1992 VME Wren
In 1992, VME introduced the third generation of its Wren city car, replacing the previous model that had been in production since 1982. The new Wren introduced styled wheels, a basic radio, a tachometer, radial tyres and heavy-duty ordinary front brakes as standard in the base model. It used a transverse front-wheel-drive layout, as the Wren had done since its introduction and the larger Squirrel hatchback had done since 1962; these cars remained the only FWD models in VME’s fleet as they refused to follow other manufacturers in switching the rest of their non-sports-cars to front-drive.
The previous Wren, pre-facelift (will get its own lore page once finished)
Apart from the new aerodynamic body style, the new Wren had been engineered to allow the fitment of all-wheel-drive, a capability that was going to be reserved for future use in case the company decided to create a very sporty model. However, in response to the introduction of the Subaru Justy, VME ended up putting the AWD parts into production right from the start and allowed buyers to custom-order the system on almost any model.
Another significant introduction was the brand-new “New-Technology-Three” inline-3 engine. Displacing up to 1.1 litres, its use of a 4-valve single-overhead-cam design gave it a significant bump in power over the lethargic old 2V direct-acting OHC engine of a similar size. It was available in multiple configurations and was powerful enough to also be used in the Squirrel.
Full trim lineup (expand)
SR (Standard Rugged): 4-speed manual gearbox, basic interior, grey bumpers, basic radio, other basic accessories minus hubcaps
S (Standard): 4-speed manual gearbox, basic interior, grey bumpers, basic radio, other basic accessories
- Options: AWD, basic cassette player
SE (Standard Extra): 4-speed manual gearbox, body-colored bumpers, carpeted cloth standard interior, standard radio, other basic accessories
- Options: AWD, 5-speed overdrive manual gearbox, basic cassette player, standard cassette player, cruise control, power rack steering, power front disc brakes
TL (Tourline): 5-speed overdrive manual gearbox, body-colored bumpers, carpeted cloth standard interior, standard cassette player, cruise control, other basic accessories, air conditioning (in most countries), chrome trim
- Options: AWD, air conditioning (in coldest countries where not standard), power rack steering, power central locks, premium cassette player, power front disc brakes
ER (Ecoranger): 5-speed overdrive manual gearbox, body-colored bumpers, aerodynamic undertray, rear wheel covers, low-drag alloy wheels, carpeted cloth standard interior, standard cassette player, cruise control, other basic accessories
- Options: Air conditioning, power central locks, premium cassette player
SL (Sportline): 5-speed sport manual gearbox, body-colored bumpers, power front disc brakes, gas shocks, wider 15-inch alloy wheels with medium compound tyres, standard cassette player, carpeted cloth standard interior, other basic accessories, chrome trim
- Options: AWD, 5-speed overdrive manual gearbox, cruise control (standard with previous option), air conditioning, power central locks, premium cassette player
Starting 1993 TS4 (Turbo Sportline 4WD): AWD, 5-speed sport manual gearbox, body-colored bumpers, power front disc brakes, gas shocks, wider 15-inch alloy wheels with sport compound tyres, standard cassette player, carpeted cloth standard interior, cruise control, other basic accessories, chrome trim
- Options: Air conditioning, power central locks, premium cassette player, leather seats
Availability of the optional automatic gearbox is indicated in the Engine Lineup section.
Full engine lineup (expand)
45hp 1.1L “Mighty-Mite” DAOHC I3 with single-point Xactijet fuel induction, low-quality fuel tune and no cat (SR-A)
55hp 1.2L “Hi-Conomy” DAOHC I4 with single-point Xactijet fuel induction and low-quality fuel tune (S-A)
55hp 1.0L “New Technology Three” 4V SOHC I3 with single-point Xactijet fuel induction (S-F, SE-A/F)
55hp 1.7L “DeWitt Bantam” diesel OHV I4 with common-rail mechanical fuel injection (S-F, SE-A/F, TL-A/F)
62hp 1.1L “New Technology Three” 4V SOHC I3 with single-point Xactijet fuel induction (S-G/A, SE-A)
65hp 1.0L “New Technology Three” 4V SOHC I3 with multi-point electronic fuel injection (S-F, SE-F)
75hp 1.2L “Econoflow” 4V DOHC I4 with single-point Xactijet fuel induction (S-G, SE-G*/A/F)
77hp 1.2L “Econoflow” 4V DOHC I4 with per-cylinder multi-point electronic fuel injection and economy tune (ER-G/A/F)
85hp 1.2L “Econoflow” 4V DOHC I4 with multi-point electronic fuel injection (SE-A*/F*, TL-F*)
91hp 1.5L “Econoflow” 4V DOHC I4 with single-point Xactijet fuel induction (S-G*, SE-G*, TL-G*/A*)
100hp 1.5L “Econoflow” 4V DOHC I4 with multi-point Xactijet fuel induction (SE-G*/A*/F*, TL-G*/A*, SL-A)
106hp 1.5L “Econoflow” 4V DOHC I4 with multi-point electronic fuel injection (SE-F*, TL-G*/A*/F*, SL-G/A/F)
Starting 1993: 171hp 1.5L “Econoflow” 4V DOHC I4 with multi-point electronic fuel injection and turbocharger (TS4-G/A/F)
Key: SR = Available in Standard Rugged trim, S = Available in Standard trim, SE = Available in Standard Extra trim, TL = Available in Tourline trim, ER = Available in Ecoranger trim, SL = Available in Sportline trim, TS4 = Available in Turbo Sportline trim, A = Archana and other developing countries, F = Fruinia, Hetvesia, Europe, wealthy Asian countries and similar markets, G = Gasmea, Dalluha, USA, Australia and similar markets, * = Can be paired with a 4-speed automatic gearbox in this trim and market
Interior of the mid-range SE model with the optional cassette player fitted
On the left is the 110SR (Standard Rugged), a version sold only in certain low-income markets until 1997. It was the last VME to use the original Mighty-Mite DAOHC inline-3 that debuted with the first Sparrow in 1946, specifically a 1.1-litre version making 45hp with a low-compression tune for substandard fuel and no catalytic converter. It was the only model to have styled bare steel wheels instead of standard ones with hubcaps, but it did receive all of the other previously optional features that became standard in the new Wren. A raised suspension was also considered but not implemented in the end - VME’s core tenet is that every car they make is a pleasure to drive no matter how cheap or basic it is. On the right is the normal S (Standard) trim, in this case with the 1.7L diesel engine.
Left: An American-market Wren SE with the common 1.5L fuel-inducted engine producing 91hp
Right: A Hetvesian-market Wren TL (the most feature-rich trim) with the optional AWD system and a smaller but fuel-injected 1.2L engine producing 85hp
The hypermiling ER (Ecoranger) trim, with its rear wheel covers, aerodynamic undertray, standard overdrive gearbox and technically advanced but detuned 1.2L engine with per-cylinder multi-point EFI had been introduced with the 1987 facelift of the previous Wren, and made a return in the new generation. This time it got a full 53.4mpg combined and 60.1 highway, but the 77hp engine (up from the previous 70) still had plenty of power for keeping up with traffic in such a small car, with the ER reaching 62 in 10.7 seconds and going on to a top speed of over 110mph.
Now we move on to the sport trims. On the left is the SL (Sportline), a cheap and cheerful front-wheel-drive (or optional AWD) hatchback with a 106hp fuel-injected engine, larger alloy wheels with medium compound tyres, tighter suspension with gas shocks and a standard 5-speed gearbox with less overdrive. It sprints to 62 in 8.6 seconds and allegedly reaches 137mph with FWD (I think the top speed estimates in Automation are a bit broken).
On the right is the Wrocket, a limited-production AWD hot hatch modified by the external tuning house Tricolor Works, and made possible by VME’s decision to start building the AWD components at the beginning of production. The partially handbuilt 1.5L DOHC I4 engine, using the same basic block design as in the other Wrens, screams to the tune of 230 horsepower thanks to its twin-scroll turbocharger, per-cylinder multi-point EFI and high-compression tune. 0 to 62 took just 4.9 seconds. Notice the lack of VME badging - for the 1992 model year, VME was on the fence of not allowing TCW to modify the Wren in such a manner to begin with due to the amount of boost, and was certainly not going to let its name go anywhere near such a high-strung “doozy” of a car.
When the Wrockets were subsequently very well received and didn’t immediately grenade their motors, VME not only backpedaled on its decision to withhold their brand name going forward, but decided to get in on the fun themselves. In 1993, the Wren TS4 (Turbo Sportline 4WD, in the middle of the image), a milder mass-produced turbocharged Wren, was introduced to the core lineup. The company’s first proper hot-hatch and first factory-turbocharged car*, its less highly-strung engine with a single-scroll turbo and single-unit MPEFI produced 171hp without the need for premium fuel, and also sent it to all four wheels via a standard AWD transfercase. The exhaust received two glasspacks to make the noise level more liveable than in the Wrocket, which had the turbocharger and catalytic converter as its only mufflers.
*Alongside the GT trim of the larger Squirrel hatchback introduced in the same year, similarly in response to the success of a red-hot Tricolor Works version, and excluding diesels and a few rare offroaders from the DeWitt truck division with a low-boost turbo to improve high-altitude performance.
Inspired by the humorous aftermarket versions of the default BeamNG cars, I have created two of my own for the Wren:
Ricer: A tastelessly blinged-out Archanan-market base model, with purely cosmetic modifications that alone cost more than a proper SL Wren would on the used market. Can you handle ALL 45 HORSEPOWER? As with all other cars, the .car file is available on request if you want to find out.
The Coal Wroller: Yes, somebody actually ordered a base-model diesel Wren with the expensive AWD option. And then abandoned it. One Chinese turbocharger kit and set of new wheels later, and we have ourselves a potent little amateur rally machine with 90hp.