Featured


Tatra V8The dogma-free zone for automotive commentary.

DTW welcomes comments. We also welcome contributors of long-form articles on any automotive topic.

Here is a drop-down archive of past posts :

We like, we link: The Thinker’s Garage

While looking for details of the Citroen XM, this site turned up, the Thinker´s Garage which ponders “automotive history, design and culture”.

The Lancia Kappa: overseen by Ercole Spada

The Lancia Kappa: overseen by Ercole Spada

Among the recent topics are a look at Tatra, an overview of Chinese car brands and an essay about the Citroen XM. Fiat Chrysler is discussed and there is a nice feature on electric cars and how design and efficiency are related. Clearly the author, Andrew Marshall, takes the same kind of view of cars as we do at DTW.

Theme – Dashboards: Japanese Prestige

I am indebted to Eoin for drawing my attention to the repugnant excess of the Mercedes S-class interior.

2015 Toyota Century interior (screen shot)

2015 Toyota Century interior (screen shot)

This has led me to Japan to investigate their approach to boardroom-level transport. Helping me along the way was an article at The Truth About Cars about the Tokyo car show of 1995 and a live web-page showing Nissan´s offerings then. Apparently the web-page is still live, having been left running in all its 1995 glory these last 19 years. One of the cars on the list was the Nissan President of which I had never heard. With this in mind and Eoin´s article freshly published Continue reading

Interview: Mario Bellini, designer

Not many designers get to venture outside the boundaries that divide the discipline. Mario Bellini is one of them: furniture, architecture, product design and automotive work are all included in his remarkable portfolio. Bellini is the winner of, among others, 8 Compasso d’Oro and prestigious architecture awards including the Medaglia d’Oro conferred  by the President of the Italian Republic.

Mario Bellini

Mario Bellini

Seen from an historical point of view, the activity we call design is a process with as wide a variety of final products as there are material human needs. From that standpoint, product design, architecture, graphics, car design and clothing, for example, would be seen as variations on the theme of working out what form things take to solve a problem. Further, industrial design and architecture would be on an equal footing with all the other branches of design: among which are transport, furniture, interaction and fashion.

It is when viewed historically that architecture is considered the mother of the design disciplines, probably because Continue reading

Theme : Dashboards – The Demise of the Column Shift

A Change for the Worst?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you drive a manual car, where do you look for the gearshift? As a default, central and forward of the front seats. Until the late 1960s, this was not always so. At one time, a piece of bent metal originating directly from the gearbox and capped with a Bakelite knob, was a sign of a cheap car. A better car, a quality car, more often had its gear change mounted on the steering column. This was only logical. This put it in easy reach of the steering wheel and freed up floorspace for a central passenger on the bench seat, or made for a more congenial driving experience when you were with a close friend. Who would have it any other way? Other types of gearboxes, such as torque converter automatics and pre-selectors followed this pattern.

Column shifts appeared in the US from the 1930s. Other countries adopted them to different degrees. They were probably at the height of their popularity in the 1950s, but even that harbinger of the hot saloon, the Alfa Giulia was originally launched in 1962 with a column change. However, tastes changed and, by the mid Sixties in the UK, they were being seen as rather old-fashioned. Sports cars and racing cars Continue reading

Devourer Of Worlds – The Inexorable Rise Of The S-Class

The All New Mercedes-Benz S-Class (2)

Mercedes’ new W222 S-Class is decimating its European and Asian rivals. A renaissance for a declining sector or the beginning of something more seismic? Driventowrite investigates.

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has always been the quintessential Mercedes and the centre of gravity around which the entire Stuttgart-Untertürkheim behemoth pivots. None more so than today’s W222 series; which if current sales are a reliable barometer, is shaping up to be the fastest selling iteration in the model’s history. Continue reading

Theme: Dashboards – 2011 Nissan Moco

A lot of expense can go a long way to making an uninteresting dashboard design seem acceptable. Soft touch plastics, chrome trim, lots of accessories: throw all that at some shapes and maybe the customer won´t notice how boring their car interior really is. [Images courtesy of this excellent blog minimally minimal]

2010 Nissan Moco: look at that cloth. It´s brilliant.

2010 Nissan Moco: look at that cloth. It´s brilliant.

The 2011 Nissan Moco is a kei-car and that means it’s small and cheap. The designers couldn´t use costly tricks and so did it the hard way: careful and creative styling.

Continue reading

Extreme rustproofing the Danish way

The Danish climate is tough on older cars, especially those designed for drier climates. One solution is complete after-market galvanisation. Look at this Citroen 2CV to see how it appears when so treated….

Galvanised 2CV in Aarhus, Denmark

Galvanised 2CV in Aarhus, Denmark

There are two 2CV specialists in Jutland, one is the Danish 2CV Centre and the other is the 2CV Expert. One of these two offers a complete galvanising option on refurbished 2CVs. The Danish 2CV Centre has a museum which I have not visited. I had a look at this car which seems to have undergone the maximum degree of protection but has not been painted. The robust style is consistent with the 2CV´s character and one wonders why Citroen didn´t think of offering this option for Scandinavia where the weather is bad and the road-speeds low. The car still had signs of rust on it here and there. That says more about the climate in Denmark than the value of galvanisation, I would say.

Death´s Revolving Door: More Saab/NEV News

The rumours discussed earlier this month that Mahindra might be about to step in and invest in NEV (“the troubled Swedish car maker” in journalese) are nearing confirmation.

More interior room than a Rolls-Royce, so said the advertising copy. (1986 Saab 9000).

More interior room than a Rolls-Royce, so said the advertising copy. (1986 Saab 9000).

Automotive News reported. Their news came from the Financial Times. The article said that “Mahindra wants to acquire the remnants of Saab to accelerate its expansion into Western markets and into premium and electric cars”. Mahindra is slated to take a controlling stake in National Electric Vehicle. The brand name associated with the assets involved is not necessarily included in the deal. It would be nice if the Saab name could be used, and ideally, a competitive and innovative line of cars produced in due course. An alternative power source would be the kind of thing that would be consitstent with Saab´s roots and if Saab were to nod to their customary styling cues, that would be so much the better. Aerodynamism and electric propulsion would seem to naturally go hand in hand.

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 12

0000471_xjs-red-36

Phase three – 1981-1986: The Legend Grows Old Waiting

During autumn 1983, Jaguar did in fact launch an AJ6-engined car to the press. The 3.6 litre XJ-S was offered in the familiar coupé bodyshell and an all-new drophead two seater version. Both were powered by the new AJ6 unit in full-fat 225 bhp 24-valve form. The British motoring press devoted large amounts of copy to the introduction – this being the first all-new Jaguar engine since the V12 in 1971. Expectations were high – especially given the peerless refinement of the larger-displacement unit. The fact that this engine would be the mainstay power unit for XJ40 only lent its introduction greater significance.  Continue reading

Peter Stevens on electric cars

Peter Stevens has asked if electric cars need a new form language. His contention is that at present they either look conventional like the Tesla, or have “a strange self-righteous appearance”. What else does he say?

1900 Lohner Porsche: "Lohner Porsche cars used electric motors mounted within the wheels. That eliminated the weight and friction of a conventional drivetrain. "

1900 Lohner Porsche: “Lohner Porsche cars used electric motors mounted within the wheels. That eliminated the weight and friction of a conventional drivetrain. “

Stevens´article first appeared at www.formtrends.com but is also republished at Car Design News.  In the article he makes the claim that while electric power might suit busses and van-like vehicles, the format presents too many conflicting requirements to work well: “The batteries are huge and heavy and like to sit together like school friends; they become very inefficient if they are spread around the car so rather than liberating the designer they Continue reading

Theme : Dashboards – The Fiat Multipla

A Clever Clown at a Conference of Dull Suits?

Multipla 5

I won’t detail my admiration for the concept and design of the 1999 Fiat Multipla here. Suffice it to say that if you don’t get it and, if you can only go ‘aargh it’s so frigging ugly’, you are wrong. I realise that you are a fine person in all other things but, in the matter of one of the few original and worthwhile cars of the past 30 years, you are sadly misguided.

But here we shall confine ourselves to the Multipla’s dashboard. Somewhere on the web, another misguided soul has posted something on the 10 Strangest Car Dashboards with “If you think the dashboard is ugly, you should see the exterior…..”. But is it strange, is it weird, is it ugly?

Continue reading

Fiat’s Nightmare Continues – Sales Are Up

500m

Despite well-publicised woes, Fiat is actually doing decent business in the lower reaches of the European market, with 2014 sales figures suggesting a recovery – well, of sorts… Continue reading

God is in the Details : 2015 Subaru WRX STi

God is in the details, as Mies Van der Rohe said. Subaru´s recent WRX STi has attracted my attention with an engineering choice that deserves respect.

2015 Subaru WRX STi

2015 Subaru WRX STi

I have two reasons for this article. One is the subject itself, Subaru´s devotion to steering quality, and two is to make up for our neglect of the brand. During our recent foray into engines, DTW failed rather spectacularly to mention Subaru who have championed boxer engines on the grounds that these make for a car with a lower centre of gravity, to the benefit of handling among other boons. As LJK Setright noted, lowering the centre of gravity is a more effective means to ensure stability than Continue reading

A photo for Sunday

Sunday is a day of reflection. DTW would like to offer this image as the subject for today´s consideration.

1984 Mercedes duoThe two cars are 1983 Mercedes W123´s: a 230 CE and a 280 CE. Both are the same colour whose proper name I don´t know.  These park on my street and are owned by two people who don´t know each other. What a strange coincidence.  Continue reading

Weekend Number Crunching: Renault

Renault´s November sales figures have been released. Good or bad or what? 

Among the 75% of smaller cars that make up Renault´s UK sales, is the Zoe.

Among the 75% of smaller cars that make up Renault´s UK sales, is the Zoe.

Renault UK released their latest sales figures on Wednesday. The headline, as they present it, is that their sales are still increasing, a 20 month upward trend. They make the point that their percentage change is ahead of the general market trend too. They sold 61,172 vehicles in the year to date, which is almost a 50% improvement on last year. 5,586 of those were sold in November. The biggest contributor to this increase is probably the popularity of the Continue reading

Theme: Dashboards – Toyota´s subtle game

Little credit goes to Toyota´s designers for their contribution to dashboard design. Let´s change that and reconsider the seventh generation of the Corolla, the E100, on sale from 1991 to 1995.

1993 Toyota Corolla interior (EU model).

1993 Toyota Corolla interior (EU model).

Toyota has always carefully controlled the extent to which the fashions of the times have influenced its dashboards´appearance. Corolla customers are such that they want the car to be as unobtrusive as possible and perhaps they are even unaware of this powerful desire. For any designer to make a shape that meets this requirement is far from easy. It is like designing unspoken rules, design for the tacit. To do what designers often do, driven by ego, is to seek Continue reading

Downgraded from Economy

This wasn´t what I expected.

A rented vehicle.

A rented vehicle.

At the very least, a rental car offers the chance to drive something new even if it´s not the car of your dreams or as good as your normal vehicle. On my recent visit to Baden Wuerttemburg I´d expected to be driving a Ford Ka. This didn´t excite me very much but, as I said, it was a new car and not something I´d otherwise experience. To my disappointment, I lost the car rental roulette. All the proper cars were out and this left me with an ageing diesel Ford Transit Connect. Worse, it was one doing double duty as a mobile advertisement. I am not convinced putting this many ads on the side of the car is going to win a single customer. When is anyone going to spend the five minutes standiing directly in front of such an unappealing sight as this to be able to take in the text. Reinigungsdienst Frick in Bad Bellingen offer a great service. Compounding the offence, not only was the car ugly to look at from the outside, the view from within was darkened by the pasting of the ads over the rear passenger windows.

It would be efficient of me to offer some driving notes on the Ford Transit but I won´t. I can report that it´s very big inside, as I remember it from 2004.

The car was cheap to hire though. That´ll offset the fine I am expecting for triggering a speed camera in Basel.

Theme : Dashboards – The Rover P6

An Ignored Classic

Rover V8 IntIn Simon’s introduction he mentions the original P6 Rover dashboard, and I think this merits more scrutiny. The P6 Rover ceased production in 1977, ending its life as a British Leyland product built in 2.2 and 3.5 litre forms, and viewed as a rather staid design with a latterly gained reputation for poor build quality.

The Granddaddy of the modern 2 Litre?That isn’t what it deserved, but it had lived far too long. Casting back to its launch, 14 years previously, as the 2000 of the then independent Rover company, it was a well made car and a fresh, new design by any standards, a radical departure for that company. It drew inspiration from the Citroen DS, but in no way slavishly copied it. Of its many fine points, much was made at the time of its ergonomically designed interior. The term ergonomics, the scientific study of the interaction of the human body with an industrial product, had been around for several years, but this was one of its first outings as a selling point to the general public.

Continue reading

Death´s Revolving Door is now spinning: they are digging up Saab again.

Automotive News has reported another turn of the swing door in Trollhattan.

1980 Saab-Lancia 600

1980 Saab-Lancia 600

Those of you keen on re-gravedigging will have been following the death-rebirth-death-rebirth of Saab. At this point the cycle is akin to an automotive version of Buddhist re-incarnation except Saab keeps coming back as an about-to-die brand. The last news (May) was that some of Saab´s putative investors declined to throw more money into the open grave in Trollhattan and the stake was once again hammered into Saab´s turbo´d heart.  Continue reading

2014 Citroen DS3 – Quick Review

The silver lining to having a car that spends more time than one would like “being serviced” is that one usually gets a courtesy car to try whilst one’s (un)faithful steed is being restored to full health. 

 DS3ext

Previously, I’ve written about how a “lowly” Ford Fiesta provided in such circumstances proved to be one of the nicest drives that I have ever experienced; today it is the turn of the DS3. Continue reading

Theme : Dashboards – be careful what you wish for

Today a certain homogeneity has swept over automotive design, both inside and out.  For a long time before this it was routine to mock the over-wrought interiors favoured by US luxury makers and below we have an example of what the target of this derision looked like.

1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d'Elegance

1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d’Elegance

These days, while recognising that the 1991 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d’Elegance is most likeable as an ironic statement, it is true to say one could miss the diversity in automotive design that was available then. For some people this was Continue reading

Something Rotten in Denmark: 1998 Chrysler Stratus

The Chrysler Stratus: all the bad qualities of American cars, Japanese cars and European cars rolled into one unappetising shape. In 1995 these cars had the power to thrill.

How to sell a car´s charms

How to sell a car´s charms

This car has two claims to our attention today. The first is that in the cold light of day, it is hard to believe this car and its almost identical stable-mates were nominated on Car & Driver´s 10 best list. I wasn´t aware of this at the time. The second reason I´m drawn to it is because it was the first car I was ever paid to review**.  I wrote 1000 words and saw the editor chop out 200 of them, more or less killing the nuances of the text stone dead. I wanted to write a Continue reading

Theme : Dashboards – Introduction

The Editor Dashes Off an Intro

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The first car dashboard to be noted was, probably, the eponymous one used in the Curved Dash Oldsmobile of 1901. However this simply referred to the low barrier at the front of the car that stopped dirt and stones being ‘dashed’ up against the occupants, and which had been inherited entirely from the world of horses and carriages.

As motoring progressed, the position of the dashboard rose literally and it became the natural place to position controls and gauges. Bearing in mind the importance of ensuring safe progress, it might be thought that dashboard design would be pursued with technical rigour, but this has seldom been the case.

Both the term ‘ergonomics’ and its practice Continue reading

Theme : Books – The Observer’s Book of Automobiles for 1963

DTW Considers a Well-Thumbed Volume

Observers

As Simon has pointed out in his excellent introduction, there was a time when information did not exist at your fingertips. Back then, you had to go out and find it or, if you wanted it to come to you, you needed to invest in as much printed reference material as you could afford. As an 11 year old, I had not yet discovered the world of motoring books, and it’s unlikely that my pocket money could have supported such an addiction, so what I knew of cars was what I picked up from a knowledgeable friend of my parents who was restoring a Bentley 3 Litre (the sort of thing that people did in their garages back then) who loaned me about ten years back issues of Motor Sport and what I read in the pages of Autocar, which came through the letterbox once a week.

Continue reading

Ashtrays

Some of us smoke. Some of us don´t. Some want to smoke and can´t. All of us here drive and have ash or small coins to store somewhere. This means we all have some interest in ashtrays in cars.

1995 Buick Riviera interior

1995 Buick Riviera interior

As regular members here know, I drive an elderly Citroen. Apart from a graunchy gearchange and dangerously pointy doors, it´s the ashtray that causes me the most dissatisfaction. The ashtray is well sized and illuminated by a nice green lamp that creates a ghostly wonderland of cigar ash as I travel about the land under the cover of darkness. I´d call this a selling point.

Continue reading

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 11

Egan and Lyons

Phase three – 1981 – 1986: Free at Last

When John Egan got in contact with Sir William Lyons in 1981 to establish whether the Jaguar founder would be interested in taking on the role of company President, he was somewhat startled by Lyons’ response. “I already am, lad!”, Lyons informed him; something amid the turmoil of the previous eight years everyone appeared to have forgotten.  Continue reading

2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti Ecoflex roadtest

The Opel Zafira Tourer went on sale in late 2011 as an addition to the Opel family, rather than a replacement for the existing Zafira. That remains on sale as a cheaper, smaller MPV, albeit in facelifted form. DTW gained access to a Zafira Tourer Ecoflex, with a 2.0 diesel engine fitted with stop/start technology. Read on for a short review…

2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti

2014 Opel Zafira 2.0 CDti

The Zafira does such a good job it is hard to write about the car´s demerits without seeming to make too much of rather small details. All the good points can fly past unnoticed since getting it right is often just a way to go unnoticed.

From the outside, the Zafira makes a good case for the MPV format. It has Continue reading

Superman In Milton Keynes

Almost three decades ago, a couple of cheapskate film producers believed they could whisk the quintessential American superhero to Buckinghamshire and people wouldn’t notice. Now Daimler AG is following their example. 

superman_4_en_busca_de_la_paz_1987_3-1024x576

 

Back in the late 1970s, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were the undisputed moguls of Israeli cinema, thanks mainly to the success of their Lemon Popsicle series of raunchy comedies. By the early 1980s, they wanted to enter the big leagues, which meant entering the US market, big time. Golan/Globus invested serious amounts of money in order Continue reading

Audi’s Prologue – Drawing Restraint

audi-prologue-25-970x646-c

Audi has previewed its new styling direction. It hasn’t gone down well.

Judging from the cumulative audience reaction to Audi’s new design direction embodied by the recent Prologue concept, Marc Lichte and his designers may have considerably more work to do if Audi is not to become viewed as creatively becalmed. Continue reading

Midlife Krisis KA

images_ford_ka_1996_1

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in his forties has a higher than average propensity to some form of mid-life introspection. Of course the clichéd route to self-actualisation ranges from an inadvisable tattoo, to an inappropriate affair with a younger member of whichever sex he’s attracted to. A select few experiment with various derivations of the above. The more conventional opt for a sportscar or convertible. After all, just because you’re in the throes of a crisis doesn’t mean you have to be original about it.  Continue reading

The difference between a Mercedes CLA and C-Class? How does £208 per litre sound?

What is the difference between a Mercedes CLA and a Mercedes C-class?
Apart from their prices, that is. I´ve been looking through the spec sheets again.

2014 Mercedes saloon.

2014 Mercedes saloon.

We know that the CLA is a front-wheel drive vehicle, related to the A-class which is now essentially MB’s offering in the Golf/Focus/Astra sector. The C-class is a monument in the automotive firmament, with roots going back to the rear-wheel drive 190E of the ’80s. That car was the first sign that Mercedes was interested in capitalising on its prestige by bringing their quality down to a smaller class of car than they had been offering up to that point. Continue reading

1976 Simca 1307, Chrysler 150 and Talbot 1510 review

“Vive La Difference!” Archie Vicar compares some new products in the family sector, the Simca 1307, the Chrysler 150 and the Talbot 1510.

[It has been drawn to our attention that parts of this article are factually incorrect.]

1976 Simca 1307

1976 Simca 1307

From The Motoring Weekly Gazette, October 1976.

Photography by Terry Loftholdingswood.

Introduction

All of a sudden there are three entirely new cars fresh on the market to rival the Ford Cortina, the Vauxhall Cavalier and the ancient Renault16. From England comes the Talbot 1510: good day, sir! From France, we say bonjour to the Simca 1307. And we say “howdy” to the Chrysler 150 from the Americans. There would appear to be something for everyone´s taste here, I say.

What is the modern family motorist looking for in today´s new contemporary modern car? These three cars are all trying to answer that very question and they prove that, if you want a reliable, sturdy and comfortable car, you don´t automatically have to go to your Ford, BMC or Vauxhall dealership. Continue reading

Theme: Books – Auto And Design

Auto & Design is not quite a book, but it is printed matter and it´s not an advertisement**.

Auto & Design: as glossy as the cars illustrated within.

Auto & Design: as glossy as the cars illustrated within.

For anyone interested in getting some (but not much) insight into the car design process, you can take out a subscription to Auto & Design, one of two long-running automotive design journals. This one hails from Italy and is written in both English and Italian. The other is Car Design, which is Japanese and slightly more technical and academic in its style. Continue reading

The turning of tables: European car sales grow in Korea

DTW has often noted that the Koreans, in the form of Kia and Hyundai, have been selling very competitive products in Europe. But what is happening with European cars in the Korean market?

2014 Renault Samsung SM7: not big in Europe.

2014 Renault Samsung SM7: not big in Europe.

The New York Times reported that Korean will soon be spending more on imported cars than they earn exporting vehicles. Continue reading

1965 Renault 16 review

“Hatchback of Notre Dame” In this transcript the respected motor-tester Mr Archie Vicar dons his beret to try the new Renault “Sixteen”.

1965 Renault 16: it has five doors.

1965 Renault 16: it has five doors.

From Driving Illustrated May 1965.

Photos by Mr Douglas Land-Windermere

Olive oil and garlic in the kitchen, filterless Gitanes in his pocket and a pair of slip-on shoes. We all know the fellow. He likes his “chicken chasseur” and, in the late evening, Jacque Brel croons on his stereophonic record player. Coffee for him, never good old tea. Heaven forbid if the coffee is powdered. Not for this chap a splendid Humber, a stout Riley or even a fine Rover. Such motor cars are not sufficiently sophisticated, too British. Since 1955 the only car for Monsiuer Different has been a Citroen, usually the DS, fitted with its dreadfully overwrought hydropneumatic suspension, fibreglass roof and marshmallow chairs. Continue reading

Glass : It’s Clear to See

Reflections on Glazing

Tinted Windows

The phrase ‘privacy glass’ has always concerned me. Do you have a right to privacy when you are on the public road? Despite my not always restrained driving style, I get on pretty well with my fellow road users. The reason is that I acknowledge my errors and praise other people’s politeness. If someone seems to stop to let me through, even if I suspect they might be dropping someone off or that they are just stopping because the sight of me swinging round the corner and accelerating towards the contended space is too much to bother dealing with, I always wave and smile as though they have done me a fine favour. And I like it when I am on the receiving end. In both cases, I don’t fool myself that we have established a lasting bond, but it’s just a simple acknowledgment that we both share the road and that one of us has taken what the other has been graceful enough to give. This isn’t of course confined to driving, it’s a simple courtesy that can be used throughout life, and that the lack of which is responsible for a great deal of strife. If you can’t manage eye contact with your fellow drivers, you really shouldn’t be sharing the road with them. This is where expanses of smooth clear glass come in and why, cool though you (wrongly) think you look, you can’t bond from behind deep tinted windows. Also, although the driver following me might be focussed half a metre in front of his bonnet, I like to look through the car in front and see what’s coming. I can’t do that through black glass, or sheet metal. Continue reading

Hideous Hides

Now that even modest compact cars can be equipped with stitched leather look for almost every surface imaginable, the upper echelons have to up the cow skin ante – to, in some cases, dubious effect.

2014-aston-martin-vanquish-volante-stitching-photo-521318-s-1280x782

The recent troubles at Aston Martin have almost overshadowed an event that has become a bit of a rarity in recent times: the unveiling of a rather attractive car coming from Gaydon. The automobile in question, the Lagonda Taraf, is – Continue reading

Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?

vauxhall-cascada

Nothing says ‘I’m living the dream’ like driving a convertible. There is no rational or practical reason behind it other than to demonstrate to the world you have reached a point of affluence, crisis or sheer devil-may-care indifference that can only be manifested by driving into a roseate sunset with a piece of inappropriate headwear wedged in place to prevent your hair being ruined. As indulgences go then, convertibles are right up there with chocolate teapots.  Continue reading

Theme : Books – Midnight Plus One by Gavin Lyall

Cars, Guns & Guts, Sixties StyleCover

Having run out of James Bond books (see earlier post), I read this book as a teenager. It’s a well written adventure thriller, but with a narrative that’s very much of its time, presumably with an eye on the then burgeoning Ian Fleming / Len Deighton / John Le Carré market. Gavin Lyall was a crime and spy thriller writer and the husband of the excellent Katharine Whitehorn. He was known for his meticulous research.

What I have always remembered is that, central to a large section of the narrative, is a Citroën DS that takes on an almost heroic status as it takes the first-person protagonist across France. Its starring role was possibly inspired by the true life escape of French President Charles De Gaulle from an OAS assassination attempt in 1962 (see The Day Of The Jackal) where his driver exploited the DS’s unique suspension to accelerate to safety despite having its tyres shot out. This is supposed to have made De Gaulle so loyal to Citroën that he blocked an attempt by Fiat to buy the marque as well as commissioning a new Presidential limousine based on the DS. Continue reading

2016 Honda FCev Design Analysis

In 2013 Honda showed their highly aerodynamic FCev concept car. The production version has been revealed and is surprisingly close in feel to the ’13 car.

2015 Honda FCev

2015 Honda FCev

The objectives with the FCev are for a vehicle to produce 100kW from its fuel-cell stack. and carry four adults. The  aerodynamically creased body shell reduces the cD in an overt way we have not seen for two decades. This promises 300 miles of range, which is not so bad if you recall that the Citroen CX GTi got by with a 280 mile range. If you drive an Aston Martin hard you can get considerably less.  Continue reading

Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 2)

Having looked at the issues besetting the mighty Volkswagen AG (VAG) recently in Part 1 – which can be read here – we can now try and shed some light on the depth of the problems and likely solutions. 

2012_VW_Amarok_Highline_-_Car_Review_(7821014328)

Today, the problem is that these cars are all on the verge of being replaced (or have already been replaced, in the Golf VI’s case). The new range taking their place will, even once the glitches related to MQB have been ironed out, not be as lucrative, with profit margins shrinking by as much as two thirds, compared with the Bernhard-era models. This should make future subsidising of models such as the Amarok pick-up (which is said to have a profit margin of -25%) with the Tiguan II’s yields considerably more difficult. Continue reading

1988 Renault Megane: some thoughts

Recently Driventowrite posted a reminder of Renault´s 1988 concept car, the Megane. It struck me as having distinctly Citroen overtones. 

1988 Renault Megane concept car

1988 Renault Megane concept car

That´s the side view: a very raked bonnet and headlamps set low. Notice the long wheelbase and short rear over-hang. There is also the blacked-out a-pillar. Compare it with the Citroen XM of the next year… Continue reading

Theme : Books – Robert Opron : L’Automobile et l’Art by Peter J Piljman

A book about one of Citroën’s two great designers.

Boek-opron

A while ago, having come across this by chance on the Internet, I bought a new copy direct from Sagitta Press in The Netherlands. First published in 2002, it’s not cheap, but it is a heavy, handsome and copiously illustrated book about a relatively unsung giant of car design.

Most of Robert Opron’s career was, of course, in the French industry. He started at Simca, had a short time out designing bathroom fittings, then joined Citroën where, on the death of Bertoni, he succeeded him as head of styling. This was obviously his golden time where he oversaw the GS, SM and CX in quick succession. Too quick of course since Citroën stretched themselves so far that they got eaten up by Peugeot. The new management courted him to stay, but he declined and moved on to Renault. The cars styled here under Opron might not be as feted as his Citroëns, but the designs he oversaw – Supercinq, 9, 11, Fuego, 25, GTA, Espace, 21, as well as Trafic and Master vans and others – are an interesting mix of the quirky and the rigorously functional and are, I feel, unjustly underrated. FrontIn the mid 80s, he was sidelined as a result of Renault’s ill-fated expansionism into the US market, after which he took up a new post developing designs at Fiat, where he instigated and oversaw the Alfa SZ as well as sketching what became the Lancia Y11and the first Fiat Bravo. He retired in 1992, but carried on doing consultancy work such as microcars for Ligier and, at the time of writing, is in his eighty-second year. Continue reading

1988 Renault Megane – Here’s One They Made Earlier

megane1

Patrick Le Quément’s legacy of convincing, but unrealised Renault concept cars begins here…

Renault seem to have been making attempts to crack the luxury car market for decades now. During the 1970’s they offered us the R30 hatchback – a kind of updated R16 with a V6 engine and luxury trim. It wasn’t a bad car – Continue reading

157 km only: 1984 Lancia Trevi Volumex

Would you dare drive a 30 year old car with only 157 km on the odometer? This Lancia Trevi VX (registered in 1985) is for sale. 

1984 Lancia Trevi

1984 Lancia Trevi

Every now and then a museum-quality rarity shows up. This has to be the oddest I´ve seen in the last few years. Beating an unused 1975 Peugeot 604 (delivery miles) and an 8,000 km 1983 Ford Granada we have this delivery-miles 1984 Lancia Trevi VX, registered in 1985. It´s for sale at mobile.de and if you want to see it, you´ll need to take a trip to Bavaria and head northwest to Affing-Mühlhausen, a town noted mostly for its association with the Wittelsbachs who ruled Bavaria from 1180 to 1918.  You can stay in the Hotel Ludwigshof and Continue reading

Shaping the Future 3: Narayan Subramaniam

DTW has approached another design student to find out what they think. This time we have put questions to Narayan Subramaniam who is a multiple-award winning design student, currently at work on his second MA in design at Umea, Sweden.

[Don´t forget to visit some of our other articles]

Ferrari Impulse Concept

Ferrari Impulse Concept

So, what sort of career has our subject had so far? In 2012 Narayan won the Michelin Design Challenge and his work was shown at the Detroit Motor show. Last year he won the First Moves award. In 2007 he claimed first prize in the All-India Engineering Competition for the best functional prototype. This list is much longer than this selection. Narayan has an impressive portfolio of internships and work placements including Volkswagen, Daihatsu and Mahindra, to name but three. DTW is especially interested in Daihatsu who had an interesting niche in small vehicles. Underpinning Narayan´s design skills is a foundation in mechanical engineering.  We think this is a major advantage in car design as it is often necessary to lock horns with engineers. Often their favourite answer is Continue reading

1987 Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 versus the Rover Sterling and Vauxhall Senator 3.0 CDi

How bad were Jaguar´s quality problems in 1987? And what was Car magazine thinking when the Jaguar won a giant-test against the Rover Sterling and the Vauxhall Senator? The Jaguar was rusting before their eyes. 

1987 Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 automatic, with OEM rust.

1987 Jaguar XJ-6 3.6 automatic, with OEM rust.

On page 129 of the November 1987 edition of Car, there is photo of a door-seal parting company from the door of a Jaguar XJ-6, a new Jaguar XJ-6 provided by Jaguar Ltd for a comparison test. Did they not check before loaning it out? Or was it fine the day it left Brown´s Lane and then rusted in the interim?

In theory, the Jaguar had a lot going for it compared to the Vauxhall and Continue reading

Mercedes-Benz rework their naming systems…again

Naming systems can be confusing. As we speak Cadillac is bringing in a 3-letter system; Lincoln is forgetting its long standing convention of Mk-cars. Who knows what a MKZ might be? And is a Mercedes GLA a G-class or an A-class? Mercedes Benz is having another bash at naming their bewildering array of vehicles. And other news. 

2002 Mercedes Vaneo

2002 Mercedes Vaneo: brand extension at its extendiest.

In philosophy classification has been a problem since Plato, or perhaps before. The difficulty lies in reducing the messy fuzziness of the universe to a few categories. A system needs to be simpler than reality. As you know the universe is infinite and there are an infinite number of objects in it. Does the categorisation system include itself? A finite number of categories, for example, no matter how large, will always be too small to fully encompass all objects in a consistent way such that there are no exceptions or overlaps.  You´d think that categorising the cars you make yourself would be easier since unlike the universe, a range of cars is finite and you are in charge.

No. Mercedes has been making a meal of its classification system for five or six decades, even though they only make a few vehicle types at a time. Now Continue reading

Theme : Books – The Cars of Ian Fleming

Casino

My credentials to write about the cars of Ian Fleming are mixed. In my favour, I had read the entire canon of 14 James Bond books by the time I was 14 and I am, more or less, the same age as the very first Bond book. Against that I’ve never read them since, and that was a long time ago, though it’s a sad reflection on the state of my mind how much I still remember. Ian Fleming was an accomplished writer of children’s stories. Some people forget that he wrote Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, but his best kid’s stories were the ones featuring Commander James Bond of the Secret Intelligence Service. At 14, I was so seduced that I anticipated a life of breakfasting on scrambled eggs, ham and plenty of strong, black coffee following on with a day’s light indulgence in cold-blooded violence, rounding off with lobster thermidor, a ‘49 Montrachet chilled to 37 degrees, fresh alpine strawberries and, later on …….

As I got older, the compromises that this lifestyle would involve caused me to choose another career and I fell out of touch with the literary Bond. Of course, I’ve seen a lot of Bond films a lot of times – they’re all rubbish and I imagine I’ll see them all again. Continue reading