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Thursday, 10 September 2015

We build replicas of sports cars - why not hot hatches?

NOSTALGIA’S a funny thing. I doubt the ‘good old days’ really are as marvellous as their supporters make out, but bringing bygone eras back to life is big business.

You already know you can go out and buy a Volkswagen Beetle, a Fiat 500 and a MINI – all of which are a heck of a lot easier to live with than their 1965 equivalents – but you’d be surprised at how many people make a living out of giving you an even more hardcore hit of nostalgia.

That’s why Triumph will sell you a Bonneville that to casual motorcycle fans looks and feels almost exactly like something that lapped the TT circuit half a century ago, managing directors hitch up Airstream caravans to the back of their Range Rover Sports and tickets to the Goodwood Revival sell out in half a femtosecond. Even the politicians are it – Jeremy Corbyn reckons 60% of us would rather railways were state-owned, like they were in the good old days.

Naturally, there are plenty of car companies who’ll sell you a slice of the sort of nostalgia where it’s got to feel as well as look the part. You’d think Morgan would have this niche pretty much to itself – there are caves with primitive paintings of the Plus 4 etched onto their walls – but there are also companies who will sell you replicas of Jaguar XK120s and importers you can source you a brand new Lada Niva straight from Russia – 18 years after it officially disappeared from the nation’s showrooms.

Yet I reckon the specialists are missing a trick. There are lots of companies who are fulfilling the pent-up nostalgia of people who want a classic British sports car that happens to be brand new – take the Caterham Seven – but what about the thousands of us who spent their youth pulling hot hatches out of hedges?

In the past few weeks I’ve driven the Ford Fiesta and the Volkswagen Golf in the lithe MkI guises their late 1970s creators intended, and they handle and steer so much more crisply than their modern day equivalents. Today’s hot hatches are brilliant, but even a modern day Fiesta ST doesn’t have the flyweight fun factor of the old XR2.

If you can buy what’s effectively a showroom fresh Jaguar XK120 or a brand new Lotus Seven, why can’t you get a brand new Fiesta XR2 or Clio Williams? The teenagers who grew up with Sam Fox rather than Diana Dors are going to want their nostalgia hit soon enough – and it’s hot hatches, not sports cars, they grew up with.

Kit car builders of Britain – consider the gauntlet laid down!

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