Sometime it might be fun to review this “Car of the Year” thing, going back over the years since the title has been in evidence, seeing who organised it, who judged it, and which cars were so declared. There have been so many of them! For 1976 the competition was the work of an Italian journal but using an International judging panel of 49 persons, how selected I know not and care less. In 1975 a British non-motoring magazine was behind the title and the winner was the Chrysler Alpine. The 1976 “Car of the Year” has been judged to be the Rover 3500 and it is fit and proper that this should be so. It is the title that matters, as with the World Drivers’ Championship in GP racing, for better or for worse, so there is little point in quoting the second and third placings.
Assessing the merits of widely-different cars can give curious results. I note that a weekly contemporary has a rating scheme, on a points awarded by its road-test staff basis, and that this puts the Princess 2200HLS at the head of a list of 61 1976 cars, with the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow in 9th place, behind even the inexpensive Ford Fiesta which no other journal had road-tested in like degree. The same paper also has a subsidiary assessment for ease of driving, where it rates the Reliant Scimitar GT/E tops. Yet another weekly, published by the same house, says of this Reliant: “its strong understeer makes it far less fun to drive than the more precise earlier model . . .” You see what I mean? My own humble thoughts about 1976 road-testing appear on pages 137-142 of this issue of Motor Sport and as I have said, it would be amusing to look back on all the “Cars of the Years” that there have been, to date. If I had been doing the 1976 one I think I might have put down the VW Golf Diesel It could also be fun to assess which manufacturer has the best test-track for finding out how to build a sound modern car—I have seen those of Rover, Fiat, MercedesBenz, BMW, etc. but not the great Volkswagen Proving Ground. There are many others, some of them veritable Brooklands’ bowls, Nice that the latest “Car of the Year” accolade, which Ford among others apparently thinks so important, has been won by the British Leyand’s very good new Rover 3500.