Introduced in 1976, the Volkswagen Golf GTI was not the first sporty family car nor even the best, but it defined an entire genre of practical performance cars: the ever-popular hot hatch. This week, a brief history of the Volkswagen Golf (Rabbit) and Golf GTI.
Continue Reading Rabbit Rocket: The Volkswagen GTI and the Birth of the Hot Hatch
Even as the Ford Mustang was making its smashing debut in April 1964, Ford’s Lincoln-Mercury division began work on its own “pony car,” a stylish coupe that sought to bridge the gap between the Mustang and the Thunderbird. This week, we look at the history (and many incarnations) of the Mercury Cougar.
Continue Reading Cool Cat: The History of the Mercury Cougar
Fast, luxurious, and stylish, with a thoroughly modern platform shared with Saab, Fiat, and Lancia, the 1988–1997 Alfa Romeo 164 could have been the hit to resuscitate Alfa’s flailing business and put the company on the map in the German-dominated executive car market. Unfortunately, it was the last model Alfa developed before falling into the arms of Fiat and it had the dubious distinction of being the last Alfa sold in the U.S. for decades. This week, we look at the 164 and its “Type Four” siblings: the Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema, and Saab 9000.
Continue Reading Four of a Kind: The Alfa Romeo 164 and the “Type Four” Cars
If you think the 1980 Audi Quattro was the world’s first all-wheel-drive sports coupe, you’re wrong: Almost 15 years before the ur-Quattro, the tiny British automaker Jensen introduced a powerful GT car featuring full-time four-wheel drive and even anti-lock brakes. This is the history of the Chrysler-powered Jensen Interceptor and its high-tech offshoot, the AWD Jensen FF.
Continue Reading Fast Forerunner: The Jensen Interceptor and FF
One of our biggest challenges in writing these articles is that we sometimes become fascinated by something for reasons that aren’t easy to articulate. Some of our subjects have obvious interest, like the Ford Skyliner or the Jaguar XK120, but others may be puzzling to the casual observer. That is certainly the case with this week’s subjects, which are thoroughly unexceptional in engineering and design and have styling that could charitably be described as ordinary. However, they were at the forefront of an emerging debate that is still going on: the question of exactly how big an American sedan ought to be. This week, the history of the 1960-1965 Mercury Comet and 1962-1965 Ford Fairlane.
Continue Reading How Big Is Too Big? The Midsize Ford Fairlane and Mercury Comet
When the Citroën DS debuted in 1955, it was indisputably the most advanced family sedan in the world. Naturally, the proud British auto industry was not about to take such a challenge lying down, but it took almost eight years to field a British contender: the remarkable Rover 2000. This week, we examine the history of the 1964-1977 Rover P6 from its abortive turbine engine to the calamity of the British Leyland merger and the V-8-powered Rover 3500.
Continue Reading Red Rover: The Remarkable Rover P6
For more than 50 years, the Chevrolet Corvette has represented a curious paradox for General Motors. The product of GM’s humblest division, it has frequently been among the corporation’s most expensive cars. Designed and engineered largely outside of the normal GM system, it has often been hamstrung by corporate politics. Despite that, it remains the car that the company’s stylists most want to design, its engineers most want to develop, and its workers take the most pride in building. It is a vision of GM as it could be. This week, we look at the model that would set the standard for all future Corvette generations: the Corvette C2, the justly legendary 1963-1967 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray.
Continue Reading Bucking the System: The 1963-1967 Corvette Sting Ray (C2)
Advertised as “Nobody’s Kid Brother,” Chrysler’s compact Valiant was originally intended to be its own marque. The story of how it became the Plymouth Valiant is a complicated one, going back to the origins of the Plymouth brand and its relationship with other Chrysler divisions. This is the story of the original Valiant, its little-known Dodge twin, the Lancer, and the long and contentious relationship between Plymouth and its sister divisions.
Continue Reading Everybody’s Kid Brother: Chrysler’s Compact Valiant
As enjoyable as convertibles can be on beautiful, sunny summer days, they can be a terrible burden any other time, when they are too often drafty, noisy, and vulnerable. We suspect that anyone who’s ever owned a convertible has occasionally wished they could magically transform it into a regular coupe on days when the sun is too hot or the wind too cold. Fifty years ago, the Ford Motor Company offered a car that could do exactly that, creating a piece of mechanical showmanship that has only recently been surpassed: the 1957-1959 Ford Skyliner retractable hardtop.
Continue Reading Raising the Roof: The Ford Skyliner ‘Retrac’
Since its debut in 1964, the Porsche 911 has come to define the Porsche brand. The company’s periodic efforts to expand their market with new models, however worthy, have inevitably prompted grumbling from purists, who stubbornly refused to accept the arrivistes as real Porsches. That was the fate that befell the 1978-1995 Porsche 928, the company’s first V8-engine production car. Conceived as a successor for the 911, it never quite found its niche, dismissed by the faithful as a pricey German Corvette. Nonetheless, the 928 is a milestone car in its own right — a formidable GT that foreshadowed the shape of the modern sports car. This is its story.
Continue Reading Porsche Before Its Time: The Porsche 928
Some cars are recognized as milestones only after the fact, dismissed and overlooked in their own times. Others, like this one, are standouts from the moment they first appear. This car stunned the world when it debuted at Earls Court Motor Show in October 1948 — one of the fastest and loveliest cars offered by any manufacturer at any price a dramatic statement of what the British auto industry was capable of achieving. This is the history of the Jaguar XK120, XK140, and XK150.
Continue Reading Grace in Motion: The Jaguar XK120
The short-lived Buick Reatta two-seater may seem like the most innocuous of cars (indeed, that was part of its problem). Behind the Reatta’s placid exterior, however, lay a ferocious internal battle that also gave birth to the Cadillac Allanté, ended the four-decade dominance of the once-mighty GM Design Staff — and set the stage for the decline of GM itself.
Continue Reading All Fall Down: The Cadillac Allante, The Buick Reatta, and How GM Lost Its Styling Mojo