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5 Cars Ahead of Their Time

Updated September 20, 2015

The motoring industry, like many other industries, abides by certain trends. Many ideas which appear unpopular during certain time periods often find a resurgence in later years. Ten years ago, many average motorists opted for large premium off-roaders to ferry their 2.4 children to school. Nowadays though, more fuel efficient crossover vehicles along the lines of the Nissan Qashqai are popular amongst those same buyers.

 

Of course, certain vehicles were ahead of the game and would have proved immensely more popular if produced during a later time period. Naturally, many used examples exist amongst the global car sales network, but imagine the potential if the following five vehicles were produced a decade later.

 

5 – Nissan Figaro.

Nissan Figaro

Based on the humble Nissan Micra, the Figaro was certainly ahead of the game. The retro styling would have lived to a much higher potential if released at the dawn of the new Millennium, whereby the new Mini and Fiat 500 capitalized on a growing retro design market. Although the Figaro was exclusive to the Japanese market in 1991, many Irish and British buyers sought after grey imported used examples. With only 20,000 units produced, the Figaro was certainly not a mass produced model. However, had this been released in 2001 worldwide, the potential for a major success would have been astonishing.

 

4 – Audi A2.

Audi A2

Currently, the race for supreme fuel economy and a premium badge is a highly successful business model in Europe. Audi’s A1, based on the current Volkswagen Polo, is a perfect example of how a premium badge and added luxury can make downsizing appealing. Audi was ahead of the game in 1999 with the A2 though. Branded as a design exercise by many motoring critics, the A2 has a timeless design, which still appears fresh in 2014. Furthermore, the fuel economy was rather spectacular for the time, and even by today’s standards. Only 176,377 units were produced due to the questionable avant-garde styling at the time. Time has been rather kind to the A2 though, with resale values remaining remarkably high. One can simply imagine the potential of this vehicle if it appeared at the beginning of this decade.

 

3 – Honda Insight.

Honda Insight

The current generation Honda Insight certainly is a rather more practical and successful model. However the first generation enjoyed rather disappointing sales figures. A poor 17,020 units fell rather short of Honda’s expectations, although the market was simply not ready for the futuristic hybrid technology. Only once the second generation Toyota Prius captured the market’s attention did the Insight seem rather more attractive. Styling in hindsight appears rather interesting and appealing, however contemporary critics rendered it a design cue similar to that of an artist’s interpretation of the distant future. As figures proved, the second generation which was released in 2009 was far more satisfactory. The world simply wasn’t ready for the Insight in 1999.

 

2 – Jensen Interceptor.

Jensen Interceptor

Hailed a remarkable achievement by many classic car fans, the Jensen Interceptor was certainly ahead of its time. The Interceptor was essentially the Audi Quattro, fourteen years before the rally legend’s conception. Jensen’s remarkable V8 monster was the first production car of its kind with four-wheel drive. As a result, handling was remarkable and power delivery splendid thanks to the Chrysler sourced V8 power-train. Original production ceased in 1976 due to poor sales and a diminished recession-bitten market. Had it been released at the dawn of the 1980’s though, the story may have been rather different. Despite the minuscule 6,408 units produced between 1966 and 1976, the Interceptor became the stuff of legend.

 

1 – NSU Ro 80.

NSU Ro 80

There were two reasons for the failure of the futuristic NSU. Firstly, the woeful reliability from the Wankel engine, and because it was just too futuristic. Innovative features included: four separate disc brakes, MacPherson struts at the front and semi-trailing arms at the rear, a futuristic design with minimal drag coefficiency, a Wankel engine and a three-speed semi-automatic gearbox – all of which were unavailable on contemporary rivals. With a lifespan between 1967 and 1977 and 37,400 units produced, the NSU Ro 80 featured many design cues associated with cars from the late 70’s to early 80’s. Of course, such technology began to become readily available in the 80’s, so improved reliability and a decade delay would have suited the Ro 80 much better. In fact, the merging into the Volkswagen group to create Audi spawned the brilliant 1982 Audi 100. Furthermore, Mazda later perfected the Wankel engine design in their RX7.

 

*This Post was Sponsored by carpoint.com.au*

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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