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[NEWS] From the archive: on this day in 1977

From the archive: on this day in 1977

Subaru 1600 estate front three quarter
With growing success in Japan, Subaru moved to the UK with the 1600 estate

Subaru comes to Britain, Chrysler's new hatchback and MG's controversial advert

Having started out in 1953, Subaru grew confidently at home in Japan and then established itself in the US, encouraging it to expand into Europe and the UK. 

It first offered us a car in 1977, the 1600, including in a unique cross-country estate form, with a 68bhp 1.6-litre four-pot boxer and front or four-wheel-drive.

The rear drive unit was just “an extension of the gearbox casing, with a synchromesh coupling taken from the tail of the first-motion shaft, the drive taken back via a single-piece propellor shaft to a conventional diff unit”. Therefore it was very unwise to select 4WD when above 50mph! 

The 4WD version’s other extra bits were more ground clearance, metal shields for the underbelly and knobbly mud-and-snow tyres. So inherently capable was the estate that we actually found little need for feeding the rear, it happy at a military test ground on FWD. 

The Subaru was decent on the road, too, with fair performance and reasonable handling, albeit let down by its noisiness and fuel economy (we averaged 28.8mpg). The ride from the long-travel springs and firm dampers was impressive in the rough stuff but pretty harsh on smoother roads. 

So, while no Land Rover, the Subaru impressed with its duality of nature for family and farm.

Chrysler's new hatchback - the Horizon

The Horizon compact hatchback was the only ‘world car’ ever developed by the Chrysler Corporation, being sold in different forms by Dodge and Plymouth in America, Chrysler and Simca in Europe. While they got a 1.7-litre Volkswagen engine, we got the 1.1 and 1.3 units from the decade-old Simca 1100.

The gearbox was also carried over. While the suspension was familiar too, Chrysler clearly had gone to pains to improve on the 1100 through a wider track and roll bars. It may have been proven, but all this carry-over hardware soon made the Horizon feel outdated, and it being prone to rust didn’t help the cause.

Controversy over MG advert

Car adverts from the ’70s often look socially unacceptable in a modern context. How about this one for the MG B roadster? “Someday you’ll settle down with a nice, sensible girl, a nice, sensible house and nice, sensible family saloon. Some day.”

After its publication, Labour MP John Cartwright complained that “it was an appeal to reckless, fast driving” and “had male chauvinist and sexual overtones”. We thought, on the other hand, that “this and the subsequent copy were all good, clean, appealing stuff that summed up the aspirations of many a young man or woman.”

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