QOTD: Trucking Awful Nineties Design From Europe?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
qotd trucking awful nineties design from europe

Last week, in our Wednesday QOTD post, we switched over to the darker side of truck and SUV design from the Nineties. It seemed many of our dear readers were less than fans of the so-called “jellybean” Ford F-150. This week, attention shifts to east — to Europe. Which trucks and SUVs from that most stylish of continents have aged the worst in terms of styling?

Just like a few weeks ago when we considered the good Euro designs from the Nineties, we’ll be picking from a thinner field of contenders than either America or Asia. Our rules stand the test of time, as always:

  1. All selections must be model years 1990 to 1999.
  2. Picks must be from a domestic manufacturer, even if sourced from an import (eg. Vauxhall Rascal).
  3. The only eligible body styles are trucks and SUVs.

Unlike the fantastic Land Rover Discovery II which won Your Author’s Nineties Design Award, a different Land Rover vehicle from the same time period didn’t fare so well.

The golden egg seen here is the Freelander. As the Land Rover brand reached downward to the masses with the Discovery and Discovery II, parent Rover considered how it might move even further downmarket.

Their research from the Eighties suggested that a compact SUV offering would do well. With a limited budget for development (or anything, really), Rover hunted for someone with whom a partnership might occur. Naturally given their history, Honda was number one on the speed dial. But Rover’s Japanese friend was already in development of their own SUV (the CR-V) and declined. Rover had to go it alone.

Not an issue, as Land Rover turned to the parts bin like they’d done many times before. The donor platform was a modified version of the one on a Rover 200. Whether they wanted to or not, Honda ended up helping Land Rover develop the Freelander: The modified 200 platform was sourced from the prior generation. Said prior generation 200 was developed jointly by Honda and Rover — based on the previous generation Civic — and was also sold as the Honda Concerto. One could not simply drop Rover so easily.

The Freelander entered production in 1997, and was built at the factory which used to make the Rover SD1. Its rounded shape and excessive cladding didn’t share much with the rest of the Land Rover lineup, which is fortunate for those other models. Engines in North American examples incorporated the largest V6 available, a Rover-developed 2.5-liter KV6. Those motors usually killed themselves off around 60,000 miles, so it’s not likely you’ll come across many first generation Freelanders today. For the best, as it looks cheap and terrible in any context outside of London in 1999.

Let’s hear your selections for bad European design.

[Images: Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover]

Join the conversation
3 of 47 comments
  • Tstag Tstag on Jul 11, 2019

    The Freelander didn’t look that bad, I think you’ve forgotten cars like the Vauxhall Frontera! In actual fact the Freelander let us the worst looking car Land Rover ever made.... but if it’s their worst what about everyone else? Ford for example, hard to choose between the Sierra, the Scorpio and the Edsel! Jeep, gave us the Compass and the weird Cherokee with that grill. In pure styling terms Land Rover is arguably the most successful car maker in the world.

    • ThomasSchiffer ThomasSchiffer on Jul 11, 2019

      But the Vauxhall Frontera was based on an Isuzu design (the name of the car eludes me), so technically it’s not European. For the time (I remember that era rather well) the Opel Frontera was actually quite ‘sporty’ in appearance. Nowadays I look at it and wonder how I ever could have found it attractive.

  • Onyxtape Onyxtape on Jul 11, 2019

    I remember reading somewhere that they did a stellar job with the promotion of the ML by having Catherine Zeta Jones drive it in the movie Traffic as a drug lord's trophy wife. It showed her hauling a bunch of kids and being able to fit a bunch of golf clubs in it. Sales exploded after that.

  • Art Vandelay Best? PCH from Ventura to somewhere near Lompoc. Most Famous? Route Irish
  • GT Ross The black wheel fad cannot die soon enough for me.
  • Brett Woods My 4-Runner had a manual with the 4-cylinder. It was acceptable but not really fun. I have thought before that auto with a six cylinder would have been smoother, more comfortable, and need less maintenance. Ditto my 4 banger manual Japanese pick-up. Nowhere near as nice as a GM with auto and six cylinders that I tried a bit later. Drove with a U.S. buddy who got one of the first C8s. He said he didn't even consider a manual. There was an article about how fewer than ten percent of buyers optioned a manual in the U.S. when they were available. Visited my English cousin who lived in a hilly suburb and she had a manual Range Rover and said she never even considered an automatic. That's culture for you.  Miata, Boxster, Mustang, Corvette and Camaro; I only want manual but I can see both sides of the argument for a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. Once you get past a certain size and weight, cruising with automatic is a better dynamic. A dual clutch automatic is smoother, faster, probably more reliable, and still allows you to select and hold a gear. When you get these vehicles with a high performance envelope, dual-clutch automatic is what brings home the numbers. 
  • ToolGuy 2019 had better comments than 2023 😉
  • Inside Looking Out In June 1973, Leonid Brezhnev arrived in Washington for his second summit meeting with President Richard Nixon. Knowing of the Soviet leader’s fondness for luxury automobiles, Nixon gave him a shiny Lincoln Continental. Brezhnev was delighted with the present and insisted on taking a spin around Camp David, speeding through turns while the president nervously asked him to slow down. https://academic.oup.com/dh/article-abstract/42/4/548/5063004