At the highest point above the Ardennes racetrack is a car park dedicated to classic cars that turn-up to spectate at the annual Spa Six Hours, with a fascinating mix of vehicles. Here’s a small selection that we spotted over the weekend:
Apal GT Coupe
Produced locally to Spa in Liege between 1961 and 1965, the Apal GT was a small Volkswagen Beetle-based coupe with strong Porsche overtones, but sold for a fraction of the price in period. Using a GRP body on a standard VW Type 1 platform, the Apal was a moderately good seller in the Benelux, and a car of which the Belgians are justifiably proud, as evidenced by the constant attention given this tidy example. Apal when on to produce a variety of buggies, Jeeps and kit cars well into the early 1990s.
AMC Pacer X
The AMC Pacer today enjoys the sort of cult status in the USA that the love/hate Austin Allegro of the same era does here in Britain. Introduced in 1975 as AMC’s (American Motors Corporation) answer to the 1970s fuel crisis, the ultra-wide Pacer was positioned head-to-head with contemporary American sub-compacts such as the Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Nova. Sadly the Pacer never achieved the commercial success of its Detroit rivals, with sales trailing off rapidly and production be prematurely stopped in 1980. Subsequently made famous by its staring role in the hit movie Wayne’s World, today the Pacer is a rare sight, especially in Europe were the car was simply too expensive and thirsty to compete.
Opel Kadett Aero
The 1973-79 Kadett was Opel’s version of General Motors’ first truly global model (the T-Car, better known in the UK as the Vauxhall Chevette). Although this open-top Aero version may not look too exciting, it is incredibly rare, especially in its original Series 1 form, as spotted at Spa. Hand built in tiny numbers by the long-established German coachbuilder Bauer – better known for their BMW 3-Series Cabriolet conversions – the Opel Kadett Aero was GM’s answer to the only other affordable four-seat convertible in 1970s Germany, the VW Beetle. Sadly the Aero never really caught on, despite offering many benefits over the tired Beetle, and Opel cancelled Aero production all too soon.
Lotus Europa S
Lotus revived the classic Europa name in 2006 for its new mid-engined ‘executive’ coupe, intended to compete with the likes of the Porsche Cayman. Larger than its lithe Elise and Exige models, the 21st Century Europa was positioned as a stepping stone up the range for loyal Lotus customers who had outgrown the cramped but focused Elise. Unfortunately the concept didn’t work, and just 456 modern-era Europas were built before production was halted, with this example being the only one registered in Luxembourg, to the best of our knowledge. A Proton and electric Dodge version of the Europa were proposed, but amounted to nothing.
Mazda R100 Coupe
You wait for years to see a Mazda R100 Coupe, and then three turn-up at once, with two racing examples tackling Spa, and one very scarce 1970 road-going car, as pictured here. The rotary-powered R100 Coupe was one of the very first Mazda models to be exported to Europe, with the Japanese marque trialling the Benelux countries to test demand and suitability. Spa has special relevance for the R100 as two touring car specification cars were raced at the Ardennes circuit with some success in the earliest days of Mazda’s assault on Europe. It’s great to see them back…