The Road Show #35
Jack Mortimer June 7, 2020
On The Show Martina Gregorcova (who gives tours around Prague in a Trabant)
As well as the usual Road Show elements a special interview
The Trabant car was and is more a social statement and icon of the Cold War communist era. But with Martina Gregorcova behind the wheel providing you with a guided tour that’s second to none, the stunning city of Prague and its modern day history comes alive. One of the most entertaining people you’ll ever spend time with, the Trabant you’ll be chauffeured around in is also Martina’s everyday car. And from the passenger seat you’ll see and hear the city sights most tour guides know nothing about. You’ll get to experience a genuine KGB bar, the famous TV tower that’s been turned into exclusive apartments along with lunch in a worker’s cafe. Money extremely well spent and a day I’ll repeat each and every time I return to this magnificent city.
Find The Tours Page Below
Prague Trabant Tours – Rybná 716/24, 11000 Prague, Czech Republic – Rated 5 based on 1 Review “Very good tour. Beautiful cars, professional owner and…
The Show Notes
Over in America, General Motors have showcased their plans to build an electric van for what is a growing sector in the marketplace. This follows the news that GM plan to have built 20 new all-electric models by 2023 in a variety of body styles. One of the biggest markets for fully electric vans would be delivery services, and Scott Phillippi, the senior director of UPS has said that ‘it’s going to be similar to what the Tesla Model 3 has done for the consumer market’. We don’t quite know under which brand this new van will be selling under (most likely either GMC or Chevrolet) but it’s believed that it’ll be on sale by the end of next year in the states.
In China, sales of passenger cars are back on the rise. Last month saw around 2.14 million new cars sold, a rise of nearly 12% from a year earlier. This change happens after restrictions within the country are slowly being lifted. This week also saw the opening of car dealerships over here in the UK as well, however, due to this British car sales during May were at their lowest since 1952 with only 20,247 being sold. During May, practically all cars were sold through click and collect schemes, however with the dealers back open, it’ll be interesting to see what the figures are for this month when they arrive.
And in Germany, there’s some controversy over Tesla’s new factory which is currently undergoing construction. The factory, located near Berlin, has faced criticism from nearby residence who are concerned about excessive water usage and deforestation to the extent that the German government forced Tesla to temporarily stop production back in February as they had started without the necessary permits. This week, Tesla will be presenting their blueprints as well as addressing any concerns nearby residents have over the use of fresh water being used and waste water being generated. When the factory does open, Tesla hopes to challenge the likes of Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes during a time when more Germans are switching to electric cars than ever.
And finally, news from France as the French government have granted Renault a 5 billion euro state loan in order to support the car company during the pandemic. This news comes after people have began protests outside the factories Renault claimed they would need to close down to maintain profits during this turbulent time. The French President Emmanuel Macron stated to the employees that “their future was guaranteed”. However, since that statement was made, Renault’s president Jean-Dominique Senard has indicated that 4,000 jobs will still need to be cut despite the loan.
Ford Mustang Story Part 4:
Alright then, it’s back to the Ford Mustang story – a story that’s just way too long to tell in a single segment. I’ll be doing other cars in this format later on down the line, so if you want me to take a look at a particular car, do let me know!
Right then, so when we left off last time it was 1993 and the third generation Mustang had just been replaced. Lasting from 1979, it was certainly a huge success from Ford and helped to turn the Mustang back into the family muscle car it was. However, by 1993 standards, it was looking pretty boxy compared to the competition, and the endless stream of facelifts it had been receiving throughout the 1980s just wasn’t going to cut the mustard any more.
In the Mk3 Mustang’s final days, Ford displayed a new car called the Mustang Mach III. Designed by Darrell Behmer and Bud Magali, the Mach III was said to have incorporated elements of the previous Mustang’s designs but in a way that made it look completely fresh. It used a supercharged 4.6 litre V8 that could produce 450bhp too, and with Ford hinting that this is what the new Mustang will be, it’s safe to say the public were excited.
And later that year in October of 1993, the first new Mustang rolled off the line in Ford’s Michigan factory. And not only did it look much more modern than the previous model but once again, you could get a convertible. Interestingly, underneath there wasn’t too much in the way of change. The same Fox platform that was designed with the Mk3 in mind 15 years back, was still in use, as was the same 3.8 litre Essex V6 and the 5.0 litre – not exactly the 450bhp supercharged engine from the Mach III, but something that kept the costs down.
But that’s not to say that this Mustang wasn’t an improvement on the last. Ford spent $700 million improving the platform so the handling, vibration and noise of the Mk4 was noticeably better. A new suspension set up was also used. MacPherson struts with anti-roll bars, new spindles and lower control arms on the front and a four bar link solid axle on the back.
On the options list, you could choose from the likes of anti-lock brakes, power windows and mirrors, remote central locking, even keyless entry, cruise control and a 230 watt sound system, linked up to a CD player. What’s more, all ’94 Mustangs came with two front air bags, still a pretty novel concept at the time.
And so, Ford gave the world a Mustang that was better to look at, better to drive and could be customised to be a very upmarket family car indeed, without the need to totally redesign everything. And just two months down the line it got even better as in January 1994 Ford released the new Mustang GT. With its stiffer suspension set up and 0-60 (that’s 97kph) time of under seven seconds, it was no wonder why Motortrend named it their car of the year. The following year also saw the limited release of the GTS, essentially a Mustang GT that had been stripped down to save weight. And of course, much like the Mk3 there was a new Mustang Special Vehicle Team (or SVT) Cobras. These used extensive modifications such as a new unique intake manifold, fuel injectors, heads, cams and an uprated suspension system and brakes.
However, one thing that Ford believed was holding the Mustang back was it’s engine. The 5.0 litre engine was certainly long in the tooth by 1996, being in production for almost 30 years, so it was replaced with the brand new ‘modular’ 4.6 litre V8. Why modular? Well, that’s a name Ford gave it as some parts could be shared across the entire range of engines. The new engine managed to produce the same amount of bhp as the old model, despite being a slightly smaller engine. However, when the modular engine was modified to go into the SVT Cobra, it could produce a whole 90 more bhp than the standard engine type at 305.
A facelift occurred in November of 1998 which Ford called ‘The New Edge’. Wheel arches were bigger, contours sharper and the soft lines were replaced with distinct creases. Ford linked the New Edge to the Mustang’s 35th anniversary so a new limited edition was in order. Just under 5000 were made and they were almost evenly split between coupes and convertibles. For your money you got a rear spoiler, air intakes on the bonnet and sides and a rocker cover that were all colour coded, a new instrument cluster, leather and vinyl interior and some silver door trim inserts.
There were a few special editions at the turn of the decade including the Spring Feature Edition which used unique 17 inch alloys, the Bullitt edition with lowered suspension, an upgraded exhaust system, shocks and again, new alloys and in 2004 the 40th anniversary special. Nothing mind blowing here, essentially a Bullitt with different trim and some extra badging.
2004 also saw the launch of another new Mustang, which again was previewed the previous year at car shows. This new design really was new. A new 4.0 litre V6 engine, a totally new platform and yet the styling itself was an imitation of the original Mustang from 1965.
On the standard equipment list, there was a lot you wouldn’t have had on a ’65 though. A CD player, power windows and mirrors, keyless entry, 16 inch alloy wheels and twin piston callipers – all for free. But, adding so many features did drive up the price tag, and as Ford found out in the early 90s, this meant that fewer people could afford a Mustang. So by 2006 the Mustang range consisted of the Standard and Deluxe models, both in coupe and convertible forms.
There was also the Pony package which gave the car a unique grille, new wider 17 inch alloy wheels, a rear deck spoiler, more fog lamps and new emblems. I’ll also quickly mention the Mustang GT and Shelby GT – the typical sporty models that could now do 0-60 in as little as 5.6 seconds, a California Special with some neat looking side stripes, another Bullitt version which was a sort of modern recreation of the one Steve McQueen drove in the original 1968 film and, of course, the 45th anniversary edition.
Much like the previous generation Mustang, in its final years, the Mk5 received a facelift to keep it looking fresh. New headlights were added that featured the turn signals inside, the taillights were slimmer, the bonnet had a powerdome and the wing mirrors were thinner. And it wasn’t just change for the sake of change either – the facelift was slightly more aerodynamic too, and it was a better built car, thanks to Ford SYNC which meant that pretty much all Mustangs other than the base models were customized by the buyer, moving production away from the conventional linear line that Ford themselves had pioneered, of course, with the Model T.
Currently, there are two types of Mustang you can buy. The sixth generation Mustang is the sort you’d come to expect – it’s still a muscle car for small families which comes with a range of engines – from the relatively economical 2.3 Ecoboost to the huge 5.2 litre Predator. But also this year saw the launch of the Mustang Mach-E, a totally new addition to the range that certainly has broken the mould. The Mach-E is an electric SUV – still as luxurious and as sporty, but with zero emissions. What will the future hold for Ford’s famous Mustang? Well, I suppose we’ll find that out as it happens.
Ok then, so it’s time for another My Dad Had One of Those segments, but of course as I always say it doesn’t have to be just your dad – its just that the title ‘My dad or mum or grandma or grandpa or aunt or uncle or cousin or niece or nehphew or other relative or friend had one of those’ is a bit of a mouthful. And today we’re looking at one of those fascinating BL stories of the 1970s – more specifically the Austin Princess.
And I’ve already made a mistake. You see it was never actually called an Austin Princess. If you look at adverts for it, it was simply called ‘The Princess’. But it didn’t start out as this either. You know what, I think we need a little back story. Now, as we’ve mentioned before on The Road Show, British Leyland was a collection of different car brands. There was Austin, Austin-Healey, Morris, Triumph, Rover, Land Rover, Mini, Wolseley, Riley and MG. Really, BL had a very large slice of the car industry. The only issue was with so many models they often found that they were competing against themselves. Last time, we looked at the Rover P6, which competed against the Triumph 2000 for pretty much all of it’s life. But for the Princess’ predecessor, it was even more ridiculous.
You see, the true predecessor was the Austin 1800, which was also branded as the Morris 1800 which was also branded as the Morris Monaco was also branded as the Wolseley 18/85 which was also branded as the Wolseley Six. They were all the exact same car, just with a few different pieces of trim and badges. But anyway, call it what you will, the 1800 was a relative success but quite unconventional, which scared off some buyers. And by 1974 it was a decade old and looking it.
Work on the replacement actually began in 1970, as British Leyland believed that the upper medium segment (or large family car) market was going to be more popular in the near future. Looking back, about three years later the oil crisis would occur and everyone driving big family cars economized to smaller ones, but who knew that was coming. Essentially, what the plan said was that the 1800’s replacement should be a little more upmarket.
To save money, the same platform as the 1800 was used, meaning that the new car would also be front wheel drive. This made the car advanced but also pretty unconventional for the time. The Princess was designed by Harris Mann – the same man who designed the original Ford Escort, the Capri and the Allegro (which looked better in his drawings than it did in real life if I’m honest). And the new design was the dawn of what we call the Wedge shape – a boxy yet aerodynamic shape that does indeed resemble a wedge.
The concept was called Diablo and was actually smaller than the production model, that’s because there was also meant to be a conventional looking three box saloon model too (which actually looked quite a bit like a mark three Ford Cortina). As I’m sure you know this never came to be as the Princess had a sloping rear end that looked like a hatchback but actually wasn’t.
Engine wise, the 1.8 litre B-Series engine was used, linked to either a 4 speed manual gearbox or a 3 speed automatic because it was the uneconomical 70s, but there was also the more recently developed 2.2 litre E-Series six cylinder engine on the higher spec models.
And so on the 26th of March 1975 the Princess launched… well the Austin 1800, 2200, Morris 1800 and 2200 and the Wolseley 18-22 series launched. Yeah, they still had the same naming issue going on. How could you tell one apart from another though? Well, the Austin versions had weirdly shaped ‘trapezoidal headlamps’ whereas the Morris and Wolseley ones had twin round headlamps and also a different grille.
At launch, Autocar magazine tested the 2200 against the 2.5 litre Ford Consul Granada and the Fiat 132 GLS, and they found it to be slower than the other two but comfortable and roomy as well as having good roadholding, probably from the hydragas suspension that we talked about when we covered the Allegro. However, it wasn’t all good news. They also reported that on the car BL gave them the bootlid let in water – good to see British reliability at its best.
Technically, this generation 1800 only lasted for six months before being replaced with the Princess that we know more fondly. At this time the Wolseley brand was dropped and this is where Princess became its own brand. Not much changed here, some vinyl trim was fitted to the C-pillars near the back, all 1.8 models now had the round headlamps, leaving the trapezoid ones exclusively for the 2.2 litre cars.
Sadly, though, whilst the name changed, the build quality didn’t improve and soon the Princess got a rather poor reputation. What’s more, the styling (which at first looked very modern) didn’t manage to stand the test of time. One edition of the Parkers Price Guide theorized that the designers of the front and back of the car didn’t speak to one another during its development.
Nevertheless, the Princess continued her reign and in 1978, a facelift (called Princess 2) was released. Out went the old 1800 engine and in came two new choices – the 1.7 and 2.0 litre O series – but cosmetically, no change would occur until 1982 when the Princess name was dropped and the Austin Ambassador took its place.
By the late 70s, BL wasn’t in a good financial place and economising was the name of the game. A lot of their fresh new models were essentially just heavily facelifted older ones, like the Morris Ital or in this case the Austin Ambassador. The old 2.2 litre engine was dropped, as were the weird headlamps. The bonnet was lowered, the styling was a little boxier to blend in with other more modern cars of the 80s. As such it finally received a hatchback too, so at least it could be a more practical family car.
But, it wasn’t a hit with buyers. People saw through the new styling and, when compared to modern cars like the Ford Sierra and the mk2 Vauxhall Cavalier, the Ambassador just couldn’t cut the mustard. It was replaced by the Austin Montego only two years after its launch and today it’s believed that only 60 are left worldwide.
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Rigloo is a reusable, inflatable refuge conveniently packed away in a small rucksack with its own battery air pump which is easily inflated within 90 seconds to provide shelter and a place to muster the family in the event of a breakdown. Rigloo is supported by an inflatable skeleton compromised of 3 rib sections and a connecting spine.