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Young drivers want an Audi R8, but most drive a Corsa

young drivers Vauxhall Corsa

Young drivers under the age of 25 aspire to own an Audi R8, according to a Young Driver Report published by Admiral car insurance.

The German supercar finished top of the list of cars most wanted by young drivers, ahead of the Aston Martin Vantage, BMW i8, Ferrari Enzo and Mini Cooper.

Sadly – and, perhaps, fortunately for other road users – these cars tend to be out of reach for young drivers. Insurance will prove to be a stumbling block, not to mention the cost of finance.

young drivers Audi R8

Half of all young drivers use finance to get behind the wheel, spending between £200 and £299 a month. Twenty-four percent will push the budget beyond £500 to get the right car, with a third of under 25s saying they bought a particular car to boost their image.

But while the R8 might be the dream car, the reality for most young drivers is quite different. According to the Admiral report, most young drivers end up in a Vauxhall Corsa, as they attempt to cut the cost of insurance while building a no-claims discount.

Other popular choices include the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio and Fiat 500.

Cheapest cars to insure for young drivers

young drivers Citroen C1

Curiously, none of these cars features on Admiral’s list of the cheapest cars for under 25s to insure. The top five are:

  1. Volkswagen Up: £618.42 a year
  2. Peugeot 107: £628.04 a year
  3. Citroen C1: £632.14 a year
  4. Fiat Panda: £635.24 a year
  5. Volkswagen Fox: £638.20 a year

Admiral data shows that the average insurance premium for a 17-year-old is £1,889. Young men tend to pay more, with the average price coming in at £2,294 for a 17 to 20-year-old male and £1,660 for a female of the same age.

Even selecting one of the cheapest cars to insure is likely to be a painful experience, with a 17-year-old paying around 67 percent more than a 24-year-old.

young drivers Peugeot 107

Admiral recommends taking out a telematics policy, as a ‘black box’ is a good opportunity to prove that you’re a safe and responsible driver. On the other hand, the company warns against ‘fronting’, where an older person pretends to be the main driver.

If it’s the young driver that uses the car most often, not only will the policy be invalid, but the policyholder could be charged with fraud.

The message is simple, if a tad predictable: spend a few years behind the wheel of a Vauxhall Corsa before living the dream in an Audi R8.

This list of ugly cars is hideously wide of the mark

Oh no, it’s another one of those lists. Car selling comparison website Motorway.co.uk has created a list of cars that it says “are unlikely to win any beauty pageants”. Cars that, according to website director Alex Buttle, “should have been consigned to the scrapheap years ago”. Sorry Alex, but we think your list should be the first thing to hit the scrapheap. Here are 20 ugly cars, according to Motorway.co.uk.

Chrysler PT Cruiser

It’s no surprise that the Motorway.co.uk list kicks off with the Chrysler PT Cruiser, because when you’re selecting a bunch of munters, this is the ‘lazy list’ equivalent of a low-hanging fruit. A rotten, insect-infested and tasteless fruit. Removing the roof for the PT Cruiser Cabrio only served to make things worse – there was no hiding place for the driver.

SsangYong Rodius

So far, so ugly. Two cars in and it would appear that Motorway.co.uk has got things right after all. Writing in The Independent, Michael Booth said: “This is one mother of an ugly car, with shopping trolley wheels, a rear end apparently cobbled together by a local firm of cowboy builders more versed in dodgy loft extensions, and grotesquely oversized front features. If Martin Clunes were a car this is how he would look.” Ouch.

Vauxhall Frontera

The Vauxhall Frontera is many things: crude, cheap, old-fashioned, capable and butch, to name but five. But ugly? We’re not even sure the Frontera would be eligible for a list of the ugliest 4x4s, let alone the ugliest cars. When you consider that Motorway.co.uk fails to mention the Subaru Tribeca, Mercedes-Benz R-Class and Mazda CX-7, you have to wonder why the Frontera was selected for special treatment. Besides, it started life as an Isuzu.

Reliant Robin

“In the case of the three-wheeled Reliant Robin, driven by Del Boy and Rodney in Only Fools and Horses… some examples fetch upwards of £4,000 on classified sale websites,” said Alex Buttle. Two things to mention here. Firstly, the Trotters Independent Traders company vehicle was a Reliant Regal Supervan. Secondly, the Robin is far from ugly, said a mush in Shepherds Bush.

Nissan Cube

Obscure, boxy, quirky and clever. These are four of the first words that spring to mind when we see a Nissan Cube. Exterior designer Hirotada Kuwahara came up with the design for the second-generation Cube while drinking a coffee in Nissan’s canteen. “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could create a basic car that has this same kind of relaxed atmosphere that wouldn’t fade, even over 20 years?” he asked. The asymmetric rear window was designed to make it easier to reverse. Clever, yes. Ugly, no.

Triumph TR7

While the Triumph TR7 might not have the beauty and charm of its illustrious forebears, we’d struggle to label the styling as ugly. To a certain extent, the designers hands were tied by pedestrian safety legislation and the need for effective aerodynamics, but the TR7 remains resolutely a product of the 1970s. In 1977, Car said “from the side and rear [the TR7] is an ugly hotch-potch”. Harsh or fair? You decide.

Rover CityRover

James May said the Rover CityRover was the worst car he had ever driven for Top Gear, so the Tata-based small car is unlikely to appear on any lists of ‘best cars’ any time soon. It was too expensive, under-engineered and poorly marketed, but the CityRover has never struck us as a particularly ugly car. If nothing else, adding the C I T Y R O V E R letters on the tailgate was a touch of genius.

Perodua Kenari

In the days before Dacia, Perodua sold Britain’s cheapest new cars. In 2001, the Nippa cost just £4,624, while the Kenari – a kind of mini-MPV – cost an additional £2,101 on top. It was no less attractive than the Suzuki Wagon R or Vauxhall Agila, but the Kenari – which is Malaysian for ‘kennel’ – has been singled out by Motorway.co.uk. Well, the styling is a bit of a dog’s dinner.

Morris Marina

There are many reasons why the Morris Marina deserves to be taken behind the bike sheds and given a beating for being a bit rubbish, but the styling isn’t one of them. Sure, it’s a bit derivative, but you could say the same thing about the majority of crossovers and hatchbacks on sale today. Stylist Roy Haynes deserves great credit for getting the nod over rival designs from Michelotti and Pininfarina, while the two-door coupe was almost desirable.

Reva G-Wiz

If we were being pedantic, we’d say that the G-Wiz has no place on the list for the simple reason that it’s a quadricycle, and therefore not a car. And, as much as we despise the G-Wiz, it’s no less attractive than any of the other quadricycles you might have the displeasure of seeing. Besides, you should see what a quadricycle looks like having been crash-tested by Euro NCAP. Not good.

Suzuki X-90

In the Top Gear review of the Suzuki X-90, Jeremy Clarkson advised owners to head out after dark when nobody would see them. He also interviewed the X90’s ‘designer’, which turned out to be small girl mumbling the words to ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’. Jezza wasn’t a fan, then, but admit it, you have a soft spot for Suzuki’s soft-roader.

Austin Allegro

Head to the excellent AROnline website and you’ll discover Harris Mann’s vision for the Austin Allegro. It’s a classic case of what might have been, not to mention a huge missed opportunity for the British motor industry. “‘We wanted to make a far more modern version of the 1100/1300, keeping the long, sleek look. Then a lot of other things affected it. A heater was developed at astronomical cost which was very deep. That had to go in. Then we had to put in the E-Series engine, which was more suitable for putting in a Leyland truck,” said Mann.

Renault Avantime

The styling was certainly divisive, but we’d wield a crusty baguette and throw it at anyone who’d dare suggest that the Renault Avantime is ugly. Sure, it could never really make up its mind what it wanted to be, so the coupe-MPV-SUV was compromised in just about every department, but shouldn’t great design stimulate debate? It’s because the public failed to warm to cars like this that we’re left with me-too crossovers. See also: the facelifted versions of the Fiat Multipla and Skoda Yeti, which were both backward steps.

Lancia Beta

It’s not immediately obvious which Beta is being referred to here, but quite frankly, it doesn’t matter, because Lancia never built an ugly version. The four-door Berlina was classy, the Coupe was charismatic, the Spyder was pretty, and the HPE was glorious. Besides, such was the rate at which the Beta rusted, the cars were never around long enough for anyone to pass judgement.

Lada Riva

When the Lada Riva arrived in the UK in 1984, it wasn’t really a new car. In fact, it was based on the Fiat 124, a pretty, if unassuming four-door saloon dating back to 1966. In its later life, the Riva had many faults, but it would be difficult to class the three-box ‘styling’ as ugly. Dull, perhaps, but not ugly.

Zastava Yugo

Once again, Motorway.co.uk has taken a broad brush to this entry, leaving us to guess which Zastava Yugo model they are referring to. We suspect it will be the Yugo 45, 55 or 65, all of which were based on old Fiats. Yes, they were poorly built and not particularly great to drive, but these two factors do not make the Yugos ugly. In fact, with a body kit, they can look pretty desirable.

Rover 800

The Rover 800? Ugly? Behave.

FSO Polonez

The FSO Polonez appears on internet lists of ‘worst cars’ as often as Paul Ross pops up on Channel 5 schedule-fillers. When Giorgetto Giugiaro and Walter De Silva meet up in a bar to discuss their greatest hits, it’s fair to say the Polonez is unlikely to crop up in the conversation. The Polonez Caro (pictured) failed to inject any glamour.

Skoda Estelle

We’ve been looking at images of Skoda Estelle for an unhealthy amount of time and can confirm that the rear-engined Czech is anything but ugly.

Renault Alliance

This is a really odd one, because the Alliance was essentially a Renault 9 re-engineered for the North American market. In truth, it wasn’t Robert Opron’s finest hour – he can list the Citroen SM, Renault Fuego and Alfa Romeo SZ on his CV – but the R9’s biggest crime was its anonymity.

Rolls-Royce’s £37,000 champagne cooler is the ultimate car accessory

The Rolls-Royce Champagne Chest

Rolls-Royce has entered the world of car-based merchandise –  not by selling baseball caps or aftershave, but with a carbon fibre, oak and stainless steel champagne chest.

It’s a cool bit of kit, as you’d hope for £37,000. The Rolls-Royce of picnic hampers, if you will. A single button-press opens the chest up to reveal champagne flutes for four guests.

The lid turns into a serving tray made of Tudor oak, with a laser-cut stainless steel inlay. Four cotton napkins are also displayed, complete with embroidered ‘RR’ monograms. 

The Rolls-Royce Champagne Chest

While the chest comes exquisitely appointed as standard, this is Rolls-Royce. So you can have it modified to your exact colour choice. Presumably, if you try your luck at keeping Cava inside, it’ll snap shut on you automatically. 

The illuminated central bay shows off the hand-blown crystal glasses, which are tactically arranged to look like inlets on a Rolls-Royce engine. A shame there are only four, then, rather than 12.

The Rolls-Royce Champagne Chest

The sides of the chest pop out to reveal two ‘Hotspur Red’ leather hammocks, suitable for cradling anything from caviar to canapés. There are also two mother-of-pearl spoons with anodised aluminium handles.

Thermal champagne coolers keep your bubbly chilled, and they, like the chest, are made from aluminium and carbon fibre.

The Rolls-Royce Champagne Chest

“The Champagne Chest by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is a contemporary and sociable addition to the Accessories Collection,” said Gavin Hartley of Rolls-Royce.

“The approach is that of designing a Rolls-Royce motor car; the finest materials are married with pinnacle engineering to provide an experience like no other. The Champagne Chest is crafted for those that seek a heightened sense of occasion in an elegant, entertaining manner.”

The Rolls-Royce Chest

Gordon Murray’s online museum is virtually brilliant

Gordon Murray McLaren F1 LM

Warning: if you intend to immerse yourself in the virtual world of Gordon Murray’s online exhibition, a lunch-hour won’t be enough. Tell your boss you need to spend the afternoon researching. Or something.

The One Formula exhibition is an internet-based museum, allowing visitors to ‘wander’ (and wonder) through 50 years of Gordon Murray’s work. It’s free to enter and there are no queues.

Forty different road and race cars are on show, ranging from the iconic McLaren F1 to Ayrton Senna’s MP4/4 Formula One car. Visitors can even ‘sit’ in the cockpits, which is something you’re unlikely to do at a real museum.

Well, not unless you fancy having your collar felt by a friendly security guard or being chased off the premises by a curator.

‘The next best thing’ to reality

Gordon Murray IGM MinBug

Professor Gordon Murray, CBE, said: “It is such thrill to share my passion for engineering purity, beautiful design, aerodynamic excellence, and technological innovation. Creating an exhibition in a free-to-view format, accessible to all, in stunning virtual reality is exciting and a source of great pride.

“For the One Formula exhibition, we gathered almost every race and road car from my 50-year career to date, and we were inundated with requests from fans across the world who wanted to visit. Being a short-term, private exhibition meant we couldn’t share our passion with these enthusiasts. So, doing so in virtual form is the next best thing!”

Other exhibits include the IGM MinBug designed and built by Murray in 1971, the IGM Midas-Alfa of 1981, the OX flat-pack truck, and the TVR Griffith.

The opening of the exhibition coincides with the launch of Murray’s One Formula book, a two-volume, 900-page epic charting 50 years of automotive design and engineering.

To lose an entire afternoon ‘walking’ through the online exhibition, visit oneformulagordonmurray.com.

Silverstone Auctions Jaguar Heythorp 2019

Why Jaguar’s first hypercar is cheap at £300,000

Silverstone Auctions Jaguar Heythorp 2019It may have set world records for top speed when new, but the Jaguar XJ220 is still something of a bargain when it came to prices paid at a recent auction.

At around £300,000, an XJ220 is clearly a substantial amount of money. However, in contrast to other high-performance machines from the 1990s, it appears relatively affordable.

It also represents a saving on the £470,000 paid by owners when the 549hp car first launched in 1992, following a troubled gestation period.  

Only 700 miles from new

Silverstone Auctions Jaguar Heythorp 2019Last month, we previewed the two Jaguar XJ220s featured at Silverstone Auctions’ British Marques sale, and now we know what the values were when the hammer fell.

Lot 429, a right-hand-drive car finished in Le Mans Blue, had spent most of its life being pampered in a Malaysian car collection. As a result, it had covered just 700 miles from new, and had recently undergone a substantial period of restoration with a renowned XJ220 specialist.

Buyers clearly appreciated the money that had been spent, and the low mileage, with the car selling for £337,500 to a UK-based buyer.

Silverstone Auctions Jaguar Heythorp 2019Lot 410, a left-hand-drive XJ220 wearing Spa Silver paintwork, had originally been delivered to a German buyer in 1997.

Although the car has been owned by six different people in the UK, it is now heading back to Europe after selling for £303,750 at the British Marques sale.

The unique Jaguar XJS-based Railton F29 Claremont, created by legendary designer William Towns, sold for slightly below its estimated price, with a final hammer value of £69,500.

Other classic Jaguars under the hammer

Silverstone Auctions Jaguar Heythorp 2019Run in association with the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club, the British Marques sale also saw other Coventry products achieve respectable values.

A 1965 Jaguar E-Type, still wearing the original paintwork it left the factory with, managed £56,238. Another E-Type, a 1964 Series 1 version sold as a restoration project, sold for even more, at £69,750.

The same price was also paid for an immaculate Jaguar Mk2 3.8, which had covered just 8,725 miles since leaving the factory in 1962.

Other highlights included a 1954 XK120 Drophead Coupe sold at £68,583, plus a Jaguar C-Type recreation achieving £103,500.

Czech mates: 60 years of the Skoda Octavia

If you have never driven an Octavia, chances are you’ve travelled in one. Probably late at night, slightly inebriated and post-kebab. The multi-million-selling Skoda is one of Britain’s most popular taxis, and for good reason: it’s affordable, reliable and practical. As we’ll see, it can be exciting too.

The Octavia was first launched 60 years ago, so to mark this milestone we drove all four generations back-to-back. Turns out quite a lot has changed…

Skoda Octavia Combi (1964)

The Octavia took its name from the Latin word for ‘eight’, being the eighth post-war car built at Skoda’s Mlada Boleslav factory in the Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia at the time).

Its 1.1-litre four-cylinder engine sends 40hp to the rear wheels, giving a top speed of 70mph and 30.5mpg economy. Double wishbone suspension was considered innovative in an era of leaf springs, and the Octavia earned positive reviews from motoring magazines. The 50hp Touring Sport version later claimed three class victories in the Monte Carlo Rally (1961-1963).

The Octavia Combi estate – seen here – followed in 1961, with three doors and a horizontally-split tailgate (they’d probably call it a ‘shooting brake’ in 2019). It has five seats and a 690-litre boot, swelling to 1,050 litres with the rear backrests folded.

A total of 51,086 Combis were made by the time production ceased in 1971, versus 309,020 Octavia saloons.

On loan from the Skoda Museum, this flawless 1964 Combi arrived with its own – justifiably proud – chaperone. Nonetheless, I seemed more nervous than he did. Its chrome grille and tail fins are clearly influenced by American cars of the 1950s, while its two-tone interior oozes retro cool.

A huge, thin-rimmed steering wheel is flanked by a column shifter: push away and up/down for first and second gears, then pull towards you for third and fourth.

On today’s roads, the ‘family-sized’ Skoda is dwarfed by bloated SUVs. Its engine is thrummy and willing, at least until 40mph or so. Beyond that, acceleration is best described as ‘glacial’.

Stick-thin roof pillars mean excellent visibility, but the drum brakes are heart-stoppingly feeble. Seatbelts or crumple zones? No chance. Truth be told, I’m relieved to return the Combi safely to its keeper.

Skoda Octavia Mk1 (2002)

Trapped in the Eastern Bloc, Skoda struggled throughout the 1970s and 80s with a succession of outdated, rear-engined cars that sold primarily on price. The Octavia name wouldn’t return for another 25 years, then was revived under Volkswagen ownership.

An injection of Volkswagen cash from 1991 transformed the brand, starting with the 1995 Felicia, then the all-conquering Octavia a year later.

The Octavia shared its underpinnings with the Mk4 Volkswagen Golf, but was roomier and cheaper. Understandably, that sounded like a win-win for many buyers. Available as a five-door hatchback or estate, nearly 1.5 million were eventually built.

Its no-nonsense design, the work of Dirk van Braeckel, defined Skoda styling for generations to come. Indeed, you can see its influence in the current Octavia.

Fittingly, the 2002 Octavia on Skoda’s heritage fleet has covered a meaty 136,000 miles. An ex-taxi? Quite possibly, although it wears those miles impressively well. Its 110hp 1.9-litre diesel engine is good for 119mph and a thrifty 54.0mpg.

Inside, the cabin is functional and solidly built (Germanic, even). ‘Infotainment’ comes via a cassette player, but it feels positively futuristic after the classic Combi.

It’s effortless to drive, too. The bulbous, airbagged wheel is light, the five-speed gearbox is Teflon-slick and the gruff diesel pulls strongly from low revs.

It feels somewhat detached, but that’s perhaps the point. After a nine-hour night shift of pub pick-ups and airport aggro, I suspect I’d be thankful for such easygoing affability.

Skoda Octavia vRS Mk1 (2004)

The Mk1 Octavia also did performance, not simply private-hire. The first vRS debuted in 2001, providing a springboard for Skoda’s return to top-tier rallying.

It was the fastest production Skoda ever when launched, reaching 62mph in 6.7 seconds and 144mph flat-out.

While the WRC version boasted 300hp and four-wheel drive, the road-going vRS shared its fundamentals with the Golf GTI. That meant a 180hp 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, driving the front wheels via a five-speed manual ’box.

Subtle spoilers, spidery 17-inch alloys and green/red/grey vRS badges gave Skoda’s hot hatch a suitably sporty makeover. Nonetheless, it’s pretty tame (and tasteful) by modern standards.

A launch price of just £15,100 (a Ford Focus ST170 was £15,995) made the vRS even more tempting. In terms of performance-per-pound, little else came close.

It’s a cracker on the road, too. The steering is swift and precise, while handling is poised and predictable. There’s more body-roll than some rivals, but a pliant ride more than compensates. It’s been many years since I’ve driven a Mk4 Golf GTI but, from memory, the Skoda seems more fun.

The hot Octavia’s double-whammy of space and pace made it a popular choice with UK police forces. Seeing one of these in your mirrors usually spelled bad news. Skoda later launched an estate version, offering ultimate Q-car kudos.

Perhaps the finest compliment I can pay the vRS is that I’ve been browsing the classifieds for good examples ever since. And yes, they’re still a bargain now.

Skoda Octavia Scout (2008)

Today, Skoda has fully jumped aboard the SUV bandwagon; its line-up stretches from supermini-sized Kamiq to seven-seat Kodiaq. The Octavia Scout was arguably the first step on this (unclassified, boulder-strewn) road – and it remains a standalone model today.

The original Scout joined the Mk2 Octavia range in 2006. It followed the example of the Audi A6 Allroad, first launched in 1999.

In essence, the Scout combines the rugged styling, loftier ground clearance and four-wheel drive of an SUV with the superior dynamics and fuel-efficiency of an estate car.

An extra 40mm beneath the wheelarches and Haldex variable 4WD mean it will tackle gravel tracks or muddy lanes with confidence. But the rear wheels are only engaged when needed, so quoted fuel economy is a car-like 44mpg.

The Mk2 Scout still looks the part, thanks to muscular body cladding and skid plates beneath both bumpers. Inside, snazzy kickplates and a ‘4×4’ logo on the gearknob hint at its added potential.

Buyers could have a 150hp 2.0-litre petrol version, but most opted for the 140hp 2.0 diesel. It produces 140hp and propels the 1,625kg Skoda to 122mph.

On the road, the Scout feels as intuitive and inoffensive as a regular Octavia. Granted, there’s a little more lean when cornering, and perhaps a smidge less precision from the steering. But it’s certainly more engaging than a contemporary SUV. Less ostentatious, too.

Sadly, I didn’t get chance to sample the Scout on rough terrain. Suffice to say, the original press photos – which show it clambering over rocks and dive-bombing through streams – are testament to its prowess.

Skoda Octavia vRS Mk3 (2019)

My fourth and final drive is the current-model Octavia – again in sporty vRS guise. Its 245hp 2.0 TSI engine packs a healthy 65hp more than the original, cutting the 0-62mph dash to 6.6 seconds. Top speed is limited to 155mph.

A base price of £27,640 still undercuts most rivals, although my test car cost £29,360 after options. These included the Audi-style Virtual Cockpit display (£450) and lane-assist with blind-spot detection (£400). Both were, of course, unheard of back in 2001…

In time-honoured tradition, the Octavia doesn’t shout about its added performance. Despite hip-hugging sports seats, red stitching and a smattering of vRS badges, its interior lacks the wow-factor of a Golf GTI. No complaints about build quality, though.

The eight-inch touchscreen media system is a highlight. It syncs seamlessly with your mobile phone via Apple Carplay or Android Auto. There’s also a choice of driving modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Custom.

The spiciest Octavia comes in three outputs: 184hp diesel, 230hp petrol and the vRS 245 petrol tested here. The top-dog 245 has a limited-slip differential as standard, but four-wheel drive is only offered on the diesel.

That diff makes a marked difference on the road, tightening turn-in and helping you slingshot out of bends. Switching to Sport sharpens things further without ruining the ride. The gruff growl of its engine sounds slightly synthetic, but there’s something addictive about its elastic mid-range punch.

The Octavia has been on quite a journey. It’s changed beyond all recognition, yet remained true to its roots, providing sensible – and sensibly-priced – transport for the masses. Even the vRS is a remarkably level-headed hot hatch.

So, všechno nejlepší k narozeninám Skoda Octavia (that’s ‘happy birthday’ in Czech). Here’s to another 60 years.

Rare Opel Manta 400 is a bargain Group B rally hero

Most spell-checkers don’t recognise the word ‘homologation’, but most car enthusiasts surely do. Essentially, it’s the requirement to build a certain number of road cars in order to satisfy racing regulations. It’s also responsible for some of the most pulse-spiking machines ever to wear number plates.

Group B rallying, banned in 1986, produced its fair share of homologation specials. Audi Sport Quattro, MG Metro 6R4, Lancia Delta S4, Ford RS200 and Peugeot 205 T16… all are household names, and rightly so, but how many remember the Opel Manta 400? 

This particular Manta will soon be listed on Collecting Cars, a new online auction platform that aims to emulate the success of American website, Bring A Trailer. It’s backed by Top Gear presenter Chris Harris and already has a diverse selection of classics consigned for sale.

Here a few of the early highlights, starting with that Opel…

Opel Manta 400 (1983)

The Manta 400 uses the same 2.4-litre four-cylinder 16v Cosworth engine as the earlier Ascona 400. That car – the European version of the Vauxhall Cavalier – achieved some WRC success, piloted by the legendary Walter Röhrl. But the rear-driven Manta found itself immediately outclassed by four-wheel-drive rivals, including the all-conquering Quattro.

In road-going guise, the fuel-injected Manta makes a modest 144hp, although a dry weight of 1,128kg means acceleration is brisk. A live rear axle makes for frisky handling, too – despite the presence of a ZF limited-slip diff.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Opel Manta 400 (1983). One of 245 made for Group B homologation – and only 59 with those stretched Irmscher wheelarches. Up for sale soon via Collecting Cars.

A post shared by Tim Pitt (@timpitt100) on

A total of 245 Manta 400s were made, only 59 with the Irmscher bodykit seen here. Those steroidal wheelarches stretch over wider Ronal alloys, while a jutting spoiler sits atop the bootlid. The Recaro seats are equally eye-catching: trimmed in oh-so-70s ‘Opel Blitz’ cloth. 

Valuing such a rare car is tricky, so it will be fascinating to see what the Manta achieves at auction. We reckon about £60,000 looks likely – a relative bargain for a homologation hero.

Porsche 968 Club Sport (1994)

Porsche is masterful at charging more for less. You want no back seats, fewer luxuries and fabric door-pulls? It’ll cost ya… However, it wasn’t always this way. Back in the mid-nineties, the Club Sport was a hefty £5,000 cheaper than a standard 968.

At 1,335kg, it was at least 50kg lighter too. Factor in a 10mm suspension drop and a pair of fixed-back Recaros, and the result was B-road bliss. With only 1,923 built, the Club Sport has since become a sought-after cult classic.

The four-cylinder Porsche isn’t especially quick 0-60mph in 6.1sec and 158mph – but it’s beautifully balanced, the weighty steering alive with textured feedback. It’s less intimidating than a contemporary 911, but no less rewarding.

This 968 has covered just 41,000 miles and has been in storage for the past four years. Looking at comparable cars in the classifieds, we think about £40,000 sounds right. The registration ‘A968 POR’ is included in the sale.

Ferrari 550 Maranello (1999)

A V12 Ferrari with an open-gate manual gearbox? Where do we sign? Launched in 1996, the 550 Maranello channelled the spirit of the classic 365 GTB/4 Daytona, with a 485hp naturally aspirated V12 beneath its long, elegant bonnet.

The 550 morphed into the 575M from 2002. However, many Ferrari experts, including Ed Callow of Collecting Cars, reckon the 550 is  a sweeter drive. It’s not short on straight-line speed, either: 0-62mph takes 4.4sec and top speed is 199mph.

The 1,774kg Ferrari turns in with alacrity that belies its bulk. Its clutch demands a determined shove, and that thin metal wand needs careful guidance across the gate. Nonetheless, the reward for getting it right is like little else. Its V12 is simply sublime, piling on speed in a linear rush to the redline.

For our money – and you’ll need nigh-on £100,000 for a 24,000-mile example like this – the 550 suits darker colours such as the Blu Tour de France seen here, rather than trad-Ferrari Rosso Corsa. Just keep your grubby mitts off that cream leather.

In pictures:

From F1 to GT: The history of McLaren road cars in pictures

McLaren is known the world over for its success on the racetrack, but in recent years it has also challenged Ferrari and Porsche on the road. Not many race car constructors could pull off the move, but McLaren has. Here, we chart its history.

More McLaren on Motoring Research:

McLaren F1 (1993)

The revived McLaren company had also targeted a move from racetrack to road for years, but only decided to do so in the late 1980s. Legend has it, the decision came after team boss Ron Dennis and designer Gordon Murray got chatting in an airport after a delayed flight.

The McLaren F1 became the firm’s first-ever road car at launch in 1992 – and, with a 242mph top speed, easily the world’s fastest. Fittingly, it’s P1 in McLaren’s road car codename chronology.

Ironically, the F1 went full circle back to the racetrack and won Le Mans…

Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (2003)

Skip forward a few years (and a few abandoned projects) for McLaren’s next road car: the 2006 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. Codenamed P7, it was a Mercedes-Benz concept that McLaren put into production – hence the name hierarchy.

A faster 722 version, a Roadster, the limited-run Sir Stirling Moss and McLaren Edition MSO versions would follow

McLaren MP4-12C (2011)

McLaren’s breakthrough road car, the ‘P11’ MP4-12C (you’ll note a few more McLaren ‘P’ concepts were lost along the way). At launch, McLaren announced to the world it was a Ferrari-beater: it wasn’t quite, but it would soon develop into one.

At the end of 2012, McLaren dropped the MP4 bit from the name: it was now officially just ‘12C’. As well as adding a drop-top Spider, it also boosted power from 600 to 625 horsepower, tweaked other parts of the drivetrain and fitted proper door release buttons rather than the troublesome ‘swipe to open’ launch system.

McLaren P1 (2013)

Revealed at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, the McLaren P1, codenamed P12, was a stunning hypercar that’s part of McLaren’s pinnacle Ultimate Series range. Just 375 were made, with 58 track-only GTR variants following. Its active aero, gratuitous turbo ‘whoosh’ and road-hugging track mode are now the stuff of legend.

McLaren 650S (2014)

In 2014, McLaren revealed the 650S at the Geneva Motor Show. Dubbed ‘P11M’, it was a 12C wearing a P1-style nose. The idea was to offer 12C and 650S alongside one another, but orders for the 12C naturally dried up. McLaren thus discontinued the 12C (and offered the 3,500 existing 12C owners a ‘650S upgrade’ pack). The 650S was also available as a drop-top Spider.

McLaren 675LT (2015)

In 2015, the mighty 675LT arrived. That’s LT for ‘longtail’, harking back to the 1997 F1 GT. A full-length rear airbrake, hyper-tuned suspension and a wild 675 horsepower engine made for an exceptional drive (and enough speed around a track to almost match the P1). Weirdly, they also took a tin-opener to this most hardcore of models, for the Spider variant.

McLaren 570S (2015)

McLaren rounded out 2015 with what was to prove its important car yet – the 570S. A more affordable, more accessible sports car to take on the Porsche 911 and Audi R8, this is the car that saw McLaren Automotive grow to its target of building 4,000 road cars a year – and beyond. A drop-top 570S would follow, for those who want their Sports Series McLaren with a bit more sky.

McLaren 570GT (2016)

The 570GT was the first modern McLaren that wasn’t billed as an out-and-out sports car. It was more rounded, with (slightly) more supple suspension and a side-hinged glass tailgate that revealed a load bay bigger than many superminis. It’s this GT theme that the firm has subsequently developed further…

McLaren 720S (2017)

The mighty McLaren 720S was the firm’s Super Series replacement for the 650S – and the first time it had given one of its cars a ground-up makeover. The name says it all: 720 horsepower. Performance is absolutely incredible: no wonder it scooped the 2019 World Performance Car of the Year prize. Now available in open-air Spider flavour, too.

McLaren Senna (2018)

McLaren’s next Ultimate Series model was a curious follow-up to the P1. Once you get past the controversial styling, you find no hybrid systems and less power than the car that preceded it. That’s because the Senna is all about pure track work – lightweight function over form. You know what doesn’t give as much downforce as a Senna? Most conventionally pretty cars. You know what weighs a lot more? The P1, with its batteries. We reckon this 800hp tribute to Ayrton goes well enough without extra electric puff.

McLaren 600LT (2018)

Long-awaited, given the superb reaction to the 570, was this more hardcore 600LT variant. You know the drill: weight down, power up, handling tuned, aero added. This fire-spitting GT3 RS-baiter topped many Car of The Year votes, including our own. Curiously, this hardcore track version is also available with the wind-in-the-hair experience. Further testament to the stiffness of that incredible carbon tub.

McLaren Speedtail (2019)

The Speedtail is the second wave of McLaren’s two-pronged hypercar attack. It’s pretty much the opposite of the Senna in every way. This car is all about being smooth and comfortable: a hyper GT. A 250mph 1,000hp hybrid whale-tail private jet for the road, it will also carry three occupants, with the driver in the middle – a nod to the F1 that started it all.

McLaren GT (2019)

Finally, the GT. It’s a new model inspired by the success of the 570GT. This is the third of McLaren’s road cars (after the 570GT and Speedtail) to shirk outright track performance for grand touring prowess. Its sleek looks immediately mark it out as something more nuanced than its bewinged brethren. Its boot will take overnight bags and golf clubs with ease, while a new infotainment system should be a big improvement. Still want that Aston Martin DB11 AMR?

McLaren GT: all you need to know about the baby Speedtail

McLaren GT

McLaren has unveiled its new GT model. It will be the fifth independent model in the range, excluding LT, Spider and GT versions of its 570 and 720 models.

You might wonder where it sits in the McLaren range. The Sports, Super and Ultimate Series models are easily divided by performance, price and exclusivity.

McLaren

The GT is intended to be a bit more nuanced, shirking a focus on outright performance for a specific use: Grand Touring. Think of it as a middle ground between the 570GT and the Speedtail, though definitely closer to the former…

The first true McLaren Grand Tourer

McLaren GT

It doesn’t quite find a home within the existing three-level structure of McLaren’s lineup. It’s still a McLaren – mid-engined, with a twin-turbo V8 and a carbon tub – but everything has been tuned and geared towards being a cosseting continent crosser.

McLaren GT

So that means the ride comfort, cabin refinement, control optimisation and weights have all been geared towards amenability and daily usability. The new Proactive Damping Control suspension system is instrumental in realising the GT’s new more cosseting personality.

The ride height and ground clearance have even been developed with urban driving and speed bumps firmly in mind. 

McLaren GT: elegance over aggression

McLaren GT

While the GT is recognisably a McLaren, some of the marque’s more controversial design elements are gone, in favour of a more traditional look.

That means no 720S-style ‘eye sockets’ or even lights in the shape of a McLaren logo, as per previous cars. It’s a simple, slim and elegant light design, with no excessively-sized vents at all. That means most of the madness of the Senna is nowhere to be seen.

We say most, given that those gaping side vents rear of the doors look oddly familiar…

McLaren

There isn’t even any active aero, as far as we can tell. There’s no aggressive splitter, no jagged aero-focused rear end. The exhausts are low down and the diffuser is by no means intrusive.

The air exit vent, within which the elegant strip lights reside, is of a stylish and modest shape, sitting under a subtle ducktail into which the top of the car tapers.

McLaren

The styling, while more subtle than what we’ve grown accustomed to from McLaren, isn’t where the GT-ness is at its strongest, though.

You have to step inside.

The cabin of the McLaren GT

McLaren

Some of the finest luxuries in motoring are space and light. While the GT is no four-up tourer like a Ferrari GTC4Lusso, it has an overabundance of transparent surfaces that bathe the cabin in light to give it an airy feel.

The obvious large glass areas are joined by a transparent roof and buttress elements, first seen on the 720S Spider.

To look at, besides being nicely naturally lit, the interior is familiar McLaren. It does, however, feature the new (much improved and much needed) HERE infotainment system, which is McLaren’s most sophisticated system to date.

McLaren GT

One thing a GT car needs is a sizeable boot. The GT comes complete with 570 litres of storage space including the front trunk (or ‘frunk’).

In the back, McLaren knows the audience it wants for this car.

McLaren

The rear storage is big enough for a set of golf clubs, big bags and skis, and accessible via the front-hinged, full-length glazed tailgate (under which you’d find an engine in most supercars).

That lid is available with power operation, for the ultimate in McLaren GT convenience…

Power and performance: it’s still a supercar

McLaren GT

While a Grand Tourer, it’s still the McLaren of Grand Tourers. As such, you can expect serious performance for when you’ve finished relaxing.

The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is a development of the units found in the 720S and Senna. With 620hp and 464lb ft of torque, it’s the least powerful of the three, but provides a ‘torque curve to ensure seamless, relentless acceleration’.

McLaren

Because 0-62mph times aren’t very GT, McLaren quotes a nine-second 0-124mph time. Assume that 62mph will arrive in the low threes. Top end, it’ll be going 203mph.

Truthfully, performance figures are almost an irrelevance in this car. As long as it’s got good overtaking power (it’s a McLaren, so this is a given), it does the job.

How much is it and when can I have one?

McLaren GT

The McLaren GT is available to order now, and if your name is one of the first on the list, you can expect delivery ‘towards the end of 2019’. Prices start from £163,000, but we expect a nicely-specced car will be closer to £200,000.

Twenty thousand cars? At this rate, McLaren Automotive will hit 25,000 units in no time at all.

These are the last ever petrol-powered Smart cars

Smart Final 21

Smart is killing off its petrol cars, signing off with a series of Final #21 Edition models.

There will be 21, obviously,  before the company takes the bold step of going fully electric.

Smart Final 21

The final 21 are numbered to represent 21 years of the Smart brand. And you won’t mistake a Final #21 for anything else. With design by acclaimed artist Konstantin Grcic, this is a striking car.

Mixing an original shade – ‘Hello Yellow’ – and black, there’s a ‘tearing’ effect between the two hues. That’s a tribute to a stunt from the original Smart launch, involving a car driving out of a tunnel as a bucket of paint is poured onto it. Oh, how ‘outside the box’ we were in the 1990s…

Smart Final 21

Inside, the yellow and black mix-and-match continues. Although it’s all a little bit, er, cheesy, we like that petrol isn’t being sent off with a ‘good riddance’.

“Smart remains much more than a car – it represents the grand vision of a new form of urban mobility,” said Daniel Lescow, head of brand at Smart.

Smart Final 21

“As such, the ground-breaking decision to switch the entire range to electric drives only as of 2020 is a perfectly logical step.”

“For us, the Final Collector’s Edition marks both the end of an era and a new beginning as a significant milestone in the history of Smart and towards a future horizon.”