Last week, Tim and I brought you a list of 10 lust-worthy cars which have been kept from our shores by the cruel twists of corporate suits. Our list of Citroens, world Fords and former Commie Cars was ultimately an exercise in futility and frustration. So in keeping with the “you can’t have it” theme we’re looking at 5 cars we’d love to import, and could theoretically, were money not an object. Now some basic rules of the road are in order. The cars were pining after here are old cars, old cars which were never originally available in the U.S. market. I led off last week, so in the interest of fairness, Tim will go first this week.
#5. 1976 Ford B-100
In reality, I would take ANY of the B-series light duty trucks from South America. They were produced well into the ’90′s in both commercial and passenger use. Longer and more useful with the split barn-doors than a Bronco, it appeals to my station-wagon loving side. It really does defy logic or any reason why I’d want one, but I do.
This is the vehicle to haul all the parts to keep the other exotic fleet running.
#4. Lancia Stratos Stradale
I consider the Stratos to be the thinking man’s “antique” super-car, free from the connotations that arrive with owning a classic Ferrari or Lamborghini. Of course I would require the road-going Stradale version, as there is no need to go racing (I’m crazy, but not THAT crazy). With that striking compound curve windshield, they are beautiful to behold, lightening quick (in the right hands) and legendarily willing to kill you in the blink of an eye. The Stratos is too amazing to not covet. The Lancia’s of today are too pitiful to even contemplate the fact that they carry the Lancia name, so it is left to the Stratos to carry the banner.
This is the car I’d run around on Sunday mornings when traffic is appreciably less, and you can hit that apex just right without worrying about head on collisions (Also, EMS ambulances would be easier to come by in order to rescue me from the tree I wrapped this beauty around).
Depending upon where you were located, you could get your larger Ford saloon in either Cortina or Tanus guise, but either way, the boxy proportions and range of V6 engines (I’d go for a South Africa spec with a Essex 3.0L V6) with four speed manuals you’d have a very nice Q-ship car, and since they were available in Germany, I wouldn’t even have to drive on the wrong side of the car. The Mark IV and V range of the Cortina displayed the straight edge school of design that I favor (do I see hints of the ’60′s Continental in that beltline?) and they don’t scream “1979″ as much as many other cars of that vintage.
The perfect example of an early ’80′s repomobile, this would be my daily driver.
#2. 1983 Citreon CX
A lot of Citroenophiles consider this to be the last “real” Citroen before being swallowed up by PSA, I tend to agree completely. More refined and civilized than the aged DS, and not as strange or short-lived as the SM, the CX embodies the ultimate of everything French and oil-sprung. I’d take mine with the 2.3L diesel (apparently capable of 121 mph runs) in sedan form (while Clarkson may have made the station wagon more famous on Top Gear) as it has the strongest ties to the stunning DS, at least in profile.
What else would you do with a Citroen? Long distance road trips to Mardi Gras where it can bask in French culture, and for ‘causual’ Fridays at work when the Cortina is too formal and stodgy.
#1. Hindustan Ambassador
The Indian Hindustan Ambassador is one of those relics from a bygone era that still lingered on insubstantially changed in one form or another for decades. An exact copy of the Morris Oxford Mk III, the Ambassador is considered “King of the Indian Road”. While you can still buy a brand new copy today (complete with Nissan diesel engine and a five speed) I’d go for a late-70′s example, which retained most of the Morris looks but with slightly more modern drive train.
This would be my ride to take to classic car shows – how many Morris Oxfords of any ilk would be in attendance, let alone a Hindustan?
#5. ZIL-41047 Armored
As a serious student of Soviet and modern Russian history, I’ve always been drawn to the more “modern” lines of the late-model ZIL limousines. The imposing hulks epitomize the late Soviet period of Brezhnev and Gorbachev and the waning power of the Soviet Union. For my money, I’d go big and look for the armored 41047 model, which is an evolution (lolz!) of the 114 series cars. Honestly, trying to divine this car’s lineage is harder than trying to make sense of Engel’s Dialects of Nature. For the mottled party bosses who rode in back, the big ZIL offered a cushy ride, which is certainly a necessity on busted-assed Russian roads. With room for 7 passengers I could bring plenty of my fellow apparatchiks for a ride out to the dacha, where we’d pretend the decadent West didn’t exist and party like its 1917! Plenty of proletarian power is provided by the 7.7 litre V8, which is yet another example of Soviet giganticism! Were I needing to make a lasting impression and intimidate smaller, developing nations, this would be my car.
#4. Talbot/Matra-Simco Rancho
Moving from one failed socialist state to… the French, we have this, the Rancho! This mongrel was the product of a joint venture between Matra, an engineering firm and Simca, the ill-fated French automaker. The Rancho was meant to compete against the up-scale Range Rover. Only it didn’t really. In typical French fashion, the Rancho is a bit bizarre as it’s really just a butched up FWD super-mini in hiking boots. Despite the lack of 4WD the Rancho was available with such off-road pretensions as en electric winch, off-road style lights and various roof racks, which just goes to show that the French were onto the “look at me” soft-roader craze well before the rest of the world was. This is just so odd-ball that I’d have to have one in my garage.
#3. Bristol Blenheim S4
You really have to admire the chaps at Bristol, doing one thing for decades and not giving two shits about what the rest of the world, or the buying public, thinks. Bristol is all but unheard of by most outside of the British Isles and in the Old World the brand is most famous for its flat refusal to lend press cars. For years, British auto journalists wondered in vain what the cars were like to drive to which the company stewards would only turn a stiff upper lip in no. In addition to a rather old world approach to marketing and PR, the cars themselves are rather antiquated in their own right. Say what you will about Morgan and its wooden cars, they’ve got their market figured out. Near as I can tell, Bristol has continued to build the Blenheim out of old bomber bits and surplus Lend-Lease Chrysler motors. And that’s exactly what makes the Blenheim so attractive to me. The Blenheim is an object firmly rooted in Britain’s aristocratic past and proudly proclaims its steadfast dedication to doing things the “proper, old-fashioned way” even if that means monstrous V8s and dim-witted 3 speed automatics. This makes the cut because its odd and lovely and very British.
#2. VW SP2
For many decades the Brazilian auto market was essentially closed to foreign imports, in the 1970s VW knew that there was a thirsty public hankering for a stylish and affordable sports cars. VW needed a car to fill the niche, but the aging Karmann Ghia wasn’t cuttin’ the mustard. Enter the SP2, a special production of Volkswagen’s Brazilian division. Under that shapely body were the oily bits from the 412, more commonly known as they Type-2, which meant the SP2 enjoyed a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive configuration, a good start for a comely looking sports coupe. Problem was the engine at the rear was a small, under powered 1.7 litre flat four, which made just 75 bhp. Hardly the stuff to get your blood flowing. Still, the SP2 is regarded as one the most beautiful VWs ever made, and who am I to argue with that? This gets the nod because of it’s almost compete rarity and the fact that its little known outside the circle of VW cognoscenti.
#1. Peugeot 205 GTI
Of all the cars, this is number one because it’s the most real, the most attainable, and let’s be honest, the most livable of all the other cars. While the VW GTI gets all the credit for starting the hot hatch craze, the Peugeot is considered by all who know to be the best of the best. The handsome featherweight set the world afire when it debuted in the hotted up GTI guise. Two engines were offered over the course of the 205 GTI’s long-life, a 1.6 and 1.9. The smaller 1.6 made just 104bhp, while the larger 1.9 cranked out 128bhp. If you’re the type to obsess over raw power output then you’re missing the point and the hot hatch niche isn’t for you; if however, you are a believer in snappy handling, a willing and eager chassie, and a playful motor, than you could do no better than the 205 GTI. Now days we spoiled by the likes of the VW GTI, the Focus ST, MazdaSpeed 3 and the various bonkers WRXs, but when the 205 debuted it really changed the definition of practical performance. It’s a pity that Peugeot never saw fit to grace our shores with the 205 GTI (Pugs at that point enjoyed an up-market image in the U.S.), because this would likely be all the car I’d ever need.