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Rob Griffin

5 cars that history forgot


They’re the cars that have played their part in motoring history, but have long since been forgotten.

 Forgotten cars

In some cases, it’s because they were always forgettable. In others, it’s down to being replaced by newer, more impressive machines.

Here are the five cars you may not remember:

Vauxhall Viceroy

 Vauxhall Viceroy

You’d be very lucky to spot one of these beasts. Only a handful of them have managed to survive since their production days of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Effectively a re-badged Opel Commodore, this was a more luxurious version of the Vauxhall Carlton. It was one of Vauxhall’s early forays into the executive car market.

Despite being fitted with a powerful 2.5-litre straight-six engine, luxury seats and a trip computer, it proved to be a relatively slow seller.

Many of those that were bought have since disappeared, fading from memory.

Talbot Horizon

 Talbot Horizon

Do you remember the Talbot Horizon? This family hatchback first appeared in the UK during the late 1970s. It was on sale – albeit latterly in decreasing numbers – for the best part of a decade.

Motoring writer Giles Chapman, author of Britain’s Toy Car Wars, was not a fan of this attempt to rival the division-conquering Volkswagen Golf.

“It had really nasty, heavy steering, so the turning circle was terrible, ” he says. “It looks like a Golf but was nowhere near as good, even though it came out later.”

The trip computer wasn’t that impressive either.

“It was the equivalent of a watch that you get out of a Christmas cracker, ” he says. “You look back at this car and think: why did they bother?”

Vauxhall Belmont

 Vauxhall Belmont

For a company that likes to constantly recycle names – think Astra and Corsa – the Belmont is one it consigned to the history books.

Arriving on the scene in the mid-1980s, it was basically an Astra fitted with an enormous and extraordinarily-ugly boot that gave it a rather odd look.

The car itself was pretty good, and supporters cheered its legroom and the fact there was space for just about anything you wanted to transport.

It also proved to be particularly popular with the criminal fraternity - if official government statistics are to be believed.

A decade ago it was given the unenviable honour of being crowned one of Britain’s most regularly stolen cars by the Home Office - with 76 out of every 1,000 going missing.

Matra Simca Rancho

 Matra Simca Rancho

What would you have done back in the early 1980s if a Range Rover was out of your budget? Well, one option was to buy a Matra Simca Rancho.

It was a car before its time, especially given the current trend for crossovers that look as if they’re four-wheel drive.

“The front bit was a Simca van and the back was glass-fibre so it was crude but quite a clever idea.” says Gilles. “It was delivering an off-road look without it being an off-roader.”

This unique looking machine sold pretty well in the UK – and it’s easy to see why.

The positives are that it’s an attractive-looking machine that boasted decent handling characteristics and an acceptable performance.

The downside was rust and a pretty clunky engine. “When you try to marry up glass-fibre and metal it’s always going to be a bit creaky,” adds Chapman.

Porsche 968 Clubsport

 Porsche 968 Clubsport

The 968 took over from the 944 as the entry-level car of choice for the marque. This lovely-looking car was produced during the early 1990s.

The Clubsport version, meanwhile, was a lightweight version that was marketed at drivers wanting some extra track performance.

Although the 968 was superb, its days were marked when the Porsche Boxster arrived on the scene in 1996. It took everyone’s focus, and the 968 was quickly forgotten.

“The 968 was a fantastic little car but it just started to look very elderly,” says Giles Chapman.

Enjoyed this? Take a look at the history of the car decade by decade.

History of the car


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