BL's alternative reality - part 3

Here is the third and final part of my alternative reality that could have seen British Leyland become the pride of Britain with a popular, desirable and well-built range of cars and a world-renowned image, far from the reality of a long-extinct but still tarnished brand and its infamous lineup of failed products. Part 2 took us through the 1980s as the group consolidated the reputation established in the previous decade, so here we take up the story from the 1990s through to the present day with British Leyland still very much alive and well as a dominant force in the global motor industry. Sadly I have no Photoshop skills, otherwise I would create renderings of these cars to illustrate this article as I can picture them in my mind, but read on anyway to see how I envision BL looking today.


BL's alternative reality - part 2

Into the eighties...

This piece is another 'might have been' scenario concerning the British motor industry, which follows on from one published back in February and is best read in conjunction with it for the background to what happens here. That article proposed an alternative 1970s British Leyland range based around the Maxi and Allegro, so this one discusses what might have happened when the group moved into the 1980s as a successful and market-leading British-run company, a far cry from the tattered and troubled reality.

British Leyland, a world-famous brand entering the eighties in excellent shape


The letters game

Whatever happened to proper trim levels?

Today I want to talk about something that has quietly and almost imperceptibly disappeared from modern motoring. Not so long ago your social standing would be made obvious to the world by the trim level of your car, those little letters on the bootlid that told everyone how well-equipped or otherwise it was. A lot of people may take them for granted and not give them a second thought, but these trim levels had far more importance than their stature might suggest - they said a great deal about the person behind the wheel and, particularly in the company car world, your success in life would be judged by your peers on what badge you had. Nowadays though, these traditional hierarchies have all but disappeared in favour of meaningless names, and I for one miss the days of designations like L and GLX, whose simplicity belied the connotations attached to them.


Dream cars: Chevrolet Firenza Can Am

Vauxhall Viva meets muscle car

Today the dream cars series makes a long-overdue return with a surprise new entry. This car is pretty obscure and I have known of its existence for little more than two weeks, but even in that short time I have already developed a strong desire to own one. It is another product of the fascinating but little-known South African motor industry, although this one is far more exciting and desirable than the dull old Sao Penza I have previously featured. It's a true muscle car in the American tradition but with the benefit of right-hand drive and a more manageable size, so what's not to like? It all started with a chance encounter at the recent Earls Barton Classic Car Meet, an event pretty much guaranteed to turn up something out of the ordinary...

No ordinary Firenza - there's a ridiculously big engine under the bonnet


A year of Maxi-ing

Time flies when you're having fun, and the weekend just gone marked the first anniversary of buying the Maxi. It's hard to believe a whole year has passed so quickly, so what has happened to the car in that time? It may have been overshadowed in recent weeks by the unexpected arrival of the Renault 6, but the Maxi hasn't been forgotten. To be honest, there really isn't much to report as it just keeps on doing its thing without a fuss.

The Festival of the Unexceptional was its first outing with the new wheeltrims


The Renault 6: a potted history

By now you should know all about how we found and rescued Bob's Renault 6, but it occurred to me that many of my readers might not know what a Renault 6 actually is. It was never an especially popular car when new and is now an uncommon sight even in its native France. There are only about 20 left in the UK, many of which are fairly recent imports, so it's fair to assume a lot of you will have never seen one or even heard of it. We had no intention of ever owning one and knew very little about them, so some research was called for. What exactly is a Renault 6 and what purpose did it serve?

An odd little car and a very rare sight even in France


Renault 6 rescue: part deux

I told you last time how we discovered my late friend Bob's Renault 6 that had been hidden away for 23 years, but where I left the story the car was still in his garage and no attempt had been made to move it. We went there purely to buy some model buses and had no idea we were going to find a car, so we were totally unprepared and had no tools with us on that first occasion. Here we pick up the action just over a week later, back in Rugby with the trusty Zafira packed to the rafters with tools to deal with any eventuality, including a six-foot scaffold pole for applying some brute force should that prove necessary. Transport had been arranged, thanks to Chris of Field of Dreams fame, so our aim was to get the car rolling so it could be moved out of the garage ready for the journey to its new home.

What have we let ourselves in for and will it come out of there?


Renault 6 rescue

A genuine garage find...

Isn't it every car enthusiast's dream to open up a long-forgotten garage and find a rare classic hidden inside? That dream still comes true surprisingly often and some amazing barn finds have been discovered in recent years, but I never thought it would happen to me. We were quite happy with the Maxi and weren't looking for another classic, and certainly had no intention of buying a Renault 6 but then this one unexpectedly found us and had to be saved. Read on for the story of its discovery after more than two decades hidden away in storage...


Unsung heroes: Triumph TR7

British Leyland have far more than their fair share of unsung heroes, being the car company everyone loves to hate, and today's subject is the second Triumph-badged car to feature in this series. The Triumph TR7 is practically guaranteed to feature in all those lists of the world's worst cars that keep appearing, especially those compiled by Americans, who really seem to hate it with a passion. That's quite ironic really as it was designed specifically to appeal to the US market and the Americans mostly have themselves to blame for the way it turned out. Was it really that bad though? Yes, it suffered its share of issues and its story is one of missed opportunities and unrealised potential, but it's a surprisingly contradictory yet true fact that the TR7 is somehow both the least loved and simultaneously also the most successful member of the TR series.

Is it really fair to class this as one of the world's worst cars?


An Unexceptional new venue

My favourite event of the year has just been and gone again: Hagerty's Festival of the Unexceptional returned for a fourth year at a new and even more upmarket venue. I thought Whittlebury Park was posh, but the Festival's new home was on another level, the grandiose and world-famous National Trust house and gardens at Stowe, surroundings that were a hugely marked contrast to the down-to-earth cars. I was promoted from spectator to exhibitor too - no longer do I have to suffer the indignity of attending in a modern car as the Maxi fits in perfectly at this event and arriving early allowed it to secure a front row spot in the classic parking, where it drew a lot of attention.

What a fantastic view! What goodies can you spot here?

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