Brands to return from the dead?
Some people have drawn up their list of Desert Island Discs. Me? I have a list of carmakers to revive, and what I'd do with them. For me, I want to see Alvis back (high-class GTs aimed at the gap between Aston and Bentley - and a strict NO SELLING TO PREMIERSHIP FOOTBALLERS rule), along with Rover (comfy cars from 1-series size up to a P5-type junior Bentley, with chassis designed for an excellent ride) and Triumph (basically there to stick it to BMW in the sporty stakes). I've always thought that these three brands deserved better - Alvis were a hugely innovative maker and their Issigonis-designed 3.5 litre saloon from the mid-50s could have been a real groundbreaker, instead of which the prototype languished in BL storage then was scrapped. Rover went from selling the P4, P5 and P6, to the stylish but disastrously badly-built SD1, down to rebadged Hondas (some good, some less so), came back with the 75, then went into terminal decline, producing such wonderful machinery as the CityRover... likewise Triumph. Arguably maker of the world's prettiest sports roadsters and saloons, with that wonderful (if fragile) six-cylinder engine (and the even more wonderful and even more fragile V8 in the gorgeous Stag), reduced to the Acclaim then oblivion. Not fair.
Of course, the revival of Triumph won't happen, not as long as BMW's fortunes remain strong and the Triumph brand remains in their vault.
Needless to say, all would be RWD with manual 'boxes available on all models - even the biggest barges. A limited-slip diff would also be available for most - none of those stupid brake steer things. I'd also go further and offer shooting brake or estate variants of almost all models, with the exception of the small roadsters. The market is crying out for a vast, hugely luxurious estate... and more sporty shooting brakes (look at the new Ferrari FF, if your eyes can bear it).
So, what brand(s) would you return from the dead, why and for what purpose?
I'd like to see (the real) Lotus come back. Even the stripped out version of the latest Elise is 150kg heavier than the 1996 Mk 1. And as for the rest of the current range and future proposals... Colin and Jim must be turning in their graves.
Hmm - but could make the same argument of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche... who's going to make a British Ferrari, complete with soul, if not Lotus? My local, McLaren (13 miles from here) is just too techy and soulless... rather like Ferrari themselves these days. As long as Lotus don't abandon the Elise market, and also use the Elan name for a rival to the next-gen Mazda MX5 (which I hear will be smaller in all directions than the current one, and weigh 900kg), I'd be perfectly happy to see them build a mid-engined V8 supercar. However, I don't see the point of Lotus trying to do front-engined GTs, less still the 5-door megahatch Eterne, when Jag and Aston know better than anyone else how to build such a car.
Anyway, could I please clarify that, by "return from the dead", I meant reviving a wholly defunct brand. Lotus is not by any means defunct - it's in better shape than ever, even if its plans are controversial and the source of funding a little unclear. Also, with Wolf Zimmermann (ex-MB AMG) in charge of developing Lotus' engines, I can't wait to hear the new Esprit! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVlgw90Ns7c - then imagine that engine, de-stroked (I hear 5.0 litre capacity) and revving hard to the redline with a dual-clutch 'box (or even a manual?). Please God, let it be so... and no flat plane cranks!
Ultimately, if making cars like that keep Lotus solvent (and Lotus has never been solvent up til now - it's just crashed from crisis to bailout to catastrophe...), I'm not complaining and I don't think Chapman would be either. Ultimately, Chapman was a highly astute businessman interested principally in Lotus' survival - you could hardly call the original Esprit a typical Lotus compared to the old stuff (Elan, Seven etc) but it was a highly glamorous halo car which sold well - if it had had a better gearbox it would have sold more strongly still.
Now, nobody would like Lotus to succeed more than me, but I do wonder why the company is hell-bent on making its own engines.
It's all to do with cachet, I suppose. Or snobbery, if you like. Or to be more plain, can you take a tilt at Ferrari when you source your powertrains from Toyota?
Of course, Lotus Engineering has had a hand in one or two engines for volume car makers, but I wonder if the creation of Lotus' own engines is a wise use of the firm's development budget? So they're developing a new 570bhp V8. Nice, but you wonder why they just don't pick up the phone and call Jaguar, a firm that already makes a very fine 510bhp supercharged V8. I'm fairly certain that Hethel could coax sixty more ponies from it, and despite its troubled history, Jag has rather more clout with petrolheads than Toyota. And the CX-16 is to get a V6 variant of the V8 which might make a splendid powerplant for Bahar's lesser Loti.
Anyway, back to the point of this thread, marques I'd like to see resurrected.
I agree with the original poster: I'd welcome Rover's return. Successive management teams did their level-best to destroy the brand, but it did command some loyalty, and a not inconsiderable percentage of the UK market. OK, it was probably only about 3% at the end but, if you're Tata that might be worth having. I've read that there is to be a new small, FWD Jaguar and I have my qualms about that. But if such a car has to go into production you wonder if a modern Rover could be spun off it.
I'm just thinking here that Tata could learn from past mistakes, ditch the retro-styling that bedevilled the 75 and give us a modern, practical-sexy (think P6, SD1, or indeed, the Evoque) mid-range FWD car that re-establishes that strange blend of tradition and forward-thinking that was the hallmark of the best Rovers. You might argue that the brand is better left dead, but you can still make a case for it, I think, if you consider the potential for reducing JLR's corporate emissions levels with such a car, and the fact that many of the world's car markets were denied the drivel that so often wore the badge. The US, China, and India were spared the indignities of the SD3, Rover Metro (although that was a decent bit of bit back in the day), 600, CityRover and 75, and if you mention Rover to an American, Chinese, or Indian they'd more than likely associate it with desirable premium 4x4s. Of course, the 800 was sold as a Sterling in the US, but by now they'll have forgotten about that...
It's said that you can never successfully resurrect a defunct brand, but Rover died but five years ago, any relaunch would almost certainly generate its own publicity in the UK at least (when MG was brought back from the dead with the F, the event was marked by an item on News At Ten), and if the car was as compelliing as the Evoque I'm certain that any past faux pas would be forgiven. In a country which is beginning to realise the importance of manufacturing once again bringing Rover would be priceless in PR terms. And if a new Rover shared its architecture with a baby Jag, the benefits to Jaguar, and to Tata through lower costs from greater economies of scale might be compelling.
I'm told that the Lexus V8 first analysed by Lotus proved too damn heavy (the Jag V8 probably has the same problem, as well as being more a torque monster than the revver the market demands) - and the potential customers expressed themselves pretty clearly on the matter. Lotus have the expertise (all the more so now that Zimmermann is on board) so I don't see why they shouldn't. As long as they've got the money to do it, I wish them the best with the new Esprit. I'm worried about the Elise moving upmarket (40k upmarket, kerb weight well over 1000kg - was it going to be 1200?) and I don't think that the now indefinitely-postponed (I think) Elan replacement for the Evora is a good idea either. Keep the Evora name and rework the existing car - ideally with a new V6 based on the V8. The Elan name could then be used for a front-engined MX5 rival - and actually make it RWD this time, please, Lotus...
As for the Jaguar/Rover thing - I think that the new FWD Jag is intended to be a sort of Audi A3 rival. I'd heard that there would be a new 3-series rival based on a RWD platform. I think that Rover should use all the Jag platforms (FWD only for a C-sector hatch) but with perhaps more conservative styling, allowing more headroom etc, and a more comfort-orientated setup - and no blasted 20" wheels!
Imagine a car the size of the current Jag XJ LWB with a modern-P5 design and the Viking longship up front... bet the limo drivers (and their plutocrat passengers) would appreciate that more than the current XJ, which seems to be aimed more at Maserati than Mercedes-Benz.
For me, Rover and Triumph.
Interesting to see that Datsun is making a comeback, though. The 120Y has a certain, cheesy charm that any new Datsun would be best to replicate.
Brands to return?
How about Bayliss Thomas?
Don't know much about their earlier automotive qualities, but any name that sounds like they sell shirts in Jermyn Street SW1 should do ok.
Austin-Healey would be a great brand to ressurect. Just imagine a no-nonsense sports car range with the right mix of classic and avant-garde styling, choice of 4- and 6-cylinder longitudinal engines up front and a nice RWD setup.
Ideally a two-model lineup starting with a highly affordable Sprite (sub 15k) and a big Healey positioned under the Jag XK, also with a +2 seating option for kids.
British sportscars are what enthusiasts the world over love. The Mini has gone to prove that a British classic icon is an attractive proposition and a runaway success. It is therefore up for grabs to do the same (on a smaller scale) with an affordable range of no-nonsense sportscars with a brand such as Austin-Healey.
STUDEBAKER ! ! !