As 2015 draws to a close we take a look at some of the classic and interesting cars of 2015 and the stories that have made it a year to remember for car enthusiasts
Fiat S76 ‘The Beast of Turin‘
Fresh from undoubtedly one of the most challenging restorations of all time (forgetting all other challenges, it took a decade), the dramatic Fiat S76 speed record car, nicknamed ”The Beast of Turin‘, spat-flames from its 28-litre engine at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Chateau Impney Hillclimb crowds for the first time in over a century.
That wasn’t it for the Beast in 2015 though, in October, and despite tough competition, the car was voted Car of the year in the International Historic Motoring Awards 2015 by readers of Octane Magazine.
Land Rover Defender
On December 31st 2015, Land Rover Defender production, very sadly, comes to an end after 67 years (the history of Land Rover).
Land Rover marked the occasion by gathering some of their finest heritage vehicles together and taking them on a tour of the UK, giving Land Rover enthusiasts a chance to vote for their favourite (HUE 166 if you didn’t know).
While back in June and with the help of Adventurer Bear Grylls and some celebrity chums, Land Rover built the two-millionth Defender dubbed ‘Defender 2,000,000′.
The Defender 2,000,000 boasted a host of unique design features including an engraved map of Red Wharf Bay, where the design for the original Land Rover was first drawn in the sand, and a unique ‘no 2,000,000’ badge. A bespoke aluminium plaque, signed by everyone who helped to assemble the vehicle is fitted to the driver’s seat. Finally the S90 HUE registration plates pay tribute to the first ever pre-production, registration ‘HUE 166’.
Defender 2,000,000 was auctioned by Bonhams on 16th December where it raised a staggering £400,000. Land Rover are donating the proceeds of the sale to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Born Free Foundation.
Land Rover haven’t revealed exactly how they plan to replace this automotive icon, the word is that in 2016 we’ll find out.
Mazda MX5/Fiat 128
New, affordable, everyday, sports cars seem a bit thin on the ground these days. So Mazda must be commended for not only sticking with the recipe and bringing us a Mk4 MX5 but also in making it pretty much as heavy as the 1989 original. Impressive, considering the safety equipment and legislation that has to be packed into a modern car that didn’t 25 years ago.
So how did Mazda celebrate the new MX5’s arrival? They rolled it out for the very first time at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and let a group of over-energetic musicians beat it with sticks… (jokes aside, it wasn’t a bad show).
Which leads us to Fiat, who haven’t had a affordable sports car in their showrooms since the pretty Barchetta faded away in 2005 but through a joint-venture with Mazda (it’s based around the platform of the new MX5), a new Fiat 124 Spider sports car will arrive in late 2016, fifty years after the original 124 Spider was released.
Critics may get hot under the collar that it’s not a proper Fiat and that the new 124 Spider is another exercise in retro-nostalgia but there’s another way of looking at it. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes at Fiat Chrysler Automotive right now and the positive benefit of a new, pretty, reasonably-affordable, two-seat sports car to raise FCA moods and balance-sheets, must surely outweigh such gripes? Besides, which car enthusiast can resist the thought of a new rear-drive, more powerful Abarth 128?
Aston Martin Vulcan
Aston Martin have had a busy year. In Geneva they unveiled the DBX concept, a glimpse of how a future Aston Martin GT might look (and now tipped for production). Then there was the DB10, which lit up cinema screens in the hands of Daniel Craig in Spectre. Last but not least there’s the Vulcan, an 800bhp, track-only, super car that Aston will only make 24 examples, each costing a cool £1.5 million.
But whys the Vulcan a car of the year 2015? After all this kind of ultra-exclusive, track-only, super car programme has been offered by Ferrari and McLaren for years with the FXX program and P1 GTR. Well, pre-21st century, before the internet, youtube, social media, smart phones, multi-channel tv, all super cars had a kind of aura or that sprinkle of magic dust. You couldn’t get that daily super car dose that you can get now in a few clicks. Pre-1993 the Goodwood Festival of Speed didn’t exist, car enthusiasts were sold posters and Jeremy Clarkson videos.
(Stay with me please) whatever it was, this unfamiliarity of rarely seeing a super car, not only in real life but in media kept them elevated above the herd. Far from suggesting we put on our rose-tinted specs and step back, but in the world we now live, I’m a believer that many super cars have lost that aura of unfamiliarity. When you’re asking someone to part with hundreds of thousands of pounds that has got to be a problem (presuming you buy into all this and believe in super car auras and magic dust that is).
Which brings us back to the Vulcan, a super car so powerful, exclusive and dramatic that in 2015 it managed to beat back the power of the internet and keep its super car unfamiliarity aura well and truly intact. If you saw one thundering up the Goodwood hill, I think you know what I mean (If you didn’t then don’t click the video above).
Morgan AR Plus 4
There were a lot of classic car birthday celebrations in 2015 but one that was easily missed was the 65th anniversary of the Morgan Plus 4.
Although not by Morgan Motor Company, who marked the occasion by launching this the AR Plus 4.
Limited to just 50 cars (all now sold), the AR Plus 4 was developed by Morgan’s racing division, AR Motorsport, the aim being to develop the ultimate road and track Plus 4 sports car. Powered by a 225bhp Cosworth 2.0 litre engine (up from 164bhp as standard) and set up by an individual AR Motorsport race technician. Mechanical changes didn’t stop there as each car featured all-new suspension, adjustable shock absorbers, a new braking system, a different axle ratio and a revised chassis. Inside there was a new interior and an extended list of standard features.
In 1950 the first Morgan Plus 4 had just 68bhp. Now in it’s 65th year the AR Plus 4 shows that there’s plenty of life in the Plus 4 and that Morgan have no intention of letting the car drift into retirement.
Richard Colton’s Ferrari 250 GT SWB and 275 GTB/4
Back in May, the story broke that H&H Classics were to sell not one but two extremely-valuable classic Ferrari’s from the estate of Northamptonshire businessman and Ferrari-collector, the late Richard Colton, in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).
The cars in question were a 1967 275 GTB/4 and a 1960 250 GT SWB (Short wheelbase). Both cars are extremely sought-after among collectors but the 250 SWB, one of just 167 built, sits among the most desirable classic Ferrari sports cars of all time. With Ferrari sale prices currently at record levels, the excitement around these cars coming to market was high.
When the hammer fell at H&H Classics Imperial War Museum sale at Duxford on 14th October, the 275 GTB fetched a price of £2,161,600 and the 250 SWB £7,392,000 at the Duxford, an incredible £9,553,600 raised for charity. Richard Colton, if you’re watching, we hope you’re (justifiably) proud.
Back in January at the Detroit Motor show Ford pulled the wraps off one of the shows biggest stars, a new Ford GT super car.
Like it’s predecessors, the GT40 and Ford GT Mk1, the new car is mid-engined and rear-wheel drive. Unlike it’s ancestors, this new GT isn’t powered by a V8 but a twin-turbo V6, producing over 600 horsepower (Ford’s most powerful EcoBoost engine yet).
The car will enter production late in 2016 but the big news is that it will race at the 2016 Le Mans 24 hour race, fifty years after Ford’s legendary 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours 1-2-3 finish with the GT40. It’ll be a tall order for them to do it again in 2016 but ‘you have to be in it to win it‘ as the saying goes. It’ll be exciting to see.
At this years Le Mans 24 hour race, Alpine pulled the covers off a new concept car, the Alpine Celebration.
Built to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Alpine marque, with styling that unashamedly echoes past Alpine greats, it re-affirms Renaults commitment to launch an all new sports car, the ‘Berlinette of the 21st century‘, in 2016.
Exact details about the new car are thin on the ground and while it’s been 20 years since the Alpine A610 went out of production, there is still a lot of good-will among car enthusiasts for this historic marque that took victory in the World Rally championship in 1973 and the Le Mans 24 hour race in 1978. The prospect of a modern-day Alpine A110 sports car in 2016 is something enthusiasts can get very excited about indeed.
Which just about wraps it up for 2015. Thanks for reading. Do you agree with our cars of 2015? What would you have included on the list? Please let us know by commenting below