Japanese cars have a reputation for appliance-like reliability, but are often criticized (fairly or not) for lacking character. Character is a quality of which British cars have rarely been short, but dependability is quite another matter. In the early eighties, Honda and Rover decided to collaborate on two shared-platform luxury cars that promised to bridge that gap: the 1986–1990 Honda / Acura Legend and 1986–1999 Rover 800 (a.k.a. Sterling 800). The long and complicated story of how that project came about and what became of it is our subject in this installment of Ate Up With Motor.
Continue Reading Bridging the Gap: The Honda / Acura Legend and Rover 800
The original Ford Fiesta, introduced in 1976, was the Ford Motor Company’s most important new car of the seventies. It was a staggeringly expensive project that began Ford’s conversion to front-wheel drive and took the company into the modern B-segment for the first time. However, the Fiesta also provoked great internal controversy and emerged only after a protracted and contentious development period. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we look at the origins and history of the 1976–1983 Mk1 Fiesta, the Fiesta XR2 hot hatch, and the 1984–1989 Mk2 Fiesta.
(Photo © 2012 Murilee Martin); used with permission)
Continue Reading Party Downsize: The Ford Fiesta Mk1 and Mk2
The Triumph 2000 was a hit, giving the Rover 2000 a run for its money and demonstrating that there was a lucrative market for affordable premium sedans. The Mk 2 edition, introduced in the fall of 1969, seemed set to continue that success, but with Triumph now part of the British Leyland Motor Corporation, the 2000’s future would soon be in doubt. In part 2 of our story, we look at the later history of the big Triumph 2000, 2.5 PI, and 2500TC/2500S sedans.
(Triumph 2000 Mk2 Photo © 2013 Richard Wiseby; used with permission)
Continue Reading Class Acts, Part 2: Triumph 2000, 2.5 PI, and 2500 Mk 2
Although the Triumph 2000 made little impression on American buyers, it was a very significant car for the British market, the first salvo in a bitter war between traditional big sedans and upscale “premium” offerings that still rages today. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we look at the origins of the 2000 Mk 1, its links to its Rover P6 arch-rival, and the first 2.5 PI.
Continue Reading Class Acts, Part 1: The Triumph 2000 and 2.5 PI Mk 1
With the debut of the TR4A in 1965, Triumph finally had a sports car with a modern fully independent suspension to match its crisp Italian styling, but the company soon decided the TR needed more power and a fresh suit of clothes. The results were two familiar-looking cars with completely new engines, followed less than two years later by a fresh-looking model whose specifications were pure déjà vu. In the second part of our history of the TR4, we look at the 1968-1976 Triumph TR5 PI, TR250, and TR6.
Continue Reading Grandfather’s Ax: The Many Evolutions of the Triumph TR4, Part 2: TR5, TR250, and TR6
If you replace a car’s body, a few years later replace its chassis, a few years after that replace the engine, and finally replace the body again, is it still the same car? That is the question posed by the Triumph TR4 and its immediate successors. Introduced in 1961 to replace Standard-Triumph’s popular TR3 sports car, the Michelotti-styled TR4 was less new than its appearance would suggest; it would not be until almost eight years and three name changes later that it would truly become an all-new car. In this installment, we begin our look at the curious evolution of the TR line, starting with the 1961-1967 Triumph TR4 and TR4A.
Continue Reading Grandfather’s Ax: The Many Evolutions of the Triumph TR4, Part 1: TR4 and TR4A
In October 1952, Donald Healey introduced what was to be the most famous car bearing his name: the Austin-Healey 100. It would survive for 15 years in three distinct incarnations, along the way gaining a six-cylinder engine and a formidable competition record. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we examine the origins and evolution of the “big Healeys”: the 1953-1967 Austin-Healey 100, 100-6, and 3000.
Continue Reading A Big Healey History: The Austin-Healey 100, 100-6, and 3000
Inspired by a chance shipboard meeting between Donald Healey and the president of Nash-Kelvinator, the Nash-Healey was one of the first postwar American sports cars and the last of a line of Healey cars originally developed for a postwar revival of Triumph. This month, we examine the birth of the Donald Healey Motor Company and take a look at the history of the 1951-1954 Nash-Healey, including its later Pinin Farina-styled iterations and its short but impressive competition career.
Continue Reading Born on a Boat: Donald Healey and the Story of the Nash-Healey
The Triumph TR7 emerged from the most tumultuous period in the history of the British auto industry — the last and most controversial of a long line of Triumph sports cars. In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we examine the tangled history of the 1975-1981 Triumph TR7; its V8-powered sibling, the short-lived Triumph TR8; and Triumph itself.
Continue Reading Way of the Wedge: The Triumph TR7 and TR8
The Jaguar XJS, introduced in 1975, remains one of the most controversial models ever to emerge from Browns Lane: a heavyweight GT far removed from its predecessor, the immortal E-type. Nonetheless, it survived for almost 21 years, enduring some of the most tumultuous periods of Jaguar’s history. This week, we look at the development and lengthy evolution of the XJ-S from 1975 to 1996.
Continue Reading The Nine Lives of the Jaguar XJS
As we saw in our first installment, by the mid-sixties, the MGB had become one of the world’s best-selling sports cars. Not even its most loyal fans, however, would have imagined that it would survive for 18 years — or that it would rise again barely a decade after its demise. This week, we present the second half of our history of the MGB, including the 1971-1981 MGB, the 1966-1981 MGB GT, the MGB GT V8, and the MG RV8.
Continue Reading All the Way from A to B: The History of the MGB, Part Two
In the same way that the 1955 Chevy defined an era of American cars, the MGB was the archetypal English roadster of the 1960s. It was not the fastest, the most sophisticated, or even the cheapest of its kind, but for nearly 20 years, it was the default choice among inexpensive sports cars. This week, we look at the history of the ubiquitous 1962-1970 MGB roadster.
Continue Reading All the Way from A to B: The History of the MGB, Part One