Tales of evo Car of the Year 1998 – evo Archive

Fireworks, film failures and the future of transmissions – our 1998 year-end spectacular had them all

evo Car of the Year is 25 years old, so at such a milestone it seemed appropriate to look back to issue 003 and the maiden Car of the Year. Except it wasn’t really the first CotY. 

‘Here’s to another Perfor… sorry, evo Car of the Year,’ wrote Peter Tomalin at the end of his wonderful introduction (which also, surprisingly, included two lines of Spinal Tap lyrics that end with ‘pink torpedo’). evo magazine was, of course, an independent publishing phoenix rising from the ashes of Performance Car, and Peter was keen that there should be some sense of the baton being passed on. 

‘It was the first time that the whole gang had all been back together under one roof,’ recalls Tomalin as he lays down his quill and takes a break from writing eCoty 2022. ‘I really wanted to talk about the people that were there and tell the story of the test as well as writing about the cars.’

As a reader (it was the first issue that I bought) I distinctly remember feeling that wonderful sense of camaraderie communicated through the pages. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to sit down to breakfast or a beer with everyone in the big farmhouse in Wales that they were all staying in. 

Looking back now, a few things jump out. I think it must be the only eCoty with two pictures of a dog (a King Charles Spaniel, called William) in it. Bizarrely, there are also a few photos of everyone on a bus, which is unexplained in the feature but was apparently just somewhere to shelter from the rain at the old Anglesey track. 

Those photos were, of course, all taken on film (Fujifilm Velvia 100, probably), which occasionally brought its challenges.

‘We got Gus Gregory’s shots in of the M Coupe,’ recalls John Barker, who was editor at the time, ‘and the first frame of cornering was the best, but where it had been held and developed there was a dark, smokey mark on the right of the frame. We had to use it, of course, big, on page 72.’

Back to the words and Peter mentions a Meaden firework display, which I thought might be a euphemism, but apparently did actually involve rockets big enough to get the local RNLI crew checking their pagers. Peter also, for what I think might have been the first time in print, alluded to a set of roads in the shape of a triangle…

‘I remember getting a bit lost in the village at one of the corners of the Triangle,’ says Barker. ‘I took a wrong turn in the 911 and knew I wasn’t on the correct road, but I was having such a good time that I just kept going. No reason, not even driving particularly quickly, but the car was bloody lovely and I had a sort of epiphany that it was going to win the test.’

Which it duly did. The final photo makes it look as though the Ferrari F355 has driven onto the top step of the podium (Harry Metcalfe prophetically declared its F1 paddleshift ‘the future of transmissions’) but it was the Porsche that took the spoils. And I’m not sure a 996 Carrera has received higher praise in the subsequent 25 years than it did in the concluding paragraphs.

‘The latest 911 isn’t just the best 911. Some people think it’s the best supercar, full stop.’ Accolades don’t come more fulsome. And don’t forget, Jethro hadn’t even joined the magazine at that point.

This story was first featured in evo issue 305.

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