The NEC Classic Motor Show is the annual year-end celebration of the classic car world. Everyone who loves retro motors makes sure they’re there, either visiting or, as we discovered, joining the many thousands in exhibiting.
Whatever your taste, there are classics on show, as our run-through below of the many different types of hot hatch at Birmingham this year showcase.
So join us for a video tour of the 2018 NEC Classic Motor Show – and keep an eye out for our review of a rather special collection of Porsches on show…
NEC Classic Motor Show: the best hot hatchbacks
We Brits love a hot hatchback: from cruises to concours events, they’re a huge part of our motoring culture. The NEC Classic Motor Show in Birmingham is stuffed with pocket rockets of all kinds, from roadgoing rally cars to a twin-engined Mini.
Here are some of the highlights.
Ford Escort RS Cosworth
We kick off with a legendary fast Ford. The Escort RS Cosworth was a true homologation special, conceived to win rallies rather than show-and-shine competitions. Mechanically, it had more in common with the Sierra Sapphire than the much-maligned Mk5 Escort, packing a 227hp Cosworth YBT engine and four-wheel drive. That ‘whale tail’ wing was optional on later cars – deleting it added 3mph to the top speed.
MG Metro 6R4
From one rally rocket to another, meet the MG Metro 6R4. Designed to race in Group B alongside the Audi Quattro and Peugeot 205 T16, the mid-engined 6R4 is perhaps the most aggressive (and absurd?) looking hot hatchback ever. Sadly, it only finished one race before Group B was banned, but the car maintains a cult following today.
Volkswagen Golf Rallye
Our third rally refugee comes in the squared-off shape of the Golf Rallye. Based on the Mk2 GTI, the Rallye added a wider track, Syncro four-wheel drive and a G-Lader supercharger that boosted its 1.8-litre engine to 160hp. Like the 6R4, the Rallye never lived up to expectations but is highly sought-after today. Many have been tuned to 200hp and beyond using a smaller supercharger pulley.
Talbot Sunbeam Lotus SII
Remember the Proton Satria GTI? Well, it wasn’t the first hot hatch created with help from Lotus. Nineteen years earlier, the Talbot Sunbeam boasted a tuned Lotus engine, two-tone paint and pukka rallying pedigree. A 152hp output was serious stuff in 1979, and the Sunbeam’s rear-wheel-drive chassis served up engaging handling, too. It’s a rare beast – both then and now.
Peugeot 309 GTI Goodwood Dimma
The Peugeot 309 GTI is the (relatively) forgotten notch-backed twin of the 205 GTI, using the same engine as the famous hot hatch with different rear bodywork. Just 395 Goodwood editions were built, all in this stunning green shade. You may have noticed the wider wheelarches and dished split-rim alloys on this unique Dimma-bodied example. The coolest hot hatch at the NEC Classic Motor Show?
Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evo 2
The Delta Integrale is one of the definitive hot hatch rally heroes: blistered, bloated and bestowed with extra power by the demands of the World Rally Championship. This Evo 2 model is (short of a Delta S4) about as wide and mad as Deltas get – and one of just 205 cars manufactured in 1994. It looks stunning in Lagos Blue.
Fiat Abarth 695 Essesse
Everyone remembers the original Mini Cooper S. For budget thrill-seekers in the 1960s, though, there was only one way to go: an Abarth-fettled Fiat 500. This 695 Essesse is an immaculate slice of classic Abarth madness, complete with permanently open engine bay (for cooling). Streched wheelarches and dished alloys help render most Minis invisible by comparison.
BMW was keen to capitalise on the Mini’s rallying success, and built a couple of four-wheel-drive prototypes – nicknamed ‘Twinis’. The first, developed by John Cooper Garages, was destroyed when Cooper himself crashed it. The second, powered by Downton Engineering, was entered into the 1963 Targa Florio but suffered a rear engine radiator failure. This is a fully-functional Twini replica.
Ford Fiesta RS Turbo
In 1990, Autocar & Motor said the Fiesta RS Turbo was “a crude performance machine that offers no finesse and little reward to the skilled driver”. Ford added a Garrett T2 turbocharger to the XR2i engine for 133hp and a top speed of 133mph. However, the feisty Fiesta gained a reputation for wayward torque steer and an unsophisticated chassis. There are better ways to spend five figures today.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk7
You could argue the current, seventh-generation Golf GTI is the best all-round hot hatch ever made. We wouldn’t disagree. Despite subtle styling, it offers punchy acceleration allied with excellent build quality, agile handling and a supple ride. We’ll have ours with the Performance Pack and a manual gearbox, please.
Fiat Strada Abarth 130TC
With 130hp, the Strada Abarth was one of the most powerful hot hatches of its era. It was unusual for having twin carburettors when all rivals had adopted fuel injection – and could hit 62mph in 7.8 seconds, plus 121mph flat-out. The hot Strada was called Ritmo in Europe and didn’t have the Recaro seats fitted as standard in the UK. Rust has claimed most of them, making this beautiful example a real rarity.
Ford Focus RS Mk2
The Mk2 Focus RS was quite controversial in its day. It was a bit heavy, front-wheel drive and seemed compromised alongside contemporary offerings from Renault. What it did have in its arsenal was that incredible 300hp turbocharged five-cylinder engine, sweet handling and the option of luminous Ultimate Green paint (sadly not specified here). This example is up for sale with Silverstone Auctions.
MG Maestro Turbo
Certain folk in the MR office will get unreasonably excited about this. Like the aforementioned Strada Abarth, the ultimate Maestro used a carburettor-fed engine – albeit this time with a turbocharger. Top speed was 128mph, while a Tickford bodykit and cross-spoke alloys add a dash of style. The swansong for Austin Rover before it became simply ‘Rover’, only 505 MG Maestro Turbos were made.
Renault Clio V6
The Clio V6 begs the question: who at Renault said “yes” to this? We’re sure glad they did, though. The mid-engined Clio is one of the craziest (and scariest in pre-facelift form) hot hatches of the last 20 years. Inside, you’d be hard pressed to tell it was anything more than just a Clio, until you look behind and see the engine where the rear seats used to be….
Vauxhall Chevette HSR
Cars homologated for rallying are a recurring theme in this round-up – and the Chevette HSR is no different. This pint-sized road racer packs a 2.3-litre 16v engine, complemented by lightweight fibreglass body panels. Just look at those brutally blistered wheelarches. Only 50 HSR-spec Chevettes were made to meet Group 4 regulations.
MG Metro 1300 Sport
This late-model MG Metro was one of the last; within a year, it would be replaced by the Rover Metro, which came in hot GTi guise. The pumped-up Austin Metro didn’t have the warmest following when new, but it’s becoming a bit of a collectable now – particularly in such pristene condition as this.
Ford Focus RS Mk1
A difficult follow-up to the Escort Cosworth, the Focus RS had neither all-wheel-drive or a Cosworth motor. What it did have was 212hp, a cracking bodykit, bucket seats and a proper limited-slip diff. This was the beginning of a new golden age of the hot hatch, where clever engineering would define some of the best fun cars you could buy on a budget. Don’t expect to find a Mk1 going cheap these days, mind.
More hot hatches from the 2018 NEC Classic Motor Show