What happend in July in motoring history?

By David Linklater

The BMW Z3 briefly featured in the James Bond movie, Goldeneye.
The BMW Z3 briefly featured in the James Bond movie, Goldeneye.

Time to look back at automotive milestones from the past again: what was happening at this time five, 10, 20 and 40 years ago?

FIVE YEARS AGO

Toyota took a major leap towards being interesting again in July 2009, with the appointment of Akio Toyoda as president of the company. In the wake of a massive fall in Toyota's revenue during the onset of the global financial crisis, Toyoda set about streamlining production, aiming to take 30 per cent of the cost out of each new model generation. He has certainly made the company more efficient and profitable in the years since, although perhaps some changes happened too quickly: did somebody say "recall"?


Akio Toyoda

Just as importantly for us enthusiasts, Toyoda was and is a true petrolhead who sees the value in creating exciting cars as well as sensible ones.

He pushed the on-again, off-again Lexus LFA project forward in 2009 and pursued the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ project with true commitment.

BMW marched onwards in its quest to fill every vehicle niche with the reveal of the Concept X1, which went into production late in 2009.

It certainly stole a march on the competition: the Audi Q3 did not appear until 2011 and Mercedes-Benz has only just launched its pint-sized GLA crossover.

• Read more McLaren's car sold to US for $1.5m
• Read more May in motoring history

TEN YEARS AGO

The Honda NSX was canned 10 years ago but is back in production.

Bad news from Honda: its new-generation NSX, previewed by the HSC concept car, was canned in July 2004. The new supercar fell victim to changing attitudes among company management in Japan, going the same way as the CR-X and Prelude. The message: more mainstream, less niche.

The good news is that the NSX is very much back on circa-2014, and will be launched as a hybrid-powered supercar in 2015.

Hey, it only took a decade.

Rolls-Royce openly acknowledged that it was seriously considering adding a second, smaller model line to its portfolio to boost volume and ensure it stayed viable in the years to come. Cue dark mumblings and worried faces among marque purists.

The Rolls-Royce Ghost finally appeared in 2010, riding on a BMW 7-series platform. It's now well-accepted as the real thing and has certainly brought the marque a whole new group of buyers and higher volume.

What would the Rolls-Royce reactionaries of 2004 have thought if they'd known an SUV would also eventually be on the cards?

TWENTY YEARS AGO

Remember the Ford Laser and Mazda 323 paternal twins?

In July 1994, a new generation of each had just broken cover and were heading to New Zealand in short order.

The new Laser was an attempt by Ford to move further away from then-conservative Mazda - if not in mechanical makeup, then certainly in styling. The hero car was the three-door, also known as the Lynx. It had goggle-eyes at the front, a waistline and a radical glass tailgate that offered a see-through section between the tail-lights, Honda CR-X style.

The sedan was much more conservative (aren't they always?), although the five-door hatch - that's Liata to you and I - was also quite striking, albeit in a completely different way to its three-door sibling.

As for Mazda, its 323 was pretty much steady-as-she-goes. The company was in the doldrums and the new small car was considered a make-or-break effort, hence the decision to be uncontroversial. Although the related Lantis V6 fastback five-door was pretty snazzy. Shape of things to come, perhaps.

The BMW Z3 broke the product placement deal record with its use in the James Bond movie Goldeneye.

Two premium roadsters were being scooped in the international press: both the BMW Z3 (although the name was not known at that stage) and MGF were undergoing testing. Both were launched in 1995 -- the BMW with the help of the James Bond movie Goldeneye. At the time, it was the biggest film product-placement deal ever.

The MGF was launched 20 years ago.

News was starting to emerge of the next-generation EA Falcon from Ford Australia, while first pictures of a right-hand drive Taurus under test in America were also appearing. The bulbous Taurus was of course being groomed to enter export markets such as Australasia and give us a taste of true Americana.

Which it did, in 1996. Then it went away again.

Back home, a team of eight drivers recorded an average fuel-consumption figure of 3.69 litres per 100km in a 5787km circumnavigation of New Zealand in a Peugeot 306 XRd. The route was a challenging one that followed the coastline wherever possible, looping around both islands. The vehicle was showroom-specification apart from higher pressures in the tyres -- an impressive result even by 2014 standards.

In some respects, Peugeot was enjoying a golden age in this part of the world: the 306 XSi was joined by the hotter S16 model around this time.

One had the low-down punch, the other the high-rev performance; both were considered the best hot hatches on the market.

FORTY YEARS AGO

History was being made in 1974 with the launch of the first-ever Jeep Cherokee. Urban legend has it that the phrase "sport utility" first appeared in the brochure for this vehicle.

Four decades later, Cherokee has gone all the way with the SUV/crossover concept in the just-launched KL-series.

The Citroen CX was launched in 1974 - the car that ultimately drove the brand broke.

The Citroen CX was also launched in 1974 - the car that ultimately drove the brand broke.

The CX was supposed to pick up the mantle of the iconic DS and bring it into the modern age. It had hydro-pneumatic suspension, speed-sensitive power steering and an interior free of control stalks.

The CX was outrageously expensive to design and produce. It was the catalyst for yet more financial trouble for Citroen, which was taken over by rival Peugeot in 1976 to form PSA.

Exactly two years ago this month, there was an announcement that PSA was closing the Aulnay-sous-Bois assembly plant, created specifically for CX production.

And so we say goodbye to the last vestige of what many consider the final proper Citroen.

- NZ Herald

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