Title: Car Safety through the Years

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Summary: Despite the common insistence of grandparents the world over that ‘they don’t make ‘em like they used to’, the statistics point to cars being safer than ever before. The road to automotive perfection hasn’t been without potholes, though. Let’s hop into the Bristol Street DeLorean, floor it to 88mph and visit some of the pioneering moments in the history of motoring safety.

Meta Title: Car Safety | History of Car Safety | Bristol Street Motors

Meta Description: Bristol Street Motors explore some of history's most important developments in car safety.

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Over the past hundred years or so, in-car technology has come a long way. Today’s vehicles are so advanced, in fact, that they don’t even need us inside them to function. Google’s driverless cars are well on the way to making humans redundant in the driving process, instead allowing us to slumber in our vehicles and watch repeats of Friends on infotainment systems while an efficient robot army whizzes us around our cities. It’s not always been such a utopia in the world of motoring, however.

Despite the common insistence of grandparents the world over that ‘they don’t make ’em like they used to’, the statistics point to cars being safer, more economical, and more technically impressive than ever before. The road to automotive perfection hasn’t been without potholes, though. Let’s hop into the Bristol Street DeLorean, floor it to 88mph and visit some of the pioneering moments in the history of motoring safety.

1861 – Speed Limits

There were practically no cars on the road at this point, so when the ‘Locomotives on Highways Act’ was introduced, it mainly limited the speeds of agricultural vehicles such as tractors, which were presumably tearing around the countryside at breakneck speed prior to this law.

1898 – Electric Headlamp

Our next stop is at the turn of the twentieth century, when Queen Victoria was still scowling at us all from our banknotes. The electric headlamp was a welcome addition to car safety in this year, when finally motorists could actually see where they were going. Pretty rudimentary, that one.

1903 – Windscreen Wipers

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Rain on your windscreen? Hit one too many bugs/seagulls/deer and could do with clearing your field of vision? No problem, because in 1903, the first windscreen wipers were invented. Unfortunately, they were hand operated. Good luck cranking the handle while you steer. Ever tried patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time? Electric wipers were, thankfully, invented in 1926 by Bosch.

1921 – Headrests

After presumably getting bored of having to constantly wear neck braces due to receiving whiplash at every single traffic light, head rests were introduced in 1921 by Benjamin Katz. Useless trivia – Benjamin Katz is also the name of a side character on Desperate Housewives. Don’t ask how we know that.

1925 – Erm… Cigarette Lighters

Okay, after the previous two decades’ progress, this one’s kind of a step backwards. Yep, before air bags, seat belts, and shatter proof glass, our flat capped, chain smoking ancestors figured out how to fill their cabins with smoke while at the wheel. Priorities.

1930 –Safety Glass

As the Bristol Street DeLorean explodes out of thin air in 1930, a badly pitched cricket ball hurled by a scruffy street urchin rebounds off the windscreen. Shield your eyes! Oh wait, we needn’t worry, as safety glass was invented by Ford Motors in this decade. The first non-shatter glass was created by using two sheets of glass with a clear plastic laminate in between. Pretty cutting edge.

1949 – Crash Dummies and Disc Breaks

The crash test dummy was born in this year, and the first one was christened Sierra Sam. We don’t know why. These brave, selfless crash dummies have taken beatings innumerable over the years, so that we don’t have to. We salute you, Sierra Sam.

In the same year, disc brakes first became standard equipment on Chrysler’s Crown Imperial.

1959 – 3 Point Seat Belts

Flying from wall to wall every time you take a sharp turn must have got tiring after 60 years of motoring, as in 1959 the 3 point seat belt was invented. The first of these were made as standard issue, with Volvo taking credit as first manufacturer to see their life-saving potential. As soon as they were made mandatory, a 50% reduction in car-related injuries was reported.

1984 – Air Bags

Turns out George Orwell was a little off the mark. Rather than a dystopian, oppressive state and the horrors of Room 101, 1984 actually brought us the humble airbag. Airbags had been tested for the previous three decades, but were finally added in cars as standard features in this year.

1990 – Brake Assist

Brake assist reduces the pressure needed on the brake pedal, according to how quickly it has been pressed, meaning it’s easier for drivers to brake in emergency situations. Nice.

2016 – Driverless Cars

Google, Apple, and the rest; today, the automotive industry’s eyes are collectively swiveled towards the future, and perfecting the technology enabling autonomous driving. The tech being developed will allow cars to sense everything in the road ahead of them, as well as to instantaneously communicate information to other cars in the vicinity, enabling them to react far faster than human drivers when there is an incident.

Over the last ten decades, the car has evolved from a clanking health hazard to a marvel of engineering. While news of autonomous cars on our roads is certainly impressive, however, the crown of the most ingenious automotive revolution still rests with one invention that even after three decades has yet to be paralleled in terms of its ambition and vision:  the in-car microwave.

Author: Dan Hackett

Title: Car Cultures of the World: Sweden

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Summary: Think of Sweden, and what springs to mind? Some questionable Eurovision tunes, flowing golden manes, and murderous Vikings. What definitely doesn’t leap to the fore of the imagination though, is slick haired, leather clad ruffians tearing around in hot rods. This subculture, however, has been active throughout Scandinavia since the 1950’s, carving a path of notoriety down generations. Meet the raggare.

Meta Title: Car Cultures of the World | Swedish Car Culture | Bristol Street Motors

Meta Description: In this month's Car Cultures of the World feature, Bristol Street Motors explore the raggare culture of Sweden

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Think of Sweden, and what springs to mind? Some questionable Eurovision tunes (aren’t they all?), flowing golden manes, and those pesky murderous Vikings. What definitely doesn’t leap to the fore of the imagination though, is slick haired, leather clad ruffians tearing around in hot rods. This subculture, however, has been active throughout Scandinavia since the 1950’s, carving a path of notoriety down generations. Meet the raggare.

‘Raggare’ originates from Swedish truck driving slang, meaning ‘gathering’. These particular gatherings involve Swedes, as well as Danes, Norwegians, Finns, Russians, Germans and Austrians who harbour a passion for 1950’s American greaser subculture. The raggare are inspired by the sepia tinted visions of 50’s America and the birth of rock’n’roll, drawing their fashions from key films of the era such as James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause and American Graffiti. Cars are a key part of raggare life, and at regular ‘meets’, the pompadour-sporting masses show off their gleaming motors.

The most famous meet is the self-touted “biggest and baddest classic car show in the world”, the Power Big Meet, held in Västeras, Sweden. Some 500,000 leather clad Swedes descend on the town, and the streets are choked with over 20,000 cars, ranging from 50’s cruisers to hot rods and 1960’s muscle cars. As the Swedes will be more than happy to inform you, there are more American classic cars registered in Sweden than there are in the States. Between 4000 and 5000 classic Yank cars are imported to Sweden every year.

The popularity of raggare culture stems from the differing fates of the Swedish and US economies over the decades. As petrol prices soared stateside and the exchange rate bombed, the average American traded in their muscle car for something more economical. No such nonsense for the Swedes, however, who were comparatively affluent, and were able to pick up rusting Pontiacs and Cadillacs for a steal, import them back home, jazz them up, and increase their value ten times over. When compared to Sweden’s reputation for sensible and sombre automotive offerings, it’s not hard to see the appeal.

shutterstock_381373393If you attend a meet, manage to dodge the beer cans flying overhead, and shimmy your way through the tattooed congregation flinging each other round a rockabilly dancefloor, you will find some stunningly maintained classic cars. Expect to see Ford Mustangs, Plymouth Barracudas, and immaculately buffed Buicks parked on Power Big Meet’s fields.

On the lower end of the spectrum are Volvos, spray painted black, which may be the ride of choice for your younger, more budget conscious raggare. The most common raggare car is the 1960s Pontiac Bonneville, which are especially popular due to being cheap and having a sofa-sized backseat, handy for cramming in as many Scandinavian renegades as possible.

As is common among the young and rebellious, the raggare haven’t gone without their share of infamy. In the groups heyday in the 50’s and 60’s, hard partying and fisticuffs was common within the subculture, and the name became synonymous with shenanigans and ne’er-do-wells. Today, however, the dust has settled, and the members are far happier shooting the breeze over a propped open engine than shooting, er, each other.

If you’re keen on American muscle cars, save yourself a few hundred pounds on flights this year, and nip over to Sweden, where greaser culture is alive and kicking.

Author: Dan Hackett

Title: A History of Disability in 25 Moments

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Summary: For 25 years, we’ve made it our business to help provide our customers with mobile independence. A lot has changed in that time, from the vehicles available to the types of mobility adaptations we’re able to provide.

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Author: Tom

Title: Iconic Car of the Month: Mazda MX-5 Miata

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Summary: This month, our iconic car of the month originates from the land of the rising sun. This car is a lightweight, two seat roadster, from a manufacturer that has brought a huge array of cars into the forefront of motoring. The saviour of the roadster class, this car made the two seater cool again. With over one million cars sold since its birth in 1989, ladies and gentlemen, give a warm welcome to the one and only, Mazda MX-5 Miata.

Meta Title: Iconic Car of the Month | Mazda MX-5 Miata | Bristol Street Motors

Meta Description: Bristol Street's Iconic Car of the Month hails from Japan, a two seat roadster with over a million cars sold: it's the Mazda MX-5 Miata!

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This month, our iconic car of the month originates from the land of the rising sun. This car is a lightweight, two seat roadster, from a manufacturer that has brought a huge array of cars into the forefront of motoring, as well as other little-known offerings such as the ‘Bongo Friendee‘ and the ‘Scrum Wagon‘. The car is often lauded as the saviour of the roadster class, and made the two seater cool once again, ready for a new generation of drivers. With over one million cars sold since its birth in 1989, ladies and gentlemen, give a warm welcome to the one and only, Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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Let’s hop in the Bristol Street DeLorean and whiz back to 1976. Bob Hall, a journalist at Motor Trend magazine, travelled to Japan and met up with two head honchos of Mazda’s Research and Development team, Kenichi Yamamoto and Gai Arai. When asked what car he thought Mazda should produce, Hall replied that a “simple, bugs-in-the-teeth, wind-in-the-hair, classically-British sports car doesn’t exist anymore”.

Mazda liked the idea, and five years later Hall met again with Yamamoto, now the chairman of Mazda, and once more the two discussed the idea of a sporty, affordable two seater. A year later, Hall was given the green light to start research and planning for the new car, over in the Stateside branch of the manufacturer, Mazda USA. The Californian engineers proposed a car with a front engine, rear wheel drive layout, taking inspiration from the ghosts of British roadsters past. Their Japanese counterparts preferred front wheel drive, but were overruled following a competition featuring the presentation of full size clay models.

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Through its secretive development, the car’s myriad aliases and codenames would have put Bond to shame, however ultimately the name MX-5 was chosen, standing for ‘Mazda Experiment Number 5‘.  An extra word was added later for the US market; ‘Miata‘, which means ‘reward‘ in Old High German. No, we’re not really sure how that’s relevant either.

Mazda worked to an ancient Japanese mantra while crafting the MX-5: Jinba ittai (人馬一体) which, for those of you whose Japanese is a little rusty, roughly translates to ‘rider horse one body’. This credo stems from ancient horseback archers, and the bond they would develop with their horses. Seeking to emulate this symbiotic feel, Mazda developed several key design rules, including:

  • The car must meet global safety requirements while remaining as light and compact as possible.
  • The cockpit would accommodate two adult occupants, without any wasted space.

Such a stringent design brief may seem unnecessary, but Mazda’s hard work and vision paid off. The MX-5 debuted to universal acclaim, winning Wheels Magazine’s ‘Car of the Year‘ award in 1989. Sports Car International named it in their ‘Ten Best Sports Cars of All Time’, and the MX-5 has made Car and Driver’s ‘Ten Best‘ list a whopping 14 times. Jeremy Clarkson, automotive critic and tabloid-headline-generator extraordinaire, wrote of the MX-5:

“The fact is that if you want a sports car, the MX-5 is perfect. Nothing on the road will give you better value. Nothing will give you so much fun. The only reason I’m giving it five stars is because I can’t give it fourteen.”

We’re inclined to agree. The current, fourth generation MX-5 was unveiled in 2014, and it’s a beauty. Tipping the scales at a slender 1,000kg (well, slender for a growling hunk of metal), the newest MX-5 has two engine options, 1.5 and 2.0-litres, with a top speed of 130mph and 155bhp for the latter engine. In the millennium, the Guinness Book of World Records labelled the MX-5 as the best-selling two-seat sports car of all time, having then sold 531,890 units. As of April this year, that number has doubled, with Mazda’s plucky roadster passing the one million mark.

With glowing reviews, adoration from fans and critics alike, and earth shattering sales, the MX-5 Miata has truly earned its place on the coveted Bristol Street Motors Iconic Car podium. Give yourself a pat on the boot, Mazda.

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Author: Dan Hackett

Title: The 10 Best Selling Cars in the Universe Ever

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Summary: With a (very) rough estimate of 1.2 billion cars on the road today, we’re probably justified in saying the humble automobile has caught on quite well over the past century or so. But, of all the hundreds of manufacturers jostling for poll position, which car maker comes up trumps when it comes to selling cars?

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Meta Description: Ever wondered which is the world's most popular car? Bristol Street Motors rank the top selling cars of all time.

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With a (very) rough estimate of 1.2 billion cars on the road today, we’re probably justified in saying the humble automobile has caught on quite well over the past century or so. But, of all the hundreds of manufacturers jostling for poll position, which car maker comes up trumps when it comes to selling cars?

We’ve dug around a bit, and we’ve assembled a list of the top ten best selling cars ever in the history of the universe. The answers may surprise you; they certainly surprised us. Without further ado, let’s dive head first into the depths of car sales figures.

  1. Chevrolet Impala

Cars sold: 14 million

The iconic Chevy Impala has been cruising the roads of the world non-stop since its birth back in 1958. In recent years, the Impala’s design revamp has seen it meander its way back once again to the top of the large sedan charts.

  1. Volkswagen Passat

Cars sold: 15.5 million

Over seven generations and 15.5 million sales, the robust family car has brought reasonably priced luxury to families all over the planet. These days, the sedan market is incredibly competitive, although the Passat still rides happy up at the front of the pack.

  1. Ford Model T

Cars sold: 16.5 million

Exactly how many Model T’s Henry Ford sold is put into perspective by this fact: despite going out of production 87 years ago, it still remains the 8th best-selling automobile of all time. Between its first production in 1908 and its discontinuation 20 years later, Ford produced enough Model T’s for the equivalent of every person in Holland.

  1. Honda Accord

Cars sold: 17.5 million

Renowned for its reliability, the Accord spent the first years of its life as a compact, however it eventually metamorphosed into the sedan we know and love today. After small beginnings in 1976, the Accord is today loved by motorists everywhere, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

  1. Honda Civic

Cars sold: 18.5 million

Prior to the Civic’s birth in 1972, Honda was actually considering giving up the car game, after a difficult few years. Everyone loves an underdog story, and they don’t come much better than the struggling little Japanese manufacturer that went on to sell 18.5 million cars.

  1. Ford Escort

Cars sold: 20 million

America has had the Escort since 1981, and Europe’s roads have been graced with the car since 1986. The humble Escort has appealed to generations of drivers with its simple charm, easy handling, and affordable price tag.

  1. Volkswagen Beetle

Cars sold: 23.5 million

Designed in 1938, the Beetle has ridden a wave of popularity ever since, being picked up by the counter cultural 60’s movement thanks to its affordable price tag and its upbeat, funky styling. Today, generations of Beetles still roam the country’s roads, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down.

  1. Volkswagen Golf

Cars sold: 27.5 million

Either dubbed the Golf or the Rabbit, depending which country you’re driving around, the sporty hatchback is Volkswagen’s flagship car, selling 27.5 million since 1974, over many different iterations. Since its triumphant return to the production line in 2010, the Golf has gone from strength to strength.

  1. Ford F Series

Cars sold: 35 million

Initially sold as the Ford Bonus Built in 1948, Ford’s truck has increased in quality and style over the decades, with the manufacturer paying close attention to the requests of its customers. Having sold 35 million cars over the past six decades, the F Series tops the bill of Ford’s cars, and sales are far from slowing, with the manufacturer recently expanding their production plants.

  1. Toyota Corolla

Cars sold: 40 million

Notable births in the year 1966 include Mike Tyson, David Cameron, Helena Bonham Carter, and the Toyota Corolla. Since taking its first Bambi-like steps off the production line, the Corolla has found its feet as the world’s automotive sweetheart, with over 40 million sold to date, and a further 300,000 expected to sell this year alone, and we are proud to dub it the undisputed Most Popular Car in the Universe Ever.

The Corolla is so loved for its reliability, strong engine, and superb build quality, and in every new iteration, Toyota refine and tweak their flagship car, keeping it at the front of the pack and fending off any usurpers to its automotive throne. With the 11th generation Corolla released last year to rapturous acclaim, it looks as though this trend will continue for many years to come.

Author: Dan Hackett