Thursday, July 1, 2010
THE AUSTIN APACHE 1971-77
My granddad had one of these. In light blue. Not one of his finest moments.
A shining example of the little-known Mirror Image School Of Design, the front half of the Apache looks, in fact, exactly the same as the back half. A landmark achievement in economy of design. You could genuinely swap the front headlights with those at the rear and no-one would know the difference.
Based on the Austin Farina but re-styled “by the pen of Michelotti”, that claim could well be true… except it’s highly unlikely Michelotti himself was actually holding his pen at the time. “From the pen of Michelotti as borrowed by the janitor while the maestro was enjoying a late afternoon pick-me-up espresso” is a more of accurate descriptor.
Performance wasn’t exactly the Apache’s strong point – that despite a 1300cc engine taken from the Mini Clubman GT. It went from in 18.8 seconds (humans accelerate faster than that) and it topped out at 141km/h.
It’s biggest problem though was that it was made by British Leyland. And not just British Leyland, but British Leyland of the 1970s… which meant it had the build quality of Cornish pastie. The road handling too.
Obviously it now has an appreciation society. But, as we all know, that’s a therapy group in disguise helping its members soothe the pain and embarrassment of owning such a total lemon
Before the Lancia Stratos appeared, rally cars were no more than bog standard vehicles in flared trousers. The Fords, Minis, Saabs, and Fiats that won exotic events like the Rallye Automoble Monte-Carlo were your basic rep mobiles with beefy wheel arches.
This was all part of the plan of course. As a manufacturer, one embarked on a rallying program with one specific purpose in mind – to sell more cars. If one’s Ford Escort won a rally on Sunday, one could be sure the punters would be lining up outside one’s dealership on Monday.
Which is why the Stratos pissed everyone off. Lancia not only went and designed a supercar, but at the hands of Sandro Muntari and then Bjorn Waldegard, the bladdy thing won the World Rally Championship in 1974, 1975 and 1976. In fact it would probably have cleaned up for a few more years had FIAT’s (who owned Lancia) bean counters not intervened and insisted a FIAT 131 be rallied instead.
Too bad – at least the world witnessed three glorious years of this Ferrari V6-powered, Alitalia-liveried rocket ship sliding sideways around any bit of road that deviated from the dead straight
A modern take on the Stratos was shown at the 2005 Geneva motor show – sadly the concept never made it to production…