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Clarkson on: the FSO Polonez
I don’t doubt that you go a bit red round
the gills every morning when you find that Postman Pat has filled your hall
with junk mail. You don’t want to win a tumble dryer, you don’t need an Amex
card and you’d rather buy Razzle than Reader’s Digest.
But consider for a moment what life would be
like if you actually had to read everything that came through your door.
Imagine if you were forced to open bank statements and bills, rather than
simply feed them to the waste disposal unit.
Well that’s what happens at Telly Towers
every morning. I have to scoop up the debris that Pat has fed to my doormat,
and read it.
I’m talking about press releases from the
world’s car companies - tomes that redefine the concept of dull. They are more
boring than a Jane Austen novel, more shiversomely tedious than a parish
Just last week, Nissan changed the radiator
grille or something on the Micra and poor Pat gave himself a hernia lugging the
press pack up my drive. 17 pages in, I’d already worked out that the whole
thing could have been done in one sentence: “We’ve changed the Micra a bit”.
But today, in amongst the encyclopaedic
volume on the Corsa’s new engine and a gushing diatribe about the new Hyundai
Lantra Estate, was something that stopped me dead.
FSO is not dead. The Polish car company has
managed to survive the transition from Communism to Lech and back to Communism
again. And more than that, the cars are still being imported to Britain. Oh no.
“It was a box under which the careless car buyer would discover a 1940s
I still maintain that the Nissan Sunny was
the worst car of all time. It had absolutely no redeeming features; nothing
that you couldn’t find better and cheaper elsewhere. But the worst car in the
world to actually drive was the FSO Polonez.
Its did have a redeeming feature - it was
cheap. But it had to be, because it was a car that wasn’t really a car at all.
It was a box under which the careless car buyer would discover a ’40s tractor.
The styling was enough to put most people
off, but it only had to compete with the Wartburg and the Trabant, neither of
which will ever feature in a book called ‘Beautiful Cars’ by Jeremy Clarkson.
You cannot begin to imagine how bad the ride
was on this truly awful car, and just as you were marvelling at its ability to
bounce so high off the ground, you’d find its steering didn’t really work
because the front wheels had been concreted on.
If Karl Benz had invented its engine, he’d
have given up with the whole concept of internal combustion. The noise
frightened birds and the fuel consumption read like the spec sheet from an
The last time I actually went in a Polonez
was last year. It was a minicab and it broke down in Heathrow’s tunnel. Then I
had an argument with the fat driver when I point blank refused to pay.
But since that long, fume-filled walk to the
terminal, I’ve not heard anything about this wart on the bottom of motoring.
Until now. It seems FSO has a new car called the Caro which has met with some
success in Britain. 480 were sold here last year but I can only assume that the
owners limit forays onto the road to the hours of darkness. I’ve certainly
never seen one.
I’m sure though that it’s a pretty hateful
machine, but there’s no denying one thing. At £4,527, it is cheap.
Also, it can be ordered with a 1.9-litre
Citroen diesel engine and it will eventually get ZF power steering and Lucas
brake systems. It may then become a half decent car, but I’m also sure its
price will rise.
They’ll end up with a half decent car at an
indecent price. Except they won’t, because this press release says that Daewoo
has taken a 10 per cent stake in FSO and that in the next five or six years,
the Korean com-pany’s share will rise to 70 per cent.
The idea is simple. Daewoo will ship bits of
old Astras and Cavaliers from Korea to Poland where they will be nailed
together to form a vague, but inexpensive interpretation of what motoring
should be all about in the next millennium.
We know all about that
already, of course, because Vauxhall has shown us. No more fast cars. Birds in
the trees and the good people of the world transported to and from work in
Vectras. God Help Us.