If you’d like to comment on anything you see here, you’d be very welcome. And if you’d like to submit a piece on the Monthly Theme, or on any other motoring related matter, please do. Contact The Editor at simonakearne@outlook.com For more information, please visit our Introduction PageFrom our Archive, you might also like : The Three Brothers  | Tainted Love: A Very Irish Coupé Not For Sale: Car Museums  |  Maserati Quattroporte GTS Review

Len & Now 2

A Legend Remembered – Again

The 1957 Victory DivaA few months ago, I published a snippet from the autobiography of that legend of the British Motor Industry, the Chief Engineer of Victory Cars, Len Brik. Since then I have had a request for a further extract, but I must admit that a small amount of the late Len Brik’s odd grammar goes a long way. However, I can offer you some alternative Brik related information.

First, and relevant to last month’s theme, is the reason for Len Brik’s choice of engine for Victory’s flagship saloon, the Magistratum. His desire was to trump all the 6 cylinder competition Continue reading

Theme: Advertising – radio

It´s been said of radio that its advantage over other media is that the pictures are better.

2014 retro radio

This is generally true but when it comes to car advertising it is not. Radio ads can´t hope to convey the visual impression of a car, its most important attribute. Instead they are left to handle other aspects which can be presented verbally. These might include news of special offers and to point customers in the direction of dealers. They might serve to tell listeners of the arrival of a new model but other media must handle the rest. One advantage they do have is Continue reading

Driving the Future: 1974 Citroen CX 2200 Super road test

To continue our celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the Citroen CX we present what resembles a period review of the car by Archie Vicar. Find out what the great man thought of the car on a test drive from Paris to the West German border with East Germany in 1974.

1974 Citroen CX 2200 Super

1974 Citroen CX 2200 Super

 Driving the future

From “The Driving and Motoring Month”, September,  1974

Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere

Indicative of the Citroen CX´s innovative character, the oil level can be checked inside the car thanks to a pneumatic indicator on the remarkably novel dashboard. The CX resembles a futuristic show car but is in fact on sale soon. The body shell joins to the underframe by means of 16 flexible rubber mountings. The steering strongly self-centres so that one only has to apply force when changing direction. The list of exceedingly interesting advances could fill this whole article but these, I earnestly hope, show readers Continue reading

Theme: Advertising -1978 Mazda 1300 DL

Advertising that mentions potential problems draws customers´ attention to them. Mazda´s advert from 1973 does just this. And it uses weasel wording too.

1973 Mazda 1300 DL

1978 Mazda 1300 DL

As I said in the introduction, advertising addresses people’s worries.  Just as Rover handled the problem that their 1993 620 saloon was a Honda Accord in tweed  (“Above all, it´s a Rover”), this ad from 1978 attacks the common prejudice that Japanese cars were vulnerable to rust.  I tried to find one of these cars for sale and found only the precursor to the Mazda 626, the 6 16 LN. It´s from 1975 and probably the only one left. Continue reading

Theme: Advertising – Off Message


Lexus’ recent creative review ditched more than the message…

All good advertising embodies an essential truth. For some years now for instance, Lexus has gone with the tagline ‘The Pursuit of Perfection’; a relatively believable goal to imagine them pursuing. However, despite some success in the US market, Lexus remains stubbornly among the junior ranks of the European prestige car business. In a fit of insecurity, Continue reading

2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI review

In search of family transport, DTW rents a Korean mid-ranger and exposes it to mud, apples and half a dish of aubergine parmesan gratin. 

2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI

2014 Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI: Bore and stroke (mm) 77 x 85.44


Welcome back to the dead centre of the car market . The Hyundai i30 1.6 GDI** is a Focus and Golf competitor but may gun most accurately for the likes of the Peugeot 308 and any other mid-market also-rans. This type of car is very hard to write about in isolation as most of what you experience verges on the bland. Only a spread-sheet analysis of the cost and features along with a back-to-back test would reveal the precise differences in the qualitative and quantitative elements between this car and its peers. Nonetheless, even on its own, there are aspects of the car which please and those which irritate. Continue reading

1967 Datsun 2000 de luxe: review

The 1967 Datsun 2000 De Luxe (also known as the Datsun Cedric) is one of Japan´s unsung landmarks. In this item, we have something resembling a transcript of a 1967 review by Archie Vicar. He finds much that is agreeable in the saloon.

1967 Datsun 2000 side

“Building on a new tradition!”
By Archibald Vicar
Photographs by Wentworth Henry
(From “Today´s Driver”, November 1967)

Rumours abound from the Midlands, such as rumours are, that Jaguar is considering replacements for the venerable, nay, antediluvian 240, 340 (née Mark 2), S-type, 420 (née S-type) and 420G (née Mark X) with a range of motor vehicles which will essentially depend on one single body. Our sources in Coventry hint that among the pressing reasons for this change is that nobody at Brown´s Lane understands which car is which or the purpose for which any of them are intended. And that´s letting alone the matter of the by-now antique elements of which these stalwarts are mostly composed. In any case, Jaguar Ltd is now under the firm tutelage of BMC who will be shaking up Jaguar´s life of gin and tonics and setting the troubled firm on a new course to success.

Following from this is that we can expect that Continue reading

History Repeating: XJ40 Phase Two – 1975-1980

Part 6 – Knight`Falls 

On the home stretch - Series III styling elements feature strongly on this 1978 proposal

On the home stretch – Series III styling elements feature strongly on this 1978 proposal

1978 saw a brief reprieve in Jaguar’s fortunes. Under Michael Edwardes more enlightened management, interference eased sufficiently to allow a consensus to emerge on XJ40’s styling. Customer research carried out in the US backed Bob Knight’s assertion that a strong resemblance to the contemporary model was necessary. The revitalised styling of the forthcoming Series III also cast a mighty shadow, because despite its more angular roofline, the revisions combined to create a sleeker, more modern looking car. Continue reading

Bristol returns: the 2015 Pinnacle

Bristol Cars´new owners have announced the launch of the first wholly new vehicle since the Fighter of 2003.

2015 Bristol Pinnacle

2015 Bristol Pinnacle

Called the Pinnacle, the new car is to feature a combination of Bristol hallmarks and modern touches. Carried over are the customs of making the bodies by hand (Bristol require a panel beater) and using very high quality materials. New to Bristol will be the use of battery power and range extension technology. There might even be cup-holders. Also new to Bristol is the notion of merchandising, which to spell it out, is the selling of non-automotive products branded with the Bristol logo. That´s done to promote the brand (something Bristol didn´t try hard to do) and to make money (something Bristol didn´t manage very well towards the end). Continue reading

Theme : Advertising – Who The Fun Do They Think We Are?

VW 2

Richard’s fine introduction on this topic began with two quotes, both holding a high degree of truth to advertising in general, yet both I’d suggest are not always relevant to that branch of advertising that deals with cars.

Edwin Land, who brought us Polaroid, as well as other products of intelligent research, said “Marketing is what you do when your product is no good” but, although Edwin Land was a remarkable inventor, it was easy for him to say that since, for years, his instant film system was the best in a group of one. Car manufacturers don’t have that luxury – if only Karl Benz had employed patent lawyers as good as Land’s we’d all be peering through that silver star on the bonnet. Also the problem is that Continue reading

Theme: Advertising – 1973 Citroen GS

1973 a 1.2 litre engine was enough for a medium-sized family car. And we seem to be back to where we started with today´s downsized motors. This ad for the Citroen GS shows how, in other respects, we are being served up very ordinary cars where once it was possible to drive something truly advanced.

1973 Citroen GS - £1068.

1973 Citroen GS – £1068.

Theme : Advertising – “Leyland Cars are not rubbish (except Jaguars)”

The spread we are looking at today dates from November 1977. In line with standard advertising practice it preys on the worries of consumers to make its case. Here is the text, neatly indicative of several prejudices of the day.

1977 Leyland Car´s Supercover advertisement

1977 Leyland Car´s Supercover advertisement

“Although man has come a long way since he invented the wheel, he hasn´t yet discovered a way of totally eliminating its deadliest enemy: the Gremlin.
And the gremlin´s favourite hunting ground is brand new cars.
That´s why at Leyland Cars we invented Supercover. With Supercover every new Leyland car is given a thorough 69-point check for lurking gremlins at the garage before it’s allowed to be sold.
And should a gremlin turn up on the road, with Supercover, you´ve the AA´s 2,850 strong team of radio patrol men to call on for assistance.
And if they can´t fix it in reasonable time, your car and your passengers are Continue reading

Theme : Advertising – Rover´s rime eef.

It was the year 2000 and according to the predictions from 1970 we´d have been traveling on hover-speeders and wearing metallic-nylon bodysuits. Somehow that didn´t pan out. For Rover, it was still 1959 though.

2000 Rover 45 2.0 V6

2000 Rover 45 2.0 V6

For your education and general knowledge, today´s item on advertising is an example of exploiting the customer’s worst instincts and distracting them from the selling point. This was done not only by the form of the ad as conceived, but simply by ensuring the message was concealed by the centre fold of the magazine. Rime eef, it reads.

In the ad – admittedly it´s technically well done – a Rover 45 is placed on a polystyrene tray, wrapped in cellophane and labelled 100% Prime Beef. There´s a Union Flag to make the point – this is British and not, for example, German. The advert dates from May. Rover was still owned by BMW, just. The sell off was in train at the time of press.

The Rover 45 had been relaunched at the start of the year and the new versions were styled to draw on the Rover cues of Englishness, tradition, chrome and leather.  The pity here is that Continue reading

1974 Citroen CX review: from the Archie Vicar archives

The Citroen CX is 40 years old this year. To celebrate this milestone in European car design, we present what looks like one of the very first reviews printed in the English language. The author is Archie Vicar who at the time was contributing motoring editor of the Worcester Morning Gazette (Sept. 23rd 1974).

1974 Citroen CX front view blue


After a very long time in production, the DS has been (thankfully!) discontinued by its maker, Citroen.  Whilst there were some good points in favour of the DS, there were too many oddities. Some of these have been ironed out so the new car will be more palatable to a wider range of customers. The incoming CX will be a more welcome car for motorists who want to drive something other than a Granada or Victor but without suffering the cost and inconvenience that the over-complex DS served up, drenched in garlic. Continue reading

A small appreciation of a small estate

Further to our Aygo review yesterday, DTW presents this small reminder that once it was a simple matter to make an estate version out of an existing vehicle.

1997 VW Polo estate

1997 VW Polo estate

Here is the 1997 VW Colour Concept Polo estate. I like its vertical tailgate and utter lack of pretension. Such a car could do excellent service as either a practical second car for grocery and kid collection or else serve as a primary family car if the kids were still small. Finally, for Mr and Mrs Retired, it could get them around the country visiting the children and grand children without incurring big fuel bills. And there´s room for the Labrador in the back. Form is following function here and I like that.

To my slight amazement, there´s a whole website devoted to Polos.

2014 Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i review

This week DTW has the new Toyota Aygo on test. Launched at the 2014 Geneva motor show, it´s only just arrived on the market. So, how did the car fare during a punishing three day investigation involving child-seats, sand and small pebbles?

2014 Toyota Aygo: it´s small but is it practical?

2014 Toyota Aygo: it´s small but is it practical?

The technicalities.
The engine is the 59 HP 1.0 VVTi in-line three pot. The “VVT” part stands for variable valve timing which has been around since 1996. The bore and stroke are 71 mm and 84 mm respectively. The Aygo comes with stop-start technology and this functioned well enough for me to learn to trust it. It can start the car faster than I could and this eliminated a lot of useless idling while waiting at lights.  Simply stop the car, take your foot off the clutch and the engine cuts. When you stand on the clutch again the engine fires up…and off you go. The rest of the engineering details are Continue reading

Theme of the Month : Advertising – Introduction

“Marketing is what you do when your product is no good, ” said Edwin H. Land. David Foster Wallace said of an ad: “It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase.”

1898 adver for Winton. It´s horseless.

1898 advert for Winton. It´s horseless.

This month´s theme is the about the ephemeral products of automotive advertising. As long as cars have been available, there have been people making money trying to help manufacturers get yours.

At first, the main theme of car advertising was to explain the advantages of a car over the other ways of getting around. The 1898 Winton ad devotes its energy to the money-saving attributes of their car compared to owning a horse. It might not have been strictly true but the message could be clearly understood as a rational proposition. A Winton cost only half a cent a mile to run though they didn´t say Continue reading

Theme of the month – engines: a conclusion

Time to look back on the month of August and see what we have learned.

2014 Jaguar XJ 5.0 V8

2014 Jaguar XJ 5.0 V8

August has drawn to a close and we are now an important amount wiser on the subject of engines. Among the discoveries are that a combination of regulations and fuel prices have made life uncongenial for large capacity engines. Both in Europe and the US, the V6 is increasingly rare. Furthermore, even the staple of mass-market, mid-range motoring, the boring old 2.0 litre 4-cylinder is beginning look much less like the first rung on the ladder to power and prestige.  In a world of buzzy three-cylinders and blown 1.2 litres four-cylinders, the 2.0 litre four has the aura of profligacy once reserved for in-line sixes.  The diminishing technical awareness of drivers means this change remains largely unremarked. What buyers want is Continue reading

Theme: Engines – The Greatest?

Italy’s engineering giants slug it out for your entertainment.


Given the size of the Italian motor industry by comparison to say, the United States or Germany, it’s difficult to compile a list of the great engine designers without coming to the conclusion that Italy has historically punched well above its weight. The fact that most of them were schooled through Italy’s once thriving aeronautical industry says as much about the era from which they emerged as the political and socio-economic causes, but either way, Italy’s contribution to the pantheon of notable engines is undeniable.  Continue reading

Theme of the month – engines: the V6 also-rans.

Recently DTW presented a survey of the decline of the V6 in the mid-size family car. Further reflection led me to uncover some of the also-rans in the category.

2001 Kia Magentis V6

2001 Kia Magentis V6: classic used-car salesman photography.

This post-script adds four vehicles to the list of V6 contenders who have tried but not succeeded to gain sales from the dominant manufacturers. All four are marginal cars from marginal makers. Taken together they comprise a foursome fit for a comparison test in a future edition of Classic and Sportscar, say, 2024.

The first vehicle I´d like to mention is Continue reading

Theme: Engines – Divine Inclination

The Lancia Fulvia V4


The V4 engine layout is synonymous with Lancia; the marque having employed the layout extensively from the 1920’s right up to and sometime after its demise as an independent in 1969. Founder, Vincenzo Lancia had something of a penchant for the vee-formation engine but it’s unclear exactly why he favoured the V4 over its in-line counterpart, given that the layout tends to fall prey to out of balance forces one would really rather not have to deal with.  Continue reading

Death has a revolving door: Nimbus motorcycles

DTW spotted this interesting machine: it´s a Danish-made motorcycle from the people who brought you Nilfisk vacuum-cleaners.

1959 Nimbus Model "C"

1959 Nimbus Model “C”

Most countries in Europe had a domestic motorcycle manufacturer or two up until the 1950s. Ireland is almost an exception, having only the Fagan company manufacturing Villiers models for a brief spell between 1935 and 1937. Rather more successful and long-lived, Nimbus produced motorcycles in Copenhagen between 1934 and 1959. Fisker and Nielsen started making electric motorcycles in 1909 and turned to petrol driven machines when they introduced their Model A in 1934. That´s the same Fisker and Nielsen who Continue reading

Theme of last month – facelifts: the 2015 Opel Corsa

This week came more reports of the “new” Opel Corsa. What have they  done, we ask, what have they done?

2015 Opel Corsa

2015 Opel Corsa

I didn´t expect two of these articles in one week. Yet here we find Opel having a “what have they done?” moment. Opel describe this as a new vehicle but we´d class this as a very comprehensive facelift. The main architecture of the car remains the same and, in my view, the addition of the black tab on the rear of the 3-door´s sideglass does not distract from this fact, and nor do the new front or rear forms. What else is different? Continue reading

History Repeating: XJ40 Phase Two – 1976-1980

Part 5 – Edge of Darkness

Bob Knight & Doug Thorpe examine an XJ40 styling proposal during the summer of 1976.

Bob Knight & Doug Thorpe examine an XJ40 styling proposal during the summer of 1976.

Throughout 1976, and with hostilities continuing to simmer, what few resources that could be focused upon XJ40 concentrated mostly upon the ongoing struggle to establish an acceptable style. During the spring, Bertone and Ital Design submitted revised XJ40 proposals – which according to Bob Knight, were even worse than previous attempts. They ended up mouldering under dust sheets in the experimental studios, although Knight would sometimes refer back to the Bertone proposal to see how certain effects were achieved. Few avenues were left unexplored – Continue reading

Something Rotten in Denmark: 1991 Chrysler LeBaron 3.0 V6

After a bit of a dry spell, Something Rotten in Denmark has this rather over-valued money pit to present, a 1991 Chrysler LeBaron 3.0 V6.

1991 Chrysler LeBaron 3.0 V6

Rust: 1991 Chrysler LeBaron 3.0 V6

Much like the Rover 620 from last week we are shown a photo of the dark side of the car. You can make out the brightwork and the general top heaviness of the car but there are other things not so visible. For example Continue reading

2015 Skoda Fabia: oh, dear.

Skoda´s Fabia appeared first on the market in 1999. Now it´s into its third generation. What have they done? What have they done?


2014 Skoda Fabia

2014 Skoda Fabia

This is the new Skoda Fabia. The previous two generations have been rather good interpretations of a difficult genre, the conservative but attractive small car. The first version displayed some nice automotive design tropes: the smooth flowing bonnet to a-pillar and neatly shaped vestigial boot. The rear graphics and sculpture worked very harmoniously, very much the work of designers who were unafraid to Continue reading

2014 Honda Brio saloon

Here at DTW we like to find out about what´s on sale around the world. We´ve looked at some Japanese and Chinese market cars. Today we go to South Africa and peer at a Honda Brio, just to see.

2014 Honda Brio: image courtesy of Honda (SA)

2014 Honda Brio: image courtesy of Honda (SA)

The Honda Brio is not on sale in Europe, being intended for emerging markets. It comes in two forms, hatchback and saloon. Since tiny saloons are held in almost complete contempt, we present the saloon. What is it that we find of most interest?

Continue reading

Theme – Engines: the decline of the mainstream Euro V6

How does it stand with the gold-standard of engines in the C/D class?

1992 Mazda 626 V6: one for trivia fans.

1992 Mazda 626 V6: one for trivia fans.

Patchy is the answer. Opel and Citroen still offer V6s, a diesel 3.0 and a 2.8 petrol respectively. Elsewhere it is a story of decline, staring in the middle of the last decade.

Ford offered a pint-sized V6 in their Sierra and in the Taunus long before that. Peugeot had a pleasant V6 in their refined and elegant 406. Opel routinely offered a V6 in the Vectra and still do so. Others in the C/D class never really tried. The Mazda 626 had a V6 in 1992 but not since then have they tried anything larger than a 4-pot (but did give the Xedos6 a six-cylinder). Honda has majored on 4-cylinder engines and VTEC jiggery pokery. Citroen installed a V6 in late model Xantias and in the first series C5 and still do. That would be to offer comfort to the horse-box drawing classes, I suppose.

Let´s take a further look at the decline…

Continue reading

Theme – Engines: The road less travelled

You can make 4-cylinder engines bigger but what about making a smaller 6?

1990 Alfa Romeo 2.0 V6. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

1990 Alfa Romeo 2.0 V6. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

We have considered two approaches to bridging the 2.0 to 2.5 litre capacity gap, the enlarged 4-cylinder engines, and the 5-cylinder concept. And while the first is relatively common and the second shall we say not unusual, there is one other method of adding power and prestige to a smaller engine. That route is the road less travelled, 2-litre V6s.

The first small capacity V6 I could think of turned out to be a 1.8 litre V6 used in the Mazda MX-3, a car whose appearance I never got to grips with. In this small feature “two” is the magic number, so the 1.5 litre V6s used in racing will also be overlooked – also because I am not at all interested in motor sport. I am allergic to Continue reading

Theme – Engines: Throbby, thrummy quints

So who uses five cylinder engines and why? Do they have a future? DTW asks these questions today. Read on to accumulate wisdom on this subject.

1976 Audi 100: five-cylinders available

1976 Audi 100: five-cylinders available.

One might be tempted to think of five cylinder engines as being something of a novelty, if they are not a rarity. However, before Audi and Mercedes in the 1970s, Ford experimented with the concept in the 1930s and 1940s but never put anything into production.  The heyday of the five has been from the end of the 70s until a few years ago. Not a bad run. The window of opportunity for the five-cylinder now seems to be closing. What opened it?

The reasons one might want to use a five-cylinder engine are much the same as for why one might want a four-cylinder instead of a three. You can add capacity and reduce stress. The in-line five cylinder bridges the capacity gap between 2.0 and 2.5 litres. In this capacity a 4-cylinder can be over-stressed and a V6 or in-line six too costly, thirsty and large. A likely starting point is an engine range based on 4-cylinder units that needs expansion to power larger, heavier vehicles than a firm´s four-cylinder range can cope with. Think of a smallish, middle market firm wanting to Continue reading

Engineering made it happen: 1977 Lincoln Versailles 351 V-8

Milestones: DTW looks back at significant automotive achievements. Today, the 1977 Lincoln Versailles, the first car to offer clear-coat paint.

1977 Lincoln Versailles: "Now, a car with a 110-inch wheelbase, with a superb luxury car ride."

1977 Lincoln Versailles: “Now, a car with a 110-inch wheelbase, with a superb luxury car ride.”

According to Motor Trend, May 1977, the Lincoln Versailles represented Ford Motor Company´s attempt to compete with GM´s successful and smaller-than-was-usual Cadillac, the ´75 Seville. Lincoln also wanted the Versailles to steal sales from the Mercedes 280 E and BMW 728. As Motor Trend put it “…a significant number of automobile buyers were interested in smaller luxury sedans offering better driveability and handling ease.” The 1975 Seville, Lincoln´s main competitor, had the odd distinction of being the smallest and most expensive Cadillac but it sold well enough to make Ford respond to its challenges. Mercedes also offered what some might call the best-engineered saloon ever made, the 280E. Both cars were taking sales from Lincoln. Lincoln´s solution was to Continue reading

Theme: Engines – Top Dead Centre

 Car-engineA personal view of the automobile engine.

Anyone spending time thinking or indeed writing about the automobile is likely to hold a firm view on the merits or otherwise of the engine – few auto enthusiasts choose the comfort of the fence on this. If you cleave to the view that the engine represents the heart of a car, then it should come as no surprise that any marque with pretensions to greatness has designed and produced their own. Furthermore, the truly grand marques have at least one powerplant in their back catalogue that can be viewed in, at the very least, quasi-mythological terms.   Continue reading

Theme: Engines – a survey of Fiat´s 2004 and 2014 ranges

Then and now: how does Fiat´s present engine range compare to that of 2004? And are they making use of the engines available from Chrysler?

2014 Fiat Qubo

2014 Fiat Qubo

Today we are asking “How bad is it exactly for Fiat, in real terms?”. A vibrant company puts effort into engines if only to confuse punters and gain sales. But it can also offer a better match between the car and the complicated needs of the hundreds of millions of potential buyers. If you have a car with just one or two engines for it then it´s a safe bet there are 78 million people who simply won´t consider that vehicle. Think of the Bravo, for example.

Looking back first, let´s see how hot Fiat was a decade ago. In January 2004 Fiat (in the UK) sold seven different passenger vehicles: the Seicento, Punto, and Stilo hatchbacks, the Barchetta roadster, the Doblo family van, the Multipla MPV and the Ulysse (a body shared with PSA and Lancia). Propelling that lot around Fiat had eleven or thirteen different engines, depending on how you count them. Most burned petrol and the power range started at 54 bhp and rose to 170 bhp. The biggest motor came in the form of the 2.4 20-valve unit which was offered in the Punto Abarth but not on the bigger bodied Stilo or Ulysse.

And now the “now” part. As Eoin has been carefully documenting elsewhere here, things are not so excellent in the Fiat empire. FCA have just moved their legal address to London (and with barefaced cheek the chairman John Elkann said this was Continue reading

Theme : Engines – 2000, the Not-So-Magic Number

Is the end in view for the once ubiquitous 2 Litre?

The First and Second Most Popular 2 Litres in The World?

The First and Second Most Popular 2 Litres in The World?

I’ve never liked 4 cylinders. Part of me has always lusted after pistons and capacity. How I envy a fellow correspondent on these pages his 5.3 litre V12. The only diesel engine I’ve ever been attracted to is Volkswagen’s ludicrous 5 litre V10, which made a mockery of diesel’s assumed economy but where the sheer numbers almost overcome my antipathy to fuel oil. Despite all this, the puritan in me has shown restraint and, in fact, the most cylinders I’ve ever owned in one engine is six and the largest capacity 2.8 litres. But it’s not all size. I like less than 4 cylinders too. I have eternally fond memories of the Citroen Flat Twin and I’ve never been tempted by a Japanese 4 cylinder motorcycle, far preferring my V Twin. I got very excited by Fiat’s TwinAir engine and, despite getting the idea that the real-world consumption, and thus emissions, are less related to the paper ones than they might be, it remains an attractive proposition – if only they’d put it in a car I wanted. The truth is that I’m a 4 cylinder bigot. There are exceptions in my prejudice (obviously an old Alfa Twin cam, probably some Hondas and any flat four, even a Beetle’s, and a Lancia V4 though, very certainly, not a Ford V4) but, generally, four in a row and I don’t want to know.

And of all four cylinder engines, the most clichéd is the 2 litre. The 4 pot in-line engine, with a capacity of more that 1950cc but less than 2000cc was, for so many years, the absolute average engine, both Continue reading

Sure-fire future classic: 2010 Renault Wind

File this under: Forgotten, tiny, open-top cars.

2010 Renault Wind

2010 Renault Wind

Many forgotten cars are forgotten because a lot of time has passed between now and the time they were made.  In the case of the Renault Wind nearly no time has passed at all. Rather than being forgotten, it was barely noticed in the first place. This correspondent has seen just one in the wild.  Let´s take a brief pause from the hurly-burly of the here and now to consider one of the Renault´s more puzzling efforts of recent years.  It seems to have been competitor for the Continue reading

Something rotten in Denmark: 1996 Rover 2.0 Ti

How does Rover´s vanguard of 1996 look today?

1996 Rover 600 2.0 Ti diesel

1996 Rover 600 2.0 Ti 

It´s hard to tell. The seller of this particular orphan has only just learned to use a camera. Two out of the three photos (twelve are allowed for free) at the car-sales website are taken with the sun light coming from behind the car. Thus in two out of three photos the image is mostly a Honda Accord silhouette with some Rover 600 chrome here and there. The third photo shows the front rear three-quarter with no shadow. This says the owner a) knows nothing about photography, absolutely nothing at all and b) they they couldn´t be bothered to walk all the way around the car. “Ah, the other view is the same as the one I just took….I´ll stop here.”  Now, if the car was selling for say, 10,000kr (nearly nothing) you could understand a certain carelessness in the presentation. But this buyer wants 30,000 kr for this 255,000 km vehicle. For that kind of money Continue reading

1959 Bentley S1 Continental Flying Spur Review

“Bentley makes its mark”: a transcript of a 1959 review by Archie Vicar

1959 Bentley S1 Continental Flying Spur

1959 Bentley S1 Continental Flying Spur

Photographs by Marmaduke Orpington (due to the poor quality of the original photos, stock images have been used),

from “Motorist´s Compendium and Driver´s Almanack”, Dec. 1959.

Bentley seem to be finding their feet again after a spell in the shadows of their owner Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. Today we test drive evidence of this resurgence, the Continental Flying Spur.

First a little history. Bentley started offering steel bodywork in 1946 and many coachbuilders have been offering their versions of this car, as if a standard Bentley wasn´t exclusive enough. For a proper expression of a Bentley though one would have to go back to the Thrupp & Maberly 1938 Bentley 4 1/4 Litre all-weather touring car. In 1952 the R-type was presented to the world and it had bigger engines than its predecessor. But these cars were really not quite what Bentley customers wanted, as indicated by disappointing sales.

Rolls-Royce´s idea to make Bentley more salable is to take some of the most successful elements of the Rolls-Royce style and to apply them to Bentley. With that in mind the 1955 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and Bentley S1 have a passing resemblance to each other but at least it has stemmed the losses as more than one third of Rolls-Royce cars are now Bentleys. Mulliner Park Ward have also prepared some designs for the more discerning of Crewe´s customers for whom Pressed Steel´s versions are not quite up to snuff.

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And he could have had a Cadillac. If the school had taught him right

Driven To Write chanced upon a 1973 Cadillac Eldorado in NW Denmark.

1973 Cadillac Eldorado

1973 Cadillac Eldorado

David Bowie´s 1979 album, Lodger, is remarkable for a number of reasons. Among them is the scope of the record, which is partly a set of postcards back from the wider world, partly rather political (“Fantastic Voyage”, for example) and finally part social commentary. I´ve been listening to it since 1990 and haven´t tired of it. One of the songs on the album is relevant to today´s car. “Repetition” is sung from the point of view of a dissatisfied and angry man, Johnny, who has come home late, hungry and enraged with his wife and probably his entire life. She will bear the brunt of Johnny´s rage and “the bruises won´t show if she wears long sleeves”. The song´s deadened vocals and falling note sequence captures the numbness of Johnny´s wife. This Eldorado seems to be be the kind of Cadillac I imagine Johnny would have bought “if the school had taught him right”. Johnny is probably getting by in a ´70 Plymouth but he aspires to more and this is what he aspires to, a car like this `73 Eldorado. For a long time Cadillac has been a car for Continue reading

Theme : Engines – The View from Car and Driver

As a little diversion, we suggest our readers might like to look at Kevin Cameron´s thoughts about the future of the internal combustion engine, published in Car & Driver magazine a day or two ago.

1992 Buick Roadmaster

1992 Buick Roadmaster

There are a views in the article you could take issue with but it´s an interesting American view on the IC engine´s future. I would argue that Cameron discounts the importance of government legislation and he assumes that the externalities of the IC engine (i.e. the costs everyone else pays for its use that are not factored into the sales price) will not be one day accounted for. I would suggest that the days of the IC engine are numbered though whether this is because there is a) a switch to electric motors b) a switch away from personal transportation or c) global climate disaster that destroys the economic base upon which the IC-engine is predicated is not for us to discuss today.

His headline message is this: “Americans need their cars in order to live and work – that´s the world we´ve built.” That, I would propose, is a convoluted way of saying “That´s the way it is”. I always say, no, that´s the way we made it and we can change if there is a will.

On a point of detail, Cameron confuses the reason for the 1960s clearances of old urban areas. Both in Europe and the US there was extensive rebuilding and the construction of public housing. None of my research shows this was based on the understanding that public transport would be used. Le Corbusier whose Radiant City concept inspired most of the high-rise towers-in-parkland design assumed the private car was the way forward.

Incidentally, Car & Driver is a website that DTW can recommend. In classic American style, there are instrumented tests of new vehicles along with carefully crafted comments and features. I would even go so far as to to suggest a subscription to the printed version is something anyone with an interest in cars might consider.

History Repeating: XJ40 Phase Two – 1976 -1980

prodlinePart 4 – Fortress Jaguar

1975 saw the broken remains of Jaguar in virtual lockdown. Abetted by Browns Lane Plant Director, Peter Craig, Bob Knight’s policy of civil disobedience stemmed the tide of assimilation to some extent, but also prompted Leyland’s committees to redouble their efforts to influence the marque’s future. XJ-S was about to enter production after a two-year delay, so there was little that could be altered, but XJ40 remained another matter entirely. Continue reading

Theme : Engines – Ford, VW and Opel’s Engine Ranges

Who has the most engines to offer customers? DTW takes a close look at the state of play at VW, Opel and Ford.

This has a V6 under the hood.

This has a V6 under the hood.

The operating assumption behind this small study is that engines matter. More precisely, if a manufacturer can offer a decent range of engines for a given class of vehicles then they are very likely to have a better chance of selling something to someone.

I´ll restrict my research to Ford, Opel and VW for this particular study. I wanted to see the composition of the range of engines and also to find out the average age of the engine families. The second point was rather hard to ascertain and I failed to determine this. Just sorting out the engine ranges was time consuming enough. I imagine that such information is not well signposted. Having an elderly engine range is not something you might like to advertise.

The immediate results of this analysis are offered here with a Continue reading

Theme : Engines – France

Do French engines live up to that nation’s fine engineering heritage?

1913 Peugeot twin OHC 16 valve 4 cylinder

1913 Peugeot twin OHC 16 valve 4 cylinder

In Post War Europe, engines were restricted by reasonably arbitrary taxation classes. In Britain, the old ‘RAC Horsepower’ rating was based on an archaic formula that related to the bore only, not the stroke and didn’t actually refer to the actual output of the engine. Despite it being abolished in the late 1940s, it meant that the longer stroke engine, with its relatively low rev limit, lived on far longer in much loved stalwarts such as the Jaguar XK and BMC A Series and it did stem the development of lighter, freer running engines. Italy was less prescriptive and, although there were aberrations, like home market only 2 litre Ferraris and Alfas V6s, it allowed the development of the sweet engines found in the Alfas and Fiats of the 60s. The French tried to be more scientific, with a fiscal horsepower tax that brought in various factors but, generally, encouraged smaller engines of 4 cylinders and less. Thus, in a country that has a fine record in technical advances in motoring, engines struggled to keep up.

Citroën, when they actually were producing truly ‘Créative Technologie’ twenty-five and more years ago, did not generally match their adventurous cars with the engines. The 2CV flat twin was a fine engine – clever, rugged, characterful and able to be repaired by those of modest skill, such as me. The spiritual big brother, the air-cooled flat four Continue reading

The Sunday News: VW Golf Plus nameplate dropped shock!!

Goodbye, VW Golf Plus, we´ll miss you. Hello, VW Sportsvan.

2014 VW Sportsvan

2014 VW Sportsvan: its sporty and van-like

Some readers may have missed the news that VW´s much loved GolfPlus nameplate has been discontinued. The new name to watch is Sportsvan and doubtless it will win as much affection as the outgoing one. The replacement car was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013 and is now on sale.

Let’s have a fond look back at the departing car. Dating from 2004, the GolfPlus concept took the best features of the Golf and added a few percent to them seemingly at random. The Golf Plus was thus a bit bigger in most directions and, I suppose, was exactly as the name suggested, a bit more Golf. When I heard of its launch I was among those who rolled their eyes in exaggerated expressions of amazement. It was hard to believe that VW would bother going to 100% of the expense of engineering car that differed only by 1%-4% in most dimensions from the Golf. Not only did the Plus seem to risk Continue reading

Cars I can´t write about: Chryslers etc

Chrysler: so what?

Don´t look any closer. There´s nothing to see.

Don´t look any closer. There´s nothing to see.

So far in this intermittent series I have picked on a forgotten supermini, a lavishly expensive sportscar and the VW Passat. Today I feel the need to declare that Chryslers and associated brands are vehicles about which I have nothing to say.

Or almost. I might feel a certain morbid fascination with the K-cars of the Iacocca era, which period also includes the Chrysler-Maserati. Apart from that, Chrysler is a nullity. While Fords and GM vehicles from pretty much anytime after 1960 are in some way interesting to me, Chryslers aren´t. They seem to be nothing more than Continue reading

Theme : Engines – The 1970 Triumph Stag V8

1970 Triumph Stag V8

1970 Triumph Stag V8


Ah, the Triumph Stag V8, the stuff of classic car legends. It´s all there for a long chat at the pub: dashed hopes, shoddy Midlands workmanship, the dark days of British Leyland´s decline. There´s even a bit of Italian in there, as Giovanni Michelotti styled the car. The bit we´re interested in is the V8 though. This unit was conceived in the middle of the 60s in response to the growing demands of the UK market for more powerful engines as the motorway system expanded. Triumph had some sixes and jolly nice they were too but they were not enough. They also needed more Continue reading

What Might Have Been : 1991 Tatra MTX V8

1991 Tatra MTX V8

1991 Tatra MTX V8

Today we bring a slice of an alternative universe, one where Tatra automobiles did not cease production (that was 1999). The car here is one of four Tatra MTX V8 sportscars built out of a planned 100. The car was shown as concept at the 1991 Prague motor show and 200 orders were taken by thrilled visitors. Unfortunately, Continue reading

Theme : Engines – GM´s General Purpose Nail

The Iron Duke engine: an American interpretation of a European staple

Not an engine, an Astre

Not an engine, an Astre

The Americans have a different approach to engines. First, they hold the view that bigger is better which means that for many decades the smallest engines were usually 6-cylinder units. 8-cylinders was considered standard. When the oil crises of the 70s struck, the main US manufacturers were not so experienced with the 4 cylinder devices that were needed. That meant their small engines weren´t even all that small. GM´s offering in the smaller compact class was the Iron Duke, a 2.5 litre pushrod engine with power outputs of between 85-110 hp. Second, they build engines for durability rather than refinement. So, when it came time for GM to develop a general purpose engine, it was not in a good position to Continue reading