ON THE ROAD
There was a period when a whole cottage industry popped up offering Stag engine swaps, with Ford ‘Essex’ V6 and Rover’s Buick-derived V8 being favourites. Yet in recent decades, originality has become key. A raft of specialists has since proven beyond all doubt that a meticulously maintained Stag can be enjoyed as its designers intended. All of which isn’t exactly news to the marque faithful even if the more cynical among us still struggle to let go of established and long nurtured prejudices.
What is really telling is that the Stag is now considered to be hip by a younger generation that neither knows nor cares about its once widely renowned reputation for unreliability. Seriously, drive one in an urban environment and you get nothing but stares – of validation rather than contempt – along with the occasional double-fisted thumbs-up. Not that this really matters, but it’s always better to be appreciated as someone of taste than an apologist.
One of the main reasons why the Stag is so conspicuous is that it sounds so implausibly potent, the lovely free-spinning and surprisingly smooth unit’s woofly V8 backbeat as utterly enthralling today as it ever was.
The Stag sends out slightly mixed messages when pressed, though. It isn’t particularly quick by modern-day standards; a well-driven hatchback – and not necessarily a hot-hatch, either – will show it a clean pair of heels. But to criticise it for this is to rather miss the point, because this isn’t a sports car, and was never intended to be one. That said, it feels faster than it actually is and overdrive clicks in and out on third and top, which is a real boon when cruising. However, the gear-lever requires more guidance that you might expect and buffeting from the T-bar roof arrangement can get rather wearing on longer journeys.
The ride quality is cosseting and it displays decent poise through the twisty bits, but feel through the steering wheel isn’t all it could be; the powerassisted rack-and-pinion arrangement is overservoed and the steering becomes eerily lighter the faster you drive.
This is patently a comfortable and spacious long-distance cruiser, first and foremost. There is no reason why you couldn’t go on a road trip in one of these cars and climb out completely unruffled after a long day’s driving.
The Stag may not be perfect, but it is a stylish, mellifluous and practical mile-eater that deserves greater admiration and respect, even if that is only in retrospect.