Eric Dymock on Cars: 1991

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Remember the first practical sat-nav, short-time working at Jaguar and official disapproval of car commuting? They all feature in the third compilation of columns, features and road tests, Eric Dymock on Cars: 1991.

Drivers who never lost their way not only saved time but also, according to the Transport and Road Research Laboratory (TRRL), did 6 per cent fewer miles. Trafficmaster, warning drivers of jams, came into operation on motorways round London. Electronic aids to driving were on the way but all was not well with the motor industry. Redundancies, once unthinkable, cast doubt on Jaguar’s future. Legislation on catalytic converters delayed "lean-burn" engines, leaving controversy that 20 years of emission controls never resolved. Politicians heaped tax on company cars and the Department of Transport claimed that London drivers received more transport ‘perks’ than public transport travellers. Nothing new there. Items from the 1991 archives are now available to download as an e-book from and

It has motoring columns, features on automotive developments, road tests and topical reports with a view on motoring history. Modern comments, in perfect hindsight, add to the experience. Highlights include a report on the Detroit Motor Show, which found America's car makers seriously adrift. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler lost 1.7 million dollars that quarter, beginning the decline that effectively bankrupted two of them. Racing driver Duncan Hamilton was not so much economical with the truth as reckless with it. In an introduction to his father’s reissued autobiography, Adrian Hamilton cheerfully acknowledged that when it was first published in 1960, “it just didn’t matter if in places it might be less than nitpickingly accurate”. Rover put a radiator grille on the 800 to show it was once again making premium-priced quality cars.

Like BMW, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Benz, and Lancia who all kept stylised versions of their traditional grilles, Rover wanted to show a distinctive feature in the executive car park. The increased rate of Vat announced in April’s budget hoisted the price of the top Renault Clio to over £10,000. The cheapest of the new saloons, which effectively replaced the old Renault 5, went up from a pre-budget £7,190 to £7,346.

This full-length anthology is available for download to Kindles from Amazon, priced £3.50. Eric Dymock on Cars 1991 can also be read on PCs, Macs, and ipads by downloading the free Kindle app.

Road tests in 1991 included Mercedes-Benz S-class (above left), Audi 100 (below), “keenly priced with dynamic qualities rivals might envy, but excessively plain,” and Honda NSX (top) with, “all the elegance of a Ferrari or a Porsche, but not so highly-strung.”

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