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Endangered cars which are almost extinct Back

Written by on 19 Jan 2017

If you can remember the 1980s, and the two decades preceding it, then surely you’ll have your own thoughts on which cars epitomised the era.

Just like any other decade of the past three-quarters of a century (at least), there are certain models which are synonymous with the age.

But - and here’s a scary thought - lots of those cars which we loved in the day are now so rare that, if they were a wild animal, they’d be on an endangered list, and protected by all sorts of laws and restrictions. If they every appeared in any of our car dealers in fact, they would be kept safely behind the glass of the showroom.

So here, courtesy of Classicline - an insurance broker specialising in covering rare and exotic cars here in the UK - and  Howmanyleft.co.uk, is a small selection of motors from the 1970s and 80s which are fading fast, and were it not for the efforts of some dedicated fans of the specific cars, might have already gone to that great scrapyard in the sky.

Many of the cars will evoke fond memories in some of our readers - and we want to hear your reminiscences about owning or having any of these motors in your family.

So get set for our countdown of models which have suffered massive falls from grace, and which are now clinging on to life by their metaphorical fingernails.

 

1. Morris Ital - ON THE CRITICAL LIST

How many built: 175,276. How many remaining: 35.

The Ital was British Leyland’s attempt to update its popular - but also now much-maligned - Marina. The Ital was named after the Italian design firm which had a hand in producing it, although the man who can take most of the credit/blame for the final look was Longbridge’s own Harris Mann. 

The Ital saw the Morris badge bow out from use in the UK with considerably less than a flourish. It stayed in production from 1980 to 1984 at both the Cowley plant near Oxford, and Longbridge, before being replaced by the Montego. The latest available figures show that just 0.2 per cent of the number built have lasted into a fourth decade.

 

2. Austin Maxi - SERIOUSLY ENDANGERED

How many built: 472,098. How many remaining: 140.

The Maxi will be remembered as the first five-door, five-gear hatchback sold in the UK - and for precious little else. It was released in 1969, and became the last model produced under the banner of the British Motor Corporation (BMC).

Having also been designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, the man who earned fame for bringing us the original Mini, the Maxi showed that creative lightning couldn’t strike twice. British Leyland, as it had then become, lost faith in the Maxi in the late-70s, and eventually replaced it just a year after unveiling what was supposed to be a major refresh of the model, in 1981, with the equally maligned - but somewhat more successful - Austin Maestro.

 

3. Austin Allegro - ON ITS LAST LAP

How many built: 642,340. How many remaining: 170.

Some patriotic readers might feel it’s a shame that this list consists solely of cars with a true British heritage. But the inescapable fact is that time doesn’t lie, and many cars reflect the most troubled period in the history of the UK’s car industry.

Austin tried to give the Allegro appeal with some touches considered luxurious in cars of its size, such as the cloth upholstery featured in Deluxe models. But it suffered from a thirst for oil, which wrecked quite a few engines, and overall, its packaging hid the fairly primitive nature of the mechanicals. 

 

4. Vauxhall Chevette - HEADING TOWARDS THE BIG CAR PARK IN THE SKY

How many built: 416,058. How many remaining: 202.

For most of its lifetime, the Chevette was a direct rival to the Allegro, but neither small hatchback managed to stand the test of time, despite production lines at Luton and Ellesmere Port working full pelt turning the former out at the model’s peak. 

The Chevette had its pluses, notably its 1.3 litre engine and relatively small and light bodyshell, which meant the car could turn in some lively performance, aided in large part by its light steering, clutch and gear change, which also made it a popular driving school car. Its original advertising slogan - ‘It’s whatever you want it to be!’ - was probably also its downfall, as for many owners this seemingly became ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’.

 

5. Hillman Avenger - NEARLY COMPLETELY RUSTED AWAY

How many built: 638,631. How many remaining: 215.


The Avenger debuted in early 1970, and was the first car designed and built by the Rootes Group after its takeover by Chrysler in 1967. Intended to compete with the Ford Cortina, and become a choice for company car buyers, the Avenger’s design also involved a team of fashion consultants, brought in to make more appealing for female buyers. 

By 1976, a rebranding to the Chrysler Avenger was too late to save the day, and the closure of the Linwood assembly plant in Scotland in 1981 spelled the end for the model.

 

6. Morris Marina - SINKING SLOWLY INTO OBSCURITY

     How many built: 809,612. How many remaining: 273.

Owners and the hacks at Top Gear magazine alike have had little good to say about the Marina, another all-purpose medium-sized family car. More than 800,000 were built, but now, a mere 270 or so survive. With Ford doing great business with its Cortina, British Leyland needed a strong rival. 

But with lots of bits taken from the already ancient Morris Minor, and undue haste taken to get it into production leading to corners being cut, time hasn’t been kind and the car has sunk almost without trace - not a good end for a car saddled with a maritime-connected moniker.

 

7. Austin Metro - DUE FOR A (ROYAL) SEND-OFF

How many built: 1,518,932. How many remaining: 464.


Of the 1,518,932 of these small city cars built, a mere 464 survive, and that’s despite the cachet afforded by one being driven by Lady Diana Spencer. But in terms of its development, the Metro was in the slow lane, when compared with the evolution of many more enduring rivals, even though it tapped into a rich seam of patriotism. 

About 1,660 are thought to have survived, with rust, and its suitability as a parts donor for the MINI, having accounted for plenty of the rest.

 

8. Vauxhall Victor - I DON’T BELIEVE IT… (MORE THAN) ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE!

How many built: 827,159. How many remaining: 828.


The Victor, or VX Series, sold well and had a reputation for being a pretty durable motor. But with its abundance of chrome trim, the Victor has fallen into the trap of costing far more to properly restore than the car would ever be worth.

That’s why bodywork bugs have scuppered many efforts to revive what’s otherwise a mechanically sound and robust car. It’s also why, since its demise in 1978, to be replaced by the Vauxhall Carlton, the Victor has struggled to retain a grip on existence.

 

9. Ford Sierra - THE NOT-SO HIGH SIERRA

How many built: 3,470,524. How many remaining: 3,350.


Such was the culture shock when the Sierra stepped into the Cortina’s shoes (below), that it met considerable resistance for its aerodynamic styling, often being referred to as like a jelly mould.

It wasn’t helped initially by Ford’s retention of the Cortina in the line-up - but its design was widely borrowed from by rivals, even though, for a brief time, it seemed as though every sales rep in the country was charging up and down the motorways in one.

An enormous range of available body styles works in the car’s favour, and kept the second-hand market for the Sierra steady long after it was replaced by the Mondeo.

 

10. Ford Cortina - CORT IN ITS LAST THROES

How many built: 4,154,902. How many remaining: 3,580.


Ford’s Dagenham factory turned out 3.15million of these, which remained in production, in four distinct iterations, between 1962 and 1982.

Such was the impact the Cortina had on the consciousness of British buyers that during its production, it found a home with pretty much every family in the UK. Nearly 4.3million were made, but the survivors list numbers a little more than 3,500.

There you are - the 10 cars which have faded into obscurity with the biggest bump. We hope you’ve enjoyed stepping back into the mists of time with us, and that this piece has rekindled some fond memories.

Are there any long-lost favourites which we’ve overlooked but which you think deserve a place on our list? Let us know on our Facebook page, and maybe we’ll put together a follow-up article to spotlight your nominations for forgotten favourites in danger of extinction.