QOTD: Trucking Awful Nineties Design From Europe?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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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.

  • Wjtinfwb I'd like to see a Ford/Mazda relationship restarted. Both companies have some car guys keeping the flame alive and could develop a sports car slightly bigger than a Miata and pick and choose from each other's parts bin to put together some attractive powertrain combo's. Even a Mazda 3 AWD with the 300HP EcoBoost 2.3L, manual and AWD from the Focus RS would be welcome. Even better, a factory Miata V8 with the 480 HP Coyote (i know it wont fit...) and a manual gearbox. And how about a CX-5 with a 2.7L EcoBoost V6 with AWD and an chassis tuned for sport. Lots of possibilities.
  • Blueice Patient 28, sorry, but it is Oktoberfest. Bring a kegof Kraut beer and we will 50% you.
  • Bd2 Probably Toyota, Hyundai is killing them these days.
  • Bd2 Japan is evil, stop buying their vehicles. I hope TTAC has a holiday for PEARL HARBOR.
  • Wolfwagen If Isuzu could update this truck and keep the cost between $25K - $30K they would sell like ice pops on dollar day in a heat wave.