YOU WAKE up to the sound of MTV, throwing off your Star Wars duvet, checking your perm, and glancing at the poster on your wall. A poster of a wedge-shaped car, the car you dream of owning.
But never meet your heroes. Although an iconic style, wedge-shaped cars often came with a slice of unpredictability. Hinting at a future never to materialise, the wedge was always surrounded by glamour and drama, both on-screen and off. Their joy and excitement lay in their imperfection and fickleness.
It’s easy to look back and question some of the decisions made. But like Betamax, mullets and styling yourself on Magnum P.I., it seemed like a good idea at the time.
De Tomaso Pantera
In 1955, Alejandro De Tomaso fled his native Argentina, accused of plotting the overthrow of the president. After marriage to an American heiress and an unsuccessful F1 career, De Tomaso unveiled the Pantera, in 1970. It turned heads not only because of its looks but also its muscle, its 5.8-litre Ford V8 engine and 159mph top speed meaning it could shout as loudly as its more decadent contemporaries.
Famously, in 1974, Elvis Presley bought a Pantera for his girlfriend Linda Thompson before
shooting it with a handgun after discovering its characteristically spotty driving performance. Thus, his Pantera died as it lived: dramatically.
The elegant lines and graceful handling of Fiat’s affordable roadster earned it the moniker of ‘mini-Ferrari’. For a reasonable price (you can pick one up for less than £1k now), you could own a car designed by Marcello Gandini, of Lamborghini Countach (another classic wedge, though perhaps a little obvious for our list) notoriety.
When you weren’t on the road, however, you were looking through your front window in
horror as the nippy roadster rusted before your eyes, thanks to its terrible rust-proofing. But it was an absolute joy to drive due to its light weight, mid-mounted engine, excellent balance and impressive ride, and remains a firm cult favourite.
Aston Martin Lagonda Series Two
The term Lagonda may soon conjure images of electric SUVs but in the 1970s and ’80s it had a very different meaning.
The elongated “folded paper” styling of Aston Martin’s four door saloon, which measured over five metres long, polarised opinion. However, people tended to bond over lamenting the Lagonda’s catastrophic digital dashboard, which would have been groundbreaking had it functioned properly. It’s “revolutionary” touch-sensitive buttons often didn’t work and were eventually abandoned.
Available between 1976 and 1990, the Lagonda wedges had a good run, and while often loathed in their day, the model’s stark silhouette and over-reaching ambition has earned it a place as a motoring icon.
Light, svelte and sexy, the Esprit was renowned for its incredible handling, alluring looks and fickle reliability. Styled by renowned designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, it was deemed glamorous enough to star in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. It is hard, however, to imagine a secret agent choosing a car that can’t commit to starting every morning. Rather more impractically for a car that turns into a submarine, the Esprit had an issue with rainwater leaking into the interior.
Nevertheless, the car’s low centre of gravity, sub-one tonne weight and fibreglass body meant that it exhibited swathes of Lotus’ trademark agility. Elon Musk is now the owner of the famed Esprit submarine, which influenced the design of Tesla Cybertruck.
The DeLorean DMC-12 came to define the 1980’s optimistic view of the future. The car’s otherworldly, futuristic styling caught the eye of Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis, and a car that otherwise could have been destined to lie in the dustbin of history is now immortalised as the optimistic vision of the future that, sadly, never came.
A heavy, stainless steel body led to a 2.85-litre V6 engine (designed for family saloons) being put in the rear of the car, spelling catastrophe for the DeLorean’s handling. Lotus was drafted in to help sort it out but it was never really fixed.
Mind you, even Zemeckis seemed to consider the DMC-12 a bit of a joke, as in the film an bewildered Marty McFly asks, “Wait a minute, Doc. Are … Are you telling me that you built a time machine … out of a DeLorean?” The immortal reply from inventor Dr. Emmett Brown: “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”
The real joke was wondering whether the car could actually reach the requisite 88mph to activate the flux capacitor, which enables times travel. But hey, anything’s possible in science fiction. When car company founder John DeLorean was caught by the FBI trying to traffic $24m worth of cocaine, he was probably wishing he had access to a real time machine.