RAC Cars News


Going Back To Basics

By raccars Published

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While luxury features have become increasingly important to modern car makers trying to boost sales, some of the most iconic cars of the past became successful in part because of, rather than in spite of, their utilitarian design - the Land Rover Defender, for example. Their rough and ready, retro charm offers a refreshingly down to Earth driving pleasure in an ever more complicated automotive world.


In 1959, the BMC Mini arrived and changed the automotive world forever. While its front wheel drive mechanicals were innovative, the Mini was determinedly basic, offering the simple ability to get from A to B on a budget. The Mini remained in production for over 40 years and later models did gain some extra equipment but, arguably, lost some of the charm of those no frills early versions.

Citroen 2CV

Even longer lived than the Mini was Citroen's answer to French farmers' needs for something cheap and practical to belt around their fields in. It was designed before the Second World War but not released until 1948 and has since become a true icon of motoring design. Its cute looks and two cylinder engine were allied to typically French features, such as a full length sunroof and made it entertaining rather than exciting to drive. Nonetheless, the 2CV fulfilled its brief perfectly and is arguably more popular than ever since its demise in 1990. The Renault 4 offered similar basic motoring from 1961 but never quite gained the same iconic status.

Fiat 500

An Italian answer to the Mini, the 500 was launched in 1957 as the ultimate city car. At that time, this meant cheap and practical, with a two cylinder 479cc engine and none of the fashionable accessories that have made the current Fiat 500 so trendy. In that era its ability to do a job of work was far more important than its styling and, like the Mini and 2CV, it was basic in the extreme compared to modern vehicles, so the 500 became a fashion icon more by accident than design.

Mini Moke

Made by BMC from 1964-1968, the Mini Moke was designed as a military vehicle but its inability to travel over bumpy ground made it completely unsuitable for that work. An appearance in Sixties TV series 'The Prisoner' helped the Mini Moke to become a civilian hit as a kind of extreme convertible - not only did it not have a roof, but doors were also dispensed with. Production continued in later years in Australia and Portugal and made the spectacularly utilitarian Mini Moke a cult success.

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