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How mo­tor­ing’s brave new world looked in 1988

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - Motoring -

This is a wa­ter­shed year for mo­tor­ing: in 2018, for the first time, you can­not buy an Aus­tralian-made new car. Three decades ago, you were un­likely to buy any­thing else. The Ford Fal­con was rid­ing high in the charts and to­gether with the Holden Com­modore dom­i­nated sales. Or how about a lo­cally built Toy­ota, Nis­san or Mit­subishi? Im­ports at­tracted just one in four shop­pers.

Aus­tralia’s tar­iff wall, at its peak in 1988, was the main rea­son. An­other was the ab­sence of alternatives to the tra­di­tional “three-box” (en­gine bay, cabin, boot) sedan. Its neme­sis, the SUV, was a long way from be­ing a threat.

Dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cle for­mats were start­ing to ap­pear, though, chief among them the peo­ple-mover. Chan­nel Ten hailed Subaru’s BLT – “Business Leisure Trans­porter” – as the most ad­vanced car at the 1988 Syd­ney mo­tor show. This fu­tur­is­tic mono-box con­cept car fea­tured lounge-style seat­ing for four and a “satel­lite-radar nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem” us­ing a screen that might have come from a World War II sub­ma­rine.

It never en­tered pro­duc­tion and peo­ple-movers have failed to cap­ture more than a small frac­tion of the mar­ket in Aus­tralia. But Subaru was pick­ing up on a trend that had be­gun a few years ear­lier in the US and was quickly echoed in Europe, first by Re­nault. In those two mar­kets peo­ple-movers were a hit and de­sign­ers were dream­ing up vari­a­tions on the theme. Among the

Just add taste: Subaru’s BLT

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