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  • Renault Caravelle
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    Renault-Caravelle

    The Renault Caravelle is a sports car manufactured and marketed by Renault for model years 1958-1968 in a single generation — as a rear-engine, rear drive open two/four-seater designed by Pietro Frua of Carrozzeria Ghia, using the floorpan and engine of the Renault Dauphine.

    Outside of North America ...and Britain it was, until 1962, marketed under the nameplate Renault Floride.



    Name
    Renault was envious of the growing success in North America of the Volkswagen Bug/Beetle and were looking for ways they might match the Volkswagen's success with their own Renault Dauphine. At a convention of North American distributors that took place in Florida, Renault's US dealers called for the creation of a Dauphine coupé/cabriolet which would improve Renault's image in the critical US market. Renault's chairman, Pierre Dreyfus, agreed, and since the concept had been born at a convention in Florida the car instantly became known within the company as the "Renault Floride".

    The "Floride" name was considered unsuitable for 49 of the 50 states of the USA, however, since it could have implied disrespect to states other than Florida. For this reason an alternative name, "Caravelle", was from the start used for North America and for other major markets (including the UK) where the principal language was a form of English.


    Renault Floride S convertible (with hardtop).

    Renault Caravelle coupe. The sloping rear roof line was partially "squared off" in order to improve rear-seat headroom.

    Renault Caravelle cabriolet.
    Launch
    The Floride was unveiled at the 1958 Paris Motor Show. A small rear-engined design by Pietro Frua at Carrozzeria Ghia, it used the floorpan and engine of the Renault Dauphine sedan.

    The Floride was launched in the United States and Canada as the Renault Caravelle a year after its introduction in Europe.

    Specifications
    Bodies
    The car was offered as a 2+2 coupe, a 2+2 cabriolet and as a convertible, the latter being a cabriolet with a removable hardtop. The 2,265 mm (89.2 in) wheelbase was shared with the Renault Dauphine but longer overhangs meant that overall the Floride was longer by a significant 320 mm (12.6 in), as well as being slightly lower and very slightly wider.

    Engine
    At launch the Floride, like the Dauphine on which it was based, came with an 845 cc four-cylinder water-cooled engine mounted at the back of the car. However, the power unit on the Floride was fed using a Solex 32 mm carburetor as against the 28 mm diameter of the Solex carburetor on the Dauphine. The Florides making their French show debut on the stand at the 1958 Paris Motor Show came with a claimed power output of 37 hp (28 kW) SAE.

    By the time deliveries commenced, in early summer 1959, it was also possible for customers to specify a performance version, engineered by Amedee Gordini, which produced 40 hp (30 kW) SAE by means of various modifications to the inlet manifold and camshaft, and a compression ratio raised from 7.6:1 to 8.0:1.

    Transmission

    Power was delivered to the rear wheels via a three speed manual transmission with synchromesh on the upper two ratios. For a supplement of 200 New Francs customers could instead specify a four speed transmission on the slightly heavier coupé version of the car. Having regard to the car's power-to-weight ratio most customers chose to pay extra for the four speed gear box.

    Subcontracted production

    Although designed by Frua of Italy, the car's body was constructed locally, by the automobile body maker Société des usines Chausson, based in Asnières-sur-Seine at the northern edge of Paris, and known in France as the producer of many of the school bus bodies used for transporting children in country areas.

    Following the rapid economic growth experienced by France during the 1950s, and despite the fall-off in demand for the 4CV and the lacklustre market performance of the Frégate, thanks to the success of the recently launched Dauphine Renault still found themselves, in the second half of the decade, seriously short of production capacity. The main Billancourt plant, built on the Seguin island in the middle of the River Seine, was particularly ill-suited to further expansion. A new plant had been opened at Flins in 1952 and a second would follow near Le Havre in 1964, but neither of these addressed the challenge of finding somewhere to assemble the Floride in 1958.

    The heavy engineering company of Brissonneau and Lotz, better known as a manufacturer of rolling stock for the railways, had launched a small cabriolet sports car in 1956, based on the mechanical underpinnings of the Renault 4CV, but the Brissonneau coupé had been a tentative project and few cars were sold.

    Renault now persuaded Brissonneau to abandon their own automobile project and adapt their facilities for assembly of the Floride.

    Brissonneau's long standing experience with railway locomotives provided abundant relevant experience at operational and workforce level, and Renault contributed much of the investment which during 1958 and 1959 saw the main Creil plant of Brissonneau, comprising 190,000 m2 of which 41,280 m2 were covered, transformed into a production facility for the Floride: the Floride, later rebadged as the Renault Caravelle, would continue to be assembled by Brissonneau and Lotz until it was withdrawn in 1968.

    Upgrades
    In October 1959, ready for the 1960 model year, the Floride, along with the Renault Dauphine, appeared with significant suspension improvements.

    The new suspension was conceived by the by now almost legendary automotive engineer Jean-Albert Grégoire and baptised by Renault "Suspension Aérostable", being intended to improve the car's ride and road holding.

    The addition of extra rubber springs at the front reduced roll and auxiliary air spring units (mounted inboard of the conventional coils) at the rear gave the rear wheels a small degree of negative camber and increased cornering grip.

    In March 1962, the Caravelle received a new 956 cc engine that would be also used by the new Renault 8 from June. Although the new "Sierra" series five-bearing engine shared no components with the existing 845 cc Dauphine engine, it was conceptually very similar: the engine size was chosen in order to come in (slightly) below the top of the 5CV car tax band in France.

    It had a sealed cooling system as well as a new front suspension, new rear geometry, new steering, and a new gear linkage. Moving the radiator behind the engine also freed up an extra 12 cm of space behind the front seat.

    Maximum power output increased to 48 hp (36 kW). Four-speed transmission, already included in the price at no extra cost on some export markets, now came as part of the standard with the new engine even for French buyers, although bottom gear still made do without synchromesh. The upgraded cars, first presented at the 1962 Geneva Motor Show, now featured disc brakes on all four wheels: the Floride was the first French volume car to benefit from this enhancement which also reduced unsprung weight by approximately 6 kg.

    The Caravelle name also replaced the Floride name in all markets from 1962 onwards.

    In 1964, another R8-derived engine of 1108 cc was introduced to the Caravelle, producing 55 hp (41 kW). This model was tested by the British "Autocar" magazine in November 1965. The car had a top speed of 89 mph (143 km/h) and accelerated from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 17.8 seconds. An "overall" fuel consumption of 30.2 miles per imperial gallon (9.4 L/100 km; 25.1 mpg‑US) was recorded. The Caravelle's performance closely matched that of the contemporary Triumph Spitfire 4 under most headings, though the Spitfire was a couple of mph ahead on top speed. The British car market was still protected by tariffs at this time, but even allowing for that the Renault looks expensive in this company: The Caravelle came with a UK recommended price of £1039 as against £666 for the Spitfire 4.

    Commercial
    Production got under way slowly, with only 3,777 cars completed in 1959. However, in 1960, following the important "Aérostable" suspension upgrades, Renault produced 36,156 Florides.

    By the mid-1960s, the Caravelle, which had been fashionably styled at launch, was looking dated, while the reduction and elimination of internal tariffs within the Common Market led to intensified competition in France for buyers of inexpensive sports cars, notably from Italy.

    Between 1966 and 1967, annual production tumbled from 4,880 to 2,991. During 1968, only 1,438 were produced, and it was during the summer of that year that Renault withdrew the Caravelle.
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  • Triumph GT6
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    Triumph GT6 1966-1973

    The Triumph GT6 is a 6-cylinder sports coupé built by Standard-Triumph, based on their popular Triumph Spitfire convertible. Production ran from 1966 to 1973.


    Development history
    In early 1963 Giovanni Michelotti was commissioned by Standard-Triumph to design a GT version of their r...ecently introduced Spitfire 4 (also designed by Michelotti).

    An unmodified Spitfire 4 was delivered to Michelotti's design studios in Italy and late in 1963 the prototype Spitfire GT4 was returned to England for evaluation. The styling of the vehicle was a success but the extra weight of the GT bodyshell resulted in extremely poor performance from the Spitfire's 1,147 cc (70 cu in) Standard SC engine, and plans for producing the Spitfire GT4 were shelved.

    Michelotti's fastback design for the Spitfire GT4 prototype was adopted by the Triumph racing programme for the 1964 season, as it was deemed to provide an aerodynamic benefit over the standard Spitfire body shape. Fibreglass copies of the Spitfire GT4's fastback were grafted on to the race-modified Spitfires destined for competition. The Spitfire racing programme was successful, and in 1965 resulted in 13th overall and a 1st in class at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans (beating their main rivals, the MG Midgets). The Spitfire's competitive success and the continuing commercial success of the production vehicle led Triumph to re-evaluate its shelved plans for a GT version of the Spitfire. To overcome the lack of performance inherent in the heavier body style the Spitfire's 4-cylinder engine was replaced with the more powerful 2-litre (1998 cc) Triumph inline 6 originally derived from the SC and then in use in the Triumph Vitesse (which shared a similar chassis with the Spitfire and Triumph Herald). The car was further developed and refined and eventually launched as the Triumph GT6 (dropping the "Spitfire" prefix) to emphasise its GT styling and its 6-cylinder engine.

    Contemporary Triumph marketing advertised the GT6 as being developed from the "race winning Le Mans Spitfires" to capitalize on their aesthetic similarities, whereas the Le Mans Spitfires and the GT6 were actually two entirely separate development programmes (the GT programme pre-dating the racing programme). However, the marketing spin was so successful that many people erroneously believed the Le Mans Spitfires to actually be GT6s.
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    1957-1962
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  • Vauxhall Carlton MkII / Opel Omega A
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    Vauxhall Carlton MkII / Opel Omega A

    1986-1994

    Opel chose to name its 1986 replacement car in this segment Omega rather than Rekord. Vauxhall stayed with the Carlton name. On its launch in November 1986 the Vauxhall Carlton / Opel Omega saloon and estate range earned itself the accolade of European Car of the Year - th...e second Vauxhall/Opel product to achieve this distinction, two years after the Astra/Kadett won the accolade.

    Relationship with other models
    Again there was a lengthened version of the Carlton (and Omega), this time known in both Opel and Vauxhall forms by the same name: Senator.

    Vauxhall scrapped the Carlton nameplate in early 1994, but the name of its Opel equivalent, the Omega, lived on, as it was applied to the Carlton's replacement. At which point the Vauxhall equivalent adopted the name change (a drive towards uniformity was taking place throughout the range) and so the Carlton's replacement was sold as the Vauxhall Omega.

    Mark II engine line-up
    All of the 4-cylinder engines available in the Carlton Mk II were the GM Family II units in 1.8L and 2.0L capacities. The Opel Omega A was offered with a large 2.4L Opel CIH engine in certain European markets, but this variant was never offered in the Carlton. New to the Carlton's line-up with the Mark II were two straight-6 engines with 2.6 and 3.0–litres. These were both 12-valve engines, again from the Opel CIH family, but later 3.0-liter models were offered with 24-valves, producing much more power and torque. As well, Vauxhall used the "Dual-Ram" intake manifold, which lets the car breathe as two separate three-cylinder engines below 4,000 rpm, but changes the intake manifold profile at 4000 rpm to increase the runner length, thus increasing total engine output.

    In addition to the straight-6 engines there was a range of straight-4s. Starting with GMs popular 2-litre family 2 engine, the C20NE, with 115PS and 125lb.ft torque. There was also a 2.3 turbo diesel available with 100PS and 160lb.ft torque.

    Special Lotus version

    Main article: Lotus Carlton

    In 1990, Vauxhall launched a high performance 377 bhp (281 kW) Lotus Carlton in collaboration with Lotus Cars. (An Opel version was also produced as the Lotus Omega.) It was built with a 3615 cc six-cylinder twin-turbo engine (designated C36GET) capable of over 176 mph (283 km/h), making it officially (for the time) the fastest full four-seater that had ever been made. It cost £48,000 – well over double the price of a standard Carlton. As a result, Vauxhall's original plans to sell about 1,000 in the UK ended in 440 UK cars being sold. For those with less money there was the 3000GSi 24v, with a top speed of 146 mph (235 km/h).

    GSi 3000 & Diamond

    GSi 24v

    Prior to the Lotus tuned version, the range topper was the GSi 3000 upon which the Lotus Carlton was based. At launch in 1986 it had 177 bhp (132 kW; 179 PS) giving it a top speed of 134 mph (216 km/h). In 1990, power was increased by going from 2 valves per cylinder to 4 valves per cylinder, creating a 24-valve engine, resulting in 204 bhp (152 kW; 207 PS) which allowed 0-62 mph to be dispatched in 7.6 seconds and increased the top speed to 149 mph (240 km/h). It was also available with an Automatic gearbox, which reduced the top speed to 146 mph (235 km/h) and increased the 0–62 mph time to 8.6 seconds. The Carlton Diamond 3.0 24v Estate was also made. Identical to the GSI but with an estate body shell, it sold in much more limited numbers (90) and so is a much rarer sight.

    Guinness World Record

    In June 1992 two teams from Horley Round Table, Surrey, UK, set a Guinness World Record time of 77 hours 34 minutes, driving a total 6,700 km across the then 12 EC countries in two Vauxhall Carlton 24V 3000 GSi's (J870 FFM and J751 DYC). The Carltons were provided by Vauxhall Motors and the record attempt was also supported by Mobil Oil and the Royal Automobile Club.

    Survival rate

    By February 2016, just 468 examples of the Carlton were still on Britain's roads, with most remaining examples believed to be the high performance 3000 GSi and Lotus versions of the MK2 model.
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