Auto News for Dec. 30

James May

Top Gear’s James May has picked his 13 most significant cars of all time just ahead of a major Classic Car show in London. And he hopes to set off a wide ranging pub debate over those choices. Among the six “obvious” choices:

1886 Benz Motorwagen. “People will argue about this, but the Benz Motorwagen was the first true car as we would understand it.”

1908 Ford Model T. “The brilliance of the Model T is the way that it was made, rather than the car itself.”

1938 Volkswagen Beetle. “It became the world’s best selling single-platform car, even though the early models were pretty horrendous to drive.”

1959 Austin Mini. “An original Mini is incredibly uncomfortable and a bit hairy if you crash it, but also fantastic to drive.”

1964 Ford Mustang. “In the first six months of its life it was the fastest selling car in history. It’s the car that democratised style and performance.”

1997 Toyota Prius. “It was the first mainstream car of my lifetime that caused people to rethink the basics of how a car should work.”

And the six “Bloody-minded” choices are:

1901 Waverley Electric. “At the beginning of the 20th century, electric car outsold petrol-powered cars in parts of America. They were clean, quiet and didn’t make ladies’ skirts grubby.”

1906 Cadillac Model K. “The real hero of the mass-produced car story isn’t Ford’s Model T but the Cadillac Model K.”

1933 Standard Superior. “It is widely accepted that Josef Ganz, a respected Jewish engineer, came up with the basic layout and philosophy of the Beetle.”

1972 Honda Civic. “The original Civic was a compact, lively and fuel efficient car that was well made and almost faultlessly reliable.”

1980 Lada Riva. “The Russian-built, Fiat 124-derived, Riva did more than any other to put communism on wheels.”

2009 Bruno ExoMars Rover. “Autonomous, self-sustaining and suitable for use on other planets, it is surely the world’s most advanced all-terrain vehicle.”

He would not disclose the 13th selection that he said “looms largest in my motoring life” saying we would have to wait until the London show opens early next month.

I would add the ’63 Corvette Coupe to the list with the divided rear window because it was such a profound design change for the car, a design that in many ways carries on to this day. Heck, they even brought back the Stingray name.

Also the Mazda Miata that proved there is still a market for a modest but highly entertaining two seater providing that it is well made and long lasting. Unlike previous sports cars from Britain, Miata owners don’t have to carry a toolbox and spare parts along.

Fiat Chrysler is recalling 67,000 Ram trucks from model years 2006-07 the repair a clutch problem that could allow the truck to unexpectedly move forward. Involved in the recall are Ram 1500, 2500, and 3500 series trucks along with Dakota and Mitsubishi Raider trucks, all with manual transmissions.

For the first time in its history, Subaru has sold 500,000 vehicles in a single calendar year. That’s not bad for a brand that racked up just 187,699 calendar year sales in 2008. Years ago I had the pleasure of owning an original Brat that in 90,000 miles of driving in New England never got stuck, never had an unscheduled maintenance stop, and tamed a mid-winter snow storm to take my bride-to-be and I to a lovely dinner in an old New Hampshire inn on our first date.





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