Some old cars have managed to maintain a steady trickle of fresh examples into self-serve wrecking yards since I began crawling around in such yards, back in 1981 or so. The kings of this phenomenon are, of course, the Fiat 124 Sport Spider (in a few years of this series we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’78, and this ’80), and the MGB (so far, this ’67, this ’71, this ’75, this ’79, and this ’79 with Toyota 20R power). The MGB’s British Leyland cousin, the Triumph Spitfire, has been a rarer but just-as-steady find for me; first this ’65 and then this ’75, and the prehistory of this series gives us this Spitfire-sibling ’67 GT6 as well. What these cars have in common is near-scrap value when in rough shape, respectable price tags when in nice condition, and a tendency to be hoarded by guys who plan— someday— to turn the former condition into the latter condition. Eventually, reality sets in and a car that sat in a driveway from the time of the Chowchilla Kidnapping until a few months ago takes its final trip. Here’s a rust-free, fairly complete, restorable early-ish Spitfire that I saw last month in a Northern California yard. (Read More…)
Tag: british cars
For the first time since 1966, the United Kingdom’s automobile industry will likely build more cars than those built in France. Increasing domestic and export sales are expected to make 2013 a record year for car manufacturing, putting Great Britain in third place among car producing countries in Europe, behind Germany and Spain. UK car production is estimated to reach 1.55 million units, up from 1.47 million the previous year and 1.35 million in 2011. In contrast, French car production for 2013 is expected to fall to ~1.54 million units, down from 1.66 million in 2012 and 1.88 million the year before that. Some analysts and industry executives predict UK car production to hit 2 million by 2017 as investments to plants bear fruit.
When you find a Jensen Interceptor in one row and a Maserati Biturbo Spyder in the next row at a Los Angeles self-service wrecking yard, you can count on finding another weird import not far away. Sure enough, here’s a Sterling, a rare reminder of the short-lived Austin-Rover-Honda experiment of the late 1980s. (Read More…)
By far the most numerous British sports car in junkyards these days— and, in fact, for the last few decades— is the MGB. We’ve seen many of these cars in this series, but today’s find is just the second Junkyard Find Spitfire, after this ’75. The Spitfire had a long production run, 19 years total, but Spitfires just weren’t anywhere near as sturdy as their MGB cousins and most of the non-perfect examples got crushed long ago. Still, every so often a forgotten project gets evicted from a garage or back yard, and that’s probably what this happened to this battered ’65 that I spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard last month. (Read More…)
The MGB is not at all uncommon in American self-service wrecking yards these days— perhaps a bit less numerous than the Fiat 124 Sports Spider, but I still see a few Crusher-bound MGBs every year. I had an MGB-GT daily driver about 25 years ago, and so I’m very familiar with this car’s many drawbacks… but I still think the B was a pretty good car for its time, so it saddens me to see yet another doomed one. Here’s an early B that I spotted at a Denver self-service yard a few weeks ago. (Read More…)
As a former MGB commuter, I always feel a certain sadness when I see one of British Leyland’s underpowered little sports cars about to get eaten by The Crusher. The B was a surprisingly sturdy car of very simple construction, but sales were undermined by terrible build quality, a primitive pushrod engine, and electrical components made by the Prince of Darkness. These cars show up frequently in self-service wrecking yards, as abandoned project MGBs are expelled from driveways and back yards; we’ve seen this ’71, this ’75, and this Toyota-engined ’79 in this series, and today we’ll look at a very used-up ’79 that I spotted in a California yard. (Read More…)
In the early 1980s, when Japanese car companies started conquering the automotive world, few would have predicted the survival of the British car industry. British Leyland, whose umbrella eventually included most British marques except for tiny specialists like Lotus and TVR, was busy going defunct. In the 1950s and early 1960s, export demand, particularly for sports cars, helped keep British car factories humming. By the 1980s, though, decrepit factories, continual labor unrest, abysmal quality and Lucas electrics made success virtually impossible in the face of the well engineered and reliable new Japanese cars. Now, three decades later, at a time when the continental European automobile industry is plagued by overcapacity and a dormant market (issues with the Euro, Greece and other debtor countries are probably a factor as well), the British automotive sector is in the best shape it’s been in since the 1960s.
Auto journalists have a habit of being cornered at parties by interested outsiders – usually, the boyfriend of the cute girl you were just flirting with – and pounced upon with the standard question. After “what’s your favorite car?” and “what’s the fastest you’ve ever gone”, you are likely to get some kind of consumer advice question. “I have $X to spend on a car. What would you recommend?”
You see plenty of Fiat 124 Sport Spiders in self-service wrecking yards these days, but junked MGBs— which were more commonplace back in the day— are fairly rare. The MGB was slower, less sophisticated, and sturdier than its Fiat competitor, and it still has a big following today. This could mean that more MGB projects get finished, while 124 Spider projects languish for decades before getting discarded. (Read More…)
Has Mini’s over-propagation of vehicles gotten so bad that we’re actually cheering when a new special isn’t a silly two-seater or pseudo-crossover? The Mini John Cooper Works GP may be overpriced, but at least it’s got its heart in the right place.
51 years ago, my beloved Grandfather emigrated from England. Despite being a man of modest means, he immediately went out and bought himself the biggest, V8 powered American sedan he could buy (the exact make remains obscure – it tends to change every time my grandmother tells the story), swearing off British cars and his cursed MG Magnette for life. He would be just as bewildered as I am that there is any demand for the Morgan 3 Wheeler in the United States that would result in U.S. sales.
If you are an automotive journalist who socializes with people who don’t have a bizarre fascination with the automobile and its associated trivia (there’s not many of us, believe me), you will inevitably be asked a few stock questions at parties. Among them;
1) Wow, you have the best job in the world, don’t you? (The answer is, no, not really, but working at TTAC is great)
2) What’s the fastest you’ve ever driven? (The answer is, 30 thousand, 100 million)
This article answers another common question – “What do you think of (insert car here)?”, and more specifically, what happens when expectations and reality are not the same.