Much like our ability to slip into a pair of 36in waist jeans, many things have been lost to the past. This of course extends beyond those jeans from Next that you loved, and still own, despite not wearing them since 2006. It extends through to cars, too. You may well have seen the post we made many moons ago in which we pondered where ten of the road’s once most ubiquitous have gone. Ten cars that just up and vanished. Poof. Gone. Like a Paul Daniels magic trick.
And it doesn’t stop there. We’ve been looking (because we have very little else to do with our days) and we’ve found ten more cars that we used to see everywhere, including popular culture in some cases, that are now seemingly extinct. Cars that, despite in some cases being decent, were not decent enough to ever make it to ‘retro classic’ or ‘modern classic’ status. Cars that served their time dutifully, only to be thrown away without any thought of preserving them for the future.
Of course, these cars are still out there in tiny numbers, events like the brilliant Festival of the Unexceptional prove that. However, as daily sights on our roads? Those days are long gone. Much like the days when we could look down and still see our… knees.
The Fiat Croma
1985’s Fiat Croma was a car that was never going to last. But that’s not to say it was a bad car. Far from it, in fact. The Croma was designed by none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign fame. It shared the Type Four Platform, which was the engineering coming together of Saab, Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo. As such, the 9000, the Thema and the 164 were all the same underneath. So the Croma was ace, right? Welllll…
The thing was, the other three cars were out and out luxury machines. Fiat marketed the Croma as a large family car. And nobody gets excited by, or romanticises over a family car. Apart from us and the Ford Mondeo, obviously. As such, the Croma came into the world, did its job admirably and then, when it got older and rustier, it was quietly thrown away. Shame, really. We covet the other three cars, but not this. And now they’ve all but vanished.
The Ford Maverick
Remember this iteration of the Ford Maverick? You probably don’t. Ford sold about three. We only remember them because we worked in a Ford dealership in the early 2000s when this was released. It was a blink and you miss it machine, a car so dull it made the corduroy trousers of the people who were interested in it seem like disco flares. And that’s weird, because the previous Maverick, which was a Nissan/Ford mash-up was, well, it wasn’t good, but it was capable. This version then, which was a Mazda/Ford collaboration should have been great. It wasn’t though, because Ford got bored of it real fast.
Ford wanted control over the project, and as such, in the UK it was able to launch the Maverick a full four months prior to the launch of the Mazda counterpart named, brilliantly, the Tribute. But then Ford founded the Premier Auto Group, which owned Land Rover. Ford had a new toy. As such, it didn’t really promote the Maverick, it never made it better (it never had a diesel engine, for example) and it slowly shuffled into the shadows. Laters.
The Audi 80
We adore the B3 Audi 80, and while it is indeed on this list, we will admit that it’s possibly the most common of the cars here. But that’s not to say there is a lot of them, because there isn’t, and that’s a crying shame. The 80 of the mid, um, ’80s has aged so very gracefully. Like a Nigella Lawson on wheels, if you will. When it came out, it stood as a firm, focused finger-jab into the chest of its rivals. The 80 was a new machine, and it was the benchmark for how mid-sized executive cars should be built. Park this next to a Ford Sierra of the time and it’s like putting fillet steak next to a roadside van kebab.
The 80 was sleek, it was brilliantly aerodynamic, it was outrageously comfortable and drove better than anything in its class, especially in all-wheel drive quattro guise. And Audi made it as an estate, or Avant to use the brand’s vernacular. It was all things to all men, until the A4 came out, and then we forgot about the 80. Silly us. If you see one for sale, buy it. Trust us.
The Vauxhall Belmont
It was an Astra with none of the practicality of an… Astra. Next.
The Ford Orion
It was an Escort with none of the practicality of an, um… Escort. Never mi… no, wait. There is more to the story here. The Belmont above was horrible in every way, though we’ll concede that the SRi wasn’t bad. The Ford Orion, on the other hand, had more of a stab at life thanks first of all to being a Ford, and also thanks to some clever branding and marketing. And also Ghia. Ghia is what gave the Orion life. If you see an Orion on the roads today you can bet your bollocks to a barn dance that it will be a Ghia. And none of that 1.4 nonsense. No, it’ll be the 1.6i, possibly even an EFi like our old one. Yes, we had one. Peco Big Bore 4 and all.
The Orion enjoyed a degree of longevity because it was a wheeled loophole. Young oiks couldn’t afford the XR3i, because they were oiks. They could, however, insure a 1.6i Ghia, which was the same engine. Plus, the Orion had a sealed boot, which was good for drugs and stuff. Are we stereotyping? It feels like we’re stereotyping. Anyway, the Orion had a bit of a following, but then they got wrapped around street furniture or scrapped.
The Triumph Acclaim
The Triumph Acclaim should have been a, um, triumph. It represented the coming together of British Leyland and Honda, and as such was largely based on the Honda Ballade. It had a Honda-designed engine, but featured enough parts from the BL stores to make it a legit British offering rather than just a weak exercise in badge engineering. The Acclaim was the car that would cement what would be a long and vibrant collaboration between two car-making giants.
And we lapped it up. We might look back on the Acclaim and laugh, but let us not forget that it was the UK’s seventh best-selling car for a time. And why wouldn’t we buy it? It was a legit way to own reliable, Japanese engineering, but without needing to be less patriotic. Or something. Sadly though, while it was a good car at the time, in reality it was made from metal that would rust in so much as light drizzle and the car as a whole was about as safe as using a bin liner as a crash helmet. Crucially though, what killed the Acclaim off was the second merger of Honda and BL, as evidenced by…
The Rover 200
If you want to look at the original Rover 200 in the best possible light, think about it as being a hand-built Honda Ballade. Does that… help? No? It probably should, after all, while the 200 may be a car only seen today on UK TV Gold in Keeping Up With Appearances, it’s still a more common sight than the Ballade on which it was based. The 200 was a decent car, all told. Though it wasn’t hugely practical. Despite the light for hatchbacks being on and burning brightly for the masses, Rover staunchly refused to offer the 200 in anything other than saloon guise. This meant it was pretty useless as a family car, but Rover didn’t care. Rover didn’t want its 200 to be full of children and dogs. It was a little luxury car, that’s where Rover saw it. Definitely the right car for Mrs. Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) then.
The Rover 200 was available with two engines, both of which drove the front wheels. There was the generally very good Honda EV2 1.3 petrol, or the less good 1.6 S Series from the BL stable. Five speed manual was the order of the day (a nice Honda ‘box), though you could have automatic, too.
The Rover 200 wasn’t a bad car in reality, but it was a Rover launched when Rover mockery was at its peak. Add into this the fact it was deeply impractical compared to its contemporaries and you’ve got yourself a car that will struggle to sell. Killed off in ’89, Rover had stock of brand new cars well in ’90. We just weren’t buying them. Add in the lacklustre drive, the odd looks and the lacking quality control and you’re left with a very forgettable car.
The Honda Integra
No car with pop-up headlights should have to quietly shuffle off into the dark, un-visited corners of time gone by, but here we are. We’re confident you’re looking at this now and thinking ‘oh yeah, I remember those’. The Honda Integra was a great family car, and one that had pop-up lights. POP. UP. LIGHTS. They make anything cool. Imagine being a child of the ’80s only to have your mum and dad come home with this one day. They probably traded in a Sierra or a ropy old Cavalier. And for what? For this vision of Japanese tech and design.
Quite why this car is forgotten today is a mystery to us. You’d like to think that some would have survived, for novelty value alone if nothing else. Maybe it’s because the Integra evolved into a fearsome and coveted hot hatch with Type R credentials. Maybe in the light of it’s performance evolution, we forgot about the days when it was a cool, five-door family car. Whatever the reason, they’re almost all gone now. Shame.
The Nissan Cherry
The Nissan Cherry, or at least the fourth-generation we’re looking at here, was a woeful car. Introduced in 1982, it was a fiercely angular three or five-door hatch that promised the world but delivered nothing close. The E series engines were light, the Cherry itself was constructed from high-strength, low-alloy steel making it strong and again, light. It was bigger than its predecessors, too. But still, it was woeful. The drive was numb, with handling that offered no sense of feel. The build quality was, for Nissan, way off. It looked like a child’s interpretation of a car, and thanks thanks to engines no bigger than 1,500cc, it was slower than your Nan going up a flight of stairs.
It was a car we were offered, and then we quickly forgot about. Nissan positioned it in a weird place between the Micra and the Sunny, which didn’t help matters. In the end, Nissan binned the Cherry off in favour of the Sunny – a much better car. Standard Cherries simply don’t exist today. If they do, they’ll be the admittedly fun Turbo version, and as such they fetch silly premiums. Normal specification cars are long gone, though.
The Cherry was also, somewhat amazingly, built as the Alfa Romeo Arna. A coming together of Nissan and Alfa. But the wrong way around. Alfa mechanicals, Nissan looks. What a missed opportunity that was.
The Mk1 Renault Laguna
The Mk1 Renault Laguna is one of the more baffling cars on the list, simply because it was a good car. Maybe it’s just because us Brits don’t seem to lust after old French cars? We’re not sure. Whatever the reason, it’s a shame. The Laguna was a wonderfully handsome beast, but then what would you expect from Patrick Le Quement, the same man behind the, um, oh wait, the Ford Sierra? But he also did the Twingo, and that was cool. The Laguna was perhaps his finest hour though. It featured bold lines, a handsome and easily identifiable face, perfect proportions and even a little drop-down blanking cover for the radio. Nice.
The Laguna was a reliable, safe and extremely comfortable family car. You could have it in five-door hatch, or five-door estate guise, meaning it would lean into family life with ease. You could also own a Laguna only to find yourself cheering it on as it battled in the British Touring Car Championship with legends like Menu, Harvey and Plato behind the wheel of the Williams-developed racing version. It was a great, great car.
And then Renault gave us the angular, sharp Mk2. And we, as with all the other cars on this list, quickly forgot about it. They lingered in the classifieds for a few years, but soon they largely went the way of the scrap yard. A shame considering how popular it once was.