When Swansway Motor Group was founded 20 years ago the world was a very different place, Paula Radcliffe had just set a new marathon world record, Blockbuster video was in its prime and Michelle McManus had just won pop idol (kids ask your parents). Cars have also experienced a world of change, remember CD players and wind-down windows? 2003 wasn’t just a great first year for Swansway Motor Group but for the motor industry in general; from the return of a timeless classic to the beginnings of an era-defining vehicle, or the final production of the fourth most important car of the 20th century. We’ve put together a list of iconic cars which hit the roads for the first time in 2003.
The first car released in 2003 was unveiled at 0:01 on the 1st of January 2003, and it was a little bit special. When Rolls Royce announced its Phantom VII, the automotive world sat up with serious interest. The Phantom VII was the first Rolls of the BMW era, an achievement many felt would never be reached due to its primary focus on aero engineering as well as the contractual complications between BMW and Volkswagen Group. 20 years on, Rolls-Royce have released their first fully electric vehicle, the Spectre, and has even ventured into the world of SUVs. Yet the Phantom lives on, now into its 8th edition; unlike Michelle McManus was recently a guest panellist on Loose Women.
2003 saw another classic British brand produce its own piece of something new. The Jaguar RD-6 was a hatchback concept car which had people wondering if Jaguar was about to change direction. Jaguar was struggling in 2003, they didn’t have the rapid F-Type that they do currently, nor the immensely popular E-Pace. Essentially, Jaguars weren’t competing with their German counterparts, but the RD-6 began the roadmap back to glory . The RD-6 was radical but undoubtedly good to look at and laid some foundations for what would become the XF. Interestingly, a striking component of the RD-6 was the diesel engine powering it, back then diesel was the up-and-coming force, how times change!
Despite diesel being all the rage in 2003, there were still murmurings that the future may be electric. Or at least there were in Japan. Following the arrival of the Toyota Prius in 1998, Honda threw their hat into the hybrid ring. The Civic Hybrid looks unrecognisable from the Civics’ of 2023 however, the hybrid engine powering it made even Paula Radcliffe look mediocre when it came to running efficiency. Nowadays every Honda vehicle is Hybrid or fully electric, if only Blockbuster had learned to move with times as well.
If the Civic Hybrid was Paula Radcliffe, this next car was the 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning England team. Snarling, powerful and rapid. The Audi RS6 had arrived.
On the 26th of November 2003, Concorde concluded its final flight but as the supersonic passenger jet bid farewell to the skies, there were a few rocket ships burning rubber on land. The Ferrari Enzo was built to pay homage to “Il Grande Vecchio”, Enzo Ferrari, who founded the most famous team in motorsport. Appropriately then, the Enzo was the road-legal car to feature F1 spec and was built for absolute speed. The fastest car of 2003 could do 0-60mph in just 3.3 seconds and could reach speeds of 218mph. Only 400 were ever made, with the 400th being gifted to Pope John Paul but drivers would have to part ways with £378,681. The lowest resale price for an Enzo was $ 1.2 million, which is a lot of money for a car which had no aircon or glove compartment. What it did have, however, was ceramic calliper breaks, the first in a Ferrari, as well as the power of 651 horses under the bonnet.
True to form McLaren had a response to the Ferrari. While both teams battled it out at the top of Formula 1 in 2003, they were also competing on the roads as Mercedes and McLaren celebrated their recent F1 merger by announcing the SLR. The SLR did 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds establishing itself as the Enzo’s closest rival. Mercedes was responsible for the styling of the car; McLaren took care of everything else. The SLR was clinical, clean, and sophisticated. Today the SLR is no longer being built however, there are still plenty in circulation.
While the SLR was clinical, the Lamborghini Gallardo was crazy. The second Lambo to be released under Audi ownership was named after a famous breeder of fighting bulls and this car grabbed you by the horns! Although the Gallardo was taken off the production line in 2013, it is the best-selling Lamborghini ever. 20 years after its release it featured in the film Fast X showing it remains cool today, just like the films?
While 2003 marked the beginning of many cars, the manufacturing of one incredibly iconic car was coming to an end. The Volkswagen Type-1, or Beetle, as you probably know was taken off the production line in 2003. The last of 21,529,464 Volkswagen Beetles built since 1945 was built on the 30th of July 2003. From 1988-2003 the classic beetle was only available In Mexico as its rear-mounted engine no longer met emission standards in the EU or USA. At the turn of the century, the beetle was voted as the fourth most influential car of the 20th century. In 2023, the beetle’s legacy lives on, as it provided the initial framework for the Porsche 911.
While Paula Radcliffe may have decided to hang up her running shoes since 2003, Swansway is bigger than ever. The group now runs 26 sites across 7 locations selling a multitude of cars each one more different than the other, a bit of a step up from the 3 sites selling petrol-only cars 20 years ago. But while the cars are different and the company has grown, the family values underpinning the company remain the same as they continue to give back to the community and help every member of the Swansway family feel valued.