Thursday, 25 August 2016

Daihatsu Compagno Berlina

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

This little blue slice of automotive history is, in a quietly anonymous fashion, one of the most significant Japanese cars in the UK. The versatile Daihatsu Compagno was built between 1963-70 as a two- and four-door saloon, van, pick-up truck and cabriolet, and enjoyed reasonable success in its domestic market. When the 1964 British Motor Show rolled around, Dufay (Birmingham) Ltd announced their intention to officially import the Compagno. This, in hindsight, was a huge moment, although nobody really noticed at the time. There were coachbuilt Ferraris and Mini Mokes to look at.

The first imports arrived in '65, making this car the first Japanese model ever to be officially sold in the UK. The variant you see here, a two-door Berlina, arrived in Deluxe trim, meaning an Italianate dash design and a rakish three-spoke Nardi wheel, and it also boasted such so-hot-right-now features as reclining seats, a heater, a clock, a radio, a reversing light, and wing mirrors. Heady stuff.
Unfortunately for the Compagno, it was stymied by import duties. Once all the fees had been paid, the diminutive little poppet retailed at £799 17s 4d - about £200 more than a Ford Anglia Super. It was a sales disaster. Guess how many they sold over here...?

Six. Just six. Not six hundred - six cars. And this is one of them. In fact, this is the original press demonstrator, a car that aimed to show the British public that Japanese cars were a serious and viable option as well-made and reliable transportation, but actually served to reinforce the point that paying a premium over domestic goods for a ladder chassis and a live axle, and a top speed of 66mph, wasn't all that tantalising a prospect.
Nevertheless, this is an important car. Because Japanese motors are a pretty big deal over here now, aren't they...? And this is where it all began. What's more, having had a chat with the owner, it could well be for sale if you flash him the right money - and it's not as much money as you might think. Start your offers with a two...

Spotted at the London Classic Car Show - more photos here.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

10th Anniversary Trans Am

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

This is no ordinary Pontiac Firebird Trans Am... this is a 10th Anniversary Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.
Of course, it's a bit of a misnomer to describe any Screaming Chicken as 'ordinary', they're all pretty special - but this edition is more special than most. 7,500 Anniversary cars were built in 1979 as a celebration of a decade of the model, but the example you see here is one of just 1,817 special versions of the special edition, if that makes sense; a small quantity of custom-build 400ci (6.6-litre) engines were held over from 1978 in order to make these Firebirds extra fancy. This, then, is pretty much the last of the big-displacement muscle cars - a car so brutal and forthright, it was selected as an Indy 500 Pace Car for '79. It was also the first Trans Am to feature disc brakes all round and leather seats, and to retail for over $10,000. Anniversary editions would later appear in 1984, 1989, 1994, 1999 and, weirdly, 2002 (the model went out of production that year, so it kinda makes sense), but the '79 is arguably the most revered. The end of a ballsy era.

Spotted at the Goodwood Breakfast Club - more pics here.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Reasons to love the M4 GTS:
- it's got a Max Power spoiler that reminds you of the '90s
- the rear seats have been unceremoniously ousted in favour of a half-cage
- said 'cage is colour-coded in Acid Orange to match the boisterous diamond-cut wheels
- it costs £122,000, compared to the regular M4's £56,000 - but only a handful of people will know
- there are only 30 of 'em in the UK
- it has 493bhp, for goodness' sake
- the turbo is water-cooled, so owners have the exquistely nerdy task of remembering to refill the auxiliary water tank in the boot
- the cutting-edge OLED lights look really sharp
- 0-62mph in 3.8s, 190mph, laps the Nordschleife in 7:28
- it positively bristles with exotic materials; titanium exhaust, carbon-fibre roof, carbon-ceramic brakes, it's an aftermarket tuner's dream
- seriously, just look at it

Nice work, BMW. All we need is a winning lottery ticket and access to someone who's bought a GTS to invest and is willing to cash in. A quarter of a mill should do the trick.

Spotted at the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed - more pics here.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

MkIII Golf: Redux

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The MkIII Golf is arguably, er, not the greatest generation of Golf. But there's an army of Dubbers out there who refuse to let it silently sink into the annals of history, keenly tearing the things down to first principles and building them back up as altogether more magnificent creations. Check out this searing blue culture-clash, for example. If you've got negative thoughts swirling around your brain about the third-gen Golf, ram this little poppet up your preconceptions.
The bonnet's been artfully scythed around its bracing to reveal a detailed VR6, like some sort of W├Ârthersee peep show. There's race car aggression in spades inside - buckets, cage, the works - but it's all complemented by such luxurious accoutrements as a full dash, beefy audio install and super-cool comic strip doorcards and headlining. And then it's right back to race car again, with the massive brakes and rorty side-exit exhaust. Love it or hate it, you certainly can't miss it. Archetypal Marmite.
SSBB verdict? Awesome on toast.

Spotted at the 2016 Players Classic - more pics here.

Monday, 15 August 2016


Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

DTM racers are scary, aren't they? What may at first glance appear to be an M3 with a few fistfuls of aero glued to it quickly reveals itself to be a terrifyingly forthright and devastating piece of kit. The front arches could have been styled by MC Escher, the flics and canards on the nose would scythe through your shinbones like a warm spoon through ice cream, and that rear diffuser is basically just the shelf from your dad's garage. The CFRP monocoque is hiding a 4.0-litre V8 that snorts to the offbeat tune of 480bhp-odd and, despite the fact that it's broad enough to preclude it from all but the most generous of car parks, it tips the scales at just 1,100kg wet. Hide the kids, this thing's genuinely evil.

Spotted at the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed - more pics here.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Wrigley's Golf

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Dan Guirey's Golf is arguably the coolest Mk1 on the scene right now. Take a look at the engine bay, for starters - it's a work of art; running a 1.9-litre G60 block with a 2.0-litre 8v Beetle crossflow head, there's forged pistons, spiky cams and, best of all, a Turbonetics 60 Series T3 turbo. Peak power is somewhere around 300bhp, the spent gases barking through a raucous side-exit exhaust - and that's all in keeping with the race car vibe, those Berg Cup arches and crisp Wrigley's livery imbuing a keen frisson of retro mischief.
In deference to the race car outlook, however, is the sheer cleanliness of the thing. Everything from the shaved bay to the flocked dash speaks of an obsession with detail, an eye for millimetric precision and only choosing parts that feel right for the build.

The Spearmint theme actually harks back to a 1977 rally livery, and the colour-coded rocker cover is an inspired extension of this. There's race car equipment in spades, comprising an 02J gearbox with CAE shifter, hydraulic handbrake, full cage with helmet nets, Sparco buckets and much more besides; allied with the rally-infused elements of the Wrigley's stripes, the quad-spotlights and the switches labelled with Dymo tape, it makes for a glorious race/rally mashup.
Look out for it at a show near you. Because Dan does all the shows...

Spotted at the 2016 Players Classic - more pics here.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Supertouring Mondeo

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

The BTCC's Supertouring era really was brilliant, wasn't it? Spiralling budgets, fierce competition, absurd levels of technological advancement - it was to Touring Car racing what Group B was to rallying. (Well, sort of.)
The Mk1 Mondeo is one of the true icons of the era, particuarly in rakish Valvoline livery. Raced in period by such luminaries as Andy Rouse and Paul Radisich, these mid-nineties racers featured a shouty and highly-strung V6 motor mounted way back in the chassis - a 2.0-litre 24v unit producing 300bhp. Everything about the spec was cutting edge, from the sequential 6-speed 'box to the 8-pot Brembos and custom Matter chassis. These cars cost about £500,000 apiece back in the 1990s, and they sell for about £100,000-150,000 today. All of that nerdy tech means that they're still formidable racers, even twenty years on.
Most exciting for me, however, is that I had a Scalextric model of the Valvoline Mondeo when I was a kid, so seeing one up close was a bit of a thrill. Looks fast even being pushed around the Goodwood paddocks, doesn't it?

Spotted at 74MM - more pics here.