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With this year’s FIFA World Cup group stages in full swing, many fans around the globe are in the grip of football fever. Others couldn’t care less about 22 men kicking a ball around. But no matter your perspective on football, you’ll want to see this particular world cup event.
AutoClassics is deciding which nation built the greatest, most timeless classic car with a tournament mirroring its football equivalent, the Classic Car World Cup. It’s all down to you, our audience, to decide which nation wins.
The best part? You can win a pair of weekend tickets to this year's Silverstone Classic worth £240 for playing along! Featuring Formula 1 cars, GTs, touring cars & more with free paddock access, it's a must-see classic car event which you can't afford to miss.
- New AutoClassics cars for sale area at 2018 Silverstone Classic
- Top five cars of historic World Cup legends
- View cars for sale with a football provenance
Participation for the Classic Car World Cup is easy. Enter our contest on your preferred social media channel, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, following instructions for each. And yes, you can enter in all three to triple your chances of winning!
Be sure to vote in our knockout stage polls across all three social media platforms too - an opportunity to influence the outcome and make sure your chosen car and nation win!
Classic Car World Cup - the contenders
Russia is represented by a Lada Riva, an icon of Russia’s automobile industry. Bested only by Volkswagen’s Beetle and Ford’s Model T in terms of numbers sold, the Riva is a Fiat 124-based people’s car, selling almost 3 million units in its three decade lifespan.
Saudi Arabia isn’t exactly known for its history of car production, so it’s little surprise the country’s first natively designed and manufactured car, the Ghazal-1 SUV made by King Saud University students, came only in 2010. Instead, we’ve gone for a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman, a car once owned by King Khalid of Saudi Arabia from 1980 until his death in 1982.
Egypt is represented by the Ramses II, a state-led automotive project born from a desire for self-sufficient car industry rather than being reliant on imported vehicles. However, it was still based on a foreign platform, with mechanical and electrical parts borrowed from the NSU Prinz. They were all built by hand, meaning only five units could be produced per day! - Eliminated after group stage
Uruguay’s representative in our Classic Car World Cup is coincidentally also an NSU Prinz derivative, the NSU P10. Nordex SA designed a new body for the Prinz, a successor to the firm’s first in-house body design for its predecessor, the NSU P6. Before that, Uruguay had produced only knock-down kits for Citroën’s iconic 2CV and Peugeot 403. - Eliminated after group stage
Morocco has been home to Renault car manufacturing since 1966, when government-backed SOMACA (Société Marocaine de Constructions Automobiles) secured a contract to build Renault vehicles in its Casablanca plant. The Renault 4 was one of the first to be assembled by SOMACA, built in plentiful numbers and still available from upwards of £1,500 in the Moroccan used-car market.
Iran’s home-grown motoring icon is based upon British roots. A Rootes Arrow – known to most as the Hillman Hunter – was also used as a base for the Iran Khodro Paykan. Elsewhere on earth production ceased in 1979, but Iran kept pumping out new examples of its Paykan until 2005. Deviations from Rootes’ stock knock-down kit included replacing its original engine with a Peugeot 504-based unit, plus an in-house designed pick-up truck body option. - Eliminated after group stage
Portugal’s native car industry is somewhat thin, discounting PSA Groupe’s Mangualde Plant that manufactured most Citroën models during the 1960s and beyond. Instead, we’ve gone for the Alba, designed and manufactured by Portuguese racing driver António Augusto Martins Pereira in 1952. Its chassis was based upon a Fiat 508 C, and its original Fiat donor engine was later replaced by a self-designed 1490cc Alba unit.
Spain had its first foray into national automotive manufacturing with SEAT’s debut model, the four-door 1400 sedan. Initial examples were knock-down kits imported from Fiat, its 1400 nomenclature a nod to the Fiat model it was based upon, although over time more Spanish-made components were introduced. - Eliminated after group stage
France gave us a selection headache for our Classic Car World Cup pick. There are too many sublime classics with deep, rich histories to choose from! We tried to choose a vehicle we felt embodied its men’s national football team – capable of being stylish and suave, but also rather dramatic and sometimes unreliable. A Citroën SM seemed the perfect choice, with its iconic aerodynamic design, hydro-pneumatic suspension and Maserati V6.
Australia had long been dominated by two brands, Ford and Holden. Their fierce rivalry played out on Mount Panorama’s famous Bathurst 500 and 1000-mile races, which our selection for Australia won in 1971. Ford’s Falcon XY GTHO Phase III was its top-of-the-line offering that year, a homologation special built identical in specification to the Bathurst 500 and Australian Touring Car Championship-winning Falcon of famed Canadian-Australian racing driver Allan Moffat.
Peru’s first automobile was built exactly 100 years ago. Juan Alberto Grieve came from a family of engineers, his grandfather having emigrated from Scotland years before. As imported foreign cars typically turned out only 6-8bhp in the early 1900s, they were ineffective anywhere other than Peru’s national capital Lima, thus Grieve built a 20bhp motor and a chassis to mate it with. When then-President Leguía dismissed Grieve’s project out of hand, a shot at the country’s own home-grown car industry disappeared along with it. - Eliminated after group stage
Denmark is a nation whose forays into home-grown car manufacturing are much newer. Zenvo were founded in 2004, and by 2009 had starting producing the ST1, a twin-charged V8 producing 1108bhp. Sounds promising, yet when Top Gear stretched its legs it caught fire before lapping slower than a BMW M5. An ST1 then burst into flames again in 2015 at the Copenhagen Historic Grand Prix. Zenvo’s baptism of fire was much more literal than expected. - Eliminated after group stage
Argentina is represented by a car that will look awfully familiar to Brits. The Siam Di Tella 1500 is a near-straight copy of BMC’s Riley 4, albeit with rear-end styling taken from the Riley’s close neighbour, the Austin A55 Cambridge. Much like Iran Khodro’s adaptation of the Hillman Hunter, Siam Di Tella designed a pick-up variant dubbed the Argenta. - Eliminated after group stage
Iceland has never had a home-built automotive industry, although an all-terrain 4x4 by Ísar Torveg has been stuck in its design phase for several years. Instead we’ve gone for something Iceland’s locals entrusted to cope with their wild geography for many years, the Toyota Land Cruiser. Pre-financial crash it was the second-best selling car in Iceland, behind only another Toyota model, the Yaris.
Croatia will forever be able to claim itself a pioneer of electric supercars. Rimac Automobili designed and built eight models of its Concept One, packing the equivalent of 1224bhp from its batteries. It set a new Goodwood Festival of Speed hillclimb record for electric vehicles in 2017, a 54.89s run making it faster than an Aston Martin Vulcan AMR. Not bad at all.
Nigeria was once home to a Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Ojo, on the outskirts of capital city Lagos. Though it assembled knock-down kits for Beetles and Jettas, there was also a brief period in which it produced examples of the second-generation Audi 100, our pick for the country’s Classic Car World Cup representative. - Eliminated after group stage
Costa Rica was one of several countries that benefitted from General Motors’ Basic Transportation Vehicle project in the early 1970s, making its way mostly to Asian and South American countries like Malaysia, the Philippines, Paraguay and Ecuador. Technomotor spun up its own BTV-producing factory, dubbing its version of GM’s knock-down kit the Amigo. It owes most of its components, including its 1256cc engine, to the Bedford HA van. - Eliminated after group stage
Serbia is represented by a Yugoslavian-built iteration of Opel’s mainstream Kadett D model, the IDA-Opel Kadett. Industrija Delova Automobila built several Opel models, namely the Ascona, Senator, Corsa, Vectra and Omega in Kikinda, assembling 38,700 cars in total over 15 years. Of all the models, we picked the oldest and arguably nicest looking, the Kadett D. - Eliminated after group stage
Brazil is known for its fancy, fluid football, yet its most iconic vehicle is a polar opposite to such flair. Volkswagen had transformed its fortunes with the Beetle, and further extended this success with its Brazilian variant, the Fusca. Production lasted all the way through to 1996, albeit with a brief pause in the late 1980s, pumping out 3,350,000 models. It’s so popular it even has its own day of celebration, Dia Nacional do Fusca, on January 20 every year.
Switzerland’s automotive industry is a bit unusual. Scarred by a ban on all forms of motor sport since 1955 due to the infamous Le Mans tragedy that year, car design and production have mostly been left to zany concept models from the likes of Sbarro and Rinspeed. We’ve gone with one particular concept from the latter, the Yello Talbo. Built in 1996, it was a rather mad evocation of Talbot-Lago’s beautiful 1938 T150 SS and, as the name suggests, was painted in a garish bright yellow. Eye catching yes, but not for the right reasons – unlike the car from which it sought inspiration.
Germany left us spoilt for choice, unsurprisingly. How do you pick out a single vehicle from so many iconic classics, with Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW among others all available to choose from? We could have picked an early Porsche 911, but with Volkswagen’s Ferdinand Porsche-designed Beetle/Fusca already chosen for Brazil, instead we went with Mercedes-Benz’s 300SL Gullwing. Only a handful of cars on earth can rival its beauty, making it a strong choice.
Mexico is a little short on home-designed and manufactured classics, forcing us to go a little more modern with our selection. In 2011 design studio Mastretta produced the MXT, a lightweight 930kg sports car powered by a 2.0L turbocharged four-pot engine producing 246bhp. No fewer than 25 cars were made at $60,000 a pop until Mastretta’s demise from financial difficulties in 2014. - Eliminated after group stage
Sweden had a strong, obvious candidate for a Classic Car World Cup representative. Yes, there was also Saab and Koenigsegg’s mid-1990s CC prototype to pick from, but the Volvo Amazon is as iconic as Swedish motoring gets. Treated well, an Amazon can outlast almost any other motor, while also doing a good job of protecting its occupants thanks to being the first car to offer three-point seatbelts as standard. It seems fair to describe it as a bastion of classic motoring, making it a strong contender for Classic Car World Cup success.
South Korea’s main car marques have only recently gained mainstream acceptance in Western markets. As Hyundai first tried to make its mark on the world stage, it employed Italdesign Giugiaro to create a body design, employed several British Leyland engineers, recycled some bits from the Ford Cortina and bought in mechanicals from Mitsubishi, all to create the Pony. The model might not have had the desired effect straight away, but it wasn’t a bad attempt at South Korea’s first mass-produced car. - Eliminated after group stage
Belgium was a tough one for us to choose given a lack of options. Racing driver Tony Gillet developed his first eponymous Vertigo model in 1994, but we went back a little further for our pick. Instead, we’ve gone for the Apal Coupé, designed in Liège by Edmond Pery. Although it was nothing more than a rebodied Volkswagen Beetle, Pery’s glassfibre body design had enough style to turn the humble Beetle into a visually appealing sports car, featuring headlight clusters reminiscent of an Alpine A110’s.
Panama required us to get somewhat inventive with our choice for its Classic Car World Cup representative. Running through not just Panama but all of Central America is the Pan-American Highway, an uninterrupted series of roads running from Prudehoe Bay in northern Alaska to Ushuaia in southernmost Argentina. There is a single stretch missing, however, blocked by the notorious Darién Gap. A pair of near-stock-equipped Range Rovers successfully scaled the Darién Gap’s 250 mile-thick jungle as part of a British Trans-Americas Expedition in 1972, earning the legendary 4x4 a nod to represent Panama here. - Eliminated after group stage
Tunisia’s first mass-produced vehicle came only in 2006 courtesy of Wallyscar. A mini 4x4 buggy with Jeep styling cues, the Izis model was built with an entirely glassfibre body and equipped with a 1.4L Peugeot engine, at a cost of $13,400. A 16-hour production time per car meant only 600 units per year were produced. - Eliminated after group stage
England is far more spoiled for choice in our Classic Car World Cup than in the ongoing FIFA World Cup. Gareth Southgate will wish he had as much bench depth as we do for our classic car selection. Despite a wealth of options potentially causing us a headache, it was surprisingly easy to select a Jaguar E-type to fly the St George’s flag. Little needs to be said to justify this choice, although we’ll throw in its repeated nomination as the most beautiful car of all time in multiple ‘best of’ lists just in case.
Colombia has no outright vehicle manufacturers, but for a period it did get stuck on a mass-production scale, thanks to Bogotá-based Compañía Colombiana Automotriz. A brief flirtation with Peugeot and a little under a decade spent building Fiats, it was Mazda’s turn to move in, spending 32 years building everything from 323s to Titan trucks. We’ve gone for the Mazda B2000 pick-up truck, a particularly popular model to come from its former Bogotá plant.
Japan was another tough country to select from, spoiled by a wealth of Skylines, Supras, Imprezas, Lancers, NSXs, RX-7s et al to come from the land of the rising sun. Few Japanese cars can match the Toyota 2000GT for rarity and value, however, while its smooth curves puts it in the beauty ballpark of a Jaguar E-type. They’re not cheap, either; one was sold by RM Sotheby’s only days ago for $665,000, making it more expensive than a notoriously pricey Lexus LFA.
Poland was always set to be represented by something from Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych ¬– known to you and I by its acronym FSO – given its 41-year history as Poland’s national automobile manufacturer. Its final design before being privatised and resorting to selling rebadged Daewoos was the FSO Polonez, essentially the same as its long-selling Polski-Fiat 125p but with more attractive bodywork penned by ItalDesign’s Giorgetto Giugiaro. In the end, though, buyers were tempted not by Giugiaro’s penmanship, but rather its knock-down price. - Eliminated after group stage
Senegal left us facing a rather unusual choice. Most vehicles from developing nations are sourced from traditional Western powerhouses, but Senegal’s most prominent home-grown marque brings in knock-down kits from a surprising source. SenIran Auto is, as its name suggests, a subsidiary of Iran Khodro, famous for its Hillman Hunter-based Paykan. Its Paykan replacement, the Samand, is based on a Peugeot 405 platform. That makes it sound older than it is. European production of the 405 ceased in 1997, yet the Samand didn’t even commence production until 2003! - Eliminated after group stage
Image credits: NSU P10 image by Jason Vogel, Siam Di Tella 1500 image by Roberto Fiadone, Opel Kadett image by Niels de Wit, Apal Coupé image by André Ritzinger, Mazda B2000 image by “dave_7”