Jurassic (Car) Park
Cars that should remain extinct...
The Jurassic was a geological period from over 201 million years ago… about the same time that British Leyland cavemen designed the first Allegro!
In the 90’s blockbuster hit Jurassic Park, John Hammond (and his motley team of genetic engineers) set about bringing back dead lizards. Dennis Nedry, you will recall, stole some eggs and ended up as newt food. This should serve as a warning to anyone wanting to bring back extinct vehicles that have no place in the modern world.
For instance, an old 911 will kill you if you take it out on a wet road and do more than 7 mph round a bend. A bit like a velociraptor; it craved blood and would entice you to try your luck with it. Having wrapped you around a tree, it will then burst into flames, giving you no chance of escape. By the time Fireman Sam arrives, all that’s left is a smouldering remnant, not dissimilar to when Jaws bit through the electric cable.
So which cars do we want to consign to complete extinction, never to be seen again? They have to be so dangerous, or just ugly, that trying to bring them back is itself, a crime against humanity. In fact, we don’t even want to risk sending them to an Island and letting our paying guests see them without special cover from that nice man from Pulp Fiction driving his red GT86, who sells insurance to worried people in the middle of the night. We just want them dead and forgotten, with their DNA wiped from the databanks. We want the very images erased from our brains and if a trace of them is found in an ‘amber handled walking stick’, we should ensure the walking stick and it’s owner come face to face with their maker before they even have a chance to re-engineer anything that resembles an AMC Gremlin (watch out Sir Dickie).
As alluded to in the opening paragraph British Leyland have a lot to answer for. The 1970’s versions of the Allegro, Marina and Princess should all be Bantha fodder. Their very images attack your senses (and your stomach) like a norovirus sending your head into a nauseous spin and your bottom into your worst enemy! The use of cheap plastics, the three-day week and rust ridden steel, all finished in beige paint makes this an ideal starting point. This was coincidently about the time the UK joined the EEC, the precursor to the EU. So this was Tommy Englander’s fault with no help from the Germans.
Talking of which, the Hun had his moments too. The Messerschmitt KR200, or Kabinenroller (Cabin Scooter), was a fine example of how demoralised Fritz was after the events of 1945. Clearly inspired by a fairground ride and the fact that the Allies had appropriated all the good engineers to build rockets and A bombs, Fritz was left with the man who designed toys for Tonka to build cars.
Now, what about the Italians, surely nothing coming out of Modena or Turin would make this page? Well sorry, but Mario has had his off days too. His engineering skills in using cheap Russian steel caused major heart attacks for Britain’s wet-weather car owners. You could buy a Lancia Beta on a Monday morning in 1978 and it would be reduced to its component parts by 4pm that same afternoon. The car was delivered with congenital rust in the chassis and would oxidize from the inside out, spewing from within, like the little organism in Alien out of the very soul of the car. But the difference was the Beta was beautiful, it was just its DNA that was weak. If you really want ugly, we had to wait until 2001 for the Lancia Thesis. Even the Italians decided it was too ugly to be exported to the UK. Giving a car a name that means ‘argument’ should have been a clue, Giuseppe!
We can exclude the Spanish from this study, as they never built or designed a car of any note on their own, and when they did they called it a ‘Seat’ and turned to the Italians and the Germans for advice, well-done Pedro. You can’t be criticised if you never did the work! Clearly Don Arthur Scargill got there first and invented the ‘siesta’ in all the design departments, which has lasted for nearly 80 years in Spain when it comes to originality in car design. Having said that, they do build nearly 3 million cars a year there now, ensuring all that good EU money they spent on roads is put to some good use!
Now the Japanese: if it wasn’t for the threat of Karate, we would never have seen such an array of ugly Nippon rip-offs within the early years of their young apprentices learning their car magic design from a photocopier. Clearly the world’s car manufacturers were scared of going to Japan for fear of Bruce Lee or radiation sickness killing off their lawyers in copyright claims. The Datsun 1000 was clearly a clone of a London Cab and the Mazda Carol, well if it didn’t have a Wankel engine it looked liked it should have one. The Nissan Figaro (often heavily smothered in pink lipstick in an attempt to hide its stupid face) can still be seen on our streets today and in my opinion is grounds enough to break off diplomatic relations with them tomorrow. Continuing the attack of the clones we see the original Datsun Bluebird (a Humber), a 1960 Nissan Cedric (a Cresta) and the Daihatsu Compagno Spider (Alfa Romeo Spider 1600 Duetto) in 1965, two years before Dustin Hoffman immortalises it (the Alfa not Daihatsu) in the Graduate.
So without looking Stateside, which would include nearly everything that came out of the Motor City save Mustangs, Corvettes, Chargers and Camaros, we fall back on the ultimate vehicle of bad taste, the ‘Pacer’. The only car our colleagues on Wheeler Dealers failed to resurrect, even treating it to a Back to the Future makeover.
Last but not least is the French. The Ugly Duckling, was clearly written by a car-loving enthusiast in tribute to the Ami 6, but the original words were that it never grew up into a lovely swan. There are so few beautiful French cars, other than the muscle bound Yanks, we could landfill half of China with their contributions. I reckon Jean Luc was too busy selling onions and making love to his neighbour’s wife. The Citroen DS 19 cabriolet is without a shadow of a doubt their most beautiful offering, but it lives with its ugly stable mate the Citroën 2CV (deux chevaux). How can two cars come from the same metaphysical loins? Admittedly, the 2CV is beautiful in comparison to the Citroen Ami 6. This is a car whereby the chassis always looked as if it was getting a divorce from the body. It really does look like a comedy car that would be best featured in a Disney film or have trapeze-performing clowns falling out of it at the Cirque du Soleil.
So here is our advice. Certain cars must not be restored, cloned or even fixed. They should stay with the skeletons of the dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum and no attempt to restore them should be allowed. This should be law. They will cripple your pocket and very likely kill you on your first Sunday outing to ‘Classics on the Green at Croxley’, whereby you will be shunned and humiliated by the most esoteric of petrol heads who will ask you just one question: “Why?” And if you have an answer it should just be, “I’m sorry but I thought like Jurassic Park people wanted to see a living dinosaur.” The truth is, you probably wouldn’t make it to Croxley Green, as your restored ‘mastodon’ will have probably killed you on the way there and scoffed your remains!