The Cars of the Comic – Outsiders

If you know me personally (in fact, even if you don’t) you’ll know I absolutely adore cars from all eras. While I don’t love every single one of them, there are those which I feel are good enough to deserve a place in my various comic series.

So, without further ado, here’s a summary of the various automotive gems I’ve redrawn and placed into my comic series, either playing an important role in the plot, or just as background vehicles. Each one has a little description as to what it is, as well as the reason why such a car made it into the story.

For copyright reasons, many of the vehicles demonstrated on this page have minor differences between those which appear in the series and their real-life counterparts. As such, the vehicles within this series may not be factually accurate in all aspects.

1. 1983 Toyota Land Cruiser (J60)

girls in the truck

Making a return from its appearance in the Maddie Series, Siobhan Pattinson’s pride and joy is still the magnificent Toyota Land Cruiser, the strong and sturdy piece of Japanese motoring that nearly destroyed Land Rover in the rugged SUV market.

Toyota_Land_Cruiser_60_001In the early-1980’s, Toyota’s weren’t really sold here in the UK thanks largely to EU Import taxes on Japanese products, but some Land Cruisers did make it to Britain early on and, when you consider the reliability of these things compared to the indigenous competition, you can see why someone like Siobhan would go for it. At the time you had the choice of either the humdrum Land Rover Defender, which was as basic as a corrugated iron shed, and the Range Rover, which, even for the base models, was hideously expensive, so a Toyota would seem like the most logical solution.

2. 1980 Talbot Sunbeam

Eb in the talbot

An obscure car but one of the best, this boxy Talbot Sunbeam was put to use by Adria Mackenzie as part of her driving school. Its appearance in the series may be brief, but it’s role in helping Ebony learn to drive is somewhat vital in the grand scheme of things.

The choice of the Talbot Sunbeam came to me for two reasons; the first being it was Talbot_Sunbeam_Lotus_first_reg_August_1980_2172cca commonly used family car back in the day and made for an ideal learner’s vehicle, and secondly; this car truly is an unsung hero of that era for motorcars. Indeed many owners will tell you that the regular cars were unreliable and rusted faster than a junkyard dog; then again all cars did back then. However, the best of the breed, the Lotus Sunbeam, was one of the few bright sparks in this rather dull period in motoring history, one of the most capable race cars and one of the founding fathers of the hot hatchback.

Today these cars are near enough extinct due to the aforementioned rust issues, but they do obtain quite a cult following. I personally adore the Talbot Sunbeam for the fact that, while basic, it was very innovative; a strong and timeless design which truly cemented the concept of small, practical but incredibly fast motorcars.

3. 1984 Austin Maestro

eb on her test

Another classic British motor from the 1980’s, this time in the form of British Leyland’s Austin Maestro, one of the company’s best selling cars in spite of its woeful build quality. In the series, it once again inhabits a brief role as the car Ebony uses to pass her Driving Test, a role that many Maestros had the honour to fulfil back in the day.

The Austin Maestro formed one of three new motors built in the early 1980’s to help address the seemingly insurmountable reliability issues plaguing nationalised car builder British Leyland. Released to fill the market between the Austin Metro city-car and the Austin Montego family saloon, the Maestro was the family hatchback for the DSCF02991980’s, taking a British design and combining it with technology graciously provided by Honda.

The car was surprisingly well equipped for the time, and even included the now novel feature of a talking dashboard, similar to the likes of contemporary Chryslers and Fords in the USA.

However, while Honda mechanics should have helped resolve the car’s performance issues, the ever-present malcontent workforce were always on hand to build cars of such wretched quality that these things would literally fall apart in no time flat. Combine that with the car’s penchant for rust and you’ve got a match made in hell!

4. 1971 Morris Marina

eb driving the marina

Making its return from Maddie on the Island Hue, the Larsson Family’s 1971 Morris Marina is an unlikely candidate for a car in a comic series; especially given its reputation.

Often considered the worst car Britain has ever produced (second only to the Allegro), the Morris Marina was still a popular family car, despite the fact that it was riddled with faults and smothered in build-quality issues.

23067166251_d1c03fa032_kThroughout its production life, the Marina’s only excuse for sales was the fact that it was incredibly cheap to run. However, what bills you saved on fuel you found paying on maintenance and rustproofing, the car being built to such horrendous conditions and rotting to dust before you’d even got it home from the showroom. At the same time the Marina could be a functional little car, on the off-chance you happened to buy one that wasn’t built on a strike day.

Buying cars from British Leyland was like playing Lucky Dip; with every chance you’d either walk away with a £20 note or be bitten by a lethally venomous insect that happened to be lurking inside. It was also something of a staple for 1970’s Britain, being a common sight on the roads of the UK, so it’s not like it was something of a questionable rarity like a Peel P50 or a Noble M12.

5. 1974 Triumph Lynx

rescue my ball from the evil triumph

Only seen in flashback, this Triumph Lynx was the merry motor of the Pattinson family when they first moved to the Isle of Hue.

The Triumph Lynx, while a real car, was sadly not a production model, being instead a concept for a fastback derivative of the Triumph TR7 sports car. The Lynx was meant to form part of a slew of TR7 variants, including the convertible Broadside and the internally modified TR7 Sprint. Each of these cars were predicated on the success of the original TR7 itself.

30106153941_01df7ab693_kSadly though, when the TR7 entered sales in 1974 it was lambasted by customers and critics alike for its woeful build quality, tepid performance, shoddy handling and ugly styling. Having lost a fortune in developing the TR7 and with the car only selling on the domestic market, subsequent developments, including the Lynx, were curtailed; with the single concept car being retired to the life of a museum piece.

However, the TR7 Lynx, I feel, was the car that could’ve saved the TR7 line if it had been developed and released concurrently with the regular sports car. It’s a crisp design akin to the likes of the Alfa Romeo GTV6, with a useful hatchback which would’ve made it both relevant and practical; especially considering the rise of sporty hatchbacks during the mid-70’s.

Unfortunately, the TR7 Lynx never got a chance to prove itself, but that doesn’t mean in this hypothetical world of mine that they didn’t make it beyond the concept stage. 🙂

6. 1982 Lancia Gamma Coupé FL 2500

lancia guys

The sporty ride of Jake Keefe, this Lancia Gamma only makes a brief appearance within the context of the story as he uses it to chauffeur Siobhan to John Wilson’s Christmas party, passing by some beautiful New York scenery along the way.

eBay-Gamma(4)I’ve always had a love for the undeniably flawed Lancia Gamma Coupe, a car that is absolutely beautiful and a true late-70’s Italian coupe, but is as useful as a guitar without strings. The unreliable nature of these machines is something of an absolute tragedy, so much so I’m surprised Jake didn’t show up at Siobhan’s house either in a breakdown truck or on the bus!

Still, the scene of the two of them driving over the Throngs Neck bridge as they get to know one another was one of my earlier thoughts when it came to writing the story. A nice moment of character building set against the background of the distant Manhattan skyline, akin to when Ebony and Siobhan were on the sleeper train to London.

7. 1987 Cadillac Brougham Sedan d’Elegance

caddy converse

After her less than enjoyable encounter with the chauvinistic millionaire, Charles Donovan, the emotionally distraught Siobhan breaks down in tears and seeks the consolation of her boss, John Wilson. As their chauffeur driven ride to and from their own office, and a quiet place of padded luxury away from the prying eyes and noise of Midtown Manhattan, the pair talk over Siobhan’s misery in the back of this 1987 Cadillac Brougham Sedan d’Elegance.

While its appearance is trivial, I had considered long and hard for a place where Siobhan and John would have a somewhat pivotal discussion about the various woes of the former’s life. The scene with Charles Donovan gave me something of a chance to illustrate how back in the 80’s, and somewhat still relevant today, it was commonplace for female workers to be treated like dirt and could only really rise to positions of power through intimate relationships with powerful men. It’s a moral I didn’t want to lather on and go into a big long forced lecture that illustrates Donovan as an irredeemable, moustache-twirling villain, but as a man endemic of his position and the times he lived in.

Anyway, back to the car.

5-litre-eThe discussion between Siobhan and John was originally going to take place at a variety of locations. In my first draft, it would’ve been at the end of that day in their office at the World Trade Center, with Siobhan’s feelings seething to the point that John takes her aside and talks to her after most people have gone home. However, I ditched this particular idea because I wanted a change of location from their regular office. Eventually, I settled on the back of the car, where John dismisses the chauffeur for five minutes so they can have a heart-to-heart.

But what car would I choose?

My original shortlist came down to the Cadillac Brougham Sedan d’Elegance, a Rolls-Royce Silver Spur, a Mercedes-Benz W126 and a Lincoln Continental Givenchy Edition. Gradually, I whittled down the list of these luxury machines; the Mercedes for being too mundane, the Lincoln for being too ugly, and the Rolls for being too overused in my series. This left me with the Cadillac, and it couldn’t have been anything else.

The Brougham Sedan d’Elegance was by far the most luxurious and handsome American luxury car on sale at the time, with a wonderful interior, that familiar but lovable boxy styling and oodles of space. Not only would nothing else do for a luxury sedan to chauffeur high-end business people around the streets of Manhattan, it was also securely padded with soundproofing to dampen the noise of the rabble outside; perfect for having a sombre conversation.

8. 1987 Sterling 825SL

crossing the bridge

The rented car of Siobhan Pattinson, this rare and strange Sterling 825SL is used briefly in Volume 8 to allow Ebony to go to and from work without having to face the trials and tribulations of modern public transport.

This is especially ironic seeing as I’m a transport planner and it’s my job to promote and encourage public transport usage!

sterling_03The choice of the Sterling 825 was one I immediately jumped to when considering this series, largely because of my interest in Rover cars of the 70’s and 80’s. The real Sterling was basically identical to the Rover 800 only with modifications to make it suitable for the American market, and could’ve been a moderate success if it had not have been for the woefully bad build quality these poor cars were subject to. Rover Group’s continually lax attitude to building cars meant that the Americans took one look at it and thought to themselves “I want to buy something else”.

Still, even though the Sterling was trampled under the feet of Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Ford (companies that built their cars with at least a shred of credibility), I felt that the nice mixture of British internal comfort and Honda performance would be a perfect alternative to a contemporary American car like a Ford LTD or a Chevrolet Caprice.

9. 1984 Jeep Grand Wagoneer

the wagoneer

Having both moved to the United States, the girls elect to get themselves a suitable, though inexpensive, machine to help them commute to their various jobs. Ebony takes this task upon herself, with the fruits of her search resulting in this second-hand 1984 Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

While I’m more a fan of the C-10 pickup truck (which replaced the legendary Gladiator), the Wagoneer I still have a huge soft-spot for as it was, technically, the world’s first Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV). I know the International Harvester Scout and the Ford Bronco preceded it, but this truly was the first to marry car comfort and amenities with the go anywhere, do anything performance of a full off-roader. It quickly became one of AMC’s best products and would continue without major alteration until 1991 when it was replaced by the Grand Cherokee.

58f5132721132_IMG_2507-940x672Sadly, not many people remember the Wagoneer and what it achieved, largely due to the arrival of the luxury Range Rover in 1970; the first SUV to truly take 4×4’s out of the mud and onto the city streets.

In considering what car I should get for these girls, I was a little torn at first when I made my initial long list of cars. The Jeep Wagoneer was always an option, but alongside it was a 1987 Sterling 825 (which appeared in Volume 8 as a rental car), a 1987 Ford Bronco, a 1985 Buick Regal, 1985 Chevrolet K5 Blazer, and a 1984 BMW E28 528i (you can tell I put far too much effort into picking cars for a comic series!).

Anyway, much like the Cadillac from earlier, I whittled down the list accordingly; the Buick went early for being a bit too bland, followed by the BMW. Very quickly, my mind turned to their choice being solely an SUV, largely because I love SUV’s, though I still wanted to include the Sterling somewhere in the story (eventually, I found a place for it). So it came down to the Chevy, Ford and Jeep. The Chevy went first as I didn’t particularly like the looks of the K5 during this period (preferring instead the S-10 of the 1990’s), while the Bronco eventually left the fray for being a mite too expensive for two newly employed girls living in a rented apartment who aren’t exactly loaded; the original MSRP of a brand new base-model Bronco being $13,924 ($30,996 in 2018). While I could’ve chosen an earlier generation of Bronco, I never found these to be particularly attractive, preferring instead the looks of the truck from the 1987 model onward.

jeep on the evergladesSo, that left me with the Jeep, and it was absolutely perfect.

The Grand Wagoneer’s styling is by far its best attribute, being a wonderful mixture of chrome lashings and wooden panels. The car’s image was like a pillar of strength; a grounded, towering beast of burden that would deliver you and your loved ones to their destination, no matter how remote, in comfort and safety. While the idea of driving an SUV may be a bit daunting for some, we had previously established that Siobhan used to drive her mum’s Toyota Land Cruiser, so she would’ve been more than attuned for such a large vehicle.

Furthermore, as the styling of the Grand Wagoneer hadn’t changed since the 1984 model year, it would’ve been easy for the duo to find a cheap, second-hand example for less than $1,000 in yesterday’s money (considering how cheap American cars were back then).

Still, these girls have now found their mighty steed, and boy is she a beauty! 😀

On a side note, just before I released the car’s first appearance in December 2018, I couldn’t help but notice that Tyler Hoover, the man behind the fun and always interesting Hoovie’s Garage, had bought himself a 1984 Jeep Grand Wagoneer himself. While I’d noticed the Wagoneer skulking about in the background of some of his other videos and found myself nodding with acknowledgement, when he mentioned that it was a 1984 model I was a little taken aback; one of the many ‘what are the odds?’ moments I’ve had when releasing this comic. 🙂