Which vehicle kick-started diesel engines in road cars?

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petrolhead
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Joined: 2011-07-02

Recent figures have shown that almost half of all new cars sold in the UK are oil burners, yet 30 years ago, there were very few diesel engines available. In the 70s, excluding commercial vehicles, all I can think of were a few Mercs and the Golf GLD. I'm sure there were a few more, but that's all I can come up with off the top of my head. Plenty of Mercedes 200Ds and 300Ds are still around, especially in Africa, usually sporting hundreds of thousands of miles on the clock.

In the 80s, many 4x4s came with a diesel engine, as did a few of the larger mainstream models. Perkins diesels were quite popular in Austins, while Ford and Vauxhall began to introduce a few diesels into their range.

Now, it's hard to come across a new car that isn't available with a diesel engine. Even the tiny Smart fortwo comes with a three cylinder diesel unit.

So, what car do you guys think kick-started the diesel revolution?

GreaseMonkey (not verified)

As a long time Mercedes driver who was in the 'motor trade' a long time back, I well remember the old Mercedes 200D and 240D from the seventies and while we may have found them ok as a taxi when on holiday abroad they were considered a bit slow and agricultural for the British market, I believe the same applied to the Peugeot 504 at around the same time.

It was Mercedes introduction of the 300D in around 1980 that really moved things forward, with reasonable performance and comfort and a smoother more refined motor that from the inside did not sound like a rattly old Transit. Of course after the success of that model other manufacturers came on board and gradually improved the breed such that over the past ten years the new genration BMWs and even Jaguars are as good as their petrol siblings. The market for small diesels grew faster on continental Europe where the price at the pump was much lower, but the lack of a significant price difference in the UK meant we Brits were slow to catch on.

At around the same time in the USA Cadillac and Oldsmobile tried to promote their diesel V8s, but this was probably driven more from the days of the so-called 'fuel crisis' and an attempt at improved fuel efficiency, but I don't think they really caught on. Does anyone reading this have one of those?

Chris Martin