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Cars That Saved Their Makers

By raccars Published

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These days major manufacturers are usually part of huge, complex conglomerates and very few single models are significant enough to cause a major impact one way or another. However, way back in a simpler time, these cars almost single handedly kept their manufacturers in business or, in some cases, nearly closed them down.

Lotus Elise

The path has never run smooth at Lotus. Recent financial woes have repeated what happened in the early 1990s, when a series of poor corporate decisions left Lotus with low sales and only one viable model in the expensive Esprit. After GM passed the company on to Italian ownership, the Elise was released in 1996, a lightweight, affordable racer, designed to revive the firm's fortunes. It worked, and the Elise almost single handedly kept the marque afloat.

VW Golf

In the late 1960s, VW appeared to be running out of ideas. The Beetle was considered old fashioned and sales were slow. A joint development programme with Audi saw the firm pioneer a new front wheel drive, transverse engine platform, used first on the Scirocco and then the Golf, in 1974. Never conceived as a game changer, history was, nonetheless made, as the Golf small hatchback became one of the best selling cars in the world.

Range Rover

Previously focused on strictly utility vehicles, Land Rover's brave Range Rover was a stroke of conceptual genius. It was the car that invented the now huge luxury SUV genre and showed that off roading wasn't just for farmers and military vehicles. It was just as at home in the streets of Kensington as in a muddy field, as practical as it was fashionable and has become, arguably, Land Rover's best known model.

Alfa Romeo Alfasud

The Alfasud brought Italian styling and driving flair to the masses in an affordable and technically remarkable form. It was a huge success for Alfa, turning it from a niche manufacturer to a mainstream contender, but sadly also contributed in no small way to the firm's reputation for building unreliable rust buckets.


BMC had already experienced small car success when the Mini came along and changed the game completely. Its tiny size and four wheel drive layout were technically revolutionary, setting an automotive blueprint, which has since been followed by nearly every manufacturer. It was tiny, affordable but also extremely cool and its iconic status has far outlasted Britain's 1960s cultural moment.

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