New Zealand Classic Car - - Automobilia -

The C1 Corvette was the first gen­er­a­tion of the Corvette sports car pro­duced, start­ing pro­duc­tion for the 1953 model year and end­ing in 1962. It is com­monly re­ferred to as the ‘solid-axle’ gen­er­a­tion, as the in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion did not ap­pear un­til the ’63 Stingray. There was no doubt Chevro­let was in the sports car busi­ness with the re­lease of the 1956 model, which fea­tured a new body, a much bet­ter con­vert­ible top with power as­sist op­tional, real glass roll-up win­dows (also with op­tional power as­sist), and an op­tional hard­top. Vis­ually, the 1957 was iden­ti­cal, although en­gine dis­place­ment in­creased to 283ci (4.6 litres), fuel in­jec­tion be­came op­tional, and a four-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion was made avail­able. Push­ing to­wards a high-per­for­mance and rac­ing mar­ket, ’57 Corvettes could also be or­dered ready-to-race with spe­cial op­tions. Pro­lific au­thor Brian Long is par­tic­u­larly well placed to write this book, as he has lived in Ja­pan for many years — which must have helped him get ac­cess to some of the peo­ple and doc­u­ments that he uses to very good ef­fect when cover­ing the three gen­er­a­tions of MR2S from Toy­ota. Af­ter an in­ter­est­ing brief look at the his­tory of Toy­ota, the de­vel­op­ment of the first MR2, with its an­gu­lar styling, is il­lus­trated by a num­ber of de­sign sketches and clay mod­els. Along the way, there are some fas­ci­nat­ing in­sights, such as the rather de­light­ful-look­ing MRJ that was part of the de­vel­op­ment of the third-gen­er­a­tion cars. Through­out the book, Long draws on ad­ver­tis­ing ma­te­rial and road tests from pub­li­ca­tions in Europe, Aus­tralia, the UK, and the US. Each suc­ces­sive model was well re­ceived, with few crit­i­cisms, and the MR2 com­pared well with the com­par­a­tively small num­ber of ri­vals. Mazda’s MX-5 was prob­a­bly the strong­est com­peti­tor, although a much more ‘con­ven­tional’ sports car in many ways. Toy­ota did strike out on a new path with the mid-en­gined for­mat, and each of the three MR2 it­er­a­tions was quite dif­fer­ent. I like the way Long gives credit to peo­ple be­hind the scenes who en­sured the model’s fu­ture, such as for­mer chief en­gi­neer Tadashi Nak­a­gawa. He uses photos, brochures, and ad­verts ef­fec­tively to demon­strate the many dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions re­quired for var­i­ous mar­kets and the spe­cialedi­tion mod­els that were pro­duced in small numbers. By Toy­ota stan­dards, 377,000 MR2S over 33 years was a pretty small to­tal, but the cars were im­por­tant in demon­strat­ing that the gi­ant com­pany could suc­cess­fully en­ter and grow a fairly niche mar­ket. The dif­fer­ent power units used get a few pages, as does the lim­ited com­pe­ti­tion pro­gramme that was fol­lowed. For own­ers and po­ten­tial buy­ers, which­ever gen­er­a­tion you are in­ter­ested in, there is a lot of use­ful de­tail on the colour schemes and var­i­ous spec­i­fi­ca­tion changes as the model de­vel­oped. With hun­dreds of il­lus­tra­tions across its 200 large pages, this book does the MR2 credit.

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