Spring sales chatter

While some manufacturers launch into the now cliche special series of existing models - even a revival series of the Mini Marcos is being offered on the crest of this latest fad - there have been some very intriguing spring announcements indeed.

Perhaps the most serious for us are two good mid-engined sporting vehicles which make their debut in the UK this month, the £5,370.30 Chrysler Bagheera and the £5,927.22 Lancia Beta Montecarlo. We have driven the Montecarlo for a couple of days, but not the Chrysler.

The Bagheera is a very interesting design that draws on Simca 1100 and Alpine parts, the 1442-c.c. engine coming from the latter source in 90-b.h.p. "S" guise. The bodywork is a unique three-seater (side-by-side) layout with glassfibre coachwork. Top speed is expected to be 113 m.p.h., and one could reasonably expect regular fuel consumption to exceed 30 m.p.g. Standard equipment on the 200 cars expected for immediate importation (LHD only) includes tinted glass and electric windows.

The Montecarlo is in right-hand-drive form and Lancia (England) Ltd. expect to sell 700 to 800 a year with their normal full specification.

We drove the 1,995-c.c. Montecarlo at its Italian introduction and were very impressed by the two-seater's handling and finish, especially the neat stow-away soft roof panel that is available at no extra cost. Cloth covered seats are also a no-cost option, while this handsome machine also offers electric windows and tinted top section to the sharply raked front screen, plus some elegant alloy wheels (clothed with fat Goodyears on the UK test car) in the asking price.

Our initial impressions, and CR. will be testing the car fully in RHD form shortly, were of a car that had grown noisier, faster and better finished in the intermission since the launch. The 120 DIN b.h.p. were certainly all present and correct until an obscure wiring fault sidelined the car with a dead engine and a maximum of 120 m.p.h., coupled to economy around 25-30 M.p.g. seem likely. Those with sharp eyes will note that the bodywork had been changed at the rear by the insertion of a glass pane into a previously solid panel, and this certainly helps make the car an agile traffic weapon.