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7 Rear Wheel Drive Cars From The Past And The Present

By raccars Published

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Given the proliferation of manufacturers and engineering techniques, the car is an amazingly homogeneous beast - in almost every case it has four wheels on the ground, a steering wheel inside, seats inside, a boot behind and an engine in the front. On the odd occasion, things have gone a bit skew-whiff - some cars have their engines in the rear...

While most car makers abandoned this arrangement long ago, in many ways it makes more mechanical sense than the usual engine in front configuration. A car with its engine mounted in the rear is usually lighter, simpler to build, cheaper to produce and holds the road better. While front wheel drive and front mounted engines have become the standard, arguably the rear engined set up worked brilliantly for these cars:

VW Beetle

It's one of the most popular cars in the world, so surely it sets an example worth following? Nearly 22 million units of the original Beetle in all its rear engined glory were built from 1946-2003.

Renault Dauphine

An evolution of the super popular 4CV, the 1956 Dauphine was mechanically ahead of its time. The funky Gordini edition is the most collectable version now.

Fiat 500

Italy's answer to the French 2CV and the English Mini in 1957 was and still is a superb drive and extremely stylish. Abarth tuned versions are highly desirable but there's a certain rarity value too to the Giardiniera estate models.

Hillman Imp

A cautionary tale of wasted potential from 1963, the Imp's build quality issues meant it failed to really challenger the Mini's dominance. However, it makes a great usable classic, with its practical and comfortable interior and an engaging drive.

Porsche 911

This is where the rear mounted engine configuration really found perfection. More than 50 years later it's still the most desirable two seater sports car on the road.

DeLorean DMC-12

The futuristic (for 1981) DeLorean's rear engined layout came about by accident rather than design, thanks to a supply chain cock up. The iconic car's story is well known, as a result of its starring role in 'Back to the Future,' but is another sad illustration of opportunities lost.

Smart Fortwo

The last all new rear engined car apart from the Porsche 911 or Tata Nano, the then City Coupe never quite propelled Smart into the leagues it was aiming for. The newest version could yet see the Daimler owned brand fulfil its original potential, thanks in part to an alliance with Renault that has produced the very similar, new Renault Twingo.

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