A Datsun 160J: When the tinworm loses its appetite


Though it’s nowhere near as hostile as that of Iceland, the British climate is one that incubates tinworms to an extent that they will feverishly tuck into any metalwork that takes their fancy.

My forum moniker alludes to the fact that the pesky blighters evidently find the 1988 Rover 800 a particular delicacy, and will make any metalwork concealed by plastic panelling disappear in short order. And, while the rapid lessening of heavy steelwork will undoubtedly improve your acceleration times, waking up one morning to find that your car is growing smaller is a constant fear of the Rover owner.

But ‘eighties Rovers are low-fat compared to what tinworms liked to eat in the past. They may have found Thatcher-era Fords, Vauxhalls and Leyland products delicious, and really liked to chow down on an occasional non-galvanised Italian, but they enjoyed nothing more than a Japanese meal from the ’70s. All of this makes this immaculate ’79 Datsun 160J an improbable survivor.

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Not The Carchive: To finish on a bright note.

It’s been a good day. I was going to fill the 15:00 slot with a visit to The Carchive, and I had photographed – and you’re gonna love this – a 1987 brochure for the Mercury Topaz. But one thing lead to another and I’ve run out of time to write it up. So lets finish up on something a bit different, and a whole lot more yellow.

Here’s a car that the world doesn’t tend to mention very often any more. It’s fallen off many radars, living firmly in the shadow of two more recent cars from the same Germano-French-Italian brand – as it would later become. It’s a bit of a favourite of mine.

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P66: The Forgotten Jensen

Back before the great Intensedebate Apocolypse of 2014, I managed to find myself behind the wheel of one of the most spectacular cars ever to come out of Birmingham. Not an especially long list, admittedly, but a star-studded one. Nevertheless, the Jensen Interceptor was a British car with Italian style and American brute power – an intoxicating combination.

But what if Italy hadn’t got involved? With Britain now about to bid adieu to our European partnership once and for all, it’s interesting to look back at how the Interceptor might have developed if Jensen’s in-house stylist, Eric Neale’s suggestion had gone into production. This is the P66, the Interceptor that never did.

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Diecast Delights: The Audi Avus Concept

Concept cars. As an impressionable kid the unveiling of new concept cars was always the highlight of my motor show trips. On any manufacturers stand these lurid flights of fancy would stand out from the massed ranks of more spacious superminis and cleaner-burning diesels, which, naturally, bored the shit out of me.

No, give me something in chrome, with crazy doors and a mountain of power, and all those earnest, practical conveyances are suddenly put in context. They represented where we were, the concepts would show us where we were going. But fast-forward a few decades and yesterday’s concepts become even more fascinating.

Like the original Metropolis; as channelled by Matt Groenings Futurama; yesterday’s vision of tomorrow is often way more exciting than what inevitably surfaces when its time comes. The Audi Avus concept was unveiled in an era before the TT and the R8; neither of which really owe all that much to the Avus, apart perhaps from its spirit. It was Audi’s tangible sci-fi vision of a future supercar, before later concepts came to define the design language that would soon ensure that every Ingolstadt product seems uncomfortably familiar. The Avus presents such a fascinating parallel to the present that I just had to add it to my diecast collection.

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Carchive New Year Special: The 1937 Plymouths

As 2016 dons its hat and scarf and prepares itself to hobble uselessly into history, a brand spanking new year has beamed in from the future and is presesently plumping up the sofa cushions, ready to make itself comfortable.

How better for The Carchive to welcome 2017 than by peering back a solid 80 years into the past? For one last time, I ask you to follow me down the the dank, dark staircase into the dungeons that house ghosts from roads gone by. Let’s take a look at the ‘new for ’37’ Plymouth line.

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V.I.S.I.T.: A 1972 Triumph TR6 Pleases all my senses

What could be better on a winter’s day off than a stroll down to the riverside? It’s one of our favourite activities after the Christmas dust has settled, and it so happens that several of the classic car owning locals are of very much the same persuasion.

The Mistley Walls is a popular haunt in the summer months where the ice-cream vans fight for business and Andy’s superb mobile coffee dispensary is on hand for a caffeine injection, you’ll find motorists in concours convertibles mixing with bikers astride their polished steeds. But it’s rare that you see something interesting down here when there’s a risk of salt on the roads. So I was thrilled to get a chance to see, hear and smell this beautiful TR6 on bank holiday Tuesday.

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The Carchive: The Ferrari 612 Scaglietti

It’s Christmas Eve eve, and I’m just about to round off my day by wrapping family gifts in an inimitable, shambolic way that I have perfected. With my special technique, I could start with a perfectly rectangular gift and end up with something the shape of a rugby ball. Anyway, it’s time to put on our red and white suits and hats, play with our fine, white, candy-floss beards for a while and then delve into our bulging sacks. Welcome to the Christmas Carchive.

What is it we like about Ferraris? There are some, many in fact, that we can love for their beauty. The 308 and its derivatives were pretty, culminating in the downright explicit 288 GTO with its gaping holes and dirty, exposed running gear. Many call the 456 GT bland, but while it may start out as merely easy on the eye, it continues to work on you until it becomes insufferably handsome.  The F50 wasn’t exactly an oil painting, but it had the mechanical wherewithal to more than make up for it. Generally, if you can’t fall in love with the looks of a Ferrari, it’ll have another attribute that’ll get you back on side.

The 612 Scaglietti is nobody’s favourite Ferrari, but it tries so, so hard.

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An English car better than the Rover P6?


Here’s startling revelation for anybody who hasn’t spent a lot of time in this comfy little corner of the internet: I’m English. Yep, a fully paid up, tiffin nibbling, tea drinking, cricket… uh, ignoring, monarchy…uh, tolerating limey. We all have our problems.

Here’s another truth. Though I have a huge fondness for ’em, I’m by no means diehard fan of the English car; especially not if there is a direct equivalent from another nation that can beat it, either on points or issue a comprehensive wholesale drubbing. There are some, though, that will never test my allegiance, and a prime example is the Rover P6.

Running (if you got a good one – JK) from 1963 to 1977, the Rover P6 can surely be judged as an example of the British doing the car properly. It was a pretty sophisticated machine, really, with a De Dion rear suspension setup, inboard rear disc brakes (that may be effective are absolute hell to work on) and a cleverly designed ‘safety first’ interior. It was also one of the very first cars to receive the ex-Buick 215 c.i V8 that would soon become the doyen of the British sports car industry. It was certainly better than the Chevy Corvair, with anti-sway bar enthusiast Ralph Nader citing it as an example of how all cars should be built.

But how could you make it better?

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The SN Honda Prelude reminds us of a prettier past


As Honda releases its new generation Civic, a riot of curves, lines, grilles and pointy bits that will give us headaches until we get used to it, let’s not get upset. It’s progress, they say. It certainly seems inevitable that the more bloated and bulky cars become to accommodate mandatory safety, comfort and  anti-pollution equipment, designers have to resort to sleight of hand tactics – adding as many visual distractions as possible to disguise the sheer mass of the car.

Since we’re approaching Christmas,  a time to look at the past and dream mournfully of years gone by, lets put tomorrow on hold for just a minute. Once upon a time, when the Earth was a younger, more innocent little planet, Honda released a gorgeous little coupe. It was named it Prelude, and in some respects it was a sign of things to come. In others, sadly, it wasn’t.

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Marcos Mantis: Ahead of its time or road to nowhere?


The history of the UK motor industry is dotted with fascinating footnotes, risks and flights of fancy. Take Marcos Engineering, a once proud of sports cars which has been in stasis since 2007.

First collaborating in scenic Wales in 1959, Jem Marsh and Frank Costin  produced the first Marcos small sports car, the frighteningly-named Xylon, with a view to taking the 750 Motor Club racing scene by storm. To a certain extent, it did, and pretty soon the brand expanded its lineup with the Volvo Engined 1800 GT, its first real full-size sports car. And as if to prove the concept of getting it right first time, it’s that shape that went on to endure the next 40 years, including the faintly ridiculous Chevy small-block powered Mantara LM600.

So what of the Marcos Mantis M70? The car  “for the man who is going places and wants to travel in style”? Well, what do you reckon?

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