All mouth: the biggest car front grilles

Biggest car front grilles

Nothing says “out of my way, peasant” quite like a stonking great front grille, which is probably why Bentley has created a mahoosive matrix grille for its EXP 100 GT vision of the future. Inspired by Bentley’s big, mean grilling machine, we’ve gone off in search of some massive grilles.

BMW 7 Series

Biggest car front grilles

The front grille on the new BMW 7 Series is officially 40 percent larger than the grille on its predecessor and unofficially 400 percent less tasteful. See also the new BMW X7 SUV.

Aston Martin DBS GT Zagato

Biggest car front grilles

The Aston Martin DBS GT Zagato will feature 108 individual diamond-shaped carbon fibre pieces that will remain flush with the car when stationary. However, upon start-up, the DBS GT Zagato will “appear to flutter into life” as each piece opens to allow the V12 engine to breathe. Coming to an influencer’s Instagram account near you soon.

Lexus RX

Biggest car front grilles

The Lexus ‘spindle grille’ is big, overpowering, tasteless, needlessly aggressive and ugly. Counterpoint: the Lexus ‘spindle grille’ is a welcome change from the me-too designs and boring front-ends, especially in the crowded SUV segment. Discuss.

Toyota Camry

Biggest car front grilles

At weekends, the Toyota Camry likes nothing better than to lurk in the depths of the ocean, trawling for small fish before ‘hoovering’ them up with its great big mouth.

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Biggest car front grilles

You’ve heard of the phrase ‘all mouth and no trousers’? In fairness to the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, it has the, erm, trousers to go with the big mouth.

Peugeot 407 Coupe

Biggest car front grilles

How do you follow the beautiful, elegant and stylish 406 Coupe? If you’re Peugeot, the answer is the 407 Coupe. Oh dear.

Audi A8

Biggest car front grilles

In common with Lexus, Audi is going through a ‘big grille’ phase. It’s like Alan Partridge’s ‘big plate’ thing, but without the bacon and eggs. And good humour. And views on the pedestrianisation of Norwich city centre.

Edsel

Biggest car front grilles

Time magazine likened the Edsel’s front grille to an “Oldsmobile sucking on a lemon”. Stick a Scream mask in there and you’d give children nightmares for years to come.

Mercedes-AMG GT R

Biggest car front grilles

In 1952, a vulture famously hit a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL driven by Karl Kling in the Carrera Panamericana, shattering the windscreen and injuring the co-driver Hans Klenk. A protective grille was placed over the windscreen to allow the racers to continue and subsequently win the race. The modern Panamericana grille is a nod to that famous race and incident.

Cadillac Eldorado

Biggest car front grilles

The 1959 Cadillac Eldorado was known for its huge fins and massive grille, complete with a jewel-like pattern. It’s an example of function and form working in harmony to great effect.

Toyota Corolla

Biggest car front grilles

Toyota wants to make sure everybody knows that the Corolla name has returned to the UK, which is why it has given the new car A MASSIVE GRILLE.

Chevrolet Silverado

Biggest car front grilles

The Chevrolet Silverado is basically a pick-up attached to a grille. Chervolet’s take: if you can’t beat the Ford F-150 in the sales chart, simply pummel it into submission with a grille the size of New Hampshire.

1957 Chrysler 300C

Biggest car front grilles

In his book The Life of the Automobile: A New History of the Motor Car, Steven Parissien describes the 1957 Chrysler 300C as having a “yawning” front grille. Which is kind of apt, because you’re probably tired of looking at this selection of grilles. Still, just another 16 to go…

Bentley Mulsanne

Biggest car front grilles

Now we understand. By introducing the industrial-size grille on the Mulsanne, Bentley was merely preparing the world for the sheer horror/majesty (delete as applicable) illuminated grille found on the EXP 100 GT. Like a warning from history.

Ford EcoSport

Biggest car front grilles

The Ford EcoSport: a car that makes the cock-eyed squid look like Scarlett Johansson.

Rover P5

Biggest car front grilles

A car so beloved of ministerial big wigs just happened to sport a big grille. The Rover P5 is a rare example of a supersize grille being used to great effect.

Toyota Yaris

Biggest car front grilles

The US-spec Yaris started life as a Scion IA, but was given a Toyota badge when the Scion brand was phased out. If you’re looking for a supermini to remove the detritus from the bottom of the fish tank, this is the car for you.

GMC Sierra HD

Biggest car front grilles

‘Bold’, ‘striking’ and larger’ are just three of the words GMC has used to describe the grille on the Sierra HD. This thing will devour insects and low-flying birds like Homer Simpson scoffing donuts at an all-you-can-eat night at Dunkin’.

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera OHMSS

Biggest car front grilles

In a homage to the DBS featured in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the eponymous Aston Martin DBS Superleggera boasts a bespoke with six horizontal vanes. It’s not subtle, but it’s likely to be better than a grilling from Irma Bunt.

Toyota Passo

Biggest car front grilles

The facelifted Toyota Passo is the only car to be influenced by the astonished emoji. Probably.

Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6

Biggest car front grilles

We must remember to clean the barbecue before the weekend…

Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo

Biggest car front grilles

Seriously, Mercedes-Benz, enough with the big grilles already.

Genesis G90

Biggest car front grilles

Genesis has eyes on the premium prize, which is why it has given the G90 a stonking great front grille. Well, if it’s good enough for the Germans, it’s good enough for Genesis.

Rolls-Royce Phantom

Biggest car front grilles

Rolls-Royce is the godfather of the big grille, but while its grilles are larger than Blenheim Palace, they never seem to look out of place below the Spirit of Ecstacy.

Dodge Caravan

Biggest car front grilles

The Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager were early pioneers of the MPV formula. The front grille stretched across almost the entire width of the vehicle.

Spyker C8

Biggest car front grilles

Reviewing the Spyker C8 for Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson likened the front grille to a “bottom feeder”, before saying that “it is Dutch… and they like that kind of thing”.

Toyota Avalon

Biggest car front grilles

The Toyota Avalon’s front grille is so big, legend has it that if you look hard enough, you’ll see King Arthur’s sword Excalibur.

Lincoln MKC

Biggest car front grilles

The front of the Lincoln MKC is as appealing as finding a nostril hair in your gazpacho.

Kia Telluride

Biggest car front grilles

Here’s another example of the Koreans hoping to mix it with the premium Germans by going large with the front grille. Thanks for sticking with us for the duration of this gallery. Coming next: the 30 worst things to find in your gazpacho.

Ford Capri 280: the car that kept its promise

Ford Capri 280

These are strange times. In March 2016, a Ford Capri 280 sold at auction for a world record price of £54,000. Think about that for a moment – a 1987 Ford Capri for a tad less than the price of a brand new Porsche 718 Cayman T. So what’s the appeal? To celebrate the Capri’s 50th anniversary, we take a look at the very last Capri 280 off the line.

Ford Capri 280: what are its rivals?

Ford Capri 280

The Capri faced a number of challengers throughout the 70s and 80s, but few had the universal appeal of the blue collar icon. Ford billed it as the ‘car you always promised yourself’ and it was, to all intents and purposes, the European equivalent of the Ford Mustang.

And much like the American pony car, it was based on a more humble platform. For while the Mustang was a Ford Falcon in a fancy dress, the Capri was little more than a Cortina in a posh frock. But it struck a chord with the British motorist – a blue-badged coupe for the blue collar masses.

By the time the last-of-the-line Capri 280 was rolled out, the car you always promised yourself was becoming a relic in a changing world. Teenage kicks were being provided by a new breed of young upstarts in the form of hot hatches – the Capri felt well past its sell-by date.

Ford Capri 280: what engine does it use?

Ford Capri 280 engine

In his excellent book Capri: The Development & Competition History of Ford’s European GT Car, Jeremy Walton credits the 2.8-litre fuel-injected engine as prolonging the life of the Ford Capri. It was left to the newly-established Special Vehicle Engineering (SVE) to mate the Capri with the Bosch K-Jetronic V6 engine, first seen in the Ford Granada.

It was a match made in heaven: the 2.8i would evolve from an early four-speed manual into a five-speed 2.8 injection Special, complete with limited slip differential. The company made no mechanical changes to the 280, so the claimed 160hp remained the official output.

Officially, the original 2.8i offered a 130mph top speed and a 0-60mph time of 7.9 seconds, but as Walton explains, the heavier injection Special trim, five-speed gearbox and limited slip differential would have blunted the performance.

Ford Capri 280: what’s it like to drive?

Ford Capri 280 driven

The Capri III was essentially a development of the earlier Capri II, which dates back to 1974, so even in 1987, this Capri 280 would have felt like something from a different era. But it was a suitable last hurrah for a much-loved car.

Ford built 1,038 Capri 280s, each one painted in ‘Brooklands’ green, which is why so many people refer to the car as the Capri 280 Brooklands. The driving position is quite unlike anything else on the road, as you peer out across the Capri’s delightfully long bonnet, complete with central ‘power bulge’.

The Capri rocks from side to side as you blip the throttle, bringing to mind the feeling of being at the wheel of an American muscle car, primed and ready to tame a dragstrip. The grey ‘Raven’ full leather Recaro seats, contrasted by red piping, are both comfortable and supportive.

By today’s standards, the Capri’s performance is timid, verging on lethargic. But it delivers its power with proper grunt and an appropriate soundtrack. This a proper front-engine, rear-wheel drive hero, meaning it’s not hard to get the tail wagging. Naturally, you have to wind down the window (no electric gubbins here) in order to adopt the authentic ‘Capri elbow’ driving position.

Ford Capri 280: reliability and running costs

Ford Capri 280 dials

The Ford Capri dates from a time when DIY servicing wasn’t a problem and it shouldn’t be too hard to keep a 280 on the road. That said, given the rarity value, not to mention the associated prices, you’ll want to ensure the 280 is kept in a condition faithful to when the last cars rolled off the Cologne production line.

A well-maintained 2.8-litre V6 engine should be reliable, but regular oil changes are essential. Also check the differential, as a whining noise could result in a costly rebuild.

As for fuel economy, don’t expect to get anything above 25mpg, but seriously, who cares about fuel consumption when you’re at the wheel of a Capri 280? Just sit back and enjoy the drive. With your right elbow resting on the door…

Ford Capri 280: could I drive it every day?

Ford Capri 280 interior

You could, but you probably shouldn’t. At the very least we’d recommend running a Capri 280 only during summer months, because corrosion can be a constant menace. The front wings, rear arches and bumpers tend to rust for a pastime, and although pattern parts are available, it’s preferable to maintain some originality.

On the plus side, the 280 has enough power to keep up with modern traffic and the Capri entered the new millennium with its reputation restored. Drive one today and you will turn heads. As we made our way through the suburbs, we were greeted with smiles and the occasional thumbs up. This wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago.

Ford Capri 280: how much should I pay?

Ford Capri 280 auction

This is the million dollar question. The Ford Capri 280 sold by Silverstone Auctions (pictured) was almost factory-fresh, with a mere 936 miles on the clock, but its sale does have the potential to boost the values of other 280s.

Indeed, there was a rare G-registered 280 on eBay for the mildly ambitious price of £100,000, although the seller openly admitted “it’s not worth £100k.” With reference to the G-plate, Ford struggled to shift the 280, not least because the £11,999 price tag was wildly optimistic. But it helps to explain why you’ll find some D, E, F and even G-registered cars.

The Hagerty valuation tool lists the Capri 280 at anything between £12,000 and £28,500, with concours examples valued at £50,000. Original and low mileage Capri 280s will command the strongest prices.

Ford Capri 280: what should I look out for?

Ford Capri 280 review

You’ll need to confirm your Capri 280 is actually a Capri 280. Given the values over standard Capri 2.8 injection Specials, unscrupulous types might be prepared to create a 280 using Brooklands green paint, a leather interior and 15-inch alloy wheels.

The brooklands280 website contains a handy tool enabling you to check your build number using the car’s engine/chassis number. Some Capri 280s were squirrelled away for future investment purposes, so don’t be surprised to find many low mileage examples.

Ford Capri 280: should I buy one?

Ford Capri 280 test

Like so many last-of-the-line models, the Capri 280 was a cosmetic exercise, but it always felt like so much more than a marketing special. Many tears were shed when the Capri disappeared from the Ford brochure, so there’s is a great deal of fondness for the European Mustang.

Whether or not it’s worth spending the extra cash required to secure a 280 over a standard 2.8i is a matter of opinion. You’ll get just as much enjoyment from a Capri 2.8i, but may have to live without the potential for a huge return on your investment. If we were forced to choose, we’d opt for a mint 2.8 injection Special or an earlier 3.0S.

Ford Capri 280: pub fact

Ford Capri 280 badge

The Ford Capri 280 was destined to be the Capri 500, until Ford bosses had a change of heart. A run of 500 cars was planned, with Ford even going as far as to create the Capri 500 decals. But when Ford realised it had 1,038 bodyshells left, it decided to build 1,038 Capri 280s.

The Caterham sports car that could have been brilliant

Caterham Cars visit

You’re looking at a tragic missed opportunity. This is the stillborn Caterham coupe codenamed ‘C120’ – the joint-venture with Alpine that became the A110. Sadly, Caterham was unable to match Renault’s investment and withdrew from the project in 2014. With hints of Jaguar F-Type and Ford Puma, this curvaceous full-size clay model shows what could have been.

Clay pride

Caterham Cars visit

Alpine and Caterham began working together in 2012. The French wanted to re-launch their defunct sports car brand and the Brits hoped for a more mainstream model to complement the back-to-basics Seven. The plan was to build 6,000 cars a year, split evenly between the two brands. These were the heady days when Caterham had its own Formula One team, remember. Anything seemed possible.

Gatwick express

Caterham Cars visit

A manual gearbox was mooted, something the production Alpine doesn’t have. And the C120 would likely have spawned a GT4 race car. Given the rapturous acclaim the A110 has received, the prospect of a Caterham version is a poignant one for petrolheads. This model is now displayed at Caterham Cars’ showroom near Gatwick – alongside other highlights from the marque’s history. Read on for a guided tour.

A British car to beat the world

Seventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Today, Caterham is back to being a one-model marque. Nonetheless, with a car as unique and iconic as the Seven, there’s still plenty to get excited about. Launched in 1957 as the Lotus Seven, Caterham has manufactured the retro-look roadster since 1973. A six-month waiting list suggests it has plenty of life in it yet.

Read our first drive of the Caterham Seven Sprint

Top Gear track starSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

This Seven Superlight R500 takes pride of place in the Caterham Cars’ foyer. It’s the very same Seven that blitzed the Top Gear test track in 1min 17.9sec in 2008 – earning the team’s Car of the Year accolade in the process.

Endorsed by Hammond – and the StigSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

With a 267hp 2.0-litre Ford Duratec engine, the R500 explodes to 60mph in just 2.88sec. Richard Hammond remarked: “The Caterham is faster than the £1m Veyron. What an amazing little car!” The Stig, meanwhile, declined to comment. But we suspect he approved…

The bare essentialsSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Inside, the Superlight lives up to its name, with nothing but the essentials for fast driving. Note the racing-style Stack instruments, gearshift indicator lights above the steering wheel and six-speed sequential manual gearbox. Serious stuff.

Caterham Seven SprintSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

At the opposite end of the Seven spectrum is the limited-edition Sprint. Only 60 examples of this retro-look roadster were made, to celebrate 60 years of the Seven. Launched at the Goodwood Revival in 2016, it was sold-out within a week.

Old-school coolSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The Sprint resembles the original Lotus Seven, with flared front wings, a powder-coated grey chassis, cream steel wheels, a polished exhaust and classic-style badges. Underneath, however, it has a modern three-cylinder Suzuki engine.

Into the redSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Inside, the Sprint boasts sumptuous scarlet leather, retro Smiths gauges and a wood-rimmed Moto-Lita steering wheel. The only options are armrests, a tonneau cover, stainless steel rear wing guards and a lower floor for extra cabin space. Squint and you could be in a Jaguar E-Type – or any other 1960s British sports car.

Plaque in blackSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

There’s also a numbered plaque in front of the passenger showing which of the 60 cars is yours. The Sprint is a surefire future classic, so little details like this matter. Note that Caterhams are now built in Dartford, Kent – rather than their original home of Caterham in Surrey.

Sprint and SuperSprint

Caterham Cars visit

The success of the Sprint led Caterham to launch the Seven Supersprint (left) a year later. Another evocative retro remake, it was again limited to 60 units, but this time the production run sold out in seven hours. Very apt.

Wet and wild

Caterham Cars visit

With tiny aero screens and no doors, weather protection on the SuperSprint is best described as ‘rudimentary’ (you could also opt for a conventional windscreen and roof). Delicious details include an aluminium cut-off switch, chrome mirrors and a Sebring-style fuel filler cap, plus a range of period paint colours and decals.

Chairman of the broad

Caterham Cars visit

One of the (many) unusual things about the Seven is that its wheels stand proud of the chassis. That makes the cabin surprisingly narrow – and a tight squeeze for tall drivers. The £2,500 wide chassis option seen here helps counter this, increasing the overall width of the car from 1,575mm to 1,685mm.

Caterham AeroSeven conceptSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Fast-forwarding into the future, here’s the fabulous AeroSeven concept car. It was unveiled at the Singapore Grand Prix and could have been the replacement for the ageing Seven. However, budgets were tight and customers weren’t convinced, so the Seven lives on.

Packed with F1 techSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The AeroSeven featured plenty of tech from Caterham’s F1 exploits, including inboard pushrod suspension, launch control and advanced aerodynamics. It’s powered by a 240hp Ford Duratec engine and reaches 60mph in ‘less than four seconds’.

Naked launchSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

We love all the naked carbonfibre inside the AeroSeven, although it doesn’t exactly look cosseting. Still, who cares about fripperies like a windscreen when you’re driving something this cool? We want one.

Caterham 21Seventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The stillborn 21 is another Caterham that could have replaced the Seven: indeed, most used the same Rover K-Series engines. It was launched in 1994 and remained in production for five years, yet only 48 cars were made.

A softer SevenSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The 21’s interior is certainly more accommodating than a Seven (not hard, admittedly) – and it’s more practical, too. However, the shape of the doors means the windows don’t wind down. If you want a side-draught, you need to remove them altogether.

It’s the Mondeo, manSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

An extra point if you spotted that the 21’s tail lights come from the Ford Mondeo. It also used front indicators from the Suzuki Cappuccino and wing mirrors from the Rover 200. Such parts were simply too expensive for Caterham to make in-house.

The Lotus positionSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The main reason for the 21’s failure was the launch of the Lotus Elise soon afterwards. The car from Norfolk was better resolved and more fun to drive: the Caterham didn’t stand a chance. Ironically, Caterham Cars had this lovely S1 Elise for sale in its showroom. A trade-in against a new Seven, perhaps?

Caterham SP/300.RSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Hardcore, you know the score… This is the track-only Caterham SP/300.R, a joint project with British racing car constructor, Lola. With a supercharged 300hp engine (355hp on overboost), this four-wheeled weapon will reach 170mph. If you’re brave enough.

The ultimate track-day toySeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Caterham says of the SP/300.R: “The feeling of the car beneath you, inspiring you to push boundaries. The aggression of the forces acting on your body. The satisfaction of placing the car with absolute precision. The way the car communicates with you, constantly feeding a stream of data to every sense, synapse and nerve ending. Only a true driver knows these feelings. This is driving.” Well, quite.

The wheel dealSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The SP/300.R’s steering wheel is pure racing car, with gearshift indicator lights and a button for calling the pits. Spot the yellow ‘Pass’ button the right – used to give an extra power boost for overtaking. The sequential gearlever is also to the right of the wheel.

Prisoner of phwoarSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

A classic Seven in for a service. It’s painted green and yellow – the same colours as the Lotus Seven that famously featured in 1960s TV drama series, The Prisoner. Interestingly, the ‘KAR 120C’ registration plate of the Prisoner Seven is still owned by Caterham Cars.

Caterham Seven ClassicSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

This lovely 2006 Classic would make a great starter Seven, with a 120hp 1.4-litre K-Series engine and just 7,441 miles on the clock. It’s advertised at £14,995 – further proof that Sevens simply don’t depreciate.

Kamui Kobayashi EditionSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Just 10 examples of this lightweight, single-seat Seven were made. Designed by Caterham F1 Team’s Japanese driver, Kamui Kobayashi, it boasts a limited-slip differential, plenty of carbon fibre and a dashboard signed by Kamui himself. Yours for £34,995.

Mini Me Seven 620R

Caterham Cars visit

A first glance, this cut-down, single-seat Seven 620R looks terrifying. However, it’s powered by batteries rather than a 306hp supercharged Ford Duratec. Probably for the best.

Cutaway CaterhamSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Want to make your Seven even lighter? Why not remove the bodywork altogether? In truth, this stripped-down 160 is a show car – designed to reveal the inner workings of the Seven. A lot has changed since 1957…

Powered by SuzukiSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

That 660cc Suzuki engine might be small, but it still looks a snug fit beneath the Seven’s low-slung bonnet. No wonder all those louvres are needed to keep it cool. Imagine how hot the 306hp 620R parked next to it must get.

Sporty suspensionSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Here’s a closer look at the Seven’s double wishbone suspension, which delivers taut handling and keeps weight to a minimum. A variety of set-ups are available, for road or track use. The cheaper Seven 160 and Sprint models use a live rear axle.

Do it yourselfSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

If you’re handy with a spanner, you can save around £3,400 by building a Seven yourself. Caterham supplies a painted chassis with wiring loom, dashboard, fuel tank, fuel lines, brake pipes and pedal box already fitted. Reckon on 80-100 hours to complete the job, after which your car will have to pass an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) test.

Lotus Cosworth T127Seventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Like the Seven itself, the short-lived Caterham F1 Team began life under the Lotus banner. This Lotus T127 has a Cosworth V8 engine and was raced by Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen in the 2010 season. Sadly, it never managed a podium finish.

The car that became a CaterhamSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Team Lotus was rebranded as Caterham F1 Team at the end of 2011, at the behest of Caterham’s charismatic owner, Tony Fernandes. The decision followed a legal battle between Team Lotus and the rival Group Lotus over the use of the name in F1.

Caterham CT01Seventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Caterham F1 Team made its debut in 2012 with the CT01, powered by a 2.4-litre Renault V8 and piloted by Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov. Its best result was an 11th-place finish at the final grand prix of the year in Brazil.

Going with the flowSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Just look at the design of the Caterham CT01’s carbonfibre front wing. It ain’t pretty, but it sure is effective. The car hits 100mph in 2.5 seconds, with a top speed of 225mph. No Seven even comes close.

Caterham kartSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

If all that sounds a bit intense, we also discovered this rather cool Caterham-branded kart in the corner of the showroom. Cue cliché about ‘go-kart handling’, etc…

Grass-roots motorsportSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Speaking of racing, Caterham runs no less than six Seven-based series, depending on your talent and budget. The Caterham Academy is the first rung on the ladder, with road-legal cars and seven points-scoring events throughout the year. This 2011 Academy racer was for sale at £17,995.

Caterham Tracksport racerSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Tracksport is Caterham’s mid-range racing championship. The number of rounds increases to 14, with each race lasting 30 minutes. The cars are no longer road-legal, so you’ll need a trailer as well.

One careful ownerSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

For serious Seven racers, there’s the Superlight R300-S Championship. A car alone will cost you £38,000 – and you’ll spend plenty more on consumables and travel. This particular R300-S was driven by Dan Prosser, a motoring journalist for EVO magazine.

Simplify, then add lightnessSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The ghost of Colin Chapman looms large at Caterham Cars. Indeed, his famous mantra: “Simplify, then add lightness” is writ large on the wall. Ironically, this is actually a heavier Seven SV: the wide-bodied version for drivers with, well, wider bodies.

Out of the blocksSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

This year, the Seven has been replicated in Lego as part of a new 770-piece kit. It includes fully-detailed engine, removable nosecose, opening boot and axle stands that allow the wheels to be removed. One for the Christmas list.

A simple formula for successSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The Caterham Seven might look old-fashioned, but don’t be deceived. A process of continuous evolution has kept this much-loved icon at the top of its game – putting smiles on faces and embarrassing Bugatti Veyrons along the way. Let’s hope it’s still going strong in another 60 years.

Caterham in CrawleySeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Caterham Cars’ showroom in Crawley is open to the public if you’d like to see these cars, and many others. They can also arrange test-drives if you are looking to buy. Just don’t expect to drive a Seven and go home without wanting one…

Game, Set and Match: tennis stars and supercars

Wimbledon 2019 Tennis and Cars

Ah, Wimbledon: two weeks of dodging the showers, eating seriously expensive strawberries and cream, Sue Barker making smalltalk when the covers on and the entire nation pinning its hopes on one Scottish British tennis player.

But enough of all that – show us the cars…

Jaguar Ace Pace

Wimbledon 2019 Tennis and Cars

In readiness for Wimbledon 2019, Jaguar developed a new app for your phone that lets you measure how fast your tennis serve is. Winners get prizes, including the opportunity to compete at Wimbledon for real, along with tickets for matches. The Ace Pace app uses accelerometers, which means you have to swing your phone like a racket. That’d be an interesting call to your insurance company…

Andy Murray ‘goes electric’

Wimbledon 2019 Tennis and Cars

In June 2018, Andy Murray delivered on his promise to ‘go electric’ by taking delivery of a Jaguar I-Pace. It no doubt serves to keep the tennis star’s conscience clear, and Jaguar’s PR team happy.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake

Wimbledon 2019 Tennis and Cars

There’s no need to adjust your set, this Jaguar XF Sportbrake is indeed covered in a tennis ball camo wrap. It was part of a campaign culminating in the estate being unveiled by Andy Murray, before being sent on a nationwide tour with the Wimbledon trophy inside. “Letting go of the trophy will be difficult, but there’s no better vehicle than the Jaguar XF Sportbrake to take it on this UK tour,” said Murray (via the Jaguar press office).

Murray makes a mint

For 2016, Jaguar UK signed up Andy Murray as a brand ambassador to promote its #FeelWimbledon campaign, which involves a 360-degree virtual reality tour of Centre Court through the eyes of the British number one. Jaguar is also keen to point out that Murray owned an F-Type Coupe and had a new F-Pace  on order.

Andy Murray smashes Jaguar F-Type SVR

Keen to maximise the return on its investment, Jaguar sent Andy Murray to Thruxton and asked him to serve at a target mounted to the back of a Jaguar F-Type SVR (here, he’s getting his eye in with an XE). The Jaguar just happened to be driven by John McEnroe and Murray served an ace as the car sped past at 130mph. This must have been as strange for Murray as it was for us to write.

Advantage, Jaguar

In 2015, Jaguar announced a five-year deal to become the official car partner to the All England Tennis Club for Wimbledon. As part of the agreement, Jaguar supplies 170 vehicles to the London venue throughout the two-week tournament. No wonder the traffic is so bad on the streets of Wimbledon.

Rolls-Royce and the Tennis Classic

Away from Wimbledon, the stars at this year’s Tennis Classic at Hurlingham will be chauffeured around in a selection of Rolls-Royce models. The likes of Marin Cilic, David Ferrer and Richard Gasquet will escape the showers courtesy of a Phantom and a Ghost. At least they’ll have access to an umbrella.

The MercedesCup

“The estate version of the new E-Class is all set to be served up at the MercedesCup tennis tournament in Stuttgart.” You serve up the tennis puns, Mercedes-Benz, we’ll volley them home.

Angelique Kerber nets a new Porsche 911

In 2015, Germany’s Angelique Kerber won the Porsche Grand Prix tennis tournament in Germany by beating Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki in the final. Her prize included a Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS. Nice.

Andy Murray and his BMW i8

Meanwhile, over in Munich, Britain’s Andy Murray collected the keys to his new i8 electric supercar after winning the BMW Open tennis tournament. Looks like he’s struggling to get comfy. Probably a good idea if Murray doesn’t mention this car to Jaguar…

Lindsay Davenport and her Porsche 911

Of course, scooping a new car by winning a tennis tournament is nothing new. Here’s American tennis star, Lindsay Davenport and her Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS at the German Porsche Grand Prix tennis tournament in 2004.

Tommy Haas and his BMW Z4

Meanwhile, in 2003, Tommy Haas drove home in a brand new BMW Z4 after beating Philipp Kohlschreiber in the final of the BMW Open tennis tournament in Munich. We won a few tennis tournaments at school, but we were never given a car as a prize. That’s probably because the tournaments were sponsored by the local double-glazing firm and not an international car company. Pictured is a later “Winner” Z4. 

Wimbledon and parking in 1923

But enough of these lavish prizes and on to something more civilised. Wimbledon is of course the oldest tennis tournament in the world. The first championships were held in 1870 and the Olympics arrived in Wimbledon in 1908. The tournament moved to Church Road in 1922 and No.1 Court opened in 1924. Here we see the tennis courts in 1923. You probably had to be someone very special to park this close to the court.

Volksawgen Beetle

How Volkswagen tried and failed to replace the Beetle

Volksawgen Beetle

Too much success can stunt the mind. That can apply to the collective mind of a company just as easily as it can a music artist struggling with that difficult second album.

And back in the late ‘60s, Volkswagen was having exactly this kind of problem with its Beetle.

Volksawgen Beetle

Not that this famous car was anywhere near reaching its popularity peak in 1967, when a 30% sales slump in its native Germany prompted VW’s management to take the challenge of replacing it a whole lot more seriously.

Although it hadn’t been ignoring the task entirely. During that same year VW revealed a whole heap of prototypes to a press becoming increasingly critical at the absence of a Beetle replacement. In fact, VW had developed no less than 70 potential successors since 1952, but none had made production and all shared the same basic rear-engine layout.

Some had been under development for as long as five years before being abandoned, others were simply styling mock-ups. And what they all pointed to, apart from the waste of millions of pounds-worth of r&d money, was the lack of a solid idea for replacing a car that by 1967, had been in quantity production for 22 years, having started life before WW2.

Hitler’s people carrier

Great Motoring Disaster VW Beetle replacement

The ‘Strength-through-Joy’ KdF-wagen was commissioned by one Adolf Hitler from Ferdinand Porsche, the Fuhrer keen for the KdF-wagen to become the affordable car of the people. And it actually became that very thing, though not entirely in the way Hitler had envisaged.

A few were produced before and during the conflict, the war-damaged Wolfsburg plant restarted in 1945 by British Army officer and engineer Major Ivan Hirst. In 1948 he handed over the running of the plant to Heinz Nordhoff, an inspirational ex-Opel manager who expanded production and successfully established excellent sales and service networks for VW overseas, most notably the US where for well over a decade, the Beetle became part of the fabric of North American life.

Great Motoring Disasters VW Beetle replacement

In fact, it was not the only car that Wolfsburg was making. Volkswagen Type 1, as the Beetle was officially known, was joined by Volkswagen Type 2 (pictured above) in 1949, this the almost equally famous Transporter van and its Kombi brother.

Great Motoring Disasters VW Beetle replacement

And in 1961 came the Volkswagen 1500 saloon (pictured above). It was still rear-engined and air-cooled, like a Beetle, still a two-door and still largely uninterested in ploughing a straight line on a breezy day. Despite this the 1500 did well, the Fastback and Variant estate versions helping it to sales of over three million between 1961-73.

The Beetle replacement, take one…

Great Motoring Disaster VW Beetle replacement

But the 1500  wasn’t a replacement for the Beetle. Another prototype came close to doing the job in 1960, when project EA97 got to the point where the production machinery to build it was being installed, and the first 100 pilot-build cars had been assembled.

A rear-engined two-door saloon, it was powered by an 1100cc engine and would have competed with the Hillman Imp, Renault 8, Simca 1000, NSU Prinz and Fiat 850, several of these big sellers.

But as author Russell Hayes’ excellent book ‘The Volkswagen Golf Story’ explains, EA97 was reckoned to be too close to the 1500 saloon – they looked pretty similar, besides – and now that VW had bought the Auto Union company, acquiring the Audi 60 saloon in the process, it suddenly had another in-house competitor.

So EA97 was cancelled at the last minute, losing VW yet more millions. But it was making so much money from the Beetle that this mattered a lot less than it would have done for other car companies.

Great Motoring Disasters VW Beetle replacement

Its next attempt came in the gruesome shape of the 1968 Volkswagen 411, another air-cooled rear-engined car, this time with four doors. Its styling was as tortured as the VW management’s efforts to solve their new Beetle problem, this ugly beast living four short years and selling only 266,000 copies in the process.

By now mild desperation was setting in, Nordhoff’s replacement Kurt Lotz arriving to a largely empty new model cupboard, 411 apart, making him particularly eager for some quick-fix solutions.

Making slow progress

Great Motoring Disasters VW Beetle replacement

One of those came with Volkswagen’s acquisition of NSU, makers of the little Prinz and the radical rotary-engined Ro80 executive saloon. Sitting between these two was a yet-to-be launched modern, front-wheel drive saloon. Crisply styled and glassy, it was a vast improvement on the 411, if far from as gaze-freezingly handsome as the futuristic Ro80, whose design legacy can still be seen in the Audi saloons of today.

Nevertheless, an eager Volkswagen took this NSU design over, relabelled it the VW K70 (pictured above) and optimistically built a new factory capable of making it at the rate of 500 per day.

But like many hastily conceived plans in the motor industry, the K70 soon hit problems. It was expensive to build, sharing almost no parts with other cars in the group, expensive to buy for the same reason and rust-prone. That slowed, sales, as did VW’s activities within other parts of its empire.

Great Motoring Disasters VW Beetle replacement

When it bought Audi in the mid ‘60s it was simply to get its hands on another factory in which to build Beetles, because it couldn’t keep up with demand. Audi’s small 60 saloon (pictured above) continued to be made, but product development director Ludwig Kraus was instructed to halt new model development.

Great Motoring Disasters VW Beetle replacement

Instead he disobeyed, developing a new saloon in secret. It was eventually revealed to VW’s management, who got over their shock and annoyance to approve what became the 1969 Audi 100, pictured above. That car was a big hit, and would eventually keep a money-losing VW afloat, but in the meantime it seriously undermined the appeal of the less than stylish K70 that came a year later, giving VW yet another failure.

Replacing the Beetle bugs VW

Great Motoring Disasters VW Beetle replacement

If the K70 was a piece of misfiring opportunism, the EA266 prototype (pictured above) was the company’s main attempt to properly replace the Beetle. In fact, it was developed mostly by Porsche, whose engineers produced a hatchback with a water-cooled four cylinder that lay flat beneath the rear seats, to drive a gearbox and differential behind it.

In effect, this was a mid-engined hatchback, and development again advanced to the point of tooling being ordered. But despite its sporty mid-engined layout and Porsche parentage, EA266 apparently had handling issues, besides continuously perfuming its cabin with oily engine vapours via an access panel beneath a rear seat that was expected to get progressively grubbier as mechanics removed it to service the engine.

Nevertheless, EA266 was part of a major management review of VW’s new model plans in May 1969, along with a new front-wheel drive hatchback from Audi, its four-cylinder engine mounted longitudinally, and a similar prototype from VW itself whose front wheels were propelled by a Beetle engine.

Great Motoring Disaster VW Beetle replacement

It was this car, codenamed EA235, that would eventually lead to the VW Golf that became the Beetle’s real successor. A variation of it, codenamed EA276 (pictured above), can be found in Volkswagen’s museum.

At last: enter the VW Golf!

Great Motoring Disasters VW Beetle replacement

Neither prototype was a beauty, but one of VW boss Lotz’s best decisions during his brief and troubled career at the helm was to instruct Giorgetto Giugiaro’s ItalDesign to style the car that would become the Golf, pictured in launch guise above.

It would be released in 1974, at the end of seven troubled years that had produced one of the ugliest family cars of the ‘60s in the 411, had proved the riskiness of opportunism with the K70 and ultimately, threatened the very existence of VW itself.

Great Motoring Disasters VW Beetle replacement

And that’s without including all the abandoned prototypes built between 1952 and 1967, VW beginning its long and painful quest for a successor when the post-war Beetle was only seven years old.

But the lesson was learnt – many of us can count our lives out in Golfs, VW now building the seventh version of this car since 1974. And this multi-brand group is a long way from being dependent on only one model, the mighty Golf one of a number of big sellers.

Past master: the Beetle returns

Concept One

There is a footnote here. For decades, the original Beetle was moribund. It was still produced in South America for an increasingly diminishing market, but eventually faded away for good in 2003.

Then came the craze for nostalgia, one arguably accelerated by Volkswagen, which showed a ‘modern’ concept version of the original Beetle in 1994, called Concept One. The world swooned. Production for the Californian-designed concept was approved.

1998: the Volkswagen Beetle is back

New Beeetle

The New Beetle was introduced in 1998. Ironically, it was based on the platform of the car that sealed its fate back in the 70s, the Volkswagen Golf, but this did ensure it drove well.

Built in Mexico, it was shamelessly retro, taking the original cues of the Beetle and exaggerating them with cartoon-like emphasis: the separate wings, round headlamps and tail lamps, rounded roofline and chunky running boards.

New Beetle cuts a dash

New Beeetle

The interior was retro-inspired too. This meant packaging was dreadful, with a tiny boot and cramped, rear seats, but few at the time seemed to mind, because it was so bold. It even came with a vase on the dashboard.

New Beeetle

Yes, a vase.

2011: New Beetle take two

New Beeetle

Sales clearly convinced Volkswagen it was worth replacing. An all-new car arrived in 2011, with more of a fastback profile to the roofline and a more sophisticated, more practical interior – but still clearly a Beetle.

As with the original New Beetle, this second retro recreation also came in convertible guise, and was later offered with a tiny 1.2-litre petrol engine – the smallest since the original model ceased production. Luckily, it was turbocharged, so wasn’t quite as lethargic as the 1960s models…

Today: the Beetle’s second coming comes to an end

New Beeetle

But sales of this second remake never quite took off. And, like the original, soon started to go the wrong way. It seemed the world had moved on: a retro Beetle was nice as a passing fad, but didn’t seem to have staying power.

Rumours had thus circulated for years that this model would be the final Beetle – its second coming would come to an end. On September 13 2018, it was confirmed.

This week, the final Beetle was once again produced, 21 years after it returned from the great scrapyard in the sky. The last models off the line are going to VW’s ever-expanding heritage collection, presumably to sit alongside the previous final Beetle.

Goodbye again, then Volkswagen Beetle. It’s been an interesting ride, for sure…

The 20 greatest go-faster stripes

The go-faster stripe can trace its roots back to the Briggs Cunningham C-2R Le Mans car of 1951, with designer Peter Brock credited for the stripes making the transition from the track to the street. Here are 20 of our favourites from Europe and the United States, plus a bonus offering from South Africa. What stripes would you add to the list?

Shelby Mustang GT350

Peter Brock was working at Shelby American when he was tasked with creating a competition look for the Shelby Mustang GT350 without the use of badges or bespoke body panels. He kept things simple by using GT40-inspired stripes along the side of the car, plus a pair of 10-inch wide ‘Le Mans stripes’ running from front to back. Many of the Wimbledon White cars were delivered without the stripes, with dealers fearful of run-ins with the cops.

Renault 8 Gordini

It didn’t take long for the Europeans to buy into the potential of go-faster stripes. Unveiled at the 1964 Paris Motor Show, the Renault 8 Gordini sported a pair of white stripes on its Bleu de France paintwork. Racing stripes were used to equally good effect on the Renault 12 Gordini and future hot versions of the Clio and Twingo.

Ford Lotus Cortina

The Ford Lotus Cortina was one of the earliest examples of a Q-car, with Autocar labelling it “inconspicuous and deceptive in its speed and acceleration” and that the “neighbours would hardly be impressed unless they were keenly informed”. The clues are there, though, not least the evocative green stripe extending from the front wing to the back of the car.

Hillman Avenger Tiger

The Hillman Avenger Tiger is as 1970s as wearing a pair of bell bottom trousers at a dinner party where ham and banana hollandaise is the main course and glam rock is playing on the Linn LP12 turntable. We love the way the go-faster stripes blend seamlessly into the rear spoiler. That’s neat, that’s neat, that’s neat, that’s neat, etc, etc.

BMW 3.0 CSL

Ford dominated the 1972 European Touring Car Championship, winning 13 out of the 16 races in the season. BMW responded with the upgraded 3.0 CSL of 1973, with absolutely nothing left to chance in the pursuit of giving Ford a bloody nose. The result is one of the most iconic cars of the 1970s and a jaw-dropping paint job.

Ford GT40

Powder blue and marigold. Strawberries and cream. Ant and Dec. Gin and tonic. Four examples of dynamic duos, when two separate entities collide to enrich our lives. Powder blue and marigold are the two paints used to create the highly evocative Gulf Racing colour scheme, showcased here by the Ford GT40.

AMC Gremlin X

Not many cars were designed on an airline sickness bag, but that’s not the only reason to love the AMC Gremlin. The ‘hockey stick’ go-faster stripe introduced on the Gremlin X in 1974 is a triumph of simplicity and 70s charm.

Datsun 160Z

The Datsun 160Z was designed and built at Datsun’s plant in Pretoria and featured a yellow paint job and decals inspired by the 280Z Zap Edition.

Plymouth AAR Cuda

The ‘strobe’ stripes were unique to the AAR Cuda, but as Paul Zazarine points out in his book Barracuda and Challenger, they created problems for Plymouth designer Milt Antonick. “We asked ourselves, how in the world we were going to figure this out? One of the guys in design was a genius in math, and he calculated a four percent increase in block size from segment to segment.”

Chevrolet Chevelle SS

In the case of the Chevrolet Chevelle SS, less is most definitely more. Even though the SS lost some of its lustre in later life, the optional bonnet stripes hinted at more power. And that’s the point of go-faster stripes.

Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-Type

Although, in the case of the Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-Type, stripes can also serve a purpose. The cars featured lateral nose stripes – arranged in lance-corporal, corporal and sergeant military style – to make it easier for the pit crew to tell them apart.

Ford Gran Torino

The Starsky & Hutch Ford Gran Torino, also known as the ‘Striped Tomato’. Automotive televisual perfection.

Vauxhall Viva Brabham

In truth, the Brabham version of the Vauxhall Viva didn’t quite live up to its illustrious name, but it did feature some nice stripes. It was almost like a reverse of the Lotus Cortina, with the stripes running forward from the middle of the door and across the front edge of the bonnet.

Chrysler/Dodge Viper

The Viper introduced a whole new generation to the joy of stripes, which is why it secures a place in his gallery. Don’t agree? Don’t write in, it’s just for fun.

Porsche 911 RSR

In common with Gulf Racing, the Martini Racing Porsche 911 RSR is a prime example of sponsorship and stripes working in perfect harmony. Feel free to save this image to use as your smartphone background.

Bentley Continental GT3-R

Bentley is celebrating its 100th anniversary, so we felt obliged to include one of its go-faster models. We’re sure Woolf Barnato would approve.

Fiat X1/9

In 1977, Autocar said the ‘ladder’ go-faster stripes were “rather gaudy”, but we beg to differ. Note the way they link the front of the car with the cooling vents and beyond them to the rear. The more you look at the Bertone masterpiece, the better it gets. Heck, even the seats feature go-faster stripes.

Lamborghini Huracan Avio

Designed to pay tribute to the world of aviation and aeronautics, the Lamborghini Huracan Avio featured a double stripe – in white or grey – running along the roof and down the bonnet. Because even 610hp supercars need go-faster stripes.

Chevrolet Camaro Z28

There would be riots on the streets if we didn’t include a Chevrolet Camaro, so have some of this triple-striped Z28 goodness. You can almost smell the aftershave.

Ford Cruising Van

B.A. Baracus might not agree, but we reckon this is the best example of a van sporting a set of go-faster stripes. “Inside and out – it’s ready to roll.”

100 years of Bentley: the story so far

100 years of Bentley

The Bentley story is a tale of innovation, success, failure, a loss of identity and a phoenix-like rise from the brink of oblivion. There are enough twists and turns to challenge even the best screenwriter, along with a cast of characters worthy of any Hollywood blockbuster. Here, we attempt to distill the history of Bentley into bite-sized chapters, piecing together the first 100 years of this famous brand.

W.O. Bentley

100 years of Bentley

The story begins with Walter Owen (W.O.) Bentley, the son of a wealthy family living in London. Born in 1888, W.O. Bentley developed a fascination for steam engines and spent five years learning about locomotive engineering at the Great Northern Railway in Doncaster. While working for the railway, W.O. bought a 3hp Quadrant motorcycle and entered the 400-mile London to Edinburgh Trial, finishing with a gold medal. Further trials were entered, and it’s through these competitions that W.O. Bentley developed a love of speed.

Bentley and Bentley

100 years of Bentley

In 1912, W.O. Bentley raised £2,000 and went into partnership with one of his brothers to form Bentley & Bentley: the British Empire concessionaires for Doriot, Flandrin & Parant (DFP). Bentley imported cars from this long forgotten French marque to race at Brooklands, with W.O. Bentley using his experience to extract more power from them.

Inspired by a paperweight

100 years of Bentley

On a trip to the DFP offices in 1913, W.O. Bentley chanced upon an aluminium paperweight and wondered if this material could be used to create lightweight pistons. After some experimentation, he settled on a formula of 88 percent aluminium and 12 percent copper, with the new pistons helping him to set a new 89.7mph flying lap record for a flying mile at Brooklands. W.O. Bentley knew that racing was the best form of publicity for a car company, but his dreams of growth were put on hold by the outbreak of war.

W.O. Bentley’s career takes off

100 years of Bentley

W.O. Bentley was pressed into military service as a captain in the Royal Naval Air Service. His aluminium pistons were used to great effect to create a fighter aircraft engine more reliable and powerful than previous versions, with the Bentley Rotary (BR.1) engine helping to make the Sopwith Camel the most successful British fighter aircraft of the war. A second BR.2 unit was developed, with W.O. Bentley’s efforts rewarded with a £1,000 gratuity and a royalty cheque of £8,000. With this working capital, W.O. Bentley was able to form Bentley Motors in 1919.

Bentley Motors

100 years of Bentley

Bentley Motors was founded on 10 July 2019, underpinned by W.O. Bentley’s philosophy that “we were going to make a fast car, a good car, the best in its class”. His brother looked after the DFP side of the business, delivering the regular cash injections required by W.O. during the development of the first Bentley cars. EXP 1 (Experimental No.1) was the first car to bear the Bentley name, with a 3.0-litre four-cylinder engine that put it years ahead of rival vehicles.

Bentley EXP 2

100 years of Bentley

It took Bentley a year to build a chassis light and strong enough for the engine, with work carried out at a factory in Oxgate Lane, Cricklewood. Autocar said: “For the man who wants a true sporting type of light-bodied car for use on a Continental tour, the three-litre Bentley is undoubtedly the car par excellence.” EXP 2 was built in time for the Olympia Motor Show in November 1919, with a long list of clients eager to place hefty deposits. Deep pockets were required: a Bentley chassis cost the equivalent of three houses.

Bentley 3 Litre

100 years of Bentley

The EXP 2 development mule became the Bentley 3 Litre, but not before a huge amount of development work was carried out to improve refinement. The first 3 Litre was handed over to its buyer in 1921, by which time the price had jumped from £750 to £1,100. Meanwhile, EXP 2 won its debut race at Brooklands in 1921, with the production 3 Litre models adding a string of victories to Bentley’s name. The model pictured is a 3 Litre Supersports.

Le Mans 24 Hours

100 years of Bentley

In 1923, John Duff (pictured here at the wheel) asked W.O. Bentley if he could enter a car in the newly formed Le Mans 24 Hours race. W.O. was against the idea, saying: “I think the whole thing is crazy. Cars aren’t designed to stand that sort of strain for 24 hours.” But Duff got his way, with W.O. supplying a car, a driver and a couple of mechanics, and even making a surprise visit to France to watch the race. It was worth it, with works driver Frank Clement finishing fourth and securing a fastest lap.

Success at Le Mans

100 years of Bentley

A year later, Bentley returned to Le Mans with the full backing of the factory, with Captain John Duff and Frank Clement romping home to victory in a Bentley 3 Litre. This was the first of six Le Mans wins, including four consecutive victories from 1927 to 1930. Le Mans was instrumental in the early success of Bentley, with the victories generating a huge amount of exposure for the brand.

Bentley 6.5 Litre and Speed Six

100 years of Bentley

From 1919 to 1940, all Bentleys left the factory as rolling chassis, with the bodies created by coachbuilders such as Mulliner, Park Ward, Vanden Plas and Gurney Nutting. Away from the track, Bentley launched the 6.5-litre as a rival to the Rolls-Royce Phantom, which in turn developed into the Speed Six – the most successful racing Bentley. Meanwhile, the company’s image was enhanced and its profile raised by the so-called Bentley Boys.

Bentley Boys

100 years of Bentley

Having survived the Great War, these rich men were determined to live life to the full and had the feeling of invincibility. Notable Bentley Boys included Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin and Woolf Barnato, the heir to the Kimberley diamond mine fortune who spent the equivalent of a house on parties every week. Both Birkin and Barnato were instrumental in shaping the direction of the company.

Woolf Barnato

100 years of Bentley

The development of the 6.5 Litre in 1926 pushed Bentley to breaking point, to the extent that Woolf Barnato effectively bought the company by injecting £100,000 into the business just to keep it afloat. The cash saved Bentley from bankruptcy and ensured that Barnato could continue to race the cars he knew and loved.

The Blue Train

100 years of Bentley

In March 1930, Barnato was a dinner party on a yacht near Cannes when he bet £200 that his Bentley Speed Six could beat the Blue Train from Cannes to Calais. Nobody took the bet, but Baranto was determined to do the run anyway, so at 5.45pm the next day he left the Carlton Bar and set off for Calais. Not only did Barnato beat the Blue Train to Calais, he even managed to reach the Conservative Club in London before the train arrived in the French port.

Bentley Blower

100 years of Bentley

Arguably the most famous Bentley of all time, it’s a little ironic that the ‘Blower’ was the least successful Cricklewood car in competition. Although W.O. Bentley was against supercharging, Tim Birkin convinced chairman Woolf Barnato to approve the project, with W.O. reluctantly agreeing to the formation of a separate company in Welwyn Garden City. The Blower was quick, but it was also horrendously thirsty and unreliable, serving to hasten the decline of the company. That said, it helped to put Bentley on the map, despite never winning a serious race.

Bentley 8 Litre

100 years of Bentley

Bentley had it best year in 1929, with the company seeing a profit, but it chose the wrong time to develop the largest capacity car in the UK. The 8 Litre was a phenomenal car – it could top 100mph whatever the coachwork – and Rolls-Royce was seriously worried about the competition. But the Wall Street crash of 1929 sent the global economy into meltdown, with the market for the 8 Litre all but disappearing. W.O. said: “I have always wanted to produce a dead silent 100mph car, and now I think that we have done it.” Rather fittingly, just 100 were built.

The end of the W.O. era

100 years of Bentley

This was to be a dark era in the history of Bentley, with the company teetering on the brink of insolvency in 1930 and W.O. nearly sacked in September of that year. The company was kept afloat by Woolf Barnato, until his advisors told him to stop. Everything pointed to a takeover by Napier, but the bosses at Rolls-Royce knew that this would represent a serious threat to their business.

Rolls-Royce takeover

100 years of Bentley

Bentley received a bid of £125,275 from the British Central Equitable Trust on behalf of Rolls-Royce, leaving W.O. shocked and the company’s future hanging in the balance. The Cricklewood factory (pictured) was closed, production ceased and the Bentley brand effectively disappeared for two years. Worse still, Rolls-Royce failed to make use of W.O. Bentley’s considerable talent and he was given a job test driving cars across the continent. Later, he left and moved to Lagonda, dying in 1971 at the age of 82.

The Silent Sports Car

100 years of Bentley

In stark contrast to the stern and formal feel of Rolls-Royce, Bentley had a colourful and sporty image. But the 1930s and 1940s were dark years for Bentley. In 1938, the Glass’s guide failed to list prices for Bentleys because the cost of repairs far outweighed the value of its cars. After the Second World War, the Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars rolling off the production line were virtually identical.

Bentley R-Type Continental

100 years of Bentley

The Mark VI was the first Crewe Bentley and the first to be delivered with a body, but the R-Type Continental was one of the most desirable cars of the 1950s. It resembled the Mark VI, but could hit 100mph in third gear before reaching a top speed of 120mph. At the time, it was the fastest four-seater car in the world. In 1955, Bentley launched the S1, which was essentially a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud with a different grille and badging.

Silver Shadows and minor miracles

100 years of Bentley

The trend continued throughout the 1960s and 1970s, with the T Series little more than a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow with a different grille and badge, not to mention the first Bentley with a monocoque chassis and body. The image so carefully cultivated by W.O., Barnato and Birkin appeared to be lost, although the Bentley Drivers Club did its best to keep the legend alive. By the 1970s, Bentley accounted for just five percent of production at Crewe – it’s a minor miracle that the brand survived.

Vickers and a new era

100 years of Bentley

In 1980, British defence company Vickers bought Rolls-Royce, signalling the start of a new chapter for Bentley. Against all the odds, Bentley rose again, with Rolls-Royce realising that the brand’s sporting heritage could be used to great effect. The turbocharged Mulsanne was the last roll of the dice and became a surprise hit of the 1982 Geneva Motor Show. Here was a car weighing 2,200kg that could hit 60mph in just seven seconds. With a top speed of 135mph, it was the fastest production Bentley in history.

Restoring the balance

100 years of Bentley

The Bentley renaissance continued with the Eight of 1984, which featured a chrome wire-mesh grille to recall racing Bentleys of the past. This, along with the Turbo R, helped Bentley to achieve a 50/50 production share with Rolls-Royce, with Bentley going on to outsell its owner by two-to-one. The 1980s was a good decade for Bentley.

A new identity

100 years of Bentley

The positive vibes continued into the 1990s, with the Continental R of 1991 the first Bentley that didn’t look like a Rolls-Royce since 1965. The rebodied Turbo R was powered by a 6.75-litre V8 good for 150mph and commanded a two-year waiting list. In 1993, the four-door Brooklands replaced the Eight and Mulsanne, with a host of new products arriving in the second half of the decade. The Pininfarina-designed Azure of 1995 was the most powerful four-seat convertible in the world.

Volkswagen and another new era

100 years of Bentley

In 1998, Volkswagen believed it had purchased Rolls-Royce and Bentley from Vickers. But it transpired that Vickers did not own the rights to the Rolls-Royce name, which was subsequently bought by BMW. It meant that BMW acquired Rolls-Royce and moved production to Goodwood, with Bentley left as a consolation prize for Volkswagen. Not that VW was prepared to sulk, with the German giant immediately investing £1 billion to upgrade the Crewe factory.

Bentley State Limousine

100 years of Bentley

The Bentley Arnage of 1998 was the first new car since 1980 but it shared much in common with the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph. The Arnage was used as the basis for the Bentley State Limousine, commissioned through Mulliner to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. The rear seat position was determined using a model of the same height as the Queen, while a panoramic glasshouse was created to provide greater visibility from the outside.

Bentley Continental GT

100 years of Bentley

The Continental GT of 2003 was the first all-new Bentley since the Volkswagen takeover in 1998. It caused a huge stir when it was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show 2002, so much so that Bentley was inundated with orders ahead of its launch in March 2003. At its core was a 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine, with enough power to propel a Premier League footballer to a top speed approaching 200mph.

Return to Le Mans

100 years of Bentley

In 2003, Bentley made a successful return to Le Mans when Tom Kristensen, Guy Smith and Rinaldo Capello drove the EXP Speed 8 to victory in the famous race. Two laps behind was the sister car driven by Mark Blundell, David Brabham and Johnny Herbert. This one-two followed a third place in 2001 and fourth in 2002.

Bentley Brooklands inspired by Bentley Boys

100 years of Bentley

New production models followed, with Bentley increasing the level of luxury while leveraging as much heritage as possible. The brand returned to the luxury coupe model with the Bentley Brooklands inspired by the Bentley Boys. Limited to just 550 cars, the Bentley Brooklands was powered by the most powerful V8 the company had ever produced – a twin-turbocharged 6.75-litre unit producing 530hp.

Bentley Continental Supersports

100 years of Bentley

Launched in 2009, the Bentley Continental Supersports was a lightened, two-seater version of the standard Continental with a 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine producing 621hp. As a result, it could hit a top speed of 204mph and reach 60mph in just 3.7 seconds. It’s one of a number of performance-led or limited edition Bentleys to arrive over the past decade.

Bentley Mulsanne

100 years of Bentley

Bentley resurrected the Mulsanne for the replacement of the Arnage, unveiling its new luxury flagship at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Powered by the familiar 6.75-litre V8 engine, the Mulsanne felt less like a car and more like a gentlemen’s club on wheels. As the first bespoke big Bentley since the 8 Litre of 1930, it was a landmark car for the brand.

Bentley Bentayga

100 years of Bentley

If the Mulsanne felt like a suitable nod to the brand’s history, the Bentayga felt more like a break from tradition. Based on the same platform as the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, the Bentayga is Bentley’s first SUV and was a development of the aesthetically challenged EXP 9 F concept of 2012. A Bentayga Hybrid has joined the range, with Bentley aiming to offer an electrified version of every car in its range by 2023.

Bentley Continental GT3-R

100 years of Bentley

We’re not going to run through every new Bentley model of the past decade or the company’s recent involvement in motorsport, but we must mention the Continental GT3-R. Launched in 2014 at Pebble Beach, this was the company’s most extreme model, with everything tuned for hardcore driving. Just 300 were built, with each one finished in Glacier White.

Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 concept

100 years of Bentley

We’ll finish with a couple of concepts, starting with the sublime EXP 10 Speed 6. Unveiled at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, the name was a nod to Bentley’s heritage, but the design language was a nod to the future. It was “a bold vision for a brand with a bold future”, said Bentley CEO Wolfgang Durheimer.

Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e concept

100 years of Bentley

The EXP 10 Speed 6 led to the creation of the EXP 12 Speed 6e – the clearest indication yet that the company is destined for an electrified future. Launched at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, Bentley said it “would be built with the capacity to drive from London to Paris or Milan on a single charge”, which brings to mind images of Woolf Barnato and the Bentley Boys. A fitting conclusion to this brief history of the Bentley brand.

Driving the detectives: the coolest TV cop cars

Coolest TV cop car Porsche 911

Juliet Bravo was one of the first police dramas I remember watching on television, occasionally looking up from playing with my cars on the living room floor to see the sight of a Rover SDI during the opening titles.

In reality, you were more likely to see a Mk2 Ford Escort panda car – or an Austin Mini, Metro or Maestro – as you were an SD1 during an episode, but that Rover – along with the iconic theme tune – has stuck in my mind for nearly 40 years.

For others, the first memory of a television police car might be the Ford Zephyrs and Zodiacs in Z Cars, which are arguably as famous as the actors who played the parts of the Newtown police officers.

And that’s the thing about TV police dramas: you might not remember the episodes or even the actors, but you’ll almost certainly recall the cars. Sorry, Elvis Costello, we weren’t watching the detectives, we were watching the motors.

Here are the coolest TV cops, according to me.

Lieutenant Columbo’s Peugeot 403

Peugeot 403 Columbo

Cars driven by television detectives tend to fall into one of two categories: extremely flashy or extremely ropey. Much like his raincoat and dishevelled appearance, Lieutenant Columbo’s Peugeot 403 falls into the second group.

Peter Falk, who played the ace detective, was given the choice of the cars parked up behind Universal Studios and he selected the Peugeot 403 convertible a day before filming was due to start.

According to Peugeot, Columbo’s 403 convertible (one of a few used during filming), probably arrived in the U.S in the hands of an Air France employee who transferred to California. Around 2,000 were produced.

The Professionals’ Ford Capris

Ford Capri Professionals

Thanks to the Zephyrs and Zodiacs used during the filming of Z Cars, Ford knew that television was a terrific marketing tool. Which is why it was all too happy to supply Capris for The Professionals.

Bodie’s Stratos Silver 3.0 S and Doyle’s Tibetan Gold 3.0 S are arguably the most famous Capris to appear in the long-running crime series. Many cardboard boxes were harmed during the filming.

Jennifer Hart’s Mercedes-Benz 450 SL

“When they met, it was moyder.” What can I tell you about Hart to Hart? Not a lot, aside from the fact that Stefanie Powers was my second crush and that her character, Jennifer Hart, drove a Mercedes-Benz 450 SL.

It meant that, before I knew any better, the R107 was the ‘Hart to Hart Mercedes’. The American show gets a 6.7 rating on IMDb, which suggests it wasn’t a televisual masterpiece, but the SL certainly ticks the ‘cool’ box.

Jim Bergerac’s Triumph Roadster

Jim Bergerac Triumph Roadster

It’s just as well this isn’t the Radio Times, because my knowledge of Bergerac extends to the fact that it was set in Jersey, there was a character called ‘Hungerford’ and the lead character was played by the guy who went on to play DCI Tom Barnaby in Midsomer Murders.

DCI Barnaby drove a Ford Mondeo, Rover 75 and Jaguar X-Type, all of which are unable to compete with the elegance and class of the Triumph Roadster used in Bergerac. In 2013, the actual car sold at auction for £23,000.

Inspector Gadget’s Gadgetmobile

Inspector Gadget Gadgetmobile

This is a trip down memory lane, because I’d all but forgotten about Inspector Gadget’s Gadgetmobile. Is it me or does the car resemble something that could have been penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro?

You could argue that the Gadgetmobile was a pioneering crossover because when it had finished patrolling the streets or chasing ne’er-do-wells, it could change into a van for transporting Penny and Brain. Clever.

Harriet Makepeace’s Ford Escort Cabriolet

Glynis Barber in a Mk3 Ford Escort Cabriolet. Enough said.

Inspector Morse’s Jaguar Mk2

Inspector Morse Jaguar

According to John Thaw, the Jaguar Mk2 from Inspector Morse was a “beggar to drive”, but it’s arguably the most famous TV detective car of all time. Put it this way: the Mk2 is commonly referred to as the ‘Inspector Morse Jag’.

The 1960 car was bought by Carlton TV and featured in all 33 episodes of the series, complete with a non-standard black vinyl roof. In 2005, the car sold at auction for more than £100,000.

Freddie Spender’s Ford Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth

Spender Sierra Cosworth

When the most stolen car in the country arrived in “the car crime capital of Britain”, there was only going to be one outcome. The first Ford Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth used in Spender was stolen and later found burnt out in Newcastle.

According to The Chronicle, the producers were forced into arranging a £100-a-day minder for Freddie Spender’s Cossie. Spender was a great series, and certainly better than Jimmy Nail’s singing.

Gene Hunt’s Audi Quattro

Gene Hunt Audi Quattro

I’m not entirely sure how Gene Hunt managed to afford an Audi Quattro, but it contributed to one of the greatest televisual feasts of the past decade and gave rise to one of the most memorable phrases of popular culture.

In many ways, Gene Hunt’s previous outing in Life on Mars was superior to Ashes to Ashes, but his Mk3 Ford Cortina from the original series was outshone by the famous Tornado Red Audi.

Saga Norén’s Porsche 911

The Bridge Porsche 911

Last, but by no means least, is this the coolest TV cop car of them all? The Jäger Grün Porsche 911SC from The Bridge hit the headlines in 2018 when it sold for £141,500 at auction, with bidders keen to grab a slice of Scandi-noir history.

In episode four of series four, Saga Norén (played by Sofia Helin) revealed that she won the car in a bet with her tutor at police college. The actress wasn’t a fan of driving it, saying “it’s very hard to drive. It’s so old”.

These are my coolest cop cars, but I’m fully aware that you may have other favourites. Whether it’s a Ford Granada from The Sweeney, a Ford Anglia from Heartbeat, Luther’s Volvo or Dave Starsky’s Ford Gran Torino, please send your nominations to BBC Points of View

Brawn to be wild: how American V8s ruled Goodwood

Ford Mustang GT500If you’re expecting nothing but muscle cars here, you’re in for a shock. When it comes to performance and racing cars, powerful V8s from the Land of the Free make for a popular choice, used in cars of all shapes and sizes at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2019. Here are some highlights.

Nissan GT-R

Nissan GT-R

We begin with the beguiling Irish drifter who goes by the name of ‘Baggsy’. While his wheels of choice resemble the very-Japanese Nissan GT-R, he only needs to fire it up for us to realise it’s had a heart transplant. How does 1,200hp of twin-turbo GM LSX V8 sound to you?

Ford Mustang GT500

Ford Mustang GT500

Now here is some authentic American muscle, albeit with a splash of sophistication. Yes, it has over 750hp from a supercharged V8, but the Mustang GT500 also has a twin-clutch gearbox and clever aerodynamics. It’ll still rip fat elevens, though…

Ultima RSUltima RS

Ultima’s new model is a sharp-looking update for 2019. The famous track supercar manufacturer has always been a fan of GM’s LS V8. This new car gets the latest supercharged LT4 lump from the Chevy Corvette Z06.

Penske PC22Penske PC22

What powers this Penske CART couldn’t be further from the LT4, but it’s still a Chevy V8. This turbocharged 2.6-litre unit screams to 14,000rpm. Famous drivers include Emerson Fittipaldi and Nigel Mansell. Even Ayrton Senna tested one.

Ford Mustang GTS 1Ford Mustang GTS 1

Mustangs are a common sight at the Festival of Speed, but no two are the same. This GTS 1 is a case in point. No, it’s not a NASCAR. It’s an IMSA racer in GTS 1, the successor to the famous GTO class. The road-going variants of the fourth-generation Mustang aren’t best-loved, but this is an absolute weapon.

Jeep Cherokee TrackhawkJeep Cherokee Trackhawk

The Jeep Trackhawk is one of the most powerful SUVs you can buy. This Cherokee truck features the supercharged 710hp V8 from the Challenger Hellcat. Because that’s exactly what a family 4×4 needed.

March-Chevrolet 707March-Chevrolet 707

Can-Am racing no longer exists. The cars were too powerful (a Porsche reached 1,500hp), too fast and it was cancelled over safety fears. This is a March-Chevrolet 707 Can-Am car uses a big-block Chevy V8.

Holden Commodore VL SSHolden Commodore VL SS

The Aussies are well-known V8 lovers and Holdens have been putting Chevy V8s to good work for years. This one is a 1980s Commodore racer and doesn’t it just look the business?

De Tomaso PanteraDe Tomaso Pantera

Back in the supercar-sphere, a timeless model from a name that’s only now coming back from the dead. The De Tomaso Pantera pairs a meaty American V8 with Italian supercar wedge design. It’s still the pinnacle pin-up for some.

McLaren M8DMcLaren M8D

The McLaren M8D is perhaps the most famous of the Chevy V8-powered Can-Am cars, not least because Bruce McLaren sadly died in an M8D just a few miles up the road at the Goodwood motor circuit in 1970.

Buick Regal NASCARBuick Regal NASCAR

It wouldn’t be an American V8 list if there wasn’t some NASCAR goodness, would it? And they don’t get much cooler than an ex-Richard Petty Buick Regal, driven by Petty himself at the Festival of Speed.

Twisted Land Rover DefenderTwisted Land Rover Defender

Another V8 hiding in plain sight is this Defender, modified by Twisted. Under the bonnet, in place of an old Ford Transit diesel engine, is a Chevrolet LS V8.

March-Chevrolet 717March-Chevrolet 717

Because Can-Am. Here’s another big block monster and the successor to the 707. These things never fail to drop jaws when roaring up the hill at Goodwood.

Chevrolet Monte Carlo NASCARChevrolet Monte Carlo NASCAR

In the NASCAR class, the Monte Carlo comes second only to Petty’s Regal for coolness. It’s an awesome throwback to the 1990s – this car is now 20 years old.

Ford Mustang RTRFord Mustang RTR

We end as we began, with a rip-snorting drift car. The Mustang RTR takes the pony’s V8 to roaring new levels. Vaughn Gittin Jr, your car is absolutely terrifying, but we love it.