Visually Challenged, Mechanically Brilliant
I am very visually oriented and in addition to cars have a great interest in and enthusiasm for art. Having said that, while I am drawn to many vehicles because of their design, my real joy comes in driving.
There are certainly cars that might be considered by some to be a bit “visually challenged” but nonetheless deliver a rewarding experience behind the wheel. A prime example would be the Daimler SP250, called the ‘Dart’ in the UK. It’s a two-seat sports car, powered by a wonderful 2.5-liter hemi-head V-8 engine. The car handles quite well and has a roomy, comfortable cockpit.
Then we come to the styling. The Dart has also been called “the angry catfish” and before the Pontiac Aztek appeared, it was held up as the poster child for what ‘design by committee’ must produce. The front, sides and rear have only a passing relationship with each other, although each is not bad by itself.
That William Lyons bought the Daimler company in 1960 to give Jaguar additional production capacity, he also obtained that V-8, as well as the opportunity to kill a potential E-Type competitor. Had the Dart been given a body half as beautiful as the E-Type, it might have given the sports car from Brown’s Lane a run for its money.
Sedan Beats Coupe
Another example of a car perhaps best seen from inside is a very different one, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Berlina. While BMW is most often cited today as the quintessential ‘sports sedan’, the category was undeniably created in the 1950s by Alfa Romeo. From the 1900 sedan (‘berlina’ in Italian) in 1950, the Giulietta in 1955 through to the Giulia Super launched in 1962, the four-door variant was usually the best seller and brought sporting motoring to the family man.
When compared to the two-door open and closed models, the Giulia Super offered the same great mechanicals found under the GTV coupe and the Spider with comfortable accommodation for four full-sized adults. In fact, the superior weight distribution and balance of the sedan made it a bit more stable and predictable in the twisty bits than either of its more ‘sporting’ siblings.
More Than Skin Deep
Alfa quite successfully campaigned the Super TI version of the sedan and original examples of this 1960s ‘super saloon’ are highly prized collectibles. One of the reasons for its success was its exceptional drag coefficient of 0.34, despite its very boxy look. As a comparison, the super sleek 1982 Audi 100, with trick flush mounted side glass was hailed as the “world’s most aerodynamic production sedan” at a rating of 0.30.
The carefully sculpted roof and fender edges of the Giulia Super allowed it to be as slippery through the air as a Ferrari F40, and actually best the Citroën DS! It’s hard to pick another under 2-liter sedan that’s as much fun to drive as the Giulia Super and once you get used to the way it drives, it will also start to look pretty lovely as well!
Both these cars are great examples of why beauty can be much more than skin deep.
Written by Donald Osborne, ASA of Automotive Valuation Services
For Premier Financial Services