A Hopeless Fantasy about putting New British Breath into MG


MG’s claim to Britishness has been pretty tenuous for a good few years now. Recent products that bore the octagonal badge and made it to UK roads have been marketed on the brand’s historical provenance, but the cars themselves had very little actual indigenous British content. They would arrive from China virtually complete and with just a few finishing-off jobs needing to be performed, like maybe fitting the ashtrays and hubcaps.  Just enough to merit a thin claim to “production”.

Now even that has ceased. As of September 23rd, MG ca are being imported to the UK in a fully constructed state. The final five minutes of ‘assembly’ at Longbridge will no longer be necessary, bringing the history of domestic MG manufacture to its conclusion once and for all. Of course, none of us are naive enough to believe that there really has still been a ‘real’ MG for at least a decade, indeed many would say there hasn’t been one since 1980 (Sorry Mr Harrell).

But does it have to be this way? Is there anything that SAIC MG- as it is now – could do to inject a bit of meaning into those famous initials? To reconnect with a heritage that now seems so distant? To relive the good old days when MG was revered around the world? To rekindle past glories? I think there is.

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V.I.S.I.T: 1973 Citroen DS21


Every time I truck down to my local supermarket I tend to forget my phone, which means I never seem to have a picture-recording instrument to hand when interesting conveyances show up in the car park. And they invariably do, such as the rotten ’85 Range Rover, Dutch-registered Volvo 262C and Chevy C1500 with Z71 package that I missed out on recently.

This time was no exception. I parked up, saw the Citroen and realised that, again, I had no camera. Then I checked my jacket pocket; another fold of fabric that I often forget about, and my phone was there all along! I had cheated the system! There’s no way this Citroen would be there if it knew I had a camera with me.

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The Carchive: The Daihatsu HiJet


We’ve kicked the tyres and lit the fires. The F110s of discovery are in full reheat and the wings are swept on the Tomcat of time. Let’s buzz the control tower of the past and see what we can shake loose. On Friday the pattern was full so this is a Carchive, Monday Edition.

Last time we took a look at one of the more upscale offerings of Ford’s Antipodean arm, the Ford Fairlane and spent a little time debating whether it most reminded us of a Crown Victoria or a Taurus, and we also mourned the passing of the Falcon. Today we’re looking at something rather smaller, and taller. It’s mid engined and has sixteen valves and isn’t a Lotus Elise. It’s the Daihatsu Hijet.

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From out of nowhere: When Mondeo fought Mediocrity

Recently, I’ve been finding it really difficult to come to terms with the rate that time passes at. While idly flicking through the music channels this morning, Christina Aguilera’s ‘Dirty’ ditty came on – a song which is now, shockingly, fourteen years old. Of course, age has added nothing to the majesty of that recording, but it only really seems dated due to its sheer familiarity.

It still gets airplay on some of the lower-budget radio stations out there, and every time I hear it it passes over me as if it were a weather system. ‘Dirty’ by Christina Aguilera has become a standard. Musically it’s so lacking in depth and content that there’s nothing much about it that can actually date. Its spirit and explosive yet benign delivery will always be relevant. It’s hopelessly of its time, yet somehow timeless. I don’t like it, but I acknowledge its genius.

Which brings me handily to the 1995 Ford Mondeo 1.8 LX, a car which I definitely do like. It represents the absolute opposite of ‘Dirty’ by Christina Aguilera because, while it physically appears more dated than a worn VHS recorded 1970s remake of Pride and Prejudice, deep inside beats a heart of enduring, perennial brilliance.

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Diecast Delights: A BMW Isetta in 1/18 scale.

In last week’s trip into the 1:18 garage we looked at a Porsche Carrera GT with working lights and acceleration which, if scaled up proportionally, would be of the steam catapult variety. Today’s Diecast Delight is somewhat more down to Earth, and is devoid of any electronic novelty functions.

It’s a BMW Isetta 250, bubble car, a vehicle that has intrigued me for a long time.

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The Carchive: The Ford Fairlane (NC)

It’s Friday. I’ve eaten a massive jacket potato with baked beans, the sun’s gone down and there’s a bottle of Rioja warming by the hi-fi amplifier. This can only mean one thing – it’s time to relax with a smooth, refreshing car brochure. Welcome back to The Carchive.

Growing up (eh?) in England I was always rather jealous of the greater range of car sizes that Americans could enjoy. The biggest Ford you could buy in England was the Scorpio, which was a little smaller than the Taurus, yet America had the Ford Festiva, which was actually a little smaller than our Fiesta of the time, while we could buy the Festiva in its Kia Pride incarnation if we wanted, anyway.

But Americans had the Crown Victoria, a car sized in a way that even a long-wheelbase Jag XJ couldn’t match. It wasn’t until I was well into my teens that I would learn that Australians had it just as good. And looking back at it now (because, alas, that’s all we can do now), their Ford Fairlane was a remarkably similar package to the Crown Vic.

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Diecast R/C Delights: A Porsche Carrera GT with A Bonus.

As awesome as 1:18 diecasts are, part of me always wanted them to do something other than sitting there, looking pretty. Of course, you could buy a Tamiya, a Nikko, any of dozens of remote control cars, but with their ABS or polycarbonate bodyshells none of them really did quite what I wanted.

Imagine this. A diecast metal, 1:18 model car, with a detailed interior and opening doors. But also with working lights and the ability, if you want, to drive it around the floor. This was what I wanted.

It seems that somebody was listening to my yearnings. The big surprise was that it should have been Maisto.

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Diecast Delights: A Goggomobile T250 in 1:18 scale.

Of all the post-war expansion microcars, the Goggomobil T250 was probably the most conventional, if you can call a tiny two-door sedan with a rear-mounted, air-cooled twin-cylinder engine anything but kerrayzee.

With a Messerschmitt KR200 already in the Diecast Delights fleet, ever since I met a Goggomobil T250 at a car show I had an urge to complete the Diecast Microcar triumverate. Now there’s only the BMW Isetta to go. And something tells me that one will be along soon.

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The Carchive: The Marcos Mantara

After what feels like it’s been an incredibly swift week, it’s time to slit the foil from a chilled bottle of liquid history, pop the cork of wisdom, sip and savour the bubbly golden loveliness, and then stare at the grape must of motoring past. Lets decant those dregs and celebrate ’em. Welcome back to the The Carchive.

Last week we had a long, lingering look at a Playboy.  Today we’re back in Blighty,  looking at another specialist manufacture of high repute. It’s 1993 today, if you didn’t know, and we’re heading to Wiltshire to spend some time with the smashing chaps at Marcos Engineering.

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Misplaced Childhood? Driving The Vauxhall Astra GTE.

When I was eight a new family moved to my town, and I became friends with them quickly. James was in my class at school, Johanna was a few years younger. My mum (who taught in my school) got chatting to his mum one day, and it was arranged that I’d go around for tea..

At 15:15 I walked with James to the front gate of the school- his mum was waiting. We walked about 25 yards to the car. It was a brand new Vauxhall Astra GTE.

All of a sudden my new friend became intimidatingly cool.

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