By Arian Smits, images by Doug Breithaupt
Since the early sixties every November a selection of European car journalists votes for a car of the (next) year. All new cars, which sell over 5000 units, can compete. Face lifts do not enter the competition. A first selection is made, so the journalists can test the cars that have a chance to win. Seven cars go to the final. The cars have to be affordable and an every mans friend to win. Super cars or limousines have a very small change to get through the first round.
In the sixties the competition was mainly among European cars. Japanese cars did not enter the top three until 1974. They won only twice but reached the podium quite often, especially in the last years. American cars never really had a change to win because the older cars lost by miles on fuel consumption and road holding. The newer cars just never managed to get to the podium. The Ford Mustang and the Oldsmobile Tornado both became third in respectively 1965 and 1966. The European branches of Ford and Chrysler/Simca have won.
It is clear that the winner gets all the credit and the media attention but that does not necessarily make it a big seller. A lot of top sellers did not reach the podium. Competition is also very important. Some years the top three can all be winners but the next year even the winner is not that great. Cars can not be judged on the long time quality so several 70's winners just rusted away within a few years. The big European factories like Fiat, Renault and Ford take most of the wins. Europe's biggest, Volkswagen, made it to a win only once and had to wait for that until 1992 with the mk III Golf.
In the list below, only the winners are described. If you want to know the second and third place or details about the winner, there is information on the official site; www.caroftheyear.org And the winners are;
1964; Rover P6. Fortunately Playart made a model of this classic Brit.
1965; Austin 1800. As far as I know no models exist of this somewhat strange car.
1966; Renault 16. Polistil, Schuco and Majorette (shown here) modeled this first luxurious hatchback.
1967; Fiat 124. There is a Polistil version of this popular Fiat. It later became the Lada by Mena of Russia (shown here).
1968; NSU Ro80. One of the most beautiful German cars ever. Its fitted with a Wankel engine. Husky / Corgi made a nice toy (shown here).
1969; Peugeot 504. A comfortable sedan that can still be seen in daily use around the world. Norev (shown here) and Majorette produced little ones.
1970; Fiat 128. A successful but boring car. Polistil followed Fiat closely and offered the 128 (shown here). Guisval did the SEAT version.
1971; Citroen GS. A successful midrange car. It was reproduced by Polistil, Majorette, Guisval and Norev (shown here).
1972; Fiat 127. Italy's favorite for years. Polistil and Majorette are here again as is a rare 1:55 scale model by Mercury (shown here). Guisval again offered the SEAT version.
1973; Audi 80. First German win. Schuco offered this model in both stock and fire car versions. (image courtesy of Patrick Scherf)
1974; Mercedes 450 S. A limousine wins!! Schuco, Matchbox, ERTL, Tomica (shown here) and Majorette made toys of this big Merc.
1975; Citroen CX. A futuristic space ship for the road. Matchbox, Majorette (shown here), Guisval, Polistil, Mira, Norev, Polfi-toys, Yatming, WT and Playart all made models of this French car.
1976; Simca 1308. This Chrysler Europe car is the one that's forgotten because hardly any survived. Norev (shown here), Majorette and Mira made it. The Majorette is the best known.
1977; Rover 3500. Very nice car. The last Brit to win because the British motor industry almost vanished a few years later. Corgi (shown here), Summer, Giodi and Matchbox were obliged to make it.
1978; Porsche 928. What a winner. The only sports car that ever won. Models by almost all the toy makers including Matchbox (shown here).
1979; Simca Horizon. Good riding car that got forgotten very fast due to quality problems. The name change to Talbot did not improve and the cars disappeared quickly. Guisval and Norev made small Horizons.
Next month we handle the winners from 1980 to date.