- Credit: Zagato

Leave It To The Coach Builders

With a title like that you'd expect me to start by reviewing an Aston Martin or a Ferrari. Look, it's a Wednesday. Normally Wednesday for me is my most disappointing day. So I'll start by disappointing you and talk about a couple of pick up trucks and utes.

Mind you I will make a statement about enthusiasts of pick up trucks and utes before I talk about them. Normally they're a step to the side of older European or classic super car enthusiasts. Funnily enough sports cars are normally ridiculously impractical. Older SUV's of that European description normally weren't that good, bar the Defender, original Range Rover and Velar (but even then those cars are quite new compared to most pick up trucks). So those European enthusiasts tend to like vehicles like the older Ford F150 or the Chevvy pick up.

Credit: Hoonigan

Because of this most vehicles from that era came from coach makers and looked absolutely brilliant. Case-in-point Ken Block's Hoonitruck, a highly modified F250. I'd also go as far as saying most of those newer pick up trucks look even better. The Volkswagen Amarok for example borrows it's class and lines from a Range Rover but it's chromatic elements from a Ford. Or the newer F150 Raptor and it's massive offroady tyres accompanied by its large yet chis-sled chromatic rear tail pipes.

It's funny actually because my ideal garage actually consists of a Volkswagen Amarok but the next part I'm a bit unsure about, because I absolutely love older European cars but I also love a newer infotainment system and the feel of a dual clutch gearbox. So where does that leave me? Well not in a fantastic spot. Most newer cars with that retro feel aren't really all that good. Granted I like the Alpha Romeo 4C, but I'd never actually drive one, which I find very unfortunate. And I could for example buy a limited edition Jaguar E-Type electric or something of that description, but they are so f**king expensive because they're so limited.

So without just biting the bullet and buying an old car, that puts us straight back to square one. There is a saviour though, and bloody hell is it an amazing saviour. The lads (Clarkson, May and Hammond) have all at some point in their Television careers talked about coach builders. But I'll quickly recap so that you're up to speed. Coach makers used to make the external shell for all cars. What would happen "back in the day" is you would buy a chassis and an engine and from there the coach maker would mould the body how you saw fit. Ironically now they still do exactly the same thing. Except they do it with ultra modern cars.

Credit: Top Gear

There have been a couple of gorgeous examples of this come out over the years. Cars like the David Brown Speedback, the Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato, the Eagle Speedster and the Mostro Powered by Maserati. These cars are all completely gorgeous. So much so that it's eye watering. It gets better as well, they're all ridiculously easy to drive, as much as a modern super car. They also all perform brilliantly as well, in most cases building on the original engine work from their spiritual homes.

And that brings me to my next question. If coach makers are doing such an amazing job then what's the point of continuing to make these, in some cases poxie, attempts at retro styling. Because there are a massive lump of them that have turned out looking totally ridiculous. I'll give you an example, please don't hate me for using such a bad example as number 1, but the Chrysler PT cruiser. I mean that car was meant to scream sports and retro. But instead, and to be honest, we got a lumbering turd of a car in it's place.

A more relevant example is the Alpine A110, another car I really really want to love. But the problem is it looks like a bubble. Worse still you can tell the majority of the wheels on range for that car were designed by what the Japanese presume is what a wheel looked like in the 60s. I'm not talking about the cool illegal Fast & Furious underground Japanese street racing scene, I'm talking about the same sort that put McLaren F1 into a downward spiral. The performance on that car is blistering, but I couldn't drive it purely because compared to the original it looks so bad. I have to ask - you've gone to all this trouble of making a brand new Renault sports car, and yes I know you want to pay homage to the original A110. But I would've begged the lads at Renault to at least make that car sporty. It needs quad exhaust pipes at the back, a more aggressive rear, bigger wheels and instead of basing the side profile on a median distribution you need to have everything leading to the front, which in my opinion actually doesn't look that bad.

Anyway rant aside, I'll come back to the original title of this article. If you're bringing out, designing or marketing a new car, please make it new. It needs to be a new concept or something that makes everyone gasp, something like the BMW 8 series or the Ferrari F12. Otherwise, if you want to design a classic car with new internal mechanics, you need to call Zagatto and then leave it to the experts. Coach builders don't actually make coaches, they make pure unquantified gold.

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