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FHL - Fenton Holdings Limited


The 1975 Everette Bellevue

After the 1973 Oil Crisis tanked demand in the first generation S body cars, like the Bellevue, FHL made the decision to fast track the platform’s replacement. While the platform was in development at the time, the rush job that followed (as the 2nd generation was originally intended for the 1977 model year) resulted in some of the most legendarily bad cars in FHL’s history. The first marks of the 2nd gen Bellevue went on sale in March of 1975, 14 months ahead of schedule.

The time crunch resulted in a largely copied design from the original S body platform; that is – front engine, rear wheel drive, solid rear axle with double A arms in front, and not just similar but identical wheelbase. In fact whole sections of the chassis sheet metal were basically copied on the new platform. Where the new platform differed was in the details, such as cutting length out of the hood to allow for a larger passenger compartment, lighter weight construction using plastics wherever possible, and thicker pillars and stiffened frame rails to improve safety. The decision to fast track came after a rather large bit of preliminary safety research meaning that although little else changed, safer design was a priority even amidst the hacking and slashing to get the new platform off the ground. The second gen S body platform incorporated early crash box design, improved rollover protection, and had several standard safety features not seen on many makes until the 80s such as lap-sash belts for everyone except the rear middle passenger (who still had a lap belt), bucket seats in front, fog lamps, and optional 4-wheel disk brakes.

(1975 model)

Still, this did not change the limited tool set that FHL had to work with for making the new S body a more fuel efficient car. At the time, FHL was producing two flavors of V8, both woefully inefficient OHV designs and a V6 that, while efficient (despite being OHV), was simply not powerful to enough to lug around a near 2 tonne car. FHL ultimately decided to replace the 5.5L (335 cubic inch) base big block V8 with a 4.8L (292 cubic inch) small block V8 retrofitted with an a iron head. The 335 V8 was retained as the optional top trim engine. The results were predictable and the fuel economy gains for the 1975 and 1976 Bellevues were virtually nonexistent. On a good day with all the planets aligned, they might see 11 MPG, not helped by performance-robbing emissions control and detuning in order to use unleaded fuel.

This was yet further not helped by the rush job leading to a variety of issues on the 1975 and 1976 Bellevues such as shoddy wiring, rusting problems, poor interior fit and finish, and poor ergonomics due to little design review. Although sales were improved over 1974, this had more to do with the shock from the Oil Crisis dying down and less to do with any intrinsic benefits of the new models. '75 and '76 Bellevues were well known to be slothlike slow and built like Chinese gift bag toys.

(1978 model)

After the Fenton LE terminated production in 1976, the big block V8 option went away entirely and again the engine was downsized. While interest in larger cars had perked up, the recently passed CAFE regulations threatened to reign down heavy fines for automakers not delivering better fuel economy before 1980. The 4.8L (292 cubic inch) V8 was dropped in favor of the 4.1L and 4.5L (250 / 275 cubic inch) V8s instead, with the smaller one naturally being the base engine. This did improve fuel economy marginally, but was not the leaps and bounds needed to make the Bellevue a real bread winner. As a result, FHL began developing a new V6 engine based on their 90 degree V6 then in production, except this new one had overhead cams and fuel injection. But before this could come to market – which took years – FHL concentrated on resolving the legendarily bad build quality of the early S bodies.

For 1978, FHL went back to the drawing board on the interior with two priorities - 1) make it work / fit / feel / operate better and 2) keep it light. The redesigned interior got much better reviews and reception than the previous model years and was noted for being indeed of better quality than many other similar makes. it also offered different colors (which the first revision had not) namely white, red, and brown. The exterior of the car also received a refresh, not just for build quality issues but also to keep up with the times stylistically. Colors on the car throughout its run included:

  • Bronze
  • Sunshine Yellow
  • Olive Green
  • Cobalt blue

And even despite these revisions, the car did come out lighter and thus with improved economy.

The big year for the Bellevue was 1979 however, when it gained the aforementioned V6 engine. The new V6 was of a nearly identical 3.2L displacement as the V6 that preceded it, but with the overhead cam design and fuel injection, as well as the new three-way catalytic converters, it produced much more power, about 135 hp in its first revision. This, coupled with a similarly new 4-speed automatic transmission finally got the Bellevue’s MPG figures into the 20s for cruising and a somewhat low but nonetheless significantly improved 15 MPG combined. When the energy crisis hit that year, families who needed a larger car but also couldn’t cope with thirsty V8s increasingly bought Everette Bellevues and the cars sales perked up noticeably.

Production of the second generation Bellevue continued until it was replaced in 1983. Even despite the improvements made by the 1978 and later models, which by most contemporary accounts were actually very good cars, it is as the old saying goes - you only make a first impression once. The Bellevue nameplate was miserably tainted by the early model years being so abysmal. Thus, although the car lived on in spirit, the nameplate did not.


  • Wheelbase: 2.87 m (113 in)
  • Length: 4.8 m (189 in)
  • Body style: 4 door sedan
  • Seats: 5
  • Transmission: 3-speed automatic, 4-speed automatic
  • Engines: 5.5L V8 (8VB-E335), 4.8L V8 (8VAB-E292), 4.5L V8 (8VAB-E275), 4.1L V8 (8VAB-E250), 3.2L V6 (6VAB-W32J)
  • Layout: longitudinal front engine, rear wheel drive
  • 0-60 mph:
    • 11.7 seconds - 1975 model with 4.8L V8
    • 10.6 seconds - 1979 model with 3.2L V6
  • Fuel Economy:
    • 15.8 L/100km (15 US mpg) - 1979 model with 3.2L V6
    • 21 L/100km (11 US mpg) - 1975 model with 4.8L V8


1975 - 1976 (optional)

  • All cast iron; forged internals
  • Cam in block OHV; 2 valves per cylinder
  • 99 mm (3.898 in) bore X 89.3 mm (3.516 in) stroke - 5497 cc - 335.4 cubic inches
  • 7.4:1 compression
  • 4 barrel carburetor
  • 132.7 kW (177 hp) @ 4300 RPM
  • 338.1 Nm (249 lb-ft) @ 4300 RPM
  • 4700 RPM max

1975 - 1976 (base engine)

  • All cast iron; cast internals
  • Cam in block OHV; 2 valves per cylinder
  • 93 mm (3.661 in) bore X 88 mm (3.465 in) stroke - 4782 cc - 291.8 cubic inches
  • 7.2:1 compression
  • 4 barrel carburetor
  • 118.2 kW (158 hp) @ 4500 RPM
  • 290.7 Nm (214 lb-ft) @ 2400 RPM
  • 4800 RPM max

8VAB-E275 (Pre 1979) – 8VAB-W45J (1979-)
1977 - 1982 (optional)

  • All cast iron; cast internals
  • Cam in block OHV; 2 valves per cylinder
  • 93 mm (3.661 in) bore X 82.8 mm (3.256 in) stroke - 4497 cc - 274.4 cubic inches
  • Compression
    • 7.2:1 (1977 - 1978)
    • 7.3:1 (1978 - 1982)
  • Fuel system:
    • 4 barrel carburetor (1977 - 1978)
    • Throttle body fuel injection (1979-)
  • Power
    • 108.7 kW (146 hp) @ 4600 RPM (1977 - 1978)
    • 128.2 kW (172 hp) @ 4800 RPM (1979-)
  • Torque
    • 275.4 Nm (203 lb-ft) @ 2300 RPM (1977 - 1978)
    • 306.9 Nm (226 lb-ft) @ 2400 RPM (1979-)
  • 5000 RPM max (1977 - 1978); 5200 RPM (1979-)

1977 - 1978 (base engine)

  • All cast iron; cast internals
  • Cam in block OHV; 2 valves per cylinder
  • 93 mm (3.661 in) bore X 75.5 mm (2.972 in) stroke - 4103 cc - 250.4 cubic inches
  • 7.2:1 compression
  • 4 barrel carburetor
  • 95.5 kW (128 hp) @ 4600 RPM
  • 251.8 Nm (186 lb-ft) @ 2400 RPM
  • 5000 RPM max

1979 - 1982 (base engine)

  • All cast iron; cast internals w/ hypereutectic pistons
  • Single overhead cam; 2 valves per cylinder
  • 88 mm bore X 88 mm stroke - 3211 cc
  • 7.5:1 compression
  • Throttle body fuel injection
  • 98.5 kW (132 hp) @ 5300 RPM
  • 225.4 Nm (166 lb-ft) @ 2300 RPM
  • 5700 RPM max

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So Malaise that it almost hurts…


Believe me. I am aware :smile:

The thing that I found the most hilarious about this thing was that the detuned V8s were so bad that the 3.2L V6 actually produced more power than the 4.1L V8. And it was so light that was as fast as any of the V8s even with the same 3-speed automatic. Give it a 4-speed and its lightyears better; still painfully fucking malaise but much much better.


Yes, but why make it too good?
The manual transmissions in the Chevy Vega were sourced from Opel in Germany which had stopped making three speed transmissions long before that. But since Chevrolet badly wanted to offer a three speed, Opel had to make a three speed version of their gearbox only for the Vega…


Whereas the Vega came out in 1970 (which even by that time 3-speed manuals were dated - not sure why GM did that), the Bellevue gets a 4-speed in 1979, which is when US manufacturers started making the switchover to 4-speed autos anyways, particularly in larger cars.

Also in 1979, the founder of the Everette brand is CEO of Fenton Holdings, so it seemed natural he would be taking the company in a more economy-focused direction. There is both historical and canonical precedent for it.


The 1979 Fenton ET

In the wake of the 1973 Oil Crisis, it had become very apparent that bigger and domestic was not always better and the buying trends of the public reflected this. Sales of small cars were up significantly and import cars of all different makes began increasing at an alarming rate. No longer were the economy-minded VW Beetles, Toyota Corollas, and Honda Civics the only imports to contend with. Cars like the Datsun Z series, Toyota Cressida, BMW 3 and 5 series, and Mercedes W123 started conspicuously consuming every market from sport coupes to mid size family cars to luxury cars. The virtual monopoly American manufacturers had enjoyed throughout the 1950s and 60s was rapidly becoming a distant memory.

By 1974, FHL was looking into replacement of the 2nd gen Everette Ellston and in the process of analyzing the markets had determined that a failed concept they had played with a decade earlier was becoming a rapidly expanding market. The concept was of course the failed 1962 Fenton SE which had debuted at a time when luxury sport sedans were laughable concept in the face of muscle cars and low fuel costs making such landbarges possible. But with fuel costs skyrocketing and with environmental legislation now in place, the concept was no longer still-born and the BMW 2002, 3 series, and Saab 99 were living, breathing proof. FHL sat on the concept for a few months after greenlighting the Ellston’s replacement but when talks of the Everette Twisp’s replacement emerged the next year and revealed the luxury sport sedan market probably was not a fad, the Fenton “Executive Touring” car (different in name because of the SE’s poor reputation) was to be a reality.

(1979 ET300 GL)

In the normal fashion that FHL started using, the new model – which shared a platform with the Ellston – debuted about a year after its partner in order to grant reprieve from the design and manufacturing mistakes of the early marks. The car that Fenton eventually brought to market was a premium outfitted, rear wheel drive, compact sedan with a fully independent suspension and a V6 under the hood. The base engine was a variant of FHL’s new SOHC 90 degree V6 that had been decreased in displacement from its initial 3.2L application in the Bellevue down to 2.6L. The smaller displacement helped improve fuel economy while a more aggressive cam and high-flow intake kept the performance essentially the same. The result was a car that achieved 26 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined but that still delivered on speed, making it from 0-60 mph in 9.7 seconds. For more premium minded buyers, a smoother, less punchy 3.0L V6 was also offered.

In addition to the sedan model – which came in either 4-door or 2-door – a 5-door wagon model was also produced. This was meant to appeal to more premium family buyers who needed a more fuel efficient car or that wanted a family car that wasn’t also as boring as reading a telephone book.

(1979 ET260 LE)

While trim packages were offered, is perhaps thought of better as a platform on which multiple kinds of vehicles were made. Throughout its run, all engine options were available to the buyer no matter the trim selection, as were indeed most of the optional features. Transmission options were a base 4-speed manual, a 5-speed manual, or a 4-speed automatic. But for the typical buyer’s benefit, the trim packages were still offered if for no other reason than to help reduce manufacturing overhead. The trims offered were:

  • Base / No badging: Carried the base engine for the year and no options.
  • GS: Grand Sport. 4 wheel disc brakes, 5-speed manual, sport seats, sport tuned suspension***, limited slip differential***, 15-inch wheels
  • GL: Grand Luxury. 4 wheel disc brakes, 3.0L V6, 4-speed automatic, fully optioned interior
  • LE (only available on wagons): Luxury Estate, 4-speed automatic, upgraded interior, 3rd row seats**
  • RS (first offered in 1982): Rally Sport. sport tuned 3.0L V6, 4-wheel disc brakes, 5-speed manual, sport seats, limited slip differential***, aero package*, sport tuned suspension, 15 inch wheels, special RS badging
  • Turbo4 (first offered in 1983): turbocharged 2.3L L4****, 4-wheel disc brakes, upgraded interior, special Turbo4 badging

Options Caveats:

*The aero package was exclusive to the RS trim
**Rear booster seats obviously only available on estate models
***LSD and tuned suspension only available on Sport badged models
****As its name would imply, only the turbo 2.3L L4 was offered on the Turbo4 trim.

(1979 ET260)

Options on all models however included:

  • Sport front seats
  • Luxury seats
  • Air conditioning
  • Cassette player (1982 onward - replaced stock 8 track player)
  • Quadrophonic speaker system
  • Power windows
  • Power locks
  • Digital gauges (1983 onward)
  • 15 inch wheels (1982 onward)
  • Complete choice of engines and transmissions (exception to Turbo4)

Colors that the ET came in included:

  • Gloss Black
  • Silver Streak
  • Candy Gloss Red
  • Bronze
  • Desert Brown
  • Regal Maroon

(1982 ET300 RS)

Although the ET was introduced into the market during a recession and another fuel crisis, this actually helped its cause. Despite sales of cars being down across the board, the ET’s unique position as an American sport sedan which had better fuel economy than the gas-guzzling late-model muscle cars gave buyers seeking domestic performance an alternative. The ET’s initial sales were nothing impressive – only about 52,000 units in 1979 – but in comparison to other makes, didn’t seem to be incurring the worst of the penny-pinching. The car’s plethora of options also helped rake in much-needed revenue while its lesser luxury and lower price point than Fenton makes of past attracted a whole new class of buyer to the Fenton brand. What was once an exclusive car now seemed attainable – still expensive and prestigious, but attainable.

Sales perked up to 94,000 units in 1980, largely thanks to the energy crisis driving the need for better fuel economy, but dropped again to 81,000 in 1981 and 1982 due to the worst of the early 1980s recession taking hold. However, 1983 and forward showed a resurgence which brought sales up into the 100,000s in 1984 and 1985. The model’s revenue potential prompted Fenton refresh it in 1982 with a whole new look and a brand new multi-point fuel inject system offering much better performance and economy over its original throttle-body EFI. 1982 also brought a brand new trim level, the RS, a purpose-built motorsport package that included FHL’s first use of functional aerodynamics on a car. The front clip had a specially shaped lip and the rear gained a spoiler both of which helped keep the car exceedingly stable at high speeds and reduced its tendency to understeer at its limits.

(1983 ET230)

In pursuit of even better fuel economy, 1983 brought an entirely new FHL engine to the ET. The age of the V8 was dead, at least for Fenton, who had terminated production on their archaic hold-out 4.5L V8 in 1982 along with its last user, the Everette Bellevue. Thus, the V6 was assuming the role of the company’s performance option now with economy being delivered instead by their new SOHC 2.3L straight-4 which replaced the 2.6L V6 in the ET. The new engine was lighter, almost as powerful, and virtually as smooth thanks the addition of a balance shaft.

Furthermore, FHL had been experimenting with new technologies to improve fuel economy throughout the latter half of the 1970s, one of which was turbocharging. The ET became a showcase of this technology with a turbocharged straight-4 engine option which performed remarkably well. An ET with a turbo 2.3L engine could achieve 25 mpg combined and still be as fast as the 3.0L V6 models. There was even associated trim made, the Turbo4, to market it as a sort of highly sophisticated option. And it worked; turbocharged straight-4 models matched the sales of the 3.0L V6 models virtually as soon as it came on the scene.

(1983 ET230 Turbo4)

In the modern day, the Fenton ET is considered a striking and extremely odd case of a manufacturer getting everything right. It came at the exact right time and offered exactly the right things. While most other American cars were wallowing in gluttonous waste, the ET offered buyers fuel economy and performance AND luxury. It was all the more perfectly timed given the flop of the second generation Everette Bellevue and Fenton LE which had cost FHL billions of dollars in reinvestment costs to fix these troubled models. Bankruptcy in the early 1980s would have been very possible for them if it weren’t for the merits of their smaller cars like the Ellston, Twisp, and the last-minute A+ bread winner that was the ET. It is as Lee Iacocca said. How does an American automaker save itself from death? Make small, cheap cars that Americans want to buy.

(1983 ET300 RS)

And that was exactly what the LE was. It was a relatively affordable car that offered performance, economy, and luxury in an era when most American cars were only one of these things at a time, if any of them at all. Iacocca’s own K car posed a stiff competitor to the ET in the premium and luxury markets, particularly the upper class Chrysler New Yorker, but the ET still had one thing that appealed to buyers the K car wouldn’t and that was its rear wheel drive which causes many to regard as the American answer to the BMW E21 and E30. Its similarity is what has also made it a modern cult car with entire enthusiast communities around this one car.

The ET’s innovations and success are also lamented, not in disappointment for what it or FHL was at the time but for what FHL would eventually become. FHL produced this fine machine but then went on to produce some of the blandest, mistargeted, archaic, engineering nightmares in the 1990s due to clinging to their late 1970s and 1980s philosophies of cheap cars – and cars only.


  • Wheelbase: 2.54 m (100 in)
  • Length: 4.30 m (169.3 in)
  • Body style: 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon
  • Seats: 5
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual, 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
  • Engines: 2.3L L4 (4LA-H23M), 2.3L turbo L4 (4LA-W23MT), 2.6L V6 (6VAB-H26J/M), 3.0L V6 (6VAB-W/H30J/M)
  • Layout: longitudinal front engine, rear wheel drive
  • 0-60 mph time:
    • 9.7 - 7.3 s
    • 7.3 s (1983 RS w/ 3.0L V6 and 5-speed manual)
  • Top Speed: 194.3 km/hr (121 mph) - 1983 RS w/ 5-speed manual and 3.0L V6
  • Fuel Economy:
    • 13.2 L/100km (1979 wagon with 3.0L V6)
    • 9.4 L/100km (1983 sedan with tubo L4 and 4-speed manual)


Base engine (1983 - )

  • All cast-iron; forged internals
  • Single overhead cam; 2 valves per cylinder
  • 87 mm bore X 96.7 mm stroke - 2299 cc
  • Compression: 9.0:1
  • Multi-point fuel injection
  • 93.9 kW @ 5600 RPM
  • 181.6 Nm @ 3600 RPM
  • 6200 RPM redline

Turbo4 / optional engine (1983 - )
Identical to H23M variant except as follows

  • Turbocharged
  • 106.7 kW @ 5200 RPM
  • 258.6 Nm @ 2500 RPM

Base engine (1979 - 1981)

  • All cast iron; forged internals
  • Single overhead cam; 2 valves per cylinder
  • 82 mm bore X 82 mm stroke - 2598 cc
  • 7.9:1 compression
  • Single point EFI
  • 90.6 kW @ 5700 RPM
  • 185.2 Nm @ 3400 RPM
  • 6200 RPM redline

Base engine (1982)
identical to H26J variant except as follows

  • Multi-point EFI
  • 9.0:1 compression
  • 109.9 kW @ 5700 RPM
  • 206.4 Nm @ 3700 RPM

Optional engine (1979-1981)

  • All cast iron; forged internals
  • Single overhead cam; 2 valves per cylinder
  • 86 mm bore X 82 mm stroke - 2992 cc
  • 7.8:1 compression
  • Single point EFI
  • 101.3 kW @ 5500 RPM
  • 209.1 Nm @ 2900 RPM
  • 6000 RPM redline

Optional engine (1982 - )
Identical to W30J variant except as follows

  • Mutli-point EFI
  • 9.0:1 compression
  • 111.8 kW @ 5700 RPM
  • 230.2 Nm @ 3200 RPM

Optional engine (1982 - )
Indentical to W30M variant except as follows

  • 120.9 kW @ 5700 RPM
  • 235.9 Nm @ 3700 RPM
  • 6300 RPM redline

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The 1979 Everette Winthrop

With the Twisp as the company’s best selling model in the mid 1970s, the only logical choice was to continue it on into the 1980s. The Twisp nameplate suffered from an image problem however as it was known for its “affordability” or stated differently, cheapness. In addition, the V6 engine was known to be rough running, particularly in such a small car which would not dampen the vibrations as well as a larger one. It was a quintessential American import fighter which served its purpose at the time but was not desirable nor even memorable outside of that time.

Part of the Twisp’s problem was the fact that the platform was adapted from different car rather than purpose built, meaning that its design and ergonomics were lacking in refinement. With the success the company had enjoyed in the early 1970s, FHL began developing their new Beta platform (the Alpha platform was then under development for the 1978 Ellston) specifically to be a subcompact automobile. The name ultimately chosen was the “Winthrop”.

At the time it was originally developed, it wasn’t a sure thing that the high fuel prices seen in 1973 and 1974 would last. Thus there was money in the small car market, but fuel economy wasn’t the absolute top priority and the engine for the car remained to be the the Fenton 90 degree V6 even in 1979 when it came out. Specifically, it used a 2.4L variant of the new SOHC V6, an engine mostly created to stay on top of EPA emissions and CAFE regulations. This afforded the Winthrop reasonable fuel economy – lackluster when compared to other small hatchbacks of the era – but it had good performance and made the car fun to drive. Like the Fenton ET that it debuted alongside, it offered consumers more than just one of the late 1970s mutually exclusive triad of performance, comfort, and economy.

The Winthrop improved over the Twisp in several ways. For one, the interior was made less austere and while still cheap and economical, it was at least nice to touch, with cloth seats, a full headliner, and padded vinyl trim – a damn sight better than the simple floor mats, hard plastic, and exposed pillars of the Twisp. It also had optional power steering, larger stock tires for handling, and the hatchback body style improved packing space and headroom for the rear passengers.

The biggest improvements was in the chassis design however. The beam axle rear was replaced with a Volkswagen inspired torsion beam, which gave crisper handling without the expense of a fully independent suspension. In addition, a transverse front engine layout (as opposed to the Twisp’s longitudinal layout) reduced the weight and complexity of the drivetrain, improving handling, reliability, and fuel economy and stood almost no test of tradition since the Twisp had also been a front-wheel drive car. The purpose built chassis was just all-around better and made for a much nicer car.

This was not to say that the Winthrop was anymore interesting however and it remained FHL’s lowest of low makes, particularly after the 1979 energy crisis once again left buyers scrambling for fuel economy. FHL’s original design decisions made the Winthrop less competitive to especially foreign makes in this regard, with its engine choices being between an eco-tuned 2.4L V6 and a sport tuned 2.4L V6, but it nonetheless fit the demands and all the effort put into the car’s future after its release was put towards pretty much one thing - make it sip gas.

In 1982, FHL finally rolled out its first 4-cylinder engine, originally an experiment on ways to gain fuel economy in 1977 or so that was forced into reality by the '79 energy crisis. The Winthrop received a 2.0L variant with single point EFI that boasted less performance than the V6 but also brought along with it better fuel economy. The sport tuned V6 was dropped the same year, as its sales were lethargic at best, and the eco tuned V6 became the top option. In 1986, the V6 went away entirely and instead, the 2.0L straight-4 with a multi-port fuel injection system became the top option; fuel economy again improved. Finally, in 1987, the straight-4 received a 3 valve per cylinder aluminium head, a development brought on by the second generation Fenton ET and fourth generation Everette Ellston which used variants of the same engine. The new 2.0L engine featured only multiport fuel injection but offered two different tunes, one for economy and one for performance. This was merely a last gasp effort to boost sales before the Wintrhop’s replacement came in 1989 so it needed to be on the cheap, hence why there was essentially only one engine.

The 1986 model year also brought a minor face lift. The headlights were changed from square sealed beams to reflector housings with a removable bulb and the side makers were incorporated into the same housing. The tail lights changed from a vertical division to a horizontal division and the mandatory high-center brake light was attached to the inside of the upper rear window. 1986 also brought an optional sunroof, an option not seen in the 1979-1985 model years.

The original 1979 models came with an AM/FM radio only and an 8-track player was an option. In 1984, the AM/FM radio remained standard equipment but a cassette player replaced the 8-track player as an option. In 1987, the cassette player was made standard equipment. Other options included:

  • Twin piston front brakes for added braking performance
  • Fog lights
  • 5-speed manual transmission (4-speed manual was standard)
  • 4-speed automatic transmission
  • 14-inch wheels + lower profile tires
  • Power steering

The Winthrop carried on FHL’s tradition of safety and sense in automobiles with the original marks being ahead of the curve of 1970s safety standards with bucket seats, lap-sash seat belts, and crashbox design. After 1982, an airbag was an option (seeing as it was also offered on the Fenton ET) but was made standard in 1987 due to highway safety regulations requiring either automatic seat belts or an airbag. Regardless of this, the car’s small size attracted a perception of poor safety and accident performance despite it being at least good for a car of its size. Not the absolute best available of any car in the 1980s, but good.

At the time of its introduction, the Winthrop was slightly outclassed by other makes in terms of fuel economy and initial sales figures were lower than expected. By 1982, it had caught up however and experienced enormous success in 1984, 1985, and 1986 as the US economy of the 1980s slowly crawled its way back to health. By the late 1980s though, the design had become very dated and was getting killed in the market in particular by the new 1987 Honda Civic. The design finally ended production in late 1988 with 2.73 million units sold, more than the Twisp that preceded it.

Where the Twisp had faltered – namely brand image – the Winthrop came in strong. The car was no doubt cheap. Dirt cheap in fact. But it was well built, very reliable, and surefooted and nimble, earning it the love of its owners and a 2nd generation in 1989. Another example of FHL doing things the right way.


  • Wheelbase: 2.39 m (94 in)
  • Length: 3.76 m (148 in)
  • Body style: 2-door hatchback
  • Seats: 4
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual, 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
  • Engines: 2.0L L4, 2.4L V6
  • Layout: transverse front engine, front wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: (all economy figures with manual transmission)
    • 10.2 L/100km (23 US mpg) - 1979 model with eco tuned V6
    • 9.7 L/100km (24.5 US mpg) - 1982 model with 2.0L L4
    • 9.0 L/100km (26 US mpg) - 1986 model with 2.0L MpEFI L4
    • 8.4 L/100km (28 US mpg) - 1987 model with 2.0L eco tune L4


Base engine (1979 - 1981)
Optional engine (1982 - 1985)

  • All cast iron; cast internals w/ hypereutectic pistons
  • Single overhead cam; 2 valves per cylinder
  • 82 mm bore X 75.7 mm stroke - 2399 cc
  • 7.4:1 compression
  • Single point EFI
  • 74.9 kW @ 5300 RPM
  • 164.4 Nm @ 2600 RPM
  • 5900 RPM redline

Optional engine (1979 - 1981)
identical to L24J variant except as follows

  • 80.6 kW @ 5500 RPM
  • 171.9 Nm @ 2900 RPM

Base engine (1982 - 1986)

  • All cast iron; cast internals w/ hypereutectic pistons
  • Single overhead cam; 2 valves per cylinder
  • 87 mm bore X 84 mm stroke - 1997 cc
  • 7.3:1 compression
  • Single point EFI
  • 61.6 kW @ 5300 RPM
  • 136.2 Nm @ 2500 RPM
  • 5900 RPM redline

Optional engine (1986)
identical to L20J variant except as follows

  • 8.0:1 compression
  • Multi-point EFI
  • 64.1 kW @ 5600 RPM
  • 146 Nm @ 2600 RPM

Base engine (1987 - 1988)

  • Cast iron block; Aluminium head; cast internals w/ hypereutectic pistons
  • Single overhead cam; 3 valves per cylinder
  • 87 mm bore X 84 mm stroke
  • 8.1:1 compression
  • Multi-point EFI
  • 67.6 kW @ 5800 RPM
  • 150.2 Nm @ 2600 RPM
  • 6200 RPM redline

Optional engine (1987 - 1988)
identical to L20M variant except as follows

  • 75.4 kW @ 5800 RPM
  • 152.9 Nm @ 3200 RPM

Generations [LORE, UE4] [FINAL RESULTS]

The 1990 Fenton GT

1990 Fenton GT: Its a shame some things are only good on the outside.

But what do I mean by that? Well, lets jump straight away from this car and into a history lesson on why it was created. Throughout the 1980s, FHL had enjoyed enormous success with makes like the Fenton ET and Everette Winthrop raking in cash and customer satisfaction. FHL was on the cutting edge of automotive and giving the Europeans and the Japanese something to scare them at night when they were plotting how next to stick it to Ford and General Motors. And FHL was determined to keep it this way.

While FHL was doing fine in terms of its more modest luxury cars and was toe-for-toe on economy with the Ellston and Withrop, they had shied away from the supreme luxury and halo cars they had made in the late 1960s and early 1970s – cars like the GT and the ZL. This gap in the market was getting filled in now by BMW and Mercedes. In order to bolster brand image and better compete with the European luxury cars, Fenton started developing a new series of killer halo cars in the late 1980s. These were to be cars that could take on the BMW 6 and 8 series and Mercedes C class. Being such a powerful force in the market they could afford to take the risk and might have worked. But then the bean counters got involved.

Originally, a new engine was going to be developed solely for the new halo cars. This would have meant FHL was producing four engines of totally different architecture though which would have been a costly endeavor. Although it was probably the right choice, given what each engine was suited to do, the bean counters decided they wanted consolidation. So for the 1990s, the engineers got forced into producing the turd that was the Fenton 60 degree Modular Engine.

Similarly with platforms, the engineers had intended to role out two new platforms for the different types of halo cars they would be making. Penny pinching executives though wouldn’t let that fly and the two different platforms were melded into one via some shoddy engineering. Thus, the Fenton Charlie platform was born.

What did this then all mean for the poor 1990 GT? It was horrible!

This car failed. It failed as hard as the Cadillac Cimarron. It failed as hard as the AMC Marlin. And the worst part was that it wasn’t just one part of the car that was broken. Many things were broken.

Lets start with the chassis. Remember how I mentioned that the Charlie Platform was two different platforms melded into one via crap engineering? Its no joke. See Fenton engineers wanted to make a mid-engined sports car alongside a front engine GT car but had to make do with one platform so what did they do? The rear frame of the car is detachable! Its a detachable subframe so that a whole different suspension and rear section can be placed on the car, one for and front-engine / RWD car and one for a rear-mid-engine / RWD car.

The problem here is first of all weight balance but this was mostly a problem on the RMR layout. The second problem was that the attachment points were under engineered. Water leakage into the joints frequently cause premature rusting of the chassis and in serious cases, there have been document instances of the rear suspension just breaking off of GTs of this era. The water leakage in these areas was also near wiring harnesses for the car, causing frequent electrical problems including but not limited to parasitic draw killing batteries, sagging air suspension, and dead light bulbs. The body panels and their attachment points were also not so greatly designed thanks to the detachable subframe causing grossly accelerated rusting of the rear quarter panels.

But as bad as the chassis was, there is no excuse for the engine. The Fenton 60 degree modular engine was nothing but classic bean counting shitting on good engineering. Cool! A modular engine can be a 2.8L V6, a 3.8L V8, or a 5.6L V12 which is what the GT had! Interoperable parts, common block architecture, shared tooling. Great, right? WRONG!

Because of the common block architecture, a cooling system that was developed for the original 2.8L V6 and 3.8L V8 that were initially to be the sole members of this design was adapted to the V12 the engineers wanted in the new GT. The result was a cooling system that did not circulate well enough for a long, large engine. Fenton Modular V12s would pool hot coolant at the back of the block and uneven heating would cause accelerated gasket wear but worse than that: block cracking. Yes. Fenton Modular V12s were known for cracking blocks.

These problems were so bad that Fenton issued a recall in late 1994 to correct the bad seals and to add additional ad-hoc cooling measures to V12 models. In 1995, the V12 was dropped in favor the V8 but the damage was already so bad that the GT only lasted that one final year. In 1996, the model was cancelled.

Which is all the more a shame considering the things FHL did right. Aluminum hood and trunk lids helped save weight. An air-ride suspension along with a very high quality interior made it exceedingly comfortable. Variable boost hydraulic steering made piloting it both easy and fun. The styling was sleek, fast, and futuristic. And handling and aerodynamics were not necessarily the best, but good considering what the car was trying to be. I mean if a 5.8s 0-60 isn’t fast enough and over 1.0G lateral acceleration isn’t good enough for a luxury sport coupe, then what the hell is?

The car was never destined to the be the BMW 8 series killer it set out to be. Plagued by issues, the 1990-1995 GT only sold just shy of 18,000 across all years. These issues caused many to end up in junk yards and scrap heaps. Finding a working GT of this era today is rare. But if you do, you’re in for a treat if for no other reason than how the car looks. Should you own one though?

Well now in the modern day, since we know how, why, and when these machines will fail, maybe. Because sure, by all accounts, this car might be a pile of crap. But we can’t know what success is without failure and history is not complete without a record of failures. You would be doing everyone a favor to make this car your labor of love and keep one running today. A 90-95 Fenton GT is like that first time you fail a test in a class you’ve had straight A’s and you remember walking out of that test feeling like you had aced another; as much as you would like to forget it, that test is the best way to remind yourself that you need to be better. And because of that, more than anything else, it deserves to be pinned on your wall.

1990 Fenton GT: A reminder that not all things in life can be golden.


  • Wheelbase: 2,500 mm
  • Length: 4,310 mm
  • Body style: 2-door coupe
  • Seats: 4
  • Transmission: 4-speed automation, 5-speed manual
  • Engines: 5.6L V12
  • Layout: Front engine, rear wheel drive
  • 0-60 mph time: 5.8s with 5-speed manual
  • Top speed: 258 km/hr (limited to 240 km/hr)
  • Fuel Economy: 16.9 L/100km with 5-speed manual


Base engine

  • All alumninium; cast bottom end with forged pistons
  • Single overhead cam; 4 valves per cylinder
  • 87 mm bore X 78.5 mm stroke - 5600 cc
  • 9.5:1 compression
  • Multi point EFI
  • 238.2 kW @ 6100 RPM
  • 471 Nm @ 3100 RPM

Identical to W56M variant except as follows

  • 9.7:1 compression
  • 267.8 kW @ 6200 RPM
  • 499.5 Nm @ 3700 RPM

Generations [LORE, UE4] [FINAL RESULTS]

Lol, why does everything feel exactly like when american manufacturers tried to make exotics in the late 80s? It probably has its place in an automotive history book between the Cadillac Allante and the Chrysler TC by Maserati…


Yet another case of a potential all-American icon being screwed over by bean counters who were so desperate to save cash that they turned a silk purse into a sow’s ear. It would have been better if they hadn’t bothered in the first place… And now that Fenton is regretting rushing it into production, I wouldn’t be surprised if they never attempted to replace it, even two decades after it was axed. Whatever few surviving examples will most likely have had their original engines swapped out for more reliable GM LS V8s - but it wouldn’t have been a total solution, as I have just seen.


Why? Because I meant it to be :smile:

I have my reasons both historical and personal. My personal reason might strike you as somewhat odd. I don’t explicitly remember a whole lot from my 7th and 8th grade literature classes but one of the things I do remember was studying Sherlock Holmes and learning that canonically, he’s a bit coke head – coke as in cocaine. My teacher was keen to point that out and explained that part of what makes Sherlock Holmes such an iconic character is that for all of his brilliance, he still has vices and idiosyncrasies and we, as flawed individuals ourselves, sympathize or at very least expect that. The point – perfection is unsettling. Every good character has a flaw. So I’ve been making sure to apply that logic to a Fenton Holdings, Ltd.

Yup. Pretty much. And this is where the historical bit comes in to play. The 1980s mark the slaughter of the classic American car thanks to 1970s regulation and economic factors meaning American cars got a lot more, well, European. And Japanese. But the American way of business lived on. Blah blah some analogy involving two cows, blah blah blah. Point is that industrialist business practices combined with a whole new way of building cars meant a lot of over promising and underdelivering cars. And outright underengineered cars. The situation was not helped by the ideal of the classic American car still being forced by both auto executives and the customer base. Although it started in the 1970s, the 80s are really what solidified the revered status of 1960s American cars.

Anyways, long way of saying that the 1980s are where our nostalgia comes from because the American auto industry got drug into the future kicking and screaming. Consquently, a lot of would-be icons suffered from yesteryear thinking, and I didn’t see any reason why that should NOT have been the case for FHL. Because that would just strike me as taking advantage of too much hindsight.


Of course I know it was meant to be this way, I just mean you nailed it so perfectly. Maybe my point got a bit lost in the translation, lol…

For all it’s worth, I run a corporation from somewhere in southeast Asia that is chunking out crappy econoboxes that people buy because they have to rather than because they want to, so I’m not hunting for the perfect car either. :wink:


1991 Everette Vancouver

Scion was never destined to be the Millennial carriage it set out to be because of one simple fact; millennials don’t have money. What is the principle carriage of Millenials then? The 1990 Everette Vancouver.

When the Vancouver was new in late 1990, it was hailed as the “ultimate family car”, something your family would drive into the ground before they ever lost their love for it. With its big cushy seats, soft suspension, optional V8 engine, and enough other options to make any dealer rub their hands with glee for the opportunity to make a confusing labyrinth of buying choice in the name of shear profit, the Vancouver certainly seemed like it fit the bill. But as the years passed and the car was subjected to the rigors of its target market, this initial self-congratulatory manifesto wore thin.

(1991 rear end)

Like Fenton GT it debuted alongside, the Vancouver suffered from FHL’s new found fascination with cheap cars. Whereas in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Fenton Holdings had stood for bringing good quality down to its most inexpensive state, by the 1990s the philosophy had evolved into just straight up cost cutting even at the expense of quality. And nowhere was this more apparent in the Vancouvers than the bodywork and interiors.

You can spot panel gaps in these things from a mile away and that is not even that extreme, as far as exaggerations go. And the decorative pieces fall off and the panels the rust to the point of looking like Swiss cheese if you live an area that salts its roads. Even without salt, the bodies on these things needed no help developing flaky brown in place of paint. As for what’s on the inside, there is a certain sleaziness to them that you can never shake. Maybe its the crinkly crackly plastic door handles or the bursting seams on velour seats or the auto-detaching trim pieces and paneling that every old Vancouver has, but whatever the case its apparent that at some point for almost every element, someone wasn’t paid enough to care.

Its for these reasons that that a sack of potatoes has a better sale price than a used Everette Vancouver and anybody in their right mind would offload these parts collections the first chance they got. Thus, many of them have found their way from the hands of the boomers and Gen Xers who bought them and into the hands of their offspring, the Millennials. It has nothing to do with youth appeal and everything to do with a plebeian price point.

And yet, that is not entirely fair to the Vancouver and that is true on a couple different levels. Because all of the terrible quality that the car became known for revolved around aesthetic. The Vancounver’s terrible quality was almost entirely aesthetic. Yes the body panels would rust. The interiors would all but fall apart entirely. But the chassis – the Delta platform on which the Everette Vancouver was built – was rock steady and would only just be hinting at deterioration by the the time the rest of the car had returned to dust. And the V8 models (yes that is an important note here, the V8s are the ones you want, NOT the V6s – we’ll talk about that in a second) would often develop head gasket problems around 180,000 miles, sure, but if that is taken care of its not unheard of for a Vancouver to broach 300,000. Leaky head gaskets unaccounted for, the V8s were still good for another 50,000 miles before you really have issues assuming you’re okay with topping off your coolant.

(1996 rear end – GST8 trim pictured)

So what do you really get for your less-than-sack-of-potatoes car? Is the joke actually on you? Well, in all honesty, no. You get a big, comfy car, that even has reasonable fuel economy for its size (21 mpg believe it or not) and whose body and interior will rot (yes), but even on a meager budget, that drivetrain will never quit and it will keep trucking until whenever you decide it won’t. Also, because of the low quality interiors and crappy bodies, low miles Vancouvers are easy find for cheap, so you play your cards right and you’re only about 50,000 miles into 230,000 mile car. How about that? By analogy, what you’re getting is a 1990s Buick. – a cheap mechanically reliable luxury barge.

As long as you don’t get the V6 models that is to say. Fortunately, most buyers opted into getting the V8 anyways and V6s composed only about 20% of sales of all Vancouvers, basically because the V6 was perceived as weak and slow. V6 models do get better fuel economy and can still get to 60 mph in 10 seconds flat, but who cares when there is a V8 option that can do it in 8.5? All the better anyways because the V6 engines are also part of the 60 degree Modular family and being more unbalanced than the V8 or V12 of the family, they are prone to excessive crankshaft and rod bearing fatigue. Late life Modular V6s get very noisy due to slop in the bearings and eventually you might throw a rod or shear a harmonic balancer. Either way, its an engine swap. So get the V8 models. They are actually good.

Unvalued and undervalued resale notwithstanding, the Vancouver can still be seen as a success in its own right. Sales even in the latter years of its run were strong, probably because of the car’s appeal to a more classic America. Like the Ford Panther bodies and the GM B bodies, the Vancouver needed only two selling points: I’m big and I have a V8. Everything else was essentially secondary including its front wheel drive; Indeed the FWD may have even been part of the appeal given how easy it made it to drive.

All things considered it was easily FHL’s most successful car of the 1990s, running virtually unchanged for 10 years, apart from cosmetic facelifts and improved transmissions. So successful indeed – with about 1.4 million sold in its lifetime – that while many of FHL’s nameplates died out in the 1990s from similar or worse quality, the D bodies including the Vancouver lived to see a second generation in 2001. The model’s popularity was doubtless helped by the various trims and special editions offered. Upgraded trims like the LR and GLR came with heated seats, CD player, improved brakes, and variable boost steering while sportier packages like the SR and GSR had lowered heavy-duty suspension, electronically controlled transmissions, and aerodynamic improvements.

(1996 Vancouver GST8)

One especially notable trim was introduced with the 1996 facelift – the GST or Grand Sport Turbo. It came with a 3.8L twin turbo V8 making 285 hp, exclusive 5-speed automatic transmission, limited slip differential, 17-in wheels with sport tires, and adaptive shock absorbers, all of which made for a 0-60 mph time of 6.8 s and a quarter mile under 15. At the same time, apart from a single Turbo badge on the rear and a rear wing instead of spoiler, it looked no different from a GLR. Factory sleeper especially considering tuners have put the engine as high as 350 hp on a stock bottom end and even more on forged pistons sourced from junkyard GTs. Because yes, the 3.8L V8 is part of Fenton’s 60 degree Modular family. GST Vancouvers are rare though considering its factory sleeper status means most people don’t even know what they have. Only around 35,000 were made in total.

Still even despite all of this, it must be recognized that poor quality demands reprimand. The Vancouver is a Millennial carriage because it left itself be that. Its the pedestrian nature of its character that is its saving grace to some but by all reasonable standards, it remains to be a critical vice. So if there is one thing that can be learnt from the Vancouver’s story its that, well-roundedness counts and your saving grace shouldn’t be found by accident.

(1996 Vancouver GST8)

1991 Everette Vancouver: Its a Millennial carriage. Because unlike Scion, it wasn’t trying.


  • Wheelbase: 2.92 m
  • Length: 5.3 m
  • Body style: 4-door sedan
  • Seats: 5
  • Transmission: 4-speed automatic, 5-speed automatic
  • Engines: 2.8L V6, 3.8L V8
  • Layout: longitudinal front engine, front wheel drive
  • Fuel economy:
    • 11.0 L/100km (21.4 US mpg – 1991 V6 model)
    • 11.4 L/100km (20.8 US mpg – 1999 V8 model)
    • 12.5 L/100km (18.7 US mpg – 1999 GST model)



  • All aluminium; cast internals w/ low friction pistons
  • Single overhead cam; 4 valves per cylinder
  • 87 mm bore X 78.5 mm stroke
  • 8.5:1 compression
  • Multi point EFI
  • 111.1 kW @ 5800 RPM
  • 229.9 Nm @ 2800 RPM


  • All aluminium; cast internals w/ low friction pistons
  • Single overhead cam; 4 valves per cylinder
  • 87 mm bore X 78.5 mm stroke - 3733 cc (marketd as the 3.8L)
  • 8.2:1 compression
  • Multi point EFI
  • 152 kW @ 6100 RPM
  • 308 Nm @ 2700 RPM
  • 6700 RPM redline

identical to W37M variant except as follows

  • Twin turbocharged
  • 220.5 kW @ 5800 RPM
  • 483.7 Nm @ 2880 RPM
  • 6800 RPM redline

Generations [LORE, UE4] [FINAL RESULTS]
Brakes in Automation versus Brakes IRL

1970 Fenton ZL

Concurrent with the release of the new S platform in 1968, FHL sought to bring the same refreshment to their flagship ZL offering and had slated the release of a second generation for 1970. The original 1965 models had found a comfortable home among the entry and mid level luxury brands like Buick, Oldsmobile, and Chrysler and had a reputation as a family man’s summit car. While the full intent of the ZL was to take on makes like the Lincoln Continental and Cadillac Eldorado and it had attracted some attention as an esteemed limousine, it was clear that its appeal was somewhat different. And so rather than try to move it up market, FHL instead tailored it more to the liking of its resident market.

They did this in everything, from the engineering to the styling. The second generation did not boast the biggest engine. Its styling was rather intentionally encroaching on Lincoln and Cadillac without buying into it fully and instead falling back on cues more in line with Mercuries and Dodges. Its feature set was designed to be the best for the dollar rather than the absolute best. It was mainly advertised in its 4-door form to increase its appeal to family buyers. It was fully meant to be a middle class man’s entry into the upper class.

When the 2nd generation ZL came onto the scene in 1970, it was offered as a 4-door or 2-door sedan with a 397 cubic inch (6.5L) variant of Fenton’s big block V8 engine, a 3-speed automatic transmission, and maintained its own platform apart from FHL’s other makes since it was supposed to be the very best and most exclusive. As with most American cars of the same era, it had a rear wheel drive live axle arrangement which was – granted – not the most advanced or comfortable thing around, but it was familiar to customers and helped keep costs down so they could be used in more demanded ways.

Such ways included a plethora of optional features – such as Landau tops, air conditioning, extra seat bolstering, cigar lighters for all window passengers, 8 track player, power windows – and a good deal of standard ones as well – like AM/FM radio, premium sound deadening, driver / passenger & rear view mirrors, and a leather trimmed interior with minimal exposed plastics. A fully optioned 1970 ZL offered very near the level and number of comforts that the coveted Cadillacs and Lincolns would but started at a more reasonable price and carried less burden of exclusivity. The ZL was somewhat more accessible.

(1972 ZL451)

The second generation got off to a flying sales start with 41,200 sold in 1970, more than any other Fenton branded vehicle had to date in a single year. The combination of low base price but highly optionable obviously appeal to customers. Because engine size had become one of the key ways automakers were competing by 1970, FHL stabbed in the 407 CID (6.7L) V8 for 1971 but were somewhat stumped on how to proceed; the 407 CID figure was the limit of even FHL’s big block design.

The solution was to make a tall-deck version of the big block design which added 5/8ths of an inch (16 mm) to height of each cylinder bank and incorporated a larger crankshaft journal to cope with larger displacements. The added deck height could be achieved easily with the extant engine block tooling with easy reversion to the short deck design in the same tooling even. The resulting tall deck block allowed the 407 CID engine to be stroked all the way to 451 cubic inches or 7.4L. The 451 V8 was first offered as an option in 1972. For reasons of exclusivity, the tall deck 451 V8 was only ever offered in the 2nd generation ZL. Additionally, radial tires became standard, offering improved handling and fuel economy, though the latter was hardly a selling point until later.

(1972 ZL451)

1972 also saw a minor facelift with the front cornering lamps and side markers being moved out of the bumpers due to the adoption of a 5 mph crash bumper, mandatory in the next year, 1973. Similarly, the rear side marker was changed from an ornate transparent Fenton emblem to a simple rectangular strip. The tail lights maintained the same shape and dimensions but were changed from a double vertical separation to a single horizontal one, intended to give a more sleek and horizontally present look. And though subtle, the rounded center grill became trapezoidal with the rake elements converging towards the bumper. Apart from this, the car remained essentially unchanged.

Throughout its run, the ZL was offered in colors:

  • Mint Green
  • Hi-gloss Black
  • Cream White

In 1973, it was also offered in:

  • Navy Blue
  • Bronze

(1975 ZL451)

While initially on track to achieve record sales of up to or exceeding 55,000 in 1973, the Oil Crisis of course had other plans and tanked demand for large American cars in Q4 1973 and all of 1974. Sales fell short at just over 49,000 instead in 1973 and dropped to just 36,000 in 1974. The ZL’s luxury status spared it the worst of consumer penny pinching during the oil shock but its abysmal fuel economy of just over 10 MPG at its very best (and that was with the 407 V8 and minimal options) left FHL scrambling to offer better fuel economy. Initially there was talk of axing the model in favor of FHL’s smaller makes like the Ellston and Twisp but the decision was ultimately made to let it run out the clock because of the huge effort being put into the fast track of the second generation S platform.

As a result, 1975 was the last major attention paid to the 2nd generation ZL and it was a mixed batch of attention for sure. US Federal emissions regulations put a stranglehold on the ZL’s V8s, leaving even the massive 451 CID (7.4L) wheezing out just 220 hp and rather ironically made its fuel economy worse to par with what it had been before. It also received its last significant facelift. The front and rear bumpers were restyled and reworked with more crash protection. The grille was made narrower and the raking was made fully vertical rather than convergent to more closely resemble a Lincoln or Chrysler. And the rear lights were restyled into a full width unit. A small chrome-bordered plastic trim was also added at the base of the doors.

The wheezing V8s and what we now know recognize as “Malaise Era” styling did little to harm the sales figures though and as the initial shock of the Oil Crisis died down, sales of the ZL accordingly bounced back into the 40,000s for 1975. The model was beginning to show its age by 1976 though and the looming Corporate Average Fuel Economy made cars of its type a severe liability to their manufacturers. Thus, a combination of FHL stopping its push for people to buy the ZL as well as a recognition of its age meant sales tapered down to 21,000 by 1978 at which point it was finally terminated, along with its exclusive 451 V8, a sought after engine for Fenton collectors even in post 1975 emissions-choked form. As the up coming Alpha platform which would be the basis for the beloved Fenton ET was FHL’s primary focus by 1977, the second generation ZL was not replaced after death in 1978, though the nameplate was later revived a decade or so later.

Being that FHL was a scrappy underdog in the industry throughout the 1960s and 1970s, they conventionally produced more niche cars that tailored to specific markets. The ZL is notable in their history somewhat ironically for being a far more conventional American car, and it is for this reason that some people are enthralled by this particular machine. Generally speaking, its status as a 1970s barge attracts ire as we all know Malaise Era cars are rarely fawned over. There are always the odd ducks though who will fawn things many others dismiss and thank god that they do because otherwise many parts of history would be incomplete. Such as the car that was easily FHL’s most profitable in the 1970s until the ET came along.

1970 Fenton ZL - It sometimes pays to be anonymous.


  • Wheelbase: 3.2 m (126 in)
  • Length:
    • 5.73 m (226 in) - 1970-1971
    • 5.8 m (228.4 in) - 1972-
  • Seats: 5
  • Transmission: 3-speed automatic
  • Engines: 6.5L V8, 6.7L V8, 7.4L V8
  • Layout: longitudinal front engine, rear wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy? Nope.
    • 26.1 L/100km (9 US mpg – 1970 / 1971 model)
    • 23.1 L/100km (10.2 US mpg – 1972-1974 with 7.4L V8)
    • 25.8 L/100km (9.1 US mpg – 1975+ with 7.4L V8)



  • Cast iron block; forged bottom end
  • Cam in block overhead valve; 2 valves per cylinder
  • 102.5 mm bore X 98.5 mm stroke - 6502 cc - 396.8 cubic inches
  • 9.0:1 compression
  • 4 barrel carburetor
  • 197.2 kW (264 hp) @ 4300 RPM
  • 513.6 Nm (379 lb-ft) @ 2700 RPM
  • 4700 RPM redline

1971-1974 (base engine)
Identical to E397 variant except as follows

  • 102.5 mm bore X 101 mm stroke - 6667 cc - 406.8 cid
  • 203.4 kW (273 hp) @ 4100 RPM
  • 518.9 Nm (383 lb-ft) @ 3100 RPM
  • 4500 RPM redline

1972 - 1974 (optional)

  • Cast iron block; forged bottom end
  • Cam in block overhead valve; 2 valves per cylinder
  • 102.5 mm bore X 112 mm stroke - 7393 cc - 451.1 cubic inches
  • 9.1:1 compression
  • 4 barrel carburetor
  • 217.6 kW (292 hp) @ 4300 RPM
  • 590.2 Nm (435 lb-ft) @ 2300 RPM
  • 4800 RPM redline

1975 - (optional)
Identical to E451 except as follows

  • 7.6:1 compression
  • 164.7 kW (221 hp) @ 4400 RPM
  • 465 Nm (343 lb-ft) @ 2300 RPM

1975 - (base engine)
Identical to E407 except as follows

  • 7.4:1 compression
  • 150 kW (201 hp) @ 4300 RPM
  • 412.7 Nm (304 lb-ft) @ 2100 RPM

EDIT: Added specs. Also realized there was not a 2 door version depicted so here you go:

Car photoshops

This is the most beautifull car I’ve ever seen made on this body, congratulations!


Really nice early '70s luxury-barge, very well done!


Too bad lowering cams makes emissions worse, could be an excuse to make the engines even more underpowered. XD
Great cars still


1973.5 Everette TSR

With the Twisp being an unexpectedly huge market boomer, FHL was looking for ways to capitalize further on its success. At the time the Chevrolet Vega had been boldly promoted by one GM executive as being capable of out-handling any European sports car and as one of the finest cars GM had produced to date. Productions delays in the Vega due to the UAW strike at Lordstown assembly on top of a settlement that left many workers disgruntled and consequently doing intentionally shoddy work had already ruined the car’s image, an image not helped by faulty rust-proofing techniques already bringing in reports of Vegas rusted on the lots when waiting to be sold.

Concurrently, the AMC Gremlin was a goofy looking compact with lackluster sales, the Ford Mustang had become a full-on muscle car (abandoning its pony car roots), and Chrysler and its associated brands seemed to be avoiding small cars of most any kind. There was an obvious gap in the market for a sporty compact that was slick, reliable, and affordable. And after brainstorming ideas, it was realized one day that the Twisp’s T platform had a trick up its sleeve. It was derived from the first generation E platform that had hosted the failed Fenton SE meaning most of the rear wheel drive underpinnings were still in tact. So FHL decided to make a pony car.

But it needed to have a name. And this is where the story gets interesting. Although it was known that a trim level of GM’s Pontiac Firebird was the “TransAm”, it was only a trim level, not a nameplate (although in all fairness it did take on that connotation). And marketing wanted call to mind racing to help with a sporty youthful image, so naming a car after the recently created Trans-American race series was just good business. Thus, the car was named the “Trans-American Sport and Road car” with the physical badging reading out a slightly abbreviated “TransAm Sport&Road”. When the name went public with the car’s release in 1973, a certain one of the Detroit automakers was not happy.

However, because even by GM’s own admission, the copyright case was somewhat weak since “TransAm” was technically only a trim level of another car, the matter was settled out of courts. FHL agreed to stop referring to the car as the “TransAm Sport and Road” and instead referred to it in official company materials by its initialism, “TSR”. Interestingly enough, because of the expense of retooling the aluminium-die cast badging, all TSRs until late 1976 still wore the full “TransAm Sport&Road” badging, with ellipsized “TSR” only emerging in the final two years of the first generation. This inconsistency has created a myth that TSR stands for “Twisp Sport&Road”, an anachronism commonly circulated by amateurs and bystanders more often exposed to 2nd and 3rd generation TSRs.

After a somewhat hasty development period, the TSR was released in April 1973, hence the 1973.5 designation commonly ascribed to the first production models. It rocked a sport tuned 3.0L variant of the same V6 found in the Twisp and Ellston with an option for an even more tuned-up 3.2L V6. Power was driven to a coil-sprung, solid rear axle via a 4-speed manual transmission and a mid-level treadwear tire coupled to this setup give the little bastard a 0-60 time clocked as low as 8.8 seconds by contemporary tests. Front disc brakes were standard as were the racing stripes on the hood, roof, and trunk lid. There was seating for 4, a radio was optional and while the interior was somewhat spruced up over the Twisps’s, the real selling point of the car was the fact that it was a small, light, sporty machine good for doing big smoky burnouts whenever you wanted.

And sell it did. While FHL had though of the TSR to be more of a high trim Twisp (ironically similar to the Pontiac TransAm which it shared a name with), it turned out the nameplate was a hit due to it releasing at a very opportune time. It beat its only true competitor of the era – the Mustang II – into production and the Oil Crisis drove everyone away from the enormous muscle cars in Q4 1973 and all of 1974. Sales of the first two years of TSR rivaled its sibling the Twisp, reaching as high as 210,000 in 1974. The combination of small and packing a wallop meant it was still pretty light on gas with even the origin 3.2L models getting around 11.5 L/100km (21 US mpg) combined and 9.0 (26 US mpg) or better on the highway, a damn site better than the barges and big muscle of the same years.

(1975 model)

Because of the race theme of the car, it was originally only offered in two colors which were naturally the United States racing colors of white and blue, or as Everette referred to them an advertising:

  • Championship White
  • Patriotic Blue

In 1976, FHL’s signature “Ornamental Evergreen” color was also added to the palate for a bigger variety.

Increasingly strict emissions standards did hamper the performance of later marks. Power figures for 1975 dropped by a wide margin due to catalytic converters strangling exhaust. For instance, the output the 3.2L V6 dropped from 150 hp to 120 hp. The increasing stringency of crash regulations also forced a restyle in 1975; the under breather grille was removed to make way for soon-to-be required “Phase II Zero Damage” 5 mph bumper forcing the signals and parking lights into the upper grill. The upper grill was widened and reengineered to compensate for the loss of cooling. The rear received a courtesy style update in the same year.

(1975 model)

Speaking of styling updates, the most reliable way to spot a true 1973.5 and not a 1974 is that '73.5s do not have hood scoops while '74s and onward do.

But in any case, 1975 was not the last year that the poor TSR would suffer some abuse at the hands of the regulatory environment with both emissions and looming CAFE requirements prompting an engine downsizing in 1976. A more sport-tuned 2.6L V6 became the base engine and the top option became the 3.0L – no more 3.2L :cry:. Performance suffered with the 2.6L models dropping into 12 second 0-60 mph territory.

The last styling update came in 1977 and the TSR transitioned to using the single 200x142 mm rectangular sealed beam headlights, mostly in an effort to stick with the times. The rear lights also lost some ornamentation and the reverse lights were moved inboard with the two brake lights being merged into one.

(1977 model – early production, hence it still has the full badging)

As a “Fuck you!” to the man, Everette created a limited run special edition in 1977 and 1978 of which only 10,000 total models were ever made. Called the “TSR Sidewinder” (a reference to both the missile and the snake), this all black painted limited edition model offered what otherwise enthusiastic customers had always lamented: the lack of a V8. The Sidewinder came from the factory with a small block 4.1L V8 (250 cid) making a 145 hp, almost as much as the unstrangled 3.2L V6 and made it almost as a fast in a straight line.

And a word of warning. Contrary to what some while try to pawn off on you for inflated prices, the Sidewinder is the ONLY 1st generation TSR to have a V8.

The Sidewinder was faster in the corners though than its early mark counterparts thanks to a special set of low profile 185/65/14 sport tires. The gold 14 in wheels were exclusive to the Sidewinder with all other TSRs using silvered alloy or steel 13 in wheels. It also had a lowered suspension with stiffer springs for better handling, 4 wheel disc brakes standard, special “Sidewinder” badging, a custom interior, limited slip differential, and even an 8-track player. Now a coveted collectors item, the Sidewinders are sufficiently rare that several are permanent museum pieces.

Like the Mustang II, the TSR was loved in its time for being a sporty and still economical alternative to the enormous muscle cars of the day. Production stopped just shy of 1 million when the first generation terminated in 1978. FHL’s woes in the late 1970s caused them put the nameplate on hiatus for a period following the termination but like the gap between the C3 and C4 Corvette, the hiatus was not to last. Almost by accident, FHL had spawned one of their biggest legends.


Nice mini-muscle car the TSR is, especially ind Sidewinder trim. Mostly it has some AMC vibe, apart from the nose, it’s a little bit ‘78 Fairmont-like. Anyway, it’s a good-lookin’ little coupe.


2013 Fenton Azalea Concept

Some people find the styling of late 2010s Fentons to be bizarre, “out there”, or merely dislikable in a noncommunicable way. One thing is for certain though: what Fenton’s stylists call the “Floral Flow” design language is not what you would call “trendy”. And maybe that is why some consumers find it despicable. Instead of more familiar edgy, aggressive, imposing, and beady-eyed designs seen on most mid to late 2010s cars, Fentons have used significant cues from this “Floral Flow” design language first established by the 2013 Fenton Azalea Concept Car.

The Azalea concept car debuted an evolution of Fenton’s late 2000s “Even Flow” design language and was intended to, in the words of the placard that accompanied it at the 2013 Detroit International Auto Show:

Or in plane English: It was meant to look regal without being edgy and fast without being aggressive.

It bucked a lot of the trends in styling at the time such as ever more prevalent uses of hard edges and angular lines and substituted them for what some have dubbed – perhaps affectionately or perhaps pejoratively as this could be a construed as an accusation of plagiarism – “The Covenant Spaceship” styling, a reference to the “Covenant” faction’s spacecraft designs in the popular Halo video game franchise.

Other commentators have compared it to designs from the 1950s with its smooth lines, baroque shapes, and vertically oriented fascias, where the designs were created for the designer’s sake alone and not necessarily for any functional or commercial purpose. Still others have hearkened it to late 1960s or early 1970s Cadillacs in spirit, as they stood apart in their time as hard-edged and angular designs in a time when most were smooth and flowing.

Critics both then and now are very divided on this particular design language established by the 2013 Azalea Concept. Some scorn it has not adhering to general trends in luxury styling and thus Fenton has, in their eyes, lost credit as a luxury brand. Others however, applauded it for being unique, wide-eyed, and endearing. As one journalist stated:

In the end though, discussion over this divisive design is irrelevant since the themes and cues put up by the this E segment 2-door executive concept sedan were adopted by and large by Fenton going further into the 2010s with initial applications appearing in the years immediately following the concept’s debut.

It is somewhat of a shame that all attention went towards the stylistic design of the Azalea concept as it was also intended to be a debut of the future of Fenton’s engineering. A twin-turbocharged 3.5L flat-6 engine with both variable valve lift and timing cranked out close to 380 horsepowers which were directed to a fully torque-vectored AWD system through a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. In compliment to the tech-heavy drivetrain was a similarly techy active suspension system that allowed the car’s roll angles, spring rates, and damping to all be controlled dynamically in response to road and driving conditions. The interior also did not come up short and was near fully clad in soft materials, had an infotainment system, and a full heads-up display.

But all people seem to be able to talk about is that derned styling…