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

Theme : Hybrids – The Studillac

“Studillac” said Leiter. “Studebaker with a Cadillac engine. Special transmission and brakes and rear axle. Conversion job. A small firm near New York turns them out. Only a few, but they’re a damn sight better sports car than those Corvettes and Thunderbirds. And you couldn’t have anything better than this body. Designed by that Frenchman, Raymond Loewy. Best designer in the world. But it’s a bit too advanced for the American market. Studebaker’s never got enough credit for this body. Too unconventional. Like the car.”

Bill-frick-motors

My youthful enthusiasm for James Bond books meant that I was in awe of the Studillac by the time I was 12 years old and had read Diamonds Are Forever and Goldfinger though, even now, I have never actually seen one.  Though Leiter’s words sound as if they’ve come from a catalogue or a magazine article, like much of his name dropping, Fleming is supposed to have first encountered a Studillac in the US when he made the acquaintance of the wealthy William Woodward Jr in 1954.  A Studillac owner (you can see his endorsement on the above advertisement) Woodward didn’t enjoy his car for long, being shot dead by his wife under murky circumstances the following year. Continue reading

Looking Back: 2001 Volvo S60

The Volvo S60 appeared in 2000, replacing the S70 which had its roots in the 1991 850. About 1800 differences distinguished the rectilinear 850 from the less rectilinear S70. Between them about a million units were sold, which is creditable indeed. In the S60’s nine years it managed 631,000 units.

2001 Volvo S60 is sleek and cramped: www.autos.ca

2001 Volvo S60 is sleek and cramped: http://www.autos.ca

According to the press commentary, Volvo aimed the S60 at drivers, tired perhaps of jibes about how dull their cars were. To express this intent Volvo threw out litres of headroom and interior space as a result of the new car´s more rakish profile. Indeed, it looked good then and does so now but my experience of the two cars is that the S60 is cramped while the S70 is perfect for long drives with a full complement of passengers and luggage. Continue reading

Looking Back: 2001 MG ZT-190

Regular readers of this site know that there are only three natural positions for a product in the car market: luxury, sporting and economy. And?

2001 MG ZT-190: automobiles-sportive.com

2001 MG ZT-190: automobiles-sportive.com

…and don´t get pushed too far from them. That´s the no-man’s land of not very sporty, not very cheap and not very luxurious. The unmarked graves of Lincoln (unfilled at the moment), Saab, Oldsmobile and Lancia are all in that bourne from which no car maker returns. Apart from Saab and Borgward.

On with the story.

When BMW bought Rover they quickly repositioned Rover so it was less about sportiness and more about comfort (which is physical luxury). They also determined that Rovers would be less expensive than BMWs.  At the same time, Rovers always had to be a cut above. Above all, it´s a Rover – that´s one slogan. And later we had “Relax, it´s a Rover.”  The epitome of the Relax Rovers was the 1999 Rover 75 about which a lot has been written. In brief, it seemed to sell quite well despite the skewed focus of its imagery, design and branding. However, it was in that no-man´s land I mentioned earlier. Time to break for the border.

When MG-Rover gained control of their product destiny the first thing they did was to try to Continue reading

Looking Back: 2000 Cadillac Seville STS

Two long running sagas stand out in the automotive world, perennials which still pop up year after year since goodness knows when. One is that of Alfa Romeo´s struggle to get back on the form it showed in 1965. The other is that of Cadillac´s endless quest for credibility in Europe (and then latterly in the US).

2000 Cadillac Seville STS: conceptcarz.com

2000 Cadillac Seville STS: conceptcarz.com

The 2000 Cadillac Seville STS is one of the episodes in Cadillac´s incredibly drawn-out attempts to get away from the form it showed from the 1950s until the mid-1990s, purveyors of ludicrously oversprung land yachts. So, while Alfa Romeo would love some of its 1960s mojo back, Cadillac wants us to forget they did a rather good job of making supremely comfortable and utterly American saloons. Continue reading

Tipo 156 – The Last Alfa Romeo

No, not the one you’re thinking of. This is the last rear-wheel drive Alfa saloon. Or is it?

156.Alfabb.com

A fibreglass styling model of Tipo 156, circa 1983. Image via Alfabb

By 1980, government owned Alfa Romeo was in trouble. The Alfa Sud experiment was unravelling amidst chronic labour unrest and the deteriorating reputation of the model that took its name. In addition, its expensive engineering couldn’t be recouped by its low price and paltry volumes, meaning Alfa was hemorrhaging Lire at a  prodigious rate. Continue reading

Looking back: 2001 Mazda RX-8

In April 2001 the first reports about Mazda´s rotary engine coupe-saloon RX-8 appeared. Production started in 2002. What happened then?

2003 Mazda RX-8: car and driver.com

2003 Mazda RX-8: car and driver.com

Behind the idea of the four-door coupe was that people wanted something more practical than a two-door coupe but liked the image and appearance of the classic hardtop sports car. The use of a compact rotary engine and a complex door concept allowed more space inside the cabin and the means to get at it without gymnastics. Continue reading

The Men Who Made the ’40 – Jim Randle

In the second of our postscripts to the XJ40 story, we profile its architect – Professor Jim Randle.

Untitled-1Randle2

“To meet Jim Randle and to talk to him is to go into a quiet and refined world. Randle is a precise, immaculately tailored executive, whose voice is pitched so low you immediately know why an XJ12 is so refined.” Graham Robson

When motoring journalists profiled Jim Randle, the same adjective just kept cropping up. Following on from the dapper and avuncular William Heynes and the professorial Bob Knight, Randle was an engineering chief from Jaguar central casting. Quiet spoken, brilliantly clever and refreshingly free of spin, Randle was the engineer’s engineer. Autocar’s Michael Scarlett described him thus; “The manner is diffident, the speech soft… but there is a wicked sense of humour which surfaces in quiet ironies and occasional boisterous amusement”. Quiet and likeable then, but where does James Neville Randle stand in the pantheon of former Jaguar Engineering chiefs? Continue reading

Gorfe´s Granadas: 1980 Granada Chasseur 2.8

The Mk 2 Ford Granada had a lot going for it. With a range of powerful engines, excellent roadholding and sharp-styling, it virtually sold itself. Ford didn´t like to rest on their laurels though. So, to celebrate the Olympics of 1980, they made a limited run of Chasseur special edition estates, writes editor-at-large Myles Gorfe.

1980 Ford Granada Chasseur: carandclassic.co.uk

1980 Ford Granada Chasseur: carandclassic.co.uk

Ford are making a bit of a meal of their luxurious Vignale-edition Mondeo. This idea is not new for Ford who have actually presented smart, luxury versions of their mainstays for decades.

The Granada Chasseur estate, to be precise. During the week, the Granada estate worked like any other large, prestigious and fast saloon. At the weekends, the huge load bay meant it could Continue reading

Theme : Hybrids – GM Pushes The Definition

Was GM’s EV ever a contender? And is it a Parallel Hybrid? This is a revised version of a post published last October following the Opel Ampera’s withdrawal from sale. 

Ampera Owners

We laugh at giants at our peril.  General Motors has made many mistakes in its existence, but it has scored lots of hits, and it’s still around. So, when they started taking EVs seriously, for the second time around after the controversial EV1 of the mid 90s, we needed to take GM seriously.

However giants take the small people for granted at their peril.  GM’s very size means that it has little affection or goodwill going for it, so it will often be harshly judged.  When the Chevrolet Volt, whose technology underlies the Ampera, first appeared critics were quick to accuse it of not being a pure EV, claiming that it was no more that a smoke-and-mirrors version of a Prius. Continue reading

Looking Back: 2000 Lincoln LS

260,000 examples in a six-year period isn´t bad. And the LS racked up a few awards, namely Motor Trend´s car of the year 2000 and it was nominated as American Car of the Year though it was pipped by Ford´s Focus and Audi TT. The LS was also Lincoln´s first attempt to fight off its reputation as a car for the nearly dead. That battle is reminiscent of Cadillac´s fight for a younger image, a fight Lincoln is still losing 15 years later.

2000 Lincoln LS. It looked questionable when new. Fifteen years later I see Astra wheel arches and crude detailing on the front bumper´s chrome: wikipedia.org

2000 Lincoln LS. It looked questionable when new. Fifteen years later I see Astra wheel arches and crude detailing on the front bumper´s chrome: wikipedia.org

The LS shared its main elements with the Jaguar S-type and Ford Thunderbird and had a similarly contentious styling. Of the two saloons (while we´re comparing) the Jaguar managed a better job than the Lincoln. The 2000 Car Buyer´s Guide called the design “ho-hum”. I´d call it a derivative mash-up of VW Passat, Misubishi Diamante, Opel Astra, Ford Edge Design details and Lincoln motifs with a hefy dose of Mitsubishi. According to Automotive Industries Magazine the car had to look as if it could Continue reading

Looking Back: 2001 Nissan Primera

I remember seeing the concept car upon which this car was based. They had included it at the 2000 London Motor Show though it was originally unveiled in Paris. Nissan intended to make a car as bold as the previous version had been blandly, if neatly, styled.

2001 Nissan Primera: autoevolution.com

2001 Nissan Primera: autoevolution.com

Automotive Intelligence said this: “The Fusion concept is based on an ambitious philosophy. The brief to the Nissan designers was to develop an innovative style which adds strong emotional involvement to the traditional technical excellence of Nissan’s products; and to integrate western taste and Japanese roots, interpreted in a modern and even futuristic way.” I feel it´s worth a giggle to quote the rest of the PR steam that described the exterior: “Their answer is a monosilhouette shape that smoothly encompasses bonnet, cabin and boot. The traditional emphasis of saloon car design has been almost entirely left behind and is replaced with a fluid and aerodynamic new profile dominated by the cabin. Little interrupts the profile of the Fusion. A sense of tension is achieved along the length of the bodyside through subtle sculpturing of all the main panels and through a stretching of the bonnet and boot best seen in plan view. In marked contrast to the soft bumper sections, other applied elements – wheel arches, door openings, the rocker panel – all appear to have been integrated into the smooth central mass. This technique, known to architects, furniture and product designers as ‘constructivism’ is one of the key themes of the Fusion. The side panels’ design is very smooth and at the same time delivers a sense of power. The design of the 18″ wheels aims at reinforcing that feeling. “ Continue reading

Looking back: 2001 Ford Mondeo 2.0 Ghia X estate

For your £20,395 you got 130 mph top speed, nought to sixty in under ten seconds and you could eke out 34 mpg from the car´s 2.0 litre four. And there was all that load space in the back.

2001 Ford Mondeo estate: carbaze.com

2001 Ford Mondeo estate: carbaze.com

Unlike Renault who wanted to style their station wagon Laguna as some manner of sports estate or lifestyle tourer, Ford stuck to a straight sales proposition. The Mondeo wagon was a Mondeo saloon with a lot more space.  It had an upright tailgate and fairly flat sides so it did what people might expect an estate car to do, namely carry things rather than advertise a lifestyle. The estate was 7 centimetres longer and a bit taller. Shame the seats didn´t Continue reading

There’s Something About Mary

Has FCA’s on-off romance with GM entered a new phase?

'I'm sexy and I know it...' Sergio on the pull. Image via benchmarkreporter

‘I’m sexy and I know it…’ Sergio on the pull. Image via benchmarkreporter

Last week two seemingly unrelated news items landed, which taken on face value elicited only mild interest. But to a cut-price Max Warburton such as myself, the two stories add up to something a good deal more intriguing. Continue reading

Theme : Hybrids – The Swiss Army Knife Syndrome

What happens when just being a car isn’t enough?

Kar-A-Sutra 1

I had a Swiss Army Knife once, but I never used it and I don’t know where it is now. I’m willing to concede that it is probably a useful thing to have about your person and, were I marooned on an iceberg with polar bears ready to attack, I’m sure I’d curse the fact that I hadn’t hung on to that knife. Generally, though, I find the idea of multi-function devices problematic. First, all your eggs are in the one basket so, when one thing goes wrong, everything else is compromised. Second, instead of doing one thing adequately, they often do two, or more, things badly.

Is it the child in us, or the miser, that makes us attracted to devices that also do something else? The child remains, to some degree, in most of us, but some to a far greater degree than others. The device that miraculously converts to another function is a staple of escapist films but some people have actually gone to the effort of making such devices and, in some cases, marketing them. Continue reading

The Men Who Made the ’40 – Bob Knight

Today we profile a man who did more to define not only XJ40, but also Jaguar’s engineering direction than perhaps any other – Bob Knight CBE.

Portrait of Robert J Knight, Commissioned by Jaguar Jaguar Heritage. Image via BBC

Portrait of Robert J Knight, Commissioned by Jaguar Heritage. Image via BBC

If I were to suggest an entire generation of Jaguar cars embodied the character and personality of one man you’d probably gravitate to that of Jaguar founder, Sir William Lyons. Lyons’ taste and creative vision formed Jaguar’s very DNA, but it was Bob Knight who dictated the engineering direction and character of virtually every model from his appointment in 1944, through to his departure 36-years later. Continue reading

Rearview: 1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback

Is a posh Corolla an oxymoron? Not in Ireland during the 1980’s.

1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback GLi - image via toyotaoldies.de

1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback GLi – image via toyotaoldies.de

It might surprise you, but the (AE92-series) Corolla, in 1.6 GLi form, was considered a desirable upmarket car in Ireland during the latter part of the 1980’s, before we became brand snobs like everyone else. This era also coincided with two more appealing slightly upmarket Japanese hatchbacks – Mazda’s 323F and Honda’s 5-door Integra. Toyota had embraced the art of chassis engineering by then, so apart from being pleasing to look at the Corolla was also quite nice to drive, Continue reading

Theme: Hybrids – 2000 Honda Insight

This is also conveniently part of my Looking Back series!

We can  begin by looking at this little film by Doug deMuro. I have to say I like the chap´s presentation mode. It is very cheerful in a way the Americans do very well indeed. It avoids Hammond´s cheeky chappy style and Clarkson´s tucked in chin.

The Honda Insight and Toyota Prius both went on sale in 2000, showcasing the idea that you could mix an electric and petrol system to Continue reading

Design Details: those sagging lines explained

I have got the bottom of the mystery. At least I can sleep at night now.

1978 Opel Commodore with no sagging line: wikipedia.org

1978 Opel Commodore with no sagging line: wikipedia.org

A while back I ran small commentary on mysterious sagging lines on the side glass of 70s and 80s cars. This one was about the Mazda 1400  and this one showed the feature on the 1992 Mercedes S-classContinue reading

Crossroads for the Four Door Coupé

Is the four-door coupé already out of road, or is it just crossing over?

2436x1552_A7_SB_Rear_light

The shape we’re in now. Image via Audi.co.uk

Automotive niches interest me because they represent the closest thing manufacturers come to risk taking. Take the four-door coupé segment for example. I’ve puzzled over this sector’s viability ever since Mercedes-Benz introduced the CLS-Class a decade ago. After all, it hasn’t necessarily set the automotive world alight, has it? Apart from Mercedes, who have we got? Audi has the A7, BMW the 6-Series Gran coupé, Porsche offers the Panamera and VW the CC. That’s pretty much your lot. Common strand? Yes, they all hail from German manufacturers, which does add up to a somewhat one-dimensional bandwagon. Continue reading

Theme : Hybrids : The French-Italian Connection

Cars no longer differ from country to country, but once they had definite national characteristics. What happened when two nations met – collaboration, collision or confusion?

Maserati Khamsin

We now seem to have reached a consensus that the type of car most should be is ‘Germanic’, being lazy shorthand for something efficient, hard riding, fast enough and, usually, a bit clinical. Some sports cars remain, possibly, more traditionally ‘Italianate’ in spirit, being nervy, noisy and involving to drive. Nowadays, though, car making is truly a global industry where an Italian car maker might produce a model exclusively in Poland, and where the designers and engineers come from scores of different nations. Nearly fifty years ago this wasn’t the case. American manufacturers found that they couldn’t build 66% scale models of their domestic products and expect to sell them in Europe – from time to time they tried but learnt the lesson. Equally, German makers didn’t really expect their more austere offerings to be that popular in France, where a car was expected to be a bit more cosseting. And if it was sportiness you wanted, no-one really expected to tell the Italians what to do. Continue reading

Looking Back: 2001 Renault Laguna

In November 2000 the first print articles on the Renault Laguna Mk2 started to appear. What did they say? 

2001 Renault Laguna: bestsellingcarsblog.com

2001 Renault Laguna: bestsellingcarsblog.com

Renault´s approach was to “take the car upmarket” by improving the fit and finish of the interior (everyone was thinking ‘Passat B5’ at this time). Patrick Le Quement said of the car that combined Germanic rigour in its treatment and Latin flavour. Looking back, it´s hard to see how the Laguna Mk 1 lacked any rigour as the design still holds up for the quality of its detailing inside and out. With the Mk2 they flattened the surfaces and reduced the curvature of the main forms, lending the car a more chiselled, planar look. Where did the flair reside? Continue reading

A photo for Sunday night

This one baffles me. It has a Ferrari badge on the tail and steering wheel. Is it?

What's this? Seen in Dublin. The licence plate is for imported cars that were registered first outside the ROI.

What’s this? Seen in Dublin. The licence plate is for imported cars that were registered first outside the ROI.

The engine sits in the rear. Inside is a tatty but complete set of interior parts. Fibre-glass was used for the body. It has a flush under-body and Triplex branded windows.

 

Looking back: 2003 Rolls Royce Phantom

This is the only car in this series still in production. Why might that be?

2004 Rolls Royce Phantom sideWell, progress at this level is slow. Or maybe you believe Rolls Royce who say customers don’t want change to be too frequent. When the coachwork was revised in 2012 R-R said: “Our customers don’t want a new car coming to market too often,” said Richard Carter , Rolls-Royce’s communications director. Or rather, after stumping up more than a third of a million pounds, they don’t want their cars looking out of date when the Mark II version is launched” (wrote the Telegraph in 2012).

A quarter of a million pounds sterling. Almost six metres long. So tall you can´t Continue reading

Panamera Precursor

Earlier in the week, several readers cited the Panamera’s missing link, which prompted a closer look.

1989 Porsche 989. Image via krmgk

1989 Porsche 989. Image via krmgk

Porsche have made several attempts at a four seater over the years, from stretched versions of the eternal 911, to a long-wheelbase 928 created for Ferry Porsche’s 75th birthday, but perhaps the most serious attempt was this. Porsche were no stranger to crisis; for decades prey to the changing needs, Continue reading

Long Term Test: Mazda3 Fastback 2.2d Sport Nav – Drive

In this second instalment, I thought I’d provide my views on how the Mazda3 drives.

Mazda3 - view from the driver's seat

Mazda3 – view from the driver’s seat

I count myself as someone who is normally immune to whatever slogan/ brand strap-line nonsense a company’s marketing team and/ or agency throws at a product or service that they are trying to sell. Actually, that’s not quite correct as a statement; normally such nonsense prejudices me against whatever is being advertised, promoted or sold. I may be showing my bias towards my new purchase, or just indulging in a little subconscious post-purchase decision re-enforcement, but, after recent drives in the 3, I have twice found myself trying to recall marketing messages in the various pieces of Mazda brochure-ware I have lately consumed. One of these is “Jinba Ittai” which, apparently, means, “horse and rider becoming one” in Japanese, and has been used by Mazda in its messaging relating to the incoming MX-5. Re-reading it on the screen, I am almost squirming with embarrassment, but the Mazda3 is a very driver-orientated car; indeed, almost too much so. Hence, slap me, but I’m beginning to believe some of that hype.

Continue reading

Looking back: 2000 Alfa Romeo 147

I had high hopes for this car, the 147. It had 156 underpinnings and a noticeable increase in quality compared to its predecessors, the 145/146 pair.

2000 Alfa Romeo 147: gochecks.org

2000 Alfa Romeo 147: gochecks.org

The 147 appeared in the press in July 2000 and went on sale in October. As well as being a markedly more mature car than those it succeeded, it owed a little to the Tipo platform from 1988. Alfa declared that from the next model onward, the Multipla´s spaceframe system would be used. That didn´t happen. Continue reading

Madness into Method

As Porsche’s 2016 Panamera gets beach body ready, will edition 2.0 secure
Michael Mauer’s legacy?

Oink! The 2015 Porsche Panamera. Image via Zombdrive.

Oink! The 2015 Porsche Panamera. Image via Zombdrive.

Auto Industry Management 101 states all car bosses must speak only in soundbites, remain resolutely on-message and above all, never badmouth the product. Especially product customers can still purchase new at their local dealer. All of which appears to have escaped Porsche MD, Matthias Muller’s notice at last September’s Paris motor show. With Porsche’s hunchbacked Panamera saloon a good 18 months shy of being taken to a quiet piece of woodland and whacked over the head with a shovel, Continue reading

Theme : Hybrids – Monteverdi´s Swiss-Italian-American confection

Here I am talking about blends of nationality.

1967 Monteverdi 375S: fwallpapers.com

1967 Monteverdi 375S: fwallpapers.com

Bristol and Jensen had American engine power as did France´s Facel. The Citroen SM had Italian power. A small Swiss firm, Monteverdi, chose Italian styling and American engines for its small batches of supercars. Continue reading

It´s not available in green but it has four-wheel steering

Renault´s 2016 Talisman revealed. It´s a sober and serious saloon. It´s the anti-Laguna. 

2016 Renault Talisman parked on a horrible concrete apron outside an impersonal architect´s house. All that concrete will make that place as welcoming as a builder´s yard in July. Well done Renault for the clicheed image: Renault UK

2016 Renault Talisman parked on a horrible concrete apron outside an impersonal architect´s house. All that concrete will make that place as welcoming as a builder´s yard in July. Well done Renault for the clicheed image: Renault UK

It took me a good twenty minutes of careful reading to get through the entirety of Renault´s very, very detailed press release. The three things that struck me most were the bit to do with emu feathers, the use of four wheel steering and the fact the Talisman is a saloon. Naturally the car is not available in green but ten other colours which can be summarised as two whites, two greys, two blacks, red, beige and brown. One of those blacks is only available on the Paris Initiale version. They won´t sell it in the UK or Ireland.

If you want to Continue reading

Is The Everyday Sportscar Dead?

As we get news of another relaunch, we ask who buys sportcars any more?

Austin Healey

Although TVR ceased production of cars nine years ago, under then owner Nikolay Smolensky, it never really died, it just seemed to be asleep. Someone, somewhere was always hinting at its imminent awakening. This year’s announcement, with Gordon Murray and Cosworth involved, seems the most credible and substantial to date. But, however good the product, if most of its targeted customers live in Europe, as with previous TVRs, will it succeed, or has the world changed too much whilst it slept?

Similarly Lotus. Back in the 1960s and 70s, Lotus had a profile well above its actual clout. Colin Chapman’s ingenuity and bravado kept what was a small company in the public eye and, ever since then, it has been trying to recapture those golden days. In that time it has produced one highly successful car, the Elise, a niche vehicle that caters solely to committed and enthusiastic drivers. Beyond that it has floundered with both grandiose flights of fancy and more modest efforts, mostly variants on the Elise. The excellent, more practical, Lotus Evora is an outstanding example of a type of car that no-one seems to want any more, the sportscar that you buy purely on its merits.

The affordable sportscar that stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of popularity is the Mazda MX5. At the end of 2010, the UK had accounted for 5% of the 900,000 MX5 sales since its launch but, now in its fourth incarnation, annual worldwide sales over the past 5 years are less than 25% of typical figures back in the 90s. Has the MX5 lost its attraction, or has the lure of the sportscar lost its romance for everyday folk? Continue reading

That Ain’t No Way to Say Goodbye

FCA cooks up another unicorn – this one’s Delta-shaped.

Not the new Delta Integrale. Image via zougla.gr

How the proposed new Delta Integrale won’t look. Image via zougla.gr

A short while ago, Autocar’s Hilton Holloway posited a future for the Lancia brand. His wasn’t the first or even the best – (that honour lies elsewhere) – in fact his suggestions struck me at the time as being lamentably short-termist in scope. Continue reading

Sunday Matinée – Life Begins At ’40

Research has shown it’s impossible to have too much XJ40 in your diet, so have another helping.

If like us, you haven’t sufficiently gorged yourself on all things XJ40, don’t worry; Driventowrite is on hand with this series of short promotional films from the ’40’s launch in 1986. Immerse yourself in a world of almost universal moustaches, nascent CAD, grey slip-on loafers and illicit assignations, as XJ40-man jets back to his fancy woman via the Scottish Highlands – (where he indulges in some unexplained wildlife photography), the Canadian wilderness and the Australian outback in what can only be described as the mother of all commutes.

[The eagle-eyed amongst you will undoubtedly notice the presence of Engineering Director Jim Randle and stylist, Keith Helfet examining the full size XJ40 styling model in episode one].

Theme : Hybrids – ruminations

These days the general understanding of hybrid is a vehicle with a dual power source. A Chevrolet Spark is one example. I´d rather work my way back to Pandas.

2003 Renault Kangoo Trekka 4x4: replicars.co.uk

2003 Renault Kangoo Trekka 4×4: replicars.co.uk

The current interpretation of hybrid overshadows other interpretations. There has in recent decades been a temptation for manufacturers to take a bit of one idea and a bit of another to make a third one. How the recipe is blended is where the interest lies. If you take a 4-wheel drive, off-road vehicle and make it more civilised you end up with a Range Rover. If you aren´t very good with adding the civilisation part you get a G-wagon or Jeep Grand Cherokee. Subaru´s Outback of 1995 probably inspired the product planners in other firms. The 1997 Volvo XC70 combined the values of a Volvo estate with off-roading powers, yielding a car with a raised height and a lot of plastic panelling. Volvo had a bit more of a step to Continue reading

Quick design analysis

Here is this revised or updated Audi A4 for your consideration. I have marked in red all the areas that look identical with the outgoing car.

2016 Audi A4 yellow front marked up

I conclude the glasshouse is the same and the bodysides to halfway down the doors are the same geometry. They have replaced the pronounced upward curving swoosh groove with a scalloped indent and the lower bumpers have been tweaked. There´s nothing wrong with this as such. It is however what looks incredibly like a mild facelift. It is not a new car.

Extended Test: 2013 Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury

A Jag? With my reputation?

'Our' XF, yesterday.

‘Our’ XF, yesterday.

As anyone familiar with the site will know by now, Jaguars are something of a recurrent theme with me. A few months ago I was offered the extended use of a 2013 Jaguar XF; something I tried to accept with jaded equanimity, however the unseemly haste with which I bit the owner’s arm off probably betrayed my true feelings. Continue reading

TVR is coming back to life; deposits being taken

Pistonheads, Autocar and The Truth About Cars have reported that TVR, under new management, is taking orders for 2017 delivery.

2017 TVR: image from Autocar (thanks!)

2017 TVR: image from Autocar (thanks!)

I had forgotten about TVR. In the 90s it was a favourite of the motoring press for its outrageous styling, in-house engines and aggressive performance. The two things you noticed about TVRs were that their drivers looked like they were having fun or they were waiting for the AA. Continue reading

The 2016 Audi A4 revealed

Here is the new (or revised?) Audi A4. Audi stresses the car´s athletic proportions which you´ll need a measuring tape to determine for yourselves.

2016 Audi A4: Audi

2016 Audi A4: Audi

The Avant is keeping its raked D-pillars to deter Volvo customers (or Skoda Superb customers). The vehicle is 4.73 metres long and has a 2.82 metre wheelbase. I will have to do a comparison later. The vehicle is a modest 15 kilos lighter, or about as much as a person can carry home by hand from the supermarket. Not much at all. Audi claim a cD of 0.23 which is the best in the class, with knock on benefits for interior peace. Continue reading

2016 BMW 7 series

After all the other things happening in the last few weeks it has been easy to miss less notable news stories. Among them is the 2016 BMW 7 series has been unveiled (June 11, for goodness´s sake.).

2016 BMW 7 series: networm.org

2016 BMW 7 series in concept form: networm.org

Dimensionally the car is not much larger than the existing car so owners won´t have to build a new garage. It is a bit lighter (130kg) and a lot fussier. We are a long way from Ercole Spada´s interpretation which is virtually definitive or the Michelotti-influenced first version.

Continue reading

Theme : Hybrids – Introduction

The Editor Mixes & Matches

Fiat S76

In today’s motoring world the term ‘hybrid’ has been hi-jacked for a certain type of vehicle. It is a fair enough description, but this month, without ignoring the sterling work of Toyota and others, we would also like to reclaim the word on a wider scale.

There have always been hybrids in motoring. It is well known that Ferdinand Porsche created a petrol/electric hybrid at the start of the 20th Century – a clever idea which we more or less forgot about for 90 or more years. On a more general level, the motor industry was mixing and matching from the start, taking it to a mammoth scale the moment Fiat put an airship engine into one of its production chassis in 1910. Continue reading

That was June: a short round-up of some of the main items of interest that were brought to your attention in the four weeks just past with reference to news, comments and opinions

We adopted Evolution as theme of the month and some interesting things emerged such as a thoughtful contemplation of evolution versus revolution. We also explored Murat Gunak´s interest in certain shapes.

1984 Alfa Romeo 90: carbaze.com

1984 Alfa Romeo 90: carbaze.com

On the news front Alfa Romeo showed us a few pictures of a red sport saloon they may one day make. Luc Donckerwolke has left Bentley and there were discussions of Citroen design and marketing too. DTW has been driving real cars. A Nissan Cube joined the fleet along with a Mazda 3 and we had some mass-market rental fodder  out on the road too. Continue reading

1976 Triumph Toledo

This is what I have in mind when I think of a Toledo/Dolomite: one in flat burgundy paint parked outside a damp Victorian house. It´s 1983 in the inner suburbs of Dublin and these are parked on every other street. You know the owner hates it and the next car will be a Corolla. The image is from aronline, of course. 

There are lots of houses like this in Dublin.

There are lots of houses like this in Dublin.

The Alvis Continuation Series

My intention was to ask readers which extinct car brand they would like to see back in production My one caveat was that it ought to be a brand dead for more than 20 years so we can avoid regretting Rover, Pontiac, Austin, Morris and  Oldsmobile, Citroen**, Lincoln**, Saab and Saturn. For example. My preference is for Alvis. Interestingly, Alvis is not as dead as I thought. 

2015 Alvis 4.3 litre Continuation series.

2015 Alvis 4.3 litre Continuation series.

Alvis are back in the business of car production. They have hit upon the wheeze of completing an unfinished run of cars from 1940. “There is evidence from the 1938 Alvis Board Minutes that 77 of the 4.3 Litre chassis that were officially sanctioned for production were never completed because car manufacturing had to be suspended in 1940. As a result the new 4.3 Litre “Continuation Series” will be limited to the production of these remaining 77 chassis, thereby fulfilling the original intention of the Alvis Board,” write Alvis at their nice websiteContinue reading

Our cars: 1975 Ford Granada 2.0 L

Run by: Myles Gorfe. Total Mileage: 299,918. Miles since May 30 2015: 3. Latest costs: £169 for removing carburetor again, £89.01 for installing the carburetor. £23 for repairing the insulation under the bonnet, £12 for loosening the rear parcel shelf to find a rattle, £19 for new oil and adjusting the second air filter, £40 for two punctures and £310 for a new heater matrix, £50 for the flat-bed truck, £490 for cutting, welding, filling and painting of b-pillar rust problem.

1975 Ford Granada 2.0 L

1975 Ford Granada 2.0 L

It´s been a busy month for the Grannie. Len Gudgeon at the Granada Garage has got the carburetor sorted out finally and revealed a fuel tank problem.

Gavin Chide has been paid and that matter is closed.

The rust spot on the outside of the B-pilllar turned out to conceal an extensive area of rot underneath which Len Gudgeon dealt with, taking about three and a half weeks to prepare the area and source the right paint for the re-spray. Continue reading

Theme: Evolution – Lancia and others

For a decade and a bit, Lancia´s principle cars evolved, if you want to be generous about it. The Flavia saloon debuted in 1961 and soldiered on until 1975 (though renamed 2000 in 1971). The Fulvia saloon appeared 1963 and hung about until 1972. Fiat took over Lancia in 1969 and by 1972 the Beta had appeared. There was a quiet interregnum after which the old guard were put out to pasture and shot with silencers.

1963 Lancia Fulvia GT: autoviva.com

1963 Lancia Fulvia GT: autoviva.com

The Flavia had to evolve to stay competitive over its 14 year run and I expect consumers in the early 70s noticed the elderly underlying style of the car in comparison with the newer models from Lancia´s competitors in Germany and Great Britain. The Flavia´s design began in the late 1950s and featured a 1.5 litre aluminium boxer engine, disc brakes and front-wheel drive. Unequal length wishbones were at the front.   Continue reading

A photo for Sunday: 1971-1979 Morris Marina 1.3 Super coupe

Most of these photos for Sunday are taken outside my front door, somewhere along my street. It´s not that I don´t go anywhere else. I do but I seldom, if ever, see an unusual or interesting car to photograph. I even stop into look at old garages to see if there are rusting treasures hidden from plain view. There aren´t. All the interesting cars in Denmark are either on my street or in a suburb of Copenhagen.

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Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 7

The Useless Estate Car

Today there are quite a few contenders for that dubious accolade, possible exemplified best by the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake. The idea of tacking a glassy, generous box onto the boot of a saloon, maybe even lengthening it a bit, in order to make something supremely useful just isn’t sexy in the 21st Century. People don’t want to be thought of as saddoes, who are only at their happiest bustling around B&Q with a groaning trolley of timber flooring. No, their lifestyle choices are better and, whilst they might need a bit of added loadspace for windsurfer accoutrements, old school golf clubs or just to fit in an extra Louis Vuitton hatbox, it’s important that the car doesn’t look in the least bit practical. Continue reading

Something Rotten in Denmark: 1990 Renault 25 2.9 V6 TX auto

For a change, the only rotten thing about this car is the photography. This is a rare chance to get a genuinely appealing and comfortable French luxury car, a Renault 25 V6 auto. 

1990 Renault 25 2.9 V6 TX auto: bilbasen.dk

1990 Renault 25 2.9 V6 TX auto: bilbasen.dk

Admittedly, the 1990 version of the R25 is not so visually pure as the pre-facelift version. Renault lost the industrial design aesthetic in their attempt to make their flagship look like their mid-field contender, the Renault 21. Or else both cars were facelifted in an attempt to Continue reading

History Repeating – XJ40: 1972-1994 – Postscript

XJ40 (1)

XJ40 perfected? The 1994 Jaguar’s – last of the line. Image via thecaptainschair

Tragedy, Loss, Redemption. DTW brings its XJ40 epic to a close.

In a recent interview, Sir John Egan expressed regret at not having cancelled XJ40 in 1982/3 and starting afresh, stating he was talked out of it by Sir William Lyons. In retrospect, given the inconsistencies in the car’s specification and design, perhaps he should. Because had Jim Randle been given a realistic timescale and the freedom to develop the car without political interference, the story may well have turned out differently.

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