1983: The Year of the Plucky Trio
If 1982 was the year where Erin saved itself, 1983 was the year that it remade itself. The Nasaro was now doing well, and had begun it's conquest of Group A racing in March. Now, Erin's lineup needed to be completed. Gone were the GT coupes and quirky sports-saloon-coupe hybrids of past; the company was going professional.
So slap on some New Wave, grab your Filofax and style your best bangs; welcome to Erin in the 80s!
Chris Famerley, hired by CEO Marco Erin at the age of just 25 to be Erin's chief of design, has styled the Nasaro brilliantly. Now, Marco wanted a new design style to link the looks of the new Erin range together. Famerley therefore continued with the contemporary futuristic styling to create the boldest line up Erin had ever had.
Alongside a new Merna, there would be a supermini called the Visto and an excutive saloon called the Berlose. All of these cars had been early concepts in the late 70s before the financial crash, meaning that the designs simply had to be updated rather than built from new.
Things would be tough though. The low funds that Erin had and the very pressing need to get Erin's income stream going again meant that all three cars had to be rushed to some extent. To save more money, Erin only designed 4 new engines in total, with the rest being made up by Toledo engines. Interior design was simple, shared parts were used consistently and the cars could certainly have done with more refinement.
But at the same time, these cars were a bold step for the company. Erin became one of the first makers in the world to use only fuel injection engines; incredible effort was put in to ensuring these cars were safer to drive than their rivals, something Erin remains committed to today; a lot of time was spent on how to market these cars, which the company had never done on such a scale before.
They laid out a whole new vision for what Erin was, and helped to revolutionise the brand. By the end of the year, the financial disaster of 1979 was distant memory. Sales went back up again, ErinSport got a new Merna to take touring car racing and for the first time in 4 years, they were making a profit.
1983 Erin Merna (Mk 4)
It was a miracle how long the Mk 3 Merna managed to stay in production for; by 1983 it was outdated and dying for a replacement. And in its place came the angular, handsome Mk 4. Famerly returned to the mini-saloon styling of the Mk 1 and Mk 2, but brought it into a new age.
As ever, the Merna was reliable, practical and good to drive. Even with the areas that had been skimped on like interior furnishings and suspension, the competitive price and great fuel economy mean that this car was a good buy. It was see massive improvements in 1986 when the facelifted version was launched, ironing out the various flaws and creating a solid family run about.
Engines ranged from a dinky 1.1l i4 up to a 1.5l i4, reworked from a Toledo-made engine.
If this car were a song, it'd be The Sun Always Shines On TV by A-ha.
1983 Erin Visto (Mk 1)
The little Visto was made to be the fun-loving sibling of the Merna; compact, practical and light on its feet, this car was the result of years of research Erin had done into making a smaller car to sit alongside the Merna.
In many ways, this was just a smaller version of the Merna, but was more economical and cheaper. What really distinguished it from its rivals however was the styling; the Nasaro-style rear lights were way cooler than the rear lights of the VW Polo.
One of the biggest strengths of the car was its comfort. Thanks to the low weight, suspension didn't need to be hard, allowing for a smooth ride not found on many cars of this price.
If this car were a song, it'd be Always On My Mind by The Pet Shop Boys.
1983 Erin Berlose (Mk 1)
Differing itself from its smaller counterparts with chrome and decking its insides with a range of luxuries, the Berlose was Erin's jab at the Germans. The ethos of this car was set out immediatley here: a superb long distance cruise, with enough guts to be fun to drive but also easy enough to do the school run in everyday.
A lot of effort was placed on making this car as comfortable as possible, using only V6s and i6s (aside from a V8 used on some American export versions), cladding the interior with leather and offering automatic gearboxes as standard. This car was also innovative; on some trims, you could get vented front disc breaks, while cruise control was offered as standard on all models.
Today, the Mk 1 Berlose is an esteemed Erin classic, and came to be one of the best alternatives to a Mercedes or BMW you could buy.
If this car were a song, it'd be People Are People by Depeche Mode.
1983 also saw th use of the 'X Tune' branding on Erin's sports tuned trims expand. The logo had first been used with the Nasaro X a year earlier, and it was formalised soon after. While the X Department had existed since 1960, none of the cars they'd tuned used the 'X' branding until then.
1983 Erin Merna X 2.0
Hot versions of the Merna had come before, but not like this. The '83 Merna X was nippy and nimble, with a slightly unsightly boot spoiler, lower stance and a gorgeous burble from its 2.0l Twin Cam i4, a de-turboed version of the same engine used in the Nasaro S.
Producing 135 bhp, 0-60 took 7.4 seconds, meaning it could compete with the best hot hatches of the day, though it was by no means as good as the Golf GTi or the later 205 GTi.
That said, the Merna X enjoyed a great career in motorsport, doing very well in Class B of the BTCC, taking 14 pole psoitions between 1984 and 1988, as well competing in some minor rally races under ErinSport sponsored teams.
1983 Erin Visto X 1.4
The Visto X of '83 was an unusual car. Hot-hatches were still developing and hadn't really gone any further than hatchbacks, meaning that this tuned Visto become one of the only tuned superminis you could buy.
It wasn't the best performance vehicle you could buy, though it was by no means dull - 0-60 in 9.4 seconds and great handling thanks to the short wheels base made it great fun to drive, even if it was overshadowed by the rest of the hot-hatch market.
There we are then! All cars that I've made previously, but updated, improved and in some cases redesigned. And now posted properly too!
Comments, critique, complaints, contradictions and conversation is most welcome!
(Please excuse some of the hilariously awful music videos in that playlist, but also look out for the really good videos for Don't You Want Me, Two Tribes and Never Tear Us Apart!)