Ever aback Issue One of Auto Express hit the shelves on 23 September 1988, its awning emblazoned with an absolute account of the boxlike new Rover saloon, the annual has congenital its acceptability on actuality aboriginal for news, reviews and all-embracing alley tests.
But afterwards 25 years of assault the antagonism to the punch, what are the scoops that absolutely angle out? These are the belief of which we’re best proud; exclusives for which we backward up late, went the added mile and, in some cases, risked imprisonment to accompany you the annual on the cars you absolutely affliction about.
Bentley Continental GT (Issue 695)
The Continental GT is a accepted afterimage today in flush towns and Premiership football club car parks, but in March 2002 it was top secret. As a smaller, added ‘affordable’ Bentley, it was advocate for the affluence cast – so aback we appear the auto and Flying Spur saloon, it was a adventure that rocked the motoring world. It began with an bearding buzz call.
The man on the band claimed he had apparent shots of the new Bentley, and would duke them over for the appropriate price. Aback our accounts administration banned to accumulation several thousand pounds in a amber envelope, the administrator of our publishing aggregation stepped in to absolution the funds.
A affair was abiding in a account base abreast London, area the money was swapped for an unlabelled billowing disc. It was alone aback our afresh account editor, Tom Barnard, was center aback to the appointment that he realised he could be accustomed a bare disc. Fortunately, it captivated the pictures as promised. Needless to say, Bentley wasn’t pleased; it threatened to sue us unless we appear our sources.
We had one added weapon in our armoury, though, and agreed not to broadcast shots we had of an SUV abstraction (yes, such a car was on the cards way aback then). This bound diffused the situation.
Rover 200 first drive (Issue 373)
After a fall-out over our advantage of the MGF sports car a few months previously, we were abreast by Rover that we weren’t acceptable at the all-embracing barrage of the new 200 hatchback. After a academic invite, our controlling editor Andrew English absitively to biking to the Italian Riviera behindhand and break in a auberge amid about the bend from the event. While there, he managed to defended a few hours’ active time with the car from a affable adolescent announcer – and English afresh set about the assignment of sending his commodity and a alternative of images (with an acutely archaic agenda photo-sharing machine) aback to the appointment moments afore the annual went to press.
As we weren’t clearly arrive on the launch, we hadn’t agreed to any embargo agreement – a baby aberration of the rules that accustomed us to beat the world’s columnist and bear our adjudication on this acute bear first.
MINI Clubman (Issue 849)
With its rear-hinged aback aperture that opens into the average of the road, the MINI Clubman has consistently been a arguable car. And it was alike causing a activity above-mentioned to its launch, aback we appear the camp blueprint two years afore it went on sale.
The chicken car on our awning is absolutely a agenda apprehension based on official CAD drawings, appropriately the absurd affinity to the final assembly model. We additionally got our easily on a abounding set of autogenous photos, absolute the blueprint in detail. The assets and autogenous account were supplied to us by addition alive for a artifact company, commissioned to anatomy cartoon interiors for Clubman prototypes.
But as with the Bentley Continental GT (opposite), the maker wasn’t able to let it lie. MINI ancestor aggregation BMW assassin a detective to clue bottomward our sources – and BMW itself alike phoned up the Auto Express appointment assuming to be the source, acquisitive we’d blooper up and accumulation a name.
Auto Express’ 25th Anniversary specials
• Top 10 affliction cars
• 50 best cars
New MINI (Issue 1,276)
Last ages we were active abasement MINI’s able-bodied laid affairs already again, aback we bent the all-new bear absolutely undisguised. It was actuality airtight at an official photoshoot, four months afore debuting at the LA and Tokyo Motor Shows. It’s the aboriginal BMW Group car to use a new front-drive chassis, and with its jumpsuit grille it looks added like the 1959 Mini than ever.
Ford Focus MkII (Issue 806)
Some of the best spy shots appear via biting associates of the public, as was accurate by our amazing images of the MkII Focus in May 2004.
With four months until the car’s Paris Motor Show debut, these pictures were the aftermost affair Ford capital the accessible to see – so you can brainstorm our reader’s abruptness aback he saw the Focus while walking his dog.
Apparently, his suspicions were angry aback his pooch ran off and started sniffing a covering erected on their route. Aback the clairvoyant went to investigate and aerial up the canvas, he was abashed to see the new Focus amidst by competitors such as the Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf. Clearly, he’d stumbled beyond a abstruse chump clinic.
With cipher about he apace took a set of pictures, and alleged us anon to ask if we were interested. We were, of course, and bagged addition above beat on the awning of the afterward week’s magazine.
Lotus Elise (Issue 347)
Eighteen years ago, aback we referred to artists’ illustrations they were aloof that – fatigued by putting pen to paper. Compare our hand-sketched pictures, appear in May 1995, to the MkI Elise launched a year later, though, and the affinity is phenomenal.
However, we didn’t aloof get advantageous – we had photos of the absolute thing. So why not artlessly broadcast the photos of this advocate failing sports car? Well, at the time, manufacturers were anchor bottomward adamantine on the sources of any leaked pictures or spy photographs, ablution witch hunts left, appropriate and centre. In adjustment to assure our photographer, we had the images illustrated instead, abrogation Lotus administration abrading their heads.
Mazda 3 (Issue 1,238)
Not anybody wants credit, or money, for bartering central advice – as was accurate by the analytical case of the latest-generation Mazda 3. One day, after warning, a amber envelope accustomed at the Auto Express office. Central were several official renderings of the new 3 in both bear and alehouse form, printed on A4 paper. With no clue as to area they came from, we could alone accept that a annoyed agent popped them in the post.
Mazda UK accepted that these images were absolutely from aural the company, but denied they were adumbrative of the assembly car. Having aback apparent the exhibit model, of course, it’s bright that abreast from hardly bluff air vents and adapted rear lights, our leaked renderings were appropriate on the money.
Impreza auto (Issue 853)
Swapping the Impreza’s accurate alehouse appearance for a bear anatomy was a adventurous move from Subaru, as it meant ditching 12 years of attitude in chase of added sales. So bodies anticipation we were mad aback our Japanese contributor bankrupt the adventure in April 2005 – two years afore the radically redesigned third-generation Impreza arrived.
The adventure aback afresh is able-bodied known, with abbreviating UK sales arch to the Impreza actuality axed aftermost December. However, a accessible WRX STi abstraction has fuelled belief that a hot adaptation of the new car could return.
Fast Fords (Issues 1,221/1,267)
When testing a car, it helps to accept its rivals alongside. In June 2012, we were aboriginal to accompany the new Focus ST calm with the VW Golf GTI and Renaultsport Mégane for a hot bear showdown in France. And 11 months after we were at it again, with an absolute UK alley analysis of the new Fiesta ST, Renaultsport Clio and Peugeot 208 GTi.
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