This month’s cover fea­ture has Phil lost in the Seven­ties, and re­minds him of a gold Es­prit S2 that es­caped

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In 1975, while a sav­age eco­nomic storm tore at the UK mo­tor in­dus­try, this car-mad ten-year- old was bliss­fully un­aware. In­fla­tion hit a record 24% and cars sales slumped 29%. Bri­tish Ley­land was saved by a gov­ern­ment bailout but Chrysler UK had to sort it­self out with job losses in the thou­sands. For ex­otic car mak­ers it was worse, with Jensen call­ing in the re­ceiver and As­ton Martin sus­pend­ing pro­duc­tion pend­ing res­cue. But at the Paris Show in Oc­to­ber and the Earls Court show two weeks later a crisp, sil­ver dart of glass­fi­bre punc­tured the gloom. De­spite bat­tling with its own share of post- oil cri­sis pres­sure Lo­tus gave us the Es­prit, a dar­ing slice of fu­tur­is­tic op­ti­mism. It re­tained all of the rad­i­cal drama of Italde­sign’s ear­lier con­cept, yet this was a pro­duc­tion re­al­ity. Or at least it would be by 1976 when it speared across the sil­ver screen in The Spy Who Loved Me.

I was smit­ten. And for a while the world was too, as sharp- edged sports cars pointed to a more ex­cit­ing fu­ture. Along­side de­signs such as Lan­cia’s Mon­te­carlo and Maserati’s Kham­sin, ri­vals cling­ing on to the curves of the Six­ties seemed dated and homely. But like all high fash­ion, when the look dated, it dated badly. And pre­cisely be­cause it had ap­peared so un­com­pro­mis­ingly fu­tur­is­tic, that look took a long time to be wel­comed into the tra­di­tional clas­sic world.

Since the Seven­ties we’ve had a re­turn to soft and re­as­sur­ing or­ganic curves, new edge, flame sur­fac­ing and at times chaotic col­li­sions of the above. Now the clean forms of the Seven­ties of­fer a re­fresh­ingly sim­ple and pure es­cape – both to a gen­er­a­tion that was starstruck by them orig­i­nally, and a younger co­hort who sees them as oth­er­worldly. The Mon­te­carlo, Es­prit, Delorean and Kham­sin we gath­ered for our stu­dio ex­trav­a­ganza rep­re­sent a stair­case of prices, and Britain’s own king of wedge styling, Oliver Win­ter­bot­tom, de­liv­ers his frank ver­dicts on their re­spec­tive suc­cess. With that asym­met­ric bon­net vent and glass rear panel, the Kham­sin could hold my at­ten­tion all day long, but in the end it’s the Lo­tus that holds the most ir­re­sistible pull. Child­hood in­flu­ences are hard to es­cape, and a near miss with an iden­ti­cal gold Se­ries 2 a few years ago only re­in­forces it.

Thoughts about great mo­tor show mo­ments of the past have me yearn­ing a 2017 fix of evoca­tive shapes shim­mer­ing un­der ex­hi­bi­tion light­ing, the buzz of the crowds and the chance to catch up with ev­ery­one af­ter the win­ter re­cess. In late Fe­bru­ary Clas­sic Cars will play our own part in the daz­zle of the Lon­don Clas­sic Car Show with a se­lec­tion of Smart Buys pre­sented by our own Quentin Will­son. I can’t say whether an Es­prit will fig­ure, but I do prom­ise a set of cars that will have you think­ing hard about your next clas­sic buy.

En­joy the is­sue, and see you in Lon­don.

Dur­ing the wedge era, drama came as stan­dard

Phil wishes he’d gone gold

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