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Forgotten ‘classics’ facing end of the road

09:33 27 October 2015

Austin Ambassador

Austin Ambassador

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There may be 30 million cars on Britain’s roads, but some models that will still be fresh in many memories have all-but disappeared. The RAC has delved into the DVLA’s records to pick out 10 memorable models that are on the verge of disappearing forever.

10 Citroen BX

Back when Citroens really were avant-garde, the BX was a practical and spacious hatchback that could perform brilliant tricks – self-levelling hydropneumatic suspension meant it rode superbly and could also raise and lower its ride height to suit the conditions. But that clever suspension needs proper maintenance which explains their scarcity. Even the latest examples are now more than 20 years old and won’t work unless they’re shown some love.

Examples remaining

1995 171,478

Now 495

9 Talbot Sunbeam

Almost a forgotten marque, Talbot briefly reappeared in Europe in the late 1970s after being bought by Peugeot-Citroen from Chrysler, and the Sunbeam was one of its first products. Based on a cut-down Avenger chassis, developed in a hurry and built at the former Rootes Group factory at Linwood in Renfrewshire, Scotland, the Sunbeam is probably best remembered for the high-performance Lotus Sunbeam version that also spawned a rally sibling.

Examples remaining

1995 5,261

Now 440

8 Austin Maestro

Certainly not the only Austin to appear on this list, the Maestro is textbook example of a good idea poorly executed. The Maestro was one of the first products of the rationalised range of cars following the duplication of the British Leyland era, and had a practical, spacious design inside and out. Unfortunately it was also loaded with new technology including body-coloured bumpers, electronic carburettors and an electronic dashboard with voice synthesiser – all of which were problematic on early cars.

Examples remaining

1995 75,674

Now 324

7 Morris Marina

Rewind a little further to the beginnings of British Leyland and you’ll find the story of the Marina. With no new cars under development, a rival for Ford’s Cortina and Escort was required in a hurry. Hence the dusting off of some Minor, MGB and Triumph bits to create the Marina. Loved by some and loathed by Top Gear, its unexceptional qualities meant nostalgia is the only thing keeping the few remaining on the road.

Examples remaining

1995 9,331

Now 289

6 Vauxhall Chevette

Often forgotten about, the Chevette was, in its early days, one of the most popular superminis sold in the UK and proved how important cars of this size were to the market at that time. However rivals soon overtook it – the Chevette used the traditional longitudinal engine and rear-wheel-drive where all of its key rivals had switched to the more space-efficient front-wheel-drive layout. Vauxhall eventually followed suit with the Nova in 1983.

Examples remaining

1995 37,798

Now 238

5 Vauxhall Senator

In the good old days, if you were successful at work, you didn’t change car brand. Instead you just moved up the ladder. So if you smashed your sales targets you could trade in your company Cavalier for a Senator instead. Big, comfy and loaded with gadgets, the Senator was everything you’d want from an executive saloon and one thing you wouldn’t – very thirsty.

Examples remaining

1995 25,799

Now 167

4 Datsun Cherry

The fourth-generation Cherry appeared in 1982 and stuck to the Japanese formula for success at the time – styling so boring and forgettable it could leave you comatose, but reliability that would shame a Rolex. An interesting footnote in the Cherry story is the Cherry Europe/ Alfa Arna spin-off, that saw an Alfa Romeo engine, electronics and front suspension married to a Datsun rear suspension and body – possibly the worst idea imaginable.

Examples remaining

1995 66,723

Now 93

3 Lada Riva

The history books will show that the Riva was one of the most joked-about cars in motoring history, but it should also note that it was a sturdy and unpretentious product from the Eastern Bloc that sorted out some of the issues of the Italian Fiat original – as well as adding a few new ones. Sold right into the 1990s in the UK, you can still buy a new one if you’re prepared to go to Egypt for it.

Examples remaining

1995 56,898

Now 60

2 Austin Princess

In yet another example of reheated leftovers, Austin created the wedge-shaped Princess using some of the bones of the old 1800 model. Its eye-catching design was the work of Harris Mann, also responsible for the less eye-catching Allegro and the retina-damaging Triumph TR7.

Examples remaining

1995 3,235

Now 45

1 Austin Ambassador

Achieving the unique feat of being less popular than the older car it was designed to replace, the Austin Ambassador gained a hatchback instead of a boot for improved practicality and an airy cabin, as well as looking reasonably tidy for a car of the era. But it was dog-slow compared to its rivals and lasted a paltry two years, which goes some way to explaining just why it’s now so rare.

Examples remaining

1995 5,532

Now 17

Do you still own one of these cars? Or did you used to drive one? Tell us about it – email motoring@archant.co.uk

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