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How does it stand with the gold-standard of engines in the C/D class?
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…
You can make 4-cylinder engines bigger but what about making a smaller 6?
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
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.
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
Milestones: DTW looks back at significant automotive achievements. Today, the 1977 Lincoln Versailles, the first car to offer clear-coat paint.
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
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
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?
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
Is the end in view for the once ubiquitous 2 Litre?
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
File this under: Forgotten, tiny, open-top cars.
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
How does Rover´s vanguard of 1996 look today?
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
“Bentley makes its mark”: a transcript of a 1959 review by Archie Vicar
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.
Driven To Write chanced upon a 1973 Cadillac Eldorado in NW Denmark.
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
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.
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.
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
Who has the most engines to offer customers? DTW takes a close look at the state of play at VW, Opel and Ford.
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
Do French engines live up to that nation’s fine engineering heritage?
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
Goodbye, VW Golf Plus, we´ll miss you. Hello, VW Sportsvan.
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
Chrysler: so what?
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
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
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
The Iron Duke engine: an American interpretation of a European staple
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
Is this 1991 Tipo suspiciously underpriced?
It seems like only a bit of while ago that Fiat were offering the Tipo Mk1 (1988 to 1995). It is however, actually a really long time ago indeed.This car is actually quite old though it seems not to look it, to my eyes at least. When Fiat first offered the Tipo they made something of a big deal about the galvanization and general rust protection. This one is 23 years old (and is on sale here) which is something of a testament to the resistance it has put up to the salty roads and generally abysmal winter climate of Denmark. What Fiat didn´t seem to do was put so much extra effort into putting the rest of the car together which is why there are so few of these left compared to rivals such as the Golf and the Astra***. In all likelihood quite tidy examples of this car were scrapped because Continue reading
The Editor ponders the future
For much of my motoring life, the hierarchy of car engines was clear, constant and relatively simple. The reciprocating internal combustion engine reigned supreme and the greater the number of cylinders, the more important it often was. The true enthusiast’s choice of fuel was petrol, with diesel an unfortunate option for the miser who had no ear for beauty and even less care for the health of their fellows.
History shows us moments when social orders changed irrevocably. These sometimes followed a deliberate revolution and were sometimes the secondary result of a great disaster, either natural or man-made. Whatever the cause, we can try to imagine the revulsion that individuals felt when their complacent assumption that things would remain the same forever was shattered.
In a diluted way, that is what many of us are now feeling. Enzo Ferrari Continue reading
A facelift is sometimes an indication that all is far from well with the car´s manufacturer.
In 1958 Humber cars introduced a new body style which was sold under the Hawk and Super Snipe labels. The Super Snipe was the more expensive of the two. For the last word in Humberness, there was the Humber Imperial which was the same as a Hawk and a Snipe in terms of the bodywork but which had “a vinyl roof, automatic transmission and hydrosteer power steering as standard… electrically adjustable rear shock absorber settings, a rear heater and optional West-of-England cloth-trimmed seats”. That West of England cloth was fitted by Thrupp and Maberley***. These details matter.
So what was behind the belated facelift of Humber´s ageing flagship?
BIG AND DUMB AND MUCH THE BETTER FOR IT
Driventowrite asseses an underdog.
Tinselly, crudely assembled and unattractive sums it up, but luckily that´s just the Chevrolet badge on the bootlid.
The rest of the car surprised me by being vastly better than the reputation suggested. The Chevrolet Epica has ended its six year production run and perhaps its reputation needs a little burnishing. I´ll tell you why: there´s very little wrong with the Epica and a lot that´s right.
Regular readers will know that while my personal transportation falls into the “eccentric and old” category, I have a lot of time for unpretentious cars. The words “lifestyle” and “aspiration” and “image” mean as little to me as they did to the Epica´s designers (they are Korean and speak no English). What is the Epica? In marketing terms it´s a big, cheap saloon. In this age of overworked branding and micron-accurate market positioning, such a product is remarkably refreshing. Continue reading
The Autumn of 1974 marked a point when the sky fell in for both BLMC and Jaguar. Lord Ryder’s report into BLMC’s financial collapse was published in April 1975 and its findings were greeted with abject horror at Browns Lane. Ryder recommended the newly renamed British Leyland should henceforth operate as a ‘single integrated car business’. Continue reading
When only basic proportions are giving the game away
Plastic surgery may not be limited to people’s faces, but only on few – usually bizarre – occasions do the stylists tempering with flesh and bone go for a change of the entire body. However, in car design, the situation is presenting itself rather differently: the choice is between either just a facelift or the full Monty.
The ‘It should never have worked but by Jingo it did’ facelift: 1983 Ford Fiesta
The original Ford Fiesta’s sales successes made it so ubiquitous that its appearance ceased to be either noticeable or remarkable. Continue reading
Could there be anything wrong with trying to design cars that can avoid an automotive face-lift?
When Simon came up with this topic we all immediately thought of the classic facelift disasters. Then there were the handful of acknowledged facelift successes; these have been touched upon by DTW at various points over the month. We are are also aware that some firms make a routine of “mid-cycle refreshes” as they are termed by those in the know. And this is probably to be deplored since facelifting a car means Continue reading
The semi-redemptive facelift: Jaguar X204 S-Type
While the X204 facelift to the S-Type could never fully excise the horror of its truly awful predecessor, it did re-present it in a somewhat more palatable form. For which we should be eternally grateful…
For the very rich there are two modes of consumption. One is to buy the latest thing and replace it as soon as something better comes a long. The other mode is to buy something that lasts forever like a castle or a Bristol. The Filton-based firm was a small one and prided itself on the quality of its vehicles. And they are cars that last, being capable of almost indefinite service life, much like a castle, as it happens.
The re-definitive facelift: 1968 Citroën DS
Further to today’s piece on the Studebaker Starliner’s lamentable fall from grace, how on earth does one attempt to facelift a car of the Citroën DS’ magnitude? Continue reading
You can’t polish a turd, but you can sully a diamond
Once, whilst Europe was happy to go on producing the same identical model year after year, until the dies got too worn out to function, the US doggedly changed models every three years, with a facelift every year in between. Thus, any reasonable US car spotter will be able to identify the exact year of a Ford Thunderbird, first by the shape, then by the radiator trim or the rear lamps. Any manufacturer who didn’t come up with something new for each season was not going to be taken seriously.
Studebaker was not in a great position in the late 40s, but it tried making the best of things with good design. First Raymond Loewy’s studio came up with the influential 1947 models, Continue reading
Only a few puritans and some design dogmatists dislike chrome. A bit of tinsel would have made all the difference and emphasize the inherent goodness of some plain-Jane cars of recent years.
Chrome´s application on car exteriors draw from its capacity to resist corrosion, ease cleaning and increase surface hardness. It also has the pleasing ability to draw attention to the outlines of door frames, lamp housings and bumper pressings, among other features. A chrome strip applied to the side of a car emphasizes the horizontal aspect of a form. Ideally, chrome has some crown or curvature so that it catches the light and reflects it. Since it is highly reflective chrome does not require the bright lighting conditions that would be needed to bring out the sculpting of a piece of pressed, painted bodywork. Handled with some restraint, chrome is Continue reading
If you´ve ever wondered about this famously forgotten car, this is the place to find out why it has become a footnote in automotive history.
The Tagora doesn´t have much of an afterlife. It´s been out of production since 1983 and if anyone remembers it, they aren´t saying much about it. But what was the view of the car at the time of launch? Did it look like it was going to be the flop it turned out to be? I bought a copy of Autocar from 1981 to find out how this car was viewed by contemporary writers. Other magazines followed in the post. This (below) is how I digested the information for Wikipedia. Alas, it was removed shortly after it was published on the grounds that it was “not balanced”. I later revised the text with more “balance”and it seems to have survived. Here is what I wrote first:
How to define a car
It’s hard to explain this to people who view cars as polluting, selfish devices, that kill, maim and generally mess up lives. And it’s equally hard to explain it to people who see cars as pure, powerful pieces of engineering, that mainly offer them control and prestige. But the car is a flawed but hugely romantic device, and that has been its true enduring strength.
What defines a car? For some it’s outright speed, or acceleration. For some status. For some it’s sheer practicality, for others it’s individuality. For some it’s handling, steering feel, lightness of touch, whilst others want weight, bling and intimidation. There are so many criteria for what makes a good car and, if you are trying to explain why you like a car to someone else, it’s tricky. Watch their eyes glaze as you lasciviously trace the curve as the C pillar kinks round the inset vent to join the rear wing. See them shuffle with embarrassment as you present one fisherman’s yarn too many about lifting the front wheel in Tesco’s car park. Risk them questioning your manhood as you mime the ingenious folding mechanism of the rear seats in your MPV.
Dan Abramson’s impressive 1994 Xanae concept signposted Citroën’s entry into the compact MPV sector, but additionally, its styling came to inspire an entire generation of production Citroën’s; each displaying an incremental diminution of form and surface. The Xanae’s conception was led by Art Blakeslee, drafted in from Talbot to preside over Citroën’s styling after the rancorous departure of Carl Olsen in 1986. Continue reading
DTW has a spin in a 2010 Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi. If you´re thinking of getting a used one it´s probably going to be one of these.
The Ford Mondeo: what do we really know about this car? I had a test drive and can report how an informed but not expert enthusiast experienced it.
Zetec trim adorned the vehicle and under the bonnet Ford had kindly installed their 2.0 litre TDCi engine. In many ways this car could be said to be the typical midranger and so is representative of the sort of Mondeo many people choose to live with for six or seven years of their lives.
My first impressions were of the remarkable size of the car. Between the driver´s seat and Continue reading
DTW tries on a little silver number from Renault
The apparently irrelevant preamble
In all good faith, motoring writers tend to fixate on problems much as the princess fixated on the pea. For those of us interested in cars, that´s fine: we are also little picky princesses, to a man. Merely knowing that there is some small aspect of a vehicle that impedes its theoretical performance around Thruxton on a dry day is enough to earn a definitive seal of disapproval. That is even if the aspect is wholly unrelated to the intent of the vehicle in question. I´ve been guilty of this myself, as I´ve sat in a variety of cars and nit picked over all-but-invisible tool split lines on plastic trim in the boot or wondered whether that 1mm design solution under the bumper is at all acceptable on a car costing, ooh, twelve grand. This long preamble is my way of saying this: I don´t want my previous cries of wolf to diminish the central message of this little essay. That point is: the Renault Megane is quite a noticeably Continue reading
Part 2 – A question of style
In October 1973, senior Jaguar personnel presented the first complete XJ40 styling prototype to BLMC’s Lord Stokes and John Barber. The car’s styling had evolved quite noticeably within the twelve months since work began, but the XJ-S lineage remained clear. Continue reading
Driven to Write met three (of four) Germans outside a supermarket in Aarhus. They had travelled in a VW camping van with two Simson mopeds. We don´t really do motorbikes at DTW and VW camping vans aren´t part of our repertoire either but here is a brief report on the trip of Markus, Judith, Ludwig and Victoria from the Bodensee in Germany to Nordkapp in Finnmark, Norway. I met them as they were eating a spot of lunch outside my local supermarket. They were travelling in a rather used series T3 VW camper van (1979 to 1992) and two Simson mopeds. Simson were an east German firm based in Suhl. The firm also made firearms and cars during its existence between 1856 and 2002. It´s best known for its two stroke mopeds which are referred to by their fans as Simis and these constituted its post-war production. Continue reading
Today’s foray into facelift hades also stems from the recent past. The original 2003 R230 SL series was, (like most Mercedes’ of its era), a good 35% less attractive than its far more comely (R129) forebear. Nevertheless, amongst the less than stellar offerings emerging from Sindelfingen under design chief, Prof. Peter Pfeiffer during the post-Sacco malaise era, the R230 in its original form was at least cohesive. Continue reading
This is a rather absorbing article from the good people at the Truth About Cars. It discusses the Renault Espace´s life in Brazil.
“Originally conceived by Renault and its partner, Matra, the first Espace appeared in 1984 and was initially greeted with a combination of intrigue and scepticism – nothing like Espace had ever been seen before. Flying in the face of accepted wisdom, the Espace epitomised Renault’s desire to push the boundaries of conventional design and create a car which met the changing needs of a rapidly evolving society.” (Automobiles Review, 2009)
Just a selection from a back catalogue of errors
It’s been going on for so long now, it almost seems a tradition. Fiat’s styling has always been variable. They have produced some great designs and some disappointingly dumpy ones, often in the same generation. But what is constant is that, when it comes to facelift time, however good or bad the original was, the facelift is always worse.
There are various theories I can offer and, not being a Fiat insider, that is all I can do.
Or should that read Coming Second?
In the repository of automotive facelifts, this example is something of an aberrant one. BMW’s E65 7-Series is commonly and perhaps justifiably regarded as BMW’s ‘they’ve gone stark raving bonkers’ moment. Adrian Van Hoydoonk’s styling was on one hand a genuine breath of fresh air, yet at the same time, a visual challenge of epic proportions.
As our esteemed editor has already pointed out, there are facelifts and there are, well, facelifts. Not everyone cleaves to the Partonesque ideal – has anybody seen Barry Manilow lately? When it comes to the automotive variety, the spectrum is as broad and as nuanced. Some facelifting exercises serve to revitalise an ageing design, others signpost a fresh styling direction. Some merely act as a dating point to give the sales people something new to sell. The pivot point is simple enough however. Are they any good? Continue reading
How Bill Porter turned the sow´s ear of the 1986 Buick Riviera into something so much better.
In 1986 Buick in the US sold a medium-sized two door version of the Somerset, built on the N-body. In the way of GM´s demented renaming strategy, the Somerset tag was once a trim level of the Regal saloon but it escaped to become a separate line. The Somerset only lived for three years – the public didn´t take to the name, apparently. The Somerset had a tranverse, front-mounted 2.0 litre 4-cylinder or 3.0 V-6 engine driving the front wheels. The wheelbase was 103 inches (Americans don´t do metric). In terms we´d understand on this side of the Atlantic, it addressed the market that Volvo does with the C30 or Audi with the A3. Or if you imagine a 2-door Ford Focus notchback in Ghia trim you wouldn´t be wide of the mark. At the same time, Buick had available their Riviera, now a Continue reading
I´d wanted to write that I could say nothing about Ferrari´s current range of cars. However, as a matter of fact I devoted a whole post to their website some months back. That said, there is nothing much about Ferrari´s actual cars that attracts me. The last time I saw a new one (I really don´t know which it was but it was red) I was as unmoved as if I had been shown a trough of diamonds being tipped in a lake. Nonetheless, to be strict, I need to find a similar sort car to not talk about, one I haven´t even mentioned. The one in question is treated here. Continue reading
The Editor Reflects on the Need for Change
The facelift, once a rather quirky thing, has become accepted. A nip, a tuck, a chop, a stretch. No-one seems embarrassed. Your Editor is aware of these things because, much as he would prefer to always shop at Fortnum and Mason, circumstances (thank you Eoin and Sean) dictate that he has to stand in supermarket queues with everyone else. Therefore he cannot avoid the temptation to browse through those strange little magazines on offer beside the tills and read about these things.
Some cars are gob-stoppers. I can´t bring myself to do more than glance at them much less expend any breath. Here´s one: the 2014 VW Passat.
So far I have picked a shopping trolley and a sportscar in my excursion through the list of cars I can´t write about. Keen observers of my output will say this is because I am an enthusiast for saloon cars. You can infer from this a low-self esteem if you like, or you can imply a liking for four-door cars from mainstream makers is an automotive version of a taste for “reader´s wives”. To deal with the second argument, I present the current VW Passat.
I find that I spend a lot of time scrutinising 90s Mazda 626s, Mondeos and Vectras but not the car that beats these in most contests. You´d think that were I to admire quite ordinary cars that do quite ordinary things then I would like that which embodied ordinariness. But you´d be wrong. The Passat has had the imperfections that make the others in some way interesting hammered out of it. I can accord the Passat grudging respect but you´d have to take me back to 1976´s iteration to make me want to get in one and drive away whereas I find the seats of the 1998 Mazda 626 very pleasingly square and I enjoy the zig-zag on the c-pillar. I think it has a huge boot too. I can Continue reading