Gor­don Mur­ray

Retro-themed cars don’t of­ten echo the for­ward­think­ing fea­tures that made the orig­i­nals so great. Gor­don has found one that does though

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents -

on the mer­its – or not – of modern-day retro car de­signs

When a clas­sic brand or prod­uct is re­vived and re­launched there seem to be two very dif­fer­ent ap­proaches adopted by car man­u­fac­tur­ers – and they’re 180 de­grees from each other. The first is to take an iconic clas­sic car, re­launch the prod­uct brand and de­sign a modern ver­sion that has a shape and fea­tures that ac­cu­rately re­call the orig­i­nal. If done well the buy­ing pub­lic in the first few years seem to adopt the prod­uct for nos­tal­gic and im­age rea­sons but, even­tu­ally, the brand stands alone. No at­tempt is made by man­u­fac­tur­ers to em­u­late the main rea­sons why these cars ini­tially be­came iconic; their en­gi­neer­ing, de­sign and pack­ag­ing. Two ob­vi­ous ex­am­ples are my favourite city cars, the Fiat 500 and the Mini.

Both have been a great suc­cess story and the mar­ket­ing and strate­gic teams de­serve a pat on the back. But nei­ther makes even a small nod to the light­weight ap­proach and fan­tas­tic pack­ag­ing of the orig­i­nals. In fact they are both sig­nif­i­cantly larger out­side and smaller in­side. Some of this can be at­trib­uted to cur­rent crash reg­u­la­tions and cus­tomer de­mands, but not all of it. Even if the de­sign is driven ab­so­lutely by the styling, and the pack­ag­ing is pretty av­er­age, it is still not an easy task to re­launch a clas­sic and grow it into a modern pop­u­lar car. An ex­am­ple that didn’t work was the new VW Beetle.

The se­cond ap­proach is ex­em­pli­fied by Alpine with the re­launch of the brand and the A110 sports car. It has ap­proached the new A110 de­sign much more holis­ti­cally, not only in­cor­po­rat­ing styling el­e­ments but also tar­get­ing the whole ethos of the orig­i­nal A110.

The clas­sic A110 was small, ag­ile and light – the per­fect recipe for great ve­hi­cle dy­nam­ics. It went on to carve out a his­tory for it­self with many mo­tor sport suc­cesses. The new A110 fol­lows the same prin­ci­ples – much ef­fort has gone into keep­ing it light. It also has pure dou­ble-wish­bone sus­pen­sion and the size is pretty mod­est by to­day’s stan­dards. I first saw the car at Geneva last year and was im­me­di­ately im­pressed. At 1100kg it is the light­est in its class of sports cars that pass the everyday us­abil­ity test. I came away think­ing that the re­launch and de­sign tar­gets had great par­al­lels with the TVR re­launch. As with the Alpine, we’ve man­aged to keep the new Grif­fith’s di­men­sions and weight un­der con­trol, so it is the light­est and stiffest car in its class. Com­bined with pure dou­ble-wish­bone sus­pen­sion, it will de­liver a proper TVR drive.

Since 2004 my Smart Road­ster Coupé has been my everyday car and I have in vain looked for a small, light­weight rearengined sports car, with good visibility, a rea­son­able boot and a great fun fac­tor, to re­place it. Then along comes the Alpine.

So I’ve placed an or­der for a blue A110. I was feel­ing pretty pleased with my­self un­til old friend and col­league Neil Oat­ley dropped by. Neil, a great car de­signer who was in­stru­men­tal in our three team World Cham­pi­onships, an­nounced that he too had or­dered an A110, but had gone one step fur­ther and bought a clas­sic A110. Great minds…

The new A110 is very much in the spirit of the orig­i­nal. Which is why Gor­don has bought one

Gor­don Mur­ray is one of the most in­no­va­tive au­to­mo­tive de­sign­ers of his gen­er­a­tion. He de­signed Gp-win­ning F1 cars for Brab­ham and Mclaren and the Mclaren F1 road car.

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