Now that the entire published history of Autocar has been digitised and made available online, there's never been a better time to look back on some standout years from the magazine's storied past. But where to start?
Easy. We dug out the issues from the weeks we were born and delved into a handy motoring time capsule:
19 February 1977 - James Disdale
There must have been something in the stars on the week I was born and this issue of Autocar hit the shelves. You see, splashed on the cover is the strapline ‘The cars of Saab and Volvo’. Nothing outwardly odd in that, you might say; it’s just a bit of a Swedish-themed week. True enough, but the suggestion of some sort of celestial shenanigans will make more sense when I tell you: “My name is James Disdale and I’m a Saabaholic”. We got our first 99 when I was still in short trousers, and my first car was a 96 V4. Hell, there’s a 9-5 estate and a 9-3 cabrio parked on my drive as I type this. So you can imagine my surprise (and just a little excitement) when I discovered that issue #4189 was something of a Trollhättan takeover.
I flicked straight past the interview with Alfa Romeo’s then boss (Gaetano Cortesi, should you ask) and the investigation into potholes (’twas ever thus) and headed straight for Kevin Blick’s lengthy analysis of the current state of Saab (it was always in crisis). He also drove the prototype 99 Turbo (a little laggy but fast) and wondered how it would get by with just one model range (the 900 was still a year or so away). All good stuff, but it was only one story, so perhaps I was getting carried away with this providence thing. But hold on, what’s this in the motorsport section? It’s a full report of the Swedish Rally, which was won by – wait, what? – Stig Blomqvist in a Saab 99 EMS.
11 September 1996 - Jack Warrick
Ford revealed the Ka the day after I was graced onto this Earth, hoping the machine would change the way people thought about city cars. Its low price of £7500 was enticing, it was praised for having a radical new design while maintaining levels of safety and its small 1.3-litre engine was good for 59bhp. It turned out the Ka would be as successful as it was fun to drive, even adding some now- desirable variants, such as the Sportka and convertible Streetka.
22 August 1981 - Matt Saunders
There’s every chance that my old man picked up a copy of Autocar the week before the birth of his second child, glanced at the rather far-fetched looking car on its cover, assumed he had picked up a comic by mistake, returned it to the newsagent’s shelf and bought a copy of his favoured Motor magazine instead. “The technical drawings were always better in Motor,” he regularly reminds me; and since Dad qualified as a draughtsman out of Austin in the 1950s and likes his drawings, it’s hard to argue.