Ah yes, the Talbot Solara. Thinking about it, the Solara was very much the Shatchback of the early ’80s, being as it was, the saloon version of the Chrysler/Talbot/Simca Alpine. Looking back, Chrysler had it all wrong. The Simca Alpine, which was to become the Chrysler Alpine, only to end up as the Talbot Alpine was actually way ahead of its time.
It was a good looking car introduced in the mid 1970s, way before we all realised we yearned to own a hatchback. By the time we came to our senses in the early ’80s, the Alpine was an ageing product suffering from an appalling marketing strategy and massive confusion at boardroom level. Perhaps if they had started with the Talbot Solara – the saloon version of the Alpine – things may have been different?
Okay, perhaps not, but you get the point.
The Talbot Solara was actually pretty successful, outselling its hatchback sibling. However, it suffered from two major problems, or three if you want to include the marketing strategy. The two problems were in the form of two C words – Cavalier and Cortina, both of which offered more engine options, a greater choice of trim levels, (critical for the salesman on the up), and the might of General Motors and Ford to back them.
The Talbot Solara was a pretty straightforward machine, built for a more straightforward era. It was three-inches longer than the Alpine, but most of this extra length was taking up by the boot, with rear legroom only marginally increased. Inside it was pretty much identical to the Alpine hatchback. Two petrol engines were available – a 1.3-litre and a 1.6.
Had it not been for a Chrysler Group reshuffle a year before its introduction in 1980, it could quite easily have been born the Chrysler Solara. Which sounds even more like a backstreet bar in Benidorm.
In truth, it was doomed to failure. It wasn’t as though it did anything particularly badly, it’s just that it wasn’t that memorable. Compare and contrast the Talbot Solara with the Ford Sierra which was introduced just two years after the Solara in 1982. They look world’s apart now – so just think how things looked in the early 1980s. The Sierra was all ‘Human League’, the Solara was just a bit ‘Dr Hook’.
By the time the sun set on the Solara in 1985, it was already on borrowed time. And even the usual sales-boosting special editions managed to upset the purists – introducing the Solara Minx and Solara Rapier was viewed as Chrysler dancing on the graves of two much loved marques from Britain’s past. And we haven’t even mentioned the Spectre…
Today, a mere 16 Talbot Solaras are left on the roads of Britain, of which, according to How Many Left?, a quarter happen to be the Minx special edition. Chances are, all those that are left are now safely in the hands of collectors. The Talbot Solara has long since left the kingdom of Bangerdom.
We’ll leave you with the ‘classic’ ad from the Talbot Solara’s past (above). It features some vaguely military-style music and a series of quotes from a number of tremendously positive journalists. Listen out for the man from the Daily Mirror who enjoyed every one of the 1,000 miles he did in the Solara. We’re sold.