Also, he only officially submitted one trim. I can verify they’re all on the same development platform (They all import as the same model). He was presenting all of them for the lore flavor, which I do encourage. (review coming up shortly)
1976 Saint Hawk 190
Saint had the distinction of being one of the first to put out a passenger car with a full four-wheel drive system in the 1970’s, well before the crossover became the “cool thing”, with their Hawk series. As might be expected, it wasn’t exactly easy to peel offroad enthusiasts away from their traditional trucks and offroaders, and a passenger car with 4WD was completely unnecessary in the sun belt.
The Hawk, offered in 3 models, ended up being a rather niche model for northerners and Canadians to play with. They sold in reasonable numbers initially, but were by no means a popular, go-to thing for many.
Over time, though, the Hawk gained a kind of cult following with people who wanted to offroad on the cheap. They were durable, relatively capable, and surprisingly comfortable.
The years have taken their toll, and most shells are gone now due either to wrecks or excessively joyous off-roading. But now and then a Saint Hawk pops up for sale, and as long as it’s not a complete basket case, gets snatched up immediately.
So when you see these weird wagons and hatchbacks out there, know that they have a far richer history than meets the eye. And that their owner likely loves it more than life itself.
Counter Culture - Jalopy Culture: High (Currently in 2nd)
1986 Neko CX-1
The spark of life for sporty driving took quite some time to come back after the death knell of the oil crisis. And while American companies for the most part were still trying the old formula of big engines in big bodies, imported models really put the twist on performance. Light, compact, quick.
Take for instance the '86 Neko CX-1. 207 horsepower out of a 3 liter, 24 valve SOHC straight-six. While it had a rather backward (for the day) 4-speed manual, it still had a very dominating feel.
The early achilles heel for the Neko, dampening early sales, was its requirement for premium fuel. This was not something that most Americans were willing to do (or were even aware existed). Detonation-related failures were pretty common in the early years, as were squabbles over warranty coverage due to owners not using the right grade.
Fast forward to the mid-2000’s, and suddently this model picks up a huge following on the used market, with prices shooting sky high in no time. CX-1’s then immediately begin to appear all over the drift circuit, as their setup is almost dialed in for the task, with few or no mods at all.
Nowadays, an original Neko CX-1 is almost unheard of for under 10 grand. And while some people have started paying a little bit more for the “X-series” imported directly from Japan, that little beast has very different dynamics.
Mainstream Culture - Drift: Very High (Currently in 1st)
The 1988 PMI Hajimeru 1.3Ti was a Japanese family hatchback mainly aimed at the European market, although also sold domestically and on the Asian market.
The PMI Hajimeru Katei line-up can be seen in full here. This includes PMI Companion rebadged trims with the larged engine adapted for the US market.
Turbocharged and using an electronic fuel injection system, the family hatchback was nippy and fun to drive (it actually really is, upload to BeamNG mod forum pending). Remarkable was also that the exterior difference to the standard hatch were minimal. The car remained a five-doors and the the only noticable differences were slightly wider wheel arches, the front bumper and the badging.
The 1st generation Contendiente Lince was a short lived sports car by Spanish brand Contendiente. It was and still is (save for the modern Lince) the only ever front engined, rear wheel drive sports car produced by Contendiente, whose bread and butter had always been front engined, front wheel or all wheel drive cars.
As the powerplant, you could find the same 2.2 liter 4 cylinder, naturally aspirated engine found in the Contendiente Enemigo producing 155 horsepower, as well as the same platform and other parts, which made Contendiente be able to save quite a bit of the tooling costs. Its two seater format, as well as its compact size made it light and nimble, and overall a quite fun to drive car. The only trim ever available for the first generation Lince was the Copa. It was, once again, only sold in Spain and Europe, but several individuals imported them to the USA and Mexico.
The Lince wasn’t a sales success like the Estrato and Enemigo were, however, and it was extremely short lived, produced only from 1988 to 1990 before being axed. The Lince made a comeback in 2017, still as an FR sports car, but that’s another story.
Remember when first gen Golf GTi is a hit back in '76? Well, some Japanese company known as Atera, kinda low-profile car maker from the land of rising sun made this.
All new '77 Atera Atom SC debuted at 1977 Tokyo Motor Show, this is their attempt to enter the hot hatchback market at the time. With their 1.6L OHC straight-4, it can produce up to 72hp and 92nm of torque.
Inside, it has 2 front seats and 2 rear seats. Customer can order an optional 3-rear seater for packing more people in Atom SC. Other than that, people love driving it. It’s nimble and agile and fun. Also, the car in the ad is the US-spec version of Atom SC so it got lesser power than the Japanese counterpart which got like 78hp in it which is just not a lot different from US-spec, really.
1988 PMI Hajimeru Katei 1.3 Turbo
On today’s edition, we’re going to define “hardcore fan.”
It takes a serious fan to go out and buy a 1980’s econobox to restore and show off. It takes a hardcore fan to import the JDM version of that because it happens to have the wheel on the wrong side, and a turbocharger on its itty bitty engine. News flash: that Hajimeru Katei is still a family car.
Of course, I knew that all before I bought one from an importer. The urge to have something quite different was just too good to pass up, and frankly I like driving mine way better than the US version, the Companion, which my parents had when I was growing up. Maybe I have a soft spot, since I also learned to drive on the Companion.
Those funky striped cloth seats with the padded vinyl door cards? Ohh yeah, takes me back to when I was a kid. The AM/FM cassette deck with the push-button mechanical presets? Totally 80’s. And yeah, the thrill of having a car that came with a tachometer as standard equipment. Yeah baby!
With a 1.3 liter SPFI turbo, the Hajimeru Katei gets up to speed surprisingly quick. Just over 10 seconds to 60 MPH. I also took it to the track and managed to get over 100 MPH in it, a feat I never was able to do (Ma, if you’re reading this, I never tried, I swear!) in the old family car.
And, of course, the random looks from people when they see I’m sitting in the wrong side of the car… well, that’s priceless.
Counter Culture - Import/Export: Very High (Currently in 2nd)
1988 Contendiente Lince Copa
Once in a while we come across the story of a great tragedy that happened beyond our shores. Woe is the tale of the 1988-1990 Contendiente Lince Copa.
A little stubby looking for a 2-door coupe, this little gem seems a little unassuming until you drive it and it demands a blood sacrifice.
You don’t exactly expect a 2.2 liter 4-bangers of the era, without a turbo, to have sub-8 second 0-60 times. Try 7.3 seconds on the Lince Copa, with a 130 MPH top speed. Plus it’s got handling that competes with the best sports cars of the day.
The Lince Copa wasn’t expensive, either. It was, all things considered, very cheap to buy and maintain, and was by all accounts a reliable car. So what sunk it?
Economic conditions, changing tastes, a terrible interior, and never being given the chance to run wild in the States. OK, that last bit we made up.
But seriously, you might want to grab one from Europe if you want something unique and flat out exhilarating to drive.
Counter Culture - Import/Export: Very High (Currently in 4th)
1977 Atera Atom SC
Today we’re going to highlight an early Hot Hatch that didn’t do so hot, the Atera Atom SC.
On paper it looked like it had all of the qualifications to be a true contender. 1.6 liter SOHC motor? Check. Sport carburetor? Check. 5-speed sport-tuned transmission? Check.
It wasn’t a particularly bad car, but the Atom was overshadowed by cars that were just a bit better at the time, such as the earlier-to-market Mitsushita Kitty, the Bramble Procida Five (to an extent), and the soon-to-follow Arai Starling GTi.
But what it ends up being, as it turns out, is a delightful car to drive, even given the era it’s from. The Atom SC has such trappings as leatherette seating, an AM/FM radio, a tach, power windows, and other things not typically found on small cars made in the late 70’s. Even more remarkable is that the Atom gets such fantastic fuel economy, often able to squeeze more than 500 miles out of its miniscule, sub-10 gallon tank.
So while you’ll occasionally find one of these bombing around a track, as Atera probably envisioned, you’ll find them far more often just cruising the countryside, finding a new road and a new adventure. Perhaps with a burned out businessman or a flannel-clad hipster at the wheel.
Counter Culture - Motorsport: Low (Currently in 9th)
Counter Culture - Spritual Classics: High (Currently in 3rd)
Brilliant interpretation as always, Vic!
And it actually really is fun to throw around on the track. Those who want can try it out:
The Legero is Hugi’s first proper small(ish) city car, after failed past attemps with other brands. First introduced in 1983 following the end of the Mk.3 Rioter’s production, the Legero was available in a wide array of versions, in both hatchback and sedan formats.
This TRX represents the facelift of the Mk.1 model introduced in 1986, denoted by a “Mk.1.5” designation. Its objective was to provide a sporty middle-ground between the more sedate versions and the top-of-the-line BR version. In emerging markets, the TRX was the fastest Legero you could buy, featuring a 120-hp, dual-overhead-cam 16-valve inline-4 engine, as well as a slew of sporty touch-ups both inside and outside.
All Mk.1 Legero production ended in 1989, to make way for the new Mk.2 model.
This is the SEAB (Sociedade de Engenheiros Automotivos Brasileiros - Society of Brazilian Automotive Engeneers) Typ 171. It’s a sporty rear engined sedan packing a 2.5 boxer 4, developed mainly by @Knightophonix , @Leedar and myself. Still a handfull to drive fast after a lot of development, but a fun car nonetheless. Heavly inspired on the Renaut Gordini/Dauphine
I’m guessing it’s easy to tell what this car is based off of. I’ll tell you anyway. It’s basically a Morris Marina.
The Dixiecar Strength 169 was notable for the fact that It contains the lone 4-cylinder Dixiecar (later renamed Americar in the 1980s) has ever produced.
This is a reminder to y’all… please, for sanity’s sake, follow the above. I don’t want to instabin you for something that may seem this silly, but it’s really REALLY hard to manage my DB if y’all don’t name them correctly.
Sorry, I don’t understand this word “y’all”.
I’ll just assume it’s the equivalent of “youse”.
1986 Hugi Legero Mk1.5 TRX
“When nice cars go bad.” Sounds like a show you’d expect on a certain fourth-rate TV network. It also sounds about right for what happened to the Hugi Legero in the mid 80’s.
Let’s also further clarify, we mean this in not in a “that’s terrible” manner, but rather a “Michael Jackson” type Bad.
The base-model Legero wasn’t really anything noteworthy. Just basic, inexpensive transportation that got good gas mileage and you could depend on every day. But if you stepped up to the Legero TRX, ho ho ho! Instant hot hatch.
You could seriously burn some front rubber with that 120 horsepower twin-cam 1.6 liter. Weighing in at just barely over a ton, this kind of power was able to rocket it to 60 in just 8.5 seconds. Gear spacing was nice and close, handling was good and tight, and body roll was not bad at all.
For an 80’s car, it’s no wonder why the Legero is an obvious choice for autocrossers and even club racers. Doesn’t hurt that it looks like it has a little attitude to go with the scrappy nature.
Mainstream Culture - Retro Motorsport: Medium (Currently in 6th)
NOTE: This scoring has altered the sliding scale for this category. Some competitors in the category that previously were marked as “High” are now “Medium”.
1966 SEAB Typ 171
Today’s blog is about a quirky, small-time import from South America. During the 60’s, taking advantage of boom times in the States, SEAB sent a few thousand of their Typ 171 sedans up north.
With SEAB being a larger producer in Brazil, they had the capacity to send many more. But the small, spartan sedan just didn’t appeal to the masses the same way the cheaper Beetle did.
Still, some did sell, and periodically you can find one on the road (or in a barn). One owner explained it this way: “If you were a hippie that didn’t get along with other hippies, the SEAB Typ 171 was a great way to distinguish yourself.” That’s a dose of truth there, as the Typ 171 featured a much larger 2.5 liter boxer, with an overhead cam. It put out just a bit over 100 ponies, which was in the same territory as a small straight-six.
Great bits from two different sides of the motoring world. Just happened to be the wrong bits mashed together.
Counter Culture - Spiritual Classics: Medium (Currently in 7th)
1971 Benson Bayside Special
After pounding the pavement recently at the local harvest festival and car show the next town over, I’m reminded of a quiet classic.
Stylistically, it seems like a bit of a stop gap between the glory days of the late 60’s and the utter malaise of the 70’s. Attractive in its own unassuming way.
Today, I speak of the '71 Benson Bayside. A car that was supposed to usher in a new age of motoring, but usually ended up getting parted out after a head or gasket failure. Or any one of thirty other common issues with them.
Designed to be inexpensive transportation that still offered a certain level of amenities and style, Benson missed the overall mark. This was a great thing for car hoarders collectors, as starting in the late 70’s, you could buy a complete Benson for $50 or so, as long as you could pay your friend with the tow truck in beer.
Now you’ve finally got those large collections of Baysides and parts being sold off and slowly aggregated into a few running units. And to see one at a car show, that’s a special thing. After all, polishing a turd to a shine and then putting it right next to the titans of the day has got to get under the skin of other collectors at some point.
Counter Culture - Classics: Low (Currently in 7th)
1977 Dixiecar Strength 169
The malaise muscle car was a pretty sad sight. Heavy bodies from updated safety regulations, neutered power plants from smog regulations with poor new technology as a hindrance. And then there’s the Dixiecar “Strength”.
We’re not sure what dictionary they looked up that word within, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t English. With 72 horsepower out of a coarse, rattling 2.8 liter inline four, this model should have been the thesaurus entry instead.
Sure, it was cheap, and looked like a classic muscle car. But that’s where it ended. It was widely panned in every single publication of the day, and just as widely spurned by buyers. Only heavy incentives could get even the most desperate buyers to take one.
Then something strange happened sometime in the 90’s.
People figured out that if you took a turbo off of just about any 1980’s import, slapped an injection throttle body on from an Ardent Eridani V6 to replace the wheezing carb, and hooked up a bigger exhaust, you could make the car go basically twice as fast. That is, to say, still slower than a stock Tymouth Plurismo. But faster than the original, anyway. This became a big thing in the South and some of the Mountain states, however, because the Dixiecar was actually disturbingly good at handling the worst rutted, washboarded dirt roads out there. Thus, a unique breed of turbo 4-banger muscle car for dirt hooning was born.
Mainstream Culture - Muscle Cars: Very Low (Currently in 4th)
Counter Culture - Jalopy Culture: Low (Currently in 6th)