By Rod Ward
The latest two Auto Review titles, now available, are 123 Tiny Wheels and 124 Volvo Album. You can read more about these new publications below.
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Auto Review 123 Tiny Wheels
by Rod Ward
What ‘microcars’ did we include in this publication?
We could argue for hours about this, and many folk have done. Some people define a microcar by size, perhaps three metres (ten feet) in length. But that would include hundreds of ‘proper’ small cars, such as the original Mini and the Fiat 500. Others say the definition should be by engine size, perhaps setting the limit at 500cc. Again this would include the Fiat 500, as well as cars such as the original 325cc Citroën 2CV, not a ‘tiny’ car by any measure. Also not included, though regarded as microcars by some enthusiasts, are most of the early cyclecars, which were light in weight, with small engines, but did not necessarily have a small footprint. In those days it was not a priority to save space on the road, as there were fewer vehicles around. Many of the smallest cars and cyclecars produced by major manufacturers are described in other Auto Review publications, so we decided not to take up too much of our restricted space in these pages with them.
So, what ‘microcars’ are included?
For a car to be included here, we have mostly accepted the designer’s intention; to make a tiny car which is still practical in normal use, ie the designer could have made a larger vehicle, but instead set himself the goal of making a tiny car. Sometimes such small cars were developed to cope with a straitened economy, such as in France under wartime German occupation. Also, after the Second World War in most countries (and much longer in Spain under the Franco regime) buyers could only afford very small, very cheap cars. Sometimes external economic constraints forced buyers to consider tiny cars, such as the various oil crises, which spawned the bubble cars and many other microcars.
Other tiny cars were produced to comply with government regulation, such as the Kei-cars in Japan, and other quadricycles in countries where very small engines required no driving licence.
In more recent years, congestion in cities has led to development of city cars with a small footprint.
Smallness is relative, however, Some compact American cars sold poorly, because they were perceived by buyers as being far too small. Certain of those US cars are described in this publication, though they would not be regarded as ‘microcars’ anywhere else in the world.
Thanks to all who offered text and illustrations for this publication. We must thank our international network of contributors for their valuable input. Special thanks to Fabrizio Panico, Harvey Goranson, Bruno Boracco, Dave Turner, Maz Woolley, Hans-Georg Schmitt, and John Hanson & Peter Seaword of the H-S Transport Collection. Vehicles were photographed at many museums and collections, including the Louwmann Museum, the Lane Museum, the Weiner Microcar Museum (Harv got there on its very last day before the collection was sold), and at the Retromobile and Techno Classica shows from various years.
ISBN 978-1-85482-122-8 £5.95
Auto Review 122 Volvo Album
by Rod Ward
Volvo was founded in 1927 in Gothenburg by the Swedish ball bearing manufacturer SKF.
Volvo Cars was owned by AB Volvo until 1999, when it was sold to the Ford Motor Co, who only retained the brand for a decade before selling it to Geely of China in 2010. AB Volvo continued to make its world-renowned trucks, buses and construction equipment, taking over other companies, including White, Mack, UD, Euclid and many more. By the 21st century Volvo was the largest bus manufacturer in the world, with assembly plants in a number of countries.
In this publication we tell the story of the original company, the separation of the car division, and the parallel development of the car and commercial vehicle firms in subsequent decades.
It is a long and complex tale, in which not every individual model can be described in detail here.
The Volvo brand and logo continued to be used under a 50-50 ownership agreement between the Chinese-owned firm which made the cars, and AB Volvo, which made everything else.
The two firms also co-operated in running the Volvo Museum in Arendal, Sweden.
On a personal note, I have only owned a couple of Volvos, both 200-series estate cars, chosen as being suitable for our business in the 1980s. The 245 was robust and reliable, but short on power when heavily loaded and towing a caravan to outdoor shows, so we were persuaded to replace it with a 265. It was more luxurious and powerful, but it was also very unreliable. We had so much trouble persuading the PRV V6 engine to start every morning that we traded in the Volvo 265 for a Range Rover. Sorry, Volvo fans!
ISBN 978-1-85482-123-5 £5.95
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