The CAR Top 10: spectacular U-turns

Published: 28 August 2013

Next time the missus tells you it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, slap this little lot in front of her.

1. Ford’s mk3 Granada

Following the lead of Rover’s SD1, Ford tried to convince conservative exec buyers that they wanted a roomy hatch, not a three-box saloon. The difference was that the Rover looked like a Ferrari Daytona, the Ford like Jabba the Hutt. Four-door Granny saloon duly appeared three years later.

2. BMW iDrive

iDrive’s noble attempt to de-clutter our dashboards went way too far too fast. With 12m different movements possible, each corresponding to different functions, adjusting the radio required a brain surgeon’s steadiness of hand – while driving! So they quietly repatriated some of the functions into humble buttons again.

3. Hydrolastic Minis

Cheap, simple and compact, the Mini’s rubber suspension also made it bouncier than an inflatable fort. The solution came in 1964 when Alex Moulton’s front-to-rear interconnected fluid suspension system smoothed the ride – at the expense of some body control and the occasional bout of green incontinence. By ’71 cash-strapped BL had reverted to the rubber doughnuts.

4. Chevrolet Corvair

With its rear-mounted air-cooled flat-six and swing-axle suspension, the Corvair was a radical departure for Chevy. And depart it did, off the road and into the shrubbery. The striking second-gen cars from ’65 featured properly sorted independent rear suspension, but by then it was too late. The Corvair withered away while GM went back to front-mounted engines, live axles and actually selling cars.

5. BMW’s M Division

From turning the hardcore M3 homologation special into a six-cylinder GT, to claiming there’d never be a four-wheel-drive M-car and then rolling out the X5 and X6M, to bowing to US demand for an M5 with a manual gearbox, BMW’s M division has made more U-turns than an aftermarket sat-nav.

6. McLaren F1 race car

McLaren F1 GTR scooped victory at Le Mans at its first attempt. Not bad for a road car

‘We have no intention of producing a racing car for the road,’ said Ron Dennis of the F1. But it didn’t take long for race teams to start applying Chinese burn torture to Gordon Murray’s arm, and McLaren’s resolve folded like a paper fan. The F1 GTR duly entered its first Le Mans in 1995, beating dedicated sports prototypes to take the top prize.

7. Porsche killing off the 911

After landing the top job at Porsche in 1981, Peter Schutz walked into R&D boss Helmuth Bott’s office to find a chart mapping out the future of each model line. The 911 had only a short line, indicating death was imminent. Schutz picked up and pen and extended the line to the end of the chart and onto the wall behind it.

8. Morgan three-wheeler

The first ever car of 1886 had three wheels, but, like 50in wood rims, tiller steering and group family photos featuring recently deceased loved ones, fashions had changed by 1936. Morgan introduced its first four-wheeler that year and never looked back. Until 2011, when it built a new trike, in a factory still using the same tools as last time.

9. Schumacher’s F1 comeback

Having retired a seven-time champion and arguably the greatest racing driver of all time, Schumi either changed his mind or was kidnapped and forced to watch as a lookalike claiming to be him (but actually brother Ralf) competed in a further two seasons, failing to score a single win and decimating his reputation. We prefer the latter version.

10. Pull a U-ey mate!

 

Evidently alerted by a radio advert to a half-price sale of Fosters’ kegs, this Celica driver couldn’t give a XXXX for the safety of other drivers on Sydney’s M2 motorway. Perhaps the judge’ll pull the ultimate U-ey and ship him off to Britain!

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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