Friday, 6 November 2009


Sitting around SS7 towers are boxes containing every issue of CAR magazine from about 1978, when I at last had the funds to indulge regularly, to 2006, when I decided enough was enough and started chucking the latest issues away.

I picked one out more or less at random this morning as I was waiting for a call, and spent a couple of minutes flicking through it.

The 70's and 80's were CAR magazines' heyday. Nothing else on the market offered its combination of high quality (and honest!) writing, innovative photography & design, industry insight and access to the best and fastest motors in the world. CAR became the standard by which all others were measured, and I would always look forward to the monthly publication day.

April 1988 featured yet another fast but chronically underdeveloped de Tomaso era Maserati, the 'new' BMW E34 5-series, vs it's rivals, the Lancia Integrale & Ford Sierra Cosworth ('Europe's Great Supercar Bargains'), and the latest Suzuki bikes amongst others.

Two things struck me looking through the old mag.

First was that the quality of the journalistic line-up was epic; great writers all. Yet sadly I couldn't help being saddened by how few of them are still around.

Since 1988 we've lost the great George Bishop, the irrepressible old car guy Ronald Barker, the inimitable LJK Setright, Phil Llewellin and the so talented Russell Bulgin.

Of the rest, Gavin Green, then editor, is still involved with CAR 21 years on, Georg Kacher will last for ever, and Steve Cropley & Andrew Frankl still write columns.

The second thing that I noticed was how damned expensive cars were 21 years ago! The 'bargain' Sierra Sapphire Cosworth was £19,000, had 200bhp and ran to 143 mph. By contrast, the current Focus RS costs only £6.5k more and pushes out a storming 300bhp and 165mph.

The 'new' 5 series in 525i form was also £19,000 and offered 170bhp, compared to its nearest current equivalent, the £29,000, 190bhp 523i.

In 1988 a basic Porsche 911(Carrera 3.2) was £37k, the same as a 944 turbo. That compares pretty well to the current 911 at just over £60k, although £37k can still buy you an entry level Boxster.

However, should you have wanted to buy a Sport Edition 911 turbo with your city bonus , it would set you back £99,000. List price of a 2009 997 turbo? £99,000.......

By way of contrast I took at look at house prices. The average price of a UK house in 1988 was £45,000, or a quarter of current values.

Perhaps we don't have it so bad!


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