ON THE ROAD

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - 40 Years Since The Last Stag -

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.

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