a work of art. The grille alone is a wonderful tribute to the art of plastic moulding, featuring lots of fake chrome and intricate detailing. Check out the flattened-football hubcaps (the greatest wheeltrim design of all time?), the curious rising sill-line, the little indentations in the rear wings (not visible in the pic, but they are there), and that's the regular four door - the two door coupe is a whole other thing altogether, worthy of an essay all to itself.

My favourite touch is inside:

Check out that dashboard! Millions of people spent many, many hours sat behind that, trundling along in a world of flared trousers and the Bay City Rollers. The square dials are immediately obvious, but the highlight lurks near to the radio:

The control-knob for the fresh air vent is in the "D" shape of the Datsun typeface. I assume it's an air vent anyway, I shall have to do some research and find out!

Simply magnificent. Not even Maserati, with their famous gold clock, come close.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Spotted: Ford Cortina Crusader

Ford Cortina Crusader

I see this from time to time but only managed to snap it recently.

The Crusader was the end-of-line limited edition Cortina, based on the Mk5 that was launched two years earlier in 1980 (hence the official "Cortina 80" designation, although the press and everyone else referred to it as the Mark Five). It was built to shift the last remaining units before the arrival of the controversial Sierra.

Ford Cortina Crusader Retro Advert

The Sierra didn't come a moment too soon - sales of the aged Cortina (the Mk5 was a rehash of the Mk4, which was mechanically similar to the Mk3 of 1970) were declining rapidly in the face of stiff competition from GM/Vauxhall/Opel with the new-in-81 FWD Cavalier/Ascona, particularly in the fleet market.

They were a common sight on our roads in the 80s, the default choice of saloon for just about everybody. Nowadays they aren't common at all, and so it's a lot easier to appreciate the coke-bottle curves and neat proportions. Personally I'd love a Mk4 (they're a bit "cleaner", with neater bumpers and lamps) in a lurid 70s green or orange, on some subtle wheels and with 2.9 Scorpio Cosworth motivation.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Retro Cars Magazine is no more.

Well, the rumours had been around for a little while, and then this post on retro-rides confirmed it:

Future Publishing has announced that it is to cease publication of Retro Cars magazine with immediate effect. The current issue on sale will be the last and issue 43 will not be printed.

Editor Paul Wager and Features Editor Richard Hammond will be leaving the company on Friday, November 17. Art Editor Mark Field will be moving to Windows Vista magazine.

We would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has made the magazine such fun to work on over the past few years. We had produced a large part of issue 43 before the decision was taken and subject to management approval we hope to post the completed pages at www.retrocarsmag.co.uk in due course.

Any announcement of this news which you may already have seen elsewhere yesterday will have been the result of my private email to contributors being posted to a forum.

Paul Wager

I loved it when it first came out. It really seemed to capture the spirit of a whole new scene, and the associated show at Santa Pod every year was a massive highlight for me. But over the last six months or so the mag started to go downhill - too many race cars, expensive/classic-rather-than-retro motors, factual blunders and shallow technical depth. The final nail in the coffin for me was an issue that featured the possible restarting of MGF manufacture under new Chinese ownership. I mean, sure it's an interesting story, but what's it doing taking up a third of the main news page in a retro-car magazine? Bizarre.

So what happens now? We shall see. The forthcoming online Retro Driver magazine sounds incredibly promising, written and created by people with passion, knowledge and experience. And as for the show, well, there's a Retro-Rides show coming in August 2007. I'll be putting details on here when it's all a bit clearer. So far it sounds like it's going to be a hell of an event!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Mystery Audi - any ideas?

I've finally got round to putting up a gallery of pictures that I took a while ago. It was a perfect day for a retro-obsessive like me - perfect weather, fantastic roads, light traffic and the car was running sweetly. Whilst exploring an area on the Welsh borders that I haven't really been to before, I spotted a fantastic collection of motors rotting away at the front of a building at the side of the road. I turned round and headed back. Nobody seemed to be in, nobody nearby was around to tell me anything, but I snapped a few pics of the treasures.

Click to see the gallery. There were some cracking cars there - a Mitsubishi Celeste, an Ambassador, a few first-generation Renault 5s. Quite a variety and range.

Particularly fascinating though was this Audi:
Mystery Audi bobtail
Mystery Audi bobtail
Mystery Audi bobtail

Weird eh? I'd absolutely love to know the story behind it. The boot has been shortened (quite a good job done of it too from what I could see!), bumpers from something else have been grafted on, and the front end has some sort of chopped grille and headlamp/indicator arrangement. The side panels are screwed on from a Renault 5 (perhaps one of the ones nearby) and the externally-mounted spare wheel is a bizarre and fascinating touch. I couldn't tell any clues from the badge on the front, I have no idea how it came to be or why.

If anybody has any thoughts, input or ideas, please get in touch and share!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Ad Archive

I've been busy scanning some old car adverts from my huge collection of old magazines. There are loads more to come, and you can find them all here in my Flickr gallery.

Vauxhall Mk1 Astra GTE Advert dw_riva Fiat Strada 130TC Abarth Advert Austin Mini Metro Advert

(click each of those to see enlarged versions - some are desktop-wallpaper sized if you click the "all sizes" links)

It's amazing how times have changed. Nowadays speed and performance is only subtly implied and never directly mentioned. You'd certainly never get a headline like that of the Mk1 Astra GTE advert, or a table of comparative 0-60 times showing how much quicker a car is than its rivals, as in the Strada ad.

Nobody mentions maintenance and running costs like in the Metro ad, and it's rare to see a car sold solely on the strength of the standard equipment in the way that the Lada Riva was.

It's all about "image" and "branding" these days, all about how you'll be perceived as an owner by those around you and not about the car itself. As the car is seen more and more as a dangerous, polluting evil and less as something to be enjoyed and cherished the copywriters daren't talk of performance and speed any more. In the world of "safety" cameras, bus lanes, congestion charging, traffic queues and massive taxes on petrol it just doesn't seem appropriate. We, as a society, have gone from loving the glamour and performance to being ashamed of admitting it as it's just not "correct" any more. Ironically, our main motoring programme "Top Gear" has gone from being an utterly tedious consumer programme in the 1980s to an out and out celebration of the car and everything it should stand for and is frequently and vocally criticized as a result.

The cars are faster, they handle better, they have equipment levels that just weren't feasible at any level 30 years ago, yet the adverts aren't allowed to portray it any more.

That's a shame.

Oh the irony!

Lancia Beta Advert
It's 1974, and the Lancia Beta is two years old.

"What we are saying is that the Beta is built to last. Not just for a year or two, but for as long as you want to go on driving it".

If only they knew what lay in store for them in the UK - horror stories of terminal corrosion, shockingly poor rust-protection and lots of media coverage of the whole thing which sowed the seeds for the demise of Lancia in the UK in 1994. They never recovered from the tarnished image.

Rumours are that Lancia will be back in the UK in 2008. Time will tell if they prove to be a credible alternative to the German marques that currently rule the sports/luxury market.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tagora: I saw one!

Would you believe it! After writing about how I'd never seen a Talbot Tagora, ever, I only went and spotted one whilst in Prague!

There we were, the three of us, wandering from our hotel to the main town via the back streets of the City. I was busy photographing Trabants and Skodas for my galleries, when I spy a square roofline across a row of parked cars. Pondering for a second to think what it could be, it suddenly hit me.

It couldn't be... Could it?

Surely not?


I couldn't believe it! A mint condition Tagora, just sat there. Amazing (well, it is if you're me and have obsessed about seeing one since they were launched). The others were unsurprisingly confused about my excitement, but I managed to get a photo of myself with my trophy find:

Tagora! OMG!

Next on my list: A Ford Cortina Mk4 "S" or a really early W-Reg Metro "S". Fingers crossed!

Shameless eBay Plug

I've spent the last week or so working on my eBay store. There is still a long way to go and a heck of a lot more products to add, but please have a look around!

Apart from handbooks, manuals, brochures and other literature/automobilia, I'm developing a range of unique keyrings and fridge magnets (and coasters soon). Hopefully there's something for every retro-car fan, and they'll make ideal stocking fillers at Christmas time.

If you're in a club then feel free to get in touch regarding items with your logo/branding on. Bulk orders welcome!

If there's something you think I should stock but don't, let me know too! All enquiries welcome.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Volkswagen Northwest, Tatton Park - 2002!

Yes, that's right... 2002! I'm getting all my old show pictures online, all nicely sorted and processed for you all to see. The gallery is here:

VW Northwest 2002

Hope you like them!

Retro-motoring hits Flickr

I'm slowly building up a collection of my photographs of various retro machinery and other things on Flickr.

You can see my sets here: Retromotoring on Flickr.

It's full of show photographs, cars I have spotted whilst out and about, our trip to Prague and anything else related that I see.

Feel free to leave comments on any of the pictures, and equally e-mail me if you would like hi-res copies of anything there.

It's updated frequently, so keep checking back! Anything major will be added here too. I'm slowly tagging and describing all the photos so ultimately you'll be able to search my archives for a particular make or model of car.

Czech Wrecks Rally - We did it!

Wow, what an event! Myself and two friends took a £100 Volvo 240 GLT and drove it to Prague as part of the Czech Wrecks Rally. We covered 1800 miles across Europe and had an amazing time.

We also have raised over £2000 so far for charity - the Cardiomyopathy Association!

You can read our blog about it all here:


The car was awesome. Not a single problem in 1800 miles - covering long motorway journeys, steep mountain passes (including the Stelvio), city congestion. Amazing. I love those things! Totally indestructable!

Monday, July 24, 2006

North West Classic Car Show - Southport

Not a bad event! Some fascinating machinery, a bit too many "moderns" though IMO. Photos are here!




Friday, July 21, 2006

Help two fools raise some money for Charity!

Yes, one of them IS me.

We're doing the Czech Wrecks Rally in September and we're trying to raise as much as we can for the Cardiomyopathy Association! Please have a read and keep checking for updates!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Classic and Retro Show, Santa Pod


The highlight of the year for any retro-car lover. Absolutely stacks and stacks of fascinating machinery, and some brilliant racing down the drag strip.

We Retro-riders had MASSIVE presence, by far the biggest stand of the whole show.

Click for the full gallery!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I have never seen: #1 Talbot Tagora (1981-1983).

The first in a series of ramblings about cars I have never, EVER seen in real life but would love to. Not rare race cars, not supercars and not stuff we didn't see in the UK. These posts are dedicated to ordinary cars that roamed the streets in the retro-era yet have somehow eluded my eyes. Maybe I'll see one at a show, maybe I'll spot one lurking in a driveway somewhere. Who knows?

Number 1: The Talbot Tagora.

A Tagora.

A big, bland, boxy, forgettable "executive" saloon from Talbot. An utter disaster for the company, they sold so badly that production stopped after two years. Who can be surprised? Looks like a scaled-up Solara and zero road presence. Not ideal for a company exec looking to make himself seen in a world of Granadas and Rover SD1s. The only interesting styling features are the squared-off arches. The interior is utterly dull, vast expanses of plastic and flimsy controls.

There were three main versions, a 2.2, 2.3 diesel and 2.6 V6.

If I'm going to see one, I want it to be the V6, just under 1100 were made. I bet there are less than a handful left! 19,400 Tagoras were made in total, Chrysler were hoping to shift three times that many in a year. No wonder I have never seen one, nobody bought them.

Not a bad car, just not good enough against the competition at the time.

VW Expo

Another good one! I had never been before, it's a fair old trek to Kent from up here in the sunny North West. Well worth it, a great collection of dubs on show and a great location.

Click for gallery.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Deva Dubs and Rods 2006

GREAT show! Based at Chester racecourse for the past few years, this VW and Custom car/Hot rod show was forced to move to a new venue in Shrewsbury for 2006. It's a great location, excellent facilities and the variety and quality of cars that arrived was as high as ever. Incredible weather (as is often the case for Deva) made for some stunningly gleaming motors.

Photo gallery here, as ever hosted at Retro-rides.

Three favourites:

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Der See ruft!

W├Ârthersee 2006 ROCKED!

Uterly incredible. SO incredible in fact, that the full writeup will have to wait. In the meantime, hundreds and hundreds of photos are here: Click me!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Event Photos: Easter Thunderball


WHAT an event! A super spectacular mix of modern and retro drag machinery. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Click to see gallery

As is often the case, hosted by HoTWire at http://www.retro-rides.com/.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Austin Metro: A British car to beat the world

Austin Metro: A british car to beat the world
Wow! Remember that? October 1980? When the nation was gripped with national pride at the thought of "our" boys giving those tinny Japanese, weird French and rotten Italian superminis a darned good hiding?

Remember the ad campaign? With the formation of Metros (or Mini Metros to be correct) heading towards the edge of the cliffs at Dover?

I recently managed to get hold of this cassette tape. They were apparently distributed to dealers at the time of the launch, something to play whilst the punters got to grips with the wondrous space-efficiency of the cabin, the neatness of the split-fold rear seat and the lack of a five-speed gearbox.

The tape is brilliant. It begins with a rousing and classically funked-up version of "Rule Brittania", which becomes a generic synth-lite soundtrack played whilst a male voice extols the virtues of the "Britishness" of the car.

"It's the brainchild of a British design team, it's been developed by British engineers, and it's built by British workers, in a new, British, factory. But what about 'leading the world'? Is it really better than all those European and Japanese hatchbacks?"

You can guess what the answer is.

"The answer's yes. In ANY language."

And so it continues.

The first Metro I saw was owned by a neighbour who brought it home on the day of launch. It looked GREAT in bright Pea Green with gold pinstripes, shining on a W-Plate. If memory serves, it may well have been an "S" variant, incredibly rare in the 1980s, let alone now.

Somehow we really did think that this car was going to be the saviour of the British motor industry. Magazines raved over it, proclaiming it as a true successor to the Mini. It kind of was for a while, but it wasn't long before the build and rust problems took precedence in the mind of the public over the engineering quality. The slightly unbalanced styling didn't help either, same with the underpowered and controversially "badge-engineered" MG and MG Turbo variants. Remember the red seat belts?

Nowadays they are largely unloved and almost forgotten. An early one with the full-size grille (and the povo-spec ones with the indicators and sidelights in the bumper) in a retro colour is an incredibly rare sight now. That's a real shame. They are absolutely hilarious to drive, inheriting many of the characteristics that made the Mini so great, and a few that made the Metro not-so-great (the wheezy A-Series wasn't replaced until the K-Series powered revamp many years later). They are STILL amazingly space-efficient, and the earlier pepperpot-shod MGs and Turbos are quite stylish in a retro-80s-cool kinda way.

A British Car To Beat The World? Nearly.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Out and about once more...


E30 BMW 3-Series Baur TC. Quite a rarity, and NOT the same as the much more common Convertible that came later. I'd appreciate any more information on them!
A good (E21) Baur site can be found here, and a German BMW Baur Club here.


A Peugeot 305 van. I see this around here loads! The pic doesn't really do the superb wheeltrims justice. Can't be many of these left now - like all vans, I guess they suffer from a lifetime of abuse as "working" vehicles.

Starting to disappear rapidly from our roads nowadays, a first-generation Renault Espace. Still plenty about though, grab one of these genre-defining Matra wonders while you can!

"...and when they met, it was MOIDER!". Hart to Hart Merc looking stunningly well kept.

Another gleaming red retro-Merc. Absolutely GORGEOUS, but not low enough!

A VERY unusual sight. It's a Reliant Ant! They were made from 1967 to 1987, and had a single-piece GRP cab. 700cc of power! Quite an interesting alternative to a new Piaggio Ape. If you can find one.

Friday, March 03, 2006


The first in a never ending series of posts.

An E28 5-Series Bimmer (a 528i to be exact) in that lovely shade of metallic green that they used to do them in. Quite tidy, too! The traffic warden was looking confused. I guess he thought the Primera was more worthy of attention.

Someones Mini project, in hibernation for the winter. Wonder what will become of it? Note the high quality axle stands, and the wheelbarrow is probably for carting the piles of rust away with. I pass this several times a week, hopefully I'll get to keep an eye on progress.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

An explanation

...of the images across the top. Just in case you were wondering, even though I suspect you probably weren't.

They are, from left to right:

* An image from the box of a 60s/70s "Auto Coffee Maker". I'm not sure what the car is. How cool is that though? Find yourself a nice parking spot, overlooking somewhere lovely. Get the Auto Coffee Maker on, and several hours later there'll be heat in your drink but no power in your battery. Perfect.

* An image from the box of the frankly stupendous Sparkrite Voyager - "The most advanced microprocessor controlled car driving computer". It was basically a horrifically difficult to wire up advanced trip computer. Apparently, it was "Designed to improve driving techniques", and offered amongst other advanced features "Instant FUEL, SPEED and TIME, date at the touch of a button", "Visual and audible EXCESS SPEED alarm", and had "All necessary fitting parts included". I want one. A lot. No idea what the car is, I suspect it's a Ford.

* Two Frenchmen scratching their Berets whilst contemplating the dodgy reliability of a Renault Caravelle.

* A Citroen Ami brochure cutaway pic.

* A rather enticing shot of a lady admiring the plush green velour trim of a Matra Bagheera.

* VW Bay Window camper, PERFECT.

* Renault 18 boot.

* A happy couple enjoying servicing and maintenance on a Sunbeam. Super.

These are all the sort of thing I love best - quirky accessories and motors from the oft-forgotten sections of the retro car world. I see myself at the top of a mountain pass in my Lancia Beta Monte Carlo, parked up with my Auto Coffee Maker on the go. An adoring lady admires the interior fittings and quality of the Italian craftsmanship(!) whilst I fiddle with my Voyager, marvelling at my fuel consumption and wondering how much I can improve on my average speed time. Ahhh. Happy days.

Everyday Electronics

Everyday Electronics
I picked up 25 issues for 10p each. AWESOME retro 70s imagery on the covers, and the inside is all yellowy superthin paper and black and white print. Looks like I might have to get busy with the soldering iron, I can see lots of gadgetry potential for the Golf!

I'm intrigued as to what exactly you do with a "Probophone" (bottom middle mag) but I intend to find out...

Monday, February 27, 2006


Well, after ten years of working and playing on the web, I guess it's finally time I got a little space of my own. I'm building a proper website but that's a long way off being finished, and it won't have any Blog functionality so this'll do nicely!

I'll update this space with anything "interesting" that happens, and random stuff that catches my eye.

We'll see how it goes eh...