Hard to believe there was a time when these ‘personalised’ cars were the object of envy
Loadsamoney. That was the catchphrase of a 1980s Harry Enfield character who had made it big in pound notes, if not grace.
The 1980s was a time when it was good to flaunt your wealth rather than hide it in offshore accounts (though that was doubtless going on too). Gordon Gecko was someone to admire, not despise. And the cars of that time were designed to show everyone choking in their exhaust fumes just how successful you were. Few sills were left un-bodykitted, few bootlids were un-spoilered, few door mirrors un-colour-coded.
Wincing slightly, we’ve rounded up some of the most minging examples of Eighties Excess. Don’t hold it against us.
Chameleon Typhoon (1984)
Underneath this explosion in a fibreglass factory was a Mercedes-Benz 500 SEC, a perfectly decent coupé that somehow attracted the attention of a lot of rich and possibly slightly inadequate men. The add-ons in this case included a wide-wheelarch bodykit, onboard TV and video and a whining supercharger for the 5-litre V8 engine so that bystanders could hear you coming.
Glenfrome 1000 SEL (1984)
Another innocent big Merc blinged up to the gills, this time by Bristol-based spanglemeisters Glenfrome. It started life as a W126-model Mercedes S-Class and, with an extra three feet of metal welded into the middle, became a 1000 SEL. Gold plate was much in evidence. Drug lord owners would be hoping that any more incriminating substances found down the back of the seats would not be used in evidence.
Koenig Boxer (1980)
Willy Koenig had a Ferrari Boxer. It was a special sort of car, but not special enough for Willy, so he handed it over to a tuning and styling crew for a spectacularisation programme. His pals liked it so much, they asked Willy to organise more of the same. Sensing an opportunity, he established his own highly successful Koenig Specials customising shop.
Rinspeed 939 (1983)
Not the sort of vehicle you’d take on the tip run, this white-on-white 939 was the lightbulb moment of Swiss company Rinspeed, a company whose outrageous creations make them a favourite on the car show circuit to this day. This one was a kind of blend of a Porsche 911 Turbo and a 928.
Autocostrizione Salvatore Diomante (1983)
With a name nearly as long as its body, the Italian-built Autocostrizione Salvatore Diomante began as a Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit. They whipped the roof off, which would have done wonders for the handling, and then found a particularly bilious shade of yellow to do the whole thing out in. £200,000 to you sir, yes you with the rhinestone hat.
Hooper Turbo R (1988)
Not quite as vile as some of the other cars on display here, this two-door leviathan resurrected the old Hooper coachbuilding name after a near-30 year hiatus. Hooper put special bodies on both the Silver Spirit and the Turbo R. Only the very rich could apply.
Wood & Pickett Cheltenham 6 (1985)
As the Arabic numberplate on this PR shot shows, there was a particular demand among falconry enthusiasts for what were in fact the first luxury SUVs, in this case Wood & Pickett’s six-wheel drive (and six-figure price-tagged) Cheltenham 6 off-roader.
A.E. Smith Hunting Conversion (1984)
Here’s another quite specialised vehicle, A.E. Smith’s Hunting Conversion. Taking down the client’s brief must have been an exercise in restraint.
Townley Desert Ranger (1984)
Not just substantially longer, but also wider – which is a whole new barrel of worms – the Townley Desert Ranger must have been quite a handful in Knightsbridge’s twiddlier back streets.
Rinspeed R69 (1983)
Featuring Testarossa-style side strakes that would have been a nightmare to keep clean if you didn’t have anybody to do that for you, the R69 was a Porsche 911 for 911 fans who also liked Ferraris.
Exclusive Auto-Design 1000 SEL (1983)
Not sure why they felt it necessary to play around with the classic Mercedes radiator shape on this W126 S-Class-based 1000 SEL, but Exclusive Auto-Design went the whole hog anyway, up to and including a gold-plated hawk’s head gearknob.
B&B 928 cabriolet (1980)
Aha! Something you might actually want to buy. Brothers Rainer and Dieter Buchman set up their B+B company in the 1970s to build hopped-up Porsches for rich clients, but soon moved into Mercedes and Volkswagen territory too. Their 928 convertible makes you wonder why the factory didn’t go down this route.