WHEELS Car of the Year is the longest continually-running motoring award in the world.
Since the very first award was handed out in 1963, there have been a number of moments which stand out as more entertaining, impressive, or controversial than others.
Here, we’ll run through some of the COTY moments worth a revisit ahead of this year’s winner being announced on January 30:
1. Blowing down the doors at Colonial Stadium
The year was 2000, and Wheels decided to do something special to show off its latest Car of the Year winner, the second-gen Subaru Impreza.
Colonial Stadium (now named Marvel Stadium) in Melbourne was to be the site of the big reveal, and Wheels had cooked up an extravagant idea for revealing the winner – we’d use a helicopter to lower it into the centre of the stadium.
Needless to say, things didn’t go to plan, as the downwash from the chopper blew away everything that wasn’t properly bolted down. Promo hoardings were beaten to destruction and needless to say, it was a stunt that we never saw fit to repeat.
2. No winners
Controversy at Car of the Year doesn’t get much bigger than in both 1972 and 1979 when no award was given.
Wheels shocked readers in ‘72 when it decided to withhold COTY.
“The guidelines laid down for the award require that the car must present a significant product advance,” Wheels said at the time. “None of the cars released really achieved this criterion.”
This was despite fresh metal such as the first truly Aussie Ford Falcon, the XA, along with the Cortina, Morris Marina, and the Datsun 180B all being released that year.
It happened once more in 1979, with Wheels rubbing salt into the wounds of that year’s crop of contenders with a now iconic four-wheeled lemon cover and the simple headline “No Wheels Car of the Year.”
Ford felt hard done by with the decision, having put its hopes on the fresh XD Falcon taking home the award after missing out with the XA.
Wheels Car of the Year 2019: the judging criteria
3. Toyota vs Wheels
Despite being one of the biggest car manufacturers both in the world, and locally, Toyota has had a rough record at Wheels Car of the Year. The Japanese giant won its first COTY nod in 2012 in a joint effort with Subaru for the 86/BRZ twins.
Things got heated between Toyota and Wheels in 2008, when then-Wheels editor Ged Bulmer put a Toyota Kluger on its roof during testing.
Bulmer and Wheels blamed the Kluger’s ESC for the crash, Toyota blamed driver error.
The Kluger earned the unceremonious title of being the first vehicle to suffer a rollover during COTY testing, something no car has done since.
4. Renault wins the first ever COTY
Genesis. In 1963 the Renault 8 became the first ever Wheels Car of the Year winner.
The rear-engined sedan was praised by the inaugural COTY team for its versatility, comfort and French panache.
Since taking the gong at the debut event, Renault has won COTY just once more. In 1970 it took home the spoils with the Renault 12.
For 2019, the French giant probably has its best shot in nearly half a century years with its Alpine performance offshoot. Can the A110 coupe sound La Marseillaise this time round?
5. Ford’s home-grown SUV makes history
Recent winners the Mazda CX-9 and Volvo XC60 have proven that the age of the SUV is well and truly upon us, but back in 2004, Ford proved it was ahead of the curve with the Territory.
The Aussie designed and built family high-rider became the first SUV in history to win Wheels Car of the Year.
Volvo XC60: one year on from its COTY victory
We praised the Territory for its car-like handling, with buyers spoiled for choice too, with RWD or AWD and five or seven seats all on the menu.
It took another 12 years for a SUV to win COTY again.