The Road Show With – Yugo Car Adventure Interview #38
Jack Mortimer June 28, 2020
Another amazing show with a special interview, a company that does tours in Yugos yes Yugos
Car News and a look at the range rover and also the Dodge Charger made famous in The Dukes Of Hazzard
Find the Guest Below
For people living in Ex-Yugoslavia the one and only Yugo was never just a car, it was both a member of a family and a best friend. First Yugo was introduced to Tito, Yugoslav leader, in 1978, and even though allegedly Tito was not impressed with it, the production of that legendary car reached the number of 784.428.
The Show Notes
Whilst a lot of car companies are having to scale back production, over in America this week Tesla have pitched 5,000 new jobs for their factory. The supposed ‘middle-skill’ workers are set to work in the company’s new Texas factory, very possibly to start production of the long-awaited Cybertruck. During this situation, the area in which the factory is located, Travis County, has seen unemployment skyrocket from 2.2% to 12.4% in a year, so Tesla has said to be ‘a source of re-employment for many’ as they put it in their presentation.
Meanwhile in Germany, Volkswagen is exploring the idea of purchasing Europcar, a global car hiring firm. Europcar currently has 3,835 locations worldwide and has been a popular firm for over 60 years. Whilst negotiations are only just starting, meaning Volkswagen can easily call of the deal if they wish to, the German car company are interested in the hire firm in order to expand their ability to lease their range of cars, particularly their upcoming line of electric vehicles. This is quite an interesting time to invest, given that the similar Hertz firm filed for bankruptcy around a month ago, however as it currently stands the market value for Europcar is 420 million euros.
Now onto a very local yet pretty interesting debate, and one that many of you have got involved with. The story is about an Ipswich taxi driver who has been told by his local council to change his vehicle for a newer model, on the grounds that it pollutes significantly more than current models. The taxi in question is a 1992 Volvo 940GL with 272,000 miles on the clock, owned by the driver for 18 years. The driver is currently trying to appeal the council’s decision on the grounds that his car always passes the emissions test required for its MOT, its popularity with passengers and its overall reliability. When I posted this story onto my Instagram page, I received quite a few comments defending the taxi driver. One such comment stated that building a new car would produce the same amount of CO2 as it would to drive the old one for around 8 years. Another said that the council could use it as somewhat of a tourist attraction, such as the 1960s Mercedes taxi that can be used in Berlin.
And there’s news to affect all British motorists as the DVLA have announced a new online service for logbook changes. Now, I’m sure you know how the current system works, but if you’re not British I’ll fill you in, the current system to make changes to your documents, say to update your address, you have to send off the changes and wait for around six weeks for the newly updated form to arrive in the post. Well, now, finally, they’ve gone digital. The chief executive of the DVLA, Julie Lennard, said ‘We’re launching this service at a time when online services are becoming even more vital to help people get back on the road. This new online service is quicker and easier than sending your logbook to the DVLA so, if you’ve just moved home, try the service and see how simple it is’.
And finally, a new special edition from Lotus. This month marks the 20th anniversary of the original Lotus Exige and so the firm has produced a limited quantity of Sport 410 20th Anniversary editions. What do you get? Well, you can choose from a selection of colours that were offered on the original model along with a colour coded roof, air intakes and rear spoiler. The rear hatchback, the front access panel and the splitter are all made from lightweight carbon fibre, and features such as Bluetooth, a DAB digital radio, cruise control and alcantara leather interior come as standard. The Lotus Exige Sport 410 20th Anniversary will be available later on in the year at the cost of £79,900.
So, if you didn’t already know this month marks the 50th anniversary of the original Range Rover. Now, here at The Road Show we can’t avoid dedicating a segment to this, not only a British icon but a car that is said to have started the entire trend of SUVs. And with that in mind, this is the Range Rover.
Alright, so our story begins 69 years ago in 1951, when the Land Rover was only three years old and proving to be a huge hit. Well, to say it was luxurious would be the same as saying an original Mini is the size of a tank, so Rover (a luxury car company) set about making a more upmarket version. Based on the P4 executive saloon, the Road Rover was a rugged looking two wheel drive estate car that tried to capture the Landie’s success. Now, naturally this wasn’t put into production at all but Rover liked the idea enough to keep innovating it when they had a moment. So, in 1958, another prototype was created.
This Road Rover was much more flamboyant to look at, with some styling cues taken from the then pretty new Rover P5. It also had the Land Rover’s 2.3 litre engine which at the time was brand new, so it was quite a capable machine. However, again, it never saw the light of day. And, for a while, that was that. The Land Rover was updated, as were Rovers line of executive cars and a middle ground car wasn’t deemed necessary. That was until in 1966 when Spencer King and Gordon Bashford, two engineers, decided to start over with the idea of a luxury off roader.
They set about using the 100” Land Rover’s chassis and the famous 3.5 litre V8 engine, which as we all know after the Rover P6 segment is quite lightweight and incredibly powerful. And just a year later, they had a fully working prototype. And it actually looks like a Range Rover – Ok, it looks like a bootleg one bought in China for a fraction of the cost but really, other than a few minor mechanical tweaks and a new front end, the prototypes were pretty accurate to the final product. Sadly, these prototypes were scrapped long ago, but some photographs show that until the eleventh hour they were still using the Road Rover name.
Nevertheless, by the end of 1969 production began on the exciting new off roader. The first off the line were test vehicles owned by Velar Engineering (we’ll get onto that name soon, don’t worry) and the very first Range Rover registered was YVB153H (technically the third according to the chassis, but the publicity team wanted it for its stand-out electric blue paint job). The vast majority of these Velar (or Veil in Italian) models do in fact still survive in various car collections, which is always nice to see.]
However, the official launch of the Range Rover came about in June of 1970 at the Louvre in Paris where it was called ‘an exemplary work of industrial design’. Now, really there’s no need for me to tell you that it was a success, if anything that would be an understatement, so let’s instead take a look at what you got with an early Range Rover.
The Range Rover originally cost £2,005 16S 6D after taxes, of course came with the 3500cc V8 engine which could output 130bhp and reach a top speed of 96mph. Naturally, it had a ladder frame chassis for strength, all wheel disc brakes and, unlike the Land Rovers of the time, coil springs. The original models were all three doors, including the rear hatchback, and had a vinyl interior that was easy to clean.
When AutoCar tested it, they found that the ride was incredibly smooth and the engine was powerful, claiming that it could get to 80mph easily in under 30 seconds. Because, at least by British standards it was a new idea, they claimed that its main competitors were the Volvo 145 Estate and the Peugeot 404 Familiale – conventional European estate cars or station wagons.
And that’s why the Range Rover was so popular, there was nothing else really like it. Now, this meant that it didn’t really need to innovate for a while as there was nobody to keep up with – perfect for the cash strapped 1970s British Leyland. In fact, the first real facelift for the Range Rover came 11 years into production. And even then the change wasn’t ground breaking – just the option for a 5 door model, something quite a few third party companies were offering several years beforehand.
But over time, the Range Rover was seen less as the practical but posh car for the farm and soon found itself as the yuppy-mobile of those who were just, quite frankly, showing off. That’s because in 1984, automatic transmission and a leather interior was added to the options list. Then, over the next few years a few revisions were made like a new instrument panel, walnut inlays on the door cards, bigger bumpers and a new plastic grille.
And of course a luxury car needs an up to date engine and, in typical BL fashion, the 3.5 V8 engine was fitted, completely unchanged, until 1986. Well, from that point on there was a slight revision made which featured Lucas fuel injection, as opposed to the carburettors which were still the standard at the time. This helped to make the Range Rover more powerful and more fuel efficient at the same time – very nice! There was also a joint project with Perkins to essentially convert the engine to run on diesel, however it just wasn’t strong enough for diesel operation. Eventually, there was a diesel in the range – a 2.4 litre (latterly 2.5) turbo which was naturally underpowered in comparison to the V8, albeit quite capable (with Land Rover demonstrating it by having on run at over 100mph for 24 hours in a test of endurance). But there was an even bigger (and thirstier) petrol engine, standing at 4.2 litres (almost a gallon hey).
As the 1980s ended, the Land Rover brand was a strange one. The standard Landie model (soon to be called the Defender) was just a heavily modified version of a 40 year old car and the Range Rover was approaching 20. Don’t get me wrong, they were still popular but the competition coming from the rising Japanese companies meant they needed something at least relatively modern. So the Land Rover Discovery was another upmarket off roader – what is it with British Leyland and creating competition for themselves?
Now, the Range Rover did indeed keep selling as it was for a while, a slightly longer wheelbase version was launched in 1992 but it was evidently a bit long in the tooth. And so for 1994 it was rebranded as the Range Rover Classic and a new model entered the forecourts. Now, I’m not going to cover all of the other Range Rovers just yet, or we’ll be here all day. So instead I’ll tell you that the original model lasted until 1996, meaning it had a 26 year production run, which is impressive for any car.
Naturally, the Range Rover sub-brand of Land Rover is still definitely going strong with 1,970 special editions being released to commemorate this milestone.
The General Lee
Right then it’s time for another TV car and today we’re heading over to America for perhaps one of the most famous cars of the small screen. The car in question played an integral part of The Dukes of Hazard from 1979, right through to 1985 and has been imitated worldwide. Of course, we’re talking about The General Lee.
Alright then, so I think its safe to say we all know at least a little bit about The Dukes of Hazzard. It was an action show that aired on CBS (or BBC1 if you were in the UK) that was about Bo and Luke Duke, two cousins who are on probation for moonshine-running. And there were plenty of escapades and adventures with their relative Daisy against the corrupt officers Boss Hog and Coltrane, and plenty of chases too.
Now before we get onto the car, did you know that the inspiration for the series was a 1975 film called Moonrunners? And in that film, the main car was a 1955 Chevrolet called Traveller, or the name given to the General Lee’s horse. See? It’s all coming together now isn’t it? Well, after the film, the director Gy Waldron thought he could repurpose the idea into the hit TV series we all know and love to this day.
Anyway, we’re not a film review programme, we’re a car show, so back onto the point – the General Lee! Now, as we know the General Lee was a 1969 Dodge Charger… Well, sometimes it was a 1968 model, you see the production team didn’t just have one model to use, oh no. The first five episodes, which were filmed in Georgia, used six cars, three of which were used for filming, and three for spares. Each one used had its own speciality. For instance the first one (called LEE1) had a roll cage and was quite damaged, meaning it could be used for stunts such as the jump over the police cruiser.
Now, the second LEE also had a roll cage but instead had floor mounted automatic transmission. Originally it had a blue interior but it was changed to a tan one to match the other cars, however you can tell when they used this car as it still had a black steering wheel. Anyway, the third car was the supposed close-up car, built by Warner Brothers themselves. It was originally metallic green and, unlike the other cars, had a 375bhp Magnum engine for additional power.
Now, at this point I should probably mention about the colour, none of the cars originally were that bright shade of orange but it was actually an official paint colour used by Chevrolet during this era. It was called Flame Red and offered on Corvettes for the 1975 model year, along with a special base coat. The only issue was that the paint job wasn’t exactly perfect for the close up shots – they’d applied the base coat directly over the factory paint. So, back to the drawing board, so they redid the cars with a slightly different shade called Hemi Orange.
Anyway, after that issue was dealt with the next was that the six Chargers were getting thrashed in chases and stunts. Quite frankly, the production team needed more. And that’s where the fun started. During the early 80s, production of the show actually created a shortage for 1969 Chargers across America. And by that, I don’t just mean people watching couldn’t get the cars, but it got to the point that the production team couldn’t either. At one point they had to use AMC Ambassadors and modify them to at least look a bit like the Dodge Charger, and leaving flyers on random cars asking if they had a Charger the show could use.
One of the saddest facts is that during filming of the series, over 300 Chargers died in various stunts and crashes as the car wasn’t built to take such continuous damage. Now, to put that into perspective, there were 147 episodes of the show. So, if you haven’t worked that out already, on average at least two Chargers were killed for every 45 minute episode. So obviously this was very expensive for Warner Brothers and when they couldn’t get any more Charges for love nor, and most importantly, money, in desperation they turned to model remote controlled cars.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. If you’re filming some open road chases, it might look a little bit odd to see a tiny little remote controlled car driving around next to the full sized American sedans, but thankfully it wasn’t that bad. Instead they’d essentially scale down some of the stunts and jumps and use them there. Sadly, this was, as you could imagine, quite noticeable and the fans began to switch off.
I’d like to tell you about how the production team found a warehouse full of unused 1969 Chargers in the middle of nowhere so they could rescue the show… but they didn’t. That’s how the series ended, with the population of 1969 Chargers in tatters and the funds practically drier than the Sahara desert. Nevertheless, the show, and more importantly the car, had such a huge following. It was said that every month, production would receive about 60,000 letters, and around 35,000 of which would tend to be dedicated to the car, or requesting for photos of it. And that really does sum up why it’s considered as one of TV’s most famous cars.