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The answer to that question is probably “yes”. Or at least it was “yes”. But when I glance over the classic landscape as a whole today, it seems all rear engined cars have both charm, joy and happiness. Not least because of their rarity.

I read somewhere that at some point in the Sixties when rear engined cars were at their most popular, their sales represented no less than a quarter of new car sales in Europe. And I would be greatly surprised if there was not a single duffer or two between them. But even when trying to point out those boring ones, I just can not think of any. And there aren’t even that many of them, as they started to fall out of favour during the Seventies.

Actually, I would expect no more than a few seconds delay before someone says “Skoda”, but I would disagree: Even the classic 105, complete with the “rubber tooth protector” is not boring – just clench your eyes and see a shrunken Tatra. Likewise, no one would consider the even more classic Volkswagen Beetle dull today, would they? Well, by virtue of their vast numbers in their heyday, they were boring or at the very least extremely familiar, in that you would encounter them all the time and everywhere. But that’s not the case anymore – and that’s why it’s actually more the principle of carrying the engine behind the rear axle, which I see when I meet either a Skoda or a Beetle. Or of course one of the countless other rear engined cars from the Sixties and Seventies.

And then it struck me: Has there ever been a dull rear engined car?

9 Responses

  1. Jens G.

    Can anyone remember Zaporozhets 965?

    This must be the answer to the question.

  2. Jesper

    Hehe – I actually thought of the Zaporozhets but for some people it isn’t dull and boring :>)

  3. Anders Bilidt

    There will no doubt be just as many opinions on this one as there will be people reading the article. But that’s what makes it interesting… :-)

    Jesper, you’re of course right, it all depends on just how rose tainted your classic car glasses are. Personally I must confess that my pair of glasses are probably severely tainted. Every classic car has some degree of nostalgic charm. And that certainly applies to the rear-engined classics too. Maybe even more so than with more conventional classics, as the rear-engined concept is all but extinct now.

    As for the Zaporozhets 965, for me there is a distinct difference between “dull” and “bad”. It’s quite clear to me that it was a really bad car when new, and of course that doesn’t change just because it’s now old. However, I’m not convinced that this by default makes it a dull car.

    What say you?

  4. YrHmblHst

    I dunno…my glasses are so tinted as to make me nearly blind…but I would say that things like the Dauphine, Renault 10 and plain little Fiat 500s are pretty dull; stone stock, later VW beetles are awfully bland…

    Living in The Colonies, we havent gotten quite the variety or rear engined cars that yall have, but those spring to mind. The ones my father and I have owned over the years tho – an early VW, a Corvair, 911s and a Renault Alpine -were, and are all interesting!

  5. Niels V

    I concur, a late beetle, a Renault 10 or a bone stock Fiat 500 are not the most exciting vehicle, but with the right period set up these can be fun.
    I have become rather addicted to these sub 1000cc rear engine cars lately and currently have basically one from each of the major European countries (France, Italy, UK and Germany).
    A Tatra T600 is on the wish list.

  6. Anders Bilidt

    WOW! With Corvair, early 911 and Alpine Renault you’ve certainly sampled the finest of the rear-engined breed. Personally though, I love the Dauphine, just as I do the R8.
    But I think in some weird way you might have nailed it with the R10. Simply because with this model Renault had managed to refine the concept so much that it lost all its rear-engined quirkiness. It did in fact become somewhat bland – even dull I suppose…

    Owning four sub-1000cc rear-engined classics from four different countries is one hell of a fabulous fetisch! :-) I like it…
    If there’s an Imp among them, I shall be highly jealous!
    Once you have secured a Tatra T600 for the collection, surely a Hino Contessa needs to be next on the list?

  7. Claus Ebberfeld

    Please don’t talk badly of the Renault 10! It’s one of those cars I have an absolutely unexplainable soft spot for. I see it as a sort of Renault’s Volkswagen 411. Which I also happen to like.

    But really I like the ones mentioned by @yrhmblhst even better :-)

  8. Hans Jørgen Wagner

    the IMP van —- There is always one who does not think any car is boring. But the IMP van, I think might be considered for the title boring. The corresponding Tatra van from the 1950’s is probably also relatively boring. None of them were particularly popular, nor today. The fact is that many rear engined cars were actually good everyday cars for the people, and many was doing very well in race, and they were also often fun to drive. This applies to both BMW 700, IMP, Renault 4cv, Dauphin, 8, 10, Porsche and VW, which initially retired a few years ago in this respect. But there were many strange rear engined cars. But they also often offered different modern technology. Gogo electric gear selector, Gutbrot with injection system and so on. All in cheap cars.


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